Halfway down the block from where we had just seen Uncle Mickey, Dad stopped the car and sat with his foot on the brake. He’d been crying, I think, my unfortunate uncle, or his eyes were bloodshot for no reason, and probably he’d been pacing the block looking for courage. At the driveway, he told Dad he’d been clean for six days and a lot of other lies. Uncle Mickey thought he was being quiet, like a kid who believes if he closes his eyes he’s invisible, but I’d heard everything, as usual. Hands on the wheel now, Dad looked at me for a three count, then shifted into park; so, this would be a heart-to-heart. You don’t need to worry, Mickey, he told me. I know, Dad, I replied, but I was guessing. I looked at my gameboy and counted to three and wondered what he might mean. I love Uncle Mickey, I told Dad, but I won’t end up like him. I understand he was a brilliant kid, but now he’s a lost cause. You try to protect him, but you know he’ll never straighten out. Every time he quits a job or borrows and loses, you’ll be there to bail him out because you love him too and he’s family. You think he’s too smart for a paycheck world; well, he knows who to come to when he’s about to cash out. Someday he’ll lead real trouble to our door, Dad. You think I’m not smart enough to have his problems, right? You think I’ll get a job and pay my bills and drink a few beers on the weekend. Thanks. I’m glad you want what’s best for me. But I would have cut Uncle Mickey loose a long time ago. Is that what you meant?

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