Ah…Happy New Year to you, and may all your pizzas have extra cheese and double anchovies!
Forgotten Songs From An Imaginary Life
Part II: The Broken Road
Brentwood Heights, California December 1966
Tilly Sorensen didn’t wait for the ink on her divorce papers to dry; she took a position at the UCLA Medical Center that included a teaching position in the medical school and with those in hand she didn’t looked back, not even once. With her generous settlement, including full legal custody of Theodore, moving wasn’t an issue so late in 1964 she moved to Los Angeles and bought a small house just across the 405 from the medical center. She learned of two excellent private schools nearby and enrolled Ted at the one closest to home and within a few months they had both settled into their new routines.
On the last Friday of each month Tilly drove Ted out to LAX and there he hopped on a PSA 727 for the short flight up to San Francisco. He spent these weekends with his father except when the Forty-Niners played home games in the autumn, and he came up for all those games because his dad had season tickets.
Yet there weekends when his old man really wasn’t all there. Like the lights were on but no one was home. Tilly warned Ted there’d be weekends like that – she called these his father’s “time out for Thorazine Days” – and she had even advised her son how to handle things if he got wound up. Because Anders did indeed get wound up, as in really, really manic. These things happened, Tilly said, because patients with manic-depressive disease were notorious for not taking their medications as scheduled, and when they missed a dose the usual outcome was a manic episode.
She’d tried to live with Anders when he came home from the hospital, and while she knew – at least on an intellectual level – how serious manic episodes could become, she’d never expected to take the crash course in handling aggressive outbursts she’d been forced into after his return. Ted had been terrified by these scenes, at least in the beginning, because he simply didn’t understand what had happened to his father, let alone why.
But more importantly, like many kids his age Ted began to internalize his feelings, to bottle them up and keep them hidden from view. Out of sight, out of mind, right? And, like many kids his age the one emotion he internalized was guilt. As in…what did I do to cause this? Whatever it was, I must’ve been the cause, ya know?
Fortunately Tilly caught all the signs. Withdrawal into his room. No interest in school. Growing increasingly combative with his friends…all of the classic symptoms. So she didn’t wait to see how bad things were going to get, because after working the psych wards for almost ten years she knew how this game played out. When Anders was lucid, when he was on his meds, she talked with him about her concerns and in the end he concurred. An amicable split before his psychosis inevitably grew worse was preferable, because at least that way the boy would grow up with decent memories of his father.
So…Anders and Tilly kept things on an even keel, for Ted’s sake.
Yet when Tilly spoke of Anders she had nothing but wonderful things to say about the man, and her new circle of friends in Brentwood and Westwood always wondered about that.
“Do you still love him?” one of these new friends asked her once.
“Oh, yes. Completely. And I always will.”
“So…you aren’t going to remarry?”
“Heavens no! How could I do something like that to him!?”
Which was about the most confusing thing this friend had ever heard in her life.
But in this circuitous way, Ted grew to understand the foundations of his father’s disease. And in a curious way he began to look at everyone he met through the lens of a doting, almost overbearing psychiatrist, wondering what was wrong with them, and what these people were hiding. His was soon a cynical way of seeing the world, and some might go so far as to say the seeds of a dangerous worldview had been planted with these developments.
The missing piece of this puzzle was, of course, Anders.
For just as surely as every planted seed contains a blueprint of the future, Anders had always been a gifted empath, a brilliant surgeon, and a supremely logical scholar. These character traits passed along quite easily, too, so much so that when Ted took the College Boards during his sophomore year at the Harvard School for Boys he scored a perfect 1600. And by then absolutely no one doubted his abilities, for he was, truly, a genius.
And though he could have easily graduated and gone on to college – before his fifteenth birthday – he decided to stay in school. Because he thought – again, he thought – he wasn’t ready for college yet. Probably because he was having way too much fun.
You have to think of Theodore Sorensen as a quite tall and very thin kid that looked a lot like Gregory Peck did at that age, or maybe even Jimmy Stewart. Girls didn’t simply swoon when he walked into a classroom; no, most usually squirmed in their seats and then crossed their legs, a dangling foot swishing away nervously – kind of like a white-tailed deer’s tail, you could say.
And in high school Ted finally developed his father’s innate ability to talk to people. He related to them, perhaps using his father’s empathic abilities, and everyone in school would remember him as an easy going if gangly-legged kid who was super easy to get along with. He had, you might say, no enemies, and in his high school yearbook he was described by one friend as ‘most likely to become a politician, probably the president of Argentina.’ This was not really a compliment.
As soon as Ted got his license Tilly bought him a little BMW, a ’75 2002 tii in British Racing Green with a tan leather interior, and soon enough everyone recognized Ted simply by the sound his little green Beemer made as he raced away from campus, headed up Beverly Glen bound for Sunset Boulevard – and home. He took his first date in high school in that car, and she would also turn out to be his last date because, as it happened, they fell so deeply in love during their senior year together that he asked her to marry him – only…“after we finish college.”
And that’s what happened, too – except by that time Katharine Gold had decided to go on to med school so she saw the wedding happening four years later than previously expected. Theodore Sorensen was, however, not amused. And even then Katharine knew better than to make Ted angry.
Saul Rosenthal hadn’t seen it coming, of course.
Divorce was an unspeakable thing, at least it still was in his world, so to learn of the Sorensen’s divorce ‘through the grapevine’ had more than rattled him. But, he thought when he first learned of the split, to abandon a sick spouse was just too much.
How could this have happened?
He had been spending, or so it seemed, half his time in Denmark and the other half in Israel, at least in the years right after the war, but his work in Israel was now done. Deciding to open the new Music Company location in San Francisco had already required more and more of his time so after he learned of the Sorensen’s split he didn’t need to make excuses to his staff – he just called SAS and booked another one way seat to Los Angeles.
After taking the train up from LA he found Anders in the ‘Little Dutch House’ packing boxes and profoundly depressed. Over dinner that evening Anders said he could ‘no longer justify the expense’ of such a grand old house and needed to put it on the market, so of course Saul did what Saul always did. He bought the property and leased it back to Anders, for a song. Then he went and purchased a little apartment building close to Fisherman’s Wharf and moved into a tiny studio apartment on the top floor. He, of course, paid cash. “It’s only money!” he told Anders after the deals were wrapped up.
“Yes, I suppose so,” Anders replied, “but not everyone bleeds hundred dollar bills, Saul. Where’d you find all this money?”
And Saul answered that question the way he did whenever someone was stupid enough to ask him that: “You don’t want to know,” was all he said, even to friends.
And perhaps that was because Saul Rosenthal was reluctant to talk about such things for a reason. He had helped resettle survivors of the camps first in Palestine and then, after 1948, in Israel. He was paid for his services by those who could afford them, and for those who couldn’t…well, he helped them, too. Still, he would have never made much money doing such things. And while the music company was a profitable enterprise, especially the rights management end of the business dedicated to publishing music scores, even that income wouldn’t have accounted for the staggering ledgers and balance sheets his accounts accrued in more than one Swiss bank.
No, not hardly.
Because Saul Rosenthal’s main preoccupation in life was settling scores, and that meant working for special interests around the world who wanted to see all the Nazis who fled Germany at the war’s end punished. Not brought to justice, but punished. Killed, by and large, as in extrajudicial killings not sanctioned by any government, anywhere. And by the mid-1960s Saul had made, literally, tens of millions of dollars doing exactly that, and at the height of his operation he commanded a shadow network that spanned the globe.
But all that was fading in importance now. Rosenthal wasn’t what most would consider an old man in the 1960s, but he was a man living in the valley of the shadow. He’d killed so many people during the war, and after, that he could no longer remember them all. He’d killed men. He’d killed women. He’d killed children, the children of evil men who remained out of reach – to send a message. And now he was paying the price, or at least he had been.
Until he met his grandson, Lloyd.
Whose father was someone he knew well, a boy named Harry Callahan, and that could only mean one thing. When he’d first gone to Canada right after the war ended, to help Imogen and that sailor get to Vancouver, he’d fathered her child – and yet he’d never known. Imogen – and Lloyd – never told him that Lloyd was incapable of such an act, that a war wound prevented such a thing from happening. And both had apparently decided to never tell Saul, Harald’s true father, of his paternity.
So, what to do?
Keep his distance, let time and destiny play their parts? Or remain close and shape the outcome? But how? What was destiny, after all, other than the sum total of uncorrelated events shaping an outcome?
Yet Saul Rosenthal should have never worried about such things, for he had already made his contribution to the arc of Harry Callahan’s life. A genetic contribution, a swirling combination of factors and traits that defines every living thing – even you. And yet the frightening matrix of Saul’s heartfelt empathy sat astride the hidden soul of a dispassionate killer, and both had already been set in stone within the boy, just as his mother’s brilliant, if tortured outlook had been settled in code within the spiraling double helix of his life.
In exactly the same way that Ted Sorensen’s life had been pre-defined.
Yet these two sets of swirling strands of dancing nucleotides were destined to meet time and time again over the span of their existence – as each made their way down the broken road of time towards a final confrontation that stood to unravel the fabric of the universe.
© 2022 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkühnwrites.com all rights reserved, and as usual this is just a little bit of fiction, pure and simple.