'For someone who walked him into a mugging,' O'Toole said, smiling, you're one to talk.'
'Indeed,' Mason agreed, 'but let us not use past mistakes to justify current ones. Peter,' Mason was quite serious now, 'I fear for the future. This belligerence alarms me. Who can say what the United States will do in the next few years? You may never see your son again.'
'You worry too much,' O'Toole said. 'And we both know that all Danny needs is a little worldly wisdom. Where better to get it than behind enemy lines?'
* * *
'And you'll call me when you get to grandpa's?' Tara insisted.
'Yes mom,' Dan answered. 'I'll have the pilot radio you too.'
'Oh my, aren't you the confident world traveler,' Tara said. 'Now I want you to be very careful over there. It's not as safe as it is here on the island.'
'Yes mom,' Dan muttered.
Mason walked over. Tara once again checked that Danny's bags had proper tags, then walked back to her husband to give the professor a private moment.
'Daniel,' Mason said, 'you've read most of my books and listened to me pontificate your whole life. Now I want you to go over there and see it for yourself: life under the State.'
'Sure thing, Professor,' Dan said. 'I'll shoot an I.R.S. agent for you.'
'Good show,' Mason said. 'Of course, you really can't say things like that once you're on the plane.'
'I know,' Dan said. Why did everyone think he was so stupid?
'Matt!' Dan suddenly yelled, looking over the crowd of bustling fliers.
'Ae-e-e-e, there 'e is!' Matt yelled and jogged up. As Tara had done before him, Mason walked away to give the two young men privacy.
'I thought you'd miss my flight,' Dan said.
'Well, I'll be honest,' Matt said. 'Last night, as I was orchestrating a daisy chain with these two girls from Spain I took home from the bar, I thought, 'There's no way in hell I'm gonna get up by 9 A.M.' But, as it turns out, this morning I had to piss, and looking at those senioritas, I realized that the whole was definitely greater than the sum of the parts. So I told them I had to see my good buddy off to the States. I'll tell you what, if I hadn't gotten them out of my apartment quick-like, they could've broken a mirror or something.'
'Glad my quest for an education could assist you,' Dan said.
'So tell me Danny boy,' Matt said, 'are you goin over there with a full cherry? I don't mean to be crude, but we need to know what we're dealing with here.'
'If you're asking me'' Dan began, and hesitated.
'I'm saying, have you played hide the salami with a chick?'
'Strictly speaking, no.'
'Okay,' Matt said and thought. 'Say'you're not a fag, are you?'
'Hell no!' Dan protested.
'Whoa whoa whoa,' Matt said, holding up his hands, 'easy there fella. There's no shame in it. Seriously, if you like to smoke pole, just tell me now. I will not fault you for a taste in scrotum. But I don't want to be sitting here, giving movie tickets to a blind man.'
'Screw you,' Dan said. 'I'm not gay.'
'Okay, okay,' Matt agreed, 'we've just gotta get you over that learning curve. First thing: Always remember that you're going into a new place. Nobody there knows that you've been the strikeout king here in Minerva. So, leave all your psychological hang-ups on the island. Convince yourself that there are two Dan O'Tooles, the one on Minerva who can't get laid, and the one in the States who bangs chicks like it's his job.'
Dan nodded his head. He was listening far more intently to these pearls of wisdom than those offered by the professor.
'Second: If you ever feel intimidated by a girl, just remember: she is physically smaller and weaker than you, and she's a lot more emotionally insecure. I guarantee you that ninety percent of the time when you think you're bothering a girl, in reality, she's worrying about how she looks or if she sounds stupid.
'Third: Do not let yourself fall into the trap of trying to outcompete guys for the prize girl. That is the complete, one hundred percent wrong approach. You need to let the prospective girls prove which ones are worthy enough to lick Dan O'Toole's balls. Do you see the tremendous difference?'
* * *
'. . . so when you get out there, you have to be aware of the different groups, your skaters, your punks, your wiggers . . .'
'What's a wigger?' Dan asked.
'A white nigger,' Matt informed him. 'You know, white kids who wear baggy pants and try to rap.'
'Oh,' Dan said. 'What's the word for a black kid who acts white?'
'A nigger,' Matt said after a moment of thought.
The lesson was cut short as O'Toole approached the pair. Matt deferred to the father by walking over to Tara, who was looking particularly sultry. Matt assumed it had to do with the whole protective mother thing.
'All set, buddy?' O'Toole asked.
'I'm not going to bore you with a bunch of tips,' O'Toole said, 'and anyway, I think the good Mr. King has already done enough.'
'But I'd please like you to remember this: No one in this world will believe that integrity works, unless someone gives them a living example. As long as you stay true to your own personal code, you will never regret a single day in your life.'
Dan nodded and picked up his suitcase. He shook his father's hand and headed for the gate.
'He's so young,' Tara said as her son walked out of view.
'That boy is going to do something big,' O'Toole said.
As he watched his son leave for boarding school, Peter O'Toole's arms filled with goosebumps, while a soothing warmth spread throughout his insides.