Page 172

Undergound. Go to Table of Contents.

   By the day of Electron's committal, in March, Electron's father had

   begun his final decline. The bowel cancer created a roller-coaster of

   good and bad days, but soon there were only bad days, and they were

   getting worse. On the last day of March, the doctors told him that it

   was finally time to make the trip to hospital. He stubbornly refused

   to go, fighting their advice, questioning their authority. They

   quietly urged him again. He protested. Finally, they insisted.


   Electron and his sister stayed with their father for hours that day,

   and the following one. Their father had other visitors to keep his

   spirits up, including his brother who fervently beseeched him to

   accept Jesus Christ as his personal saviour before he died. That way,

   he wouldn't burn in hell. Electron looked at his uncle, disbelieving.

   He couldn't believe his father was having to put up with such crap on

   his deathbed. Still, Electron chose to be discreet. Apart from an

   occasional rolling of the eyes, he kept his peace at his father's



   Perhaps, however, the fervent words did some good, for as Electron's

   father spoke about the funeral arrangements, he made a strange slip of

   the tongue. He said `wedding' instead of funeral, then paused,

   realising his mistake. Glancing slowly down at the intricate braided

   silver wedding band still on his finger, he smiled frailly and said,

   `I suppose, in a way, it will be like a wedding'.


   Electron and his sister went to hospital every day for four days, to

   sit by their father's bed.


   At 6 a.m. on the fifth day, the telephone rang. It was the family

   friend their father had asked to watch over them. Their father's life

   signs were very, very weak, fluttering on the edge of death.


   When Electron and his sister arrived at the hospital, the nurse's face

   said everything. They were too late. Their father had died ten minutes

   before they arrived. Electron broke down and wept. He hugged his

   sister, who, for a brief moment, seemed almost reachable. Driving them

   back to the house, the family friend stopped and bought them an

   answering machine.


   `You'll need this when everyone starts calling in,' she told them.

   `You might not want to talk to anyone for a while.'


   In the months after his bust in 1990 Electron began smoking marijuana

   regularly. At first, as with many other university students, it was a

   social thing. Some friends dropped by, they happened to have a few

   joints, and so everybody went out for a night on the town. When he was

   in serious hacking mode, he never smoked. A clear head was much too

   important. Besides, the high he got from hacking was a hundred times

   better than anything dope could ever do for him.


   When Phoenix appeared on the front page of the New York Times,

   Electron gave up hacking. And even if he had been tempted to return to

   it, he didn't have anything to hack with after the police took his

   only computer. Electron found himself casting around for something to

   distract him from his father's deteriorating condition and the void

   left by giving up hacking. His accounting studies didn't quite fit the

   bill. They had always seemed empty, but never more so than now.


   Smoking pot filled the void. So did tripping. Filled it very nicely.

   Besides, he told himself, it's harder to get caught smoking dope in