The son asks the father why he’s not wearing a seat belt. The father says it’s because long ago the father’s sister drowned. She backed her car into a swimming pool and, because she was strapped in, was unable to free herself. Her lungs filled with water and she died. The seat belt, the very device meant to protect her, sealed her doom.
The son believes the story. Why wouldn’t he? What kind of horrible person would make up a story like that?
Gene Weingarten is not a horrible person. If anything, according to those who know him, he’s empathetic, even sweet, if also obsessive, slovenly, and slightly nuts. Maybe more than slightly. He regrets fooling his son, who only found out the truth about the dead fictional sister years later.
Weingarten told me that anecdote knowing it would end up in print. It’s the kind of story that, depending on your point of view, you might find either darkly funny or deeply repugnant. It is comedy and tragedy with a side of self-flagellation. It is Ge...