Mary comforted me for a few minutes, then told me to get some sleep. She stood up and turned around to leave, then sat right down on top of me with her hands over her eyes. "Oh, my God! I've died and gone to Heaven!"
I opened my eyes and looked. There were six guys standing and sitting there in their underpants, all reaching for something to cover themselves with. I laughed, then Mary did. Everybody else just had embarrassed grins on their faces, which seemed to make an awful lot of teeth show.
Once Mary left I tried to get back to sleep, and I did for a while. There was more than one snorer in the room and I kept waking up. I finally grabbed my blanket and headed down to the living room to try sleeping on the couch. It was still a fitful sleep. When I eventually had to pee, I just stayed up. It was 4AM and the storm seemed to be over, so I took the blanket and sat on the porch, where I promptly fell into a sound sleep in a lawn chair. I woke up to the sound of my name being called from inside, then suddenly the slider flew open and Tim was beside me.
"Oh, man! You're here! I thought for sure you freaked out and took off again. You okay?"
I smirked at him, "You ever gonna put on some clothes"?
Tim gave me a puzzled look, then looked at himself and blushed. "You coming in? Share the blanket, Dave. Mary's already up."
I still had my clothes on, so I gave Tim the blanket. We went inside, Tim running upstairs while I went into the kitchen to get something to eat. Jimbo was standing at the stove frying up some bacon, smoking up the whole kitchen. "You got the stove too hot - let me do that," I said.
He turned, "You sure, Davy? You okay?"
"I guess I am. I'm really feelin' weird. Just let me cook, okay? Let me do somethin' normal?"
He nodded and smiled, "It's all yours. Let me know if you want some help, kid. We got all kinds of groceries, so do yourself proud, man".
I got the bacon pan cooled down and looked in the fridge. There was ham and sausage, too, so I got that out, along with peppers and onions and two dozen eggs. I got busy, and it felt good. Cooking breakfast was one thing, really the only thing, that I'd ever shared with my father. My hands were occupied, but my mind wasn't. I could only wonder how deeply my own family was involved in this terrible 'business'. My father had doted on me and my sisters, but as I thought about it, his doting always involved material things. New toys. The best clothes. Big bucks when the carnival came to town.
We could sit on his lap sometimes, but only if we just climbed up there by ourselves. He'd pat me on the head when I was making eggs the right way. He took us places, but usually just gave us a wad of money and told us to have fun while he smoked cigars with his friends. I honestly think he enjoyed having kids, and he treated us well. He'd tell us when we were doing something right, or at least the way he wanted it to be. He rarely hollered at us, only when something we were doing looked dangerous. Most of the time it was only that things didn't matter. Fight with other kids - don't matter, just win. Bad report card - don't matter, the teachers are stupid. Nothing mattered. We felt loved, even coddled. I do not recall him once telling me that he loved me, though.
I don't know if the love word was in his vocabulary. It actually didn't matter to me - he showed it all the time, he didn't have to say it.
My sense of love and devotion for him had to come from somewhere. My father was as friendly and generous with our friends as he was with us, and he'd tell us which ones he thought were good kids and which ones to stay away from. He had to be thinking, didn't he? Caring?
He always thought it was best when we played with our cousins, after all they're family. I had tons of cousins on both sides, but only one that I thought of as a friend, and she was from my mother's side. Lessie (Allessandra) moved out of state shortly before my father died and I haven't heard from her since his funeral. She was the one who really taught me how to talk. We were best friends from about age five, and she could yak up a storm.
Pick a subject - any subject that a kid would know about -. and she'd be off. She always let me get in my two-cents' worth, and we always had fun. She was violent with her hands, too. You had to stand back if she was trying to make a point.
I was taking a break. I had a huge omelette for everyone baking in the oven and everything else was about set. Tim came in and hugged me from behind in his usual way. "You okay, Dave? That was heavy shit.."
I started weeping. "I don't know Tim. I didn't want to know. I been standin' here wonderin' why I'm such an empty ice cube. Does your mother say she loves you?"
"All the time."
"Did your father - I mean when he was still there?"
"I don't remember. I was little. He says he loves me now, but he lives at the fuckin' mission. He's lost it. He's gone. I don't want his bullshit, or his love."
I didn't say anything, but I started getting mad. I pulled loose from Tim and turned to look at him, trying to control myself. My face was covered with tears.
"He says he loves you? He tells you that? And you don't want it? Why the fuck do you want a loser like me to tell you I love you. I'm no better than him. Maybe worse. Look where I got to on drugs. My father never actually told me he loved me. Why do you think I'm such an asshole? How can anybody telling you they love you make you mad? Tell me, Tim. Tell me! I wanna know!"
Tim had a look of horror on his face, and pulled me into a hug with his chin on my shoulder. "You're right, man. You're so right! That's half the reason I love you - you see right through bullshit. He is my Dad. I shouldn't just scorn him. He does say he loves me."
I cried, "Why would he lie? He can't be making believe, Timmy. It's too hard to say to start with. I know I fucked up ... he must know he did, too! I mean, he knows he messed things up. If he says he loves you, he really must. At least he's here to say it. And he can't be sayin' it if he doesn't have feelin's for you can he? He's your father, Tim whatever you think of him. Mine's dead and I can't ever ask. I can't ever ask him about anything."
Tim kissed my forehead. "Thanks, man. That's why we're a pair. That's exactly why. You see through my shit and I see through yours. I'm gonna go see my dad again. We'll figure something out. Like you say, you can't say it if you don't mean it, and I mean it. I love you, Dave. I really and truly do."
"I love you, too. I really do, Tim. I just don't know..."
"I know ... if it's the way I want".
The timer went off, and I looked at Tim, "It might be, Timmy. I think it might be. FOOD'S READY!"
Timmy looked at me with those question marks in his eyes. "You mean it? Do you really mean it, Dave? You really love me?"
I didn't know how to, but I tried to put exclamation points in my eyes. Then I started to cry again, "Tim ... Timmy ... I love you so much! I don't know how to say it - you know what an asshole I am. But I mean it, Tim. I love you, guy, I really do!"
There was a little bit of applause from behind us. I could see Tim's ears turn bright red, and I'm sure mine did too. I turned around, still embarrassed about what I'd just told Tim, to see Ken and Barry and the Doc with huge grins on their faces. Our faces turned redder. Much redder.
"What?" I asked.
Barry looked exasperated. "I don't believe it! You guys are an item and I'm still looking for someone! I'm gonna build the world's biggest shit house or something, just to draw a crowd of new faces." He looked at Ken and the Doc. "These guys - my best friends - won't have me, but you guys fall into it the first time you meet. I'm doin' something wrong."
Mary walked into the kitchen, and I noticed the look that passed between her and Ken. I got the feeling that they were interested in each other. I had to stifle a laugh when I thought of her trying to figure him out.
The tension of the last two days was gone. Everyone enjoyed a long, lazy breakfast, then Ken said he wanted to talk to me alone. Mary wanted to speak with me, too. Ken and I took a walk.
"Are you okay, Dave? That musta been pretty brutal stuff for you."
"I'm pretty much okay. I just can't believe my own family got involved in that shit. It's really hard to think about."
"I don't know how much they had to do with things. I got the feeling from Artie's father that your uncle was just some kind of low level enforcer."
"I wish I could know that for sure. Being a messenger or delivery boy or something is better than running that kind of show. I still feel like I'm responsible. How'm I supposed to live with shit like this?"
"I don't know, Davy. First, you're not responsible for what other people did. Don't even think it. I bet that's what Mary wants to work out with you, anyhow, so I won't say too much. We all do what we do, and sometimes other people don't like it. Nobody should get mad at you for something I do, and vice versa. The shit you got yourself into is your fault, so go ahead and blame yourself. Crap your uncle did years ago has nothing to do with you, so I'd say forget it."
"What if my father did it too? What if that's how he paid for all the stuff he bought me? How do I live with that? How do I ever find the truth?"
"Dave, talk to Mary about that, not me. If you ever need a refinery or something, then I'm your man. I only know of one person that can help you with the truth about this shit."
"No ... Artie! Dave, if you want the truth you need to see Artie. He's the only person I know of that can tell you what your uncle did to him." Ken stopped walking and pulled me to face him. "Davy, it's nothing you have to do. If you really need to know what went on back then, Artie's the guy who knows. I have no idea if he'll tell you, and all he'll know is what he saw and what happened to him. He might not know the players, either, but I'm betting he does."
"You think I should talk to Artie Loomis? Are you nuts? I thought you guys were gonna fix his ass."
"Dave, talk to Mary. She'll help you figure this out. I don't really want you to ever see Artie Loomis again, but if it's what you need to do, then you should do it. I do want to fix his ass. I know that he makes his living hurting people, even ruining people. Now I know more about him, too, and he got fucked up by other people himself. Artie knows what happened there. You need to talk to Mary, Dave."
"You sweet on her?"
I grinned in triumph, "You are! I saw ya lookin' at her at breakfast. Kenny's in lo-ove, Kenny's in lo-ove!"
Ken shoved my shoulder, "So are you, ya little jerk!"
"Hey! I didn't say I was in love ... just that I love the kid."
"Oh yeah? What way does Timmy want it, huh? What did that mean, kid? What were you trying to say?"
When in doubt, change the subject. "Mary's real nice. And she's really smart. And pretty."
Ken looked happily at nothing, "Tell me about it".
I teased, "Does she know how to make bombs?"
'FUCK you, ya little shit! You better not tell her about my ... ah, hobbies. I'll throw ya back off the cliff myself! You open your mouth and say one fuckin' thing, and you're back in the quarry! Got it?"
"Geez! Calm down, man. I was just talking".
He glared at me, "Try shutting up for once."
"I don't know how. So! Whatcha got planned for Artie? How ya gonna take care of him?"
"Vee haff our vays!"
I knew the answer, but I asked just the same, "You're not gonna tell me?"
"No way, Davy. You can't be in the picture. Artie must think you're dead by now, or gone somewhere else. Sorry, it's the only way it'll work."
"Not even a hint?"
He grinned, "Okay, lunacy. Look it up."
"How do you spell it?"
"Figure it out."
I threatened, "I'll tell Mary you're a terrorist!"
"You gotta do better than that!. She'll just want to spend all her time with me shrinking my head. Go ahead. Tell her I'm a terrorist. I love it!"
"Can't I win with you?"
"Someday, maybe. If we ever compete. You got your eyes on Mary, too?"
"I like her, Kenny. I really do. She's real easy to talk to and she understands me. You can tell she really cares about people, too."
Ken smiled, "I guess that's why she is what she is. What's with you and Tim?"
"I'm not sure. I really love Tim a lot. I do, Kenny. I just ..."
He looked a question at me, "Don't wanna be gay?"
"I guess that's it. I don't even know if that's all it is. I think I need to talk to Mary."
"You guys are back on track though, aren't you?"
"Yeah. We're cool again. I just gotta ..."
"Talk to Mary!"
We said it in unison.
... to be continued
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