Anything We Want
I somehow neglected to volunteer for cleanup, and I’m sure I was sound asleep before Mom and Ally had things put away. It was one of those momentary sleeps though, like I’d been dead instead of sleeping for eight hours when my phone rang. I looked at the time, and it was seven. Shea’s voice asked, “What time should I come down?”
I said, “Right now would be good. You like eggs?”
“I ate,” he said.
“Oh, good,” I replied. “The back door’s open, just come in when you get here.”
We hung up and I went into the bathroom. I didn’t take a shower, because there wasn’t much point in one before skiing. I used the toilet, washed up, pointlessly combed my hair, and brushed my teeth.
The coffee machine was on when I got to the kitchen, and the pot half full. Then I noticed the timer light was on, and realized that Ally or my mother had set it for me. That left me to fix breakfast for myself, so I started some toast and put butter in a frying pan for eggs. I heard the door and turned to see Shea coming in. I grinned, because he was bundled up for a moon walk, but I let him take his coat off and come into the kitchen before I said anything.
“Hi,” I said. “Sure you’re not hungry?”
I looked closer and Shea looked tired. He said, “Coffee?”
I looked at the pot and said, “In a minute. Have a seat.”
I fried my egg, put cheese on it, and put it between two slices of toast, and I sat at the table with Shea. I got up again to get juice, and I put two mugs by the coffee pot while I was up. Then I sat down to eat. When the coffee maker did its ding, Shea got up to pour so I could finish eating.
I found it interesting that Shea drank his coffee exactly like I did, with just a drop of milk. He was half done with his before I picked my mug up, but after a sip I felt alive enough to talk.
“Ready to learn how to ski?” I asked.
Shea smiled, “A little nervous, I guess. I’m ready, though.”
I snickered, “Nervous? You’ll be scared shitless when you get to the top of your first hill! Then you’ll have a lesson, and when it’s over you’ll be petrified where I take you.”
Shea just stared at me. “Maybe I should go back to bed? Are you serious?”
I started to answer when I thought he was serious, and he turned a wicked smile to me. “Listen, Doodler. I’m more scared about what Jim McNaughton is going to name me than some hill.”
I looked at Shea, then I laughed. “What are you saying?”
Shea sighed. “Doodler’s not bad. Shnoodlemeyer though, that’s kind of pushing it, and Tinker Bell? Do you know how he could ruin my life if you slip and tell him I’m Clancy?”
He had me laughing, and I had a question. “You see significance in Shnoodlemeyer? Tell me!”
Shea looked at me like I must be brain dead, which I’ll readily admit to. “Break it apart, Doodler. It’s Tommy Timek; he’s six feet high and weighs eight pounds. You don’t see the noodle in that?”
I stared, gaped, then sat back and slapped my own head. Officially dumb!
I didn’t get to dwell, because the McNaughton brothers tooted their horn loudly right then. I waved them in, dumped pans and dishes in the sink, and went to get my things.
I was always prepared for skiing on short notice. My boots, hat, gloves, goggles, and miscellaneous tools were in a bag, and my skis were locked with my poles in a carry handle just outside. I only needed my ski jacket and pants, and had to remember to put money in a pocket I could reach.
It took me a minute to get my jacket on, and carry everything out to their Land Rover.
The McNaughton brothers are an odd pair. They share blue eyes and not much else, as far as resemblance is concerned. Dan is a senior, slim and sandy-haired, and a gentle, quiet guy. Skiing was his only sport, as far as I knew. He’s generally liked in school, but never seemed to have a lot of friends. I thought he was a loner, but I was on a different plane and didn’t see everything.
Jim is a bullet-shaped kid with ten tons of energy, and his blue eyes shine out from under very dark eyebrows and hair. It’s not totally black, but in most light it looks like it is. He’s quick-witted, sometimes loud, and always brash, and he’s all kinds of fun to be around. He has nicknames for a lot of kids, and not all are flattering, but it’s like a school honor to get your nick from Jim.
My mother, when she remembers who he is, calls him a real ticket.
I introduced Shea in the car, but the brothers already knew who he was, so the talk turned to skiing. I was pumped up, and I think we all were, to be having some fun after a difficult week. Dan was driving, and quiet as usual, but Jim was his usual hot-wired self.
Shea and I were in the back, with Shea behind Jim, and Jim’s seat suddenly flopped back almost into Shea’s lap. “Ooh, mama, that’s a thrill,” Jim cried. He looked over at me, then up at Shea, who must have seemed upside down from that perspective. “So, Shea. It’s your first time skiing?”
Shea nodded, looking nervous.
“Not to worry!” Jim said cheerfully. “You’ll learn how to ride the lifts this morning, and this afternoon …” He undid his seatbelt so he could turn around, crossing his legs under him. “This afternoon, we will show you how to kill a mountain!” He let out a scream, opening his eyes and mouth wide, and the rest of us shuddered.
Dan complained, “Jesus! Not in my ear, boy. I’m driving!”
Jim didn’t appear to hear his brother; he was bonding with Shea. “That scream wasn’t you, kid. Nay, it was the mountain itself in its death roll.” He leaned close to Shea and lowered his voice. “Tonight. Tonight you will be Shea the mountain killer, and you’ll be known as Troll.”
Shea smiled nervously, and Jim poked him. “Unless, that is. Unless you break your leg.” He smiled and shrugged, “If that happens, we’ll call you Flimsy.”
I laughed, “What you mean we, white boy? If he’s Troll, then he’s Troll. You can’t make it conditional, like if it’s a boy he’s Bill, and if it’s a girl she’s Jane.”
“Yeah,” Dan agreed.
Jim gave me a dirty look, but said, “Okay, Troll it is.” He waggled a finger in front of Shea’s face and said, “You better live up to it, buddy. No girly-boy shit with a name like Troll. Got it?”
Shea grinned, and it was clear he liked the name. He nodded.
I liked the name too, for no specific reason except because it was so unlike Shea himself. My father knows a guy in Boston who’s a good six and a half feet tall, and looks like Mr. Clean. Everyone calls him Shorty, and that was as funny as Shea being Troll.
We were soon at the mountain. I gave Jim money for my lift ticket, and went with Shea to find the ski school desk.
It took us about a half hour to get him his ticket, rental equipment, and to find the meeting place. I asked, and the instructor said they’d be finished at eleven thirty. I said good luck to the Troll, and left to find Jim and Dan. They were in the lodge having coffee, so I got a coffee myself.
Then we went out to ski, and it was good. It had been a tough snow year, with precious little natural snow until January, so all the base was man-made, which seemed to freeze into ice sooner.
They’d made snow the night before, though. We hit a few icy patches. Some people scream about ice, but it’s not bad in small measures. You go a little faster all of a sudden, but if you’re skiing right you barely notice.
We had fun all morning. The trails through the woods, which are the most fun, had the least snow, so we stayed with the main ones. Dan wasn’t a really aggressive skier, but he could be elegant, and every time we came onto this broad, easy hill near the bottom he made easy-looking, beautiful moves, almost like a figure skater. He called it snow dancing, and I loved watching him. I tried some of his moves, and fell on my head a lot doing it. He was still fun to watch.
When it was time, the three of us took a break. Jim and Dan went into the main lodge, and I went to find Shea. The ski class was still somewhere on the hill, so I found a warmish corner and waited.
One class came in, all looking happy, but Shea wasn’t there. He showed up with his own class a few minutes later, and he was skiing in control. He was doing well enough that when he saw me, he skied over and stopped without drama. His grin was wide, “I knew I’d like it! This is fun!”
I laughed, stood, and bopped his shoulder. “You really like it?”
He nodded eagerly, and I said, “Then you are Troll: master of the mountain!”
Shea said, “Yeah, yeah, I’m hungry!” He smirked at me, “I could eat like a troll about now.”
I gave him a shove and said, “Good. Let’s go.”
We all filled up in the lodge, and the food was in the okay category. Then we all skied a bunny run with Shea to see what he could do, which wasn’t much. I volunteered to stay with him for the afternoon, but Dan interceded. “You go with Jim. I know how to get this guy going. Swing by in an hour and see how we’re doing.”
We did. Jim and I found places to ski with abandon for an hour, and we had a screeching good time, with Jim the chief screecher. I just let out an occasional whoop. We had some serious fun, and when we caught up with Dan and Shea, they were having fun, too, and Shea was looking competent rather than tentative.
“Looking good, Troll,” I said, smiling at Shea.
His return smile seemed shy, “I like this. I really do. Can we try something else?”
I looked at Dan, who had been with Shea. He said, “Sure. Nothing hard, but … I know the place.”
We took a chair to the top, and Dan had an easy way down for him and Shea. It crossed a lot of the more challenging routes, so Dan and Shea stuck with easy, while Jim and I took brief side trips down the steep-and-narrows, but we always caught up. It was fun, and we took turns staying with Shea, so by the end of the day he had more than one perspective on the sport of skiing.
He wasn’t an expert in a day, but he had the legs and the balance to learn well.
Dan started the drive home, and I was sitting right behind him trying to talk. Jim zonked right out, and Shea was close behind him. Before we reached the main road, Dan pulled over, woke his brother up, and had him switch places with me. I was awake, and Dan needed someone to talk to, lest he fall asleep at the wheel.
When Jim was secure in the back, he went directly back to sleep. I buckled in beside Dan, and spent a moment appreciating the comforting look and feel of his British SUV. Shea never woke up. I could have slept myself after a day out in the cold air, but I felt okay.
“Nice day,” I said.
Dan smiled, “Yeah, it was. And after a tough week.”
“I guess,” I said. “You were friends with Jamie?”
He nodded, staring at the road. “Jamie was special. Special,” he mumbled.
I looked at him and said, “Yeah, it seems everyone thinks that.”
Dan said, so softly that I barely made it out, “I mean he was special to me.” He drove without saying anything for awhile, then said, “I guess you won’t understand ‘til you have a friend so close, but me and Jamie …”
He left that sounding like a question. I reached over and touched his arm, and when he glanced at me, I said, “I’m sorry. I really am.”
Dan was silent for a half-hour, and I was trying not to doze off. Then, “Tell me if I’m out of bounds,” he said, startling me. “Is your mother really a lesbian?”
I looked at him. I thought most people knew, so the question surprised me. “Well, I think she’s fakedly a lesbian, but she’s working on the real part.”
”You’re a pisser,” Dan said, and I agreed. He asked, “You don’t talk about it?”
“I do with friends,” I admitted, “and you qualify. What’s up?”
He drove, and finally said, “Nothing, I just heard it is all.”
I sat back. I was accustomed to those kinds of questions. I didn’t like them, and Dan’s response was typical. Kind of like ‘oh.’
Mom was a lesbian alright, and she had a killer girlfriend in Ally. My life, when I learned these things, was really tumultuous for awhile. Then Dad found reason, and he passed it on to me. My mom is a lesbian because that’s what she is. She’s gay; born that way, and helpless to change it. She married my father because she loved the guy, and she still does, and he still loves her. Except for me, they’d be better off as brother and sister, which is pretty much how they treat each other these days.
I said to Dan, “I love my mother, you know. She is what she is. She’s still my Mom.”
Dan asked, “You don’t care about gay?”
I said, “I guess I do, at least in a little way. I’m not mad about it or anything, and with her partner it’s like having two mothers. It’s still different, though, and it makes me different.”
“You’re not gay, though?”
“No,” I replied. “Why?”
“Just asking,” he said, as he took the exit to town.
Our conversation had been stilted and a bit confusing to me, but talks about my mother often were. People were curious about the ‘Paul Has Two Moms’ thing, and standard curiosity didn’t bother me at all.
When we were almost to my house, I remembered Shea, who was sound asleep in the back, draped over his seat belt. I pointed the Luellens driveway out to Dan and said, “Up there. Let’s drop Shea off.”
The change in velocity, the fact that I’d cracked my window open, and the Luellen’s bumpy, unpaved driveway, served to wake Jim and Shea. Neither of them were especially lucid, but Shea expressed his gratitude before he said goodbye and went inside.
I did the same. Jim had energy most of the time, and when he was wired, everyone within earshot knew it. He was pooped after skiing, though, and just climbed into the back seat again, face first now that it was all his.
I was tired, too, and glad that nobody was waiting for me when I went in the house. I put my things away haphazardly, then went to my room and crashed on my bed. Beat. Beat but happy. It had been a nice day in every way, and there’s no law in Vermont that says you can’t go to bed at six in the evening, or that you have to take your clothes off or anything.
+ + + + + + + +
A week later, I was in the front seat of an Audi Q7, grinning as Tommy Timek, and Shea Luellen cowered in the back seat, and my mother snoozed in the way-back. We were on the road North, headed to the ski house at an even hundred miles an hour.
I wasn’t afraid. The speed was daunting, but Ally was a driver in the best sense of the word. It was late Friday afternoon, and the Interstate was fair-well empty. It would get busy later when the flatlanders got there, but they were still ninety miles behind us. Ally had both hands on the wheel, but she was very relaxed.
I love fast! I want a Corvette when I’m sixteen. Dad says no, but Ally says don’t worry. That’s the only real divide in my life. Dad is this conservative guy most of the time, but he has his moments. Mom’s down to earth, too, but she has Ally.
I don’t want to sound cheesy, but Ally is my freng. That’s right: freng, as in street talk.
Ally takes me seriously. Not that my parents don’t, but Ally takes my wishes and dreams seriously, like she already had them in advance of me. She doesn’t want me dead, so my Corvette will probably have the engine replaced with a four-cylinder, or maybe the gas tank will be missing, but Ally has a knack. She’s a middle-aged lesbian with a way better feel for what might be a turn-on for a teenage boy like me than either of my parents has.
She likes to be called ‘Al’ but only my mother calls her that on a regular basis. I love her, and I love the friendly sound of Ally.
I was happily watching the miles go by, listening to Sirius, and relaxing. That Q7 at one hundred was smoother than my father’s Jeep at thirty.
I said, “This is the exit,” without thinking. I had to give my father directions pretty often, but Ally knew the way, and she gave me a look.
I reminded her, “We have to stop and get skis for Shea. Don’t forget.”
She didn’t say anything, which told me she had forgetten, then she asked “Where? Are we renting or buying?”
“Renting, I think.” I looked over the seatback at Shea, and asked, “You’re renting skis, right?”
He leaned forward, “Yeah, Dad says to rent for now.”
“How you doing back there?” I asked.
Shea said, “Can we stop somewhere? I gotta go!”
Ally heard that and said, “There’s no place to stop, but hold on. I’ll find you some woods.”
She did, and I joined Shea and Tom in some trees. The snow was crisp enough to hold our weight, and we all felt better on the way back to the car.
After that, it was just a short distance to the first ski shop, and we spent a half-hour there looking at equipment while Shea got fitted for rental gear.
Then it was another half-hour to the house, and Ally knew the way there.
When we got out of the car, the place was lit up because Dad was expecting us, and he liked to make an impression. I lived there, and I was impressed. Shea, beside me, let out a gasp.
”Holy … holy! This is your house?”
I snickered, “This is the place! We have a palm tree in the bathroom. Wait’ll you see! Come on in!”
We went inside, and I got a hug from my father right after my mother got hers. I tended to get upset when they hugged each other like that, because it reminded me of when they were together and we were a more typical family. They still used their pet names for each other too, so my father said, “Hey, Doll,” when he hugged her, and she called him Sweetheart.
There were greetings all around, and more to come when the Mc Naughtons showed up. They couldn’t leave Brattleboro until their mother got home from work with the car, and I’m sure they wouldn’t drive like Ally, so they’d show up in a few hours.
While people were talking, I saw Dana peering out at us from down the hall, and I grinned. I marched right down to him, and extended my hand when I was there. “Dana! Man, good to see you!”
His blank stare morphed into a smile. He took my hand and shook, saying, “You, too.” Then he put a hand on my shoulder and led me the way I was already facing, into the kitchen. I sat at the table, and Dana sat up on the counter, and the expression on his face was odd.
“You okay?” I asked.
He snorted. “Okay? Yeah, I’m okay.” He put both hands on his tummy and said, “Look at me! Three meals a day, man! Sometimes four and five. Do you have any idea how many times I went hungry because … “
Dana’s eyes went from bright to dim while I watched, and I felt bad. “Dana, don’t …” I started.
He smiled, “Don’t what? I grew up poor, like stinking poor. I don’t know who my father is, and my mother won’t ask her own family for a damn thing. Now, all of a sudden, your father is here taking care of everything. Did he tell you that he took me to the dentist the other day? I go to some eye doctor next week, and I eat! Every meal, there’s food there. I don’t hafta wait for payday, and I don’t hafta hope that there’s leftovers at the Bed and Breakfast.” He leveled his gaze at me and said, “It’s like a dream, Paul. Your father has this money, and it’s like he’s just dumping it on us.”
I knew what Dana was saying, and I was uncomfortable hearing how bad things really were in his life. Still, Dad was making a difference, and that’s what we wanted to do. I didn’t know what to say, though, so I kept my mouth shut.
After a long moment, Dana smiled and said, “Sorry. You don’t need my worries.”
That made me feel worse. “Dana, listen. I think it’s obvious that I’ve only been hungry through forgetfulness … or stubbornness. I do care about your life. I just didn’t expect to hear it right now. Anyhow, this is no dream you’re in. Your worries are over: At least the ones about money.” I smiled, not wanting to seem like some big-ass benefactor. I wanted Dana to know that he was set for the long haul, though, and he was. He wouldn’t get a Corvette when he was sixteen, at least not from us, but he’d eat well. He could go to college if he wanted to, or train for the Olympics if he preferred that.
Instead, I saw him with tears in his eyes, and I asked “What’s wrong?”
Dana shook his head and mumbled, “Nothing.”
“Come on,” I said. “You’re crying. What?”
Dana wiped his eyes on his sleeve, then stared at the floor for a minute. He looked at me and said, “You wouldn’t know.” He turned away again, then back to me. “I have never, not once in my life, felt safe. Not really and truly safe, like I’ll have food to eat, clean clothes, maybe a future that doesn’t involve a car wash.”
“There you are!” I heard Shea say from behind me.
I shot him a glance and said, “Not now!” Then I softened my tone and said, “Give us a few minutes, Shea. I didn’t mean to yell.”
Dana spoke up. “No, stay.” He turned his watery eyes to Shea. “I’m just telling Paul about my sucky life, and how his father is making things good.”
Shea looked confused, so I said, “Sit, okay? Where’s Tommy?”
“Right here,” came Tom’s voice from behind me.
“Sit with Shea,” I said, trying not to sound bossy. “Dana’s had it tough,” I said in explanation. “He’s here with his mom and …”
“This is Dana?” Tommy interrupted, and he leaned close to look at Dana’s face. “You really got your head run over?” he asked in surprise.
I laughed, “Jesus, Tom! I only said that. I didn’t mean it really happened.”
Tom laughed kind of uneasily and Shea snickered. Dana stared, then smiled, which turned into a little grin. “What happened,” Dana said, “is that I played icicle, and Paul’s dad is still helping me to thaw out.”
Tom shrugged and asked, “Any food around here? Come on, Shea, let’s go greaze!”
Shea seemed unsure, so I said, “Go ahead. Help feed Tommy.”
Tom opened the refrigerator, and Shea opened cabinets. Dana looked at me. “Greaze?”
I laughed. “Yeah, that’s what we do in the school lunchroom; graze on greasy food, so it’s greaze.”
Dana smiled and mumbled, “Kinda makes sense. It’s a verb, right?”
“It’s a noun, too, like guess the greaze and win a prize.”
We walked into the TV room where I flopped in an armchair and Dana sat in one facing me. “So, you’re doing okay?” I asked.
Dana looked at the floor. “You know, I never really had a man to do things with before. It’s always been me and my mom, and, well you know, like teachers and cops and the like. Old man Dudley taught me to fish and hunt, and he’s about the closest to a father I ever had, only more like a grandfather.” He looked up at me and said, “He died when I was eleven, and I guess that’s when I started cuttin’ up some.”
“Sounds like you and my father get along?”
Dana nodded, looking almost regretful, like I might not share. “I kinda like him, too,” I said. “You know one thing?” Dana shook his head a little. “Dad’s easy, and he’s dead honest. If he still likes you, that means he trusts you, so don’t mess up.”
Dana muttered, “I’m trying. I got no reason to screw around now, anyhow. We’re trying to get this business started, and there’s a lot to do.”
“Are you going to work there?” I asked.
Dana’s face brightened. “Yeah. I’m pretty much the janitor right now, but Heinrich is showing me how the machines work, and I’m learning to fix them. I’ll do other things once we open, but that place sat empty for eight months, and everything got pretty crusty in there.”
I smiled at his choice of words. I reserved crusty for underpants and socks. “So it’s Dana the decruster?”
Dana snickered, “You could say that. Who are these guys with you?”
I said, “Sorry. They’re our neighbors. Tom’s always lived there, and Shea’s family moved in just after us. They’re good guys.”
“Good skiers?” Dana asked hopefully?
“Tom’s good,” I said. “Shea’s only been once, so he’ll probably take another lesson tomorrow.”
“I’ll give him a lesson,” Dana said quickly, and I thought he was kidding. “I’ve taught lots of kids,” he said, almost defensively, when he saw the doubt on my face. “Tell me you didn’t learn a few tricks when we went.”
“I learned a lot of tricks,” I said. “I just didn’t think you were serious.”
Dana said, “I like teaching. It makes me think on the basics, and I need to do that sometimes.”
I said, “Up to you. He did okay last week, but he’s a real beginner.”
Dana replied, “I don’t mind. I really don’t.” He smirked, “I don’t have to show off all the time, you know. Just most of the time.”
“Good,” I said, grinning. “After Shea’s lesson, you can take the rest of us out on the downhill course.”
He shook his head, “Can’t.”
“Club races this weekend,” he said. “We’re going up to Sugarbush instead.”
I shrugged. I liked Sugarbush, too, but it was smaller than Killington. I didn’t worry much about which area we skied at. It’s not some kind of slur to say a place is smaller than Killington, because every other place in the East is smaller by far. Killington has six peaks, and the tickets are good at Pico, making it seven. It’s vast, and there are plenty of steeps and glades, lots of bumps, and miles of cruisers.
Sugarbush has nice terrain too, but it’s less of a sprawl and more laid out around a couple of valleys. The one thing I hate is that they allow ratzle-fratzing Nordic skiers on the downhill trails. I have nothing against the sport, but when I was younger I saw this idiot taking up the whole trail we were on, and he caused my mother an injury that she didn’t get completely over for two years. He was an oblivious moron, and I honestly thought my father was going to pound his face in after the guy mouthed off.
That’s not my father, though. He made the guy leave one ski and his driver’s license before he let him go to walk down the mountain, and told him to wait at the ski patrol office. The ski patrol had to take my mom down the mountain in a sled, and she was in serious pain for months afterwards, just because one loony who couldn’t ski to start with, was skiing where he didn’t belong.
It was an hour later when the ski patrol got my mother down to their little clinic, and there was an ambulance waiting, along with the guy who caused it. He was all nervous and contrite by then, but my father just shoved his ski back to him, handed him his driver’s license, and growled, “Find another sport, asshole.”
I’ve had plenty of scares skiing, and I’m often sore at the end of the day, but that incident with Nordic man was my only really bad time skiing. I love the speed, and the general sense of peace I find when it’s me and the mountain.
I looked to Dana, and he seemed to be having his own daydream. We were quiet until Tom and Shea came back. Tom had a bag of Fritos and a jar of Cheez-Whiz, which was my favorite snack, and Shea had four cans of soda that he was happy to pass out.
I said, “Shea, Dana says he’ll give you a lesson tomorrow.”
Shea looked at me, then at Dana, then back at me. I grinned, “It’s a good deal, Shea, for you anyhow. I have personally never seen a better skier than Dana, and I bet my dad will say the same thing.”
Shea turned a shy smile to Dana and asked, “Really?”
Dana seemed shy too, and nodded. “I was just telling Paul that I like to teach, so save your money.”
Shea shrugged and smiled eagerly. “All right!”
Tom and I were too busy shoveling Cheez-Whiz onto our chips to join the conversation. Dana and Shea dug in too, and in no time we had an empty bag for the fireplace, and an empty jar for the trash.
We sat and talked for awhile. I didn’t say much unless I was asked, because I wanted Dana to be good with Shea and Tommy, which he was in no time.
I excused myself and went looking for my family, but when I was cutting through the living room, I saw car lights coming along the driveway, so I went back to greet the Mc Naughtons. It wasn’t them, and I greeted Heinrich instead. He’s a big, red-faced guy who’s almost always cheerful, and he was right then. He beamed when he saw me, and said, “Paulie! Hello, hello!” He cupped his hand behind my head and pulled me to him, then let me go and grinned at me. “You look well. Are you staying for awhile?”
“Just the weekend,” I said “Good to see you, too. How’s Karen?”
“She’s just ducky!” he said, and I laughed. Heinrich was a smart guy, yet he was a handyman for a living. He was good at a lot of things, and he was always busy, so I suppose he made out pretty well. He sure enjoyed his life, and he was fun to be around because of that.
I started to go with him to find my father, but more lights were coming up the driveway, so I told Heinrich to go ahead. This time I waited at the window to see who was out there, and it was the real McNaughtons, British SUV and all.
I opened the door and stood there while they came up the walk with their bags. They’d been to our place a few times before, but they were both still gawking while they walked. As much as I loved the house, it could embarrass me sometimes. It was overkill for sure; as big as some ski lodges, but at least this one weekend it would feel useful and full of people.
Dan looked unhappy as he approached, and I asked, “What’s wrong?”
He said, “Don’t ever buy a Land Rover, no matter what. There’s something else wrong with the car, and I don’t know what it is.”
Jim was behind him, and he added, “You know, nice as this thing is, it’s been a pain since we had it. Something’s always wrong.”
I said, “Well, you made it, so no big deal, right?”
Jim smiled, but Dan frowned. “I have to get it fixed. No big deal to you, but I already looked, and the only dealer around is in Rutland.”
They were still standing out in the cold, and I felt foolish. I stepped back and said, “Get in here. Listen, Ally’s here, and Heinrich’s here. If they can’t fix your car, send it back to England.”
Dan scowled, but Jim smiled brightly. “I like your attitude, Doodler. Take me to your leader.” He looked around and said, “I mean your pisser. Where’s the toilet?”
I pointed at a door and said, “Right there.”
Jim hurried in there, and I faced Dan again. “Don’t worry, man.” I smiled, “This is the house of no worries.” I heard myself saying that, and loved the words that just came from my mouth. I still had to talk to Dan, but I liked the idea of a house with no worries.
“Listen, if Heinrich can’t fix it, he’ll bring it to a dealer. Either way, don’t let it waste your weekend. It’s just a car.”
Dan stared at me, and Jim came out from the bathroom to the music of a flushing toilet, and Dan smiled. “Yeah, you’re right. It’s just a car.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Hungry?”
I had no idea what we were doing for dinner, but I knew we’d be eating somewhere. We went looking, and the aroma told us we’d be eating at home.
The scene was typical. The kitchen was smoky, and my dad was mashing potatoes. My mother was commenting on his style, and suggesting more butter, while she stir-fried things I couldn’t see in a wok. Ally and Elenora, who I didn’t even know was there, were looking on bemusedly.
I thought it was funny, too, and a few minutes later my mother called out, “Dinner’s ready,” even though it wasn’t … not quite yet.
It got us to the table, and that was her intent.
My dad came out with a pork roast that looked twenty inches long on a big platter. He started carving it up while my mother delivered a basin of mashed potatoes, a bowl of steaming carrots, and her stir-fried vegs: broccoli, mushrooms, and onions. And, of course, Dad’s famous gravy. Elenora had shown up just in time, and had been introduced. Karen came, too, and she and Heinrich joined us.
I looked around at all the people, and decided the smart ones would help themselves, because that roast suddenly didn’t look very big at all.
It was big enough, though. I had two fat slices of meat, a small mountain of potatoes, carrots, stir-fry, and gravy over everything except the stir-fry. By the time I dropped my fork onto the plate, wiped my fingers and lips, and folded up my napkin, I had to lean back and swallow my burps. The air wanted out, though, so I excused myself and went into the bathroom to let a beauty out.
When I came out, Jim Mc Naughton was standing there, and it turned out he was waiting for me, not the bathroom. He wiggled his eyebrows and smirked, “Man, that Dana’s mother …”
“What about her?” I asked.
Jim gasped at my evident stupidity. “Grow some eyes, man! She is a fox!”
I rolled my eyes. “I know that! What am I supposed to do? She’s my friend’s mother, for God’s sake. You think I should adopt him?”
Jim puffed his cheeks a few times while he thought, then he came on with his Irish brogue. “That’s good. That’s very good.” He bopped my shoulder and we started walking down the hall, away from the others. “I don’t know how many times I’ve said this Paul, to others, not to you. You’ll make a good father, and I think you’d be a good dad to this lad.”
“That’s what you’ve always said?” I asked, and he nodded solemnly. “But, would I still be the Doodler?”
“Absolutely not!” Jim said. “If you take up with that woman, you will become the Daddler.”
I started giggling. Jim’s quick wit is the thing I like best about him, and he could sound serious telling me to take on an older woman and become father to a kid my own age.
“I don’t think I can do it, Jim. I’d be a terrible father, at least in this case. If I ever saw Elenora waiting in my bed for me, I’d forget that Dana ever existed, and I don’t think I’d welcome his memory back.”
That worried Jim. “He seems like a good kid to me.”
“Oh, he is. He is, but I’m a horny kid. I would not want to be all involved with Elenora and have thoughts of Dana in my head. I think you have to be older to make things like that work.”
We turned back to the dining room, and Jim gave in. “I see your point. As much as I’d like to see you get some, it wouldn’t be right to take Dana’s mother away from him.”
“I’m glad you’re thinking, now.”
“Of course, I don’t know Dana yet, really, so if I could get it on with Elenora, it wouldn’t matter.”
We dropped it at the door to the dining room. I took my seat and mumbled that I’d gone to burp
There was a lot of talk going around, and Ally announced, “Paul should have a turn.” She looked at me and said, “Suggest a name for the Laundromat. We’re making a list here, and we’ll vote later.”
I thought for a moment, then mumbled, “Dunn-o-mat?” Then I had a better one, “No, wait, wait! The Danamat!”
Everyone chuckled and Ally wrote it down, but the chuckling continued, and Dana kicked me under the table. When I looked, he had an admiring smile focused on me, so I knew that he liked it.
We talked for a while longer before Dan and Heinrich bundled up to go outside and look at Dan’s car. At the last minute, Tommy chased after them. He liked cars, and probably hoped he’d learn something.
My father suggested that I work on sleeping arrangements. I didn’t know if Dana was staying, so I asked him.
“Mom?” he asked.
She’d heard the question. “It’s up to you, Baby. You’ll probably save everyone time tomorrow if you stay here.”
Dana looked to me and said, “Staying.”
Shea asked, “Can I sleep with Dana or Tommy?” We all looked at him, and he said almost silently, “I don’t like to be alone in new places.”
I thought, and said, “There’s a room with bunk beds. You can all sleep in there. It’s a neat room.”
Dana shrugged and Shea smiled. Jim looked at me and said, “Can I get a room of my own?”
Shea made a motion with his hand, and Jim actually blushed. “Jerk off yourself, shrimp.” He looked at me pleadingly, “I can’t sleep with Dan. He snores like a motorboat, and I need sleep if we’re going skiing.”
I said, “Fine. I don’t care. Let’s just go look at some rooms, and you can pick your own.”
I stood to go, and they followed me upstairs. My mother and Ally had their own suite near my room, and Dad was at the other end of the house. Everything in between was fair game as far as I was concerned, although a few of the rooms were definitely girly in décor. Most were pretty neutral, though. The ones I liked best had big windows. Dana, Tom and Shea decided on the bunk room that I’d suggested. Jim picked out a little room across the hall, even knowing it didn’t have its own bathroom I figured I’d put Dan a few rooms away, and far away from my own room.
I went down for my bag, which I tossed on my bed, then went downstairs again to watch television. I didn’t want to stay up late, but didn’t think I could fall asleep when it was barely after eight.
The other guys gathered with me, and we found a World Cup race in Austria to watch. It was actually the taped highlights of the day’s races, so better than the real thing in a way. When Dan came in, he was all excited. “All fixed!” he announced. “That guy’s a genius! It was just a bad wire, but I bet a shop would have charged a grand to figure that out.”
I stood and faced Dan, then led him quietly out into the hall. “You should give Heinrich something, you know. I know he told you not to, but still.”
He smiled smugly, “Got it covered. Dad’s sending him a check tomorrow, to here.”
I bopped his shoulder, “You’re alright. Where’s Tommy?”
“In the kitchen having coffee. Heinrich’s explaining how he figured it out without a single tool.” He grinned, “Heinrich should set his sights a little higher than handyman.”
“I know,” I said. “What can I say? He loves what he does.”
Dan smiled, “What’s better than that?”
We went back in and watched the skiing for a little while, and one-by-one guys headed up for bed. Dan and Dana were still talking when I left, and they were having a cheerful conversation about girls.
When I went to bed, I tried mightily not to dream about Dana’s mother, but idiot Jim had put that idea in my head, and it was damn hard not to think about her. I finally got rid of the idea when I tried to picture Dana, as he is today, in diapers, calling me Dada. Not!
I don’t even know if I dreamed or not, because I was sleeping. It was easy to sleep in that house. We were on mountain, and unless the wind blew hard, there was nothing but silence outside. And inside, Mom and Ally had the double-deep mattresses on every single bed, and four-inch down pads on top, so it was like sleeping on air. I had a sheet, a thermal blanket, a regular blanket, a comforter, and a soft little throw over me. If the softness of the bed didn’t lull me to sleep, the lack of oxygen from all that soft weight on top of me would do the deed.