Anything We Want


Chapter 1


If  you try to be kind and don’t worry about being right, you’ll be right every time.


The snow had picked up in intensity, but we were nearly home.  I’d gone with my father to the store for things we needed, and we were on the way back to our ski home.  Dad was used to driving in snow, having grown up in Maine, and snow was part of the bargain with a ski house.


Accidents weren’t, and I could tell the Jeep was slipping around even though Dad was driving slowly, and with a firm grip on the wheel.


Jesus!” Dad cried, and I looked up only to see a figure sprawled in the snow, half in the road.  Dad hit the brakes and slid to a stop.  Then he backed up so the Grand Cherokee’s headlights would provide illumination in the dark.  Dad was out of the car almost before it stopped, crying, “Jesus Christ!  Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!”


I got out my side and ran around to the front, fearing what I’d see.  It seemed unreal, and I was afraid I was about to see a dead guy in the road.  I began to panic when I saw the smallish figure in the road, snow turning it white, but the snow was red where his face was bloody.  My father was already bending to look at him, and he said, “Call 911, Paul!  Now!”


I watched him lean closer to the person in the road, and struggled for a moment to get my phone loose.  No signal.  None.  I looked quickly and the battery was up, so we were in a blind spot. 


“Nothing, Dad,” I said.  “I can’t call.”


He looked at me, and his expression was helpless at first, like maybe I’d know what to do.  Then he looked at the person on the ground and said, “He’s alive.  We have to get him help.”


I just stared for a second, then asked, “What can I do?”


Dad looked at me, then he looked around, and he looked back at the guy in the road.  His expression hurt me to see, because it was the first time in my life when I knew my father didn’t know what to do.  He decided, though.


“Help me get him in the car.”  He looked up at me.  “He’s not dead, and I know I didn’t hit him.  Come on, Paul, let’s take him home.”


We fumbled around, then finally my father picked the guy up under the shoulders and I took his feet.  If he wasn’t dead, he sure was out, and trying to be careful became out of the question with such a dead weight.  We did manage to get him into the Jeep, and in the light I could tell he was a boy, not a man, and probably around my age. 


There was no plan at all to put him into the back, so when he was belted into my seat, I got in the back where I buckled up.  Then my father told me to lean forward and steady our passenger by the shoulders, so I had to undo my own belt.


I was scared, and my father wore an expression I’d never seen.  I felt like some ghost.  The kid in the front seat looked dead, but Dad said he wasn’t, and I only thought that meant ‘not yet’.


It was uphill to the house, but home was the closest place.  It was miles back to town, and everyone would have shut down by then anyhow.  We left the store right at closing time, and got to the gas station just before they started turning the lights off.


When we pulled up to our house, Dad said, “Stay with him.  I’ll get something to help carry him,” and in about two minutes he was back carrying a blanket.  I was out of the car by then, and at the passenger door.  When I opened it, I got a better look at our charge, and I felt sick.


The kid’s face was a mess, bleeding from what looked like cracks in the skin, which was no color that belonged on a human face.


He was stirring a little, and stood on his own when we got him out of the vehicle, so with both of us helping, we got him inside.  We sat him on a sofa in the TV room, and Dad said for me to get him a glass of water.  I hurried back with a glass and Dad said, “See if you can get him to drink some.  I’ll call emergency from here.”


I sat next to the boy, whose eyes were open a slit, and asked, “Want some water?”


A sound came from his throat, and he nodded as if it hurt to, so I held the glass to his lips.  I tipped the glass and some water went in, but he gagged on it and it came right back out.  I thought I forced too much in at once, and said, “Sorry.  Here, can you hold the glass?”


His hands came up, and he had mittens on them, so I said, “Wait a second,” and put the glass down.  Then I pulled his mittens off and handed him the glass.  I touched one of his hands doing that, and it was freezing.  “I’ll help,” I said, and kept one hand on the glass to support it while he managed a few sips.


“Good,” he croaked.  “I’m cold.”


I could hear my father talking on the phone, and he came into the room with the cordless to his ear.  “Paul, get his boots and socks off.  We have to check for frostbite.” 


Dad was beside me by then, and he pulled the ski cap off the boy’s head and looked at his ears, then he leaned in close to peer at his nose.  He picked his hands up one at a time and checked all his fingers.  He was saying things into the phone.  “Ears look good.  His nose is kind of bruised looking, but it’s not white.”


I had the boy’s feet bared and Dad knelt to check his toes, and said into the phone, “No white on the feet either.”  He listened for a moment, said, “Okay,” and looked up at our patient.  “How long were you out there?  Did a car hit you?”


The boy croaked, “Long time.  All day.  Not hit, just fell.”


Dad nodded and asked, “What’s your name?”  He looked at me and said, “Paul, get his coat off and put that blanket on him.  Turn the heat up in here.”


Before I could move, the boy looked straight ahead and said, “Dana.  My name is Dana,” and then his eyes closed and he fell back against the sofa, where his head lolled to one side, and he was asleep.


Dad kept talking to the emergency people.  I struggled to get Dana out of his coat and stretched out on the sofa.  I got some more blankets and a bed pillow, and I fussed until he at least looked comfortable.  He was in no condition to disagree with me, and his face already looked better.  He looked like he fell through a roof or something, but maybe just a thatched roof after all.  The black, purple and green areas seemed to be resorbing into him, but the puffiness and cracks remained.


I dimmed the light, turned the thermostat up, and went to find my father, who was still on the phone, only now he was looking outside through the window in the front door.  He looked at me and asked, “How is he?”


“Sleeping,” I said.  “Want me to get the groceries, or are we building TV dinners in the back seat?”


Dad slapped at my hair and grinned.  He was listening on the phone, so pointed outside rather than saying anything.  I got the message and put my coat back on.


Dad was still on the phone when I had everything inside and put away, so I started dinner.  I’m no cook, but I can manage pork chops and microwaved Idahos, and that’s what I decided to make.  Dad came in, phone still in hand, and added some chopped garlic from a jar to the pork chops.  He took  a box of  broccoli from the freezer and put it beside the stove.  I made a face, but took out a pan to cook it in just the same.  I like most vegetables, but I think broccoli is one of the lower orders that grows over septic fields.


Dad is the real cook in our partnership; a partnership that began two years earlier when my mother left us to live with her lesbian partner and lover.


Yeah, shock up the wazoo, but let me back up a little.  My father made a lot of money in the early years of the Internet.  He started several web-based marketing companies, then sold them to larger companies.  His last sell, in 1996, was a big one, and he was a rich man.  His name is Franklin Dunn, and you may have heard of him.  His friends call him Frank, and I call him Dad.


He’d married my mother in 1990, and I came along less than two years after that.


Our little family was a tight unit for a long time.  My parents loved each other and me, and I adored both of them.  I still do.  They still love each other too, and that’s the messy part.


Our lifestyle was not ostentatious at all, although we lived well.  Our main residence then was a modern condominium in Boston, in a high-rise building with a good view of the harbor.  We had a little summer house that wasn’t fancy at all, and was way off the beach on Cape Cod.


Dad’s indulgence was this ski house, which he bought after Mom left.   It’s pretty spectacular.  It’s way more than we need, but we both fell in love with the house at first sight, and now it’s ours.  He sold the condo in Boston, the house on Cape Cod, and now our official year-round home is in Brattleboro, Vermont, high over the Connecticut River.  Our house there is nice, but nothing spectacular.  It’s a restored Colonial home of no historical note, yet it’s really a pretty place, and quite comfortable.


Mom left us stunned, to say the least, and I was embarrassed almost to death at first.   Yet she knew she was the one breaking up our family, so she didn’t go after Dad’s money.  He was devastated in the beginning, of course, but he realized fairly quickly that she couldn’t help being gay, and he ended up giving her a pile of cash anyhow.  They are still great friends, and she’s still my mom, and I love her.  Dad and I have both come to adore mom’s mate, Ally.  Dad calls her his sister-in-law, and I just call her Ally, and everything is good in that respect.


When my folks split,  I’d been attending a private school in Northford: Barents Academy,  which the students naturally refer to as Bareass Academy.  It’s okay, but I was always bored there.  Now I’m in public school in Brattleboro, and I’m still bored, but I much prefer it.  I had friends at Bareass, but more as a necessity than a preference.  I mean, you had to have someone to talk to and do things with, but in a private school like that, things feel forced.  My roommate and best friend there was named Percy, for God’s sake, and I don’t think that would have happened in nature.  It was basically a bunch of over-privileged kids learning all about snobbery.


In Brattleboro, I get to make my own friends, and I do dumb things with them that we can laugh about.  Brattleboro is an old, mostly brick and clapboard little city on the river, and I think the word funky may have been coined to describe it.  There is a crooked little main street, and crooked little alleyways everywhere else, until you get out onto the road along the river.  That’s crooked too, but the river is the reason for it, and that’s where we live.


I do normal things, though, and that’s what I like.  My friends don’t know of my father, or his net worth, and I take the yellow bus to school like everyone else.  I love it, and when the story of my lesbian mother became known it actually enhanced my social standing.  It made me someone interesting to know, and someone who lots of people think should become an artist or a poet owing to my experience.  I’m not making this up.


It’s easy enough for people to figure out that we have some money because my Dad doesn’t work, but I live on my twenty dollar allowance plus lunch money, and I feel that I fit in better with regular people than the elite at Barents.  It’s clear that my Dad does, too, so the first Christmas without my mother we had a talk before buying anything.


I am a reader, and probably a romantic, and I didn’t see my father’s money doing much good for us, so I asked him to take some of it and do good things with it instead of spending it on me.  That would be my present.


Dad is maybe the ultimate geek.  He is totally unassuming in person, and thinks his ideas are his only strong suit.  The results of those ideas, specifically the money, don’t get in his way of having more ideas, and the idea of helping people with the money had him intrigued from the get-go.  The question was how, and we decided on a small scale at first.  There was no risk with little money, and we could observe the results.




We heard all the time about people donating big money, but never saw the result of those huge gifts.  Yet, on a small scale, it was hard to be benefactors when we didn’t know the benefactees, and we didn’t, so we didn’t do a whole lot.


I’d helped Dana out of his coat, his mittens, and his footwear.  He was dressed properly for the weather that day, but in old clothing that was seriously beat up.


When dinner was cooking, and my father was still on the phone, I went in the other room to see how Dana was doing.  He was asleep still, and it was the look on his damaged face that startled me.  It was still hard to tell what he looked like, but his color was more normal than before.  What struck me was that, in dreamland, Dana’s expression was so content that he reminded me of an angel in one of those dark old paintings you see, where the oils have cracked like Dana’s face.  It was unsettling.


I backed out, and my father finally hung up the phone.  “Sorry, Paul, I had to talk to a lot of people.”  He smiled, “You okay?”


I nodded, and he said, “This is really strange, no?”  and I nodded again.


Dad smiled, then rolled his eyes.  “I have a mile of medical advice in my head; that’s what the calls were all about.  We were looking for frostbite at first, then signs of hypothermia, then abuse, but I guess that’s not the issue.  It looks like he’s okay.  That skin color and cracking come from the cold, and it’s the precursor to frostbite.  It’ll go away.”  He leveled his gaze and caught my eyes.  “He lives with his mother, and they’re trying to find her now.”


Dad’s eyes zeroed in on mine.  “They’re poor, Paul.  Poor people.”  He looked around the kitchen and said, “Let’s eat.  Let’s you and me talk this out, okay?”  He looked toward the TV room where Dana was, and asked, “Sleeping?”


On my nod we went to the kitchen, and I served up okay potatoes, overdone pork chops, and broccoli that’s not worthy of comment.  My dad had a little glass of Petit something-or-other, and I had a big glass of water.


“What happened on the phone?” I asked.


Dad swallowed and said, “Nobody wants to do what they didn’t absolutely have to because of the storm.  That’s why I looked at the kid’s condition.  There’s no evidence of frostbite, so we’ll leave it ‘til morning.  I … um,” Dad’s look became serious.



Dad seemed to blush.  “I think this is what we talked about, Paul.  This is a hard-luck family, and they could obviously use some dollar help, but I believe they need some moral help, too.”  Dad saw my expression and smiled.  “I mean friendship, Paulie.  They’ve been down, and the mother works hard for almost nothing.  It’s not a pretty picture.” 


His look hardened, but he wasn’t good at that.  Still, I knew that he meant to get serious.  “That boy on the sofa; Dana.  He’s well-liked but not trusted.”  Dad’s gaze softened.  “He steals, Paul, and he lies.  He doesn’t get into big trouble, but the deputy thinks he’s the kind of boy who will end up getting himself killed one day.”


I just looked at my father, and he returned my gaze; as unblinking as I was.  I’m sure I inherited that from him.  In regular life I blink like anyone else, but when I’m serious, especially with my folks, I never blink at all.


I was feeling serious right then, too. “You’re right.  This is what we talked about.”  I implored him with my eyes.  “We can help, right?”


Dad looked at me with a flat expression, then he smiled.  “I think we can do anything we want, Paul.  We can help, yes.”


I smirked, “Will we?”


My father smiled.  “I love you, Paul, and you know that.  I like you, too, I really do.  Yes, we can help … and we will.”


I said, “Yay,” softly, then looked in the direction of the room where Dana was sleeping.  I wondered about him: already a thief and a liar.  I didn’t know what that meant, really.  Well, I understood the thief part, but not the liar.


I’d fibbed to stay out of trouble, but never really lied to misrepresent myself, which is what I took real lies to mean.  I didn’t know if I could tell, but he was innocent in sleep, and I was tired myself.


“Night, Dad,” I said.  “I’m beat.  I’ll sleep in the room with Dana.”


Dad asked, “Do I get a hug?” and the answer was yes.


I pulled more blankets out of the hall closet, went upstairs for a pillow from my bed, and settled onto the other sofa in the TV room. 


+ + + + + + + +


When the sales lady was showing us the house the first time, she kept calling that room the ‘media’ room.  I finally told her, “If you call it the media room again, we’ll go find a house that doesn’t have one.”


“Paul,” my father warned.


“I’m serious, Dad!  Media room sounds like something in the basement of the White House.  Why can’t we call it a den, or a study or something?”


The poor lady was baffled by my outburst.  “Er, this home already has a study … and a den.”


“Well,” I said, “You read in a study and you relax in a den.  What do you do in a media room?”


She cupped her chin in her hand and thought for a moment before saying, “Watch television, I suppose.”


I smiled, “Can we see the TV room one more time?”


After Dad bought the house, he hired my mother and Ally to decorate it, which Mom is great at, and they did a wonderful job.  When people came over, they were always astounded that a home that exuded such warmth and charm was inhabited only by a father and son.  The house was stark when we first moved in; all wood and stone and glass, with very white walls most places.  Some floors were slate, some were tiled, and others were shiny hardwood.  The living room and dining room are both vast spaces with soaring ceilings, a colossal stone chimney that separates them, and giant, granite fireplaces that face into each room.


Mother tamed the space with large antiques, oriental screens, sectional furniture, and color, lots of color.  Along the way, she and Ally made it a fun place to live, with surprises everywhere, like a Christmas tree stand in the main downstairs bathroom, which we did put a tree in for the holidays.  We have a realistic looking, but fraudulent, palm tree there the rest of the time.


It’s a big house, though, and we truthfully don’t use most of it.  Dad’s bedroom is absolutely colossal, and it has two walk-in closets that are each bigger than my bedroom in Brattleboro.  He kind of lives in there most of the time, so it’s not all wasted space.  One area is an office and another holds his exercise equipment, and yet another area is set up like a sitting room.  His view from there is up the mountain.  It’s impressive with the big windows, but not a real vista.


I live at the other end, in the smallest bedroom.  I didn’t choose it based on size, but because I like the view, and it has a private little deck where I can catch some rays on nice days, or just lean on the rail and survey the fantastic view from there.  I have the vista across the valley, where more mountains rise up far on the other side.


We have a lady, Karen Benz, who cleans the place, and her husband, Heinrich, fixes things, plows the driveway, and keeps us supplied with firewood.  The house is fairly new and not much breaks on its own, but we manage to keep Heinrich around a lot with our mishaps.


+ + + + + + + +


I had a hard time falling asleep, and not because I wasn’t tired.  I had Dana on my mind, and I could hear him over there breathing.  That was good, of course, but I worried that he’d wake up and not know where he was, or worse; not be able to find a bathroom.  Or he’d be hungry and not know where the kitchen was.  And I might have been just a little worried that he’d murder me in my sleep so he could steal things, then say he didn’t do it.  Oddly enough, that was the thought that took me to dreamland.




I stirred.


“Hello?  Anyone here?”

I sat up and saw Dana on his feet, looking the other way.  “I’m here,” I whispered, and he spun around as if I’d yelled it.  I smiled, “Hi.  Feeling better?”


He nodded.  “Who’re you?  Where am I?”


“You’re right there,” I said, then realized he probably wasn’t ready for my twisted humor.  “This is our house.  We found you on the road, dead.”


He looked startled, so I added, “Okay, maybe not dead, but you looked open to the idea at the time.”


He looked confused and I gave up and stood up.  “Sorry.   I’m Paul Dunn.  My friends call me Mortimer.”  I grinned, “Welcome to our TV room.”


He smiled, then snickered,  “Does your TV room have a toilet?”


Uh oh.  “No, but there’s one right down the hall.  I’ll show you.  Hungry?”


His eyes bugged, and he said, “Starved!  But I really gotta go first.”


I walked past him out into the hall, then reached into the bathroom and turned the light on.  I pointed down the hall and said, “The kitchen’s there when you’re done.  A sandwich okay?”


“Anything!” I heard before the door closed behind him.


I poked around the supplies in the kitchen and made a couple of turkey sandwiches.  I was still putting them together when I heard his voice.  “Jesus!  This is some place!  You live here?”


I turned around and said, “We live in Brattleboro, but we do own this house.”


Dana was literally a mess.  His face had returned to more-or-less normal color, but the skin was cracked everywhere, and some of the cracks were still oozing blood.  His hair was long, dark-blond, and all matted.  He also needed to brush his teeth, but even with all those deficits, his appearance was somehow agreeable to me.


It wasn’t anything specific, either.  He wasn’t handsome in any traditional sense, nor did he look to be in shape.  He wasn’t fat or lumpy, but kind of looked like he could have come squeezed out of some big-ass toothpaste tube.  He was more-or-less cylindrical from his shoulders down to the floor:  thick looking.  Right then he was staring at the sandwiches, which I quickly put on a plate for him.


“Sit and eat,” I said, and he obeyed so fast I felt like the master of the universe.  “What to drink?”


He looked up, embarrassed by the half sandwich in his mouth, and couldn’t say anything.  I took it easy and said, “Take your time.  There’s water, milk, Coke and ginger ale.  Juices, too.”


When he managed to swallow his food, he asked hopefully, “Milk?”


“Coming up.”  I took out one of the new gallons we’d just bought, poured him a glass, and set the jug beside him.  He looked grateful, and I turned to look out the window so he could eat without me looking at him.


“It’s really coming down out there,” I said, and not really as idle conversation, but a statement of fact.  The snow was coming down like the winter interpretation of a cloudburst, and looked to be over a foot deep already on the deck rail.  It was just falling straight down, too, not swirling around like it does sometimes.


Dad and I had planned to go skiing in the morning, so the snow excited me.  Then I thought about simply opening the door, and the ride to the mountain, and decided to clear some snow before it got too deep to actually go anywhere.


I turned to Dana and asked, “You okay for a few minutes?  I think I should shovel some snow before I can’t.”


“I can help,” he said.


“No, no.  I’ll do it.  I just want to clear the doors so they’ll open.  I indicated the cupboard and refrigerator behind him.  “There’s more food if you’re still hungry.  I won’t be long.”


I bundled up and took a shovel from the closet, and as soon as I opened the door I knew I wouldn’t have to do much.  The air was frigid:  five degrees by the thermometer, and the snow was like dust under my feet.  Every  step I took cleared about a two-foot hole.  The snow was so light and fluffy that back-to-back sneezes probably would have cleared that deck.  Just walking cleared a swath to the edge of the porch, and I used the shovel to clear the steps down.  I worked for about ten minutes, but there wasn’t much point to it.  This snow wouldn’t be a problem.


I stood there and looked at it, though, and it was simply beautiful.  I’d only turned on the porch light, and that was perfect to watch the snow falling. 


I think I was born liking snow, like maybe in a prior life I was an Eskimo, or even a penguin.  In Boston, where the snow was usually heavy, wet and dangerous, when it snowed I could watch it from the first flake to the last and love every one of them.


I was leaning on the rail when Dana suddenly appeared beside me, and I was startled.  He leaned on the rail like I was and said, “It’s beautiful, huh?”  He glanced at me and added, “It’s really coming down, too.  Wanna measure?”


I looked at him, and he said, “If you have a ruler we can figure out how fast it’s coming down.  I guess about two inches an hour.  All we need is a ruler and a pail.”


I looked at him, amused.  “A pail?  Like Jack and Jill went up the hill?”  I had an idea what a pail was, and was fairly certain we’d never owned such a device.


His expression told me he thought I was an idiot, but he was polite.  “Anything big enough to catch snow.  Even a water glass.”


I said, “Let’s find something.  I’m not even sure if we have a ruler here.”


We went inside and looked around, and decided on a measuring cup.  We could see where the snow came up to in ounces and figure it out another day.  Dana ran out to put the cup upside-down so it would get cold, and after ten minutes I went out to right it, so it could collect snow.  I was certain that the snow was coming down even faster then, and was grateful because I’d have a story to tell.


Back in the house, Dana was tired.  “You don’t have to stay up if you don’t want,” I said.  “I can watch the clock and measure the snow.”


He yawned, then winced because it hurt his face.  “Or not,” he said.  “You could sleep, too.  We both know it’s snowing hard.”


I said, “Now you say that.  Go to bed. I want to see this.”


“Okay,” Dana said hesitantly, and with even more hesitance he said, “Thank you. I don’t even know you.”


I looked at him, and my own smile came slowly, but it was real.  “We’ll know each other.  G’night.”


He gave a weak wave and left, and I watched the Pyrex cup for an hour after that.


Well, I tried to, but I was asleep with my head on the table when the light came on.  It was my father, and he asked, “What’s going on?”


I looked around, and looked outside where it was becoming light, then things came back to me.  I had to go to the bathroom, and told my father, “I guess I fell asleep watching the cup.”  I saw the question on his face and said, “I gotta go.  I’ll be back.”


I went to the bathroom, then upstairs to my own bed, where I closed the magic blinds and went back to sleep, feeling like eight more hours might do the trick.


Sure, but a half-hour is what I got.  “Wake up, Paul,” my father said as he shook my shoulder.


“Why?” I asked my comfy pillow, then I realized my father was there.  I groggily turned over and looked at the wall, then turned again toward the door.  My dad was there and I asked, “Wha?”


“Time for breakfast, Paul.  And we have a guest, if you don’t remember.”


“I remember,” I mumbled.  “What time is it?  Is it day already?”


“It’s day,” Dad said gently.  “I’m cooking, so shake a leg.”


“I will,” I complained, and I rolled out of bed and headed to the bathroom.


I am in the habit of taking cool showers because they wake me up, and that’s what I did, and I shaved using the ice water from the tap, then brushed my teeth and combed my hair.  Unlike most kids I know, I don’t worry about my hair, because it’s so bad that worrying is pointless.  It’s there and it’s brown, and I comb it when it’s wet.  I haven’t bought a hair product yet, and whatever soap I take my shower with, that’s what I wash my hair with.  My hair, like my father’s, does exactly what it wants, and cowlicks are me.


I know this girl in Brattleboro who calls herself Arizona, and she told me I should change what I wash my hair with every three days, because hair remembers.  I think I forgot her advice before I got home.  I just wash my hair with soap, and I’m not bald yet.  I remembered what Arizona said eventually, and now I change the soap from time to time so my hair won’t get addicted to one particular brand, but I still don’t use shampoo.  It’s the word, not the product, which is probably fine, but shampoo?  Not my style, man.  My hair just doesn’t understand, and it licks cows in all directions whatever I do.


I was awake after my cleanup, and feeling good.  It was still snowing pretty hard out, so I just dressed in jeans and a sweater, pulled on a pair of slippers, and headed down to the kitchen.  In a moment, I was on the way back to my bedroom to get some clothes for Dana, who wanted to take a shower after Dad suggested it.


I favor old clothes, so I had several sets of sweats still in the packages, and only had to choose a color.  I knew I wouldn’t wear the green ones, so I picked those, and also some new underwear and socks.  I brought it all down to the kitchen and extracted the clothes from their plastic wrap.  Dana was already in the shower, so I just put them inside the bathroom door and told him they were there.


I went to the kitchen and got a cup of coffee.  My father smiled at me when I only added a droplet of milk.  I suppose it’s a pointless gesture when I do that, because it doesn’t even change the color, but it does seem to take the edge off of straight black coffee.  I always look away when Dad puts about six spoonfuls of sugar in his own mug.


“Did you talk to Dana?”  Dad asked.


I nodded.  “Yeah, but not about what happened to him.  I made him some food, and we just talked about snow.  He was pretty tired, and I was kinda not ready.  I don’t know what I should talk about, anyhow.”


Dad looked at me and said, “I don’t either, but I think we’ll have to ask some questions.  I would have heard back if the constable located his mother, so it may be a sore subject.”


“Yeah,” I said.


We sat there, sipping coffee in silence, until Dana showed up.  He looked a damn sight better than the night before, but his skin was still all cracked.  The clothes fit him okay, anyhow, and his hair looked way better than the matted mess from the night before.  It was wavy, and I guess you could call it dark blond or light brown and get away with either.  It frames his face in an easy way, and I thought once more that he had nice features.


He smiled hesitantly, “Hi.”


“Sit down,” Dad said.  “Hungry?”


Dana sat and smiled, nodding.


“Breakfast coming up,” Dad said, and he went to the oven and pulled out some trays.  The first had a pile of bacon and sausages and the next was full of French toast.  Butter and syrup were already on the table, and as we helped ourselves, Dad asked, “Milk?”


“Perfect,” Dana said, and I agreed silently.


People can say what they want about real maple syrup, but the Fancy grade is hands-down the best.  It’s so sweet and perfect. Anyone who argues for a lesser grade is just too cheap to buy the good stuff, or they don’t have a working sweet tooth.


I swallowed that thought when I looked at Dana, and mentally kicked myself.


He was obviously not used to good stuff, and nibbled at a slice of bacon like it was the last food on Earth.  I smiled at him; “Good, huh?  There’s lots more, so eat what you want.”


I drew a slice of the bacon through the syrup on my plate and bit it in half.  I loved that: the smoky, salty meat and the sweet, gooey syrup.  It was Heaven on Earth to chew that, while I watched the butter melt into the syrup on top of my French toast.


Dana seemed to shed his inhibitions, and started shoveling it in, and he appeared to savor everything as much as me, and continued to eat long after I was stuffed.  I think I ate six halves of toast, four slices of bacon, and two sausages. Dana ate the rest, and Dad actually reheated the last of it for him in the microwave because it had gone cold.


My father seemed pleased. I was full, and Dana sat back with what I took to be a satisfied look on his face.  He said, “Wow!  That was really good.”


My father smiled, then asked, “Dana, what’s the story about yesterday?”


… more