Anything We Want

Chapter 9



After some indeterminate period of time, the sounds of pages rustling were gradually replaced by the quiet sounds of sleeping: a nearly silent snore from over on the sofa, deep breathing there and there.  I kind of jumped back to reality, as I sometimes do.  For no good reason, when I almost fall asleep during the day, like for a nap, I get this electrical reaction: kind of an inner “Don’t do that!”


I looked around, and Shea was looking idly back at me, like he’d been looking my way before my eyes opened.  Tommy and the Mc Naughtons were all sound asnooze.


I could hear the women talking, and it sounded like they were in the living room.  I said to Shea, “You’re awake?”


He nodded, so I said softly, “Let’s go in the other room, okay?”


I stood and Shea walked beside me to the TV room, where I turned on the big screen.  It was a non-stormy Sunday, and we got nearly two-hundred channels, so we should be able to watch just about any sporting event in the world.  I put it on ESPN Main to see what was available, but looked at Shea first.


I asked, “Shea, what was that this morning?  The thing with the dimes?”


He shrugged, “You never did that?  It’s like this power of many thing, like when you try to pick up a guy in a chair with your fingers?”


I knew immediately what he was talking about.  I’d done that before, and even at Barent’s Academy.  The Scouts, and I did belong once, called it a teamwork thing; all about focus and the power of many.  Barent’s had a much snootier name for it, but it worked the same way.


Five kids: one sitting in a straight chair, and four others would extend their first finger under a separate corner of the seat; then we’d all try to lift.  No way.  Then one of us would put our hand out, palm down, and one-by-one the others would slap a hand on top until all hands were involved.  After that, lifting the kid in the chair with our forefingers didn’t even hurt.  It was easy, as if he weighed nothing.


I looked at Shea and asked, “This is the same?  Is that why the different coins?”


Shea nodded solemnly.  “That’s why I said … you can’t want a big thing for yourself, like to get three wishes or something, but when you and Dana wished, we did that thing with our hands, and that’s why the wish came true.”


I may have smiled, but I mostly gaped at Shea.  “You guys did it? You could make Dana’s wish come true?”


Shea shrunk into himself and said nervously, “We couldn’t make anything happen, Paul.  We just helped.  It was you and Dana a lot, but mostly it was what you wished for, and we don’t know what that was.”


I just looked at Shea and nodded idly, not really thinking about what he said.  I’d never heard about that particular ‘power’ being used for anything but picking up a guy in a chair, and I considered even that feat to be something of a parlor trick.  I sat back, thinking maybe it was more.


Shea and I sat in companionable silence for a few more minutes, and I thought to ask, “Did my father say where he was going?”


“He said they were getting some tools,” Shea replied.  “Not where or anything.”


They’d been gone awhile, so I pulled out my phone and called.  Dad answered, and I asked, “Where are you?  Are you coming back?”


Dad said, “We’re on One Hundred right now.  I have to drop some things at the new building, so I should be there in an hour or less.”


I asked, “When do I get to see this building?  All I ever saw is the outside.”


Dad said,  sounding surprised, “Meet us there.  Or I can come get you.”


I told him I’d call back, then woke Dan up to ask if he’d give me a ride.  Tommy heard me and said he wanted to go, and Jim and Shea both wanted to see the building, so we got our coats on and I rode shotgun to give Dan directions.


It was ten minutes down the mountain, and another ten to town, and I laughed out loud when I saw Dad’s Jeep on the street in front of the store.  It looked like it had fallen into a hole, but it was simply overloaded with weight.  Dan pulled up facing it, and I got a too-close look at the building.


I had to go across the street to get an idea of what had been done, and it was awesome!  The last time I saw that building, it looked okay.  The lower level was brick, with windows onto the sidewalk, and the top floor  had some kind of cheap-looking white siding on it, and the windows up there were like you’d see in a remodeled apartment house.  It had a simple peaked roof that ran the length of the place.


Now that roof had two peaks, both facing forward and they were non-symmetrical, with a smaller ridge separating them.  It looked like a stylized chunk of our ski house!  Each of the two larger peaks sat over big panes of tinted glass, and each side had a deck the width of it, and the deck rails were of the same construction that had so charmed us about our own house.


The upper level looked like a shell, and the lower front of the building was a shell in progress, but it looked more like the inviting entrance to a ski lodge than the way in to a Laundromat.


I came back across the street grinning, and sent the guys the other way to have their own look.  Then I saw my father coming around the side of the building to the sidewalk, and tried to grin him to death.  “This is awesome!”


Dad only smiled, “I was pretty sure you’d like it.”  He looked up, then along the front of the building, and seemed satisfied with progress.


Dana came up behind my father, looking pleased with himself.  He nodded his hello to me, then went to the back of the Jeep and pulled out a carton that momentarily staggered him.  Then he got his back straight and carried it back the way he’d come.


“What’s that?” I asked.


“Tiles,” Dad replied.  “Mexican clay tiles: very nice.  They’re also very heavy.  Get your friends and give Dana a hand, okay?”


I nodded, and Dad pulled out a carton of tiles, and even he struggled a little to find his balance with it.  I waved the guys over from across the street and said, “We have to bring these tiles in.”  I was looking at a box, and it said it weighed fifty pounds.  I said, “They’re fifty pounds each.  If you can’t do it, then don’t even try, okay?”


I pulled out a carton, and I too had to find my balance with it.  It was more bulky and awkward than heavy, and I managed fine until I went around to the back and realized I didn’t know where to go next.  “Hey!” I yelled.  “Hey!”


Dad appeared in a doorway and said, “Over here, Paul.”


When I went past him he directed me to a stairway and said, “Up top, then drop it off to the right.”


Those stairs were a struggle for me.  I felt grateful to make it up, and I was wheezing after one box.  Dan and Jim came in with boxes of their own, and they complained too, but we all went down for more.  Tom and Shea hadn’t even tried, but once the tiles were all upstairs, they both made a lot of trips with smaller things while the rest of us caught our breath.


Then we walked around upstairs, where Dana proudly showed us his future home.  Everything was righteously coated in sawdust, and the inside was pretty much just the other side of the outside.  It more like just-begun than nearly-finished, but it was clear that no expense was being spared to make it a first-class space, and one that was architecturally very similar to our house on the mountain.


I found humor in it, but didn’t share that.  I thought back to that first night, when I asked my Dad if we could help Dana, and his first response was that we could do anything we wanted to, and I now had dusty evidence of what anything could translate to.


Dad was right, too, then and now, as long as it was just money.  We had the money, and Dad clearly liked doing things with a little class, so it stood to reason that we’d have a classy Laundromat.  More importantly, I think, Dana and his mother would have a pretty nice place to live, and it wouldn’t be something they could say was done specifically for their own benefit.  Dad was modernizing and upgrading the building, and their apartment was simply part of it.


It was a nice thing for him to do.


Dad was suddenly beside me, and asked, “What do you think?”


Lotsa dust,” I said, then chuckled.  “In the larger scheme of things, this is pretty mind-blowing.” I turned to him and said, “I love it.  I really do.”


Dad got a faraway look in his eyes as he looked around, and he mumbled, “Another month.  Then we’ll know what we’ve bought here.”  He looked at me and asked, “Did you look downstairs?”


“Not yet,” I admitted, and I followed him down the same stairs we’d carried all those tiles up, and entered the lower level through a back door.  It wasn’t dusty at all in there, and the main part of the Laundromat had sparkling white machines lined up along most of the back wall.  There were more machines after them, and along a side wall, but they weren’t exactly sparkling.


I pointed, and asked, “What happened?”


Dad looked, then pointed at the nice, shiny machines and said, “Dana happened to these.  He’ll get to the others.”  His hand landed on my shoulder, and he said, “Elenora is a fierce clean-aholic, and I think Dana landed in her shadow.”  He chuckled, “He uses paint brushes, tooth brushes, pipe cleaners, water pistols, toothpicks, whatever.  When he’s done with a machine, it may as well have come from the factory that morning.”


I looked closely at one of the shiny machines, and it was flawless even with my nose to it.  No crud, no soap-scum; even the coin slot was pristine.  The white gleamed while the chrome parts shone, and the glass was perfectly clear.


I only had to look at one that hadn’t been touched yet to see the difference, and I would have probably thought it was alright if I didn’t have the comparison.  Crusty.


Dad showed me around the rest of the building.  He’d created temporary space for the other shop fronts, and he’d make them something permanent when the Laundromat took over the entire lower level.  For now, the space was full of construction supplies, plus a few desks with work-looking things on them.


On one of the desks, there was a rendering of the finished building, and it was awesome.  The upper level was already looking like the finished product, but the lower level was in for a lot more work.  The wide, flat front of the place was going to take on some shape, and the big glass panes there were going to be reduced to vertical sections, separated by what looked like the same rough-cut granite that surrounded the fireplaces in our house.  One end had a recess in the building, which allowed for a wide deck out to the sidewalk, which in turn made a handicapped entrance possible.  The drawing showed bistro tables on that deck, with colorful umbrellas.


I laughed in surprise looking at that picture.  The finished building would fit right in with the expensive homes in our development, and it was sure going to change the dowdy face of Stockton for the good.


I was impressed.  More than impressed.  That Dad was building at all after just a few weeks said a lot about his pull, and the power of his cash.  There had to be rubber-stamps on a whole lot of papers for things to be as far along as they were.


Stockton needed a goose in order to move off dead-center, and I think they recognized a golden one when they saw it.  There were the immediate construction jobs, of course, and Dad was buying what he could from local suppliers.  That meant more money in town, and possibly a new job or two.  When the place was finished and in business, there would be new jobs at the Laundromat as well.


It was the new, though, that drew people out to gawk, and sent the existing merchants to their own drawing boards.


That was the most encouraging thing, because we had no idea, and no concern really, if the coin-op would ever earn a dime.  It was when the meat market owner, and later the grocer, talked to my father about possibly updating their shops that things really took off.


Those people seemed to believe in success based on architecture alone, and my Dad paid his architect, who was well known in the area, to sit in on meetings where the town fathers could plan a new look for the village center.


Nothing had to match.  Nothing should match, but they could find cohesion with some common elements.  Dad told me about their meetings, and I made him promise to keep me as part of it.  I didn’t have the stake the locals did by any stretch, but I still cared.


I’d been coming to Stockton since Dad bought the house, and never paid much attention to it.  Stockton is a little town in the center of the state.  It’s close to all the great skiing and scenery, but not near the Interstates.  The town’s future isn’t in expansion, so they have to find other things. Vermont is famous for its picture-perfect villages, but those places are elsewhere.  Stockton is plunk at the bottom of a little river valley, and the Green Mountains shoot up from either side of the level plain.  The town hugs the sides of the highway, and the general architecture of the village is foursquare, and white with green trim.


It’s all prim and proper, but not really attractive.  What my father was doing would at least break it up, and bring a bit of Alpine flavor to ground level, but the town needed more.


I found myself alone with my father in the back parking lot after my tour of the Laundromat.  He put a hand on my shoulder and led me farther away.


“Comments?” he asked.


“I like what you’re doing,” I said.  “Where’s it going, though?”


Dad looked around and said, “It doesn’t matter, does it?  We talked this over in eight different directions, and we wanted to do something.”  He bopped my shoulder lightly, and I faced him.  “Paulie, we never decided anything, really, except to help Elenora and Dana.  Things didn’t have definition or shape then, and now they do, and we’re helping them.”  He looked around and up at the mountains, and when he prodded me we started walking again.  “It’s bigger than that now, Paulie.  When the development corporation built out on the mountain, that’s all they had in mind.  They did a nice job, but they really left the community out of everything, so now you have the people on the hill, and they have no reason to know the people in town, and there’s this divide.”


“Divide?” I asked.


Dad nodded.  “Yes.  A divide is what it is.  The developers never considered this town as part of anything, and I think that was a huge mistake.  Man, they could have built things in town that would have brought people down from the mountain, and they could have done something like a community center up by us, and everyone could share and know each other.  Now there’s like this … I don’t want to say mistrust … but nobody knows anybody.  Even on the mountain!  Do you know anybody except by the names on mailboxes?”


I thought about one kid I’d met, but I shook my head anyhow.  We’d walked together for a few minutes once, and he learned where I lived, but I never even got his name.  It wasn’t like it had been with the Luellens either, because we simply never saw anyone.  It was anonymous rather than unfriendly.  People swooped in on Friday, left on Sunday, and that was it.  Just like us.


Dad started talking.  “We’re doing something, Paul.  I could have given Elenora a check and got off a lot cheaper, but I feel good about this.  I want to set up a paint fund for anyone who’s not afraid of a pastel or something.  I want the state to put the road back to the little cockeyed path it used to take through town.  I want some granite curbs, and cobblestone driveways, and a lot of other things:  Wrought iron railings, brass and glass, maybe even a bar.”


Dad’s hand squeezed my shoulder enough to make me look at his face, and his visage was happy right then.  “This town doesn’t need much, Paul.  Just one giant step, and the world will fold right in behind us.”


I grinned at his use of the word us, and said “I bet we’re not even broke yet.”


Dad barked out a laugh, but didn’t say anything, and I took that to mean we weren’t even close to putting a dent in the bank account.


I found that comforting, somehow.  It was part my idea to get rid of the money, and I meant to, but I never thought  how.


Dad was a different animal, and his ideas tended to come out fairly well realized; he could envision a result, where I’d just wish and dream.


We turned around and walked back toward the building, and I could almost feel my father’s brain thinking of new and better things.  The back was homely right then.  The building hadn’t been improved at all on that side, save for the new roof, and there were giant dumpsters full of debris blocking the parking lot.


Still, Dad said, “Cobblestone would be nice back here.  Nicer than blacktop.”


I laughed, and said gently, “You’re nuts, you know that?”


Dad smiled, then Dan showed up looking anxious.  “Jeez, I looked all over for you.  I have to get going pretty soon, Paul.  We’re supposed to be home around six.”


I knew.  It was a Sunday, and we hadn’t skied, but even if we had we’d be packing the car for the ride home.  I looked at my father, and he smiled.  “I’ll meet you back at the house.  I think we’re done here for today.”


Just then, we heard a voice calling, “Mr. Dunn!  Mr. Dunn!”


We turned as one to see an agitated looking Tommy Timek waving us anxiously to him.  We hurried over and he was breathless.  “There’s a policeman out front.  He has Dana in his car and wants to see you!”


Dad’s face paled, and he tore off around the building, the rest of us right behind him.  I stopped short when I saw a State patrol car behind my father’s jeep, with Dana in the back seat.  His face was red, and he looked away in humiliation when he saw me.  I turned, and my father was asking one very tall trooper just what the problem was.


“Are you the owner of this building, sir?”  The trooper asked.


“I am,” Dad said, holding his hand out to shake.  “Franklin Dunn.  What’s the problem?”


“I’m not sure,” the trooper said.  “I thought there were vandals inside this storefront, but these fellas say they’re here with you, and that you’re the new owner.”


My father said evenly, “That’s exactly right, too.  Why is Dana in your cruiser?”


The officer said, “You know him?”  He shook his head slightly, “It’s just that we have some experience with that one, and if he wasn’t in that car, he’d be miles from here by now.  If he’s with you, then he’s free to go.”


“You’re not going to arrest him?” I asked.  “Did you frisk him?  Was he carrying heat?  Can’t you at least put him in stocks, so we can humiliate him in public?  What’s the penalty for showing off your new home, anyhow?”


I was already on my fifth and most forceful elbow-poke from Dad when the cop gave me a totally exasperated look.  “Listen, I intend to apologize to Mr. Morasutti.  We’re old friends in a way.  I’ve known Dana since he was eleven, when he started shagging skis over at Mad River.”


He turned to the building and asked, “Those are apartments upstairs?”


I asked, “Can I let Dana out?”


The cop said, “I’ll get him.  Give us a minute.”


He walked back to the cruiser and opened Dana’s door.  He didn’t use a key or anything, so I guessed the inside handle had been disabled somehow.


Dana was clearly agitated, but he hadn’t been handcuffed or anything like that.  He walked away from us with the trooper for a minute.  When the trooper put a hand on Dana’s shoulder, Dana shook it off angrily, and turned around to join us.  It was clear that he was very embarrassed, and hesitant to even approach us, but he did.


I was embarrassed for him, too, and when I looked at the other guys, I think they were as well.  I started walking to Dana, and he walked warily toward me.  He was having a hard time looking right at me, so I  gave him a little smile before glancing around myself.  When we met, it was a bit like we’d just bumped into each other, and I held my hand out to shake Dana’s.  He took my hand, and I gave his a squeeze.  I said, “Don’t worry about it, okay?”  He nodded quickly, then I turned around and we walked together back to the others, who patted his shoulder and asked if he was okay.


Dana mumbled, “That’s what I get.  It’s my fault, not that cop’s.”  He looked at us in turn and said, blushing, “I’m good now, okay?”


I was satisfied, and the other guys didn’t have questions, so we left it alone.


Dad talked to the officer for a short while, then approached Dana with a sad smile on his face.  He spoke too softly for the rest of us to hear,  but Dana smiled within a minute, and I knew that smile, for it was mine: the one I had reserved for my father when he made things right.  It was Dana’s first time, and I swear, I could feel his heart beating in my own chest.  Dad gave Dana a gentle bop on the back of his head, then headed for his Jeep, Dana right beside him.


It was weird for me, but good at the same time.  I liked Dana already, and I loved that my father could adopt him as kind of a surrogate son just like that.


I thought to Dana’s words from earlier, when he said, “I been watching you,” to my father.  I’ve been watching too, all my life, and I can say that Dana’s instincts are good.


I had the urge to join my father and Dana, but I climbed into Dan’s Land Rover instead, and we went right back to the house.


We made ourselves busy there, moving skis from roof rack to roof rack, because mine and Tom’s were still on Dad’s car.  Then we went through the house picking up our personal belongings and packing our bags for the trip home.


None of that took long, and Dan and Jim drove off first, saying they’d call after dinner.  It took us longer, mainly because my mother and father had things to talk about, and everyone wanted to thank Dad for the nice weekend.  I spent a few minutes with Dana and Elenora, who were both clearly upbeat about their prospects. I again had the feeling that my father had a little more on his mind than laundry when Elenora was around.


Well, why not?  She had the looks to make a wooden Indian cry,  and I found her quiet, unassuming personality very easy to deal with once I got to know her.  I didn’t know what my father was looking for, but I knew who he was looking at, and that seemed like a fair sign after two years without Mom.


We did finally leave, and my father mussed my hair after he hugged me, then I shook hands with Dana, and he grinned and mussed my hair, too, so I messed his up, and we were both laughing when I got in the car.


For the ride home, Mom and Ally sat up front, and I sat in the middle of the back seat, between Tommy and Shea.  I didn’t normally like the middle, but my plan was to sleep all the way home, and I didn’t mind.


So, of course, my mother engaged me in conversation right away.  “Elenora is a remarkable girl,” she said, and I knew that was directed at me, and that the word ‘girl’ hadn’t been escaped me either.


“Is she?” I asked.


“Oh, yes.  She’s quite lovely, too.  Did you know her father is a well-known attorney in New York, and a former state Senator?”


“No,” I explained, hoping she’d drop it.  Nothing, not a thing, about Elenora had actually been explained to me, and I really didn’t want to hear my mother’s version before I learned more myself.  There is such a thing as trapped, though.


“Well, he is, you know.  There was quite a scandal when she came home pregnant at only fourteen years old, and it seems that it lit the house afire, so to speak.  That poor girl was put in home after home, but she would not agree to an abortion.  When the baby was imminent, there were offers of support from her parents, from the father’s family, and from parents of her own friends.”


“Do I need to know this, Mom?” I asked.


“I think you do,” she said gently.  “Before Dana was born, the one person not offering anything at all was the baby’s father, and that is when Elenora took off on her own.  She gave Dana her own family name, and broke contact with her entire life to raise that child on her own.  Father unknown is what Dana’s birth certificate says, and that’s the way it should be.”


I waited, and when it didn’t come from my mother, I offered, “Until now?”


“Exactly.”  She cranked around the seat to face me.  “Until now.”  Her look softened, “Oh, Paul.  Your father is a wonderful man.  Lord help him if he didn’t like Elenora, but he likes Dana, too, and he is exactly what a boy like Dana needs.”


I smiled and nodded, happy that my mother felt like I did. 


She reached a hand to touch me, and I had to meet it halfway with my own hand because her seat belt held her back.


She turned back to look forward, and I tried to get comfortable, then closed my eyes.




“What, Paul?”


“Did she … Elenora, I mean, tell you who … who Dana’s father is?”


Mom’s face was immediately back between the seats looking at me.  She only smiled and put a finger to her lips.  Shhh.”


I didn’t know what that meant, but I suspected that my mother knew, and I wished I hadn’t asked.  I settled back to sleep, and the gentle movement of the car and my own fatigue made it easy to doze off.


It didn’t seem like long at all when I sensed that we were slowing down, and I expected to be pushed into Tom when Ally took the exit, but instead we stopped.  I opened my eyes and saw cars parked on the highway in front of us, and asked “What’s going on?”


“I can’t tell,” Ally said.  “Probably an accident.”


I didn’t say anything, and closed my eyes for another moment, then opened them to look around.  The Audi was tall enough to see over some cars, but we were on a flat stretch and I couldn’t see much.  It seemed like it must be bad, though, because nothing was moving, and I kept seeing brake lights go off as people realized they weren’t going anywhere, and put their cars in neutral or park.


After what seemed like a long time, Tom asked, “Want to walk up and see what’s going on?”


I didn’t want to, really, but I said yes anyhow.  I was afraid it would be something awful, but I didn’t want to just sit there, either.


My mother and Ally didn’t protest much, so Shea joined me and Tom as we started walking forward.


We didn’t talk, and had probably walked ten minutes by the time we saw flashing lights ahead, and in another few minutes we could see that the problem was a flatbed trailer on its side, its load of plywood spread on the road for a hundred yards or more.  The authorities had just then opened up the left shoulder, and were waving traffic forward, so we turned and hurried back to the Audi, which seemed farther away than it should have been.


We still made it before Ally had been able to move an inch, but in just another few minutes it was our turn.  We drove slowly at first, until we passed the mess on the road, then traffic was right back to normal.


I don’t know what caused the truck to lose it, but it seemed to be a one-vehicle thing, and it was just the trailer that had flipped.  It gave us something to talk about, though, and we were taking our own exit in about half an hour.


When we got to our place, Ally drove straight up the hill to drop Shea off, and his family hurried outside to welcome him.  I knew he’d had a good time, but he seemed really happy to be home, too.  His mother invited us in, but we declined.  It was Sunday, and there was school for me in the morning, and Mom had to drive Ally to Springfield to catch a train.


Once Shea was unloaded, we repeated at Tommy’s house, but Mom did accept their invitation to dinner, since it was ready and waiting for the table.


Good, too.  We ate beef stew with hot bread to help sop everything up, and it was a delicious end to an outdoor winter weekend.


Mom, Ally, and Tom’s parents polished off a bottle of wine, while Tom and I did in the best part of a gallon of moo.  It was wonderful, and when we got home I was ready for bed.


Mom and Ally went inside, and I hauled our things out of the car and put them away.  By the time I got inside, they’d disappeared, so I looked around to make sure everything was right, then went to my room.


My answering machine had messages, so I listened to them, but only the last ones were important, because it was Dan asking me to call, and he’d called three times.  That meant the truck accident happened behind him, and we were late enough to worry about.


I called, and Jim picked up.  “Doodler!  Jesus, where you been?”


“We like to drive slowly, you know?  Nice and careful.  Time means nothing.”


He snickered, “Yeah, right.  What happened?”


“A truck lost its load on the road, Toad!  It was either move it ourselves, or let somebody else do it, so we did the right thing and waited.”


”You’re a fuck, you know that?  Don’t call me Toad.”


“Okay,” I agreed.  “I won’t.  How about I call you … mother?”


“You said mother?”


“No,” I said.  “He said mother.”


“Who’s he?”


“He said mother.  He said mother.  He said …”


What’d he say?”


I laughed.  “Mother, that’s what he said, and that’s what I say.  We’re here, we’re fine, and I’m going to bed.  Have a good time?”


“For sure,” Jim said.  “Great weekend!”


“What do you think about Dana?” I asked, curious.


“You know,” Jim said.  “Friday night he was just another kid, kind of quiet, but out on that mountain?  Jesus!  Honest to God, I never saw anybody ski like him!  He’s just awesome!”


“That’s what I think,” I said.  “And, oh.  I don’t think I’ll be his step-father, but maybe his brother.”


Jim was silent for a long moment, then he said softly, which was out of character for him,  “I think that’s good, you know.  I mean, it’s not that hard to figure Dana out, but you need somebody, too.”


“What’s that mean?”  I asked.  “I’m happy the way I am.”


“I know,” Jim said, “and I don’t mean anything by it.  It’s just that I have a brother, and I see guys like you and Tom, and Dana too, trying to be brothers, like make brothers out of yourselves.  That’s all good, and I think that you, in particular, are good at it.  All I’m saying is that you all know what you don’t have, so you go out and find it … make it happen, and I think it’s great.”


I thought to ask about Jim’s own brother.  “Did Dan have a good time?”


“Yeah,” Jim said.  “Skiing is his best escape, and being out there really helped take his mind of Jamie.”


“Oh,” I said.


“He took that very hard.  They were really good friends.  Dan had fun this weekend, though,  He talked all the way home about the things we did, and about Dana and about all kinds of things.  I think … never mind.”

God, I hate when people do that!  “Never mind what?” I asked.


“I don’t know, I should let him tell you.  He just has this fascination thing with your mom and Ally.”


“What’s that mean?”


Jim paused.  “I don’t know what it means; just that they’re gay women, and not in combat boots or something.”


“Just regular people?” I teased.


“Yeah, like that.  They’re not all spiteful and loud like Rosie, and they’re not full of … what’s the word … irony?  Not like Ellen.  They’re just nice, and it shows all over the place.”


I was smiling, thankful for people like Jim.  “They’re good cooks, too,” I noted.


He chuckled, “You can say that again.  You know, I hear all over the place that gay people are supposed to be this, that, and the other thing, and all evil, but they’re not.”


“I know, Jim.  Thanks for saying that.  Did you see Mom and Dad dancing at the restaurant?”


“Yeah, I did.  You’d think they were still married and in love.”


“They’re not married anymore, but they still do love each other.  I mean, I know my family isn’t … regular … but I think we’re still pretty normal.”


“Yeah, you’re normal enough.  Will that stay the same if your dad gets involved with Dana’s mother?”


That was a good question, and after the things my mother said in the car on the way home I could answer.  “Not the same,” I said, “Different, but it could work.  Everybody thinks they see something, and that means me, too.  Dad’s this marketing genius, though.  If something gets serious, we’ll all know it.  Dad’ll  promote it like Oprah would!  Like, not to worry!  There’s a free car in this for everyone who says, I do!”


Jim laughed, and I said, “With that, I say good-night, compadre.  I’m tired.”


“Me, too.  See you tomorrow.”


I hung up and got things ready for the morning, then shucked my clothes onto the floor and got under the covers, where sleep was ready and awaiting my arrival.