Father’s Day

Drin wipes his forehead and says, “Do you think we ought to start hauling burger boxes again–”

“I think you need three minutes more rest,” Dance says sternly, frowning up at him.

Drin is absurdly delighted by this.  “Yes, Mom.”

“Right,” Dance says, and his gaze goes past Drin.  He turns, scans all the Metro food prep in the park.  It’s early to shut down the grills, they’re expecting a lot more patrons with tickets.  Finally he relaxes, settles more firmly, and looks at Drin.  He says, “The Romantic violinist and composer Pablo de Sarasate wrote a piece called the Navarra, after a province in Spain.  Is that where your last name comes from too?”

“Yeah,” Drin says.  He wonders if this will turn into one of Dance’s solemn jokes.

“Your first name Don, is it a title?  Just a name, Don?  Or no, it is the long name Donald?”

Drin sighs.  There’s a reason he uses the nickname.  Just trying to explain the middle parts of it, the Ridcully Innocencio bit, is even more difficult.  “Yeah, just Don.  It’s meant to be Don from the title.  But we never were traditional nobility over there.  Not since the thirteenth century, I think.”

“Then your parents wanted you to live like a ranking noble from the Spanish province?”

“Well, in my dad’s dreams, maybe.”

“And do you?”

Drin snorts.  “I should hope not, if you look at some of the history more closely.”

“Father’s dreams might not want good research chops on real history.”

Drin sputters into laughter.  “Yeah, he sure didn’t appreciate it when I brought up the details, how’d you guess?  He was kinda stiff, formal, you know– big on saving face.  Gotta have that dignity in public.  But he was gone all the time, traveling, career military.  Fond of order in his house, making sure the rules got enforced, when he was home.  ‘Course, I might too if I had as many kids as he did, and all of them noisy clumsy impudent long-haired snots like me.”  He squints as if he can’t see under imaginary long bangs, cranes his head out at a giraffe angle.

The corners of Dance’s eyes go crinkling upward.  “How wonderful, this image of tall furry youth.”

“Oh, I was a sad case.  Way too much roaring and fur.  Embarrassing how predictable it all was.  All simple action-reaction, not terribly inventive.  The aunts and uncles fuss at me, and they get my parents riled up, and then the more that my parents make threats about my weird music, my weird hair and habits and weird friends, and weirder food, then I act up worse.  That was before rainbow flags and pride marches, or I’d have been doing that too.  I guess I pissed off everybody back then.  I mean, the maids were turning me in for all that stuff nobody wants their mother to find under the bed, you know?”

Dance’s mouth rounds into a wincing oh! of sympathy.

Drin jerks his gaze away hastily.  “I mean, the more they fussed about the hair, the longer I let my beard go, the more they threatened to shave my head–”

“Cutting such ginger hair, that is tragic,” Dance says, one hand coming at him.  “May we?”

“Of course,” Drin says, surprised.

Dance’s hand stirs curls near one of Drin’s ears.  Drin just keeps breathing quietly, not moving, same as tolerating a wild animal sniffing at him.  Just… don’t… startle the man.

“How far was our Mister Drin’s very red hair growing?” Dance asks, drawing back.

“Oh, about here,” Drin says, marking the air above Dance’s bicep. Not touching him.  Don’t spook him, let him come to you… That length was far shorter than Dance’s own braided tail of hair.  “Curly, knotted, complete rat’s nest.  Annoying as hell in the heat.”

Dance’s eyes smile.  “As my hair does, too.  Amalia yells at me, she says not cutting it is just my flapping my ego, yes?  But salons, yuck.  We– I am– disliking the yanks, the cutters all sloppy, careless, too busy gossiping about dramalama queens who can’t sing, who can’t act.”

Drin finds himself laughing.  “Hey, you want help, I’ll find you somebody who pays attention.”  At Dance’s skeptical look, he holds up his open palms, chuckling.  “Promise!”

“Okay,” Dance says, just like that.  One finger touches Drin’s forearm lightly.  “So, tell please, what happened with your parents making the threats?”

“Oh, I got shipped off to military school.  First thing, they buzzcut our sorry scalps. Silly uniforms, fancied they were doing things very boot-camp style, make their cadets run everywhere.  But lots of the teachers were really vets, totally cool, nothing fazed them.  Total change from school in the burbs, all that idiot raving about their damn pathetic sports teams.  These professors, their whole deal was saying, hey, the world’s a big place, not everybody’s gonna like you, or live the way you do, or eat what you do.  My first classes I got to argue about gunnery physics and the history of Rommel’s campaigns, and I was debating about authoritarian politics–tons of people to talk to on new ideas, totally new kinds of music.  At home, no way was I ever going to hear African club swing or experimental twelve-tone stuff.”

Dance nods.  “Wanting things besides the strict few pieces edited for home, yes.”

“Edited, yeah.  Good word for it.”  He swipes sweat off his forehead.  “It’s kinda strange.  I’ve been thinking about it lately.  My stuffy old dad was right about a whole sad load of stuff.  I’d still totally hate to admit that to him, after the way we fought.  Hell, I’d love to sit down for a consult with him now on lots of things, even if he’d still drive me batshit insane, the grouchy old coot.”

The concertmaster’s eyes are smiling again.  “You are not turning into your father, surely?”

Drin shakes his head.  “I hope not!  But I’m seeing in my job the same sort of crap he was seeing in his job.  To a kid, society looks like solid brick walls.  Kick it all to hell, scream up a fit, sit on your ass out there in the rain waving signs, nothing.  Nothing, no difference, right?  But no, my dad swore our entire civilization was a very weak shell, the whole social contract deal was a complete farce, it’d all collapse if you blew at it too hard.  I didn’t believe him.  Hell, he even made me lay out maps of trucking routes, arguing with me how to plan emergencies if we had an earthquake along major urban faults, or if an attack destroyed the pump stations for the aquaduct north of Los Angeles.  But, you know, the old grouch was right.  Turns out it’s made of really thin stuff.  He saw all the cracks coming apart inside, all the idiots ignoring the really horrible things the monsters get away with.  I mean, not just our domestic crooks and liars.  Bosnia, Syria, Somalia, you name it.  He was desperately running all the time, plugging holes.  Took me years to figure out why.  It was about his devotion to an idea, yeah?  It wasn’t about protecting the damn fools in power who kept screwing things up.  That was just how he had to finagle, how he got it done.”

“A life of service, not just military duty,” Dance says.

“Oh yeah.  Thankless job, who wants to waste your whole life at it?  But he did.  The rules, that’s all he had.  It was all falling apart on him.  Anything, any challenge might topple this tottering fragile old corrupt regime he was sworn to uphold, so he had to keep plugging the holes on their goddamned secrets.”

Dance says, in bitter quote, “Stop asking where all the money is going.”

“Yeah, that’s always such a good sign!  Then it turns into that other one:   Stop asking where the money went.  And they gotta stop people getting too curious.  Just don’t.  Not worth getting killed for.  Yeah, he warned me to stop poking my big honking nose in where nobody wanted it.  Pushy kid, stop risking your luck, stop asking all those damn nosy questions.”

The musician nods.  “But you still ask, yes?  Now.  You ask.  You ask why.”

Drin frowns, struggling with it.  “Yeah.  Back then, things were so fragile that anything might set off a scandal.  Any shakeup was too much.  Youth protests, uppity grammas shouting about desaparecidos, professors publishing reports on people taken away to prison, the unions on strike, any little thing might end up in anarchy.  My uptight old man, he knew how fragile organizations are.  He saw incompetent leadership, and how things go bad really damn quick.  Hell, ask nosy questions, you won’t like what you find out, so don’t do that.  But me?  Hey, asking questions is my job.  You know that’s what I do for a living, right?”

“We are just beginning to, at the Metro,” Dance says, in that dry tone of his.

Drin smiles.

The musician asks, “What would your father be saying about this job you have now?”

Drin snorts in amusement.  “He’d get in a few digs about me doing the opposite of what he told me.  Oh, and about him being right all along.  Then he’d stomp my sorry butt playing chess.  Him and his chess.  Damn, but he was a competitive old fart underneath it all.”

“But do you like it, the game?  Do you like it now, playing chess?” Dance asks mildly.

Drin catches his breath, looks at the solemn face.  “You’re dangerous.”

Dance smiles.

“I like that in a man,” Drin says, admiring him.

“Thank you, but we have this strange idea that you maybe like it in a woman too?”

Drin starts to laugh.  “Oh hell yeah.  Gets me in trouble, too.  You?”

Dance just flaps his hands, waving it off.  “Emma for roommate, that is enough trouble for me.”

Drin laughs harder.  “Do you like chess?”

Dance shrugs.  “Sometimes.  But no time for it, until we are overworked in the brain.  We do all our other chores before sitting down to play chess.  So tired.  Maybe too much brain lost to even play checkers.”

“Oh, hey, checkers.  You saw there’s a board built in that concrete table?  We can use the oak litter, play acorns and caps, how’s that?”

“Because you are having mercy today on my tired brain?”

“No, on mine,” Drin says, grinning at him.

“Oh, we might like playing checkers too much, and I want more, but cannot get it.”   Dance makes a sad face at him.

Hell, it’s an outright invitation.  Drin pulls himself together.  “So hey, you can call me up tomorrow night.  Gimme a chess opening move.  Say, you’re making dinner, you call me on breaks when you’re doing stuff, cook between moves, right?  Cook things while you’re thinking about your next move.  Call it back and forth.”

“Yes, we see.  Phone chess.”  That accent drops to a dark, chesty tone.

Oh, unfair.

Drin drinks some more water, hastily. Talk about something else, anything.  Quick.  Cooking.  Cooking questions.  “Yeah, and tell me about what else you’re cooking, yeah?  Man, I do want to try your galbi, both kinds.  Didn’t have that when I’ve been to Korean restaurants.  It was always grilling these amazingly thin strips of stuff.  Grilling it there at the table, something like Mongolian barbecue.”

Dance props his elbows on his knees, leaning forward.  “Do you like trying new foods?  How does Amalia say it– ethnic cuisine.”

“Oh hell yes.  Love it.  How about you?”

“Eating things in good places, yes, very.  Last year for premier, Mr. Bud Innes took patrons and many musicians to a big boozing Mexican party place.  Good food, but more about the booze.  Lots of margaritas and drunk musicians to push into taxis.  Very… popular.”  Dry tone of voice.

“Whoooh boy.  Not for me, thanks.  Not these days.”

Dance’s eyes slant upward into a very feline smile. “Then for winter season, our patrons went to the teppan restaurant up by the county courthouse.  We–I– was helping organize.  Very crowded.  Good sauces, nice soups.”

Drin wipes sweat off his hairline, nods.  None of those places are on his short list.  A noisy tourist dive will not do.  He’s got to be careful on a first date with somebody as skittish about surprise noises as his concertmaster.  He has a few ideas in mind.

Looking over at the muscles in the man’s forearms, he really wants to feed the man bits of exquisite sashimi with chopsticks, and crack jokes, and watch him laugh.  Instead of letting those parts of his brain get too happy, he holds out the water bottle.  “Speaking of drinking…”

Dance swigs down half of it, and sighs.  “You are right, we both are needing to cool down.”

Drin clicks his fingers, and points at him.  “Hey, how about a foodie swap?  You teach me about your cooking, and I take you out to good places, show you stuff I know about.  Afghan kebabs, palau and qorma, and of course there’s sushi, sashimi, Ethiopian tef –I could just work my way down the alphabet, you know–”

Dance stares up at him.  The man’s pupils dial wide open, black as gun bores in the glare of light.  “Yes, please, I like learning new foods very much.  Yes.”

“Good.”  Drin reaches out and pats the concertmaster on the back, gently.  The man’s shirt is damp to the touch.  Well, no surprise if he’s sweaty, he’s been trotting all day like a dog herding sheep.  Drin is dripping with sweat too.

Dance waves one hand.  “Sashimi, I have not tried.  No leftovers at Metro parties, you see, with some musicians going more hungry than we are.”

That jerks his attention back to the man’s face.  “Good grief!  Never?  Okay, that settles it, right?  Sashimi for dinner.  Let me know what evening you’re free, I’ll get reservations at a decent place.”

“We must consult our schedule notebook.”  The concertmaster startles him by resting a hot leathery palm on his forearm.  “I will consult evenings for making you a galbi dinner too. And if you like that dish, I can make jjigae next, that is a stew–”

“That sounds even better,” Drin agrees, not moving, in fear the man might flee.

“Thank you, we will enjoy it.” Dance grips his arm firmly, oddly like a handshake, and releases it.  Then he twists his head around like an owl, looking away into the park, as if somebody’s yelling in the distance has got his attention, although Drin can’t hear it.  Then he gazes over at the parking lot.

“Young is yelling about more burgers?” Drin asks, guessing.

A grimace proves him right.

Drin nods over toward the rental van with supplies.  “I figure we can drag out those last four boxes of burgers on the handcart, check on the need for wieners and make that run if we need to, and then load up another batch of soda and water.”

“Getting you more cold water too,” Dance says, looking at him.

“Wee-eell, did they ever get the park restrooms unlocked?”

“Oh yes,” Dance says, shoving the water bottle at him.  “In this heat, you are too big, you must not be playing camel!”

Drin makes silly camel faces at him, wiggling his mustache.

Dance is up on his feet again, and he’s shaking his head as he tilts the handcart into motion.  He looks sternly at Drin.  “We– I am– hauling both ourselves over to the restroom, just to make sure you are not doing the camel thing with the not-drinking-water trick.”

“Really,” Drin says, slouching onto his feet, and looking down at the musician’s solemn face.  If it’s an invitation to anything, he can’t tell it.  And the place is far too busy for playing any  risky games in the men’s room.

“Really,” Dance says.  He smiles, and taps the hand cart.  “Hop on.”

Drin is in a silly mood, he steps on.  He finds himself whizzing along the sidewalk as Dance jogs to the restroom.  Drin says, “Lemme guess– you’re feeling a little bit of– hydrostatic need– water pressure– yourself.”

“Oh, you mean, we so need to run here in the boy’s room before we are actually losing it–” and he’s thumped the cart to a stop.  He vanishes inside the cement block breezeway.

Drin leans on the cart handle, waiting.  He’s not going to leave their precious handcart unattended.  There are antic stories about the Metro’s cart showing up in suggestive places, covered in rude in-joke messages.

Two of the Metro’s younger patrons stop by, chat with him about the schedule for volleyball matches.  They brag about their weekly handball games; the real athletes are already busy playing pickup games on the courts nearby.  Bud Innes’ buddies are more interested in showing off their midriffs than in getting sweaty, but Drin doesn’t mind feeding them some of the ego-boost they’re looking for, poor insecure kids.

He really can’t help smiling a lot wider when he glances around and sees Dance is standing there, waiting politely.  He introduces them to Dance, handshakes all around.  Bud’s entourage skitters off almost instantly.  Odd.  Dance tilts his head, watching them go.

“Did you crunch their widdle fists too hard?” Drin asks.

Dance coughs into his cupped hand.  “They were speaking on athletics, perhaps we are assuming they had more hand strength–”  He looks up at Drin under his brows like a scolded puppy.  “–and also I am not wanting to share your company.”

Drin starts to laugh.  “It’s a big orchestra, I’m not gonna be able to hog you all to myself today, either, the way I’d like to–”  He sees another batch of younger musicians on the way, and grimaces.  He offers Dance the handcart grip.  Time to head off before he can get entangled again.

When he comes out, wiping his wet hands on his jeans, he finds Dance is alone, leaning one ankle up on the cart handle, stretching out his hamstrings.  The borrowed slacks are two sizes too big, sliding off his skinny little waist.  His back displays a redneck tan, brown as caramel above a crescent of paler brown skin where his sweat pants normally hang.  The borrowed pants are caught up on a butt that clearly got stolen from some hockey player.  Apparently it makes equally outsized demands to be stretched out.

“Well, Fred Astaire used a cane, Gene Kelly used an umbrella,” Drin says, gripping the handcart and bracing it against Dance’s ankle.  The man’s shoes are cheap loafers with worn soles; the socks are unseasonal black nylon.  He resists the temptation to just pick up the man’s ankle off the hand cart.  “Can you really– why yes, I guess you can.”

“Thank you,” Dance says, comically pulling up the loose pants and shaking down his shirt tail.  He makes flappy arm gestures, grinning.  “We are feeling very guilty about missing three days of practice in the dojo.”

“Well, a break probably isn’t a bad thing, but it can’t be good for you standing around getting stiff all weekend, either,” Drin says.

Dance indicates the handcart.  “Would you be pleased to ride to the van?”

“I would.  Is this also in aid of your stretching–”

“No, my running,” Dance says, jogging with Drin’s weight rolling ahead of him.

“Aahh,” Drin says, bumping as Dance shifts his grip to the other hand, and the cart’s motion changes.  They bump down a driveway into the parking lot.

“There’s just something wrong about a guy who smiles while he’s running,” Amalia says as they go whizzing past her open car door.

“That was not a smile, that was my terrible grimace of agony at thinking we are unloading your garbage scow car,” Dance throws back over his shoulder, not even out of breath.

“Yeah, you great kidder, just see who picks you up tonight with all the leftover stage crap somebody else was supposed to load up.”

“That would not be Robert, you wise lady, because you know better,” Dance flings back, and there’s grumbled curses from her direction.

I’ll give ‘em a cute lil quartet at the park– wasn’t my idea in the first place–” Amalia growls into her car.

“What’s so funny?” Dance asks Drin, pacing along as if it’s perfectly easy to push Drin.

“You two are,” Drin says, flinging his arms wide like a kid on a swing, feeling the breeze tickle damp palms.  “We should rent out rides on those scooter things–you know, those Segway carts that the zoo uses.”

“We did not know you visit the zoo,” Dance says.

“Well, I do now, since you guys arranged for big concerts there all summer.”

“Oh yes, that was Emma’s idea, wrangling things for two years on the Metro and the zoo working together.  She is very good at it.  We did not know you came.”

“Oh, I didn’t bug you, everybody was too busy.  Damn good concerts, too.”

“Thank you.  The lions roaring at the climax of the Brandenberg Concerto added something, don’t you agree?”

“It sure did!”  Drin finds himself laughing, unlocking the doors of the jumbled van.

“What’s so funny?” Amalia demands, pausing by their supply van, grunting as she puts down bags and boxes.

Dance frowns at the interior of the van.  “Elephants playing tag in here.”

Amalia snorts.  “So yeah, you bums, step on it, huh?  The Great Maestro is bitching about his burger supply already.  Acting like he can go through a whole box in five minutes.  Or maybe he just thinks you two are making out in the restroom all afternoon, the way he was talking.”

“That’ll be the day.  Have you seen the plumbing leaks in there?”  Drin makes a face.

“Well, there’s green scum trying to build a space program in the ladies’ room,” Amalia says, and hands him cloth shopping bags of staggering weight.  She’s much stronger than people realize, with those misleading plump cellist’s hands.

Somehow he’s not a bit surprised, when he straightens up from stowing the bags in the van’s locking storage, to find her smiling at their backsides in a distinctly predatory manner.

“What?” Drin asks her, distracted.

Dance beside him is still bent in half like a pretzel.

“Now that’s a fine view, a very fine view,” Amalia says, and when Drin rolls his eyes, she chuckles and dusts her hands off and walks away.

Dance mutters something that isn’t English.  The concertmaster is too busy wrestling a broken box to care that his shirt tail and his pants are parting company again.  “What?  Oh, yes.  You’re just lucky she didn’t crack her bow to thwack you a good one on the nice Drin behind.”

“Or on the nice Dance one,” he says, eyeing the posterior in question.

Dance points at him sternly.  “More water.  You are getting all red and silly.”

“So are you!”

“Water,” Dance says sternly.

“Don’t tell me–your dad was the total ruler of the house, wasn’t he?”

Dance’s mouth quirks.  “Those are just the rules in a Korean home.  He was– some call them a salaryman.  Work long hours, no union rules, no stopping.  Busy busy go away, I am working at home, do not disturb.  He spoke only Gyeongsang dialect, very stern, not Seoul dialect like my aunts.  He didn’t speak so well in Seoul dialect, but he never admits it.  And also, to my mother, to my aunts, to my grandmothers–” a grim look, “–stop asking where the money went.”

“Ahhh,” Drin says.  He picks up two cases of water.  “That past tense, went, that’s the killer.”

“Yes.”  Dance waves one hand in exasperation.  “Auuugh, the English, all irregular verbs.”  Then he places a final box at the top of the cart’s load of boxes.  He pops the handcart into movement, and starts reciting irregular verbs.  He strolls along conjugating them like some pompous Shakespearean actor, but he puts them in such a rude order that Drin starts to laugh.  “No, oh no, Drin, fuck is not irregular verb, so we cannot put it in this list.  But it is so flexible, use it for everything in a sentence.  Fuck, fucks, fucking, fucked, to fuck, to be fucked, to have fucked over, to go fucking around, to have been fucked royally, to– to stop saying rude verbs where nice children might be hearing me, too.”

“You did that on purpose.  I’m onto you now, you can’t fool me!”

Dance gives him an innocent look.  “The hard part is when to shut up, guessing how far away people might hear the rude words.  We are not practicing our– my– rude list like other words.  Some of them are old– yes, archaic.  To roger, to get rogered, to be rogering, to have rogered–” He stops when he gets a choked laugh from Drin.  Then he says innocently, “They sound so silly, they make Amalia laugh.  Which is good, making people laugh.”

“And now I’ve joined Amalia in the list of people trusted with your archaic rude words?”

“Oh, not saying these words if you do not want–”

Drin laughs some more.  “Oh, conjugate as much rudeness for me as you please, sirrah!  But yeah, save it for later, you’re right.”

They unload boxes here and there, cut open cases, load more bottles of water and soda into coolers of melting ice, and swing around the park in a wide loop.

“So, Miss Amalia, do you need more dogs for the grill?”

By then, she is sitting in a folding chair, fanning herself, and slugging down something with ice chips clattering in it.  She waves at Robert, who’s been joined at the grill by his patron, Bud Innes, and there are handshakes all round.  Somehow Drin and Robert get maneuvered into sitting down with Amalia, while Dance wheels around offloading the cart and Bud takes a turn serving from the grill, cracking jokes with everybody in line.

“More dogs coming,” Dance promises, popping up at Drin’s elbow with a chilled soda can and a bottle of water.

Drin blinks in surprise at the offer.  Somewhere the concertmaster overheard Drin giving his choice of fizzy drinks, and remembered it.  Wordlessly Drin digs out the van keys for him, and Dance trots off into the heat with the squealing handcart.  Apparently he trots everywhere at these events.

Amalia opens her mouth, looking after him.

Robert says crossly, “Don’t say anything about his ass, okay?”

They look at him, surprised.

“Well, who’s Captain Grumpy Underpants?”  Amalia says.

Robert sighs, wiping his red, sweaty face.  “Just don’t!”

“Here, you look like you need this,” Drin says, and puts the water bottle in Robert’s hand.

He does need it; the cellist gulps it down carelessly, until Bud warns him to slow down.  Then their beloved Robert the Nasal New Joisy Byotch really gets going.  “All anybody ever says to me, swear to God–  Robert, why don’t you practice like him?  Robert, why don’t you get into some kind of aerobics and you’d have an ass like that?  You’re looking so plump, why don’t you join a gym?  Never mind that one visit costs more than I get paid in a month–”

“Robert, my boy, your ass is just fine the way it is,” Bud says calmly, adjusting the hot dogs to his satisfaction.  “I told you I am all for getting skilled advice on what kind of workouts you need to support your playing.  Straining the wrong things is stupid, I’ve said it before.  I know you’re not picking up any of that fat-phobic crap from Dance or Amalia here, and they’re the only ones with an opinion worth  damn, far as I’m concerned.  Any other silly bitch can go take a long dive off a big building.”

Amalia looks at Drin, who lifts his eyebrows.  Oh, he knows this voice, all right.  Managers where Drin works dive for cover when they hear it.

“But Papi–” Robert begins, in a pathetic whine.

Bud waves it off fiercely, glaring.  “I don’t give a shit what anybody else thinks you should be doing.  So I hate you repeating other people’s put-downs, tearing yourself down.  It’s not good for you.  I don’t like it.  Stop.”

Robert stares up at his patron with his mouth open, completely silenced.  It’s amazing.

“Well, there you have it,” Amalia says, and nods to Drin.

He’s having trouble keeping a straight face.

“Robert, you have nothing to apologize for technically, at the stage you’re at,” Bud goes on.  He points the hot dog fork at Robert, narrowing his eyes.  “I believe you merely suffer from a lack of inspiration, some shortage of motivation.  Hell, you need some more joy in your work, you need to like what you’re doing a lot more.  So we will be finding all of those things for you.  I’ve talked to Dance and Amalia about it.”

Robert stares up with his mouth open a little, as if God has spoken.  It makes him look a bit addled.  Then he blinks.  Tears are spilling over.  He scrubs hastily at his eyes with his knuckles, smearing grill soot on his face.  “Oh, Paaaaapi–”

“Drink some more water, it’s hot,” Amalia says gruffly, and grabs paper napkins.  “And wipe the schmutz off, silly boy.”

Drin finds himself smiling.  When Bud says he’s ‘finding something for you’, it always means ‘there’s gonna be a whole helluva lot more work for you.’

A glance at Amalia’s grin says, oh yeah, she knows that.  That’s one of her really evil grins.

Robert is going to find it out the hard way.

When he looks up, Bud gives him a wink, and then a director’s tilt of the head.  Sure enough, when he looks around, he finds Dance on his way back, pushing the loaded cart as if it weighs nothing, and whistling a Bach cantata.

“Take good care of him,” Bud says flatly, looking at Drin with a stare that’s known and feared at work.

“Yes, Dad,” Drin says, and smiles.  “I promise.”

Bud snorts.  “I ain’t your dad, and I ain’t done giving the damn silly Board folks shit about what all papers went missing in that stupid burst pipe suspiciously soon right after you started doing the books, and I ain’t got half these folks in line loaded up and fed yet–”

Robert comes up and wraps both arms around Bud and kisses his ear.  “Thank you, Papi–”

“–and I ain’t gonna get dogs off the grill if I’m busy getting a big proper hug.  You get that batch off that grill, right this minute, and you’ll get a proper hug.”

Which takes a bit of maneuvering, but they manage.  The people in the line clap and whistle in approval, which prompts Robert to bow, with a flourish.

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