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The Good Doctor
--- Chapter 13 ---
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The Good Doctor 13

I can’t imagine that after all of these years that my mother is still a mystery to my dad but that’s the way he sometimes looks at her, with a slightly perplexed look and a tiny smile. She’s different with him, she gives in to him. She doesn’t do that with anyone else that I’ve ever met. In a way it feels like she’s still thinking of him as he was when he was young. A hot young stud husband with lots of ambition and the brains to match.

My mom has actually seated Pete next to her with my dad on the other side of her. Normally she would have Jase within hugging distance. I wonder if she really understands that she doesn’t have to sell me anymore.

Jase keeps getting out of his chair and leaning against me. “You know what, Dad?”

“What, Kiddo?” Meanwhile my mother is doing everything but hand feeding Pete.

He’s almost climbing onto my lap. “I’m gonna try those things that I never used to like, those curly things.”

I’m clueless. “Curly things?”

“Yeah, Dad, the little curly fishy things.”

A wild ass guess. “You mean shrimp?”

“Yeah, Dad, those things, I’m gonna eat those. Do they make those things here, Dad?”

I bend over and pull Jase to my chest and kiss him on the neck. He squirms but doesn’t pull away. “Jase, I think that Mary would make you anything that you wanted.”

I’m sliding into dad mode. Usually I don’t even notice it at the time that it happens, only afterwards do I realize that I’ve been listening only to Jase, focused totally on him. I lay my hand on his neck and feel the heat of his body, wishing that I could draw out the bad stuff, wishing that I could pull it into me. I can take it, whatever it is, he’s just a little boy and shouldn’t have to deal with bad stuff. He lays his head on my knee and then turns it and looks up at me with big hazel eyes flecked with green. My eyes say “I love you” and I know that he gets the message. He’s like a puppy dog rubbing up against another warm body, basic. It’s about his mom although I’m not even sure that he knows that.

I glance up and see my dad watching me, he smiles but it’s not a “boy that’s funny” smile but a “I remember that feeling” smile. It’s a tie that binds us, a shared dad thing. Funny, I never thought……………well I never thought that we shared that much.

“Jase how bout I order shrimp and you get a burger or something that you know that you like. That way you can eat off of my plate too.” I grin at him. “And if it turns out that you REALLY like shrimp then the next time we eat out you can order a whole plate full.” I love feeding Jase. I love watching him eat. That’s gotta be some really deep genetic thing.

He looks relieved and climbs back up in his chair. “Grandma, I’m gonna eat shrimp!” He gives me a quick look. “And a burger too.” My mother flashes him a smile and starts to say something but my dad interrupts her.

He reaches over and places his hand gently on Jase head. He’s looking old but his hands are still huge. “Me too, Jase! I’m gonna have shrimp with lobster sauce.”

My mother zero’s in on that. “Bill, you know that you can’t eat that it gives you indigestion.”

My dad shrugs, he knows that she’s right but says simply. “I don’t care, I’m having it anyway.” He touches Jase’s shoulder. “Jase can give it a try too if he wants.” Father, son and grandson united against the killjoy nature of womenfolk. We’ll probably all be sick!

Meanwhile Pete is chatting up my mom by asking her how she makes her Braciola. This is like pouring gasoline on a fire. My mother could talk forever about Italian cooking. The rest of us stopped listening years ago but Pete is actually interested. Not that he’ll ever actually need to fix that stuff himself. Not at least for a decade or so after mom is no longer with us. Geez! It sounds like I hate her or something, which I don’t, I love her, but mom likes to have her way. Oh what the hell, she drives everyone crazy!

My dad is watching Pete with a friendly smile on his face but I know that behind his eyes he’s got questions. Fuck, I’d have questions too. If I was sitting where my dad is I’d have plenty of questions but I know too that he won’t ask them, he’ll just worry.

Suddenly Pete stops talking. He gets up quickly and excuses himself while he grabs for his cell phone. The first call of the evening. Pete walks away from the table while he talks quietly into his cell. I still can’t tell by the expression on his face whether this is and infected ingrown toenail or a heart attack. Steady, Pete is steady. He’s the guy you want with you in a life raft or trapped on a desert island. Nothing shakes him, listen, analyze, and decide. Ringing your hands and putting the decision off isn’t an option, you really gotta know what you’re doing. I don’t deserve him. What does he see in me?

My mother lays a hand lightly on my dad’s arm and says. “Must be an emergency.” She looks at me. “Honey, if you have to go we’ll understand.” She’s loving the drama of this!

“I don’t think that it’ll come to that, Mom.”

Jason has climbed up and is kneeling on his chair. “That happens all the time, Grandma. Pete’s a doctor, he gets lotsa calls.”

“Well, I’m just saying that if it’s an emergency…………” She shrugs. “A life may depend on Pete going, he’s a doctor.” I wonder how painful it would be cutting my own throat with a butter knife?

Pete is standing over by a window talking quietly into the phone and my dad is watching him. He doesn’t say anything just watches. Lately dad seems to go more deeply into himself like he’s got some sort of internal debate going and he’s willing to keep it to himself. There was a time when he had an opinion about everything and not only wanted to tell you about it but hoped that you’d disagree with him so that he could argue. Now it’s all internal. Maybe that’s happening because I’ve grown up, no more “What should I do, Dad?” questions and no more work questions so maybe he just feels like there’s no point in it anymore, no point in talking.

“Dad, you think that it’s possible that I need a new roof? It’s beginning to look a little ratty, maybe you could come over and take a look.” It’s worth a try.

“Eric, there’s no way you need a new roof! That house is only ten years old, ya got another ten years before you need to think about roofs.”

I shrug. “Maybe I can get a roofing contractor to come over and take a look.” Let’s introduce a little competition.

“Eric, they’ll charge ya a fortune! Don’t do anything until I’ve had a chance to look at it. Maybe next week if your mother can fit me into the car along with all the food, I’ll give it a look.”

Pete is snapping shut his cell phone as he slides back into his seat. “Sorry bout that.” He flashes a screwy grin. “Sometimes that happens a lot.” There’s something about that look that he gets on his face, a look that says, “I don’t take myself too seriously, I fuck up too.” It’s also, to me, a sexy look because somewhere in it is a flash of vulnerability, a vulnerability that mitigates, smoothes all that competence, makes him more accessible. Sitting here with my parents and my son I’m thinking about how it will feel later to be wrapped in Pete’s arms as I fall asleep. Surely at some point in their lives my parents must have experienced that, maybe they still do and surely Jase will eventually experience the same thing. Another tie that binds. A human thing.

Pete is being charming. His eyes are flashing, he’s gesturing with his hands and his deep voice is running the gamut from intimate to sports announcer. My mother, his natural ally, is spellbound. My father, on the other hand, is taking a wait and see attitude. Pete almost had him swung over with all that football talk. Where the hell did he get that? I’ve never understood football, maybe if they played it on gravel dressed only in tank tops and jock straps.

Jase is tired of eating and listening to grownups and is approaching the climbing on to his dad’s lap and napping stage. His index finger is in his mouth where it spends a great deal of time anyway.

“Are we gonna go home, Dad?” He’s climbed between my legs and lays his head down in my lap. “I don’t wanna eat anymore, Dad!”

“Hang in there, Kiddo, we’ll be goin soon.”

Jase is bored outta his skull and that prompts question time.

“Dad, do you like me?”

“Yep.”

“How come?”

“It said to do that on the instructions.”

“What instructions?”

“Remember when we bought that new toaster a couple of months ago and when we opened the box it had that piece of paper that said how to use it and take care of it?”

Jase nods yes warily. “Yeah.”

“Well when you were born you had this page of instructions. It was on blue paper cause you’re a little boy, little girls have instructions on pink paper. Anyway the instructions said to feed you, change your diaper and love you.”

Jase is disgusted. Why does he have to tolerate me? “That didn’t happen, Dad! You’re making that up!”

“No, honest! It was written in English, Spanish, German and French.”

My mother is looking at me appalled. My dad thinks it’s hilarious. Pete is smiling gently and trying to decide what medication he should use on me. Prozac or Paxil hmmmmm.

Jase decides to take his case directly to the Supreme Court. “Grandma, did I come with instructions?”

“Eric! Will you stop teasing him!” She then holds out her arms to Jase who tiredly walks into them. “You’re making him crazy!” Mom doesn’t get it. Teasing is just another way to be close, for fathers and sons anyway.

--------------------------------------

I pull into the garage and get out of the car to unlock the door to the house in the meantime Pete has gone into the back seat and scooped up a sleeping Jase who is like totally unconscious and lying against Pete’s chest.

Pete twists his head and looks at Jase with an odd smile on his face. We walk into the house and carry Jase straight to his bedroom. Pete lays him gently on his bed between Alan’s huge emerald green paws and then looks up at me with that same odd smile. We strip Jase down to his underwear and then pull the covers up to his chin. He stays totally unconscious.

In the kitchen Pete leans against the counter and rolls his head around loosening his neck muscles. I back up against him and pull his arms around me, not a sex thing a human warmth thing. He snuggles his chin down against my neck, I snuggle back.

He speaks quietly in my ear. “What is it about little kids? S’like they push all your genetic buttons. If there’s an ounce of fatherhood in you they pullllll it out.”

“I know! You’re never the same, they change you.” His arms feel so good, his hands are large and strong.

He speaks softly, a whisper. “You’ve changed me too.”

“Yeah, I’ve brought down your standard of living!” There’s something very reassuring about a guy getting a hardon just from wrapping his arms around you.

Pete slowly pulls my shirt out of my pants and then rubs my bare chest with his hands. “Gee, handsome young Italian boy who loves me………..that is rough!”

I roll my head back against his shoulder while he kisses my neck. “I do you know…………love you that is.”

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“Why do you give little boys shots?” Pete is………or was, lying on the sofa reading the paper when Jase wheedled his way between him and the paper and is now leaning on his chest and occasionally reaching out and touching Pete’s chin with his index finger. I move my sock covered foot down and lightly nudge the spot in Pete’s pants where I know his balls to be and watch the corners of his mouth turn up slightly.

“Shots?”

“Yeah, you know, with needles.”

Pete takes the question seriously. Not that Jase would give him a chance not to. He puts one hand behind his head to prop it up. “Well, Jase, sometimes we’ve gotta get things inside of someone’s body………….you know, like to fight bacteria………..germs. Now some things that we need to get into you we can just make into pills………you know, like aspirin and you can just swallow those with water. But sometimes that’s not the best way, sometimes some stuff has gotta go right into your blood or your muscles and that’s when we need to give you shots.” He smiles and ruffles Jase’s hair. “It’s not cause we wanna hurt you.”

Jase is fascinated by Pete and wants to know everything about him and what he does for a living, especially what he does for a living. To Jase a doctor is a goldmine of answers to questions yet to be asked.

I’m fascinated by the bacon sandwich with mayonnaise on toast that I’m eating.

Pete must have heard the crunch and looks up at me. “Watcha eatin?”

“My favorite….a bacon sandwich….with mayonnaise.” He looks at me like I’ve just told him that I made a sandwich out of a Cocker Spaniel! “Want a bite?” I’m stalling.

He blinks. “Have you had your cholesterol checked?” Who pushed the “Doctor On” button?

“Cholesterol?” Crunch crunch crunch.

Jase decides that bacon warrants jumping ship. “Can I have a bite, Dad?” He scampers across Pete and climbs across my legs before straddling my waist. Jase is always careless about where he puts his knees when he scampers and I see Pete grimace. Shouldn’t little boys automatically know that their dad’s have testicles that need not to be mashed?

Little hands, god knows where they’ve been, grab mine and pull my sandwich to Jase’s mouth. Crunch crunch. Pete looks worried. When Jase sits on me I can feel the life force in him, he’s like a little atomic bomb going off slowly.

“Wouldn’t Dr. Malvic have done that? He never said that I had high cholesterol.” Like I would have remembered or even have been paying attention. If it was about Jase’s cholesterol it’d be burned into my brain but somehow mine doesn’t count.

Jase is getting down to my fingers and I gotta be careful, we’ve have accidents in the past. What is it with bacon? It’s like some sort of porcine heroin. Just the smell of it drives people to do extreme things.

I hand Jase the napkin and the remains of the sandwich. “Sweetheart, do your dad a favor and go finish this in the kitchen. Then toss the napkin. In the garbage, not on the floor!” He looks at me with disgust.

“I know, Dad! I just missed the garbage can that one time!” Like leave me fucking alone, Dad! At least that’s how I used to feel. Why do little boys have to grow up? They’re so perfect the way that they are, well maybe perfect isn’t the right word. They’re so satisfying, for their dad’s at least. They’re so open to love, so open to everything in the world. Little boys actually say, “I love you, Dad!”

 

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