The Good Doctor 66
I slipped the suit coat on and stood up as straight as possible. It sure would be nice if I was six feet tall instead of five seven.
“Okay, Rose, how does this look?” Rose had plopped down into one of those chairs they always have near changing rooms took off her high heels and was rubbing her feet. She was looking all “put together” in a kind of “my feet are killing me” way. The thing is that Rose has got all the money in the world but there’s only so much you can do.
“Just great, Eric! Buy the goddamn thing!”
“Are you sure, Rose? This is important! I need your best advice so don’t just tell me something so you can get outta here.”
She waved a dismissing hand at me while she turned around looking for the salesman. Spotting him she yelled, “Honey! Honey! You got an ashtray?”
“He’s pretending you don’t exist, Rose. That way he doesn’t have to actually tell you that there’s no way that you’re getting an ashtray.”
She was pulling a cigarette out of a pack. “You can’t smoke that, Rose!”
“I know, Eric! I’m not a savage! I just wanna have it ready for when I can.”
She pointed the cigarette at me. “Surprisingly that suit doesn’t look bad on you.” She sighed. “I’m amazed that you agreed to this. Even with your mother, I’m still amazed.”
“Believe me, Rose, if I had had any conceivable choice I never would have agreed to it. But, I do get to bring Pete and I am a good dancer, so how bad can it be.”
She was rummaging in her enormous purse and she looked up at me over her glasses. “You do know that this is a bunch of politicians and big money people? It’s not the rabble that you usually seek out.”
“I know, Rose! You make it sound like I’m a hobo living down by the tracks! I understand polite society.” I may not like it, but I do understand it.
“Well just don’t embarrass your mother. These are the people she has to work with.” I don’t know why she keeps saying that, it’s not like mom has a job.
“You don’t think this suit is too…I dunno…just too much?”
“Eric, it’s navy blue! You can’t go wrong with navy blue. If anything it’s a little dull.”
“Dull? You really think so?” I turned sideways and looked in the mirror at myself. “Maybe I can jazz it up…you know with the right tie. I must have a tie at home that’d work with this. You think I can jazz it up?”
She laughed. “You? Not a chance! You’ll probably do something bizarre. Wear a pink shirt or something. I, on the other hand, could do it beautifully, which is why your mother asked me to keep an eye on you.”
She stepped over to a rack of ties still in her stocking feet and quickly picked out three. She looked at me over the top of the rack. “You do understand that this isn’t going to be your dreadful rap music, don’t you? I mean when you say you can dance….well, it’s not that hootchie coochie music that you’re talking about is it?”
I grabbed one of the ties and held it to the suit. “Hootchie coochie? You got a bottle of vodka in that purse of yours, Rose?” Then something occurred to me. “How many grinding wheels you got left from that big shipment?”
“At least a gross.” She picked out another tie. “Call my guys and ask em for a count but I’m pretty sure it’s a lot.”
“I just got an order going in for them and if you needed more I wanted to add it.” I held up one of her ties. “I like this one.”
“It’s nice but it needs a shirt with a faint stripe. You have anything like that?” She immediately waved her hand. “Right! Like you’d know! We shoulda brought Jase. At least he knows what your wardrobe looks like. You better get a shirt to make sure.”
I grabbed a shirt off of a pile of them. “This?”
Rose rolled her eyes. “It’d be perfect if the dance was in a trailer park. It’s gotta be subtle, Eric! That stripe is what an inch wide?” Then remembering she said, “Soldering tips! I need freakin soldering tips!”
“Rose, can all this possibly matter? Who the hell cares how wide the stripe is and why don’t your guys tell me when they’re low on tips? I get those made specially for you, it’s gonna take awhile.”
“It’s details, Eric, they add up! If it’s all done right you’ll look really sharp but no one thing’ll stand out. And you won’t embarrass your mother and who the hell knows why they didn’t tell you about the tips. I suspect it’s because they last for a long time.”
I shook my head. “I can’t imagine why she cares. Why would anyone care what these people think?”
Rose came over and straightened my suit jacket. “Your mother works with these people all the time and lately she’s been getting more and more political. And with this new mayor she wants to make a good impression.”
“We got a new mayor?”
Rose threw her head back and stared at the ceiling. “Eric! Do you live in a shoe? How can you not know this?”
“Oh fer cryin out loud, Rose! I sell industrial supplies and hardly any of them to our little town. Why the hell would I care?” Then something occurred to me. “You think they’ll be able to have this tailored by this weekend?”
“Absolutely! Actually, I know the seamstress here. She’s a wonderful! An Italian lady. From Italy.”
I grinned at her. “That’s where Italian ladies come from, Rose.”
“You know what I mean. This woman can sew anything. We’ll slip her a few bucks to make sure.”
“You’re not supposed to do that, Rose.” She dismissed the thought with a wave of carmine painted finger tips.
“It won’t be a problem. Lemme get that salesman.”
Rose went over to talk to the salesman and I realized that he was the same guy that was on duty when Pete and I had sex in the dressing room. I was pretty sure that he knew what we had been doing.
I tapped Rose on the shoulder before she could launch one of her attacks on him. “Rose, you know when I told Pete about this dance he got this weird look on his face. I wonder if he knows this new mayor.”
She pointed at the salesman and said, “Honey, would you get Maria for me?” The salesman was one of those guys that would have looked at you like you were asking him to walk barefoot over broken glass if in reality you were trying to get him to take your money.
He said, “Ma’am…..” just as Rose was turning to me.
“Well, Eric, did you ask him why?”
She looked exasperated. “Why he made the face! Geez, Eric, try and keep up!” Then she turned back to the salesman and yelled, “Maria! Get me Maria!”
“Ma’am, she’s not in today. Some sort of Italian feast day, I suspect. In any event she’s not here.”
She pointed at me. “He needs to fitted! And we need it to be finished by tomorrow! You’ll just have to get someone. Try the store manager.” She tapped her cigarette against her teeth. “What’s his name? Hank something, isn’t it?”
He looked at her over his glasses. “Henry…Henry Gibson. But I don’t think….”
Rose broke in. “That’s the ticket! Don’t think, just do what I say! Now see if Hank is available.”
The salesman clenched his fists at his sides. “Oh for goodness sake! Alright I’ll try to get him!”
Rose spun back to me. “Now, whadya mean he made a face? Like he knew the guy? Are you even sure he made a face? This new mayor, I think his name is Lionel, I never met him but one of my guys made a face when I mentioned him too. Harold, the guy in my office, I told him about this guy and he made a face too. So I’m wondering what’s up.” She rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Why can’t you be more alert? Pete probably knows all about this guy and you shoulda picked up on that face and made him tell you why.”
“Rose, why the hell would I do that? Unless I need to know I don’t wanna know. That’s how you get sucked into shit, by wanting to know all this crap. I don’t wanna know nothing. I just want my mom to quit hammering on me. Believe me nothing good comes from knowing all that stuff.”
Rose tossed her head a little and touched her hair with the tips of her fingers. She said a little defensively, “You haven’t said anything.”
“My hair, stupid!”
“Ahhhhh, very nice.” Why is it that women think that we notice every little thing?
“I know we were just talking about Elizabeth Arden and all and how lame and plastic people look but…………I had to! This is an important dance and I wanted to look good!”
“Rose, the dance isn’t till Saturday.”
“This was the closest appointment I could get! They even buffed me and balanced my aroma!” Well thank god she can still get someone to do that at any price. “They said it’d last. You think it’ll last?”
“Maybe if you have liquid nitrogen pumped into your bedroom, Rose.”
The salesman was coming back practically dragging a middle aged blond lady who was wearing a gold name tag. The woman started holding out her hand when she was still twenty feet away and it was pointed at Rose.
In an ingratiating voice she said, “I’m Gwen Harding. Mr. Gibson is tied up in a meeting but I’m the Assistant Store Manager and I’d be happy to do anything that I can to help.”
Rose grabbed her hand. “Hi, Honey. This guy needs this suit tailored and he needs it to be finished by tomorrow so that he can wear it to a very important dance.”
Like I figured, she started to tell Rose to go fuck herself. “Ma’am, I just don’t see how….” She was talking as she was turning and when she finally focused on me she got this weird look on her face and slowly touched the side of her face with her fingertips. She stared into my eyes for a moment then reached out and ran her fingers under the lapel of the suit coat and said throatily, “Well…we better get you measured up. Why don’t we go into the fitting room?”
I said, “You think the waist should be taken in? The pants are a little baggy.”
She gave me a faint smile and lightly arched an eyebrow. “Well, we’ll just have to check that out.”
“Is it like a big deal if I don’t have underwear on?”
She hooked her arm in mine lowering her cheek to my shoulder murmured, “I’m sure that we can work around that.”
Suddenly Rose grabbed my shoulder and spun me around. “Whadya mean, no underwear? You tramp!” Then to Gwen. “And just what the hell are you tryin to do? His mother’d kill me if I let some cheap slut like you have your way with him! Besides, he’s married! And to a better man than you!”
I was lying on my side on the sofa in the living room watching TV and Pete was at the other end of the sofa reading. For the last half hour his stocking clad right foot was making silent advances to my jeans clad butt. The beauty of this kind of foreplay is that you can either ignore it or not and if you do like it you can get it to lead to whatever you want. Personally I was half hard and thinking of semen.
I was just dozing and considering stretching out my right leg to the point where I could shove my foot under Pete’s balls when Jase peeled away from the TV and came over to me. He knelt down on the floor in front of me and rested his chin on the edge of the sofa. He was staring right into my eyes except that his were running horizontally and mine were running vertically.
I said softly, “What’s up dude?”
He giggled. “You called me Duuuude!” He was joking but his voice had that soft quality that usually means something important is bothering him.
I smiled at him. “Yep. You look like a dude.”
He kind of sighed then slowly ran the tip of his finger over the back of my hand. “Dad…how come mom died?” I wonder how many times he’s asked this question.
I straightened up leaned my head forward and pressed my forehead to his. We were eye to eye. My voice was just above a whisper. “What made you think about that?”
“The TV. It was a story.” How could I not know that?
I sighed and pushed myself back further on the sofa. I said softly, “Come on up here, Jase.”
Jase climbed up and laid on the sofa facing me his head propped up on his hand just like mine. We’ve had this conversation over and over again but I always treat it like it’s the first time.
“Jase, you know that what happened to your mom doesn’t happen very often to anyone and it’s not gonna happen to me. I’ll always be here to take care of you.”
“But what if it does happen? It could happen and what if it does?” I could feel Pete listening.
“Well first, it’s not gonna happen but if it did you’d still have Pete and your grandma and grandpa to take care of you.”
“What if somethin happened to them too?” I started to say something but he put his hand on my mouth. “What if they were all at a big picnic in the park and an airplane crashed on em?” I could feel Pete getting antsy.
I smiled at him and shook my head. “That’s not gonna happen, Jase.”
“But what if?”
“If something happened to Pete and Grandma and Grandpa you’d still have your other grandma and grandpa, Pete’s mom and dad. You’d still have them and all your aunts and uncles.”
“But, Dad, what if they were at the picnic too and it was big huge plane like a 747 and it hit everybody?”
“Well then you’d be screwed.”
Pete yelled, “ERIC!!!” at the same time that Jase yelled, “DAD!!!”
After we’d gotten Jase tucked into bed I went into the kitchen to get a beer. Pete looked at me and raised and eyebrow. “You’d be screwed! Why did you tell him that?”
“Cause he would be. Well, maybe not that he wouldn’t have anyone to take care of him but geez if I lost about everybody I loved I’d sure feel like I’d been screwed…and not in the good way. And believe me, Jase knows that. He knows the answers to all those question, he’s asked them enough. It’s not about the answers it’s more like it’s a game he plays. Kind of a “Gotcha!” game. It’s really a how much do you love me question.”
Pete had both hands on a door jamb and finally pushed off and walked over to me. He wrapped his arms around me and rested his chin on my shoulder. “You’re probably right and for sure he knows the answer to that question. I’m just surprised that he asked the question at all.”
“Believe me when his mom first died it was every night. Now it’s every few months, maybe longer. I can’t really even remember the last time he asked it. And if it wasn’t for that damn TV program he probably wouldn’t have felt he had to ask it now. I used to go over the television schedule with a fine tooth comb to weed out the bad stuff. But I’ve kinda forgotten about it because he’s been so much better. I think this was a one-off thing.”
“By the way, Rose has been bugging the shit outta me to find out if you know our new mayor.” I could feel his body tense up.
He sighed heavily. “I used to know him. He used to be my best friend, but that changed.”
The next morning after I got dressed and got back to the kitchen my mom was there on her hands and knees scrubbing the floor.
“Ma, what are you doin?”
She looked up at me and rolled her eyes. “What’s it look like I’m doin? And just as importantly why don’t you ever do it?”
“Yes you! It is your floor, Eric.”
“Oh…yeah, I guess technically it is….but it never really seems to look dirty.” And for that matter it really somehow seems like it’s more her floor than mine.
“You know why that is, Eric?”
“Ahhhh, I dunno. The color maybe?”
“No, Eric. It’s because I wash it on a regular basis.”
“Well, Ma….I really don’t approve of you having to scrub the floor on your hands and knees. It makes me uncomfortable. After all, you’re my mother. Lemme get you the regular mop. Then you can stand when you do that.”
I turned to get the mop from the laundry room.
“Forget the mop. What happened at the department store?”
“Whadya mean, what happened? I bought a suit.”
She got up and squeezed out the sponge in the sink. “Eric, what I’m wondering is why you keep getting involved with these women. What is going on inside your head? Are you and Pete not happy?”
“No!! No! Fer cryin out loud, no. Pete and I are great! Ma, I don’t come on to those women, they come on to me.”
She leaned against the counter. “What about high school? Was that them coming on to you?”
I really didn’t want to talk about this. “Yeah…mostly, well, kinda mostly. I dunno why they don’t leave me alone.” Even to me my voice sounded like a whine.
She walked over to me and gently touched the tips of her fingers to my face. She said softly, “Because you’re sooo like your grandfather.” She sighed. “Women wouldn’t leave him alone either…and you look like he did…if anything, better. But, Eric, don’t give Pete a reason to wonder. Don’t start giving in to these women.” Have sex with women? What is she, nuts?