The Good Doctor 75
My mom draped anchovies over my bruschetta and Jase’s, then she frowned a little and made one for Pete without anchovies. Jase was standing next to the counter with a hungry puppy look on his face and grabbed his as soon as my mom finished it, then holding it carefully he took off to watch television.
She shoved a plate of them towards Pete and me. “Here, this should hold you till dinner. Eric, pour some wine.” We keep a carafe of white wine in the fridge.
She said, “I’m making Bomba di riso. It’ll be like fifteen minutes.”
Pete said, “Bomba?”
I told him, “It’s like a big pile of molded rice with chicken inside of it. Then you bake it.”
My mom said, “My mother always made it with pigeon.” She shrugged. “Try and get pigeon.”
I took a big bite of my bruschetta and a sip of wine. I knew that Pete wanted to talk about me running for mayor but he wasn’t sure if he should mention it in front of my mom. I decided to get it over with because if she thinks I’ve been hiding something it makes her nuts and then there's hell to pay.
I said to my mom, “Lionel thinks that I should run for mayor.”
She was about to take a sip of wine but when I said that she blinked and put the wine down on the counter.
“He said that? I mean, actually said it?”
I nodded. “He said I’d be good at it and that it paid fifty grand a year.”
She reached over and slowly poured vinaigrette on a bowl of salad. “You don’t need the money.” Why does everyone say that? But she did seem to be thinking.
I said, “Lionel thinks I’d be good at it.”
She looked at me and smiled. “You probably would be. Everyone likes you. I could never figure it out but all those women you slept with still like you and what's even stranger is that their boyfriends and husbands even like you. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that no one tried to kill you when you were a teenager.”
She looked at Pete shrugged and said, "In any event it's not like he'd actually have to do anything." In case you haven't noticed, my mother has basically no faith in me at all.
"Ma! You say that like I'm some house pet that's just figured out that pooping outside is the best thing!"
She sighed heavily put her hands on her hips and said, "That's not what I mean, Eric. But you'd have to admit that you've never shown any interest in government."
Government? I guess I never really thought about it as....well, government.
"Eric, I mean I've been on the City Council for what, eight years and you've never shown the slightest interest in what we do."
"Well, that's because it was never...I don't know..."
She said, "About you...it was never about you! That's why you didn't care. If it's not happening to you it doesn't matter."
Well, it doesn't...does it? But I didn't actually say that.
It was that quiet twenty minutes after Pete had left for work and I was still home with Jase. I was sitting on the bed pulling my socks on when I heard Jase yelling, “Stop! Stop it! Quit licking me!”
He came running into the bedroom with his briefs not quite pulled up and Charlie in hot pursuit.
“Dad, he won’t stop licking me!” Charlie was standing there with a soulful and mostly innocent look on his face. I really didn’t see the downside.
“Where’s he licking you?”
“In my bathroom!”
I pulled on my shoe. “Huh? No, I know, what I mean is what part of you is he licking?”
“Whatever he can!”
“Well, he likes you Jase.” I decided in a flash that I probably shouldn’t tell him about me and my dog when I was a kid. I mean there’s no sense putting ideas into his head and as it is we’re mostly always out of peanut butter anyway.
“It tickles when he does it!”
“Well get used to it, Jase. Once you get to be twelve or so pretty much the rest on your life is gonna be just like that.”
“Charlie’s gonna lick me even more when I’m twelve?”
“Oh, yeah, well, him too. After twelve it seems like everybody wants to lick you.”
He pulled his briefs the rest of the way up and wiggled his butt to get them comfortable. “Why would anybody wanna lick me?”
I sighed. “I dunno, they think up all kinds of reasons.” I felt like I should be warning Jase about the post-pubescent sexual landslide that would be thundering down the mountainside in a few years. I mean I lived through it okay but it sure was a surprise. I remember how when I was thirteen and running from the soccer field into the gym Cindy Lumencello grabbed me pushed me up against a wall and shoved her hands down the front of my gym shorts while shoving her tongue further into my mouth than I would have thought humanly possible. I mean it was like she was a Gecko or something.
"Why did you make that sound, Dad?"
I mentally shook my head. "Huh? What sound?"
"You groaned! Like this." He made a sound in his throat like a small lonely bear.
"Oh. I was just thinking about something."
He leaned against my knee. "About how people are gonnna lick me?" His clear green eyes were studying mine.
"Don't worry about that, Jase. First of all, it happens to everybody and second, I'll be here and we can talk about it when it happens." I grinned at him. "Besides, it's mostly nice."
He asked, "It's for big boys?"
I nodded. "Yep."
Then he leaned forward stared deep into my eyes for a moment then with little boy innocence wrapped his arms around my neck and hugged me. Jase does that all the time and you'd think that I'd be totally used to it but every time he does it it's like every molecule in my body separates from every other molecule and I end up a big puddle of me on the floor. This kid is gonna walk all over me when he gets to be a teenager. Realistically the only thing I got goin for me even now is that he's littler than me and still has problems dressing himself.
On my way to work I pulled into Denny Bensh’s blue and yellow Sunoco station to fill my car up with gas and just as I was finishing I thought that maybe this would be a good time and place to gauge the mood of the voters. Besides, Denny has been a buddy since grade school and never even seemed to be all that upset that I was screwing his wife-to-be in high school. Since then it has occurred to me about a million times that if I hadn’t been so crazy at the time I would have been trying to screw Denny instead. In those days he was a total stud and even now, despite the weight gain, he’s a nice looking guy.
I walked into the station and looking through the windowed wall into the service bays spotted Denny bent over the engine compartment of a 1982 Chevy Caprice. Denny’s blue work shirt was riding up giving a perfect view of his lilly-white asscrack.
I kept an eye on it while I walked forward and then without taking his head out of the engine compartment Denny yelled, “Quit staring at my butt, Eric!”
I leaned against the car. “Can’t help it when you’re displaying it like that. And by the way if you plan to show it off all the time you might want to get in a couple of hours in a tanning booth.”
Denny came up holding a socket wrench in one hand and a blue shop towel in the other. He turned around and leaned against the car.
He had a big smile on his face. “If my hands weren’t so covered with grease I’d give you a hug you little fucker. I haven’t seen you in months! Where you been keeping yourself?”
“A new job with the health club. Lots of new crap to learn. How’s Connie?”
He clasped his hands together and rested them comfortably against his crotch. “She’s good. So, why with the health club keeping you busy, all of a sudden you wanna also take on bein the mayor? I mean no shit, Eric, you’re turning out to be a bunch more industrious than I ever dreamed you would.”
“You heard about that? Damn, I’ve barely heard about it!”
Denny rubbed his hands with the shop cloth in a small attempt to clean up the grease. “Small towns buddy. Everybody knows everything. Shoot, Connie’s already braggin to her girl friends that she slept with the possible new mayor!”
I’m never quite sure how to deal with this but in the end it has never seemed to bother Denny. “Again, Denny, sorry bout that.”
He laughed. “Hey, it’s okay, Eric, it’s always been okay. For one thing it was forever ago and for another I get to tell her that she’s the one that turned you gay. Besides, there was no way that she was gonna let me be first and it wasn’t so bad it was you.” He grinned. “Anyway, so how’s your better half, Pete?”
“He’s good but I’m not so sure that he wants me to run for mayor. I told him that it paid a bunch but he just said that if I needed anything that he’d buy it for me. Why is it that people with money don’t understand?”
He nodded. “Connie’s aunt keeps giving us grief. Not that she seems to understand what she’s doing but still. Con’s been needing a new car and the aunt said, “Well why don’t you buy a new Volvo, those are nice cars. I mean does she not know that those cars are like forty grand? Or does she know and is just tryin to rub our noses in it. But I don’t figure Pete for being that way.”
“He’s not, he’s really just trying to help.” Then I just decided to ask. "So would you vote for me?"
He squinted one eye a bit. "What about the pothole out front of the station? Folks are gonna want you to fix it."
I grinned. "As long as I'm mayor it won't be touched, at least by the city." That pot hole, which has gotta be a foot deep, has accounted for twenty-five percent of Denny's gross since he bought the station and excavated that mini-Grand Canyon little by little in the dead of night. It has been known to remove wheels from cars and turn steering systems into spaghetti. All of the local people know to avoid it and since it's right by the stop sign nobody is going very fast when they get to it. Besides, since it's abuts a state route the city doesn't really have control over it anyway.
The best part of working at the health club is being able to swim pretty much whenever I want and the only thing that makes that better is having Jase with me. At three o'clock I made the five minute drive to Jase's school and picked him up and now in the locker room he's got his hands on my shoulders while he steps into his swimming trunks while at the same time he's also sneaking peeks around me at Harley Olmstead. Jase's eyes are wide.
Harley is a college professor who has a long gray ponytail. He must weigh at least four hundred pounds and seems to be happiest when he's naked and trying to talk to the other members about philosophy. I've never seen him do anything more strenuous than sit in the hot tub. I've never seen him exercise. He wears a Mexican poncho and then he's got some weird little knit hat. Since he's only about five foot eight he's about as big around as he is tall and obviously he likes attention, because, well, why else would you look like that.
While Jase really wants to get a good look at him he obviously doesn't want to be seen doing it and he's staying tucked into my body where he feels safe except for the peeking.
His head is just below mine and he whispers softly, "Dad, how come that man doesn't get dressed?"
I pull his trunks up being careful not to catch his dick. I whisper, "I dunno, Jase. Maybe when you're that big it just feels better not to have clothes on."
Jase rubs his nose against my naked shoulder and takes another look. After he ducks back in he says, "How come he's so big?"
I shake my head. "Beats me kiddo. Too many pizza's probably. But maybe his whole family was big like that." I decide that later we can also have a talk about the luck involved in having thin genes but this isn't the place.
Just then out of the corner of my eye I see Harley get up and his stomach drops so far that you literally can't see his dick. I can't imagine how he even pees. Jase sees it too and does a little shiver.
I hear movement behind me and turn my head. Mr. Butterworth, wearing his enormous cowboy hat is dropping onto a bench six feet from us.
His voice doesn't have much volume and sounds like crinkled parchment paper. "Hello, Mr. Cortland!"
I nod at him and smile. "Nice to see you back, Mr. Butterworth." So far I've taken off my shirt and my shoes and I'm sitting with my pants open but not off. I feel a bit of performance anxiety. I mean I know that he's going to expect to see me getting into my swim suit. I'm not really opposed to flashing some skin especially to an old guy like Mr. Butterworth but it kinda makes me feel like I figure Janet Jackson did just before the big wardrobe malfunction. If you're gonna do that at all you've gotta show enough to make it worth it but not so much that you get arrested.
He's working on his enormous Western belt buckle, trying to get it open. The buckle is so huge that it almost seems to cover the whole width of his body. He stops fussing with and looks at me.
"Would you mind? Sometimes this gets stuck and I don't have the strength...."
Holding my pants closed I slide over and with one hand pop open his belt buckle.
"Thank you, my boy." His hand drops carelessly to my thigh and stays there. "I understand that you're running for mayor. I think it's a marvelous idea."
I say, "Will you vote for me?"
His eyes are gray/blue and watery. He doesn't answer but instead says, "What you need is publicity! That's the ticket, my boy, publicity! Get the media alerted, that's what you need to do!"
"Well, I don't really know how........" I don't want to spend any money and besides it seems to me that the media already knows too much about me.
He squeezes my leg. "Not a problem, my boy! I own a television station." His head shakes. "Yes...had to buy them a while back. They had this notion about some of our investments you see," He shook his head remembering, "didn't know what they were talking about but in the end...well, just easier to buy them. Just leave it to me, Mr. Cortland. Just leave it to me."
After thanking him, even though I wasn't sure what the hell he was planning to do but out of gratitude, I moved back to Jase and then stood up with my back to Mr. Butterworth and slid down my pants and underwear. I made certain that I had to bend over to take them off over my feet and gave Mr. Butterworth what I hoped was his moneys worth. By the time my Speedo’s are in place he’s seen parts of me that even I’ve never seen.
Jase and I make our way to the pool, me walking and him alternately bouncing off the walls and next grabbing my hand and using me to hide behind. Jase likes people but this is a bigger stage than he used to and one minute he loves all the activity and the next it scares him.
Our pool is huge. At the old one I was pretty much always near Jase but with this one that's not possible. I sit him on the edge of the pool with his feet dangling over the edge and do my laps. After twenty minutes I'm exhausted and swim over to Jase. I wave at him.
"C'mon in. Let's get a look at your swimming." Jase has been practicing and he's getting pretty good. Of course at seven he doesn't have an adult’s coordination but he's learning fast. I side stroke next to him while he swims and give advice which he takes without a fuss. I think that we're both really waiting for the next part and finally I roll over onto my back and Jase lies on my chest and holds onto my shoulders as I swim backwards. This is one of our best times to talk and I know that Jase feels that it's special, like it's the time when he can tell me anything.
Suddenly, even though it's a long way away, I hear a commotion at the front desk and someone, David maybe, yelling, "You can't go there! You're not members!" Then the sounds of a small group of people moving fast and then suddenly the unforgettable sounds of high heels clicking on tile floors. As I look up I see a lady in tight black slacks a white blouse and a black and white plaid jacket moving quickly towards us and a cameraman behind her carrying a huge camera and assorted equipment cases trying to keep up. Her hair is reddish blond and I recognize her immediately because I've grown up with her, well, in a way. It's Celine Gomez-Foster, THE voice of THE television station in our area. She's gotta be in her fifties but it doesn't show much and she's got a rep as being the most aggressive news woman in the business. It's even been implied that on a slow news day that she not above starting something.
She hunkers down at the edge of the pool and stares at me with cool blue eyes and a slight smile on her face. She is unnervingly confident and in no hurry. She waits for a moment before saying anything and then murmurs in a throaty voice, "I sincerely hope that you're Eric Cortland."
I stood up in the chest deep water. Jase had buried his face in my neck but now his confidence is returning and he turns his head and looks cautiously at Celine. I nod my head at her and say, "I am but you know you're not supposed to be in here in street shoes."
She smiles and ignores what I just said. She glances over her shoulder and says quietly to the cameraman, "You getting this?" He nods yes. She touches her hair and says, "I look okay?" He nods yes. She says, "Gimme a mike." He hands her one and she holds it lightly, like it's a weapon whose use she's all too familiar with. She looks at the cameraman again and says, "Where's Brittany?" He grins and shakes his head like he hasn't a clue.
She scans the room slowly like a general surveying a battle field then she looks at me and smiles, her eyes staring into mine. Suddenly she yells, "BRITTANY!!" Then she looks into my eyes again and says softly, "Trust me honey, this is gonna be sooo good."
I hear someone hurrying towards us and then I see her, Brittany. She rushing towards Celine and carrying an attaché case, a cell phone, a PDA and a clipboard, all clutched to her large heaving breasts. Her glasses have slipped down and I'm not sure how she can even see where she going but obviously she's trying not to get Celine mad at her by keeping her waiting.
Just as Brittany rushes to her boss at the edge of the pool Celine looks into my eyes and smiles and though she never breaks eye contact with me in one fluid move from a squatting position that Gwen Verdon would have been very proud of her right leg shoots out and catches Brittany's shin.
For a split second it's like life on earth is frozen. Brittany arms are outstretched, her face is frozen in a blood curdling scream and all of the things she was carrying have shot out and are suspended in space. The outcome of this is a given, Brittany is going into the pool.
Celine yells, "Oh my God she can't swim!!"
But I'm already setting Jase on the edge of the pool and then like the otter I almost am I flip under water and aim for the spot that Brittany is headed for. In an explosion of bubbles and floral print fabric she crashes through the surface of the water and into my arms. I kick for the surface with my one hundred and eighty pound burden and almost before she knows what just happened to her Brittany is back on terra firma...screaming. She also in a pool of intense light that the cameraman has just turned on.
She sobbing. "OH MY GOD!!! OH MY GOD!!! WHAT HAPPENED? WHAT HAPPENED?"
Celine is kneeling down next to her and staring up into the cameras eye in total control but looking like she just arrived at the scene of a crime. She yells with passion, "Eric saved your life! Honey, you fell in and Eric saved you!"
The girl is struggling like to get up like a turtle that's been turned on its back, her arms and legs churning.
Celine spins towards me and shoves the mike in my face. She staring at me like I've just saved the world from aliens and says breathlessly, "You're a real hero!" Just as I'm about to mention her tripping the girl she looks at the cameraman and says, "Cut!"
Brittany may be a flailing mass of primary colors but she’s still looking for an answer. "But what happened, Celine? What happpened?"
Celine stands up and brushes off her knees. "Honey, you just made Associate Producer, that's what happened."