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Gotta Love Kids
When The Man woke up to the sound of a vehicle pulling onto his private drive on a Sunday morning in June, he was a little confused. No mail on Sundays, for one, and no one but he and his aging wife would otherwise come around, and she was still sound asleep in bed next to him. Getting up slowly, for the ache in his knees and ankles had only been getting worse since he’d hit the big five-oh, he traipsed downstairs to fetch himself a coffee and maybe some eggs. His back cracked as he reached for the grinder above the sink, and he had to remind himself that he was nearer 60 now than 50.
He was only vaguely surprised to see that the newcomers still loitered across the street. A young man and his son in a camper, while not commonplace, weren’t anything out of the ordinary. Touring season would be starting up soon, he supposed, and the boy couldn’t be more than five, not nearly old enough for final exams to come in the way of summer adventures. The Man didn’t have kids of his own, as his wife didn’t like the idea and he didn’t care one way or another, but he remembered enough from his days as a schoolboy in South Carolina. The Man figured the least he could do was see what was wrong. Hell, a good Christian likes to help out when he can.
“Good morning,” the older man said to the younger. “Are you folks lost?”
The young man glanced at the map he had open on his lap. “Yessir I suppose we are,”
“Well, if I could do something to help? Directions, maybe? I’ve coffee on.”
“Coffee sounds great, thanks. But I don’t mean to be an intrusion.”
“Not at all, my wife’s still asleep upstairs, and it’s all still quiet in this household.”
“Well thanks. I’m James, and this here is my son, Jimmy Junior.”
“Jimmy Junior. I like that. I always figured if I ever got around to having a son I’d name him after myself. I really like that, though. Got a ring to it.” The Man smiled at the little boy, making him grin shyly.
“Thanks. Anyway, we’re looking for the interstate to the Del Mar Fairgrounds?”
“Yeah. Yeah, I know where that is.”
“Oh well that’s great!” James looked to the older man with an expectant smile on his face that began to fade after the pregnant pause that followed, in which the owner of the household had not yet proceeded to tell him where the fairgrounds were indeed located.
Robert Houghton gave another smile that reassured the man and his son of his southern hospitality. “I’m sorry, the Fairgrounds. Yes. Follow Birmingham Drive to Highway 101, and then take a left onto Viva De La Valle, and a right onto Valley Ave. Then a Right onto Jimmy Durante. Can I get your son some juice?”
“I suppose he would like that, maybe to go, as we really should be on our way.” The young man smiled as the threesome walked back to the camper. “No kids of your own, though?”
“No, never got around to it. And, if you keep it between you, me, and little Jimmy, I don’t think my wife’s the maternal sort.” He gestured up toward the bedroom window, where his wife was still asleep, and grinned comically at the little boy, handing him his juice in a Styrofoam cup. He giggled, spilling some on the pavement and onto his blue Baby Nike’s.
“That’s a shame,” he said. “You would have been a great dad.”
“Do you think? Maybe I’ll get on that.” He winked.
Both men laughed at the insinuation, and Jimmy Junior did too, late, in the way kids have at doing what everyone else is doing, even when it doesn’t quite make sense to them.
“Maybe I’ll stop by sometime,” the younger man said.
When the man stepped back into him house, his good-natured grin was gone from his face. He reached up on the hooks behind the door and grabbed five pounds of wood and steel. This time his back didn’t creek, and his knees didn’t pop. He hadn’t really cared much for his buddy James. He did, however, like Jimmy. He liked Jimmy a lot. In fact, he wanted one of his own. He moved swiftly up the stairs, leaving the traces of his old age behind him. Upon entering his bedroom, he lifted the shotgun he kept stored behind his front door in case of emergencies, and put a round into her head. He smiled with that same roguish grin that had so charmed Jimmy Junior, and said, “I don’t think you would have made a good mother.”