Welcome to Great Falls – A Serial Novel – Part 18

November 2, 2014, Sunday

Kao sat behind his wife in the tub and lathered her back with a wash cloth. They were both giddy about the prospect of another child, so much so that neither slept more than a couple hours the previous night as they talked about their current children.

“Do you want a boy or girl?” Kao asked.

“We have three of each, so a girl to tilt the voting.”

“By your logic, I would want a boy because the voting is four to three since Cheng’s not here. And, Saan will be gone next fall.”

“We’d need twin boys for you to even it up then,” Erica said. She turned and saw her husband’s easy smile.

“You think we can get Mr. and Mrs. Parker to come out of retirement?”

“That’s terrible. Let them enjoy their golden years.”

She scooped up a handful of water and splashed it into his face.

James set the last four bags of ice next to the marinated ribs on the kitchen counter and grabbed a beer before heading out onto the patio, where Erica was sitting with a glass of orange juice.

“Better not be no vodka in there!” he said.

“I might have to,” she responded. “I’m too old. I’ll be forty-one when he comes.”

“He?”

“Just a sneaking suspicion. And I’ll nearly sixty before he gets out of the house.”

***

Kao scampered over from the basketball court, where he was rebounding for Saan with Dexter.

“I can sell you one now,” Kao said. “They’re good investments. Your two are out of the house.”

“College ain’t cheap these days. You know how much a year at Stanford runs? Just you wait until you have a kid who doesn’t have a scholarship. And I have alimony.”

“That’s why I never married this broad.”

James laughed. “I’d slap you if I were her.”

“Do it for me James,” Erica said.

He took a playful swipe, which Kao easily ducked and they embraced.

“Congratulations, homes,” James said. “You got the charcoal going already?”

“I’m having a baby and you’re only thinking about barbecue.”

***

Kristen watched Erica in the kitchen from the patio for a good while as she smoked and wondered how it felt to raise children. Eventually, she gathered the courage to open the door and offer her help. Erica stopped dicing onions and took a round cutting board off the wall and found a chef’s knife for Kristen to slice tomatoes.

“I just heard from Kao. Congratulations.”

“Thank you.”

“How far along are you?”

“Ten weeks or so.”

“You look fantastic. Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

“How does morning sickness feel?”

“I’ve never thought about it much, but mine is really mild. Sometimes I’ll feel a little lightheaded like when you stand up fast after sitting for a while, but besides that, I don’t have nausea and I’ve never had to vomit. Why? Are you pregnant?”

“Can’t get pregnant without getting laid,” Kristen said with a smile.

“You work in a bar, honey, and you’re easy on the eyes.”

Kristen laughed. “All the guys who come in are too young or too damaged.”

“We’re all damaged one way or another.”

“Not you, you’re perfect.”

“Oh, you didn’t know me when I was younger.”

***

Dexter patrolled the front rooms so he could be the first to greet any new guests, but he resisted the urge to run out to the driveway when he saw the black Lexus. Against his father’s orders, he locked the front door. He paced the hallways and waited until the doorbell rang.

“Great Aunt, come in,” Dexter said when he answered the door.

“Dexter, you’re so big now,” Aunt May said.

“Tallest in my class and Dad says I still have two more growth spurts. I’m going to be taller than Uncle Cheng.”

“I believe it. Do you remember Bruce?”

Dexter laughed. “Of course I remember Great Uncle.”

Bruce Morris was a retired county court judge who had been a public defender as well. He knew most of the people in town, good and bad. And, he had a knack for figuring out a person’s intentions.

“Judge Morris!” Biggie yelled from near a fire pit in the yard when he saw Bruce on the patio. “Come and have a beer with us.”

Bruce greeted Biggie along with Tony, James, Andy and Kao, who excused himself to talk to his aunt. The rest stood there in awkward silence. James amused himself by whistling “The Farmer in the Dell”.

“What’s the word on the street?” Bruce asked.

“All quiet on the western front,” Biggie said.

“Hooah!”

“Hooah!”

He and Biggie were former Army grunts.

“Tony, how’s your brother doing?”

“Billy’s great. Has a new movie coming out in December.”

***

All the 49ers fans tensed up as the offense lined up near the St. Louis goal line. It was supposed to be an easy game, because San Francisco dominated the second half of their previous meeting, but this was anything but easy.

“Worst case scenario, they kick a field goal and go to overtime,” Biggie said in the crowd.

A collective gasp came from the living room when Colin Kaepernick fumbled the ball. After reviews, the play stood and San Francisco lost 13-10.

“How do you always find a way to jinx things?” Tony said. “Fucking Raiders fan.”

“Can we switch over? I think the Raiders are going for an onside kick.”

“Well, at least I won some money on the game. Everyone, we have plenty of food and drink left. Please stay and watch the evening game if you like,” Kao said before getting up and going to the kitchen to pour himself scotch.

He asked for Brandon to follow him to his office to retrieve a short story he had written some years ago.

“It’s a story about me and my oldest son. I think I wrote it for some class in college. Read it and let me know what you think.”

“I will,” Brandon said. “Hey, I wanted to ask if I could speak to your parents, and since your aunt’s here, do you think I can talk to her about your uncle.”

“No work today Brandon. We’re all just having a good time. But I will ask her and my parents, too.”

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