I leaned my arm against the bar, right next to the stool he was perched on, and said, “Well, hey there, slick, how about you tell me what it takes to get bought a drink around here and I’ll tell you what the first two I want are.”
He leaned back a little, unhunching his broad shoulders from where he was sort of curled in towards his drink, and gave me a long up and down. “You prove you can fit two shot glasses in that mouth and I’ll buy you whatever you want, sweetheart,” he said. We both lasted about two straight-faced beats before he turned on his stool and held out an arm. “C’mere and give me a hug, you little fucker.”
‘Bless me, Father,’ I begin quietly after the screen behind the wooden grid slides aside. The confessional is a large structure with beautiful woodwork inlaid with what looks like ivory. There’s an almost-comfortable prie-dieu style kneeler in my compartment and enough space for a man three times my size. The grid in front of my face is carved into an intricate pattern of little ornamental crosses. There’s silence on the other side of the grid, but I can make out the shape of the head and shoulders of my confessor in the dim. I realize I’ve trailed off.
Half the board of management was already sleeping. Martin doodled another little man, colored its coat in a boring pencil grey, filled in its necktie with the usual blue stripes and killed this one with an anvil.
What’s Blond Ali up to? Are you trying to run away? Is your ass going to bring me anything but trouble? He didn’t say any of those things.
“Where are you staying?” Rostem asked.
“I booked at a serviced apartment, but I haven’t checked in yet.”
“You thought you’d still get in at this time? Forget it.”
This boy had really been distracted from practical considerations, even from eating a meal. Which was why Rostem was sitting in a café in the middle of the night with this boy who called himself Sohran and looked irritated even while eating chicken pudding under his hospitality.
Tim hadn’t brought his sunglasses with him to the work picnic. His glasses only made the glare worse, so he squinted against the glaring afternoon sun and looked around for a place to take refuge from the noise and excitement for a few minutes.
It was a beautiful Saturday, and his company had organized a lovely picnic to keep up morale and boost cooperation between teams. Tim found it hard to want to tie his leg to a financial manager’s in the name of “cooperation,” but he was a good sport about it and even came in second in the sack race.
So it’s one of them crystal mornings of early summer, and the sunlight coming in through the clerestory like it was poured from a pitcher. And I’m sort of thinking what to do about that one drainpipe on the eastern students’ dormitory that keeps coming loose at the same damn spot, but mostly I’m thinking that Frael is a beautiful country but you’d be hard-pressed the long and the wide of it to find someone don’t make a cup of tea tastes like they waved the leaves over the pot and put them away again for later.
I miss the commotion of him running in, but then there’s Master Caerel breathless at my elbow, saying, Goodman Stone, I don’t mean to interrupt your breakfast, but there is a situation in the entry hall in which we could use the assistance of someone like yourself.
Obed heard the blare of the outboard motor long before he saw the boat itself, and it was all he could do to keep from swimming out to meet it in person. There could be many reasons someone might come out all this way in a small watercraft that had nothing to do with him, after all; sometimes they’d see fishermen hoping to catch sharks, other times photographers wanting to capture the look of the reef. One time it had even been a naturalist who’d wanted to study the screaming beach birds that crowded the north shore and crapped on everything. For a piece of land so small it sometimes wasn’t even a blip on the maps they got a surprising amount of visitors.
The last time he’d seen Mr. Elson, Antoine had been hiding upstairs in his room with Chris, trying to stay the hell out of the way of Chris’ feuding parents. Chris’ older sister, Amber, had been old enough to have her learner’s permit by then, so she’d gotten good at hightailing it out of there as soon as voices started to rise. But Chris and Antoine had been twelve at the time, so the best they’d gotten in terms of escape was how Antoine’s house was all the way across the street. Antoine had gone down the hall to the bathroom, and as he’d passed the window that looked out over the front of the house, he’d seen Mr. Elson with a heavy duffel thrown over his shoulder, stomping down the front walk to the pickup truck out front. That walk had marked — for Antoine too — the end of a lot of things.
Wes slid into his desk chair with only a minute to go. It took him thirty seconds to click on the bookmark labeled “.YES.” and log in, just in time for the live video feed to kick in. Like every show, “Papa Bear” was already sitting in his chair in nothing but his underwear and trademark hat, leaning back and relaxed. His grin was barely visible underneath his wide-brimmed, low-pulled cap and Wes felt his heart drop. The man was too good; Wes would easily pay to watch the man smile and hum. Luckily for him and the other viewers, Papa Bear did a lot more than just smile and hum.
I always found it disappointing, on a Sunday morning, to roll over to the empty spot Keith had left behind. I should have been somewhat used to it; he had a disgusting habit of getting up at early hours to run when sleeping was a better option.
I wrapped my arms around his pillow instead of moping about it and must have fallen back asleep. The next thing I was consciously aware of was the smell of coffee and the faint clink of plates, which was weird, because I was sure I hadn’t fallen asleep in the kitchen. Forcing my eyes open I looked over to see Keith on his knees beside the bed, breakfast laid out on the night stand.