Monday, April 10, 2017

Watch for Junior!

Back in mid-March, I read a short scene from Behr Facts at the Lavender Library here in Sacramento. In the selection, Abe Behr and the teenage son of Abe's friends Bud and Lorraine, who run the Rock Bottom Cafe, chat.

I just want to remind readers of this scene and where Junior popped up in the series before because Junior turns up in Frank at Heart, the latest Foothills Pride story that's releasing on May 31.

Don't remember Junior? Well, here's the excerpt, as told from Abe's viewpoint, to refresh your memory:

Junior and I met at Monique’s Bakery. Monique’s is my version of Nirvana. First, everything looks and smells and tastes wonderful there. I’ve been known to take a half hour to decide what to order. Not often, though, because nobody will put up with me just standing and salivating in front of the glass showcase. Second, I savor every bite at Monique’s, which means a simple lunch can last three or four hours, considering I tend to have more than one dessert.
Junior wanted to meet there, so who was I to say no?
I made an effort—I really did—to order quickly and then concentrate on what Junior wanted. It was hard because of all the lovely desserts yelling “Abe! Abe! Look at me! Me!” while I was sitting there. Finally, I moved us into the courtyard so I wouldn’t be so distracted.
“Can you start over?” I asked when the clamoring desserts were almost out of earshot.
Junior, who’d looked nervous from the get-go, now was shaking so hard, I should have been able to hear his bones rattling. He looked exactly like his father when we’d been in school together.
“I need help,” he whispered. “I just need….”
His voice trailed off as he stared at the tabletop. I was getting worried. Was he into drugs? What did I know about drugs? Nothing. I found out anybody on one of my crews used drugs and he was fired. His family complained, I suggested they get in touch with NA. The company wasn’t going to be responsible for a drug user on the job. What we did was too dangerous.
“Okay. What’s the matter? Just spit it out. I don’t bite. I won’t judge. Just tell me.”
He peeked up at me, drew a deep breath, and sat up straighter.
“I’m afraid I’m going to turn into my dad,” he said in a rush.
Huh? Okay. What did he mean?
As I nodded, I waved my fingers in a “gimme more” gesture.
“I love my dad,” he hurried to add. “I do. But I’ve seen the pictures. I mean, he started out short and skinny like me. Then he turned into the Pillsbury Doughboy.”
If he hadn’t had so much tragedy in his voice, I would have laughed. But he was serious, almost despairing.
“So you want me to…?” I couldn’t imagine. He wanted me to do a gene transplant on him? Not hardly.
“I want to work at Behr Construction. I know I’m not old enough. If I worked for you, though, I’d put on muscle, not fat. I’d learn valuable skills. You wouldn’t even have to pay me. It’d be like going to the gym, only better.” He would have kept going, only I stopped him.
“Okay. So what’s the problem?” Again, I couldn’t imagine. Why couldn’t Bud have asked me this?
“My dad doesn’t want me to work anywhere but the restaurant,” he said glumly. He sighed. “He said I get enough exercise there, and you already have more than enough guys, what with family and all.”
Yeah, he sounded just like Bud as he repeated his dad’s words.
“But, you know, he and Mom feed me all the time while I’m working. And after rush hour, they want me to study, and they expect me to eat a snack, a huge snack. I don’t go outdoors, so I’m pasty white.” He stuck out his arm and pushed up the sleeve of his hoodie. Yup, pasty white. “I work out a little bit on Saturday and Sunday, but it’s not enough to get in shape. They want me to study and get good grades. I’m okay with studying. I just wanna… I just… I want to look like you and the guys in your family.”
Big and shaggy? I almost laughed. The kid was serious, though, so I took him serious.
“Sure. I have no problem with you working after school for an hour or two.”
He brightened, but not as much as I thought he would.
“Uh, could you do one more thing?”
I just stared at him. Now what?
“Could you talk my folks into saying yes?”
From the way his eyes left my face, I could tell I was frowning. Damn. I didn’t want to get mixed up in his family business.
“Please?” he muttered without looking at me. He might as well have given me puppy eyes.
“Sure. Why not?”
He bounded up, giving me a huge grin.
“Thanks! Awesome! See you around!” I frowned. He didn’t back away. He knew me for the big pushover I am, and his smiled turned up to a thousand watts. “Oh yeah, and I’m gay. Don’t tell my folks, okay? Bye!”
I sat blinking for a few minutes before his final words hit me.

Why me? I wondered as I ordered a slice of carrot cake and another cup of coffee. Why me?

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