Author: Allan Wasserman

Source:


Bozza

He heard the sisters giggling. His bedroom window was directly facing their bedroom window, so he ventured a peek.

Toni, Nina and Janine Bozza were having a pillow fight. Toni, the oldest, was home visiting from City Island. Her grease-monkey husband Anthony, pronounced “Ant-knee,” was watching the kids while she escaped to a carefree vacation into sisterhood. At nineteen, Toni was an old married lady in need of a breather. Nina, seventeen and a senior at Saint Helena’s, was brainy, with bad skin and a huge behind. Janine, who insisted everyone call her Bozza, was fourteen, a beautiful tomboy and a skinny malink eighth-grader at Saint Dominic’s.

He was in love with Bozza and she knew it.

Toni saw his shadow in his window. A wide grin grew across her face and she called out to him. “Ian Greengrass, you naughty boy. What are you lookin’ at?” Her sisters collapsed on the bed, laughing.

His thirteen-year old face burnt with embarrassment, but he managed to squeak back, “I’m lookin’ at you, Lollabrigida.”

“Nah,” Toni barked. “I’m more of a Sophia Loren,” and turned around and wiggled her hips. Nina and Janine howled with laughter.

“Don’t make a mess over there, Ian!” Nina giggled.

“Yeah,” Toni chimed in. “Or we’ll have to come over and change your diaper.”

The sisters continued the pillow fighting.

Janine leaned out the window and called to Ian. “Hedge.”

That was his signal to meet her at the corner of Lydig and Matthews in the shadow of the big hedge in front of the dentist’s office. They met there nightly to smoke a Marlboro Red she had stolen from her old man.

Marius Bozza was a silent man. His wife had just left him and was living on City Island. Like Ian’s father, Marius awoke at four in the morning to drive a milk truck. Ian’s old man pushed a cab. They were always tired.

For the time being, Janine and Ian were unsupervised. Ian’s mother was doing a stint in Bronx State Hospital, her eighth visit over the past four years. The cops had to take her away. Doing time on the psyche ward would hopefully reduce her agitated state.

Tiptoeing down the front steps, Ian squinted into the darkness and saw a small red ember glowing at the corner. Bozza had started their cig. An Indian summer full moon peeked out from behind a cloud and lit Ian’s path down the street.

Ian’s father sensed his son was fearful of the night. “Sonny boy,” he said in his Russian-Yiddish accent, “if you are ever lonely walking home at night, ask the moon to walk with you, and you’ll have a friend.”

The smell of Bozza’s French inhales grew stronger as Ian stepped into the shadows of the hedge.

“What the fuck took you so long?” Bozza demanded.

“I hadda get dressed,” Ian explained.

Bozza’s eyes narrowed and her mouth stretched wide in a Mafioso grin.

“You was naked while you watched me and my sisters?” she teased.

Ian’s mouth was suddenly drier than Orchard Beach sand. His pulse quickened and he tried to answer cleverly, but could only manage, “N-n-no. I was in p-p-pajamas.”

Bozza burst in a truck driver guffaw and retaliated with, “B-b-bullshit.” Bozza saw Ian’s sweet face redden in the moonlight. She jammed the cig between Ian’s lips. “Here, Hugh Hefner … suck on this.”

Ian coughed wildly, as Bozza laughed, her skinny body shaking. She said, “I’m cuttin’ tomorrow and going to City Island, and you’re comin’ with me.”

”What about school?” Ian whimpered.

“Fuck school!” Bozza stated.

“We’ll visit the mothers.” Bozza looked straight in Ian’s eyes and he knew the conversation was over. Her large almond eyes cast a hypnotic effect.

“Meet you here, 8:30,” she announced, grabbed the cig from Ian, hooked her arm in his and whispered, “C’mon, numbnuts, walk me home.”

Arm in arm, Ian used every ounce of self-control to conceal the joy soaring through his entire being.

Promptly at 7:45 AM the next morning, Ian stepped out of the shower, trying to calm himself. He had meticulously laid out his clothing the night before, having saved up his New York Post paper route money. He eyed his purchases on the bed. A madras windbreaker, crisp white button-down collar shirt, light blue brush denim trousers, off-white almost yellow tennis socks ... and the coup de grace, a brand new pair of dark oxblood penny loafers already loaded with two gleaming 1965 copper pennies that shone like twin auburn headlights.

He’d get Itchy the Chasid kid on Wallace Avenue to cover the route for him today. Itchy was hungry for money, with eleven other siblings, so Ian knew he had a pinch hitter on deck. One quick phone call and everything was ready. He’d already forged the absentee note for his homeroom teacher.

He double-locked the front door like the old man had requested and, trying to act cool, slowly strided to the corner to meet Bozza.

Standing practically in the hedge, eyes darting like a Poe Park junkie lookout watching for cops, Bozza was tense.

“Take your time … my clothes are starting to go out of style over here.” She did a perfect imitation of her father for Ian.

They hotfooted it to Pelham Parkway South and fell in with the crowd of older kids walking to Columbus High School. Ian eyeballed Itchy across the street on his way to his storefront yeshiva. Itchy saw Ian and gave him the “thumbs up” sign. No worries for the patrons of the New York Post this crisp autumn morning.

As the crowd crossed Pelham Parkway towards the high school, Bozza and Ian kept straight ahead up the parkway past Bronx House. “Free at last, free at last!” Ian mimicked the famous Negro reverend he’d seen on TV. They jaywalked across the service road and headed east towards City Island, the Blind Home on their left, the Peabody Home on the right. The parkies had just cut the grass and the smell was intoxicating.

“Sol the Fag” was the neighborhood pedophile who never got caught in the act. He had never been right in the head since returning from Korea. A war hero who got an honorable discharge, word on the street was that he had been caught fondling “gook” orphans over there. He lived with his grandma and collected disability. Daytime was his cruising shift.

Sitting on a rock across from the Blind Home, he scoured the stragglers on their way to Columbus High’s early session. He had tried to hit on Ian before, which resulted in being clocked on the side of his head with Ian’s saxophone case.

Sol had the key to a carriage room on Wallace Avenue where he stashed beer, reefer, slot cars—whatever he needed to attract a naïve boy. He was a natural runner and still had the gift.

Sol slipped off his perch on the rock and started following Ian and some plaid-skirted girl accompanying him. Sol followed them, keeping a fifty-yard distance and winding his way through the red and yellow leaves at the foot of the birch trees.

Bozza was motor-mouthing a mile a minute, covering every subject from her sisters hogging her hairbrush to how bad she missed JFK. Whatever she spoke about, Ian was mesmerized. He was thrilled to be spending the day with the string bean Italian dynamo. Earlier that morning, she had gulped half a pot of coffee her old man had left on the stove. She seasoned it with Breyer’s ice cream and followed it with a Marlboro, breakfast of champions. Nature was now calling and her young bladder needed attention. “Wait here,” she commanded, and sprinted across Pelham Parkway to use the ladies room in the Sinclair Station. Ian looked at the big green dinosaur logo and grinned. He’d loved all things prehistoric since his first class trip to the Museum of Natural History. Lost in his Cretaceous reverie, he never heard Sol creeping up.

Sol prided himself on his stealth, his ability to be invisible like the Siwanoy Indians, who tread through the Bronx hundreds of years earlier.

Sol’s right hand shot around Ian’s face, clamping on his mouth. His left hand yanked Ian’s left in a painful hammer lock. Sol’s blood was up, adrenaline surging as he yanked Ian into a cluster of fir trees.

The world went silent as Ian gasped for air, his body in shock, head getting light from lack of oxygen.

Sol exalted in his power. He felt ten feet tall. He wanted satisfaction this morning, without having to be clever, seductive or tricky. These boys were always flaunting themselves in the streets and schoolyards, tempting him, making him do bad things. This brat would pay for that. They were all going to pay.

Ian tried to scream as he felt Sol’s iron claw start to reach for his belt buckle.

There are certain sounds in life that stay with you all of your days. None was so terrifying for Sol as the bellow of Janine Bozza as she banshee-howled, “Motherfucker,” and commenced beating Sol from head to toe with a discarded stick-ball bat she found in the garbage at the Sinclair station.

The former broomstick was a formidable weapon in Bozza’s hands, and she delivered home-run swings all over Sol Greenbaum. Sol screeched like a wounded street dog as he crawled away and finally got to his feet and ran back towards White Plains Road like a sprinter headed for the finish line.

Panting and wild-eyed, she turned back to Ian and, with Herculean strength, pulled him to his feet and hugged him. Try as he might to keep them in, tears poured out in a few deep wails. A September breeze went though the branches and the hum of parkway traffic seemed to re-emerge.

“You ok?” she inquired softly. He nodded into her shoulder.

“Don’t worry … he didn’t do nuthin’. I got there and he didn’t do shit to you. Should I call my Uncle Louie?”

Bozza’s uncle was a detective with the Forty-third Precinct. Every Italian Ian knew in the neighborhood seemed to have an uncle who was a cop. Ian shook his head.

She put her arm around Ian’s shoulder and whispered, “C’mon, I copped some change from the old man. Egg creams and pretzels … my treat.”

Bozza put her arm in Ian’s to help restore his manhood, and they crossed the parkway to find a candy store on Williamsbridge Road.

“One of the great pleasures in life is observing the proper making of an egg cream—two squirts of Ubet Chocolate syrup, a shot of milk followed by a stream of seltzer, which must hit the base of the long-neck spoon before colliding with the black and white sediment. The stirring can be clockwise or counter-clockwise, as long as the result is a large foam head at the top of the glass. In order to consider oneself an aficionado, a large pretzel with salt nubs of gargantuan proportions must be imbibed to complete the experience.” Ian raised his glass in a toast.

“I agree, indubitably!” Bozza clinked glasses and they drank.

Vito, the proprietor of Vito’s Fountain, stared at Ian through two half-closed Robert Mitchum eyes and commented, “If yaw so freakin’ smart, why ain’t you in school?”

“Late session,” Ian retorted.

Vito stared at the crest on Bozza’s blazer and hissed, “St. Dominic’s only got one session. My daughter Theresa goes there. What’s your excuse?”

“Doctor’s appointment,” Bozza responded.

“What … you’re allergic to education?”

Bozza leaned in towards Vito and with a hard stare whispered, “Female problems.”

Vito backed off, blushed a little and worked his rag down the counter, his mouth twitching with discomfort.

Bozza was happy to see Ian recover from Sol’s attack. She was not surprised. She had seen Ian cover up his feelings when the cops hauled his mother away.

The two hooky-players exited Vito’s Fountain and got back on Pelham Parkway. Bozza grabbed his hand and whispered, “C’mon, Professah, let’s go visit your Ma.”

Hand in hand, they headed east on the parkway.

The sandstone towers dotted with smoky dark windows of the Bronx State Hospital cast an ominous shadow across Eastchester Road. The grounds had huge manicured lawns and a red clay basketball court. A few patients milled around a tall black attendee who ignored their chattering. He systemically shot from the foul line as his charges chain-smoked and stared into space.

Bozza caught on to his lack of involvement and hissed, “Some job this douche bag is doing. Fuckin’ moolie.”

Ian winced from her prejudiced remark and made a mental note to discuss it with her in the future.

The double doors made a whooshing sound as Ian and Bozza pushed through and headed to the elevator. The lobby was full of uniform-wearing personnel—nurses, doctors, janitors, ambulance drivers, candy stripers and cops.

A Puerto Rican security guard near the elevators was busy flirting with a pretty Asian woman in a lab coat as Bozza and Ian slipped past them.

“Fluuu-oooor pullleeez,” Bozza mimicked in a nasal twang, and Ian responded, “Seh-ven!” like a craps player.

As the numbers lit their way across the elevator panel above the door, Ian felt himself tensing. He never knew how his mother would react to anything. He loved Mae Greengrass, and she loved him back, but her personality disorder was difficult for him to deal with.

Bozza could read Ian like an open book. She held his hand.

The elevator doors parted on seven as the hooky-playing duo headed to the security guard’s desk to get signed in as visitors. Ian recognized the couple chatting with the security guard. Nate Glover and Annie Macpherson were a crisis intervention team that visited his house when his mother was an outpatient. Nate was the first black person who ever stepped foot in the Greengrass’s household, and showed interest in Ian’s saxophone playing. Annie was a beatnik type with the work shirt/puka beads attire. Ian saw an opportunity, and with Bozza beaming from his smooth move, talked Nate and Annie right through the ward to his mother’s room. Nate and Ian rapped about Charlie Parker. Bozza felt certain Nate knew he was being hustled, but enjoyed Ian too much to put a stop to it.

Anne and Nate shook hands with Bozza and excused themselves—patients to meet with, groups to lead—and headed down the corridor. Bozza had never touched a black person. This handshake dispelled all negative rumors, and Ian wondered if she regretted her “moolie” comment now.

The hall was empty. Most of the patients were in the day room, smoking, staring, chattering, watching TV, playing bumper pool and board games.

“Knock, for Christ’s sake,” Bozza whispered. Ian peeked through the door’s window and saw a shadow on the floor. Ian knocked. A sweet female voice chimed, “Come in,” in a Bronx accent. Ian breathed a sigh of relief. He could hear from her tone that his Ma was not agitated.

The two visitors entered and Mae Greengrass looked quite healthy and serene. Quite a contrast to the wild-eyed exit she made into the patrol car two weeks earlier with a cop holding her arms so she wouldn’t hurt herself.

Mae wore a pink cardigan sweater, a floral housedress, new corduroy slippers, a Breck-girl hairdo and red lipstick. She greeted the two with big hugs and kisses, shtupping them with candy she’d saved from her canteen visits.

Ian sensed his mother was a little slow in her speech and suspected she was on some new medication. She was in great spirits, her bed was perfectly made, a few plants around to brighten things up.

Ian felt his throat constrict, even though his house was less chaotic with his mother’s absence. He missed her terribly. He fought the urge to cry. He asked about the food, if the TV got good reception. She answered and stroked his forehead lovingly. The room got very quiet, almost uncomfortable with unsaid feelings.

“You’re a bar mitzvah boy now!” Mae declared.

“You missed it.” Ian was sorry the second he responded. His mother had been hospitalized in April and could not attend her youngest child’s entry to Jewish manhood.

“Oh, that’s right … I forgot,” Mae whispered.

”You sang beautifully, that I’m sure of!” Mae chirped, trying to remain upbeat.

The room got quiet again as Bozza’s eyes transformed into two mischievous twinkles.

“Why don’t you hum a few bars, Caruso?” Bozza teased.

Mae brightened and beamed. “Yes, honey … Ian, let me hear some … like you used to rehearse in the attic.” There was not enough shit in the entire borough of the Bronx to satiate Bozza’s grin.

The one thing in life Ian knew deep in his soul was the confident spirit he felt when singing or blowing his alto with Bird’s recordings.

Ian took a deep breath, filled his abdomen with oxygen and commenced his haftorah from memory. “B’orucho es adonai hamvorach …” Letter perfect, a touch of vibrato here and there, not too schmaltzy, a few phrases influenced by the Chairman of the Board.

When Ian finished, his forehead was damp, and sixteen minutes had passed on the wall clock.

Mae’s face was tear-stained, Bozza’s eyes a bit misty. Mae hugged her son like a young man. Bozza began clapping. The sounds of applauding echoed through the ward. Nate, Annie and several patients peered through the small window.

Mae waved to them to come in, and in they came, with congratulations, a few mazel tovs and back patting.

“This is my son Ian,” Mae announced with such pride, the whole room laughed.

After things calmed down, and the patients went back to the dayroom, Ian hugged and kissed his Ma goodbye, and promised to visit tomorrow.

As the two young visitors headed for the elevator, Nate whispered, “Don’t worry, Bird, your Mamma’s coming home very soon.” The shiny new elevator descended to the lobby. Bozza’s sly grin made Ian smile.

“You’re a regular Perry Como,” Bozza teased.

“Hey, when you got it, you got it, “ Ian mock-boasted.

Hand in hand, the two kids from Matthews Avenue headed down Eastchester Road, hung a right on Pelham and hopped the number 12 bus to City Island.

Tim Duffy’s dad and granddad had been ferry captains off City Island. He had hoped to follow in their footsteps, but when the boat lines were shut down, he joined the army and served as a military advisor in Vietnam. Now he was satisfied ferrying the number 12 bus for the New York Transit Authority.

Bozza and Ian got a suspicious stare from Tim when they presented their bus passes. Tim knew he had two AWOL students on board. He had been a parochial school escapee many times, and caught hell for it. He gave them a nod to move to the back. The Matthews Avenue desperadoes giggled as they took a seat on the empty bus. Tim’s hard face softened into a slight grin. They sounded like his kids laughing.

The bus was making good time. The middle of the weekday had minimal straphangers. Each stop was empty. The kids got excited as they passed Freedomland on the left as the bus crossed a canal bridge. Cy’s Riding Academy was on the other side of the canal, and Tim made a hard right, steering his four-wheeled ferry to the City Island Bridge. The pop-pop sound of explosives filled the air as the bus was passing the NYPD shooting range.

City Island became visible down the road. Small buildings and boatyards dotted the horizon. It resembled a New England village. The bus crossed the iron grating on the City Island Bridge, making a rumbling echo that bounced off the water. Tim’s bus zipped down City Island Avenue, passing mom and pop groceries, bait and tackle shops, the Black Whale Ice Cream Parlor, and Tim announced, “Last stop.”

Bozza and Ian exited the back door and yelled out, “Thank you.”

The Lobster Box restaurant was the last building on the left. Situated next to a rotting dock was the sweet spot where Ian’s Uncle Harry brought him every summer to go fishing for fluke.

The kids gazed out across the Long Island Sound and took deep breaths of salty air. Ian stared at the rippling water. Two years ago, a “lost” Russian submarine had emerged, prompting TV crews and a lucky kid with a Brownie Kodak to shoot a picture that made the cover of the Times, News and Post.

No enemy crafts in sight. The duo began skimming flat rocks across the surface of blue-green tide. Bozza shot a six, six bounces. Ian hit an eight and they slapped five.

The afternoon sun gleamed on the water and the louvered windows of the Lobster Box, causing reflections that made the kids hood their eyes with one hand, like Indian scouts.

“Sweetner?” Bozza inquired.

“Let’s do it, “ Ian answered.

Ian and Bozza headed inland to the Black Whale. The autumn breeze blew gently, making the red and orange leaves of the tall maple trees rattle. The air smelled of seaweed, motor oil and fish. The sound of Frankie Valli’s falsetto in “Walk Like a Man” echoed out of every radio.

Bozza and Ian stopped at a few shops to peek at the tourist junk left over from summer, but their funds were for chow and transportation.

Approaching the Black Whale, Bozza turned to her boyfriend-for-a-day and said, “I ain’t hungry anymore. I really wanna see my Ma. You mind waitin’ till we get back to the neighborhood? We can get a slice at Gloria’s later.”

“Ok.” Ian was always willing to make Bozza happy, even if it was a major sacrifice.

On they trudged. Bozza knew her Ma’s houseboat was next to the Evinrude building’s back dock. Still a few more blocks.

Dolores Bozza had been her father’s servant growing up, and her husband Marius expected the same. She snapped one day and left. She sat on her lover’s lap on the deck of the houseboat and they watched the sun begin its afternoon descent.

Ian and Bozza tiptoed down the dock, making the occasional creaking sound from a loose plank. Ian sensed something in his friend. Her body went rigid like a hunting dog making a sighting. Twenty yards off the dock, Ian saw Bozza’s Ma in the arms of a muscular black man. They kissed and hugged, entwined.

Janine Bozza fell back. Her face was pale, eyes bugging like one of the Bronx State patients on his mother’s ward. Ian tried to think of something to say. Janine started breathing hard. Ian attempted to pick her up, grabbing under her arms to lift her off the dock. She struggled and wrestled him away. Then she stood up fast, turned and bolted full speed towards City Island Avenue. She made a left, heading for City Island Bridge.

In a panic, Ian ran after Bozza, pumping his legs as he had done in the seventy–yard dash at Rice Stadium. They ran and ran, Ian’s heart pumping from exertion and fear. Like his Ma, Bozza was unpredictable, and scaring him now as she picked up more speed with the bridge fifty yards away.

Tim Duffy sensed something was wrong. He saw the two kids heading to the bridge in a sprint, and hit his horn trying to get their attention. Maybe a junkyard dog was after them, or they stole something. He helplessly watched the girl scramble up the bridge railing and throw herself into the canal. Hot on her heels, the boy stopped at the rail and then lunged up and over after her.

“Motherfucker,” Tim said out loud, shocking his only passenger, a nurse on her way to Jacobi Hospital. She had long silver braided hair, high Native American cheekbones, and one brown eye and one blue eye. Tim hit the brakes, and ran across the street to the bridge.

Tim’s training as a lifeguard at Orchard Beach reactivated in his muscles as he sprinted to the railing. Tim got to the rail, quickly surveyed the situation, saw the girl’s bubbles and the boy’s feet kicking to the distressed young lady and Tim was in the air, arms spread out to stop him at the surface.

Within seconds, Tim had the girl in one arm and hollered to the boy to follow. They kicked and stroked to a flat rock, and Tim administered mouth to mouth. The boy scrambled up next to Tim in time to see Bozza cough and spew about a quart of the Long Island Sound.

Like many young Bronxites, Bozza never learned to swim. Ian was a graduate of Castle Hill Pool, and swam like an urban otter. Tim Duffy gathered Bozza up in his massive arms, directed Ian to grab the back of his belt and lead the ascent up the boulders to dry land.

A small crowd had formed. Tim hustled the kids to his bus and shut the doors. The nurse on board had her coat around Bozza in seconds, and Tim hit the heat button to high, turned to the boy and in a gruff Bronx accent said, “Start talkin’.” Through chattering teeth, Ian tried to explain.

Tim Duffy drove the bus across the bridge. About a half a mile down, he pulled off the road under a weeping willow tree to gather his thoughts.

The boy continued bullshitting, which inwardly amused Tim, but he kept a cop expression on his mug.

Ian whispered that if they could just get home, everything would be fine. Tim turned to look at the girl in the back of the bus.

“Everything all right back there, Carmen?” Tim inquired. He knew most of the regular passengers by name. “No problema. We talk girl talk.”

Carmen Acevedo worked with children, and she held Bozza and dried her with an extra cotton sweater she had in her plastic shopping bag.

Tim leaned into Ian. “Where to?” he asked.

“Matthews and Pelham Parkway South.” Tim switched the sign to “Out of Service” on his bus display window, knocked off the interior light, turned the ignition, hit the accelerator and in true Bronx fashion, left a little rubber as he jetted back to Pelham Parkway.

Dark clouds began to form over the East Bronx. Tim Duffy’s bus hauled ass down Pelham Parkway, making only one stop, to drop off Carmen at Jacobi Hospital. She hugged Janine and kissed her forehead goodbye. The nurse mouthed silent Santeria prayers as she exited the back door.

Tim hung a hard left on White Plains Road and another left on Brady as the roof began to echo with the pounding of raindrops. As the bus approached Matthews Avenue, Tim pulled his number 12 under the train trestle and turned to Bozza. He opened his top two buttons of his shirt, revealing a thick scar.

“Hey, little girl. This is where a bullet almost took my life. I stood up in a firefight because I wanted to die. I gotta tell you, I’m glad to be alive today. Please don’t take it for granted. Especially when you’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” Tim nodded towards Ian. “Your buddy Greengrass here thinks you’re quite special. I got a feeling he’s right. I’m gonna give you my phone number. I want one of your family members to call me by nine o’clock tonight to tell me you’re ok. Otherwise, I gotta report this incident.”

Tim re-buttoned his shirt. Ian put his arm around Bozza’s shoulder. Tim smiled and in a whisper to Bozza said, “Please don’t ever do nuthin’ like this again. It’s a sin. And you got your friend next door.”

Tim gently stroked her cheek, and for the first time in their childhood, Janine Bozza cried. Tim Duffy turned to Ian and said, “Take your friend home, Private Greengrass, and make sure I get a call by nine. Capische?”

Ian nodded, as the two wet hooky players exited the bus. The sky opened up with a torrential downpour. They held hands and ran the half block home.

They stood under the maple tree in front of Ian’s house and just looked at each other. “Nina’s gotta call the bus driver by nine, ok Janine?”

Bozza flinched at the sound of her first name. Then a small grin widened her lips. “OK, Ian,” she said, and planted a kiss on Ian that he would remember for the rest of his life.

They ran from the tree to their respective homes.

Ian’s cat Tuffy meowed from under a parked car and followed Ian into the house.

The old man was watching Douglas Edwards yap about the news of the day on their Sylvania TV and turned to Ian.

“Finished your paper route just in time, eh?”

“Yeah,” Ian answered.

“You hungry?” his dad inquired.

“Naa … I got homework.”

“You change your mind, lemme know, ok?”

“Yeah,” Ian stated.

The old man looked at Tuffy and then back to Ian.

“Again with the stinkin’ cat?” his dad asked, half-serious.

“It’s raining,” Ian said.

“Make sure you show him the door in the A.M., ok?”

“Ok, Pop.” Ian picked up his cat and went upstairs.

Ian gave Tuffy some Friskies and looked across the driveway to see Nina and Janine hugging. Ian decided to give Nate Glover a call first thing in the morning regarding Bozza’s plunge. He watched them for awhile, then felt like he was intruding, so he kept the lights out, changed into his pajamas and got into bed under the covers.

Tuffy hopped up and plopped down under his chin, purring like a lawn mower.

Ian listened to the raindrops on the slate roof above.

Ian licked his lips to see if he could still taste Janine’s kiss as his eyelids fluttered, and soon both he and Tuffy drifted off to the Land of Nod.