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The Talon House

What's The Difference Between Me and You?

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What's the Difference Between Me and You?


Chapter 04 - By Nick

Nick looked sadly down at his food as he moved his fork around on his plate. He knew that this would be the last day that he would be in Virginia with his grandparents and that tomorrow he and his father would be flying home. He tried not to be emotional about leaving, but it was too much for him to deal with.

"Hey, cheer up kiddo," Tom said as he watched from across the table. "You and dad are coming back in February when Grandma has the baby. It won't be long."

Nick looked up at Tom and smiled, but when he thought about the fact that he wouldn't see Tom and Linda again for months it wrenched his heart. Eventually, it became too much for him to deal with and he started to cry. Jim reached over and started rubbing Nick's back, trying to comfort him.

"Dad," Nick cried. "I don't want to leave. Can't we stay a little longer?"

"I'm sorry, babe," Jim said sympathetically as Nick cried even harder. "My vacation's over and so is yours. I have to get back to work and your school is starting next week. I'd love to stay longer, but we can't. The good news is that Grandpa's right. We'll be back for a visit when the baby comes. I promise."

"Hey," Linda said softly from across the table. "You can call Grandma and Grandpa as soon as you get home and I promise that we'll talk on the phone as long as you want to, ok?" Nick started to calm down, and he nodded at Linda. Jim continued rubbing Nick's shoulder for the rest of the time that they ate.

After lunch, they drove through the neighborhood that Tom and Linda lived in and Nick was amazed at how many large homes there were. They were all so much bigger than the ones in Modesto, where he lived with his dad. Nick wondered how big of a house they would have if he and Jim moved to Virginia. Maybe they could have one close to his grandparents, and he could see them everyday. While he was thinking about it, he started getting excited about the prospect of perhaps moving to Virginia. Maybe it wouldn't be so scary after all, he thought.

For the rest of the day they sat in the family room with the TV off and played cards. Once Nick got the hang of it, he was pretty good and he even won a few hands of blackjack. The concept of the game was simple and yet it wasn't something that bored him. Finally, it was dinnertime and Tom asked Nick where he wanted to eat. Nick thought about it and asked if they could go to Cracker Barrel. Tom said that they could but that it would be a long drive to find one, because the nearest Cracker Barrel was in Newport News, which was across the Chesapeake Bay. So, instead, Nick said that he wanted to go to Red Lobster again.

They ate and came home, and Jim told Nick that he could stay up as late as he wanted to so that he could visit with Tom and Linda since their plane would be leaving in the morning. Jim went across the street for a little while to visit with Lori. Nick could tell that his dad really liked her a lot. After Jim left, Tom, Linda and Nick all sat together on the couch.

"I'm going to miss you," Nick said to the both of them.

"We're gonna miss you too, sweetheart," Linda said softly. She was starting to cry a little and Tom leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek.

"I love you, Grandma," Nick said starting to cry himself. "And I love you too Grandpa," he said reaching up to hug Tom.

"I love you too, kiddo," Tom said as he hugged Nick back. Linda finally collected herself, put her arms around Nick and hugged him tightly. After they hugged, they settled back down and started talking about Nick's school and his teacher from last year compared to his new teacher. Nick was going into the 3rd grade and he knew that his teacher this year had a reputation for being mean, but he wasn't really worried. Tom and Linda laughed as Nick told stories about the year before when his teacher, who was a guy, used to sing songs in front of the class in a voice that was beyond out of tune.

It was late when Jim walked in the house and joined them in the living room. Nick felt really cozy, and he didn't want the night to end. Eventually as the hours passed, he fell asleep on the couch. He felt his dad picking him up to carry him upstairs, and he started to wake up just in time to hear the last part of Jim's conversation with Tom and Linda.

"I think I should either do it now or wait until next year, so Nick doesn't have to get messed up with school," Jim said. "I know for sure that I could get a transfer out this way, so work isn't really an issue. I guess we just need to find a house."

"I'm so glad you decided to do it, son," Tom said as he wrapped an arm around Jim and gave him a small hug. "You deserve to have a good life and so does Nick. You do so much for everyone else, and I want you to have it good for a change."

Linda got up and kissed Jim on the cheek, and Nick lifted his head off Jim's shoulder. All three of them looked surprised to see him awake, and he looked at them, searching for what he wanted to say. Finally, Jim broke the silence. "Did you hear that buddy?" he said in a happy voice.

"Yes sir, I did," Nick answered.

"Well," Jim asked. "What do you think?" Nick still wasn't sure what he wanted to say. He looked at his grandparents, who were smiling almost hopefully at him. Finally, he smiled and laid his head back down on Jim's shoulder. Linda kissed him on the cheek and gave him a pat on the back.

"Sweetheart, you'll love it here," she said. "You already do, don't you?"

Nick just nodded and smiled. He was sure it was late and he was ready to go to bed, so he wrapped both of his arms around Jim and turned his head so that his face was facing his dad's neck. Jim took him up the stairs and to the room they were sharing, where he undressed him and put him in his pajamas. After Nick was dressed in his pajamas, Jim tucked him in under the covers and kissed him goodnight. Nick just looked up at his dad and smiled. He couldn't find words right now and he just wanted to go back to sleep.

* * *

Nick got excited as he saw the black Jeep in the driveway as he was riding his bike up the driveway. He threw his bike down and ran inside as fast as he could, but he couldn't find his grandfather anywhere. "Papu," he called out. No answer. From the patio he heard loud coughing so he walked through the dining room toward the glass door. There he saw his paternal grandfather, who he was named after, sitting on the patio with Jim. Jim was passing his father a joint, and they were both choking and coughing. Nick knew that he couldn't go out there right now and that soon enough they would come inside for something to drink, so he just went to the refrigerator to look for something to eat. He found what he was looking for and went into the living room and turned on the TV. As he was watching cartoons the phone rang. He noticed that his father and grandfather hadn't taken the phone outside, so he got up and answered it.

"Hello," Nick said.

"Hello, may I please speak with Jim?" said the voice on the other end.

"Just a second, Travis," Nick said. He recognized the voice. It was Jim's boss, calling to talk to his dad. It was Jim's day off, so Nick was kinda shocked that he would be calling today.

"How are you, Nick," Travis asked.

"I'm ok, I just got home from school," Nick answered. "Dad's in the backyard with my papu. I'll go give him the phone."

"Thanks dude," Travis said, and Nick carried the phone out to the patio. Jim was choking on another hit, so Nick put the phone down on the dining room table before he walked outside. As he opened the door, Jim was hitting the joint again, and then he passed it to big Nick. Both men were unaware of Nick's presence.

"Dad, Travis is on the phone for you," Nick called out as Jim choked on the last hit. As he coughed uncontrollably, Jim motioned for Nick to go back inside by pointing to the door. Nick took this as his signal to play dumb and he turned around and went back into the house, acting like he didn't know what his dad was doing.

He went back inside and sat in front of the TV as Jim came inside and grabbed the phone. Nick listened closely to what his dad was saying, and he could tell that Jim was talking to Travis about Virginia.

"Well, I can fly back out there to do an interview whenever, Travis," he heard his dad say. "I still have some vacation time left, so I can afford it."

Nick knew that Jim was serious about moving now. The last night that they were in Virginia, Nick had convinced himself that they weren't really going to be moving, but the conversation his dad was having with his boss made him realize that he was wrong. While Jim was still on the phone with Travis, the elder Nick came inside and Nick set eyes on his grandfather for the first time since they left for vacation. "Papu!" Nick yelled excitedly as he ran up to him to get a hug. "I missed you."

"I missed you too, my little polackia," his grandfather said as he squeezed Nick with his giant arms. Nick and his grandfather always spoke small bits of Greek to each other, and Nick always called him papu, which is Greek for grandfather. Big Nick called his grandson his little polackia, which meant child. Nick loved his papu a lot, and wondered if his dad was really going to go through with the idea of moving to Virginia.

"Do you know why dad's talking to Travis," Nick asked, even though he knew better.

"Yes, I do," big Nick said. "We talked about it already."

"Are you going to let him move to Virginia, papu," Nick asked.

"It's not up to me, Nicko," his grandfather replied. "Your dad's a man, and he's going to do what's best for you. I don't want you guys to move, but if he thinks it's what's best, then it's what's best."

Nick looked at the floor. He felt so sad. Not just for himself, but for his papu. He wondered who would go fishing with him on opening day every year if his dad wasn't around to go. His uncles might go, but they always seemed like they were too busy to go.

"Do Uncle Alex or Uncle Brandon know yet," Nick asked his papu.

"No, not yet polackia," he answered. "They'll find out soon enough."

Jim hung the phone up and came into the living room. His eyes were almost closed and totally bloodshot, and for the first time, Nick noticed that his papu had bloodshot eyes as well.

"How was school, Nick," Jim asked.

"It was ok I guess," Nick said.

"What have I told you about going out on the patio when I have the door closed," Jim asked Nick, sounding mildly irritated. Nick looked up his dad but there was almost no expression. Jim was staring off into the rug somewhere when Nick shrugged his shoulders and looked down. Finally, he spoke.

"I'm sorry, dad," Nick said.

Unfortunately, what he said went unnoticed by Jim, who was still zoned out. After a long pause, Jim looked at Nick and as if he had completely forgotten what they were talking about, he said, "What?"

Nick shook his head as he walked into the bathroom to find the eye drops for Jim. Once he found them, he brought them out to his dad, who just grabbed the bottle and proceeded to use them in his eyes. The elder Nick did the same thing, and soon the three of them settled in on the couch to watch TV together.

* * *

"Slow down, dad," Jim called out from the top of the trail. "You're getting too far ahead." Nick held his dad's hand as they slowly walked down the familiar trail toward the beach, trying to catch up to his grandfather, who was almost halfway down the trail with a large load of diving equipment on his back.

Big Nick stopped and soon his son and grandson caught up to him.

"You're gonna have to move faster than that, son," he said to Jim as he waited for them to approach. Jim just rolled his eyes and gave his dad a look that said, 'you can't be serious.'

"Nick," Jim said as he looked down at his son. "I'm going to spread the blanket out and get you a pole ready. I want you to stay off of the rocks until I'm done. You'll slip and fall."

Nick looked at the rocks and nodded. He knew his father was right and that at some point during today's outing he would inevitably slip and fall on the rocks. They were covered in moss and seaweed, but Nick always took the chance and walked across them anyway, looking for abalone and sea urchin. He would tell himself each time that on the next visit he was going to stay on the sandy part of the beach, but each time he would forget about that and make his way out onto the rocks, slipping and falling and scraping himself up along the way.

After Jim got Nick's pole ready, he told Nick to follow him and they slowly made their way out toward a dry rock. Jim helped Nick climb up onto it and as soon as Nick was settled into a spot, Jim cast the line way out into the water. He handed Nick the pole and said, "I want you to sit here until I come out. The rocks look very slippery today, and I don't want you to get hurt."

"How long are you going to be, dad," Nick asked.

"Well, at least until I get my limit," Jim answered. "If it gets to be to long and you have to move from this rock, just be careful, ok?"

"I will," Nick answered.

With that, Jim made his way back toward the beach where he and his dad stripped down to their boxers and put on their black diving suits. They then made their way out to the water, put on their snorkels, and began their search for abalone.

At the top of the trail, Nick noticed that there was another group of divers getting ready to look for abalone. He was wondering how long it would be before they showed up to get in the water when they suddenly appeared at the edge of the cliff. They were starting to make their way down the trail, and he noticed that with them was a lady and two boys who seemed to be bringing up the rear. While Nick was watching he felt a sharp tug on his pole, and he immediately forgot about the other group of people as he turned his attention to the water. His pole gave another sharp tug, and he pulled back this time, then started reeling. It was a fight from the get go and Nick wasn't sure if he would be able to finish reeling in what was on his line. Whatever he had hooked was strong and it didn't want to come peacefully. Nick stood up and started to reel harder, and after about a minute long struggle he pulled his prize up out of the water. It was an incredibly large and incredibly ugly capazone, and as Nick held it up in the air, it gave a few violent flops but it wasn't strong enough to escape Nick's grip. Just as Nick laid him in the net that Jim had left for him, the group of divers came over to see what he had caught.

"What'd you catch, buddy," asked an older man with a beard.

"It's a capazone," Nick answered.

"It sure is a big one," the same man said making Nick smile with pride.

"Yeah, it is," Nick said. "I can't wait to show my dad."

As Nick was showing the men his catch in the net, the lady and the two boys made their way over to where Nick was fishing at and looked on. Nick was so proud of himself. It was the first time that he had come to the ocean with his dad and his papu and actually reeled in a fish on his own. Normally, if he had a bite and anyone was close by they would immediately take the pole from him and reel the fish in.

The men helped Nick secure the net in the water by driving the metal stake that was built into it into the ground, then they made their way out to the water, near Jim and big Nick. Nick watched them wade out into the water, and he wondered if they would tell his dad about his big catch. The lady had made her way back toward the beach with the two boys, and Nick decided that he needed to get back over to the blanket with all of the equipment so that he could put some more bait on his pole and try to cast it again before his dad came along. He knew that his dad would want to cast it for him, but Nick was actually pretty good at casting his own pole and wanted to do it himself. As he made his way to the blanket, the two boys were walking toward him, smiling.

"Hi," one of them said as Nick made it to the blanket, causing him to blush.

"Hello," Nick replied as he smiled back at the boy who looked older than Nick and older than the other boy. "Are you guys fishing today?"

"We're going to later, after my dad's finished," answered the same boy.

"You have to wait for him to get your pole ready?" Nick asked, almost surprised. Even though Jim usually insisted on stringing Nicks pole for him, Nick knew that it was always ok to string his own pole, and it was hard for him to imagine that a kid who was older than he was had to get help or even permission to get his pole ready to cast.

"Well, actually this is our first time fishing," the younger boy said. Nick smiled at the two boys and sat down on the blanket so that he could dig into the bait. He opened the ice chest and took out the small fish that they were using as bait and laid it on a medium sized rock that he found nearby. The two boys were watching with interest as Nick grabbed his father's knife and proceeded to chop off the head of the small fish, then he slid the head that he had just cut off over his hook.

"I'm Nick," he said as he looked up at the two boys, who were still watching the pole.

"I'm Eric," said the older boy, looking back down at Nick and smiling. Nick thought he was cute, and his smile was making Nick blush. "This is my brother Jesse," he continued. Nick thought Jesse was cute to, but Jesse's smile wasn't as cute as Eric's was.

"Can you guys go out to the big rock?" Nick asked as he started to get up.

"Go ask mom," Eric said to Jesse, who ran off toward the blanket his mother was sitting on. In no time flat Jesse was back to tell them that it was ok, as long as they were careful. Nick led the way back toward the rock he was fishing from. And soon the three of them were settled down, and Nick cast his pole. The line didn't go out near as far as it had when Jim had cast it earlier, but Nick didn't pay it much attention. He sat down next to Eric on the rock and watched his line.

"How old are you, Nick," Jesse asked.

"Eight," Nick answered. "How old are you guys?"

"Ten," Jesse answered first.

"Thirteen," Eric said, then looking at Nick he asked, "How do you know how to fish so good?"

Nick shrugged his shoulders and looked at Eric. "I don't know," he answered. "I guess it's because we've been fishing ever since I was a baby. We come here all the time."

Nick's family was definitely a fishing family. There was never a time in Nick's life that he could remember not going to the ocean on the opening day of abalone season. It was something that everyone in his family, from his uncles to his cousins, to both of his grandparents and both sides of their families were all good at. Nick loved to eat fish and different types of seafood too. One of the dishes he loved most was octopus, and he could crack open a sea urchin and eat the guts right out of it. Of course, this wasn't something everyone did, but Nick wasn't aware of that at the time.

After a while, Nick's line got snagged under the water on a rock and he had to struggle to reel in his line, losing all of his bait and sandbags in the process, so he laid his pole down on the rock and turned his attention back to Eric and Jesse.

"Do you guys wanna look for abalone," Nick asked.

"Where?" Eric replied.

"Under the rocks, where else?" Nick said, wondering how anyone could not know how to look for abalone.

"I guess," Eric said.

"Ok, let's go," Nick said, hopping down from the rock and grabbing a pry bar his dad had left for him, leading the two boys onto the slippery rocks. Nick was careful at first to walk slowly and hold on with his hands, but Eric and Jesse weren't expecting the rocks to be slippery, and the both slipped and fell right away. Nick turned around to help them up and tell them to walk slowly, and soon he was off his feet and on a rock.

The mother of the two boys stood up, but they paid her no mind as they continued following Nick, who came across a pretty pink sea urchin.

"Do you want some," Nick asked, breaking open the shell to get the meat out. Eric and Jesse looked at Nick as if he had lost his mind as Nick pulled the meat out of the sloppy white juice that was inside and slurped it into his mouth.

"Dude, what are you doing!" Eric asked, probably more shocked than disgusted.

"Gross," Jesse said, looking at Nick slurp a second handful of meat from the shell.

"It's not gross," Nick said, somewhat offended. "It tastes good. You've never had it before?"

The two boys shook their heads and smiled at Nick as he cleaned his hands off in a puddle of water. As they continued to follow Nick out toward the water their mother began shouting for them to come back to the beach. Just as they were about to turn around Nick reached under a rock and found an abalone. He crawled around getting his head to squeeze into the tight space where he felt the abalone on the rock, and he saw that it was a big one. He used his pry bar to pop the abalone off of the rock, and then he held it up for Eric and Jesse to see, smiling proudly.

When they got back to the sand, Nick carried the large abalone to his blanket, stopping to show the boys' mother his find. Eric and Jesse told their mom what Nick did with the sea urchin, and she shook her head the same way her sons had. Nick just shrugged his shoulders and took his abalone back to the blanket so he could put it in a potato sack for safekeeping. Then he went back out to the large rock and got his pole. While he was doing this, his dad and grandfather were coming out of the water.

"How'd you do, buddy?" Jim asked smiling at Nick. Jim's hands were bloody and he was shivering, but he had a large potato sack in his hands and it was full. Nick knew that dinner would be good that night because is dad had his limit early. That gave them more time to fish.

"I caught a big one, dad," Nick said excitedly as he held up the net for his dad to see.

"Wow buddy!" Jim exclaimed, as he got closer. "Good job, son. You reeled it in all by yourself?"

"Yes sir," Nick replied. "Guess what else?"

"What," Jim asked as they walked toward the blanket.

"I found a big abalone under a rock," Nick said excitedly.

"No way, "Jim said. "Really?" Nick pulled his prize out of the potato sack that he was using and Jim's eyes got huge.

"God damn, boy," Jim said proudly. "You were serious today, weren't you?"

Nick smiled at his dad as they put their abalone together in the same sack. After about fifteen minutes big Nick came out of the water with his limit of abalone. He couldn't believe it when he found out that his grandson reeled in a big capazone. "When we get back to the car, papu has something for you, polackia," he said, winking at Nick. Nick knew that this meant money. Every time he did something to make his papu proud, he got money. Sometimes it was only 5 dollars, but it was usually 10 or 20 dollars.

"Can I go play over there," Nick asked his dad pointing to Eric and Jesse.

"Did you meet them already?" Jim replied looking at Nick.

"Yes, sir," Nick answered. "We met when I caught the fish. I took them out with me when I found my abalone. Their names are Eric and Jesse. I met their mom too."

"Alright, go ahead," Jim said. "Don't get in the water, though. Are you hungry?"

"No, sir," Nick replied anxious to go play with the two boys.

"Be careful, boy," Jim called out as Nick ran off toward Eric and Jesse. When he got over to where they were they both smiled at him causing his insides to jump with excitement, especially when Eric smiled at him. Nick thought that he was so cute and he wanted to spend as much time with him as he could.

"Hey, dude," Eric said as Nick finally caught up to them.

"Hi," Nick said shyly looking closer at Eric and his brother than he did before. They were almost identical, except that Eric was taller and skinnier than his younger brother, who was taller than Nick, but way shorter than Eric, and way thicker that him too. Jesse wasn't fat, but he just had a thicker frame than Eric did. Most of it was in his shoulders and his butt. They both had super short hair that was too short to brush, and Eric's face seemed skinnier than Jesse's.

"How much longer are you guys gonna be here?" Eric asked.

"Probably a few more hours," Nick said. He was right about that. Whenever his dad and his papu took him to the ocean to get abalone, they were always in the water by six in the morning and they would usually head back home by eleven in the morning or noon.

They spent the next few hours building a giant fort out of the driftwood on the beach and carving their names in the sand. Nick noticed that his dad and papu were sitting together on a large rock about a quarter of a mile from where he was playing with Eric and Jesse, and he didn't have to guess what they were doing. In the distance, he heard his dad coughing loudly and he hoped that no one else would notice. After a while Eric and Jesse's dad and his friends came out of the water, and he called Eric and Jesse back over to the spot that they had set up on the beach, so Nick wandered back over to the blanket to watch his dad and papu as they sat on the rock.

Nick knew that his dad and papu smoked weed together but he didn't think that they realized that he knew. So he always pretended that he didn't know what was going on when he would catch them in the act and the same rule applied to his uncles, who were also heavy weed smokers. Nick knew that his papu's wife, his dad's stepmom, who Nick always called grandma, hated that they all smoked weed. Nick wasn't sure if he hated it or not. What he did know was that he hated how whenever his dad smoked weed around him, he always seemed stressed out about the fact that Nick could see what was going on, and he would snap at him to go inside or to another room. It made Nick feel like he was the one doing something wrong, when it was Jim who was the weed smoker.

Even Nick's grandmother, Jim's mom, smoked weed. He found that out when she came to stay with them for a while after she sold her house and was waiting for her new one to be built. Nick couldn't believe it when he saw his dad and his oma, which is Dutch for grandmother, smoking weed together. Unlike his papu, though, Nick wasn't actually that close with his oma even though he wanted to be. She always blamed Nick for ruining her son's life, and she even said so on many occasions. Like on Nick's seventh birthday when she told him that he ruined his dad's life and that his mom was no good when she was living. Jim quickly cut her off but it was too late. Nick was so sad for the rest of the day and Jim stopped talking to his mother for a year after that. Eventually they made up, but Jim never let her visit with Nick unless he was around to make sure that she didn't say anything hateful to him.

Nick's aunt in Florida was the only member of Nick's family on his dad's side who didn't smoke weed. She hated the rest of her family and she had nothing to do with them, especially with Nick's oma. Her and Jim were close, though. She came out to visit one time when Nick was five, but that was because their grandmother was about to die and she wanted one last visit. Then she came out for the funeral a few months later and that was it. She loved Jim and Nick, and she always seemed to be on Jim's case about getting away from the rest of the family. Nick wondered if she knew that they were moving to Virginia, and if she did, how she felt about it.

Nick got up from the blanket and walked back out toward the rocks, looking for a large, dry rock that he could relax on. He slept in the car on the way to the ocean so he wasn't tired, but he wanted to lay out in the morning sun which had finally burned away all of the fog and now felt good on his face. When Nick found his rock he took off his jacket and spread it out over the rock, then took off his shirt and bunched it up like a pillow. He lay down across the rock and let the sun soak into his skin while he listened to the waves crash against the rocks. As he lay there he thought about Eric. Nick couldn't get over how cute he looked, and how good his body looked. Nick had never really given much thought to it, but in a way he always thought that boys were cute. He wondered if he was cute or not, but he never had the courage to ask because he never heard any other boys talk about which boys were cute and which ones weren't. Nick lost track of time while he was lying there and when he finally got up, he noticed that Eric and Jesse were gone along with all of their stuff. Nick just shrugged his shoulders and laid back down on the rock to soak up the sun. After a while he heard his dad's voice.

"C'mon, Nick," Jim said. "You need to eat something."

Nick looked up and saw Jim carrying a cinnamon roll to him, so he smiled and took it from his dad.

"Did you and papu catch anything?" Nick asked.

"We caught a couple," Jim answered. This didn't surprise Nick very much. He felt like his dad and his papu could catch fish with their bare hands if they really wanted to.

"I'm thirsty, dad," Nick said as he watched his dad holding a beer. "Can I have a drink?"

"Here babe," Jim said as he handed Nick the beer. Nick took a long drink of it and handed it back to his dad, who finished it off.

"How long are we going to stay," Nick asked.

"Not too much longer, son," Jim answered. "We're gonna stop at big papu's and cook dinner for him on the way home."

Big papu was Jim's grandfather, who everyone called papu, except for Nick, who called him big papu because he was his papu's dad. Big papu spoiled Nick a lot, easily as much as big Nick did, and Nick loved going to his house and visiting. Unfortunately, big papu wasn't as close to Jim, who was actually named after him. In Nick's family, the family name was passed down from grandfather to grandson. Big papu was named James Nickolas, Papu was Nickolas James, Jim was born James Nickolas, and then Nick came along and was named Nickolas James. One day, Nick was to name his first-born son according to family tradition. The thought made Nick feel honorable somehow, as if he were part of something important, and he couldn't wait until his son was born.

Jim helped Nick off the rock and they headed back toward the blanket for more food.

"What happened to your friends?" Jim asked.

"I guess they moved down the beach," Nick answered, a little disappointed that Eric was gone. Nick pointed out the fort that they had made to his dad and told him how they had carved their names in the sand.

"You had fun then, huh," Jim asked.

"Yes sir," Nick said shyly as he thought about how cute Eric was.

"Did you like playing with them?" asked Jim. Nick nodded and smiled as he thought more about them, then out of the blue, he let it slip.

"Eric's so cute," he said, not thinking about it at first but then realizing what he said.

"That's sweet of you to say, buddy," Jim said as if Nick were just paying a compliment to a friend. Nick didn't panic after that. Maybe it was ok for him to think that some of his friends were cute. He even wondered what they thought of him or each other, but he soon forgot all of that as they reached the blanket and his papu handed him another cinnamon roll and a Fresca. After they ate, Jim let Nick strip down to his underwear and run out into the water for a few minutes, but the water was so cold that Nick was back at the blanket in no time at all. Jim gave Nick a dry pair of underwear and as he changed and got dressed again, his dad and papu took off their diving suits and put their clothes back on.

As they drove back, Nick watched the ocean from the road. He could still see the waves crashing up to the rocks and the beach, and he thought about Eric and Jesse and wondered where they were. Maybe they went swimming to, or maybe they caught some fish. He meant to ask them so many things, but he never did because they were having so much fun building the fort.

As they pulled into Bodega Bay, the elder Nick pulled off into a restaurant that they always stopped at for lunch on the way back. They all ordered and Nick ate more than he usually did. After his papu paid the bill, they got up to leave. Suddenly he heard Jim say, "Dad, don't." But it was to late. Nick felt a hand on his shoulder and when he looked at it, there was a twenty-dollar bill in it. Nick grabbed the money, then looked up and smiled at his papu.

"That's for my special little polackia," big Nick said, smiling proudly at his grandson. "You're a real fisherman, now. I'm so proud of you."

"Thank you, papu," Nick said.

"You're welcome, Nicko," his papu said

They finally got back into the black jeep and started toward Big Papu's house. Nick knew it would be a long drive, and he kinda expected what was coming next. Jim turned around in his seat and said, "Son, why don't you lay down and try to take a nap? It's been a long day and I don't want you to be cranky when we get to big papu's house."

Nick knew that him being cranky and tired later was only part of the reason that Jim wanted him to go to sleep. The rest of the reason was that Jim was ready to smoke another joint, so Nick just lay down across the back seat and tried to fall asleep, but he wasn't tired yet. Finally, Jim got into the back seat and Nick lay back down across his fathers lap. Jim rubbed Nick's back and talked to him for a while about different things like school and fishing at a lake they like to go to and before long, Nick fell asleep.

When he woke up he heard his dad choking on a hit and he could smell the smoke. All of the windows were up and the jeep was filled up with smoke, so he just lay there and pretended to be sleeping while his dad and his papu smoked the joint in the front seat. Finally, Jim rolled his window down and the smoke cleared out, and Nick fell back to sleep. The next time he woke up, he was lying on the couch at his big papu's house and he could hear a commotion in the kitchen. Nick could hear his papu and his big papu yelling in Greek at each other, and he could understand perfectly what they were saying. Big papu wanted his son to get out of his kitchen because only he was allowed to cook, and no one wanted the food ruined. Nick's papu told his dad that the only way the food would be ruined would be if he got his hands on it.

Nick glanced over at his dad, who was sleeping on the couch with him. Nick realized that he and his dad had the right idea, so he just crawled over to where Jim was and curled up with him and went back to sleep. After a while dinner was ready and both Jim and Nick woke up and ate. While they ate, Nick's big papu grilled Jim about Virginia in Greek, and Nick understood once again what was being said. But what shocked Nick was how his big papu didn't try to talk Jim out of the move. Instead, in a thick Greek accent, he simply said "Bravo," when Jim said he wanted to give Nick a better life. Nick noticed that his papu looked sad about hearing Jim say that, but he didn't offer any argument.

After dinner they got ready to leave, and Nick found himself in his big papu's lap, getting more money. He was telling the story in Greek to his big papu about the capazone, and his big papu gave him ten dollars. Finally, Jim spoke up.

"We need to go, Nick," he said. "Give big papu a kiss and go to the bathroom before we leave."

Nick gave his big papu a kiss on the cheek and jumped up to go to the bathroom. After he was done he made his way out to the front yard where everyone was talking. He stood on the porch and leaned up against his dad, who was standing on the ground next to the porch talking. Finally, Jim grabbed Nick around the legs and threw him over his shoulders playfully and carried him to the jeep, upside down.

As they drove down the highway, they came across the spot. Nick knew what it was because they had brought flowers here so many times before. Only this time the sun wasn't shining because it was so late in the evening. As they drove by it, Nick, his dad and his papu looked out the window at the cross on the side of the road. Nick looked in the front seat and he saw his papu grab Jim's hand and squeeze it. Things got really quiet in the jeep and Nick didn't know what to say. He had never really seen his dad and his papu act so close, and it wasn't that it made Nick uncomfortable. It was more that he felt like he was intruding on something special that he shouldn't be seeing.

Finally, after a long quiet drive, they were home again. Nick was hoping that his papu would spend the night, and Jim even insisted on it, but he drove home instead. Nick's papu lived in the Sierra Nevada region of California, but he always seemed to be able to make it to Modesto to visit with them. Nick kissed his grandpa goodbye and then he and Jim went back inside.

After they showered, Jim and Nick went outside and sat together on the patio. It was nice and cool outside, and the breeze felt good to Nick. He had a feeling his dad wanted to talk to him about something, so he just stayed quiet. Finally, Jim spoke.

"Did you have fun today, buddy?" Jim asked.

"Yes sir," Nick said. "Was I good today?"

"You were very good today, son," Jim said. "I'm proud of you for reeling in that fish all by yourself. That was a big fish for you to catch all by yourself, wasn't it?"

Nick smiled at his dad and said, "Well, it was kind of hard to reel it in, but I didn't give up. He tried to get away from me after, but I held on to him and put him in the net."

"Come sit next to me son," Jim said. Nick got up and walked over to the wide lawn chair that Jim was sitting in. Jim moved over so that Nick could sit next to him, and Jim wrapped an arm around Nick.

"Do you understand why we're moving, son?" Jim asked. Nick looked up into his father's eyes and nodded.

"I'm not scared, dad," Nick said. "Are you?"

"No buddy, I'm not," Jim answered. "I'm excited, and I'm a little sad. How about you?"

Nick snuggled up against Jim and buried his face in Jim's chest, and finally he said, "Yes."

"Yes, you're sad?" Jim asked.

Nick nodded trying not to start crying.

"You know, everything's going to be ok, sweetheart," Jim said, rubbing Nick's back. "I wouldn't move us if it wasn't going to be."

Nick didn't say anything else. Instead, he just sat with his dad and snuggled.

"Why don't we just sit here for a little bit, ok son?" Jim said.

Finally Nick could speak. "Ok, dad. I like it out here."

"So do I, babe," Jim said

"I love you, dad," Nick said, finally looking up at his dad and smiling.

"I love you too babe," Jim answered, squeezing Nick's shoulders tightly with his arm.

What's the Difference Between Me and You By Nick Chapter 04 © MMVI All Rights Reserved

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