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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?

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Chapter 05 - By Nick

"Hello?" Nick said as he answered the phone.

"Hello," said the woman on the other end of the phone. "Is this Nick?"

"Miss Lori!" Nick said excitedly as soon as he recognized the voice on the other end. "It's me, Nick. How are you, ma'am?"

"I'm doing good," she answered. "How are you?"

"I'm good," Nick said as he searched the house for his dad with the portable phone to his ear. "Do you want to talk to my dad?"

"Yes, please," Lori said. "I hope I didn't call to early. It's noon here."

"No ma'am," Nick told her. "We get up early everyday. Dad might be in the back yard. Let me look." Nick put the phone down and walked out onto the patio, where his dad was sitting all alone in a lawn chair smoking a joint. Nick turned his head but continued to walk toward his dad.

"Lori's on the phone, dad," he said making sure he didn't look at what Jim was doing.

Jim followed Nick back through the double doors that led into the dining room from the backyard, picked up the phone and then went back outside. Nick walked back into the living room, where he watching cartoons before Lori called. Just as he was sitting down Jim's cell phone started ringing. Nick thought about answering it, but he thought the better of it. If it was someone his dad didn't want him to know about he would get an earful for sure, so he just let it ring. About a minute after it stopped ringing it started again. Nick got up to look at the number on the screen and it was his uncle Brandon. Nick was about to pick it up when it stopped ringing again. Nick stood still by the phone, wondering what would happen and sure enough, it started ringing again. This time he answered it.

"Hi, Uncle Brandon," Nick said as he hit the talk button.

"Hey Nick," said Brandon. "How are you doing?"

"Good, "Nick answered. "Did Papu tell you that I caught a fish yesterday?"

"He sure didn't," Brandon said. "How big was it?"

"It was huge," Nick said excitedly. "At least 24 inches." Nick wasn't really sure if the fish he caught was that long, but he heard his dad use that measurement so many times before that he just rattled it off whenever he wasn't sure.

"Wow, man," Brandon said. "That's a big a** fish. How did you reel one like that in?"

"I'm strong enough," Nick boasted.

"Hey dude, is your dad around?" Brandon finally asked. "I need to talk to him about something."

"He's in the back right now talking to Lori," Nick said.

"Who's Lori?" Brandon asked.

"A lady he knows from Virginia," Nick said, knowing that he told his uncle too much. His dad wouldn't like it if he knew that Nick had revealed that much information to anyone.

"Tell him I need to talk to him right away," Brandon said.

"Do you want me to go get him now," Nick asked.

"Just have him call me back, Nick."

"Ok, Uncle Brandon," Nick said. "Are you going to come see us today?"

"Well, I need to talk to your dad on the phone first," Brandon said. "Have him call me, ok?"

"Yes sir," Nick replied. After he got off of the cell phone he sat back down on the floor to watch cartoons. About twenty minutes later Jim came back into the house with a smile on his face as he put the phone back on its charger.

"Uncle Brandon called, dad," Nick said.

"On my cell?" Jim asked.

"Yes sir," Nick answered.

"What the f**k are you doing answering my cell phone?" Jim asked in an irritated voice. "You know better than that, Nick."

Jim stomped over to his cell phone and picked it up, then he walked back over to where Nick was sitting on the floor.

"Answer me, Nick!" Jim shouted. "Why did you answer my phone, god damn it!"

Nick didn't know what to say but he knew he had better say something, and quick, or his punishment would be worse than it already was going to be. He got nervous as he looked up at his dad, who was looking at him furiously, and he couldn't speak.

"I'm not going to ask you again, Nick," Jim said in a calm but still sharp tone. "What made you decide to answer my phone?"

Nick opened his mouth to speak, but before he could get the words out, Jim grabbed him by the arm and roughly led him to his bedroom.

"If you can't answer me, you can just sit in time out," Jim said. "You are not allowed to touch this phone!" he shouted in a thunderous voice that left Nick shaking. As Jim stood in front of him, still angry, Nick started to cry. He tried not too, but it was out of his control. He was in trouble and he knew it. He didn't think his dad was going to be so upset, but he was wrong.

"Just get back in your bed, son," Jim said.

"But I don't want to go to bed, dad," Nick cried.

"Well," Jim said. "Maybe you'll think about that the next time you decide to touch my stuff."

"I'm sorry, dad," Nick said, still crying but trying to find the right words. "It was ringing and I didn't know what to do, so I looked at the caller id and it was Uncle Brandon, so I just answered it."

Nick could see the look of fury leave his dads face after he gave his explanation, and a look of frustration replaced it.

"Son, I told you already that you aren't to answer this phone," Jim said. "I don't expect you to do it again, is that understood?"

"Yes, sir," Nick said, still crying.

"Alright, you're not in time out," Jim said. "But I mean it. This is dad's phone for personal business. It's not for you to answer. Is that understood?" Nick nodded and got off of the bed. As he made his way out of his room, Jim turned to him and told him to get in the shower and get dressed, that they had somewhere to go. Nick made the right turn from his bedroom into the bathroom and got in the shower as he was told.

When he got out he went into his room and found an outfit his father had laid out on his bed for him, so he finished drying off and got dressed. While he was brushing his teeth he heard Jim cussing loudly in the dining room, and he quickly finished rinsing so he could see what the commotion was all about. When he got into the dining room, Nick saw his dad erupting on the phone, using every cuss word Nick had ever heard in his life, plus a few extra ones that he had never heard, but was sure he couldn't say. He slipped back into his room and put on his socks and shoes, and finally walked back out to the living room to see if his dad was ready. Jim was sitting in the living room with a brush in his hand when Nick got there and Nick took his place in between Jim's legs on the couch. Jim did Nick's hair, then told him that it would be a few minutes before they could leave that he was waiting on a phone call. Finally, Jim's cell phone rang and they were out the door.

As Jim drove Nick could tell that he was in a bad mood, so he just stayed quiet. They pulled up to a park that Nick was familiar with and Jim told him to wait in the car as he jumped out and headed toward the basketball court. Once he got there a skinny Hispanic man dressed in all red walked up to Jim and they shook hands. Jim handed him some money and the man gave him something in return. Nick watched Jim look over whatever it was that the man handed him, then Jim turned and walked back to the car. He got in and drove home without a word.

Once they got home, Nick jumped out of the car and headed for the front door.

"Not so fast, son," Jim said. "It's a nice day today. Go through the side gate and get your bike out of the backyard."

"Yes, sir," Nick said as he walked to the side of the house where there was a gate leading to the back yard. He got his bike and walked it back out to the front yard.

"I want you to stay in the neighborhood, son," Jim said as Nick rode his bike into the street.

"Can I ride to Quick Stop?" Nick asked hopefully.

"Do you have your money?" Jim asked. Nick pulled out thirty dollars from his front pocket and showed it to his dad.

"Go put that twenty away, son," Jim told him. "You don't need to have thirty dollars with you."

Nick sighed and did as his father told him, then he jumped on his bike and headed toward Quick Stop, to get a candy bar and a slushie, passing his school along the way. On his way back from the store he rode his bike onto the school grounds and stopped by the drinking fountain to open his candy bar. While he was taking a bite he saw an older kid riding a skateboard toward the drinking fountains. When the kid rode up he took off his helmet and started drinking out of the fountain. Nick giggled to himself as he took note of the spigot that the boy was using. The drinking fountain at Nick's school was long and it had four spigots. Ever since Nick was in kindergarten, there was a label on each spigot that the kids at El Vista had unofficially used. From the left to the right, it went coffee, tea, soda pop, pee. Obviously, this boy had no idea that he was drinking from the pee spigot, or he just didn't care. Nick didn't really care either, but he wouldn't want anyone to see him take a drink from that spigot, because he knew that he would be teased if he did.

When the boy looked up Nick blushed and smiled at him. Nick thought this boy was even cuter than Eric was, and when he smiled, Nick's knees got weak.

The boy seemed to be looking at Nick closely and smiling at him as he did so. Finally, Nick spoke. "Hi," was all he could say and he had to look at the ground after he said it. The boy waved back at him and smiled again, and Nick noticed that he was blushing to.

"I'm Derek," he said, still blushing. "What's your name?"

"It's Nick," Nick said. "Do you go to school here?"

"No," Derek said. "I'm visiting my dad this weekend, and I just came here to ride my board. You want to hang out for a little bit?"

Nick shrugged his shoulders and said, "Sure. We can stay up front or we can go behind the school and ride." Nick wished he had his skateboard with him, but he left it at home, and he didn't dare go back for fear that his dad would find some kind of chores for him to do.

They decided to stay up front where there was more cement so that Derek could ride his board, and Nick watched him ride. After a while, Derek started to get tired and thirsty, so they made their way back toward the drinking fountain. Nick looked out toward the large field that was in the back of the school and he thought about telling Derek that he was going to go ride his bike back there, but he didn't really want to because he thought that Derek was such a cutie. Suddenly, Derek took him by surprise when he spoke up.

"If you want to ride back there, it's ok," he said. "I don't mind watching you ride your bike for a while."

"Well, ok," Nick said. "You won't go home?"

"No," Derek said blushing, which caused Nick to blush as well. After a few awkward moments, Nick jumped on his bike and rode to the back of the school. Derek put his skateboard down by a tree and sat on it as he watched Nick pop wheelies and jump his bike over a large mound of dirt. After a long while, Nick rode back over to where Derek was sitting and got off his bike.

"Want to ride it while I rest?" Nick asked.

Derek looked at Nick and smiled making Nick look down. Nick couldn't help how he was feeling, and it felt good to him. He was hanging out with a totally cute boy and he felt good about it. Derek never got on Nick's bike, but they did sit and talk for a while about different things. Nick found out that Derek was in sixth grade and had just turned eleven. His dad lived on the same street that Nick lived on, so they could hang out on the weekends. Nick told Derek that him and his dad were moving to Virginia and Derek seemed to get really bummed out when he heard about it.

After a while, Derek looked at his watch and jumped up. He had to get home, so he and Nick rode home side by side from the school. As they went around the corner on the street they both lived on, Nick's house came first. He started to ride up the driveway, but he waited to see which house Derek went to. After he saw Derek ride his skateboard up the driveway of a house that was about six doors down and across the street, Nick went inside to go to the bathroom and get something to eat.

While he was eating his lunch, Nick thought about Derek. He felt sorry for Derek, because his mom and dad weren't together anymore. Then he thought about how cute Derek was, and he smiled.

"What are you thinking about, buddy?" Jim asked. Nick looked across the table at his dad who was eating a sandwich.

"My friend Derek," Nick said. "We met at the school."

"That's nice," Jim said. "How old is he?"

"Eleven," Nick said smiling.

"So what did you guys do at the school," Jim asked.

"We just rode around," Nick answered. "He was riding his skateboard, and he did some cool tricks with it. Then we just talked about stuff."

"What kind of stuff, son," Jim asked.

"Just regular stuff," Nick said. "His dad lives on our street, and he was visiting him for the weekend."

Jim nodded as he took a bite out of his sandwich and listened to Nick.

"So did you have fun?" Jim asked, seeming to be more interested than usual in what his son was doing at the school.

Nick smiled as he thought about spending time with Derek and finally he answered, "Yes."

Suddenly Jim cleared his throat and he looked across the table with a look that told Nick that they had something serious to discuss.

"Son, Uncle Brandon is coming over tonight," Jim said. "He and I are going to have an adult conversation in the backyard and I need you to do me a favor and promise me that you'll be a good boy and stay inside all night."

"I promise, dad," Nick said. Then in a sadder voice, Nick said, "I'm sorry I made you mad at me this morning."

Jim put his sandwich down on his plate and pushed away from the table, holding his arms out for him. Nick got up and walked over to his dad, who hugged him tightly.

"You don't have to be sorry, sweetheart," Jim said as he lifted Nick up off of the floor and into his lap. "I shouldn't have reacted that way. It's just that daddy gets important calls on his phone, and I need it to stay private. You know the difference between adult conversations and regular ones, right?" Nick nodded his head, and then laid up against his dad's chest. "Good," Jim continued. "Well, dad gets a lot of adult calls on that phone, and even if it's Uncle Brandon or someone else you know calling me on it, you can't answer it, ok?"

"Yes, sir," Nick said.

"I'm sorry I treated you that way, son," Nick said. "I was in a bad mood, and I shouldn't have done it. Do you forgive me?"

Nick smiled at his dad and kissed him on the cheek, and then he nodded. After he got down and went back to his chair, Nick thought more about Derek. He wondered if Derek would be back next weekend and if he was, would he see him and could they play together. When lunch was over, Jim went out front to wash his car, and Nick went outside to help. While they were washing the car, a truck went by and Derek waved out the window at Nick.

"That's Derek," Nick told his dad. "Isn't he cute?"

Jim smiled at his son and asked him, "What do you mean, buddy?"

"I don't know," Nick said. "I just think he looks cute is all. I think he thinks I'm cute too."

"What makes you think that he's cute, son?," asked Jim.

Nick shrugged his shoulders and said, "It's just the way he looks. His eyes and his hair and his face. He's just cute."

"What about other people, son, Jim asked. "Do you think other people are cute too?"

"Well, I think some of my other friends are cute," Nick said. "But I don't know if they think I am. Derek acts like he thinks I'm cute." Nick was looking at his dad while they were talking, and after a few minutes of no one saying anything, he just picked up a sponge and kept washing the car. When he wasn't watching, he felt a cold spray on his legs. When he turned around, Jim had turned the hose on him and was laughing. Nick battled his way through the water and tried to wrestle the nozzle out of his dad's hands, but he was only successful in getting close enough for Jim to shove the hose down his shirt, then down his pants, soaking him completely. Finally, he gave up and started to walk away. When he was sure that Jim wasn't paying any attention to what he was doing, he picked up the bucket of soapy water and ran up on his dad, who turned around just in time to catch it all over the front of his shirt and shorts. Nick then ran inside as fast as he could before his dad could turn the hose on him again.

That evening Jim's younger brother Brandon showed up, just like Jim said he would. Nick got excited when his Uncle Brandon's car pulled into the driveway, and he quickly ran out the front door to greet his uncle.

"Uncle Brandon!" he yelled as he ran down the driveway.

"Hey dude," Brandon said as he hugged his nephew.

"I missed you," Nick said.

"I missed you too, dude," Brandon said as they walked up the drive to go inside. Once they were inside, Jim greeted his brother with a handshake and a "what's up," then it was off to the backyard. Nick was in his room reading a book when he heard shouting coming from the backyard, so he went into the bathroom and put the seat down on the toilet so he could standup on it to look out the window and see what was happening. What he saw next had him nervous and upset. His dad shoved his uncle to the ground and was standing over him screaming at him, and balling up his fists. Nick made his way to the patio door, but he got scared and turned around and went back to the bathroom for a better view. He saw his dad standing next to his old swing set with a torn shirt and his uncle getting up from the ground. He looked closer at his uncle, and he noticed that he had a bloody nose. Both men sat down and as Nick watched for a while longer, he noticed that his dad was crying. Suddenly, Nick didn't feel like looking anymore, so he got down and went back into his room to read and worry.

* * *

Nick sat straight up in his bed and looked around, trying to figure out where he was. His bedroom door was closed and the house was quiet, except for the sound of his dad's snoring. Less than a minute before he was having a nightmare, and even though he couldn't remember it anymore, it still had him frightened. He got up and slowly made his way to the door, holding his hands out in front of him so that he could feel anything that might be in his way. When he felt the door in front of him, he opened it and walked out into the hallway. When he found the light switch, he flipped it, and the light immediately blinded him. Just as he turned on the light, he heard his father's door open.

"What's wrong, buddy?" Jim asked as he walked toward his son.

"I had a bad dream, dad, "Nick answered. "I woke up and my door was closed."

"Why don't you come sleep with me tonight, Nick," Jim said. "Do you have to go to the bathroom?"

Nick nodded so Jim walked him toward the bathroom door, taking him inside and waiting for him to finish. After Nick was done, Jim took his turn while Nick sat on the edge of the bathtub and closed his eyes, still half-asleep. Finally, Jim helped him stand back up and Nick wrapped both of his arms around his father's waist as they walked back to Jim's room and went back to bed.

The next morning Jim shook Nick awake. "Come on, son," he said as Nick opened his eyes. Once everything was in focus, Nick sat up and smiled. "You didn't take a shower last night did you," Jim asked.

"No sir," Nick answered, afraid that his dad was going to explode at him for not showering. "I was going to, but I fell asleep."

Jim sighed. Nick couldn't decide if his dad was upset with him or not, because his face was hard to read. Finally, Jim spoke. "Well, you'll have to wait until tonight because we don't have time this morning. Come here." Jim held his arms out and Nick crawled across the bed toward his dad, who already had his work clothes on. Jim lifted Nick off the bed, held his nose up to him, and sniffed so that he could get an idea of what an unshowered Nick would smell like all day.

"You're fine today, but you'll take a shower tonight, ok?" Jim said.

"Ok, dad," Nick said while Jim carried him through the hall to his bedroom. When they got to Nick's room, Jim threw him down playfully on the bed and searched Nick's closet for an outfit. Nick knew that his dad was really picky about what he wore, so he just let Jim pick out his outfits for him. He stripped Nick down to his underwear, then he proceeded to dress his son. Finally, he put Nick's socks and shoes on for him and after he tied his shoes, he scooped him up again and took him into the bathroom. While Nick was on the toilet, Jim brushed his hair and wiped his face with a washcloth.

"When you're done, wash your hands, brush your teeth and come eat, son," Jim said as he walked out of the bathroom. Nick finished and washed his hands, then he went into the dining room, where Jim had a pop tart and a bowl of cereal waiting at the table for him. While he concentrated on his cereal, Jim picked up his pop tart as he walked by and took a huge bite out of it, and then collected Nick's backpack.

This was a typical morning for Jim and Nick, and both of them had grown so accustomed to it that they had it down to a science. As Nick took his last bite of cereal, Jim grabbed his bowl and put it in the kitchen sink. He handed Nick his backpack and they were out the door.

Nick's school was actually on the very next street, and he could see the shed in his backyard from the front of it.

There were many days when Jim would drive Nick to school but most days, like today, Nick would ride his bike to school. When Nick got there he chained his bike up and went to the playground to look for his friends. When he found them at the foursquare court he got in line and waited his turn. Finally, his turn came but the bell rang before he had a chance to play, and he ran toward the area where his class was supposed to line up to be led to class by their teacher.

During the day Nick kept thinking about the fight his dad had with his uncle the night before. He wondered why his dad would want to beat up his own brother, and why he was crying afterward. Nick had seen his dad fight before, and he never liked it. One fight Nick didn't see happened while Nick was at home alone with his papu. Jim and Brandon went out for the evening and when they came back early, Jim's face was swollen and one of his eyes was completely shut; but he acted like nothing was wrong when he walked into the house. He heard his dad and his papu taking about it that night, and Nick overheard his dad say that he was jumped and that Brandon was too afraid to help him, so Jim had to fight off however many guys had jumped him on his own.

When the bell rang at 2:10, Nick walked over to the bike racks, got on his bike, and rode it home. When he turned the corner, there was a huge yellow truck in front of his house. Nick rode past it into the driveway and to the side of the house, where he opened the gate and took his bike through the back. The backdoor was already open so he ran through it, ditching his backpack on the table as he made his way to the bathroom, but the door was locked.

"Dad, hurry up," Nick said a he knocked on the door. "I gotta go."

"Hold on, boy," Jim said in an irritated voice.

Nick went into the living room and sat on the couch waiting his turn. Finally, the door opened and Nick ran inside while Jim washed his hands. Nick followed his dad back out to the living room and sat next to him on the couch, giving him a small hug.

"Did you have a good day babe," Jim asked.

"Yes sir," Nick said. They talked about Nick's day and about his class work. Nick got up and brought Jim his backpack, and Nick showed him that he finished his homework while he was still in class.

"Good job, buddy," Jim said. "Are you ready?"

Nick got up and grabbed Jims hand as they walked out the front door. Nick climbed up into the huge yellow truck that was parked in front of his house, and Jim got in on the drivers side and started it up. As they drove to the side of town that Jim ran his Schwans route on, Nick played with the black computer that Jim used at each house to make the orders for his customers. Nick stayed inside the truck as a rule, but every once in a while, he would get out and go with his dad to a customers door, especially if it was one he was familiar with.

Finally, as the sun was going down, Jim drove the truck home. He parked it in front and put locks on all of the doors, then he and Nick went inside. Nick jumped in the shower while Jim counted his money and put it in a pouch that he kept in his dresser drawer. Nick got out of the shower and Jim called him into the living room, where he had Nick's pajamas waiting. Jim took the towel away from Nick and finished drying him off, then he dressed him in his pajamas.

"Where are your clothes," Jim asked.

"On the floor in the bathroom," Nick said. "Do I have to go pick them up?"

"No buddy, it's ok," Jim said, smiling at his son. Jim ran a comb through Nick's hair as they talked about different people who Nick knew from his route, and then they turned their attention to dinner. Jim went into the kitchen and found something for them to eat while Nick sat on the counter and watched TV with his dad. At some point, they made their way back into the living room with their food and after they ate, they sat together and watched The Ellen Degenerous Show. As the episode wore on, Jim and Nick laughed. There was one scene that stood out from the rest, however.

"I'm gay" The words were broadcast throughout the airport over an intercom, and Nick and Jim laughed uncontrollably. As they calmed down, Nick turned to his dad and asked him, "Am I gay?"

Jim sat quietly with his son, then he answered him. "I don't know son. What do you think?"

"Well, I don't understand what it means," Nick said looking at his dad.

"Well, son," Jim explained. "It means a lot of things, but if you were gay, you would probably know."

"What makes a gay person gay," Nick asked.

"I guess it would be that if you were a man," Jim said, "Instead of marrying a woman, you would marry a man because that's what you like."

"Do they think that other men are pretty like girls are pretty," Nick asked.

"Maybe, babe," Jim said. "I can't really tell you for sure how someone who's gay feels. Do you think that some men are pretty?"

Nick shrugged his shoulders and said, "I don't know. Sometimes I think some of my friends are pretty, or cute. But not all of them." Nick looked up at his dad, who smiled down at him and grabbed his hand in his.

"You don't have to worry about that, buddy," Jim said smiling. "No matter what, I love you."

Jim lifted Nick up and sat him in his lap, rubbing his back and running his hand over Nick's face. Nick smiled at him and finally said, "I love you too, daddy." They sat on the couch for the rest of the night, flipping through channels. As Nick started to get tired, he settled into a comfortable spot he found on Jim's lap and yawned. Then, looking at the TV, he said, "Well, maybe I am."

He looked back at his dad who smiled at him, then kissed him on the cheek, and said, "Maybe you are, sweetheart. I don't know."

"I don't either, dad," Nick said.

Nick eventually fell asleep with Jim on the couch, and the next morning, he woke up in his dad's bed again. As he opened his eyes, he saw Jim looking at him. He wasn't smiling, and he wasn't frowning. He was just watching him. Jim did smile when he noticed that he was awake, and Nick smiled back. "Good morning, sweetheart," Jim said.

"Good morning dad," Nick answered.

"Did you sleep well," Jim asked. Nick nodded and smiled. The sun wasn't out yet, so it was still early.

"It's early," Nick said yawning.

"That's ok, son," Jim said. "I thought maybe we could just visit with each other this morning."

Nick smiled and sat up in the bed with his legs crossed Indian style. He and his dad didn't speak at first. They just sat on the bed together and looked awkwardly at each other. Finally, Jim spoke up, clearing his throat first.

"Is there anything you want to ask me about, Nick?," Jim started. "I thought maybe you'd like to talk to me about something."

"Can I ask you anything?" Nick asked.

"Anything you want to, buddy," Jim said. The only thing on Nick's mind was the fight Jim had with his uncle the other day.

"I won't get in trouble?" Nick asked, making sure before he brought it up. Jim smiled and shook his head.

"I promise you buddy," he said.

"Well, I wanted to ask you about something I was thinking about," Nick said. "But I didn't want you to be mad at me."

"Go ahead, son," Jim said.

"Why did you and Uncle Brandon have a fight on Sunday," Nick asked.

Jim immediately looked uncomfortable. He cleared his throat and sat up in the bed to face Nick, who realized that his dad wasn't talking about that question. Nick was sure he was in trouble, but instead, Jim grabbed both of Nick's hands inside of his and sighed.

"Well, Nick," Jim started. "Sometimes brothers get in fights. It doesn't mean that it was right, but it happens. We were fighting over something silly, and I'm sorry that we had to do that, but we were both really mad at each other."

"Are you still mad at him?" Nick asked. Jim shook his head no and smiled.

"He's my little brother, and I love him," Jim said. "We made up before he went home."

"I'm glad, daddy," Nick said, feeling relieved.

"Me too, honey," Jim said. "Do you want a big breakfast today? I'll make us pancakes."

Nick smiled and nodded his head at his dad, who rolled off of the bed. Nick held his arms up, and Jim picked him up off of the bed and carried him down the hall to the bathroom. While Nick was on the toilet, Jim brushed his teeth and got Nick's toothbrush ready. When Nick finished Jim ran a washcloth over his face and told him to brush his teeth while Jim brushed his hair. They went into the kitchen together and Jim started making pancakes. It was still so early that the only cartoons they could find were on TBS, and Nick watched while Jim cooked pancakes. During the commercials, Nick saw a commercial that was full of cute boys.

"I think those guys are cute, dad," Nick said, trying to get his dads attention. Jim looked up from the stove and walked over to the counter that Nick was sitting on and looked himself. He smiled at Nick, then he put his hand on top of Nick's head and pulled it closer to him so he could kiss it.

Nick went back to watching TV and soon breakfast was ready.

"Do I have to eat all of it, dad," Nick asked, looking at the stack of pancakes on his plate.

Jim laughed and said, "Eat what you can, son. I know I made too many."

"Is tomorrow your day off, dad," Nick asked, but he already knew the answer. Jim worked on Monday and Tuesday, then he was off on Wednesday, then he went back to work on Thursday and Friday, and he was off on Saturday and Sunday.

"Yes it is, son," Jim answered. "I thought maybe tonight you and I could go out to eat."

"Can we go to Strings," Nick asked, talking about his favorite Italian restaurant.

"We can go wherever you want, babe," Jim said, smiling at his son. "I just want us to spend some time alone together."

After that, they finished their breakfast in silence. When they were done, Jim got in the shower and got ready while Nick went back into the kitchen to watch more cartoons. He climbed up onto the counter and sat watching for a long time while he waited for his dad to get out. Nick knew it would be a while, because his dad liked to take long showers. Nick hated them, so he tried to get in and out as fast as he could. Finally, the water stopped and he heard the door open to the bathroom. Nick was still dressed in his pajamas so he knew that his dad would be looking for him. As he suspected, Jim walked into the kitchen in his work clothes.

"You still need to get dressed, son," Jim said as he scooped his son up from the counter. As he carried Nick from the kitchen to his bedroom, he turned him around and sniffed him.

"Honey, you need to wash a little better," he said. "Did you use soap last night?"

"I washed my hair good," Nick said. "I thought I washed good."

"Never mind," Jim said as he took Nick into his bedroom and put him down on his bed.

Nick smiled as he watched his dad get his outfit ready. Jim stripped Nick down and gave him another sniff, shook his head, and dressed him. Soon, they were out the door.

When Nick got home from school that afternoon, he saw his papu's jeep in the driveway, so he quickly rode his bike up to the porch. Nick threw his bike down and went inside. His papu was sitting in Jim's recliner asleep, snoring loudly. The only person who Nick could think of that snored louder than his dad was his papu. Nick walked past him without waking him up and went in to the bathroom. As he was coming out, he got an idea. He went into the medicine cabinet and found the q-tips. He twisted the end of one until the cotton was wound up in a long, firm string, then he tip toed back out to the living room. He quietly approached his sleeping grandfather and slowly inserted the twisted end of the q-tip inside of his papu's nose, then he gave it several turns, causing his papu to slap himself in the nose. Nick hid behind the chair and waited, and soon enough, the snoring started again. Nick crept back around to the front of the recliner and reinserted the q-tip. This time his papu opened his eyes before he slapped himself, but Nick laughed when he saw his papu's hand fly up to his nose anyway.

"Wake up, papu," Nick said. "I'm hungry."

Nick's grandfather stretched and yawned in the chair, then he put the recliner back down and got up.

"Where's my dad today?" Nick asked.

"He wants to finish his route early," big Nick said. "So I'm watching you until he gets home."

Nick followed his papu into the kitchen and watched while he made him a hotpocket in the microwave. For the rest of the afternoon, Nick sat in the recliner with his papu and watched cartoons. Finally, he fell asleep in the recliner with his papu, and it was seven thirty when Jim walked through the door.

Nick opened his eyes as Jim came in, and he noticed that his dad looked angry with him.

"Son, where does your bike go when you get home from school?," Nick demanded.

"In the back yard," Nick answered.

"Then you need to get your a** out there and put it away before someone steals it," Jim said, putting extra emphasis on the word a**.

Nick got up and did as he was told. As he walked his bike around the side of the house, he saw his dad and his papu sitting down on the patio. Nick made his way over to where they were and Jim quickly stuffed something in his front pocket.

"You need to go inside for a little bit, babe," Jim said, kissing Nick on the cheek. "Did you have a good day?"

"Yes sir," Nick said. "Are we still going to go out to dinner?"

"We will, son," Jim said. "But right now I need you to go inside and wait while me and papu do something."

Nick turned around and walked into the house and waited patiently on the couch. Finally, Jim and his father both walked inside. Their eyes were totally bloodshot and almost completely closed. Jim made his way into the bathroom where Nick noticed that he was washing his face and putting in eye drops.

He came out a few minutes later and said, "Are you ready, son?,"

Nick got up and he, his dad and his papu walked out the door. They all got into Jim's car and drove to Strings for dinner. After they ate, Jim took Nick and his dad into a sporting goods store. Nick's eyes got big when his dad told him to pick out anything he wanted. Nick took his dad over to the fishing department and picked out the rod and reel that he wanted. Nick loved fishing, and he knew that it made his dad proud of him. Of course, Nick would have loved to fish even if his dad didn't. There was something about eating a fish that he caught himself that Nick loved.

"Can I have a new tackle box, too," Nick asked.

"Sure buddy," Jim said. "Pick one out." Nick picked out a nice blue tackle box, and handed it to his dad, who beamed down at him. Jim paid for the rod, reel and tackle box, plus some new tackle to put in it, and they were off.

Nick's papu drove home and Nick stayed up late with his dad as they organized his tackle box, then set up his pole.

"Can we go fishing tomorrow, dad?" Nick asked.

"Sure buddy," Jim answered. "Hey, I have an idea."

"What?" Nick asked.

"How about if you play hookie tomorrow, and we go fishing all day?" Jim said.

Nick looked up and smiled at his dad. "Really?" he asked.

"Really," Jim said grinning. "We need to go to bed though so we can get up early enough to get some good bites. It's already late."

They set all of Nick's new fishing gear by the front door, then went to bed.

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