The black fedora sailed through the air, alighting gracefully on the top of the coat rack.
“Hah! Did you see that?”
“Grandpa, I thought you couldn’t see?”
“I can’t, that’s why I’m asking you if you saw it!” The old man chuckled as he shucked his long coat and hung it from the coat rack, just below his hat.
“You’re lucky mom isn’t here, she’d give you hell for throwing your hat again.”
“Oh, bother. I’ll tell her I forgot, old people do that you know.” The old man looked pointedly at the youth on the couch. “Who are you again?”
The young man rolled his hazel eyes and made a waving motion, shooing his grandfather on. The old man made his way laboriously up the narrow staircase to his room where he changed from his trousers and button up shirt to a more comfortable jeans and sweat shirt. He debated for a moment, then decided it was too much trouble to remove the socks and tucked his feet into his slippers before carefully going back down the stairs.
“I hope your mother isn’t making meatloaf tonight. It’s like eating a brick and shitting pebbles for a week.” He shuffled into the kitchen to make coffee.
“I think she’s making a tuna casserole,” the young man replied, snickering. The channel changed on the TV, and then again.
“You spend too much time in front of that thing, it turns your brain to mush. Speaking of turning brains to mush, have you seen the tits on Colleen McHugh? Good lord that girl makes me forget …well, everything.”
“Well, tell me you haven’t noticed!”
“Still sticking to your story, eh? Maybe if you stared at her tits long enough…” The old man shuffled out and eased into a recliner while the coffee machine sighed in the kitchen.
“They’d throw me in prison?” the young man replied with a shrug.
The old man sat in silence for a few minutes of contemplation. The TV continued to flick from one channel to the next, a never ending stream of cut off sound bites and distorted visual images.
“Well, how does one go about meeting someone?”
“Internet mostly, I guess. I wouldn’t know, I haven’t met anyone.”
“What do you look for?”
“What do you mean?” The young man looked at his grandfather warily.
“Well, I like tits. Always have. The swell of a breast is…well, a breast. What do you look at?”
“Grandpa, I have no problem talking about this normally, but this seems kind of creepy.”
“Oh, come on! I’ll forget in twenty minutes anyway.” The old man waved his hand cheerily.
The young man sighed and focused his attention on the TV.
The old man struggled to his feet and shuffled into the kitchen to make his coffee, and sat at the kitchen table to think. Boys and boys. Together. His grandson really wasn’t interested in Colleen McHugh’s tits, a fact he had a hard time wrapping his head around. Who wouldn’t like her tits?
“You really should get a look at her tits while they are perky, they droop as time goes by you know, like deflated lead balloons.”
“They get low enough, folks will mistake ‘em for balls.”
“I’m just saying,” the old man sighed. He sipped at his coffee and thought some more. His grandson liked ass more than he did tits, and while the old man had seen a few nice keesters in his day, but a pair of fine knockers always won in his book.
“Tuna casserole you said? I hope she cooks the pasta all the way this time. Nothing worse than something being crunchy that isn’t supposed to be. Why can’t we have a pizza?”
“Because you get the runs when you have that much oil.”
“Mom cooks, ask her for something else. Not like I have any choice in it.”
“Nonsense! Lets go out for a pizza! Isn’t that a capital idea?”
“No, it’s not. Mom would hang me for sure, she warned me against encouraging you.”
“Well, since you like boys we’d better hope you’re hung anyway, eh boy? Do the family proud do you?” He cackled to himself knowing his grandson was embarrassed beyond belief.
“Grandpa, you’re a pervert.” The young man replied matter-of-factly.
“Yes, I do believe Peeping Tom of Lady Godiva fame is somewhere in our family tree. A proud tradition,” he raised his voice to make sure his grandson heard, “If you won’t spy in the girls changing room, at least do it to the boys!”
“Give it a rest! God! Why do you have to be so perverse?”
“Well, my hobby is more fun than yours. All you do is exercise that one finger changing channels.” The old man fell silent for a moment before calling out, “Why your imagination is so stunted, I’ll bet you don’t even have wet dreams. What I’d give to have a wet dream again.”
The TV clicked off and the young man stood in the entrance to the kitchen glaring at his grandfather.
“Do you have any concept of personal space? Limits? Why don’t you understand I don’t want to discuss this?”
“I know you don’t, but we’ve already talked about dinner, how your mother would bitch at me for throwing my hat, so what’s left? Sex is always a good topic with guys.” The old man smiled broadly and held his hands out to his grandson, “Besides, you’re my grandson, I want to know you!”
“Knowing me doesn’t include my sexual turn-ons, Grandpa.”
“Well, sure it does. No need to be embarrassed, we all have them; and I’m glad to know you weren’t left out! Besides, asking what you look for in a person doesn’t have to be T&A. Your grandmother had the smallest rack on three continents, but she could make me laugh more than Jack Benny could. She just had a natural way about her. Where does a sense of humor rate for you, eh?”
“That would be a plus,” the youth replied as he walked to the coffee machine and made his own cup.
“Well, funny is a good start. Someone with some self confidence, some drive right? Smart, cause stupid funny isn’t really all that funny, and it gets old. Like your Aunt Gertrude.”
“She’s not that old,” The young man said as he sat at the kitchen table.
“Smart as a rock though. She gets lost in her own closet.”
“She’s not that bad, Grandpa,” The young man smiled in spite of his statement.
“Oh yeah? Her mechanic charges her to refill her headlight fluid twice a year.” Grandpa gave the boy a knowing look.
“But cars don’t…oh, come on.” The boy waved his hand at his grandfather.
“No, really, the woman has maybe two brain cells left and they are constantly fighting one another.”
They both chuckled and sipped their coffee.
“Hey, maybe if we unplug the stove we can get Chinese tonight.” The old man‘s eyes narrowed and his brow furrowed in thought.
“You tried that last week.”
“Hmm. Did it work?” he asked hopefully.
“Damn. What about Colleen’s brother, Aiden? Is he your type? You never did say what your type is, really.”
“Grandpa,” the young man sighed, “I’ll know him when I meet him, ok?”
“Well, Aiden isn’t a bad guy. I’m not sure if he’s got the whole bathing concept down yet, but he’s fairly cheerful.”
“He also looks like a walking slab of meat,” the young man mumbled.
“Yeah. He doesn’t seem to get the reference when I call him Mongo. Course, I’m not sure I remember it either,” The old man winked. A smile broke on his grandson’s face.
“He is pretty stupid at that.” He agreed.
“Cooper, how about I order pizza and you just play dumb? In fact you can go to the bathroom or something and I’ll order it, that way we can dodge the casserole. What do you say my boy?”
“I say no, grandpa. I swear, you would get me in so much trouble.” Cooper shook his head and drained his coffee cup.
“Cooper Michael, where is your spirit of adventure? Your joie de vive? Grow some balls my boy!”
“No, and not because I’m scared. Do you have any idea what the bathroom smells like after you’ve had pizza?”
“I use spray,” his grandfather mumbled.
“So? Just smells like you shit on a flower,” Cooper snorted.
“Well, a man can’t live on casserole and water alone.”
After a moment of silence they both burst out laughing. Cooper stood and brought the coffee pot over to the table, refilling both cups. After bringing half and half to the small table, they set about sipping their hot brew in silence.
“So not an admirer of muscles eh? You into fat people? What do they call em, chubby chasers? Sounds like all gays if you ask me. Get it? Chubby?”
“Jokes are so much funnier when you don’t explain them, except that one. It was lame, and no I do not find fat people inherently attractive.”
“I knew a guy, back in the Navy. What was his name?” He took a sip of his coffee, and then puckered his cheeks in and out while he knotted his brows in thought. “Oh, doesn’t matter, but he liked the porkers; the more flab, the more he wanted em. I never understood it. I figured one day he’d get eaten by one of those heifers or get some kinda serious injury from them riding him or something. Broken back, I dunno…those girls he liked had enormous tits though. No real form, all dappled like, but huge.”
“Thanks, Grandpa, I no longer need dinner…ever.”
“Hey, maybe we could hide the tuna and suggest pizza?”
“You have no balls, my boy.”
Cooper snorted but otherwise didn’t respond. The electric clock hummed, a very small background noise in the otherwise quiet house.
“What about those hairy guys with the leather chaps that don’t cover their cheeks?”
“Um, eww?” Cooper shivered slightly before draining his coffee cup.
“How about hair color then? Must be ok if it’s on their head right? Or do you like bald guys?”
“No!” Cooper stood up and headed to the sink to deposit his cup, “I do not like hairy guys, old guys, or bald guys. I’m not into fat, overmuscled, or anorexic boys who play with their mothers mascara. I don’t like idiots who think too much or too little, I don’t like sluts who don’t value themselves or their partner and I absolutely,” he set his cup down forcefully in the metal sink, “positively,” he turned to face his grandfather, “do not want to have this conversation!”
The old man observed his grandson from his seat at the kitchen table, sipping his coffee and noting the lines of tension as the boy leaned against the counter.
“Well, that settles it!” The old man stood abruptly and Cooper looked at him warily. “I am not having casserole tonight. I’m just not interested.”
Cooper shot a glare at his grandfather over his coffee cup. “I’ll tell you what, grandpa. I’m going to go upstairs and let you order that pizza without my knowledge, but then you drop this crap about what I’m interested in. Deal?”
“I’m thinking sausage, peppers, and onions,” he muttered to himself.
“Gotta remind ‘em to go easy on the sauce, it’s not soup!”
“What Cooper, why are you screaming?” the old man squinted at him.
“I said, do we have a deal?”
“Of course, anything you like. What were we talking about?”
“Derrick, how's the coffee today love?”
“Um...aromatic?” he smiled at his grandmother.
“Tea then, please. How was your night? Anything fun?” She settled into the chair at the diner counter and plopped her hat on the vacant seat next to her, and then dropped her gloves on the hat almost as an afterthought.
“White tea, green tea...”
She glared at him over her glasses, “Tea, tea smart ass.”
He dutifully got her tea and placed it in front of her, then grabbed a cleaning rag and pretended to look busy. Rule number on with his boss was 'If you have time to lean, you have time to clean'. One of the cooks had taught him perhaps a better one, 'perception is reality', so as long as Derrick looked as though he were busy cleaning, he was...in his bosses eyes.
“So! What happened at the club last night?” His grandmother added a teaspoon of sugar to the slowly steeping hot water.
“Same thing every week, Gram. some old guy tried to pick me up.”
“Old? How old?”
“I don't know, maybe thirty?”
“Oh yes, that's too old for you. Why can't you meet a nice boy near your age?”
“Search me. Mom know you escaped?”
“I doubt she knows yet. That afternoon shift nurse was going through Gilda Radenbacher's purse and Gilda caught her. Of course they'll never believe Gilda, they'll say she's half senile and dismiss the whole thing. But it was quite a hullabaloo and I slipped out while that was going on.”
“Clever,” he smiled at her. “What are your plans?”
“I'm meeting my gentleman caller here in about ten minutes, love. I'm not sure where we're going.”
He stopped wiping the counter and gave her his best stern look. “Grandma, he's a bad influence; you're going to get caught and then in trouble.”
“Oh, pooh. What can they do to me? Park me in a home? Claim I can't take care of myself? Too late.” She waved a hand at him and he rolled his eyes.
“Don't roll your eyes love, you look like an ass when you do. Be a dear and get me a napkin.”
“I'm serious Gram,” he said while handing over the napkin, “that guy is trouble. I see you putting that vodka in your tea; that's disgusting.”
“I try to get you to avert your eyes. Alcohol is evil, even if I need it once in a while. As far as my gentleman caller is concerned, well, it's fun; he's a mystery!”
“A mystery? What do you mean?”
“Well, forty years ago I knew what all men were after. I'm sure that's not what he's after, so I can't help but wonder what exactly he IS after. A mystery!” She sipped her tea, muttering in pleasure.
“No mystery, he's a trouble maker. Condoms in the church drop box?”
She snorted, “The priest was apoplectic and don't look at me like that, you're just mad you didn't think of it first!”
“That's not true, “ he said with a smile.
“Oh, go on. I'll bet you retell these stories behind my back.”
“Yeah, my renegade grandmother, that's a pick up line if I ever heard one. Hey, it might work with the guys that have been hitting on me.”
“Don't you dare. It can't last that way, you need someone your own age.”
“Like you and that trouble guy?”
“His name is Chapman, Robert Cooper Chapman. He prefers Chappie.”
“Well just watch out that Chappie doesn't get you in big trouble. If I think you're actually going to be in any danger I'll tell mom.”
“You wouldn't! Oh Derrick, that's simply mean to say!”“Safety before fun Gram, so keep him on a short leash.” Derrick gazed at her sternly before smiling. His Grandmother had been breaking out of her assisted care facility almost as soon as his mom had her put there. In fact his mother and his grandmother didn't speak, or rather his grandmother refused to speak to her daughter over what was referred to as 'The Betrayal'.
“Oh, here he is. How does my hair look?”
“Relax Gram, he's not after that, remember?”
“Mouth!” She turned from him to greet Chappie and shortly afterward departed on his arm, Chappie tossing a sly wink to Derrick. Derrick placed his hands on his hips and sighed at them, hoping whatever they did was done without getting caught.
“Chappie,” she murmured to him as they walked down the sidewalk in the brisk February air, “I'm worried about Derrick.”
“Whatever for Gracie? He looks like a nice boy, treats you right. He's not into drugs is he?”
“Oh, no, nothing like that. He's into other boys but he can't seem to find any his age. I do so want him to find a happy relationship, but I have to admit I don't know how to go about helping him.”
“Another one huh? You asked him if he likes tits?”
“No. Well,” she blushed, “yes. We have a very candid relationship, always have actually. He said he preferred his breasts smaller than most men, in fact he liked them flat and called pecs. Took me a few minutes to get my head around to what he meant, but Chappie he's such a wonderful boy, I just hate to see him go to those clubs and the old men paw at him, it's criminal!”
The paused in silence while waiting for the light to signal them to cross. Chappie patted her hand and smiled, “I have just the thing, don't you worry your pretty head. Right now lets concentrate on the task at hand!”
“Oh, what are we doing today?”
“You know how kids used to put dog crap in a paper sack and light it on fire on someone's stoop, hoping they'd stomp on it to put it out?” He pulled a paper bag from his coat pocket, “Want to see if it still works?”
Cooper slid behind the wheel with a sigh. His grandfather held the fender for balance as he made his way to the passenger side of the car. Cooper adjusted the seat and mirror after starting the engine. The passenger door opened and the cool afternoon air blew through the cab.
“Thanks Cooper, I appreciate this. Totally forgot,” he muttered.
“It’s no problem Grandpa, you really should write down your appointments on the calendar. You’re lucky I was home,” Cooper replied.
“I should, you’re right. When you’re right you’re right. This particular fellow, well if you miss an appointment, takes months to get in to see him again. I think that’s why I forgot, I made the appointment months ago.”
Cooper pulled into traffic, humming with the radio. His grandfather hummed, stealing glances at his grandson. He admired the hereditary features in Cooper that had worked so well for him in his youth, especially the dimples that didn’t require a smile to be seen.
“What?” Cooper asked.
“You have a booger, very weird color.” Chappie opened the glove box and pulled a napkin out, “Here, it’s creeping me out.”
Cooper took the napkin uncertainly while trying to look at his nose in the rearview mirror. His grandfather reached out and pushed the mirror out of whack. “It’s better you don’t see. Be scarred for life,” he opined.
Cooper glared at his grandfather. “What are you up to?”
“I have no idea what you mean. Would you hurry please? I don’t want to be late.”
The young man drove on in silence, no longer humming with the radio. His grandfather was definitely up to something, some sort of trap. He looked at the old man with suspicion in his eyes and his grandfather pointedly ignored him, looking out the window.
The rest of the ride to the doctor‘s office was filled with ominous silence. It continued as they crossed the parking lot and entered the building. His grandfather suddenly shifted gears and became chipper, a spring in his step while Cooper walked beside him knowing he was being played for a sucker somewhere. They stepped up to the elevator and his grandfather began to whistle softly. The elevator doors opened and his grandfather stepped into the elevator just as a young woman tried to step off and they collided.
“Oh! I’m sorry!” she apologized to him.
“No you’re not. I’m not either,” he said with a wink.
“I guess I don’t need to ask if you’re all right.” The young lady rolled her eyes, smiled and walked away.
“Pervert,” Cooper muttered.
“Oh, come on. Little incidental contact never hurt anyone. Besides, did you see the rack on her?”
“How could you miss them? They could cut glass!”
“Grandpa, shut up about her tits!”
Cooper seemed to be cursed with bad luck today. It began with the so called forgotten doctors appointment, continued with the certainty his grandfather was up to something , and was made a hundred times worse with the realization that an elderly couple heard him blurt ‘tits’ as the elevator doors had opened.
He walked quickly in embarrassment as his grandfather snickered beside him. “You know I’m supposed to be the immature one.”
“Yeah, instead you act like you’re the one about to kick the bucket. I have more life, more fun than you and your mother combined. You two take no chances, never stop to smell the roses. Sure, once in a while a dog crapped near the flowers, but you can never smell the sweet scent of the rose if you never even try.”
So saying he opened the door to the doctor‘s office and strolled to the front counter. Cooper stood a few feet back from his grandfather as the weight of his words hit home. He spent a lot of time complaining about how childish his grandfather was, but in fact he seemed pretty darned happy.
“Hello Jennifer! How’s your mother?” Chappie greeted the receptionist.
“Hello Chappie, she’s just fine thank you.”
“You ready to leave your husband and run away with me?”
“You’re not running anywhere!” she giggled.
“But you’re ready to leave him for me? About time.”
“Oh, stop. Did you just come in to harass me today?”
“Well, no that’s not the only reason. I have a two o’clock appointment.”
“Really? I didn’t see your name, let me double check.” She turned to her computer and began tapping keys. “No, sorry Chappie. I don’t see an appointment for you until next month. Is there anything wrong?”
Chappie looked at her in confusion before he replied slowly, “No, nothing wrong.” He hesitated, “Well how about a reminder card for that appointment Jen?”
“Sure Chappie,” she said quietly and pulled a card out to copy the information down on. Cooper felt like crap seeing the old man embarrassed in public.
Chappie turned from the desk with a muttered thanks and headed back towards the door. Cooper fell into step behind him, unsure what to say.
“It happens, you know. Forgetting. They say three things go one right after the other. Memory and,” he scrunched up his face before spreading his hands out, “I forget the other two.”
“It’s okay gramps, shit happens.”
“It does. Just be happy I remember to go to the bathroom instead of in my pants, though they say that happens too. I wonder if that’s number two? Or three? No, it makes sense for it to be number two, don’t you think?”
“You’re a piece of work, grampa.”
“I am. You know what I could go for a piece of?”
“Don’t say it!”
“What? I was gonna say pie. I know a little diner around the corner, . I meet my lady friend there sometimes. They have great pie.”
“You have a lady friend?” Cooper asked as they re-entered the elevator. “Wait, not only should I not be surprised, I should be proud and I do not want to know anything else!” he laughed.
“That’s right, at my age you should be proud of me!” he chuckled as well and then cast a serious eye on his grandson. “You should laugh more, it suits you.”
“I’ll try,” Cooper promised. The elevator doors opened and they strolled through the lobby. “So what kind of pie?”
“Oh, apple, pumpkin but my favorite is cherry. Sweet cherry pie.”
“We still talking pastry?”
“Do you want to know if we’re not?” Chappie smiled.
“No!” Cooper laughed. They walked in companionable silence down the sidewalk, making small talk until they reached the diner.
“Oh, look, my lady friend is here. This is lucky, you’ll like her, her name is Grace.” Chappie enthused.
“Ok,” Cooper replied with a smirk. So his grandfather just wanted him to meet his lady friend. Why didn’t he just say so?
“Gracie, hello gorgeous!” Chappie called out as he entered the diner. The lady at the counter turned and rewarded Chappie‘s greeting with a wide grin.
Chappie strolled to Grace and planted a kiss on her cheek. “How’s the pie today?”
“I don’t know, but Derrick says the coffee is smelly again.”
“I said aromatic Gram, smelly makes it sound bad.” The young man said as he walked through the swinging door from the back room.
Grace waved her hand as if it made no difference.
“Hello Derrick! How’s the pie?” Chappie said as he took a seat next to Grace at the counter.
“Freshly delivered this morning, which one you want today?”
“Cherry, what else?” Chappie smiled toothily and turned his attention to Grace. Cooper slipped his coat off and sat down next to his grandfather.
“What can I get you?” Derrick asked him.
“Um,” Cooper replied.
“Oh, he doesn’t like cherry pie Derrick. Give him blueberry or apple—any fruit but cherry, and hot chocolate to go with it. Chocolate makes that crease in his forehead relax.”
Cooper glared at his grandfather whose attention had already returned to Grace. He suddenly jumped up with a look of panic, “Holy cow Gracie, we have to go!”
“We do? Where are we going?”
“It’s Thursday, the priest has question and answer at Our Lady of Perpetual Motion or something and I want to know, if we were made in God’s image…what does God need with a belly button?”
“Chappie!” Grace covered her mouth with her hand to hide her giggle.
“Quick! Cooper, I’ll be back. I can’t believe I almost forgot question and answer day.” He hustled Grace out the door and left Cooper, mouth open, at the counter.
“You know, he never actually has pie. He makes some small talk, then he sweeps my grandmother out of here on some hair brained scheme. He’s a bad influence.”
Cooper turned to face Derrick, settling on his warm eyes. “Yeah, he sure has fun though.”
“So…you hit any of the clubs?” Derrick asked, “I’ve never seen you.”
“Yeah…you’re gay right? Your grandfather said you didn’t like cherry pie, said you liked fruit…not exactly subtle.”
Coopers face colored, “Oh my god, he did say that didn’t he?”
Derrick chuckled as he busied himself behind the counter collecting a piece of apple pie and then a cup of hot chocolate and placing them in front of Cooper.
“I’m sorry if that was forward, your grandfather is so up front I assumed it ran in the family. Are you not out?”
Cooper fidgeted a moment, remaining silent a moment too long.
“I’m sorry, forget I said anything. Enjoy your pie.”
Derrick turned to walk away and Cooper heard his grandfathers voice echoing in his head, how he had more fun than Cooper and his mother combined.
“I’m out, yeah. Sorry I got quiet, I just…my grandfather…”
Derrick turned and smiled at him, “Yeah, he’s a piece of work.”
“Yeah, you have no idea.”
Derrick picked up a rag and began wiping the counter. “So you don’t go to the clubs?”
“Um, no. I never tried, really. I thought maybe I’d meet someone in college but,” he spread his hands out.
“Yeah, you go to Harrison?”
“Me too. Their Gay Group is so lame; there’s more grads there trying to hook up with young guys than there are young guys.” They both laughed.
“I know, I think a professor hit on me the only time I went there. What’s up with that?”
“It’s the same things at the clubs, old guys are always hitting on me,” Derrick replied.
Cooper took a bite of his pie and then dared to take a long, appraising look at Derrick. He was tall, slim with dark hair that curled. He had dark green eyes that held warmth and a ready smile.
“Yeah, I can see that happening. This is so weird though, like total chance to meet you,” Cooper said before dropping his fork with a clatter.
“What, everything ok? The pie suck?”
“He faked it. He knew he didn’t have a doctor‘s appointment. He set me up!” Cooper muttered.
“Oh, holy crap, that was you?” Derrick’s eyes lit up with recognition.
“What do you mean?”
“Chappie…” Derrick burst out laughing as he thought of his grandmother and her gentleman caller conspiring to interfere in their grandchildren’s lives to fix them up.
“We’ve been set up.” Cooper shook his head.
“Yeah. Well,” Derrick leaned forward on the counter on his elbows as he took a closer look at Cooper. Short brown hair contrasted with his light skin and hazel eyes. “Shame to let all that effort go to waste, don’t you think? I get done in a half an hour; want to catch a movie or walk in the mall or something?”
“You mean…Yeah,” Cooper smiled, “I’d like that.”
“Hard to believe it took two old folks to introduce us.”
“He’s laughing about this right now,” Cooper scowled.
“Maybe we’ll get the last laugh?”
“Maybe,” Cooper smiled shyly and sipped his hot chocolate.
“I’ll give Chappie this much, he knows you.”
“What do you mean?”
“One sip of hot chocolate and your forehead smoothed right out.”