“Thank you for helping me load the car on the trailer,” I said to my dad once we had the ‘57 Corvette loaded on the back. It was the buy of a lifetime. I almost wanted to take a picture of it and text it to Eric just to rub it in. When we were done with that Vette it was going to sell for $100,000 no problem. The best part was that I only paid a quarter of that. Even with the upgrades to it, I was looking at most likely thirty grand in profit.
I was going to need it too, since I had a grandchild on the way. That little bit of information was still sinking in. It would get real to me when I saw an ultrasound picture. Madi had an appointment for the next day. My son was grounded until Monday for cutting school, with the exception of work and I was going to let him go to the doctor’s appointment.
“No problem. You know I’m always free to help.”
“Well I figured since this was your contact, it was only fair to let you come along.” We headed for the truck cab and I climbed up behind the wheel of the F-350. “You hungry? Spending that kind of money always makes me hungry.”
“You know I can always eat,” he chuckled. “Soup’s On, or somewhere else?”
“The price is right at Soup’s On,” I shrugged. Plus the chicken fingers would blow your balls off. I was pretty sure they were dusted with crack when they came out of the fryer.
“I could always go for a good burger there,” he nodded.
I waited until we were on the highway before I lowered the boom on him.
“There’s something else I need to tell you,” I said as I drove along. “You’re gonna be a great-grandpa.”
“I’m gonna be a what?”
“Josh’s girlfriend is pregnant. They told me on Tuesday. They’re going to keep it. The best part is that his girlfriend is Eric Northman’s daughter.”
“Are you fuckin’ kidding me?” Dad didn’t curse often. He was in just as much shock as I was.
“Nope, not even a little bit.”
“Jesus,” he sighed. “I thought we taught him better than that. Northman know?”
“Yeah he knows. I think the only reason he didn’t pull a gun on Josh was because I was there when he found out,” I replied. “He’s still butthurt that I’m better at this business than he is.”
“No offense, but I get where he’s at. I would have happily murdered Ben when you told me you were pregnant with Josh.”
“I remember. I haven’t seen or heard from Ben in a few months so I don’t know what he’s up to. Last I heard he was dating someone.” I didn’t really care what Ben was doing, to be honest.
“Do you think he’s going to say anything when he finds out Josh is in the same boat he was in?”
“Nothing of any significant value. Josh wants to stick it out and raise the baby with Madi, his girlfriend, and Ben wanted to fuck around with other women while I was nine months pregnant.” They were essentially nothing alike, and I was damn grateful for it.
“You like her? The girl?”
“She seems like a sweet kid. I don’t really know her well enough to know if I do. Josh loves her.” As far as I knew he hadn’t been in love with any of his other girlfriends.
“So she must be something special. Do you think you and Northman are going to be able to put aside your rivalry for that baby?”
“I don’t think we’re going to have much of a choice.” If he wasn’t such a pain in the ass, we’d get along a lot better.
“Babies are little miracle workers,” he chuckled. “Well, I’d like to meet the Northman girl and have a talk with your boy.”
“I’ll have him give you a call and set something up. He’s grounded right now for skipping school on Tuesday.”
“Why did he skip class?”
“Pregnant girlfriend, I guess.”
“You should cut him some slack. I think finding out your girlfriend is pregnant is a good excuse,” Dad said.
“He could have told me he needed the day instead of just disappearing, and since when do you condone cutting school? You used to make me go with a fever of 102 and the chills.”
“I’m getting softer in my old age,” he shrugged.
“Boy do I feel cheated,” I snickered.
“Just wait until the new baby is here. You think Josh has it easy…”
“You are a sucker for anything that hasn’t grown teeth yet.”
“You’ll see what it’s like once this baby is born. You’re going to want to spoil it rotten.”
“I’m sure I will,” I agreed. “I’m proud of Josh for stepping up and being supportive like he should be. I must have done something right since it never occurred to him to run away from the problem.”
“If he’s in love with the girl he doesn’t see it as a problem. He sees it as a way to stay with her forever. But, you are doing a really good job with him. I’m proud of the man he’s becoming.”
“Most of the time I’m pretty sure I’m going to screw him up. I thought I’d get over that feeling by his teen years.” It had gotten worse, as a matter of fact. My mission statement as a mom was to raise an outstanding adult. I hoped I was succeeding at it.
“Nah, you never outgrow that. I’m still scared I’m going to mess something up for you and your brother.”
That wasn’t very comforting.
I didn’t realize we were so low on gas, but the dang indicator light came on a few miles down the road. Rather than needing a tow truck to come tow us, I pulled off at the next exit. The truck stop was used to accommodating semis, so my truck with the trailer hitched did just fine.
“You want anything from inside?” I asked Dad before I jumped down.
“Nope. I’m preparing for that burger,” he chuckled.
I laughed too. Daddy’s constitution didn’t allow him to pass up a good burger, especially if it was free and he didn’t have to cook it.
I reached into my bag for a credit card, and walked the few steps back to get to the gas tank. At least gas prices had gone down. While the tank filled I stood there humming Carrie Underwood’s newest song. Someone called my name. I turned my head, and spotted Eric Northman coming toward me.
“What do you want, Northman?” Probably to try to buy the Vette off the back of my truck.
“I was getting gas and thought it would be rude to not say hello to my grandbaby’s other grandparent,” he replied with a little smirk.
“Since when do you care about being rude?”
“Since our children decided to literally sleep with the enemy.” He walked over to the Vette to check it out.
“It’s a ‘57,” I said, rather than commenting on the kids.
“I know,” he said. “In case you forgot I’ve been in the car game longer than you’ve probably been alive, Stackhouse.”
So much for not being rude.
“I doubt it, unless you’re in your seventies.”
“I’ve been tinkering and working on cars with my dad since I could walk,” he said. “I wasn’t talking about the business, I was talking about cars.”
“Yeah, so was I. You think I learned this stuff by osmosis?” I noticed Dad’s door open on the truck.
“So I don’t need you to tell me what I’m looking at.”
“Northman,” Daddy nodded.
“Hello, Mr. Stackhouse.” At least he had some manners.
“How’s your dad?”
“He’s doing well, thank you. Has Sookie told you the news?”
“Going to be interesting,” Eric finished for him.
It was going to be a disaster.
Madi seemed to be a nice kid, but they were kids. Of course they were in love. A good breeze could cause a couple of kids to fall in love. My gut said that what they had wouldn’t last forever. Eventually, both of them would come to that realization and move on to other people. They were just too damn young to know where life was going to take them.
While Eric walked around the Corvette, I got the gas nozzle returned to the pump. I got a receipt to return to Remy, the accountant, and then I had to pull the plug on Eric’s perusal of the old beauty screaming for a makeover.
“Well, we should be going,” I said.
“It was nice to see you again, Mr. Stackhouse. I’m sure we’ll see each other soon. I will be sure to tell my dad you said hello,” Eric said to my father.
“See you later.” Dad patted his arm before he headed back to the truck.
“It was nice seeing you again,” Eric said to me even though neither one of us believed that line.
“Likewise,” I replied, sounding equally as fake. I pocketed my credit card and receipt before turning toward the driver’s side door. Dad started the truck before I got in to get the air conditioning going. “You know, it’s amazing his kid is nice with how big of a wet fart he is.”
Dad chuckled and said, “Just because you don’t like him, it doesn’t mean he’s not a good dad.”
“You can be a great parent and still have your kid turn out to be a shit.” I put the truck in drive. We both knew trying to control a kid’s personality was damn near impossible. I loved my brother, but he was a perfect example of what I meant.
“He may not be as bad as you think he is,” Dad shrugged. “You two are going to have to get along eventually.”
“We will, as soon as he lapses into a coma.”
Daddy just shook his head but didn’t respond.
We got to the shop twenty minutes later. Dad got out to go check out the Galaxie while I got the Corvette off the trailer. Tray came out of the shop to check out my latest buy, and the smile on his face told me he was very happy with it.
“She looks good,” Tray said as he walked around the car.
“I haven’t seen an untouched one in this good of a condition in… maybe ever,” I said. The paint job on it wasn’t even terrible, but the body definitely needed some work. It wouldn’t be too hard for Tray to fix up. The real fun part for him would be under the hood. “She runs, too.”
“Maybe I should take her for a spin?”
“Well, that’s where it gets tricky. No keys,” I told him.
“And?” he said with an arched eyebrow.
“I know you can hot wire it,” I laughed. “That’s just not as easy as a key.”
“It is for me,” he shrugged. Tray opened the driver door so he could check out the interior.
If he actually fit behind the wheel, I’d be impressed. Tray was a big man. The Corvette… well, it wasn’t that big, and since it was a hard top, there was no jumping in and sliding down. If he wanted to try, I’d be more than willing to stand there and watch him try to fold himself into it. The other guys started to trickle out to check out the car.
“You ready to go eat?” I asked Dad. There was plenty of time to fawn over the new toy later.
“You know it. My stomachs been growling for an hour.”
“Alright. Let’s let these grease monkeys play with the new girl. You want to drive or you want me to?”
I got my bag out of the truck and followed Dad to his shiny red ‘62 Ford pickup. It was a pretty truck, and part of what inspired me to get into the business I was in. I had my dad to thank for a lot of where I was.
“So… how’s Mom?” I finally asked. My relationship with my mother fell apart around the time I got divorced and decided to be a single mother. She didn’t support that decision. In her mind it was better that I put up with Ben cheating on me every chance he got than put an end to the marriage. She smoked, drank, and cussed like a sailor, but it was my divorce that could jeopardize her afterlife. Her ridiculous religious views had never rubbed off on me, and ultimately they had driven me away.
“She’s still your mom. Nothing has changed there,” he sighed. “She’s never going to change. You know that.”
“I know that. I’m not even expecting her to anymore, Dad. If she hasn’t by now, it’s a lost cause. I don’t know how you stay with her.”
I knew Dad loved her. If he didn’t, his staying didn’t make a whole lot of sense. She was just the most judgmental, selfish person I’d ever met. It was in direct conflict with her religion, but good luck getting her to see that.
“I love the woman, even with all of her faults,” he told me.
That was his stock answer. Not that I was trying to talk him into leaving her. I knew better than that. If Dad was happy, that was all that mattered. When she told my son at the age of six that he was going to hell because his parents weren’t married when he was conceived, I lost my shit. That was crossing a line there was no recovery from for me. Poor Josh had nightmares for weeks after she told him that. When I confronted her about it, she referred to him as a bastard.
As a kid it never occurred to me that she was so hateful, but then she wasn’t like that when I was a kid. Mom was a lot happier then. She wasn’t so tightly clinging to her bible. I didn’t know what happened to make her change, but it wasn’t really my business. My job was to protect my child, not figure out her traumas.
We pulled up to the restaurant a short time later. Of course when we walked in we were immediately shown to a table. Dad should have gotten great service anytime, but walking in with me insured that he was a priority. Of course I scanned the dining room to see how many tables were occupied. I hadn’t let Sam know we were coming, but I was sure someone went straight back to the office to tell him I was in the house.
“Should we split some onion rings, Dad?” I asked as he looked over the menu.
“That sounds good. Maybe some fried pickles, too.”
“Sounds good to me.”
Our waitress came to the table to take our drink orders. Dad got a beer and I got strawberry lemonade. We ordered the appetizers, and about five seconds after she walked away, Sam came over to check on us.
“Hey, Sam, you remember my dad, right?”
“Yeah, I remember. How are you doing, Mr. Stackhouse?”
“Doing well, Sam, doing well. How’s things here?”
“Great. Lunch service was a busy one for us today. I think that news segment did what we hoped it would,” Sam replied.
That was always good to hear. I liked when my numbers were up. It was less stressful for me if we weren’t in the red. That meant it was less stressful for Sam too.
I was thinking about buying out the lot next door to use for car shows on Friday and Saturday night. It would be a great way to boost my businesses, not to mention the other restaurants around town if they decided they wanted to sell food on-site. The portion of the entrance fee for cars could be donated to charity… it sounded like a win/win idea to me.
It was something to continue to think about. The restaurant was still new so I wanted to make sure it was really going to last and it wasn’t just a fad hot spot before I went sinking more money into another idea that might not pan out in the long run.
Meanwhile Dad and I were sitting in the dining room waiting for his burger and my chicken fingers to come out of the kitchen when Josh appeared. He still looked frazzled and fairly freaked out. I didn’t know if he’d gotten much sleep the night before. I remembered not getting a whole lot when I first found out I was pregnant, but that had more to do with morning sickness than it did worrying. Like I said, denial and naivety where a huge staple of my diet back then, so I was convinced that I’d get myself a Disney ending.
Happily ever after wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be, but I turned out just fine.
Hell, I turned out even better than I thought I would.
Considering the knocks I had against me, I was doing pretty well. I’d made my first million before I was twenty-five. I had to hustle and work a lot of hours, but it was all worth it. Josh got dragged around quite a bit, from one buy to the next, checking out cars and watching me make deals with people. I knew he didn’t have much interest in following in my footsteps, and I was okay with that. As long as he found what made him happy, I was happy. Whether that was becoming a chef and maybe someday opening his own restaurant, or figuring out something else he wanted to do with his life, I’d be okay with it.
For the moment, I was proud of him for not punking out. He could figure out the rest later.