Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fiction: A Reasonable Man

Here is a story a little different from what The Kentucky Mountain Girl News usually posts. It really caught my attention. Jack Thrift is a new author and I'm sure he would love feedback on his piece of work - so tell us what you think. Enjoy!

A Reasonable Man
By Jack Thrift
Copyright (c) 2004 by Jack Thrift

When the kid in the Camaro outside Dessie's Movietime opened his car door into Frank's Lexus, it didn't have to be a big deal. It was a simple mistake, anyone could do it. But as Frank looked at the kid, expecting an apology, the kid narrowed his eyes and puffed out his chest, a look that said, "Yeah, I hit your car - so what?"

And that did it.

The kid was all of nineteen or twenty. He was wearing low-riding shorts and a tank top that showed skinny white arms and a sweep of pimples across his shoulders. Look at his face and you saw this was the kind of kid who wanted you to think he was angry at the world and wasn't taking shit from no one. Frank looked at me.

"You want me to grab him?" I said, behind the wheel of the Lexus.

The kid stepped into the Camaro and fired the engine, setting off a humping bass beat from its stereo that vibrated the rearview mirror of the Lexus.

Frank sighed. "Nah."

I looked at him. "You serious?"

He shook his head calmly and took a sip from his can of Pabst Blue Ribbon. "I want you to follow him."

"Christ, you had me worried there."

The Camaro whipped back and tore out of the parking lot, hitting a right on Howard Avenue. I took my time backing out, and pulled into traffic about five cars behind.

"Little bastard probably damaged the door," I said.

"We can have Larry look at it, fix it up, no problem. It's the principal of the thing."

"Yeah, I hear you."

"I'm dead serious about this. Everybody and their mother's been shitting on me all the sudden. I got to do something to end that streak, know what I'm saying?"

"Yeah, I believe I do."

The Camaro was riding a Jeep's ass. When a little space opened up in the right lane, the Camaro swerved over and started bullying a Caprice. The thump of the bass made heads turn on the sidewalks. It pissed me off, this kid acting like he owned the streets. I wanted to knock some of the attitude out of him - that, and maybe some teeth.

Frank hunched over suddenly and ballooned his cheeks. I braced myself, thinking he was going to puke, but instead he opened his mouth and out came a belch like a whole yard of burlap tearing right down the center. The car filled with the sour stink of beer and stomach acids.

"Jesus Christ, Frank." I swished at the air in front of my face and lowered the window.

"Put that shit back up," he said.

I gave it a few seconds, and then raised the window. The smell was making my eyes water. Since ten o'clock this morning, Frank had been hitting the booze. I'd found him on his couch wearing his bathrobe and nothing else, splashing Wild Turkey over a glass of ice. I'd sat on a chair in front of him, trying to ignore the way his knees were spread, and suggested we take the day off, give him time to nurse his broken heart and float his liver in booze. But Frank said no. He'd be damned if he'd let some chick affect business, even if that chick happened to be the love of his life, the woman he'd let slip through his fingers because he was nothing but a lousy, selfish prick who didn't know how great he'd had it until she called it quits last night - saying all this with his chest hitching like he was holding back tears.

Then he shook his head as if to clear it and said, "Fuck it. Let's roll."

Now he was slouched a third of the way down the seat, his eyes flaring with raised capillaries, the skin of his face haggard and drooping. He'd brought himself to the brink of inebriation but couldn't seem to take the plunge, despite the number of beers he pounded. We'd been driving around for a few hours, visiting a few of our guys that worked at the pier and dropping by the state pen to say hi to his uncle doing twenty-five to thirty for armed robbery. If Justine's breaking up with him hadn't depressed him enough, seeing his uncle in the orange jumpsuit behind the glass reinforced with chicken-wire had more than done the trick. After that, all he wanted to do was rent some chick-flick called *She Loves Me, She Loves Me Not*, the one his ex, Justine, had begged him to watch with her though he never had. In his present melodramatic funk, that movie had come to represent everything he'd done wrong in their relationship; if he'd just listened to her more, done some of the things she wanted to do, maybe she never would've left him. I listened to his moping and tried not to roll my eyes.

"He's taking a right," Frank said. "Where's he going?"

"He's got a U.S.F. sticker on his back window. If he's going all the way out there, forget it. I'm not driving that far."

"The hell you're not." Frank shifted in his seat and finished the can of Pabst in three big swallows. He belched again.

I shot him a sidelong glance. "How can you drink that shit?"

"My old man used to drink this when I was growing up. He used to give me baby sips."

"All right, but do you think you can keep the can down? There's cops all over this area. Might be good to practice some discretion."

"You let me worry about discretion."

The light on Armenia and Cypress went yellow, and the Camaro shot through it. I got stuck behind a minivan and missed the light.

"Shit," I said.

"Go through it," Frank said.


Frank pounded the window with the meaty underside of his fist and said, "Go through it, you piece of shit."

I gripped the wheel tight enough to feel the muscles all the way up my arms.

My job as Frank's right-hand man included looking out for him, being his better judgment when his own brain wasn't functioning as it should. Maybe it was time to call it quits for the day, turn around. Frank would be pissed all right, but he'd get over it, and he'd probably thank me later when his thinking was clearer.

But the thing of it was - I didn't want to let the kid get away. Frank was right when he'd said everyone was shitting on him lately. Not just Justine, his ex-girlfriend, but everyone working for Carlos - they were all treating him like yesterday's news. This new crop of thugs Carlos was recruiting; they were all muscle and no tact - brutes, to use Frank's word, which had no use for the wisdom of their elders. In their presence, Frank was a dinosaur, a lumbering brontosaurus. They were the future, and Frank's days were numbered - he knew it, so did I.

I owed Frank a lot. I'd been with him for twelve years, the two of us working under Carlos the whole time. And I wanted Frank to have his moment with this punk in the Camaro. Who knew? Maybe it would be just what he needed to give him back some of his old fire.

So I pulled around the minivan and darted through the red light, causing cars on either side to scream to a halt and blare their horns. Frank grabbed the armrest and pushed himself into the seat, bracing for a crash. When we made it through, he was whooping and beating the glove compartment with his fist.

"Yeah, fuck you, too," Frank said to the other cars, and laughed.

The Camaro was a few blocks ahead, stopped at a light. I heard the engine revving, loud because of the excised muffler. I kept us back, hitting the brakes a little to let a car fill the gap between us and the Camaro.

"What're you going to do to him?" I said.

Frank furrowed his brow and hooked a finger at his lips. "I hadn't even thought about it. You bring your piece with you?"

I shook my head. "Didn't think I'd need it." I thought for a moment. "We got those tools in the trunk. We could fuck him up pretty good with those."

"What, you mean, like, torture?"

"Yeah. What?"

"Nothing," Frank said. "It's an idea." He dipped into the box between his ankles and pulled out another Pabst.

"How many is that for you?"

"Never mind. Just keep driving." He cracked the beer open and sucked off the foam that wormed out.

We passed a sign for I-275, and the Camaro moved into the right lane.

"See, I told you," I said. "He's going to U.S.F."

"So follow him."

"On the interstate?"

"Jesus, what's with you? Always with the fucking whining lately. Just do your job and stop being a bitch."

I got in the right lane a few lengths behind the Camaro. The drive to U.S.F. would take at least another fifteen minutes, probably more given that I-275 was still under construction. I got headache thinking about the traffic.

But then the kid took a right, down a side street about a block away from the on-ramp for I-275, not headed for U.S.F. after all. I eased on to the brakes and crept to the corner, so I could sneak a look down the street before I turned. The Camaro was already burning it pretty good down the road.

"There, you whining bastard," Frank said. "He ain't even going to U.S.F."

I took the right.

It was a brick road, lined on both sides by wide-porched houses with crumbling facades and parched, yellow-spotted lawns. An old black man stood by the street with a hose in his hand, directing a spray of water at a row of very dead azaleas by the sidewalk. The look on his face suggested he was well aware of the futility of what he was doing. His eyes flicked up at us as we passed, but his _expression remained fixed.

The Camaro angled to a stop down the street under a spectacular oak tree whose boughs bore down like a nimbus cloud. Under the tree's shadow, the taillights of the kid's car glowed like demon eyes. The Camaro huffed with one last rev before the engine cut and the lights winked out. The stereo ceased with its pounding bass. I parked against the curb a couple houses down the street.

"What do we do?" I said.

"We watch. I want to see what our man's doing here." He took a slurping sip of beer, made a strained face. "Christ. I got to piss."


"Well pretty goddamn soon."

The door of the Camaro opened and our boy stepped out, wearing wrap-around Oakley's. He slammed the door and hot-footed it to the porch of the house, opened the screen door and rapped his knuckles against the wood, then stepped back with his body propping the screen door open.

Frank said, "What do you think? College kid, out here in the ghetto - it's got to be drugs."

I grunted noncommittally.

The front door opened and the pale face of a teenage girl poked out. Even from this far away, I could see the piercings all over her face. Her hair was black with a purple sheen, like a crow's feathers.

"Check this out here," I said. "Kind of cute."

"She's a freak. Look at her. Who's she trying to impress with all that metal in her face?"

The girl stepped back and the kid followed her into the house, closing the door behind him.

"What now, chief?" I said.

"Let me finish my beer and think on it."

Frank slurped his beer and belched and wiped his sleeve across his glistening lips. I hit the button on the side of the seat to recline the back, just enough so I was looking up at the boiling leaves of the oak tree and the pieces of sky that filtered through the branches. This was an old Tampa neighborhood, built back in the late forties, early fifties sometime after the war when all the young couples eager to procreate and spit out babies needed starter homes. It must have been a fine sight then, the big porches full of people eating barbecue and drinking beer and laughing, happy to the point of giddy because for a while there the world had been in turmoil, but now they could go on with the act of living and being young. It made me sad for some reason. Not that the neighborhood had gone to shit - these things happened. No, it was something else.

Frank finished his beer and smashed the can in his fist. He put it back in the box between his ankles.

"You ready?" he said.

"What's the plan?"

"Grab the crowbar," he said, opening his door.

I stepped out and popped the back with the button on the key chain, then found the crowbar nestled in the hideaway under the trunk's carpeting. When I slammed the trunk, Frank was standing there, bracing himself against the side of the car. His face was red and shining with greasy sweat.

"Hey, boss," I said. "You okay?"

He mumbled something incoherent.

"Why don't you sit down - c’mon?"

I made to open his door, but he hooked me by the collar. "Don't treat me like some goddamned invalid. I'm fine, just need to catch my breath."

I waited. He straightened up and rolled his head around his shoulders, then used his thumbs to crack his knuckles one-handed. He gave me a nod.

"You sure?" I said.

"Would you shut up with that already? I'm fine."

He started off and I caught up with him.

"I'm not trying to give you shit, Frank. I'm just looking out for you. My job."

He ignored me. His breath was coming out in a ragged, bubbly wheeze that triggered a frenzied coughing. He turned his head, hocked his lungs dry, and then blew a wad of phlegm at the base of the oak tree.

"Nice," I said.

"Yeah, fuck it."

Then we were up the stairs and on the porch. We looked at each other. Frank pulled the screen door open and knocked. We waited. He knocked again.

From the other side of the door came the squeak of sneakers on hardwood. Frank motioned with his chin for me to take his place, and as I did, he moved to the side and planted his back against the wall. I combed my hair with my fingers and cleared my throat.

"Who is it?" said a young woman's voice.

"Yeah, uh, I'm sorry to trouble you ma'am, but I accidentally hit the car parked out front of your house."

She was silent a moment. Then: "The Camaro?"

"Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid so."

The slide and click of a lock disengaging; the door cracked open, and I hid the crowbar behind my back. Her face stuck out. I smiled.

She was pretty, in a pale, queen of the vampires kind of way. It was her eyes that made her lovely. They were big, soft pools with aquamarine centers. Look in those eyes and you could almost forget about the steel glinting like shrapnel from her ears, eyebrows, nose and lip.

"That's Jimmy's car," she said.


"My boyfriend." She bit the side of her lip and rolled her eyes. "Well, it's his brother's car actually. Jimmy drives a Tacoma, but it got, like, totally demolished a few weeks ago in an accident." She sprang to her tiptoes and peeked over my shoulder to get a look at the Camaro. "It doesn't look so bad. Where'd you hit it?"

"I barely nicked it," I said. "Say, do you think I could I speak with him? Your boyfriend?"

"He's taking a shower." She looked me over. I was wearing an oxford button-down and khaki chinos – Mr. Professional. She grinned and swept her arm behind her, apparently deciding I was harmless enough. "You want to come in and wait?"

Frank emerged from the shadows and displaced me with his body. The girl had time to register shock before Frank pushed her into the house. I followed them in and shut the door.

"What is this?" she said, her eyes darting from Frank to me, back and forth.

"Shut your stinking mouth," Frank said. He took the place in - dark wood floors with a mangy Oriental rug. A battered couch and a flat-screen TV. His eyes stopped at a clear acrylic bong, its bowl packed tight with fresh herb, sitting on the coffee table.

The girl was backing away from us. When she looked at me, I tried to inject some measure of apology into my eyes. But her eyes didn't stay on me long enough to catch it.

"What do you want?" she said.

Frank sighed. "What did I just tell you about your mouth?" He snapped his fingers at me and motioned for the crowbar. I gave it to him.

I was feeling juiced. Some shit was about to go down, and this time it would turn out in our favor. My blood was humming, making me itchy, ready to pound on something.

"Go get that piece of shit from the shower," Frank said to me without looking away from the girl. "I'll stay here and entertain, uh...what's your name, darling?"

Her voice didn't seem to work at first. Her lips trembling, she finally got it out: "Clarissa."

"Just relax, Clarissa," Frank said, flashing a toothy smile, "We don't intend to hurt you. Have a seat on the couch there."

I followed the sounds of splashing and singing down the hall to the bathroom. The door wasn't closed all the way, and I pushed it open enough to stick my head in.

Jimmy, our guy, was behind the shower curtain, the top of his spiky head poking up over the rod and under the spray from the showerhead. He was singing something familiar to me, and I found myself singing along in my mind, trying to get a name on the tune. I knocked on the door. Jimmy stopped singing.

"I'll be out in a second, all right, babe?"

I stepped into the steamed air and closed the door, then leaned into it and crossed my arms. Jimmy started singing again. I cleared my throat.

"Didn't you hear what I said?" Jimmy said. His head poked out from around the edge of the curtain, and his eyes went wide.

"Don't let me stop you, Jimmy," I said. "You've got a kick-ass voice."

His face pinched together in rage. "Who the fuck're you? How'd you get in?"

"You don't remember me?"

"Nah, dog, but you got like two seconds to get out 'fore I come out this motherfucker."

I was on him in two strides, snapping the curtain away, backhanding him across the cheek, twisting from the hips to make the blow really count. I knew it was a good hit because the back of my hand caught the shape of his teeth through his cheek. He made a sound - "hoomph" - and fell to the tub, grabbing the curtain and bringing it down with the popcorn sound of plastic tearing from the curtain rings. I turned off the cold water, leaving the hot valve on, and Jimmy screamed. I let him writhe and boil for a few seconds, using my foot to keep him from leaping from the tub. Then I turned the water off and told him to get up.

His eyes were squeezed shut. His teeth were bared in agony. I slapped him again on the cheek.

"Hey, fuck-o," I said. "You hear me? Get up."

He slowly rose to his feet. I averted my eyes at the sight of his dick, bright red and swollen like blood sausage. I handed him a towel, telling him to put it around him.

"Where's Clarissa?" he blubbered.

"Shut up. Let's go."

When he had the towel wrapped around him, I pushed him to the door.

"Hurry up," I said.

His head started shaking. I felt pretty certain he'd fall apart any second now. Just hold on, Jimbo, I thought. We ain't even started yet.

We found them sitting next to each other on the couch - they could have been old friends catching up were it not for the look in Clarissa's eyes and the crowbar laid across Frank's lap. Frank grinned at the sight of Jimmy.

"Hey, son, remember me?" Frank said.

"He don't remember us, Frank," I said.

"That's a shame." Frank rose and sauntered toward Jimmy, letting the end of the crowbar thump the floor with each step. Jimmy backed himself against a wall.

"I don't got the money," Jimmy blurted.

Frank and I started, looked at each other - money? I opened my mouth, but Frank stopped me with a raised finger - stopped me just in time, in fact, as I was about to say something stupid like, "What money?"

"Where is it? Where's the money?" Frank said, jumping into character so easily it made my scalp prickle.

"I told Lou, we weren't able to collect."

"I don't believe you, Jimmy."

"Jimmy?" came Clarissa's voice. "Sweetie?"

"Shut up," Frank said to her.

"Please, don't hurt him," Clarissa said, voice trembling.

"We're here for the money, Jimmy," Frank said. He lifted the crowbar, spread his legs, and took a batter's stance. "I'm going to start breaking some bones 'less you start talking."

Jimmy held out his hands and started blabbering: "I'm telling you, man, the dude didn't have the money, he just skipped town. I swear to God, you can ask Lenny, we did everything we could; we just don't know where the fucker went."

"One," Frank said.

"Okay, listen, all right?" Jimmy said. "You can take anything in this house. It's all yours. Shit, I'll help you load it into your car."


"Please, dude, put that shit down and talk to me." He was about to start crying. "Oh, man, don't do it, please."

"Three." Frank cocked the crowbar across the back of his shoulders and stepped in for a swing.

"Wait!" Clarissa launched to her feet. "I'll tell you, just don't hurt him."

Frank paused, the crowbar in a quivering hover, Jimmy holding up his hands and shrinking away in anticipation of the blow. They stayed frozen like that long enough to almost make it funny. Then Frank lowered the crowbar and worked his shoulders, saying, "That's more like it."

Jimmy slid to the floor and hugged his knees. "Don't let them take my money," he said, addressing his lap. "Oh, man, please."

"Where is it?" I said to Clarissa.

She was crying. She fell back to the couch.

"Hey," I said, moving toward her. "Look at me." She did. "Where's the money, or my boss here's going to bust open your boyfriend's head."

Through her tears, she said, "It's unner-a huss."

Frank and I looked at each other, shrugged.

"You mind repeating that?" Frank said.

She took a breath. "It's under the house."

"You mean, like, under the house?" I said.

She nodded.

Frank turned to Jimmy. "Why don't you show me where, big boy." To me: "You stay here with the lady, keep your eye on her."

Jimmy turned his head up at Frank. "You're not going to take all the money, are you?"

Frank smirked. "That's a ridiculous question and I'm not even going to answer it. Now get up." Frank prodded him with the crowbar.

I sat on the couch next to Clarissa as Frank steered Jimmy in his towel out the front door.

After a moment, Clarissa said, "Are you going to kill us?" Her eyes had gone soft and distant, focused ahead of her on nothing.

I shook my head. "Long as Jimmy shows my boss where it's stashed, you got nothing to worry about."

She propped her elbows on her knees and lowered her forehead to her palms.

“Don't expect me to feel sorry for you," I said. "This is the chance you take when you keep money that's not yours."

She didn't say anything. I leaned back and crossed my feet over the coffee table.

"This is none of my business," I said. "But your boyfriend is a real shit."

She sniffed.

"You're a pretty girl, you know? You could do a lot better than Jimmy."

She lifted her head and glared at me. "Fuck you, okay? You can take the money, fine. You can hurt us if you want, okay. But spare me your fucking advice."

It caught me off guard, the way she said that. "All right. Take it easy."

Her eyes were still brimming with venom. "We had plans for that money, you know. We were going to start a new life, get away, far away from people like you. Not that you care about it."

"If it makes any difference, I regret doing this to you. Your boyfriend on the other hand...¦" I stabbed my finger in the direction of the door. "He's got it coming."

She turned away, looking disgusted. For a while, we just sat there. I could hear Frank's voice filtering through the cracked window behind the couch, but I couldn't make out the words.

Clarissa stirred beside me, and all of the sudden, I had this impulse to put my arm around her. Strange, I know, but I wanted to tell her it'd be all right. My chest felt tight. I traced the outline of her body with my eyes. I leaned toward her, not much, just enough to catch the smell of pot smoke and banana shampoo coming from her hair.

"There's something you should know," I said. "About me and my boss and how we got involved with your boyfriend."

She held up a hand. "I don't even want to hear about it."

I wanted to tell her anyway, but before I could get another word out, Jimmy came through the front door with Frank tailing him, the crowbar resting on his shoulder, a gym bag carried at his side. They were both dirty, presumably from rooting around under the house. Jimmy had a look on his face like a man who's just discovered his whole family disowned him. He sat down in an overstuffed chair by the TV and crossed his arms, his bony knees jutting up from under the towel.

"Have a look," Frank said to me.

I stepped over to him and peeked into the gym bag. It was full of bills, all twenties from the look of it. There must have been a hundred grand there, at least. For a few seconds, I couldn't breathe.

Frank clapped me on the shoulder and handed me the bag. He regarded Jimmy with a wide grin and nudged me with his elbow. "Well, what do you say? Think it's time for the punch line?"

I looked at Clarissa, then at Frank.

"You want to tell him?" Frank said. "Or me."

"You go ahead," I said.

Frank beamed. He took a few leisurely steps around the room, his eyes on Jimmy. "You ready to shit yourself, Jimmy?"

"Look, dude," Jimmy said wearily, "do what you got to do, I don't care anymore. You going to break my legs, beat me up, whatever."

"Jimmy, listen to me," Frank said. "Are you listening?" Jimmy looked at him. "Good. Now look at my partner and look at me very closely. Do we look the least bit familiar to you?"

He shrugged. "I don't know."

"I drive a gray Lexus. Ring any bells?"

Jimmy looked confused. He shook his head, but in his eyes I could see it, the creeping realization.

"How about this," Frank said. "The video store on Howard. You returned some movies there today."

It hit him. His furrowed brow went smooth. "No shit!"

Frank spread his arms and grinned.

"What?" Clarissa said. "What's he talking about?"

Frank said, "Do you want me to explain Jimmy?" He turned to Clarissa. "I'll explain. The thing is - we didn't know shit about your money until Jimmy opened his stupid mouth about it ten minutes ago. We're here because your jerk-off boyfriend opened his car door into my Lexus and then proceeded to act like an ass about it."

Jimmy's hand went to his forehead, hiding his eyes. "Oh, Christ," he said.
"Know something, son?" Frank said. "I'm a reasonable man. If you'd've been decent about it, apologized for banging my car, offered to pay for any scrapes, we never would've followed you, and me and my associate here wouldn't be walking out with your money. But no, you had to be a tough guy, have an attitude about it." He looked at Clarissa. "This is the kind of boyfriend you have, darling. Remember that."

Jimmy was looking at his lap and shaking his head.

Frank looked at me and angled his head at the door. "You ready?"

I nodded. "Yeah, let's hit it."

As I walked through the front door, I cast one last look at Clarissa. She was hugging herself and looking at the floor.

"Take it easy," I said, for some reason, and she blinked her eyes.

Back in the car, Frank released a victory howl and pounded his fists on the ceiling. We looked at each other and smiled and then laughed, and soon we couldn't stop laughing. I had trouble inserting the key into the ignition through the blur of tears in my eyes. On the way down the street, we passed the same black man watering the same dead azaleas, and he gave us the same blank look.

Frank talked my ear off the whole way home. I'd never seen him so animated. He talked about old times and how he wished his associates from way back when could've been there at Jimmy's place to see him in action.

"How much you think is in there?" I said, patting the gym bag in my lap.

He shrugged. "We'll count it and split it up back at my place."

I stared at the bag. "I don't want any of it." I thought Frank would flinch, but he didn't.

"You'll get your share. I'm not going to argue about this."

"Neither am I," I said.

I coasted to a stoplight. Frank dropped his hands to his lap. He shook his head slowly.

"Take the money," I said. "Go down to the Keys or somewhere. Enjoy yourself."

”Retire," he said.

I didn't object at the term. What passed between us then was an unspoken understanding that came from years of working together. He smiled, but his eyes remained distant.

"This ain't exactly enough to retire on, you know," he said.

"Try to contain your gratitude," I said. "And don't act like you haven't been saving up to quit the business. Just think of this money as the icing on the rest you got stashed away."

He grunted. After a while, he said, "What about you?"

"Me, I'll be fine. Carlos still needs me. Besides, it's past time I started doing things on my own."

The light turned green.

"Maybe you're right," he said. "Plus, I like to end things on a high note, and what could be better than what we accomplished today." He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. "Christ, you'd better hit the gas a little more. I got to piss like you wouldn't believe."

"One thing I was wondering about," I said, pulling forward. "At the house back there. I figured you'd've broke Jimmy's jaw or at least worked him over a little. You barely touched him."

"I didn't have to. I took away his money. I made him look like a fool in front of his lady. He'll probably never recover from it."

I saw his point. "So what's on the docket now?" I said.

"Now? Now we go back to my place and watch the chick-flick I rented."

"Nuh-uh, I don't want to watch that shit."

"You're going to watch it with me and you're going to enjoy it on as many levels as I do." He laughed. "I may be old, but I can still mop the floor with you."

"Yeah. Right." I smiled back at him grudgingly. "You sure you wouldn't rather watch some ESPN."

"Nope. Not today."

I nodded my head and said, "You're the boss."

Frank smiled. "For a little while longer, anyways."

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