Chapter 3

"Do you like dressing up in women's clothes? You probably wear cowboy boots 'cause you like high heels. No wonder you don't have a girlfriend." Jim's dad sneered. "Jesus! Now I know why you named that bar of yours, 'Dos Vaqueros.' It's one of those gay bars I've heard about, isn't it?

"Oh come on, dad." Jim heaved a tired sigh. "I named it that, because me and Billy Bob are business partners. Two cowboys. Dos vaqueros. Trust me, there's no more manly man than Billy Bob. He rides bulls at the local rodeo, on the weekends. When he's not racing his stock car. Opens beer bottles with his teeth. Makes chainsaw wood carvings" Jim paused, said to himself, "Wears an awful lot of plaid.' He smiled at his father. "Trust me, Dad. My business partner is about as near to being gay, as Liberace is to being a lumberjack."

"So when are you 'dos vaqueros' planning on tying the knot?"

"Man! Give it a rest, dad! You're starting to sound like a broken record. Alright, I get it. You don't like the name of my business. Would you feel better if I re-named the bar something more macho? Let me think...oooh, I know! How about..." he stood up suddenly and grabbed his crotch, taking his voice down a notch, "CANNONBALLS!"

Jim's dad reached over to pull his son back down into his seat. As he sat down, his father pulled out a pack of cigarettes and lit one up. Jim noticed that his dad's hands were shaking slightly.

"That's not funny, and you know it.' His dad said.

"I know nothing of the kind." Jim retorted.

"Shit! I knew I never should'a let your gran enroll you in that dance class."

"I was ten years old, for crying out loud! It doesn't make you gay, doing the polka with your eighty year old grandmother, dad." Jim told him. "For the last time. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I am. Not. Gay. Jeez! Next thing I know, you'll accuse me of being a Ronald Reagan supporter."

"You didn't actually vote for that jerk?" His dad asked in dismay.

"No way, dad." Jim reassured his father. He took a long sip from his glass, then added, "I wouldn't dream of wasting my brain cells, listening to his crazy shit. I mean, come on! He actually believes we're going to be attacked by aliens! That man is so loopy, he probably thinks Doctor Who is real."

"Well, that's one thing we can agree on, anyway." Jim's father said, smiling for the first time. "Then he frowned. "Doctor what?"

"No, dad. Doctor What's on second. Doctor Who is on PBS." He grinned at his own, admittedly lame, joke. Once again, it was readily apparent by the look on his dad's face, that he didn't get it. "Ah. Riiight." Jim said softly to himself. "Not an Abbott and Costello fan, I take it."

"What are you on about?" His father asked, looking at his son as if he were an alien himself.


"What is it, Jim?"

"Have you tried placing an ad the newspaper's lost and found column?"

"Why the hell would I do that?" His father frowned, having no clue where this line of conversation was going.

"To see if anyone's turned in your lost sense of humor." Jim deadpanned.

"Go to hell, Jim."

"Well, at least I'll be close to mom, down there." He quipped sarcastically.

Just then, the waiter appeared again. "Sorry to disturb you gentlemen, but I wanted to give you a heads up. The kitchen closes at ten sharp. It's past nine, now. Would you care to order some food before the cook goes home?"

"You want a pizza? Or, did you eat on the plane?" Jim's dad asked.

"Please! Don't mention airline food." Jim complained. "They should feed that stuff to prisoners."

"Why's that?"

"'Cause the punishment would be worse than the crime." He smiled, faking a vomit.

"Nice." His dad shook his head, then apologized to the waiter. "You'll have to forgive my son. He thinks he's the next Jack Benny."

He turned back to his son. "You up for a pizza, or not?"

"Yeah, of course! I love their food, here. Can't get a decent pizza to save your life, down in Texas." Jim glanced around. "Always liked coming to this place, dad. How many times did we eat here, when I was growing up? Nothing ever changes. Remember the last time you brought me here?

"Sure. Ten years ago. Your twenty-eighth birthday. The night before you left for Texas."

"The last meal we ever had together as a family." Jim wistfully remembered.

The waiter, holding a pen poised over his order pad, pointedly cleared his throat.

"Alright, keep your shirt on." Jim's dad muttered at the man. "OK, about the Pizza. Half and half?"

"Fine, dad." Jim looked up at the waiter. "I'll have my half with sliced kilbasa and pepperoni."

His father raised an eyebrow. "Polish sausage and pepperoni? Damn, Jim. You must have a cast iron stomach. You're gonna' need an industrial sized bottle of Pepto-Bismol by your bedside, tonight." He nodded to the waiter. "I'll have my half with onions and anchovies. Oh, and bring me a pitcher of beer, while you're at it. Genny Cream Ale. Two glasses."

Jim made a face at the mention of beer. "That's nice of you, dad. But, really. I don't want any more beer tonight. I'm not in the mood for it." He shook his head, and said to the waiter. "Just another soda will do for me, thanks."

"Bring two glasses anyway." His father insisted.

"Dad, why must you always be such a control freak?" Jim complained. "First of all, I don't like that brand of beer. And secondly, and most importantly, I do not want a beer. Beverage discussion over."

The waiter dithered, unsure who was ordering what to drink. Jim looked at him. "One empty glass for the beer, one glass of Coke. Got that?" The waiter nodded. "And, thanks for your patience." Jim called after the man, as he shrugged and headed off for the kitchen, muttering under his breath.

"'Thanks for your patience'? You didn't have to tell him that, Jim." His father lectured, "That's what tips are for. The man's job is waiting for us to decide what we want. That's why they call him a 'waiter'.

"Er—thanks, dad. I never would've figured that out, on my own." Jim commented dryly. "Gee, you're clever."

"Watch your mouth! I didn't have to come here tonight, you know. I could've stayed at home, watching the Mets game on TV."

"So, how are things here at home, these days?" Jim asked.

"Meh. Same old shit, different day. You know how it is." His dad said indifferently.

"You still have those fish? My friends used to love to come over to the house, to look at your piranha."

"'Those fish', as you call them, happen to be rare and unusual tropical species. I have one of the best collections in the country, these days." His father sniffed importantly. "As a matter of fact, my double A grade marlboro red was just featured on the cover of Fish World magazine."

"Oh. That's nice. Congratulations, dad." Jim said, completely in the dark, as to what a fish named after a cigarette would be doing on a magazine cover. "I remember, mom really liked your fish."

"Uh-huh." His father said, suddenly appearing distracted. "Jim. About your mother..."

"Yeah, dad?"

The waiter silently came over with his tray, and gave them their drinks. Then, placed the check for the drinks and pizza on the table. Jim's dad took out his wallet, and handed the man his credit card. The waiter paused a moment, giving Jim an odd look, before walking over to the bar. Jim vaguely heard him conversing with the bartender. But mostly, he was staring at his father. The old man suddenly looked tired. He was busy pouring beer from the pitcher, into his glass, avoiding Jim's gaze.

"What about mom, dad?" Jim asked, taking a sip of his soda.

But, his dad seemed to be unable to answer. Instead, he took a long swallow of beer. It was if his father was trying to find his courage in the beer, rather than inside himself.

"Come on. Talk to me, dad." Jim urged.

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