On the other hand, he knew there was a better-than-even chance that dinner wasnt the only thing on offer in this invitation. At least the lights on inside the house meant that Johnny was home, so he would be chaperoned. He ought to be safe.
He followed her inside, where they shed their coats and boots at the door and padded forward on stocking feet. Johnny was stretched out on the couch, so engrossed in a book that he didnt hear them come in. Jim walked over and pushed the book up so he could read the title. Reflex, he said. Any good?
Two years into adolescence, Johnnys towhead had turned a rich mink brown, over a face growing into strong, blunt features, including a formidable chin. He blinked up at Jim with a dazed expression. When Johnny read, he read. It was on such occasions difficult to remember that Kate really wasnt Johnnys mother. Huh? Oh. Hi, Jim. He sat up. Kate, he said, surprised. Youre home.
That I am. She nodded at Jim. Company for dinner.
Johnny shrugged. Cool.
Jim tapped the book. Any good? he said again.
Huh? Oh. Yeah, real good. Science fiction. Sequel to Jumper?
I read that, Jim said. Good book.
He sat down and they plunged into an animated debate on the desirability of teleportation as a human skill. Johnny, of that generation of instant gratification which ipso facto believed going anywhere took longer than they thought it ought to, took the pro, and Jim, as a practicing law enforcement professional with a lively sense of self-preservation, took the con.
Kate put John Hiatt on the boom box and got out the stock shed made from moose marrow bones, onions, and carrots two days before. She sliced more onions into olive oil and butter and let them cook down while she sliced French bread shed baked that weekend, brushed it with olive oil, and browned it in the oven on both sides. When the onions were ready, she poured in the stock, brought it to a boil, and let it simmer while she brought out three large bowls. She put the soup in the bowls, floated the bread on the soup, and grated Swiss and Parmesan cheese on the bread. She slid it into the oven to bake and brown, and set out spoons and knives and paper towels for napkins and more French bread and butter. Soups on.
They came to the table, noses twitching. Johnny dug in with the finicky appetite of any normal fourteen-year-old vacuum cleaner. Jim tasted and considered. Be better if you added a little cognac, he said.
Johnny paused between one inhalation and the next, spoon suspended in midair.
Kate gave Jim a long, steady, fairly expressionless look.
Not, said Jim very carefully indeed, that it isnt absolutely perfect just as it is. He slurped up some more, with sound effects. Yessiree bob, the best French onion soup Ive ever had in my life.
Johnny sneezed something that sounded an awful lot like suck up into his paper towel.
Kate took firm control of the conversation and asked him how school had gone that day, and Johnny told them about the field trip his class had made to the dump to watch the eagles roosting there, not neglecting to include a vivid description of the projectile pooping incident. Jim retaliated with a description of the apprehension of that dastardly villain, Willard Shugak. Kate contributed a little Park gossip, including the Niniltna postmistresss recent dalliance with the traveling dentist, ending unhappily with the appearance of a representative of the Alaska Division of Occupational Licensing, who informed everyone waiting in line in the makeshift clinic in the gym that not only was the traveling dentist not licensed to practice in the state of Alaska, but he appeared not to have attended medical school at all, anywhere. This came as something of a shock to the five patients hed already treated that morning (one cleaning, three fillings, and a root canal) and who at last report were still investigating the teeth hed worked on with cautious tongues. Bonnie Jeppsen, the postmistress, was heard to be mending her broken heart by beading everything that didnt move out of the way first in bright primary colors, including a rock the size of a small suitcase.
Copyright © 2007 by Dana Stabenow. All rights reserved.
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