Luis jerked his head.

Jase said, “Mom.”

“I'm sorry,” Mary said. She laughed and turned to Luis. “Jase is an only child and he's always wanted brothers and sisters. When he gets a friend here, he tends to hold on to them too hard.”

Luis reached out and hugged her again. He couldn't contain his emotions. “Oh, thank you for letting me stay here. I can't thank you enough. And I want to work for my keep. I want to start working as soon as I can.”

Before Mary could reply, the back door flew open and Barry Nicholas walked inside. He set a large rectangular box on the kitchen table and glanced at Luis. When Luis turned and saw Barry standing in the doorway, he felt a sting in his eye and he couldn't control his emotions. Just to see Barry standing there, healthy and alive, was almost more than Luis could handle. He pressed both hands to his chest and said, “Oh, it's so good to see you. You have no idea.”

Barry blinked and sent Luis a look. “Well, it's good to see you, too, son.” Then he exchanged a confused glance with Mary and they both shrugged.

Jase said, “Dad, this is a friend of mine, Luis.” He explained where Luis was from again and why he was there.

Barry said, “Well, I'm sure my father can find some kind of summer work for you. And you're welcome to stay here as long as you wish.” He smiled at Mary.

“Oh, thank you, Mr. Nicholas,” Luis said. “I really appreciate this. I'll pay you back. I promise.” Luis knew he had to consciously make an effort to tone down his emotions. He had a feeling he was starting to sound like Anne of Green Gables.

Barry shrugged him off and turned to the box on the kitchen table. He ripped it open and pulled out a large machine that reminded Luis of a stereo receiver.

“What is that contraption?” Mary asked. She crossed to the kitchen table to get a better look at it. “I swear, Barry, if that's another contraption I can't figure out how to work I'm going to kill you.”

Jase smiled. He rocked on the balls of his feet. “Is it what I think it is, dad?”

Barry laughed and glanced at his son. “I finally got one. It's a brand new video machine. Now we can record our own home movies, we can watch any movie we want, and we can do it in the comfort of our own family room.” He beamed with pride; his face lit up all over. “Everyone, take a look at the future.”

Luis laughed and covered his mouth. “I can't believe you bought a video player. That's so cool.”

While Luis examined the machine, he knew they were all watching him. But he couldn't help himself. Barry had always been the last in line when it came to any technology. This was big for him and the family. Luis felt so filled with joy at that moment, standing there with all these people who would one day be his family, he began to feel light-headed.

Then another familiar voice came from the center hall and Luis turned fast. “Where the hell is everyone,” Isabelle said. “I've got bags in the car and they need to be brought into the house.”

Mary turned to Jase. “Why don't you two boys go out and help gram with the grocery bags. And then you can go upstairs and wash up for dinner. We're eating a little earlier tonight because we're leaving at five in the morning for the airport.”

“Sure, mom,” Jase said.

Luis followed him back to the front door, where Isabelle was waiting. When Luis saw her, he gasped. Twenty five years younger, she reminded Luis even more of an old drag queen from Alaska. Luis almost fell sideways when he saw she was wearing a hot pink sweat suit and her puffy blonde hair was teased and permed like Rose Marie from the old Dick Van Dyke Show. She wore the same bright red lipstick and heavy pancake make up she would one day wear in the future. Only she wasn't wearing running shoes. She wore tiny little high heels, in hot pink to match the sweat suit. Isabelle in her early seventies looked almost exactly like Isabelle would look in her nineties. And she was cursing more than ever.

“Where the hell is everyone, goddamn it?” she asked. “An old woman comes home from the grocery store and she needs a little help with all this shit and there's no one around.” She turned and planted her gaze on Luis. She pressed her index finger to her lips and furrowed her eyebrows ... eyebrows that had been applied heavily with a brown eyebrow pencil. “Who the hell is he?”

Jase hugged his grandmother and said, “This is a buddy of mine, Luis. He's from Tennessee and he's checking out Alaska for the summer. He's going to stay here for a while until he finds a place. Mom and dad said it was okay. I was hoping gramp could help him get a summer job.”

Isabelle walked over to get a better look at Luis. She set her hands on her hips. She looked him up and down. “I'm the grandmother. You can call me Isabelle.” She extended her hand.

Luis took her hand in both of his and leaned forward. He almost curtsied. “It's so good to see you. You look wonderful.” The words gushed out of him, with exaggerated syllables.

Isabelle's eyebrows went up and she and Jase exchanged a quick glance. “He's an emotional little bird, isn't he?”

Jase said, “Ah well.”

“I'm sorry,” Luis said. “It's so nice meeting you. I never expected I'd meet such great people in Alaska.” He definitely had to tone it down a little, especially with Isabelle.

Isabelle looked him up and down again. She winked at Jase and said, “He's a cute little sonofabitch, too. His face is pretty enough to be a girl's. Would you look at that perfect nose and perfectly smooth skin.”

“Gram,” Jase shouted.

Isabelle smiled at Luis and winked, as if they were both privy to the same joke no one else knew about. “What did I say? It was a compliment.”

Jase frowned and turned toward Luis. “You have to excuse my grandmother. She's a little bold sometimes.”

Luis winked at Isabelle. “It's fine. No need to apologize. I like honest people. And I did take it as a compliment.”

Isabelle stepped to the side and said, “You boys go get the bags. And be careful with my new Lincoln. I don't want any goddamn scratches on it.”

Jase rolled his eyes.

Luis looked over Jase's shoulder at the brand new l986 Lincoln in the driveway. It was the same car Isabelle would be driving twenty-five years later. It was the same car Luis would drive when he went to cookery classes with Isabelle twenty-five years from now. “We'll be very careful,” he said. “That's a great car.”

After Luis and Jase helped Isabelle carry the grocery bags into the kitchen, Mary sent them upstairs to wash up for dinner. She kept calling them “boys” and Luis thought that was adorable. Jase led Luis to the same second floor bedroom he'd had in that house all his life. Only in the future Luis would know this room as modern and upscale, with electronic window treatments that blocked out the strong Alaskan daylight and expensive mahogany paneling. But Jase's bedroom in l986 looked like the bedroom of any eighteen year old high school senior. There were trophies on shelves in a wall unit that consisted of a desk and file cabinets. There was a queen sized bed with a star wars comforter that looked as if it hadn't been made up in weeks. The furniture was a mix of maple and pine and the floor was littered with shoes, clothes and books. The rug was bright orange shag. Along one wall, there was a huge stereo system, complete with cassette deck and turn table. Copyright 2016 - 2023