By the time dinner was done with, everybody was feeling pretty nice. Which is when Mari decided to turn dinner into pool party. “Keith, darling? You didn’t happen to pack a pair of swimming trunks?”
“So happens I did not.”
“I got it.” Mari and Lesli strolled out to the front lawn, chatting like school girls. Hank handed Keith an apron, strapped on one himself. They commenced to clean up and chew the rag. “Have t’ watch you.”
“Yeah. You have and hold the singular distinction of being the first man to catch our daughter’s eye since myself who her mother didn’t cut off at the knees.” He looked Keith up and down with clear favor. “You charm snakes, too?” They both got a laugh out of that. “So,” Hank continued, lowering his voice, “this Helen St. James. She all she’s cracked up to be?”
“I don’t know what-all she’s cracked up to be, Hank.” Keith finished his drink, started a fresh one. “But I will tell you this.” Swirled ice in the glass. “Helen is good people. Is she hot? No, man, that’s special effects you see when somebody take her picture.” Hank laughed. “What she is is a hell of a lot of fun to be around. Tough as a coffin nail, sweet as, what Van Morrison call it, Tupelo Honey?”
Hank cut him off. “What do you know about Van the Man? Much less Tupelo Honey?”
“My dad grew up in that time. Played with a few of those cats. Not Morrison. Worked steady, though. Whether it was a church social. Paid his bills.”
“Yeah, paid his dues.”
“Yeah.” Hank picked up, “How’s St. James feel about Lesli?”
“Well, Les ain’t gave her much a chance to feel nothin’. But she’s looked at us together and thinks we make a nice pair.”
“Keith, if I don’t ask you this one question, that woman will wear out my last nerve and then do a tap dance on it. Any chance you can get her an introduction to Ms. St. James? I’d be greatly in your debt.”
Laughing, falling back in his chair, Keith almost dropped his drink. The more he thought about the situation, the funnier it got to him. So, drunk to boot, he kept laughing his ass off, howling like a hyena. When he fell out of his seat, crying tears, still in hysterics, Hank came over. “Uh, you’re not having some sort of seizure?”
Keith reached up. Hank reached down and hauled him onto his feet. The most shit-eating grin imaginable plastered across Keith’s face. “No.” Having Mari meet Helen was easier than falling off a log. “Hank?”
“Yeah.” He gradually regarded Keith as though this prospective son-in-law might be insane.
“No problem. Listen, next time me and your daughter come out, we’ll drag her along. If she’s not on the road. Or shooting a damn television show or movie. Pretty much does what she wants when she wants to do it. That’s Helen. On wheels.” He chuckled just thinking about her.
“You’ll do it?”
“Man, nothin’ to it.” Keith held up a hand. “But…”
Hank’s smile died. “Yeah?”
“Have to advise you.” And held silent.
“If your wife really want to make a good impression?”
“Yeah, man, go on.”
“Helen is crazy about Italian food.”
“My man.” Hank slapped Keith five and they went inside so Hank could find Keith a pair of swimming trunks.
Next week: Keith stays the night.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.