“Say,” it suddenly occurred to Keith, “Where’s Dummy?”
Her eyes glazed over as she looked off for a moment, then back at him. “Gone. Baby, Bruno’s dead.”
“No.” Keith had looked forward to seeing the dimwit animal, for whom he did have a soft spot. It must have turned her heart out, crazy as she was about that cat. “How?”
“Don’t know. He got sick, stopped eating, wouldn’t even drink water. Kept losing weight. Then, one morning, coughed. Keith, I was holding him. Just coughed, got a frightened look on his face, because the poor guy couldn’t breathe. Then he went limp.”
“Did you call the vet?”
“Keith, by the time I could get him there, my little fellow had died.”
He was about to get up and go to her when she retrieved her coffee and came back. “Where’d you bury him?”
“Didn’t.” She blew on the cup. Sipped. “Had him cremated. His ashes are in an urn. At the condo. Gwen’s there, looking after things.”
“She couldn’t look after a cactus.”
Lesli absently said, “She thinks highly of you, too.”
“Bring the urn along when…wait. You are moving back in?”
“If she doesn’t,” said Mari, “I’ll personally kick her behind.” On that note, Lesli seemed to shrivel.
Hank said, “Woman, would you leave them alone?”
Somewhat emboldened, Lesli said, “Mother, stop eavesdropping!”
“Come on, Mari. She’s doing just fine. Let’s go mosey around awhile. I’ll show you the back forty.”
“I’ve got a back forty for you, alright. If that daughter of yours doesn’t get herself together…” Their voices trailed off as they walked away, sunning themselves, moving toward the pool.
Keith was fairly sure of the answer but asked again, anyway. “Les, you are moving back in with—”
“Yes, baby.” She nodded. “Of course.” Just nodded.
Mari shouted, “Good!”
“Mari, dammit!” from Hank
Lesli stood with her coffee, went to the kitchen and made sure her parents had gone far enough away. “My mother has hearing like a hawk. I mean—”
“I know what you mean. You know, the way things have got reversed, this is, in a way, kind of funny.”
“Funny? What’s funny?”
“You and me? I distinctly recall somebody stormin’ out the door, pissed because I wasn’t committing fast enough to suit her. The same somebody who now went and got cold feet.”
Lesli squared herself. “My feet are not cold. I got confused is all.”
“Okay. You say tomato, I say cucumber. Or whatever it is.”
She came over, set her cup down. “I really do love you, Keith.”
“And I really do—” She cut him off with a kiss. And an embrace. That swiftly turned into something that did not belong in the kitchen with her parents liable to walk back in any minute. He had to gently push her off to shoulder length.
She grinned knowingly.“Wanna go up to my room?” Then took his hand and was about to lead him there.
When Mari burst in. “Hey!”
Lesli wheeled around. Keith looked over Mari’s shoulder and saw Hank hastening up behind. “Mother, what do you want?”
“Mari!” Hank again.
His wife cut him off with a gesture and strode over, poking Keith in the chest. “So, listen, Mr. Big Shot. What good is it having you in for a son-in-law if I can’t meet Helen St. James? Huh?” She poked him again. “When do I get to—”
“Mom, for God’s sake, you will meet Helen. Damn, I’ve barely met her myself.”
“So? I don’t care about you meeting her. I’m the fan.”
Hank gave Keith an exasperated look. Keith just grinned. At how helpless the usually laid-back, in-command guy now was. At his future mother-in-law being a world-class, irresistible pain in the butt. Said to her, “I will leave tickets to the concert for you and put you on the guest list. Okay?”
Mari fairly squealed. “You will?!”
“Yes.” Keith chucked. “I will.”
She gave him a kiss and hug, cast her daughter a glance. “If you don’t marry him, I will.”
Next week: A good day winds down.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.