It was Labor Day weekend, but while everyone else was out celebrating the end of summer I stayed in my room and brooded.
Everything in my life seemed fucked up beyond belief. I tried to think of brilliant ways to make a huge amount of money as quickly as possible. Winning the lottery. Going on a game show. Hitting the jackpot in Las Vegas. Whenever I thought of Vegas, I shuddered, partly out of fear, but also with a thrill. At least if I threw myself into the world of Marcello Barbuto's cousin, I would be doing something and not just hiding in my childhood bedroom, hoping that all of my problems would just go away.
But one thing wouldn't go away.
"Uncle Shea? You gonna go to the picnic with me and Nana?"
Danny and my mother were going to my sister Marianne's house on Sunday. Then on Monday they were all going to some party at St. Clement's. Danny was starting Kindergarten there the next day and it was a way of introducing all the kids to the school. Danny already had his blue polyester pants, white shirt, and tie with the parish crest hanging on the door to the guest room where he slept when he was staying here -- which seemed almost more than he was at home lately.
Meanwhile, my sister Anne Marie had other pressing business to attend to beside her son. Whether it was Danny's father, the shadowy lawyer, or some other man, she didn't clarify, but whoever it was, Danny was an unwelcome intrusion into her personal life.
"No, I think I'll skip the picnic." I kept flashing back to the disastrous picnic right before I left Aaron. Or the picnic where I outed my partner to the neighbors. Obviously, picnics and Shea Desmond were a bad fit.
"But there's gonna be ice cream!" Danny argued. "Chocolate!" Danny would sell his soul for chocolate ice cream.
"That's a big temptation, but I don't think so."
"You gonna come downstairs for dinner?"
I could already smell my mother's mystery meatloaf burning in the oven for Saturday's meal. "I'm not really hungry right now. Maybe I'll have some later."
Danny's face was full of disappointment. "Okay," he said.
"Here." I beckoned him onto the bed and reached for my guitar. "Let's do a song. That's better than Nana's meatloaf."
"Okay!" he said with real enthusiasm.
I picked out the chords to that Bob Marley song Finn had played the other night. It was simple, but catchy, and had a chorus that Danny could sing along to:
"Singin': 'Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing gonna be all right,'
Singin': 'Don't worry 'bout a thing,
'Cause every little thing is gonna be all right!'"
I was surprised that Danny picked up the tune immediately and sang out clearly and right on key, which is not bad for a six-year-old.
"I like that song!" he cried.
"You're pretty good, buddy," I said.
"I like songs," he said.
I showed him a few chords, but the guitar was too big for him to hold or for his little fingers to make the chords on the fretboard.
"I should get you a ukelele."
Danny frowned. "What's that?"
"Like a little guitar. Then we could play together."
Danny's eyes lit up. You hear that expression all the time, but I could see it happen, like someone turned on a light inside the kid. "Yeah! Please? We could play songs!"
A few minutes later my mother called him to dinner and I kept fooling around with the song, trying it in different keys. Maybe I'd go over to that open mic night Finn was having at the Phoenix and bang out a couple of songs. I'd been to open mics before and you didn't have to be a great singer or a guitar whiz. All you had to have was enough chutzpah to make a fool of yourself and I certainly qualified there.
Maybe I'd be discovered and offered a recording contract for $75,000 on the spot. And maybe monkeys would fly out of my ass.
"Shea." It was my mother at the door.
"I'm not hungry."
"I know," she said in resignation. "Danny told me. You have a phone call."
I felt that weird and horrible thrill. "Is it Aaron?"
"No," she said. "Some other man."
Shit. What if it was Barbuto, following up on our meeting?
But it wasn't Barbuto. It was that other dark and sexy prince, Raj Kumar.
"Shea, I need to know if you are free Monday evening?"
"Yes, I'm not doing anything. I'm pretty much free indefinitely -- at least until I head to Vegas."
But Raj didn't laugh at my weak joke. "You haven't spoken to that man again, have you?"
"No, not yet."
"Please do not!" he commanded. "I would like you to come to an informal get-together. A few of my friends will be there. I will have some food and drink -- but not too much for you!" Then he laughed.
"I promise I'll be good."
"That's fine. Sanjay will pick you up at 7:00."
"I can drive, you know," I reminded him. "I even have a car. And I know where you live by now."
"But why drive when Sanjay can come and get you?"
He had me there. "All right. I'll see you Monday."
I hung up and turned around. Mom was standing there. We really needed another phone in the house. The kitchen was like Grand Central Station. "Was that your friend Richard?"
"No," I said vaguely. "Someone else."
"You really should talk to Aaron. He's called here so many times, but you never call him back. I think he's very sorry you two had a fight."
"I don't care if he's sorry, Mom. I can't speak to him right now."
"Suit yourself," she shrugged. "What was that about Vegas? Are you planning a trip?"
"No trip. I was only making a joke. A very poor joke. By the way, I'll be out Monday night. I won't be home until late."
Her face told me that she didn't approve. I'd stayed out very late more than once and she knew I was up to no good. The sooner I got back with Aaron and was a well-behaved boy again, the better, as far as she was concerned.
"Suit yourself," she repeated. But what she really meant was, "You're going to Hell, honey. Just to let you know!"
"Thanks, Mon," I said. And went back upstairs.