December 24th, 2008
John wiped his brow with the back of his arm. It didn’t change much since his arm was also sweaty. Everything about him was sweaty. He huffed and glanced at his cousins. They were working away, their movements mechanical and speech minimal. The morning had started with a lot of talk, but it soon quieted down. John readjusted his goggles and picked up the hammer. Aaron was sanding down boards, Simon applying the first coat of paint, and Joseph was waiting on John to get back to putting it all together.
“We got one more to do after this, John,” he said.
“I know.” John grabbed a nail and knelt down. “Sorry. Got distracted.”
Joseph grunted and held the shelf steady.
John glanced up. The garage was large and really more of a workshop. The fancy, nice cars were in one of the corners, covered with protective sheets. On the wall they were near, he could see out the window. It was a dark, cloudy day. Seth had said they were meeting up today in the park, by the big oak tree.
He glanced at his watch. It was almost two in the afternoon. Hopefully they were still there. Knowing Liridon, they probably were and were going to be there for a while.
John moved up the shelf, checking each board he hammered in to be sure it was stable and could withstand a collection the size of Cassandra’s or even Miro’s. If they could, then John would move on. If not, he would redo the job, much to Joseph’s joy. His cousin was a perfectionist and only liked working with John because of this.
He was standing up straight, securing the final board, when his father stepped in.
“John,” his father’s booming voice cut across the sander.
“Yes?” John paused and looked up.
His father’s marched into the garage, his work boots echoing on the cement. When in public, the man looked like he had been spat out of the 1950s, his hair perfectly combed to the side and kept neat. But right now, it was sweaty and stuck to his face. He had been, with the help of his own brothers, taking the finished shelves away to be ready for gifting. “You got a call from one of your friends. Liridon.”
“The commie?” Simon blurted out.
John forced himself to keep his eyes on his father.
His father held out John’s phone. “Call them. Tell them you will be there in an hour.”
John wiped his hands on his old, tattered jeans and snatched the phone. He darted to the farthest corner he could from his family and slid open his phone.
Barely a ring later and there was a click.
“John?” Liridon answered.
“Liridon!” John turned, hiding his relieved grin. “Yeah, it’s–”
“Where the hell ya been?” Liridon yelled.
John sighed. “Working for the past couple of days, as I’m sure Father told you.”
“Do we gotta bust you out?”
“No, no please don’t. I can be there in an hour. I got the easy part of this year’s work. Is everyone there?”
“Everyone but you!”
Liridon’s voice was muffled. He was saying something to the others.
“John!” It was Icarus. Either he stole the phone from Liridon, or Liridon had handed it off to him. Both were equally possible.
“Icar–Isaac?” He said, knowing the family was listening as best they could over the noise.
His father cleared his throat.
“John! I just wanted to say hi and that you better show up! Bye!”
There was a shuffling and then Liridon was back on the phone. “So we’ll see you in an hour? By the way, it’s the other big oak tree.”
“Okay. Awesome. Thank you. Bye,” John hastily said. He shut the phone and marched back to the shelf.
His father held out his hand.
John handed it over.
“Be in the living room clean and ready to be presentable to the public,” his father said. The man turned and walked out.
John took a deep breath and went back to the shelf.
“Your friends are real weird, you know that, right?” Joseph asked.
John said nothing.
“Liridon’s the lumbering one, right?” Joseph continued, ignoring John’s silence.
Again, John said nothing.
“What about that other guy–the one who has two dads?” Simon called out. “And has that freak name?”
John’s ears went red. “They’re not his dads,” He said calmly. “Nicholi–Mr. Semsar–is his father. Virgil–Mr. Kings–is his father’s best friend who has been helping take care of Icarus after Mr. Semsar’s wife ran out on them.”
“Why didn’t he just get remarried then, huh?” Simon taunted.
John bit back the retort before it could form.
The sander stopped. “Leave him alone,” Aaron finally said. “We’re all allowed our own weird quirks.” He flipped a switch and unplugged the machine. “John, go ahead and start cleaning up now. It’s going to take a bit of time to shower up and look nice.” He then looked at the other two. “If Uncle Markus asks, it’s because I decided four people was too much for the last of this. Got it?”
His two younger brothers nodded, glaring at the ground.
“Good.” Aaron took the hammer from John. “He didn’t give you a curfew.”
John snorted. “Like I need to be told anymore. I’ll be back in time for dinner.”
Aaron clapped him on the shoulder. “Awesome. See ya in a bit, cuz.”
John tore his goggles off, despite still not being in the safety zone, and dashed for the garage door. He kicked off his heavy work shoes and padded up the stairs. His mother was in the kitchen with his sister and other cousins, the smells of Christmas dinner making his stomach grumble. If there was any food left at the park, John was going to have to watch himself. Seth said something about Zelde bringing her cooking.
He flipped on the light switch to his bathroom and began to yank his clothes off. It was much colder now that he was out of that oppressive garage.