I braced myself for the attack. It was a ritual.
“King of the mountain! King of the mountain!”
I am the mountain. No one ever won that contest. The mountain tumbled every time.
They'd gotten as far as they could before I scooped them up and rolled them, elbows over giggles onto the soft, Persian rug.
“Your getting slow, Lurch!” Squealed Simone.
“You're getting heavy!” I replied, honestly.
I was Lurch; from the Adams family. They found that unlikely association hilarious. Especially when I tried the voice.
After nuggies, a belch contest, and silly how-do-you-do, the girls composed themselves. I received a years worth of catch-up in a six-minute, stereophonic, high speed summary, which ended with four handed vote that my hairline had receded, and it was a sad state of affairs for my nonexistent love-life. They then slowly gravitated to the photo wall.
Annette and Simon reviewed their achievements without blinking or snickering or shrugging. It was what it was.
“Balmoral is up,” said Simone, gently to Annette.
“I see it,” replied Annette.
The children were blameless. I'd known them as infants. Born hand in hand with identical physical and emotional features; they entered the world well meaning, soft and wide-eyed.
“What a doozie,” said Annette.
“You could say that again,” replied Simone flatly.
“What a doozie,” said Annette, sincerely and without a trace of sarcasm.
Nothing in those small bone bags betrayed the ongoing wake of destruction pointing to their next adventure.
“Way too many candles.”
“Don't you think Felicia might have…”
“Ladies!” My friend interrupted, “It's Mom, not Felicia – and don't you even think about blaming her for that one!”
“Where is your mother by the way?”
“Felic… I mean,” said Simone, “Mom is showing the guys with the trucks how to get around the Glass-House.”
“The greenhouse,” corrected Annette.”
“We don't have a greenhouse..,” said my friend.
The girls giggled and blinked knowingly.
“…we have a greenhouse?” He asked..
The girls laughed again and turned away..
“Hey! Hey wait! What's the truck about?”
Annette and Simone had flung open a pair of French doors that lead to some vast field studded with statuary and fountains. They made for the field.
“Ladies!” He exclaimed.
“The truck?” He repeated.
“Bullfrogs stuck in the waste-line,” said Annette evenly to her feet.
“We’re not sure,” continued Simone, clearly mimicking something she'd heard, “but there seem to be other drama-fixations.”
My good friend put a palm to his forehead. “Ramifications?”
“Oh yes, that's it!”
I couldn't help myself.
“Simone,” I asked, “you didn't say truck, you said trucks. Like, more than one?”
“Three. Three trucks, one with a thingamajig on the front, and one with that basket gizmo on top.”
“And,” Annette added, “one regular one.”
And then no one said anything.
The silence was nearly frightening. Off in the distance bullfrogs could be heard echoing over various hillsides. The long afternoon shadows stretched the statues and fountains into exclamation points against the sloping fields. Cicadas called the evening closer.
After the girls had left, my friend looked up at me and said nothing again.
I had a few more questions but thought better than to break the silence.
End of part 2