Moon/Fish–Surprise Visit–Part IV

Hey all!

Thanks for being patient–I am back in editing hell, but the good news is that Fish Four, Fish on a Bicycle is done, and Paint it Black is edited, and whohoo!  On to the super hard craft book, Fiction Haiku!

Mate’s car is broke and my week is INCREDIBLY boring and yet I’ve been busy on my computer–ugh!  The upside is, it’s a perfect time to escape into some Moon/Fish–enjoy!

*   *  *

Part IV

Jackson saw the shadow outside his window as Ellery got into the shower, and he hurtled past a surprised Lucy Satan and out the front door before Ellery’s mother could so much as gasp.

A pink box sat on the stoop, and if Jackson hadn’t paused to make sure it wasn’t lethal, he might have caught Burton as he left from putting it there.

Don’t throw away–I’ll know.

He opened the box and took a deep breath. Mm… apple fritters. Ellery’s mother’s favorite.

And someone who’d know if he threw them away.

And someone who could leave them on the porch without triggering the alarm and get away like a ghost.

“Jackson?” Ellery’s mother was not going to let him rocket out of the house without an explanation. “Jackson, what on earth–“

Jackson turned to her grimly, box in hand. “You and me have got to have a talk,” he said quietly.

She pursed her lips. “Is that a donut box?”

“Apple fritters. Your favorite.”

She looked confused. “Why is that a–“

“Remember Ernie?” he asked pleasantly.

Her eyes got big. “I do.”

“He came to visit me and Ellery a couple of times when we were in the hospital. Smuggled me eclairs that would make a saint come. I never told him they were my favorite. He just knew.”

“We should go inside,” she said pleasantly. “I’ll get some milk.”

He took one more hasty look around his neighborhood and spotted the flash of something shiny behind the fence three houses down– the neighbors who had gone to visit their daughter in Florida over spring break, the sadists.

He gave the shiny thing a two fingered salute and followed Ellery’s mother inside.

“WE can’t tell Ellery,” Lucy Satan said softly as they neared the kitchen. The water was still running–Ellery could take an epic shower when he didn’t have to be somewhere. Or when his mother was in the house.

“Can’t tell him what?”

She grimaced. “When was the last time you swept the house for bugs?”

Jackson blinked. “Two days ago.”  After they’d found them in January, he and Ellery did it once a week–vacuum, dust, scrub the toilet, check for bugs. It was the new housecleaning regimen.

“Oh,” she said, nodding. “So nice to know you’re sensible about things. But your friend–” she nodded toward the donut box, “–simply said I should come here and spend some time in your company.” She grimaced. “In public. So I looked up some activities for the next week. How do you feel about craft fairs?”

Jackson’s eyebrows went up to his hairline. “I actually don’t mind them.” He’d furnished his duplex with thrift store finds and the occasional handcraft, but he was the first to admit his taste was eclectic and… well, not suited for Ellery’s gracious, masculinely furnished home. “But–“

“Good. Tours of the capitol building?”

“I’m not even sure they’ll let me in–“

“They will if I”m there. How about sporting events?”

“I can get us some Kings tickets and some Republic tickets and some Rivercats tickets–”  It was late march. Everything was in season.

“Be sure to put them on my credit card,” she said smoothly.

“I can pay for my own goddamned ballgame,” he muttered. Ellery did the same thing, and it drove him batshit.

“But this time, I’m paying for it,” she said with a pleasant smile.

“Not if I”m getting the tickets,” he muttered. “Anything else you’re on for? Wine tasting? A bus tour of San Francisco?”

“All of the above,” she said, without blinking an eyelash. “You go to work on that while I unpack. I think today should be local, tomorrow should be San Francisco, Wednesday we should visit your brother–“

Jackson’s eyes got big. “For fuckin’ real?” Because Kaden loved surprise visits as much as Jackson did. Which was to say if Jackson hadn’t walked by the hallway when Ellery opened the door, he seriously would have gone out the back door and over the fence and run across town in his boxer shorts so he didn’t have to do what he was doing right now.

Which was anything Ellery’s mother asked him to do, apparently without getting any answers as to why.

“Of course–I brought gifts for his wife and the children. The day after we should attend some sort of sporting event with your sister and her boyfriend–“

“Jade hates sports,” he said blankly.

“But her boyfriend adores them. and of course we should eat out. Except for this morning, when I shall indulge in some lovely donuts.”

As she’d been speaking she’d invaded Ellery’s kitchen, poured two glasses of milk and put the apple fritters on a plate. Jackson cleared the table of everything except his laptop, which he put at the end, and helped her set breakfast up, and then looked longingly at the coffee pot, which he had been about to turn on when she’d knocked.

She ran a knowing look up and down his body. “How is your heart murmur?” she asked, and he grimaced. He’d acquired scars on  more than the outside in November when his heart had stopped, and since his and Ellery’s return to Sacramento in February, he’d been trying to be good about seeing a cardiologist.

“Caffeine isn’t forbidden yet!” He crossed his arms over his chest defensively. Not in small doses–that’s what Dr. Keller had said. He had yet asked her to quantify “small doses.” He assumed a pot a day was a small dose, if you eked it out with lots of cream and sugar with only one or two sodas on the side.

“Fine. I’ll start the coffee and unpack, you start our itinerary and wait for Ellery so we can eat. You may commence.”

Jackson sat down at the cleared and set table and grabbed his laptop. Yeah, he still had no idea why Burton wanted her there, but honestly, doing all that shit she had him planning was a damned sight easier than arguing with her, that was for sure. She was already talking about his caffeine intake and diet–he needed to comply now before she started making him kale shakes for breakfast and serving him nothing but tofu and fish!

*  *  *

She had arrived on a Wednesday which meant that they had a poetry reading at the local library in the late morning, a tai chi class in the afternoon, and a Kings game that night. As Jackson and Ellery fell into bed that night, exhausted by running around the town, and by just being with Ellery’s mother, Ellery moaned, “She’s got the entire week mapped out?”

“It’s not my fault,” Jackson mumbled. He’d liked the tai chi class, hadn’t minded the Kings game, and had napped during the poetry reading. What had really knocked him out was Ellery’s mother, who seemed determined to smooth out all of Jackson’s… Jacksonness while she was there. “Jackson, do stand up straight, You’ll ruin your posture.” “Jackson, I understand you can use that word as often as you like, but part of being an adult is only using it as often as you need.” “Jackson, I do believe if you and my son plan to work full time again, you should either procure a friend for this animal or find someone who doesn’t mind feeding him while you are gone. I think he might be lonely if forced to live alone.”

“I know it’s not your fault,” Ellery soothed. “I just don’t know why we’re doing this, that’s all.”

Jackson closed his eyes, thinking about the fritters. Ellery had been so discombobulated he hadn’t even asked where they’d come from, and Jackson just didn’t want to tell him that someone had put a hit out on his mother. That seemed rude somehow.

“Lucy Satan works in mysterious ways,” he grumbled.

“Well I need her to work her way home,” Ellery retorted. Then he sighed. “But while she’s here, maybe we can have her look at some of the properties for the new office.”

Jackson perked up. “So we don’t have to go to San Francisco tomorrow?” Because driving the tank down there would cost a fortune, the parking would be horrific, and the car was so loud. 

“No, Jackson. I’ll talk to her over breakfast. Do you think you can hit that donut place again? Those fritters were amazing.”

“No,” he muttered. “I’d rather have fruit.” Ellery was warm next to him and Jackson kissed his shoulder through a softly laundered T-shirt. “And you,” he said, meaning it.

Ellery kissed him chastely on the mouth.

And then not so chastely.

And then they were sliding their hands under each other’s T-shirts and Jackson had a handful of Ellery’s taut backside and was kneading and spreading and grazing the sensitive bits and then–

“Jackson?” Ellery’s mother said as she knocked. “Jackson, your inappropriate cat seems to want to sleep with me. I insist you take him.”

Ellery made sobbing sounds and Jackson rolled sideways. “You get the door,” he whispered. “You can pull a t-shirt over your boner!” Jackson wasn’t wearing one.

Ellery grunted–and pulled his T-shirt low over his boxers and went to let the cat in, because apparently the big loser was still sore about getting fixed and they hadn’t known it until now.

*  *  *

The next day they ran all over town looking at office rental properties, which was actually pretty awesome, considering.

The one in the strip mall on Howe was a big no. The location was great–right next to a bail bond place–but it wasn’t the sort of vibe they were going for.

The one a block away from the Capitol building was nice–but really pricey, and, in Jackson’s words, “Built like a Republican was given a bunch of tan legos.”

There was one off the river, in what had once been a residential building but was now separated into office spaces, but Ellery had balked at both the drive down the Garden Highway and the lack of amenities nearby.

The final one they looked at, on the edge of downtown around 9th and F street, had seemed okay–at the top of a flight of stairs, which might have been inconvenient if it hadn’t been for an elevator to accommodate disabilities, The space itself was large, with four offices and a conference room, as well as a reception area that had a counter and a recessed kitchenette sort of space that Jade could definitely make her own.

The walls were a sort of muted beige that Jackson said had to go and the carpet was teddy bear brown, and Ellery wasn’t going to live with that either. It needed paint and carpeting and a solid redecoration, and all of that might not have phased Jackson except…

“Parking,” he said, looking out the window. “There’s one parking space next to the building. Ellery…”

“But look at the ceiling in the corner office!” Ellery begged. “Look at it! And it’s got moldings–“

“I don’t actually give a shit about beveled moldings,” Jackson told him. “Hardwood floors, yes. I can see some nice hardwood here. Moldings can kiss my ass. But parking…”

“We have six more offices to look at,” Ellery’s mother told them crisply. “Two more before lunch?”

Outside they heard the unmistakable sound of a car smacking another one, and then a rather ambiguous sound of what they found out later was a light pole collapsing for no reason at all.

“Maybe lunch now,” Jackson muttered. “Somewhere across town.”

He and Taylor Cramer met eyes and she nodded imperceptibly. “After you,” she said, and he nodded, leading the way while Ellery’s mother made peace with the real estate agent who had sat in the back of the room and let them bicker over this one.

“Ellery, take the rear,” Jackson said, forgetting that Ellery didn’t suspect what he did.

Later it would occur to him that Ellery did exactly what he asked without question, and continued to move like that, Jackson first, Ellery bringing up the rear with his mother and the clueless real estate agent in the middle. All day. He did that all day.

But of course there’d be hell to pay that night.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *