Blood Like Water: page 6
The very fact that Ben was home for dinner made it a very unusual evening and dinnertime an unaccustomed event, a fact that was lost on Martin.
“But why can’t we eat with trays?” Martin frowned as he paced distressed circles around the kitchen table with furtive glances at his parents where they stood in front of the stove stirring the contents of indecipherable pots. It was bad enough that Dad had gone to work early and left him in daycare for hours today till Mommy had come to rescue him when she was done with work. But also taking away his cartoons when he’d actually been good all day was more than one little boy could bear.
“Because we’re all home at the same time. That makes it a special occasion, so we’re going to eat at the table.”
“But food tastes bad without cartoons!” Martin insisted and hoped that his parents would see the simple truth of his words and allow him to return to a world of reason where dinner was eaten on the couch with trays in front of a television tuned to his favorite shows.
“Don’t make up ridiculous arguments. Come here and help me set the table” his father handed him a small stack comprised of three napkins and told him “put one next to each plate then put a fork on top of it.”
“It’s true!” he insisted while he took the napkins and rather haphazardly put them next to the plates, one at a time. The forks he set on their heads to make the tines walk them over to the napkins on which he placed them. A soft little ‘doo-dee-doo’ hum escaped his lips in the process.
“Is it now? Well then you’re just going to have to put up with a tasteless meal tonight” his mother interjected while she set glasses in front of the plates and poured to fill them. Milk went into Martin’s cup, coffee for herself and Ben which at this hour was specifically decaf. Ben’s extra-calm, an over-the-counter sleep aid shot that he had preferred quite a bit over the last few years.
“No cartoons makes all the food taste like vegetables.” Fists held fast one to the edge of the table as Martin’s posture threatened to fall into a full-out wet noodle.
“Then you’re lucky. We’re having vegetables anyway, lima beans.” Ben smiled as he set that first of a few serving bowls onto the table. Directly in front of Martin’s plate and to the child’s eyes at least, piled high with steamy light-green doom.
“Noooooo!” Martin gave up entirely into that wet noodle which always promised but never delivered a perfect escape. His father just scooped him up and set him on the chair. Though he had to repeat the seating twice and a third attempt to get him to give up the ploy and sit instead of just droop and slide back to the floor.
While Donna sat down and started to fill both Martin’s and her own plates she just smiled clearly amused at the process. “You still haven’t told us why you’re home early. What’s the occasion? You didn’t get fired did you?”
“Even better” he started with a smile that fought a frown while he carefully orchestrated the conversation into what he had practiced in his head all day.
“Oh yeah, then what?” Donna replied with the question without looking over while she cut Martin’s meat into small pieces.
“Promotion, raise, transfer.” Ben answered too casually before he brought a forkful to his mouth.
The announcement made her look up. A frown formed on her face complete with furrow between brows and she took a moment before she commented on dry tone “You’re supposed to give me the bad news first. That’s the way it works.”
“A transfer isn’t bad news.” Ben urged with an upbeat inflection to wind through an almost too-bright smile. He coaxed and pointed out “Come on, it’s exciting! A new town, a new house. Martin! Don’t play with your food.” He reached over to stop his son from pushing a lima bean up a tiny nostril. He leaned again but this time backward to toss that one in the sink for later disposal.
“I hope you didn’t accept it yet. We just got a new house.”
“Of course not!” Ben lied as he had actually been the one to demand the transfer. Anything that put them physically as far from the rest of Dr. Genovese’s patients, subjects or whatever it was she considered them to be (she certainly didn’t hold much consideration for them Ben’s thought grumbled across his mind) as possible, at least those he knew of, had to be a good thing. A frown touched his lips as a gesture of his fork pointed out “But four years is hardly new.” That furrow that had sat between Donna’s eyes began to form between his own.
“New enough. Besides I like my job and how far are we talking anyway?”
“What’s a hampshire?” Martin asked only to be ignored by the general conversation.
“You’re kidding me..”
“Is it like regular ham?” he asked with phonetic reasoning that latched onto that first syllable to fill his mind with images of pigs. From that alone he started to side with his mother. Ham was okay but not his favorite meat and giraffes were much cooler than pigs.
“No.” His father answered his mother as once again the occupants of the conversation tuned out the youngster’s questions and comments.
“I’m going to assume it’s a huge raise.” Donna replied and turned toward Martin, who was poking at her arm with a single small finger in rapid suggestion. “Don’t interrupt” she told him and looked back at Ben.
“It is. Brand new industrial park, a lot bigger than the one here and I’d be in charge of all the security, hiring, training. The works. It’s a state Martin, you’ll like it there’s snow. You could go sledding.” Ben looked over at Martin with a sudden smile to erase that tense ache throbbing in the furrow between his brows. He answered his questions with a less than faint ulterior motive to end the actual conversation. He smiled a little more as the boy’s face lit up and he suggested “why don’t you go get that book about the snowman?”
Martin scurried off in full advantage of the reprieve from a dinner with far too many lima beans.
“You haven’t finished!” Donna frowned deeply as she protested.
“Donna listen.” Ben set hand on her hand and squeezed it with much less of a smile. “You’ve heard how they’re cracking down on F&E clinics? Well I heard something about Dr. Genovese on the news. Now it’s most likely just another case of a paperwork snafu or some stupid groundless complaint, you know all about those.” He was careful to play on her knowledge and complaints about her own job in a medical office. Though it was an allergist’s practice it saw its share of hassle from all the new BIO regulations and procedures that seemed to change by the week. “That’s why I want to take this so badly Donna. It’s such a windfall that we wouldn’t have to be anywhere near the place.” He rallied his smile as he leaned close and drew her hand to his mouth to press lips against smooth fingers.
“It sounds great and I’m sure I wouldn’t have much trouble finding another job.” Her voice softer and more tired and a little bit on the scared side of nervous as her entire mind turned on a dime and she forced herself to warm to the idea. There was no shortage of medical offices, though there was also no shortage of people who wanted to work in them. But she did have a bit of an advantage for having worked in the one she did for as many years as she had. It could work out and she could only think that if someone came by to ask questions they would have to explain things to Martin before they had planned to. Ben was right, this way they could delay opening that whole can of worms at least a little bit longer.