Well, summer's almost over, and as usual odd things have been happening. Odd things happen here in the summer all the time, I don't know why. What I do a lot these days is foul O. He decided that his main activity this summer would be playing basketball, and when his friends aren't around I have to go across the street to the basketball court and foul him. Foul me, foul me, he says, and so I stand there and kind of shove him just when he's about to make the shot. It's kind of fun, although at first I wasn't shoving him hard enough and then I was shoving him too hard. He's taught me, in the meantime, how to foul properly, and has stopped laughing his head off when I do foul him. Now we're serious. I foul him as he takes the shot and if he makes it he says "and one" and slaps my hand in the air. He's there right now, shooting hoops across the street, with a couple of guys from the Cyclone, and trying not to get eaten alive by the goddamn mosquitoes that have invaded our city. Mosquitoes make him crazy, they drive him right out of his mind, but he refuses to wear repellent because he once read an article that said mosquito repellent can cause sterility in boys.
A couple of days ago, before school ended, a group of girls called him up while he was watching a movie called Three Kings, and for about half an hour G. and I heard him say, uh-huh, uh-huh, I guess, uh-huh, I dunno, uh-huh, and then the conversation was over. Who was that? G. asked him and he said I dunno. Girls? asked G. Uh-huh, he said. Girls that you like? she asked. I guess, he said. Last weekend he went to Toronto with my mom to see the Jays/Red Sox series and when he came home he gave G. a stuffed monkey that he had bought with his own money. Later, I told him that was a nice thing to do and he said well, he'd thought she was feeling a little down lately and he'd realized while being away that he loved her way more than he had originally thought. Wow, O., I said, that is so sweet. He said, Okay mom but can we not go overboard in the talking about it department?
Have you ever watched, from a distance, a bunch of thirteen-year-old boys yacking away, laughing, swearing, insulting each other, just basically shooting the shit, and then as you get closer to them, they clam right up and stare out in the distance like they've just had electroshock therapy? Once, the mother of one of O.'s friends and I talked about the last time we saw them cry. I really had to think about it. The last time, aside from the time he read a very sad book about someone he knew, and the time I really chewed him out for being rude to my aunt who had come all the way from B.C. to help take care of my mom after her surgery, was about a year ago at the end of grade seven. He came home from school and after an hour or two he mentioned that some kid had taken his slurpee away from him. Well, that sucks, I said (or words to that effect). And he nodded. Then, several hours later, in the car, he said that it was actually a bunch of guys, older than him, that had surrounded him and asked for money. Oh man, I said, this time more concerned. Then what? I asked. He told them he didn't have any money. Then how'd you get that slurpee, one of the older guys asked. Well, O. said, that was all the money I had. Then give us your slurpee, the guy said. And by now they were all staring at him and then one of them knocked his slurpee out of his hand and it spilled all over him. Then what happened? I asked. He said one of the older guys told one of the kids his age to hit him, and the kid his age did. He what? I asked, ready to slit the guy's throat from ear to ear. He hit me, said O. And that's when he started crying and couldn't stop. He just sat there in the car in the parking lot at the mall and cried and cried and I held him in my arms and stroked his hair like I'd done when he was three or four and every time I said that must have been really scary or I'm so sorry that happened to you, he'd cry even harder. He told me a little more, that the kid had knocked him down, that they'd all laughed at him, and then that one of the older guys said, okay leave him alone, and then they took off.
Well, I said odd things were happening here this summer as always. This is the latest: Your dad called here, right out of the blue, haven't seen or talked to him since O. was an infant and you and I took that road trip when you barfed in that hotel bathtub, and he told us that he lived in Australia now but he was in town and would really like to see O. if O. would like to see him. (O. said no, not because he didn't want to see him really, but because he just didn't know why or what purpose it would serve.) And your dad totally understood and said if O. ever changes his mind, he'd be glad. He'd wait. I asked him if you were happy, and he said yes, very. That you live in Tokyo, that you're a very successful chef, an executive chef, he said, in a hotel with five hundred and fifty rooms, and that you're married to a wonderful Japanese woman and that you have a beautiful three-year-old daughter and that you'd probably never leave Tokyo. He said he'd send O. a picture of you and your wife and your daughter. He called her O.'s sister. He also said you were a lot like him, a wanderer, a bit of a loner, and that you often went off by yourself for stretches of time and didn't talk about it much. But he sounded very proud of you, very protective, as though he was worried I'd slag you to bits or something. And of course I wouldn't do that. Like O. says, what's the point? You're lucky, Mike, to have a father standing up for you. Have you introduced your famous penny wieners to the Japanese?