Title: That Mormon Bitch Your Son Married
Pairing: Stan/Kyle, OMC/OFC
Summary: Stan and Kyle are old grandpas. Like, literally.
Notes: This was written following "#REHASH," and was inspired by the kindergartners making fun of Stan and Kyle.
Stan and Kyle get up early these days, but 4 a.m. is a bit premature. This is what Kyle is thinking when he answers the phone, and then flinches at that particular phrasing when he finds out it’s Josh. Alex is in labor. “I know it’s early,” Josh says, and Kyle isn’t sure if he means it’s early to be calling or early in the pregnancy, but it’s both, so Kyle supposes it doesn’t matter. “But, can I bring the kids over? I’m gonna take her to Hell’s Pass.”
There are three of them — for now, anyway — and Kyle hates to think he’s the kind of man who isn’t excited to see his grandchildren no matter what hour, but, jesus, he’s tired. Alexandra’s parents live in Utah, however, so: “Sure, honey. I’ll get Daddy up. We’ll be here.”
Josh is 32 and such a little shit that he doesn’t even say “thank you,” just, “Great, yeah. See you soon.” Then he hangs up. Kyle lies in bed for a moment, his eyes still adjusting to the darkness. Beside him Stan is snoring, a lump under the quilts that becomes sharper and more defined the longer Kyle stares. After a few minutes he lies beside Stan, wrapping arms around Stan’s chest, feeling Stan breathe noisily as he wakes.
“Stanley,” he whispers, against Stan’s ear, “get up, Stan. The kids are coming over.” The nice thing about Stan — well, one of the many nice things, and for every unwashed dish left in the sink Kyle has to remind himself of at least some of these — is that he will be reliably excited to see the kids no matter what time, what season, or in what company.
True to this, Stan shakes Kyle off his back to get dressed. He’s weird about not wanting to be seen in his pajamas. Kyle doesn’t give a shit and will go to the door in a robe, to cover the nakedness he sleeps in, even in winter in the mountains, even though his body is increasingly weird and old and even less to show off than he had when he was a young man. Stan asks questions while he paws through the closet for a short-sleeved polo: “Is she okay? Is the baby okay? She’s — what, now, 37 weeks?”
“Oh, 36, I think.” Kyle, still naked on the bed, watches Stan get dressed with some interest, as if trying to reconcile the body in front of him with the body of the Park Country High School varsity placekicker who did Kyle the favor of vanquishing his virginity behind an unsubtly locked bedroom door in Kyle’s parents’ house, long ago sold and demolished. Then another house was built on that site and that house was now demolished too, an empty lot. Stan’s sister, who still lives next door, is in the process of trying to purchase the lot, to make a yard for grandchildren of her own. Kyle hates to think that he is very old but another part of him, a realer and more present part, actually doesn’t care anymore, maybe about anything. When the first one was on the way Kyle was invested beyond the point of reason, demanding copies of every sonogram and nightly updates. Now he doesn’t even know for sure how far along Alex is, or if he should be concerned. But Stan is concerned for both of them, so he doesn’t feel guilty.
“I could make breakfast,” Stan is saying. “Are you hungry?”
“No,” says Kyle, “but I’m dying for some coffee.” He trudges in his fleece robe to the kitchen, behind Stan, who is brewing a pot when the front door opens. They talked about downsizing after Josh went to college, but perhaps in the hope of experiencing future mornings just like this one, Stan talked him out of it. Alex always rings the bell but Josh never has, not once in his life. He had been very upset when Kyle floated the idea of moving. Weird to think that was only 14 years ago.
“So, yeah,” Josh says to the kids, “have fun with your grandpas.”
All three of them stand there, dopey-eyed and tired in their own rights. The oldest is Tanner and he’s 9; Kyle still thinks that’s a stupid name. Grayson is 5 and Kyle can’t decide if that’s even worse. The baby is 2 and her name is Randy; she has Alex’s thick blonde hair and looks nothing like her namesake and quite a bit like Alex’s awful parents, with whom Kyle cannot stand to be in a room for more than 10 minutes. He wonders sometimes if anyone else has noticed this. They’re Mormon, and insufferably so. Perhaps the most disappointing moment of Kyle’s life came when his precious baby boy, who won a full scholarship to Boulder with a heartbreaking essay about reconciling his own Catholicism and Judaism, announced that he had a) met a Mormon girl in his sophomore year at school, b) married her suddenly, and was c) not coming home for the summer as planned, but going to stay with Alex’s parents in Salt Lake. This was a mere year after he’d thrown a tantrum about keeping the house. It’s still such a betrayal that Kyle tries not to think of it.
The kids are still in their pajamas, their hair matted and unbrushed. Randy’s is messy around her face as Stan swings her into his arms and kisses her fat face, saying, “Here’s my baby girl!” She screeches pure joy, pulling at his gray hair and saying, “Grandpa!” though she still has a kind of stupid baby lisp and it sounds mushier than all that.
So the two boys stare up at Kyle. Grayson asks, “What’s for breakfast?”
“Your dad didn’t give you breakfast?” he asks, hands around his cup of coffee.
“No,” says Tanner, “they’re going to the hospital.”
“Is Mommy okay?” Grayson asks.
“She’s fine,” Kyle says, instantly hating himself for saying that because if it turns out she’s not these kids will despise him forever. “Let’s — yeah, let’s have breakfast.”
Usually if they know the kids are coming Stan and Kyle will go to Sooper Foods and buy a bunch of crazy appalling shit in colorful, sometimes scary boxes. They’re not allowed to have any of that at home and on more than one occasion Alex has given Kyle a lecture about how he and Stan are undermining her authority on the subject of what’s okay to eat. “Josh ate all that stuff growing up and he turned out fine” is supposedly a bad response. Anyway, this visit is unplanned, so Kyle finds himself going through the cabinets, hoping he can find just about anything that’s not “old people food,” as Tanner calls it, a look on his face like he just stepped in something disgusting.
“What about this one?” Kyle holds up a box of Flaxtastic. “It’s just cereal.”
“Flax is disgusting,” says Tanner.
“Have you even tried it?” Kyle asks. When Tanner and Grayson shake their heads, Kyle says, “Well, then how do you know?”
“Nothing in a brown box is good.”
“Cocoa Krispies come in a brown box,” says Grayson.
“Look,” says Kyle, “it’s got a lot of fiber. It’s good for you.” He shakes the box like it’s a rattle, but they’re not babies so they look at him like he’s nuts.
“Nothing good for you tastes good.”
“Your mom would hate to hear you say that.”
“Can’t we have something good?”
“Let’s get doughnuts,” suggests Grayson, “with sprinkles!”
“Doughnut places aren’t open yet.”
“Gas stations are 24 hours,” says Tanner.
“Hey Stan!” Kyle shouts. “Stan, we’re making pancakes.”
He comes in with the baby on his shoulders, still tugging at his hair. “We can do that,” he says, handing Randy to Kyle. “I think she needs a change.”
“Who brings a baby with a dirty diaper over?”
“Don’t you dare say anything to Josh about it,” Stan cautions.
“Yeah, why?” asks Tanner. “Dad can take it.”
“No,” says Kyle before removing the baby from the room, “he can’t.”
Kyle carries the baby through the living room; she seemed happy when Stan was playing with her but now she’s crying. He can’t stand it, so he goes against all of his beliefs about cleanliness and opts not to take her to the bathroom, changing her wet diaper on the floor by where Josh left the diaper bag. There also are a couple of pre-filled bottles of formula and changes of clothes for the kids, plus some soft baby books and a bag of Duplo. How long are these kids staying here? Tears prick at Kyle’s eyes as he wipes Randy’s little bottom with a wet wipe from a disposable package; he was a stay-at-home father, writing a column on gay parenting for Westword in between doing this and that with Josh. They’d wanted another baby but couldn’t afford one; it makes Kyle angry to think that Alex’s parents put his son through law school, at BYU. Some days he thinks they only ended up in South Park because they knew Stan and Kyle would offer nonstop, unquestioning free childcare. Alex herself has five siblings still in Utah; Josh is an associate and commutes to Denver.
Carrying the baby back to the kitchen, she’s sucking her thumb. “Should she be doing this?” he asks Stan.
“Babies do that.” Stan is stirring the bowl of pancake batter.
“Did you know Grandpa’s making pancakes with almond milk?”
Still holding the baby, Kyle spins around to see Grayson tugging at his robe. “Well, that’s what we drink,” he says.
“What’s wrong with real milk?”
“Almond milk is healthier,” says Stan.
“Grandpa can’t drink regular milk.”
“Why not?” asks Grayson.
“He’s lactose intolerant,” says Kyle. “It makes him sick.”
“That’s so lame,” says Tanner. “You can’t even digest milk?”
“Um,” says Stan, “I can digest almond milk.”
“Why do you keep your tomatoes in the refrigerator?” Grayson asks.
“They stay better for longer in there,” says Kyle.
“Mommy says never to put tomatoes in the fridge,” says Grayson, “she says it ruins them.”
“Well, what? I don’t know,” says Kyle. “When you grow up you may decide to keep your tomatoes wherever you prefer.”
“You guys are so weird,” says Tanner. “Mom says people get weird when they get old.”
“That’s not true,” says Stan. “Grandpa and I were always weird.”
“Dad says when he was little you weren’t as weird,” says Tanner.
“When your dad was little he was a lot weirder!” Kyle is pleased to hear the baby laugh at this, and she clutches at his close-cropped, faded hair. “He used to save all the wrapping paper from every present he got, and he hid all of it under his bed. It’s all still up there. Go check if you want.”
The burner on the gas stove snaps and hisses as Stan twists it on. “He probably got that from me.”
“Why? Do you save all your old wrapping paper, too?” Tanner asks.
“No, honey, not wrapping paper. Just — little things?”
“Such as what?” Tanner asks.
Grayson says, “I wanna see.”
“Go look in my office.” Butter sizzles as it glides across the skillet. “Just look, don’t touch.”
“Stan, are you sure?”
“Yeah, there’s nothing incriminating in there.”
“What’s incriminating?” Grayson asks.
Tanner tells him, “Sick shit.”
“No, not sick shit,” says Kyle. “Come on, I’ll — let’s go look.” He knows there is incriminating stuff in there, though nothing illegal. Still, Stan saves everything. Somewhere, buried under something, are all the dirty little notes Kyle ever slipped through the vents in Stan’s locker; every vibrator that stopped working Stan didn’t have the heart to throw away; all the stupid college notebooks where Kyle scribbled “Kyle Marsh” in the margins like a goddamn 12-year-old girl. Perhaps it’s worse because 10 years later it came true, his poor mother crushed to learn Kyle would “throw away his heritage” by changing his name. By the time they had Josh it came back to bite them in the ass; while “Joshua Broflovski” would have sounded too Jew-y, “Josh Marsh” didn’t exactly roll off the tongue, either. Though it was only in his 30s that Kyle became nearsighted, years later he is able to conjure the clarity at 5 in the morning to realize that he was always sort of myopic.
The kids might be jaded but they love Stan’s office. It’s more of a metaphorical concept than a place Stan spent time working; he had been a mid-level manager at an ironworks company for many years, nothing glamorous. It paid well and wasn’t hard, allowed him to travel a little, and as a result they got a free iron fence around their house as a retirement gift three years ago. Maybe it ups the property value but the rotted wood one looked better with their blue vinyl-sided split-level on the “new” side of South Park. It was new when they were going to college, this subdivision. Anyway, Stan was rarely if ever willing to work in this office when he actually got home from work; he was never required to do so.
“Don’t touch anything,” says Kyle. The baby reaches for the old Terrance and Phillip dolls on the bookshelf as soon as he carries her into the room.
“What the hell is that?” Tanner asks, as Randy drools on the Terrance doll Kyle lets her grab.
“It’s a doll, stupid,” says Grayson.
“That thing looks like it’s a million years old.”
“It’s not a million years old,” says Kyle. “But, old enough.”
“Where’d it come from?” says Tanner. “It looks diseased.”
“Well, it’s not,” says Kyle. “We, um. Won them at a carnival. At Cow Days, actually. When we were your age, probably, like 8 or 9. Maybe 10, who can remember? You know Cow Days.”
“It that a real one?” Grayson asks. Terrance and Phillip stuff is still made, but old merchandise is considered collectible. These two are in bad condition, worth nothing. Josh never wanted to play with them.
“It’s not,” says Kyle, “it’s just like, an imitation. It’s just cheap, see?” he pulls the Phillip doll off the shelf and tosses it to Tanner.
“I don’t want this!” he says, dropping it. “Why does Grandpa hold onto such old, weird shit?”
Randy’s sucking on the doll’s hand, and Kyle yanks it out of her mouth. “Because it’s meaningful to him.”
The office they’re standing in is packed, just full of old garbage, much of which Kyle has managed to get into boxes, but a lot of it just lingers on shelves or in weird piles. “Can we go through it sometime?” Grayson asks.
“I bet there’s some really weird stuff in here!”
Kyle steps over to the desk and begins to peek into the drawers. “I’m looking for something,” he says.
“Yeah,” says Tanner, “no offense, Gramps, but — duh.”
But Kyle doesn’t care because he finds what he’s looking for: a wooden sword, shiny with years of play. It’s tucked into a fake-leather scabbard and the material’s cracking, but a rush of excitement crests over him. He puts Randy down in the office chair; she’s still clutching the doll, humming and rocking it like it’s her baby.
“Okay,” says Kyle. “Here’s the thing. I think grandpa would want you to have this.” He holds the sword out and forward for Grayson and Tanner to admire. “Sometimes adults hang onto stuff because, you know. We think the next generation might like it!”
“Um.” Tanner looks at Kyle like this is a practical joke. “Are you trolling me?”
“What is that thing?”
“It’s a sword?” Kyle pulls it out of the scabbard. “See?”
“Mommy doesn’t let us play with swords,” says Grayson.
“Are you kidding?”
“Why would I want that?” Tanner asks. “It’s like, some rotting wood.”
“It’s not rotting!” Kyle is insulted on Stan’s behalf. He holds it out for Tanner, who takes it, both the scabbard and the sword. “Your great-grandmother made this! Your father — I mean, your grandfather — used to use this when we LARPed.”
“What’s lerp?” asks Grayson.
“LARP, LARP,” Kyle repeated. “You know, live-action roleplay?”
“No idea,” says Tanner.
“You mean like, VR? That’s so old.”
“No, it’s just playing!” Kyle picks up the baby, falling into Stan’s old desk chair and securing her on his lap. She melts into his arms, nuzzling her face against his soft old robe. “This was before we got VR. We all dressed up with our friends and played games — like, kings and queens! It was a fantasy, you know.”
“A fantasy, huh?” Tanner asks. This seems to interest him and he approaches the desk; Grayon’s still distracted, peering at the books on the shelf.
“What’s this?” Grayson asks, pointing up. “Why do these all have your name on them?”
“You can read my name?” Kyle asks.
“We made family trees in Ms. Dooley’s class! I wrote all the names.”
“That’s excellent,” says Kyle. “I’d love to see it.”
“Mommy sent it to Grandma Beryl and Grandpa Eliot.” Grayson sounds sad when he says this.
“Oh.” Now Kyle’s sad, too. He wonders if Josh even suggested that maybe his parents might want to see such a thing. Probably not. “Well, my name’s on those books because they’re mine.”
“You got your name on books?”
“Yes, because I wrote them,” says Kyle. “Don’t look impressed,” he jokes. “They’re all copies of the same book.”
Tanner sighed, pulling one off the shelf. He reads the title: “Gay Families, Gay Lives: Single-sex Parenting in the Twenty-first Century, fifth edition. They printed five editions of this?”
“Six, actually,” says Kyle.
“No one told me you wrote this?”
“Well, I don’t know why! Perhaps gay parenting as a field of study is out of vogue?”
“Out of what?”
“Out of style,” says Kyle. “Unpopular, out of fashion.”
“Why don’t you just say unpopular to start with?”
“I don’t know,” says Kyle, “look. I wrote that book when I was raising your daddy! When he started going to kindergarten, actually. Grayson — when he was your age. My little guy.” Kyle sighs, looking at these boys. Unlike Randy they have Josh’s crooked teeth; that’s a Marsh family thing for sure. All three of them have Stan’s blue eyes, though. Kyle has tried to imagine a fourth grandchild, though not very hard; he can’t conceive of a gender or hair color or whether or not the baby will eventually need pricey high-tech headgear, but he knows it’ll have Stan’s big blue eyes, the same ones Kyle looks into on a daily basis, has been staring in for years.
“Are you okay?” Tanner asks. He’s still holding the sword.
“Yes, I’m okay!” Kyle snaps. “Don’t be rude. Anyway, look. That sword. It’s for you. We can go tell Grandpa I gave it to you. He’ll love it.”
“Well, what do I do with it?” Tanner asks.
Grayson whines, “I want a sword, too.”
Kyle ignores this, upset that he sounds so greedy. “I’ll tell you the story quick, before breakfast. When we were boys we played fantasy with our friends.”
“You said,” Tanner tried to interrupt.
“Well, this is how we played: I was an elf king. A great, powerful elf king. With a mighty kingdom. We set up a fortress in the backyard — at my old house. Next door to where your great-auntie lives. The house isn’t there anymore — neither is the fortress. But I was the elf king and I ruled over this beautiful kingdom. It was always autumn, and I controlled the elements.”
“The elements?” Grayson asks.
“The weather,” says Tanner. “Like water and air.”
“That’s right,” says Kyle. “But even powerful elf kings need companions. So your grandfather — he was my warrior.”
“That’s crazy,” says Tanner.
“Cool!” says Grayson. “With a gun?”
“No! Grandpa hates guns. He fought for me — with that sword.”
“Why couldn’t you fight for yourself?”
“Well, I did, sometimes,” says Kyle, “sometimes I used one of my father’s golf clubs. But your Grandpa always fought for me. He did whatever I asked.”
“Why?” asks Grayson.
“Because he was the king,” says Tanner, “you always do what the king says.”
Kyle clears his throat. “Because he loved me.”
“Mommy fights for Daddy,” Grayson says. “She says he’s got to man up or he won’t make partner. She says she can’t do it for him!”
“You don’t even know what that means,” says Tanner.
“Do you?” Kyle asks.
“I figured it’s some weird sex thing.”
“It’s not,” says Kyle. “It’s about his job.” This is interesting, Kyle figures. He tucks it into the back of his mind. More often recently he forgets things he was supposed to hold onto, recalling only that he’s lost track of something. He hopes this is important enough information that it doesn’t diminish somewhere in his brain in the mess of whatever’s going down over at Hell’s Pass.
“Look,” says Tanner. “I don’t want this.” He gently puts it on the desk. “It’s like, just some old wood.”
When Kyle stands, Randy clutches the doll tight in her arms. He remembers, with Stan, taking Tanner to Palm Springs to see his parents, when Tanner was just a baby. Kyle held Tanner in his lap on the plane, and Tanner didn’t howl, not a peep. Kyle’s father was overjoyed to meet the baby, his first great-grandchild. Was that only eight or nine years ago? Gerald’s been gone for five years now, and his mother’s back in Denver, with Ike. She doesn’t remember the kids but Kyle makes a mental note to take them down there soon, if Alex will allow it. She’s weird about Stan and Kyle driving with them into the city.
“Come on,” Kyle says. “Let’s check on Grandpa. Let’s have pancakes.”
It’s a long day, trapped in the house. After breakfast Kyle gets dressed; he emerges from the bedroom to find Stan crawling around the floor, Randy neighing atop his back, clearly confused about who’s the pack animal here.
“Stanley,” Kyle says, gently, “you’ll hurt your knees.” He pulls Randy off Stan’s back and rubs at Stan’s kneecaps. “You’ll, I don’t know, get rug burn.”
“I’m in jeans,” says Stan. Kyle can see, through the kitchen door, that he’s left all the batter-covered bowls and spoons in the sink, and breakfast is still congealing on the table.
“Well, I’ve gotten rug burn on that floor loads of times,” since it’s cheap carpet they’ve never replaced. Stan’s always wanted hardwood, but whenever they have some extra money they take a trip. Kyle wants to take the kids to Disney. Actually, he would like to go to Disney without the kids, but Alexandra’s parents took the boys to Alaska on a cruise they hated last summer, and Kyle can’t imagine Orlando wouldn’t top that.
“How do you think they’re doing?” Stan asks.
“I don’t know,” says Kyle. “I hope everything’s okay.” Against his better judgment he makes the first of three or four calls he’ll put in to Josh over the course of the day; none of them are picked up or returned.
“I’m sure they’re fine,” Stan says later, making dinner. The baby’s having her nap; Grayson and Tanner have been silent for hours now, absorbed into some game system thing they’ve got. With some leftover chicken and peppers, Stan is making fajitas to serve over brown rice. Surely the boys will bitch about it, but Kyle is almost looking forward to telling them to shut up and eat it.
“But, what if? Poor Josh.” Kyle often wants to pull Josh into his arms and kiss his stiff hair and tell him it’s okay, like he did when Josh was just a little boy and so smart and so clever and so precious.
Stan is studying the print-out of the old fajitas recipe he got off the internet years ago, years ago. It’s gone yellow at the edges where the folded-over paper sticks out form his recipe box. It was a mistake to keep it on the windowsill, in the sun, but it’s way too late to go back on that now. “Honey, you can’t keep thinking ‘poor Josh’ all the time,” Stan says. He’s almost sighing, like he’s worried about Kyle. “He’s not a little boy anymore. He’s a grown man with a law degree and three — four! — kids. He’s got a wife. He owns a house.”
“Oh, her dumb Mormon parents helped them, it doesn’t count.”
“Does it matter who made the down payment?” Stan asks. “I know you wanted him to grow up and have his own life.”
“No I didn’t,” says Kyle. “I wanted him to be my baby forever. I’m only good with babies, Stan! I don’t know how to deal with growing boys. I wasn’t even a good boy when I was 9. I was this, like, imperious elf queen. I needed you to protect me!”
“You were never a very good queen,” says Stan, “you look awful in a dress. No offense. It was always weird, you know. Playing around like that. You never had the legs for it.”
“That’s a shame,” says Kyle. “I just feel like I was always so old, so worried about the stupidest stuff. And now I see those boys and they’re like — they’re missing the point! Did you know I tried to give Tanner your sword?”
“Well, he didn’t want it.”
“Ha! Well, that’s all right with me.”
“I thought you’d be hurt?”
“No way,” says Stan. “I’m not done with that yet.”
“You probably haven’t even thought about it for 20 years.”
“I’m just saying,” says Stan, “no harm done. I’m easy, you know, I’m happy either way.”
“Yeah,” Kyle agrees. “You are.” He hugs Stan from behind as Stan watches chicken sizzle over the stove; the pancake dishes are still in the sink. “Thanks for giving me a beautiful life.”
“It’s not over yet,” says Stan, “so don’t worry, plenty of things might get fucked up. Stay tuned.”
“Good.” Kyle lets go and gets some placemats from their buffet so he can set the dining room table. They were in love so young, and they waited so long. They hadn’t dared have a baby until they were legally wed, and it seemed to take forever, forever. Kyle remembers being a younger man, in his late 20s and early 30s, frustrated and annoyed that it was taking forever. It was taking so long he’d turn to dust before it happened! Kyle rolls out his nice placemats (like the boys will give a shit, though maybe they’ll report this to their mother at some point) and fills with hatred toward that young, naïve idiot. Like he had any idea! What a poor, dumb fool he was.
Tanner and Grayson eat the fajita-stir fry without much objection. But, then they’re pissed there’s no dessert.
“Old people don’t eat dessert,” says Stan.
“Jesus,” says Tanner. “You guys are so old.”
“For your information age comes with experience,” says Kyle. He doesn’t believe this, but Stan smiles, because he is very much a believer that everyone ripens, for the better, with age. Clearing the plates, Kyle is silently thankful for Stan, who puts Randy to bed and agrees to let his grandsons dig around his office some more. Until bedtime Kyle joins them, drinking in every patient explanation of Stan’s:
“That’s a John Elway action figure. Who’s John Elway? Oh, jesus. He was — he’s long-dead.”
“Guitar Hero. It’s an old video game. … No, why would I be shitting you? The buttons on the neck are color-coordinated with the game, that’s how we used to do it.”
“Well, that was your great-grandfather’s guitar. He gave it to me when I turned 18. Yes, I can play it! Do you want to hear me play it? … No, I don’t have to. Okay. Then I won’t.”
Stan is beginning in on an explanation of football. It’s long-banned, but the boys have heard of it. “You played this?” they ask.
“Look,” says Kyle, “it’s 10.” He gets up. He’s sick of wearing jeans. He wants to get into his robe or, even better, stark naked, and climb under the covers with Stan to watch reruns on their streaming box. “I think it’s bedtime.”
“Mom lets us stay up until 11 or midnight,” says Tanner.
“No, she doesn’t,” says Stan.
“You were both up at 4! Come on, it’s bedtime.” Kyle is pleased to see how right he is when, instead of protesting, both boys tiredly brush their teeth.
Josh calls and wakes them up at 2. Without realizing, Kyle must have passed out; the box is still on and Stan’s snoring into his naked back.
“Dad,” Josh pants into the phone, “it’s a boy.”
“Jesus,” says Kyle, “another boy? … Um, is he okay?”
“He’s perfect,” says Josh. “A little small. They’re monitoring him but — he should be fine.”
“Stanley.” Kyle nudges at Stan with his elbow. “Your son is on the phone, he wants to talk to you.” To Josh, Kyle says, “I’m going to put you on with Daddy.”
“Daddy,” Josh says, repeating it. “Yeah, okay.”
“Do you want to have the bris at our house?”
“No, we can do it at our place.”
“Okay,” says Kyle, “I’ll call the mohel.”
“Can you get a tray of that chopped liver I like, from that place in Denver?”
“I will, yeah. Don’t worry, honey, I’ll take care of it. Okay, here’s Daddy.” He hands the phone to Stan, who’s sitting up, rubbing his eyes. “It’s Josh,” he says again.
“Hey. Hi, honey.” The phone against his ear, Stan blinks and holds his hand over his eyes. Kyle regrets never turning the lights off. “Oh, that’s wonderful. So that’s lovely to hear. Yeah? Well, almost five pounds isn’t bad. That’s great. That’s great. Yeah, we’ll bring the kids tomorrow. I know. Give Alex our love. Do you want to talk to Dad again? … Well, all right. Yes, we’re very pleased. You too. Yes.” Stan looks up, the call apparently over. “Another boy,” he says.
“Well, should we tell the kids?”
Kyle takes a moment to think about this. “No, they’ll just get excited, and won’t get back to sleep. We’ll get them up and tell them in the morning.”
“We could take them for pancakes on the way to Hell’s Pass,” says Stan, “at the diner.”
“They had pancakes today,” Kyle points out.
“Well, you know what I mean. I don’t think they want Flaxtastic.”
Stan pulls Kyle against his chest and they try to fall asleep like that, with Kyle’s face resting against Stan’s warm skin. Yet maybe Kyle is too excited to get back to sleep himself, for even with the lights on his heart is pounding, and he can feel that Stan’s still awake, too, since he’s not snoring as usual.
“Can’t sleep?” Kyle asks.
“You neither, huh?”
“I’m just thinking,” says Kyle, “that we are so fucking old.”
Stan just shushes this away.
“Don’t shush me!”
“This is the part of our lives we should be enjoying. I’ll do whatever I can to make you happy.”
“Yeah,” says Stan. “Everything was just to get to this point. Do you know how much I love that you wake me up every morning?”
“How can you be so serene about it?”
“I don’t know,” says Stan. “The Paxil, probably.”
“Well,” Kyle agrees, “I’m so glad it’s working.” Eventually he’ll recall Stan kissing his forehead before falling asleep, and then a rather vivid, memory-like dream: they are 9, or 10, and in Kyle’s backyard. A wreath of twisted twigs crowns Kyle’s bright-red hair, and Stan kneels before him, the wooden sword Sharon Marsh has just finished still smelling freshly sanded, like the Marsh family garage.
“Wouldst thou grant me thy loyalty forever, in perpetuity?” Kyle asks.
“Forever,” Stan promises. “My sword is yours. With all my heart.”
“Doest thou promise?”
“With all my heart,” Stan repeats.
In the morning Kyle dresses the baby and tries to sort out the fragments of what he dreamt, and whether or not it’s strictly true. From across the bedroom where the kids sleep over he spies Stan helping Grayson tie his shoes.
Maybe it was just a phantom of an idea, Kyle thinks, but his heart skips a beat when he realizes that, regardless of whether or not it was true, it definitely happened.