Scenes and characters in this story have been inspired by the story Carriage Trade by Art West © 2018. Located on The Story Lover's Home. All characters and references are used with permission hopefully. Any poetic license or difference are solely mine. Thanks also to Jeff P. for his graphics work on the image in this story.
Tony and I kept running into each other at our favourite Homestyle Restaurant, Ma & Pa's Kettle. Usually we ate alone but one night before a three-day weekend the Kettle was packed and as usual, we had no reservation. For some reason this night we arrived at the same time, I had planned to pick up some dinner and some appetizers, take them home and eat part of them and save the rest for Saturday evening. I didn't know if he was planning for takeout or was going to eat at the Kettle. As it turned out it didn't matter what either of us had planned as Max aka Pa took matters out of our hands completely. Tony and I arrived at the Host's Stand and before we go say anything Pa looked up and with a wink and twinkle in his eyes announced loudly and clearly,
"Art & Tony Party of Two, right this way gentlemen."
Max then showed us to the very nice table for two that was slightly out of the way, however, still close to the kitchen. As we neared the table and we saw where Pa was taking us, we both spoke up together and said,
"The Honeymoon Table!"
Tony and I were stunned because we had never really spoken to each other, other than a hi or bye as we walked past each other's table.
Pa never muttered a word just continued showing us to the table, when he arrived at the table he announced,
"I will be right back with your wine and Ma will be out shortly with your meal. That is as soon as I tell her that the two of you finally arrived." With that, he was gone.
We seated ourselves and we looked at each other and I introduced myself fully this time, and before Tony could reciprocate, I asked him,
"Do you have any idea of what is going on?"
Shaking his head Tony replied,
"I am in the dark as you are, Art, I had planned to get enough take out to last me until Sunday morning. I have breakfast with my family on Sunday morning and use the leftovers that they give for Sunday Lunch and Dinner. So, if you are a Private Bookbinder, Restorer, and you work by contract how come you have as weird hours as I do? As a self-published author and editor, I have deadlines to meet and sometimes have to work right up to the deadline to get everything done. So, what's your excuse?"
I guess I should take the time to introduce Tony and myself, that way you won't have to keep asking the air 'Who are these guys?'. Well, I guess we can start with me I am a thirty-five-year-old Bookbinder and Restorer. I work out of an old Brownstone in the University District, that I bought almost fifteen years ago, my offices, my private workroom, and showrooms for finished works, are on the first floor. The main workrooms and supply closets occupy the large well-lit basement. I occupy half of the third or top floor. That isn't exactly true, as my living quarters occupy half of the floor my library and study occupy the other half. I rent out a good portion of the second floor to some Graduate Students of the local University. That income pays the taxes, insurance, and utilities, the income from my work went to my investments and capital accounts. That income and gifts from my clients built my library into one of finest reference libraries for alternative lifestyles on the West Coast. Thanks to my occupation my private library housed some of the oldest tomes written in that genre. In spite of what a few of my acquaintances have said, I don't have any papyrus scrolls in my collection. Not for lack of trying though, however, that is another story entirely.
Now back to this story, I started out in this business purely by accident, I was a freshman in high school, one of my classes in the College Prep Program that I was in was overbooked and closed to freshmen. One of the few classes open for freshmen was a class in Library Science, I loved to read and thought here was a way to get a head start on my high school reading. I naively thought that I would be able to finish my homework for some of my classes. Boy was that a pipe dream, I had never worked so hard in my young life. Dusting books, dusting shelves, putting away books, updating the card catalogue, and rearranging non-fiction books according to the Dewey Decimal System. For the first month, the only reading that I was able to do was Book Titles and Index Cards. It wasn't until the middle of my second month that I was introduced to what became my lifelong obsession and career. Like most libraries, a lot of books are mistreated by the borrowers and need to be repaired as well as some of the older reference books whose binding had failed. Our high school library just kept stacking the books in a workroom until they could be repaired or replaced. Our librarian's husband a retired Professor of Library Science, that would come in once a month and repair books for a few days at a time. In the month that had passed since his last visit, we had an inordinate number of damaged books brought back for repair. I was the unlucky one that was assigned to help the Professor this time, as it turned out he was a master at the job of bringing books old and new back to life. Not only did I learn a highly valued skill from the Professor, but I was also exposed to some wonderful books that I would never have known existed. At first, my only job was to prepare the books for the Professor to repair. While I was cleaning the books and listing what needed to be done to them, I never took my eyes off of the professor. His face was a roadmap of emotions as he worked on the damaged books, no matter whether the book was a textbook or a forty-year-old reference book, his first look was always one of pain, and sadness. Sadness because a valuable piece of knowledge was damaged, as he started the painstaking repair work, his face began to lighten and as the repair progressed his face took on a glow and a slight smile. When he had finished a repair the look of joy on his face was a sight to behold. As time went by, I was watching each and every step that the Professor did, and I began to learn how much work there was in bringing damaged books back to life. By watching him work his magic, I began to notice more and more exactly what damage on a book needed to be repaired. What I didn't realize was that the Professor was me as intently as I was watching his work. One day out of the blue, he handed me a very damaged textbook that he had marked for replacement. He then asked me how I would go about repairing it. Once I was able to breathe again, I began to list the steps that I thought were needed. His response caused me to nearly drop the book in shock,
"Well, what are you waiting for, get started."
For the rest of his visit that month and for the next several months, he would pick out one or two books that he gave me to repair. As I got better and better at the simple repairs, he began to teach me more and more about the different types of bindings, covers, and papers used to bind books. Unknown to me he had kept his wife informed of my progress, and one day while I was restocking books, she pulled me away and asked me to come with her to the workroom. Once there she told me that one of our History Teachers was leaving for a conference in two days and one of his reference books was badly damaged and needed repairing. I replied,
"Okay, I will get the book ready for your husband to repair..." She cut me off,
"Art, you don't understand, the Professor is out of town at a conference and won't be home until next week. I need you to repair it, I have already notified your teachers that you won't be in class the rest of today, and possibly tomorrow as well. Before you say that you can't do it, The Professor was going to let you start working by yourself on his next visit. He asked me to tell you that he would let you repair one of his books. So, don't worry, also Mr. Lyons has already seen your work that History Textbook you repaired last week was for him. I will be available if you need any help, so just relax and get the job done."
That was the start of a very fulfilling career, as I became more proficient, I found out how much a demand there was for what the Professor and I could do. Soon I was only repairing books and somehow the local colleges and universities found out what we were capable of. They began sending us books to repair and in many cases some very rare manuscripts. They Professor negotiated contracts for every book that came in for repair, by the time I graduated high school my college tuition was taken care of. I was able to get an internship at a major publishing company in their binding department. I earned a BAS and Master's Degrees in Library and Information Science. By the time I had graduated I had received quite a few job offers from companies and universities as well, however, I decided to go in business for myself and I have never looked back.
Tony's life was very similar and yet at the same time very different, Tony's first English class was Basic Lit. He spent only about a week in the class as the teacher found out that Tony could write far better than the rest of the freshmen in the class. Tony's first day in Lit One was an eye-opening one, as he was the only freshman in the class. The teacher was Mr. Peter Tracy an intern, and he was being observed by the Head of the English Department Mr. Charles 'Chuck' Pelton. Mr. Pelton, usually sat in the back of the room taking notes and observing Peter and how he interacted with the students and how they interacted with him. Chuck also assisted Peter in graded the coursework that was turned in. After getting A's and A+s on my first three or four papers, Tony was moved to the back of the class to sit next to Chuck, and that was where his writing education really began. Tony learned why both teachers gave the marks they did and what was missing or needed improving in all of the stories that were submitted. Chuck also gave Tony extra homework, he made him take every story that he had submitted no matter what grade that it received and rewrite it incorporating both his and Peter's suggestions. Several times Tony was selected as one of the students that 'taught' a class. Tony didn't realize how many times and in how many different classes that would occur, and usually with no warning. Tony learned how to write with and without outlines, how to check for story flow and too many other things to cover here. In this class is where I learned to edit and where I also learned that story flow and getting the message across was more important than being grammatically correct all of the time. As the years went by, Tony started editing and assisting my friends and classmates with writing some of their papers. Thanks to Chuck who had taken over the job of his Guidance Counsellor, Tony had no trouble getting the classes that Chuck thought he needed or the teachers that Tony wanted. If Tony couldn't register for the class he wanted because it was full, Chuck would go to the teacher and add Tony anyway. In Tony's junior year he also began grading papers for several teachers even in classes that he wasn't getting A's in, of course, after several weeks of grading papers his grades began to climb as he was learning more and more what was needed in each class. (Or to phrase it better, Tony learned exactly what the teacher was looking for and how to give it to them.) He graduated near the top of his class in almost all of my classes except for one and that was one of his easiest and due to a grudge, the teacher had, Tony received the first and only F in his school career. Even Chuck the Department Head wasn't able to persuade the teacher to change her mind, however, that is a different story.
When Tony entered college, he continued learning how to express himself with words in different ways. Even in classes where he wasn't doing well on tests, he was still getting A's on all of his papers and soon he began to tutor other students and expand and enhance their writing skills. He also began editing students' papers to show that what the instructor was looking for. Tony graduated at the top of his class and was accepted at the University of Santa Clara where he majored in English and minored in Creative Writing. With a lot of hard work and some creative testing out in some classes, Tony ended up with an M.A. Teaching Degree and a Teaching Credential from the School of Education and Counseling Psychology. However, Tony had no plans for teaching as he planned to eventually open a private company providing Proofreading and Editing for independent web authors. He figured that with a Teaching Degree and Credentials along with his Minor in Creative Writing that he would be able to convince future clients that he had the knowledge and skill to do the job. He had continued, editing papers throughout his five years of college, his Master's Thesis was a politely worded and very well researched rant against the so-called Grammar Police that infested the world of Independent Writing. Several of the Professors that reviewed his Thesis, privately asked him, "Where were you when I was writing?" Over the years Tony had developed an editing style that made grammar secondary, and story flow, and character representation primary. He strongly believed that the characters in stories should not only act like real life people they should speak like real life people. Tony abhorred authors and editors who left all the characters, including kids and teens sounding like Oxford Professors! Of course, his attitude precluded the chance of him ever attending Oxford University. 'Oh well, he thought I can't have everything.' In Tony's fifth year of at the University, he started interning at a small Independent Publishing Company called Golden Gate Publishers. However, he found that company far too prudish and strait-laced for him, one of his professors subtly steered him to a new company called Rainbow's Edge Publishing. His new company focused on up and company authors that wrote about alternative lifestyles in a positive way. Graduation Day for Tony was definitely the beginning of a new life.
Shortly after graduation, Tony's life took an abrupt left turn, his favourite Aunt's health had taken a turn for the worse. Tony had just been promoted to Senior Editor at Rainbow's Edge Publishing and thanks to his very frugal nature he was just about to open his own Professional Editing Company. He had all of the necessary paperwork completed for his new company and had just begun looking for the perfect location. His new company was going to be named, Draconisian Proofreading & Editing LLC. However, those plans were now on hold, as he was headed to Boise Id., where his aunt lived. Tony's Aunt Teri was living in a large old house form near the founding of Boise. It was a very large house for any single person, the house was well kept up at least that was what his Aunt Teri had told Tony the last time they had spoken. Tony was able to head to Boise the day after he had received the bad news about his Aunt. When he arrived at his Aunt's house, a lot of old memories returned. All good ones as his Aunt Teri was a wonderful person. Tony rang the doorbell out of courtesy and before he could open the door, it was opened by his aunt's next-door neighbour. Mrs. West pulled Tony into a hug, before he could even get a word out.
"Teri will be so glad to see you, none of her other relatives are in good health, plus you always were her favourite. Over the last few years, you were the only relative that she ever mentioned. She was a bit upset that you couldn't visit her as often as either one of you would have liked. You did become the apple of her eye when you sent her that iPad thingy, so you and she could Skype® together. She was always in great spirits for days after those conversations. Of course, things went a lot better once I put the iPad on her cookbook holder, so she wasn't shaking the camera. Before I take you to see her, I have to prepare you for what she looks like, she is very thin and very pale and while the 'Consumption' has ravaged her body and her energy, her mind is still functioning well, she is still sharp as a whip. Her tongue hasn't lost its sharpness either. Now if you can convince her that she needs a nurse all day and night that would be very helpful. The last Doctor that tried to tell her that, she tore him up onside and down the other...."
Whatever, else Mrs. West was going to say was cut-off by a surprisingly strong yet cranky voice,
"Tony, you rascal, get your butt in here now!"
"Yes, Aunt, right away Aunt."
Tony gave a quick glance at Mrs. West who just made shooing motions and Tony headed off to see his Aunt.
The next several days passed very quickly, Tony was able to get his Aunt to agree to some more help and he was able to hire a middle-aged acquaintance of his aunt as a nurse during the day, and her daughter at night. Of course, there was a price to his Aunt's agreement, Tony had to move to Boise. Once he had his aunts needs taken care of, Tony started looking around for a place for his business and a place for him to live. As Tony was driving around his Aunt's neighbourhood, he came across a small Mom & Pop Restaurant, called Ma & Pa's Kettle that featured down-home country vittles. The restaurant was in an old house very similar in size to Tony's Aunt's house. It had some small private dining rooms and some larger private dining rooms in the basement. Tony's first meal there was eaten at a bay window table with a view of the neighbourhood and the University in the distance. Suddenly, the light bulb went off over Tony's head. He then dug into his lunch of a Prime Rib Dip, with a totally scrumptious French Onion Soup. Once his meal was over, and his modest tab paid, Tony headed back to his Aunt's house to see what she thought of his harebrained idea.
Tony was a bit stunned when he arrived at his Aunt's house and found her waiting for him in the foyer in her wheelchair her friendly nurse ready to push her where needed. Teri, didn't even bother with a hello she just told Tony to follow her into the elevator that Tony had completely forgotten even existed. When they exited the elevator into the basement Teri asked Tony a stunning question,
"Do you think you could run your business from here, and also use some of the unused rooms on the first floor for your office and reception area? My architect already has plans to split the front entry and foyer into two separate entries, your business entrance on the right side and 'your' house entrance on the left side. You can live in the master bedroom suite next to your current room. Our Lawyer Rich Major will be here tomorrow with some papers for you to sign. Now, what's your answer; times a wasting? And pick your jaw up off the floor before you answer!"
Tony stood there in complete and total shock, he couldn't believe what his aunt was offering him. It was if she had read his mind... Wait a minute she said, 'your house' meaning my house?
"Aunt Teri, what did you mean when you said, 'your house'? And what papers am I supposed to be signing?"
"We'll go over all of that during dinner which is getting cold, and you know what will happen if we let Mrs. Short's food go cold!"
With that Tony's Aunt started heading back to the elevator leaving Tony standing there in shock, Teri's nurse catching up to the feisty 'invalid' fairly quickly.
Tony decided to take the stairs on his way to dinner, 'This is going to work out well, close to the University only a few blocks from the freeway. I can get plenty of part-time help from the University and they can get back and forth to their classes easily. Now I wonder what other plans my sneaky aunt has up her sleeves?' Tony finished his thoughts just before entering the family dining room.
Two weeks later the construction had begun, and Tony was looking for Part-time Proofreaders and Editors for his company Draconisian Proofreading & Editing LLC. The sign was in place and he was raring to go, he had emailed several of his contacts and the work was starting to come in.
Everything was coming right along, and the Tony met Art at Ma & Pa's Kettle that night for dinner. Tony's life took off from then and he became truly alive for the first time in his life. Unfortunately, in life along with the good comes the bad. The morning after Tony had met Art was one of Teri's better days, she fed off the energy that was just flying off of Tony. She spent the day making tons of phone calls and trying to take down the Internet by the sheer volume of her emails. Teri went to bed that night with a smile on her face that was still there in the morning. Teri's nurse was very helpful to Tony as he dealt with all of the paperwork and details that needed to be dealt with as a result of his Aunt's death. Tony was dreading the funeral and all that it entailed, he was shocked when Rich Major gave him a detailed list of what needed to be done. Even more surprising was how short the list was, it seems his Aunt had everything planned out to the 't', all he had to do was sign a few documents and then show up at the appropriate time. Art was a big help for Tony he was always there with a shoulder to lean on. Art even filled in supervising for Tony a few times when Tony had meetings to attend to, away from the house. Teri had left everything she owned to Tony and it was far more than he had known. Tony was actually set for life if he decided to stop working and just sit around. However, Tony loved what he was doing and he especially loved working with some of the up and coming young authors. Now thanks to his Aunt he would be able to provide pro bono Proofreading and Editing to some of the younger and less affluent LGBTQ Authors. Life was looking up for Tony, especially with his time spent with Art. They were taking things slowly, having date nights and spending several nights a week, they hadn't decided yet whether they were going to move in together. That decision was going to take a while as they both had the perfect living situations.
Tony made good use of his Aunt's awesome kitchen both for himself and his employees, as he always had some kind of brunch ready on Monday mornings. He also had a huge spread of sandwich fixings, and salads for Friday lunch or as his Aunt had called it Luncheon. As the years went by, Tony's staff shrunk and grew according to the University School year, of course, he also lost a few employees that had moved back home and had jobs nearer their families. However, he always had a loyal core group of full and part-timers that stayed with him through thick and thin. There was a lot thick than thin, even a majority of the employees that left wouldn't leave until they had found their replacement and that the replacements had been trained to Tony's high standards. The fact that Tony paid extremely well, and employees could work from home, and they always were able to take time off for tests and finals may have had a bit to do with his employees' loyalties. Tony knew that some of his employees did a fair bit of freelance editing for their classmates and roommates. However, when it came down to Thesis and Doctoral Papers those employees always submitted the work to Tony or Administrative Assistant Jamie for approval, and assignment. Those papers were always processed at a far lower rate. Nonetheless, they received the same quality work that everyone else was given. If the student was on a Need Scholarship, they received their work pro bono, the vast majority of the pro bono work was easily recouped by the recommendations supplied by those students. Thanksgiving was approaching, and Tony had made reservations at Ma & Pa's Kettle for Thanksgiving Dinner for Jamie R and six of his employees that couldn't make it home for the holiday. In fact, in one case the employee Darryl didn't have a family to go home to as they had thrown him out as soon as he had turned eighteen. Darryl wouldn't go into a lot of detail as to the reason why, however, the very discrete Rainbow Unicorn Tattoo was probably a very good indicator. The reservation was for Three in the afternoon, so everyone could get home before it was too dark. Tony was supposed to Join Art later that evening for a nightcap and 'dessert'.
Art had decided that he wanted to move and live in a place that had a small-town feel, but also had a good university and also high-quality High-Speed Internet. After lots of internet searches and hours and hours of phone calls, he settled on Boise Idaho. One of the reasons that he chose Boise was the fact that it was far enough away from his family that they wouldn't be interrupting his work by dropping in all of the time. Yet, with the airport and freeways, he was still close enough for holidays. Flying over a powered-up F-15C while landing at Boise Airport was a little unnerving, to say the least. He quickly exited the terminal and headed toward his meeting with the real estate agent that he had made an appointment with over the Internet. Art had found a couple of buildings that met his requirements or at least seemed too, he was eager to purchase one and get his business rolling, he couldn't spend too much time dilly-dallying around. The contracts were already rolling in and he couldn't afford to let them pile up. He really liked the look of the first building that he was scheduled to look at, however, it was also the oldest of choices. The listing stated that the interior was open and that the services had been updated. However, there were no pictures of the interior, and no date on the services update. Nevertheless, he still was very interested in seeing it as was the largest of the three and also the least expensive. His curiosity had been piqued by an email from the realtor that stated he would be pleasantly surprised. The email went on to state that he had only added the other two buildings for the heck of it. Art, enjoyed the drive to the building, noticing that the surrounding neighbourhoods were very nice and there were lots of Mom & Pop stores and restaurants around. He arrived at his destination and was greeted by the realtor Jeff Fort, who deftly deflected Art's questions regarding why this building would be the only one that he needed to see. Art, just shook his head, and said,
Five minutes later Art was ready to whip out his chequebook, and he had only seen the Foyer and part of the first floor. They were headed to the basement, so far Art had to admit that the smooth-talking Jeff had hit the nail on the proverbial head. What he had seen so far was perfect the interior had finished walls, there was a plethora of electrical outlets and some cunningly concealed skylight tubes that ended in the basement. The building not only had Cat 6 outlets on every wall, but there was also Wi-Fi throughout the building. When they walked out of the elevator into the basement Art was absolutely stunned, the lighting was absolutely perfect, and that was only the natural light. Jeff flipped a switch and the updated LED lighting lit the place in even more soft white light. The previous owners had left several potted plants, which not only added spots of colour, but helped the air smell fresh and clean. Art did reach for his chequebook, however, Jeff said,
"Not yet, we need to see the third floor living quarters."
"Are you sure, this is exactly what I have been looking for business wise?" A perplexed Art responded.
"I am absolutely sure, you need to see the pièce de résistance before we conduct any business." Was Jeff's answer as he turned and headed back to the elevator.
Art took one more quick look around at the basement, taking stock of the workbenches and tables that had been left behind. 'Well, those will save e a pretty penny, I wonder when the other shoe is going to drop. What is wrong with this building?'
Art took some time to notice the elevator this time and saw that it was at the most only a few years old, it was also extremely smooth and quiet.
"This elevator and the freight elevator were renovated three years ago, the freight elevator which I will show you later runs from the third floor to the basement inside the back wall of the building. I can see by the look on your face that you are trying to figure out why this building is still available at the price being asked. It is very simple, this is a Historical District and the exterior of the building is a Registered Architectural Structure and as such can't be changed. I am sure that you wondered about the ornate parapet on the roof. That was added just before the building was registered, as that owner had planned to add the skylights and air and heating plants that couldn't be placed in the basement. The owner previous to you took advantage of the feature when he remodelled the building. Thanks to that previous owners' foresight the remodelling plans were approved without a hitch. Did that answer your question Art?"
"Mostly, but why isn't the interior registered?" Art responded with a question of his own.
"Simple really, the owner that added the parapet had already renovated the interior and had removed all of the antique fixtures. Nonetheless, the building is still one of the finest brownstone exteriors in Boise. How that owner was able to find an architect to design the parapet to maintain the integrity of the building no one has been able to tell me."
"I do have to admit that I thought the parapet was original to the building." Art replied as the stepped out of the elevator into a very well-furnished entryway. The decor was understated yet elegant, it hinted at the age and history of the building yet didn't come across as antique. Art stood there drooling until Jeff grabbed his hand and took him into the living room.
The living room was a very expansive open space with just the right amount of furnishings. Jeff didn't spend more than a few seconds in that room before he dragged Art into the professionally designed and equipped kitchen.
"I'll take that cheque now," he quipped.
Art started to respond, however, a sniggering Jeff said,
"I have one more surprise for you," he then led Art back into the main hallway and then through the door directly across from the living room entrance. The first room that they entered could be called an English Gentleman's Study or Den. A lustrous hardwood floor partially covered by an exquisite Persian Carpet in dark blues and burgundies. The walls not covered by the fireplace or small bookcase were panelled with rich dark walnut. The furniture in the room was either of Cherry or Cuban Mahogany, the room exuded comfort and understated elegance. Art walked over and plopped himself into the overstuffed leather recliner that was just begging to be sat in. He didn't stay seated very long though as directly across from the reclined was a doorway that led into a room not only lined with built-in bookcases, but freestanding ones as well. It looked exactly like a library. Needless to say, Art wrote the cheque, and included a large bonus. To say thanks, Jeff made a few calls and even though the sale hadn't closed had all of the necessary services set to be fully turned and in Art's name by Wednesday and had arranged for the closing on Friday. That left Art only three days to tie up all of his loose ends and get the movers arranged and scheduled. Less than a month after moving in, Art's business was booming, he was able to hire all of the part-time and full-time staff that he needed and even had a waiting list of future employees. Over the years, he was able to fully stock his private library with either books that he had purchased and personally repaired or gifts from very satisfied clients and a few from his very happy employees.
Life for Art was going fairly well he had a large circle of acquaintances and his family popped in to visit several times a year. That was until that fateful evening at Ma & Pa's Kettle. Things were going well with Art & Tony, they were taking it slow and getting to know each other. The fact that they both had successful businesses in their homes was making thing a bit tricky.
Art like his friend Tony took advantage of his professionally designed kitchen very often like several times a day. Art enjoyed sharing his culinary skills with his employees and occasionally with a client that he was wooing or attempting to pry an ancient tome from. He always had a wonderful spread of breakfast foods on Monday mornings especially for his employees that were attending the University. As he preferred company when he ate, he would occasionally provide lunch and Fridays were always a potluck lunch, the leftovers serving as dinner for some of the employees. Art had planned to serve a light Thanksgiving Dinner for those employees that either didn't have family in the area or those that for one reason or other couldn't go home. He was definitely looking forward to Tony's arrival later that evening for a nightcap and 'dessert'. Art had basically written his family off for the holidays as most of them thought that Boise was a provincial backwater town. His mother and a few cousins had visited a time or two over the years, but they never stayed long and preferred that Art always spend the holidays at one of their homes. Unbeknownst to Art, his wonderful family had decided to surprise him by showing up unannounced the evening before Thanksgiving. Art was absotively and posilutely stunned when his Mother called him the evening before Thanksgiving and informed him that the Family was in town and then asked where he was going to have Thanksgiving Dinner for the Family. To say that that phone conversation and several other ones were interesting would be a major understatement. The only reason that he didn't divorce his family right then and there was the fact that they were all staying at a Hotel and he would only see them for dinner as they were all flying out later Thanksgiving Night. Art made several executive decisions the first one being that he would still fix the promised meal for his employees, they would just have to eat without him. The second one was calling Ma & Pa's Kettle and seeing if they still had a private or semi-private dining room available, he would have settled for the main dining room he was so 'happy' with his fandamily. His family was in luck Ma said that she had just the room for him and his family and would three o'clock work for him? Art, said that would work perfectly, he decided not to ruin Tony's evening as no matter what time his family flew out, he would be home waiting for Tony.
Tony had hired a twelve-seat van and driver to take his party to the restaurant, he had reservations for eight. However, he always planned for a tag along or two. He was a bit surprised when Pa escorted his party to the large private dining room, not the small one that he had requested. All Pa would say was "Lower Price," Pa opened the doors and Tony saw that the decorations were stunning. The only fly in the ointment was the two large tables instead of the one that he was expecting. He knew which table was his and his party's thanks to the sign on the table that was a mini version of the sign outside his home. This sign only stated Draconisian Proofreading & Editing LLC. Something else caught his eye and that was the buffet table off to the side that was absolutely loaded with every hors d'oeuvre imaginable. As he was leaving Pa winked at Tony and murmured "Included." Tony's crew quickly took seats and began sipping from their beverage of choice, Tony had given their favourites when he made the reservation. Several of the crew headed the buffet table to see if their favourites were there. Tony had just regained his seat, with his favourites, his seat was at the end of the table that just happened to face the now closed doors into the dining room. He had just taken a sip of his Pear Cider when the doors opened and Art, and some people that Tony had never seen followed Pa into the room. Pa, led Art's group over to the other table that was on the other side of the large room. As Pa was exiting the room he turned and looked at Tony and winked and then was out the door.
Art gave Tony a quick smile, but no air kiss or hello. Art's group slowly and noisily found their places, some of them eschewing their seats and headed to the buffet table. Art took his seat which was at the same end of his table as Tony's and gave him a very sad smile. When a few of Art's crowd had returned to their sets with their plates overflowing Art headed to the buffet table himself. As he walked behind Tony, Art gave his shoulder a quick squeeze and whispered,
"Family," and moved on.
All Tony could think was, 'Poor Art'.
Several minutes later carts and carts of food began trundling in, and soon everyone was digging into the scrumptious feast. There was Roast Turkey with your choice of Light or Dark Meat, Smoked Turkey with the same choices, and a Spiral Sliced Ham just dripping with a Honey Mustard Glaze. There were several kinds of dressing including a Wild Rice and Pecan Dressing, Oyster Dressing and even a Cornbread Dressing. For the traditionalist, there was the ubiquitous Toasted Bread Stuffing. Dinner at Tony's table was a peaceful but fun affair, there were conversations, but it was quiet as most folks were too busy eating to talk. Those that did talk, only talked to their neighbours and didn't yell across the table. Tony was appalled at the what he was seeing and hearing from Art's table, people were talking across the table, waving food at each other and totally ignoring their erstwhile host. Tony was only able to eat half of his wonderful meal before he couldn't take anymore. He took a quick look around his table and saw that all of them had seen the same things that he had and were completely disgusted. He decided to take the bull by its horns, he got up and headed over to rescue Art.
Tony arrived at Art's table and only a few people noticed him and none of them said hello or even smiled at him. 'These are the some of the most selfish and inconsiderate folks that I have ever seen. Bullshit, Art shouldn't have to put up with this crap, and if these are his family members tough.' Tony finished his thoughts and then leaned over and gave Art a big hug and whispered,
"Happy Thanksgiving, Love."
He then proceeded to give Art a heartfelt kiss on the lips, that finally caught everyone's attention at Art's table. By the sounds of dismay and indignation, he was hearing Tony realized that Art hadn't told his family anything about him. He couldn't remember if Art had ever told him whether his family knew that he was gay or not. Before Tony could figure his way out of his conundrum, Art resolved the issue in a grand fashion.
Art stood up grabbed Tony's hand and then announced,
"Folks I want you to meet my lover Tony, who will soon be my husband!"
Talk about jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire! Tony turned his head and looked into Art's misty eyes and asked,
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely sure, will you say yes?"
Art's family was mostly sitting there shell-shocked those that had started to stand had plopped back down in their seats. All of them were just staring at the two men that were completely ignoring everyone. Before Tony could say yes, all of his employees shouted,
"Yes, he says YES!"
Followed right up by a few,
"It's about time."
Art finally broke out of his and Tony's trance and took a look at the expressions on his family's faces. Half of them were of disdain and disgust, he decided to cut the problem makers off at the knees before they spill any filth out of their mouths.
"Tony is my soulmate and we are getting married, if you don't like it, there's the doors and don't let them hit you on your rears on your way out." As soon as the words were out of Art's mouth the doors opened and Pa stepped in followed by a few black uniformed Boise Police Officers. Those of Art's family that had started to protest meekly left the room followed by the Police Officers. What they didn't see was that all of Tony's employees had left the seats en masse and were standing protectively around Art and Tony. As Pa left the room, he winked and mouthed,
Art's remaining family were busy congratulating the happy couple. Art's mother stole the show when she announced,
"It's about time you told us what was really going on in your life. I am too old to fly around the country performing interventions. Happy Thanksgiving Guys and welcome to the Family!"
She then walked over to and gave both Art and Tony big hugs and then to Tony's surprise gave him a kiss on the cheek. She then whispered,
"Thank you," into his ear.
"Art, son, don't worry about those ex-family members, I have been waiting to cut them out of my will and out of our lives. They joined some out of the way religion that believes that only WASP's should walk this earth. I only have one request, and that is I host the wedding and the reception. Before you both say anything, I will host it here, so all of your employees can attend. Deal?"
Tony and Art's reply was a big hug and a kiss for their Mom.
I want to say thank you to Art for letting me borrow his characters and scenarios, also for taking his time to polish up a few rough spots.
Thanks also to Darryl for adding in all the words that I left out, that I thought I had included.
I hope that you enjoy this little Thanksgiving Treat.
Comments, criticisms, adorations always accepted by The Story Lover
What a beautiful story! Ma and Pa's Kettle, wow!
I agree with your position on "proper grammar"!
And of course, I need to know more about all these people, so we need a series from this item.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher
When asked by TSL, I gave him my permission to use one of my stories as the inspiration for this story. I’m totally flattered that one of my stories inspired TSL to write this endearing story, and that once he did, he asked me to participate in the editing process, (he now knows what I have to go through after he edits my stories!!). I hope you let him know how much you enjoyed it. I had to admit to him that not only did I enjoy the story a great deal, I fell in love with the house used in the story (I think that in my real estate days I would have kept it for myself!).