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    Altimexis
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The Brilliant Boy Billionaire - 34. Dim Sum

Again, I awoke to visions of being chased by my dad, but then I saw Shaun in my dream, and everything was okay. I quickly fell back to sleep and didn’t wake up again until the alarm on my phone went off. I groaned as the sound woke me and my boyfriend up after a night of making love. It was so tempting to just turn the alarm off and go back to sleep. It wasn’t like we had to go to Chinatown this morning. The reviews for the DimSum Palace were even better than those for Jing Fong Restaurant, and there were multiple locations, including one right near here in Hell’s Kitchen, but Jing Fong was the oldest restaurant in Chinatown that was still in operation, and it was one of the few places that did it old school, with carts that circulated among the tables. It was an institution in and of itself. The food was said to be the best anywhere, even if it was overpriced – even if there were long lines for dim sum on Sundays. For my Shaun’s birthday, it would be worth it.

“Wha… what’s that noise?” Shaun finally asked as his head popped up off the pillow.

“It’s time to get up, Babe,” I answered. “Remember that we’re in New York for the weekend? We have a flight home at seven, but even before that, we have tickets to the Book of Mormon. It’s already eight. We need to get cracking!”

“Eight o’clock in the fuckin’ morning?” Shaun responded. “On a Sunday, and you expect me to get up after making love until 3 AM? Are you fuckin’ outta your mind?”

“Trust me, you’ll thank me in the end,” I replied. “We’re goin’ someplace special. We have to get there early, though, or we won’t have time.”

“It better be worth it, J.J., or I’ll get myself a new boyfriend,” Shaun responded as he got up and outta bed. Shortly afterwards I heard the sound of his morning piss hitting the water in the toilet bowl. I joined him and followed suit. We took our turns in the shower and at the sink, got dressed, checked out of the room, stored our luggage with the bellhop and headed out into what turned out to be a blustery day. Shit, I could only hope we wouldn’t need umbrellas. It was definitely a bit chilly for shorts, but we buttoned up our corduroy shirts, and that was enough to make us comfortable.

We got on the subway a block from our hotel, took it all the way to Canal Street, and walked the rest of the way to Jing Fong, arriving a half-hour before the restaurant was supposed to open, yet already there was a line. Most of those in line were Asian, which was a very good sign. If Asians ate at an Asian restaurant, chances were the food was authentic and it wasn’t a typical tourist spot. A half-hour later, the restaurant showed no sign of opening, and I remembered that one of the online reviews knocked off a couple of stars because it didn’t open ’til ten. Looking behind us, however, the line seemed to stretch forever, and I was glad we’d gotten up early. We were guaranteed to get in when the doors did finally open, so there’d still be plenty of time to get back in time for the show.

When I mentioned that to Shaun, however, the guy in front of us explained, “This isn’t a line to get in. It’s a line to get a number. Don’t worry, they’ll let people in until they run out of tables, but they might not have any tables for two by the time you get up there. In that case, they’ll give you a choice of being seated with other people at a table for four or a table for eight. Otherwise, they’ll give you a number and call you when a table for two opens up in another hour or so. The number system allows them to prescreen everyone and seat people more quickly. If they didn’t give out numbers, the line would stretch all the way across the Manhattan Bridge to the Barclay Center.”

Shortly after that, the line started moving, and we were seated at one of the last tables for two as far as I could see. Just about everyone in the restaurant was speaking Chinese but so loudly that I wouldn’t have been able to hear any English speakers beyond our table if I’d wanted to.

Right away, servers started coming by with rolling carts loaded with a variety of items. Everything was labeled in Chinese and English, which was a good thing ’cause they were all covered with metal tops. The prices were listed on a separate price sheet at the table, with most items costing $5.50, but some costing $10, $15, $20 or even $30. You couldn’t just assume that because something looked cheap that it was. Most items were on small plates or in wooden dumpling baskets with four pieces per serving, which worked out perfectly for the two of us. I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t an all-you-can-eat buffet, and with two famished teens, the charges quickly added up. We’d barely started when I noticed that the running tally for the eight servings we’d ordered exceeded fifty dollars. At one point I almost ordered the whole crab, but then I noticed on the price list that it was $49. It was the most expensive item on the list. Back home I could get a nice dinner for two for that, and so I passed.

“So, I told you all about me,” I began. “Tell me the story about your life, Shaun.”

“Compared to your story, there isn’t much to tell,” Shaun replied. “I was born in Cleveland, where my dad was a graduate student at Case Western Reserve University in the biomedical engineering department. I don’t remember anything about Ohio ’cause after he got his Ph.D. we moved to Massachusetts, where he did a post-doc at M.I.T. and stayed on for a few years as an instructor and then an assistant professor. M.I.T.’s a real meat-grinder when it comes to young faculty, however, and when he saw his colleagues getting jobs in private industry at double or triple the salary, he realized he could do much more to advance the field by working in the private sector. When my sister came along, supporting a family in the Boston area was gonna be untenable.

“He was offered a job at Google at way more than he thought he was worth, but he didn’t like the Bay Area at all. As he put it, the only reason the cost of living was so high was the unwillingness of residents to allow high-density housing. Everyone wanted their single-family house on its own plot of land, even if the space between houses was close enough to lean out the window and shake your neighbor’s hand. The result is endless suburban sprawl and endless commutes, and now they’re paying the price with climate change as the forests around them burn.”

“That’s an interesting perspective,” I noted.

“And an ironic one, don’t you think?” Shaun asked. “The people of California complain about the consequences of climate change, yet their lifestyle is a good part of the cause.

“Dad was offered a job at Applazon corporate headquarters, and we moved to Seattle,” Shaun went on. “I was six years old and in the first grade and was uprooted from the only home I’d known. No sooner did we get settled into our new home than Dad was sent to Tokyo to set up a data center there. Then it was Shanghai, then São Paulo, then Cape Town. Dad was hardly ever home. During the school year, my sister and I lived in Seattle. During the winter and summer breaks, we lived with Dad, wherever he was.”

“I’m jealous of the travel,” I responded, “but jeez, it sounds like your parents were already effectively divorced. You said your mom cheated on your dad – with his boss who’s a woman?”

“Yeah,” Shaun replied. “There’s a lot more to it than cheating, though. Even calling it an affair doesn’t do it justice. It probably started out that way. After the divorce, they got married, so I guess they fell in love.”

“Whoa, do you think maybe your mom’s bi,” I asked, “or was she always a lesbian?”

Laughing, Shaun replied, “I’ve no idea, actually. I never really gave it much thought.”

“What about your dad?” I asked. “Surely he wasn’t celibate the whole time he was away.”

“I spent a half-dozen summers with my dad, and in all that time, not once did I see anything to make me suspect he was involved with someone,” Shaun reported. “If he was doing anything behind my back or behind my sister’s back, he kept it well-hidden.”

“Surely you weren’t with your father 24/7,” I asked. “He had to work. Who watched you during the day?”

“He hired a nanny to watch us. Always a local, usually a woman, but twice it was a man. My sister and I liked the men the best ’cause they let us do a lot more stuff on our own than the women.”

“Were they young or old?” I asked.

“One of them was older, like in her fifties,” Shaun replied. “The rest were in their late teens or twenties. Why so many questions?”

“Because I’ve given you my heart, Shaun,” I replied, “yet I hardly know anything about you from before you moved to Omaha. One thing I don’t understand is why you haven’t had any contact with your sister since I’ve known you, nor has your dad. You three used to spend your summers together. I kinda think there’s a huge part of the puzzle that is your life that I’m missing.”

“Are you suggesting that there’s something I’ve kept from you?” Shaun asked.

“Maybe not intentionally,” I responded, “but we both have a lot to learn about each other.”

“That’s how relationships are built, I think,” Shaun answered. “People fall in love rather quickly, but it takes time to become a couple. I think the main reason a lot of marriages fail is because people rush into becoming a family before they’ve become a couple.”

That was actually very profound. It showed a depth to my boyfriend that I hadn’t previously seen. Still, I couldn’t help but think there was something he wasn’t telling me, something significant. For one thing, why the secrecy regarding his sister? No matter how estranged he and his father might have become from his mother, wouldn’t they still love his sister? At least, wouldn’t she have called or visited during the time I’d known them? Whatever that missing piece was, it had a lot to do with his sister, but that discussion was for another time. We had a Broadway musical to see and only a little more than an hour before curtain call.

The bill came to over a hundred dollars, which meant we’d each had the equivalent of ten standard items. I counted up fifteen actual items we’d ordered, so we hadn’t gone overboard. The dim sum added up in a hurry. With tax and tip, it was closer to $150.

By the time I paid the cost for parking at Eppley Airfield, I’d seriously blown my budget for the weekend, but it’d been well worth it.

<> <> <>

Work on the new data center was going very well. The shell had been completed and the HVAC system was ready for installation. The architect and his firm were putting the finishing touches on the blueprints for the interior layout. Both the data center and the manufacturing area had to be clean, which meant they had to be enclosed and have their own air handling systems. Thanks to our group’s efforts, we’d managed to keep the delays to a minimum, and the building would be ready for the installation of servers at the beginning of the year. With manufacturing onsite, we expected to have all sixteen of the data mini-centers installed and operational by the end of the third quarter of 2020 and well ahead of schedule.

The prototype data mini-center had been completed with the exception of installation of the robotic arms. A temporary cooling system was external to the setup and was functioning perfectly. The prototype had been subjected to simulated data loads more typical of years of use and not a single server had failed. Components had been removed and examined under an electron microscope and found to be free of the thermal damage usually associated with conventional server design. My cooling system was working flawlessly. There was even talk of selling the data mini-centers with the robotic arms as an option rather than including them. That would allow us to sell the mini-centers at a much lower cost which, as it was, would be millions of dollars. For many operations, there would be sufficient excess capacity to compensate for limited server failures for several years, at which time the whole thing would be replaced with a refurbished unit. Opting out of the robotic arms would also avoid export restrictions to some countries, although the servers themselves would be restricted in their own right in far too many cases.

The robotic arms were being custom made by Lockheed-Martin and would be installed by their engineers. Per government regulations, they could only be used with their own proprietary software, which was to be installed on dedicated, multiply redundant servers inside the unit. If everything went as planned, final testing of the prototype with the robotic arms and a dedicated nitrogen cooling system on top of the unit would be completed by Thanksgiving. Then, all of the component parts would be ordered for mass production, with assembly to begin in the new facility by Christmas. As with the prototype, the data mini-centers would be assembled by hand. A skilled team could assemble one in about two weeks at lower cost than a robotic system could. Demand would have to exceed fifty units a year before robotic assembly would pay.

In the meantime, the end of October approached and with it, Halloween. This was to be my first time experiencing a real Halloween. Growing up in Indiana, I’d always been on my own when it came to making a costume or trick-or-treating. Dad never bought me anything, and I didn’t have anything of my own that was suitable for anything other than a homeless kid. I did resort to dressing up as a hobo just so I could get my share of candy, but that stopped once I turned eleven and was in high school. It was just too embarrassing to dress so much like the dirt-poor kid I really was. At least, we didn’t have to deal with trick-or-treaters stopping by our shack in the middle of nowhere.

Last year, I’d been living with the Rodriguez family in a Latinx neighborhood, and Halloween took a back seat to the Day of the Dead, a festival that began on October 31 and lasted three days. It was a celebration of our ancestors that bore only a passing resemblance to the celebration of All Saint’s Day and All Hallows’ Eve. Whereas Halloween had become completely secular, the Day of the Dead was a deeply religious celebration.

Helping the Gonzalez family decorate the house for Halloween was a revelation as they went all out and had done so for years. We weren’t talking just about a pumpkin or two, some wheat stalks and some cardboard skeletons. There were speakers hidden in trees, fake cobwebs, eerie light fixtures that flickered and a mist machine. The overall effect was that their house and theirs alone was in the midst of a thunderstorm. Finally, there was a crypt hidden behind the bushes from which a motorized corpse jumped out when someone walked up to the front door. I feared there’d be more than a few wet costumes after kids visited our house.

At work we held a party on the afternoon of Halloween just for our research group. The data center was having their own party, and I’d gotten invitations from both. I was the only member of the research group who was originally a data-center employee, but otherwise the existence of the research group was secret, which was why we were having our own party. The data center was itself a secret, although not for much longer. This would be the last time they held a party separately from the delivery-station employees. The party began at noon with the arrival of lunch from Spin! Pizza. In addition to the pizzas, which included five-cheese, pesto-chicken, roasted-potato, double-pepperoni, three-meat, mushroom, sausage & apple and barbecue-chicken pizzas, we had blood-orange sangria, which was certainly appropriate for Halloween, and bottled water.

Because Shaun and I were boyfriends, we decided to coordinate our costumes. The trouble was, there weren’t that many famous gay couples. There were plenty of famous gay people now who were out and proud, but gay couples weren’t that common. After wracking our brains for well-known guy-pairs, we decided to go as Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, the ‘two Steves’ who pioneered the first true personal computers. Fortunately for Shaun, his hair was a pretty close match for that of the young Steve Jobs, so his costume consisted only of a black turtleneck and jeans. My hair wasn’t anything like Woz’s, however, and there was no way I could grow a beard, so I had to rent a wig and a beard, which was glued on. Jeez, I hoped they sanitized the things between customers. The good news was that no one had any difficulty recognizing who we were supposed to be. The bad news was that the beard itched like crazy.

Because there was no one to police it, Shaun and I both tried the sangria. It was surprisingly good, but as sweet as it was, it was far too easy to imbibe in it without realizing how much alcohol we’d consumed. The party finished at 3:00 but there was no way it was safe for me to drive, and Shaun didn’t yet have his license, but at least he was sober. Because the office was closing down around us and there were no places to go to wait until I became sober, we had to take our chances, and I let Shaun drive us home to his place. He had his learner’s permit and he’d completed just as much driver’s ed as I had, and he did fine. He loved driving the Tesla and couldn’t wait to get his Audi.

Back home, Lindsey was the only one left going trick-or-treating. She was still eleven and had just started middle school. Celia and Rob were adults and had their own parties to attend. The ’rents stayed at home alone to give out candy. Frank was spending an extended weekend in Carter Lake with Lauren, who’d returned from Denver, leaving the house to just Shaun and me. We got Frank’s permission, so it wasn’t like we were going behind his back, but hell, two teenage boys alone in a house on Halloween? Frank trusted us, so we were gonna have to act as our own chaperones, which meant there might be some friction with the guests, but we were gonna throw a party. Rob dropped Henry, Darren and Sammy off early, and Celia dropped Hillary and Camilla off, too. As family, they could help get things set up. I could also rely on them to give out candy to trick-or-treaters in return for keeping some of the candy for themselves. Unfortunately, Sammy had recently broken up with his girlfriend, primarily because her parents caught them having sex and forbade their daughter to see him. For better or worse, he was now a free man and could play the field as he pleased.

The party started at 7:00 while the trick-or-treating was still in full swing, so I had to spend much of my time greeting our party guests at the same time as I handed out candy. It didn’t go unnoticed that some of the guests took candy, too, but we had plenty. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t cooperating, and it was way too cold for kids to be outside, yet they were. Yesterday, it had actually snowed a bit, and I got my first taste of driving on snow-slick roads. Just over the past weekend it had gotten up into the sixties, but this morning it was only 23°F. Now, it was in the low forties and expected to reach an overnight low below freezing. I was getting my first taste of early-winter weather on the plains of Nebraska, yet we were barely halfway into fall.

Shaun had programmed an extensive collection of popular music into the sound system, including some music appropriate for Halloween. The playlist was long enough to last all night if necessary, yet it could also take requests, compliments of Alesia. In addition to the hidden speakers in the home theater, Shaun’s house had hidden speakers in every room, including outdoors, not that it was warm enough to go outdoors. For food and decoration, Shaun and I had decided on a Day of the Dead theme. I’d some experience with it from last year; besides which, Mexican-themed food would be easy. We could’ve ordered the food out, but Shaun insisted on cooking it himself. The flour and corn tortillas were from a store, as were the tortilla chips. He made a huge amount of fajita filling with beef, chicken and shrimp, as well as vegetarian. He made his own refried beans and Spanish rice as well as his own red and green salsa and guacamole. He also fried up cheese, chicken and beef quesadillas. With shredded lettuce, two kinds of shredded cheese and sour cream, there was enough food for an army – or for a teenage party.

Of course, we had plenty of beer on hand in a variety of brands. Frank didn’t even bat an eye at that when Shaun mentioned it – not that he even asked if it was okay. We didn’t want the party to turn into a drunken orgy, so we asked people to pace themselves to no more than one drink an hour. It was on the honor system and no one was checking, but we wanted to give our guests’ teenage livers time to metabolize the alcohol. We’d also told everyone to bring their own pot if they wanted to smoke it but to leave any other mind-altering substances at home. I still hadn’t tried pot, although my dad used to smoke it, which was one of the reasons I was averse to it. I was keeping an open mind, though, and was open to trying it if someone offered it to me. Shaun said he used it socially when it was offered, but never bought it for himself. He thought pot was highly overrated, which was what Henry had said, although he still smoked it occasionally in spite of the promise he’d made to his parents.

Shaun invited a number of his classmates from his high school, and Sammy, Henry, Camilla and Hillary invited some of their friends as well, so we had a fairly large crowd by the time eight o’clock rolled around. I wouldn’t have said the house was packed, but all of the downstairs rooms were pretty full. The food and beer went faster than expected, and when it started to look like we might run out, Shaun decided we should order in. Unfortunately, most places that delivered and even some of those with takeout weren’t taking any more orders for the night. Shaun remembered that Oscar’s had a taco pizza that would be perfect with our Mexican theme. They were open until 11:00 and didn’t seem to mind the lateness of the hour. The downside was that they didn’t deliver. We ordered 100 boneless, double-dipped wings, half in buffalo sauce and half in garlic-parmesan sauce as well as two large taco pizzas and two large Sydney’s Special pizzas.

Fortunately, I’d been too busy to eat or drink and had had only a half of one beer, so the risk of being stopped for DUI was nonexistent, but still I made sure to keep to the speed limit. The order was waiting for me when I arrived, and I paid the bill with my phone. When I got back, the party was in full swing, and the food Shaun had prepared was all gone. I’d wondered if perhaps we’d ordered too much food, but our guests descended on the pizza and wings like locusts, devouring a good portion of it in a matter of minutes. At least, this time I got a chance to eat some of it.

Shaun and I did get a chance to share a joint, compliments of Henry. At first, I didn’t feel much of anything, but Shaun warned me that pot tends to be that way. Unlike with alcohol, you generally don’t feel its effects until the cannabis builds up in your system, and then it hits you. Unfortunately, when it hit me, it was on top of a couple of beers. Growing up, reading had always been my escape. In reading, I could escape to new realities without losing control. I didn’t like not being in control and quickly decided that pot wasn’t for me.

We’d started the party early because it was a school night, although I suspected more than a few students would be calling in sick tomorrow. It was a Thursday night, and tomorrow was Friday, after all. The party didn’t start to wind down until midnight, and the last of our guests didn’t leave until 2 AM. We made sure that everyone had a safe ride home so that no one drove drunk. Shaun had school in the morning, so we left the place a mess and went right to bed. I had the luxury of flexible work hours and was taking the next day off, so I could sleep in and then get started on cleaning up while Shaun was at school. Shaun’s school had a Halloween dance scheduled that evening, but he couldn’t recall ever seeing gay couples at a school dance. That pretty much told us what his classmates thought of us, so we decided to pass on it.

I had another nightmare that night, in which my dad was chasing me. It ended when Shaun once again came to my rescue. Little did I know then that it was to be the last time he’d come to my rescue, in my dreams or otherwise.

Copyright © 2021 Altimexis; All Rights Reserved.
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I'm thinking this secret might have something to do with that last sentence, like JJ said, Shaun knows everything about him, in my opinion possibly too much, and Shaun so far has been tight lipped. Frank strikes me as either a little eccentric/hippie like, or something fishy is going on during his so called trips to the girlfriend's house.

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2 hours ago, SnowBear said:

I'm thinking this secret might have something to do with that last sentence, like JJ said, Shaun knows everything about him, in my opinion possibly too much, and Shaun so far has been tight lipped. Frank strikes me as either a little eccentric/hippie like, or something fishy is going on during his so called trips to the girlfriend's house.

Something just does not feel right about Shaun and Frank. 

 

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Cliffhangers really suck. Well it’s a good story and I like it. Hate to see what’s coming though.

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Authors are evil. 🤪

Without giving too much away, an important chapter in J.J.’s life is coming to a close, but a much more exciting one is about to begin. Very soon, the significance of the story title will be revealed.

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11 hours ago, Altimexis said:

Authors are evil. 🤪

Without giving too much away, an important chapter in J.J.’s life is coming to a close, but a much more exciting one is about to begin. Very soon, the significance of the story title will be revealed.

Don't tell me; JJ's actually a boy.....????🤫🤫🤫🤫

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