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    Dabeagle
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Pupuseria Mia - 8. Chapter 8

 

Monday flew past. We spent it as a group – Claudio, Bry, Marina, Mauricio and his girlfriend Stella, and myself. We went to the town beach and idled away part of the day before heading to the town park, which turned into more hanging out more than anything else. Then we went back to the house for the big shared meal. In the bunk room preparing to go back out for the evening, Bry started to ask me about the night before.

I fixed him with a look. “Sure you want to hear about two gay boys getting it on?”

“Bro,” he said, smiling and holding out his fist for me. “Get some.”

I chuckled. I glanced at him and then away, and said, “I really like him.”

“That's valid, bro.”

I cleared my throat. “How are things between you and Marina?”

“We're talking. She's interesting. I like how she thinks about family – like her opinions and her experience about what family is and stuff. I think we're getting to know each other a little, and I like her. Not sure if she's got interest in me yet, but I'm chill with it.”

“Yeah, Claudio said something about her knowing you were into her and liking that.”

“Oh yeah? That's good to know. What else are you not telling me?”

We teased for a few minutes, but then we were back out with the group, which was breaking down into pairs. Mauricio and Stella were heading out to a late movie while Marina wanted to watch some streaming show she was into, so Bry volunteered to keep her company. Claudio and I hit the street and ended up back in the park. We sat on a table to talk; some other people were still in the park drinking. I was a little worried that the cops could cruise by and make problems for us, given the park was closed, but Claudio didn't seem to be worried.

“I like the food you guys make,” I told him. “Do you know how to cook all that? Is that why you're in the kitchen now?”

“A little. My parents know I'm interested in the family business in ways Mauricio and Marina aren't. Mauricio has been taking classes at the community college, and he'll be heading into the city for a job in a year or so. Marina likes numbers, so she's going to work at being an accountant – but she wants to work for herself, so the restaurant will be a client of hers eventually. Then she wants to do the books for other small businesses in town.”

“And you will be Chef Claudio?”

“I will be Chef Claudio,” he agreed.

“Do you know how to make the pupusas?”

“I do. Good, huh?” he asked with a grin. “My grandparents took me back to their hometown once. I can remember the smell of the city bus – the diesel smell of the engine. It makes me think of being there. We'd go up the street to the vendor who sold the pupusas at a cart. They'd come wrapped in some foil.” He glanced at me. “You can't find the same cheeses here, but people use mozzarella a lot or sometimes mix ricotta with the mozzarella.”

“Will you teach me?”

He chuckled. “You join me in the kitchen and we might never leave, you know. Because a man who is in my kitchen and my pants sounds a lot like the perfect man to me.”

“Well...let me in your kitchen, then,” I said, giggling.

I don't know what would have happened from there, but I had some real thoughts about going into the darkened area under the trees and taking some new steps with him. Unfortunately, the guys that were drinking suddenly started to yell, and a fight broke out. We did the smart thing and ran. As we slowed down, the sky began to rumble and the first drops began to fall; by the time we got back to the house we were soaked. We separated with only the whisper of what else might have happened that night.

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

The first few days of the week were hectic with work. Bry and I were making deliveries and getting good tips, either in cash or at the end of the night from the app sales. Claudio and I were having some trouble getting time alone together, because he was doing more prep work in the kitchen than before. To be with him, I would go in early and have him tell me what he needed help with.

“You want to be a cook like my Claudio?” his mom asked as she cut onions and carrots.

“Makes sense – I like to eat,” I said with a grin. “He said he knows how to make pupusas. I'm hoping he'll teach me.”

“Claudio!” she said, looking at him. “You're going to teach someone how to make my pupusas? You mocoso!

“Yes, but I'll teach him how to make them right! Not like Mauricio!” he said with a grin.

She turned and put her hands on her hips. “Okay. You two are up to something. What is it? Come on, come on, come on. Don't try to squirm out of telling me.”

I widened my eyes and looked to Claudio for a clue on how to handle this.

“I've taught people to cook before, mamá,” Claudio said with a smile. “Rion is interested in learning, so, I'll teach him!”

“If you teach someone to make my pupusas, you'd better be in love.” She wagged a finger at him and glanced around before approaching him. “Marina is a dead giveaway. She has been prickly, she has been chasing you around, and that tells me she's involved in whatever you are hiding.” She looked at me and then back to him. “So.”

“She's onto us,” I said to Claudio. Mustering everything I'd learned in trying to fool my mother – and hoping this didn't backfire on Bry – I said, “Bry and Marina-”

“I knew it!” his mom exulted, her hands closing into fists.

Claudio looked at me with wide eyes, but I had already let things out into the open, so I had no real choice but to keep going. “But they are still just talking, so I don't think-”

She pointed at me. “I know my daughter. But I don't know your friend. I'm sure my son has been pumping you for information like the overprotective brother he is, but...tell me everything.”

I glanced at Claudio, and he made a subtle motion for me to continue. I lifted my chin at his mom. “What are you willing to trade?”

She kept her mouth closed but lowered her jaw and poked her tongue around. She glanced at Claudio and then back to me. “Do you know how to make curtido?”

*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^*^

“You told my mother?” Marina demanded, looking at me with murder in her eyes.

“I had to!” I held my hands out pleadingly. “She knew something was going on, and she had me and Claudio cornered! I thought she was talking about,” I dropped my voice and glanced around quickly before saying, “you know.”

“Argh!” She threw her hands in the air. She turned and pointed at Bry. “Your friend has put you in the worst position. You had better be the best fake boyfriend the world has ever seen! I mean it! My parents have to buy this so they don't look too hard at my brother!” The corners of Bry's mouth started to curl up, and Marina growled at him. “Don't you dare smile. You are about to work harder than you ever have in your life!” She turned and left us by the front doors as she stormed deeper into the restaurant.

“Well. That wasn't so bad,” Claudio said.

Bro,” Bry said, holding his fist out. “I am going to impress the fuck out of her. This is just the opening I needed.” We bumped fists. “We'll talk later about how you were willing to throw my love life under the bus to save your boy.”

“Honestly...it was the best I could do on short notice.”

“It may work out,” he said with a grin.

“You're brave. She's pissed off,” Claudio said.

“And if she's upset, that's where I should be,” Bry replied and headed off after Marina.

Claudio looked at me and stepped closer. “I thought for sure....”

“Yeah. That was close. Will Marina be okay?”

“I think so. Besides, now she has an excuse to hang out with your friend. He seems nice.”

“He is,” I said absently. “So now that I know how to make curtido, you'll have to teach me how to make the pupsas to go with it.”

“Aha,” he said with a grin. “You learned how the curtido is made, but you've never made it – I think you're getting ahead of yourself.”

I closed the space between us a bit more. “Well. We all know what it means when you teach me how to make them. Your mom said....”

He narrowed his eyes playfully. “You're awfully confident.”

“I could be wrong,” I said, taking a half step back.

He reached out and pulled me back. “You could be right.”

Things might have taken a turn for the absurd right there, considering we thought we'd been found out not that long ago, but instead Mauricio hit us with the door coming in from outside, laughed at us and went to get changed for work. We gave each other meaningful looks, but went to join everyone for the before-shift meal.

Later that evening I was out making a delivery when my phone rang. Glancing at the screen I was immediately anxious to see my mother as the caller. That was almost always a bad thing – it usually meant I was in trouble or she wanted to dig about something.

“Hi, Mom,” I said. “What's up?”

“What's up? You've been gone almost a month, I get one phone call from you, and now it's what's up?”

“Uh, I just meant...I was just wondering, you know, what's up with you. A greeting,” I said, sighing

inwardly.

“Uh huh. So. What's up with you?”

“Oh, not a lot. It's really nice out. Love the beach.”

“Yeah? How's the new job?”

I paused, coming to a stop mid-stride. “Um.”

“Yeah. So I ran into Bry's mom at the store-”

“No. You didn't,” I said firmly.

“How do you know?”

“You hate where she shops.”

“Look who decided to get observant!” she said flatly. “Fine. I called to ask her about this whole getting another week, how did she swing it and such.”

I sighed. “You were being nosy. Again.”

“So what if I was? You want privacy, you get it when you move out and pay your own bills.”

I nodded my head, frustration and feeling belittled rising up in me. “Okay. Done. I have a job, and it comes with a place to crash, so I'm all set. Thanks for calling.” I disconnected and headed on toward my delivery address. Of course, anyone could have guessed that wasn't the end of it, not even close. For the next ten or fifteen minutes my phone buzzed with incoming text messages and phone messages, because I wasn't picking up. Nothing drives her up a tree more than me ignoring her, but nothing drives me up the tree faster than her boundary issues.

I made my delivery, and then made my 'in case of emergency' call.

“Hi, Grampa. How are you?”

“Well. I'll tell you, Rion. I went down to the home improvement store, because they were having a sale on sockets – they were getting rid of a whole line of them.” He paused. “No, wait. I think it was the auto parts store. Anywho, they had this clearance sale on, and I must have spent a half hour digging around trying to find a quarter-inch ratchet set, but do you think I could find one? No. They kept telling me the price was just above what they pay for them, because the company was bringing in a new line – I'm nearly sure it was the home improvement store.” He paused again, and I smiled to myself. “So here I am digging, and some teenager finally gets bored enough to ask me if they can help me – the counter was close, so maybe it was the auto parts store. So I tell them I'm looking for a quarter-inch ratchet set, and he says to me – get this – let him look in the back, because they didn't put everything they have out for sale. Can you imagine? Why wouldn't you put it all out there if you wanted to get rid of it?”

I chuckled. “I don't know, Gramp. Maybe they didn't have enough room?”

“Well, none of it was hanging up,” he conceded. “Just a few tables.”

“Did you get it?”

“Get what?”

“The ratchet set,” I said, grinning.

“Oh! Yeah. Real nice – comes with two extensions. Just what I needed.”

“Well, that's good, then. How's Gram?”

“Pain in my ass,” he said, and I heard my grandmother call him something. He spoke again with a smile in his voice. “She says to say she loves you. So what's happening?”

I sat down on the curb. “Mom is happening.”

“Oh, again? Do I need to fake a heart attack or something to distract her?” My grandmother raised her voice in the background, but it still wasn't clear enough for me to hear. “Oh, your grandmother says that's not nice of me.” Her voice rose again. “I might be paraphrasing,” he said, then stage whispered, “He shouldn't hear his sainted grandmother talk like that! He'll wonder about the company you're keeping with that potty mouth!”

I covered my mouth, but couldn't hold back the laughter.

“Ah. Well, sounds like my job here is done. So. What's the size of the bug in your mother's ass?”

“Like a tarantula.”

“Oh. Okay. What about?”

I sighed. “She found out I lied to her.”

“I see. Was it for a good reason?”

“I...think so.”

“Okay. Do you mind telling me what it was you lied about?”

I covered my eyes, though he couldn't see me. “Bry and I got jobs here on vacation and stayed. I told her we were still on vacation.”

He grunted. “Did you suddenly find a job you loved, or did you just not want to come home, or was there another motivating factor?”

He knew me so well. “His name is Claudio Gutierrez, and...I'm trying to give this enough time to work out.”

“Oh. Understandable, and you have work and a place to sleep – at your age you don't need too much outside of that. Experiences over a summer like that build character. Character enough that maybe you'd put all the tools on the damn table that are on clearance – or at least a sample of each; that would be reasonable.”

I laughed.

“So...do you mind if I ask what you mean by giving it enough time to work out?”

“No, I don't mind,” I said. “It's hard for me to meet people, Gramp. Hard to meet decent people who are looking for the same things I am. The more time I spend with him, the more I want to spend more time with him, and he seems to be feeling that way, too. But it's only been three weeks. It's too soon to know anything, right?”

“Well, maybe not enough to know everything, but I'd say you can learn some important stuff about a person in just three weeks. Why in just a week your grandmother taught me – put that slipper down! I didn't say anything!”

I laughed again.

“Listen, Rion, I have to be careful. Your grandmother threatened to feed my dinner to the dog, and you have to know, I love that dog – I don't want anything like that to happen to her.”

I laughed again. “Gramp! She's a great cook!”

“Yeah, I know,” he said with a chuckle. “Okay, so here's my take. It's not the most boneheaded thing you've ever done, and frankly, the way your mother inserts herself into things can be unhealthy – relationships included. I'm glad to know you're so optimistic about this fellow, considering it's something you and everyone else deserves to have. I hope this guy treats you the way you should be treated, and I want to meet him.”

I could feel the heat in my cheeks. “I-”

“Your grandmother says she wants to meet him as well.”

I chuckled. “Thank you. I've met his parents, but they're...conservative.”

“Conservative like they prefer earth-tones or conservative like they wear red hats and think lizard people are running the government?”

I frowned. “Jury's still out. Where do religious people come in on that spectrum?”

“Spectrum. I like it. The Spectrum of Stupid. We should patent that,” he said. “Well. Religion is a tough one. Beliefs versus facts and all that. How does he feel?”

“He thinks his parents will accept him, even though it'll be rough.”

“Huh. Well. He should know. If things go south, you bring yourself here.”

“That, uh, may end up happening anyway?” I said, my voice going up indicating a question even though it didn't work as one. “She, uh, told me I don't get any privacy until I can move out and pay my own bills, and I said – okay. I'm living elsewhere and paying my bills, so....”

He sighed. “I don't know where she gets all these ideas from. You've never been truly awful but a few dozen times – tops!”

I chuckled and sniffled. “I know. It's my job.”

“Pretty much in every kid's job description,” he agreed. “Well, you can land here when it's time. What? Oh, yeah – your grandmother says Nimbus can come with you, if things don't go well.”

“Nimbus?”

“Yeah. It's a cloud.”

“His name is...you're impossible, Grampa.”

“I prefer incorrigible, I think you are well aware,” he replied tartly. “Have fun, kiddo, and call again soon. I have to run. Tom Selleck is on the T.V., and your grandmother is getting the sweats.”

I giggled and told him I loved him before hanging up. I headed back to the restaurant and looked at my mother's messages. They were angry, mostly. She threatened to turn my phone off and said she was driving down to get me. Then they turned a bit angrier as she demanded I call her back or pick up the phone. I thought about it for a second, then decided that I should call her back, if nothing else, to try and stave off her showing up.

“Don't you ever hang up on me again!” she snapped as she picked up.

“Yell some more. I'll hang up, take this battery out and never speak to you again,” I replied just as angrily. “I am not six! You don't get to know everything in my life, and you don't get to control it, either!”

“Now you listen to me,” she said, her tone lowering. “You lied to me.”

“Because my love life is none of your business!”

“Your – wait, what? Who said anything about a love life?”

Shit. “Never mind. I just said it wasn't any of your business!”

“Did you stay down there for a boy? Are ya kidding me right now?”

“Mom, I'm serious. I kept the truth from you because this is precious to me, and I need time to figure things out – time without you thinking it's your right to know what I think or tell me how to do it. You threatening me doesn't make it any better. So I want you to know – if you show up here, I'll give you the phone, and you can track it all the way back to your house because we will be done. I mean it. Done.”

“Oh, gee, all your problems are my fault now?” She sighed. “Rion, okay, fine. I overreacted, and yes, you're not six. But these are not responsible decisions you're making, and if you have to lie, then that makes it seem like you know this isn't smart. Do you see that? Tell me you see that.”

“What I see,” I growled, “is I have a job and a place to stay while I try to see if what I found is real, if it'll last. I couldn't do that from home or under your thumb. So yeah, okay, I lied, because this is how you react. It's not the dumbest thing I've ever done.”

“Well, hard to say – we haven't yet figured out how dumb this really is,” she said and sighed. “Okay, look. I want pictures of where you're staying so I know it's not a gutter or your car. I want to know what kind of job, and I want a picture of this guy – I'm super pissed Bry's mom saw him before I did. What kind of shit is that?”

Jesus Christ, Mom. Okay, fine. No showing up here.”

She huffed. “Fine. For now.”

I hung up and headed back into the restaurant for my next delivery, my heart thumping for all the wrong reasons.




Copyright © 2023 Dabeagle; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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I join the club for adoring Rion's grandpa.  Made me laugh out loud.  Brilliant!

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