“Now run that by me again, doctor?” Shark wasn’t able to clearly hear the phone conversation on the other end. What he could get was his father’s responses, and try to make sense with what Sinbad had been up to in the hospital.
“Yes, of course…Mouthing off and displaying vulgar hand signs at the nurses, attempting to ‘pop a wheelie’ whilst using a wheelchair, throwing a bed pan at a television, various other forms of poor conduct…No sir, no need to resort to drastic measures. I’ll be there shortly to pick him up.”
By the time Dennis hung up the phone, Shark was horror-struck by the list of grievances that his boyfriend had committed. He was also amazed at how the older Racket sounded so calm when hearing them.
“So…Sinbad’s getting released today, I take it?”
“Yes, sirree. He would’ve been discharged anyway, but I suppose his asinine behavior hastened his time of release.”
Once again, for what felt like the second time this week, the two were in the hospital.
“Hey, Dad? How did you not get mad when you heard about what Sinbad pulled here?”
Dennis snorted. “I’ve lived with your grandfather and uncle Bill, boy. Trust me when I say, with utmost sincerity, that what Mister Rotter does is tame.”
“Tame as in…?”
“Well, has Mister Rotter ever gone out streaking in broad daylight and tried to steal a car?”
Shark knew full well what his father was talking about. Then again, it hadn’t been out of the realm of possibility for his grandmother to do it that day.
“I don’t know. He’s done a lot of things that got him in jail. From what I’ve heard, you’re always the one that pays his bail money.”
Dennis nodded. “And I can only hope Mister Rotter starts behaving himself after today. Given that we are no longer in your grandparents’ good graces, it’s become borderline mandatory for him to do so.”
The younger Racket looked down at the change of clothes he was bringing for Sinbad. He contemplated asking what exactly it was his father and everyone else did for a living.
He didn’t want to add to Dennis’ grievances, though.
Sinbad was sitting on the side of his hospital bed when the two arrived. As soon as he saw Shark, he began to make grabby hands like a child wanting a reward for doing something good.
“All right, all right. Hang on, I was here yesterday. You couldn’t have missed me that badly.”
Dennis watched as Shark helped undress the redhead, then asked as he was getting a shirt on:
“So what happens to be the diagnosis of the result of your ‘high-flying adventure’?”
Sinbad got to his feet, proudly displaying that his bottom half was still currently unclothed.
“Don’t need surgery after all! Though Doctor Knack can kindly kiss my glorious tattooed ass for being a killjoy.”
This response caused Dennis to sputter.
“What the…?! You call making sure hospital equipment don’t get destroyed by a misbehaving hospital patient being a killjoy?!”
“Well, he started it by not letting me watch Pay-Per-View.” He looked down at his boyfriend’s choice of bottoms, and got confused. “Dude, I think these are your sister’s.”
“That was all I could find! All your jeans disappeared for some reason.” Unbeknownst to Shark, Lolly had stolen all of Sinbad’s jeans in retaliation for using her shampoo last time he showered at an establishment of theirs.
By the time Sinbad was fully dressed, for a given term of fully, the two looked over to see Dennis had face-palmed.
“Let’s just…The sooner we get everything in order, the better.”
That night, Sinbad was surprised to find a desk and new couch in the house. He was even more surprised and bamboozled at wondering how Dennis and Shark managed to find the time to get them into the house.
At the least, he was thankful to have somewhere to sit and look over job offers in the newspaper. It was the usual fare.
“Grocer, no. Podium polisher, nah. Fuck politics. Daycare, hell no.” By the time Sinbad got to the bottom of the page, over half of the ads were crossed out with red markers.
He started at the second column when he heard a scoffing voice behind him.
“And here I thought all the Usual Suspects got killed off. What, they decide you weren’t worth keeping around?”
“Good evening to you, too, Lolly.” Sinbad turned himself around to see the scowling teenager holding her backpack.
“Yeah, whatever. How about you do something productive, and get your butt out of my desk so I can do homework?”
The redhead leaned backward, taking care not to bump anything sensitive. “How about you accept the fact that the world don’t revolve around you, princess? You got a perfectly fine table out in the other room to use.”
Lolly rolled her eyes and stomped off, not wanting to start a whole thing with her brother’s boyfriend.
“Awww…” Shark had come in some time after Lolly got home to check on Sinbad. He had to do something after she shooed him away from the table.
Lo and behold, Sinbad had fallen asleep on top of the newspaper he was looking at.
“I almost don’t want to move him, but…” Gently, Shark pulled the chair out so Sinbad was easier to pick up. Making sure not to wake him, the brunette walked the short distance from the desk to their bed.
“Night night, Sinbad. I’ll talk to you in the morning.” Shark pulled the blanket over onto his still asleep boyfriend. Sinbad didn’t stir once. He did have red marker stains from where his face presumably landed.
Looking for a stainless part of his face, Shark settled on kissing Sinbad’s cheek. He then tiptoed as quietly as he could out of the room.
It wasn’t the first time Sinbad woke up at 2 a.m. At some point, it had actually become the norm for him.
What hadn’t been the norm was waking up in bed, instead of after a nap at the warehouse. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he kicked the covers off and wandered into the main room.
Much to his surprise, Dennis was awake and looking over the same paper from earlier. He seemed oddly nonchalant with Sinbad’s choices of a new career.
“Kitchen Scullion, eh? Never pegged him to be one for the culinary arts…”
“Well, how hard can it be?” Sinbad saw Dennis jump a little before looking up at the still half-asleep redhead.
After the initial fright, Dennis composed himself and got to his feet. He then faced Sinbad and crossed his arms.
“You’d be amazed at the difficulties of an entry-level job, sir.” He grinned and chuckled, before putting on a serious face. “Though I suppose I should commend you for at least trying to find work.”
“No, I mean it, Mister Rotter. From what little you’ve told me, a life of crime is all that you’ve been familiar with. Isn’t that correct?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
The older man gestured toward the newspaper. “I suppose that a job working in a kitchen was more up your alley? Or were you playing a process of elimination?”
“Exactly what are you getting at here, boss?”
“What I am trying to say to you is…” Dennis paused, as though he were trying to find the right words. “Well, I suppose I am asking you if you truly believe you’re able to go legit.”
Sinbad looked over his shoulder, becoming relieved to see neither of the Racket children were awake.
“I guess I am. Hell, it can’t be that hard. I mean, you’re doing it too, right?”
“Yes, but I’ve my own reasons for doing so. After all, I’ve been on this planet for nearly twice as long as you have. Yet you and I…”
At this point, Dennis’ composed demeanor appeared to falter slightly, with him shaking his head and sighing.
“I’ve had to be part of the family business for as long as I am able to remember. Hell, I didn’t even want to take over leadership. It was thrust upon me.”
Sinbad felt a bit awkward, just standing there listening to the beginnings of Shark’s father monologuing.
“Can you imagine listening to that boy growing up? So many times, he’d expressed desire to follow in my footsteps. You know how much that hurt to hear? I know I wasn’t around often for my children growing up, but it was still painful to hear.”
“And that’s bad because…”
Dennis pinched the bridge of his nose before continuing. “Look at the boy! Do you think I want him to throw his life away because a couple of corrupt old bastards said so?”
Not wondering if it were a good idea, Sinbad slowly approached the other man.
“All I want to see in this life is for my children to have decent lives. Have some self-respect, some proper morality, that’s what I want to see. But how can they possibly have that if they join the business?”
The patriarch took a breath. Sinbad wasn’t sure, but he thought he could see tears forming in the older man’s brown eyes.
“Yeah, I see what you mean. You want your kids to live better lives than you did?”
“That is correct. Now, I will admit, I assumed the worst when the boy said the two of you had begun a relationship. But I take it my fears were unfounded?”
The redhead was surprised at hearing this. He’d never considered the possibility that Dennis could hold him in any sort of contempt.
Nevertheless, he nodded. “That’s right. If it weren’t for him…Hell, I wouldn’t even have considered hauling ass out of the crime life.”
A smile appeared again on Dennis’ face.
“Now, I know you’ve still a ways to go before you can be considered in the clear, but I know you’re trying. It’s clear from looking at you when you spend time with Shark. I’m aware you’ve been dating for about a year, but…”
Now, Dennis uncrossed his arms, and placed his hands onto Sinbad’s shoulders.
“If you are truly hoping to turn your life around, and can see a future with the boy, then just say the word, and I’ll give you a sort of helping hand.”
The younger of the two couldn’t believe his ears. “Boss, are you saying what I think you’re saying to me?”
“That I am, Mister Rotter! Let’s see you get yourself a new job first, though, to be safe. After that, well, should you need some help, financial or otherwise, just say so, and I’ll have you en route to the best jewelry store one can imagine. Sound good?”
At a loss for words, Sinbad nodded. He wasn’t sure what else to do or say, so he then wrapped his arms around the older man, completely overcome.
“I-I just…Oh shit, boss! Thanks!” He felt a hand pat his back, before he was pushed back and made eye contact again.
“But do one thing for me, sir.” Dennis had suddenly become stern, and almost rigid. “You must promise, that no matter what the situation brings, you mustn’t ever tell that boy what business you and I once made a career of. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yeah, boss. Clear as a bell!”
Again, a cheery face. “Wonderful! Now get yourself back to bed. I get the feeling the day is going to be a busy one.”
With that, the two men bid each other good night. Sinbad went back to sleep feeling a mix of emotions.
Though he felt the weight of having to hide a secret from his boyfriend, he was glad to know that he at least remained in Dennis’ good graces.
He could only hope this didn’t come back to bite him in the ass in the end.