(Because even in a bad mood, I need to keep writing.)
(Also, from here on out, chances are the Pinyin I use may be extremely inaccurate. I hate not knowing what can be used accurately…)
Once again, Annette was without any sort of company.
She at least had a bowl of Salad Olivier to partake in this time. As she wandered, spoonful after spoonful of food went into her mouth.
“I suppose I should be glad not everything in this place is terrible,” she said to herself when she realized it was half gone already.
Before she got to the rest, Annette was startled by a loud yelp coming from another room. Holding the bowl tighter to her chest, Annette went to investigate.
Sinbad’s mental image of ‘Mister Clay’, and the man himself couldn’t have been any more different. He’d expected someone dressed sharply, with an expensive haircut to boot.
All he saw standing before him was an old man. His hairstyle was still different than most, but it didn’t seem to be the type that most would see on one of an advanced age.
“Uh…” Sinbad had no idea what to say to him, now that he was finally back home. “Nice to meet you, I…think.”
The old man then said something Sinbad didn’t understand.
“Yeah, uh… ‘zow chang how’ back at you,” he parroted back, butchering the pronunciation.
Mister Clay just gently waved it off, smirking a little. “Marc didn’t know how to properly say it either, at first. Now then…” He slowly approached now. “Marc tells me you’ve been staying here for the last couple of days?”
When Dennis returned home in the morning hours, he entered the house to find his son once again asleep on the couch.
This time, Shark had a blanket hastily thrown onto himself. On top of him sat Sagebear, on guard for anything out of the ordinary.
Quietly, Dennis tiptoed towards the happy, wiggling Catahoula. He made a silent shushing gesture with one hand, and reached out to pet her.
The entire time he did so, Shark didn’t stir once. This heavy sleeping caused Dennis to decide to gently pick Sagebear up off of him.
“Oh, puppy,” he whispered to her on their way back to the bedroom, “You’re starting to get a bit of heft to you.” He glanced over at her big blue eyes. “Ah, but don’t worry. That just means you’re a true Racket.”
After setting her down on the big bed, Dennis resumed petting her to keep her calm. He then took a seat next to her, only to reach down and pull out a manila envelope from under his own bed.
Pulling out the contents, Dennis sighed resignedly as he spread them out behind them. Sagebear’s curiosity was now quite piqued, given the way she was smelling the pictures.
“Careful now. Grandpa wants to get these framed at some point.” When he reached out to get a better look at one, Sagebear then began sniffing what was on his left hand.
“Do we seriously not have any more painkillers?” Moony groaned out through the wooden spoon he was biting. Sunny just shook his head no as he proceeded to reattach the fallen limb. “That arsehole Builder must’ve taken them all…”
His complaining was interrupted when Annette entered their room. Both went quiet when they saw the bowl of Olivier Salad she was holding.
“So…I could hear you from the other side of the hall and then some,” Annette stated while trying to sound nonchalant. “What might be ailing you this time?”
Moony glowered at her, and pointed to Sunny currently fixing him up. “What do ye think, lassie? And don’t bring that in here, or else that sunglasses-wearing bampot takes the stinger to both me n’ Sunny’s arses!” He finished while gesturing to her bowl.
Annette didn’t see what the problem was. “Why? It’s just salad-”
“And take note of where ye got it, ye glaikit Tretchikoff model clone! Ye know how they get, and-” He stopped when Sunny jabbed the needle back into his arm.
Bending down in front of him, Annette offered him a spoonful she scraped off the sides of the bowl. “Yeah, I know. But does it mean you can’t try this? It’s…pretty good.”
He groaned, and removed his mask with his free hand. “Eh, go ahead. Not like I’m gonna get anythin’ else to eat today…”
Mister Clay was now leaning on the couch that doubled as Marc’s bed, as he and Sinbad waited for Marc to start setting their breakfast table.
“So how did you end up in the sad little world that Marc and I currently inhabit, Sinbad?”
Sinbad tried to find the best way to start explaining, “Well, Mister Clay-”
But he was quickly cut off. “Is that how Marc kept referring to me with you?” His visible eye drifted to him now. “Well, he keeps forgetting there’s no need to be formal with me in private, especially not him.”
Although his back was turned to them, Sinbad noticed Marc drooped visibly from this comment. He then tried to hide it, by continuing to fix a few cups of tea for them.
“Okay…” Unsure as to what to do with his hands, Sinbad just kept wringing them while looking for the right words. “So then what do I call you?”
Mister Clay shrugged. “Call me what all my close friends would: Harwood.” As he spoke, he tapped his cane over his shoulders. “Well, that is if I had any friends left. Being a laotou, and all…”
Leaning forward, Harwood tried reaching for the TV remote. He then took hold of his cane and used that instead. It then became a balancing act when he brought the remote in front of him.
He then looked at Sinbad, and acted surprised. “Oh, so sorry. Sometimes I tend to digress. One time that happened, and I ended up stranded in Bridgeport without my pants. Were you speaking?”
Sinbad just looked perturbed at this very much odd old man. He waited until Marc brought them their tea, and resumed talking.
“Yeah, so anyway…Reason I was here? I guess…Yeah, long story.” He sipped at his beverage while waiting for a response. Said response was Marc speaking for him.
“Don’t worry. All the time in the world, he’s got.” He then looked between them for clarification. “Right?”
Harwood slowly nodded, only speaking when he finished his own cup of tea. “I’m not that old, Marc. I doubt his story is going to take so long I turn into dust.” He handed his now empty cup of tea back. “Well, best you start at the beginning…”
Under his breath, Sinbad and Marc heard him mutter, “Aiya, I’m only in my sixties…” Trying to disregard that, Sinbad began.
Some time in the early afternoon, it had begun to rain. Dennis felt it come down on him as he stood in the rubble formerly known as Racket Mansion.
Wandering to where had once been the kitchen, he sat down on the foundation edge. The rain was clearing away the soot and ash from everything, giving it a strangely washed look.
He didn’t care if his clothes were ruined from the storm. Somehow he felt he deserved that. Dennis stared out at the family pool, along with what remained of its amenties.
Behind him, Dennis could hear footsteps. Although he had a feeling he knew who it was, he looked anyway.
Shark stood a few feet away, still as a statue. His face betrayed no emotion other than stone-cold hatred. For once, Sagebear wasn’t with him; she was probably still at the house.
“I know you’re angry for what I’ve hidden from you, boy…” He got to his feet and cautiously, gradually approached him. The rain kept going, but neither of them seemed to notice it now.
“And you know what? You have every right to be.”
Annette couldn’t help but notice the way Moony went silent over what he just tasted.
“Uh…You okay? I mean, besides the obvious…” Despite his blank eyes, she saw them apparently glaze over with emotion. Sunny had just put the finishing touches on his arm, and pulled away.
“Did…?” Moony pointed to the now empty bowl. “Did one ‘a the others make that, lassie?”
Thinking that saying the actual truth to him would be unwise, Annette thought up a more convincing answer:
“No, I made it myself.”
Apparently, this was still a bad answer. Moony then pushed her away, and stumbled out of the room. Before she could ask what she did wrong, Annette felt Sunny slap the bowl out of her hands.
“Wait, what happened? What did I do?” He didn’t answer her, and instead followed Moony out of the room.