“Dad, what’s wrong with Bill?” Shark asked his father when Dennis came into the kitchen. Outside, Bill was now dragging himself through the backyard like a lazy snake.
Dennis grunted, as though Shark just asked a stupid question. “He’s Bill! That’s what’s wrong with him. I’d hate to see a man who looks good after years of drug abuse take their toll.”
In an effort to get Dennis to forget something so nasty, Sinbad handed him a clean bowl for soup.
“So is there a reason your older brother ain’t dead yet, boss?” Sinbad took his turn to give a question. This time, Dennis could only shrug.
“Who knows with that man,” he said as he served himself. He then stood a few feet away so as not to risk catching his son’s illness.
Shark was shivering now as he tried to eat the rest of his soup. “What happens if he keeps that lifestyle up? I mean, what if he gets married?”
Here Dennis scoffed. “He has been married, boy!” Then he followed up on Shark’s dumbfounded expression with something even more unbelievable. “Twelve times! Well, technically it’s thirteen.”
“How the hell can someone be ‘technically’ married, boss?” Sinbad was probably as curious as Shark now was at that point.
Dennis seemed all too willing to explain Bill’s marriage record. “One time he wandered into a freak show and ended up marrying Siamese twins. Then there was that one woman who now has her ashes in our house for some reason.”
He went on. “Then there was that elderly widow who died about a week into that marriage. And there was the time he stumbled upon a polygamist sect.”
“He did?” Shark was worried about what his uncle had been up to. “Why isn’t he still in it?”
“Let’s just say his drug usage led him to think the leader was a three-headed giraffe, and leave it there.”
By this time, Shark was pushing his bowl of soup away, now that he lost his appetite.
“I think I’ve heard enough, Dad,” he said while taking hold of Sinbad’s hand and getting led upstairs. “I also think I need to go back to bed.”
Sleep didn’t come easily that night.
By midnight, Shark was awake for what felt like the twelfth time. Each attempt at falling asleep was thwarted by an unbearable coughing fit.
This current one particularly strong. Each cough wracked his entire body as he tried not to fall under his own weight.
Predictably, his hacking woke Sinbad up. Right away, without being told, Sinbad was up and disappearing into another part of the house.
Shark’s coughing fit became so bad, tears began to fall from his eyes. His chest hurt terribly, as did his head and throat.
He was then startled by Sinbad’s hand on his back, and a glass of water put to his lips. On instinct, he drank it all while he was getting his back rubbed.
Soon, the coughing and wheezing subsided. When Sinbad pulled his hand off Shark, however, there was protesting.
“Don’t stop,” Shark rasped out. “That feels really good.”
The blissful sensation of Sinbad rubbing his back was enough for Shark to fall asleep. This time, he stayed asleep for the rest of the night, not being woken up by his coughing.