As we got into the line at Starbucks, Bronwyn told me, “But I want a coffee drink.”
“You’re a little young for coffee, aren’t you?” Her parents would be thrilled at the way we were spoiling the kids, filling them with sugar and caffeine. “Don’t you want a Pokemon Go drink? It’s purple and pretty, and I’m pretty sure there’s fruit in there somewhere which means it may have a vitamin or two.”
“I want a caramel coffee frappuccino.” She looked up at me with twinkly eyes.
How could I say, “No?” “Have whatever you like.”
“Aren’t you cheating on your barista friend at the Salvador Deli by going to Starbucks?”
“I won’t tell her if you don’t,” I said.
Bronwyn traced a finger across her mouth. “My lips are sealed.”
We got to the front of the line. “I’ll have two caramel frappuccinos,” I told the cashier.
“I thought you took your coffee black,” said Bronwyn. “It’s that barista friend of yours. She’s getting you to try new things, isn’t she?”
“Yip.” It seemed, apparently, that I didn’t mind.
My butt vibrated. Let me rephrase that. The cell phone in my back pocket vibrated. Jack was calling. I picked up. “Hey Jack,” I said.
“Hey Andy. I’ve got Declan. He just finished up at Best Buy. We’ll meet you at the food court.”
“Great. Should we pick you up a couple of Cinnabons?”
“A couple of …? If we keep this up, we’re going to have Cinnabon buns, not to mention Pillsbury doughboy tummies. I am taking that krav maga class tomorrow. Pick us up one. We can share it.” I thought I heard muffled protests from Declan that he could handle his own. He was 14, had hit a growth spurt and could probably stand in for the host of Man v. Food with no problem. Jack sighed. “Make it two.”
“Okay. See you soon.”
Bronwyn and I headed next to the line at Cinnabon. “Let’s face it. We’re all going to be roly poly.” I looked down at my gut, at the little bit that hung out over my belt, and gave it a pat. I started to sing, “Watch it wiggle, watch it jiggle …”
Bronwyn stared at me strangely.
“Jell-O brand gelatin,” I finished. “Guess you’re too young for that.”
She shook her head at me. “Speak for yourself about getting roly poly. I’m going to way burn off all of these calories.” She swung out her right arm, showing off her pink Fitbit. “I take twirling on Mondays, gymnastics on Tuesdays and tae kwon do on Fridays. What you need, Uncle Andy …” Here, she gave me a side hug around the waist. “Is to hire me as your personal trainer.”
“Twirling. That’s a good manly sport for me to take up at my age. What muscles does that work?”
“Your arm, of course, and your core.”
“Core? What am I? An apple?”
Bronwyn smiled and then stuck out her tongue. I picked up four monstrous Cinnabons, then Bronwyn and I settled down at a table with our healthy snacks. I had the odd almost paranoid feeling of eyes at my back. I turned around. I whispered to Bronwyn, “Is he still there?”
Bronwyn answered back in the same whisper. “Who? The superfan?”
I nodded, and she looked over in the superfan’s general direction.
“Yeah. He’s kind of a creeper, isn’t he?”
I nodded again, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what made him a “creeper.” Just then, I spotted Jack and Declan coming towards us, waved and motioned them towards us. They came over to our table.
Declan sank into a chair and took a Cinnabon. “Great! I’m starving.”
Jack took a chair beside him. “You just ate … an hour ago,” he said, “one of those Taco Bell box meals, the Bell Box or the Big Box or the Big Bucks … one of those things, plus some restaurant breadsticks you found in my coat pocket and a box of Raisinets you found in the car on the ride over.”
Restaurant breadsticks might seem like an oddity to carry in your coat pocket, but Jack’s trenchcoat pockets were full of oddities: plastic forks and toothpicks from restaurants, small toys and toy parts from creations he was working on, plus every other small gadget imaginable. I was surprised Declan didn’t find a four course meal in Jack’s pockets.
I turned to Declan. “A man after mine own heart,” I said. I held out a hand, and he slapped it low.
“What can I say?” Declan shrugged. “I’m a growing boy.”
“I wish I had that excuse,” I said, right before shoveling a mound of gooey bun into my mouth.
“You’re growing,” Bronwyn told me. “Just in a different direction, outwards instead of upwards.” She tapped herself on the chest. “Personal trainer.”
I was beginning to seriously consider taking her up on that offer, but, first, I had to digest. I turned to Declan. “So, did you find anything cool at Best Buy?”
“I found a model of drone I like, but I can’t afford it. I’m going to have to watch a lot more dogs and mow a lot more lawns before I can,” he said.
“You don’t need a drone from Best Buy,” said Bronwyn. “Uncle Jack can make you a drone from popsicle sticks, a bread twist tie and a paper clip.”
Her brother stared across the table at her. “That makes no sense, Bron. You didn’t list a single electronic part.”
“It’s called exaggeration,” she said and poked out her tongue.
I was on Bronwyn’s side. I’d seen Jack splice together such interesting gadgets that nothing would surprise me anymore. I turned to her, “Jack could build a car out of … “ I picked up my frappuccino straw wrapper. “This straw wrapper, a balloon and a couple of toothpicks.”
Declan shook his head at me. “You’re as bad as she is. Uncle Andy, you’re a bad influence.”
“Thank you,” I said.
Jack sat silently rubbing his chin. “Well,” he said. “I was going to wait until tonight or tomorrow, but I hate to see Declan disappointed. I have gifts for both of you, kids.”
“I knew it!” said Bronwyn, bringing down her fist and crooked elbow in a kind of “Chaching” motion. These kids had hit the jackpot in having a toy inventor for an uncle.
Jack began to reach into the interior pockets of his trenchcoat.
“Don’t tell me you have them in there?” I said.
What Jack pulled out first was not a toy but a Blaze comic book. “Well, I think you both know that when I created Blaze as an adventure hero and his niece and nephew, Angel and Hunter, as his helpers in adventure, that they were somewhat inspired by the three of us,” Jack said.
“A more adventure-y version of the three of us,” said Bronwyn.
She didn’t know her uncle very well if she didn’t understand yet that Jack could be pretty danged adventure-y.
“So now,” Jack said, “you not only have an adventure hero alter ego, your alter ego also has its own action figure.” Jack brought out the two action figures, and they did somewhat resemble the real life kids that inspired them. “Hunter,” he said, handing the figure to Declan, “And Angel,” he added, handing the other to Bronwyn.
Hunter had Declan’s dark brown hair, and Angel had Bronwyn’s strawberry blonde hair. Both were dressed like regular teen kids but were equipped with backpacks.
Bronwyn opened her figure’s backpack first. She pulled out the miniature items one by one and laid them on the table: a twirling baton, some rhythmic gymnastics clubs and a pair of nunchucks. “Cool,” she said.
Declan opened his figure’s backpack and pulled out miniatures of a camera, a GPS device and, last but not least, a drone.
“The drone really works too,” Jack explained.
“Really cool,” said Declan. “Thanks Uncle Jack. You’re the coolest uncle ever.”
Bronwyn popped out of her seat like a jack in the box and hugged Jack’s neck. Declan attacked Jack’s other side in a sort of wrestle-hug. While the three of them engaged in this cuddle fest, I turned around and looked for the superfan. He was still there. It might have been my imagination or it might not have been, but it seemed that he’d been looking at us too and had to look down just as I turned around.
To be Continued …
© 2018 Susan Joy Clark