I had no sooner walked out of the grocery store at 10:00 AM, toting a couple of bags, when I heard someone shout out my name. "Carz!" It was my fourteen year old goddaughter, Kelly, walking up with open arms, hugging me and giving me a quick kiss on the lips. "Long time, no see." She joked.
Right behind her was her mom and dad."Hey," Pam started off, "what are you up to?"
I lifted my arms to display. "Just grabbing something for breakfast."
Suddenly, Kelly went loco. "Oh, my god!" She scouted the contents of both bags. "He's got pancakes and eggs in here!" She shouted with glee. "Butter and syrup, too!" She took the bags from me and began walking towards my car. "I'm staying with Carroll." She informed her parents.
"Hold on." I called her back. "These might help." I handed her my car keys, and then she picked up where she left off.
"You have got to be kidding me." My friend Joe expelled. "Seriously?" He concluded. I was at a lost. "What?" I half stammered.
"You came to the store to get pancakes and eggs?"
"Well, yeah." I replied, still confused about what was going on. "I had a hankering. I get those hankerings about two times a year." Joe and Pam soon brought me up to date. "Your little princess woke up in a mood today. She has been moaning and groaning constantly for pancakes and eggs." Joe told me. Pam followed up right behind him. "Apparently, cereal, toast, and pop-tarts aren't good enough for her for breakfast."
"So you brought her to the store to get her pancakes and eggs?" I mused with a smile. "And you guys get on me for spoiling her."
"You do spoil her." Joe snapped back. "But let's face it, dude, she gets those hankerings about twice a year also. I mean, what are the odds that you both wake up the same morning craving pancakes and eggs? I swear, you two are like kindred spirits or something. It's freaking me out."
I was wondering about something else, though. "So why is she nesting in my car? Does she want to eat breakfast with me?"
"Actually," Joe began, "we just dropped Boomer (his younger son) off at his friend's house to stay for a few nights. We were in the process of taking Kell to her grandparents house in Jasper. We were swinging by here to get her pancakes so she wouldn't drive her grandpa and grandma too crazy."
"Where you guys going?" I asked. Pam was quick to respond. "We are celebrating our 20th anniversary. Going to a B and B in Kentucky."
"Let me guess," I reasoned, "she wants to stay with me instead of her grandparents?"
"Well, she did but, we didn't want to bother you with it. She just got done staying there last weekend and she really doesn't like it out there in Jasper. She says she feels so isolated."
"I don't blame her." I said, then getting to the meat and potatoes of the issue. "But bother me? You guys know that none of you ever bother me, least of all, my Kell-bell."
"I know." Pam replied. "But she's spent a weekend with you already this summer and that's after you took her down the East coast looking at lighthouses for a week. We thought you could use a break too."
"That and the fact that you spoil her rotten." Joe threw in for good measure.
Suddenly, Kelly yelled over at me from the car, standing up through the window. "Hurry up you old coot, I'm starving here. You gots to feed me, Seymour. Then you're taking me to Scioto Trails to take some pictures. And then you're buying me a banana split. And you're buying me a pizza tonight while we're watching the Austin Powers trilogy!"
I turned to look at her parents. They looked back at me. I sighed. "Yes, she can stay with me."
Joe smiled as I began to follow him to the back of the SUV. "She will plan your whole life if you let her."
"Honestly," Pam chimed in, "don't let her boss you around. You can tell her no once in a while, Carroll, her dad and I do it all the time and she still loves us. Guess what? She will still love you, too."
"I tell her no sometimes." I went to defend myself. They both stopped in their tracks and stared at me. "What?" I kept trying to defend. Joe broke the silence. "You try to tell her no but when she gives you that puppy-dog face, you cave every time."
"Well," I squirmed, "it's a cute puppy-dog face. She's got kind of that Rowan Blanchard thing going on, and who doesn't think she's adorable? I haven't built up an immunity from it yet like you two have." Joe opened the back of the SUV as I continued talking. "Look, if she wants me to take her to go rob a bank, I will say no, okay? Otherwise, she's a good kid, and as long as she wants to do teenage girl stuff, I won't tell her no."
"Ha!" Joe let out, "You would still take her to rob that bank."
I thought for a moment. "Yeah, you're probably right. I am so screwed."
Joe turned around and handed me a big sports bag. "Here, this is her change of clothes, socks and such." Then he reached back in and pulled out another one, only a little smaller. "This is her toiletries and such." I placed the strap over my shoulder like I did with the first one. He leaned in and pulled out another bag. "This is her electronics stuff. Her computer, E-reader, camera and so on." I placed it over my shoulder too when he pulled out another. "This has her books, diary and poetry and stuff." This ordeal was still not over. "And this is her sleeping bag and favorite pillow."
"Good Lord!" I gasped. "How many days is she staying?"
Joe smiled as he closed the SUV door. He turned to me. "I get to tell you what the doctor told me some fourteen years ago. Congratulations! It's a girl. You have a daughter."
We shook hands as he went to make his way to the drivers side door. "I am going to give Boomer's friends mom your contact info in case of an emergency. Is that okay with you?"
"That's fine." I answered. Pam turned me around. "We're also adding you to their school emergency contact info this year, if that's okay, too."
"Of course it's okay." I assured her. She reached out and pulled me into her for a short little kiss on the lips and a hug. "Thank you for caring about my family." She whispered. All I could do was smile and say, "Thank you for making me a part of your family."
"See you in three or four days." She offered, heading to the passenger side of the SUV. "If you don't hear from us in a couple of weeks, she's all yours. Boomer too." She joked.
I waved them off as I walked to my car and started loading the luggage into the back seat. "Ha ha." Kelly joked. "You got stuck with me."
"I think it's the other way around." I countered.
"How you figure?" She asked. "I chose you."
I settled into the driver seat. "Let's think about what your options were." I volunteered, turning the engine over. "Grandparents A in Jasper, or grandparents B in Portsmouth, or creepy uncle in Waverly? Meanwhile, Boomer is staying with his friend."
She reflected for a moment. "Oh yeah. But I didn't have any friends who could let me stay with them for that long." Then she reflected some more. "Oh, yeah, now I see it. Oh, my god, I got stuck with you." I began to pull out of the parking lot when she began to sing. "I guess it's true, I'm so happy to be stuck with you ...."
"No!" I demanded. "No Huey Lewis and The News."
Suddenly, I had to slam on the brakes. I placed my right arm out in front of Kelly to protect her from hitting the dash or the windshield. "Damn it!" I shouted at the car coming out of the bank parking lot. "Don't people even look for oncoming traffic anymore?" I asked rhetorically. I looked over at my Pooh Bear. "You okay?"
"Nice going, Seinfeld." She remarked. And then I broke out laughing. "That's funny."
"You don't even know what I'm talking about." She figured. (She figured wrong.)
"I knew Seinfeld trivia before you were even a glimmer in your daddy's eye, sweetheart." I fired back.
"Fine." She articulated. "What was I talking about then?"
"You were talking about 'stopping short'. The Seinfeld episode where Kramer stopped short with George's mother when he was driving her home from her plastic surgery. George's father found out and he said, 'Stop short? That's my move'. "
She stuck her tongue out at me. "Yeah, well, yadda, yadda, yadda, and I went to sleep."
"But you yadda, yadda, yadda'd over the best part." I played along.
She grinned. "No I didn't. I mentioned the lobster bisque."