The pear and ginger crumble was awesome. Gus and I agreed. “You could come back,” said Gus to me. “Mom never cooks any more. It’s all take-out and microwave.”
“Children,” said Serena with feeling, putting tea mugs on the table. “What was the moussaka last weekend? Ground glass and arsenic? The ham and pea soup two days ago?”
“Well, you don’t cook often enough,” said Gus. “You’re as good as Ryuu. Your chocolate cake is better than Ryuu’s.”
Serena peered at him suspiciously. “Are you buttering me up—you should forgive the phrase—so I’ll say yes about the web site?” She added spoons, a sugar bowl, a little jug of milk, and a large teapot covered by a knitted cosy. The cosy was made of big fat round loops. The overall effect might have been Ouroboros. Perhaps after the boa constrictor I was a little turned on to snakes.
“Is it working?” said Gus.
“Serenart sounds like a drug for acid indigestion,” I said. “Um. The Art of the Impossible? It would be nice to get the boa constrictor in though.”
“It might work as wallpaper,” said Gus. “I’ll try it. It might be cool to have it look like the photos of the stuff for sale are all stuck to the boa constrictor.”
Serena started to laugh. “All right,” she said. “All right. Whatever. I will go to Godzilla tomorrow and lay in supplies because there are going to be additional teenage boys here this weekend. But I doubt that I think it will look cool to have photos stuck all over my boa constrictor, so you’d better have a back-up plan. Don’t you have to spend some time mowing?”
“It’s still kind of early in the year,” said Gus. “The grass isn’t growing really hard yet. So yeah, but I have plenty of time to work on a web site—and get started cutting stuff down if you want,” he added to me.
“Home —” began Serena.
“I did most of my homework in study hall,” said Gus. Serena looked at him. He looked back. She looked away first.
“I can bring him over Sunday afternoon,” said Serena. “If you bring him home I’ll feed you again. I think I feel a coq au vin coming on.”
“Awesome,” I said.
“And chocolate cake?” said Gus. “With caramel frosting.”
“I’ll think about it,” said Serena. “Kes, unless you’d like some scrambled eggs since Gus seems to have eaten everything else, I really will take you back to the Friendly Campfire.”
“I’ll load the dishwasher,” said Gus.
“Why, thank you,” said Serena. “We’ll tiptoe out of here before he regains his senses. I’ll be about fifteen minutes.”
The cold spot embraced me fondly on my way to the front door, but Serena was silent and I, aware that in fact I had only met her yesterday and couldn’t guess what she was thinking, didn’t say anything either. We were turning out of the driveway when she said: “You think this web site idea is a good idea.”
“My world and the art world are two different things. What I think has about as much relevance as what Robert Pattinson thinks of the school lunch program. But yes. I think it’s a good idea. Do Gus and his friends know about—uh—search engine rankings and stuff? How to get your site noticed?”
Serena sighed. “I have no clue.” She was silent again and then said: “I used to mess around with photography. Every time Larry pissed me off I took up another art form. I’ve probably tried every medium but beer can tabs and plastic yogurt pots. Maybe I’ll like taking pictures of my own stuff.”
“Good luck,” I said, a little helplessly.
“You aren’t escaping that easily,” said Serena. “I will expect critical and exacting input at every stage . . .” she glanced at me. “Well, as long as it amuses you. I don’t usually adopt the Friendly Campfire’s clientele, you know. I just so remember driving away from what had been home and future with everything I still owned in the back of a van, wearing that sort of stunned expression I keep thinking I see on your face. You at least are spared the screaming two year old. Fourteen years ago. Sometimes it still seems like yesterday. Until I look at the grocery bill.”
She pulled into the Friendly Campfire lot, and I climbed out. All you could see of cabin seven was a white van with a screaming skull arcing down the side panel—mercilessly vivid under a badly-placed streetlight—and Merry, looming over all. “Good night,” I said to Serena. “And thanks. I like your kid.”
“He’s pretty great, isn’t he? Stubborn little tick though. Can’t imagine where he gets it.” She grinned. “See you tomorrow, I guess, when you check out.”
I walked slowly toward my cabin. There was my rose-bush, peeking out from behind the van. Tomorrow, I thought at her.
The streetlight that was so ruthlessly illuminating the van’s ornamentation was also casting a very odd shadow from my rose-bush onto the door of the cabin. I was suddenly very tired, and I had already put my foot on the first step up to the porch when I realised that the rose-bush shadow was unfolding itself from where it had been lying on the doormat.
It stood up. It looked at me.
It flattened silky black ears and gently, gracefully, waved a long fringed black tail.
“Oh,” I said. “Hello.”
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