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TWENTY-THREE

The jaunt through Friendship Park may have disturbed our park bench lovebirds but our altered return trip takes us down different paths with different and more pastoral views. The curving sidewalks that arc artistically through the park lead us past the Museum of Science History and as I see the museum’s sign I jerk my left thumb toward its six-foot-tall lettered marque that boldly declares MOSH. I quip, “A veritable mosh-pit, no?” which earns me small head shakes from Sean and Loren and a heavy sigh from Jean.

Museum Circle leads to Riverplace Boulevard and the Florida-10 underpass crossing is less ominous at the touristy intersection than it had been a block farther south. We stop for the light, Sean looks left, right, shrugs and jaywalks against the light. I sigh, swivel my head to check for oncoming and follow in the wake of the two tugboats that pursue his illegal lead. “No blood no foul,” I mutter to myself with a heavy sigh. Riverplace’s wide expanse takes us to narrow and disheartening Flagler Avenue, a mass of three dimensional concrete on and off ramps that provide an even more dispiriting canopy than the FL-10 had provided a block west of us. We soldier on silently for a block when Sean stops in front of The Southern Grill bar and asks, “Who wants a drink? Besides me, that is.”

Jean looks at me, I roll my eyes and she says, “Why not? We’re on vacation!” she adds with a laugh.

“Thanks, John” I say shaking my head. “That’s what my brother John says whenever he overindulges when we see him,” I explain to Loren.

“Come on, Padre,” Sean replies, holding The Southern Grill’s door open, “one won’t hurt you.”

“I already had one,” I reply, nodding as a thank you as I walk in behind Jean and Loren.  “I’m heading for the restroom,” I add quietly, “get me a pint of something please.”

“Didn’t you just go?” Sean asks as I walk away.

“Just wait,” I reply, not slowing down, “give it another thirty-five years and you’ll know what it’s like to have a 60 year-old prostate.”

“You’re not sixty yet!” Jean laughs.

“Close enough. Right back, Jean-Jean.”

Upon my return my beer sits on the counter and Jean asks the bartender if they have mimosas. “Sure,” she replies, setting mixed drinks on the counter, “is that what you’d like?”

“You know, let’s forget the mimosa; how about champagne?”

“Cham-pag-ne,” I ask, “or sparkling wine?”

“I don’t care,” Jean shrugs, “either one.”

“Then let’s get the less expensive variety,” I reply with a nod.

Sandy’s name tag provides us with a name and Sean says, “I got this,” as Jean pulls out his wallet.

“Thanks, buddy,” I reply.

Sandy recites, “Okay, gin and tonic, rum and Coke, champagne and an Aardwolf-”

“Crap,” Sean interrupts, “did I say gin and tonic? Sorry. Gin and soda, right?” he asks Loren who nods. “Would you give us a gin and soda please? Just add it to the bill, I’ll drink the gin and tonic.”

I exhale harder than I should, Sean pays and we take our drinks to a spot where my back is to the TV and my face is to the door. Jean tells Loren, “You can sit on that side if you’d like but if you do Tony’s going to sit next to you. Nobody puts baby in a corner and Tony Kneel always sits facing the entrance; otherwise he can’t protect us from harm.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I snap back, “go ahead and laugh, Jean-Jean the snarking machine but none of you are going to watch the door.”

“You’re right,” she acknowledges, adding, “and so far that’s worked out just fine.”