THE PIZZA PARTY

TRISHA KEHOE

VINCENT'S WORLD TWO

 

It was a lazy summer Sunday. Lazy and HOT! Even in the tunnels, people were a bit listless; the air was stifling, even here. Everyone did their own "thing" to keep as cool as they could. Mouse had set up a fan system in his Chamber that defied description. Pascal wore shorts and didn't even care when the children called him "old knobby knees." Jamie went Above with some of the other children and teens to the local pool. People were hot, sticky, and cranky!

 

Father wiped the back of his neck for the umpteenth time in twenty minutes. Dear God, it was miserable! He could not recall a warmer summer since 1957. No matter what he did, he could NOT get cool; this was getting ridiculous. The idea was more one of necessity, than choice. He would take a swim in the Falls Chamber. There would probably be a zillion people there, but such was life. Better the children trying to "cannonball" him, than staying here and dying of heat prostration. He gathered up two towels, his lightweight sandals, threw a cotton robe on over his swimming trunks, grabbed a book of verse and off he went.

&

In Catherine and Vincent's Chamber, it was the same--she was warm, but Vincent was roasting! He always enjoyed the warm weather, but THIS was ridiculous. Catherine handed him a glass of ice tea.

“Ah, wonderful. Thank you. Maybe this will help. I realize this is your first time being down here every day in the tunnels, and I promise you, Catherine, it never has been this warm before. And for so long. It must be three weeks now since I've felt even a whisper of cool air. I do not usually complain as I am now, but this stickiness. UGH. The 'dog days' of August, INDEED!

Catherine swiped at her face with a cool cloth and agreed with her husband. She still considered herself a newlywed after two months, and this WAS her first time living for this long Below. Almost guiltily, she missed one thing of her other life at this moment--her lovely, wonderful, beautiful, air conditioner!

"You must be terribly uncomfortable, love. You're sweating terribly. Vincent, how about joining me for a swim?"

He grinned up at her, remembering. The last time Catherine had invited him swimming, was up at her family's cabin in the woods. They had stayed three days. They had a lot of fun. And loved for the first time, and she was now pregnant with their child.

She looked so warm; Vincent's heart went out to her. Even with his thick hair, he could only imagine what it was like to be carrying a child in this heat. His fur was sticking to him in clumps and aggravating the HELL out of him at the moment. How must his poor Catherine feel, weighed down by the added heaviness of a child?

"Yes, my love, a swim sounds wonderful. Do you recall the last time you offered this invitation to me? At the cabin? Well, do you think perhaps we'll get a chance to actually swim? I seem to remember we did not...last time...ummm?"

As her husband said this and smiled over to where she was sitting on the couch, a voice called out from the entrance, "Hello in there! Are you decent? It's Dev. Can I come in?"

Vincent called out yes, and Devin staggered into the room, grabbed his chest, and fell on the floor at Catherine's feet. "I'm dying. This heat is crushing me up into nothing. HELP!"

Catherine helped him. She dug into her glass of tea, picked out a large cube of ice, and dropped it down the back of his shirt.

"Cripes, that's cold! Whatta you trying to do, finish me off entirely? I could've had a...a...heart attack, or something!"

Vincent kept writing in his journal as he said without even looking up, "One must first have a heart to have a heart attack, dear older brother. How are you, besides being warm like the rest of us, I mean?"

As Devin got to his feet and sat down besides Catherine, he ignored his brother's remark totally and smiled at Catherine. "Hi! Feeling okay? I don't envy you, Cathy. Carrying a kid around in this weather, whew. Better you than me!"

She poked him in the ribs, giggling. "The day YOU become pregnant, I want to BE THERE. And sell tickets. HA!"

"That's not funny. Hey, how about a dip in the Falls, Vin? You too, Cathy. If the teenagers haven't already overrun the place by now."

Before either one of them could answer him, the forgotten hunk of ice had now begun dripping down his back down into his rear end. "Yow! Crap!" He jumped to his feet and ran into the bedroom, digging at his back as he disappeared into the room, still cursing. He returned a moment later carrying his clothing over one arm, dressed in his swim trunks.

"Well, I'm ready." He leered at Vincent and added, "Hey, you gonna wear a suit, a real bathing suit? You, MR. Au Natural! HA!"

Catherine bit her lip, suppressing with great effort her retort. She lost. "Yes, Vincent must wear a suit, Devin. He wouldn't want to show the rest of you MEN, (and I use the term loosely,) UP. All of your bodies pale in comparison. No offence."

“None taken. What can I say? I've SEEN him naked, thank you. It did NOT help my ego. I'll tell you that much. Vin, you showoff, ready? Let's go--the water is calling my name!"

Vincent came out of the bedroom wearing a pair of cutoff dungarees, his "concession" to a bathing suit and handed his wife two towels. Wrapping two more over one furred arm, he shoved his feet into open sandals, picked up his newspaper, hugged his wife, and started to leave the room. "Well, Devin? Are you coming or not?"

"Right behind you, bro! Hey, should we stop and ask Father to come with us? He might like a dip in the water himself." The words were no sooner out of Devin's mouth, when he turned a corner and almost ran Father over by colliding into him.

"Will you watch where you're going? God, Devin, you're an accident waiting to happen sometimes, aren't you?"

Devin grinned at his Father and linked arms with him. The old man wasn't really mad at him, Devin knew that. Father was still smiling. When angry, he DID NOT smile!

"So, where you heading? The Falls? Well, so are we. Isn't that a coincidence? Now we can all swim together. Hey Vin, do you remember how to 'Cannonball?' YEAH!”

Father grimaced. So much for his "restful" swim. Ah, well. He turned back and smiled at his younger son and Catherine. "How are my grandchildren? Acting...up eh? Seriously, I had a reminder from Peter that he wants you Above Monday at three for your check-up, if that's convenient? Vincent, you look rather, umm, how shall I say it, 'frazzled.' Are you well?"

With that question, he reached back and felt his son's forehead. He was burning up!

Vincent pulled back testily, "Father! I'm fine, just warm. Please...Don't HOVER!"

Seeing the look on the older man's face, Vincent felt a trifle ashamed at his quick tongue. "I'm sorry; it’s just...just so DAMNABLE hot!"

A voice behind them called out, "Hey, cut that swearing! It sounds like hell. Looks like we all had the same idea, huh?" It was Allegra, the one girl Vincent thought of as a dearest sister. The woman Devin thought of as a "possibility" someday.

She reached out and put her arm loosely around Cathy's shoulders as she greeted everyone else. Allegra was fond of them all, but Cathy was like her sister, and she, being a doctor and Peter Alcott’s assistant, felt as though she had a "duty" to keep an eye on her friend. See that Cathy got enough rest, ate properly, etc.

"Hello, girl. Mornings any better yet? That sickness every damn day must be a royal pain. Maybe someday, I’ll find out!"

Catherine laughed and shook her head. "No, mornings are still 'yuk,' thank you! If it doesn’t quit soon, HE'S going to carry the babies. I think I’ve had just about all the fun I can take!"

Vincent glanced back, "I heard that."

"Good! Serves you right, MR. EARS!" Allegra winked at him.

&

Finally, they reached the Falls Chamber. It was fairly quiet. Most of the children had gone to the pools above. It only cost a dime for them and they could roughhouse there as much as they wanted without Father or some other adult yelling at them to STOP! Looking down to the edge, Vincent saw Mary sitting there trailing her feet in the water and knitting something that looked like a sweater. In this heat--a sweater? He didn't even want to think about sweaters, ugh. He called down to her."

"Mary, how's the water today? Why aren't you swimming?"

"Oh, hello, Vincent, everybody. The water is actually cool. It feels wonderful. Vincent, you know I'm not a good swimmer. Just to be able to splash my feet in this, is enough for me."

Catherine sat beside Mary and Allegra and started splashing the cool water over her shoulders and legs. It really felt good. She started to wade in with Allegra beside her. Just in case.

Father had shed his robe and taken the plunge. He thought he may as well do it now, as Vincent and Devin would only drench him later. Vincent suddenly popped up on his right and Devin on his left, startling him. "What? What are you two up to already? Now leave me alone! Go swim, go dive. GO DROWN...or something!" He swam away from them and began floating, drifting off by himself in peace as they stood looking at him with wide eyes.

"Gee, Vin, what's his problem? Getting cranky in his old age, I think!"

"Devin, Father was ALWAYS cranky, even at a younger age."

Devin guffawed at this, agreed, and pushed his brother's head under the water.

"Gotcha!"

"Devin, OKAY, you started it. Remember that!"

With those words, Vincent picked him up bodily and threw him about ten feet away into the deeper part of the falls. Devin came up sputtering and coughing, and mad as hell.

"That wasn't fair, bro. I wasn't ready. Dare you to try it again!" When he saw Vincent heading for him, he dove under the water quickly and swam as fast as he could to the ladies. Vin couldn't DARE splash him there; the women would kill him. He was partly right; Vincent wouldn't "mess around" near his wife and Allegra. But, he wouldn't have to--they did it for him. His wife held Devin's arms and Allegra ducked his head under the water with a cry of "WHEEE."

Devin lost the battle and went over nearer Father to lick his wounds and his pride. Beaten up by two women. Jeez!

"Dad, they're picking on me again..." he whined.

"That's the SECOND time in an hour you've called me DAD. Now, I ignored it the first time, but...Don't call me Dad. Father or Jacob if you want to, but DAD, or POPS is not DIGNIFIED, Devin."

"Okay, FAWWWTHER!"

Catherine laughed at Devin's droll way of saying Father, and then turned as Allegra tapped her on the shoulder, with a question in her eyes.

"Hey, Cath? You hungry? I'm starving! Mary just mentioned that she has not eaten yet either. Have you and Vincent?"

As Catherine shook her head no, she exclaimed. "No, neither Vincent nor I have eaten. That's why I feel so...blah! Vincent, are you hungry?"

Vincent broke off his discussion with Father and Devin, and turned to his wife with a smile.

"Hungry? No...RAVENOUS! I could eat an entire pizza all by myself!"

Devin joined in, then Father, too. "Yeah. Let's eat, its way past the meal time to GRAZE!" "I must agree with Devin, as rare as that is. I, too, am famished. What shall we have? Cold salad and 'catch-as-catch-can' from the kitchen?"

Devin looked puzzled for a moment, then brightened and turned to the others. "A stroke of brilliance just hit me. How about Vincent's idea--pizza! It’s Sunday and Sal's closed on Sunday. Maybe he'll lend us the keys, we can lock up the store really secure, lower the blinds--the whole nine yards...and ALL of us can go up there to eat. Hey, he's got air conditioning! Whatta you say, guys?"

Father looked pained, Vincent--Above? That could prove to be dangerous, even alone with family. Something could happen...It was as though Vincent read his thoughts. He put a hand on his father's arm lightly, "Please, nothing will happen. Let's make the most of a chance to go Above, in the sun. In the daytime. Father, let's just do it!"

Catherine, Mary, and the rest waited. Father sighed deeply and grinned, then nodded his head. "Vincent, if that's what you want to do...You are a man now, not a child. The risk is, perhaps, not too great. I know Sal. He would never leave us...or you, open to any endangerment. YES! We will go have pizza. Shall I change my clothing or can I go as I am and just wear my robe over this bathing suit? It is cool..."

Devin just looked at Vincent. Devin's eyebrows had disappeared into his hairline--Father had said YES! WHOA, heavy! Aright, FOOD! He looked over to Vincent and winked. "You don't have to change, Pops. We'll all go as we are. Ladies, okay, Vin?"

Allegra and Catherine just nodded and started wrapping their long towels around their waists--Catherine's just made it. Vincent, however, looked a mite uncomfortable. "I should put on some shoes and a shirt. I feel almost, ah, almost bare, as I am now. I'll be right back."

He disappeared quickly, but not fast enough to miss Catherine's parting remark, "Yes, love. A shirt is a good idea. Remember the last time you ate Italian food...?"

He just looked back over his shoulder, gave her an eye-to-eye contact that said, 'DO NOT TELL THEM WHAT HAPPENED!!' Father went to Catherine, a question on his lips. "What happened when my son ate Italian food, and when? Can you tell me about it?"

Catherine just smiled secretly and shook her head no. That last time her Vincent had eaten Italian food--spaghetti--was their first meal in her apartment Above, before they had married. He had tried to wind the pasta as she did and the entire plate of spaghetti, sauce, and meatballs had landed upside down in his lap. What a mess he had been! But his shower afterwards had proved quite interesting. Yes, indeed. He had urged her to join him and she did. She HAD promised not to tell Father of his spaghetti disaster; she hadn't broken that promise. She wouldn't now. But she could barely hold back the words, giggling and shutting her lips tightly together.

&

Devin had left the Falls Chamber right after Vincent. He had to see if he could get hold of Sal and see if he would agree to his idea. Dev was sure he would. He had been a friend of over 30 years and he loved all of them as though they were his children, especially Allegra. Being Italian, she was nearest his heart. Many times they argued back and forth in that beautiful language, always ending up laughing and hugging each other. Devin was certain Sal could never say no to something that involved "Llegs." He'd soon see anyway!

As Cathy, Allegra, Mary, and Father slowly climbed back to the top to leave the Chamber, Vincent reappeared. He felt and looked a lot more comfortable in his thin muslin shirt and...What was on his feet? Father looked down and grunted, Vincent was wearing sneakers! Just like Devin's, but naturally, quite a bit larger. What was the name of those things--Robics? NO, AH, REEBOKS, that was it. He had an urge to tease his son. Vincent glared at him, knowing this. Father kept still. But, Allegra didn't. "Hey, Vin! What's this? You? In sneakers. The shock may kill me! I thought you hated sneakers, you always said you did."

"Ah, but that was before Catherine found a pair that fit perfectly! I don't know where she bought them, but, I find, to my surprise, they are most comfortable. And a lot cooler than boots in this heat."

He said this, then looked up to the ceiling of the Chamber, as if he were praying for strength. Devin had not seen these on him yet. If he said ONE word...

Devin reappeared in the entrance to the Falls Chamber, swinging a set of keys in his hand. "TA DA! Sal said hello to all of you, and, of course, agreed to giving us the run of the place for the day. He showed me where the dough was kept in the fridge and the sauce he had made for Monday. He says use what we want; he can make more later. And to eat well. Now, who's gonna help me cook? Cathy? "Llegs? How about you, Mary?"

Mary just smiled at him and shook her head. Cooking beside Devin could be quite wearying. He was so...so experimentive. He added kind of "strange" items to his cooking. She'd eat what he made, but would rather not see what was in it. What she did not know, could not make her ill. Catherine and Allegra whispered together and then nodded to each other in agreement. Allegra spoke for both of them. "Cath and I aren't cooking today. It's Sunday, a day of rest for ALL women. Nope, you guys got the kitchen all to yourselves. Have fun! Just don't screw up the pizzas or we'll kill ya."

Devin wrapped one arm around his Father's shoulders and one around Vincent's. "Well, I guess it's up to us MEN, huh? Vincent can chop up the cheese and stuff and Father, how about you fixing the sauce? That sounds fair? Okay--let's eat!" With that, he took off at a healthy clip to reach Sal's--and FOOD! Allegra was right with him, yelling at him to wait for her.

&

Vincent pushed aside the heavy false front of the wine cask that served as their entrance to Sal's Pizza Parlor. He had installed this, years ago so the children of the Tunnel could come up unobserved and eat pizza, or anything else they wanted on the weekends. Sal loved watching kids eat--such healthy appetites! But, Vincent had never gone along with the others; Father had thought it far too dangerous, then. But, now...many things had changed, for himself as well as Father. Vincent was a husband, and soon to be a father himself; he was finally, in his father's eyes, GROWN. FINALLY! Vincent was looking forward to being Above, even if it WAS just inside, eating pizza. He had often wondered what that pizza place looked like; now he would find out.

As her husband helped first Mary, then Father through the opening in the restaurant Above, Catherine smiled and looked at her husband. He seemed to be quite excited over this little outing. Little to the rest of them, something NEW to him! She felt his excitement and his happiness at, for once, being ONE OF THE GUYS! She held him back a moment as the others climbed the stairway to the kitchen. She wanted to speak alone with him for just a few minutes; they hadn't had a second alone all day! He wrapped his massive arms around her happily, seeming to know her thoughts. He usually knew what his wife was thinking, or thought he did at least! Sometimes, she could still surprise him. He liked the idea she could; she did too! Catherine looked up at him as she lay against his arms and pushed a few straggling hairs away from his beautiful face. He looked so much like a little boy at times. Still so innocent, so trusting. He gazed down at her with eyes that brimmed over with love. He lowered his lips to hers and kissed her gently, softly, as Catherine stepped even closer to his chest. His lips were like a drug she could never seem to get enough of...his lips, or any other part of him! When she could breathe again, she touched his face lightly with her fingers and etched a pathway up and down his cheeks and mouth.

"Happy?"

"Happy is not the word, Catherine. As Mouse would say, "Beyond happy. Beyond beyond! And, you? Are you happy? Do you feel all right? You look a bit tired. We don't have to stay long, if you want to rest..."

"No. I'm fine. That swim helped a lot. And happy? Vincent, I love you. How could I be anything else BUT happy, here with you? And, we'll stay as long as you want to! But, I'm not helping you men with the dishes. I'm pregnant, you know!"

He reached one hand down and caressed her tummy gently, looked up into her eyes and grinned as widely as was possible for him. "You're pregnant? How did this happen? Who did this to you?"

 

"Oh, some man. You know me. Some guy says he loves me after a few years and I'm a goner! Just hope he's telling me the truth. So many women chase after him; I have to keep my eyes on him every second. He’s such a...a..."

She didn't get a chance to finish THAT sentence; her husband wrapped his hands tightly into her hair and urged her face forward to meet his. "Such a what?"

"A sexy hunk!"

"What? A hunk? What's a hunk?"

She poked him in the ribs and giggled at him. "You're the great reader in this family, go look it up!"

A teasing voice came wafting down from over their heads. Devin had heard quite enough of this MUSH! "You guys coming up for air soon? Vincent, you're supposed to be on kitchen duty. Let's go!"

"Coming, oh, Master!"

Vincent stood aside and let Catherine go up the stairs first. She thought he was being himself, a gentleman. Well he was, but this way he could also give her a quick, but deeply felt rub on her rear end!

"Vincent! Stop that!"

"Why?"

"If you don't, we'll never get upstairs..."

His hunger for her was outweighed at the moment by his hunger to eat. He followed her up the stairs quietly smiling and his hands in his pockets, against further temptations.

Catherine went and sat with Mary and Allegra at the large corner boot near the jukebox, the booth nearest the air conditioner. AH! The air felt great! She took a deep breath and silently to herself said, "Spoiled brat!" Allegra got up and put some money into the jukebox and called back. "Want something soft and soothing, or loud, and lively?"

Mary surprised them and herself, "Loud and lively, please."

Well, the choices on Sal's jukebox weren't that great, but finally Allegra found some she thought would surely liven up this party. She pushed five buttons, then sat back down and told the other women to "listen." The five songs she picked were:

Summer in the City (appropriate)

Vincent

(Really for Van Gogh, but the words fit someone here, quite a bit)

Wild Thing--for Dev

Theme from Phantom of the Opera--really sexy!

And

Nasty Boys--for the men!

Devin heard the loud music weaving its way into the kitchen and starting humming along with the first tune. He was MORE than a little surprised when Vin joined right in with him!

"YOU know the words to THAT? You know the words to Wild Thing?"

"Yes, why?"

"Where did you learn it? Don't tell me--Cathy! Boy, Vin, you've sure changed these past few months. I'll give you that. Next, you'll be telling dirty jokes."

"I already do, Devin. It's just that you've never been around to hear them."

Father had listened to this exchange as he moved about the large kitchen, putting the sauce on to heat and cutting up the lovely smelling cheese for the topping of the pizza. Yes, his youngest son had indeed changed these past months. And, he had to admit it was due to Catherine. Vincent was truly happy, and totally relaxed. Father smiled to himself, if he were any MORE relaxed, he'd fall down! It was wonderful to see this. He was glad he'd lived to see this and now grandchildren were on the way! Doctor Alcott (his friend Peter) had told them recently there were twins on the way. TWINS! When Devin teased his younger brother about "doing things up in grand style," Father had been a bit amused to notice Vincent did not seem to mind. In fact, had been QUITE "prideful" of creating twins right off the bat, QUITE PROUD of that achievement. Jacob was happy. These past months had been a blessing to all Below. Peace reigned, even with Devin still here. He smiled once more and got back to his sauce cooking.

Vincent was leaning against a counter watching Devin throw dough into the air and catching it spinning, as he widened it into an ever increasing circle. This looked like fun and he wanted to try it, just once. Vincent looked down at his hands. Would his nails get in the way, he wondered? Devin saw him looking.

"Vincent? Anything wrong, bro?"

Vincent looked up, smiling at his brother.

"No, nothing wrong. I just wondered if I could have a chance to do that." He was pointing to the crust Devin was now shaping on the large tray, molding it to fit exactly the tray's parameters.

Devin smiled. "I don't know; I seem to remember that last time you tried doing something like this. Remember the pancakes for Father's birthday breakfast, huh?"

His brother nodded. He remembered Devin had been flipping pancakes quite expertly; Vincent had insisted on a turn. Well, his enthusiasm had sent a pancake flying...sticking to the ceiling. Mary had entered the kitchen just as it had begun peeling away and the mess landed on her head!

Father stayed out of this one. He didn't think he really wanted to know! Those two, when younger, had been quite a handful to deal with at times. He could well imagine what kind of dangers they had gotten into and out of, without him ever hearing of it. He chose not to hear of it now.

Vincent looked determined. He wanted to try and spin that dough! "Yes, but that happened a long time ago, Devin. Please, let me try? If you can do it, it can't be THAT hard."

Devin began teaching, first kneading the pizza dough, flouring his hands, and then slapping it flat before picking it up and twirling it, until he got it larger and larger. He stood aside and gave Vin four large hunks of dough. "You get four shots at this, okay? I'd like to eat this year. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Tuck your hair behind your ears, I don't want HAIRY pizza!"

As Vincent concentrated on his crust making, Devin left the room unnoticed and went quickly over to where the women were sitting, enjoying a small glass of Sal's homemade wine.

"PSSSTT, Cath, ‘Llegs, Mary. You gotta see this. Come on!" He held one finger to his lips and let them peek through the swinging door, into the kitchen. Allegra stuffed her towel into her mouth to stifle the fit of laughter that threatened to erupt. Mary said quietly "Oh, my," then went back to sit down; not daring to watch the outcome of this! Catherine had waited until her husband had "messed" up three pieces of dough, and then finally spun one almost perfectly. Then, she stepped into the kitchen.

"Hey, that was all right! Where did you learn to do that?"

As Vincent turned to her with a look of triumph in his eyes, she bit the inside of her cheek to keep from screaming with giggles. He had flour everywhere--in his hair, on his shirt and on his noble, furry nose. But, on the tray sat one, slightly off center, more square than round pizza crust. Vincent winked at her and ladled on sauce, then LOTS of cheese, and pepperoni. As Catherine just looked at him, he paused, and then added mushrooms and her favorite (not his) garnish--anchovies. YUK...

"Well, how does it look? Not too bad for a first try, if I do say so myself!" Saying this, he opened the large oven door and as Devin had done before him, moved the pizza carefully in and shut the door with a deft movement. "There. Now while that cooks, WE can rest and have a glass of wine with you ladies. Shall we? Father, Devin?"

They sat around the table, sharing the wine and teasing each other of different events of the past. Father looked grateful as the loud music on the Jukebox came to an end and his choices came on. Some Caruso, Mario Lanza, and an old favorite, Blue Velvet. Ah, that was more like it. Vincent pulled his wife to her feet gently; he wanted to dance! Dev held out a hand to 'Llegs and joined them on the floor, dipping and waltzing to Blue Velvet with the best of them.

Father looked to Mary. "Would you care to try a few steps, Mary?"

"I think I would, Jacob. Thank you."

While the younger KIDS watched, he and Mary showed them a new trick or two. Father whispered something to her, she nodded and he bent her into a "dip" none had ever seen done before!

Devin shouted, "Not too shabby, Pops! Not at all. Way to go..."

As the song ended, Father escorted Mary to her seat, then turned to his oldest son and began walking toward him, with fire in his eyes--"I'll POPS you! Didn't I tell you not to call me that? Well?"

Devin bowed devilishly, and in his best Steve Martin imitation exclaimed..."Well, excusssssse me!"

Vincent suddenly sniffed the air--the pizzas! "The pizzas are ready, I think. Come on, I hope we haven't burned them."

The men raced to the kitchen, Devin cursing as they all tried to fit through the narrow doorway at one time. All three finally squished through together and disappeared from view.

Allegra cracked up, wiped the tears from her eyes. "I think I saw that maneuver once on the 'Three Stooges!'"

Catherine laughed aloud when Mary shook her head, not agreeing, "No, my dear. I think it was the Marx Brothers in 'A Night at the Opera,' if I'm not mistaken."

Catherine yelled towards the kitchen for her husband to bring out an extra tablecloth and to 'remember the spaghetti!'

Allegra was beyond nosy. WHAT was it with Vin and spaghetti? She had to know!  "Cath? Is it a private joke or can you share it with us? You mentioned Vincent and spaghetti before. What happened? Come on, give!"

Catherine looked sheepish. She had promised not to tell Father, had given her word. But, this wasn't Father, now was it? She motioned both women closer and lowered her voice.

Devin heard sudden shrieks of laughter coming from the dining room. "What the hell..." He opened the door a crack and just listened. Then grinned and turned to Vincent who stood admiring his pizza. "Hey, bro'. Your wife is telling them something about dinner, spaghetti, and tablecloths. What...?"

Devin didn't get a chance to finish as Vincent rushed past him to stand with his arms folded in front of Catherine, accusingly..."You told them. You promised never to tell of that. You gave me your word, Catherine."

His wife steepled her fingers, more than a bit ashamed of telling "the story." Then looked to Vincent with all innocence and responded, "But, I didn't tell Father. I promised not to tell FATHER of that night and what else that happened!"

Catherine was an attorney and was sticking to the "letter" of her promise. Vincent was NOT buying it. "You promised." He sounded disappointed in her. Uh, oh.

She got to her feet and held out her hand to Vincent. She looked truly ashamed of herself. Looked as though she would cry. Looked utterly adorable, as she lifted her eyes to her husband's angry ones with a small sigh. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to tell. It must be the...the wine. Allegra wormed it out of me."

She pointed at her now, accusingly. Allegra nodded her head in agreement. "I did. Vin, I'm sorry. But, I can see you...what that...spaghetti and...And...ahhh!"

Allegra lost it; she broke down and put her head on Mary's shoulder and covered her eyes, to try and stop giggling. Mary looked up and tried to say something, then just shook her head and patted Allegra's shoulder. She didn't want to laugh, too. Vincent seemed truly unhappy with his wife's breach of trust.

"I could tell your friends of "certain" incidents You would rather forget, Catherine. But--I won't. I keep promises

His wife looked as though she suddenly remembered something. OH, you keep promises, do you? Well, why did you tell MOUSE about the wine I gave you that night, by mistake? DID you forget THAT promise, my love?"

Now, he looked guilty as hell. He had forgotten that promise. Catherine had given him sherry without thinking of his reaction to it until it was too late. He had two glasses and became quite totally drunk. Now, he remembered. He had promised not to tell. DAMN! "I'm guilty. I truly did forget, Catherine. But you didn't forget just now. It was you who gave me...SHERRY!"

Devin and Father approached the table each bearing a large tray of pizza. Devin asked, "Forget what? What's going on? What about Sherry? Who's Sherry? Have I met her?"

He stepped back a bit, as all three women AND Vincent turned on him. "NEVER MIND!"

Shrugging his shoulders at Father, they placed the two trays carefully on the table, making sure to put the one Vincent had made directly in front of him. Devin asked him to cut it. "You do the honors, okay? You made it with your own wittle pingers, What a dood boy!"

Vincent narrowed his eyes, replying, "How would you like a SECOND belly button, bro? It can be arranged."

Vincent held out his clawed fingers and smiled, menacingly... Dev lowered his eyes and shut his mouth--WHOOPS!

After dishing out HIS pizza, everyone told him how wonderful his crust turned out, and a first effort...well. He tried to look as if the praise didn't bother him, he could not quite pull it off, he looked quite proud of himself! Father now raised a sharp knife to begin cutting into the second pizza. He pulled his hands away and approached it warily. That tray was hot. Just as he turned it and finished cutting, the tray skittered towards him like a flying saucer, slipped from the table, and into his lap... plop!

"Oh, God! That's hot. What a mess! Somebody, help me! Will you all stop that ridiculous caterwauling and help me?"

The hot sauce had inched its way down his inner thigh and was heading directly for his groin, along with the cheese. He jumped to his feet, swiping at the hotness now invading his "private personage."

"Ouch, OUCH, Devin, get me a rag, PLEASE! NOW! Vincent, can you get some cold water from the kitchen, or SOMETHING! Stop grinning at me like a...a...ninny. Get me a wet rag. NOW!

Vincent went for the water, Devin ran for a rag. Better away from Father at the moment. They were both laughing so hard, he'd surely murder them if he saw...

When they returned with the rag and water, Father rose CAREFULLY to his feet, excused himself from the table and went into the bathroom. He shook his head to himself-- foolish--there was running water here, he had forgotten. Vincent had brought him water for no reason. OH WELL...He managed to wipe most of the sauce from his pants and "tender" areas. The short bathing pants were drenched, but now at least he wasn't on fire from the cheese melting down near his...his...whatever. He heard the music begin again--didn't these children ever get tired of that noise? THEY called it music--if that was music, he was...was...Chopin!

When he returned to the table, Devin and Allegra were cutting up quite recklessly in a dance that seemed to him--almost lewd! Some of those steps looked like they were making love, for Heavens sakes! He couldn’t watch. Turning to Catherine, he asked if she had enjoyed her pizza. She nodded, too tired suddenly, to even speak. It was getting late and she had to work tomorrow...UGH!

"Vincent? Devin? Perhaps you should begin cleaning up the kitchen, yes? Catherine seems tired, Mary also. I know I am and I am not going to HELP. I haven't finished eating yet. The kitchen is all yours!"

Devin let go of 'Llegs and headed for the kitchen, dragging his brother with him muttering to himself. Vincent thought he was talking to him. "What? I didn't hear that. What?"

"Nothing. I just said the kitchen is ours, huh? Well, we can't say he never gave us anything, right?"

Vincent didn't answer, just held the door open for Devin and let it swing shut after them.

The others had been digesting their dinner and talking of how this day had gone, both the good and the bad, when a sudden roar from the kitchen and a string of curses from Devin, brought everyone to their feet on the run.

Father threw the doors open just as Catherine and Allegra got to it and looked in. What was going on in there? "Devin, if you throw that dough at me, it will be the last time you use that arm for YEARS! TRUST ME ON THIS! DON'T do it..."

A long, snake-like curl of dough hit Vincent right square between the eyes in response to his threats. He tried to catch it in mid-air, but missed. The curly, sticky stuff now hung from his head and was stuck in his long, red blonde hair like glue. And he was FURIOUS. He was stalking Devin around the kitchen like a very large, catlike creature...never taking his eyes from him, as he slowly managed to trap Devin into a corner. Vincent then took a very large glop of dough and mushed it thoroughly into his older brother's hair, while Devin yelled and tried vainly to stop him.

Father was trying very hard not to lose his temper. Would these great hulking boys NEVER grow up? "Devin, Vincent! Stop that this minute. I said, S T O P!”

Devin stopped mid-punch, Vincent mid-throw. They stood apart and both tried telling what had happened at the same time. It came out sounding to Father like the Tower of Babel in the Bible. He was not understanding one word of this disjointed conversation.

"Devin started it; he threw dough at me. Said it was my mess. I didn't do a thing."

"The hell you didn't, Vincent. You threw it back, with two more pieces added and said you had already cleaned up your share; the rest was mine. You did not clean half, that's not fair. And, thanks for the head full of pizza dough. Jeez, I'll never get it out."

"Well, you shouldn't have ordered me around. I'm too old to be ordered around anymore, by anyone!"

"Oh, yeah! I bet you jump fast when Catherine wants something!"

"If I do and I'm not SAYING I DO, that's not your business!"

Father had had ENOUGH. He grabbed both of them by the scruff of the neck and SHOOK them like two wayward puppies. He didn't yell and this shook them the most. He spoke softly only when ready to hit! Both men winced as though already feeling the smack. "Now, you will clean up this kitchen. QUIETLY. You will put everything away. And--you will not FIGHT ANYMORE. Is this perfectly clear? Devin? Vincent? ANSWER ME!"

"Yeah."

"Yes, perfectly."

"All right then. We will be walking slowly back to the tunnels. You two can catch up with us there. Come, ladies. Let's leave the CHILDREN to their chores, shall we?"

Just as he turned to leave, a large piece of dough that had been wrapped in the fan, slowly plopped down onto Father's head and startled the hell out of him. Mary and the other women made a beeline for the door; they weren't stupid enough to stay HERE. As they started down the stairs, Mary was telling Catherine about the time Devin and Vincent, when quite young, had decided to cook Jacob a birthday breakfast. Of how a flipped pancake had hit the ceiling and landed on her head in much the same way then, as the dough had hit Jacob, now. Allegra added, "Yeah, I remember. Dev got VINCENT to ask me to help clean up THAT mess. This time, NO WAY. Let's go!"

&

Salvatore entered the restaurant just as the men had finished putting away the last of the pots and pans and had stacked the trays where they belonged. Both men were unusually quiet; Sal was a bit puzzled. Even Devin was silent as he put the room in order. Finally, he winked at Sal, and then smiled. "Hi, Sal. Thanks for the use of your kitchen. The pizza was good. Your sauce is the best."

Vincent agreed, adding, "Yes, everything tasted delicious. Except what Father ended up wearing."

Sal wanted to ask, but didn't. He had known these boys, men, all their lives. He had learned NEVER to ask questions of these two! "I'ma happy you ate well. Did you see what I left inna the refrige for you? No? Hey, itsa right here. Chocolate cheese-a-cake. How come you not eat it? Too full?"

Vincent's face has brightened considerably. Devin just smiled. His brother's weakness for chocolate was well documented. He grinned over to him. Vincent made peace. He smiled back.

"Sal, may we take some with us? For the others? Yes, thank you. Devin, are you all set to go? Sal, thank you again, it was a nice change, being Above in the daytime. I will not forget your kindness."

Sal had cut the ten pound cheese pie in half and put it on a plate and handed it to Vincent, replying, "Itsa nothing. Just to see you happy, is everything!" Sal reached out and "tweaked" both men on the face--hard.

&

Devin and Vincent hurried along the corridor, anxious to reach the rest of their family to say goodnight, before each went their separate ways. As they reached them, both men were completely winded. Even Vincent was gasping.

"Father, Sal showed up! He gave us this, chocolate cake made with cheese. Would anyone like to go to the kitchen and have some and perhaps a cup of tea, before saying goodnight?"

Devin chimed in, "Yeah, the night's young!"

Father shook his head as did Mary, answering. "The night may be young, but I'm not. I'll see you all in the morning. Come, Mary." She took his arm and they started off for their chambers. Father called a final admonishment over his shoulder, directed at Vincent. "Son, leave me some of that cheesecake and I don't mean crumbs, either!"

&

Vincent sat back and unexpectedly, burped quite loudly. "Oh, excuse me."

Devin stirred the last of his tea and hung one arm loosely over 'Llegs shoulders. He was tired. The swim, the pizza, and fighting with Vincent, would have done in even a stronger man. "There IS no excuse for you, bro. What a CRUDE thing to do. Well, I'm going to bed! I can't be around this ruffian any longer. 'Llegs, coming?"

"Yes, I'm just about ready to call it a day. Night, Cathy. Night, Vin."

Devin and Allegra walked slowly to her Chamber, each lost in their separate thoughts. As they reached the doorway, Devin put his hands gently at her waist, "Well, this had been an interesting date. We must do it again some time, ALONE."

"Date? What date? What makes you say this night was a date, for Lord's sake? Date, HA!"

He pulled her closer and lowered his mouth to hers murmuring, "Because a date ends with a kiss. Like this..."

Her response was lost as he took her breath away, in a kiss that tingled and raised goosebumps clear down to her toes. Allegra felt his grip tighten on her waist. He felt good. Solid. Warm. With a sigh of surrender, she gave herself up to his arms. And his mouth. She knew he would only go so far, they were alike in so many ways, almost family. But she loved him, as he loved her. Maybe, someday, they'd be able to share that with each other. Someday.

&

A curse followed by a crash, followed by another curse; naturally shook Vincent from his sleep. With a growl. Who in HELL was in his chamber at this hour? He padded to the door quietly, trying not to wake Catherine. Opening it slowly, he held a lit candle before him in the darkened outer chamber.

Devin laid on the floor with a gigantic fan on top of him, cursing softly under his breath, "Ouch, son of a bitch! Jeez. Stupid hassock!"

"Devin? What are you doing on the floor with that fan? Devin got to his feet and pulled the fan into an upright position. "What does it look like I'm DOING, Vincent? I came in here in the middle of the night to MAKE LOVE TO THIS FAN, can't you tell?!!!!"

Vincent tried not to smile, not wanting to let Devin see how his sarcasm amused him at the moment. "Are you bringing that thing in here? Where did you get it?"

"Yes, I'm bringing this THING in here. It's for Cathy. A pregnant woman should be made as comfortable as possible. Mouse said I could borrow this as long as it was for her. Gee, Vincent. She's YOUR wife--I’m surprised, astounded, YOU didn't think of this before me!"

Devin reached up along one wall and found the electric plug Mouse had installed in this Chamber for his friends right after their wedding. He considered it his "present." Father considered it taking, but no matter. As Devin plugged the fan in, he had not realized in falling, he had pushed the switch to the "ON" position. When he plugged in the cord, the full blast of air "NAILED" Vincent right in the face, whipping his hair back as though caught in a hurricane and taking the wind from him, in surprise.

"That is strong, Devin. Does it have a lower speed? Yes, good. I want to cool Catherine off, not have the wind knock her off the bed! Thank you. It was very thoughtful. You are right, I should have thought of this myself. Oh, I guess being older, you have had more chances than I at 'cooling' women off, huh?"

Devin just grinned, hugged him goodnight and closed the heavy oak bedroom door behind him. Vincent stood there smiling a moment before he lowered the fan to "gentle" and climbed back into bed. AH...that felt grand. Simply grand!

&

Devin wandered around the corridors for a while; stopping when he saw a light still on, to say hello to whomever was still up this late. He thought of Father's rules for childhood, about the "night wanderings." He had forbidden them, knowing what exactly could happen, when WANDERING. Devin smiled and headed for 'Llegs' chamber. Here I go, Dad, wandering again! YES!