THE SUPERB BREAKFAST

 by TRISHA KEHOE

from VINCENT'S WORLD 3

 

Catherine tiptoed into the bedroom and stood over her sleeping husband. She grinned down at THAT body; what a hunk! Shaking herself slightly, she lifted the breakfast tray onto a nearby chair and began waking Vincent.

"Morning, love. Time to move those bones. Vincent?"

Nothing.

"Vinnnncennnnt, it’s Saturday. You told me to get you up before six, remember? You and Devin are supposed to be helping Fatthhher..."

The massive frame shifted ever so slightly in the king size bed and settled in again with a grunt. Catherine arched one eyebrow. OKAY! Getting to her knees beside the sleeping giant, Catherine began whispering into one golden ear.

"If you DON'T get up, I am going to tickle you! I mean it! HEY."

Finally, a voice--low and husky with sleep responded to that threat.

"You tickle me, and you may NOT use that hand for quite a few hours, my love."

Catherine would not be put off by simple warnings, Ha...! Her fingers lowered to Vincent's ribs quickly. He howled and tried to stop her, but she was kneeling on the covers. Not wanting to throw her OFF, he know knew he was trapped.

"Yowwww! Stop! You will kill me, Catherine. Oh, I wish you'd never found out how ticklish I am. STOP."

Then she made a slight mistake, Catherine allowed her husband to take a breath. With one quick movement, he threw off the covers, grabbed her and now SHE was pinned by his hands on her shoulders. Whoops. She tried diplomacy.

"But, you TOLD me to wake you this early! YOU DID."

Vincent didn't answer, just shook the golden array of hair from his sleepy eyes and watched her. Carefully. Now, she tried threats.

"Let me up, or so help me, you'll WEAR that breakfast!"

Aha. The mention of FOOD got him.

"What breakfast? You've made me breakfast, Catherine? But, why? You should have slept this morning. I ..."

His wife's hands were trailing gentle touches down his arms, and across his wide shoulders. Vincent shut his eyes a moment, merely enjoying this; then he asked again.

"What made you get up so early on Saturday?"

"Your snoring, that's what!"

Vincent was NOT amused.

"I DO not snore."

"HA! That's like saying ... you don't like chocolate!"

Vincent released her arms and lay beside her as Catherine continued saying good morning to his body; oh, god! Her hands could DO such things to him ...

"If I did snore, and I have not agreed I do, I'm sorry. But, still I did not want to wake up, not just yet!"

She looked up into his smiling face and winked at him.

"Having a nice dream, were you?"

He lowered his face to her neck, muffling his response.

"Ummm. A lovely dream."

"Oh. Of me, I assume?"

Vincent had learned many things in three years of marriage; one of those things was how to TEASE!

"As a matter of fact, no. Not of you."

"NOT me? Okay, who?"

His laugh shook the bed. At times, not often, but at times, Catherine COULD be baited a bit ...

"A beautiful woman, with red-golden hair and great, big, blue eyes. Oh, such a beauty!"

Catherine's eyes narrowed as she gave him a GOOD pinch on his furry butt.

"Her name! I want her name, this ... husband stealer!"

Finally managing to free his tortured skin from her fingers, Vincent smiled and rolled her to lie on top of him.

"A beauty, my love. Our daughter Marca. Gotcha!"

His wife growled at him, then laughed.

"Yeah, yeah. Well, at least you're UP. Want your food now before it’s cold altogether?"

"What is it?"

Each piece of his breakfast was named as Catherine again ran her fingers over his chest, down both arms and towards the very soul of the man. His eyes grew darker, his breath short, gaspy sounds. NOW he was most certainly awake.

"I have made you ... toast ..."

"Uh! What ... oh ... else?"

"Poached eggs ... "

Oh God, if she didn't stop, he'd, he'd ...

"And? Catherine!"

"And juice and tea. AND..."

Catherine grinned at her husband's now growing predicament. Should she? She should!

"But, if you don't want it, I'll just go return it ..."

The rest was cut off by his mouth on her own, kissing her deeply as his hands quickly pulled the nightgown over her head and tossed it to the floor. He murmured into her mouth...

"Don't move, Catherine. I'll put the food on the brazier. It will stay warm enough for a while. I will be right back."

She stretched her arms and cuddled down into the pillows, enjoying his lingering scent there.

"I'll be right here!"

Vincent threw himself back onto the bed with such force, he nearly knocked Catherine off! Pulling her into his arms, he sighed with satisfaction and then tightened his hold on her.

"Waking with you beside me is the nearest thing to being reborn I shall ever know. I love you so much."

Those great hands began their own journey now. Catherine's voice was soft in his ear; coaxing, teasing. Driving him quickly towards an end to this playtime.

"How much? Show me, Vincent. Please show me?"

Taking one rosy nipple between his teeth carefully, Vincent began to show Catherine exactly how much she was loved. And desired. As if he had to reaffirm it.

&

After sharing his long waiting breakfast with his wife, Vincent began dressing quickly. A look to the clock on the nightstand told him--he was late. And Father would, of course, want to know WHY. And, Vincent was NOT about to tell him! He turned as a voice shouted from the outer chamber. Devin was waiting for him.

"Hey, bro'. You alive in there? Let's GO! The old man wanted us early, remember? Whatever you're DOING, leave it!"

Vincent walked out to greet his brother with a look of being 'love tumbled' on his golden face.

"Leave IT?"

Devin grinned to himself; uh-huh. He wasn't dumb; old Vin hadn't been sleeping!

"Excuse me. If you're ... done for now--say goodbye to Cathy and THEN let's go! Okay?"

Vincent nodded as his wife stepped from the bedroom and greeted her brother-in-law.

"Hi, spoilsport. Where's your BETTER half?"

"Allegra still snuggles gloriously asleep, thank you. Hey Vincent? You eat yet?"

"Yes, Catherine brought me breakfast. Why?"

"Well, bully for you. I MADE my own."

Vincent sat and pulled on his boots.

"That's too bad. Perhaps if your wife was not working late shifts this week, she would have ..."

Devin snorted rudely.

"Ha! HER idea of breakfast is coffee and a roll."

Vincent looked thoughtful, then chuckled.

"I can think of one morning, long ago, when Father may have wished HIS breakfast was simply a roll and coffee. Can you remember, Devin? That 'superb' breakfast we made him?"

Devin cracked up and fell down beside his brother on the sofa.

"Oh, cripes, can I! I thought he'd die, for sure!"

"That morning, he came pretty CLOSE, Devin. Very close indeed, from what Mary told me later."

As his older brother wiped his eyes, Catherine frowned at her husband. 'Superb breakfast'? WHAT!

"Okay, you two. Share! You know how much I love hearing about the stuff you guys did when little! Come on, there's time. Please?"

Vincent nodded to Devin. Devin shrugged.

"Well, we're dogfood already anyway. We're beyond late now, might as well try for death. Go ahead, you tell her. It was your idea in the first place, bro'."

Vincent agreed as he turned to Catherine.

"Well, it all began on Father's birthday ..."

======================================

The man stood still in the middle of the library, seemingly engrossed in the words on the page of his Medical Technology Journal. A small boy with wild golden hair and deep turquoise eyes burst into the room and hugged him quite fiercely about the knees, almost bowling him over with his enthusiasm.

"Morning, Father! Did you have a good sleep?"

Jacob Wells glanced over the wire frames of his glasses at the sturdy little body clinging to him and grinned.

"Why, good morning to you, too. And, yes Vincent, I slept very well. Thank you for asking."

With that, the man lowered one hand to the boy's shoulder and squeezed it gently in an embrace as he looked into those trusting blue eyes that stared back at him so lovingly. Vincent seemed very anxious to tell him something, or ask something.

"Vincent, is anything wrong? Not another fight with your ..."

"Oh, no. Me and Dev are getting along good this week! A new record, huh, Father? I just wanted to ask you a question."

The man picked the boy up, went to his desk, still holding him in his arms, and lowered himself to sit down.

"So, ask your question, then."

"Wellll, it's your birthday Saturday, and I don't know what to get you? What CAN I get you?"

Father smiled at this boy. His younger son, the one not of his loins, but of his heart. Although Jacob did TRY to treat all the children here equally, this boy held that special place only one as unique as he was could. Father smiled and kissed the top of that golden head. His unicorn. As the child awaited an answer, Father put one hand under that quite 'different' chin and tilted Vincent's head. The blue eyes held great trust, deep love for this man. Gentle eyes; a bitter contrast to his other features. Almost leonine nose and lower jaw, with long sharp white teeth. Someday this child would be hurt by those above. Father knew this; long ago had tried getting used to the fact that one day--this boy would be a man. And WOULD feel the bigotry and fear of the humans above. And, he used the term 'human' loosely. Those people that would fear this gentle child, hunt him as an animal; or try and cage him and make him wish he were dead.

So, try as he might, Father did treat Vincent special. Someday, this boy, hopefully, would rule here in their world. He was already loved by the people here that knew him. A very intelligent boy; usually totally honest. At times, painfully so, when relating an escapade or adventure to Father that SHOULD have earned him punishment, but merely made Father reprimand him gently. It was very hard to punish this child, even when Jacob knew he should. Besides, MOST of his ... pranks were Devin's fault anyway! He sighed--Devin. The boy who was his natural son, but did not know it. This child WAS a problem! If only he would ... Father shook himself from his thoughts. What had Vincent asked? Oh yes, birthday. Oh lord! It would be his birthday soon. Groan.

"You can give me one present I will treasure beyond all others, Vincent. Don't fight with Devin and be a good child. That's all I ever want."

This didn't seem to satisfy Vincent.

"Oh Father! You say THAT every year! I want to GET you a REAL present. Some of the others ..."

Vincent clapped his hand firmly over his mouth; he had nearly told! His friends were all making 'stuff' for the party Saturday night. Some were learning a special piece of music to surprise Father; some were carving wooden animals, some writing their own poems. He had nearly spilled the beans!

Father just looked down on him silently. Of course, he knew a bit about the 'projects' going on. One would have to be quite deaf not to hear the--whispers of the co-conspirators as they sawed wood, hit squeaky notes on violins, and practiced poetry with words way beyond their young years to pronounce correctly at times.

Whew--thought Vincent. THAT had been close! But, he was determined to make Father tell...

"So? WHAT can I get you? Devin wanted to know, too."

Jacob didn't know quite what to say; this child could be quite--tenacious at times! He knew his small son had no money and spending money for presents would be frowned on here. Vincent knew such frivolity was for the world Above. Here, cash was too scarce to waste on presents! Then, as most men would do in similar circumstances, Jacob tried for the easy way OUT!

 

"I know what you and Devin can do; ask Mary! She would certainly have some ideas; she knows me well enough."

Vincent smiled, nodded and kissed Father goodbye. He must get Devin! This was Wednesday, they'd have to move fast to get the present ready for Saturday afternoon! Father watched smiling as the small feet flew up the stairway and to the corridors outside his chambers.

&

Devin floated lazily along at the chamber of the falls. Thinking his own thoughts, dreaming his own dreams. Until a high-pitched and excited voice grated through his eardrums.

"Dev! I spoke to Father, he had the bestest idea yet! Come out, I must TELL YOU. DEVINNNNN!"

Devin sighed; so much for peace and quiet. He looked up at his 'baby bro' and had to grin. Who could really stay mad at this kid? Not him, he'd tried! Devin knew how much Vincent idolized him, followed him EVERYWHERE and took each and every word Devin uttered as GOSPEL. It was not easy to be angry with someone like this! As he pulled himself from the water and reached for his towel, he turned his attentions to his kid brother.

"Well? What does he want? Any clues, or just the usual 'behave--and be a good boy' routine?"

As Vincent explained, Devin looked puzzled; then frowned. This wasn't an answer! He shoulda gone himself.

"Oh Vin, Mary'll just say the same thing the old man did, you know that! Hey, it's okay. We'll think of something by ourselves yet."

Vincent's small shoulders had slumped--defeated as Devin told him the truth; Mary would say that same thing. Darn! Then, he brightened.

"Yeah, me and you can think pretty good, huh? We'll surprise Father yet, Dev. Well, we better go to breakfast now. I'm starved!"

"Yeah, me too. Jeez, no wonder. Look. My watch says it's nearly nine! Come in..."

But, Devin found his brother not paying attention. Vincent was staring off into space. OH NO--not another of his DEATHLIKE trances! GAWWWD, Please--NOT NOW?"

"Vin? COME ON, man!"

Vincent was so excited his whole body trembled.

"I KNOW what to get Father! We can fix him a special birthday breakfast, Devin! Nobody's done THAT before! Well, CAN WE?"

"I don't know. We could poison him or something. We don't cook too good, or at least YOU don't!"

Devin waited; Vincent did NOT disappoint him.

"Oh yeah! Well, you're not a great CHEF anyway. You BURN WATER! AND, you make LOUSY pisgetti!"

Devin hugged his brother loosely; this told Vin he was only being teased. He smiled up at Devin, and then punched him on the arm. Devin grinned back--PISGHETTI? Vin growled.

"You always tease me!"

"Yeah, I DO. You're so easy. It’s pitiful. Plain pitiful!"

Vincent ignored that. He knew his NEXT suggestion of TIME would GET his rotten, tease of an older brother. HA!

"So, we can get into the kitchen REAL early. Around four a.m. on Saturday, make the breakfast and clean up by six. How's that? Think William will let us? Maybe, if we ask Mary, she can get him to agree, huh?"

Devin groaned.

"FOUR a.m. That's not morning! That's dark! Okay, okay. Don't get your tush in an uproar. Let's ask Mary. GAWD. FOUR a.m. You're NUTS!"

Knowing how much Devin liked to sleep late, Vincent fired rapid reasons to back up his early rising idea.

"But just think of Father's face! It’ll be the bestest surprise ANYONE gives him..."

THAT won Devin over. To be able to give the BEST surprise would be something all right.

"Okay, we'll do it, but NOBODY else! Not even Allegra, Vincent. Okay? I know she's your friend and mine, but she's a girl and you know what that means!"

Vincent looked puzzled.

"No, what DOES that mean?"

Devin pushed his brother from the bathing chamber.

"If SHE knows, all her friend will too. AND, she'll GET IN OUR WAY!"

Sprinting from the chamber, the boys went to find Mary.

&

Although Devin was older and very quick, Vincent at eight was more agile. He seemed to have a natural ability and grace that his older brother did not yet possess. Vincent leapt OVER boulders that Devin had to run around. Weaving almost panther like on his feet in and out of corridors, Vincent had just managed to outdistance his older brother at Mary's chamber entrance. Startled as the two boys shouted to come in, Mary turned from her sewing to speak sternly to them.

"Boys, please! You really must be a bit less rambunctious. You just scared me half to death! One at a time! Oh, you'll break my poor eardrums. Breakfast? You want to do what--for who? When?"

As the two boys explained, Mary winced. Her poor kitchen! And William would NOT like this idea. Not one bit! Then, Mary had to smile in spite of herself. The dears. They wanted to treat Father; how nice. She was just about to say she would talk to William, when the next words from the children stayed her voice. Oh, so Jacob had sent the boys to her, huh? Okay, she knew a 'cop-out' when she heard it. Now, let's get FATHER a breakfast DESERVING of such an utter coward--shall we? After assuring the boys that she would talk with William, Mary asked what time this FEAST would be served. She intended to BE there and watch "Mr. Courageous" eat EVERY bite. Beckoning them closer, Mary gave them a menu she was CERTAIN would make a great impression on Jacob Wells. HA! And another HA. A few of the items she listed were NOT on his list of favorites; Mary Smiled. Yes, Jacob was right--she did know the man. OH, this would be such fun to watch him eat!

&

As they walked towards the kitchen to check supplies, Devin went over the list.

"Okay, let's see. Toast, you can do that Vin. Fried eggs and bacon. I'll do this. Pancakes? Vincent, you ever make these? No, neither have I, Oh, well. How hard can it be, huh? We'll just use William's recipe book, that's all. Now, orange juice and coffee? Father--coffee? Not tea?"

"Guess so, if Mary says..."

Devin agreed. Maybe Father only drank coffee on his birthday, who knew?

"Yeah, well I'll do the coffee. NO, you do it while I make the pancakes, okay?"

Vincent didn't say anything; he let Devin plan who would cook what. He didn't have a lot of confidence in his own 'abilities' as a cook yet. He had only tried cooking once. A grilled cheese sandwich; who knew you were supposed to grill it SLOW? Vincent thought--the higher the heat the sooner you eat! WRONG. The sooner you burn your sandwich was more like it! Blah, what a mess he'd made that day. Whew. And besides, Vincent had heard Mary tell William once that 'Devin was a natural-born cook'. Even at his age, he seem to know how to experiment in his cooking. And what he did make usually came out good. Not always, but mostly.

&

While Devin checked out the supplies, Vincent sat and spun around and around on a high kitchen stool until he was quite dizzy. Devin glanced over and caught him.

"Hey! Stop that, brat! You fall, I DIE; you know Father. He'll blame me."

Vincent stopped immediately. Devin's words rang with truth!

"Yes. Sorry."

Vincent decided maybe his cooking with Devin wasn't such a good idea.

"You know Devin; you'd probably be better off doing this by yourself. I'll just mess it up, I know It."

Devin heard the pain in his brother's voice. Wanting to make him feel better, but not wanting to be thought a SISSY, Devin did the natural thing. He hit Vincent on the arm--hard.

"Quiet! You gotta help me, Vin! I can't do all THIS alone. And 'sides, it was YOUR idea. Hell, I have trouble just getting up on time; that's another job for YOU--getting ME up. Okay? Deal?"

Vincent tried to smile.

"I'll mess up..."

"NAH! Think of it--As Father would say--as a 'GREAT LEARNING experience', huh?"

"Okay, you're in charge Devin."

"Yeah, REMEMBER that, squirt."

"Thanks Devin."

"Huh? For What? AH, go on!"

Devin smiled; his brother looked real happy thinking he was really needed to help. Well, he was. Devin loved his brother, but of course, would rather stick his arm in a fiery furnace than admit it aloud. He loved him more than anyone or anything he knew. Always would. Besides, they were going to have great adventures when they got older. But, this thought made him a bit sad for a moment. He didn't know exactly why. (We do, yes? Devin didn't realize yet--all his dreams and plans that included Vincent would remain just that. Dreams.)

&

Okay, the kitchen was set. All the stuff needed was in the storeroom. Devin wiped his hands on the seat of his pants and shut the heavy door of the old-fashioned freezer unit with a loud bang.

"Well, that's it for now. Come on, let's take a swim. Last one does the dishes..."

Vincent was fast on his brother's heels, yowling in protest at not getting a fair start! They reached the falls almost at the same time; raced stripping off their clothes, then drove into the water quickly. COLD! It was freezing! If you didn't do it quick, you never went in at all! YOW!

&

Vincent lay awake at four Saturday morning staring at the ceiling, thinking of the look on Father's face when he received his 'special breakfast' later today. He had this uncanny knack of waking up exactly...when he wanted to as a rule. He was never late for school, or chores--and therefore never 'grounded' for tardiness as his friends sometimes were. They teased him of his 'specialness' at times, but inside they were a bit jealous he could DO and SAY things with Father, they could not. Like escape DOOM, when they screwed up royally. Where they got the STARE, Vin usually just got a 'there, there. It's all right'. Fair? No, but it wasn't Vin's fault Father treated him different, was it? Vincent knew it was now a little past four a.m.

"Hey, Devin. Wake up, it's time. Devin?"

Nothing.

"Devin?"

Silence.

"D E V I N..."

That woke Devin up; that would wake the dead and kill the living. Devin groaned; what a yell Vin had for a skinny runt. Jeez!

"I'm up, I'm up. Shut your furry trap before you wake everybody! What a mouth on you. "

"Well, it's past four."

"Okay. Let's go. I'll wash later."

"That is gross, Devin. At least brush your teeth. BLAH!"

Devin staggered from the bed fully dressed. He had slept IN his clothes to save time this morning. Bright kid, huh?

"Vincent, brush THIS. Let's go!"

Devin let Vin lead the way to the kitchen as he walked beside him--zombie like. Ohhh, four in the morning was HELL. Only thing up this early was loonies and bats. AND HIM!

&

Finally reaching the communal kitchen, Devin lit a small lamp and the stove. This room was no warmer than the corridors, brrrrr. He hoped he could SEE to cook in this gray light. Suddenly, he was half blinded by two large lanterns his brother had started up. Blinking like an owl, Devin rubbed his eyes and grimaced at his bro'.

"Thanks. I sure needed that! Always wanted to be blind at four in the a.m.! You're really bright."

Vincent smiled.

"Yes. So is this light, huh?"

"Hey! Where'd you get the lanterns, anyway?"

"From 'Legra. Last night, after you went to bed."

"What! You..."

"Nah. I didn't tell her anything! I promise, Dev. Just told her I needed them, that's all."

With his head inside the cabinets, Devin's voice was muffled, even to his brother's ears.

"What'd you say?"

Devin got up holding two large pans and a coffeepot.

"I SAID, didn't she ask questions? Come on, Vincent, this is Allegra we're talking about. She's nosy!"

"She is not!"

Devin plunked the pans down on the counter, not in his best MOOD this early.

"Yes, she is! She's almost as nosy as YOU!"

Vincent was highly insulted at the affront.

"I am NOT nosy. Father says I'm just curious. There's a difference, Devin."

Devin said nothing. Yeah, and that difference was 'cuz it was VINCENT who asked the questions, not him! He kept his jealous thoughts to himself. They wouldn't help anybody, especially him--in dealing with Father. Why didn't that old man LIKE him? He tried so hard but he almost always fouled it up--in some way. Father just didn't like him, and the sooner Devin faced this fact, the happier he'd be. Wasn't Vincent's fault; at times Father almost made him embarrassed by his favoritism. Oh well. Devin sighed and turned his attentions to the cookbook at his elbow. An early message on the pipes outside the kitchen took on an eerie quality in the quiet of the morning.

&

About an hour later, everything was done except the pancakes. The toast was a BIT burnt on one side, but Vin buttered it good and plopped jam onto it. It looked better. Vincent now sniffed at the pot of coffee he'd made; it SMELLED like coffee, but he wouldn't taste it himself. He hadn't developed a liking for this 'brew' yet. He preferred tea, like Father. Devin naturally, preferred coffee. He now took a sip from his cup and declared it was okay. Strong, but--would do. Vincent had poured lots of milk and sugar into Devin's cup; he wondered how Father would like his--he drank tea black. Probably liked coffee the same way. And Vincent was a bit proud of himself; he hadn't even used the funny measuring 'thing' Devin told him to. He'd used a regular old soup spoon. A very BIG soup spoon. Dev had said three spoons for one cup of water--hadn't he? Secretly Devin hoped Father liked very strong coffee, 'cuz this would really grow hair on a rock!

&

They surveyed their accomplishment with pride. The eggs looked okay. Neither boy was aware that fried eggs did NOT take twenty minutes to cook, and that bacon DID need more than two minutes!

Devin was reading the cookbook and touching each item called for as he read.

"Flour. Right. Sugar, eggs, milk, baking powder. YEP, everything's here. Vin, put the other stuff in the oven to keep it hot, okay? And turn the oven OFF when you do."

After doing as told, Vincent leaned on the counter watching Devin.

"What do we do first? Have you ever made pancakes before?"

Devin pushed up his sleeves and wiped his sweaty face on his arm. He answered slowly.

"Well, not exactly. But I watched Mary a couple of times and it looks easy enough. Okay, you separate the eggs I'll need while I get the pans hot."

When Devin saw what his young brother was doing, he had to bite down hard on the inside of his jaw to keep from screaming out loud. Trying to keep a normal tone to his voice, he taught his brother about 'separating eggs'...

"Um, Vin? Separating eggs means taking the yellow part away from the white guck. You put it into separate bowls then; you do NOT put one egg in the corner of each end of the plate."

Vincent looked down at his eggs and scowled.

"Well, you said separate them! And I did”

"Gee, you do!”

Devin started to answer, but just shook his head as he reached for the eggs.

"Here, like this.........."

Vincent watched with fascination as Devin deftly cracked the things in half, and then dropped the yellow part back and forth between the halves of shell until all the ICKY part was in one bowl and the yellow in another. Amazing!

Gee, you do that so good! Can I try one? Pleeezzze? Just one?"

"Okay, but do it right. Here..."

Vincent concentrated on doing just that and merely shook his head in agreement. He bit his lower lip and stuck out his tongue; this seemed to help him 'focus' on the task at hand. While Devin turned to the pans, Vincent TRIED being careful, but.....WHOOPS. A bit of shell got in with the yellow. Crap. Throwing his older brother a sideways glance, Vincent mushed up the shell with a spoon and buried it under the yolks. It would cook up and disappear anyway. Right? No big deal.

"Okay, the eggs are finished. Now what?"

"Let's see. Oh...jeez. I gotta go to the bathroom; finish measuring out the flour for me, okay? Use the cup..."

Devin ran from the room before Vincent could ask. WHICH cup? He looked down on the counter; only one cup was there and that was filled with sugar. With a shrug, he turned and got a large coffee mug from the cabinet. A cup was a cup! By the time Devin returned, the flour was MEASURED and in the bowl.

"It's done."

"Good, did you sift it yet?"

Vincent made a face.

"SNIFF it? Why should I sniff it?"

Devin doubled over in a fit.

"I SAID SIFT, not sniff, you jerk! Thought you had good ears, fuzz ball."

"I DO! YOU MUMBLE."

Vincent began sifting the flour and sugar together; he had seen this done by William once or twice. Piece of cake! As he felt pride in his accomplishments this morning, he let his hand slip a bit and the flour whooshed up and right into his nostrils. Vincent then sneezed quite vigorously. Directly into the flour mixture; which now rose up and covered him to his shoulders in a powdery white dusting. Devin had started to turn and say 'god bless you', but one look at poor old Vin had him in stitches instead. Devin howled and pointed at a NOT amused Vincent.

"HAAAA. You look like the ghost in the 'Christmas Carol" story. Haaa. What a sight! You..."

Devin didn't hear the low growl rumbling forth from his brother, or the LOOK of warnings being thrown his way. Vincent didn't like being teased--at all. Usually he could ignore it and remember Father said 'he who laughs last laughs best'...But, it was nearly six a.m. The kitchen was still dirty, Vincent was tired and quickly losing what little patience he had left at this moment. He reached into the bowl, picked up a large handful of flour and hurled it at Devin.

"Let's just see how YOU look covered in this mess!"

Devin sputtered and spit the flour from his mouth, then sneezed out the rest.

"Son of a ...........Vincent, you're history!"

"Don't tease me, you know I hate it Devin! Hey, get away from me with that..."

Devin was advancing slowly, holding a spatula out in front of him and dangerously close to Vincent's nose.

"I'm gonna get you for this, man. Look at me now!"

Vincent did and grinned widely. Then, looked horrified as he saw the floor! Oh, no! The flour was all over it and Dev was walking in it. What a mess; and HE had done it! Nice. Great. Perfect! Devin looked down and also saw what had happened.

"I'm NOT cleaning that, Vincent! YOU ARE. Brat!"

Devin stopped as he caught a glimpse of himself in a shiny pot hanging down in front of him. He saw how they BOTH looked and sighed.

"I mean it. I'm not gonna catch hell from William for THAT floor, you are! Better clean it up, Vincent..."

The younger boy nodded and went to the utility closet; he brought out a wet mop and a dustpan to begin.

Ten minutes later, the floor LOOKED clean, but the sugar and flour--mixed with water--had made it very sticky. He growled down at the still wet floor, trying to make it DRY UN-sticky! Devin was cooking pancakes in oil. He KNEW the recipe called for oil; so olive oil was okay. Right? Wrong. Vincent sniffed the air.

"That smells different from when Mary cooked pancakes, doesn't it? Devin, it smells....weird...."

Devin looked into the pan, then hunched his shoulders. The pancakes looked fine, but there was something about the smell...Oh well.

Vincent gasped as his brother flipped a loosened pancake high overhead and caught it again in the pan like a true expert! WOW. How did he DO that?

"That was COOL, Dev. Can I try?"

Devin shook his head no and kept turning and flipping the pancakes until only a small amount of batter was left. Boy that batter was hard to mix. Plus, he had twenty pancakes and the recipe said he would have nine or ten. Something went wrong here. But, Vincent SAID he'd used the cup. Sooo....Devin glanced up and saw the disappointed look on his bro's face.

"Oh, all right! Here; mix the last one and flip it up like I did. Carefully, or you'll end up wearing it!"

Vincent held the pan tightly as Devin had done, loosened the cooked cake and with a bit too much VIGOR--hurled it towards the ceiling. It reached great heights as he waited for it to come DOWN. It did NOT COME DOWN. It now hung over his head, and dripped grease onto the floor at his feet. Devin raised his eyes to the new decoration on William’s kitchen ceiling. He STARED at Vincent, then went for the ladder. Nope, too short. Vincent tried knocking it loose with the broom. Again, not high enough. It was glued up there--forever. DAMN.

Mary picked this exact moment to enter the kitchen to see if she could help in any way. (And to see for herself if William still HAD a kitchen--at all)

"Hello, children. I thought I'd see how....."

Her eyes widened as she saw the counter, the stove and the floor. Oh, dear! Mary closed her eyes and prayed for patience, then tried to keep her voice even.

"I can see you have had a few....accidents in here, yes? Well, just as long as you clean it up. That was the agreement......'

Devin and Vincent weren't really paying attention. They were focused on the ceiling directly over Mary's head. That damned pancake was NOW deciding to give up its very tenacious hold on the ceiling. As it peeled agonizingly, slowly away from its HOME up there, both boys looked and KNEW exactly...where it would land. And, sure enough--it DID! On Mary's head. PLOP! With a scream that sent chills down their backs, Mary swiped at whatever had just flown into her hair. Was it a bat?!

"Ohhh, what was that! Get it off my hair...What....?"

Mary looked to the ceiling, then to the floor as the boys stared stonily straight ahead at nothing as they fought not to LOSE IT completely. Poor Mary still had great big dollops of that mess in her hair. It looked like a floppy brown hat as she moved her head. They stood rigid as Mary finally discovered what she was wearing and stared at them. Oh, crap; they were doomed for sure! But, Mary said nothing; taking a towel from the sink, she tried removing the mess from herself as fast as possible. It wouldn't budge. She started to say....something, thought better of it and headed for the door. Her final remarks were flung over her shoulder to the wide-eyed young men in the kitchen.

"I will return in ONE hour. Do you hear me, Devin, Vincent? ONE hour."

They understood; in an hour this room would be clean. Or they would be a memory in Father's nightly prayers. When she'd gone, Vincent looked at Devin. Devin looked at Vincent. They held onto each other and collapsed to the floor overcome by gales of giggles.

&

Jacob Wells felt, rather than heard, the movements in his bedchamber. He turn groggily towards the doorway and struggled to sit up in bed. God's teeth, the one morning he COULD sleep--he wasn't being allowed to! Gahhh.

"Boys, what's wrong? Why are you up so early? I..."

Father stopped midsentence as he spotted the tray Devin carried so carefully and the coffeepot held by Vincent. He sniffed the air; whatever WAS on that tray smelled QUITE lethal. Oh, oh!

The boys lowered their TREASURE to the bed carefully and stood back, speaking together.

"SURPRISE Father! Happy birthday to you! We've made your breakfast. See? Mary told us what to cook. Are you surprised? HUH? HUH?"

He looked up as another voice wafted down from the steps.

"Yes, Father. ARE you surprised? Did I DO a GOOD job in this undertaking, hmmmmm?"

Mary! Jacob winced; she did not sound happy--for some strange reason. Had the boys told her of sending them to her for advice on HIS surprise? Probably. Jacob Wells lifted the corner of the napkin that covered tray very carefully as the boys repeated their question.

"Did we surprise you?"

As he looked down at his....breakfast, Jacob thought of MANY words to describe....this. Surprise was NOT one of them. Horrified was one that came quickly to mind.

"Well, this is a.....treat. Truly. And I am not even sick. My, my!"

Father sniffed again and thought--'not sick yet' anyway.

Vincent stuffed pillows at his back and Devin poured Father some coffee. Coffee? Mary had told them to give him...All right. Jacob looked up. Mary glared at him and folded her arms over her chest; he GOT the message. The next time he didn't know WHAT to tell the children, he was NOT to send them to her! Jacob nodded to her. Got it. As he accepted the coffee from Devin, Vincent poured the orange juice. The orange juice he had made for the first time for Father. Naturally, he did see the seeds, but...Wouldn't they just SETTLE to the bottom of the glass? Vincent hoped.

Jacob tucked a napkin under his chin with determination. He would eat this; he may die very soon after, but he would EAT this....breakfast. His eyes took in the VERY DONE toast, the two fried eggs that STARED back at him, and the raw looking bacon. Oh, LORD! The pancakes smelled of...No. Yes. Olive oil. Oh, he would die; he resigned himself to this fact. THIS breakfast would be his last on earth! As Jacob choked down juice laden with pits, he read the homemade card the boys had propped up beside a vase holding a 'lovely' dandelion.

"To Father on his birthday. Love Devin and Vincent."

CHEWING his juice and trying not to gag, Father then reached for his coffee that had been heavily laced with seven spoons of sugar by his helpful younger son. He took a very large swallow of the very black coffee to wash down the juice. It was only his great strength of will that came forth to aid him now. Wishing he could spit the coffee OUT, he smiled and tried to look happy. It was almost beyond doing. This coffee not only looked like mud, it tasted more like an oil spill might! Jacob closed his eyes for a moment as he prayed to keep it down. AS he ate toast that would have been perfect for roofing material and chomped on bacon that MAY still be alive, Vincent handed him the 'piece de resistance'..., the pancakes. The boys looked delighted as Father finally managed to cut one; thinking how wonderful these would be at resoling his shoes later. He found Mary still watching and narrowed his eyes at her.

"Mary, my......dear. Come and have a cup of coffee with me, why don't you?"

"No, thank you Father. I have.....to....go...."

Mary just managed to make it to the corridor. Where she collapsed against the wall holding her sides and wiping away her tears. Poor Jacob. On, my!

&

Allegra groaned as she saw the kitchen. THEY would die for this. Especially Devin, the conniving........

"Oh, hi Mary."

Mary looked surprised to find this girl here at this hour.

"Allegra, child? What are you doing? Don't tell me those BOYS trapped you into cleaning up for them?"

"Yeah, Devin got VINCENT to ask me! He knows I can't tell Vin no when he LOOKS at me like a wounded sheep!"

"Oh, that was not kind of them. Either of them, was it?"

The girl's eyes were dark with anger as she plotted the DESTRUCTION of Ex-friends.

"Oh, that's okay Mary. They'll pay for this, don't worry. They tricked me, fine. Wonderful. I can take a joke. I just hope THEY can...."

&

Father wiped his mouth on the large napkin and sank back against the pillows, beaming on the two boys watching him.

"Oh, that was so kind of you, children. The best birthday breakfast I've EVER had. A ONE OF A KIND, truly. Devin, thank you. Vincent, you also. This was such a total surprise. A superb breakfast. Simply.....superb!"

As the boys left the room arm in arm, Devin whispered to his brother.

"He really liked it, Vin! Hey, same thing next year?"

"Yes. We'll surprise him all over again."

As the boys left Father's room, they didn't see him sprint towards the bathroom, or hear the sounds that began to immerge from that area quite loudly as the poor soul said goodbye to his SUPERB breakfast!

&

Vincent turned to Devin as they neared the entrance to the kitchen.

"What does that word mean anyway? Superb?"

Devin shrugged.

"I don't know. I'll ask Allegra, she's good with many words like that."

With a handshake of GOOD JOB DONE, they entered the darkened kitchen. Darkened purposefully--just for them. For Allegra was still within. Waiting for them--a broom in one hand and a pail of ice water in the other. Grinning.

&

Catherine almost rolled off the sofa as the men ended their tale of childhood. She could just see poor Father!

"Oh, cripes! Poor Father. And I thought you LOVED HIM!"

Vincent smiled at his brother. Devin grinned back.

A loud bellow at the doorway made the three inside jump half out of their skins. Father! Oh crap and just plain DAMN!

"When I get my hands on them, they're going to pay for making me WAIT all blessed morning for them to show UP! Six means six--NOT seven!"

Catherine discovered she had to do something very important in her bedroom--now, Vincent tried to follow her, but dear old Devin grabbed him by the shirt and back to the sofa.

"NO WAY, Vinnie! He gets ME--he gets YOU too!"

Father entered the room like a stampeding buffalo, pointing a shaking finger at his two DEADHEADS.

"YOU and YOU! Get out HERE. NOW! Is this how you keep promises? We were supposed to be DONE by now with all those crates. NOT ONE is even unpacked yet! Well? What have you got to say for yourselves? Devin? Vincent? Answer me!"

Devin tried to, but he began laughing too hard to continue. Then Vincent tried, no go.....Father frowned as heard LOUD giggles emanating from the bedroom. Catherine, too? Her voice demolished the two men that had shared their story with her earlier.

"Good morning, Father. Did you sleep well? If you haven't had breakfast yet, I can make pancakes....They'll be....SUPERB! OH.........'

Vincent and Devin held each other, looked at Father, and then fell to the sofa overcome at his look of horror as he cringed and REMEMBERED back to THAT morning and shuddered visibly.