By the time things settled down across the street, it was getting towards seven o’clock and I was busy trimming my handsome beard. The gallery didn’t open until ten, but I wanted to avoid driving all the way back across town after dropping off the kid. I had already selected an outfit for the day. I was putting away the electric razor when three jarring raps on the front door announced a visitor. I jogged downstairs in my pajama bottoms and there was Kyle Toke, invading my porch with a baby’s car seat dangling in one monstrous paw. In the car seat was my Christmas flannel.
“Hey, Dev,” he said, as I opened the door a crack. “You got a minute?”
“Hey, Kyle. Wow. A car seat! Thank Mary for me, will you? That was a helluva scene across the street, huh?”
“Oh, that,” he said, pushing open the door sufficiently to park the car seat inside the house. “Happens all the time. It’s what they call a John Doe invasion. It’s perfectly legal.”
“How is that legal?”
“All it takes is a D.A. and a judge who plays ball. Besides, they’re just Asians.”
On the threshold of my home we stood chin to chin. His pleasant blue eyes were scanning me for signs that my interests were running counter to his. I retaliated by focusing my attention as conspicuously as possible on his big bald dome. On close examination, his ears were surprisingly small and even a little on the dainty side. One of them bore a silver hoop the size of a quarter. I tilted my head as if contemplating a bid at a peculiar auction.
“They’re just Asians?”
He grinned sociably but a lot of muscle was brooding under his carefully managed exterior.
“Mary said something about a family emergency? You doing a little babysitting?”
“What’s this about, Kyle?”
“What’s it about? To be honest, I have a very simple question about you and my wife. She said you lent her this shirt when she helped you last night?”
He was swinging my Christmas flannel back and forth like a thurible.
“As a matter of fact, she did. I guess she has nephews or something. Anyway, she was a big help. I really appreciated it.”
I took the shirt and tossed it in the vicinity of the coffee table, where it knocked over the gin bottle, which rolled over the table’s edge as I started a Hail Mary, checked myself, and watched as it crashed unbroken onto the floor and spun over and over in our direction.
“Does the baby drink martinis?”
“Your wife helped me. You can ask her what happened. The car seat is most considerate.”
“Why don’t you show me the baby?”
“Look, I’m in a rush, Kyle.”
He grabbed my arm and I shook it loose. I swore to myself I would break his nose if he tried it again.
“Listen, Dev. I don’t mind you courting my wife. Not in the least. What I do mind is you sneaking around behind my back. All I ask is that you be straight with me. I’m a good friend to my friends, if you know what I mean. Mary says she told you we have an agreement. Lots of people do. This isn’t 1950, you know. So please let’s not get stuck in the past. It isn’t healthy. People fall for those old illusions and then reality chops off their head.”
His right hand came down with a quick hard chop onto the broad meaty palm of his left. Then he grinned from ear to ear like the charming fellow he was.
“There really is a baby in the house, Kyle. A family emergency, like your wife said.”
Upstairs in his crib Virgil started bawling on cue. Kyle Toke heard it and actually blushed. I was impressed.