Check out a classic Billy scene here:
“Oh, come on.” Elliott scooped a third helping of mashed potatoes onto his plate. “You don’t think that’s hokey?”
“No, I do not think it’s hokey.” I ignored Henry’s and my father’s snickers coming from across the table. “The Flag Day committee chose the design for the mural because it embodied community and citizenship.”
Elliott shifted his eyes to his grandpa. “Sounds like a cheese fest, huh?”
My dad choked on his food. “Pretty weenie, Auto.”
“Argh.” I rolled my eyes. “You boys are impossible. Pass me the mashed potatoes.”
Henry handed me the bowl with a reassuring smile. “It doesn’t matter how cheesy it is, your work will be exquisite.”
“Thanks.” I tasted the potatoes. “You weren’t kidding. These are tasty.”
“Told you .”
“Well, Elliott’s on his third helping, and that says a lot. He’s been talking about Holly’s mashed potatoes since November.”
My dad nudged El. “Maybe we’ll get some meat on those bones.”
Elliott blushed. “You’re one to talk.”
The two of them swatted at each other’s arms a few times, and Henry covered my hand with his on the tabletop.
“So when will you start painting?” Henry asked, squeezing my fingers. “We’re already halfway into May, and Flag Day is June fourteenth. You’re running out of time.”
“I’ll go into Spokane tomorrow to pick up the supplies and paints. Then, I’ll be at the post office every day, working on the mural as soon as the sun hits the wall and dries the dew.”
Elliott squared his shoulders. “Everyone at school is talking about it. Miss Price wants me to take pictures on my cell phone to sneak a peek for her.”
“Miss Price needs to wait like the rest of us.” My dad pushed away his plate of barely-eaten food. “Auto’s gonna make this town proud.”
“I hope so. It’s not going to be easy, and I’ll be at the post office until dark every night until it’s done.” I looked at my dad’s yellowed hands, and took a deep breath. “You’ve been getting pretty disoriented in the evenings. I’m worried about not being here.”
“I’ll be here.” Elliott said. “I can help him.”
Henry adjusted in his chair. “And I will, too.”
My dad looked at him in surprise. “You don’t gotta do that. I’m just tired these days.”
The look on his face said otherwise. My father was well aware of his deteriorating health. We’d talked about the measures he wanted me to take to sustain his life if he took a turn for the worse—none. The only thing he’d expressed emphatically was that he didn’t want to die alone in a hospital room.
I thought I could grant him that one wish.
“Of course not.” Henry spoke quickly. “But I don’t have cable at my house, so I miss all the good games. If I come here after work, I can teach Elliott how to make mashed potatoes and watch the games with you.”
My dad knew what he meant. He stared at Henry for a beat, frowning, then snapped, “Mooch.”
Henry grinned. “You got me.”
“What makes you think I want to learn how to make mashed potatoes?” Elliott licked his fork.
I raised an eyebrow at my son. “You just had four helpings, El. You’d better learn to make them for yourself, if you want to keep up that potato habit.”
“I was thinking that we could work on your cello during the afternoons, too,” Henry said, stabbing a bite of salad with his fork. “I don’t get to spend much one-on-one time with you at strings once a week. I’m thinking the Spokane Junior Symphony might be in your future. Tryouts are in September. If we start working now, we can get a selection down pat. You have to play from memory at the auditions. I think you can do it, Elliott. I really do.”
El’s cheeks became pink. “I don’t practice here as much as I did in Seattle. I would have to practice a lot. And I would have to come up with a cool piece to play. I mean, a really cool piece.”
My dad banged his fist on the table. “Willie Nelson.”
We all laughed.
I began clearing the table. “Sounds like a plan. Elliott, go finish your math homework, and hit the shower. I can smell your sneakers from here. Dad, go sit down,” I called over my shoulder. “I’ll bring you your medications.”