106,043
07.03.2019

I ruffle his hair. “Now you’re just showing off.”

Kate scoops him out of the chair and holds him close. “Are you done with breakfast, baby? Do you want to sing with Mommy?”

He claps his hands.

Most of James’s likes and dislikes mirror my own. He hates broccoli. Female sportscasters get on his nerves. And he despises televised figure skating. But he loves Kate’s voice.

Oh—and her boobs. See how he bends down to rub his face against them? Reveling in their symmetrical, cushiony softness.

I nudge his shoulder. “Dude, we’ve been over this—they were loaners. You’re cut off now.”

Kate breast-fed for the first year. Weaning was hell. Not that I blame the kid—if Kate told me her perfect tits were off-limits? I’d pitch a f**king fit too.

James’s little face scrunches up—like Damien from The Omen.

He grabs on to Kate’s shoulders with both hands and yells, “Mine. Is my mummy!”

I pull her a little closer to my side. “Technically, she belongs to both of us, buddy. We can share. But those?” I point to Kate’s br**sts. “Those are mine.”

He ups the volume. “No. Is mine!”

Sigmund Freud would have a field day in this house.

I shake my head. “I don’t think so.”

“Is my mummy!”

Getting into a yelling match with a two-year-old is not a good idea. That’s a battle that cannot be won.

Kate pushes my chest. “Stop teasing him. And go shower—we’re gonna be late.”

I kiss her forehead. Then, behind her back, I point to myself and mouth to James, Mine.

He blows a raspberry at me. Smart-ass.

As I back out of the kitchen, Kate starts to sing. In that soft, flawless voice that still makes me weak in the knees.

And stiff in the crotch.

I know the song—“Jet Plane” by John Denver—but she changes the lyrics to fit the situation.

’Cause we’re leavin’ on a jet plane

We’ll be back on Sunday again

Oh, James, we love you so.

Kate rocks back and forth slowly, and James’s deep brown eyes turn to her alone. He looks up at her with complete adoration. Overwhelming worship. Total devotion.

It’s the same way I look at her. Every day.

I’m not a big fan of humility. But watching the two of them like this? It makes me feel humble. Fortunate. Like how Joseph must have felt seeing his wife hold baby Jesus. Just so f**king lucky to get to be a part of something so beautifully sacred.

We’re leavin’ on a jet plane

We’ll be back on Sunday again

Oh, James, we love you so.

I drag my eyes away and head for the shower.

Chapter 3

We get to my sister’s place a little after 7:00 A.M. The apartment is a madhouse—the sounds of yelling kids, talking adults, clattering coffee cups, and barking dogs fill the air.

Well . . . one barking dog. His name is Bear—he’s a Great Dane. I got him for Mackenzie last Christmas because Applejack the pony didn’t exactly work out as I’d planned. Despite some serious begging, pleading, and negotiating, the Bitch wouldn’t break down and agree to let the pony I bought Mackenzie for Christmas live with them. Her main reason was the Central Park West Homeowners Association.

If you’re not familiar with these types of organizations, I’ll fill you in. They’re the geriatric version of the gestapo—composed mostly of bitter, wrinkly old bags who lie in wait for someone to do something they don’t approve of.

Such as hang a gaudy wreath on the door or play music too loud . . . or convert a bedroom into a barnyard stall.

Instead of trying to buck the system and risk eviction procedures, Steven and Alexandra relocated Applejack to my parents’ place upstate—leaving my poor niece without a live-in pet. Which was utterly f**king unacceptable. Hence—Bear.

He’s awesome. And big. Sort of like a pony’s dwarf cousin.

But he’s gentle—great with kids—even though he has no idea how large he actually is. He’s always trying to climb into Alexandra’s purse or sit on Steven’s lap—which can make breathing difficult.

Kate and I walk into the living room with James on my shoulders, and Bear welcomes us with deep woofs and slobbering licks. We greet the parentals, and Kate heads into the kitchen with my mother—rattling off a list of instructions and unloading James’s paraphernalia for the overnight stay. I put my son on his feet and he waddles over to the corner where his cousin Thomas is quietly constructing a tower of blocks.

If Mackenzie is my sister Alexandra’s twin? Tommy-boy is all Steven. He’s a little underweight for his age. But long—lanky. His hair is dark, his eyes are blue and thoughtful. Thomas is easygoing. Laid-back. The perfect yin to my son’s Tasmanian-devil-like yang.

With a diabolical giggle, James obliterates Thomas’s tower. But he doesn’t complain. He just starts building another one. I wrestle with Bear a bit, until my sister walks in with a cup of hot coffee for me.

I take the cup and gesture toward Bear. “How’s the house-training going?” Bear has a weak bladder. And though it doesn’t detract from his appeal, he’s not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed.

“Fantastic—if the goal was to turn my nine-thousand-dollar Persian rug into his pissing ground.”

I glance at the rug in question. “He’s got good taste. That’s a fugly rug, Lexi. I’m thinking about pissing on it myself.”

“Funny.”

I sip my coffee. “I try.”

She leads me toward the adjoining dining room. “I talked to the wedding planner last night and finished the seating chart. Take a look.”

The wedding.

Okay—most guys would rather have their teeth pulled than have any involvement in the wedding planning. Sorry to break it to you, ladies, but we don’t give a shit about colors or centerpieces or the embossing style of the goddamn invitations. If we act as if we do, it’s only because we’re smart—and we’re trying to keep you off our backs.

As long as the bride looks good and those mini hot dogs are served during the cocktail hour? We’re there.

So in the beginning, I happily left all the details of the big day to Kate and my sister. But then I started hearing such words as low-key and small, intimate affair and nothing too ostentatious. And I had to step in.

Because when an Olympian wins the gold medal, do they have a small, intimate affair?

Of course not.

They throw a f**king ticker-tape parade.

❮❯