Father’s Day

 “Do I have to?” Anippe pouted.

 “Of course you do- you want to look your best for daddy, don’t you?” I could hear Sakaali say to my daughter.

 Hey now- leave me out of this, I’m about to tell my daughter, but I think better of it.

 “I…I guess. This dress is just kinda itchy.”

 “Don’t worry- you look wonderful.” Sakaali reassured my little wag-a-muffin with a kiss on the top of her head.
 
 “Graham! Are you ready?” she called out, even though I was watching my wife help get Anippe ready from the hallway.
 
“Yeah- just about.”
 
Oh dear lord. My wife had somehow managed to secure a pretty little pink bow in Anippe’s jet black hair.
 
“Do I have to wear this dress, daddy?” Anippe pleaded with me.
 Nice try- there is no way in hell that I’m contradicting Sakaali in front of her, even if this is supposed to be ‘my’ day.
 “It’ll just be for the afternoon, sweetie. Besides- you’re lookin’ good.” I try to assure her. To be fair, she DID look adorable, but there’s no way that pink dress can be comfortable on a day like today.
 In Arizona.
 In mid-June.
 Upon finding no salvation from me, Anippe wore a visibly pouty expression on her face.
 For my part, I was dressed up in slacks and a button up shirt. Sakaali insisted I bring a sport jacket, but there’s no way I’m wearing it on a day like today.
 Sakaali stood up, her baby bump quite visible. Jeez- had it been 7 months already? Where does the time go?
 For the occasion, my wife was wearing some of her gold Desert Kingdom jewelry, a ribbed dark red maternity top and an ash grey pencil skirt. Still radiant, even though I sometimes tease her about how she looked like she had swallowed a watermelon.
 Quietly taking in the scene before me, I was contemplating what a lucky man I was this father’s day. Anippe’s still growing but will still always be my wag-a-muffin and this whole time we’re still trying to come up with a satisfactory name for her kid sister.
 “There’s my handsome man…” Sakaali cooed in a matronly tone as she stood on her tippy paws and gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek. “You ready?”
 “I think so- jeez, babe. I haven’t been to DelVecchio’s in ages.” I muse. “I wonder what I should even get.”
 “You’ll have plenty of time for that when they give us the menus, but we should make haste. Our reservations are for 1:30.” Sakaali said as she began shooing me and Anippe down the hallway and towards the front door.
 Well- at least I got to sleep in a little. I imagine Art was swarmed with jinko cubs along with Vanessa bearing breakfast fixings, trays and silverware at the crack of dawn. Not a bad way to wake up, I suppose, but I guess I’m simply a bigger fan of sleeping in.
 Honestly, I would’ve been satisfied just to crack open a couple of beers and watch the ballgame on TV this afternoon, but that’s my preferred activity for most Sundays. Sakaali, understandably, wanted to do something out of the ordinary. So she decided a family luncheon at one of the fancier eateries in our nondescript little suburb was in order.
 

 
 When we got to DelVecchio’s, my first thought was noticing the numerous parking spaces available.
 It seemed a little odd that a place like the fancy Italian eatery wouldn’t have been packed to the rafters on a day like Father’s Day. For some reason, I didn’t think too much of it until the three of us got to the unusually quiet front door.
 Instead of a greeter or maitre’d, the doors were still shut and a note was taped to the front.
 “We regret to inform you that due to a break in the water main, we had to close our doors to the public until the issue has been resolved. Please accept our sincerest apologies.”
 I re-read the note. It has today’s date on it.
 
As if to confirm the bad news, I look around and see how empty and deserted many of the adjacent businesses are.
 “N…no way.” Sakaali said in disbelief, her ears now drooping slightly. “That can’t be.”
 As if she forgot something, she started rummaging through her purse with a sense of urgency and pulled out her phone.
 It never ceased to amaze me how she was able to browse the web and type in things using her big, meaty grabbers.
 I could see that she was bringing up her text messages. She had four unread messages- all from the restaurant. The first one was a reservation confirmation for 1:30 this afternoon, but the next three basically echoed the same message that was on the note taped to the front doors.
 “I don’t believe it…” she sighed. “I heard the text notifications earlier. I thought perhaps Vanessa had sent me some pictures of herself, Art and the cubs and I was going to look at them while we were waiting for our meal.”
 “Now what?” Anippe asked, clearly hoping that one of the options was heading straight home and getting out of her frilly pink dress.
 “Everywhere else is almost certainly packed- especially without a reservation.” Sakaali lamented quietly before turning to me. “I’m so sorry, Husband. I wanted this to be a special day out.”
 Now that I think about it, some prime rib and shrimp from one of those fancy-ish chain steakhouses would hit the spot. But it would almost certainly be hours before they have room for the three of us showing up unannounced. Maybe there’d be a cancellation that would give us an opening, but that was a bit of a longshot.
 Unless…..
 The wheels in my head were turning.
 Looks like it’s up to me to salvage Father’s Day.
 I knew of a place that was almost certainly open for Father’s Day and there probably wouldn’t be any long lines to get in. The problem was, the venue was somewhat……shall we say….unorthodox.
 “Oh Graham- I went through all of this trouble so we could have a nice meal as a family for Father’s Day and it’s ruined.” Sakaali lamented.
 I couldn’t shake this idea, but……….frankly it was going to go over like a lead balloon with my wife.
 “I know one place we can try.”
 “Nonsense, Graham. Everywhere is going to be crowded today- especially if we show up without reservations.”
 “Not everywhere.”

 Instead of telling my wife what I had in mind, I opened the doors of my truck so that Sakaali and Anippe could climb in, then took off from DelVecchio’s empty parking lot.


 
 If there’s anything our town is quite good at, it’s bland, generic-looking strip malls.
 And it was at just such a mall at the corner of Yavapi and Maricopa that salvation came in the form of the After School Special.
 After School Special was this town’s answer to Hooter’s or Twin Peaks, only it went with a Japanese schoolgirl motif and was staffed almost entirely by demihumans.
 The food was decent enough, and if you weren’t there for the attentive werecats, succubi or dragonesses in a-few-sizes-too-small sailor outfits or snug gym shorts, they had about 50 screens showing different live and out-of-market sporting events.
 Problem was, this was going to be a pretty tough sell to my wife.
 “We’re here.” I announce as I kill the engine and get out of the truck, uncomfortably aware that the way the ‘After School Special’ sign was arranged, it appeared to be highlighting the word ASS.
 Sakaali opened her door and I headed over to the passenger side to help her out.
 “Graham- what is this place?” Sakaali asked, her skepticism apparent.
 “Somewhere that’s not too crowded on father’s day.” I explain. “Sometimes me and Art will grab a couple of beers here.”
 Of course, Sakaali knew there was more to it than that. But then again, it wasn’t a big, shameful secret if I’m taking my wife and daughter here in broad daylight.
 Anippe opened up the rear door of the passenger side of the truck and scrambled down, joining me and her mother without a word.
 “Welcome to After School Special! How many in your party?” A voice  spoke up as we entered. Suddenly her more formal tone changed.
 “Mr G? Is that you? What are you doing here today?” the dark haired woman said from behind a podium before slithering our way. She was clad in a tight, miriff-baring sailor’s blouse and a pleated short blue skirt. It was a buxom, dark haired rattler lamia who was usually assigned to work as the hostess.
 “Hi Lea.” I said bashfully.
 “My goodness- where have you been, Mr. G? I hadn’t seen you for awhile and was starting to get worried.” the lamia said as she coiled her lower body around me before giving me a quick hug and a peck on the cheek.
 “Ah- you know, keeping busy on the road and another little one on the way.” I explained.
 I didn’t even have to look to see Sakaali was starting to fume. But before I could say anything, Lea took charge of the situation.
 “Hey- uh….you guys haven’t been affected by the break in the water main, have you?” I ask the rattler lamia.
 She looks a bit bewildered. “This is the first I’ve heard of it, Mr. G.” she said before turning her attention to Anippe and Sakaali.
 “Oh my! I’d recognize you two anywhere- you must be his lovely wife!” Lea gushed as she unwrapped herself from me and gently clasped my wife’s paw with both hands.
 “Y-yes I am…” Sakaali said, not quite able to stay upset at the buxom and overly affectionate greeter.
 “Oh wow….” Lea said as she looked Sakaali up and down. “Those pictures Mr. G keeps showing us don’t do you any justice- you look absolutely amazing.”
 It was very subtle, but although Sakaali was still wearing a scowl on her face, I could detect a slight wag from her tail.
 “Please….I must look like a bloated mess.” Sakaali said bashfully
 “Oh nonsense!”
 The rattler lamia gave Sakaali a quick little hug before turning to Anippe.
 “And this little cutie  must be Anippe.” the lamia squeaked with delight as she approached my daughter. “You daddy is very proud of you and just loves showing off pictures of you to us….”
 “R-really? Daaad….” my daughter fussed.
 “Aw- don’t be like that.” Lea said to her reassuringly. “It just means he thinks you’re super-awesome and wants everyone to know it.”
 “Hey- you finally put in for that daycare position yet?” I ask Lea.
 “Ughh…..no.” the rattler lamia let out an exasperated sigh. “By the time I got my resume updated, I was told the position was already filled.”
 “Well- their loss I guess. Your energy is hard to match and you’re pretty good with the kiddos.” I reassure her.
 “Yeah, but for now I’ll have to keep my powder dry and my resume updated, I guess.”
 “That’s the spirit.”
 “Oh- I’m sorry.” Lea apologized out of the blue. “Table for three, I take it?”
 I nod quietly as the rattler hostess grabs some menus and beckons us to follow her further into the restaurant, her lower body deftly avoiding stools, chairs, tables and getting underfoot with other patrons.
 On the way over, I saw an Ushi Oni I didn’t recognize talking with another customer.
 “Boy- you sure like your flapjacks Mister!” she said, writing his order on a little notepad.
 “Ever since you guys offered the all day breakfast menu, you just can’t get rid of me.” he replied with a goofy grin. “Besides- I sure hope they’re as sweet as you are.”
 “Aww….” the large arachnid ‘schoolgirl’ teased.

 I’d say the place was about half full and Lea didn’t have much trouble finding a table for the three of us.

 Once we were at our table, Lea handed us some menus.

 “Your server will be with you shortly- would you like any water while you’re waiting?”
 “We’re fine for now.” my wife spoke up.
 “OK then- good seeing you again, Mr. G.” she said as she began to leave. “Bye bye Anippe….” she squeaked before giving my little girl a tiny wave.
 “She’s real pretty- I didn’t know you knew any lamias, Daddy.” Anippe said.
 “Yes. Me neither..” Sakaali said in a flat monotone.
 “Oh- that’s just how Lea is.” I explain. “Lots of energy, but sometimes pretty touchey feeley-“
 That’s as far as I got before I felt a pair of slender, chocolate-hued arms slide around me and gently squeeze from behind.
 “Mr. G- it’s been ages! What brings you by here….?” I turn in my chair to look up at a pointy-eared young woman with snow-white hair, dark skin and amethyst eyes dressed in tight red bloomers and an amazingly snug white tee shirt with some numbers and Kanji characters.
 “Oh…hey, Katiq! Long time, no see…” I say to the Dark Elfin waitress. “How are things with you and Brad?”
 “Well- I graduated last month, and after the ceremony he took me aside and well……” instead of continuing with her story she demurely held out her hand to display a golden ring that I’m pretty sure wasn’t there the last time I was at After School Special.
 “I said ‘yes!’…” the Dark Elf tittered with unbridled glee. “Of course, I had to take him aside and give him a good spanking for spending so much on me.”
 “C’mon…the way you’ve talked about him, he could propose with a Ring Pop and you’d say ‘yes’.” I tell the Dark Elf- glad that she was keeping her reaction to her boyfriend’s proposal in the neighborhood of ‘PG’ in front of my little girl.
 “Guilty as charged.” she giggled before turning her attention to Sakaali and Anippe.
 “Is that who I think it is?” Katiq asked me, her tone hushed although my wife and daughter could no doubt hear her.
 “None other.”
 No sooner than I nod than the dark elf waitress lets out a giddy squeak and lunges at Sakaali, hugging her around the neck.
 “Oh how exciting!” she squeals. “Mr. G has told us all about you, but I finally get to meet you face-to-face.”
 Sakaali isn’t sure what to do with the enthusiastic greeting from the Dark elfin waitress.
 “Katiq- this is my beautiful wife Sakaali and my daughter Anippe the Adorable.”
 “Oh my! If you get the chance, could you tell me more about the ‘Wheel of Torment‘? That really sounds like something I’d want to try with my fiancee.” Katiq whispered in my wife’s ear, but still loud enough for me to hear.
 “H-husband…..you told them about my….our….special-?” Sakaali began to sputter.
 “From what Mr. G’s told me, I’d say Dark Elves and Anubis have more in common than most people think.” Katiq said, winking at my wife.
 “Hey- did you know that Katiq here is also a Sun Devil?” I say, hoping to move off of that particular topic.
 Sakaali’s ears perked up upon learning she was talking to fellow Arizona State grad.
 “Oh really? What major?”
 “Forensic psychology.”
 “Impressive. I suppose congratulations are in order.” I suppose that’s as close as Sakaali was going to get to lavishing praise on Katiq so soon after our introductions.
 “Thank you- the last couple of weeks have been a blur with everything that’s been going on, and-” she paused, looking at Anippe.
 My little girl clearly wasn’t interested in following the grown-up’s conversation and began looking positively bored while flipping through the menu.
 “Oh my….listen to me just ramble on. Anippe, honey?” the dark elf asked. “Would it be all right if I brought you something?”
 My little girl looked up from the menu, bewildered.
 “O…OK, I guess.”
 “I’ve got something extra-special for you. Be right back!” she said cheerily as she almost jogged away from the table, her slender cocoa-hued legs poetry in motion.
 Please don’t let it be that Fifty Shades of Gray coloring book we joked about a few weeks ago I said in a quiet prayer.
 “So tell me, Graham. How often do you go to this place?” Sakaali asked, her voice still tinged with disapproval.
 “Well- sometimes me and Art grab a couple of beers here and watch the D-backs. Or….whenever you want some alone time.”
 I soon found out what Katiq had in mind as she returned to the table with a smallish carboard tube. I almost got up and put the dark elfin waitress in a bear hug when I read the side of the package.
 Tinker Toyz.
 The perky, bloomer clad Dark Elf handed the Tinker Toyz off to Anippe, who’s eyes sparkled and tail began to wag as she examined the parcel.
 “Oh wow….thank you!” she said excitedly as her little grabbers pulled the lid off.
 “You’re welcome, Anippe- from what your dad’s told us about you, we thought that would be perfect!”
 Sakaali- who was still having some doubts about this place- was looking back and forth between the beaming dark elf and our little girl as she cautiously laid out some of the components for the Tinker Toyz on the table.
 “What would you guys like to drink to start off with?” Katiq asked, turning her attention back to me and my wife.
 “I guess a coke or Pepsi.” I say.
 “Ginger ale.” my wife says.
 “Got it- I’ll give you guys a few minutes.”
 Once the dark elfin waitress left, Sakaali spoke up.
 “This seems like a rather odd choice for your Father’s Day luncheon. Yet, you seem to know these women fairly well. And they seem to know us fairly well.”
 “Well….” I chuckle nervously. “What can I say? When I’ve got a wife and little girl like the two of you, I can’t help but brag and show off….”
 “Mm-hmm.” she said, her skepticism still pretty apparent.
 
 “Hey now- Art likes to brag too.”
 Whoops- I was simply trying to illustrate that I’m not even the only one in our circle of friends who will brag about their wife and kiddos to the sultry ladies of After School Special. I was uncomfortably aware that it might’ve sounded like I was throwing Art under the bus, although I imagine Vanessa wouldn’t take too much issue with her hubby grabbing some beers at a place like this.
 “Come now, Husband. Why are you-?”
 “Here we are- one ginger ale and one Pepsi.” Katiq said, returning with our sodas and interrupting Sakaali’s question. As she handed off our drinks, she once again turned to my daughter as she was working on assembling some sort of miniature structure.
 “Anippe, honey? We have all kinds of juices if you’d like. Orange, apple, cranberry, pineapple….” she offered before turning to Sakaali.”That is- if it’s OK with you.”
 Sakaali seemed caught off guard a bit.
 “Oh…well, certainly.”
 “Can I get a pineapple juice, daddy?” Anippe almost pleaded with me.
 “You sure can, my wag-a-muffin.” I replied.
 Anippe seemed happy with my answer, but not my nickname- although both Katiq and Sakaali caught my daughter making a cute little pouty face.
 “And I’ll take an order of loaded fries, too.” I follow up.
 The bloomer-clad Dark elf nodded and excused herself.
 It was very subtle, and perhaps Sakaali didn’t notice that I noticed it. But my wife’s expression softened when the dark elfin waitress deferred to her on Anippe’s choice of beverage. She realized that the Dark Elf knew enough that she didn’t want Anippe drinking sugary drinks like soda without an OK from her parents.
 I couldnt’ help but spare a second glance at the Dark Elfin waitresses’ nearly flawless ass being hugged by the tight red gym shorts as she walked away to get more food and drink for us.
 “Graham….” Sakaali hissed quietly.
 Busted.
 “I’m sorry- it just kinda reminds me of someone I know….both in terms of color and flawlessness.”
 “You really don’t think you can smooth talk your way-” my wife began to admonish.
 “Honestly- all that’s missing is a fluffy, black tail and a discreet little flaming trident tattoo.” I interrupted.
 “H..husband…” she fussed, a visible blush creeping into her cheeks.
 Anippe (correctly) figured her parents were talking about ‘wierd’ things and threw herself into assembling her Tinker Toyz into something to her liking as Sakaali went back to looking at her menu with a little ‘harrumph’.
 Seemingly in no time Katiq returned with Anippe’s juice and an order of fries loaded down with melted cheese, chopped up bacon, tiny bits of ham and slices of jalepenos along with little ramekins of ketchup and ranch.
 I indulge in a few cheese and bacon laden fries before offering some to my wife, who quietly declines before going back to the menu.
 I look around at some of the TVs- a few of them are set to random sports like ping pong or drag racing. There’s supposed to be some baseball on, but not until later.
 As I’m looking at the televisions over the bar, I spy the tsurara-onna bartender in a nurse’s uniform polishing a glass while waiting for business in the bar to pick up. She gives me a slightly awkward wave before going back to her task.
 I never got her name- she wasn’t the most outgoing of bartenders, but on the plus side, out cocktails and beverages were always chilled.
 I remember asking around about the nurse’s outfit earlier on. Apparently management thought there might be some issues with bartenders in costume as underage schoolgirls serving alcoholic beverages, so instead they were assigned the role of After School Special’s  school ‘nurses’.
 I guess that kinda made sense.
 “Daddy- can I have a fry?” Anippe asked, drawing my attention back to our table.
 “Of course, sweetie.” I replied, sliding the plate over her way so she could reach it easier. Only then did I notice the little contraption she had been working on.
 It looked kind of like scaffolding- not surprisingly, it was in a pyramid shape.
However, in the middle was looked like a rudimentary flume. It was the perfect size for….
 Before my train of thought could continue, Anippe delicately placed the cheesy french fry at the top of her little ‘pyramid’ and lined it up with the flume. It was at almost a 45 degree angle, so gravity did its thing when Anippe released it and it slid down into a little cup of ranch dressing waiting at the bottom. She then pulled the fry out of the little cup of ranch and bit down, savoring it as though the ride down her improvised contraption made it taste even better.
 Who knows? Maybe it did
 “What did I say about playing with your food?” I scowl at Anippe. Truth be told, I’m only teasing her and quite impressed with her little contraption as well as how quickly she was able to build it.
 “But daddy…” Anippe pouted.
 Before I could tell her that I was only kidding, I saw the Ushi Oni waitress from earlier taking in the sight of Anippe’s fry flume.
 “Oh neat…” she remarked. “H-hey Katiq, check this out.”
 The perky Dark elf was already on her way to the table when her colleague called out to her.
 “Oh wow- you made that just now?” Katiq asks my daughter.
 She shyly nods in reply.
 “That’s so cool. You must really like science and physics, huh?” Katiq beamed.
 “Y-yeah….I guess so.”
 Sakaali doesn’t say anything right away, but now looks kinda proud.
 “Are all of you ready to order?” the dark elf asks us.
 “I believe I am- how about you, Graham?”
 “Yeah- I think so….”
 Sakaali double-checked the menu, finding the item that had caught her fancy earlier.
 “I’ll have the Turkey Drama Club Sandwich, no mayo.”
 Katiq nodded at me.
 “I’ll take the Varsity Rodeo Burger, medium rare.”
 The Dark Elf waitress turned to my daughter.
 “C-can I get the Model UN Belgian Waffles?” she asks, slow walking the pronunciation. However, the question seems more directed at me and Sakaali than our waitress.
 “I don’t know, dearest….that’s alot of food-” Sakaali began.
 Like me, she was probably a little disappointed that Anippe wasn’t ordering off the kids menu.
 “We can make a half-order if you want.” Katiq offered my wife.
 “Smaller than Belgian waffles? Then wouldn’t they be Luxembourg Waffles?” I ask.
 This earns a sideways glare from my wife before turning her attention back to the dark elfin waitress.
 “Yes- I believe that would be perfect.”
 “Aww….” Anippe protested.
 “Don’t get pouty.” I tell my daughter. “You don’t know how big those portions are, plus you might want to save room for dessert.
 No sooner had Katiq completed our order than I heard another voice speak up.
 “Ara ara….as I live and breathe, the proverbial prodigal son returns home.
 The voice had a certain air of confidence and maturity that could only belong to somebody who had the poise and guile to oversee the whole enterprise and run it smoothly from day-to-day.
 “Hi Ms. Latroda.” I say bashfully as I turn and see an incredibly buxom black widow arachne in a blouse with a neckline that plunged to a scandalous depth, along with a pearl necklace around her neck and pair of bifocals resting on the bridge of her nose. Physically, just about the only indication that she was any older than the other After School Special staff was the little streak of white in her hair. But like the bartenders dressing as nurses, there was a method to the madness of the attire of the arachne now before our table. If the waitresses were the students and the bartenders were nurses, the managers at After School Special were considered ‘teachers’ and did their utmost to dress the part as naughty, fetishistic teachers.
 I know this because the one who came up with the whole concept was standing in front of me.
 “Sakaali- this is the boss lady herself, Miss Latroda. Or as she likes to be called, Headmistress Latroda.”
 “It’s a pleasure to meet you at long last. And who’s this adorable little pup that’s drawing a crowd?” she asked, although she almost certainly already knew the answer. “Are you visiting today with your family?”
 “Yeah- not your typical father’s day, I guess.” I nod.
 “And what are we up to, cutie pup?” the arachne asks, turning her attention to Anippe.
 “I made a French Fry Flume.” Anippe said proudly, looking up from her creation.
 “Ara ara…..” she tittered, getting a closer look at the fruit of Anippe’s labor. “Quite impressive, young lady.”
 “But you know what?” she asked, continuing to examine the litte structure. “Why stop at fries?”
 “What do you mean?”
 “Well…..” she contemplated as a serafuku-clad kakuen approached our table carrying a half order of wings, complete with some sliced carrots and celery as a garnish. Using her chitinous finger, she delicately grabs a cut-up stalk of celery.
 “Oh- I don’t think we ordered any wings.” I said apologetically to the kakuen and Headmistress Latroda.
 “Nonsense….this is compliments of the house.” the arachne said as she waved off the kakuen server and turned her attention back to my daugher. “May I?” she asked.
 Anippe gave her permission with a quiet, abrupt nod.
 The remarkably busty arachnid placed the celery in Anippe’s Rube Goldberg-like contraption and gasped in delight as it slid down into the waiting ramekin of ranch.
 “Looks like you can use your flume for more than fries.” she remarked, gently tousling my daughter’s hair.
 “You’re right! That’s pretty neat. It’s just that fries were the first thing I thought of…” Anippe observed before she eagerly realized something. “Or we could make it a little bigger and it can be a churro flume!”
 “Yes- with some sort of chocolate or honey dipping sauce at the bottom. That’s brilliant!” the black widow arachne eagerly replied. “I like the way you think, little one!”
 “I wonder if I can make a bigger one out of these…” my daughter wondered as she inventoried the remaining parts from the Tinker Toyz kit.
 Her miniature engineering feat had now attracted the attention of a lizardwoman and kikimora server- both in the After School Special trademark way-too-small serafukus.
 “Hi Liz. Hi Zoe.” I greeted the two of them.
 “Hi, Mr. G.” the two of them said in unison withouth even looking up from my daughter further tinkering with her creation.
 “Oh Graham- you’re absolutely right. She’s a gem!” Headmistress Latroda said to me. “Thanks for bringing the whole family by.”
 “We actually had reservations for DelVecchio’s today….” Sakaali began to explain.
 “Oh no….I heard.” Ms. Latroda exclaimed sympathetically. “My cousin operates a little sandwich shop just down the block, and she had to close down for today as well.”
 Looking at Sakaali, the arachne continued. “I understand we aren’t for everyone’s tastes and this almost certainly wasn’t your first choice for dining out today, but I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you stopping by on today of all days- all of you.”
 “Miss Latroda, is it?” Sakaali asked.
 “Yes, dear?”
 “I just wanted to say….” she began before pausing- as though she was trying to find the words for what she wanted to say next.
 “I wanted to thank you for providing my daughter with the Tinker Toyz kit. I think the inclusion of that for anybody visiting here with children was nothing less than a stroke of genius.” Sakaali explained.
 “Oh- you’re most welcome, dear. Your husband suggested it almost as a lark- but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. We still have the activity booklets, but with STEM growing in popularity, we thought we could provide something a bit more engaging for some of our younger visitors.”
 “But with all those moving components, aren’t you afraid of eventually losing so many parts they can’t be used anymore?”
 The arachne waved her hand dismissively. “It’s inevitable, but over time we could always replace them and even consolidate the remaining parts with the newer kits. Small price to pay over the long-run if it keeps some of our younger visitors engaged and entertained.”
 “I see- it seems you’ve really thought this through.”
 “Indeed. I may not have the real-world credentials of an educator, but I like to think that those around me can still learn a thing or two. By the way, Graham…..is Art doing well? It’s been awhile since I saw him.”
 “He’s doing fine, but doesn’t have alot of free time after kiddo number four and still working overtime.” I explain.
 “My my….those adorable cubs of his must be keeping him busy.”
 My wife said nothing right away, but suddenly slammed both of her paws on the table, causing the plates, glasses and silverware to jump a little.
 “Well then- I’ve heard all I’ve needed to hear and seen all I’ve need to see of this place. I only have one thing left to say-“
 Damn- I guess Headmistress Latroda was getting too chummy with me for Sakaali’s tastes.
 The arachne seemed taken aback by my wife’s outburst.
 Sakaali doesn’t say anything immediately, but instead fishes something out of her purse that she immediately hands to the arachne.
 “Here- I co-chair the local chapter of the MHIL Small Businesswoman’s Association. Your restaurant and management style have indicated to me that you would make an excellent candidate for our organization.”
 Ms. Latroda’s six eyes blinked in surprise as she takes the card.
 “We meet the second Thursday every month….”
 “I see.”
 “It’s a forum where we basically try and come up with ideas to promote our respective businesses and discuss sound fiscal policies.”
 “Oh, well I….” clearly the arachnid wasn’t completely sold on Sakaali’s description.
 “And sometimes drink lots of wine and sashay around in lingerie.” I add.
 My wife gives me such a scowl and quietly makes a fist at me before turning her attention back to the owner.
 “Ara ara….OK, now that sounds like my kind of group, then.” she titters as she glances down at the card. “I’ll certainly give it some thought…….Sakaali.”
 Suddenly, Katiq reappeared defly carrying three plates- our order.
 “Here we are…..” she said, placing down my burger and Sakaali’s club sandwich.
 “Oh- and don’t worry about the cost of today’s meal, Sakaali.” the arachne said to my wife. “Your husband has almost enough Extra Credit rewards to start his own franchise.”
 “Extra Credit?” Sakaali asked.
 “That’s our guest rewards program.”
 “I see.” Sakaali glowered.
 “Ha ha ha….Miss Latroda’s exaggerating slightly.” I chuckle nervously as I’m about to start eating my burger.
 The truth of the matter was that by my estimates, I had enough Extra Credits to take care of today’s meal for the three of us, come back for another meal and still have enough left over to redeem for a couple of beers.
 “And waffles for the little builder.” Katiq smiled as she handed off the plate to Anippe. My girl had set her pyramid-shaped appetizer flume to the side to make room for her entrée. “Is that going to be enough syrup?”
 Tail wagging, my girl nodded as she began meticulously drizzling a small container of maple syrup over her half order of waffles, almost certainly watching most of the little individual squares fill up with syrupy goodness. I guess she’s alot like me in that regard.
 “Well- I guess we’ll leave you to your meal.” the arachne began as she excused herself. “And Sakaali- thank you for the invitation.” she said, holding up my wife’s card.
 “Can I get anything else for you?” the bloomer-clad Dark Elf asked
 “I think we’re all set, thank you.”
 With that, Katiq took her leave along with the kakuen, lizardwoman, ushi-oni and kikimora servers who had been fawning over my little girl and admiring her Tinker Toyz creation.
 “Thanks Headmistress.” I reply sheepishly to the departing arachne. “Good to see you again.”
 
 

 
 The rest of the day went by relatively quietly. Sure enough, I was able to pay for our family luncheon using the Extra Credits, which freed up enough cash to give Katiq an above average tip.
 Sakaali and I were pretty adamant about Anippe only getting a half order of waffles because the three of us went out for some gelato after we squared things up at After School Special. It was a bit spontaneous on Sakaali’s part to even suggest it, but I was more than happy to go along with it because I hadn’t had gelato in forever.
 It seemed like the rest of the day went by in a blur.
 After Sakaali, Anippe and I stopped for some gelato on the way home, I made it a point to call my parents on the east coast. It seemed like mom and I were taking turns trying to browbeat dad into coming out here to visit us with some degree of success- Pops was saying something about waiting for a fare sale instead of telling me he was too busy with his responsibilities at the Rotary Club.
 
Things were pretty quiet until after we tucked in Anippe and began getting ready for bed ourselves.
 “I can’t believe you….” Sakaali grumbled as I finished brushing my teeth.
 “Wh-what are you talking about?” I ask. It sounds like I’m playing dumb, but my wife’s irritation comes as something of a surprise to me. Honestly- Sakaali can’t be that upset about going to After School Special for lunch if she’s invited the owner to join her small businesswoman’s association.
 “That shameful display- and in front of our daughter, no less.”
 “Shameful display? C’mon- I was on my best behavior and the girls friggin adored Anippe. She was a little rock star….” I snap.
 My wife shook her head. “Those girls are just enabling your bad behavior, Graham.”
 Uh-oh. She sounds like she’s ready to make sure I’m banned for life from After School Special. Shit- maybe that’s why she wants to meet with Ms. Latroda again.
 “Absolutely no tact, either…just openly slobbering over what was in front of you like a dumb beast.” Sakaali sniffed.
 “Were you even at the same restaurant?” I challenge.
 “Don’t take that smart tone with me. You promised me, Graham….”
 I’m still bewildered. My interactions with the staff at After School Special couldn’t have made her this upset so far after the fact, could it?
 “You promised me you’d eat better and what’s the first thing you do?” she asks. “You order fried food loaded down with melted cheese and fatty bacon- and don’t get me started on that greasy burger….”
 Much to Sakaali’s irritation, I laugh.
 “What’s so funny?” she fumes.
 “Babe- did you forget we were originally supposed to eat at DelVecchio’s? All that pasta isn’t exactly low-calorie, low-carb dining.” I point out.
 “I wanted it to be like Lady and the Tramp….” she pouts quietly.
 Really? I’ll have to make a note of that for sometime later. 
 “OK- so about the girls- you’re not mad? Not gonna lie, you  still sound kinda mad.”
 “I was at first- but I had a chance to reflect, Husband.” Sakaali said thoughtfully.
 “Really? On what?”
 “Well Graham- you grew up an only child, right?”
 That was true. I simply nodded.
 “So there was no sibling figure in your life.”
 I think I see where she’s going with this, but I’m not 100% sure.
 “To some measure, you view these girls as the sisters you’ve never had since you’re now ‘off the market’- so to speak. Most men would show up at such an establishment to ogle them in their ridiculous and demeaning costumes- I’m sure you would have at one point….”
 “Ha ha….don’t be absurd.” I chuckle nervously.
 “However, there’s another component to this.” Sakaali continued as she got into bed besides me. “And as you know, it’s next to impossible biologically for these women to have a brother. So as you built up a rapport with them, they came to view you as a brother figure quick to dispense anecdotes about his own life experiences and offer advice for a variety of situations.”
 
 “I never thought of it that way.” I said. “So you’re not mad at me over that?”
 “On the contrary….” she growled, nibbling on my earlobe. “If you’re so fond of naughty schoolgirls, why didn’t you try coaxing me into one of those outfits? I noticed a gift shop on the way out….”
 “That is an excellent queston.” I ponder. “Honestly, knowing you like I do, I think it’s because you would make a much more convincing teacher- or stern headmistress.”
 “Nonsense- I would be the diligent and hardworking class president.”
 That’s not too farfetched, actually.
 “Alright- what about me? Would I be the brooding, handsome bad boy whose rough exterior conceals a heart of gold?” I ask.
 “Hardly.” my wife sniffs. Apparently I’m giving myself too much credit. “In all likelihood, you would be a shiftless layabout doing your best to shirk your responsibilities.”
 “Aw, c’mon babe…”
 
 “I’m sure you would try and get as many people as possible to assume you’re some sort of delinquent so they’d leave you alone about signing up for after-school clubs and activities.” she continues.
 “Well that doesn’t sound like me at all.” I pout, even though she’s pretty close to the mark.
 “But as class president, I would make turning you into a productive member of the student body my #1 priority.” she reassures me. “There will be no layabouts or delinquents on class president Sakaali’s watch!”
 “I think we have the makings of a schoolgirl slice of life anime, babe.” I point out as she turns out the light.
 “Husband?….” she asked as she leaned over to cuddle with me.
 “Mm?”
 “Happy Father’s Day.”
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