Happy Birthday, LaraMee
Big blue eyes studied the menu carefully. Uncle Ezra had told him how much things cost at this restaurant, but he knew how much Chris liked it. A hand unconsciously slid down into the pocket of his jeans, fingering the wad of crumpled dollar bills and nervously jingling the coins.
This day had to be perfect.
Chris watched his serious little boy across the table. Vin was frowning in concentration as he looked at the menu. The coins in his pocket had been jingling from nervous fidgeting since they'd left the house.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to know that the seven-year-old was worried that he didn't have enough money to pay for dinner.
"Vin, do we gots enough?" JD whispered loudly.
Chris turned his face and coughed into his napkin, covering his amusement at the five-year-old's idea of a whisper.
"Jayyyy-Deeee," Vin growled softly, through clenched teeth.
"Well, I just wants to know. These things cost lots," said JD bluntly.
Chris coughed again and then winced as Buck's boot kicked him under the table.
The two men exchanged glances. Chris would never make light of the situation. He knew how important it was to the boys that they be able to pay for their Father's Day dinner with their own money. Ezra had let them know that Vin had a little over twenty dollars saved up.
The jingling coins drew Chris' attention again.
'Please let it be enough,' Chris thought.
"Are you gentlemen ready to order?" asked the waitress, addressing the adults.
"Do you know what you want, JD?" Vin asked.
The waitress smiled as Chris gave her a wink and nodded toward his son. It was clear the boys were taking their dads out for dinner to celebrate Father's Day.
"I want a hamburger and French fries and a milkshake," JD recited.
Chris' heart ached as he saw Vin's eyes widen as he calculated the cost. Math was difficult for the boy, but the look on his face made it clear that he was certain of the number.
"Little Bit," Buck intervened, "If you want ice cream at home tonight, no milkshake. Okay?"
"Awww," JD groaned. He looked at the waitress. "No milkshake."
She nodded and crossed it off of her pad.
"Buck next," said Vin.
"I'll have a grilled cheese sandwich," said Wilmington.
Vin looked at him in surprise. "Don't ya want steak?"
"Well, I like steak a lot, but tonight I've got a hankerin' for grilled cheese," Buck replied with a smile and a wink. Little Tanner knew him too well sometimes. He hoped the boy would believe that he wanted toasted cheese instead of a nice, juicy steak, medium rare.
"Make it two," said Chris, closing his menu. "Grilled cheese sounds perfect."
Vin frowned. Did they really want cheese sandwiches or did they know he might not have enough money?
"I can't believe how long it's been since I had a decent grilled cheese," said Chris, sensing Vin's distress. "I used to eat them all the time."
"Me, too," said Buck. "Ma put just the right touches on them, and mmm, they were soooo good."
All right. If it was making Buck think happy thoughts about his mama, it was okay. Vin looked down at the menu struggling to calculate the total so far. He knew he had to have extra money for tax on the food and some money to leave for the nice lady who served them.
Chris bit his lip. He wanted nothing more than to wipe the stress off of those elfin features. But this was Vin's gift.
'Please let them have enough.'
Vin looked up. "I want grilled cheese, too. But I don't want no fries with mine." He pointed to the ala carte item.
"They come with fries?" asked Buck. "I didn't want fries. They always have way too many for me."
"That's true," agreed Chris. "I can't ever finish them."
"You want fries!" Vin accused. Now he was sure they weren't getting what they really wanted.
"Well, sure," said Buck. "But I don't want to waste food."
The waitress had easily caught on. "How about we do a side of fries that you can share?"
Vin brightened. He quickly found the price of the French fries.
"JD, are you gonna share too?" he asked quickly.
JD nodded. "We can all share."
"What would you like to drink?" the waitress asked.
"Water," Buck and Chris chorused in unison, startling the boys.
The waitress looked expectantly at the boys.
Vin smiled shyly. "I'd like water, too, please."
"I wants a milkshake," said JD. "But I want ice cream at home more."
The waitress nodded. "So water for you as well?"
"Yes, Ma'am," said JD giving her his bright smile.
Then he leaned over to Vin and said, "Do we gots enough?"
Vin added up three grilled cheese sandwiches, one hamburger and a side of fries. Tanner nodded. If he did the math right, they might have enough.
If the math was right.
'Please let me add right.'
Both boys were delighted when their food arrived. The side order of fries was huge! It was more than enough for the four of them. Chris and Buck both nodded their thanks as the waitress moved to the next table.
The meal was filled with happy chatter and only the occasional jingling of coins to indicate that the older boy was still concerned about the money.
When the waitress brought the check, young Tanner snatched it up quickly.
"Yes, young man?" she replied.
"Do you have a pencil I could borrow for a minute?" Vin asked politely.
"Sure." She pulled a spare pencil from her pocket and handed it to the boy.
"You're welcome," she said with a smile. "Is there anything else?"
Vin shook his head. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small piece of blank paper.
JD watched curiously as Vin looked at the number on the dinner bill. He sensed that the older boy needed to concentrate, so he was careful not to disturb him, but he leaned closer to see what Vin was writing.
Vin wrote the amount of the bill, and carefully moved the decimal point one number to the left. Now all he had to do was figure out half of that number.
Nineteen. What was half of nineteen? Why couldn't it be an even number?
Vin chewed on his lip as he reasoned it out. He knew that two nines were eighteen, and nineteen was one more than that, so he had to do half of one. Okay. So a half.
"Nine and a half!" he blurted out excitedly. Blushing and covering his mouth in embarrassment, Vin looked back at the numbers.
He wrote down nine and five underneath the one dollar and ninety cents that he had already derived from the bill. Now he just had to add them. The lady had been so nice and he wanted to make sure he left the right amount of money on the table.
Carefully he added the dollar ninety and the ninety-five cents and came up with two dollars and eighty-five cents.
Chewing on his bottom lip, he looked up at Chris.
"Could you make sure I added right?" he asked hesitantly.
"Sure," said Chris, leaning across to look at the numbers. He nodded. "You got it right, Cowboy."
Vin grinned at the praise. "Uncle Ezra teached me how to figure out fifteen percent to leave for the lady. He says you do ten by moving the dot over one, and then five more percents is half that number. And you add 'em up to get fifteen percents."
"Wow, Junior," said Buck, "I always have a hard time figuring out the tips. You're pretty smart."
Tanner beamed again. He reached in his pocket and poured out the wad of bills and coins on the table.
"JD, we need two dollars and eighty-five cents for the lady."
"Okay," said JD as he eagerly began to separate out enough coins to make eighty-five cents.
Vin put two crumpled bills in the middle of the table and JD proudly pushed his coins to the middle.
"Good job, boys," Chris praised. "That's exactly right."
"I know," chirped JD as he climbed down off the bench.
Buck rolled his eyes and shook his head as the men unfolded from the small booth.
Vin carefully scooped up all the remaining money and slid it off the table into his tee shirt, the tail of which he was holding up to make a nest for the money. He grabbed the check and headed for the cash register.
The nice lady at the register smiled at him as he handed her the check. Her eyebrows raised only slightly when both boys sat down on the floor and began to count out nineteen dollars and thirty-seven cents.
'Please be enough,' thought Vin.
'Please be enough,' thought Chris.
Buck just smiled and waved a twenty at the cashier so she knew they were covered.
All smiles dropped when a groan came from the boys on the floor.
"Look in your pockets, Vin," encouraged JD.
Vin pulled both pants pockets inside out. Not another penny.
JD gasped. "Wait!" He pulled off his shoe and sock and shook out his sock.
"Yes!" Vin exclaimed as a dime and two pennies fell out.
He stood up and proudly began piling dollar bills on the counter as the lady counted. Then he scooped up the coins and both boys watched anxiously as she counted. JD stood on his tip-toes trying to see.
"There we are. Ninteen dollars and thirty-seven cents. And a nickel to spare," she announced.
Both boys jumped as the people now waiting in line behind them applauded.
She handed the nickel to Vin, who in turn handed it to JD.
JD looked at Buck. "Da?"
"Yes, Little Bit?"
"Is it okay if we leave the nice lady more than fifteen purses?"
Buck grinned. "You betcha."
He smiled proudly as his son ran back to the table and put his last nickel down for the waitress.
Vin just grinned happily as he took hold of Chris' hand, the relief more than evident.
"Thank you, Vin," said Chris. "That was a fine dinner."
Buck scooped up JD as the little whirlwind ran back to them and jumped into his arms.
Impatient patrons were now all smiles at the obvious love of fathers and sons.
"Thanks, boys," said Buck as they walked out the door. "This was my first Father's day and because of you, I'll remember it forever."
JD laid his head on Buck's shoulder and hugged him.
"Me, too, Cowboy," said Chris with a squeeze of Vin's hand.
When Vin leaned on his arm, Chris paused and looked at his boy. He grinned and with a whoop, he scooped up his boy into a big hug, carrying him contentedly to the waiting truck.
His son. His family. It was more than enough.