Characters: JD and Uncle Ezra
Authors Note: Dedicated to my dad, who would find certain elements of this story very familiar!
Spotting his uncle heading up the hallway with a familiar black leather case in his hand, JD jumped up from his bed and ran after him. Catching the door frame to stop his breakneck rush, the child called out, "Are you gonna shave, Uncle Ezra?"
Ezra turned, smiling at the dark-haired tot. "As a matter of fact, I am. Would you care to join me?"
Thick hair flopped wildly with the energy of JD's nod. He trotted up the hall to grasp the hand his uncle extended and followed him into the bathroom.
Exaggerating his southern drawl in the knowledge that it would make his young nephew laugh, Ezra picked the boy up and plopped him on the wide marble counter next to the sink, saying, "C'mon up here and set a spell."
As expected, JD giggled, then said, "Hot first?"
"Very good," Ezra agreed, keeping an eye on the five-year-old as he twisted the knob to turn on the hot water, gingerly sticking a finger in the stream to test the temperature, then, finding it satisfactory, pulling the drain plug closed to allow the sink to fill. "That should be sufficient," Ezra advised once the water was a few inches deep.
JD obediently turned off the faucet and reached behind himself to retrieve a wash cloth off the small towel bar next to the mirror. He carefully soaked the cloth as Ezra removed his shirt and set it aside where it would not get wet, a valid precaution when performing one's ablutions with an eager young assistant.
"Here ya go, Uncle Ezra," the boy chirped, presenting the streaming washrag with a flourish that liberally splashed the man as he stepped back up to the sink.
Congratulating himself for his foresight, Ezra wiped his dripping chest with a towel then carefully wrung the wash cloth out and applied warm moisture to his face. "Ahh, that feels just right."
The child beamed at this expression of approval. He studied his uncle's face intently. "Are the whiskers getting good `n' soft now?" he asked. "Da says that's what the hot water is for." He stared even harder, seeming to believe that if he watched closely enough he might see this transformation occurring.
Ezra stifled a laugh and leaned closer. "I don't know. Perhaps you can tell me."
Chubby little fingers carefully examined his cheeks. "Still feels kinda prickly to me. Maybe you should do it again."
"Always trust an expert," Ezra agreed, smiling as he rewet the cloth and pressed it to his face again. After a minute, he allowed the boy another assessment. "How about now?"
"Yep, feels ready," JD decided solemnly. The serious tone disappeared as he hopefully asked, "Can I do the shavin' cream?"
Hesitating, Ezra flashed back to a story Buck had told him about the first time JD had `helped' him with this task. He had run out of his preferred supplies and borrowed a brand new aerosol can of shaving cream from Chris. JD had hammered on the button with all the expected enthusiasm of a five-year-old child and the ensuing mess had taken nearly a half hour to clean up.
Seeing his expression, the boy offered a charming smile. "I'll be careful. Really, really careful!" he offered, drawing an X over his heart. "Pleeease?"
Ezra's reluctance melted. "So you do this for Buck?" he asked, running a little water in his shaving cup and swirling it around before applying his long bristled brush to the small cake of soap to create a good lather. Taking a deep breath, he handed the brush over to JD and leaned his forearms on the counter, offering easy access.
"Sometimes," the boy replied, squishing the brush against his uncle's left cheek, then doing the same to his right cheek, chin, and upper lip before vigorously swirling the brush through the soap again and repeating the process. His small pink tongue poked between his lips as he concentrated on spreading the foam evenly over the surface of Ezra's lower face. "He gets up too early most of the time."
Ezra chuckled, regaining control of the brush and trying to avoid opening his mouth and getting any of the soap inside. Standing up straight, he dabbed a blob onto JD's small nose, making him laugh. Brushing the wash cloth over his lips to clear them, he said, "I must agree with your sentiment, son. Chris, Buck, Nathan and Josiah have never seemed to fully grasp the pleasures of sleeping in."
The child's head bobbed. "Uh, huh. Vin, too. I like sleepin' in. Well, `cept when there's cartoons on." An expression of indignation crossed his small face. "Sometimes, Da don't let me get up early enough and I miss some!"
A hearty laugh broke free just as Ezra began applying his razor to one cheek, forcing him to pause.
"What?" JD demanded eagerly.
Ezra waved a hand. "Nothing, you just provoked a long-forgotten memory."
"Bout what?" he persisted.
Ezra resumed shaving. "I can distinctly recall when I was just about your age, my mother ordering me back to bed after catching me up watching television at some ungodly hour of the morning; and myself defiantly informing her that as soon as I was grown up I would start getting up just as early as I pleased." He laughed again. "I think I may owe her an apology."
JD laughed too. "You hates to get up early!"
"Sleep has become a far more precious commodity as I've grown older," Ezra explained. Placing a hand on JD's glossy black hair, he admitted, "Many things have."
The boy thought this over. "Did you ever do this with your daddy? Watch him shave in the mornin'?"
"Not that I recall, but I'm quite sure I would have if I'd had the chance." Seeing the quizzical look upon the small face, he explained, "My father died when I was very young."
"Younger than me?"
"I'm afraid so." He thought for a moment. "I did have a very nice relative, Uncle James, who shared this ritual with me, however."
The boy smiled brightly. "Like me and you! Was he a reg'lar uncle, or a special one you got to pick out yourself, like you and Uncle Nathan and Uncle Josiah?"
Ezra smiled at the question, struggling not to laugh at the sudden vision in his mind of himself, Josiah and Nathan lined up inside a department store window like puppies in a pet store. "He was my father's uncle, actually. I more or less inherited him."
"Oh." JD fell into a rapt silence for a couple of minutes as he watched Ezra's razor cleanly swipe away the coat of shaving foam and morning stubble. He frowned, unconsciously copying the motion with his head as Ezra lifted his chin to shave his throat and the underside of his jaw. "Does that hurt? Scrapin' whiskers away?"
"No, JD, it doesn't hurt. Feels rather nice, actually. Unless you press too firmly and cut yourself. That hurts, but only a little bit." Seeing the doubt in JD's hazel eyes, he smiled. "You have reason to think otherwise?"
He nodded. "Chris cut himself shavin' last week. He was bleedin' all over the place and cussin'. He owed five whole dollars to the swear jar by the time he was done!"
Eyes twinkling, Ezra asked, "This wouldn't have been Tuesday, by any chance?"
"How'd you know?"
"Oh, just a hunch," he chuckled. His boss had been having `one of those days' on Tuesday, having started the day off by appeared 15 minutes late for a meeting with the director, completely forgetting the three bloody Kleenex wads still stuck to his face. Chris had spent the entire day snarling and snapping at
anyone who dared to come within ten yards of him, but had later apologized with an invitation for a weekend sleepover barbecue for the entire team. Thus, Ezra's presence here this morning.
JD dutifully pointed to his uncle's left cheek. "Missed a spot."
Ezra examined it. "Indeed, I have. Thank you, JD." With one final swipe of the razor, he cleared away the offending bit of foam and, finding no other flaws in his work, wet the washcloth again and wiped off the last remnants of shaving cream. He leaned down again, allowing the five year old a critical examination.
"What do you think? Will I pass muster?"
"Mustard?" The boy said confusedly.
"No, muster. It means, is my appearance acceptable?"
JD smiled. "You'll have the ladies faintin' in the aisles."
Easily recognizing one of Buck's favorite quips, Ezra laughed. "Well, thank you. I hope my fellow uncles won't be too jealous."
He dabbed on a touch of aftershave, hissing softly at the tingle it gave his freshly scraped skin. Putting his supplies away, he drained the water from the sink and carefully cleaned up. He had intended to take a shower, but seeing the anticipatory gleam in JD's eyes, knew that it could wait a few minutes. Pulling his shirt back on, Ezra turned around and held his arms behind him.
With a happy squeal, JD accepted the mute invitation and climbed aboard, squeezing his uncle around the neck. Ezra obliged him by adding a hop to his step as he galloped out of the bathroom and up and down the hallway a few times, making the little boy shriek with glee. "This is fun, Uncle Ezra! I wish you
could come over every weekend!"
"Ah, but if I did then this would become habit and wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable."
"Sure it would!"
Ezra laughed and galloped a little faster.
"What are you two doing? We could hear you all the way from the kitchen."
Ezra came to a stumbling halt, smiling guiltily as he noticed Chris standing with hands on hips at the open end of the hallway. Vin peeked out from behind his father, grinning at their game.
"We's playin'!" JD crowed.
With a grin, Ezra shrugged the boy up a little higher on his back. "JD was assisting me with my morning ablutions and I felt that such excellent work was deserving of a reward."
"Ablutions, huh?" Chris came a little closer.
Reaching over Ezra's shoulder, JD petted his cheek. "See? Smooth as a baby's butt."
"JD!" Vin protested, smothering a giggle behind his hand.
Chris and Ezra laughed as well. "Not the most flattering analogy, but I'll take the compliment as it was intended," Ezra said, handing the squirming boy off to Chris. "Tell me; are we too late for breakfast?"
"Josiah is whipping up a big batch of his famous buttermilk pancakes as we speak."
Both boys gasped at the word pancakes, and took off running for the kitchen, both screaming out their desire to help as they went.
"Looks like you're off the hook for awhile, pal," Chris said to Ezra. Seeing him rub a hand against his cheek, Chris asked, "You really let him help you shave?"
"JD was in charge of lather and wash cloth application."
Chris shook his head. "Ah. What is it with kids and shaving? I used to love watching my dad when I was that age, too."
"As JD and I were just discussing, I did the same with my Great-Uncle James. He wore a mustache and mutton chops, you see, and I found it eminently fascinating to map the terrain with his shaving brush."
Chris chuckled. Gesturing after the departed children, he said, "They do have a way of bringing it all back, don't they?"
"Indeed, they do." He grinned, a look of mischief filling his green eyes. "In the spirit of bringing back childish things, what do you say we go to the kitchen and attempt to convince Mr. Sanchez of the superior flavor in Mickey Mouse pancakes?"
The chuckle became a full-blown laugh. "Last one there does the dishes?" he challenged.
Ezra grinned. "Deal."
Two grown men took off running in the direction of their small counterparts, laughing like a couple of young boys themselves.