Cody’s look was so humble and filled with gratitude that Jason was embarrassed. How lucky I’ve been, he thought. How privileged my life has been! He wondered whether he could consider having his mother ‘lucky’. He was—mostly—sure she loved him. Well, she was quite fond of him, he knew that. But she was so obsessed with silly things. Once he might too have been fussed about the things she thought important. But losing Brent—having Brent!—had taught him different. All the stuff which made her so happy or unhappy, it didn’t matter. What mattered was right here in this town, this house, these people. His grandam, Eleanor, Lou, and Keith, even though Keith was with Esmé tonight. This city which had accepted and embraced him from the first day he’d arrived in her.
His heart too full to speak, he stripped down to his trunks and slipped under the bedclothes.
“Aren’t you going to brush your teeth?” asked Luigi, mocking.
“Not if you aren’t. But you’re welcome to use my toothbrush!”
“Ugh! You might have a deadly disease!”
“Prolly have, you plonker. Something vile. Scrofulosity. Your teeth will drop out. Or your eyes will swell and pop. No, I know! You’ll be touched by the ugly stick! No longer the beautiful Luigi DiPietro, just plain, fat, hideous LuLu.”
“What happened to all that guff about the Shady Acres Retirement home?”
“Oh, the ugly stick’ll only get you if you brush your teeth with my toothbrush.”
“Then I won’t!” retorted Luigi, firmly.
“Wise man! Oh fount of wisdom and insight, joy of joys, heart of my heart’s delight …”