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Arnie Buschwhiler was reading all about the hot new Camaro in Drag Racing Action magazine when he heard a thump at the kitchen door. The thump was followed by the sound of the door swinging open, and this was accompanied by the distinctive jingling of his 17 year-old daughter’s keychain.
“Hey daddy,” Cassie called out.
But Arnie could also hear the sound of four feet making steps, not just her pair.
“Wow!” he heard a young man’s deep voice exclaim. “Is that real brick tile?”
“Stop iiiiiiiiiit,” Cassie said, laughing. “Don’t make fun of our house.”
“That will break your eggs,” the deep male voice continued, followed by more giggling from Cassie.
Arnie smirked and tilted his head back against the upper cushion of the La-Z-Boy Imperial recliner to catch Cassie’s eye as she headed toward the doorway between the kitchen and his lair.
“Daddy,” she said, “this is my friend Mephisto.”
And it was her friend Mephisto, with an excess of brown hair—purple highlights—dripping over both shoulders. His face was clean shaven but the tattoo skirting his left eye and the prominent silver nose ring made him look, to Arnie, like some sidekick in a band of post-modern pirates.
There was a chance that the look on Arnie’s face could be construed differently from a distance, and softened, somewhat, by the paucity of light. But the message he was trying to communicate with his expression was undiluted contempt.
“Come here Mephisto,” Arnie demanded.
“Daddy,” Cassie said, her voice trailing off into a frustrated
Mephisto shrugged and ambled toward the chair.
“What are you doing walking around with my daughter with a name like that?” asked Arnie.
“Jesus daddy!” Cassie said.
“It gets people thinking,” Mephisto replied, using his voice to offer the answer in the tone of a question, as if it were the first on a list of available flavors.
“Well,” Arnie said, “I’m thinking it scares the shit out of me. What do you think about that?”
“Dad!” Cassie exclaimed.
“I’m thinking that once you get to know me better it will be less of an issue,” Mephisto said, making sure he was looking Arnie in the eyes and not blinking.
Arnie caught the answer by raising his eyebrows. He then tightened his squint and looked Mephisto up and down before responding.
“What makes you think I want to get to know you better?”
Mephisto raked his hands through his hair.
“I dunno,” he said wearily. “Maybe you don’t.”
Arnie replied by using the remote control to turn on his television.
“You like baseball?”
“Not particularly,” Mephisto answered.
“Well, sit down because we’re going to watch some baseball.”
“Oh my god,” Cassie said, with an even heavier sigh.
After two outs in the top of the first, Arnie broke the awkward silence.
“Why do you like my daughter?” he asked.
“Chip off the old block I suppose,” replied Mephisto.
Arnie smiled. Mephisto smiled back.
Cassie erupted in laughter.