[A story taking off where this story left off. Done with the author’s kind permission and blessings.]
1. Todd has only had nineteen cavities.
2. Todd is a Kentucky Zuniga.
3. Todd’s father, Kelly Zuniga, inherited the Zuniga estate at 27.
4. When Todd waited tables, sometimes his customers were really rude.
5. Kelly Zuniga, Todd’s father, is a pretty famous dog breeder. If you went to Kentucky, and you were looking for a dog, people would probably refer you to Kelly Zuniga, Todd’s father.
6. One time, when Todd was waiting tables at the restaurant, this old man left him like no tip at all.
7. Bart Zuniga, Todd’s brother, sleeps with the dogs. You know, just sleeps, but it’s still a little strange. He sleeps in a pile with them. All they’re doing is sleeping, but still.
8. Kelly Zuniga, Todd’s father, doesn’t mind Bart sleeping with the dogs. It seems to calm the dogs’ nerves.
9. Grandfather Zuniga, Todd’s grandfather, likes steak. Last Christmas Todd sent Grandfather Zuniga a box of choice sirloin, ribeyes, T-bones, and three filet mignons from the restaurant. He also included some frozen etouffee, but apparently that busted in the mail.
10. That old man from the restaurant, the one who didn’t tip? He got at least ten iced-tea refills. When he used up all the Sweet & Low at his table and swiped all he could from the four surrounding tables, he wore Todd’s ass ragged insisting that Todd get him Sweet & Low quote-unquote by hook or crook.
11. That old man wanted fries, and he wanted them with mayonnaise. But the restaurant didn’t serve fries. It wasn’t that kind of restaurant. The fries would have to be a special request. Todd was on bad terms with the chef to begin with, and the old man’s dietary needs in no way improved the situation.
12. Todd had to really kiss the chef’s ass to get those fries made.
13. The chef made the fries, but then he acted as if the fries were special for Todd. Like Todd was the one who was demanding fries. The chef was your classic micromanager, he was sort of in charge of everything, from delivery on down to the schedule. Always micromanaging every last little niggling detail. Telling you how to hold a plate, or just how to greet a customer. “Hello, welcome to…” and “How may I provide you with an excellent dining experience?” All that bullshit. For seven weeks after those goddamned old man fries, the chef had Todd working the location off Interstate 54, out by Hope Valley, which is one of those senior apartment centers.
14. It’s like a nursing home, but has the look and feel of a college campus.
15. He just likes sleeping with the dogs. No one really talks about it. He also — this is Todd’s brother, Bart — knows about a million president jokes. He’s the king of political humor, in the Zuniga family.
16. You know what else? That old man didn’t even touch his fries. He just sat there and ate mayonnaise off them. He’d get a glop of mayo on a fry and make like he was going to eat it, but then he’d just lick the mayonnaise off and discard the fry on a little saucer he requested.
17. Ronnie Zuniga, who is Todd’s dad’s brother and Todd’s only uncle, once constructed an ornate wooden clock tower. He drew up the plans, got Todd’s father to sign off on them, and purchased the necessary lumber. He intended to secure the clock tower to the top of the Zuniga house. It was supposed to be this big deal, like a local landmark. You would have been able to see it for miles around. But the clock tower got too big and ended up being a good deal heavier than Ronnie had originally estimated. It’s in the middle of the yard now, tipped up against a silver maple. There’s an owl that lives in it, and the interior is littered with rodent bones.
18. Ronnie’s really a big help though. He does the records for the dogs. There’s a lot of stuff about bloodlines that he has to keep an eye on.
19. Bart was briefly married to his high school sweetheart, but something happened and it didn’t work out.
20. Grandfather Zuniga would sooner cut his nuts off than live in Hope Valley.
21. Todd says he realizes he talks a lot about the time he worked in the restaurant. It’s true it was only for a summer, while he was in college, but it felt like a defining experience. It has changed the way he looks at restaurants. You can tell a lot about a person by how they treat waiters in restaurants, Todd suggests. Whether they tip well, for example. Or whether they look waiters in the eye when they speak to them. Whether they stop talking the second the waiter approaches. Whether they make a lot of unusual requests. Like the old man did, with his fries. Or whether they talk about having sex with the waiters or wanting to have sex with the waiters. The old man asked Todd if he wanted to have sex with him, or if Todd happened to know if any of the other waiters might want to have sex with him.
22. Todd’s father is working on breeding a dog that is guaranteed to produce a litter with no incidents of hip dysplasia and no occurrences of distemper. Among dog breeders, canine hip dysplasia, or CHD, is a big problem. It’s the most common inherited orthopedic abnormality seen in dogs.
23. It’s getting to be where pet owners, just ordinary people, don’t want a dog with hip dysplasia, even though those dogs are just as good as the kind with normal hips.
24. Kelly Zuniga, Todd’s father, had one employee. Nobody could pronounce his name — he’s wasn’t from here — or really even bear to look at him, so they called him “Coach.” Kelly’d first hired Coach to show his dogs at the big AKC show in Lexington. Coach calmed Riley and Champ so thoroughly they managed to beat out the Sockrider blue-lines, a set of Dobermans who’d taken the breed title three years running. Coach had sort of a magical way with the dogs. He spoke to them in Nigerian, his native tongue.
25. Grandfather Zuniga might have to go to Hope Valley whether he likes it or not. He’s burning through live-in nurses like an old man who has no idea that he is this close, and I mean this close, to The Hope Valley Campus Lifestyle.
26. Don’t get Bart started on the Teapot Dome Scandal. He has reams of comedic material on Harding and the Teapot Dome mess. “What was the deal with the Teapot Dome Scandal? You’ve got your President Harding transferring supervision of the oil reserves from the Navy to the Department of the Interior and then Harding’s friend, this secretary of the interior, he sells off the rights to the land to several private companies. Anybody see the problem there? What, is the Navy not good enough anymore? Hello? Are you with me, people?”
27. When Todd returned from his time away at the I-54 location, he did everything in his power to make nice with the chef. He really tried to swallow his pride, but the chef wasn’t having it. Every time Todd brought back an order, the chef took one look at it and then asked if Todd was sure he didn’t also want fries with that. Todd did his best to chuckle the first dozen times, but then it started to get really old.
28. That old man refused to believe the restaurant was out of Sweet & Low. He raised a real fuss: How can a restaurant be out of Sweet & Low? Would you kindly explain to me, son, how the hell a restaurant can be out of Sweet & Low? As it happened, there was one last packet of Sweet & Low underneath all the sugars, at a table that wasn’t even in Todd’s section. When the old man found it — and he did find it, eventually, after conducting an angry, but methodical table-by-table search — he acted for all the world as if Todd had hidden it there, out of spite.
29. Coach had a bad cigarette problem. Todd’s father, Kelly Zuniga, told Coach not to smoke around the dogs, but Coach had some long-standing issues with authority. For example, on several occasions Kelly, Todd’s father, caught Coach doing a poor job of concealing that he, Coach, had just flipped Kelly off when his back was momentarily turned.
29 1/2. Rain or shine, Coach wore one of those sateen jackets. It was a “Kools” jacket, but he’d changed the ‘K’ in Kools to a ‘C.’ Lord knows why.
30. Fed up with Kelly riding him all the time, Coach tried to interest Ronnie Zuniga in entering into a business proposition, whereby the two would become partners, pool their talents — Coach’s magical Nigerian way with the dogs and Ronnie’s knowledge of bloodlines and bookkeeping and so forth — incorporate, and put Kelly “The Hardass” Zuniga right out of business. Ronnie mulled the plan over for exactly one-half of one second and then went and told his brother what Coach had just told him. When Kelly found out that Coach was trying to double-cross him, he fired Coach on the spot and spread the word: Coach’s magic, while it might seem good at first, was in fact the bad kind.
31. Every evening at 6 p.m. Grandfather Zuniga hollers at the top of his lungs, pounds the rails of his bed, and in general carries on like a ninety-three-year old baby, with “Where’s my steak? Where’s my fucking steak?”
32. People thought they saw Coach around from time to time. He was spotted selling men’s suits at Kuppenheimer’s, shelving books at the public library, and operating a forklift, among other things. People who saw Coach always phoned Kelly and told him where Coach was and how he was doing. Bart actually stayed in contact with Coach. Kelly never had any idea, which was just fine by Bart. Coach and Bart talked on the phone pretty regularly, usually at night, when Bart was out in the kennel, lying on a blanket on the floor, with several dogs sound asleep around him. They talked about all the little stuff, about how their days went and what they did. Coach cursed Bart’s father until he was tired, then Bart gave him updates on Riley and Champ. Bart told some new jokes, if he had any, or else he just riffed on the Teapot Dome Scandal while Coach laughed himself silly. Then they’d say good night.