The Right Stuff
Bob looked at the scrawny lump of nerves sitting on the couch in much the same way he would a piece of dog’s business on the sole of his shoe. That his daughter, Jane, had her arm tightly around this one’s did not help matters.
“So!” He asked, “You are the man..” you could taste the sarcasm in that last word, “I have heard so much about?”
The Wretch mumbled something in assent and nervously answered more of the questions that Bob threw at him.
“Where are you from?”
“Hmmm. We can’t all be from the nicer parts of the city now can we? What do your parents do?”
“My mom raised me on her own. She’s a cleaner.”
” And you made it this far despite that! Well done! What is your major?”
“I’m thinking either literature or philosophy.”
“You can’t decide? With either one you’ll end up in the same coffee shop…. So no stress there then. Sooo how long have you been sleeping with my daughter?”
At that, Jane, who had been squeezing the poor guy’s hand harder and harder at each question, shot up out of her chair, shouted “Oh God! I can’t take any more of this!” and ran from the room. Before Bob could get up, the boyfriend was out the door after her. “What did I say?” He asked himself. And set off after them.
Bob checked the kitchen, the hallway and Jane’s old room. All were empty. It was only when he went back down the stairs did he hear the retching from the back garden.
Jane, bless her soul, had a weak stomach and any amount of stress was liable to lead her vomiting up whatever she had eaten in the previous hour or two. Bob tried to figure out what could have set her off this time and realised that for all his attention on the boyfriend he hadn’t paid any attention to how Jane had taken any of his “brisk” questioning. He was going to get hell for that when the missus finds out. But first things first, his daughter needed him.
Bob shuffled through the house and came out the back door only to stop as if he had intruded on something private. There was Jane, bent over the flower beds, shivering as she had so many times and with his hands around her, carefully holding back her hair, was the new boy, in the exact same pose as he had so many times, for exam jitters and sports final stress. He was saying something softly to her, something comforting. Bob couldn’t hear, but he sure could guess.
Bob went back to the sitting room, thought for a second and made a detour to the den to grab two beers from his stash. He placed the beers carefully behind his chair and sat down in wait. When Jane and the boyfriend, Russel he thought his name was, were done outside, Jane would come in to shout at bit at him as to how he was a jerk if she had the strength and then go up to bed for a rest. That would mean Bob and the boyfriend would be alone for a while.
The twenty minute grilling hopefully would not have left any permanent scars, maybe they could work around them, back to an understanding. Bob knew he had to, for Jane’s sake. After all, this new one had proven himself, as far as Bob was concerned, as having the right stuff.