Today’s prompt was the name Penultimate Jones. I knew the minute I saw this, that it was going to be someone to tie in to Kyle’s family. In Something More, we learn that Kyle’s middle name, Jones, is his mother’s maiden name. Kyle’s mother’s family is a big happy polycule. This ended up just being a really fun piece, but I think I’d like to, maybe eventually, write more about Pen and Henry’s friendship, and what kind of “friends” they might have been!
Please remember, these shorts are just part of a Camp Challenge and are not being extensively edited in any way. They may change drastically before any final publication. These are JUST for amusement.
Challenge: Penultimate Jones
“Grandpa?” Kyle Pozarski’s nose seemed to barely clear the tall workbench of Grandpa Garret’s woodworking studio. “Who’s the guy in that old timey picture on the wall?”
Garret looked from his carving, over through the thin safety glasses, at his grandson. “That’s your Grandma Bea’s grandpa, Penultimate Jones.”
“Oh. Why do you have a picture of him then?” Kyle tipped his head in confusion.
“Because Pen and my Grandpa, Henry Jackson, were best friends. Bea’s got his picture up in the living room at her house.”
“Friends like you and Grandpa Frank or friends like Grandpa Frank and Grandpa Stu?”
Garret chuckled. “Valid question, Kiddo. I guess, I’m not one hundred percent sure. If I had to guess, more like me and Grandpa Frank.”
“Oh.” Kyle’s fingers gripped the edge of the work bench, stretching himself up onto his toes to set his chin on the wood. “Were they carvers too?”
“They ran a business together. J-and-J Dry Goods. They had a big store up in Vermont, where Grandma Bea is from. It stayed in her family.”
“What about your family?”
Garret’s lips pulled in a slight smile. “Bea’s Dad bought out my Dad in the fifties, before Bea or I were even born. Then, he used the money to move the family here to New York.”
“No, I grew up in a little town up north called Birch Grove.”
“So, if you didn’t grow up together, how did you meet Grandma Bea?” Kyle was confused.
Garret refrained from sighing, but laid down the tool in his hand, and the block of wood he was working on to give his Grandson his full attention.
“I met your Grandma Bea when we were in college. Her brother, your Great-Uncle Bart, had taken over the store and they were having an anniversary. He invited my folks, and I decided to come along to see where my parent’s had grown up.” He leaned down, staring at his grandson. “I thought your Grandma was one of the most beautiful ladies I had ever seen in my whole life.”
That made Kyle grin. “Grandma is still one the most beautiful ladies in the whole world.”
“She is,” Garret agreed, returning the grin. “But Grandma Bea was already dating Grandpa Stu.”
“So,” Garret gave him a shrug, “back then, and even now, some people don’t think you should be with more than one person at a time. It’s called monogamy.”
“Mo-nah-ga-my,” Kyle repeated. “Sounds boring.”
“It works for some people. Like your Mom and Dad,” Garret said. “They’re happy, just the two of them, and you, Jackson, and Lydia.”
Kyle rolled his eyes at the mention of his new baby sister, deftly changing the subject. “So, how did you find out that you could be together?”
“Well,” Garret pondered, “I guess that didn’t come until later. Your Grandma and I stayed in touch for a while. We said it was family history reasons, but really…we just liked each other. She and Stu came to Rochester to visit, and Stu took one look at Grandpa Frank and was tripping over himself in love.”
“Grandma Bea wasn’t mad?”
“Nah,” Garret shook his head. “Bea knew from the beginning that Stu was bi. …Do you know what bi is, Kyle?”
“That’s when a person likes boys and girls,” Kyle said.
“Right,” Garret nodded. “Bea knew that about Stu already. So, while they visited, Stu and Frank got to know each other.”
“Where was Grandma CeCe?”
“CeCe hadn’t entered the picture yet,” Garret told him. “We didn’t meet CeCe until we joined the commune.”
“Oh.” Kyle was finally tired of stretching and let himself sink, just his eyes peeping over the top of the bench again. “If Grandpa Frank has Grandma CeCe and Grandpa Stu, and Grandma CeCe has Grandpa Frank and Grandpa Stu, you’ve only got Grandpa Bea.” His eyes turned with his frown. “How come everyone else gets to have more than one person, but you?”
Garret smiled. “You think it’s unfair?”
“It might seem like that, but I’m pretty happy with Grandma Bea. And I’ve still got Grandpa Frank too. He is my best friend, and I do love him. It’s just different from the way I love Bea, and it’s different from how I love CeCe and Stu too.”
“Do you wish you had anyone else?”
“Hmm. Sometimes I go out on a date with someone different,” Garret shrugged. “But mostly, I’m pretty happy with your Grandma and Frank.”
“You’re pretty happy with what?” Grandpa Frank stepped out into the workshop. He slapped his ballcap against his thigh. “It is hot as balls out there!”
Garret chuckled. “Your Grandson is asking questions about our polycule.”
“Oh. Good,” Frank strode across the room, wrapping an arm around Garret’s shoulders. “What kind of questions.”
“How come you get a boyfriend and a wife but Grandpa Garret only gets a girlfriend?” Kyle asked.
“What am I? Chopped liver? Do I not count as a boyfriend?” Frank’s eyes widened.
“No!” Kyle eyes sparkled with amusement.
“How come?” Frank sounded offended. “We do boyfriend stuff together. We work together. We go fishing. We go to the movies and dinner. We even live together.” This was partly true. Garret had a small cottage of his own, while Frank and CeCe had a larger two-bedroom house, on the same property, along with his workshop.
“You don’t kiss,” Kyle declared.
“We don’t?” Frank looked aghast. He squeezed Garret’s shoulder and the man looked up at his friend. “Garret, is that really what we’re missing?”
“Frank, stop teasing the boy,” Garret shook his head.
“Nonsense. If that’s all it takes.”
Garret felt his friend’s hand at his cheek. He looked up into those bright brown eyes as Frank’s lips met his. It wasn’t a chaste kiss, and Frank did have a way of taking his breath away.
“There!” Frank gave a sharp pound on the bench with a fist. “Boyfriends.”
Kyle giggled as only a kid can, turning away from the table with a bright red flush on his cheeks. “Graaaaandma!”
“Figures the kid’s first reaction is to tattle on us,” Frank scoffed. “He gets that from your side of the family.”
“Nah, that’s definitely from Stu’s side,” Garret teased. He looked back up at his friend. “You’re in a goofy mood. You haven’t kissed me in ages.”
Frank gave a shrug. “CeCe is busy doting on the baby. Stu is helping Alec put in the last of the baby-proofing stuff. Sometimes it’s nice to be around someone who isn’t all gung-ho about the kids.” He shifted, wrapping his arms around Garret’s shoulders. He pressed his face into Garret’s neck. “Hmm. You smell like oak.”
“Good guess, but this is pine,” Garret tapped the chunk of wood he’d been carving until Kyle’s interruption.
“Damn,” Frank cursed in his ear. “You need to get back to work right away, or would you like to come into the house and freak out our grandkids some more?”
Garret laughed. “Can we raincheck? I’m running a little behind on this order.”
“Sure,” Frank gave him a squeeze before finally pulling away. He pressed his lips to Garret’s temple. “I’ll let you get back to work then. I just came to let you know I was back and to snag a cup of coffee.”
“The pot is relatively fresh,” Garret assured him.
Garret’s back felt strangely cool as Frank made his way over to the coffee pot. He picked up the chunk of wood and the tool he’d been using, trying to settle back into work. After a few moments listening to Frank pour the coffee, then take a long slurp from the cup, he gently placed them back down and got up from his stool.
“You’re the worst,” he teased, stepping closer. He hooked his fingers into Frank’s beltloops, tugging him closer. Frank grinned against his lips. …In retrospect, maybe Penultimate and Henry hadn’t really been friends like him and Frank either.