5.5 Mental Health Day

by Matt P.

Ice cream, by Walter’s insistence, did wait until after lunch. But after what they almost had to call a unhealthy amount of Pho, the two of them pulled themselves through the door of Cream.

“Every time I walk in to this place, I’m tempted to shout ‘Phrasing’,” Siobhan confided in her father as they walked in. There was no doubt that the place was a palace to hipster-dom—every piece of furniture looked like it had been reclaimed from somewhere, and nothing quite matched as a result. The menus all proclaimed how everything was ‘farm to table’, which Siobhan supposed she was in support of, and that they contained no GMOs, which Siobhan didn’t really care about. But as far as she, or her father, were concerned it had the best ice cream in the city so they could put up with some posing.

They took their frozen treats to a table, and Sibohan sat down primly while her father grabbed a bunch of napkins. Siobhan had gone for a riot of colors and flavors, and covered the whole thing in sprinkles; her father had stuck to sweet cream, and a dash of lemon—all without sprinkles. “Is there like a switch that once you turn 40 you have to hate beautiful things?” She asked, looking down at her own masterpiece.

“Is there a switch that turns off when you turn 40 that means you have to worry about what all those different sugars and flavors will do to your stomach, intestine, colon, and pancreas respectively?” Walter asked. “Yeah, there’s a switch for that, called ‘heart burn starts keeping you up all night, and you might murder your kids if you don’t get to sleep’.”

“Same thing,” Siobhan said with a shrug as she took a bite of her strange melange of flavors. “Mmm, tastes like schizophrenia.” She grinned, and then pondered her ice cream as she kicked her legs out and back. “Why did you enlist?” She asked suddenly, looking up at him. “Grandpa didn’t want you to, and nobody else in the family really has either, at least in the last couple of generations.”

Walter smiled slightly. “You wanting me to say that I wanted to protect everyone?” Siobhan shrugged a little bit, but looked sheepish. “Some people do, and I think that’s why I ended up staying after the first time. But the first time…” Walter trailed off, remembering and thinking.

“Needed to get out of town ahead of the law?” Siobhan offered hopefully, and Walter rolled his eyes and smirked. He looked like he was about to needle her for interrupting, so she waved. “Sorry, I had to.”

“Did you?” Walter asked tilting his head slightly as he looked at her, a smirk on his lips. “Really?” He shrugged, and took a bite of ice cream. “Honestly, a lot of it was that I was bored and looking to challenge myself. I was a good student but I’d also gotten in to some fights, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life.” He smiled slightly, and snorted. “I mean, from that perspective it turned out to be pretty good at figuring out what to do for the next 22 years.”

Siobhan nodded at that. “It’s kind of weird to think of you at 18, direction-less and going ‘Eh, I guess the Army.’” She turned her head at him now, back and forth, as if trying to picture it and failing miserably. “Yeah, I dunno. I just can’t see it. You always seem like you know what you’re doing—so adult-y. The adult-iest.” She proclaimed this last bit with a definite finality, as if it were a universal truth she were speaking.

“Here’s the dark secret for you, Bug,” Walter said with a wiggle of his eyebrows. He leaned in, resting his elbows on the table so he could lower himself conspiratorially to dispense his own words of universal wisdom. “No adult really knows what they’re doing, most of the time. We’re just making it up because we’re the oldest we’ve ever been.” Siobhan blinked, processing that for a moment as she leaned back in her chair. She raised her hand and held it in a fist up to her temple, before making an exploding motion with it.

“Mind blown,” she said simply, before turning back to her ice cream.

“Except Tums, she’s always seemed to know what she’s doing. And how to get there, and who she might have to run over in order to get there,” Walter amended with a snort. “And since we don’t want to be my sister, we’ll just all fake it the best we can.”

Siobhan laughed at that, but chose not to comment on her father’s relationship with her aunt. “Thank you,” she said instead, “For the mental health day. We haven’t done one of these in a while. I think I needed it.” She smirked. “Want to make it a mental health week? We can go up to Kansas City.”

Walter laughed, genuinely, and stuck his spoon in his half finished ice cream. “And leave the savages to fend for themselves? Ryan probably won’t have done anything but skateboard the whole time, and Annie planned out how to take over the school. We can talk about future mental health days, but we’re probably not pulling you out for a week unless the whole family is going on vacation.”

Siobhan pouted, and seemed on the verge of pressing her luck when Walter’s phone began to ring. It wasn’t a custom ring tone—so it wasn’t close family or Morgan, but he pulled it out to check and found it was the number for Katherine Haven. He held up one finger to his daughter, and answered.

“This is Richards,” he spoke in to the phone.

“Detective Richards, this is Katherine Haven,” the voice on the other end explained. “I spoke to my daughter and she is happy to speak with you, if you’re willing to go meet her.”