8.2 Real Costs

by Matt P.

“Do you think they fell asleep?” Walter asked in to his cell-phone as he hauled the packages out of his car, grunting at the effort. “Christ, I carried a weighted backpack in a desert with a rifle, and these girls are going to kill me with their shopping list.”

“No, I don’t think they fell asleep. They’re waiting for something.” The voice on the other end, Dr. Winters, responded with an audible smirk. Then she laughed genuinely. “Ah, it is that time of year, isn’t it.”

“Why is it so late?” Walter asked, holding the cell phone between his ear and his shoulder as he put a big shopping bag under each arm. “Also this ‘We reserved it at the store, just go pay for it and bring it home’ bullshit is…well, I pretty well covered it.”

“Homecoming? It’s when they’ve always done it, mid-October. Saves on the expense, I suppose. Besides, harvest festivals and all that.” Morgan answered. “I will admit, I do appreciate a good harvest festival myself. It was more fun when the Aztec did it, but.”

“You’re a little bit sick, you know that?” Walter asked, grunting as he waddled his way up to the door. “If they’ve got their shoes…” He began as he nudged the door open with his hip. Low and behold there was a pile of shoes in front of the door, waiting to trip the unwary. “You’re all dead to me unless you come get this crap right now.” He called out to the house.

Antigone and Siobhan both came vaulting in to the room from their side of the home. “Finally!” Antigone exclaimed as she padded up to him. Both girls were in pajamas despite the fact that it was approaching two in the afternoon, because apparently that was what one did.

“Given the amount of money I just paid for these things, you both need to come to grips with the fact that you will never be bought new clothes again or go to college.” Walter proclaimed as he gave them the packages. “Also, I had to sell your brother, who will also have to wear my old suit if we can pawn him back before the year is over.”

“His sacrifice will be remembered.” Siobhan intoned solemnly as she took the package that she had been handed and peeked into it. “Ugh.” She proclaimed, and handed the package out to Antigone. Antigone had just looked in to hers and rolled her eyes.

“You know there are other colors besides black, right?” Antigone asked as she exchanged garment bags with her twin and peeked in. “Perfect!” She said as she pulled out a dress that she had insisted was called a ‘Coral lace and chiffon sequined high-low strapless dress’, which to Walter meant ‘improperly finished, pink, and expensive.’

“Your dress ran out of fabric in the front.” Walter opined.

“Just because you happen to like the dress equivalent of a pink mullet doesn’t mean I do.” Siobhan answered as she inspected her own second mortgage. “Perfect.” She said as she unfolded what looked like entirely too much black dress with netting for her to wear.

“Uh-huh. Fortunately I won’t go to prison because I stole the curtains from the Edgar Allen Poe museum, so I’ll make sure to visit.” Antigone whipped back as she returned her dress primly to the bag.

“I had them close up the slit a little bit, Bug, because I’m not sure you don’t think you’re four inches taller than you are.” Walter complained, drawing a gasp immediately followed by a noise of exasperation from the girl.

“You ruined art!” She huffed, pouting a bit before she inspected the damage. She had insisted that hers was called ‘a long, black, cold-shouldered dress with a slit’, which Walter had interpreted as ‘It’s black and I can freak my father out by how high this slit is’. “I suppose it isn’t too bad, it’s about as high as Annie’s skirt now.”

“Yeah. And I’m not likely to have to murder high school boys by the job-lot now, not,” he amended quickly as she began to break out one of her most powerful glares at him, “that I don’t trust you to tend to your own affairs and make your own choices.” He said honestly. “But I’m pretty sure I can come down on a half inch less slit without tip-toeing into patriarchy or over-protection, at least when it comes to my own daughter.”

“You know I’m still on the phone, right?” Came the voice from Walter’s shoulder, where his cell phone delivered the voice of Morgan Winters, who was not even trying to restrain her laughter now.

“Yes, laugh at the travails of modern single fatherhood.” Walter grumbled as both girls scampered off back to their rooms and makeup and, Walter imagined, other ways to cause him to go gray-haired to an early grave. “What were we talking about?”

“Besides homecoming, and your risk for a cardiac incident?” Morgan would have been very upset if he had classified her as snickering, but that’s what it was. “What our friends Ninja Grandpa and Professor Gloom are up to now, and why they’ve waited for so long.”

“Right.” Walter sighed. “Well, once Ryan is set up in his suit and off on his own way then you can come over for the shadowy cabal planning meeting.” Walter said with a grin. “But you better be bringing something alcoholic, because I get the feeling I’m going to need it.”

“Mmm, I’ll come up with something.”