The first nine chapters of The Regular Guys are free. Enjoy.
Bellagio Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
A couple of days before their second gig at the Sahara began, Lenny and Larry were dining at one of the finest restaurants in Las Vegas. The main topic of discussion was Lenny’s parents, who had indicated they would like to come out and see The Regular Guys play Vegas.
Lenny was not entirely pleased with this prospect; his parents had seen The Regular Guys perform before, but since that had always made Lenny incredibly nervous, they had tried not to announce their plans in advance, though on a couple of occasions that had not been possible. Neither Morty nor Larry could tell the difference onstage, but Lenny swore the couple of shows they had done with his parents in the audience were some of the worst shows in the history of show business. The prospect of them seeing The Regular Guys in Vegas was driving Lenny up a wall.
“They’ve always made me nervous,” Lenny said. “Ever since I played a shepherd in the Christmas pageant when I was five.”
“That would explain why they hardly ever see us,” Larry said. Larry’s own father had seen The Regular Guys perform on a variety of occasions, and both Lenny and Larry had always been delighted to have him in the audience. In fact, Lenny had been so gracious and friendly to Larry’s dad Larry half suspected he was trying to get adopted.
“You’re darn right it does. I would really prefer they stay home.”
“Lenny, they’re your parents; they have to see you play Vegas, it’s in the comedian by-laws.”
Larry nodded solemnly.
Lenny considered the matter a moment.
“Could Rachel set them up with a nice room?”
Larry nodded, his manner suggesting that arranging lodging for Lenny’s parents wasn’t the most onerous request a Regular Guy could make.
“Are you good enough in the sack to get them a suite?”
“Well, if I were that good we’d probably have suites, but I can ask.”
“She could probably get them tickets to a real show so they don’t have to put up with our crap every night.”
“We don’t have to go through too much trouble, Lenny” Larry said. “They’re only your parents.”
“You know, if they sat in the back with Morty, I wouldn’t be able to see them,” Lenny said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “With the spotlight you can’t see past the first few rows anyway.”
“Maybe we could blindfold them and put them in the basement, too.”
“Shut up. We could take them to dinner here. This is about as nice as it gets.”
Lenny looked around at the restaurant. The room was elegant and gracious and there were original Picasso’s throughout. The food and service were some of the best the planet had to offer; Larry was enjoying the best filet he ever had, and Lenny was quickly becoming addicted to foie gras.
The wine list even featured a $6,000 bottle of champagne, which neither Regular Guy felt the need to indulge in, though they did slum and enjoy a couple of relatively cheap $200 bottles of champagne.
Later that night Lenny made reservations for his parents to visit Vegas. He would find out whether there would be a room or a suite waiting for his parents after Larry’s date with Rachel later that night.
The Sahara Hotel And Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Larry sat in a chair and watched as Lenny walked around the room talking on his phone. It was an hour before showtime and Lenny looked animated. He had a drink in his hand and was wrapping up a funny, engaging conversation with Ann. Lenny’s parents were scheduled to arrive any minute, and an official Sahara limousine was waiting at the airport to whisk them to the hotel; they would be backstage after the show.
The Regular Guys were returning to the stage after a two-week vacation. Lenny and Ann had run off to Hawaii together where Lenny snorkeled for the first time and soon after getting out of the water was on the phone to Larry sounding like Jacque Cousteau.
Larry had stayed at a friend’s condo in Colorado where he had enjoyed sleeping in the mountain air with the windows open, drinking coffee at leisure in a bookstore and eating well. He did some hiking and horseback riding and kept up on his personal reading.
After two weeks away both Regular Guy’s were itching to get back on stage.
Lenny finished his conversation with Ann and took a sip of his drink. While Larry personally preferred not to drink before a show, he liked it when Lenny was in sufficiently good spirits to enjoy a cocktail because that invariably meant that night’s show would be great.
Lenny, in fact, appeared to be deliriously happy.
“My, my, my, aren’t we the chipper one, tonight,” Larry said.
“Yes, indeedy, partner. Like swallows returning to San Bernardino, The Regular Guys have returned to their natural habitat, Las Vegas, USA.”
“San Juan, Lenny,” Larry said. “The swallows return to San Juan Capistrano every year.”
Lenny, knocked off his train of thought, looked puzzled for a moment. He pointed a finger at Larry and smiled.
“You really should not be surprised you don’t get invited to more parties, partner. God, you’re dull.”
“Whatever,” Lenny said. “The point is we’re back, fresh off a vacation. We will be humming on all cylinders again here shortly.”
Lenny took another sip of his drink.
“And I have taken care of the Parental Seating Issue,” Lenny said; Larry shifted in his seat a little. “Brilliantly, too, if I do say so myself. I have bribed the host of The Casbar Room, and my sainted parents will be seated in the back, luxuriously, but safely out of my sight.”
Lenny had bribed the host with a $20 bill to ensure his parents would be seated at a table in the back. The table was rather high, with accompanying stools and in the intimate Casbar Room would still afford a great view of the show while keeping them out of sight of Lenny and Larry. If Lenny couldn’t see them, he couldn’t worry about them.
Unfortunately for Lenny, Larry had given the same host a C note, told him there had been a slight change of plans and had directed that Lenny’s parents be given seats of honor front and center, a location appropriate for the parents of one of The Regular Guys.
The show went great and, if Lenny noticed his parents sitting front and center, he didn’t give any hint that he had noticed. At least until Lenny and Larry were backstage after the show.
“I am going to kill you,” Lenny told Larry matter-of-factly, as if he were going to invite him to dinner in the near future. “I don’t know when, nor am I completely clear how, but you will die for this.”
“You can’t kill me; you’d be out of a job.
“I’ll freeload off Ann. How much did this cost you?”
“One bill,” Larry reported.
Lenny nodded solemnly, as if filing it away for future reference.
Shortly after Lenny threatened Larry with death The Regular Guys were joined backstage by Lenny’s parents.
Mom, her black hair not yet entirely gray, stood there radiant in a simple black dress. Dad, also dressed dapperly in a black suit and, holding a drink, stood a step behind his wife. He had a large mane of white hair that may or may not have had a brush waved in front of it this morning.
“Oh Leonard, we are so proud of you,” she said, hugging him. “Las Vegas! Look at you! And you too, Larry!”
Larry thanked her graciously and looked modest, easy enough tasks for someone with thirteen years of Lutheran schooling.
“And you got us a suite, Leonard! It is delightful! How did you ever manage that?”
“Actually, Larry had a lot to do with procuring the suite, didn’t you, Larry?”
Larry actually blushed.
“Larry, thank you! There are even mirrors on the ceiling!”
“Yeah, what are those for?” Dad asked.
Lenny’s dad had otherwise stood quietly taking in his son and smiling to himself. He knew his son only wanted to be an entertainer, and he knew how much this meant to him. It’s all that really mattered to him and all dad really had to do was show some guidance, teach him the meaning of the word ‘no’, and let him make his own decisions, the burnt hand teaching best as Tolkein said.
The road hadn’t been easy, of course. Few journeys worth the destination are. There were the usual ups and downs associated with this line of work. He had sent his son money from time to time, and, as he stood backstage at The Casbar Room at the Sahara Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and watched his wife fuss and blather like a mother would in this situation, he thought back to his son’s playing a sheep in the Christmas pageant and where his son was performing now and was pleased his son had constructed the life he always wanted and was doing pretty well for himself.
Dad thought that was about the best thing a father could say about a son.
The Casbar Room
The Sahara Hotel and Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
The following night’s show wasn’t as good as the first night’s. It didn’t help that the crowd was dead and could not have been in a fouler mood had they all been issued beatings prior to being seated. Bad Magic even got more groans than laughs
They even had a heckler.
“Hey stop heckling us,” Lenny said after a few minutes. “There are people laughing.”
“They must be your parents!”
That wasn’t all that far off the mark, actually. Most of the laughs were, in fact, coming from the general area where Lenny’s parents were sitting.
Larry walked over to the heckler.
“Sir, what’s wrong? You seem kind of tense. Did the Taco Bell promotion not come through?”
That got a pretty good laugh, their best of the night actually, which wasn’t saying much, but Lenny and Larry could both feel the audience open up a little.
“Hey y’all, leave ’em alone. They’re all pretty funny…” yelled a man with a drawl from the back of the room. In the intimate Casbar Room, it wasn’t difficult to hear him.
“God bless you, Big Country,” Lenny yelled expansively. He ran up to the man, who had actually stood up. He was big, about six-two, with a gut that required advance notice of any sudden movement.
“Get on your knees and talk to Brother Lenny!”
Incredibly, the man actually made his way to his knees. It wasn’t easy. Lenny put a hand on his head and with the other made the sign of the cross.
“Go in peace my brother, serve The Regular Guys,” he said solemnly.
Several people yelled “Amen” and the show appeared to be back on track; at least until the heckler needed more attention later in the show.
“Oh, great. More from Taco Bell Guy,” Larry said as he made his way to him.
“I thought we shut him up,” Lenny asked. Larry had too as he and Lenny both converged on the man; the show had been humming for a while.
“I guess not,” Larry said.
“Look, somebody call corporate,” Lenny said. “We’ve got to get this guy promoted so he can afford tickets to a real show.”
“Sir,” Larry said, tapping the guy on the shoulder. “Have I ever heckled you at work? That is to say, have I ever walked into your place of employment and said, ‘HEY DING DONG, I WANTED THIS SUPER SIZED?’ Have I ever done that to you?”
Larry sounded genuinely curious.
“Larry, that’s McDonalds.”
“What?” Larry asked, distracted.
“McDonald’s super sizes. This is Taco Bell Guy. Taco Bell Guy works at Taco Bell.”
“I don’t work at Taco Bell,” the heckler said sheepishly. He was in his 20’s, with a shaved head and a goatee.
“The hell you don’t,” Lenny said. “You’re here in Vegas – probably staying at Motel 6 or, more likely, your car – and you’re heckling at a free show. Either you work at Taco Bell or you don’t work anywhere and you wish you worked at Taco Bell.”
“Boy,” Larry said. “I don’t know which is worse: working at Taco Bell or wishing you could upgrade to Taco Bell.”
“OOOOOH-RAH!” Big Country yelled from the back.
Lenny turned and faced Big Country.
“Country, gimme a big ‘hell yeah” Lenny commanded, pointing his microphone at Big Country and lowering his head for dramatic effect.
Big Country obliged.
“HELL YEAH, BAY-EE!”
To everyone’s surprise, the heckler started laughing. He tried to say something.
“SHUT UP, CHORIZO BREATH!” Lenny commanded. “YOU WANTED OUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION AND YOU GOT IT.”
“Lenny, be nice. He probably found out today he makes too much for food stamps.”
“But not enough for a Geo Metro.”
Larry looked down at the guy. He saw signs of a vein bulging through the top of his head.
“Lenny, let’s get a hat on this guy before somebody comes and jacks him off. This is getting ridiculous.”
The Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas, Nevada
The next day Lenny and his dad were walking down The Strip. They had taken a taxi down to the south end and lunched, at dad’s insistence, at Fatburger before walking back. They wouldn’t walk all the way back but dad was in the mood to walk with his son, so they started the journey back on foot.
“You know son, your mom and I are very proud of you.”
“Thanks,” Lenny said, looking at his dad. Both had their hands in their pockets as they were walking, though neither was aware of it. “Things are pretty good right now. In fact, they’re better than that. I feel like I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. Larry does too.”
“You both look it. You talk more than Larry does. He doesn’t get mad, does he?”
Lenny shook his head.
“No. We only want to do a good show every night. We do what comes naturally and if we started counting lines we probably wouldn’t be as funny.”
“Well, you may have more funny lines in terms of sheer numbers, but he has a higher percentage of funny lines.”
“Very funny, dad,” Lenny said smiling.
The pair hadn’t walked all that far, but dad was starting to tire, so they walked into the lobby of a Travelodge. A cute Mexican lady was behind the counter. Her name tag said her name was Liz and that she was the General Manager.
Liz recognized Lenny right off.
“Omigod! You’re one of The Regular Guys aren’t you?”
Lenny was as surprised as he was pleased. He was a ham after all, and this was the first time he’d been recognized in Vegas.
“Why, yes I am,” he said. “And this is my father.”
“My husband and I really enjoyed your show last night. You guys are really silly. In a good way. Especially with that heckler. My husband spent all morning trying to do your card tricks.”
“How’d he do?” Lenny asked. “They’re not the hardest things on Earth to do.”
Lenny’s dad and Liz both laughed.
“Well, first he told me to pick a card, then he put that card under a pillow then he told me to pick another card which he put back in the deck, and then he said at no time will his fingers leave his hand…”
“Hey, that’s your line!” Dad said.
“…and the cards ended up all over the bed,” Liz said continuing. “He has to clean them up when he gets home tonight.”
Lenny tore off a registration card from a pad lying on the counter, turned it over and wrote a phone number on it.
“Liz, whenever you and your husband want to see our show again, you call me.”
Liz and Lenny’s dad looked at Lenny as if he’d sprouted horns.
“Son, it’s a free show,” dad said.
Liz stifled a laugh.
“It is, isn’t it?” Lenny asked. “I’m an idiot.”
Liz again tried to stifle a laugh.
“I meant well,” Lenny said smiling.
The three of them stood there meaning well for a second.
“So,” Liz said. “What can I do for you? Don’t tell me they kicked you out of the Sahara?”
“No, no,” Lenny said. “Nothing that bad. Yet. We were just out walking, and I’m too lazy to carry on on foot. Could you call us a cab?”
Liz said she’d be glad to.
Bellagio Hotel And Casino
Las Vegas, Nevada
Later that night, which The Regular Guys had off, and after mom had been safely tucked away for the night, Dad took Lenny and Larry out for a drink or two. Dad had a mischievous look in his eyes that worried Lenny. Larry, since it wasn’t his dad, found the look amusing.
Dad had rejected his son’s suggestion they have a nightcap in the hotel bar and led them to the taxi stand where, at Larry’s suggestion, they ended up at Bellagio.
“Uh, dad, don’t you have some medicine you should be taking?” Lenny asked as they walked through the revolving door into the lobby.
Dad did, in fact, have Parkinson’s medication he should’ve been taking but he’d been replacing it with bourbon so far this trip.
“Screw that,” dad said. “You sound like your mother.”
The trio made a right turn after entering the lobby and headed for the casino.
“I want to gamble,” dad announced when they had reached the blackjack pit. “I haven’t played blackjack, legally, at least, since your mother and I came out here before you were born.”
Dad looked around the casino. It was lavish and elegant and unlike anything that was here on his last visit.
“God, this town’s changed,” he said. “I hope I can still count to twenty-one.”
Lenny had a look of sheer horror in his eyes.
“Uh, sir,” Larry said while checking his watch. It was after 10:30, almost 11:00, about the time good Lutheran men started thinking about a good night’s sleep. “Maybe we should call it a night.”
“Call it a night?” dad asked, smiling. “Hell, we just got here. Besides, you’re comedians, you work at 9 at night and then only for an hour or so. I’ll buy you an alarm clock if necessary.”
Dad proceeded to take an envelope out of a jacket pocket and removed a stack of United States currency from it. The stack was not small.
“Sheesh dad, there has to be at least two grand in there,” Lenny said.
“Three grand. And if you tell your mother I’ll kill you. I mean that.”
“You can’t kill him, sir,” Larry said. “I’d be out of a job.”
“Then see to it he keeps his yap shut for Christ’s sake.”
Dad grabbed a chair and sat down, handed the dealer his bankroll and ordered a bourbon from a passing cocktail waitress.
Dad had a knack for cards and combined with a little bit of luck was showing a nice profit in fairly short order. This was in stark contrast to his son, who would’ve been better off saving the bother of actually being dealt a hand and dropping his money off at the cage. Larry was winning a little.
“Dad, look, play smart. Take your winnings and let’s go.”
“Shut up. You play smart. I’m blowing your inheritance.”
After about an hour of steady winning dad went completely insane and bet 10 grand on a single hand. Larry bet all his winnings, $500 and Lenny, still shell shocked over the whole episode, sat the hand out.
Dad’s up card was a ten, Larry’s a two and the dealer’s a six.
Dad’s down card was a nine, for nineteen, which was pretty good for a game whose object was to not go over 21. Larry drew a seven.
The cards were not kind to the house; the dealer drew a five and then a two and then a king to bust. In accordance with house rules, dad was paid off at 2:1.
His good luck continued a little longer, even as attractively attired women kept bringing him free bourbon. Despite the Nevada gaming regulation which stated it was illegal to take bets from drunk guests, casinos gave gamblers free booze up until they were falling over drunk, because it made them do silly things like hit on 17 and think they could make up their losses on a single hand. It’s why Nevada residents didn’t pay state income tax.
After a couple of hours of blackjack and free bourbon, dad was both snookered and tired, and, after losing several thousand in about five seconds, he got up off his chair, stumbled a bit and announced he was done.
Deftly the dealer consolidated his smaller chips into larger ones and thanked him for playing. Dad counted his winnings, and they came out to just over $25,000. He tipped the dealer a grand and even gave Lenny $500 because he looked like he was going to go out and pawn his watch. Larry, combining a modest amount of skill with patience and some luck, showed a modest profit for his night’s revels.
“Oh, baby, that ruled,” Dad said more than a little drunk as they waited at the Bellagio taxi stand, his Bellagio check for his winnings burning a hole in his pocket.
“This is fabulous,” Lenny said. “My own father just said something ruled.”
“He appears to have meant it, too,” Larry said as they got into the cab.
“I hope he doesn’t spend it all in one place,” Lenny said.
“Why not?” dad growled. “I won it all in one place. Cabbie, take me to Tiffany’s! I am desirous of buying something for my lovely bride!”
“Uh, there’s a Tiffany’s at Bellagio, sir,” the cabbie said. “I’m pretty sure it’s closed though.”
Dad looked at his son suspiciously, as if he were in league with the cabbie to keep him from spending his winnings in one place.
“You can eat, drink and shoot dice twenty-four hours a day in this town,” Larry said. “A man should be able to buy something nice for his wife 24/7, too.”
“Larry, shut up,” Lenny said.
Larry laughed. He was about to say something when the sound of dad snoring came from the back seat.
Larry’s Hotel Room
Somewhere On The Road
Lenny’s dad died shortly after their second Vegas gig ended. They were on the road, and one morning Lenny checked his messages after enjoying a night of conjugal bliss with a lady he had met after the show the night before.
There were several frantic messages from his sister waiting for him chronicling the long, sad night. Her voice alternated between calm and frenzy.
“Lenny, it’s Phyllis. Something’s happened to dad. We’re on the way to the hospital…I know you’re on stage. Call me when you get this.”
“Lenny, where are you? Dad’s pretty bad. He had a heart attack, and mom isn’t taking this well…”
“Lenny, dad is starting to talk gibberish. Who the hell is Tiffany?”
“Lenny, they just took dad into surgery. Where are you???”
The last message was from mom:
“Leonard, this is your mother,” mom said, weeping. “Your father died a few minutes ago…”
Lenny felt like a heel; based on the time stamps, his sister had first called midway through last night’s show and dad had actually died while Lenny was in the sack getting laid. She had stayed the night and only left because she had to go to work or else Lenny might still be getting laid.
Lenny called home immediately after hearing the final, guilt-inducing message and talked with his mom and sister. Then he did what any entertainer would do in these circumstances: he called his agent.
“Morty, my dad died last night.”
“Oh, Lenny, dear me. I’m so sorry. Every sympathy to you and your mom.”
“Your last time with him was special.”
“Yeah, it was.”
“That’s good. You have no idea right now how good.”
Lenny was certain he had a good idea of how good it was. An hour or so after finding out his father died, he found himself oddly at peace. He had always enjoyed a good relationship with his father and was glad he had had a chance to see him play Vegas. It wasn’t headlining his own room on The Strip with his own marquee, but the Sahara is the Sahara after all, a venerable Las Vegas institution right smack at the intersection of Sahara and Las Vegas boulevards, and he and Larry had brought the house down and it would do. Dad had raised his son to do with his life what he wanted, and he was doing just that. He knew his dad was pleased, and he knew his dad loved him and Lenny felt the peace he was feeling right now was the best gift his dad ever gave him.
“Look,” Lenny said. “We’re booked through next weekend…”
“Lenny, don’t give that another thought. Tell me how much time you need and I will take care of the rest.”
“I do not like to repeat myself Lenny; do not give this another thought. I’ll take care of everything.”
Lenny said thank you, the pair chatted a little more and then Lenny went to visit Larry.
Larry sensed something was wrong when he heard the knock on his hotel room door; the suspicion was confirmed when he saw Lenny standing there. Lenny wouldn’t rise before noon to be inaugurated president, and it was only a little after ten.
One look at Lenny told him it was very bad news.
“Who died,” Larry asked instinctively.
Lenny raised an eyebrow curiously and marched into the room.
“My dad. Last night. While I was off getting laid.” Lenny stopped in the middle of the room and turned around. Larry walked over and gave him a hug. Lenny went and sat in a chair. Larry, who had been up for a while and was about to head out on his morning run, went and poured both of them a cup of coffee.
After a few seconds, Lenny started smiling.
“He and mom had a good time in Vegas,” Lenny said.
“Yeah, they did.”
Lenny leaned back in the chair. He looked almost content.
“It was a good way to see him for the last time.”
Larry nodded and the pair sat there quietly for a while. Though they both talked for a living, both were good at keeping quiet when they had nothing to say.
“Or maybe it wasn’t,” Lenny said, suddenly concerned. “Maybe I should’ve been there at the end holding his hand as he bravely held on for life.”
“You weren’t,” Larry said graciously. “So don’t worry about it.”
“You think so?”
Larry shrugged dismissively.
“Life is where you live it, my friend. You were here. Or, rather, you were in the sack with some bimbo,” Larry said smiling. “Either way, you weren’t there, nor did you have any reasonable expectation of being there. So don’t trouble yourself thinking about it.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Lenny said, sighing.
“I speak from experience, my friend. Mom died in a car accident when I was nine. I was off at baseball practice. I didn’t know till I got home.”
“Wow. I never knew.”
“My dad told me the same thing I just told you. There was no way to be there, so don’t spend too much time worrying about it.”
“Did it work?”
Larry shook his head.
“More or less. I was nine at the time, so it took a few years, but yeah.”
“So what was your last memory of your mother?”
“Hugging me and sending me off to school that morning.”
“OK, that’s kinda different than pouring your drunk father into a Vegas cab at one in the morning with a pocket full of blackjack winnings.”
They both laughed.
“Same good memory, though,” Larry said.
Lenny nodded and smiled.
“Do you think about it a lot?”
“Every day, usually.”
“There were a half dozen messages waiting for me,” Lenny said. “If she didn’t have to go to work, I might still be asleep.”
“Or scoring.” Larry didn’t particularly approve of Lenny’s loose morals as he had a great deal of affection for Ann Shelton, but he knew their relationship was still under construction.
“My sister left the first few. Something had happened to dad; they were on the way to the hospital; dad was going in for surgery. The last one was from mom. She was crying.”
“I’ll call Morty if you haven’t already.”
“I called him just before I came here. We have obligations. I told him to include you in the arrangements. You wanna come, don’t you?”
“Of course I do. Ann will, too.”
“I know. I’ll call her here in a bit. Morty will be there, too.”
Lenny and Larry flew into Chicago later that afternoon. They collected their bags and rental car and drove to Lenny’s parents’ house. It was in an older, prosperous part of town on a large tree-lined street. Lenny parked in the driveway of an old brick house that had a front porch and a nice lawn. There was a strip of grass in the middle of the driveway.
Lenny and Larry got out of the car and walked to the house. Lenny’s mom and two aunts come out of the house to meet them.
“Oh, Leonard…” Mom said, hugging her son for a long time. She was unable to come up with anything else to say. There were hugs from the aunts as well.
“And Larry, it was so good of you to come,” mom said.
Larry muttered condolences and that it was nice of her to put up with him. Of course he was glad to be there and besides, he couldn’t perform without Lenny and he had to be someplace if he wasn’t going to be onstage.
“Oh, nonsense, you belong here,” she said. “Dad had a great time in Vegas and really liked you.
They went inside; the house was full of relatives and Larry met all of them. There were flowers everywhere and the kitchen looked like a mess hall prepared to feed a frigate; prepared food was everywhere.
To a degree he found surprising, Larry could see parts of Lenny in virtually every relative he met, from Uncle Tobias’ hairline to the intelligent look in the eyes of his nephew Nicholas. And Lenny’s sister, Phyllis, looked just like her brother, except in a prettier, feminine way. Plus, she had all her hair.
After a while, the relatives left and Lenny, his mother and his sister, her husband and their son and Larry found themselves sitting in the large, comfortable, very homey living room. The family had lived there for decades, and Lenny and Phyllis had grown up here. The home radiated warmth and seemed to tell of lives well spent. There were pictures all over the place and Larry stood there with a drink and looked at several. He recognized pictures of Lenny and Phyllis together when they were infants (there was less than a year between them which may explain why they were the only children) and throughout childhood until it apparently became uncool for guys to have their picture taken with their sister. Pictures of them together appeared to resume in high school.
There were a few minutes when nobody said anything, which Larry thought may well be a record for this family. After a while, Nicholas came up to chat. Nicholas appeared to be about nine and had an unkempt mane of light brown hair.
“You’re really a comedian?” he asked Larry. “With Uncle Lenny?
“That’s correct young man.”
“Man, how’d you two get a great job like that?”
Nicholas made it sound like Comedian was a position the Job King bestowed upon you, not something you went out and worked for and earned.
“We sort of stumbled into it, actually,” Larry said.
“Uncle Lenny’s funny.”
“Yeah, he is.”
Nicholas looked around the living room.
“I’m funny, too,” he whispered. “Wanna hear a joke?”
Larry shook his head.
“I don’t think this would be a good time,” he said, whispering like Nicholas did.
Nicholas nodded agreement.
“Yeah, you’re right,” he said. “How do you decide what you’re going to say?”
“We don’t, usually. We more or less just make it up as we go along.”
Larry nodded. Soon Lenny joined them.
“What’s going on over here?” he asked.
“Nicholas is conducting a coup and is looking to replace you,” Larry said. “Evidently he knows a joke.”
“That’s one more than we know,” Lenny said. He turned to Nicholas. “Is it any good?”
Nicholas looked at Larry, who nodded solemnly.
“Well, okay,” he said hesitantly, looking around to make sure his mother and grandmother weren’t listening. Plus, he was skeptical two professional comedians would want to hear his joke, even if one of them was Uncle Lenny.
“Why do Scotsmen wear kilts?” Nicholas whispered.
Larry laughed out loud; he had first heard this one in fifth grade and was pleased it had made its way to another generation of pre-adolescent joke-tellers.
Lenny thought about it for a second before shrugging and shaking his head.
“Because sheep can hear a zipper a mile off,” Nicholas said.
Lenny laughed and ran his hand through Nicholas’ hair.
“That wasn’t too bad,” he said to Larry.
“We’ve certainly done worse.”
Lenny’s Parent’s House
The funeral for Lenny’s father was a couple of days later. The minister knew, and the family sensed, that funerals were for the living, and the service was a celebration of a life lived rather than the mourning of a death.
Lenny couldn’t decide whether to give a eulogy or not. He knew his sister and other relatives would have a few things to say, and he didn’t want to stand there and waste everyone’s time by repeating what they had said. But, he and Phyllis compared notes and, after changing his mind nine or ten times, in the end, Lenny decided he would and gave a short, gracious, loving and funny eulogy for his father, and, after years of wondering how he would handle himself in that situation, found the eulogy, like his father’s death, rather peaceful.
Larry and Ann sat in the back. Ann was not altogether happy with Lenny because Lenny had originally suggested she not come up for the funeral, however, Ann reported that she would, in fact, be at the funeral of her lover’s father, and that, if he tried to stop her, she would expel a projectile from her service revolver – known in the police trade as a ‘bullet’ – into Lenny’s abdomen.
Lenny, who, deep down didn’t really want a projectile from Ann’s service revolver inserted into his abdomen, and, who knew when the tablets were being sent down from Mt. Sinai when he heard it, immediately saw her point.
After the funeral, back at mom’s house, the three found themselves in the kitchen. Larry was playing relationship counselor.
“I’m sorry I didn’t want you to come at first, babe,” Lenny said.
The pair stood there holding each other, with their foreheads touching.
“And I’m sorry I threatened to shoot you,” Ann said. “That’s a Class III felony punishable by up to six months in the county jail.”
“And had you actually followed through on your threat,” Larry said. “It would be either murder or attempted murder. Depending on whether he died or not.”
“Oh, he’d die,” Ann said. “I’m a good shot. “But we’ve had enough funerals in the family for a while.”
“Good,” Larry said. “Lenny, you may now kiss the fuzz.”
Ann kicked Larry in the shin and then kissed Lenny.