GM - Story #3

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Chapter 27

Greyson arrived in his apartment with four bags of food from the restaurant across the street. Each bag contained a box of cooked white rice, a plastic container of miso soup, a salad with ginger dressing and a main course. Michael moved from the couch, flicked off Greyson’s Google Trinity and saddled up to the kitchen table.

“Let’s see if the East Coast can do Pacific Rim anywhere near as well as the cities that actually border the Pacific Ocean,” he teased.

“I would’ve gotten Pizza,” Greyson replied.

“It’s fine little brother,” said Michael. “I’m sure it’ll be mostly eatable.”

Michael had arrived in New York the previous day and spent the entire afternoon and into the evening configuring the systems at Henry’s new 33rd Street office. Around 4pm, he and Cael pinged Greyson through the TV app and the three reunited for the first time in at least a decade.

“Look at the three of us,” said Greyson, breaking one of the spells of awkward silence. “My parents would never believe it.”

Cael took leave to venture to the roof and Michael went to work configuring Greyson’s TV, installing listening devices and cameras throughout his apartment and answering his endless text messages on Greyson’s comfortable couch. Greyson called the food order and left his brother to pick it up. Cael’s many bizarre security rules included a ban of food deliveries.

“The food’s not bad,” said Michael.

“Thanks,” Greyson replied.

“What do you have to drink?”

“Oh, damn, I forgot to get you something,” Greyson replied. “I have water and soda in the fridge.”

“Nothing better than that?” Michael complained. “Beer? Wine? A hard lemonade?”

“Nah, sorry.”

“No booze?” Michael continued. “Nothing?”

“Nah, sorry,” Greyson repeated. “I’ll be right back with a six pack.”

“A six?” Michael smirked. “And what are you going to drink, bro?”

“I’ll just have the water,”

“What are you dry or something?” Michael joked.

“Well, yah,” Greyson replied sheepishly.

“Serious?”

“Yah,” said Greyson with slightly more conviction. “Several months now. I feel a lot better without it.”

Michael paused and eyed his brother.

“He’s really gotten to you,” he said. “Jaio and all his speeches. You’re bought in?”

Greyson opened his mouth to refute. Instead, he professed.

“You know what,” he said. “Yes, I am bought in. He’s lived here for months. I talk to him almost every night. I drive him all over and hear him speak to others. And it’s amazing to see them respond to him. I think the guy is brilliant. And I want to support him. I want to follow him.”

“Huh,” Michael said. “Never thought I’d see the day the lost sheep found his way.”

“You should see how many people he has out helping the homeless and the elderly,” Greyson spoke with increasing energy. “And the webcasts. One after the next. Hundreds, thousands of people logging in and harping on his words.”

“According to the logs, its tens and hundreds of thousands,” said Michael. “So, you’re all in now. Well, sissy will be proud. Never mind mom and dad.”

Greyson felt liberated in his admission. His profession of faith almost took away his breath and he could feel his heart race. He tried to hide it from Michael, but he could feel his brother’s eyes studying him. He would have felt self-conscious or even embarrassed only a few weeks earlier. But, there, in the presence of his brother, with his faithful cousin a couple hundred feet above them and Jaio in the other room on one of his many web calls, he felt no reservation.

“I see Mom and Dad differently now,” Greyson said. “I feel like I get them better.”

Michael’s playful smirk matured.

“You know, they weren’t bad parents,” he said, more wistfully. “I mean, they left us and all. But we were grown up and on our own.”

“And they felt like they had work to do,” Greyson added. “It’s like their work was finished here.”

“They needed a new challenge,”

“I don’t know if it was as much about a new challenge as it was about doing more,” said Greyson. “Accomplishing more. Helping more people.”

“Like Jaio,”

“Right,” Greyson agreed.

Michael slurped the rest of his Miso soup and finished his salad.

“You know I went there?” he said to Greyson, looking square in the eyes.

“You went where?”

“To Somalia to see them,” Michael continued. “I went to set up a system for them. They have a solar-powered generator - numerous generators. I set up a system and we can contact them much easier now.”

Greyson stared at his big brother who used to ignore him, put him down and treat him like an annoying little brother.

“You went to Somalia?” he aped. “You saw them? Damn, how are they?”

“They look great,” Michael beamed. “It’s actually amazing what they’re doing. It started off as a school. But then they built dorms. And then they converted the dorms to apartments. And now they have whole families living there. Like a couple hundred people or something like that. They have their own farms. They have doctors and teachers and a little town council. They’re tucked away in the mountains, very far removed and hard to get to.”

“Wow,” said Greyson. “I knew they were building a school. I had no idea it was so extensive.”

“Cael was there – way before,” Michael continued. “He brought Jaio there after all that craziness happened in Israel. Did you know that?”

“I knew they were there a couple years ago,” Greyson said. “Jaio told me. I never even asked him how Mom and Dad were. It’s like it didn’t even occur to me. They’ve been out of my life so long. It’s like he was referring to people I barely even knew.”

“Did you know that Cael went AWOL?”

“AWOL?”

“Absent Without …”

“I know what it means,” Greyson interrupted. “What do you mean he went AWOL?”

“Apparently, he was on a special team dedicated to protecting Jaio,” he continued. “But someone behind the scenes sold them out and alerted the terrorists on their whole defense plan. That’s why that whole scene happened. Someone screwed them over. That’s when he left his post, snuck Jaio out of the Middle East and hid out with Mom and Dad for a little while.”

“Wow,”

“They asked about you,” Michael continued. “Mom and Dad. They wanted to know if you were OK. They worried about you.”

“Not enough to contact me?”

“They wanted to give you space,” Michael said. “They didn’t want to force themselves back into your life. They just hoped you would open to them at some point. They said it was really hard to maintain their distance.”

“You hadn’t talked to them in almost as long as me,” Greyson shifted the conversation. “What made you go there?”

“I told you,” Michael replied. “I set up their system for them.”

“Yes, but why?” Greyson pressed. “Why now?”

Michael paused. He sighed. His shoulders eased.

“I watched the videos,” said Michael.

“Jaio’s videos?”

“Yes,” Michael repeated. “I watched them in the airport one day. Mel badgered me into going to the meeting in Iowa, but I got stuck in the airport.”

“So, Jaio inspired you to visit Mom and Dad?”

“Sort of,” Michael shrugged. “I thought they would like to follow him too. And I got to thinking how old they are and how many years went by without us even speaking with them. I didn’t see the point in hanging on to some fictitious tension that existed probably only in my own head. I’m getting older too. And how many people do I have in my life that I really connect to? No wife. No kids. A bunch of suck-ups that I work with. And a network of superficial friendships. The videos and the last few webcasts that I followed made me rethink my definition of a relationship. Mom and Dad. Mel. You. That’s real. And I guess, I just decided not to let those relationships die.”

Greyson felt a wave of similar sentiment wash over him. He could have hugged his brother but didn’t want to push an envelope too far.

“I had no freakin clue that they already knew Jaio and had lived with him for all those years,” Michael added with a hearty laugh. “They might’ve told us about that.

“You know, they still walk so damn slow. Slower than they used to. Dad’s hair is all white now. And receding pretty bad. And Mom is the world’s biggest neat freak. I sit down on their couch and there she is with the vacuum not ten minutes after I get there. And they still know nothing about computers or the internet. I ask Dad to Google something. He goes to his AOL, logs into that, then goes to the AOL browser. He kept telling me he preferred to go to the ‘AOL Internet’. He thought it was safer.

“And Dad farts worse than he did in Minnesota. And the warmer air is thinner. So, the smell lasts longer.”

He and Greyson both broke out in laughter, followed by a long period of musings starting with “Remember that time…” and “Who was that kid …?

“Do you want to contact them?” Michael finally said after a break in their rhythm. “I can get them on Trinity. It should be like 10am there.”

“Sure,” Greyson answered without hesitation.

“Let me text Cael,” said Michael. “I’m sure he’d love to see them too.”

“And we could conference Melanie as well,” Greyson added. “All of us face to face at the same time. Now that would be a miracle.”

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