Wack started to visit us again at home, not because I asked him to, but because he just decided to continue. A knock on the door was what announced one of his visits one Sunday morning. Stefi and I were sitting in the living room. We were just there, sitting in silence, as neither of us was in the mood to initiate any conversation since we were not in talking terms. Stefi, so excited like she was expecting millions of dollars in lottery winnings, and like she had all along been expecting someone, rushed to the door the moment it was knocked on. It all looked to me like she knew Wack was going to come. This was my suspicion that would pass for an empty shell for being based on circumstantial evidence alone, and lacking in any real evidence to lend it any credence. My mind had gone to work and had fuelled my suspicion by flooding my head with questions related to what Stefi had done prior to Wack’s arrival. Why would she come into the living room some seconds before the knock on the door if she did not know Wack was going to visit? Why would she look at the door ten times before the knock happened if she did not know Wack was coming? Why would she become full of smiles the moment there was a knock on the door if she had no idea of who had knocked? Lots of other why would questions milled about in my head. I shut them out at once since I preferred to heap my attention on Wack who had walked in with a broad smile on his face. Stefi welcomed Wack with a smile, one that was wide and inviting too.
“Make yourself comfortable,” she said to Wack, cheerfully pointed him to one of the couches and left the living room, still with an inviting warm smile on her face.
“Thanks,” Wack said. “And how are the kids doing?”
“They are doing fine,” Stefi answered Wack and walked away from the living room, leaving only Wack and I in it. Wack walked straight to where I sat. He grinned and extended his right hand. With a bit of a smile on my face, I put forward my right hand. We shook hands. Wack sat on a couch beside me.
“Good to see you,” I said to Wack. “So what brings you?”
“I’ve come to see how you’re doing on the home front,” Wack said.
“I can say I’m fine. Maybe a little worried about bits of things here and there.”
“Stop worrying, Jan. I think you’re fine. You’ll be fine. Everything will be fine. Every good thing will come to you in this lovely family you have.”
“You may choose to talk like that, but honestly I’m not feeling it.”
“Be patient, Jan. The patient dog gets to have the biggest portion of the steak.”
“I am the dog worried about getting only a tray of dry bones by the time the party is over.”
“What is it this time?”
“I’m worried I may not have been getting it right in terms of being the right father figure for my kids.”
“Where did that come from?”
“Stefi hinted on that.”
“Would that not be a joke?”
“You don’t know my wife, Wack,” I said with every conviction I could muster that Wack actually didn’t. “Stefi means things with every blood in her veins when she says them.”
“That may be true of her, but I don’t think she could truly be serious in saying your kids are lacking a father figure.”
“You don’t know Stefi. She says it only when she means it.”
“I think you’re being a great father to your kids.”
“Really?” I asked Wack, feeling a little bit glad that he choose to pitch his tent with me this time. “Is that truly what you think or you just want to have me feeling good about myself?” I went on to ask, not wanting to totally believe Wack.
“Yes,” he said. “I don’t say it when I don’t mean it, Jan.”
“You’re with me on this instead of my wife. Why?”
“Because I think you’re doing a good job around here by being a good father, a great Dad.”
“Really?” I asked, wondering why Stefi would even think I’m not being a real father figure for my kids. She must have been out of her mind, I thought and felt a little good about myself.
“Yes,” Wack said and laughed. “You’re doing a good job for this precious family I like.”
“Wack, you make me feel happily married,” I said as my face broke into a wide smile. And I could not help but follow it up by laughing.
“And you make me consider getting married,” Wack replied. I could not believe my ears. It sounded like a story of a basket that can hold water.
“You?” I said to Wack. “You hard core lifelong bachelor? How could you even say a thing like that?”
“That’s what you make me think of, Jan.”
“I make you think of getting married? Really?”
“Really,” Wack said and laughed, stood up, came to me, and I got to my feet too. Then we hugged each other amid thunderous laughter.
“I’m glad I’m inspiring you in that sort of way,” I said.
“And thanks for making feel like I feel each time I come here to visit this family I like so much,” Wack said. “Thanks for doing a good job. Thanks for helping me do my job.” We disentangled from our hug.
Wack had thanked me for doing his job for him. It occurred to me at once to ask him what he had meant by that, but I could not. My intention to ask that question faded the moment we got distracted. Voices started to come from my left. They were cheerful familiar voices. They got me looking in the direction they were coming from. And so did Wack. We saw my children coming towards us. I was happy to see them. So was Wack.
“Hello…..,” I said cheerfully, with my arms open to receive them.
“Hi,” Tammy, Hadley and Dick said as they got closer to where Wack and I were.
“Over here,” I said with the expectation that they would run into my open arms.
“How are you guys doing today,” said Wack, playfully to my kids.
“Good,” Tammy, Hadley and Dick said almost at the same time. And it happened that I did not get what I had expected. My arms stayed open in vain because my kids chose to run to Wack instead of into my open arms. I could not believe my eyes when Tammy, Hadley and Dick preferred to play with Wack rather than with me. Wack carried Tammy in his arms, Hadley was happily tugging at his shirt and Dick was so intent on Wack carrying him like Tammy.
“Carry me…. Carry me…,” he demanded in his little childish voice. Tammy was so excited that Wack had carried him that he had no intention of getting down. So Wack had to stoop a little to be able to carry Dick. And within minutes, Wack was carrying both Tammy and Dick, Tammy with his right arm and Dick with his left. It did not take a lot of time for Hadley to begin demanding to experience what Wack had done to her brothers.
“Carry me,” she too requested. My kids were so excited to see Wack around, who played Dad so well to the point that I could not help becoming jealous. Standing there alone and with my kids warming up so much to Wack, I took a look in the direction in which they had entered the living room. Guess what I saw. It was not an empty passage leading to our bedroom. It was Stefi that I saw. The Stefi I saw was not coming towards me to tell me how disgusting she thought I was. She was not coming to tell me how unreasonable my quest to have more kids seemed to her. The Stefi I saw was standing on a spot. There was a big happy smile on her face. She looked so happy. Her attention was on Wack and our kids. I had never seen her look that happy as she enjoyed what was going on with Wack and our kids who were all over him now, playing with him and having lots of fun. It was like I never even existed. One thing was clear as well. Wack was beginning to be more popular with my children than myself. Even a blind person would have seen that handwriting on the wall. I was concerned. I felt in a strong way that I had every reason to be. Should I tell Wack to stop coming to my home? I could not decide. Was he intentionally doing anything wrong? I could not see how. My suspicions however, lay with Stefi whom I had a strong sense of feeling that she was up to something or had completed what she had been up to. Whatever the hell was that, I did not know, and very much wanted to know. I was left with no choice now than to keep probing.