A continuation of this story.
“Oh wow,” Moose said when they walked in the coffee shop. “Full house.”
Indeed it was, the chairs filled with lively people chatting and drinking assorted teas and coffees. At the bar, Bear, dressed in simple tweeds, waved to the trio and pointed to a side door.
“Looks like we’re supposed to go over there, eh?” Frankie said, giving his bongos a slight thump. He led the other two to the entrance and opened it.
“Oh nice,” Gail said, looking around at the overstuffed sofa and chairs. He adjusted his wings as he sat down, and he put his saxophone case on the floor.
“Very nice,” Frankie said, eyeing the side table covered with plates of cookies and cups of coffee. He took one of each and sat on a chair, using a bongo as a makeshift table.
“I wonder if Bear does this to everyone who performs,” Moose said, taking a cup and inhaling the rich aroma. “How long do we have again?”
“You have a good half-hour to relax before showtime,” Bear said, stepping into the room. He bent over to give Moose a belly rub, making the guy melt slightly. “I missed you, Moosie-babe.”
Moose put down the cup and gave Bear a hug. “And I missed you, teddy bear.”
“Ugh,” Frankie said. “Any sweeter, and I have to shower to get this sugar off me.” Gail chuckled.
“Well excuse us for public displays of affection,” Moose said, grinning. He focused on Bear. “Thanks for the refreshments,” he said.
“Anything for my moosie-babe and his band,” Bear rumbled. “I just came to say hello and to let you know I might have found a replacement for Al.”
“Really?” Frankie said, his ears perked up.
Bear nodded. “Name’s Max. He’s here if you want to talk with him.”
Frankie chewed on a cookie thoughtfully and washed it down with coffee. “Let us talk to him later. Probably during break?” Moose and Gail nodded.
“Alright. I’ll let him know.” Bear gave Moose another hug. “I have to get back to the bar. Those coffee mugs ain’t gonna fill themselves, you know.” He lumbered out of the room, and he closed the door behind him.
“So,” Moose said, getting his cup and plate and sitting down. “Any idea what to play tonight?”
“I was thinking of some old-fashioned songs,” Gail said. “Y’know, like we had earlier.”
Frankie nodded. “Maybe with some clean Demento songs.”
“Oh yeah,” Moose said, nibbling a cookie. “And with one of those modern songs.”
“I think so,” Gail said. “Maybe Rolling Stones?”
There was a knock at the door, and Bear’s head peeked in. “Sorry to bother you guys, but there’s someone looking for you, Joe.”
“Really?” The moose glanced at the other two, put down his coffee, and followed him outside.
“Well, if this is a pleasure,” someone said in a thick Brooklyn accent, standing up from a table near the door. He was a moose of a similar build to Joe; the deep brown fur was heavily speckled with tan spots. He wore a nondescript shirt and blue jeans. His face was vaguely familiar, but Joe couldn’t place him. “If it isn’t my ol’ nephew Joe! It’s me, your uncle from New York!”
Moose’s mental filing cabinet threw up a card. “Uncle Brian?!”
“Haha! I knew you wouldn’t forget your ol’ uncle!” He reached over to grab Moose by the shoulder and brought him in for a tight bearhug. “I thought I lost you, kid! How have you been?”
“I’m okay…” he said, slightly stunned and slowly being squeezed out of breath. “How did you find me?”
The hug got tighter. “One of my ol’ prison mates, he saw you singing on the beach a while back, and he thought you were me.”
“What?” Moose choked out.
The other moose realized what he was doing and loosened the hold. “Sorry, kid, didn’t mean to do that.” He smiled. “Yeah, he contacted me, and he told me everything. Once I put two and two together, I packed my bags and here I am!” He pulled back, his eyes moist. “I thought I lost ya, kid. My favorite nephew.” He brought him in for another hug.
Joe was astounded. The last time he met with Brian was during the funeral, and that was more than ten years ago. He traded addresses with him then and promptly forgot about it due to burying himself in school and lifting. He didn’t get anything from him or any other of his uncles then and now, and he rarely thought about them.
“And look at you, too,” Brian continued, pulling back again and eyeing Moose’s thick frame. “Almost as big as your ol’ man!” He grinned. “And just as handsome as your mother.”
“Heh, thanks,” Moose said, trying not to blush.
Brian gave Joe another hug. “I want to know everything that happened after the last time we were together. You finished college already?” Moose nodded. “Neato.” Brian gave Joe one last hug. “I’ll be here after your gig, and we’ll get to talking, eh?” And he went back to his table.
“And who was that?” Frankie asked after Moose went back to the room.
“Uncle Brian,” Moose said, trying to hold back tears. “I haven’t seen him in years, ever since mom and dad got buried.” He picked up a napkin from the table and blew noisily into it. “I didn’t realize he would try to find me.”
“And what is wrong with that?” Gail said.
“Nothing’s wrong with that. It’s just that he was my favorite uncle. I forgot all about him to be honest and now I’m feeling guilty about it.”
“Oh,” Gail said, picking up the saxophone case and opening it. He brought it out and started to adjust the mouthpiece. “How many uncles you have, anyway?”
“He has four,” Frankie said, eyeing Moose, who was now drinking his cup of coffee while mopping his eyes. “And one grandmother.”
“I’ve met Miss Achilles,” Gail said, testing the sax valves. He smiled faintly. “She couldn’t understand how a pair of griffins can produce a human with wings, if I remember rightly.”
“Same reasons why she couldn’t understand how Moose could get feet instead of hooves,” Frankie said. He drank the last of the coffee. “Poor lady.”
“You make her sound like a Puritan,” Moose said, sniffling a bit.
“No mean to tease you, Joe,” Gail said.
“It’s okay, Gail,” Moose said. He sighed deeply. “It’s just that I was not expecting him or anyone else here.”
Another knock on the door, and Bear peeked in. “Ya okay, Moosie?” He entered and knelt down, giving Moose him a hug.
“I’m okay,” Moose said, hugging back. “I wasn’t expecting him, that’s all. Kind of a shock, really.”
“Want another coffee cuppa?”
“Maybe,” Moose said, sniffling a bit. He separated and got another napkin to blow his nose. “And some more cookies?” He motioned to the table, now covered with crumbs.
“More cookies. Got it.” He stood up and ruffled Moose’s hair. “I’ll be here if you need anything else.” And he walked off.