By: L. Wilder

“It’ll be the best thing you’ve ever done. Any idea what she’s having?”

“It’s a girl. She’s due in about eight weeks. We’re planning to name her Casey.”

“Let’s hope she looks like her mother.” Blaze teased.

“Don’t you know it.”

“Well, if she’s tall like her father, I bet she’ll be one hell of a basketball player.”

They continued to talk for another half hour, and then we headed over to see his buddy, Sam. He was older than I’d imagined, with a long, thick, white beard and deep wrinkles around his eyes. Those eyes lit up when he saw Clutch, and without saying a word, he reached for him and gave him a hug. “It’s good to see you, Sam.”

His voice was strained as he replied, “I was hoping I’d get to see you while you were in town.”

“You know I wouldn’t leave without coming by to see you. Liv would have my ass.” Clutch teased. “Gus said you’ve been helping out a lot in the garage.”

“I have. It’s been good to use my hands again,” he explained. “And they need as much help as they can get around here.”

“How are things at home? You still staying in touch with your daughter?”

Clutch had told me about Sam having some trouble dealing with his wife’s death. He had friends and family who he could turn to, but he just couldn’t cope with the loss and ended up living on the streets, doing what he could to escape from the pain. It wasn’t something that most would understand, including his daughter, but after everything that happened with Liv, he was able to get his life back on track. I was pleased when I heard him say, “Yep. She’s doing good. Met her a fella, and they’re talking about getting married.”

“That’s awesome, Sam. Glad to hear it.”

As I stood there watching them talk, it was clear that Clutch was well-liked and had left a highly-regarded impression on the brothers, and they’d equally affected him as well. He’d forged friendships that would last a lifetime, and it made me proud just to witness them all together. Once they were done catching up, Sam gave Clutch another big hug and wished him and Liv good luck with the baby. We made our way back out to the truck, and Clutch drove us over to Daisy Mae’s. As soon as we walked in, I was hit with the smell of home-cooking. At this point I was officially starving, and my mouth started to salivate at the thought of eating a big, thick cheeseburger and fries.

I followed Clutch to the front counter, and we’d barely sat down when I heard, “Clutch. Hey there, brother. It’s been awhile.”

“Cyrus. It’s good to see you, man.” Clutch smiled.

He smiled back and heartily shook Clutch’s hand. “Gus said you two were going to be staying upstairs tonight.”

“That’s the plan … if it’s okay with you.”

“More than okay, but I got someone staying in the apartment where Liv and the kids stayed, so you two will have to take your old place.”

Clutch told me that Cyrus ran the diner with his sister, but that was about it. He was a big guy, covered in tattoos with dark hair and a dark beard to match. There was a look in his eyes that made him seem older, even though he was just a few years older than Clutch.

“That’s fine.” He looked over to me as he continued, “Diesel here can take the bed. The sofa’s more comfortable anyway.” Clutch snickered.

Cyrus looked over to me and said, “He’s full of shit. Never heard anyone complain about that bed until he came around, and that’s only because he’s so damn tall his feet hang off the end.”

“I’m sure it will be just fine. Hell, I’m so tired I could pass out on the damn floor and sleep like a fucking baby,” I told him.

Clutch chuckled then asked, “So, how you been doing?”

“Making it the best I can. You know how Louise can be … always riding my ass about something.” He joked. “You’d think she’d eventually wear herself out.”

“Nah. Not Louise. She’s a tough one, brother.”

“You got that right.” He rolled his eyes and sighed. “Can I get you two something to eat?”

“Absolutely. How about two sweet teas and a couple of cheeseburgers with fries.”

“You got it,” he told him as he turned and put in our order. When he came back over with our drinks, he asked, “How are Liv and the kids doing?”

“Doing good. You know, Charlie will be a senior next year.”

“Damn. Already?”

“It’s hard to believe. And Hadley’s growing up fast, brother. Doubt you’d recognize her.”

“I don’t know, man. She’s got a smile that’d be hard to forget.”

His cheerful expression quickly changed when a beautiful brunette came walking through the back door. She was a hot little number, around my age and was dressed to the nines with her short, snug-fitting black dress and high heels. Her long, brown hair was down around her shoulders with soft waves that framed her heart-shaped face. She looked over to Cyrus, and her eyes roamed seductively over him like she was about to devour her last meal. When he opened his mouth to speak, she quickly looked away, ignoring him completely as she continued past us. She reached for the handle of the front door and stopped, pausing for a moment like she had something on her mind. I thought she was going to turn around and say something, instead, she suddenly pushed the door open and disappeared into the crowded street.