What with laughter and the prospect of breakfast, when the waitress returned with their drinks, plus a basket of bread and two racks of toast, Bill had recovered his equilibrium sufficiently to thank her politely and discuss the merits of various sorts of jam for his toast. When they had given their orders, Rod beckoned the waitress and whispered something in her ear. She nodded vigorously and he grinned.
“What was that all about?” Anna laughed.
“Special treat for the little man.”
“What will that be?” Bill wondered.
“Wait and see…”
Bill waited, and crowed with delight when the waitress set a small dish of clotted cream beside his bowl of cereal. He beamed from ear to ear.
“Thank you. You are a very kind uncle. That is my specially favourite thing.”
Rod swallowed an obvious lump in his throat.
“I know. Enjoy,” he croaked.
Once breakfast had reached the toast and jam stage, Anna smiled at Bill.
“I think you should tell Sam all about your family. So he can get them straight in his head before he meets them.”
“Yes. I should. If I don’t he may be so surprised by the twins that he runs away. I wouldn’t like that. I’ll start with Daddy. He is Uncle Rod’s twin brother, but he isn’t nearly so big. Grandma Cracksman says he is the runt of the litter. I think that’s rude, but Daddy laughs. He says he may not have the family brawn, but he did get all the brains. Is that right Anna?”
“It is, except that the smallness is relative. Jim’s a chunky six five as opposed to a rangy whatever Rod is.”
“Six nine. But we’re interrupting Bill.”
“Mummy next. She’s beautiful. Blonde and cuddly, and with the biggest blue eyes in the world. She sings when she’s happy and hearing her sing makes us happy too.”
Rod patted his head.
“She’s a belter and no mistake. But she’s a big girl with it, and there’s nobody can cuss a blue streak like Patsy Cracksman.”
“You are right. She does swear beautifully. My brother Jaimie is next oldest. He’s fourteen. I like him a lot, because he is patient and explains things when I don’t understand. He is very clever with computers. Just like Daddy. Then comes the twins. They are twelve-and-bit, and they are very difficult to explain. Sometimes I like them and other times I don’t. They are quite rough and quick-tempered, and they only really like each other and Mummy. Their proper names are Matthias and Cyrano, but mostly people call them Matt and Cy, or Twins. Except for Anna who calls them Dickhead and Shitface.”
“To my eternal shame. I called them it once when they were about seven and I was at my wits’ end. Since when they have tormented me by refusing to answer to anything else.”
“I call them ‘you pair of fuckers’, so I got no moral high ground there. They are just like me and Jim were at that age. Intolerable. Inseparable. They will be easier to handle, and easier to prise apart, when sex rears its ugly head.”
Bill looked from Anna to Rod, then shook his head wisely.
“If grown ups can’t deal with them, it’s no wonder me and Charlie mostly avoid them. Charlie is my little brother. He’s only five, but he’s very, very smart. He learns things so fast it frightens some of his teachers. But he is kindhearted and helps the others in his class when they don’t understand their work. His class teacher told Daddy that he was already better at teaching than anybody else in our school. But the head teacher don’t like it that he is so smart. He don’t care, though. The only reason he don’t tell her to feck off is that he promised Daddy he wouldn’t. Then there’s Gandalf and Eller, who are Mummy’s dogs, Daddy’s dog Benni, the cat who is just called Cat, and Jamie’s parrot Cap’n Flint. That’s all of us.”
Bill sat back in his chair, with the air of one who has done a good job. Rod clapped his hands softly.
“A masterful dissertation, young Cracksman. Now. Are we all finished. I’ll get the bill…”
He frowned at Anna who was about to argue.
“I’ll get the bill. Everyone else should use the toilets if they need.”
Sam and Billy ambled off the the gents and Anna smiled at Rod.
“It was a good idea to get the wee man talking about his family.”
“Yeah. I thought so. Thought it would help to ground him. Now where’s that waitress?”
Anna went slowly to the ladies, pondering on how easy it was to underestimate Rod. Big, in his case, certainly didn’t denote slow or stupid.
When she returned, the waitress was just giving Rod a receipt. He grinned at her and popped something into her apron pocket.
“And that’s just for you. I’ve added ten per cent to the bill for everyone else.”
The young girl pinked prettily.
Bill patted her.
“Don’t let him ‘barrass you. He means to be kind.
The girl crouched down impulsively and kissed Bill’s smooth cheek.
“If all our guests were as nice as you and your family.”
So they arrived at the camper laughing as Rod offered to fight Bill for the waitress’ favours. Bonnie jumped out to greet them.
“There’s a dog exercise field behind the green gate, and Bonnie would love a run before we set out. Will you take her Bill?”
“Oh yes. My legs would like to run too. But I’m a bit too scared to go on my own.”
“That’s OK,” Sam smiled down at him, “I’d like a run. Rod? Anna?”
Rod nodded, but Anna held up her hands.
“You lot go along. I’ll get the camper ready for travel.’