Cyrus blinked while simultaneously raising his eyebrows. “Your faith in this ‘curiosity’ of your students is . . . admirable.” Dan was convinced he had changed that final word in mid-sentence. “To some people, at least.” That’s more like it. Cyrus raised his hand, catching the waitress’ attention, then requesting after she came over to place his untouched salad in a carry-out container.
Dan knew he had only a minute or so longer with Cyrus. But as he looked across the table at the golden-haired man, the image of his son came to Dan’s mind. Butch smiling, his grin as broad as his belly, the joy he showed when executing a simple parry, the way everyone on the team relaxed when talking to him. “There’s no practice next week.” The words seemed to come out of him reflexively, as if triggered by a silent alarm in his head. “Parent-teacher conferences.” Last year he’d have let Myles or Juan run the fencing club practice, but this was a different year; Myles had graduated, Juan was no longer a regular, and no one had yet stepped up to fill the leadership role. “Next practice is a week from Tuesday.”
“I see.” As the waitress with the mole on her cheek returned, Cyrus rose from his chair, retrieved his jacket from a hook on a nearby wall. And as he put his left arm through his sleeve, he stopped, turned to Dan, and smiled. “Do you know what I saw Butch doing when I came home the other night?”
Dan assumed comic books were not involved. “Tell me, my friend.”
Cyrus leaned forward, a look of incredulity on his face. “Jogging. I was driving and I passed this pudgy shape on the sidewalk, and it took me a moment to realize it was Butch. I waited for him in the driveway — his face was red and he was huffing like he was about to collapse. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him exert himself like that. So I asked him what in the world he was doing, and he said — ” he pointed at Dan smiling — “you’d suggested he work on his endurance.” Cyrus looked down, shook his golden head, laughed. “My boy. Running.”
Dan rose to shake Cyrus’ hand, then sat back down on the metal chair, in front of his chicken parmesan sandwich. He knew it would be cold, after his long conversation, but Dan ate none the less enthusiastically.
End of “Dark Safari”