It was the third day of their trip, and Logan woke up before dawn to get an early start. The previous day the weather failed to cooperate, and they made little head-way. This day, the weather promised to be clear, and Logan was anxious to make up for lost time.
Francis snored peacefully in his pull out bed, burrowed deep inside his sleeping bag. He never noticed they were again moving as he slept, occasionally snorting and mumbling as he rolled over. Logan sipped at his coffee, pleased with himself that it actually tasted like coffee and not three day old mud. Far ahead, Logan could see mountains rise up from the horizon. It wouldn't be much longer.
Logan fired up his morning cigar, and chomped on it. He heard muffled noises behind him, and knew the boy was finally waking up. The puffy eyed boy stumbled forward, and slid into his seat, yawning and rubbing his eyes.
"Bout time you woke up. I've been up for hours." Logan exhaled a thin blue-gray stream of smoke.
"What time is it? Why didn't you wake me up? Did you eat breakfast yet?" The boy continued to rub his eyes and yawn.
"Eight. Didn't feel like it. No."
Francis stretched and scratched himself. "Oh. What do you want? I think we have some oatmeal, or...HEY!" He leaned forward in his seat. "Are those mountains?"
"Uh huh. Thise are mountains."
"Wow! How much longer until we get there?"
"We'll get to where we're going tomorrow."
Logan wasnt surprised when Francis began to bounce in his seat. Suddenly, he was very much awake. "I can't wait. God, they are so beautiful. I've never seen anything like that. I need to get some pictures. Can I get some pictures? It's like a post card." He continued his bouncing.
"We'll stop for gas soon. Then you can take all the pictures you want."
In a flash, the boy flew to the back of the RV, rummaging through his duffle, looking for his camera. Logan called back to him. "You forgetting something? Where's breakfast?"
"Oh shit. I forgot. What did you say you wanted?" The boy tinkered in the small kitchenette. "Hey, we got English muffins. Want one?"
"Just one?" Logan stubbed out his cigar. "Yeah, muffins are fine. Don't skimp on the jelly."
Francis clicked away with his camera, as Logan waited patiently. This was the fourth time they had stopped. The boy had taken what seemed like thousands of pictures, and they weren't even into the mountains yet.
The sun shone brightly, but it was bitter cold. Francis didn't seem to mind. He was bundled warmly in his parka. The exposed skin of his face, his nose in particular, glowed red. Logan, in his denim and leather jackets, didn't seem to notice the cold either. He just looked at the sky, and inhaled the fresh biting air into his lungs. However, he was starting to get hungry, and he wanted to get back on the road again.
"Hey, Junior? Let;s get going, huh?"
Francis slowly turned toward his father, his mouth hanging open. "Junior?"
"Don't like the nickname? How about Bub? Kiddo? Ace bandage?"
Francis scowled, and packed away his camera, walking toward the RV. "Shut up." He stomped into the vehicle, and slammed the door behind him. Logan chuckled as he followed behind. When he opened the door and stepped inside, the boy was already stripping off his coat.
"In a bit of a snit, are we?"
Francis snorted. "No. I just don't like Junior."
Logan peeled off his two coats. "Hmmm. I like it. Has a nice ring to it. Isn't this the one you suggested?"
"No. That was just a joke." The sarcasm rang in the boy's voice.
Logan sat in the driver's seat, and pulled back onto the highway. After a few minutes, Francis joined him, still sulking.
"You like corned beef?" Logan asked in the uneasy silence.
The boy turned to him. "Huh?"
I know a place that makes great corned beef on rye. We'll be there in about an hour."
The boy's sulk was fading now. "Ok. I'm getting hungry."
One thing was obvious. Above all else, Francis loved to eat. For someone with such a petite body, he could pack it away. In fact, Logan was certain that the boy's appetite rivaled, if not surpassed, his own.
He watched the boy shovel in forkful after forkful into his mouth, certain he was about to burst. Jean mentioned something about the boy having a high metabolism, and the food was burned off during the boy's usual activities, and that was probably true. The kid, despite how much he ate, had not an ounce of fat on him, just slowly developing muscles.
Francis had already eaten a sandwich nearly as big as he, and a mound of French fries, and had ordered a slice of chocolate cake with ice cream. He was even eyeing Logan's remaining fries. Logan finished the last of his beer and nodded to the server for another while Francis demolished the cake.
Francis took a huge forkful of cake and was about to put it in his mouth, when he noticed his father staring at him, a bemused look on his face. He froze, the fork only inches from his mouth. "What?"
"You realize of course, you just ate twice as much as I did." Logan shook his head, and took a long pull on his beer.
"I did? Wow. I must have been really hungry." He placed the large forkful into his mouth. He was aware he was being watched, and suddenly became self-conscious. "Stop watching me."
"I'm just waiting for you to explode." Logan leaned back and grinned.
Francis simply rolled his eyes. "I'm not going to explode. Besides, I've seen you eat ribs; you're one to talk. People stayed ten feet away, afraid they would loose a limb, the way you gnawed on those bones." Now it was his turn to grin.
"You're getting a bit of a smart mouth, aren't you?"
Francis' grin turned into a smile. "Just like you. Like father, like son."
Logan raised his eyebrows now, and leaned forward once again. "You been watching me?"
Francis nodded. "You're like a walking textbook. Granny and Dr. Jean say that I can learn a lot from you. Nobody gives you any shit. You have lots of attitude. You aren't afraid of nothing-"
"I'm afraid of your grandmother," Logan interrupted.
"Come on, I'm serious." Francis frowned.
"So am I."
Francis giggled and continued. "I've been watching how you handle things. Like when you walked in here, and those big guys near the door were staring at you. I saw the way you stared them down. They weren't about to start nothing, er, anything."
Logan took another pull on his beer, needing to digest what the boy had just said. He wasn't aware that he was being watched quite so closely. "Dont miss a thing do you?"
"Nope. Those guys saw just by the way you carried yourself that you weren't an easy target. I saw the look in your eye." Francis went back to his cake.
Logan was surprised. "You are aware that sometimes it takes more than just a look?"
Francis looked up. "Yeah. But I have to start somewhere, don't I? I'm not all that physically imposing, so I'm hoping at least to get a look of my own, that would solve a lot of problems, don't you think?"
Logan thought for a moment. "Could set off a whole new set of problems, though."
Francis froze again, thinking over what had just been said. "Really? how so?"
"Don't worry about it now. Hurry up, Twinkie. I want to hit the road again."
Francis rolled his eyes. "Twinkie? Oh, man!"