The family was boisterous this Sunday. One of those days when everyone is clicking, feeling connections not tensions. No one here ever needed an excuse to whip up a pitcher of Manhattans. Especially on Sundays, when they were a sweet accompaniment to the unctuous smells of roasting lamb wafting throughout the house. Given the mood today, they would be most enjoyable.
A gale of laughter burst out of the kitchen and chained, feeding on itself, rolling out in waves. Next, Alex’s grandmother and sister practically fell through the kitchen door, their faces covered in whipped cream. Gran’s glasses were two solid disks of cream. She had her hands on Darcy’s shoulders, who guided her down the hallway to the bathroom where they could both rinse off.
Papa Lou stood at the small wet bar in the dining room, stirring the pitcher. He shook his head at the ruckus. Alex was next to him and leaned in. “Elles sont déjà pompette, Papa!”
“Ouais. Tipsy on whipped cream and we haven’t even had dinner yet. Check the rye. Your grandmother probably spiked it.”
Shrieks of laughter poured from the other side of the bathroom door. While Papa Lou stirred the pitcher, Alex had two rocks glasses chilling. He dumped the icy water into the small bar sink, then dropped a sugar cube in each one and doused them with cherry bitters. He tossed a couple ice cubes in the glasses and then poured two shots of a luxurious dark Guatemalan rum into each. Finally, he topped each with a skewer of dark maraschino cherries.
“Ici, Papa. I know you like your Manhattans and Old Fashioneds. But try this.”
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?”
“It’s called a New Fangled.” They both smirked at the punny symmetry, mischievous twinkles in both their eyes. “Think of it as a Caribbean Old Fashioned.”
Papa Lou put down the long bar spoon he was using to stir the silver Manhattan pitcher and took a sip. “Fiston! C’est si bon!”
Alex smiled and tapped his glass to Papa Lou’s. “tchin tchin!”
“Tchin tchin, fiston!” Papa Lou smiled back.
Alex was standing in front of his apartment door. He was out of breath. Had he been running? Had he paid Ray for the cut? Yes. Absent-mindedly he’d dropped a twenty in Ray’s hand as he gaped at the man in the chairs. Then he bolted the barber shop. He had no recollection of the two mile walk from Cappy’s to his building, past bus stops and el stations that would have gotten him home faster and warmer.
Alex believed in visits and signs. Every relative and pet that he’d lost throughout his life had visited him in his dreams. Papa Lou had already visited him twice. Vivid, full color, high def. There was always a message, even if words were not exchanged. Who the dream was for was never entirely clear. Was it a chance for the departed to say things they never had the chance to say? Or was it for the peace of those left behind?
But this was…something else. It all swirled. Cappy’s... Papa Lou... Ray’s condolescences... Papa’s doppelganger... “You look sharp...” “Rasoir..!” The cold air on his near naked scalp... The run home... The hard sounds of frozen Chicago... Jogging... Walking... Jogging... His cold-burnt lungs.... This was sheer coincidence. Had to be. No. It was a visit too. A message.
Alex was on the other side of his apartment door. “Oh, I am definitely gonna need a drink before work,” he said out loud to no one. And then he heard it. So clearly he swung his head to look in the direction from which the sound seemed to come.
“Tchin tchin, fiston!”
In moments Alex was on the couch looking out at the city, a New Fangled in his hand. He hoisted it up towards the skyline. “Tchin tchin. Tu me manques, Papa.”
1 sugar cube
2 dashes of cherry bitters
2 1/2 oz. dark rum
3 maraschino cherries
Place the sugar cube in a rocks glass. Shake the bitters onto the sugar cube. Fill the glass with ice and stir in the rum. Garnish with the cherries. If you don't have cherry bitters, use Angosturas and mix in a couple drops of the maraschino juice -- that is if you're using good ones, not the neon, red dye #2 kind!