Santa Barbara 1986
Henry sighed heavily. Shawn was nothing if not persistent, when it came to something he really wanted. He once again lamented his inability to instill that kind of work ethic within his son in every endeavor.
"Shawn…" He was tired of trying to reason with him as the child’s whines grew more and more…whiney. Frankly, he was just plain tired. He had planned on coming home and relaxing after one of the more trying days he had in a long time. Arguing with a frustrated nine year old was not in the cards.
"Gus said I could go. He said there would be pony rides and everything."
"No Shawn! That’s final." His normal restraint was shot after two months of overtime. He hadn’t meant for anger that wasn’t really directed towards the boy to come through. Tired or not, the lower lip quiver did him in.
"Come here, kid." Knees protested as he lowered himself on the front porch steps. "Gus may have said you could go, but it wasn’t his decision. I know it doesn’t seem fair, but sometimes the best way to be a friend is to step back for a while. You and Gus spend a lot of time together. It would really be nice to let Gus spend some time alone with his family. Understand?" Henry wrapped up his father-son speech with a tender ruffle to the longish hair under his hands. Just about time for another trip to the barber shop.
"Someday you will." Henry mused regretfully. Maddie had informed him of her observations, following a rare grown-ups-only lunch with Winnie Guster, as she packed her suitcase in preparation for her next out of town assignment; meaning it was now his problem breaking the bad news to the kid. They both knew Shawn could be a trying child. He himself had been driven to the brink on more than one occasion. Without the bond of blood, Henry didn’t know how he could restrain himself. Neither one could blame the Gusters. Still, it would be wise to limit the time Shawn spent with the other family for a while, giving them room to recover from his son’s overwhelming energy.
Hopefully, Shawn wouldn’t find out about this for a long time. Preparing his son for the horrors of the real world was one thing. Taking away his refuge was something Henry just couldn’t bring himself to do. His son needed Gus; likewise, Gus seemed to need Shawn just as much.
He watched as his son dramatically ascended the staircase. Each footfall, heavier than the next, coincided with histrionic sighs bouncing off the woodwork. He felt a similar sensation in his gut as he mentally prepared for his next conversation. Even now, he was formulating a plan of attack as well as a list of concessions. He supposed he could promise to spend more time personally supervising the boys. That had to be one of her biggest gripes, the fear that Shawn’s antics would hurt her baby boy. He had been meaning to do that same thing anyway. Working overtime on top of the afternoon shift had cost him too much time away from his family; he could hardly remember the last time he had seen Shawn when he wasn’t peeking in on him while he slept.
With his prepared statement ready, he began dialing the Guster’s phone number which had long ago been committed to memory. As the rotary face clicked backwards between each dial, he used the few seconds to take deep breaths in preparation.
"Hello, Winnie? Yeah, this is Henry Spencer. Have you got a minute?"