The thunderclouds had moved on, and the Dallas night was humid and hot. Lightning continued to flash far to the east as a white crescent moon, just risen in the west, now floated above the orange horizon. But the courtyard lights of Magnus’s home washed out the stars and Sam missed the stars of Greenland, where washes of brilliant aurora borealis burned, and where each night he’d felt happily lost and tiny in its vastness. Texas had felt as far away as the galaxies, and he’d been glad for the distance.
“Would you care for a cocktail?” The waiter, looking uncomfortable in tight-fitting black suit and bow tie, couldn’t have been more than 18. Sam opted for a glass of the Merlot.
The crowd had swelled, and now the courtyard was filled with small clusters of people drinking and animatedly talking. At the periphery were rows of tables and chairs, on each table a flickering LED candle. The green Astroturf had been vacuumed clean, and the pool, usually covered, was open and dancing with the reflections of many colored lights.
Sam watched as his father moved toward him through the crowd like a fallen log drifting downstream, stopping at each cluster to shake hands and clink glasses. Occasionally he pulled a man aside, whispered something in his ear, then burst out laughing, as if enjoying the punchline of his own secret joke. That unmistakable laugh of Magnus—big, hearty, with a series of quick inhale gasps—sent shivers down Sam’s spine. For the thousandth time, he remembered how thankful he was that he’d been raised by Grimes and his roughnecks.
“My boy!” He actually bellowed. “You remember Tommy Ratner.”
Sam offered his hand to a short, wiry man with dark, swept back hair.
“Look at you,” said Ratner. “All growed up now. Why, last time I seen you, you wasn’t much bigger than a Horny Toad.” He lowered one flattened palm to mid-thigh and held it parallel to the ground. “Magnus here tells me you some kind of scientist collecting rocks. That right?”
“Yes sir, that’s right.” No sense rising to the snipe.
“Good, son. You know your daddy needs you back here in the business. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if he made life real comfortable for you.” Ratner winked at Magnus. “Anyway, son, welcome back home.”
Anxious to escape, Sam excused himself. To please his father, he’d have to make it to at least 10 p.m. He looked at his watch. An hour to go.
“Sam?” A somewhat familiar voice behind him.
He turned. “Julia?”