“So why did you want to see me?” Cash asked. “What’s the emergency?”
“Just wanted to make sure you understood,” said Bernard. “You took some pictures, right?”
“Of you and the kid, with the hummingbirds.” The “kid” sat nearby, at the dining room table, intently tapping into a laptop. Someone was rattling around in the kitchen. Someone was singing.
“Nice house,” said Cash.
Bernard said nothing. It wasn’t really a nice house. It was extraordinarily ordinary, a sad little grey bungalow that could use a paint job, furniture inside adorned with cat hair, a golden retriever licking its private parts on the centre of the living room carpet.
“I would still like to buy the pictures,” said Cash. “I could have won a contest with those shots of you and…” he nodded to the boy at the table.
“My grandson, Andrew,” said Bernard. “And have you deleted the pictures?”
“Like I don’t get the problem,” said Cash.
“I’m just a private person,” said Bernard.
A young woman appeared at the door leading to, Cash supposed, the kitchen. She had a wooden spoon in her hand; there was something glossy, red, and meaty in the bowl of the spoon. “Zach says it’s too hot,” she said.
She fed the substance to Bernard, who seemed unembarrassed and unselfconscious at being spoon fed by an attractive woman. It all looked strange to Cash. Who were these people?
“Oh no, not too hot at all,” said Bernard. He took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his mouth.
Then the dog got to its feet. It went and sat in front of Cash, tongue lolling out of its mouth. Cash tentatively patted the top of the dog’s head. He didn’t know much about dogs. He wanted one as a kid, but his parents got him an aquarium instead.
“So you took the pics with your cell phone?” Bernard asked.
Cash took his iPhone out of his jeans pocket. He did take the pictures with the phone, despite the fancy camera his sister had got him for his birthday. The SLR camera felt unwieldy at the time. The phone seemed easier.
The dog, to the astonishment of Cash, nudged the phone out of his hands, took it in its soft mouth, walked it over to Bernard, and dropped it in his lap.
“What the fuck,” said Cash aloud, without thinking.
Bernard swiped through the photos on the cell phone, then handed it to the kid at the dining room table, who took it into the kitchen.
“Is that dog for sale?” asked Cash.
“Cash,” said Bernard, “nothing in this house, in my life, is for sale. Not the photographs, not Maxine, not my friendship, or my acceptance. You might be very surprised to know that your money is meaningless to me.”
Cash was surprised. And angry. What a condescending asshole. Cash grew up with money, sure, he was comfortable now, fine; if he wanted to reimburse people for their work or favours, what the fuck was wrong with that?
“Sorry for the speech,” said Bernard, as if he had read Cash’s mind. “You bring out the worst in me.”
Cash inexplicably took that as a compliment. He stood up. “My phone?”
The kid came through the door from the kitchen and handed it to him. “Nice shots,” he said. Cash took the phone back without comment.
“Stay for chili, if you want,” said Bernard.
Asshole, thought Cash. Asshole.