Authors: Todd Hasak-Lowy
Â She even does this weird dance move, raising both her hands to shoulder height and snapping. Plus she bites her bottom lip. All of which is more embarrassing than her discovery of the music itself.
Â Around the time they get back on the highway, she starts talking again, really, really quickly. “Can I confess something? I am so looking forward to the Dawg House. I was almost even thinking about saying, Screw it, what's so bad about a cheeseburger? How much could God possibly care? But then, it is Shabbat, and maybe the whole thing with the weather and that rotten hotel in Denver, maybe that's what I get for traveling on Shabbat, which I promised I wouldn't do when I could help it. But who cares? The Dawg House, here we come!”
Sources of Darren's Presently Ambivalent Stance on the Dawg House, Even Though Overall He's Hardly Bummed about Going There for Lunch
Â There's a huge doghouse on the roof, with the head of a dog sticking out. Plus the dog is holding a hot dog in his mouth that is probably the size of a canoe.
Â It's spelled the Dawg House.
Â The food is pretty great, but obviously heavy and greasy, so sometimes you feel gross after.
Â You can order from your car and then eat in it too, which was super exciting when he was a kid, but then sometimes it seems like they'd screw up the order that way, plus then when you're done you're just already sitting in your car that smells like hamburgers and feeling kind of gross.
Â So now they eat inside, which means ordering at this big window between the dining area and the kitchen that is somehow a little depressing, but then eating in a little room where the walls are covered with articles about the Dawg House, some of which are actually pretty interesting (and together make you feel kind of lucky to be eating there).
Â All the sandwiches have ridiculous names, like Dognation, Dogology, and Ridogulous, which Darren loved a lot when he was younger but now seem a little silly to him.
Â Obviously, they serve a ton of meat. And it's not that Darren really cares so much that people eat meat (it would be better if people didn't eat so much of it, but whatever). Still, sometimes (not most of the time, just sometimes) he does have trouble not thinking about how much meat people are eating at a place like the Dawg House when he's there. Plus, not surprisingly, Darren used to eat meat himself, and the Dawg House might be the place he can most remember eating meat, like he can nearly taste it again when they go inside, which isn't such a good thing.
Â But so at least they have a solid fish sandwich, which most burger/hot dog places don't have.
Â All the sandwiches come in these boxes, where they just dump the fries on top of the sandwich, which, like the names, Darren used to be a bigger fan of than he is now. Not to mention all the garbage.
Â His family used to have this tradition of stopping at the Dawg House on the way back from O'Hare (assuming they didn't get in really early in the morning or really late at night), which was an awesome tradition. Because going to the Dawg House at the end of a trip was a great way not to be too sad about the trip being over, plus his parents could use the promise of the Dawg House (or the threat of no Dawg House) to make sure Darren and Nate behaved on the flight back. And so maybe his mom and his dad would say that it's still a tradition (after all, it's hardly a coincidence he's about to eat there with his mom after picking her up at O'Hare), but Darren's not so sure, and not just because his parents are divorced. Because Nate's also pretty old by now, to the point that it's not clear the family would still be taking trips together even if his parents weren't divorced.
Â The milk shakes. Yum.
Members of the Jacobs Family Who Have Ever, in the History of Visits to the Dawg House, Suggested Taking a Walk by That Park over There After Eating
Comparisons His Mom Makes between California and Chicago during the Start of Their Walk
Â “People don't do as much walking around here, probably because of the weather,” she says. “Even though it's pretty warm today, at least for Chicago in late November.” She's talking super fast. Maybe it's the huge Diet Coke she just had.
Â “I know we just ate at the Dawg House,” she says, “and don't get me wrong, it was absolutely delicious, but it's hard to argue when someone says that most people out west have healthier lifestyles than people here. You can see it the second you step off the plane.”
“Pretty much all Americans are fat,” Darren says. “I heard people in Texas are fattest.”
Â “Though the leaves are wonderful,” his mom says. “Even if the trees are mostly bare at this point. Nothing like that out in San Jose. You look out your window, and there's no way to know if it's February or August. Kind of weird if you ask me.”
Darren would marry his milk shake if such a thing were possible.
Â “I mean,” she says, “I could see how you'd miss the seasons, even the crummy ones.”
“I hate February,” he says. “Except for Nate's birthday.”
She might grab his hand. Which, back when he was much younger, she used to do all the time whenever they walked. He would maybe, maybe,
“I know you probably couldn't care less,” she says, “but I've gone to this really cool synagogue out in Palo Alto a couple of times. It's like they get it. You know? I think you'd be impressed. Like they realize you can't just keep doing the same things over and over and expect people to care.”
“Well, it couldn't be any more boring than Beth Emanuel.”
Now she's walking fast too. Maybe it was the huge coffee she was drinking when he picked her up.
“Look at those birds,” she says, pointing at some tree near a creek. “I mean, how do they know to fly south? Incredible.”
Darren removes the lid of his milk shake and tips the cup back to try to get a last sip or two.
Â “You want to hear something amazing? About an hour from my work, in Santa Cruz, which I can't believe I haven't taken you to alreadyâso awesome, there's a place the monarch butterflies come to every year. On their migration. I haven't seen it myself, but I hear it's amazing. We'll have to go.”
“Can you stop talking about California already?”
“You're right,” his mom says. “I'm sorry, but it's justÂ .Â .Â .”
And then she sits down on a bench they were passing and pats a spot next to her.
So he sits down. And she turns to him and shows him her reassuring smile. Which was always, always, always reassuring until about two years ago, when it started being reassuring only about half the time. This time is definitely one of the times it is not reassuring. At all. In part because it's clearly smaller than normal, plus what's with the goddamn lip gloss, and most of all because her eyes are sort of sad somehow.
She turns away and doesn't say anything. Then she squeezes his hand, which just feels weird out here. Says, “Honey, IÂ .Â .Â .”
Colors Darren Watches Drive Past on the Street about One Hundred Feet Away, Rather Than Say Anything or Even Look at His Mom
Â Greenish blue
Announcements His Mom Makes over the Course of about a Minute
Â They want me to join the company, instead of just consulting.
Â They want me to head a new division.
Â Theyâthey asked me to move.
Â They asked me to move out there.
Simple Verbs Darren Demonstrates Once His Mom Finishes with Her Announcements
Â Tilt (back the cup in order to get one last sip out of his milk shake)
Â Crush (the cup in his hand)
Â Throw (the cup toward a large garbage can about fifteen feet away)
Â Stand (up)
Â Walk (toward the garbage can)
Â Bend (over)
Â Pick (up the crushed cup, which hit the side of the garbage can and landed on the grass nearby)
Â Drop (the cup into the garbage can)
Â Return (to the bench)
Â Sit (down)
Questions Darren Asks, Though Not Necessarily Because He Wants to Know All That Much More about This Whole Thing
“Darren, do you understand?”
Â “Do I understand what?”
“What I'm telling you.”
Â “I don't know, what are you telling me?”
“It's not clear?”
Â “What's not clear?”
“What I said before.”
Â “About what?”
“About my work.”
Â “What about it?”
“That they offered me a full-time position.”
“So, do you understand what that means?”
Â “Do I understand what it means about what?!”
More silence. More cars passing.
“Darren, I'm sorry about this,” she says. “I'm sorry this is happening on your birthday. It wasn't my plan, I promise. I'm sorry.”
Cars tend to pass in clusters of the same color for some reason. Maybe that means something.
“They're starting a new division,” she says, “which, with a company of this size, basically means starting a new company. It's going to be based a lot on developments that came out of what they acquired from me in the first place. And they want me to head it. In fact, they said they may not even launch it if I decline the offer.”
Darren looks at her but doesn't say anything.
“It's for a lot of money. A lot. A lot more than I ever thought I could make, even after I started learning what people make out there. But it means no more consulting. It means I'll have to go full time. Out there. I'll have to move. I haven't accepted it yet. But they want an answer by the sixth. I asked them to give me until after Christmas, but they said, with the operating budget for next year and everything, they need to know by the sixth.”
Finally, she looks at him. “That's the deal, honey.”
Darren's lack of milk shake right now feels like some sort of war crime. Like someone should contact Amnesty International.
Â “How much will you make?”
Â “How much is a lot?”
“A little more than four hundred. Thousand,” she says. “That doesn't include bonuses. Plus I'll get some stock options.”
Â “So when would you move?”
“They'd want me to start on Monday the fifteenth. To get in a couple of weeks of full time before the division launches in January. So I'd probably go back out on the tenth. But I'll be off completely until then.”
Â “What about the house?”
“Your father and I will work that out. If he thinks there's any point in putting it up for sale, that's what we'll do. Otherwise, we'd rent it until the market turns around.”
Â “And what about Nate? Where's he going to live?”
“That's up to him. Move in with your father, get his own place, I don't know. He said he might be thinking about enrolling at UIC; he could get a place in the city. He knows we'll support him as long as he's in school.”
Â “Would you come back here still?”
“Of course. Of course.”
Â “How often?”
“I negotiated a Friday and Monday off every month for the first year. So at least once a month. Because there's MLK Day and your spring break, when I thought maybe you could come out. When I find a permanent place for myself, you'll have your own room in it. Of course.”
Â “So what, then I'd just live with Dad?”
“Yes. You'd live with your father. And if he wants the house, I'd consider it.”
Â “Does he know?”
“Yes, he knows.”
Â “Do you want to take it?”
“Yes, I do. Very much.”
Â “Are you going to?”
No response for too many seconds.
“It's an incredible opportunity, Darren,” she finally says. “And not just for me.”
Letters Spoken in Monotone by Darren as He Stands Up to Head Back to the Dawg House
Word in Portuguese Darren Now Knows After Asking Ray the Meaning of It, Because It Seems to Be in about Every Single Song Ray's Ever Given Darren, Including
“Tristeza e Solidao
(as Sung by Monica Salmaso), Which Comes On about Ninety Seconds After They Get Back in the Car and Sounds So Good That Darren Finds Himself Trying to Crawl inside Her Voice, Which He Nearly Does, Even Though Her Voice Isn't Simply Making Everything Better, Not at All, in Fact It Might Be Just the Opposite