Excerpt from "Meeting the Heidenreichs" by Greg Santos
Waiting by the arrivals gate, Don Heidenreich stared at the monitors hanging from the ceiling. He had taken his glasses off so that Erin’s boyfriend wouldn’t think of him as a parental figure. Don wanted to look cool, hip, and welcoming. The problem is, he couldn’t really see without his glasses. So, there he was, standing in the middle of the airport, squinting and trying to make out the schedules.
I really need to get contacts, he thought. He tried to find Montreal on the screen but could only make out white squiggles and blotches. He craned his neck upwards, hoping that it would give him the extra height he needed to make out the numbers but now he just had a neck ache. Or maybe laser-eye surgery. Don then thought about Bill Ryerson, who had recently gotten laser-eye surgery and had to go back to the specialist three times due to complications. Don shuddered; he realized he didn’t want to have a laser shining around his eyes. It seems to go against all logic: Lasers burn things. Like in those Star Wars movies.
“Don?”, Laura’s voice came from behind him. “What on earth are you doing?” He kept squinting up at the monitors.
“I’m trying to find out which flight the kids are on.”
“I can’t seem to make out their flight.”
“You’re looking at the international flights. The domestic arrivals are over there on the right.” Don turned to face where his wife’s voice was coming from and saw a figure that looked roughly like hers and saw it pointing to the other side of the hall.
“You’re not wearing your glasses.” Laura said. “I can’t leave you for a minute. Did you lose them again?”
“No. Of course not. I left them in the car.” Don walked towards his wife with his arms way out in front of him. He looked like a zombie searching for some fresh brains.
“Oh Donald,” Laura said as she took hold of her husband and hugged him. “This has nothing to do with your new look, does it?”
“What do you mean?”
“The goatee, the leather jacket…” Laura stepped back and cocked her eyebrow quizzically. “This has nothing to do with you turning fifty soon?”
“Of course not. It’s for the band. I told you, we’re all just trying to revamp our image a little.” He kissed Laura on the forehead and she scrunched up her nose. “Come on, don’t tell me you don’t like the goatee?”
“It is sexy on you.” Laura winked. “I’m still getting used to the scratchiness though.”
“Mom! Dad!” Erin put her suitcase down and ran over to hug her parents. Paul stopped to put his bag down too and did a final check on himself. Fly down? Nope. Shirt tucked in? Yep. Breath check. Mint. Shoes? Oops, laces are untied…
“How was your flight, dear?” Laura hugged her daughter.
“It was all right. They gave us these great sesame snacks. I put about four or five packages in my bag. You can have one if you want, dad.”
“No thanks, Erin. I’m on a diet”.
“Dad, you don’t need to go on a diet. You look great – oh my god, is that a goatee?”
“Sure is.” Don said proudly, while stroking the dark hairs on his chin with his hand. “Plus, I do have to go on a diet and get rid of this gut.” Don rubbed his belly and pinched it. “Now, where’s your boyfriend?” Don squinted and looked around. He looked for the young man of Portuguese descent and saw a dark haired mass with tanned skin, who seemed to look like Paul from Erin’s photos coming towards him. Don went towards the figure, grabbed the blurs hand and shook it heartily. He wanted the boy to feel welcome.
Erin and her mother watched as Don walked up to a stranger and started shaking his hand and talking to him. Paul joined Erin and Laura. The three of them looked on as Don talked to a very surprised Japanese man.
“Erin?” Paul asked. “Who’s your father shaking hands with?”
“I don’t know. Um, daddy?”