Fourteen years I had shopped with my mother and never had I ever had a day like that one. The first store we went to, which was not a dollar store I might add, Baka practically jumped down a salesman's throat when he caught Robin and I holding hands as we looked at a display of blue jeans. He mumbled something about fags and the next thing I knew the store security was trying to pull Baka back before she bludgeoned him to death with her purse.
"I come here to spend my money, and this is the service I get?" she was yelling. "My grandson and his adorable boyfriend get insulted by this pompous, arrogant, ugly souled excuse for a human being. We should sue this store for this."
"He did what?" the security guard asked.
"He called us fags," Robin told him quietly.
"I know I did NOT just hear that an employee of this insulted a customer and used that foul word while on duty." We all turned to find an old man in a business suit glaring at the guy that had insulted us. "Robards, you have all of ten seconds to get out that door and NEVER return to this store. You are well aware of our corporate policies regarding such behavior on company time."
"You can't fire me, I'm a week from retirement," the man yelled.
"No, you were a week from retirement," the old man snapped. "You are terminated as of this moment, and these young men will be getting a shopping spree that will come out of your final check. You have embarrassed this store for the last time; now get out before I throw you out myself."
"You can't do this to me," the salesclerk shouted.
"Watch me, you piece of filth," the suited man snarled as he grabbed the clerk by the collar and the arm and literally dragged him to the front door of the store and actually threw him out the door. "Fred, he is not to come back inside this building for any reason, you understand me? I will have maintenance clear out his locker and bring his belongings. He does not come back in here," he said again and made a spitting gesture at the man who was getting up off the sidewalk outside.
"Yes sir, Mr. Levin," the security guard said, and then went outside to stop the clerk from coming back into the store.
"I meant what I said, young gentlemen," Mr. Levin said as he came over to stand next to Robin and me. "There will be no charge for anything you two pick out today. You have the word of Itzahk Benjamin Levin. You also have my most profound apologies for your horrific treatment in my store."
"Mr. Levin, as in THE Mr. Levin," Robin blurted.
"Well, I still like to think of my father as THE Mr. Levin," Mr. Levin laughed. "In answer to what I assume was a question, yes, I am the man who turned my father's clothing store into a national chain of department stores. I'm also the man who has a gay grandson that I love with all my heart. Although, I have to say, I think the two of you have better tastes in boyfriends than he's got. Oy vey, he's dating such a schmuck. He's dating this gold-digging punk rocker with the bad hair and a worse attitude that's only after my money. David doesn't see that, of course. His best friend I think has the crush on my grandson, but David, that's my grandson, he doesn't have a clue. And none of them listen to me because Grandpa, he's too old to know about young love, huh? I'm not supposed to even know that they are gay. Love isn't different because it's two boys instead of a boy and a girl. Love is love. Listen to me kvetching like an old woman when you've got shopping to do. You remember, you pick out everything you want, but your money's no good today."
"Mr. Levin," I start shyly. "I know I have no right to ask you and you're being so generous to let me pick out things for myself, and I don't want to seem like I'm trying to get more from you at all, it's just...." My voice trailed away as tears started rolling down my cheeks.
"Here, here, enough with the waterworks," the old man shushed me and pulled me into a hug. "Now you calm down and tell me something. You want to pick out some things for your new family, don't you?" I nodded and sniffled trying to talk, but still couldn't. "You, my little mensch, can have anything you want today. See the other thing old Jewish men do besides kvetch about our grandsons is to watch the news. I saw the people protesting your mama's funeral yesterday on the tv. They should be ashamed of themselves. That man who killed your mama, he tried to keep my store from opening here because I'm Jewish. He didn't care that I would employ anyone from any religion. He was a schlemiel, and you are nothing like him. I can tell. Now you dry your eyes and pick out whatever you want for your new family. Everything in this store belongs to you right now. Whatever you don't want to take today, I'll keep."
"Thank you, sir," I said with another sob. "I wanted to do something nice for all the people that are being so wonderful to me, but I didn't have any money at all."
"Money isn't worth near as much as love, dear one," he told me. "If you love them, they will be repaid for their love of you. I guarantee that they didn't take you in because they wanted anything from you but the chance to love you, and be loved by you. I tell you something else too. I can already tell that's a very special thing to love you and have your love in return. You are a very special young man and you have a heart of solid gold. If you weren't already seeing your young man, I would introduce you to my grandson. Ah, but my David, he's got his Benjamin, his best friend, if he would just open his eyes."
"Maybe you should have David and Benjamin over for a weekend at your house, without the gold- digger," I suggested. "Have a little talk with them. Tell David that you love him and are proud of him, just the way he is. But, maybe act like you think he and Benjamin are dating. Play up how happy you are that they are such a great couple."
"So, I should play my grandson like the fiddle," Mr. Levin laughed. "You're a very smart young man. I wish you all the best. Now go, clean out my store. If you don't pick out enough, I'll send you home with what I pick out, and my David would tell you not to let me do that. I'm, what's the words.... old school."
"I think you sound like a pretty awesome grandfather," I told him and hugged him before running back over to Daia, Baka, and Robin who were talking with some other people from the store. I felt really guilty when I saw how much Daia, Baka, and Robin kept telling me that I needed to get. I wound up with practically a whole new wardrobe. At one point I dragged Robin into the dressing room with me to try some stuff on and I told him that I wanted to get stuff for the rest of the family too. I told him I had already cleared it with Mr. Levin as well.
"Your best bet is going to be to tell Daia and Baka about it up front. They will get suspicious if you don't, and they can help you pick out something for Grampa Olly and Aunt Doris and Aunt Rose," he told me seriously.
"Yeah, I guess it would be hard to get Daia and Baka something without them seeing it anyway," I admitted.
"Yeah, they're both moms, so they have like radar for when a kid is up to something," he laughed. "Hey," he whispered as he stepped closer to me. "Would it freak you out if I want to kiss you right now, right here?"
"I think a kiss is ok," I agreed with a blush. I admit it, I had never thought about it before that moment, but making out in the dressing room of a department store is kind of hot, ok make that REALLY hot. I pulled away after a moment though and blushed even more. "Oh man.... what am I going to do? I can't go back out there like this," I moaned as I stared at the pretty noticeable bulge in the front of my pants.
"Untuck your shirt," Robin suggested. "The good thing about those button downs you wear is that they will cover stuff when you need them to."
"I'll look like a bum or something," I told him with a frown.
"Do you want to look like a bum or a guy with a hard-on?"
I untucked the shirt. "What about you?" I asked Robin as I pointed at the front of his pants.
"Tell Mom I'm still trying on stuff, and I'll be out as soon as I'm done," he said with a shrug.
"Ok, and I'll talk to her and Baka about getting something for everyone else as well," I agreed.
In the end, it took several minutes for me to explain to Baka and Daia that I wanted to get each of them something, as well as getting something for Dad, Grampa Olly and our new aunts from the church. Fortunately for me, the store manager had been hanging around fairly close to them to make sure they were happy after the mess earlier, so he confirmed my story. They both went over to the ladies wear section to look around while I headed back for the dressing room to see what was keeping Robin.
"Hi, I'm David." I turned to the voice and saw a guy about my age walking toward me. He was dressed in some of the same clothes that Robin and I had been picking out earlier. "My grandfather told me that you had a bad run-in with one of the employees here. I wanted to tell you how sorry I am for that."
"It's not like it was your fault," I told him. "Your grandpa's a great guy, though. He told me I can't pay for anything I pick out today. He said he refused to take our money today."
"Yeah, he told me too," David nodded. "That's the other reason I came over to talk to you. I wanted to thank you for talking with him, because it gave me the guts to tell him about myself."
"Did he tell you that he already knew?" I blurted and then apologized. "I'm sorry, it's just that he told me a lot about you and how proud he is of you and how much he loves you."
"Yeah, he...." His voice was cut off by a noise from the dressing room we were standing in front of waiting for Robin.
"Dude, I said no," Robin was yelling a little loudly. "I got a boyfriend and I don't want to play around with anybody else. Now leave me alone and get out of here so I can get dressed."
David and I started into the dressing room and we both heard another voice reply to Robin. "So you've got a boyfriend, I do too. What they don't know won't hurt any of us, right. Come on, you've got a really fine ass and I am so hot for it, see?"
David slammed the door of the dressing room stall open and he and I both saw a guy with a really out of date Mohawk-style haircut and a t-shirt with holes in it standing next to Robin with his pants and underwear at his ankles. He was stiff as a tent pole. Robin was trying to snatch his own pants out of this guy's hands as we stepped in to join them.
"Marc? What is going on here?" David demanded.
"This guy called me in here and started yanking my clothes off," Marc lied. That was all he got out of his mouth before Robin kneed him in the balls really hard.
"That's a lie, you jerk," Robin snapped. "You came in here after pretending to be a sales clerk so I would let you in and you started trying to get me to bend over for you. Now give me back my freaking pants and get out of here, before I report this to somebody."
"That won't be necessary." We all turned to see Mr. Levin standing at the door of the dressing rooms. "David, will you take Robin and Elijah here to the ladies wear department to join their family? Grandpa is going to have a little talk with your boyfriend."
"Not anymore he's not," David snapped. "I heard you before we came in, Marc. Everybody tried to tell me what a loser you are, but I didn't want to listen. Well, I guess you just proved them right for me. I never want to see you again."
"Come on, David, let us introduce you to Robin's mom and grandmother," I said as I tugged at the boy's arm. As soon as we were out of the dressing room, David lost it and started crying. Robin and I hugged him as we kept him shuffling away from where we could hear his grandfather yelling at Marc and threatening him with all sort of legal action including attempted rape.
"None of what just happened was your fault, David," Robin told him. "He didn't touch me, as much as he obviously wanted to. And you are definitely better off without him."
"Robin, Elijah, what's going on? Who is this?" Daia asked as she came practically running up to us. "What's happened now?"
"Mom, meet Mr. Levin's grandson, David," Robin introduced. "He just caught his boyfriend trying to rape me in the dressing room."
"Calm down, Mom, nothing happened," Robin said quickly.
"Robin Inigo Keane, that is not the kind of statement you make to your mother and then tell me to calm down," she scolded. "Now where is this pedophile? I will neuter him with my bare hands."
"Dude, your mom is scarier than mine, and I didn't know that was possible," David snorted. His tears were starting to disappear as he began to smile at Daia as she fumed and muttered.
"I'm sorry for scaring you, dear," she blurted and hugged David. "I take it you had no idea about your boyfriend?"
"I guess I kind of did," David confessed. "Everybody kept telling me he was trouble and bad news, but I didn't want to believe them, you know. He was so different with me."
"He was different with you because he wanted your money, or rather the money you will be getting from me some day," Mr. Levin said softly as he walked up and took over hugging his grandson. "Yes, we all told you that boy was no good, but that doesn't make any of what he did your fault, David. All that is your fault is you picked a loser your first time out. My grandson has better taste than that schmuck. Oh, you'll pardon me ma'am for such language in front of a lady."
"I think Daia was calling him a lot worse than that just a moment ago," I said with a little giggle. David snickered as well.
"My Marshall is such a bad influence on this nice girl," Baka moaned sadly as she joined us. "He insists that he speaks the English all the time, but when he is angry or excited, he swears in Romany and Serbian, so this is all she picks up from him."
"It's the same with my son and the Yiddish," Mr. Levin groaned. "Thank goodness he lets me send David to shul, so he learns more than the words he shouldn't say in polite company."
"Elijah, Robin." We all turned in surprise to see Grampa Olly. "Well, fancy meeting y'all out and about."
"You're planning a party for your grandson's whole family today, but you can take time out to go shopping?" Baka asked bluntly.
"The food is all set ma'am, but I'm going to be real honest with you," Grampa Olly began. "The idea of serving a beautiful woman like yourself on my old mismatched dishes shamed me so bad, I came to town to buy some new plates and such in honor of you visiting my home."
"You would spend so much just to impress an old woman like me?" Baka asked as she actually blushed.
"Old woman, you say," Grampa Olly scoffed. "Why if nobody'd told me, I would have thought you were Marshall's sister, instead of his Mama."
"If you're trying to flirt, I think it only fair to tell you, it's starting to work," Baka said with a giggle.
"Oh geez, your Grampa is flirting with my grandma. I gotta get out of here," Robin whined.
"Your Baka is flirting with my Grampa, and if you leave, I'm right behind you," I told him.
"You guys are so not leaving me here with the mushy old folks," David added.
"Oy, show a little respect," Mr. Levin fussed at us all. "Someday you'll be the old ones, you know." He turned back to Grampa Olly. "So you're the grandfather of that boy?"
"We adopted each other recently," Grampa told him.
"You need the dishes, you said?" Mr. Levin continued.
"Well, I feel downright ashamed not having two plates that match," Grampa admitted. "When the lynching happened, some of them men got a little rough in the house. I didn't get a chance to take care of it before I found myself in that place where I met little Elijah."
"You have nothing to feel shamed for," Baka told him firmly. "We can bring the plates from our house."
"Now ma'am, I'm afraid I can't let you do that, because I've already told our young Elijah here that he was to get gifts for his family today. David, let's take these nice people over to the housewares department. They have some tableware to pick out, on the house. What do you think, service for twelve, maybe or do you think you will need more?" he asked Grampa.
"Mercy sakes, I never had that many dishes in my whole life, not even when my sweet Shantelle was still alive," Grampa mumbled. "I don't know nothing about picking out such things. I'd be mighty pleased if you help me out with that, dear lady," he told Baka.
"Granddad?" David asked quietly as we all walked through the store. "Not that I really care right now, but what happened to Marc?"
"That I need to talk to you about," Mr. Levin admitted with a sheepish look. "I might have kind of sent him to the airport with instructions to the guard that's with him to make sure he gets back to New York today and he knows to never darken the door of my home again or I will personally see to it that all the charges I can think of will be laid against him. Oh, and you might be feeling a little better when I tell you that I made sure the guard traveling with him knows he is not allowed any medication for the flight."
"Granddad, Marc gets really sick on planes," David gasped and then he laughed and hugged his grandfather tightly. "You're the best, Granddad."
"Nice of you to notice again finally," Mr. Levin teased. By this time we were at the counter where the table settings were displayed. Mr. Levin spoke to the lady working this section of the store. "The gentleman is here to get complete dinnerware. He is not to be told or shown any price tags; do you understand? This family is my personal guest today. You don't let them leave without service for twelve and everything that goes with that. It will be taken care of in the office later on." He then turned to us and apologized. "I'm afraid I have to leave you for a bit as I have to make arrangements for a place for David and I to stay tonight and somewhere for us to eat as well."
"I can't help you with where you can stay, but I'd be honored to have you join us for the fish fry this evening, if that's not a problem for your religion or diet," Grampa Olly offered sincerely. "I feel obliged to at least let you eat off the dishes you insist on giving me."
"Yes, please, both of you come eat with us," I pleaded. "You've been so nice today when you really didn't have to do everything you have and are doing for us. I mean if you're not allowed to eat with us, I'll understand, but I really would like to repay your generosity, and it would be great to get to know David a bit more."
"Oh Granddad, could we? I would really like to talk with Elijah and Robin away from the store," David begged excitedly.
"An intelligent man knows when he is outnumbered, and a wise man never turns down free food," Mr. Levin smiled. "We will go to the fish fry. I can speak with you later about how the fish is prepared so that David may eat it without any problems. I would also ask if it is acceptable that we bring drinks for the party. In my religion, we have no rules against alcohol, but in my house, I have one and that is that it is not for children, even if they do think they're old enough," he said as he looked directly at David.
"Granddad, I snuck one cup of wine at Passover two years ago," David moaned and blushed.
"I remember," Mr. Levin told him. "You thought because you'd had your bar mitzvah, you were an adult and I wasn't being fair to keep it from you. So tell me Mr. Grownup, what happened after you drank your wine?"
"I puked on Aunt Moira's lap in the middle of dinner," David mumbled as he blushed even more.
"So, when are you going to drink wine again?"
"Not until you say it's ok, Granddad, I swear," David vowed sincerely.
"Mom, can us guys go back to the clothing section before you guys decide to start sharing embarrassing stories about Frodo and me?"
"Robin, are you sure you didn't forge your grades in English this past year?" Daia asked. "Your grammar is atrocious, son. Yes, you may go back to the clothing section. Find something comfortable to study in, young man. You just earned yourself some home school grammar lessons."
"Aww, Mom," Robin whined, but he grabbed David and I by the hand and hurried us back to the clothing section.
"I'm so glad you and your grandfather are coming to the fish fry, David," I told him as we backtracked through the store.
"Me too," he smiled back. "You guys are really cool and I really do want to talk you guys about... well... stuff we can't mention here in the store. I've never had a friend who was, you know, into the same... stuff... as me. Well except Marc and I guess I shouldn't count him anymore. But I don't want to talk about him right now either. So is there anything else you guys wanted to check out in the store?"
"I have more clothes piled up at that checkout counter than I have ever owned in my life," I told him with a blush. "I feel guilty picking out so much stuff."
"Hey, don't you worry about that," David told me quickly. "Granddad wouldn't have told you to do it, if he hadn't meant for you to take him up on it. I mean you saw him with your grandfather. Granddad is not going to let him pick out just a few plates and bowls and leave."
"Your Granddad is awesome, David," Robin said with a smile, then his smile turned naughty and got directed at me. "There is one thing that you haven't checked out yet, you know, Frodo."
"What are you talking about? I swear I've tried on every pair of jeans, pants and shorts in the store along with all the shirts."
"You haven't looked at the underwear," Robin said and wiggled his eyebrows like some kind of pervert. "You said all you have are tighty whiteys."
"Oh, dude, you can't just own old geek undies," David blurted. "Come with me."
Somehow I was now more nervous and worried than I had been when Daia and Baka were throwing pants and shirts at me all day. The look on David and Robin's faces was the same as the one I had seen on Daia and Baka though. I was definitely signed for more embarrassment, whether I wanted it or not. Although, maybe picking out new underwear with Robin beside me wouldn't be quite as bad as having my new grandmother tell me I dressed like an old man.