Lydia Reviews: The Long and Winding Road by TJ Klune

Title: The Long and Winding Road

Author: TJ Klune

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Pages: 346

Characters: Otter, Bear, and Ty

POV:  1st

Sub-Genre:  Contemporary, Series

Kisses: 5+

Blurb:

Family is not always defined by blood. It’s defined by those who make us whole—those who make us who we are.

And here, at the end, Bear and Otter will be tested like they’ve never been before.

There’s a knock at the door from a little girl who has nowhere else to go.

There’s a phone ringing, bringing news they do not expect.

There’s a brother returning home after learning how to stand on his own.

As these moments converge, all of their lives will change forever.

Beginning in Bear, Otter, and the Kid and continuing in Who We Are and The Art of Breathing, TJ Klune has told a saga of family and brotherhood, of love and sacrifice. In this final chapter, the events of the past pave the long and winding road toward a future no one could have imagined.

Review:

The Long and Winding Road is the last book in the Bear, Otter, and the Kid Chronicles series by author TJ Klune.  While the author does touch base on some of the stuff revealed in the previous books, it is necessary to read this series in order.  If you have not read the other books be warned, there are spoilers in this review.

Although it has been some time since I read the earlier books in this series, I was pulled right back into the world and lives of the three main characters created by the author.  Some may question the reference of three main characters but that is how I have always viewed this story, because Kid (Ty) is just as important as Bear and Otter.  Like the first book, this one is also told from Bear’s perspective so be prepared for a wild ride.

As the book begins we get to see again how the series began, how Bear and Otter came to be, and how the Kid grows into the man he is now.  Of course, that means reliving some of the events that had me laughing and crying the first time around.  It also gave us a chance to see some of the aspects of The Art of Breathing from Bear’s point of view.  Those events had my heart breaking all over again and many times I wanted to jump to the end of the book to make sure everyone got their HEA.

The author also brings Isabelle back into the fold, surprising Bear who has also just realized that he is going to be the father of twins.  Isabelle’s arrival brings a whole new set of problems for Bear and Otter and along the way a few misunderstandings as well.

While there are a lot of angsty moments in The Long and Winding Road, there are also many light-hearted moments.  There is Anna’s pregnancy and of course Creed’s behavior.  Then there is Megan, who is the guy’s surrogate. When Bear meets Marty, Megan’s boyfriend I could not stop laughing.  I am not sure which was funnier, this scene or when Bear was stressing about the twins becoming serial killers.

With the final chapters and epilogue, the author does a wonderful job wrapping up this series.  Although I loved seeing how everything played out I was sad to see it ending.  This is one series I will be reading many times over.  It has made me a fan of the author’s, opening me up too many more wonderful stories.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Lydia

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

Gabbi Reviews: Until You by TJ Klune


Title: At First Sight, Book 3: Until You
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 149
Characters: Paul Auster, Vincent Taylor
POV: 1st
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance, Series
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Together with their families and friends

Paul Auster

and

Vincent Taylor

request the honor of your company at the celebration of their marriage.

Review:

Okay, I admit it. I’m a TJ Klune fan. There is something very special about his stories. Whether they are filled with heart-wrenching angst or lighthearted laughter and fun and zany moments, his books have become some of my favorite comfort reads.

Who doesn’t love watching two memorable characters finally getting hitched? Even better, Mr. Klune throws in his mix of incredible secondary characters with some laugh out loud funny moments and plenty of ‘feel good’ moments to start or end your day with a smile on your face and a happy heart. Though this is a story of Paul and Vince getting married, in my opinion, ALL of the characters in this series keeps the book moving along smoothly throughout the plot itself.

There isn’t much to say about this gem of a book, except to read it. If you are fan of his work, it’s truly a must read. If you haven’t read any of Mr. Klune’s books…do NOT hesitate any longer and get them. You won’t be sorry.

Until You is the third book in the At First Sight series and though it’s written well enough to be read as a stand-alone story, I don’t recommend reading it until you read the first two in the series first. Once you meet these characters, you’ll find yourself wrapped up in their lives and you will totally fall in love with all of them. I can NOT wait until the next book! Whoop!

Highly Recommended!

The At First Sight Books series in book order are:

Tell Me It’s Real
The Queen and the Homo Jock King
Until You

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Homepage

Lydia Reviews: Wolfsong by TJ Klune


Title: Wolfsong
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Author: TJ Klune
Pages: 400
Kisses: 5+

Blurb:

Ox was twelve when his daddy taught him a very valuable lesson. He said that Ox wasn’t worth anything and people would never understand him. Then he left.

Ox was sixteen when he met the boy on the road, the boy who talked and talked and talked. Ox found out later the boy hadn’t spoken in almost two years before that day, and that the boy belonged to a family who had moved into the house at the end of the lane.

Ox was seventeen when he found out the boy’s secret, and it painted the world around him in colors of red and orange and violet, of Alpha and Beta and Omega.

Ox was twenty-three when murder came to town and tore a hole in his head and heart. The boy chased after the monster with revenge in his bloodred eyes, leaving Ox behind to pick up the pieces.

It’s been three years since that fateful day—and the boy is back. Except now he’s a man, and Ox can no longer ignore the song that howls between them.

Review:

Fans of this author know that when you pick up one of his books you can expect to have your emotions pulled through the ringer. Wolfsong is no exception so make sure you have plenty of Kleenex nearby. Mr. Klune has put a whole new spin on the shifter genre, with a shakeup in the normal mythology we see in these books.

Wolfsong also introduces the main characters when they are just kids. Ox is sixteen and for the last few years it has just been himself and his mom. He’s had to grow up faster than most kids his age, yet at the same time there’s innocence about him. Jo on the other hand is a pre-teen who has not spoken in two years. During the beginning of the story there are hints of something bad happening that caused Jo to stop talking but the details don’t come out until later in the story. The author spends a lot of time flushing out the history of the main characters and their families, which gives the readers a chance to get to become invested in not only Ox and Jo, but also their families.

As Wolfsong moves forward, the relationship between Ox and Jo takes many different forms. It is interesting watching them move through the stages from friends to lovers, especially given the ages the boys were when they met. On top of everything else the boys are going through, Ox finds out about shifters, both the good ones and the bad. When tragedy strikes, the boys’ lives change in ways they never saw coming and so does the book.

I have been a fan of Mr. Klune from the first book of his I’ve read. I expected Wolfsong to be good and it exceeded my expectations. I could not put the story down. I loved the new world the author created, especially some of the change ups done to the mythology. I was shocked by what befalls some of the characters in this story; however, since it follows the flow of the story perfectly it was easy to accept. I hope the author will treat this book as the first of a series, as I would love to see more of Ox, Jo and their pack.

If you are looking for a book that is full of action, romance and suspense. One that is full of shifters, yet different from what you usually read, then you really need to pick up Wolfsong by TJ Klune.

Reviewed by: Lydia

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Website

Gabbi Reviews: The Queen and the Homo Jock King by TJ Klune


Title: The Queen and the Homo Jock King
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 350
Characters: Sanford *Sandy* Stewart, Darren Mayne
POV: 1st
Sub-Genre: Contemporary Romance
Kisses: 5

Blurb:

Sequel to Tell Me It’s Real

Do you believe in love at first sight?

Sanford Stewart sure doesn’t. In fact, he pretty much believes in the exact opposite, thanks to the Homo Jock King. It seems Darren Mayne lives for nothing more than to create chaos in Sandy’s perfectly ordered life, just for the hell of it. Sandy despises him, and nothing will ever change his mind.

Or so he tells himself.

It’s not until the owner of Jack It—the club where Sandy performs as drag queen Helena Handbasket—comes to him with a desperate proposition that Sandy realizes he might have to put his feelings about Darren aside. Because Jack It will close unless someone can convince Andrew Taylor, the mayor of Tucson, to keep it open.

Someone like Darren, the mayor’s illegitimate son.

The foolproof plan is this: seduce Darren and push him to convince his father to renew Jack It’s contract with the city.

Simple, right?

Wrong.

Review:

When it comes to being a TJ Klune fan, I’m a bit late coming to the party. Somehow, I escaped reading any of his book until a couple of months ago and immediately fell in love with all of them. Since then, I’ve read most of them and I haven’t looked back.

There is something quite special in the way Mr. Klune connects with his characters. Not only are they witty and sarcastic as hell, they seem to get themselves into some interesting hi-jinks that never fails to keep this readers undivided attention. When it comes to reading his stories, I admit I’m on the edge of my seat anxiously waiting to see what is going to happen next.

The Queen and the Homo Jock King is told in first person through Sandy/Helena’s point of view and it’s because Sandy is such an interesting, well-written character, he definitely kept me enthralled with the story he had to tell.

The blurb really does a great job in describing the story itself, so I won’t rehash it, but I will tell you although Sandy and Darren find themselves trying to save the club he works at as the infamous Helena, it is the relationships between all of the characters that is really the heart and soul of the story.

I loved the relationship between Sandy and his friends. Plus, it was great to see Sandy and Darren circle around each other throughout the book. Mr. Klune does a great job at writing sexual tension, so much so, there were times I wanted to shake Sandy and yell for him to get his head out of his arse and jump Darren’s bones. I also think Mr. Klune does a fantastic job at really showing us how much these characters connect on a deep emotional level. It’s obvious Sandy and Darren care for each other as they do their extended friends and family.

Although this book could easily be read as a stand-alone story, I do recommend reading the first book, Tell Me It’s Real. This way you can get the full extent of the amazing relationship these characters have for each other.

I loved The Queen and the Homo Jock King and it is a very easy book to recommend. Between the love the characters had for each other and the laugh out loud moments I had as I read the story, this is definitely a book not to be missed.

Highly Recommended!

Reviewed By: Gabbi

Click HERE to enter the Dreamspinner Press Website

Lydia reviews: How to be a Normal Person

How to be a Normal Person

Published by : Dreamspinner Press

Author: TJ Klune

Pages: 290

Kisses: 5+

 

 

 

Blurb:

Gustavo Tiberius is not normal. He knows this. Everyone in his small town of Abby, Oregon, knows this. He reads encyclopedias every night before bed. He has a pet ferret called Harry S. Truman. He owns a video rental store that no one goes to. His closest friends are a lady named Lottie with drag queen hair and a trio of elderly Vespa riders known as the We Three Queens.

Gus is not normal. And he’s fine with that. All he wants is to be left alone.

Until Casey, an asexual stoner hipster and the newest employee at Lottie’s Lattes, enters his life. For some reason, Casey thinks Gus is the greatest thing ever. And maybe Gus is starting to think the same thing about Casey, even if Casey is obsessive about Instagramming his food.

But Gus isn’t normal and Casey deserves someone who can be. Suddenly wanting to be that someone, Gus steps out of his comfort zone and plans to become the most normal person ever.

After all, what could possibly go wrong?

 

Review:

Warning!!!!!!!! If you are not ready to laugh out loud, sometimes to the point of tears, then put this book down it is not for you. If, however, you are looking for a story that will grab you from the first page, and keep you turning the pages until the very end, then you really need to pick up How to be a Normal Person by author TJ Klune.

How to be a Normal Person is a contemporary romantic comedy centered on two of the greatest characters I have seen in some time. Gus, whose real name is Gustavo Tiberius has been on his own since the death of his father. His variety of idiosyncrasies has him more closed off than ever and the citizens of the small town in which he lives go out of their way to challenge him. There are four who are close to him, and in many ways have become his surrogate family. Lottie, as well as the We Three Queens, tries hard to make sure that he does not fall into depression. Of course that usually means that they are driving Gus crazy. They usually have him so rattled that the things that come out of his mouth had me laughing like crazy. Of course they are not the only ones to get under Gus’ skin. When Lottie’s nephew Casey shows up things totally spin out of control for Gus.

Casey is a well know writer of young adult books. His stories have brought him a ton of fans that have grown with the addition of the first book’s movie. When he needs time to clear his head and find his muse he heads to Oregon and his aunt Lottie. Casey is also a hipster/stoner who uses pot for medical reasons. His first meeting with Gus had me in stitches. I don’t think I ever laughed so much while reading a book then I did with How to be a Normal Person.

Like Gus, Casey also has his issues. For Casey it is the fact that he is asexual. I loved the way the author has handled this problem. While many authors have used this topic lately, this is the first time that I have seen it done where the characters don’t overcome the problem three quarters of the way through the book. The way Mr. Klune has handled Casey’s asexuality is done realistically. The men pace themselves, moving their relationship along in a way that is comfortable for them, or I should say comfortable for Casey since poor Gus has no clue what so ever about what is going on. In fact, Gus gets his dating advise from the internet, which is another crazy episode altogether.

I really, really loved this book and plan on re-reading it again soon. Fans of this author should make sure to pick this one up, and if you have not yet tried Mr. Klune’s books then How to be a Normal Person is a great place to start.

 

Reviewed by: Lydia

Buy Link

The Lightning-Struck Heart by TJ Klune


Title: The Lightning‐Struck Heart
Author: TJ Klune
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 400
Kisses: 5+







Blurb:

Can the young wizard, Sam, survive an epic quest, save the prince, and win the heart of the dreamy
Knight Ryan Foxheart?

Once upon a time, in an alleyway in the slums of the City Of Lockes, a
young and somewhat lonely boy named Sam Haversford turns a group
of teenage douchebags into stone completely by accident.

Of course, this catches the attention of a higher power, and Sam’s
pulled from the only world he knows to become an apprentice to the
King’s Wizard, Morgan of Shadows.

When Sam’s fourteen, he enters the Dark Woods and returns with
Gary, the hornless gay unicorn, and a half-­‐giant named Tiggy, earning
the moniker Sam of Wilds.

At fifteen, Sam learns what love truly is when a new knight arrives at
the castle—Knight Ryan Foxheart, the dreamiest dream to have ever
been dreamed.

Naturally, it all goes to hell when Ryan dates the reprehensible Prince Justin, Sam can’t control his
magic, a sexually aggressive dragon kidnaps the prince, and the King sends them on an epic quest to
save Ryan’s boyfriend, all while Sam falls more in love with someone he can never have.

Or so he thinks.

Review:

I was thrilled to see that Tj Klune had a new release and boy oh boy was I not disappointed.
His books always have witty dialogue but this one takes the cake!

From the first page I was hooked and he held me all through this amazing book.

I loved Sam but with Tj Klune you love all his characters even the “bad” guys get the most amazing dialogue, I laughed from first page to last page.

Gary the hornless gay unicorn is the best friend everyone wants to have, and Tiggy the half giant will squish anyone who hurts his besties.

Ryan the “Knight Commander” who holds Sam’s heart, I wouldn’t have minded a few times if Tiggy had squished him but he did have his moments. You need to read this, you really do, but be prepared to get the weird looks because you will be laughing out loud through the whole thing!

Tj Klune is brilliant, and yes I think, a little warped. If you have not read his books you just don’t know what you are missing!

I highly recommend not only this book but all his books.

Reviewed by: Cheryl

Click Here to enter the Dreamspinner Press Website

Tj Klune in the House!!


Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, Tj.

Thanks for having me!

Can you tell us a little bit about your background and how you stepped into writing?

I’d always wanted to be a writer, ever since I was a kid. I thought I had a knack for being able to tell stories, even if no one would really listen to them. And then, of course, my early twenties hit and I was cocky enough to decide I was going to write the Great American Novel and Change The Face Of Literature Forever. That first book I wrote was such a train wreck that I grew disenchanted for a while (it also didn’t help that a professor of mine called my work “pretentious.” Ouch.) I can’t even open that first work without cringing now (seriously, it’s that bad—you open the word doc and immediately drown in a melodramatic tsunami). So I stayed away from writing for a while until randomly one day I heard the voice of the Kid in my head. From there, the rest just followed.

Your first book, “Bear, Otter, and the Kid” was recently released with Dreamspinner Press, what were the first words out of your mouth when they accepted your manuscript for publication?

“This better not be some bullshit joke.” And then I may have screamed. But it was a very manly scream. More of a bellow, really.

When did you start writing m/m romance? What about this genre interested you the most?

When I set out to write BOATK, I didn’t really give much thought to the idea of m/m romance, or if it would fall under that genre. I simply wanted to write a story about what it means to be family. Yes, there is romance in it between two men, and yes I am honored to be considered part of the M/M genre, but it wasn’t initially a goal to go that direction. I just wanted to tell a story.

How long did it take you to get published?

Dreamspinner was the first publisher I sent it too and they accepted BOATK about three weeks later. Pretty quick turn around time. I was impressed by that.

Looking back was there something in particular that helped you to decide to become a writer? Did you choose it or did the profession choose you?

I think that most writers must be crazy (myself included) because of the amount of voices we hear in our heads. It’s strange really, that characters can speak to us the way that they do (and I even know what most of mine would sound like). I think I wanted to be a writer to get all those voices out and on paper. The alternative, of course, would be admitted for a psych eval. I chose the easier route.

On a typical day, how do you spend your time?

Unfortunately, I can’t spend my entire day writing as much as I want to. I work 40-50 hours per week as a claims examiner for an insurance company. My nights are spent writing and revising. Guess which one I enjoy more?

Do you write right through or do you revise as you go along?

Typically, I’ll write during the week for 2-3 hours a night and then take the weekend and revise what I’ve written during the week.

When it comes to plotting, do you write freely or plan everything in advance?

With BOATK, I put my hands on the keyboard and just let go, trusting that what would come out would be at least slightly coherent. For the most part it was. I had a general outline in my head of where I wanted to go with it, but certain things ( like the character of Mrs. Paquinn) came out of nowhere. But those are moments I love, when a new idea sparks and I can just run with it.

What kind of research do you do before and during a new book?

With BOATK, I had to research Oregon custody laws, especially dealing with the absence of a parent and having a sibling act as a guardian. I believe that research is important, because if you are going to write about something you know nothing about, it’ll sound false if you try and wing it. And readers are smart people; they can see through lines of bullshit. So if I am going to be writing about something that I have no clue on, you bet I’ll try and read everything I can on the subject so I don’t sound like a jackass. Case in point: The Kid is a vegetarian. I am not. I like beef tacos covered in pork. I didn’t know what the hell edamame was (aside from initially thinking it was Natalie Portman’s character in Star Wars). So I annoyed a friend of mine who is a vegetarian with a billion questions. Whatever I got right, thank her. What’s wrong, blame me.

How much of yourself and the people you know manifest into your characters? How do you approach development of your characters? Where do you draw the line?

That’s a tough question. When my friends and family started reading BOATK shortly after it came out, the thing I was told the most is that Bear sounds like me, not so much in the way he speaks but in his sense of humor. I never had to go through half the shit that Bear does. BOATK isn’t meant to be autobiographical. But I think that writers inject at least a tiny part of themselves with each character they write. Every character, however, can’t end up sounding like me because then they’d all sound the same. There are times when I have to stop and think, “Okay, would so-and-so really say something like that or is that just something I’d say.”

How long does it take for you to complete a book you would allow someone to read?

Depends on the book. BOATK took me two years to write because I had some doubts there for a while on whether or not I could finish it and if anybody would actually read it. My new book, which is longer than BOATK, took me three months to write. I don’t try and focus on how long a book should take me to write, only on when I feel the story is finished. Some stories may come faster than others. I’m shocked and amazed when I see people putting out like 8-9 novels (not novellas, not short stories, but novels) a year. I read that a fellow M/M author had 81 works in progress. How nuts is that? I can only focus on one WIP at a time, and it gets my undivided attention. I couldn’t handle having more than that. If you can, more power to you.

Writers often go on about writer’s block. Do you ever suffer from it, and what measures do you take to get past it?

I think it can happen to anyone. Sometimes you just hit an impasse where your brain isn’t firing like it should be. If that happens to me, I close the WIP and move onto something different. It never really lasts to long, but it’s good to step away for a bit.

How would you describe your sense of humor? Who and what makes you laugh?

Sarcastic and dark. Unfortunately, I have the innate gift of laughing at the most inappropriate times (It sounds so wrong to say, but for example, if you trip and fall in front of me, I’m the person that laughs and then asks if you are all right.) Some people would probably call me immature but they’re just jerks.

What is the most frequently asked Tj question?

“When is the sequel to BOATK going to be published?” Lol, I love that people have responded so positively to these guys and want to know if there is another story to tell.

What are you working on now?

The sequel to BOATK. *grins*

What was the best piece of advice you’ve received with respect to the art of writing? How did you implement it into your work?

“Don’t write for anyone but yourself.” And it’s so true. I can’t go into something thinking about what I can do to please everyone that reads it. No matter what I write, there’s going to be people that don’t like it. I can’t focus on that. If I did, I would probably go bat-shit crazy. So I try not to worry about what others might think. If I finish a work and I am satisfied with it, that’s really what should matter. That being said, I do appreciate the positive feedback I’ve received from people about BOATK. That means more to me than people can know and gives me the courage to continue on with the next WIP.

When it comes to promotion, what lengths have you gone to in order to increase reader-awareness of your work?

Leading up to BOATK’s release, I really didn’t have much of a presence online. I didn’t have a Facebook Page, I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t know what Goodreads was. I’m on a computer all day at work and I didn’t like having to come home and keep up all that unnecessary online stuff. But man did that change. Look, Dreamspinner has been great and wonderful and all that jazz, but they can’t do everything, nor should they be expected to. So I signed up for these social media sites where I regularly speak with readers and provide updates on my current WIP. The one thing I’ve learned is that readers want to speak with the authors if they can, and I am overjoyed by that. I love hearing from people and am doing my best to respond to everyone that writes to me. It may take a bit, but you’ll hear back.

What kind of books do you like to read?

While I do read M/M books, I read much more outside the genre. I love anything Stephen King, early Dean Koontz (really nothing within the last five years—Dean, buddy; what happened?). I read a lot of true crime stories and other non-fiction. As a matter of fact, if you want to read a true-life adventure story about searching for a city of gold in the Amazon, read David Gann’s The Lost City Of Z. It’s fantastic.

Aside from writing, what else do you enjoy doing?

I just got a new house so that is sapping up a lot of my time. I haven’t moved in five years so I’ve accumulated so much crap that it’s embarrassing. The house needs some work done, and I figure I might as well learn how to do it on my own (caveat to that—I wouldn’t mind a hot contractor coming in and doing the work for me. He’d have to have a rough exterior but a heart of gold).

What future projects do you have in the works?

In Feb/March 2012, Dreamspinner Press will publish my second novel entitled “This Is How We Burn The World.” It’s the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy and to say it’s different than BOATK is an understatement. While it still follows a unique family, it’s dark and gritty and much more action oriented. I’ve had the story in my head for years and finally wrote it down. It’s a big book, but one I can’t wait for people to read. And yes, at its heart, it’s still about two guys who fall in love, just on a bigger scale. I think people will really like Felix and Seven.

Beyond that (and depending on what happens with the BOATK sequel), I plan on revisiting the Kid when he’s older. Boy, have I got some plans for him! And I think there maybe one more story to be told in Seafare beyond that, and it’s from a person we’ve already met. I think he’ll surprise people, but that’s all I’ll say on that for now. 😉

Can you please tell us where we can find you on the Internet?

I’m on Facebook under TJ Klune.
My blog is http://www.tjklunebooks.blogspot.com
I can be reached via email at tjklunebooks@yahoo.com.

Could you please share your favorite excerpt(s) from your book with us?

My very favorite:

On Sunday morning, Ty comes to me with a request that catches me off guard. I know I should have been expecting it at some point, but when he asks, it throws me for a loop. I mean, with all that’s been going on as of late, I thought that we were miles away from here. And damn if it doesn’t sort of hurt.

“You what?” I say to him, disbelieving what I’d just heard.

He sighs and sits on the couch next to me. “You know how I don’t have school tomorrow because it’s a grading day for teachers?” I nod. I have to work later on today and was planning on taking Ty to Otter’s before I went.

“Well, my friend from school wants me to stay the night at his house tonight,” he says patiently, as if I’m the child and he’s the adult.

“Do you want to go?” I say slowly.

He sits back on our couch and scrunches his face. “I think I do,” he says finally. “But if I wanted to come home, would you come get me?” he adds quickly.

“Of course,” I say sullenly. “Either me or Otter, if I’m still at work.” I shake my head. “Who is this kid? How do you know him? Have I met him? Have I met his parents?”

He rolls his eyes. “Yes, Bear. I told you, he’s my friend from school. You met him and his parents at my birthday party. Remember Alex Herrera? His mom was the one who asked you where you got the jumping castle from because she wants one for his birthday next month. You said Alex was very polite.”

It’s funny, I know, but I haven’t had to face this yet. The Kid seemed content on not having sleepovers or play dates or anything like most normal kids do. Sure, he would go outside and play, but he never went over to someone else’s house. I begin to think that this is going to be much harder on me than it is on him. Have I really gotten so dependent on him? I think, bemused. I always thought it was the other way around. Do parents feel like this when their kid goes off for the first time like this? Jesus Christ, I need a life.

The next thing I know I’m on the phone with Mrs. Herrera, who’s telling me of course it’s okay that Ty is coming over, and how sweet and intelligent he is. She wonders out loud why the Kid and Alex have never had a slumber party before, and I tell her Ty doesn’t eat meat and that if he needs anything to just call me. Or Otter. Or Anna. Or Creed. Ty looks mortified as I make Mrs. Herrera recite the phone numbers back to me. She says that yes, she knows the number to Poison Control. No, they don’t have any big dogs. Yes, she knows not to let Ty go to the beach by himself. No, she’s quite sure that it’s not expected to rain, but she’ll keep him inside if it does. Yes, she’s positive I don’t need to pack any special vegetarian meals. She’s telling me that no, she doesn’t know CPR, and I’m about to tell her this is not a good night for this, maybe next time, when Ty kicks me in the shins, and I tell her I’ll drop him off on my way to work.

I make Ty take his cell-phone charger so his phone can be charged in case he needs to call me for anything. He says that he’ll keep it charged in case I need to call him for anything. We pack his bag, and I put in four changes of clothes, and he scowls at me and takes some of them out. I make sure he has his toothbrush (and toothpaste and floss and mouthwash and Children’s Tylenol and Band-Aids and tweezers). He stops me when I am packing a Tupperware dish filled with almond granola because I’ll be damned if he’ll go hungry because all they’re serving is a rack of lamb in pork sauce with a side of meatloaf. He takes me to the couch and has another talk with me. I sit with my hands in my lap and nod.

When he’s not looking, I pack the granola anyways.

“You going to be okay?” he asks as we pull out of our apartment parking lot. I glance in the rearview mirror and see how pale my face looks.

“Are you going to be okay?” I retort, not liking his amused expression.

“I’ll be fine, Papa Bear,” he says calmly. “But even if I decide to stay the whole night, can I still call you tonight before I go to bed?” I smile and say yes, and we both relax, and it’s not until later that I’ll realize he’s said that more for my benefit than his.

“What are you going to do tonight?” he asks me as we pull into his friend’s neighborhood. “You probably shouldn’t stay by yourself.”

I snort. “You kidding me?” I tell him. “It’s my first night without you hanging all over me. I’m gonna go out and party.”

He looks at me knowingly. “You should just go to Otter’s,” he says as he stares back out the window. “That way, I’ll know where you are and know that you’re okay.”

“That I’m okay?” I ask him bewildered. “Why wouldn’t I be okay?”

He’s silent for a moment, and I’m about to ask him again when he says, “I know you’ll be okay. But I know you’ll be more okay if you’re with Otter.” He looks at me again. “Does that make sense?”

I shake my head. “Explain it to me.” I honestly don’t know what’s going through his head. I know he can’t possibly know about… you know, us (i.e. whatever it is I’m doing with Otter), but I also know he’s more perceptive than anyone I’ve ever known. I’m curious to see what he’s picked up.

He sighs. “I made Otter promise me that he’ll take care of you,” he tells me. “Remember when we were at his house a couple of nights ago for a sleepover? That’s what I whispered to him.”

“Why’d you ask him that?” I say, opting not to tell him that I already knew.

“Because, Bear. You’ve taken care of me my whole life, practically, and I’m not big enough to take care of you yet. Otter is.”

I pull the car over in front of the Herrera house. I put the car in park and cup the back of the Kid’s head and press my forehead against his. He hums happily and plays with my fingers. “You’ve done a damn good job taking care of me,” I tell him quietly. “More than anyone in the world.”

He smiles at me. “I am trying,” he says seriously. “But Otter….” He stops.

“But Otter what?” I press gently.

He shrugs. “Otter makes you smile. I know I do too,” he says quickly, as I open my mouth to interject. “But you’ve been sad for a very long time, and I couldn’t figure out why, and then I knew.”

“And what did you know, Kid?”

He looks at me funny, like I shouldn’t even have to ask. “You were sad,” he says, “because Otter was gone. But now he’s back, and you’re not sad anymore. And that makes me hope that he’ll never leave again.”

I smile sadly at my little adult and kiss his forehead. His friend opens the front door to the house, and Mrs. Herrera waves from behind him, and Ty unbuckles his seat belt and grabs his overnight bag out of the backseat of the car. He opens the door and yells hi to his friend and grins at me over his shoulder, and then he’s gone too. I watch him run up to the front door, and he turns and waves back at me, and I wave frantically at him, and then they’re inside, and the door is shut. I turn the car around and drive away, feeling strangely alone. Then my phone beeps, telling me I’ve got a new text message from the Kid.

love u Papa Bear