Dinner with Gene and his family wasn’t going well, and Alex couldn’t put his finger on why. Something about Gene’s children was maybe putting him off his feed. They bore little resemblance to each other, lean where he was stout, hairy where he was bald as Caesar, with little of the intelligence that sparked in his eyes. They grinned at Alex, mouths wide with good humor, pink peep of tongue lolling at the corners.
“Pardon me for asking,” said Alex, “but–“
“Yes?” said Gene. “Go ahead. We’re all friends here.”
“Are you married? I haven’t met your wife.”
An expression that might have been sorrow moved beneath his mustache. “No, nor will you this side of Acheron.”
He waved a heavy hand. “No, no, it’s an old pain, a very old pain. She left me these fine boys, these excellent sons.”
“They don’t say much.”
“No,” and he grinned, a brief flicker of resemblance. “Words aren’t their forte, nor their purpose.”
“What’s their purpose?”
“Ah,” breathed Gene, “I could tell you, but what’s the fun in that? Doubtless you shall discover it on your own, clever lad.” Beneath the white cloth, six tails thumped once, together, a brief period in the moonlight.