Snow & Winter series

Interview with Pop & Max Coda


I sat down across from William and Max in the sort of dim-lit, cozy, accidentally eclectic coffee shop that Sebastian would probably haunt, had it been a location within walking distance. I set my notepad on the tabletop and smiled. "Thank you both for joining me."
"Of course," William said. "Our pleasure."
"For sure," Max chimed in. "I don't mind the spotlight."
I chuckled. "A lot of people are interested in the two of you."
"A lie I can live with," William replied. "My son carries a story far better."
"That's because he does exactly the opposite of what you, me, the barista, and this lady would do," Max said as he motioned around the room before pointing at me in conclusion.
I nodded. "That's... true. But folks are still wanting to hear from you both. So, first things first. William Snow, you're Sebastian's dad."
"That's correct."
"And you raised him by yourself?" I asked.
William nodded. "My wife and I parted ways when he was six. I received full custody."
"This may be a... sensitive question, and I apologize if you'd rather not answer--" I started.
"Oh please, ask away," William said.
"Is Sebastian in contact with his mother at all?"
William picked up his coffee and took a sip. "Not to my knowledge."
I left it at that and looked at Max. "And Max Ridley."
He gave me a wide smile. "The one and only."
"You met Sebastian when?"
"About a year and a half ago."
I scribbled the answer down on my pad. "That leads me to a question posed by Elizabeth...." I flipped the page. "Here we are... How did you find the job at the Emporium, and what was the interview process like?"
Max snorted and started laughing.
I glanced up. "Uh-oh."
He held his hands up. "Okay. Let me paint you a picture. I'm walking past the Emporium for an interview I had at some funky modern art store, which is so not my thing, but I've got student loans, you know?"
"Oh I know," I agreed.
"So, being early for that interview, and seeing a sign on his door that advertised an assistant position, I thought why not fill out an application? I go inside this bizarre, borderline creepy shop that's about as brightly lit as a bear cave. There's lots of customers, the phone is ringing, and in the middle of it all is Sebastian actually arguing with a lady about the history of the Brady stand."
William covered his mouth to hide a smile.
Max laughed. "I figure he's the owner, what with his frazzled appearance, so I kinda get closer, waiting my turn to talk to him. Instead, he looks at me and says, 'What?'"
"My son's manners are lacking when he's hangry," William interrupted.
"I'll say," Max agreed. "I look between him and this sassy woman and tell him I was hoping to fill out an application for the job. At first he gives me this blank stare, and I point over my shoulder at the sign on his door, before he seems to put two and two together. Instead of saying something like, 'oh sure' or 'come back later' or... anything normal, Seb points at the woman, then me, and says, 'What was the real use of the Brady stand?'"
"Jesus Christ," I muttered.
"Yeah," Max said with another laugh. "But hey, I have a degree in art. I know some things about early photography. I mean, not to the level Seb does, but Brady's name is well known. So I said it was used as an arm rest or even a neck brace during the early years of photography when there were long exposure times. I guess the lady had been insistent that it was used to make dead bodies stand up for postmortem photos, which was a thing for sure, but not in the way she thought. Sebastian isn't exactly... charming, when he's told he's wrong and has to defend himself." Max grinned. "He told me I was hired. Then and there. I cancelled the interview I had at the modern art place."
I stared at Max for a moment. "Wow."
He nodded.
"Okay then...." I cleared my throat and made a few notes. "You enjoy working for him, Max?"
"Never a dull moment," Max answered. "All joking aside, Seb is a good boss, a better friend, and the Emporium pays my bills and teaches me new things. A lot of people can't say that about their jobs."
"That's sweet," I answered.
"I'm a sweet guy."
"And very humble," William added, nudging Max in the ribs.
I remembered my coffee at this point and took a sip of the now lukewarm beverage. "William, I have a question here for you, from Laurene."
"She's curious to know when you realized that Sebastian had Achromatopsia."
"Ah. Very early, actually. I think by the time he was three months old we knew there was something to be concerned about. He'd cry and scream nonstop whenever we went outside-- come to find later it was bright light hurting his eyes. His Nystagmus started to show around then as well. That's when his eyes shake or wobble involuntarily. It's much better, now that he's an adult," William explained.
"That makes sense," I answered. "A three-month-old isn't really able to take a color test."
He nodded. "Although we had him take that and several visual acuity tests when he was a few years older, that's how we confirmed he had complete Achromatopsia."
"Was it difficult adjusting to his normal?"
William shook his head. "No. When it's your child, you do what is necessary without even really considering anything else. Sebastian is very independent--"
"Bullheaded," Max corrected.
William smiled a little. "We made it work pretty well."
A sudden crash behind the counter startled the three of us. We turned to see a barista wincing and bending down to pick up a shattered mug, while another employee laughed and clapped.
"I have a question for you both," I said, looking back at the two. "How do you like Calvin?"
"Calvin's awesome," Max said without a second thought.
"Highly approve of him," William said.
"Anyone that can wrangle Seb for extended periods is a keeper," Max continued.
William nodded. "It's true," he said, a bit quieter.
I smiled. "I like him too. But then again, I've always had a thing for redheads."
"Same," Max said.
I side-eyed him. "That rolls me into my next question. What kind of person floats your boat?"
"Excuse me?" I asked.
He nodded. "I like persons."
William patted Max's shoulder. "Not picky, this one."
I took another sip of coffee and then tapped my notebook with the pen. "One last question for you, William. Alaska wants to know, what was a typical parent-teacher conference when Sebastian was a kid?" I bit the inside of my cheek when I asked that one.
Max just started laughing and slapped his thighs.
William's face colored a little and he set his hands on the tabletop. "Can I plead the fifth?"
"Hell no, tell the story," Max retorted.
"Well... Sebastian's self-confidence as a child was a bit lacking. He's never liked standing out in a crowd, and sitting in the front row, with large print books put a target on his back for bullies. Anyway...." William cleared his throat. "Third grade, Mrs. Morrison calls me in for a meeting. Sebastian had had an... altercation during recess. One of the bigger boys was giving him grief, and I guess Sebastian had taken it upon himself to point out how this other kid had gotten answers on a class activity wrong, why he'd been wrong, how he'd continue to be wrong, called the boy a pillock and then supplied the historical context behind the word. He'd made the other student cry."
"What kid in America knows and uses the word pillock?" Max asked.
"Mine," William said solemnly.
"Uh, what happened next?" I asked.
"I asked Sebastian where he'd learned the word, because frankly I had to look it up, and he said the dictionary. I told him we don't call other students stupid, especially when the word originates as a meaning for penis--"
Max choked on a sip of coffee.
William patted his back as he continued speaking. "Well, next time I get called into a meeting, it was because he'd called a boy ninnyhammer." He sighed. "Third grade was rough."
I set my pen down and leaned back. "Fascinating interview."

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