I received one objection to the sex in Chapter 11 - just one, and it was from what I assume (from the return signature) was a woman. Not to worry, she said she wouldn't read any more of the story - her loss. I have no apology for my story. After all, it's my fantasy.
As previously stated, all the characters are fictitious, and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely accidental.
Please pay heed to the laws concerning the age of consent in your State/Country. I can't keep minors from obtaining access, but the authorities in your neck of the woods will take great glee in holding you up to ridicule - or worse.
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The first week of March marked my birthday, and I planned a small party. It was the first time in many years I had looked forward to the occasion. Eric suddenly got very chummy with Tom and Carl. I really didn't want him to spend his savings on me, but I also didn't want to deprive him of the pleasure he would derive from arranging a surprise gift. I had no idea what he was planning, and Carl was no help at all.
The "great day" arrived apace, and the early morning fog cleared by ten AM. It promised to be a glorious day, so I fired up the grill on the patio, and got some steaks out of the freezer along with the lobsters I had cooked and frozen the day after I made the Paella. I nuked some potatoes for a few minutes to get them started, and then put then on the upper rack in the grill to finish. I had made some baked beans the night before, and put them in a slow oven to cook overnight. I asked Tom to go to town and pick up some Mönkschaft Bier, a Bavarian brew I am particularly fond of. I had found a small tavern that was willing to order it from the distributor in New York.
The meal was marvelous, partly because it was the first to be eaten outdoors after a long and dismally wet winter. Eric was bouncing around happier than I had ever seen him, a fact that only added to my joy. While we were sitting around feeling sated after the meal, he And Carl disappeared for fifteen minutes or so, and when Eric reappeared he was carefully carrying a huge cake. His smile was so broad, I thought it would wrap around his ears. He put the cake on the table, and said, "Happy Birthday, Dad"
Carl whispered in my ear, "He made it himself, including the decorations."
The cake was a marvel of beauty. It had seven layers, separated by a delicious fudge filling, frosted with a butter cream icing, and covered with little sugar-candy rosebuds. "Happy Birthday" was emblazoned across the top with the fudge filling. A single candle flickered in the light breeze, and Eric stood waiting for his well deserved accolades with that huge grin on his face.
"It's beautiful, Eric," I said. "Thank you very much." I drew him into my arms and hugged him tightly.
Josh said happily, "Blow out the candle so we can eat it." Everyone chuckled.
I puffed on the candle and said, "It's too pretty to cut up. Let's save it for a day or two and just look at it."
Eric and Josh didn't know if I was kidding or not. The expressions on their faces were exquisite. I smiled at them as I picked up the knife and began to cut slices for everyone. Eric put a scoop of ice cream on each plate next to the piece of cake, and handed them out. The cake was delicious, with perhaps a bit too much sugar, but that was to be expected with all the layers of fudge and butter cream. - and the fact that it had been made by a chef with a sweet tooth.
Everyone congratulated Eric on his success as a pastry chef, and he swelled with pride. I made it a point to praise and thank him several times to reenforce his sense of accomplishment.
It was a happy time. The weather was moderating, the snow had disappeared, and crocus bulbs began to push their colorful treasures through the soil. The woods were still a bit soggy, but the lake began to turn over, and feeding fish splashes could be seen in abundance. Spring was definitely on the way.
Saint Patrick's Day called for the traditional Corned Beef and Cabbage. I always braise the meat in the oven after boiling some of the salt out of it. Surrounded by the cabbage, some whole carrots, and roasted potatoes, it made a hearty meal. Eric was suspicious of the cabbage, but dutifully tried a little. I had slathered the wedges with plenty of butter, and he found it to his liking. The corned beef was a new experience for him, and he was a little less enthusiastic about that. I told him it was the main ingredient in a Reuben sandwich, and he loosened up a little, declaring it to be "OK," but not his favorite thing in the world. I was pretty sure he wasn't ready for escargot.
The second HIV class was almost as full as the first since those who had been tested showed up to get the results. Pat handed them out, and had included a note in the envelopes for the "Positives." It told them he was willing to speak with them if they would make an appointment. It also told them not to panic since a percentage of results were "false positives." It suggested they be tested again, and to limit their sexual activity until the second results came back from the lab.
It was fairly obvious that one of the positives was a handsome, well developed boy of about seventeen. He sat in shock with tears running down his cheeks. The sixteen year old speaker sat down next to him, and started talking quietly. They sat a while, but soon got up and went over to Pat. The three of them moved into Pat's office, and when I next saw the two boys, they were moving off the campus toward the parking lot.
I went in search of Pat, but he was busy with another of the positives, and I didn't want to interrupt. The crowd thinned out by eight o'clock, and I finally got to talk to Pat. Darlene was there too, and I asked him if he could discuss the earlier boy's problem. He said only that he had taken a blood sample from him for a more accurate test than the buccal swab samples he had used for the first round. I asked Darlene if he was one of her clients, and she said only, "You should follow High School sports more closely."
I picked up a copy of the local paper on the way home, but a thorough examination of the sports section was unproductive. I really didn't know what I could do to help the young man, but I felt frustrated because I couldn't even try.
Eric and Josh were both good, attentive students, and whatever Josh had missed during his three year absence from the classroom didn't seem to impair him at all. His reading rate was a little slower than Eric's, but with some practice, he soon caught up and both boys were reading a book a week. I let them choose what they wanted to read from my rather extensive and eclectic library, and found I had to read some of them too just to find out what they were about. I found it true that the teacher learns more than the students.
Writing was another problem altogether. Both boys had cramped styles, and their handwriting was almost illegible. I gave them some Palmer Method exercises to do, and made it a standing assignment to turn in their practice pads every morning. I saw marked improvement after only six weeks, and decided to teach them typing over the summer so they could use a word processor in the fall.
The language requirement for their graduation posed a problem for me. The only language I spoke fluently was English, but I had a foundation in Latin and Greek, and squeezed a 'C' in German out of my instructor in high school - fifty-odd years before. The boys, however, opted for Spanish - a total unknown to me except for its roots in Latin. I hit the books, and stayed a chapter or two ahead of them, and that seemed to work out well.
Math was a breeze for me. The boys were almost as quick, and Eric surged ahead in the subject. He was doing algebraic fractions and simultaneous equations almost before I taught them. Josh had to work harder at it, but he kept up admirably.
April was a little drier than usual, and Eric and I started walking outdoors whenever possible instead of using the treadmill. We covered the little trails that I knew about, and explored a few I didn't. Eric jogged on ahead of me, and would wait at a bend in the trail until I caught up, and then go racing ahead again. It was almost like a game he was playing, but I was pleased that he had remembered what I told him about not going off on his own.
One bright morning I headed out for the upper level of the property, and steered him toward the smaller lake. I knew he had found it when he came racing back to me shouting, "Dad! Dad! There's a lake up there."
I feigned ignorance, and said,"Really?"
"Really! And there are fish jumping all over it!"
I knew the lake had not been fished for several years, and said, "Maybe we should bring some fishing gear next time."
He almost jumped out of his skin with excitement. "Could we? Please?"
"Of course." I said, "right after school if you want to."
He looked a little crestfallen, but I stuck to my guns. "School is more important, and besides, you'll want to bring Josh along too, won't you?"
He brightened at the prospect of showing his "discovery" to his friend, and said, "Can we come up here this afternoon?"
"That's OK with me."
By the time the conversation was finished we had arrived at the lake. It was about fifteen acres, and the estate survey had said it was more than sixty feet deep. The fish were Rainbow trout, and the average size ran about twelve inches. I took a good look at the condition of the banks, and saw that the winter hadn't caused much damage. I told him to be careful not to fall in, and let him go exploring. He was in his element, and peered into hollow logs, and crevasses in the rocks surrounding the water. He tested the water with his hand where a small stream fed the impoundment, and squealed, "Ooooooh! That's cold!"
I waited for him to exhaust the possibilities of the shoreline until almost seven o'clock, and then told him it was time to get back to the house for breakfast. He was a bit torn between the options, but food won out as I knew it would.
Josh was punctual, as always, but it took several minutes to get class started. Eric was ebullient with his story of the newly discovered lake, and I didn't have the heart to rain on his parade. He finally ran down, and looked at me waiting patiently for his attention. He blushed and said, "Sorry, Dad."
Somehow, the boys got through all their subjects for the day, and took notes for the homework assignments. I called Carl, and told him we were going fishing, and that Josh would be late. He insisted on bringing up a change of clothes for his son, and Josh ran upstairs to get out of his "school clothes" when Carl arrived. Eric changed as well, and we set out for the little lake after stopping at the boathouse for some light spinning tackle.
Early April has the longer evenings of Daylight Savings Time, and the boys used every minute of the extra hour. They each caught a couple of nice Rainbows after Josh explained to Eric how to cast and retrieve his lure. The sun had disappeared behind the hill to the west when I finally called a halt, and we made it back to the house at dusk.
Eric and I kept one of the fish, and gave the rest to Carl (who was waiting for Josh with his worrying hat on), and both households had fish dinners. I showed Eric how to fillet the trout, and remove the skin. He was impressed with the process, and I told him he would get a chance to practice doing it this summer since I expected to spend a lot of time catching the big German Browns in the bigger lake.
The following Saturday was Eric's fourteenth birthday, and I let out all the stops. I called a local marina, and bought a fifteen foot runabout with a semi-vee bottom and a ten horse outboard motor, which I had asked to be delivered on the afternoon of the event. It had a shallow draft, and would give him many hours of pleasure - and teach him the responsibilities of ownership. It would also postpone his asking for the keys to the twenty-four foot, twin inboard, vee-hulled day cruiser in the boathouse.
We grilled hamburgers on the outdoor grill, and had potato salad, baked beans, and I made a relish tray with "fixin's" for the burgers. Tom, Carl , and I had cold beer while the boys drank pop. I had made a cake that was deliberately not as decorative as the one Eric had made. I didn't want him to think I was trying to outdo him. The requisite ice cream next to the cake completed the meal.
The dealer from the marina arrived shortly after the meal was finished. Eric was overjoyed when I handed him the envelope containing the owner's manual, title, and key to the little runabout. He noticed that the name on the title was his, and he launched himself at me to wrap his arms around my neck. I enjoyed the hug for a few minutes, and then told him to go down to the boat ramp where the dealer was waiting to show him the basics of operation, and some safety pointers. He and Josh ran off to take possession of his new toy.
Carl said, "Aren't you afraid he'll hurt himself?"
"I suppose that's possible," I said, "and he'll no doubt push the envelope, but I'm not going to be around forever, and he has to learn to think of the consequences of his actions and behavior. I can't be with him every moment, and I have to trust him to do the right thing."
I looked at Carl's worried face and added, "You need to stop coddling Josh too. He'll be sixteen in June, and will be wanting his driver's license. Have you thought about that?"
"Oh, God," he answered. "Yes I have, and Tom has been letting him drive around the estate despite my objections."
"As much as we'd like to," I told him, "we can't keep them from growing up. All we can do is give them good examples and guidelines, teach them what skills we can, and hope they turn out the way we want them to."
Tom put his arm around Carl's shoulder and said, "Bob's right, Babe. We have to give him space to grow. If we don't, he'll still be a little boy when he's eighteen and expected to be an adult."
"Think of it this way," I said. "They have both had experience with a bad example, and I think they're sure they don't want to turn out like that. We are giving them the alternative to bigotry and greed. I think they like the results of that teaching, and will turn out just fine if we continue to love them and reenforce the good things they do."
Carl reluctantly agreed, but I knew it would be hard for him to make a major shift in his approach to raising Josh. I was sure, however, that Tom's logic would win out in the end.
I heard the two-lunger fire up, and looked toward the sound. Eric was slowly backing the new boat out. I saw Josh standing on the ramp with a pout on his face. I also noticed that Eric had on a life preserver, and I was happy about that. Eric turned the boat toward the dock next to the boathouse, and Josh ran up the hill toward us.
"Can I go out in the boat with Eric? He asked breathlessly. "He's got another life preserver, and I'll be careful." He paused a moment or two. "Please!"
Tom took charge and said, "Yes, you may." Carl opened his mouth to object, but Tom gave him a look that closed it before he could speak.
Josh saw none of that. He had turned sharply as soon as the words were out of Tom's mouth, and was joyfully on his way to the dock. Eric pulled up beside it, and threw him a PFD similar to the one he was wearing. Josh put it on before he got into the boat, and then the boys went roaring off - full speed ahead - at seven miles an hour. They were as happy as if it was seventy, and made several zigs and zags across the lake whooping the whole time.
The dealer walked up the hill, and asked where he should put the trailer (it came with the boat). I offered him a beer, which he politely declined, and told him he could leave it at the water's edge. I would find a spot for it later. He turned toward the lake and said, "There's a couple of happy boys." He watched for a few minutes, and then said, "Well, I guess I better get back. Thanks for the business, Mr. Llewellyn." I shook his proffered hand, and he went back to his truck, and left. Tom took the remote to the front of the house, and opened the gate for him when he got down the hill.
After an hour or so, the boys came to the dock to ask if they could fish. I got the tackle they had used before, and explained to Eric how to troll. He was attentive, and I rigged up his rod with a Ford Fender, and an Okie Drifter. Josh paid attention too, and rigged his rod in a similar fashion. I also gave them a net knowing they would not get a wriggling, ten pound fish into the boat without one.
Tom came down the path with three folding chairs and the cooler of beer, and we all sat on the dock watching as the boys trolled the lake in search of a fish. I saw they were moving too fast to give the lure any depth, and motioned to Eric to come to the dock. He was not happy about it, but was obedient. As he approached us, I called to him, "Slow down so the line goes deeper. Try different speeds, and you'll catch fish." He nodded with a smile - happy that I didn't want him to give up his day on the water - and turned about, heading for the deeper water.
Josh was the first to hook up, but lost it because he was too anxious, and broke his leader. Eric hooked a fish while Josh was repairing his rig, and taking a clue from Josh's failure, coaxed it close enough to the boat for Josh to slip the net under it. The fish was a nine pound German Brown, and Eric whooped like a banshee. He held it up for us to see, and I snapped pictures with the zoom lens as fast as the camera would let me. Josh said something to him, and he put the fish down in the boat, and roared back to the dock. "What should I do with it?" he asked me. I told him he should either knock it out with a billy club or release it. I got the billy from the big boat, and handed it to him. He stood there a little confused, so Josh took the billy from him, and whacked the fish on top of its head. With the fish no longer moving, they passed it to me, and returned to their fishing. I put the fish in the small fridge in the boathouse.
After they had made two more trips to the dock to unload their catches, I told Eric it would be better if they just released their future catches after they boated them and removed the hooks. We had plenty to put in the freezer, and there was no point in keeping more until we had eaten what we had. They agreed, and went back to fishing in "catch and release" mode.
They finally tired after about four hours of this sport, and reluctantly came to the dock, and tied up the boat. I gave Eric a couple of bumpers to keep the boat from banging on the side of the pier, and he stood for a long time admiring his newest possession. He finally turned to me, threw his arms around my neck, and said, "Dad, you're the greatest."
I was happy to see that he spent twenty minutes or so cleaning the inside of the boat. He picked up the tackle that had found its way out of the box, and wiped down the spots where there were fish blood and scales. He was very careful that his boat was in tip top condition before he climbed out of it again.
Both boys were tired, more from the emotional exhaustion than physical action, and after a light reprise of the burgers and other remnants of the birthday meal, Tom and Carl took Josh home, and Eric went to his room and crashed. I cleaned up the grill, washed the dishes, cleaned the fish, and put them in the freezer in pans of water so they wouldn't get freezer burn.
I was tired too, and was in bed, asleep, by nine. I woke briefly sometime during the night when a happy boy crawled into my bed and wrapped himself around me. He sleepily mumbled, "Thanks, Dad. That was the best birthday ever." I held him tightly, kissed him on the forehead, and we both went back to sleep.
The April meeting of the HIV class was considerably smaller than the first two, but there were a few familiar faces scattered in with the new ones. I spotted Andrea Thompson, and notified Security to be on guard in case she made trouble for Josh. I also told Eric to watch over his friend, and when he enlisted the help of Sam and Bobby, they all became very protective of him. I noticed they steered him away from her location while a large security guard followed her around like a shadow. She tried to get upstairs to the dormitory once, and was told firmly, but politely, that the public was not allowed beyond the commons lounge. I still couldn't figure out what she wanted, but the day passed without incident, and she left as soon as the program was over.
I noticed the "high school athlete" in the audience with two somber looking adults who I surmised were his parents. Pat sat down with them, and as I saw their expressions change, was happy that the second test had obviously been negative. The boy shed tears of relief, and his parents put their arms around him. I felt good that not every boy's parents were bigoted asses. They left as a family immediately after the program.
The boys and I made a couple of trips to the coast, on the weekends in late April and early May. The beach house was coming along, although I was a little disappointed that the site was a mass of detritus and disarray. George chuckled, and said, "Don't let that bother you. Two days will see it all cleaned up when we're done."
He showed me the common area building, which was very nearly completed. The pool was in, and the retracting roof was operational - a part that he was particularly proud of. He showed me the operation of it, stressing the point that there were places in its travel where it could be stopped for varying degrees of open air. Dixie had been busy as well. The five cabins were completely finished in bright pastel colors, and furnished tastefully. The individual bathrooms were tiled, and everything looked good. I was very pleased with his work.
The old office space with its two bedroom apartment had been redecorated too. I was pleased with his treatment of the space, and told him so. I asked him if he knew of a stable couple who might be interested in living there so that the complex wouldn't be empty when we weren't there. He said, "I do, but I don't know if you'd approve of them. They're gay."
"That's not a problem," I said, "as long as they're not into the bar scene, and live quietly. How long have they been together?"
"I don't know, but they were living together when I moved here from L.A. twelve years ago."
"Why don't you give them a call, and ask them if they're interested," I said. "If possible, have them drop by this afternoon so we can get acquainted."
He said he would and left a short time later in his chartreuse VW bug. I went through the whole building, and also met the landscaping subcontractor. He went over his plan for the whole lot, stressing the overall view from the street. He had included a noise barrier of spruce trees, and several Rhododendrons of various colors between the old cabins. He said, "Of course it will all look better in a year or two when the plants get established, but even this year will be a lot better than what you had."
The boys and I went up to the restaurant for lunch, and returned around one. Dixie was there with the couple he had recommended. He introduced them as David and Merle Parsons. Merle had changed his name legally twenty years before. They appeared to be middle aged, and very conservative. It turned out they were somewhat older. David had retired, and was living on his Social Security and a small IRA pension. Merle was sixteen years younger, and worked part time at a local variety store. They seemed devoted to one another, and I asked if they would be interested in being the caretakers of the property.
They were very interested, and I found they had been living together for more than thirty years. I stressed my rules of employment, and they both agreed that they were fair. Neither of them used drugs, and lying, they said, was not in their nature. We went through the apartment, and I asked if there was anything they would like changed. They saw nothing they didn't like, and I hired them for a thousand dollars a month and free rent. They were more than happy with that arrangement, and I told them they could move in as soon as the work was finished. George and Dixie agreed that would be on the 21st.
Eric and Josh came running up as the negotiations were concluding, carrying their shoes and socks, and wet up to their asses. "I see you've been swimming," I said.
"Just wading," said Eric with a giggle. "We got caught by a bigger wave than the rest."
"I hope you realize that could be dangerous," I told them. "The ocean is not as forgiving as the lake. It will grab you and take you out to sea if you're careless."
"I'm sorry Dad."
"There's no harm done - thankfully," I said, "but I'd be happier if you didn't go in the water without someone to watch you."
They both agreed to that in the future, and I shooed them off to the truck to get dried off. I had brought a change of clothes for them,. They reappeared in a few minutes with the change, and went into the first cabin to put on the dry clothes.
While they changed, I talked to George and Dixie, telling them to have their invoices ready when I came down on the 22nd to settle up. They were glad to hear the payment would be so prompt, and I drove off with the boys leaving a lot of smiles in my wake.
Carl and I took Eric and Josh to town the next Monday to outfit them for the summer. I also stopped in to ask the tailor if he could alter Eric's suits since he was growing like a weed. He had grown three inches, and put on thirty pounds since our last visit just after the Christmas holidays. He said he could, and Eric submitted to the new measurements.
I took them to Sears, and sought out Frank, who marveled at Eric's growth and obvious happy demeanor. "I'm so glad you two got together," he said to me while Eric and Josh were trying on some summer shorts. "I felt so good last Christmas knowing at least one kid had been salvaged from the streets." I noticed the two prudes who had avoided us on Christmas Eve. They still had sour faces, and whispered to each other as if shocked that I had the nerve to ignore them.
I said, "It's been a joy for me, too. One thing, please. Don't mention the boy who froze to death while we're here. The other boy is Josh, and they were special friends. He's not comfortable talking about it yet." Frank was understanding, and never mentioned it.
The boys went wild choosing their own summer wardrobe. I wouldn't have been caught dead in most of the things they picked out, but with Frank helping them with the newest "IN' styles, they happily created a large pile they could "live with."
The next stop was the barber shop, where we all got haircuts. I put my foot down when the boys wanted spiked cuts. They didn't object too much. I got the feeling they were just seeing how far out they could push Carl and me. They settled on a short style with a little braided "dreadlock" in back. I remembered the "duck's ass" style of my own youth, and caved in on that. Carl and I got more conservative styles - Carl because that's the way he always had it cut, and me because I had less hair to work with.
Carl dropped Eric and me at the front door with all our purchases, and I sent Eric up to remove all the price tags, and put his new clothes away. I made a light supper, and we played a little pool after the dishes were cleaned up. I started teaching him the finer points of Nine Ball, a game that takes a bit more skill than Eightball. We enjoyed the games, and went to bed around ten.
I got a call from George on the evening of the 21st telling me the project was complete, and everything was operational. He said the Parsons had started moving in, and should be comfortably settled by the weekend. I thanked him for calling, told him I'd see him the next day around noon, and we broke the connection.
Tom and Carl made a frantic search for the keys to the gatehouse. It hadn't been locked for more than ten years. They finally located them, and loaded up the van with spare clothes for the whole family. They would stop by the shelter and pick up Bobby and Sam, whom we had made arrangements to take along for the weekend. Eric and I loaded the truck with the things we would take. We locked up the estate, and I turned off the electricity to the gate after I drove through. I didn't think anyone would try to get in, but I figured there was no point in making it easy for a burglar. I had also notified the security company we would be gone until the following Tuesday, and left the motion sensors activated.
Eric and I arrived at George's offices a little before noon. I paid him, and received his thanks. He said, "If there's anything you can't get to work, just give me a call at home." I said I would, and paid a visit to Norman and Dixie in turn. Both were happy to be paid, and offered their help if it became necessary.
We drove into the parking lot at the beach house, and I was amazed at the change the landscape contractor had wrought. Everything was neat, and well ordered. The spruce noise barrier also provided a visual screen from the road. The Rhododendrons were in bloom, and provided a splash of color.
I backed up to the door of the first cabin, and we unloaded our things. I told Eric to put his stuff in the second cabin, and I took the first one. He wasn't too happy about the indication that he'd have to sleep alone, but saw the wisdom of the arrangement after I explained it to him.
I left him to his own devices, and drove up to the City Hall. I registered to vote using the beach house address. That would establish our residency for John's purposes. As I was driving back to the beach house, I saw the estate van traveling toward me. I honked the horn, and pulled over. Tom found a place to turn around, and then followed me. We pulled in , and the boys tumbled out of the van with a whoop. They began to scatter toward the beach until Carl stopped them. "Work before play," he said. "The van has to be unloaded before you go anywhere."
I got out of the truck, and gave out the cabin assignments. Tom and Carl would stay in the far end cabin with Josh in the one next to them. Bobby and Sam would be in the center one. All the cabins had private entrances onto the beach, but they also had access to the common areas. It was not necessary to go outdoors to get to any of them. I took Bobby and Sam aside and said, "You guys are on your honor. There will be no late night excursions to the beach, downtown, or anywhere else without first notifying one of the adults. Is that clear?"
They both nodded. I added, "You are both wards of the court, and in the unlikely event you should be picked up by the cops, you could cause a lot of trouble for me, not to mention your friends Eric and Josh."
"We didn't plan on doing anything bad, Bob," said Sam earnestly. "If we did, you'd never invite us again, and we really like being out of the shelter for a while."
Bobby piped up, "We just want to have some fun on the beach, and maybe swim a little."
"Ah, yes," I said. "Being on the beach in front of the house is fine. Going into the water requires an adult to be there - and I mean one of us, not just any old fogey walking on the beach. The ocean is not like a swimming pool. It can grab you and put you in trouble in a heartbeat.
"I don't want to scare you," I continued. "I just want to instill respect for the force of the ocean, and also the creatures that live in it."
Bobby's eyes got big. "You mean there are sharks out there?"
"That's possible," I said, "but there is usually a warning posted if there are any close by. Rip tides are a much more likely danger. They can take you out to sea a mile or more, or hold you under water until you drown." I smiled at them, and added, "Just make sure you stay aware. You can have a lot of fun in the waves, but you have to stay mindful of your surroundings."
"I guess midnight skinny-dipping is a no-no then," said Sam with a grin.
"Yeah," I said deadpan, "unless you do it in the pool."
Both boys looked at each other, then at me in surprise, and they said in unison, "POOL?"
I had to laugh at their expressions. "Yes, there is a pool on the upper level of the common area. You'll see it when I give everyone the Grand Tour."
Eric and Josh came up to us, and asked if they could go down on the beach. I told them it was OK if their chores were done, but to be back in a little while so I could show everyone the commons. They agreed, and all four ran off towards the water.
I walked up to the front of the complex and knocked on the Parsons' door. David answered, and invited me in. I could see they weren't yet fully settled in, and declined. "I just wanted to let you know we'll all be here over the weekend so if there is anything you want to do, it's OK with me."
Merle said, "There's nowhere we'd rather be, and I have to work Sunday and Monday anyway."
"If you'd like to join us for supper, I'm going to fire up the grill on the patio in about two hours. You're welcome, and you can meet the whole crew."
They thanked me, and said they'd be delighted to attend.
I found Carl sitting with Tom on their porch watching the boys running back and forth on the beach. I hated to break in on their pleasure, but I needed Carl to help me go shopping for enough food to feed three hungry men, and four ravenous teenagers.
"I'd like you to help me decimate the local supermarket's stock, Carl," I said as I approached.
"We were planning on going out to eat," he said. "I don't really feel like cooking tonight.
"Well," I said, "I guess I should have checked with you first. I just invited the Parsons to a cookout."
Carl said, "It's your party. I guess I could help get the food in if you're going to cook it."
Don't forget to get beer," said Tom with a chuckle. "Three or four cases should do me for the weekend."
Carl gave him a dirty look, as he got up to go with me. "I hope you're not going to set a bad example for our son," he said.
"Just kidding, Babe," he said quietly.
We took the van, and caused quite a stir when we checked out. The checker was astounded when the bill came to more than six hundred dollars. "You must have a lot of people to feed," she remarked.
"Just four teenagers," I said.
She nodded knowingly as she counted out my change. "Boy, I know about that. I have two, and I can never fill them up."
Carl and I were swarmed by the boys as soon as we parked the van. They all wanted to "help" get the food in. I noticed two bags of chips had already disappeared by the time it was all in the kitchen. I carried the steaks up to the grill, and sat down to read the owners manual. This grill was a later model than the one on the estate, and I wanted to learn about the new features before I lit it for the first time.
I called the group together, and gave them the grand tour - a ten minute trip through the common areas. A long access corridor spannning the length of the building parallel to the road gave access to the bedrooms/cabins which all faced the beach. A large family room/ kitchen/dining room took up about half the building on the same level. The walls of the pool accounted for the other half. Since it was essentially a basement room, Dixie had been innovative with the lighting, and the one window was nicely draped. A spiral staircase stood in the back corner, and opened to the game room above. The interior space of the upper level was enhanced by the glass wall that separated it from the pool/patio area, and about a quarter of the patio could be enclosed as well or opened to the outdoors by means of the sliding panels that made up the exterior wall on that side. The grill was hooded, and could be used in either configuration. Everyone was impressed with the workmanship and attention to detail that had gone into the project, but the beach held much more interest for the boys, and Tom and Carl followed them out to keep an eye on them.
I pushed the switch to open the glass wall, and also opened the roof. George had put in a gas line to a cabinet which hid the propane tank. He had set the grill in concrete and finished the base with a cabinet-like enclosure. I opened the cabinet, turned on the gas, and lit the grill. I set out the other things we had bought - potato salad, macaroni salad, a seven bean salad, several dips, and three bowls of different chips. I sliced up several tomatoes, and a Bermuda onion.
The grill had just started to give off a scent of mesquite chips from the special "smoker box" made for the purpose, when David and Merle walked up from around the front of the building. There was no access between our living quarters and theirs. I greeted them and said, "I hope you brought your appetites."
I offered them each a beer from the small fridge, and was about to call the crew when the boys came roaring up to the grill and grabbed plates. Tom and Carl walked in behind them with smiles on their faces. "All I said was, 'It smells like dinner is ready,'" said Tom in mock wonder.
"All it takes is a suggestion," said Carl with a chuckle.
David and Merle were standing with open mouthed awe at Tom's huge size, and only recovered partially when I introduced him to them. I introduced Eric as my son, and Josh as Tom and Carl's son. Their eyes lit up with understanding. I introduced Bobby and Sam as friends of Eric and Josh. No mention was made of the shelter. I didn't think they needed the perceived stigma of the necessary explanation that would follow.
I put the steaks on the grill, and we were soon eating with gusto. Merle sat next to Carl, and they soon had a dish session going. They found they had several mutual acquaintances on the other side of the "hill," as the Coast Range was referred to.
After dinner, we all went around to the beach side of the building to watch the sunset. Even the boys were quiet as the golden orb sank below the horizon and turned the offshore clouds from gold to pale rose, then to crimson, and finally to mauve.
David and Merle thanked us for the dinner and pleasant conversation, and walked slowly, hand in hand, to their apartment. Eric crawled into my lap, and Josh squirmed in between Tom and Carl. Bobby and Sam sat on the seawall each with an arm around the other. It looked like Sam had found someone at last.
Eric wasn't happy about sleeping alone, but I told him to tough it out. I had a plan in mind, and I didn't want him to leak it beforehand.
Late Friday afternoon, John and Billy drove in, and were greeted by everyone. I told them Eric would double up with me, and they could have his cabin. Eric shot me with his laser smile and, wisely, never said a word. Twenty minutes later his things had joined mine in the first cabin.
Things seem to be working out as planned. If you have a comment, email me at: