I Love Corey, Chapter One hundred one


     Okay, the first hundred chapters are history so now I get to start on the second hundred. And for those of you who have read all of them, don't you have better things to do with your life? Even if you read quickly, that is still a lot of hours you have wasted. As the old poem goes, "So here hath been dawning another new day; think, will thou let it slip useless away?" I don't know that Thomas Carlyle had reading this story in mind when he wrote the poem "Today," but I do know that spending all your time reading this story could be termed a waste of time. Ah well, on with the disclaimer.

     Youngsters, leave before I become angry. What's that you say? You're not worried? It is obvious you have never seen me when I'm angry. I've been known to pound on the keyboard, gnash my teeth, or even rail against people (among other things) when I become angry. So if you young people don't leave you can expect me to fly off the handle and suffer a meltdown when I catch you lurking here reading this story. And if you really wish to upset me, just laugh when you see me in full meltdown.

     This next one seems rather silly, but if you are one of those people who become upset over seeing descriptions of gay sex, you had better leave now. Of more concern is why you were here in the first place. I have a hard time believing you got here accidentally, so either you are putting on an act or lying about how upset you are. Either way, I'm not interested in your excuses or complaints. Just shut up and leave.

     As for those of you who happen to live somewhere that the reading of this type of story is against the law, you have my deepest sympathy. All I can suggest is leaving before you get caught.

     Since I went to the trouble to write this story, that makes it my property. Therefore, you are free to read it, but please credit me for any quotes lifted from it and remember to share the great wealth you attain through the use of it. Now don't get greedy, share that wealth with me, not your friends and relatives.

     While it seems silly to have to say it, this story is fiction. That means that it is not true and none of the characters exist and those non-existent characters never did any of the things described in the story.

     Get down on your knees and thank Don for his help in editing the story. Proofreading is not one of my strengths, and his work really helps make it more readable.

     Go ahead and take a chance and send any comments, questions, complaints, or compliments to fritz@nehalemtel.net and I'll try to answer them. Be sure to put "I Love Corey" in the subject line so I don't delete you, although I must confess that there is a certain pleasure in hitting the delete key. I really dig it when spam disappears at its touch. And with that, I hope you enjoy the following chapter. Fritz


               I Love Corey, Chapter One hundred and one.

     I decided to go back to the Valley River Inn because it was apparent I wasn't safe out on my own. Nobody in his right mind simply walks into a store and spends money like I had just done and I needed to get away from places which were more than happy to take my money. All I could think was that it was a good thing I wasn't forced to survive on my teacher's salary because I would be bankrupt by now. Boys suddenly seemed so expensive, yet I knew that most people don't spend that sort of money on their kids and I couldn't figure out why I was. I pulled into the parking area and sat there thinking about it. Obviously Corey didn't need a better digital camera, yet I had talked myself into buying one because he would enjoy it. And the boys didn't need the travel trailer, or their fancy bikes, or any of a number of things I'd bought them, but seeing their faces light up was something I seemed to need.

     By the same token, I normally didn't spend much on myself, and through Uncle Matt's efforts I had way more money than I could ever spend, so why shouldn't I spend it on them if it made me happy. And setting there thinking I came to understand one of the fundamental truths of life. Simply put, if you love someone you want to make that person happy because doing so makes you happy. I had a bunch of boys I loved dearly and I wanted them to be happy.

     As I thought more about it, I could see that I was also trying to help them overcome the things that had gone wrong in their lives. Each of the boys had his own story of problems and I was trying to compensate for those things. Yet when I looked at it honestly, they seemed happier with things like going fishing, or when we took the trip to San Francisco or Disneyland. Corey had been bubbling ever since we left Friday morning and as I thought about that, it was the time I spent with them and not the material things which they appeared to like the best. So if that was the case, why did I continue to spend money on them? That was the million dollar question.

     Some more thought and it started to surface that I had bought the camera because deep down I wanted it. I had used Corey as an excuse to do something I wanted to do, yet had felt guilty about doing. Which brought up why did I feel guilty about buying something I wanted?

     We are all products of our upbringing. Mom and Dad had tried to teach me not to throw money away, and somehow I had missed their point of not spending more than I could afford and turned it into not spending money period. When I looked back, it was never that they wouldn't spend money, and with both of them teaching we had lived a comfortable lifestyle. What they had been trying to teach me was not to spend more than I could afford so that I didn't get in trouble financially. Now that I could afford more I needed to quit feeling guilty about spending more. And suddenly that thought made other things look different. Why was I so upset over the idea of building a new house? There was no reason I couldn't afford it, so that question turned to different ones, like would a new house be more comfortable and did I want to live that close to my relatives? There was more, like would the extra distance make for more work than the new house saved since I would have to haul the boys around more, but at least I was now thinking on it in the proper light. Money is just a tool and it can be used properly or not depending on a person's values. I needed to get my values straightened out so that I quit feeling guilty over the wrong things and worried about the right things.

     I was gay, something that had taken a long time for me to admit to myself, so worrying about that was wasted effort, and I had money, so worrying about spending it was just as useless. Instead I needed to worry about the few things which were important in my life, such as the boys, my friends, and my job. Those were the most important things in my life with all others far behind them, so I needed to work on those things and quit worrying about all the others. If I could get them right, everything else would pretty much fall into place. Oh sure, there would be minor screw-ups, but they weren't important if the main things were right.

     I felt a lot better after thinking things through, and decided that I might as well get out the camera and take it in and show it to Corey. I put the 16 to 35 zoom on it, stuck the 24 to 105 in my jacket pocket and headed in to see what was going on at the workshop. I should have bought another camera bag to hold everything, but I had been too upset to remember to do that. Besides, now that I was somewhat calmed down I would likely pick out a better camera bag anyway.

     Things were not going quite like I had expected. Instead of the instructors doing all the teaching, Corey, with the aid of Carl, was showing a group how he shaded portraits to achieve the effects he wanted. When I looked around several other groups also had a student demonstrating things, but others were strictly using the instructors to do such teaching. Corey never even noticed me as he was busy explaining what he was doing. Carl did notice me, but after a quick grin he ignored me and turned back to the students. As I watched them, it surprised me how well Carl and Corey seemed to work together. Corey would start demonstrating something and explaining what and how he was doing it and Carl would jump in and offer further explanations. Yet neither seemed to be interrupting the other, but more like they had rehearsed what they were going to say and when each would say it. It was clear that both understood what they were covering.

     After about twenty minutes Carl asked Corey to demonstrate something and Corey told him he wasn't sure he could. Carl took over and started showing both Corey and the other students what he meant, and this time Corey stood there paying strict attention to what was being said and demonstrated. When Carl finished his explanation, he turned to the group and announced that it was break time. After that announcement Corey turned and finally noticed me. I had been snapping a few pictures and I happened to take one of Corey when his eyes lit up upon seeing me and I hopped that picture would turn out well as there had been an expression of delight in his face, along with an almost look of eager anticipation. He immediately headed over to where I was standing.

     "Is that a new camera?" he asked, his eyes eagerly looking it over.

     "Yup," I replied. "It's just what you and Bruno said we needed."

     "Oh wow," he said. "Can I see it?"

     I continued holding it while saying, "Looks to me like you can see it."

     There was a brief instant when his eyes sort of crossed as he mulled over what he had said and what I had said, but his expression changed and he tried again. "No, I meant can I look at it?"

     "Go ahead and look," I told him, hanging onto the camera. By now I was having a hard time keeping from laughing since I was sure he wanted to hold the camera in his hands and not just see or look at it.

     Once again I was treated to that somewhat cross-eyed expression as he again thought about what had been said and where he was going wrong. He was almost vibrating in eager anticipation of getting his hands on it.

     "I meant can I touch it?" he tried again.

     "I don't know. Can you?" I answered. By now Carl was standing slightly behind Corey and he was silently shaking with laughter.

     This time it took Corey slightly longer to decide what he wanted to say. "I mean may I hold it?" was what he came up with that time.

     "Certainly," I replied while handing the camera to him. "Why didn't you ask that in the first place?"

     Poor Corey, he was stuck between his eagerness to look at the camera and wanting to glare at me for insisting that he ask properly. He tried glaring, but his eagerness won out and his face again lit up as he grasped the camera. By now Carl was laughing out loud and Corey started to turn and glare at him, but the fascination of a new toy won out and he merely ducked his head and ignored us.

     "Oh man, that's like awesome," Corey said as he looked the camera over. "Can I..." he started before stopping and starting over. "May I try it?"

     "Sure," I chuckled. "Here's the 24 to 105 if you want to try it also."

     Corey ignored the lens I was holding out and turned and started taking pictures of the canvases with partially completed examples of various techniques. As soon as he completed taking pictures of the ones in this group, he was off to see what the others had been working on and was busily snapping away at their examples.

     Carl suggested we get some refreshments and so we headed for the coffee shop. Along the way Bob joined us, along with several other instructors. I was pretty well left out of the conversation because they were talking about the various students and how things were going, but at least I got a good cup of coffee. The waitress was refilling my cup when Corey bounded in and rushed over to the table where we were sitting. He ordered a Coke and sat there looking at the camera and previewing the pictures he had taken while the instructors discussed what came next and how the students would be split up.

     As we were getting ready to return to the instruction, one of the other instructors turned to Corey and said, "That's a pretty nice looking camera."

     "Yeah, it's radical. Dad just bought it."

     Hearing that about choked me up. I was still adjusting to the fact that, baring unforeseen circumstances, in the eyes of the law Corey was now my son and I missed most of what was said after that. However, I came out of my reverie and followed them back. It didn't take long for the instructors to again separate the students into groups and this time Corey was in a group whose instructor I hadn't met. She was a quite attractive lady except that her attire was a little strange. Perhaps the best way to explain what she was wearing was to say take a look at the old news pictures of the Hippie movement. She even had the love beads. Her hair was held back with a head band, and her skirt almost reached the floor. Only because Mom and Dad had pictures of some of the Hippie protests did I have any way to say that, but her attire would have fit in those old pictures like it had always been there. Since I would have guessed her age at mid to late thirties, there was no way she had been an original Hippie, but that didn't mean that her parents couldn't have been active in the movement.

     When she started in, it was apparent she knew what she was talking about. I watched for a few minutes and, even though I knew nothing about art, I could almost understand what she was attempting to explain. If she could make it intelligent to me, she was good. I had never had any interest in art and so had not taken any classes in it. However, even as good as she was at explaining, I soon lost interest. I had a new camera to play with and so I wondered around, reading the direction book and taking pictures. I was somewhat jealous that Corey had seemed to figure the controls out far faster than I had, but by the time that segment of the workshop was over I could make most of the features work, and I was in love with the 16 to 35 lens. That sucker was sharp and fast, and I couldn't wait to get home and see the pictures blown-up and printed. If the prints looked anywhere as good as things looked through the viewfinder, I was impressed.

     Jeez, Corey dang near broke my neck when he grabbed the camera after that segments of the workshop was completed. Then he was off to take a bunch more pictures, saying that he wanted them so he could remember what had been said and demonstrated. I was left standing there thinking that I had never seen him as happy as he was acting. Ever since the court hearing Corey had been prancing around with a big grin on his face. Where before he would have been described as reserved, now brash might come closer.

     Bob came up and reminded me about the banquet, as though I might have forgotten. We chatted a couple of minutes and I learned that the other students would not be attending, and it was only for the various artists. About then Bob was called over to talk with several people and I was left standing there watching people mill around and talk with each other. Occasionally I would catch a glimpse of Corey busily taking pictures, but he was ignoring me so I paid him no mind. After all, the workshop was for him and I was only here to see that he got here and enjoyed himself.

     I was still looking around when Corey suddenly startled me by asking, "What's for dinner? I'm starving." I hadn't noticed him sneak up beside me.

     "You're always starving," I laughed. "Besides, I don't know. All I know is that it's a banquet type thing.

     "Oh man, I hope it's soon," Corey whined. "I could eat a horse."

     The strange thing was that I wouldn't have bet against him eating a whole horse. It might take him several hours, but I was sure he would give it his best effort. I reached out and ruffled his hair, saying, "Calm down. I don't know where you could order a whole roasted horse. I don't think you could get a fried one because I've never seen a frying pan that big."

     By then we were both giggling about the thoughts of roasted or fried horse.

     "Which end should we start on?" he giggled.

     "Well, there is more meat on the back end," I answered. "So if you're real hungry that would be the place to start."

     "Eww, gross. Can I start in the middle?"

     By now I was past giggles and into full fledged laughter. "Yes," I managed to get out. "You can start wherever you want." Corey looked so cute standing there with his face scrunched up, clearly expressing what he thought about eating a horse's ass and I wanted to lean over and kiss him. Why is it that society is unwilling to accept that two males can love each other?

     Just then Carl and Bob walked up. "Alright," Carl said. "What are you two laughing about?"

     "Corey claims he's hungry, but I can't talk him into eating the south end of a horse going north," I choked out between giggles. "I don't think he's nearly as hungry as he says he is."

     "Well come on," Bob told us. "It's time to feed the starving beast."

     Bob hadn't explained how it was supposed to work, but all the artists taking part in the workshop were headed for the door, accompanied by their partners or spouses. Soon everyone was in their vehicles and we all followed Carl out onto the street.

     Carl led us to a steak house where he was clearly expected since he simple told the maitre d his name and we were immediately escorted to tables and seated. Once again Corey and I were at the same table as Carl and Bob, and as it turned out, Shirley and her husband Dale from Seattle. Each table held six people and the group occupied three tables as some of the artists were unaccompanied by anyone.

     While I had chatted with Shirley over coffee this morning, this was the first time I'd spoken to her husband Dale. He came across as shy and very quiet with me, but he and Corey were talking up a storm, and he also was freely talking to Carl and Bob. As we worked our way through the salad he started to become a little more open with me, suggesting that he was uncomfortable when talking to strangers. I wondered how he had managed as a teacher if he was that shy. As the meal moved on, we were served New York steaks and baked potatoes. I snickered at Carl and asked him if this was the only thing he'd eat and I'd accidentally stumbled on it last night? That resulted in us having to tell Shirley and Dale that I had fixed the almost exact same dinner last night. I had not served rolls with mine, and my salad was slightly different, but that was about it. We continued eating and laughing about how sometimes things work out far differently than we ever imagine, and that such things as me accidentally fixing the same meal that Carl has set up a couple of months ago can only be described as, in the words of Yogi Berra, "It's like deja-vu all over again." We were giggling and laughing in a nonsensical way about the odds on the two dinners being the same when Carl suddenly said, "We might be having the same thing, but the steaks last night were a lot better than these are. Where do you buy your meat Sam? I've never been able to find anything approaching the steaks you serve. I only get steaks like that in fancy restaurants and only once in a while even then."

     I was surprised because while I knew that Downie's sold good beef, I had never had any problems finding good beef. You simply had to be willing to pay for buying either Choice or Prime grades when you wanted good steaks and roasts. And so I was searching for words when I tried to answer him, starting by saying, "Gee, uhm, I've never had a problem. I buy Choice steaks most of the time, but, uhh, well those weren't anything special last night, just choice steaks from the local market. Uhh, some stores sell better beef than others so you have to like try each market, but good meat isn't that hard to find. I sometimes buy meat from either Safeway or Costco and both have pretty good meat. And actually I was thinking that this was a pretty good steak. They just didn't finish it right."

     "What do you mean, didn't finish it right?" Carl asked.

     "Well, last night I finished the steaks with some flavored butter. It makes them seem richer and brings out the flavor of the meat. Sometimes I make a simple pan sauce for steaks, but most of the time I like a flavored butter better. If you have good meat you shouldn't be trying to cover the flavor up, but it never hurts to enhance it. That's what flavored butters do; they enhance the flavor of the meat. I put a little butter on while they're resting and then just before serving I salt the meat with a somewhat coarse salt. By using a coarser salt it requires less than if I used table salt and it lasts better. Ever notice how if you salt your steak, by the time it is about half eaten you sometimes need to add a little more salt? By using a coarser grind, that doesn't happen. The salt crystals stay intact and produce the flavor of saltiness beyond their amount. If you'd been paying attention, I used a salt grinder to salt the steaks just before I served them."

     Suddenly I had questions flying at me about flavored butters, not only from Carl, but also from Shirley. I explained that normally I took a stick of butter, added a medium sized shallot and a couple medium cloves of garlic that I'd mashed or run through my garlic press, a couple of tablespoons of chopped parsley and a couple tablespoons of chopped chives. If I was using unsalted butter I added about a half teaspoon of salt, but with salted butter about half that amount. I normally put about a tablespoon of that on top of the steak when it came out of the oven and let it melt while the steak was resting. A quick grind of sea salt as I was serving finished the steaks. I pointed out that you could use flavored butters for more than steaks, such as you could use them on fish fillets or any of a number of other foods, and that you could put different ingredients in them depending on what you were using them on. For example, on white fish I sometimes used fresh dill weed in place of the parsley and chives, or a little lemon juice and lemon zest, and if the meal was sort of Italian, then some fennel in the butter added to that impression. Similarly, if the meal had Mexican overtones, some chili powder and cilantro in the butter worked well. The trick is to not make the butter so strongly flavored that it overshadows the flavor of what it is placed on. You can even make a wine and shallot butter by taking a half cup of wine, a half cup of stock, and adding a minced shallot and cooking it down to about a quarter cup and letting it cool, and then mixing with a stick of butter. I went on to explain that many pan sauces for meats are nothing more than flavored butters with perhaps a little wine added, or even some stock. I often fixed a sauce for steaks cooked on the barbeque, and it consisted of some minced shallot, minced garlic, some red wine, a little beef stock, and the whole mixture cooked until it was reduced to a syrup like consistency, to which I then whisked in some butter.

     After I had explained about flavored butters, more properly called compound butters, the conversation drifted back to art and the workshop. As I listened to them talking about art, my thoughts went back to where I learned about compound butters. A friend in college had invited me to his home and his mother was French and used them. She was a marvelous cook and it didn't take me long to figure out that if they helped her cook like she did, I was going to use them because maybe they would help my cooking. The flavored butters did help, and thankfully my cooking improved to go along with them. While mother had gotten me started in learning to cook, I had a long way to go when she was killed, and maybe someday I would be pretty good. The boys still kidded me about the time I had read a casserole recipe, thought it sounded good and had made it, and then pitched it in the garbage and taken the boys to a restaurant. I was still undecided on whether I'd screwed up when fixing it, or if the recipe was simply awful. Perhaps it was a combination of both. Even Dog wouldn't touch it, and normally he would eat anything he thought was people food.

     We finished our meals and I discovered that it wasn't so much a banquet, but more a business meeting. Carl stood up and told them he would be issuing checks as soon as he had the final expenses paid. They went on to discuss where the next workshop would be (Boise Idaho) and when it would take place (in the fall because as Bob put it, it was too damn hot during the summer). I'd never been to Boise so I couldn't say, but when he was asked about it, Bob told them that most of the time Boise wasn't bad, but there were times when the hot winds came off the desert and the temperatures were too warm to enjoy being there. When I commented that sometimes it was pretty warm at home, Bob laughed and said that was why he was going to spend the summer in Oregon where it was cooler. While he didn't say exactly where in Oregon he was going to stay, the thought went through my mind that Medford wasn't much, if any, cooler than home, and if he was trying to convince me that he was going there for cooler weather, he had lost before he started. I'd been to Uncle Matt's house in the summer and the heat in Medford could be brutal. Had he not glanced at Carl as he was saying that about the heat, I might not have tumbled to the idea he was going to spend the summer with Carl, but to me that stood out like a red flag. I could see Corey starting to look like he wanted to ask a question so I nudged him and gave a real slight shake of my head. Thank God Corey was quick on the uptake, and suddenly his eyes got wide and then a little grin played across his lips. I wasn't sure either of us was right, but who cared, and it was interesting to think about.

     When the meeting was over we headed back to a question and answer session for the participants. Corey was very interested in the questions, but most of them were way beyond me. That meant I simply stood around and pretty much ignored what was being said. It did give me some more time to read the instruction manual for the new camera and by the time the questions were over I was starting to feel quite comfortable with it. While there were bound to be functions I would forget and have to look up, I could access most of the ones I would likely use. For all its complexity the camera was quite easy to figure out. While it was not a camera for a beginner, I knew enough about photography to make most of it understandable. I was still a little jealous that Corey had grabbed it up and been able to make it work, but given a little time I should be able to do as well as he could with the technical aspects of it. Now if I could learn to see things the same way he did. I could take technically perfect pictures, but Corey's always looked better even when he didn't get everything right. He had a better eye for what looked good.

     The questions petered out at a little after nine and everyone started picking up their paintings and equipment and leaving. Carl and Bob were busy thanking all the students for attending and offering them encouragement. When Corey and I had all of Corey's stuff picked up and loaded in the pickup, I told Carl we were heading for the trailer. He told me they would be along in a few minutes and that he needed to talk with us for a few minutes. I told him he had better hurry since Corey was running down. He'd been on an adrenaline rush all day and it was telling on him. Carl laughed and said he could see that Corey was running out of gas and he and Bob would make it quick so Corey could get some rest.

     The drive back to the trailer was fairly quiet. I could see Corey nodding off and then suddenly jerking awake, but he wasn't willing to say much. I did get him to say that he had enjoyed the workshop, but that was about the extent of all he was willing, or perhaps able, to say. It's a good thing the drive didn't take long or I would have likely had to carry him to bed and since he'd been growing like crazy, that was starting to look like a big task, but he stumbled out of the pickup and into the trailer and collapsed on the sofa. I started to make a short pot of coffee and decided I needed to do something about Corey first, so I managed to get him on his feet and headed for bed. Whatever it was that Bob and Carl wanted to talk to him about could wait till tomorrow.

     Corey had been in dreamland for at least a half hour before Bob and Carl showed up. As it turned out there was nothing they really needed to talk to Corey about, but instead wanted to discuss what time we should be at the Valley River Inn to see if any offers had been tended on Corey's paintings. Before they left we had agreed that they would drop over for breakfast in the morning. I also learned enough so that I told them I planned on leaving early so I could stop at Uncle Matt's for a few minutes. They suggested that I hookup the trailer and tow it to the Inn and leave directly from there, something they said they were going to do.

     The way Corey was snoring I figured he was dead to the world, but as soon as I got in bed he was like a heat seeking missile and quickly snuggled up in his place without ever waking up. He was still plastered tightly against me when I fell asleep. It had been a busy day and while I wasn't as tired as Corey, the bed felt good.

     Jeez, where Corey had been quiet on the way back to the trailer, he certainly wasn't when we woke up. He was chattering on like an LP record being played on 45 RPM's while I tried to get myself going and some coffee in me. At least I was alert and able to cook breakfast by the time Carl and Bob showed up, but they couldn't say much either as Corey wasn't leaving much of a gap where a person could get a word or two in. At least he was thanking them instead of giving them the same blow by blow account of each and every thing he had seen and learned. Finally Bob held his hand up and eventually Corey stopped talking.

     "Am I to assume you enjoyed it?" Bob asked while chuckling.

     "Ohmanitwasawesome," Corey spit out so fast there was no space between his words. I could see Bob and Carl trying to figure out what he had said as my mind finally processed it and came up with, `Oh man, it was awesome.' I started to snicker and Corey turned to me and whined, "But it was awesome. I learned soooo much. I leaned what was wrong with my trees, and how to paint bark, and, and, and, how to paint bushes, and, and, an"

     "We get the message," I said, interrupting him. "Squeeze some oranges so we can have juice this morning."

     It didn't take long before breakfast started to come together, but Corey never slowed down. I almost felt sorry for him as he tried to figure out how to keep telling us how much he had enjoyed the workshop and eat at the same time. Food won out and things were relatively quiet while we all filled up. I was somewhat surprised when he was calmer and much quieter after breakfast, but he was still determined to tell Bob and Carl how much he had learned and how much he had enjoyed attending. By the time I finished the dishes he had finally run down and was sitting and simply grinning at us. I hadn't kept track of the number of times he had thanked them, but it had to be in the hundreds, if not the thousands.

     Carl looked up and me and grinned and said, "It's nice to have a happy customer."

     "By the way," I jumped in. "Who do I make the check out to?"

     "No charge, it was worth it to listen to him this morning," Carl laughed. "He wasn't figured into the cost and we got almost as much use out of him as he did out of us. You didn't hear what some of the participants were saying last night, but they said that having him there and asking the questions he did made it easier for them to ask and learn. Plus, we don't offer workshops to kids still in school. These are for working artists, not art students." He paused before continuing, "You'll have to take it up with Bob anyway. He's the one who decided he couldn't teach him and wanted him here so he could learn something."

     Carl had a mischievous expression when he said that, and he sort of ducked his head and shifted away from Bob. The expression on Bob's face was priceless as what Carl had just said soaked in. It didn't help Bob any that he couldn't come up with a coherent reply as Carl sat there giggling; at least I wouldn't describe a bunch of sputtering as coherent. I couldn't help it and started chuckling and Bob finally realized he'd lost that round.

     "I'll get you for that," Bob told Carl. That brought peals of laughter from the rest of us.

     It was time to get started so Carl and Bob left to hook up Carl's trailer and Corey and I started picking things up and putting them away so we could do the same. In a surprisingly short time everything was stowed and the trailer was attached to the back of the pickup. A few minutes later and I'd taken care of the bill and it was off to the Valley River Inn to see if there had been any offers for Corey's two pictures. He still hadn't managed to get either Carl or Bob to venture any guesses on what they might bring, so he was on pins and needles.

     When we pulled into the parking lot I found a place to park and then adjusted one of the bars on the equalizing hitch. The use of water had changed the balance of the trailer just enough to need a change from what had worked when driving up. That done, we walked in and headed for the showroom as Carl had referred to it.

     I hadn't checked after Corey's paintings were displayed, but there were several of the students there and more paintings than I remembered. Upon looking them over I picked out a number of paintings by those taking the workshop and some of them were quite good. Bob and Carl and a couple of others were sorting through some papers and soon they were handing small piles of paper to everyone in the room. I was surprised that Corey's pile was about the same size as everyone else's. Since each painting was numbered, each piece of paper had a number and Corey's numbers were 17 and 41. Bob suggested that we sort them into their respective numbers and look them over.

     Talk about stunned. The offers ranged from $250 to $500, with the painting of Kevin and Dog getting the highest offer. Corey was equally stunned and stood there with his mouth hanging open. I had no idea that others might think his work worth anywhere near that much.

     "Five hundred dollars," he gasped. "Man that's awesome."

     About then Carl walked up and asked to see the offers. He quickly thumbed through them and then turned to Corey. "Don't sell for that. 17 is worth more than five hundred. The three-fifty for 41 isn't bad, but I think you can get more."

     "More?" Corey gasped, his voice getting higher towards the end. "You think they're worth more?" By the time he finished that his voice was almost up to a squeak.

     "You ought to be able to get six fifty, maybe seven hundred for 17, and maybe five hundred for 41," Carl replied. "17 is the type of painting that people will fall in love with. It's warm and fuzzy. In the right auction it might go even higher. If you can stick around for a couple of hours there's a fellow coming that has a gallery in New York. If he likes it, I'm fairly sure he'll go that high. His flight was delayed so he's running late."

     Corey whirled around and looked at me. "Can we stay?" he whined. "Please, pretty please?"

     I was still in shock over the offers his pictures had received and about the best I could do was nod. I had a boy wrapped around me after I did so, and a bunch of people chuckling as he jumped up and down, squealing with delight. Thankfully he was now tall enough to where his head could no longer fit under my chin or he might have knocked me out with the top of his head. The next thing I knew he had lifted me up and was whirling me around. Then he dropped me and grabbed Bob and tried to do the same thing with him, but Bob was considerable heavier than I was and so Bob kept his feet on the floor, but just barely. Carl was next and he was somewhere between Bob and me for weight, so he got the whirl around treatment, although I would never have believed Corey could pick him up. Still, when I really looked at him, Corey had shot up and filled out in the last few months. He'd grown roughly three inches and added about twenty-five pounds and now stood five foot four and weighed almost one hundred and thirty pounds. He was still on the trim side and most of that weight had gone to muscle, so his strength had dramatically increased. He was no longer as undersized as he had been, and if he kept growing to match his hands and feet he was going to be taller and bigger than I was, but for now he was the typical gangly teenager, all hands and feet attached to an appetite. His hair was still that same dirty almost nickel-colored blond that it had been the first time I'd seen him, and his eyes were still that same vivid blue, but his features had matured and he no longer looked so much like a child, but rather more like the adult he would become. While I knew I was prejudiced, to my mind he would be a stunning looking man when he was grown and could likely make a good living as a fashion model. Yet no matter how physically attractive he was, it was his personality that made him special. He could go from being mature far beyond his years to being a kid in a heartbeat, and right now he was being a little kid so excited he couldn't stand still. There was a big grin on his face and those blue eyes were sparkling as he nervously moved around.

     Carl and Bob moved on to the others who had paintings for sale and were looking over their offers and offering advice on how reasonable they were, so I was left as the focus of Corey's joy. He kept coming over and hugging me, and then dancing away and looking at the offers some more.

     Now I was faced with a problem. I'd been thinking of suggesting that he give the painting of Dog and Kevin to Uncle Matt and Aunt Sandy next Christmas because I was sure they would love it. However, if it was worth what Carl seemed to think it was, that would make it a very valuable gift. There was also the fact that by selling it, it might start his career. So I stood there trying to decide if I should suggest he not sell it, torn between how much I knew it would mean to Uncle Matt and Aunt Sandy and what effect selling it might have on his budding career.

     It wasn't long until there were several cell phones in action. Some had agreed to accept an offer and others were trying to negotiate a higher price. I only caught snippets of various conversations so I didn't know if any of the negotiations were successful, but a short while later several of the artists gathered up their paintings and left. A few minutes after that several people showed up and started what appeared to be negotiations with those still here. I happened to be watching Carl, since Corey had disappeared, as one fellow walked in and I could see immediate distaste expressed on Carl's face. It was pretty clear Carl didn't like him, but I had no idea why. I felt someone tap my shoulder and turned to find Bob standing there.

     "See that guy Carl's with?" Bob asked. "Stay clear of any business with him."

     That was all he had time to say since Carl, after a quick look around the room, was now leading the gentleman over to me and I couldn't help but think that Carl looked like he had just had a bushel of lemons stuffed in his mouth.

     The gentleman, whose name turned out to be Allen Wrightwood, greeted Bob and I was struck as to how anyone could sound as insincere as he did when he told Bob that he hoped things had been going well with him. It was obvious that the three of them disliked each other intensely. I didn't know what to think of that because I had no idea of the reason for the dislike, but since my dealings with Carl and Bob had always been great, I decided to be very cautious around Mr. Wrightwood. Anyhow, after Carl introduced Mr. Wrightwood to me, he turned and left us alone, but he only retreated a short way and stood there watching us. Bob went over and joined him. If glares could kill, Mr. Wrightwood would be dead and his ashes scattered to the four winds of heaven that there might be no more remembrance of him.

     "Mr. Lofton," Mr. Wrightwood started in. "May I call you Sam?" Without waiting for my reply he went on. "Sam, I left an offer for two paintings and I wondered if you'd considered them. I normally don't deal in unknown artists, but I have a client who might be willing to take them off of my hands."

     "I'm sorry Mr. Wrightwood, but the paintings aren't mine. My son painted them and he has the final say. He was here a minute ago, but I don't see him. As soon as he returns I'll introduce him to you."

     "Your son, but what difference does that make? He can't be old enough to have any say in the matter. I assure you that you won't get any better offers for them."

     "Mr. Wrightwood, I don't remember, but how much did you offer?" By now Wrightwood had his hand on my shoulder and was trying to steer me to where the paintings were still displayed.

     Mr. Wrightwood had propelled me to the paintings and there we stood. About then I noticed Corey coming towards us, and turned to Mr. Wrightwood. "Here comes Corey, you can discuss it with him."

     When Corey walked up I started in. "Mr. Wrightwood, I'd like to introduce my son Corey. Corey, this is Mr. Wrightwood and he made an offer for your paintings."

     "I remember your offers," Corey bubbled. "It was the lowest ones." Before I could correct Corey's English, I heard a snort behind me, and when I glanced back, there stood Carl and Bob, both grinning. Corey started speaking again before I had a chance to say anything. "I got an offer for one that was higher than what you offered for both of them." I didn't have to look back when there were more snorts behind me, but I did notice a change in Mr. Wrightwood's complexion. It was now turning crimson.

     "Ah, perhaps I could go a little higher," Mr. Wrightwood said. "How much were you thinking of?"

     "I don't know," Corey said. "Like maybe seven hundred for that one, and five hundred for that one," he continued, pointing at the two pictures. "I'd have to think about offers like that."

     "Preposterous," Mr. Wrightwood said. "Only well-known artists command prices of that magnitude."

     "What do you think Dad?" Corey asked, turning to me.

     "I think Mr. Wrightwood isn't willing to offer that much, and if that is what you think they're worth, it appears that there is nothing more to discuss," I replied with relish. "It's been a pleasure to meet you Mr. Wrightwood, and perhaps we'll meet again someday. My son and I thank you for your offer. Come on Corey, let's go get something to drink."

     As we were turning away Mr. Wrightwood tried again. "I might be willing to go that much, but I would demand an exclusive contract to represent you."

     It was time for me to stick my oar in. "Mr. Wrightwood, as you well know Corey is not old enough to enter into a contract and I won't commit him to a lifetime exclusive contract with anyone. You're free to make offers and if he decides to sell to you, fine, but no contracts. As of now we are still waiting to see what the best offers are, but we won't know for some time. If you wish to make a better offer, then do so. The only one we have from you is below the others, and not nearly high enough."

     "I don't believe you have higher offers. I think you're trying to cheat me," Mr. Wrightwood snapped.

     "My Dad doesn't lie!" Corey almost shouted. "You don't know what you're talking about."

     "Come on Corey, we don't have to put up with him," I said while grasping Corey's arm and starting to lead him away.

     "But Dad, he's lying," Corey stated.

     "Corey," I said, "We don't know that he's lying. We do know that he's wrong. However, it doesn't make any difference, and I think it best to ignore him because he isn't worth worrying about."

     About then Carl and Bob started clapping their hands. "Well said," Carl told us. "Allen definitely isn't worth worrying about. Let's go have coffee."
     Bob was laughing along with Carl, and Mr. Wrightwood looked ready to explode, but Corey was very upset.

     "But Dad, he needs to apologize for lying. We do have better offers."

     "Let it go. He isn't worth it," I told Corey while steering him towards the door.

     "But! But! But!" Corey was sputtering.

     "Calm down, there will always be rude people who say stupid things. They simply aren't worth getting excited about," I told Corey. Yet as I was saying that I wondered if the only reason I wasn't as upset as Corey was due to Bob warning me. I was not noted for remaining calm, but with a little warning I found it much easier to keep from getting upset. Corey hadn't had any warning about Mr. Wrightwood and so had been unprepared.

     Just then Corey noticed that Bob and Carl were giggling like twelve-year old school girls and that did nothing to calm him and he started glaring at them.

     Carl, seeing his anger quickly said, "Calm down. We aren't laughing at you. We're laughing at Allen getting slapped down. He's an unbearable ass. He's also on the crooked side and I can supply the names of plenty of people who will tell you not to do business with him. He's gone bankrupt several times leaving various artists without their money or paintings. I should have warned you about him, but everyone else knows and I forgot."

     As soon as we were seated I started in explaining to Corey. "Look Corey," I started. "There's a difference between lying and being wrong. You can't prove that Mr. Wrightwood knew that you had better offers for the paintings, so you can't call him a liar. The definition of lie is very specific and says that a lie is when someone deliberately says something they know to be untrue, so you have to be able to prove that he knew he was saying something which was untrue. Since you have no way to prove that, you need to stop using that term. By the same token, he called both of us liars when he said that he didn't believe we had higher offers, but you don't win arguments by resorting to name calling. Had we wished to continue, you could have showed him the offers and demanded an apology from him, but since he's such as ass, it isn't worth it. Instead forget him and don't let him ruin your happiness."

     The waitress showed up and took our orders, interrupting our conversation. When she had left the conversation continued.

     "Sam's right," Carl said. "Wrightwood isn't worth worrying about. Outside of you two, everyone in the room knows all about him and won't pay any attention to what he said."

     "But, but it isn't right," Corey sputtered.

     "Lots of things aren't right," I said. "However, it isn't worth trying to fix them. Think about it, what should I do? Do you want me to sue him for calling us liars? Even if we won the case it would be hard to collect much in the line of damages. To collect damages you have to show injury, and it would be hard to show that his calling either of us liars damaged our reputations to where damages should be awarded. Then there is the question of does he have any money and could we collect if we won. No, the best thing to do is to try not to get involved with such people. I suppose in the old days I could have challenged him to a duel, but that's frowned on today and I'd get thrown in jail for it."

     "But why should he get away with it?" Corey asked.

     "He shouldn't, but it simply isn't worth trying to do something about it," I answered again. It costs money to sue, and you have to prove damages in order to collect. We can't prove he knew he was wrong, and we probably can't prove damages. Let it go and let's talk about something else."

     It was apparent that didn't satisfy Corey, but there wasn't much he could do about it. And the same was true for me. Certainly I could file a suit against him, but all it would do was cost me money and accomplish little. However I discovered that it was no longer in my hands because Mr. Wrightwood came walking up to the table and addressed Carl.

     "I checked and I can't find the boy's name and address in the registration files. I need it so I can file a defamation of character suit. Will you give it to me, or do I have to call you as a witness and get it that way.

     This was no longer funny and my patience was nearing exhaustion. "You mean you plan on filling suit against a boy for calling you a liar?" I inquired. "Tell you what, that sounds like an excellent idea. We can settle the whole thing in court. Just a second and I'll furnish you with my card and you can go from there." With that I took out my billfold and quickly found one of my cards. This was about the sixth or seventh one I'd handed out and I still had over four hundred and ninety to go. At the rate it was going they would last me the rest of my life. So far I'd been giving out a couple a year and five hundred cards divided by two meant they would last two hundred and fifty years. I still had about two hundred and forty-six or seven years to go. "Here, I'll even include my attorney's name and phone number on the back," I told him as I started writing down Russ's number.

     Handing him the card I added, "I hope you realize what you're getting into." I was using my best sarcastic tone of voice and hoped that he was dumb enough to do what he was threatening. It was time someone taught him a lesson, and I had plenty of money to do just that.

     "No need to take that tone of voice with me," he snapped. "Your boy started it."

     "Whatever," I replied. "Just be sure you tell your attorney everything that was said from the time the conversation started or he might be rather angry. Good day."

     "I'm not done talking to you. If you sell me those pictures at a reasonable price I might consider dropping the suit," Mr. Wrightwood said.

     "Oh waitress," I called out, motioning her towards our table. "This gentleman is being obnoxious and bothering us. I'd appreciate it if you had him removed."

     "I, I'm sorry sir. That isn't within my duties," she told me.

     "Fine, get the manager and he can take care of it."

     "No need to do that," Mr. Wrightwood told her. "I'm leaving." Turning to me he said, "I'll see you in court."

     "I'm counting on it," I abruptly told him. "I'm also going to file a countersuit for extortion."

     "You can't do that!" Mr. Wrightwood shouted.

     I ignored him and turned to the waitress. "I may be calling you as a witness. I'd appreciate it if you would take a couple of minutes to write down all you heard this gentleman say," I told her, pointing at Mr. Wrightwood. "Keep that record so that should you be called, you can tell the court what was said." I was hoping that she had heard what he'd said before I called her over, and there as a fair chance she had because she had been attending to the next table and was well within earshot. Add in that Mr. Wrightwood had been talking quite loudly and with just a little luck she had heard the part about selling the pictures to him at a reasonable price. Even if she hadn't, Bob, Carl, and Corey had heard it, so the only problem would be if the jury thought they were lying. Any outside conformation of his words would be a big help.

     "You're trying to intimidate and influence a witness!" Mr. Wrightwood shouted.

     "Oh, pray tell me in what way I attempted to influence a witness? Or for that matter, how I intimidated her? It seems to me I simply requested that she make it a point to jot down what she heard so she could testify to it at the trial. And by the way, you said you were leaving, so why are you still here. Is this another example of your truthfulness?" By now the sarcasm was dripping off everything I said, and anyone would be able to spot it.

     The difference between me and Mr. Wrightwood was that while I was angry, I was in complete control of myself and was well aware of exactly what I was saying. My mind was working at full speed and I was being quite careful of what I said. In fact, I was playing to my audience, which consisted of the waitress, those at the table, and the people at the two adjoining tables who were now paying attention to what was being said. While I was speaking somewhat louder than normal so my voice would carry (actually I was using the same voice I used in the classroom and it carried to all the kids) I was nowhere close to shouting, and I was making certain to speak very clearly so everyone could understand what I was saying.

     Then Mr. Wrightwood did something I couldn't believe he was mentally impaired enough to do. He wound up and swung his fist at me. He telegraphed his blow so far in advance that even though I was sitting in a chair, I managed to duck under it. What I didn't have anyway to prevent was the fact that his wild swing unbalanced him when he missed, and being unbalanced he fell onto me, tipping my chair over and both of us then crashing to the floor.

     Outside of having part the wind knocked out of me, and having the back of my head bang the floor, I was in pretty good shape. As for Mr. Wrightwood, well the prognosis wasn't so cheery. When I tipped over backwards and he landed on top of me, the chair held my knees up and guess what part of him landed on my right knee. I truly couldn't have done better had I planned it. Yes, that part landed dead center on my right knee, and the gasp, followed by some high-pitched whimpering, almost a keening sound, was the best he could manage. He also gagged some, but I managed to wriggle out from under him before he vomited all over the floor. It was clear I had won the battle without taking a swing. Mr. Wrightwood was clutching his groin and gagging and gasping.

     I was jerked on up to my feet and I could hear Bob screaming, "Are you all right Sam?" I'd been trying to get my feet under me and stand up, but apparently Bob couldn't wait until I accomplished that.

     "Yeah," I gasped. "Give me a second to catch my breath."

     Boy things were busy. When I looked up, people were scurrying all over. Most were rushing in our direction, and I could see the waitress running towards some other employees. As she approached them, they started in our direction, and she continued on towards a small door. In the meantime I had Corey wrapped around me and Bob and Carl on either side of me. By that time there must have been more than a dozen people standing there looking at me. Well, they were also looking at Mr. Wrightwood, but they didn't seem very concerned about him.

     I took a couple of deep breathes, shook myself to make sure everything still worked, and started prying Corey off of me. When I managed to get a hand free, I felt the back of my head and discovered the start of what would likely be a big lump. However I didn't see any blood on my fingers, so I decided I would survive.

     Everyone was talking at once, and I finally got them to slow down so I could tell what was being said. There were several people telling me that they would be willing to testify that Mr. Wrightwood had swung first. About then the waitress and a gentleman in a suit rushed up and I was informed that the police would be here in a few minutes by the suit. He was also apologizing, although he wasn't sure what he was apologizing for, but he was trying to assure me that he wouldn't allow such a thing to happen again. However, the man in the suit quickly took charge and started straightening things out. He ordered some people to clean the floor and others to help Mr. Wrightwood, and he called a lady from his office and she started taking the names of the witnesses and taking notes on what had happened. And so things were pretty well under control when the police came running in. By that time I was pretty well calmed down and was perfectly willing to tell them what had taken place, however, they started with Mr. Wrightwood, who still looked like he was in pain.

     It would have probably been better had they taken Mr. Wrightwood aside and talked with him, but they started the interview with all of us standing around. When asked what had happened, he responded by saying that I had kicked him in his privates, well actually he said nuts, but I'm trying to be polite.

     "You say he kicked you in the groin without any warning?" the officer asked.

     "Yes, I want him arrested," Mr. Wrightwood replied, still in obvious pain.

     "That isn't the way I saw it," someone said.

     "Me either," I heard a lady's voice.

     "I was standing right there and that isn't what happened," the waitress said.

     "Okay, hold it. We'll get everyone's statement and sort it out," the officer said. Then he turned to the waitress and asked, "Who are you and what were you doing?"

     "My name is Margaret Cole and I'm a waitress and was asked by him," she pointed to me, "to have that person removed," she pointed to Mr. Wrightwood, "and then he," again pointing at Mr. Wrightwood, "tried to strike him," again pointing to me, "and he," more pointing at Wrightwood, "missed and fell on him," more pointing at me, "and the chair tipped over and they fell on the floor. He," more pointing at me, "never did anything to hurt or strike him," more pointing at Wrightwood.

     "She's lying," Mr. Wrightwood shouted.

     "No she's not," someone off to the side said in a very loud voice.

     Following that, civility seemed to break down with Mr. Wrightwood and several people shouting back and forth and the police standing there with somewhat strange looking expressions. Those expressions changed to ones of resignation as the police got everyone quieted down. When that was achieved they again started questioning people, but this time they took each person out of the hearing range of everyone else.

     I was surprised at how little time it took for the police to sort things out. Before I knew it, Mr. Wrightwood was arrested and being escorted out of the building in handcuffs. When I asked if I had to sign a complaint, I was informed that there were sufficient witnesses to where that was unnecessary. So I thanked the police for their assistance and was told that it was up to the District Attorney to file charges and that I would hear from him regarding the disposition of the case, or if I was required to appear as a witness. It was all handled so professionally and smoothly that it took less than forty-five minutes from the time the police arrived to where they were leaving. I was left thinking that those officers were very competent at their jobs. After my last two rounds with law enforcement personal, it was nice to deal with pleasant and professional ones again.

     "Well, that was interesting," I commented as we returned to the showroom. "Has Wrightwood always been this violent and obnoxious?"

     "This is the first time I know of any violence, but he has tried to intimidate people in the past," Carl replied. "I looked into trying to get him excluded from our workshops, but that's very difficult to do with a public forum. I have a court order keeping him out of the teaching sessions, but the showroom is public and I couldn't get one to keep him from entering it and making offers on the paintings. I'm sorry you got involved because he's been after us for several years and probably went after you because you appeared to be our friends."

     "It's been over a year since he last bothered us," Bob joined in, taking over the narrative. "We thought he'd given up trying to disrupt us, but apparently he was only taking a break. It all started when we had a student and happened to put him in touch with a gallery where he got a better deal. Wrightwood's been after us ever since, complaining that we're trying to ruin his business. He has a gallery where he charges artists to show their work, and does nothing to promote them. If a painting happens to sell, he takes half, which isn't that unusual for commission, but is when the gallery is charging hanging fees."

     That started a discussion on commissions and fees, something I knew nothing about. Both Corey and I were surprised to learn that most commissions run from a third to a half, but Carl assured us that in many cases they were worth it. He also pointed out that there were some good artists' co-operatives which charged hanging fees, fees paid by an artist to display that artists work, but that many of the private ones were not very good deals.

     We continued talking about galleries and fees as we waited for Carl's guest to show up. We further learned that Carl sent certain types of paintings to New York because they sold well there, but he sold most of his work from his studio. When I mentioned the fairs, like the one where Corey and I had met him, he laughed and asked me if I'd paid attention to the signatures on all those paintings. When I confessed I hadn't, he told me that most of them weren't his, and that some of his students in Medford had painted most of them.

     Sometimes people surprise you with what they do, or rather like to do. Carl went on to explain that when he was bored or tired, he liked to go to one of those fair type shows and sell paintings. He said he always enjoyed meeting new people, and that it took his mind off of his painting. To him, it was a break that refreshed him. He went on to explain that he always took a few extra days on those trips so he could spend some time looking the area over. He also told us that normally he had the students, whose paintings were to be sold, with him, but last year things had not worked out for them to accompany him. He said that normally he would not have gone without them, but he wanted to visit with Bob and so had come by himself. We were still chatting when I saw him look past my shoulder and he started to smile.

     "Here comes my friend," he said. "Now we'll get a better idea of what Corey's paintings are worth."

          To be continued...

     Flavored, or more correctly compound butters are great for many things. They can be used on meats and vegetables. For meats I frequently start with some butter and some finely chopped shallots and minced garlic. To those I add such things as fresh basil, fresh parsley, or fresh thyme, and so on. With fish I add fresh dill or fresh basil. Vegetables normally don't get the garlic or the minced shallots but do get such things as lemon zest or fresh basil. There are others I sometimes use, but those are the most common. If you wish to know more, Google compound butters and read about them. Then experiment and see what you like best. Just remember that dried herbs don't work very well. In fact, if I haven't got fresh herbs I will skip the herbs and get by with the butter alone.

     For steaks, put a scant tablespoon on each steak as soon as it is off the heat and let the butter melt and soak in while the steak rests. For fish, do the same. For veggies, drain and toss with your compound butter a couple of minutes before serving.

     For fish I sometimes use blue cheese in my compound butter, and even use that on steaks for a change of pace. I also will use some Tabasco in them, and lots of other things. In making them you take some butter, add your flavorings of choice, and mix. When well mixed, put the mixture on some plastic wrap and form into a log shape with a diameter about the size of a fifty cent piece. Then put in the refrigerator or freezer until firm. To use, cut a quarter inch slice off of your log of butter and put it on your meat or fish. You can store the remainder in the refrigerator for a few days, or you can store it for a couple of months in the freezer after wrapping well in plastic wrap.

     Along with Googling them, you can get some more ideas by going to www.recipezaar.com and typing in compound butters. And one last thing to remember, garlic bread is made with a compound butter, so you likely have been using them for years and hadn't realized it. Now all you have to do is broaden your ideas and start using them with other things. Try a little Tabasco in one for corn on the cob.