I Love Corey, Chapter one hundred three


     So here I go again, warning everyone off. I'll start with young people because they are the ones most in need of protection. Anyone under the age of majority needs to leave immediately. Anyone beyond that age who feels like they are under the age of majority should also leave since you obviously don't have both oars in the water. So what does that mean? It means that if you are over twenty-one and feel like fifteen, you are not stable enough to be reading this. Nobody in his right mind wants to go through his teens again. Oh yes, they were good times and I had a lot of fun, but to go back and be that dumb again is not something I want to do. I'm not very smart now, but at least I'm smart enough to know how little I knew back then.

     There are a bunch of people who run around looking for things to become upset over, and some of them even take the time to read and complain about stories. They go so far as to try and get books banned and other equally stupid things. I mean really, who cares if Tarzan and Jane got married. Only a bunch of religious bigots would worry about things like that, and I've never heard any kids asking when did Tarzan and Jane get married? Those type people also claim to be horrified by such things as descriptions of gay sex. If you are among that group, better leave before I put some of those descriptions in the story and upset you as sticking around will only assure that you are exposed to such despicable things.

     In some areas of the world such people as the ones in the proceeding paragraph are in control of the government and have done such stupid things as making the reading of any stories they don't approve of illegal. Understand, it is not about protecting you, but rather exercising control over you. They fear that by allowing you to read what you wish will cause them to lose their control thereby leaving them powerless. As I see it that means that they are afraid that their arguments cannot win and should you be exposed to other ideas they know you will no longer allow yourself to be controlled by them. Some do it for religious reasons, others for political reasons. It really makes no difference what their reasons, it only shows that they think little of their ideas and know those ideas will lose if others are allowed to compete with them. However, if you live in such an area you had best be careful and leave so they don't catch you reading this or anything else they don't approve of. Those people are quite capable of killing or doing other nasty things to you.

     The characters in this story do not exist and they are not based on anyone I know or have heard about. The same is true of the actions described. It is pure fiction. Should you think otherwise you should leave because you are not capable of separating fantasy from reality.

     Feel free to read and enjoy the story. Please properly attribute any quotes from it and share any riches derived from it. By the way, I mean share those riches with me.

     Poor Don. I keep cranking out chapters for him to edit. I'm not sure that he realized what he was getting into when he agreed to edit, but I'm most thankful he did because his efforts greatly improve the story.

     Once again feel free to write and complain, offer suggestions, ask questions, or even compliment me. Yeah, I know, there is little chance of the latter, but I can always hope. Use the same old email address of "fritz@nehalemtel.net" and put "I Love Corey" in the subject line. With that, I hope you enjoy the following chapter. Fritz


               I Love Corey, Chapter One hundred and three

     When I woke up I was almost giddy. School was starting again and soon Bruno and Sarah would leave so things would be back to normal, or at least as normal as my life ever was. I was looking forward to seeing how my students were doing and getting back into my routine.

     The boys seemed to feel differently and there was a lot of grumbling about having to go back to school, but most of it sounded a little false. For all their grumbling and whining I think they were glad to get back to school also. I was somewhat amused as they whined and was left thinking that kids had changed little since I was their age. I too had grumbled, but secretly had enjoyed school. I was left wondering why I had been unwilling to admit it. Yet it was sort of like a badge of honor that all kids hated school. To admit that you liked school put you on the outside and I had been unwilling to do so, and I figured that the boys were no different.

     We finished breakfast and I explained to David that he could walk down to Kath's when the rest of the boys left for school or watch television. Bruno was going to take Corey's car in for service, and Sarah was going to get the rug rats' laundry all caught up. Then I headed off to the morning meeting.

     The meeting was busy for a change. Normally there wasn't much we needed to know, but not so this morning. Of things that directly affected me, one ball game we had missed had been rescheduled for Tuesday which only gave me one day to try to whip the team back into shape. Another would be made up with a doubleheader when we visited that team on Thursday, and it had been arranged for us to leave two hours earlier than normal so we could get both games in before dark. The third one was still being looked at and unless one of us did a lot better than our initial games had indicated, it would likely be skipped.

     There were some more congratulations on the adoptions, and lots of questions about David since word of him had spread quickly even to those who had not been at the hearing or the party afterwards. There were also all the papers in my box to sort through and try to figure out what needed to be done. I hadn't come close to getting all of that done by the time classes started.

     It was almost as bad as when a school year first started. The students were restless and it took time to get them on track, but as the day wore on they started settling down. I was lucky in that I was ahead of what the text called for by this time of year, so it wouldn't be hard for me to get everything in by our normal closing date, but that wouldn't make any difference because according to rules the kids had to go to school for so many days, not just until they learned what was required. Normally I spent that last few weeks going over what had been covered and making sure everyone understood it all, but this year I wouldn't have as much time for that unless the days were added to the end. There was still some discussion going on over how many days we would have to add to the end of the year, but that was above my pay level so I would simply do what I was told to do.

     I still wasn't caught up by the time practice rolled around, but I had made a big dent in it. I couldn't believe the number of forms I'd had to fill out for various groups involved in education. Normally they came every few days and were quickly handled, but they had piled up while school was closed and I hadn't realized that there were so many of them. It is one thing to get a form or two a week and have to fill them out, and quite another to get almost three weeks worth all at once. Between the Federal Government, the California government, and the district it seemed like someone was always requesting information on what was happening. I thought that things would be much better if there were fewer studies and the money spent on them applied to education, but I was apparently in the minority in that belief.

     Jeez, the time off hadn't done anything for anyone's conditioning, including mine. We were all panting by the time we finished our warm-up exercises and stretches. And I swear to God it was like I had never told them anything, because most were right back to over-swinging and trying to throw too hard. At least it didn't take as long to explain what they were doing wrong and by the time practice was over the team was starting to act like a team again. Whether or not it would be enough for our game tomorrow only time would tell, but I'd done all I could for today.

     Kath was starting dinner when we got home. She told me it would be about an hour before it was ready so I asked David if he was ready to show me how to prune a tree. A few minutes later I had changed into jeans and we were out the door to attack some fruit trees.

     Pruning was more complicated than I had realized, at least according to the way David explained it. He told me you didn't just cut off any old branches, but that you should only remove the ones which wouldn't bear fruit. That made sense to me, but the hard part was learning which was which. David would point to a branch and call it a sucker branch and tell me to cut if off, but I didn't see that it was much different than the other branches. After a while I started to understand and realized that most of the so-called sucker branches were growing straight up from another branch and after that it started to go better. Still, by the time Mark came down and told us it was dinnertime we hadn't gotten very far on the little orchard.

     Kath had fixed some barbecued chicken thighs, although in the oven and not on the barbecue, and they were delicious. I swear I was almost as bad as the boys in the number of thighs I ate. I was so stuffed that I had to unbutton the top button on my jeans to make room for my now distended stomach, and I wondered if it would be possible to hide a thigh or two for my lunch tomorrow. I vowed that I would talk her into showing me how she had fixed the chicken because it was far better than any barbecued type chicken I had ever had. About the only one who took it in stride was Danny, and it was apparent that he was used to it and liked it, but all the rest of us kept telling Kath how good the chicken was.

     Over dinner I learned that David now had appointments for tests on Tuesday and Wednesday to check his learning ability, along with his Thursday appointment with his prosthetist.

     After we got the dishes picked up and in the dishwasher, it was back to the orchard for more lessons on pruning. This time I snagged a couple more of the boys to help pick up the various branches and put them in a pile to be taken care of later.

     By the time it was too dark to see what I was doing I had about half of the orchard pruned and was starting to feel comfortable with what I was doing. It was quite easy once I started following David's directions. Branches came off the main trunk, and the bigger ones were left while little ones were removed. Then if a smaller branch stuck up from one of the main branches, it was also removed. David also explained that someone had properly shaped the trees in the past, so the tops had been cut back to force the tree to grow out instead of up, making it easier for me to tell what I was doing as I didn't have to worry about the initial shaping. With luck I might finish the pruning by the coming weekend. Then I would have to decide whether to bring Uncle Matt's tractor home, with the chipper attached and chip the branches for mulch, or burn them after they were dry enough.

     After we returned to the house it was time to visit with Bruno and Sarah since they would be leaving in the morning. I got to hold and enjoy the rug rats before Sarah put them to bed and got some giggles from them by reading to them and with a little tickling, but once they were in bed we talked about how long it might be before they returned.

     I got no real answer as that depended on how Bruno and Uncle Matt decided to handle things. They might rent a place in Medford until their new house was completed, or they might look for one here to rent. If they decided to rent in Medford they would only stop on their way back to Texas long enough to leave Corey's car and perhaps spend a night. If it was decided that they should live here, then they might spend some time with me while they looked for a suitable rental before they flew back to Texas.

     I got interrupted as the boys were finishing up some homework and I had to look over several papers, but soon after that the boys were headed for bed.

     I spent another hour talking with Bruno and Sarah before we gave up and likewise went to bed. I'd always have a soft spot in my heart for Sarah and I both admired and liked Bruno, but it was going to be wonderful to get everyone out of the house except for the boys and me. As I was headed for bed I wondered if the old saying about things happening in threes was true, and that the fire and both sets of relatives were my three pieces of bad luck for a while.

     Corey was on his side facing away from my side of the bed, so I snuggled up behind him and as I buried my nose in his hair I could hear a little sigh as he sort of rolled back against me. I could feel the heat radiating off of him and knew that it wouldn't be long before we were so warm that we moved away from each other, but for now all was right with my world because Corey was in my arms. It was times like this that I found myself wondering what would have happened to me if I hadn't found him, and the answer wasn't pretty. As much as I loved teaching, without Corey that would have been all I had and a person needs more than a job. Without Corey I would have continued on teaching, but there would have always been that emptiness inside me, that emptiness I hadn't known existed before him, but that I now realized had kept me from being truly happy. For all the problems, which had occurred, I was far happier than I had ever been. Before Corey I had been searching, but now I had a better idea of who I was and was slowly becoming comfortable with myself. Before Corey there had been evenings when I played sad music and sat and felt sorry for myself and wondered if there was more to life than I was experiencing, but now I knew there was more and that `more' was making me happy.

     I'd set my alarm a few minutes early so I was sound asleep when it started making its obnoxious noise. My thought had been that by waking up a little early I would be alert enough to say goodbye to the Brandt's. I had enjoyed visiting with Sarah and Bruno, and Lisa and Candy were growing like weeds and cute as buttons, but it would be nice to have some privacy. I stumbled through my morning ablutions and headed out to plug in the coffee.

     I was on the second cup of coffee before anyone showed up and it was Bruno. Sarah was likely getting Lisa and Candy dressed so I handed Bruno some coffee and we sat batting the breeze while we waited for her. Dog, who had already cadged some attention from me, went over and laid his head on Bruno's leg, clearly expecting some attention.

     "Well," I said as Bruno started scratching Dog's ears, "What time are you going to head north?"

     "Prolly around nine." If nothing else, having him leave might let me get the boys to stop using that horrid contraction of probably, but ever since he showed up my lessons in proper enunciation had gotten lost.

     "You ought to get there shortly after noon," I told him. "Now if you had the boys with you, it would take more time since they've never seen a restaurant they could pass up."

     "You don't know Sarah and Lisa," Bruno chuckled. "They've never seen a rest area they could ignore either. Lisa keeps asking are we there yet and she's even got Candy trying to do the same thing."

     About then Lisa came running in and dashed over and climbed on my lap. "I's gonna miss you Uncca Sammy," she told me.

     "I'll miss you too sweetheart," I told her while giving her a big hug. "But you'll see me in a few weeks." Bruno and I chatted while I held Lisa and shortly Sarah and Candy showed up and it was time to start cooking breakfast. Corey had showed up right after Sarah, so he and Dog headed off to wake the rest of the boys and I started digging out some bacon and eggs. I'd already checked and there were plenty of boiled potatoes for hash browns. Corey started on the oranges as soon as he returned and before long breakfast was starting to take shape. It wasn't long before I had the whole griddle covered with bacon and one oven on to keep it warm. After the bacon was done I'd put the hash browns on it and cook the eggs in some frying pans.

     I don't know why but I got the pleasure of feeding Candy her breakfast. So much for that set of clothes. After having jelly dripped all over them, they wouldn't cut it. The shirt could go in the wash, but another pair of slacks was headed for the cleaner's and I was thankful I wasn't wearing either my tie or jacket. While I couldn't bring myself to wear suits, I could accept sport coats and slacks, accompanied by a tie. The boys teased me because the first thing I always did when coaching was to change clothes, and sometimes I changed them when I wasn't coaching. It was nice to get rid of the tie and sport coat and into something comfortable even if I was simply sitting and grading papers.

     I managed to get into clean clothes and avoid having my ribs crushed and made it out the door. I got kisses from the rug rats and Sarah and Sarah had even wiped most of the jelly off of Lisa and Candy so I only wound up with a sticky face.

     There must have been an extra spring in my step because Mrs. Webb asked me why I was acting so happy. When I told her it was because my relatives were leaving she giggled and told me she knew what I was talking about. By the time the morning meeting got started I had finally caught up on all the junk in my inbox. I still had some papers that needed grading, but I should be able to get them taken care of during second period which was my free period this morning. Normally I would have graded them after school yesterday, but David had taken precedence. Thinking about it, I couldn't remember ever not having a day's papers graded before I went to bed, yet David had needed the attention and had positively glowed when he saw I was finally learning what he was trying to teach me. He hadn't said anything, but his whole attitude had picked up and his shoulders had squared up. I could see it was going to take a lot of work to make him understand that he was as good as anyone else, but that had been a start.

     I was both surprised and happy that the students were quickly getting back into the swing of things and were much calmer and more attentive today. They were doing even better than they did after the Christmas break and there was only the normal uproar in my classes. By the time it was time to leave for our game it was almost like there had been no break in school.

     Unfortunately the team didn't do as well at getting back into playing as the students had done with studying. I suppose it could have been worse as we were only down by four runs after the first inning owing to the fact that we scored two in the top of the first. Of the twelve batters our opponents sent to bat, two were hit with pitches, four were walked, and three got hits. Of course that left three to make outs and they left the bases loaded. Poor Will Bentley. I went out and talked to him twice, but nothing seemed to work for him and I finally brought in Josh Wilkins to try to get better pitching. Had it not been for an error by JJ, Josh would have gotten out of the inning with no more damage, but JJ charged the ball from his position in left field and should have made the catch, but simply dropped the ball. There were way too many heads hanging as we moved on to the second inning.

     Billy Jensen was getting used to his glasses and I had started him at shortstop. He was leading off the second and had not looked good in batting practice so I decided to try something different. I asked him to bunt for two reasons. Hopefully he might make contact and secondly their third baseman was playing pretty deep. Billy was playing more for his defense than his hitting.

     Billy made contact and laid down about as perfect a bunt as possible and easily beat it out. Suddenly heads were up again.

     Carlos Martinez, our second baseman also bunted and did almost as well so suddenly we had runners at first and second. However Josh Wilkins bunted foul twice and then hit an easy liner to short for the first out. Now we were back to the top of the order.

     Jerry Hooley, our catcher, hit a long single and stretched it into a double which scored two runs, but that was after another out from a popup. That brought up JJ again. He had managed to drive in one run in the first, but this time he almost got a homer. A really super play by their center fielder robbed him, and had that center fielder not been able to leap so high the game would have been tied. Still we had cut the lead in half.

     Josh mowed them down in the bottom of the second and it was on to the third. The team was eager to get the last two runs back and when Karl Goodrich, our right fielder, led off with a sharp single to left, the team was all excited. With the aid of a wild pitch and an infield out we had Karl on third with only one out. Unfortunately that is where we left him as the next batter popped up and the following one hit an easy fly to left field.

     Josh was again up to the task and although he did give up a hit and a walk, no runs scored in the bottom of the third. In the top of the fourth we got a run, but we left the bases loaded when they brought in another pitcher and he was good. He was much better than any pitcher we had faced and looked big enough to be in high school. He had an excellent fastball and pretty good control over it, so two strikeouts later our half of the inning was over and no more runs had scored. Still we were now only down one run and we still had two more chances.

     Josh was once again mowing them down until he had two outs. Then he threw a good-looking pitch, but the batter did an even better job of hitting and the ball was about a foot over the top of JJ's glove and he had jumped as high as he could. That home run put us down by two runs again.

     We managed to get one more run in that top of the sixth, but that wasn't enough and we lost by one run. Final score, seven to six against us. Needless to say it was a quiet ride back from Hayfork. On top of all that our Thursday game was actually a doubleheader and would be played away. Scheduling had been a nightmare since the fire and the league was trying to work all the games in.

     I could have gone home in the Gator since Kath had driven it to the game and brought David along, but I elected to ride with the team. When we got back to town the team was still in the dumps and all my talking and trying to point out that we came close hadn't seemed to cheer them up much. Kath followed us in and then we soon split up with part riding with Kath and the rest of the boys with me in the pickup. A quick stop at Flo's for dinner and then it was on to home.

     A little talking soon presented a problem for our scheduled talk. That problem was homework. Some of the teachers were getting nervous about getting everything in and were starting to pile homework on, but I had been far enough ahead that wasn't necessary in my classes, plus I was pretty sure that next Tuesday the school board would decide to extend the year. The only question in my mind was how long they would extend it. We had missed one day shy of three weeks and while we could pick a couple of days up, I wasn't sure how many the school board would be willing to cut. My best guess was that they would decide on an extra two weeks.

     So we didn't get around to talking about the new house or what the boys thought of various things, but they at least knew it had only been postponed until tomorrow evening. It worked out pretty well because I got to catch up on my grading while the boys did their homework.

     Wednesday went about as well as can be expected. The students were completely settled down and even Marty Logan didn't come up with any way to torment me. I was a little worried because it had been several weeks since he had tried anything, but today he was a model student. While I still wasn't happy with having to teach part of the time at the high school next year, at least it would keep me in touch with Marty. For all his devilment he was a great student and fun to have in class. I'm not sure I could have withstood more Marty's, but having one was a real pleasure. He had a bubbly personality and was smart as a whip and I wished all kids could be as confident as he was. While he was always challenging me, there was never any viciousness in it. Instead it was simply Marty stretching his wings and it was a treat to watch him grow up.

     As for practice, it went pretty well. The team was still a little down from their loss, but by the time they got warmed up and into the various drills they had gotten past that. Justin Laski was mostly healed and starting to get back in shape and I planned on starting him tomorrow. While I hadn't talked with his mother since he was in the hospital, from what I heard she and Justin's father were now separated. Justin seemed happier and more relaxed and hopefully things would work out for the best. About halfway through practice Kyle showed up from his driving class and when practice was over he pitched in and helped Corey and LT clean up. As soon as JJ was done showering he also pitched in and soon the laundry was in the dryers and we headed home.

     At first I was less than impressed with what Kath had prepared for dinner, but it was better than I thought it would be. She called it beanie-weenie and it was a bean dish with what looked like cut up frankfurters and a little diced ham in it. However, the beans were well seasoned and delicious and the franks were a new sausage that Rob was making at Downie's and the whole dish went together better than I would have believed possible. She had fixed a salad and some corn bread to go with it and when it was over I had taken and enjoyed two servings. It was somewhat like the cassoulets that I fixed, but seasoned differently. I learned that the sausages were called smoked German franks and I liked them. They had been heavily smoked and that smoky taste went together well with the beans.

     The boys had worked on their homework as soon as we got home, so after they had picked up the table it didn't take them long to finish it. Once that was done and I'd checked it over, it was time for our discussion of the new house and any other thing that they wanted to bring up.

     "Okay," I started. "What's anyone got to say about should I build a new house on Uncle Matt's property? Now's your chance to say anything you want. Tonight we talk about it and maybe decide if it's a good idea. So who's first?" I was greeted with silence, a silence so deep that I wondered if my hearing had suddenly failed. About then Dog walked in and laid his head on my foot. Hearing his nails click on the floor and his sigh once he was down convinced me I could still hear.

     "Come on," I tried again. "Surely you guys have something to say. If nothing else you can talk about the house itself." Again there was silence. This wasn't going too well. They'd been all for the idea of a discussion until the time came for them to say anything and now it was like they were afraid to open their mouths. I was left stunned because none of the boys had ever been that shy about saying anything and in fact they were well known for opening their mouth's long before engaging their brains. David was the only one who was normally quiet so I expected it from him, but not from the others.

     "Well," I said trying again, "What's everyone think about the idea of having to walk from where the bus will drop you off to the house and from the house to where the bus will pick you up? Remember it does rain during the winter and sometimes even snows."

     "Uhmm, couldn't we have a building to keep out of the rain?" Corey asked, finally breaking the silence. "That way we wouldn't be standing in the rain."

     While I hadn't thought of that, I saw no reason why that wasn't a good idea so I answered, "Sure, that seems reasonable, kind of a bus shelter thing. We could even put an intercom in it so you could let someone know you were there when it was raining hard and we could drive down and pick you up."

     Corey's shoulders fell and he looked like I'd just stolen his last dime. I was surprised at his reaction and wondered what was wrong. After a short silence he mumbled, "Well, uhmm, I was kinda thinking that we could like, uhmm maybe use Mom's car to go, you know, back and forth. It's not on the highway and you don't need no license."

     The plot thickened. I hadn't come close to thinking of that, yet it was so typical of the way boys think. I should have thought of it because boys and driver's licenses have some kind of great attraction, at least on the part of the boys. "And what makes you think I might agree to something like that?" I asked, striving to keep my voice steady and my grin suppressed.

     I had thought it was quiet before, but now there didn't even appear to be any movement of boy chests making the silence even more noticeable. They were frozen like statues and Corey's face had turned almost as white as marble. I let them stew for a while before I decided to let them off the hook. "We'll talk about that later," I said. "For right now we need to discuss building there so we know if there is any reason to worry about driving to the bus stop. You guys still haven't told me if you like the idea. I can see lots of things against it, but it's up to you. If we do build and move there you'll have to talk someone into hauling you into town instead of walking like you now can. Even when Kyle gets his license he probably won't want to be your chauffeur. You'll also have to leave the house a few minutes earlier because the bus comes here at the end of its run. Add in that it won't be very convenient to get a bunch of kids together to play ball and I can see lots of other reasons not to do it. Can anyone think of a reason why we should?"

     "I thought you'd decided," LT said.

     "Nope, I wasn't willing to make up my mind until I'd talked with you guys," I answered him. "What makes you think I'd made up my mind?"

     "Well," he mumbled, "Matt said you were and you always do what he says," LT answered me.

     It wasn't so much what he said, but more the way he said it that surprised me. Underneath his mumble was a tone of perhaps disgust, or maybe even anger. I suddenly wondered if Corey had been right in his assessment that the rest of the boys wanted to move to Uncle Matt's property. When I glanced at Corey, I could see he was startled also.

     "Well Matt was wrong," I said. "While I've gone from being against it to where I don't care, I never agreed to move there and he knows it and had no business saying I would. If you guys don't want to live there, we won't. So tell me what you want. Should we or shouldn't we?"

     Once again no one said anything. They wouldn't even meet my gaze, but kept glancing at each other as though to try and get someone else to do the talking. After a minute or so of that I could see I was going to have to drag it out of them, so I started on LT.

     "You sounded like you disapproved LT. Why is that? Don't you like the plans we discussed or is it something different?"

     Now LT looked like a deer caught in the headlights. He'd look up at me and then look back down and his mouth opened several times, but no words came out. Finally he took a deep breath and started in. "It's just that when Matt's around you uhmm, you spend your time, ah time with him. We don't get to talk to you and you, well you don't listen to us." He took a couple more deep breaths and continued, "When he's here you don't do things with us and Kevin and Kristin take all your time and Matt and Sarah boss you around and we never talk about things at dinner," he finished in a rush.

     So Corey wasn't the only one who thought I paid too much attention to my relatives; however he hadn't mentioned that he thought they bossed me around. I thought about that and realized that both Corey and LT were right, and that not only had I deferred to Uncle Matt and Aunt Sandy, I had let them boss me around for the most part. There was also no arguing with the fact that I let the giggle boxes get away with murder because I loved them so much, but suddenly I realized why. They were the kids I had thought I would never have, and now that I had a house full of boys, I needed to pay more attention to `my' boys. They had already been subjected to plenty of rejection and by taking time away from them, it bothered them more than it would a lot of kids.

     Yet Uncle Matt had sort of watched over me and helped me for as long as I could remember, so I was left wondering how to handle things. And how could I suddenly pull away from Kevin and Kristin when they had done nothing wrong except to let me love them? The whole thing was getting complicated and I didn't have good answers.

     "You've got some points," I said. "Does that mean you don't want to move there? Do you think living here will be any advantage?"

     "I donno," was his answer as he continued to look down.

     The problem was I didn't know what to say next. I needed time to think about it because they had just pointed out things I hadn't noticed. To me Uncle Matt, and later Aunt Sandy, had been part of my life and their advice and suggestions had been something I sought and pretty much followed. Yes, I had put my foot down on the furniture with Aunt Sandy, but I could not remember any other instance in which I had not done what either had suggested. I had seemed to accept as fact that since they were older than I was, that meant that they knew more and would make better decisions, yet age had nothing to do with good decisions. Certainly experience helped, but what might be right for one person was not always right for another. I didn't know what to do, but for right now I had a bunch of boys waiting for me to say something.

     "Ahh, well look guys, I don't know what to say," I started. "I've never thought about it this way. I can see why you might think that, but it never seemed that way to me. Do you think you could come up with a list of what you like and don't like about the idea while I spend some time thinking about it? Then we can talk some more and try to come up with answers to it. Nothing needs to be decided right away."

     "What about the house plans?" JJ asked. "You're spending a lot of money on them."

     "The house plans are the least of our worries," I answered. "If we decide not to build it, it isn't that much money and we might even find another piece of property we like better and build it there. Right now the architect is working on concepts and a few thousand dollars will pay for that."

     "What kinds of things are supposed to be on the lists?" Kyle asked.

     "Oh I don't know. Maybe things like the problems of being to close to Uncle Matt and Kevin and Kristin to how nice it would be to have bigger rooms," I replied. "Also, you can put anything on the lists from what you'd like to do this summer or anything you think I've been unfair about. Then we could talk them over and see if we can come up with answers that satisfy everyone."

     Talk about looks of skepticism, I now had six boys looking at me like I had lost my mind. I was trying to figure out what was wrong when it dawned on me that they didn't like the idea because they didn't want to be critical and let me see what they actually thought.

     "Tell you what," I said. "In case any of you might be embarrassed by what you'd like to bring up, how about making up your lists and then printing them out. That way I wouldn't know which of you were worried about any individual thing. Would that make it better or easier? That way you could bring up anything. One of you will have to help David because his laptop didn't come in and even if it had, he hasn't had enough time to master it."

     They actually brightened up when I suggested that. Not real bright mind you, but they seemed considerably happier over that idea than having their own lists and having to let me see them, so we left it at that. They would come up with their lists and we would talk again on Sunday evening. My final suggestion was for them to restrict the lists to anything they wanted to discuss as a family and if there was anything they wished to discuss privately with me, make a separate list and I would talk with whoever wanted private questions answered. While I had tried to convince them that they were free to talk with me about anything, only Corey had taken any advantage of that, and even he hadn't done much of it. When that was done we discussed what we wanted to do on the upcoming weekend and the boys thought we ought to get back to shooting. That was fine with me so we went downstairs and loaded up more ammunition.

     David was going to present problems because the Beretta's were all for right-handed shooters and he wasn't big enough to shoot my shotgun. Also, having a missing hand meant that a break action gun would be easier for him to operate, so I needed to think about what to do about that. While that wouldn't be much of a problem this weekend since I would be coaching him, it would present him with problems when I wasn't handy to load for him. I didn't know if he would even like shooting so I wasn't sure what to do about it and decided to wait and see how it went.

     The boys were going great guns loading shells, so I took David and got out one of the Berettas and fitted it to him. By the time I had done that, the boys had loaded a bunch of ammunition and it was time for bed. Tomorrow was going to be an interesting day because David was going to have a fitting for a socket for his prosthetic hand. He had been busy with tests yesterday and today, but I hadn't gotten any of the results yet and until I had them I had no idea what would be needed or how to accomplish it.

     Once Corey and I were in bed it was time for our evening talk. While we didn't always do it, most evenings we exchanged a few thoughts and tonight I had some questions for him.

     "I was a little surprised that none of the boys realized I hadn't made up my mind about moving," I started. I was trying to be very careful so I didn't come across as accusing. "You must not have mentioned that when you told them we would talk about it."

     There was silence for probably a minute before he said anything, and then his answer wasn't quite what I expected. "I thought they all wanted to move. I didn't know they were jealous of Matt." After that Corey fell silent.

     While his answer wasn't what I had expected, he had sized the situation up much better than I had. Sometimes Corey made leaps of logic which were stunning and at other times he was almost hopeless, but I could see that in this instance he was right. The boys were definitely jealous of the time I spent with Matt and Sandy, but I wondered if there wasn't more to it. While they had all agreed that we should take David in, I was beginning to think part of the problem was that I had been forced to spend a lot of time on him and that had added greatly to their feelings that I was ignoring them.

     "Do you think it is all Matt and Sandy, or do you think it might also be the time I've spent working with David?" I asked him.

     I could almost feel Corey's brain kick into gear from the way his head was resting on my chest. Suddenly it was no longer simply flopped there and he was less relaxed and more into solving problems. After a rather lengthy pause he answered, "I don't know." Then he sagged back and relaxed again like he had been.

     We weren't going to solve this tonight so I tipped my head down and kissed the back of his head. It wasn't long before Corey was asleep and I was left to think and worry by myself.

     Thursday was one of those days. You know the kind, the kind where you wish you had stayed in bed and that the world would leave you alone. I still hadn't come up with any answers for the moving problem and the school day was a total disaster. It wasn't so much that any one thing was so bad, only that there were so many things that didn't go well.

     It started when I got to school and my mailbox was full of mail. Normally most of it can be read and dropped in the round file and forgotten, but this time there was a request from Representative Philson asking me to prepare a paper on student testing, from my viewpoint, so he could use it in his committee. The very next item was a request to prepare a similar paper on my ideas of how to make vouchers fair to all schools and it was from another member of the committee, a Representative Lowensdale who was the ranking minority member. Both of them hoped that I could prepare such papers and get them back to the committee in less than two weeks. At least that gave me two weekends to work on them, but I didn't need the extra work what with all the other things going on in my life. I was going to have to learn to keep my big mouth shut, yet I knew that was not going to happen. I had a compulsion to try to answer any question asked of me, sort of like my compulsion to teach. I could only sit and glare at those two requests and wonder how much simpler my life had been before boys. After all, were it not for the boys I would not have been in the Castro district and therefore would not have been invited to that dinner which would have meant that Rep. Philson would have never known about me. Thank heavens the rest of the mail was soon safely deposited in the round file where I could forget it.

     Then while I was busy grading papers during my free period, I received a call from Clara Finley about the results of David's tests. She wanted me to drop over to the district offices during my free period in the afternoon so she could go over them with me. That presented a major problem because in order to get the baseball schedule somewhat straightened out this afternoon was to be a doubleheader and it was to take place away which meant that we would leave long before sixth period which would be my normal free period. I tried to find out what the results of the tests were, but she told me that it would be better if we talked them over and so I was left wondering what had been found out and would have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

     All those things were on my mind as the team climbed aboard the bus and headed for Weaverville for our double header. I was going to start Carl Foley in the first game and Justin Laski in the second. Justin's ribs and face were sufficiently healed to where he was now ready to pitch, and that would leave Will Bentley as a relief pitcher. He hadn't made it through the first inning Tuesday and should be able to pitch some more innings if necessary. Beyond that my staff was getting very thin and playing three games in three days presented problems.

     The first game, a makeup game which had been scheduled to be played on our field, didn't go well even though we were considered the home team for it and batted last. Carl lasted into the third and gave up five runs and Will finished the game while giving up another four. We managed to get part of those runs back but fell three short giving us another mark in the loss column.

     The second game, which was the regularly scheduled game meaning that it was played as an away game and we batted first, was a heart breaker. Justin did a great job giving up only one run in the first five innings while we scored three. The bottom of the sixth did us in, and when Justin got tired and loaded the bases with only one out I was down to bringing in Karl Goodrich, our right fielder since I'd already used Will Bentley for relief in the first game. Karl managed to get out of the inning while only allowing two runs to score, but that meant extra innings. We got one in the top of the seventh and sadly gave up two in the bottom of the inning meaning we lost five to four. So far the season was not going very well.

     The bus ride back home, after a trip to a restaurant for dinner, was quiet. The team was down from all the losses and no amount of encouragement from me seemed to make any difference. I tried to point out that we had missed a lot of practice and that had cost us, but the team pretty well ignored me. By the time the bus let part of us off at the school before taking the rest of the team home, I was feeling discouraged by the team's attitude. The three losses in one week had taken the fun out of playing.

     Since we had planned on eating in Weaverville, Kath had fed her kids and David earlier and outside of the usual refrigerator raids things were rather quiet at home. While the boys did their homework I got started on the two papers requested by the representatives.

     I started on the one about testing first and had an outline of what I wanted to write by the time the boys started showing up with their homework. By the time the homework was all checked it was time for bed so my paper would have to wait. However, it shouldn't be hard to write it up because it was only going to cover what I did in my classes that I considered helpful to my students, things like using a variety of test types with a few sneaky questions thrown in to keep them on their toes. While multiple guess, as the boys referred to multiple choice tests, were fine, they gave me no idea of how well the students understood the material. I used a number of different test types and many of them required having at least part of the process they used to solve the problem on the paper they turned in. While grading those types of test took longer, they gave me some idea of what I needed to go over in order to assure that the class, as a whole, understood the lessons. It also told me which individual students were having a problem with some part of the work and while this year had been better than normal, most years that turned up a few whom I had to tutor in order assure they understood and could pass tests on the material. So far I had only needed to tutor three students this year and that was much better than previous years. I wondered if I was getting better at presenting the material or if this year's students were better than average, but I had no real way to know. Overall their grades were about the same as previous year's classes, but without more information I couldn't say for sure either way and likely would never be able to come up with an answer to that question.

     I didn't get very far with my paper before I had boys showing up with homework to be checked. Fortunately they hadn't made any glaring errors and it was pretty easy to show them the small ones.

     Then Kath wanted to talk about what the prosthetist had done. I'd been so busy the last couple of days that David's appointment with him had slipped my mind, but today he had started on a socket and David was scheduled to get his hook on Tuesday, after which he would need to be enrolled in a course of therapy to learn to use it. That again got me again worrying about what his test results were and I couldn't wait for my meeting with Clara to find out what she had learned and would recommend. It was becoming apparent that having Kath was a Godsend because there was no way I would have been able to handle getting David everywhere he needed to be and still teach at the same time. Besides, Kath was turning into a good friend and we were slowly working things out on how everything should be done. Add in that her cooking was rapidly improving and everything seemed to be pretty well organized on the home front except for should we build a new house and move.

     As we were sitting there talking Kath mentioned that David had done more pruning on the trees. She had helped him a little, but she said he was almost done with them. I'd been busy and hadn't even glanced that way since he showed me how to prune on Monday evening and here it was Thursday. The time was flying past and I was further behind than when I had started the week. While there were only a half dozen apple trees on the property I had purchased, that was still quite a bit for David to handle with only one hand. Kath mentioned that he had taken quite a few breaks because he was still building his strength up, but I was impressed that he had managed to accomplish as much as he had. Obviously he wasn't lazy and I could only hope he would apply that same determination over learning to read as soon as I'd learned what to do about the problem.

     Kath said she needed to head home and get her kids ready for bed, and when I checked it was time to do the same with mine. As I was chasing the boys out of the family room I grabbed David and gave him a hug and thanked him for his work on the apple trees. He got a cute little grin on his face and fairly bounced off to go to bed. I managed to snag a hug from all of the others and soon there were the usual trips to the refrigerator to check and see what could be found for their bedtime snacks as they slowly headed for bed. If I could eliminate those bedtime snacks I could save a fortune on the food budget, but I was afraid they would kill and eat me if there were no goodies in the fridge. The boys all seemed to have a severe case of empty belly right at bedtime. Perhaps the worst thing was that they had convinced Dog to join them in their nighttime snack and now Dog moved to the fridge when it looked like I was about to send the boys to bed. He would block them from opening the door until they had noticed him and given him a pat or two, then he made sure to stay close to each of them until they moved away from the fridge and he was sure there was no longer any chance of a bite or two.

     Kyle was the last to check the fridge and when he had found a leftover chicken thigh he turned to me and asked, "Would it be okay if I invited a friend over someday?"

     "Sure Kyle," I answered. "This is as much your house as it is anyone else's and you're free to invite anyone you wish. If you want him to come for dinner we need a couple of days warning, but that's about it."

     Kyle dropped his eyes and seemed somewhat hesitant to continue, but I patiently waited as it was apparent he wanted to say more. "Well, ah, well I was wondering if he could stay like overnight." The way he put that wasn't so much a question as it was a hope. He almost cringed when I wrapped my arm around him before I answered him.

     "Sure, just make sure we know enough in advance to where there's enough food in the house to feed him."

     Kyle relaxed and leaned against me. Dog was still following him hoping for a bite of the thigh, so there we stood, me with my arm around Kyle's shoulders and Dog sitting at Kyle's feet looking up.

     "Uhm, well like could I ask him over for Saturday night?" Kyle asked almost breathlessly.

     "I don't see why not," I answered. "What's his name?"

     "Uhm, it's Trevor Eagan," Kyle replied. "Everybody calls him Trey."

     "Trey," I said. "Does that mean there's three of him or something?"


     "Well, Trey is another word for three and I thought maybe he was a triplet or had three heads or something like that," I answered. It was apparent that I was way over Kyle's head with my comment. "Anyhow, do you like him?"

     I'm going to hire Kyle out as a furnace next winter because he started to blush and the heat given off by that blush would have thawed the polar icecaps. His head was only a few inches from my face and I wondered if I was going to have burns on that side of my head from all the heat he was radiating. All the time that was going on I was trying to think if I knew a Trevor Eagan, but I kept coming up blank. It was also apparent that I wasn't going to get an answer to my question about liking, so I gave Kyle's shoulder a squeeze and told him I'd see him in the morning and to go ahead and invite Trey to spend Saturday and Saturday night with us. I suggested the two of them decide what time Trey should come over, but I wasn't getting any answers from Kyle. He was still blushing and tongue-tied. Poor Dog never did get a bite of Kyle's chicken thigh.

     I finished turning the lights off and headed for bed. I was still grinning over Kyle and Corey noticed it as soon as I stepped into the bedroom.

     "What are you smirking about," he asked, grinning at me.

     "I think Kyle has a crush," I answered as I started undressing.

     "Oh," Corey said with an excited sound to his voice. "Who is it?"

     "Some boy named Trey Eagan. Kyle's going to invite him over for a Saturday sleepover. I don't remember meeting him so he must be fairly new to our school district," I answered as I walked towards the bathroom to brush my teeth. Corey was right behind me and while I was brushing he was adjusting the shower. Judging by his smirk it was going to be a fun shower.