Another chapter, another warning. I sometimes feel like I'm beating my head against the wall, but I know everyone looks forward to these warnings, so I have to write them. Here goes.
Minors leave. No fair acting like you are leaving and then sneaking back. It is a matter of honor, and I expect you to act honorably.
Those who get upset by the descriptions of gay sex acts should also leave. I'd hate to be the reason for your high blood pressure. Well, maybe I wouldn't.
People who live where the reading of this story is illegal also need to leave. If you don't, the gendarmes might capture you. Depending on where you live that might result in anything from embarrassment to having your head lopped off. Therefore, be safe and get out of here.
Just because you are reading this doesn't make it true. It is what is known as fiction, and none of the characters exist and none of the actions ever took place. Sorry, but you will have to deal with that fact.
The story is posted for your own private enjoyment and should not be used in a commercial manner without contacting me and making proper arrangements.
Few people truly understand what a help an editor is. I'm lucky to have Don who points out my many errors and helps make the story readable.
Send any comments to "email@example.com" and when I get around to it I'll reply. Be sure to put "I Love Corey" in the subject line so I don't delete you thinking your email is spam. With that said, I hope you enjoy the following chapter. Fritz
I Love Corey, Chapter Ninety-four
Even though they let me sleep slightly later than normal, I was not at my best when the giggle boxes attacked me. Someone had gotten them cleaned up and dressed and I could smell breakfast cooking, but I really wasn't up to defending myself. When they had given up and allowed me to perform my morning ablutions, I was still tired. Even two cups of coffee and breakfast did little for that, and I was still trying to get my mind going when Kyle left for school. Looking around I noticed that David in particular, and the boys in general, needed haircuts. As far as that went, I could use one myself since it had been over two weeks since my last one. David's appointment was for 10:00 a.m. so that gave us enough time to stop for haircuts since the barbershop opened at 8:30. I mumbled something about getting ready to David so we could both get haircuts, and suddenly the rest of the boys wanted them also. It was decided that David and I would leave first since we had to be finished in time for his appointment, and that the rest of the boys would ride their bikes down after we left.
I happened to think and got the keys for Corey's mother's car and gave them to Bruno so they would have transportation without depending on the rest of us. I did suggest the first thing he should do was get the spare tire fixed, and Bruno assured me he would. By then it was time to leave for the barbershop since I wanted to make sure we were the first ones there.
David seemed somewhat apprehensive as we drove to town and after asking what was wrong he told me he didn't know what kind of haircut he wanted. I parked in front of the shop and we were still discussing that when Mitch opened his door for business.
I got Mitch in on the conversation as soon as we walked in. David was undecided as to what he wanted, and Mitch was no help in that he wasn't offering any suggestion. Finally Mitch got out a book with pictures of different haircuts for David to look at while he cut my hair. I warned him he would likely be overrun with my mob a little later, but Mitch laughed and told me to bring them on, he'd just purchased a new set of clippers and wanted to break them in. We got to talking about clippers and how long they lasted so it didn't seem like my haircut took long. Yet when I looked at my watch, it had taken the usual time, slightly under fifteen minutes. It was now David's turn.
He showed Mitch several pictures and Mitch ran his hands over David's head. Then Mitch pointed out that a couple of the ones he'd selected wouldn't look as good on him as they did in the pictures owing to the difference in head shape. In a surprisingly short time they had narrowed it down and Mitch was busy clipping away. I wasn't paying much attention and was reading a Popular Mechanics magazine while I waited for David, so it was a surprise when I looked up and realized that David was much better looking than I'd realized. Having his hair properly styled and cut put his face in a better perspective and made him look both older, and his face better proportioned. I remembered back and that Corey had looked a lot better after his haircut, but the effect was more dramatic with David. While he would never win any beauty contests, David now looked pretty good with his haircut and new clothes.
Leaving enough money for all the boys' haircuts, we left and headed for Redding. We had a little time to spare so it was a relaxed and leisurely drive. I kept hoping that David would say something about his past, but he disappointed me and was quiet the whole trip even though I kept trying to engage him in conservation.
To my surprise, the prosthetist was a young man of about thirty and he had an artificial hand. He was wearing a hook, which about made David's eyes bug out. In Carlos Sanchez's case, it was his left hand which was missing.
After mutual introductions, he explained that this was a preliminary visit and it would likely be several weeks before an actual fitting for a prosthesis, but that he liked to get acquainted with and explain to his patients what the process was and what they could expect. He then proceeded to show David some of the many things he could do with his hook, such as tie his shoes and unbutton his shirt and then button it up again. The fact that he tied his shoes even faster than I thought I could tie my own impressed me.
It wasn't long before David started to relax a little and ask a few questions, such as how the hook worked. Carlos stripped off his shirt and showed David the harness and then showed him how it worked. He did so in slow motion, explaining how by hunching his shoulders slightly forward the hook opened while demonstrating it at the same time.
Carlos had a warm and outgoing personality and soon David forgot to be self-conscious and was instead busy asking questions about what kind of things he could learn to do. Along the way the subject of how David lost his hand came up, and David clammed right up. Carlos appeared not to notice and instead explained how he had lost his hand in an auto accident when he was eight. He had been riding with his folks and had his hand out the window playing like it was an airplane when another car had sideswiped their car.
Eventually the subject of what kind of artificial hand to have came up. Carlos dug out several and showed David the difference in them and how they worked, explaining that there were three basic types. There was the old-fashioned hook like in the pirate movies and almost no one used that anymore. Then there was the type of hook like Carlos was wearing which was in reality two hooks which opened and closed against each other and was powered by a cable to open it and rubber bands to close it. The cable opened it and the rubber bands closed it and it was operated by a harness and the cable which ran across the patients back. There were several options as to whether to have a hook arrangement or an artificial hand, but Carlos said that while the hand might look better, he liked the hook because it was more functional, he thought, and also that there were many specialized hooks for doing specific tasks. Then there were the myoelectric types which had little electric motors and were controlled by muscle movement which activated switches. As they were talking about the different options, Carlos gave David what I considered good advice.
"Look," he said. "I know you're going to be self-conscious about your missing hand. I know I was when it first happened. I tried to hide it and that only made people more curious. With a hook, it's right out in the open and there isn't any way to hide it so people don't think about it, and most of the time they don't even mention it. They all know what a hook is and you don't have to explain about it. If you have an artificial hand that looks like a hand, when they learn it isn't your real hand they want to ask questions about it. A hook's more durable and less prone to breakage and you don't have to do anything special to keep it looking nice. If it really bothers you I can fit you with a hand that looks about like your other hand, but you would have to be more careful with it and try to protect it because of the material it would be made of.
"As you mature you'll probably find you need some specialized hooks. I've got several I use for specific things. Most of the time I get by with the one I'm wearing, but when I'm building a socket I have another one I use only for that purpose.
"When you get older you may want a myoelectric hand because of what you need to use it for, but for a beginner and a growing young man I recommend you start with a hook as a terminal device."
David asked some more questions and Carlos answered them. Using a keyboard on a computer came up and Carlos moved over to the computer keyboard in his office and quickly demonstrated typing with one hand. I couldn't time him, but he appeared to type as fast as I could. It did look strange to me to see his right hand centered on a standard QWERTY keyboard, but being one handed didn't appear to slow him down.
Finally Carlos got around to examining David's stump. He looked it all over, and then made a few measurements of both the stump and David's shoulders. Then he suggested we come back in two weeks as he thought David's stump might be ready for him to make a socket for his first prosthesis. He also suggested an exercise for David, which consisted of trying to hold his stump a set distance from something and then trying to hunch his shoulders back and forth. He explained that if David practiced that exercise it would make it easier for him to learn to use his prosthesis no matter which style he decided upon. When David ran out of questions, we left. We had spent slightly over an hour with Carlos and I know I had learned a lot I didn't know about prosthetics. Since I hadn't known anything about them, most anything I learned could have been termed an increase in knowledge, but Carlos had explained things so well that I got a lot out of it. Carlos also supplied David with a number of brochures on various models of terminal devices, as he referred to them, and also on human powered vs. myoelectric models.
When we got in the Gator I turned to David and asked, "Well, what do you think?"
He shrugged and looked down.
"What's the matter, I thought you were looking forward to getting a new hand?" I followed up when he didn't offer any more.
"They all cost so much."
"So, what difference does that make? You aren't going to have to pay no matter what. Either Children's Services or I will pay."
David's head swiveled around and his eyes were wide, reminding me of a little owl. "You mean you'd buy me a new hand?"
I was left wondering how to answer that. I was fairly confident that Children's Services would buy his prosthesis, but even if they didn't I was going to make sure he had what he wanted and needed. From the way he was acting it occurred to me that he still didn't realize that he had a bunch of people in his corner now, and that those people were going to do their best to see that things went better for him.
"Of course I'd buy you a new hand if needed. But David, I don't think you understand what your position is now. From everything I can figure out you've had a miserable childhood so far. You've been abused, but won't even tell us how badly. I suppose you're afraid that if you tell, you're abuser will find out and hurt you. That isn't going to happen because you have Children's Services and me to protect you.
When I said that, David's face took on a look of scorn as though I had no idea of what I was talking about. That got me to thinking about what I actually knew about him and I realized how little it was. He'd let a few things slip, but not much. As my mind mulled over the things I had heard, I could see it wasn't enough to base judgments on. I started going over his words and trying to see why he wouldn't believe me. First, he'd told me his name, at least I thought it was his name. Second, he'd said the system had separated his friend from the friend's sister and that his brother was dead because of the system. Third, he had told me his mother and brother were killed by his father. Fourth, he had said he had lived on the Texas-Oklahoma border. That was very little to work with, but I should be able to figure out some way to get through to him.
I had no reason not to believe that his friend and the friend's sister had been separated. In fact, I was aware of things like that happening even though most social workers tried to prevent it, if possible. So that got me to my next piece, or pieces of information. He thought his father had killed both his brother and mother. I'd lumped that under one of those unlikely things that kids under stress believed, much like Kyle had believed his father had killed his mother. I'd even mentioned Kyle's belief to the police, but the truth was that she had run off and when social services tracked her down she was in prison for attempting to rob a bank with her then current boyfriend. She had gone back to her maiden name so that was the major reason it had taken the police as long as it had to get all the information and connect the dots, but what if what David was telling me was true? What if his father actually had killed his brother and mother, and that some branch of Children's Services or some other governmental body had had contact with him before the killings, but had done nothing to help? That didn't make much sense if he had told me his correct name because he should have been in the system if that was the case, but it would account for his fear of telling me anything. I was stuck in the position of needing more information in order to convince him he was safe, and the fact he was unwilling to tell me that information until he was convinced he was safe. It was apparent we needed to talk, but every time we started something came up and interrupted us.
I started up the Gator and pulled out of the parking lot, trying to figure out what to do. If I went home there would be other people around making any conversation more likely to be interrupted and I needed time to try to draw him out. What I needed was some time alone with him where no one would bother us, but I didn't know where to come up with such a place. Then it hit me. A quick stop at a fast food restaurant and then we were off to a place overlooking Lake Shasta. A few minutes later I pulled off the highway onto an access road and another couple of minutes and I pulled off into a place where we could park and eat our lunch with little chance of anyone bothering us.
"Well David," I said after he had eaten his lunch, "We need to talk. I gather you don't think Children's Services or I will protect you, but you haven't said why. Yet you said you wished you could stay with me. I guess I'll start with why you wish to stay with me, so could you explain that?"
I didn't get an answer, only a shrug.
"Come on," I wheedled. "You must have some reasons why you like living at my house since you said you wished you could stay."
"Uhmm, err the foods good."
"So you'd be happy anywhere the food was good?" I asked.
"Uhh, no ones hurt me."
"Okay, so the foods good and no one has hurt you," I said. "That doesn't seem like a lot to base such a decision on. Any other reasons?"
David clamed up again and replied with a shrug. When he didn't say any more I tried to think of another angle to approach him.
"Tell me, what do you think will happen if you continue to live with me?"
"I donno." He ran the don't know together to where it took a second for me to be sure what he meant. The fact that he was mumbling didn't help.
"Look David, I want to help you and Judy wants to help you. The only thing is, we can't help you unless you tell us what's wrong and how we can help. Judy's already run your name and it didn't show up in any records. Did you give me your real name or are you lying to me?"
David blushed and snarled, "It's my real name." Then he lapsed back into silence and glared at me.
"Okay, it's your real name, but if that's true, why aren't you in any records if your father killed your mother and brother and you say they weren't helped by Children's Services or some other governmental body?" As I said that something clicked.
"David, have you been using another name? Has there been some reason that you used a name that wasn't your real name?"
He hung his head and looked down. Having been around kids for the last few years told me I'd hit pay dirt. Everything about his body language and expression told me that for some reason he had been using another name. Now if I could only find out why.
"David," I started somewhat hesitantly, "Were you in school under a different name, like maybe a step-father's name?"
When I said that I knew I'd hit the jackpot. Everything about his body language told me so. Now if I could use it to find out more.
"Then that would mean it wasn't your father who killed your mother and brother, but rather your step-father, wasn't it?" I asked. As I was talking I was watching him and I knew I was on the right track. The only thing was he appeared to be withdrawing into himself and his fear was very apparent.
"Look, you have a choice to make. You can tell me or not, but if you don't you'll go through life living in fear. Only by telling me, or someone else, is there a chance of bringing your step-father to justice and you being safe. You need to decide if you want to live in fear and allow your step-father to get away with his crimes, or help bring him to justice."
By now the tears were streaming down his face. "I'm scared," he whined.
I reached over and pulled him towards me, wrapping my arms around him. "I know you are. I know it's hard to be brave, but if you aren't, you'll go through life in fear. People have to face their fears. If they don't, then those fears rule their lives." As I said that I wondered how I had been so blind. I'd acted exactly like David was acting and I had known better and had had less to fear. Yet I had been afraid of being honest about myself. How could I ask him to be brave when I hadn't been willing to act that way? I didn't have any way to tell him how much finally being honest had meant to me and how it had improved my opinion of myself. Yet I knew I had to try.
"David, I need to tell you something about myself. Like you, I was afraid. In my case it wasn't a fear of being killed, only of people not liking me. I was afraid to tell them I was gay. I let that fear rule my life. Then something happened and for all intents and purposes I was outed. I thought my life was over, but a funny thing happened. I found out my friends still liked me and that by being honest I felt better. I can't promise I can protect you, but I can promise I'll try.
"I know there's a big difference between fearing for your life and fearing for your reputation, but had I known and understood what I do now, I would have been honest a long time ago.
"Sometimes being brave isn't so much a matter of actual bravery, but rather being put in a position of having to do something whether you want to or not. In my case others forced me to face my fear. In your case, it appears to me that your step-father doesn't give you any choice. You can try to hide and live in fear, or you can confront your fears and try to live openly and enjoy your life.
"I can't make the decision for you, but I'll be with you no matter what you decide. If you decide to face your fears it will be much easier for me to help you, but no matter what I'll try to protect you." I couldn't think of much else to say so I continued patting his back and holding him. I wished there was a way I could help more, but I didn't know what it was.
After a while he pulled back and asked if we could go home. I was out of ways to try to convince him so I started the Gator up and headed home. He didn't say anything on the way home, but instead sat there looking down. His expression could best be described as forlorn and I had no way to help him unless he was willing to trust me.
I should have stayed away because when I got home I walked into pandemonium. It took a while to sort out what was going on, but when I did I learned that Russ's secretary had called and the property deal had gone through. Add in that Uncle Matt had taken Bruno and Sarah up to view the property which had gotten them all excited, and that they had mentioned building new houses to Kath, who hadn't been aware of all their plans, and you start to get the picture. Kath wanted to know what was going on, Bruno and Sarah were after me to agree to build a new house and move, and the boys thought it was a great idea and were after me to go along with them. So I had adults excited about building houses, boys jabbering about swimming pools, and Kath all wound up about the fact she wouldn't have her house even though Uncle Matt appeared to be trying to calm her by telling her not to worry because no one was going to kick her out. About the only thing which had gone according to plan was that the boys appeared to have gotten haircuts.
Everyone was after me to either explain or agree to something, but they were all after me at same time and weren't allowing me time to answer any of them. I wondered if I ought to leave and take Corey with me. Maybe after a day or two they would be calmed down enough so we could discuss things reasonably.
"Hold it!" I shouted. "Sarah, Bruno, did Matt tell you I haven't agreed to build out there yet? Kath, who said I was going to sell this property? If you'll all calm down and give me a chance maybe we can get some things straightened out." That stopped everyone except Kevin and Kristen who were still running around like they were on a sugar high.
"You need to get in touch with Bledsoe and tell him he can put in his road," Uncle Matt said before anyone else had a chance to say anything.
"No one," Kath said. "I thought you would because you don't need two houses."
"No he didn't," Bruno said as soon as he had a chance to get some words in.
After that they all stood there looking at me except for the cowardly boys who suddenly decided they needed to play basketball and disappeared outside like they had never been here. As I was taking a breath in order to say something, the phone rang. When I answered it Marcie, Judy's co-worker, who told me that the information I'd supplied her, about where David had admitted to growing up, had produced results, at least she thought it had. She wanted to come over and talk to David and see if everything checked out, and if it did, we would know who he really was. I was no longer interested in what my relatives were up to, but instead was eager to see if Children's Services had found enough information to help David. I told her to hurry over and we would be waiting for her. Helping David was more important than straightening out where I might end up living. After all, it wasn't like I didn't have a house.
Surprisingly enough, when I told everyone what the phone call was about, there was no more conversation about the property. David had gone downstairs to his room when we walked in, so he hadn't heard any of what was going on and I wondered if I should say something to him or wait until I knew more. Marcie seemed pretty sure of her information, but it might be wrong. I decided to wait until I heard what Marcie had to say. That gave me enough time to call Lincoln Bledsoe and tell him we were now in position to grant him the easement for his road. That conversation lasted slightly longer than I expected, so I was still on the phone when Marcie arrived.
"Hi Sam," Marcie said when I hung up. "I think we found out who he is and where he's from."
With that she pulled out a folder of information which even included a class picture. One quick look and I knew she was right. While the picture was a couple of years old, no one could mistake the fact that it was of David.
Marcie hadn't met David owing to her being at a training workshop for most of the time he'd been in the hospital, so she had not been sure, but once I confirmed that the David in the picture was the David downstairs it was time to find out what that meant to everyone.
What I learned was that two and a half years ago his older brother had been reported as being abused, and after an investigation the boys had been left with his mother and stepfather under the supervision of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Everything had appeared to be fine until the family disappeared seventeen months ago. After that there had been no contact or information on him or the rest of his family.
The investigation into their disappearance had uncovered the information that William Mossburg, the stepfather, had been involved in smuggling drugs, but that information hadn't come out in the original investigation. It had also been discovered that he had a rather lengthy criminal background including child abuse, none of which had been known until after the disappearance, and that he had spent time in prison for assault. There was also a notation that David's real father had been paying child support until his death in a construction accident, which happened two weeks before the Mossburgs' disappearance. Marcie added that the assault conviction had been bargained down from attempted murder. All in all, he appeared to be a rather unsavory character.
"Well," I said, "What now? Does David have any relatives who would take him in and take good care of him?"
"You're sure our David is the same David in this report?" Marcie asked.
"Yeah, I'm sure," I said, reaffirming what I'd said earlier.
"There's no chance you could be mistaken?" she again asked.
"I suppose there's a chance, but if so the boy in the photo is a spitting image for how David would have looked a couple of years ago. That seems like too much of a coincidence to me," I replied.
"Then there's no one so far. We checked and his maternal grandparents are members of the congregation of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. His paternal grandfather is dead and his paternal grandmother is very ill with cancer. We haven't had time to check everyone, but it appears that most of his aunts and uncles are also members of the Westboro Church so we don't see that as a good placement. We're working with our Oklahoma counterparts, but so far they don't hold out much hope of finding anyone to take him.
"There's another thing. In most cases the child ends up in the state where the abuse or the child is discovered unless there is a specific reason to send him back. With no one to turn him over to, Oklahoma isn't pushing to get him back. Honestly, they would much prefer that California had to support him. If he had turned up quicker, then things might be different, but after being missing for more than a year and probably living somewhere else, they no longer consider him one of theirs."
At first that surprised me, but when I thought about it, it made sense. However, that meant that California was going to be responsible for him. Now I was in the position of needing to decide what part I wished to play. I really didn't want or need another boy, but he needed someone to watch over him. All along I'd been telling myself that I was only trying to help Judy get some information so she could help, but now there was some information and I couldn't make up my mind what to do.
"So what's next?" I asked, trying to stall on making the decision.
"I'm only filling in for Judy, so for now, nothing. When she gets back I don't know what she'll do."
"Do you wish to talk with him?" was my next question. "I think he's in his room resting."
"We probably had better," she replied.
We walked downstairs and when we got to David's room, the door was open. Looking in we could see David was in the middle of his bed and sound asleep. As I started to go in and wake him up, Marcie stopped me.
"Let him sleep, nothing's going to happen until Judy gets back. You can talk to him later and I don't have any questions that have to be answered right now," Marcie said.
"You're sure?" I asked.
"I'm sure. Seeing him in person satisfies me that he is who we think he is," she said. With that we headed back to my office.
Marcie let me copy parts of the file she had brought, and then she left. As I sat there thinking, I decided maybe she was right. With the information I now had it might be possible to talk with David and convince him that he needed to tell Judy all that had happened to him and his family after they left Oklahoma. From what I'd seen, waking him up and confronting him with what we knew would likely cause him to clam up. Perhaps I could find a time to talk with him when he might be more relaxed.
With that decided, it was now time to confront my relatives. Strange, I would have rather talked with David. I wasn't looking forward to attempting to get things straightened out on the relative front.
When I walked into the kitchen to get some coffee, they were all sitting around the table talking. Naturally everyone ceased talking as soon as I walked in. I didn't bother to say anything and went over and checked the coffee pot, which thankfully still had some coffee in it. After pouring myself a cup I sat down at the table and asked, "Okay, what do we need to straighten out?"
After a bunch of looking at each other, Uncle Matt told me, "Nothing."
"Nothing?" I asked.
"No, we got everything straightened out."
As I took another sip of my coffee I could see all of them eyeing me like they might look at a lion who was about to attack them. I wondered if they were waiting for me to explode or something else, but no one said a word. Finally Aunt Sandy broke the silence.
"What did the lady from Children's Services have to say?"
"They tracked down who David is," I replied. "The problem now is that he doesn't appear to have any relatives to take him in," I answered. "Maybe I should say he doesn't have any relatives with whom they are willing to place him."
"Huh?" Uncle Matt interjected, indicating he didn't understand.
"It's a long story, but the bottom line is most of his relatives belong to a rather weird church and Marcie doesn't think they would be a good place for him to live."
"What do you mean by that?" Bruno asked.
"Have you heard of Fred Phelps?" I asked. When he nodded I continued. "Most of his relatives belong to Fred's church and with David's statement that he's gay, that pretty well rules his family out. They probably have had a lot to do with how he views himself," I finished.
"What are you going to do?" Sarah asked.
"I don't know," I sighed. Uncle Matt snorted when I said that.
"Bullshit," Uncle Matt said. "You know damn well what you're going to do. You just aren't willing to say it."
"How the hell do you know what I'm going to do?" I snapped.
"Because I know you better than you know yourself. You'll piss and moan, but you'll take him in if you can. You'll do it because you know he needs you. Think about it. You took in the other boys and they didn't need you as much as he does, so what makes you think you can turn your back on him?" With that Uncle Matt sat there glaring at me.
"Matt's right," Aunt Sandy said. "I've watched you with Kevin and Kristen and you can't help yourself when it comes to kids. You can no more turn your back on some kid who needs help than you can stop breathing. You love kids and you want to help them."
I wanted to tell them they were wrong; that I knew I couldn't help every kid in the world; that I didn't have time for another kid because I already had more kids than I could handle; but deep down I knew they were right. If things turned out the way they were headed, all Judy had to do was say she didn't have any place for him and I would agree to take him in. All along I'd been hoping that David would have some family who wanted him and would take care of him, but that hope was now pretty well crushed.
"Sam," Uncle Matt said, "Don't you think he might be more willing to open up if you committed to taking him in. He's still scared of what his future is. He follows you around looking for someone and so far you haven't committed to him. How can you expect a commitment from him if you aren't willing to do the same for him?"
That hurt. It hurt because I knew Uncle Matt was right and that I'd been asking David to trust me without giving him any reason to do so.
"Why are you so worried about him," I whined.
After a pause, I got an answer that I didn't expect.
"I'm not worried about him. I'm worried about you. You know that if you don't do everything in your power to help him it'll eat on you. If anything happens to him it will weigh on your conscience. Can you truthfully say that you won't worry about where he winds up? Or that you don't care what happens to him? It's time to shit or get off the pot. David needs some kind of commitment; he deserves it. Right now he's in limbo and he's scared.
"But I don't even know if Judy will let him stay with me," I said. "How can I promise him anything?"
"Call her up and ask her," was Uncle Matt's rather short reply, after which he continued to glare at me. It was apparent that Uncle Matt had made up his mind on what I should do. Now I had to decide if he was right or wrong, and David's fate might rest on that decision. In a perfect world there would be plenty of homes which would take him in and help him, but time after time Judy had complained about how hard it was to find a family who would accept a gay child. How much more difficult that would be for a gay child with a missing hand I had no idea.
"She's at a workshop and I doubt that I can contact her," I weakly replied.
"So, what have you got to lose? If she doesn't answer you aren't out much."
Suddenly the worry and indecision was gone. Uncle Matt was right and I needed to find out what was possible. At least I could try to help.
"You've decided," Uncle Matt said. "I can see it in your face and the way you squared your shoulders up."
With that everyone stood up and headed for the living room leaving me alone with my cell phone. Not having any better ideas, I picked it up and scrolled down to Judy's cell number.
I was surprised when she answered on the second ring. I was even more surprised with her first words.
"Hi Sam, I've been expecting a call from you."
"Marcie called and told me about the developments and I was pretty sure you'd call."
"Ah, well, I was wondering what was going to happen to David now that you know more about him," I managed to say.
There was a rather lengthy pause before Judy answered. "I don't think that's why you called," she said.
I wasn't doing very well and was once again down to, "Huh?"
"Quit trying to pull the wool over my eyes Sam. You called because you want to know if he can stay with you."
I was so rattled that I couldn't think of what I wanted to say. That Judy had judged me so accurately left me like a fish out of water. My mouth was opening and closing like it was looking for water to force over my gills except I didn't have any gills.
"What have you heard about the adoption papers?" she asked, interrupting my thoughts.
"Nothing except Russ filed them. He said as soon as he knew when the hearing was scheduled he'd contact me."
After a pause, during which I tried to get my mind back together, Judy said, "I can give you an emergency placement of him. As soon as the adoptions get further along we can change that to a permanent placement. Does that answer your question?"
"Oh," I stammered. "I guess that covers it."
"The workshop is about to get started again. Call Marcie and tell her to go ahead with the papers and I'll be back Sunday. Bye." With that she hung up.
I was left trying to figure out how everyone knew what I was going to do, or should do, before I figured it out. Was I that predictable? All I could do was sit there looking at my cell phone and wonder if the whole thing had been a setup from the beginning. Judy had seemed sincere when she had told me that she hadn't expected me to stay on the problem of who David was, but maybe she had been acting and had planned for me to take him from the beginning. Then again, maybe the fact that I'd continued working with him had made her think I would be receptive to having him. No matter which way I looked at it, I'd gotten myself into it and now was stuck.
I sighed and stood up. Time to talk to David. There was only one problem with that; he was still sleeping. I stood in the doorway to his room watching him, trying to decide if I should wake him or let him sleep and sleep won out. He was still in poor shape and needed all the rest he could get and I could think of no reason that I had to talk to him before he woke up on his own. There would be plenty of time to talk to him and ask him if he wished to live with me before Judy got home.
I wandered back upstairs in a sort of fog. My mind was busy adjusting to the thoughts that I now had another boy to worry about and wondering what problems that would bring. This whole year had been one of trying to put out various fires as they flared up. First there had been figuring out what to do about Corey, and then other boys had come along with frightening speed. I never seemed to have enough time to get things under control before another problem faced me. Is seemed like no matter how hard I tried I was always behind and never had a chance to rest and enjoy life.
When I got upstairs I could hear Kevin and Kristen in the family room watching TV and giggling, and the adults were in the living room talking. I wasn't sure where the boys had disappeared to, but they were either outside shooting hoops or had taken off for downtown. I was in luck and there was still one cup of coffee in the perk, so I poured it in my cup and sat down at the table to think.
I knew I was going to need help with David because his problems were severe. Then I remembered Dr. Logan's comment about his friend who was moving here. Maybe a child psychiatrist could help. Perhaps Uncle Matt was right and there were enough people to help if only I was willing to ask them. I was so used to trying to solve my problems by myself that I frequently forgot that other people might help if I would ask them and give them a chance.
The phone rang, startling me. It was Phil Bledsoe and he wondered if we could meet him at the Beeler property and discuss the access road. That sounded like a good idea so I agreed. It would also give me a chance to take a better look for building sites, something I was going to have to decide about so I could tell my relatives.
As it turned out Bruno and Uncle Matt accompanied me to the property. We hiked down a couple of game trails and got a better idea of how a new access road would lay. Uncle Matt and Phil also talked about the trees which would need to be cut down to put the roads in.
When Phil and Uncle Matt had hashed out the detail of the road and easement, Phil left. I spent some time looking over the property to see what there was for building sites, and found there were several we hadn't seen on my other trip. I found one about a half mile from the original house which had a great view. The more I looked it over, the better I liked it. Aunt Sandy and Uncle Matt had said they liked the place where the original house had set and planned on tearing it down and building there, and Bruno seemed to have decided on building just behind the remains of the orchard. If I did decide to build on the property I would have a nice buffer from the others, but be close enough to be handy. The best part of it was that it was large enough for two houses or a big duplex. That gave me options with regards to Kath and her kids. The way the property laid there was even another place to build which set just below the one I liked. Depending on how any houses were situated, they could be closer than Kath now was to me, or slightly further away.
By the time I walked back and joined Bruno and Uncle Matt, they were trying to decide where to put the recreation building. I still thought that was pretentious, but I let them talk. They seemed to think an indoor swimming pool would be great, but I thought there was a place in the stream which would make a nice swimming hole with just a little work.
We finally got around to looking at the old tree house. While the tree appeared sound, the tree house was long past its prime and would have to be completely removed and replaced. I don't think there was a board in the whole thing that wasn't ready to fall in two because of rot.
I had to chuckle at Bruno. He wanted to get into the building and look at the Duesenberg, but he was much too big to worm his way through the one place I had made it in. The most he could do was stick his head in and when his shoulders reached the boards, that was where he was stopped. There was simply no way to put a size 12 man through a size six hole. We discussed tearing a few boards off to get better access, but decided against it because it might cause more settling of the remains of the building and further damage the car.
We all wanted to see in the old barn, but the berry vines and brush had us blocked. I kidded Uncle Matt about not having his tractor and that was the wrong thing to do. I was informed that we were driving to Redding first thing in the morning and he would take care of that problem. When I tried to find out which brand he had decided on, his answer was the one they could deliver first. He told me he didn't care what color it was, just that they would quickly deliver it. At least I learned that he planned on going home on Sunday and he wanted it as quickly as possible so he had some time to play with it.
Then he started kidding me and asked me which one I had decided on. I tried to tell him I didn't need a tractor to take care of my present property, but my heart wasn't in it. A couple of those smaller tractors had looked real nice and perhaps I needed one. Those BX series Kubota's looked to be just my size, but there had been a couple of John Deere models which were about the same size and also looked good.
We kept walking around and looking. The way the ridge laid, the sun would hit in the morning and warm all the sites we'd picked out, and then slightly shield us in the afternoon. That was about as good as we could hope for in that respect.
By the time we headed home I'd almost talked myself into building a new house. There were still reasons I didn't like the idea, but the lovely view had softened my resistance. As I drove home I tuned Bruno and Uncle Matt out and thought about what changes I would make in a new house. I didn't like having a basement, but to build a house all on one floor and still have enough bedrooms would make it huge. Obviously I was going to have a big kitchen dinning area like I now had, but it didn't need to be any bigger. There were certain things to be said about a recreation room, like there would be room for such things as a pool table, a bigger hot tub, and perhaps other games which the kids could all enjoy. Without the hot tub, I would have more room than I knew what to do with. That area took up almost a third of the basement. Had it been laid out differently it would have been smaller, but it was more of an add-on rather than something which had been planned. One thing I was sure of was that there would be no more running up and down stairs for laundry. That had been bad enough when it was just me, but with the addition of the boys I had grown to hate it. The commercial washer had been a big improvement because of the bigger loads requiring fewer trips, but it didn't totally solve the problem. Even though I didn't have to run up and down the stairs as often, I still had to make more trips than I liked.
I turned my thoughts to Kath. How she would react to the idea was something I wasn't sure of. I had been surprised at how she had acted about the manufactured home, but that didn't mean she wouldn't like a new house. She had repeatedly told me she didn't need one, but if I decided to build out there she would be forced to either drive back and forth all the time or accept a new house. Somehow I thought the new house would win out.
"Well, what do you think Sammy?" Uncle Matt asked, interrupting my thoughts.
"That site up on the hillside's got a nice view," I answered. "You can see the old house and orchard from up there, and the driveway wouldn't be very steep."
"That's a nice site, but there's several others just as nice," he answered.
"I know, but I like that one the best."
"Anybody got any ideas on good builders in the area?" Bruno asked. "From what Phil said it won't take him long to put the road in. I need to get started on a house before you kick me out."
"Yeah," I laughed. "I can just picture myself kicking you out. You only outweigh me about a hundred pounds, so it shouldn't be a problem. A couple of good kicks and I can probably move you all of two inches.
"I do know a couple of builders, but you need a plan and building permits. Before you can get a building permit you need to have a permit for a septic system. Looks like I'm stuck with you for a while," I finished up.
"I don't know about that," Uncle Matt said. "Bruno still needs to go back and make arrangements to sell his home and move out here. Sandy and I can't move for a while, probably mid summer, so we won't be underfoot for a while."
We were still kicking that around when we got home, and only going in the house ended that conversation.
Most of the kids were gone somewhere, likely downtown at the arcade, but David was awake and quickly attached himself to my side, or at least it seemed that way. He did give me time to fight my way through three women, who were cooking dinner, and get a cup of coffee, but that was all. A little looking around resulted in finding Kyle doing his homework and when he saw me I was quickly enlisted in helping him with his math. Even though I wasn't paying any attention to him, David stuck right with me. It didn't take long to get Kyle straightened out on what he didn't understand and after that I headed for my office. Once there, it was time to talk to David.
"I've been thinking," I started, "How would you like to live here?"
"For how long?" David asked me.
"I don't know, but for quite a while. While you were napping I had a talk with some people and I offered to let you live here. Judy agreed, and if you want to live here she said you could. It's up to you. You'd have to put up with my relatives and the rest of the boys, but they like you and want you to stay. It would have to be an emergency placement at first, but as soon as the adoptions I've filed go through that would be changed to a more permanent one. Placements are never permanent, but baring unforeseen circumstances it would pretty much mean you would live with me until you're grown. You would be expected to obey orders like the other boys do, and would be treated like I treat them."
I wasn't sure that I was handling this right. After all, I knew some things he didn't know that I knew, but I wanted to give him a chance to tell me himself, and by offering my commitment I hoped he would in turn commit to me and tell me those things voluntarily.
"The same as Corey?" he asked.
"Ah, no. Corey's a special case. It would be like I treat Jason, Laurence, Kyle, and Mark." He'd surprised me with that question and I wasn't sure how to answer it. Still, I had to be truthful and there was no way he was going to be treated like Corey.
Just then the phone rang. It seemed like the world was against David and I talking and I felt like ripping the phone out of the wall and moving into a cave somewhere that I couldn't be found or disturbed.
It was Jerry, and he informed me that the school should be open on Tuesday. As usual the inspections kept finding things that needed to be fixed and the latest was that some of the wiring wasn't certified. I didn't even know that you could find wire which hadn't been tested, so to learn that there was a market for black market wire was surprising. I'd always thought that packages of wire were all about the same so I'd never thought much about it. Perhaps that accounted for some of the ads I'd seen for prices much lower than normal. Jerry informed me that the weird thing was that one of the inspectors told him that the wire would likely meet all requirements, but it hadn't been certified and therefore had to be replaced. By the time I finished talking with him, I'd lost track of where David and I were in our conversation. At least I was now updated on school and could plan accordingly, but how could I plan without knowing what David wanted?
"Ah, do you want to live here?" I asked, not sure if I had asked that specific question. About then my mind caught back up with what I'd already asked him and I wondered if he thought I was an idiot because of repeating questions. I also wondered why I was nervous about talking with him, but could come up with no quick answer other than feeling guilty for not spending more time with him. That thought again made me worry about was I doing the right thing. If I hadn't had time to work with him and help him during the past week, why did I think things would get better?
I didn't get a verbal answer. Instead he nodded his head and tears started dribbling down his face. He was sitting on the couch, which occupied one wall of my small office, and I decided that sitting in the chair at my desk was a poor idea and that I needed to be beside him. When I completed sitting down next to him, he leaned against me and my arm found its way across his shoulder. David didn't say anything, and neither did I. Him sagging against me and my clasping him with my arm seemed to say all that was necessary at that time. There would now be plenty of time to talk things over so there was no rush to do so this instant.
After a few minutes his tears stopped. It was now time to start talking, but not about important things. David needed a chance to get himself under control and talking about simple things would do for now.
"What bedroom do you want? As soon as my relatives start to thin out you can have any of those which aren't already occupied," I asked. "By that I mean you can have any of the three downstairs ones. Unfortunately, all the upstairs ones belong to someone, but we can go start picking out what you'd like for furniture for it this weekend. I won't guarantee that you'll get to use it much until things get straightened out with my relatives, but I'm stuck with them. Bruno and Sarah will have to go back to Texas for a while and sell their house and pack, but then they'll be back living here until their new house is built.
"If you don't like that, you can talk with the other boys and see if you can stay with them. You guys have to work it out, but even if you do stay with a couple of them, you'll have to keep most of your clothes and some of your other stuff down there since you need your own bed according to Children's Services. If you'd like, I can even order another bed like the boys have. That way you can have friends visit and you'll have a place for them to sleep."
"I don't have any friends," he answered in a small voice.
"Don't worry, that will change. As soon as you start going to school you'll make friends. What grade are you in? We need to get you registered and your classes assigned."
There was a pause before he answered. "I was in the fifth grade when we left home." He said that like he was ashamed of it.
That was going to present problems. By his age he should be in the eighth grade, but apparently had missed a lot of school or been held back. I was sure I would get more information on that from Children's Services, but for right now I decided to skip that subject.
"We'll straighten that out later. Don't worry about it," I told him.
Suddenly the house was filled with the noise of a herd of boys running through it. Obviously they were home from wherever they'd been, but that got me to thinking. Their bikes had been missing so that reminded me that David didn't have a bike. For that matter, neither did Andrea, although I wasn't sure she wanted one or if Kath thought she should have one.
"David, do you know how to ride a bike?" I asked.
He was still leaning against me and once again I could feel his head nodding. So far David wasn't willing to say much and I had noticed that he frequently answered in nods or shakes of his head. As I thought about that, I wondered if he was naturally reticent or if that might be his way of trying to avoid getting in trouble. So far he had needed to be dragged into any conversation and it appeared that only when he forgot himself was he willing to offer much in the line of conversation. When we had been looking at tractors it had taken him more time than it should have to point out that Uncle Matt needed a bigger tractor, and every time I'd tried to talk with him it seemed like getting the first few words out of him was the hardest. After those first few it was a little easier, but as soon as the topic he was talking on was over we were right back to trying to pry words out of him. Several times I had seen him look like he was about to burst with wanting to say something, but he had refrained and remained silent. It was like he was afraid to attract attention to himself or feared he would get in trouble if he did open his mouth. I wasn't sure what to do about that, but if he hung around with the rest of the boys he would soon learn differently.
"Would you like to look for a bike tomorrow?" I asked. "All the others have one and you need one too." That still didn't solve the problem of Andrea, so that was something I needed to talk over with Kath this evening. I got another head nod for an answer, but it was more vigorous than some of his others. I could almost see some sparkle in his eyes.
It was about time to eat so I told him that I would always listen to him, but for now we needed to wash our hands and get ready to eat. I could smell dinner and it smelled about done. I gave him a hug, and was rewarded with him hugging me back. It was the first time he had actually showed any affection so I took it to mean I was making progress.
Dinner was hamburgers with all the trimmings, accompanied by potato salad, beans, and fries. The problem with that was that the fries had to be cooked in small batches because my only fryer was a typical home model and while fine for two people, it wasn't big enough for a crowd. That meant cooking them ahead and trying to hold them, leading to soggy fries. If I decided to build a new house, perhaps a commercial type fryer unit could be installed in the kitchen. That was something to think about since I enjoyed an occasional batch of fries. Maybe I could find time to take a quick check and see what the restaurant supply store had and what they cost while I was in Redding tomorrow. It was a forgone conclusion that Uncle Matt was going to buy a tractor, and David needed a bike, so there was no way I could get out of going leaving me with the idea that I might as well make the trip pay.
I got up and brought some toothpicks back and using a couple of them pinned David's hamburger together so it wouldn't fall apart when he set it down. The rest of us just continued to hold on to our burgers with our left hands while we used our rights for our forks and glasses. Of course I then had to stick a few toothpicks in the giggle boxes' burgers for the same reason, and that made them happy. I got a shy smile of thanks from David, and squeals of delight from Kevin and Kristen, but I think Dog was ticked at me because he had been eyeing the patty which was about to fall out of Kevin's burger. Dog normally stuck pretty close to Kevin at mealtime since he tended to be somewhat sloppy and he loved to give Dog a few bites.
It was hard to follow any of the various conversations going on since everyone appeared to be talking at once, but Uncle Matt and Bruno were talking about tractors, the boys were chattering away and teasing Kyle because they didn't have to go to school, and Aunt Sandy and Sarah seemed to be putting the hard sell on Kath about a new home built just the way she wanted it. I almost didn't pick up on what those women were plotting, but Sarah let slip just enough for me to wise up. As I sat there and continued eating, the women shifted their attack to me by asking about architects and builders. Since I'd never had a house built I had no answers for them, but I did have one idea and that was call poor Vern and see if he knew who would be best.
The conversation shifted and suddenly it was all about what kind of homes to build. Stupid me, I mentioned that I thought a log home would fit and look perfect for the site I'd picked out and that was the end of my part in the conversation. Immediately everyone seized on that idea and the next thing I knew they had all agreed that log homes would be perfect for everyone. Now it was just a matter of size. Even the traitorous boys were now involved in the conversation and they thought a log home would be wonderful. Aunt Sandy mentioned reruns of "Bonanza" and how much she liked the Cartwright's home called the Ponderosa.
"What's `Bonanza' and who are the Cartwrights?" I asked.
"Bonanza was a television show shot partly around Lake Tahoe, and the Cartwrights were a family in the old west," Uncle Matt answered. "The ranch was called the Ponderosa and you can take tours there yet."
"So what was so fabulous about it?" I asked.
"It had a wonderful log house," Aunt Sandy said.
"I'll bet you can find pictures of it on the net," Sarah added to the conversation.
Since we had finished dinner, the place erupted in activity. For once the boys were in a hurry to clean up the table and practically forced me to hurry up with washing the pots and pans. Since the burgers had been cooked on the barbeque, it didn't take long until we were all crowded into my office because it had the biggest monitor.
Sure enough, there were all kinds of pictures available and it was an impressive home. The more I looked at it, the better I could picture something like it in the site I'd picked out. Somehow I was letting the thought of how nice it would look get the better of my judgment and was seriously considering building a new house even though I didn't need one. The whole thing was slipping out of control and my objections to a new house were being worn down by everyone's' enthusiasm. I still wasn't thrilled about moving since I liked my neighbors and my house was handy to everything.
"You guys realize you'll have to walk from the house to the road to catch the bus if we build there," I reminded the boys.
That warning was about as useless as anything I might have said because they didn't consider it a problem. I wondered if they would feel the same way when it was pouring down rain and they had to walk down to meet the school bus. There would even be times when they had to walk to the house after the bus dropped them off although most of the time they rode home with me. It would be almost a year before Kyle could get his driver's license, so for that length of time there would be the bus problem to worry about and I had a hunch that someone would end up having to drive them down to catch the bus.
I wormed my way out of my office, leaving everyone else looking at pictures of the Ponderosa, and started really looking my house over and trying to decide what differences I would like if I built a new one. For the number of bedrooms I needed, a two story house made sense, but I disliked the basement idea. I would have one thing going for me and that was with everyone living close together I wouldn't need as many spare bedrooms. In the event of guests, most could be farmed out to the other houses. At the present time I had seven bedrooms and as I thought about it, it appeared that I could have an upstairs and most of the boys' bedrooms up there. With a master bedroom downstairs, and one guest bedroom there also, that would mean I needed four upstairs. The whole thing was getting complicated so I gave up and went and got a cup of coffee. I was now truly undecided on whether or not to build or stay where I was, which was a big change from my original position of being pretty much against it.
I could hear everyone talking in my office, so I decided to see if Vern could recommend any architects or builders. The contractor I'd used on my house generally did remodeling, so I wasn't sure he would want to get involved, but if Vern didn't have any suggestions I could ask him.
Vern was no help on suggesting an architect, but he did offer a couple of names of building contractors. His first suggestion happened to be the contractor who had done my remodeling and Vern said he knew that Wally was trying to expand into the building of homes and not just remodeling. I'd been pleased with his work, so I decided to call him and see if he knew any good architects. Vern and I visited for a while before ending our conversation.
Vern was right. Wally was definitely interested in expanding his business. He was also eager, and the next thing I knew he had agreed to drop over and we could discuss it. I stuck my head in the office door and told them about Wally and that was the end of the web search on log homes.
Things didn't go like I expected. Wally started out thrilled with the idea, that is until he realized the number of homes and the speed at which they needed to be completed. He confessed that he was not yet big enough to handle a project of that size. That started Uncle Matt asking questions. An hour later Uncle Matt and Wally agreed to a deal. Uncle Matt would bankroll Wally and Wally could act as the general contractor. He would be responsible for hiring other contractors for various parts of the project, along with getting the permits and all the materials necessary. In general terms, Uncle Matt was going to be his silent partner and supply him with money and some business advice.
Then it was on to architects. Wally suggested one from Redding who had designed several log homes and one he had worked with before. A phone call later and it was agreed that we would all meet the architect on Saturday and get things started. The architect would be at my house at 8:00 a.m. I thought that was a little early, but agreed.
Kids had given up and gone to bed by the time everything was settled and Wally had gone home. I was ready to do the same, but Uncle Matt wanted to talk. We spent some time discussing what we were going to do tomorrow and I was right. Visiting the tractor dealer was number one on Uncle Matt's list of things to do. I swear that I had never seen Uncle Matt so excited about anything except his wedding. Even the birth of Kristen and Kevin had been more low key, but for some reason he was really getting into the idea of building a house and moving. The business card told us when the tractor dealer would be open and he wanted to be there as early as possible and hoped that they could deliver the tractor tomorrow. Actually I think he wanted it delivered before he even picked out which one he wanted, but that was only an impression.
Bruno was excited also, and part of the conversation was on how things would be handled. Bruno would stick around for several weeks while Uncle Matt was going to go home Sunday. That way Bruno could handle any necessary paperwork with regards to permits while I was working. The whole project was really taking off, and I still hadn't agreed to go along, but I was now tempted to do so. Everyone carefully left my part of it out, giving me time to talk myself into it. They knew they had blown it before and weren't going to make the same mistake again.
Finally we all headed for bed. As I went around closing things up for the night, I discovered that David was still awake. That made sense since he had taken a nap, so I stopped and talked with him a little. We ended up hugging each other and I headed for bed and Corey. Sadly, Corey wasn't all I was headed for. There were still the giggle boxes, and they were once again in the middle of the bed separating me from Corey. I was beginning to wish Sunday night would get here. In fact, much more than wish.
Luck was with me, and the giggle boxes were in my place and Corey had snuggled up against them. That meant that there was lots of room on Corey's side of the bed. I thought about crowding them back into the usual places, but then a better idea occurred to me. I went over to Corey's side and crawled into bed behind him. I rolled onto my side and spooned against him. It felt so right to have my nose in his hair and my arm across his body that in seconds I was asleep.
To be continued...
The Ponderosa Ranch used to be open to visitors. In September of 2004 it was closed to the public and you can no longer tour it. The house, which was actually built after the program had been on the air for several years, seemed smaller than it appeared on television, yet when you looked it over you felt like you had been there before. All in all, it was an interesting place to stop and look over, and Lake Tahoe, which is close by, is a beautiful lake. I can still recommend seeing the lake, but sadly the tour of the ranch is no longer possible.
One little known fact is that Bonanza was an effort by NBC to sell color television sets. I doubt that NBC had any idea of how effective it would be, or that the program would run so many seasons. It debuted in 1959 and lasted through 1973, a rather remarkable run of fourteen seasons. I'll admit to being somewhat slow in that my first color television set was purchased in 1964.
As to its effectiveness at selling color televisions, when was the last time you watched a black and white one? As far as that goes, I suspect that there are some readers of this story who have never seen a black and white television set. And yes, I'm growing old, but it beats the alternative.