I Love Corey, Chapter Ninety-eight


     So we are again at the point where another disclaimer is required. So what? You never read them so why should I write them? Stubbornness, that's why. I have taken it upon myself to inflict maximum pain and these disclaimers are the way I do it. By boring you to tears and making you suffer you don't notice some of the errors in the story. Therefore...

     #1     Minors leave. The law says you shouldn't be reading this story and you should obey the law, even when the law is an ass. Remember, the law is trying to protect you and even though those making the law haven't a clue as to how to do that, laws against allowing minors the right to read what they choose to read are their way of showing not their intelligence, but who is in power. Remember, laws don't have to make sense, only project power. Anyone who expects intelligent laws to come out of governments is in for a very long wait. There is the old story about giving an unlimited number of monkeys an unlimited number of typewriters and eventually, by random chance, they would type the complete text of the bible. I suspect laws are like that. Give enough people in government enough time to make enough laws and eventually you will get one intelligent one. I'm still waiting, but so far the track records of any governments, of which I'm aware, aren't very good.

     #2     If descriptions of gay sex acts upsets you, there is a small X in the upper right-hand corner of the screen. Left-clicking that X will solve your problem. This evil story will disappear and you will not be subjected to such vile and despicable things. By the way, right-clicking won't help as on my computer nothing happens when I right-click the X.

     #3     Should you be so unfortunate as to live in an area where the reading of this type of story is against your local laws, sorry. I mean I really feel your pain, but there is nothing I can do to help you. Just understand that you are unlucky enough to be living in an area where the government is particularly stupid and hope that someday they will come to their senses. And no, holding your breath won't speed them up in coming to their senses, but will lesson their control over you should you be able to hold it long enough.

     #4     Nothing in this story is true. That should be sufficient for #4.

     #5     This story is posted for you own personal enjoyment. Yeah, I know, it is rather conceited of me to think of enjoyment and this story at the same time, but there is always a chance that somewhere there is an equally deranged mind and that mind will enjoy this story. In the meantime, please don't quote without attributing the quotes to me, and should you figure out how to make money from the story, share such ill-gotten gains with me.

     #6     Don is a great help. If you don't believe me, look at many of the stories which don't have an editor. Then again, you'd probably be better off looking at those stories than this one anyway.

     #7     Lastly, feel free to write and complain, ask questions, offer suggestions, or just comment on the story. I may be reached at "fritz@nehalemtel.net", but only if you remember to put "I Love Corey" in the subject line. Since I've now exhausted the words allowed for the disclaimer, the story will follow. I hope you enjoy it. Fritz


               I Love Corey, Chapter ninety-eight

     As I lay there in the hot tub I knew I'd handled JJ poorly, but I wasn't sure what to do to try to fix it. I hadn't given him an out, but instead had done the thing I always hated, that of being unreasonable even though I was confident my position was right. Yet the other times I'd talked to him about his failure to do his chores had produced no positive results, so I was at a loss to figure out what I could have said differently to resolve the problem. At first there had been no problems with him and only after he had lived with me for a while did they start to surface. As time had passed he had started complaining more and more and doing less and less of his share. That had to stop, but how to convince him of it was something I had no answer for. Yes, I could have done much better in the way I phrased it, but the matter had to be addressed. Jason had to learn that whining and refusal to do his share were things which grated on not only me, but the others as well.

     I sighed and got out of the tub. Maybe I could help the situation by apologizing. When I got upstairs there was no sign of Jason.

     "Where's Jason?" I asked LT.

     "He went to bed."

     I glanced at my watch and saw that it was getting late. Mark had disappeared to bed and other people were acting like they were about ready to head that way also. I hadn't realized it had gotten so late while I was worrying about what I'd done wrong and how best to try to fix it. When I peeked in, JJ was asleep and after a little thought I decided not to disturb him. I still wasn't sure what I was going to say so there appeared to be no downside in letting things go until tomorrow. Well, there was one drawback and that was the way I felt about the whole situation, but I doubted that talking tonight would improve things enough to relieve my guilt.

     While Bruno and Sarah would have been willing to stay up longer, I wasn't interested in talking with anyone. I had more on my mind than I could handle and I didn't need the distraction of trying to converse with them to interrupt me when I was trying to figure out how to fix things.

     Corey must have realized that my mind was occupied because he snuggled up in his usual place and didn't say anything. I was rubbing his shoulder with my right hand and holding his right hand, which was draped across my stomach, with my left. After a while I got around to talking.

     "Was I too hard on him?" I asked.

     That was a rather open question, but Corey had no problem understanding what I meant. In many ways it was like we were attuned to each other and long explanations were no longer necessary.

     "No," he replied. Then he continued, "We've all told him he needs to do his chores because we're getting tired of doing them."

     That was something I wasn't aware of; or rather something I didn't realize that all the boys had done. I had heard LT complaining to JJ about not helping a couple of times, but I hadn't known the others had done the same.

     "All of you?" I asked.

     "Yeah, even Mark."

     I continued rubbing as I digested that information. Corey's shoulder felt soft and warm under my hand and even though I was worried about how things would turn out I was enjoying the cuddle time. Sex was always great and loads of fun, but cuddling was the best. It was like we were the only two people in the world, and when we were together and holding each other it was almost as if the world and its problems went away and all that was left was our love. For all that I was worried about JJ, holding Corey made my problems seem far away and love and contentment flooded me. I continued rubbing for a while longer and realized that Corey had dozed off. When I discovered that, I could only wonder what I had done to deserve him. I was still wondering about that when he rolled off of me and up on his other side. I quickly rolled up on my side and stuck my nose in his hair and draped my left arm across his middle. Having Corey's warm body against me and his odor filling my nose soon relaxed me and I joined him in dreamland. I could worry about JJ tomorrow, but for now all was right with my world.

     When I woke up Corey was plastered tightly against my back with his arm carelessly draped across me. I hadn't consumed as much coffee as normal so my bladder wasn't protesting as much as it did most mornings. I could feel Little Corey jabbing my backside and smiled to myself. Little Corey felt more like a log than little, but I didn't care about size, only that it was mine. It felt good to just lie there and know Corey was next to me. My mind was hazily drifting, wondering what the future would bring when it again fastened on JJ. Suddenly the warm cozy feeling was gone and my mind was again wrestling with how to handle that problem. I knew I had to do something, the only question being what. Somehow I had to convince Jason that I loved him, but that he needed to do his share. A few minutes later the clock reached my normal awakening time and I decided to get started on the day. Corey whimpered a little when I squirmed out from under his arm, but beyond that he continued to sleep. By the time I had cycled myself through the shower and done my usual face scraping, Corey had managed to open one eye. He looked so cute peering at me that I almost gave up the idea of getting dressed and crawled back in bed with him. Had he not headed for the bathroom, the odds were long that I would have done just that, but he suddenly bolted from bed and dashed for it, Little Corey leading the way. Seeing Little Corey bob along in front of him meant that Junior immediately pointed skyward and so that also meant that my jeans were rather full in front when I finished dressing and headed for the kitchen. By the time the coffee was started and the paper brought in, Junior was behaving himself and needed to be rearranged. I was doing that when Bruno walked in.

     "What's up?" he asked with a big grin on his face.

     "It isn't what's up, but what's down," I replied, trying to act dignified and failing miserably. I couldn't help it and got the giggles and Bruno joined me.

     "You're pretty alert this morning," he offered between chuckles.
     "Yeah, well I woke up and had a little time to lie there and get organized," I replied.

     "What's the plan for today?" he asked.

     That set off a discussion of what still needed to be done. Bruno hadn't been happy with any of the auto restorers he had called and I hadn't had time to call the fuel distributor, so we still had both of those things to accomplish. Add it that I still needed to talk with JJ and call Jim about removing the cars left me wondering if we could get everything accomplished.

     The morning went along about like normal until breakfast was over and Kyle was headed for school. When the dishes were in the dishwasher, it was time for another attempt at JJ. I wasn't looking forward to it, but it had to be done. Once I had him in my office, I started in.

     "Jason, we need to talk. I don't know how to explain all this, but you need to know I love you and only want the best for you. I'm sorry if you think I came down on you too hard, but the problem is that you need to do your share around the house. It isn't fair to the other boys when you don't. I'd rather not have to nag any of you, but sometimes you boys forget to do things, or try to put them off and I have to remind you. Most of the time the rest then do their chores, but lately you've stopped and I need to know why. You agreed, when you first started living here, that you would do your share and for a while you did, but lately you don't. We need to talk about why you no longer want to help with the chores."

     It was like talking to a stone wall. No matter what I said, I didn't get any answers. A half hour later I gave up.

     "I really love you," I said, "and hope you want to stay, but if you don't, I'll respect that decision. Judy said she would be around sometime this afternoon and you two will have to hash it out. Just know that you're always loved and wanted." I felt horrible but was out of ideas.

     "You've never loved me." That was the first actual thing he has said this morning.

     "Jason, that's not true. I've always liked you and when you started living here it turned into love. Yes, I don't love you in the same way I love Corey, but you don't love Kyle in the same way you love LT. Can't you understand that there are different kinds of love and the love I feel for you is like a son? When you get good grades, or do something good, I just want to run out and tell the world how proud of you I am, and what a great young man you are. Sometimes you make me so proud I'm about ready to burst, but sometimes you don't do what you're supposed to do and then I start reminding you. The longer you put it off, the more I remind you. I tried letting it go after a couple of reminders, but you didn't do your chores when I stopped reminding you, so lately I've had to keep after you until you do them. It isn't that I'm trying to pick on you, but I don't know what else to do get you to do them."

     Once again I was treated to the silent mode. No matter how I tried, a yes or no answer was almost impossible to extract from him, and anything beyond that was hopeless. I'd been so thrilled when he started coming out of his shell and joking around with the rest of us. He'd kept getting better and better, but suddenly that improvement had stopped and it was like he was regressing back to where he was when he first started living with me except that now he was no longer willing to do what was asked of him. There were still times when he seemed happy, but more and more he appeared sad or angry and I had no idea what to do. The only other thing I had gotten out of him was an answer of "It's all right," when I had asked him if he liked living with me and the rest of the boys. Yet just a short while ago he had seemed happy and appeared to like living here. I was out of ideas and so allowed him to leave my office. I was down to hoping that Judy could get more out of him.

     It was now late enough to where most businesses should be open so I started calling. The idea of getting a fuel tank put in for the tractors was more complicated than I had thought, but the gentleman at the fuel distributor managed to talk me through what we would need and I made arrangements to show him the property at eleven o'clock so he could help choose a place to put an above ground tank. He suggested a tank mounted high enough to where we could use a gravity flow system rather than having to have a pump to dispense it. That sounded like a good idea because there was no electricity on the property at the present time.

     Then it was on to Jim. As it worked out I could show Jim the old cars at the same time as the fuel distributor was there. He told me he would bring his truck and start hauling them off after we talked it over. Things were going pretty well on those projects, but I wished they were going as well on the JJ problem.

     Sarah and Bruno wanted to talk, so since I was somewhat caught up we did. Mainly they wanted to discuss when they would go back to Texas to pack up and put their house on the market, and when they would then return to California. After discussing it a while, they decided they were going to go up to Medford and visit Matt and Sandy for a couple of weeks and then return to Texas. They thought that a month or so would be sufficient time to pack and take care of things down there, so that meant that it would be at least six weeks before they would be back. The only thing not decided was when they would drive up to Medford. We were still talking about that when it was time to go meet the fuel distributor and lead him out to the property.

     I looked around and boys were playing basketball and so I decided they didn't need to go with me. Several of the neighborhood boys had joined them and they were having a good game and David was acting as referee. That was the first time he had participated in anything and it seemed to be going well so I was more than happy to leave them to have fun. I managed to get them to stop long enough to get the pickup out and off I went.

     The fuel tank wasn't as easy as it had sounded because I had to pick out a place that would be far enough away from any structures which might be combustible. I had thought it should be close to the barn, but I learned that wasn't possible, and since I knew where all the houses would be it only took a short while to decide. The man from the fuel company said it wouldn't take long to get the necessary tank and supplies and with luck he should have it up early next week. He also assured me that it wouldn't be hard to move if I decided I wanted it somewhere else. Then I had to decide if I wanted to buy automotive diesel and pay the tax so I could use it in the pickup, or if I wanted to buy "off road" diesel and not pay the highway taxes on it. Because it wouldn't make any difference in the tank I told him I would get back to him in a couple of days. That soon turned out to be the wrong answer because he suggested that if I wanted to use it to fuel the pickup, I would probably want a bigger tank than what was necessary for the tractors and before I knew it I decided to pay the tax and the tank went from two hundred gallons to five hundred gallons. I would also need to order a couple of loads of gravel so the tank would have a firm place for the stand and it wouldn't be muddy where vehicles were parked to fuel up. It seemed like every time I turned around things got more complicated.

     Jim showed up just as the fuel guy was leaving and soon informed me that a couple of the old vehicles were worth a little money. In fact, he offered me five hundred dollars for them and agreed to haul the others off and scrap them out. That sounded acceptable and I agreed. Then he inquired what was under the tarp. I went over and started removing the tarp so he could see it.

     "Holy shit, a Duesenberg!" I heard as I pulled the tarp off. "Man, what are you going to do with that?"

     "I guess it belongs to my uncle and I think he wants to restore it," I answered. "In fact he has his brother-in-law looking for someone to do the restoration. It sort of came with the property and we're still checking out who owns it for sure."

     "Has he got enough money to do it right?" Jim asked.

     "Oh yeah, he's got plenty of money," I answered.

     Jim walked around it several times, looking under and in it. Finally he turned to me.

     "Has the brother-in-law come up with anyone to work on it yet?"

     "No, so far he hasn't. He spent some time on the phone yesterday and was pretty discouraged. Maybe we need to go to a car show and find out who to contact," I replied.

     "Man, I've always wanted to restore a classic, but that's way beyond me. However, I do know a fellow in Chico who might be interested in doing it. I can tell you he does excellent work and several of his cars have won prizes at shows. He's a cranky old codger and won't skimp on anything, but if your uncle wants it done right and would like to show the car, Brice would do a good job for him and not rip him off. The only problem is he doesn't like to be rushed."

     "I don't think Uncle Matt's in any hurry, but I'd have to check on that," I answered. "Why don't you give me a phone number and Uncle Matt can contact him."

     "Sorry," Jim laughed, "but that won't work. He only takes cars on recommendations anymore. He's getting along in years and doesn't want to work fulltime at it. If your uncle is interested I can take him down and introduce him. If they come to some kind of agreement I can haul it down for you."

     We chatted a few more minutes and then I helped Jim load a couple of the old junkers on his truck. With that I headed home. Jim told me he would pick up the rest of the old cars during the next couple of days, and even suggested that he pick up the Duesy and store it inside until Uncle Matt decided what to do with it. Jim seemed worried that someone might steal it. I hadn't thought of that and agreed that it sounded like a good idea. I was assured that it would be under a roof and locked up by nightfall. In fact he almost unloaded the junkers and took the Duesy right then.

     I was about to climb in the pickup and leave when I heard the sound of chainsaws coming from the area where the new access road would be. That called for taking a quick hike over and seeing what was going on. When I got close enough to see, there was a crawler tractor being unloaded and there were two pairs of fellows cutting down trees. I was surprised that Mr. Bledsoe had gotten a crew started so quickly, but there they were, cutting down trees and it looked like they would be starting on the road in a few minutes.

     When I got home everything was quiet. Since it was after lunchtime, everyone else had eaten so I fixed a sandwich and a cup of coffee for myself. I'd just finished them when Judy showed up. She talked with me for a few minutes and then took over my office and started talking to JJ.

     She not only talked with JJ, she also talked with all the other boys except Kyle, who was still at school. She called each of them into my office one at a time and spent the most time with Corey, LT, and JJ. I was left with nothing to do so I went grocery shopping. Judy had told me that she would need time with each of the boys and to get myself out of her way, so that shopping seemed like a good way to accomplish that.

     I could have spent more time grocery shopping because she wasn't finished until long after I had unloaded the pickup and put the groceries away, but when she finished she called me into my office.

     "Sam, I think Jason is depressed. From what you said, and more what the boys said, it appears that he is unhappy, not so much with you or the other boys, but with his whole situation. So far we haven't tracked down his parents and he feels unsettled over that. Add in that they pretty much destroyed his confidence in himself and perhaps it isn't surprising that he feels that way.

     "I don't think he is so much upset with you or living here, but he needs some counseling. The problem is that while I know a couple of people who would likely do well with him were he straight, their records are not as good with gay youngsters. I'm going to set up an appointment with one of them and hopefully he can help, but if he doesn't work out, the closest one who does good work with gay kids is a long way from here."

     "You know, Dr. Logan told me that a new doctor is moving here in a few months. Vince told me he's gay and works with kids," I told her. "I wonder if he might be a good choice if this one doesn't work out."

     I could almost see the wheels turning in Judy's mind. "Just a minute," she told me and picked up the phone.

     It didn't take any brains to figure out who she was talking to because she called him Dr. Logan, but what intrigued me was what she was suggesting. The next thing I knew I was taking JJ to see Dr. Logan and not a psychiatrist. Vince did a quick physical check of JJ, then chased me out of the room and spent some time talking with him. Then he called me back in and handed me a prescription, along with telling me that when that one was used up he would not issue another and that I would need to take JJ to see a mental health professional to get more. He explained that the prescription was one which should help relieve mild depression and was quite quick acting, but that I should watch and made sure there were no bad effects because sometimes such medications didn't work on everyone the same. By the time he got done explaining all the things I needed to watch for, like everything from dry mouth, heartburn, suicidal tendencies, and the list seemed endless, I was almost afraid to let JJ take any of it.

We got home, after picking up the prescription, just in time to eat the ruined pork chops that Kath and Sarah had overcooked. They had been such lovely looking chops and my mouth had been watering every time I thought of them, so seeing them dried out and tough about broke my heart. Pork is quite critical on how much you can cook it, and just a little too much time under the broiler can take a perfectly good chop and turn it into a reasonable facsimile of shoe leather. Still, while I was disappointed, the boys didn't seem to let the toughness slow them down in the least. I'm not sure they got the chops as well chewed as normal, but they apparently got them chewed enough to swallow. I really couldn't complain because sometimes I had had the same problem and it was only lately that I had gotten to where I could gauge just how done they were without the use of a thermometer.

     We were almost finished eating when the phone rang and it was Jerry.

     "Sam, you won't believe it," he started. "Those idiots decided that no one would want to pay air freight on the control panel so they shipped it by UPS ground. Then the UPS truck that was hauling it got hit when another truck ran an intersection and the panel was destroyed. I just got off the phone with the company and they have to fly one in from Germany where they're made. It isn't a popular panel in our country so there aren't any others available. It looks like Friday will be the soonest it can get here, so I'm going to tell everyone we'll start back up on Monday."

     "Why's it taking so long to fly it in?" I asked.

     "Because they won't ship it direct and it has to go through the company's distributor. That means a stop in New York City and then it can be shipped to us."

     "You're kidding me. You mean that it can't be shipped directly from Germany to us?"

     "No, it has to be shipped to New York and then to us," he answered. "Something to do with the agreement between the distributor and the manufacturer, and the person I talked with couldn't explain it so that it made any sense. Anyhow, I need to call the rest of the staff and let them know."

     With that he hung up and I was left holding the phone and looking at it. I couldn't believe that a necessary part couldn't be shipped directly to where it was needed. I had almost returned the phone to its charger when it rang again, startling the daylights out of me. I pushed the talk button without even waiting for caller ID to kick in.

     "Sam," I could hear Russ's voice. "The court left a message and I just got back to my office. Can you be at the courthouse at 1:00 P.M. tomorrow? They had a couple of cases settle out of court and if you can make it they'll hold the first hearing on the adoptions."

     "I, I guess so," I babbled. That question had taken my by complete surprise.

     "Good, bring the boys and it wouldn't hurt if they dressed nicely. Let's meet for lunch at Flo's at say, 11:30 and we can talk things over while we eat. Judy will be available for the hearing, according to the message she left, but I'm going to give her a call and see if she wants to have lunch with us. Be sure to bring all the papers on the boys. I'll see you tomorrow. I've got a bunch of calls to make." With that he hung up and I was once again left staring at my phone.

     I was almost afraid to set the phone back in its charger for fear it would ring again, but after a few seconds of silence on its part I did. When I returned to the table I got the usual questions of who had called and what they wanted.

     "Well," I started, "you guys get to stay home until Monday because the alarm panel is being shipped from Germany. Then everyone needs to be ready to appear in court tomorrow afternoon.

     "Kyle, what's going on in your classes tomorrow? If nothing important, like a test, is taking place you can stay home so you're ready to appear with the rest of us. If you've got tests, then we'll have to figure out what time to pick you up because we're supposed to be in court at 1:00."

     "Uhmm, no tests," he replied.

     "Good," I said. "Everyone needs to check and make sure your sport coats and dress shirts are clean. Also, it wouldn't hurt if you shined your shoes. We're going to have lunch with Russ and he can fill you in on how things will go. Any questions?"

     "Uhh, why are we appearing in courts?" Corey asked.

     "Sorry I forgot to say, but it's for the first hearing on your adoptions," I answered.

     When I said that, eyes lit up all around the table, that is everyone except JJ and David. Corey was grinning like a fool, and Kyle and Mark were looking at each other with big smiles on their faces. LT was looking at JJ, who wasn't smiling, and LT's grin slowly faded. Watching those two put a damper on my enthusiasm. I didn't have time to say anything to either of them because Bruno and Sarah were busy asking question and I was answering them.

     I didn't get much time to answer questions before the phone rang again. When I answered it, it was Judy.

     "Sam," she started out. "I don't know what's going to happen because the judge isn't the one who normally works family court. I've never had a case before Judge Strickland and have no idea how he handles things. With Judge Alton I wouldn't have expected any problems for you, but now I don't know."

     "Judge Strickland is handling the case?" I replied. "He's the judge who was on the last trial of Rev. Langston. He seemed fair to me."

     "Yes, but I don't know how he feels about gays," Judy answered. "While your being gay isn't supposed to be an issue, some judges let their beliefs affect how they rule."

     Jeez, things kept on going wrong. Lately I had been on a real string of things creating problems and here was another. The only reason I'd filed for adoption of the boys was that Judy had convinced me that everything would go fine and now she was telling me she didn't know.

     "So what am I supposed to do now?" I asked.

     "I don't know, but be careful tomorrow."

     That was a lot of help. How in the hell could I be careful when I wasn't sure what I doing?

     We talked a little more and then she hung up, leaving me sitting there and wondering what was going to happen. Not only wondering, but worrying.

     Did you ever have one of those days when the phone wouldn't leave you alone? I had just started back for the kitchen to help with the cleanup when the phone again rang. This time it was Detective Greerson of the Sheriff's Department asking if it would be possible for him to interview David tomorrow. He assured me that it shouldn't take long to clear up the items he was interested in. We settled on him being here at nine a.m. and that took care of that call. After I hung up I sat there glaring at the phone, daring it to ring, which of course it didn't. Instead it waited until I was almost back to the kitchen before again summoning me with its incessant chirping. It was only Jim reporting that he had the Duesenberg safely in his shop and would likely get the rest of the old cars hauled away by Friday. At least he didn't require me to do anything right away.

     I decided to take preemptive action and call someone myself. At least that way the line would be busy and no one could bother me. A quick call to Mr. Bledsoe to inquire about where to buy gravel and the next thing I knew he told me that he would have it delivered from his own pit and all I had to do was mark out the area where I wanted it dumped. Even better, the crawler tractor he had furnished for the road building would spread it out. We discussed that for a few minutes and worked out the details. The place I'd selected was next to the driveway to the barn so it would be easy for me to run out there and stick a few stakes in the ground so that the dump truck drivers knew where to dump it.

     By now the kitchen was cleaned up so I went out to the shop and selected some short pieces of boards for stakes and drove out and by the light of the headlights drove the stakes. Mr. Bledsoe said they would deliver the rock tomorrow and with all that was going on I wouldn't be available to be there and show the drivers where it was supposed to go.

     When I got home Bob and Corey were arguing over which pictures Corey should take to the artists' workshop. Corey wanted to take the ones he thought looked the best, and Bob was telling him that he needed to take the ones where he had failed to capture what he wanted to so that other artists could explain or show him how to improve his technique. Bob's reasoning sounded right to me, but Corey didn't want people to see his poor work, a position I could also understand. No one wishes to show people their failures, but only through failures can we learn to improve. In the end Corey finally set aside the ones Bob was recommending so we could take them. Then he picked out a couple more in which he had come closer to succeeding. Frankly I was surprised at the number of canvases he had since he had only been painting for about half a year, but most of the time he had several he was working on and almost every evening he found some time to work on them. Some nights it might only be a few minutes, but others might be for a couple of hours. The one I liked the best was one he had just completed and it was of Dog and Kevin, with Dog giving Kevin a doggie kiss. Kevin's face was screwed up in a combination grin and a don't do that any more sort of expression, and his eyes were closed as Dog swiped his tongue across his face, and you could almost feel Dog's tongue on his face. Kevin had his arms around Dog and you could sense the love between them. The picture he was working from had been taken at Christmas and there were a few decorations in the background and the whole picture seemed sort of warm and fuzzy. I'd seen some Norman Rockwell paintings and where he used characters that looked more like impressions or what might be called illustrations, Corey had not and his rendition of Kevin was a more faithful reproduction, yet it went beyond a mere picture or photograph and seemed to capture the emotions of both Kevin and Dog. Looking at that picture convinced me that I might as well give up and build on Uncle Matt's property. Even though I had talked with the architect, I still hadn't committed myself to the idea. While I would have to pay for the plans, I wasn't obligated to use them. But now, seeing the love between Kevin and Dog made it clear they deserved to be close together and the only way that was going to take place was if I went ahead with the plans and moved out there. In my minds eye I could see the two of them running all over the property and having fun, Dog watching out for Kevin, and Kevin loving Dog. When all the relatives were out of the house I was going to have to hold a discussion with the boys and see if that was what they wanted, although I was quite sure it was from things they had already said.

     I left Bob and Corey arguing about which pictures to take and went looking for JJ. With the court hearing coming tomorrow, we needed to talk. The problem was that I still didn't know what to say or how to convince Jason that I loved him. As far as I was concerned the hearing could not have come at a worse time and I wondered if there was a way to delay or postpone it. All the boys except Jason were looking forward to it, but I had no idea what Jason wanted.

     The talk was pretty much a waste of time. No matter how I tried, JJ wasn't opening up or willing to say much. Yet he didn't seem quite so angry and his glares were fewer. Instead of anger it was almost like there was a little shame trying to overcome that anger. I was truly puzzled and worried because I had no idea what to do. The most promising thing he had said was when pressed about did he wish me to continue the adoption, his answer was "I guess so." That was not a ringing endorsement, but the tone of his voice was a little more conciliatory than it had been over the past couple of days. When I tried to put my arm around his shoulders and maybe get him to lean against me, he didn't quite pull away, but he sure didn't lean towards me either. I finally gave up and let him go watch television. I had no idea what was going to happen tomorrow, but I couldn't think of anything to do which might make it better. I wanted to beat my head against the wall, but I could not see how that might help so I sat there brooding. Why is it that people problems are always the hardest to solve?

     "What's wrong Sam?" I heard Bruno ask me.

     I looked up and he had his head poked through the door and a look of concern on his face. "I don't know what to do," I answered. "No matter how hard I try I can't seem to get through to Jason and he won't tell me what he wants."

     "What did the doctor say about it?"

     I sighed. "He wants Jason to see a counselor. I'm all for that, but Judy says that she doesn't think any of those in the area are a good match for him. In a couple of months another one will be moving in and Dr. Logan says he should be good, but that doesn't solve the problem now, so I don't know what to do. I just feel so helpless about the whole thing. In the meantime I'm reduced to hoping that some pills will help, but Dr. Logan said it may take several tries to hit a medication which works.

     "Then there is the problem of the adoption hearing being tomorrow and I don't know what to do about that. I want Jason to be happy, and if that means him living somewhere else, I guess that is what will have to happen, but, but, oh I don't know, I feel like such a failure. I love Jason, but I can't figure out what to do. If he moves somewhere else, it's going hurt." With that I fell silent. In fact my eyes closed and I could feel tears starting to leak out of them. I felt miserable. All I had ever wanted for Jason was for him to be happy and now he wasn't and there seemed little I could do to change that. In thinking about it, it seemed that even if I hadn't confronted him over the chores, he had been becoming withdrawn and moody. When I considered everything, his change in attitude had started taking place before David came on the scene, so I didn't believe David had anything to do with it.

     "Sam," Bruno's voice was soft and soothing. "Don't beat yourself up. There'll be plenty of time for that later after everything has been tried and the results are known. For now, try to relax. If you let it eat on you too much, you won't be able to solve anything."

     I knew that was good advice, but how do you divorce yourself from your feelings towards one of your kids, and that was how I thought of JJ. He had turned into part of my family and now that family might be disrupted. It was eating me up. I wanted so badly to solve the problem that it hurt, but nothing came to mind. I wanted to be able to move back in time to where he was happy, but I couldn't.

     "Why don't you go to bed? It's late and everyone else has," Bruno said.

     When I looked at my watch I saw he was right, and that I'd spent the evening holed up in my office and worrying. I hadn't heard Bob leave, or anything else. The worst part of the whole things is that I hadn't come up with any ideas of how to improve things.

     Bruno headed for bed and I finished closing the house up. When that was finished I opened their bedroom door and peeked in on JJ and LT. Before I realized it, I had been standing there wondering how to help JJ for almost an hour. I gave up and headed for bed.

     Corey was asleep, of course, and he looked peaceful and relaxed. When I joined him and snuggled up to him, he sort of wriggled a little and settled back against me. When I draped my arm across his middle him, he sighed and went back to his slow steady breathing. Sometime later, after worrying some more, I finally fell asleep. My last thoughts were that I hoped JJ had remembered to take his pill and that the prescription would help him. Dr. Logan had told him to take one pill as soon as the prescription was filled and one before bedtime. After that he was to take only one per day. If I noticed any of the reactions warned against, he was to stop taking them immediately and come in for an examination. Otherwise, he was to come in for an exam and consultation in a week when Dr. Logan would decide whether or not to continue the dosage, raise it or lower it, or even change medications. I sure hoped this one worked because Dr. Logan had said he thought it the least likely to have any bad side effects.

     Morning came long before I was rested. Nonetheless, I was faced with fixing breakfast and all the other things which had to be done today. No matter how hard I tried I got further behind and felt like I was losing the race. Before boys, when not actually teaching, my time had been my own and that gave me enough of it to think things through. With boys I was always behind, rushing to get things done and never quite getting caught up. As I took my shower I wondered how other parents coped with the stress of raising children. Surely I wasn't the only person who felt like there wasn't enough time to take care of all the problems kids brought with them. Sometimes I thought I needed to tell Judy that I couldn't handle them and that she had to find other homes for them, but I loved them all so much I could no longer imagine not having them.

     Bruno wasn't impressed with breakfast. My mind was still working on my problems and so I reverted to fixing the type of breakfast that we normally had; oatmeal and toast. After he commented about his lack of enthusiasm for what I was fixing, I put a bunch of eggs in some water so he could add some soft-boiled eggs to his menu. Then I found some ham and started frying a few slices. Bruno was used to a big breakfast and I'd forgotten that while worrying about JJ. By the time everything was eaten, Bruno was filled up and the boys seemed to enjoy the eggs.

     JJ had been very quiet while eating breakfast so I didn't have any idea if the medication was working or not, but as soon as the dishes were picked up and in the dishwasher he came over to me.

     "I'm sorry," he said.

     I reached out and pulled him to me and wrapped my arms around him. "I'm the one who should be sorry because I didn't realize you were depressed and upset," I told him. "I dropped the ball and thought you were going through the normal stage of rejecting authority. I wish I'd realized what the problem was because no one should have to suffer depression when there are treatments available." My whole day had brightened up. I hadn't noticed, but hugging had been something he'd started ducking a few weeks back and now it felt good to wrap my arms around him. I felt guilty for not picking up on the signs earlier, but with all that had been going on poor JJ had been kind of left out, and the fact that he hadn't demanded much attention while he slowly got worse meant that I hadn't paid proper attention. I quietly vowed to not let things like changes in behavior go on so long before trying to find out what the problem was.

     We went into my office and had a really good talk. I learned that JJ was still upset over the treatment he had received from his parents and was having a hard time accepting that anyone wanted him. He was also worried that they had not yet been caught and was afraid they might show up and kidnap him or something, his term. That surprised me because I had thought that he had put his parents behind him, but apparently the rejection by them still came back to bother him. When he told me that sometimes he felt so angry but didn't know who to be mad at, it all fell into place about the way he had been acting. I also learned that he and LT had been having some arguments and that he felt horrible about them, but wasn't sure what to do. We were still talking about it when Detective Greerson arrived. JJ sure looked a lot happier when he left my office and I hoped that his good mood would continue. I was left wondering how I had missed the change in his attitude, but thrilled to see him smiling. He seemed a little more comfortable about his parents not being able to kidnap him when I pointed out the security system, although I couldn't understand why he thought they might sneak in during the night for such an abduction. I guess fears don't have to be rational, something born out by both JJ's and mine.

     David was nervous when Detective Greerson started his questioning. This time the questions were more directed towards who his stepfather had known and who he might be in contact with. While the questioning was going on I realized that I should have had Russ here for it, but I'd been so wrapped up in JJ's problems that I had forgotten to ask him to be here. However, as the questioning went along I couldn't see any reason to need Russ as the questions were straightforward and in no way appeared to be directed at anything David might have done, or implied any criticism of any of his actions. In fact it appeared that Detective Greerson felt about like I did and would have been more than happy to beat Mr. Mossburg into a bloody pulp. It only took about an hour until Detective Greerson said he had all the information he needed at that time. With that he thanked David and started to shake his hand. Suddenly he pulled David into a hug and told him how badly he felt that someone hadn't done something about his stepfather before things went so wrong. David looked surprised, but after the hug left to find the other boys. As I was walking Detective Greerson to the door he commented that his son was a couple of years younger than David and that he could not understand how anyone could treat a child like Mossburg had treated David. I had no answer for that because I had wondered the same thing many times and not just with David, but with all the boys. Corey hadn't been physically abused, but mental abuse seemed almost worse than physical abuse to me. When I thought of all the nights that Corey worried about whether his mother was coming home, and the number of times he must have been almost frantic because of her staying away for several days without telling him, that seemed as bad as being beaten. In LT's case, while he had been roughed up some, it was the rejection from his parents he had to deal with, and for the most part he did well at that.

     I sometimes felt like the odd one out because all my fears had been self inflected. It had been my own fears which had held me back, not other people. I had allowed the beliefs of some people to influence me to where I was afraid to be myself, yet when looking at what had happened to the boys, in some ways my fears had been justified. As it had turned out I should have had more confidence in my parents and I only wished I could tell them how much I loved them and that I was sorry for not confiding in them. They had loved me so much more than I had ever realized, even to the point of not saying anything which might upset me. And while most parents accept their gay children, there are just enough who don't and who make it hard for gays to tell their parents. There is always that fear of rejection, or worse.

     I decided to do a load of laundry as there was plenty of time before we needed to get cleaned up and ready for our court appointment. Suddenly I noticed that I had boys sticking pretty close to me, and they were not their usual boisterous selves. Once the washer was loaded, we all retired to the family room for a chat.

     If anything, they were even more worried about how things would go than I was. Pointing out that the judge ruling against the adoptions didn't mean that they couldn't be my foster sons did little to calm them. I explained that Judy had endorsed the idea and while they all agreed that they trusted Judy, they were worried that they might have to move. I tried to tell them that I doubted it, but deep down I was worried also. Judy's call had upset me. While Russ seemed to think it was a done deal, I would believe that when I had papers in my hand with the court ruling plainly spelling that out. I knew this was only the initial hearing and that there would be no final decision for some time, but I had to get past this hearing before there was a chance of the final hearing being what I hoped for.

     Eventually it was time to leave so we could have lunch with Russ. I hadn't calmed the boys' worries much, if any, and their fears were making my own worse. At least they looked nice in their slacks and sport coats and maybe that would help.

     It didn't help my state of mind when Judy called me on my cell phone, just as we were leaving the house, saying something had come up and she wouldn't be able to join us for lunch. She sounded harassed and her voice didn't offer any encouragement to me, so it was with a steadily sinking heart that we headed for Flo's. Russ appeared relaxed and calm, but it wasn't his life which would change if anything went wrong. I babbled out that Judy wouldn't be able to join us, and Russ must have picked up on my nervous state.

     "Calm down Sam, everything's going according to schedule," he said. "While I don't do much work in family law anymore, when I started out I did and everything's covered."

     I wondered what he meant by everything covered, but before I could ask the waitress handed us menus and asked what we would like to drink. The boys weren't shy about telling her except for David, and she even managed to coax an answer from him. I was getting so nervous that I almost dropped my cup when turning it over to indicate I wanted coffee, and the way my stomach was churning coffee was probably the last thing I needed, but habit kicked in and caused me to order it.

     Lunch was a disaster and the only people who seemed to enjoy it were Russ, Kath, Danny, Andrea, Bruno, and David. Sarah had decided that the two rug rats were better off staying home, so she and Bruno had decided only he would attend. My club sandwich stuck in my throat and even the boys more picked with than ate their food. At least they came closer to cleaning their plates than I did, and without the help of David mine would have had most of the sandwich left on it, but he managed to eat about half of the sandwich. As I tried to choke my meal down, Russ was explaining to the boys about how he expected the hearing to go. He told them they would each likely be interviewed by the judge and not to worry but answer his questions. He also warned them that they needed to tell the truth, saying that judges had lots of practice picking up when someone was not telling the truth. The more he talked, the more my stomach churned.

     Finally it was time to leave and go to court, that is if we wanted to be there early. Even so that was better than sitting and pushing the remains of my sandwich around the plate a few more times.

     I don't know quite what I was expecting, but when we walked into the courtroom and I saw the spectator area about half full, I was filled with even more fear. Then I managed to look more closely and could see that those spectators were my friends and fellow teachers. Jerry was the first one I saw, and then I started picking out the rest of the faculty, along with both of the Downies, and Vern was there, and everywhere I looked there were people I knew and liked. They were all coming up to me and wishing me luck and I didn't know what to do or say, but could only be thankful for their support. There were even several kids I taught, along with their parents. Having to speak with most everyone there took up the time I would have spent worrying and soon Russ was herding me and the boys to our seats as starting time was approaching. Judy had still not arrived and I wished she was there.

     The courtroom was arranged a lot differently than it had been for Reverend Langston's trials. There was a small desk right below where the judge had been seated, complete with a chair, and there were two bigger tables placed in front of where the prosecution and defense had been. Russ directed us to the one in front of what had been the defense's station and at which there were seven chairs. He steered Kath and David to chairs just behind us in the spectators' area, along with Andrea and Danny.

     We had barely gotten seated when a door at the left of the judge's normal place opened and the judge came striding in, telling everyone to remain seated. He got about two paces into the room and looked up and came to an abrupt stop as he looked the crowd over. All the time I had been speaking with my friends, more had kept coming in and by now there must have been better than fifty people there. Just then I heard the main doors open and when I looked, several more scurried in and slipped into the wooden benches where the spectators sit. Perhaps I'm wrong, but the judge looked surprised.

     The judge went over and seated himself at the small table and rapped his gavel, declaring family court was in session.

     After a court official stated the reason for the hearing, the judge didn't waste any time. First he announced that the representative of Children's Services had been delayed and would be arriving shortly, and then he quickly explained that he wanted to interview each of the boys in chambers and alone. With that he had the bailiff, I suppose, take all of the boys and they all disappeared back through the door the judge had entered from, leaving me to sit and stew. And stew I did as the time slowly ticked off the clock.

     At the twenty minute mark Judy came rushing in, looking somewhat disheveled and angry, and she quickly made her way to the other larger table and seated herself, but other than that everyone pretty much sat there and said nothing. I could hear some whispers behind me in the spectator area, but nothing more happened. Russ kept trying to engage me in light conversation, but he wasn't having much luck as I kept worrying that one of the boys might say something which would put an end to my dreams. Judy had her briefcase open and was busy scribbling on various papers and the time kept on dragging along.

     It took almost an hour before anything further happened, and that was the bailiff person coming into the courtroom and asking me to follow him. Russ smiled and nodded his head, so I followed along. He escorted me to an office where the judge was sitting behind a desk, but not a boy was in sight.

     After the bailiff had retired, the judge asked me to be seated. When that was accomplished, he looked at me and said, "So finally I get to talk with the great Mr. Lofton."

               To be continued...