Joel Book III is available in paperback as Joel III Back to Normal. To purchase a copy, follow the link to my website below.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author?s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
This story is copyright by Ted Louis, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author?s written consent.
A copy of the story has been assigned to the Nifty Archives under the terms of its submission agreement. Comments on the story are appreciated and may be addressed to email@example.com
All the chapters of Joel may also be found on my website at www.tedlouis.com
With all the confusion of Hildy going to the hospital, I had called Dr. Greene to reschedule the appointment for him to examine Chris' cast. Sam agreed to stop by on his way home to check the cast. It's nice having a friend and pediatrician living nearby. He arrived a little before six and made the examination and announced that everything looked good. If everything was okay when he took an x-ray next Thursday, he would remove the cast. I think that made Chris' day. He left Sam and me with a broad smile on his face. Sam told me to bring the rest of my troop in at that time so that he could make sure their immunization records were up to date and give them any needed shots. I offered Sam a glass of wine, but he refused saying Carol was expecting him at home.
"She's got us scheduled to attend a fund-raising dinner for one of the charities she volunteers with," he said. "It's a worthy cause. I don't know why I can't just write them a check and stay home, but 'she who must be obeyed' doesn't see it that way."
I chuckled at his quote from Rumpole of the Bailey and walked with Sam to the door.
I went to check on the boys and found them in the music practice room. TJ was showing Peter how to play "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star", without much success. As I was leaving the area, I heard someone coming up the back stairs. I waited at the top and saw that it was Manfred.
"How's Hildy?" I asked, before he had reached the top step.
"She's doing fine. I came home to grab some things so I can spend the night at the hospital with her. Gilda is staying with her until I can get back. The operation went fine, no complications. The surgeon performed a laparoscopic cholecystectomy," Manfred said, smiling.
"What the heck was that?" I asked.
"That's what I asked when he told me. He removed the gallbladder and gallstones through several small incisions in her abdomen. He said he inflated her abdomen with carbon dioxide in order to see clearly what he was doing. It's all done using a video camera, lights and small surgical instrument that are inserted through the small incisions. I had to practice saying laparoscopic cholecystectomy all afternoon so that I could pronounce it. It makes me look like I know what I'm doing," he laughed.
"Well, I think I'll just say gallbladder surgery."
"Gilda will be driving my car back after I return to the hospital. Oh, I almost forgot, if everything goes well when the doctor sees Hildy tomorrow morning, he may let her come home tomorrow afternoon."
"That's great. I thought she was going to be there for several days."
"She would have if they had done the traditional surgery instead of laparoscopic cholecystectomy. I've got to keep saying that or I'll forget how. Well, I had better get my stuff and get back to the hospital. Hildy was out of the recovery room and back in her room when I left. She'll be wondering where I am."
"Tell her the boys and I miss her."
"I will," he said, and headed for their apartment.
Since I hadn't made any plans for supper, I decided to take the boys to a restaurant to eat. They didn't object. They did object, however, when I made them change their clothes and wash up. We ended up going to the Grist Mill1 in Gruene and eating out on the deck overlooking the Guadalupe River.
It was well after eight by the time we returned home. Since the boys had indulged in one the Grist Mill's decadent desserts, a concoction of a piece of fudge pie, topped by a scoop of Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream, fresh strawberries and whipped cream, they didn't need a snack before going to bed. I just hoped that the rich dessert didn't cause them to have nightmares.
Manfred's car was in the garage as I drove the van in and closed the garage door. Gilda was eating a sandwich at the table when the boys saw her. She was inundated with questions from them concerning Hildy. She told them that Hildy was doing fine and she might be able to come home tomorrow. That seemed to satisfy them and they went upstairs to play.
"Gilda, I never asked you how long you would be willing to stay after Hildy gets out of the hospital."
"I'll stay as long as you and Hildy need me."
"Thanks, I'd like for you to stay at least a month if you can. As soon as Hildy is up to it, I'm going to suggest to Manfred that he take her on a couple weeks vacation. She more than deserves it for the way she works around here," I said.
"We may have to shove her out of the door to make her go," Gilda laughed.
"Yes, but I think it would do her good to get away for a while," I said. "Well, I think I'd better go get the boys started getting ready for bed. They need to get back in the routine of going to bed early so when school starts in a couple of weeks, it won't be a shock to them."
"I think I'll turn in as well. I didn't get all that much sleep last night. I'll be driving Manfred's car back to the hospital after the boys are fed and Connie gets here. I hope that's all right?"
"Of course it is. Get a good night's rest. We'll see you in the morning," I said, and headed upstairs.
The boys put up a little resistance when I told them it was time to get ready for bed, but they reluctantly put their toys away and went to start their showers. After I had them all tucked into bed I went to my own bedroom to read for a while. I wanted to finish the book I had been reading for the past week or so.
I could smell the coffee as I exited my bedroom the following morning. Gilda, as usual, was talking to herself with her back turned as she was fixing breakfast. I didn't speak to her as I poured myself a cup of coffee. When she turned around and saw me she let out a little yelp.
"You startled me," she said. "I didn't hear you come into the kitchen. You gave an old woman a fright."
"Sorry, I'm not too human until I have my coffee. What's for breakfast?"
"Hildy said the boys like pancakes, so I thought I'd start with those. There are some of those little sausages that would go good with them and there is some fruit in the refrigerator as well."
"Do you need some help?" I asked, putting down my now empty coffee cup.
"I don't think so. What time will the boys be getting up?"
I looked at my watch before saying, "In about half an hour, I would think."
"Have another cup of coffee. The security guard brought the paper a while ago. It's on the table," she said, and went back to her breakfast preparations. She also went back to talking to herself.
"Can we go see Hildy?" TJ asked, as he sat down at the breakfast table.
"If she's not going to get to come home, we'll go see her this evening," I said. "How's that sound?"
"Okay," he said, taking a big bite of his pancakes.
After breakfast the boys went outside to play with their dogs. I took a seat on the patio and watched them running and laughing with the dogs. Peter and Bandit were having a great time. Although Bandit was not a big dog, he was able to push Peter to the ground and wrestle with him. Peter was laughing so hard he couldn't get up and as a result he was getting his faced washed by Bandit's tongue. I could see where this was leading if he was able to remain as part of our family.
Gilda came out onto the patio with the cordless phone in her hand. "Mr. Levin is on the phone," she said, handing it to me. "Connie's here so I'm taking off for the hospital if you don't need anything more from me."
"No, just tell Hildy that we miss her and hope that the doctor lets her come home today."
She waved goodbye to TJ, who had seen her on the patio. He waved in turn and then went back to chasing Bandit.
"Mr. Levin, to what good fortune do I receive a call from you so early this morning?"
Eric laughed and answered in the same tone. "Well, Mr. Johnson, aren't we being formal today? I thought I'd let you know that we are flying out to California this afternoon to close on Bran's condo. It's scheduled for tomorrow morning at nine."
"That's quick. I didn't think it was going to happen for another week or so."
"I guess when it's a cash sale, things move faster. JR is going with us this time. I think he wants to see where Bran is going to be living. We'll be spending all next week out there getting the place set up, buying furniture, everything for the kitchen, linens and lord-knows-what-else he'll need."
"When does he start classes?"
"Orientation for freshmen begins on Wednesday of the following week and classes start the week after. JR is going to miss him. I am, too. It's going to be hard to let him go."
"So, Bran's going to stay out there?"
"Yes," Eric struggled to say.
"I can't say that I know what you're going through. I don't want to think about it, but Joel will be leaving home for college in a couple of years and I'll be facing the same thing. I'm not looking forward to that at all."
"Even though I knew this was going to happen, now that the time has come..." Eric paused and I knew he was trying to regain control of his emotions. "Well, I'd better go see if the boys are getting all their stuff packed. The shipping company is going to pick up Bran's things that we can't take on the plane."
"Call me, if you need someone to talk to."
Later, when it started to get hot the boys and I, plus Bandit, went for a swim. That dog loved the water. The other four dogs sat on the edge of the pool and watched. Shortly after two, Manfred called and said that he was bringing Hildy home. The boys were thrilled when I told them.
"When will she be here?" Joel asked.
"Manfred didn't say, but I would think it'll be sometime in the next hour. Listen to me, guys. I know you'll want to hug Hildy when she comes in, but you have to be very careful. She'll have a sore stomach for a while and you don't want to hurt her. Larry, you remember how sore your stomach was when you had your appendix taken out."
"Yeah, it hurt a lot," Larry answered, nodding his head.
I got some fruit out of the refrigerator for the boys' snack as we waited for Hildy to arrive home. At the sound of a car door slamming, the boys were on their feet and heading for the front door. As I had surmised, Manfred was going to let her out at the front door because it was a shorter distance to the elevator than from the garage.
"I missed you," TJ said, grabbing onto and hugging her left arm.
"I missed you, too, sweetheart," Hildy said. "I missed all of you."
"Come on, boys. Let Hildy get to her apartment," I said, trying to clear a path through them to the elevator. "You can go see her later after she's had a rest."
Reluctantly they made a path for her, but TJ still held onto her arm until she reached the elevator. Hildy and Gilda closed the elevator door and it started on its way to the upper floor.
Connie had heard the commotion and had come to see what was going on. I had neglected to tell her that Hildy was coming home today.
About half an hour later, Gilda came down and said that Hildy was napping. She headed for the kitchen and began preparations for supper, muttering to herself all the while.
After supper, Gilda said she thought it would be okay for the boys to go see Hildy. The boys were on their way before she had gotten the words out of her mouth. Thankfully they waited outside the door until I joined them. I knocked and heard Hildy say for us to come in. She was sitting on the sofa and looking much better than when she came home earlier. The boys asked her all kinds of questions about her operation. I was glad when she told them that she had been under anesthesia and didn't know much about it. She said she hadn't even seen the incisions. As we got up to leave about 15 minutes later, she gave each of them a brief hug and told them to come see her again tomorrow.
Friday morning I told Gilda what the schedule was for the day. She didn't seem phased that there would be a lot of people coming in the afternoon to swim. Since Joel and I wouldn't be here for the swim lessons, I told her that even though Ty would be responsible for the kids in the water, I would appreciate it if there was one other adult watching over the pool area. I wasn't too worried because I figured that Marjorie would be watching her granddaughters in the pool at all times. I'm sure that Marie would be looking out for Ricky as well.
She agreed and mentioned that if Hildy felt up to it she might like to sit on the patio and watch the kids as well as talking to Marie and Marjorie.
Marie and Ricky arrived before we had to leave for Dr. Adams' office. Ricky immediately attached himself to Joel and gave him a sloppy kiss.
"Munchkin, you give the wettest kisses of anyone I know," Joel said, giving him a squeeze. Ricky just laughed, took his hand and pulled him up the stairs to where the other boys were playing.
When it came time for us to leave so that we could get to Joel's appointment, Ricky was having none of that. "Joel, stay," he whimpered.
"I have to go, but I'll be back before you have to go home," Joel said, trying to get his hand out of Ricky's grasp.
"That's enough, Ricardo James Soznowski. You behave yourself. Joel said he would be back later," Marie said, extricating her son from Joel and leading him away.
"Ricky sure is attached to you," I told Joel, as we headed for the garage.
We were a few minutes early for Joel's appointment, but we didn't have to wait very long before Dr. Adams ushered Joel into his office. I told the receptionist that I was going to the book store down the street and would be back before the session was over, but to have Joel wait if I got sidetracked.
I love books. Even with my library at home filled with many books that I had not read, I still couldn't resist the lure of a book shop whenever I had a few minutes to browse. I found three new releases and headed back to Dr. Adams' office. I stopped by the car and placed two of the books inside. The other one I took with me to begin reading even though I didn't have a lot of time.
After his 45 minute session with Dr. Adams, Joel came out of the office smiling. I hoped that was a good sign. I spoke briefly with the doctor and scheduled another session for Joel the following Wednesday at 4:00.
"How do you feel about talking to Dr. Adams?" I asked.
"I think it's good. I know I can talk to you about the same stuff, but I think I get my thoughts straighter when I'm talking to him. I don't know why."
"I think I do, son. Although you know I love you and would never judge you, it still hard to rationalize that in your mind. Dr. Adams provides a non-threatening sounding board for your thoughts. As much as you may want to, it's very difficult, if not impossible, to be completely open and honest with a parent. You see, that was true for me also when I was growing up. I loved my dad and we had a great relationship. We talked about almost everything, but there were some things that I wasn't comfortable talking about. I guess I didn't want him to be disappointed with me. I knew in my heart he wouldn't be disappointed, but there was still that hesitation."
"Yeah," Joel said.
"Let's get home and get in the pool with your brothers."
"And Ricky, too."
Ty was about ready to wind up the swimming lesson when Joel jumped into the pool. He usually gave the kids some play time after the lesson while he watched and gave them pointers on their techniques. Of course, Ricky was all over Joel as soon as he saw him.
I decided to sit on the porch with Hildy, Marie and Marjorie. I had smelled something good that Gilda was baking as we had entered the house. Hildy was looking much better today. When I asked her how she was feeling, she said that she still had some pain, but it was better.
"Didn't the doctor give you any pain pills?" I asked.
"Yes, but I hate to take them except at bedtime. They make me goofy."
I laughed. "We'd hate to have you goofy around this bunch." We sat and talked for another half hour before Ty announced to the kids that he had to leave. He was immediately surrounded by all nine of the kids begging him to stay longer.
"Sorry, guys, but my girlfriend expects me to take her to the movies tonight and what she wants, she gets," he said laughing. He climbed out of the pool and went into my bedroom to change. When he came out, I handed him his money before the kids and I followed him to his car. He got another round of hugs from all the boys except Joel, who shook his hand. Alice gave him an extra long hug.
Hildy decided to go upstairs and lie down a bit before supper. The boys went up to their rooms to shower and change. Connie and her mother took Alice and Joanna and headed for home saying she would see us again on Monday. I had learned from Marie that Dirk was out of town and not expected back until later tonight, so I invited her and Ricky to stay and eat with us. That was fine with Ricky.
Joel picked up Ricky who hadn't put his leg back on and said, "Come on, munchkin, let's go get the swimming pool water washed off." He looked at Marie, who nodded her consent and handed Ricky's prosthesis to Joel.
Gilda served a great meal. She had prepared a Swiss steak in brown gravy, mashed potatoes and peas and carrots. She had also baked some light and fluffy bread rolls still warm out of the oven. After we had stuffed ourselves with the main meal, we found out what has smelled so good earlier. Marie helped her bring to the table the slices of Dutch apple pie each topped with a scoop of cinnamon ice cream. It's a good thing she had baked three pies, because I knew the boys would want another slice for their snack later on. I was right.
Saturday went by quickly. The boys wanted to go ride the horses, so after calling the Smiths to let them know we were coming, we all climbed into the van and headed out. There was a car in the driveway that I didn't recognize when we arrived. I soon found out that it was Charlie's car. He had come to visit Tracy for the weekend - and to check out his soon to be new home.
Bert, Tracy and Charlie were all in the stables saddling up the horses. I noticed there were two of the quarter horses from the Katz property saddled outside the stable. I guess we were going to have company on our ride.
"Peter, you can ride Lady," TJ offered. "I'll ride one of the big horses."
"Okay, I like Lady. She doesn't go fast," Peter said.
It looked like we were a posse as all ten of us mounted up. TJ and I rode along side of Peter while the other boys took off galloping across the field. Chris was right in the midst of them, even though he could only hold on to the reins with one hand. Charlie and Tracy, riding the quarter horses, took off after the boys and easily caught up with them. One thing you could say about quarter horses, they were quick out of the gate. They were also beautiful animals.
We had ridden for about an hour when I saw the boys riding toward me. I knew what they were after, so I turned our little group around and headed for the back gate. When I told Gilda that we were going horseback riding, she packed a cooler with juice and some peanut butter cookies. Joel helped me carry the cooler from the van to the picnic table. I apologized to Tracy, Bert and Charlie for not bringing enough for them also. As I was apologizing, Rosie emerged from the house with a pitcher of tea and a plate of her own cookies.
When the boys finished their snack, they wanted to go for another ride. I decided to stay and talk to Charlie and Tracy. "Joel, will you watch Peter? I don't want him riding too fast. He's still pretty new to riding a horse."
"Sure thing, dad. Come on Peter, let's go for a ride."
"I'll go with them," Bert said.
"Charlie," I said, "when do you plan on moving in to the Katz place? I know Hiram has moved out."
"My last day at work is Wednesday and I'm planning on loading all my stuff into a U-Haul on Thursday. That will probably take me all day, longer if I can't get someone to help with the heavy stuff. I should be settled in by Saturday."
"Hold on just a minute," I told him. I took out my cell phone and dialed a number from memory. It rang three times before a male voice answered.
"Glenn? This is Crane Johnson. Are you still overcharging people to move their stuff?"
"Crane, it's been a long time. Yes, I charge them as much as I can get away with. If it's for you, it'll only be triple."
"Hey, be nice or I might just buy that crappy business of yours and fire you."
"I should be so lucky. I know you didn't call just to insult me. You always want something done yesterday."
"Glenn, you know me too well," I said. "I'm going to give the phone to a young man who needs his stuff moved. He'll give you all the particulars, but I want your crew at his place bright and early Thursday morning. Pack everything and get it on one of those broken down trucks of yours, get him moved and unpacked by dark. Now that's simple enough even you ought to be able to understand. You know where to send the bill."
"Yeah, you want me to fix supper for him when we're done?"
"That'd be nice. Nothing fancy, you understand. You're not that good of a cook. Thanks, Glenn, I knew you could do it. Here's Charlie Wood." I handed the phone to a stunned Charlie and said, "His name is Glenn Barker. He's an old college friend."
Charlie gave Glenn his address and described the contents of his apartment. The conversation lasted less than five minutes. "He said he'd be there with a crew at 8:00 AM on Thursday. All I need to do is pack any personal items and they'll take care of the rest. I can't thank you enough, Mr. Johnson. I didn't know how I was going to get my bedroom stuff moved. I know the mattress and box spring would be impossible for me alone."
"I never asked, but do you have a significant other?"
"Yes, my girlfriend is an architect for one of the custom home builders in San Antonio. With me working in Austin and her in San Antonio, we didn't get to see much of each other except on weekends. Being here will be a lot more convenient," he said, smiling.
"Remember, your living arrangements are your own business, Just don't burn the house down," I laughed.
"Tracy, when does your school start?"
"On Monday, I'm looking forward to finishing up in December," Tracy answered. "I'll miss being around Carrie Louise and Rosie. It's been nice these past few weeks being at home and watching our baby grow."
"Don't forget our bargain about your class standing," I said.
"No way I could forget that. I'm looking forward to not paying back 50% of the loan," he said, with a grin on his face.
"That's great. Keep up the good work. Well, I think it's about time we started back home. I hope I can get their attention."
Tracy got up and walked over to a rusty looking bell mounted on top of a pole and rang it. A moment later seven riders came riding over the hill and stopped at the stable. I walked over to where my horse was tethered and led it to the stable and waited my turn to brush it down. The boys knew the drill and except for Peter who needed help from Joel. When we were finished, we said our goodbyes to everybody and headed for home.
Hildy was sitting at the kitchen island talking to Gilda when we got home. Both she and Gilda were greeted warmly before I sent us all off to wash away our horsy odor. I commented to Hildy that she was looking much better. She confirmed that she felt better and had hardly any pain.
Monday morning, Bernice arrived to give the boys their music lessons. I made a few phone calls before receiving one that I had been waiting for.
"Good morning, Carlos. Do you have any news for me?"
"You won't believe it when I tell you," Carlos said.
1The Grist Mill is an actual restaurant in the Gruene area of New Braunfels. The dessert mentioned is also on their menu. German purists will be appalled, but Gruene in these parts of Texas is pronounced Green. www.gristmillrestaurant.com
To be continued.
Your comments and criticisms are welcomed and encouraged. I try to answer all emails including flames. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org, please put Joel in the subject.