Joel Books 1 through 4 are available in paperback. 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.
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All the chapters of Joel may also be found on my website at www.tedlouis.com
My alarm went off much too early. I climbed out of bed and took a quick shower and the rest of my morning routine before going to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee. Naturally, Hildy was already there beginning her breakfast preparations. She asked about my trip to Vegas and we chatted for a few minutes before I went upstairs to begin waking the boys. Joel was getting dressed when I knocked on his door.
"Dad, we have a golf match this afternoon. Can you pick me up at the school after?"
"Sure, not a problem," I said. "Who are you playing?"
"We're going to Boerne. They're supposed to be really good. Todd, their best golfer, was runner-up in the state last year. The coach is going to pair me up with him."
"Well, I'm sure you'll do your best against him. Give me a call when you get back to the school and I'll come get you."
I thought I was going to have to drag the twins out of their beds. Chris, as usual, jumped out of bed the moment I woke him. "Chris, will you make sure these two don't go back to bed?" I said, giving him a hug and pointing to the twins who were sitting on the sides of their beds.
"Is it okay if I throw cold water on them if they do?" he laughed and took off for the bathroom with the twins right after him. At least that got them out of bed.
I sat down on the side of Peter's bed and shook his shoulder slightly to wake him. He opened his eyes and looked around. When he saw me he quickly sat up, threw his arms around my neck and sobbed into my cheek.
"Did you miss me?" I asked softly. His response was to rub my cheek with his as he nodded. I gave him a hug and a kiss on his temple. "Go wash your hands and face. Hildy will have breakfast ready when you get downstairs." By this time, TJ had joined in our hug. I kissed his forehead before shooing them toward their bathroom.
When the boys came downstairs dressed for school, Larry said, "Dad, can you come watch us play tennis today?"
"I guess. Do you have a match?"
"Yeah," Lenny answered. "We're playing Cibolo Junior High."
"At our school," Chris responded.
"Yeah," Larry said. "We have to play singles. There's not gonna be any doubles."
"Are all three of you playing singles?"
All three shook their heads in the affirmative.
Returning home after dropping the boys off at school, I decided I had better call Gerald and Carlos to let them know what I had done in Las Vegas. Neither of them was too surprised. They were surprised, however, when I said that if my offers were accepted, I would like to develop the 1600 acre parcel myself. That led to a discussion of seeking a reputable general contractor, setting up a Nevada company, and coordinating with the city to provide utility services.
"Are you sure you really want to take this on?" Carlos asked. "It's going to be more difficult being several hundred miles away from here."
"I know," I said. "But this just feels right to me. It's going to be a very upscale development. I may even want a place there for myself."
"Okay," Carlos said. "Let me know when the negotiations are over and the offers are accepted. In the mean time, I'll look into what it would take to set up a Nevada company or corporation. I'll check both to see which would be the most beneficial for you. Oh, I almost forgot, I've had a feeler on that strip center you own. One of those big drug store chains has asked about a possible purchase. Nothing definite as yet, but I think they're interested. Do you want to unload that?"
"If the price is right, sure."
"I'll keep you informed, if they get serious," Carlos said.
The afternoon turned out beautifully for playing tennis or golf. I parked the van in the school parking lot, collected TJ and Peter and headed for the tennis courts. I had brought along some Gatorade for the boys. I found it to be totally repulsive, but the boys seemed to like it. The teams were already on the courts warming up when we got there. Larry and Chris were scheduled to play in the first two singles matches. That meant that we would have to switch between the two courts to watch each of them play.
Chris was paired up with one of the other team's best players. Chris was broken on his first service game, but after that he didn't lose a single game and won the match 6-1. Larry had a more difficult time with his match. He finally won it in a tiebreaker, 7-6. Lenny's match was played after the other two. He started out well, breaking his opponent's serve. After that it was a pretty even match even though Lenny lost his serve twice. He ended up losing his match 6-4. He was very disappointed, especially since his brothers had won their matches.
I told the boys that we would wait around for Joel to return from his golf match. I didn't expect that we would have to wait that long. The twins and Chris decided to get in a little more practice while we waited. TJ looked like he wanted to practice with them. Larry noticed the look in TJ's eyes and asked one of the other boys on the team if he could borrow his racket. He agreed. Peter and I watched and sometimes laughed as the four of them played a rag-tag game of doubles. Only about one in four of TJ's hits made it over the net. A few of them sailed over the high fence surrounding the courts. Peter would run after the "foul balls" to retrieve them. I think he was having as much fun as the other four. They were still practicing when Joel arrived.
"How did your golf game go, son?"
"Great, I won my match. We were even going into the last hole. He hit a terrible drive and his ball went out of bounds. I won the hole with a bogey. Todd was a great guy and a lot of fun to play with," Joel said. "He's a senior, but I don't think he played his best game today."
"Congratulations on your win. How did the team do?"
"We won two and lost three. Let's go home, I'm hungry."
"Yeah!" my other five hollered, and ran for the van.
Since it was late when we got back to the house, Hildy said she would have dinner ready by the time the boys had changed their clothes and washed up.
"This guy called while you were gone," Hildy said. "He asked that you call him back when you got home. That's his cell phone number." I looked at the paper she handed me and saw that it was Fenton. I was anxious to hear what he had to say, but it would have to wait until after we ate.
Hildy was putting platters of fried chicken on the table when the boys came scrambling down the stairs. I don't know how many chickens she had fried, but it looked like a whole flock had been sacrificed for our supper.
After the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher, I told the boys to go check on their dogs and to make sure there was fresh food and water. I had just poured myself a cup of coffee and was going to return Fenton's call when TJ ran back into the house.
"Dad, come quick. There's a baby deer in the pool."
He grabbed my hand and began pulling me toward the door, almost making me spill the hot coffee. When I got outside, I could see that there was indeed a young deer in the pool. It was struggling to climb out but it couldn't get more than its front hooves onto the edge of the pool.
"You got to get him out," TJ cried. "He's gonna drown."
I approached the deer, but as I got close, it backed away from the side of the pool and swam to the other side. I tried to think of a way to rescue the poor animal, but nothing came to me immediately. "TJ, run in the house and ask Manfred to come out here." He took off on the dead run for the house. Manfred emerged a few seconds later, being literally dragged by TJ.
"Whoa, it looks like we have a problem," Manfred said. "I wonder how he got himself in this mess."
"Any ideas how we can get it out?" I asked. "I'm not anxious to get in the pool with it."
"I'll be right back," Manfred said, and hurried back toward the house.
As the seven of us stood there watching the deer swimming around in circles in the pool, it was evident that it was getting tired. I hoped that Manfred had a good plan to rescue it, and quickly. About a minute later, Manfred returned carrying a rope.
"In my younger days, I used to participate in the Junior Rodeo. One of my better events was steer roping." As he was saying this, he was fashioning a lasso. "Now, if I can just rope this little critter."
He waited until the deer was positioned just right and then flung the rope at the deer. The first attempt missed. The second attempt succeeded. As gently as he could, he tightened the loop around the deer's neck.
"Crane, I'm going to pull him to the side of the pool. If you will grab hold of him before he gets all the way out of the water it will make it easier for me to remove the rope from around his neck."
"I'll get on the other side," Joel volunteered.
"Be careful, son. It could strike out with its hooves. We'll have to hold it tight until Manfred gets the rope off."
Other than getting us both wet, the rescue went very well. I think the deer was so exhausted that it didn't put up as much of a fight as I had expected. Manfred quickly removed the rope as soon as the deer was completely out of the pool.
"Okay, son, on the count of three, release your hold on the deer and step back as fast as you can. One ... Two ... Three!" We both jumped back at the same time. The deer stood there for a second and then took off. It ran for maybe 50 yards, stopped, turned around and looked back at us. It stood there for several seconds before running off and over the hill.
As Joel and I were heading for the house to change into dry clothes, I told the boys, "Don't stay out too long. It's going to be dark soon and you have homework to do."
While the boys were doing their homework, I called Fenton to see what news he had for me. He had some good news and some bad. One of the properties that I had made an offer on was sold to another bidder. That was the Mendelssohn property. The owners of the Solaria property accepted my offer. The executor of the two parcels of the Granger estate countered with a price $200 more per acre than I had offered.
"Fenton, I might be willing to accept that price on the 1600 acres on the south side of that proposed road, but not on the 1300 acre parcel. Go back to the executor and accept his counter on the larger parcel and repeat my offer on the other one. The proposed development of the smaller parcel doesn't justify that price per acre."
"I agree," Fenton said. "I'll see if I can get in touch with Arthur tonight. As soon as I have an answer, I'll get back to you."
Joel was the last one to bring his homework to me to check. I could tell he had something on his mind. When I finished checking over the homework, I looked at him. "Is something on your mind?"
"Yeah, you know John and I have been working on our science project and I was wondering ... Ah ... Would it be all right if I took my computer to use for our project? It will only be at the school until Sunday and then I'll bring it back home."
"I guess that would be okay. Are you going to show me this project or do I have to wait for the Science Fair?"
"I could show it to you now, but it's not quite in final form. If it's all right, can John come home with us tomorrow after school so that we can put the last little pieces together? Remember I have to take the project to set up on Thursday after school."
"If his mother says it's fine with her for him to come, then it's fine with me."
"Thanks, dad, you're the greatest," he said, giving me a hug.
With nothing scheduled for my day, Wednesday, after I took the boys to school, I thought I would try to catch up on my reading. I had settled down with a book from my library when the phone rang. It was Pauline Gordinier. She was calling to make sure it was all right for John to come home with us this evening. I confirmed that it was fine with me. We chatted a while when the subject of her friend Walter came up. That jogged my memory. I was going to have him checked out, but it slipped my mind. Then it dawned on me that I didn't know what Walter's last name was. I was able to find out that it was Kohler without being too obvious.
When we hung up, I dialed Jack's cell phone and asked him to do a preliminary check on Dr. Walter Kohler. Jack said he would get back to me the first of next week with what he had found out.
The rest of the morning I was able to spend reading. At lunch, Connie surprised me by saying she was quitting at the end of the month. "Aren't you happy here?" I asked.
"It's not that, in fact I love the job. I'm getting married on the fourteenth of next month," she said.
"I didn't realize that you were even dating. This is rather sudden, isn't it?"
"I guess, but it's not like I just met Ronnie. We dated all through high school. We broke up when he went away to college in the East. I met my husband and he met his wife. She died a few years ago. I ran into him at the mall a couple of months ago and we picked up where we left off. He wants me to stay home and not work."
"We all wish you good luck and we'll miss you. Are you having a big wedding?" I asked.
"No, it'll just be my mother and the girls on my side; his son and his brother on his side. His parents are both dead. We're going to be married at Ronnie's home by a friend of his who is a minister."
After Connie had gone back to work, I asked Hildy, "Did you know anything about this beforehand?"
"I knew she was dating a guy, but I had no idea that she was anywhere near getting married," Hildy said. "What do we do now?"
"As much as it's convenient to have someone come in every day, maybe we ought to consider having a cleaning service come in once or twice a week. Do you think that would work?"
"Yes, at least you could try it for a while to see how it works. The boys are pretty good about picking up after themselves, even Peter is learning from TJ."
I went back to my reading and made good headway on it. By the time I had to get ready to pick up the boys from school, I had read nearly half of the book. It seemed as if I never had time to read as much as I would like. It had always been one of my favorite pastimes.
Joel and John were the last to arrive at the meeting place in front of the school. John was carrying large pieces of posterboard that were rolled loosely into a cylinder. They were animatedly talking and didn't even speak to the rest of us. Instead they headed directly to the van. They did stop talking long enough when we got home to enjoy an after-school snack.
While the other boys went to the music room to practice their instruments, Joel and John were secluded in Joel's room. I went by to check on them and John was on the floor printing something on a posterboard with felt tipped markers of various colors. Joel was sitting at his computer muttering to himself. They were still at it when Hildy announced that supper was ready.
"We need about another hour to finish everything," Joel said, as he and John headed for the stairs.
"Am I going to get to see your project then?" I asked.
"Yeah," Joel laughed, and ran up the stairs.
True to his word, almost exactly an hour later, Joel called down the stairs for me to come up and see what they had done. I was impressed. John had created two 28" by 44" posters. One of them depicted the various formulae that could be used to calculate the value of pi. The other one was a brief history of methods for arriving at the value of pi and the number of decimal places to which each was accurate. The lettering was perfectly done.
Joel was sitting at his computer. "We've written a program that calculates the value of pi to over 200 decimal places. We've checked the first 200 for accuracy with values we found on the internet. I think they are accurate beyond that, but for our purposes that was enough."
"Let me see," I said.
Joel opened a window on his computer, entered 200 in a box labeled Decimal Places and then clicked on a button labeled π. It opened a DOS window and displayed the result of his program. There appeared to be 200 decimal places, but I wasn't inclined to count them.
"Very nice," I said. "What language did you use for your program?"
"We used C++," John offered.
"I didn't think you guys knew C++." I said.
"We were going to write it in Basic, but that was not going to be easy. Then we tried FORTRAN. That was better, but still it was going to be a pain. We did a little research and found out some things about C and C++. We decided on C++," Joel said. "The hardest part was learning it. I found a tutorial on the internet and we borrowed a book from our computer teacher at school. He helped us a lot during our free periods. Once we learned it, the program was pretty easy."
"How long did it take you to learn it?"
"A little over two weeks, right John?"
"Yeah, and then the program took another week or so to get it right. Linking to the right libraries caused us some problems at first."
"Let me see your code," I said. Joel handed me a printout. They had done a very professional job. The code was well structured with enough comments that I was able to follow their logic, although I was not all that familiar with C++. "Excellent! Very well done. Are you going to post your code?"
"Yes," Joel said. "I was going to ask if we could use your laser printer for that. I think about 20 copies will be enough."
"Sure, all you need to do is define the printer. It's on the network," I said. Joel opened the source file and proceeded to define the printer when I gave him the information. He then printed 20 copies.
"Okay, guys, I think it's about time for us to take John home. His mother will be wondering what has happened to him. You need to get your other homework done, too."
"I got mine done at school," Joel said.
"Me, too" John added.
On the way to John's house they were planning out a schedule for them to be at their project. The fair was to be open on Friday evening from four until six and then on Saturday from ten in the morning until six in the evening. One of them needed to be there at all times to answer questions and to demonstrate their program. They decided that both of them would be there on Friday and then John would take the first four hours on Saturday and Joel would cover the last four hours.
I talked to Pauline about the schedule the boys had worked out. She said she would stay with John, but worried about the girls getting bored. I suggested that she drop them off at our house on the way Saturday morning. They could swim or otherwise occupy themselves while my sons had their music lessons. I would bring the girls with me when I brought Joel for his shift. After some discussion, she agreed to the plan.
Thursday afternoon, I loaded the van with Joel's computer equipment and the posters before heading for the school. Joel and John were talking excitedly and carrying two easels as they climbed into the van. The other boys were not too happy that their after school snack would be delayed until after the computer and posters were set up. I soothed their feeling slightly by tell them we would stop at Wendy's on the way home for a Frosty.
Fortunately we were able to park the van close to the door to the gym where everything was to be set up. I picked up the CRT, Joel grabbed the CPU tower, John got the posters he had created and the other boys took the easels, keyboard, cords, cables and surge protector. We found the place reserved for the project and began setting it up. It only took about 15 minutes to get everything up and running. Joel sat down at the keyboard after the computer booted and tested the program. Thankfully the sponsors of the fair had provided power for the projects. I noticed a few others also had computers as part of their projects.
As promised, each boy got a Frosty at Wendy's on the way home. I chose to have them eat the frozen treat inside the restaurant instead of risking having chocolate spilled in the van. We dropped John off at his home and then we headed for ours.
Friday, I arranged for Manfred to take the van and pick up all the boys except Joel. I would drive the BMW and take Joel and John to the gym at Smithson Valley. This two hour session was meant for the judges and the science teachers from other high schools to review each of the projects. There were five high schools from Comal County, three public and two private, participating in the fair. A total of 15 two-person projects were on display.
I found the projects fascinating. Some were simple and didn't show a lot of work. Others were very complex and showed that there was a lot of thought and preparation required. I thought that Joel's and John's project compared very favorably with the best of the projects, at least in my biased opinion.
Saturday morning, Hildy was as happy as I had ever seen her. She was singing to herself as she prepared breakfast. At first I wondered what was going on until I remembered that Pauline was bringing her three girls here while she and John were manning the project at the school.
Mrs. Shultz had arrived to give the boys their lessons when the gate buzzer announced that Pauline and her girls were here. Hildy opened the gate and beat me to the front door to greet our guests.
"Gracious," Hildy said as the girls got out of the car, "you girls have sure grown since I saw you last, and gotten prettier, too. Come on in, the boys are having their music lessons."
"Pauline, do you have time for a cup of coffee?" I asked.
"I wish I did. With all this rushing around, I only got one cup. I hope they have a pot at the school. We need to get there and get things running when the doors open at ten," Pauline said.
"Do you still want me to bring the girls when Joel and I come to relieve you? I know Hildy would love to have them stay longer. It's up to you."
"If you don't mind, I'll pick them up on our way home."
Pauline and John drove off and I went inside to see what Hildy and the girls were doing. Hildy had them sitting at the table with glasses of milk and cookies. She was actively engaged in conversation with them. I decided to leave them to it and went into the library. As each of the boys finished his music lesson, he joined the girls. In TJ's and Peter's case, I think the cookies were the main draw. Although the cookies were right up there for the twins and Chris, the girls added to the attraction of their snacks. The twins were always interested in Linda and Cassie when we visited the Gordinier home. Chris hadn't paid much attention to the girls. That changed when he saw Rachel. At 13 she was beginning to develop her feminine charms. I guessed it really was time to have that "birds and bees" talk with the three of them.
Joel was the last to finish his lesson and join in with the others for a snack. "Dad," Joel said, after taking a drink of milk to wash down a big bite of cookie, "can we go to the school early? They're supposed to announce the top three projects a little after one. I'm anxious to see how we did. I hope we're in the top three."
"Regardless of whether you placed in the top three, I think you guys did a fantastic job and I'm proud of you both. We can leave around 12:30. That should get us there by one."
Joel was ready and waiting when12:30 rolled around. I don't think I had seen him this nervous since right after he came to live here. As it turned out, we were in plenty of time for the announcements. I went to sit with Pauline on the sidelines and Joel headed for John and their project.
"Joel's hoping for a top three place for their project," I told Pauline. "I think they have a pretty good chance. I've looked at all the other projects."
"John said the same thing to me on the way here. I hope they're not disappointed. I know they've put in a lot of work on that project. I didn't know that figuring pi was that complicated. But then, I haven't thought about it since my calculus class in college."
About fifteen minutes later the public address system came on informing everybody that the top three projects were going to be awarded and asked that we gather near a podium set up at one end of the gym. I looked at Joel and John as the announcement was made. I saw then link arms and stride toward the podium with their heads held high.
The announcer started his spiel by thanking all the students who had participated in the fair. He went on to introduce the three judges who were from science professors at universities in the area. I looked around at the students gathered in front of the podium. The tension was intense. For the majority of the students, this was the first time they had ever entered anything like this.
"Third place goes to Frank Everett and James Collier from Canyon High," the announcer said. There was a polite round of applause from the gathering. "Second place goes to John Gordinier and Joel Johnson from Corinthian Academy." This time the applause was louder. "The first place goes to Kay Paulson and Benny Jones from New Braunfels High. Congratulations to you all." The applause lasted longer for the first place team. "If the top three teams will approach, we have certificates for you."
After the boys had gotten their certificates, Pauline and I sought them out. "Congratulations, guys, we're very proud of both of you."
"I second that," Pauline said, giving John a hug.
"Mooom," John said, rolling his eyes.
Joel and John went back to their project. When they got there, a sign had been placed in front of it indicating their second place award. Pauline and I talked for a while before she decided it was time for her to go pick up her daughters. "Don't be surprised if Hildy has spoiled them," I told her with a smile.
The number of people had thinned out after the awards, but there was a steady string of people for the rest of the afternoon. A lot of them were students and their parents.
When it came time to close up, Joel decided to take everything down before we left instead of coming back in the morning to do it. I agreed it was a good idea. It took us a lot longer with just the two of us to carry everything to the car. We didn't have the other boys to help. We finally got everything loaded and started for home.
"That was fun," Joel said. "A lot of work, but it was still fun. I think I've got an idea for next year."
To be continued.
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