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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
By the time we finished riding, the horses and the boys were pretty well splattered with mud. As each saddle was removed it was wiped down to make sure there was not any mud left behind. Joel and Mike were in charge of the saddles. Tracy, Charlie and Bert set up a production line to clean the mud from the horses. One by one the horses were hosed down, scrubbed with a sponge and then dried down with towels before being led to their stalls. The quarter horses were tied up to the fence waiting to be ridden back to the other farm. I wish we could have done something similar for the boys. The best we could do was to use a damp towel to clean most of the mud off of them.
When we got home I sent all the boys to take showers and put on clean clothes. Since Donald and I had not raced our horses, we had not gotten any mud splattered on us except for some on our shoes.
"Marie called while you were gone," Hildy said. "She said that Ricky wants to come visit tomorrow. I told her it would be fine. She's going to bring him over around nine. She and the baby have a doctor's appointment, so I said we would take care of him."
Joel, who had come downstairs and heard what Hildy told us, said, "That's great. I haven't seen my little buddy in a while. I guess this means our shopping trip on Monday is postponed."
I nodded to Joel and asked Hildy, "Doesn't he start to kindergarten this year?"
"Yes, he's all excited about going all day."
"I wonder if they'll be sending him to Corinthian," I said.
Later that evening, after Donald and his kids had gone home, Mike came to me. "Crane, is it okay if I take Wednesday off? Bill and Jake want to go to Austin to pick up books and supplies so we won't be in such a rush next week when classes begin. We can return the lease agreement to Abe and maybe run by the condo to have a look at the furniture while we're there."
"Of course," I said, "I'm sure you'll like what Donald has done."
"Great, I'll tell the guys it's all set."
'That will give Joel and me a great opportunity to find Mike's gift while he's gone to Austin,' I thought.
Monday morning, the boys had just finished putting their breakfast dishes in the dishwasher when we heard a car drive up to the house. I looked at my watch and saw that it was a few minutes before nine, so I knew that it had to be Marie bringing Ricky. Joel was the first one to the front door.
Ricky was struggling to unhook his seatbelt as Joel opened the back door of the car. When Joel reached in to help him, Ricky threw his arms around Joel's neck. "Hey, munchkin, did you miss me?"
"I'm not a munchkee," Ricky giggled. This had become a standing joke with the two of them.
"That boy," Marie said, "nearly drove me nuts this morning. He wanted to come over here even before we had breakfast and he wasn't even dressed yet."
"We love having him visit," I said. "We don't see him as often as we like."
"There are times I would like to bring him over and leave him. He runs me ragged."
"Can you stay a little while?" I asked.
"I'm afraid I can't. I need to get Rosemarie in for her checkup," she said.
Hildy, who had joined us, had gone straight to the car to see Rosemarie after greeting Marie. She was busy fussing over the baby, much to the delight of Rosemarie. "You're such a happy baby, aren't you?"
Marie heard what Hildy had said and responded, "Yes, she is ... most of the time. She can really put up a howl when she's hungry or needs changing, though. I'd better be on my way. We should be back around noon unless the doctor is backed up."
"Great," Hildy said. "You can have lunch with us and we can see more of that beautiful little girl."
We went back into the house where Ricky was greeted by the rest of the boys. They immediately went out the back door to go see the dogs. Ricky was holding onto Joel's left hand and Peter's right. I followed and watched as the seven of them played with the six dogs. I couldn't tell who was having the most fun, the dogs or the boys.
Later I called Dr. Greene's office to see if I could get the boys in to get any necessary vaccinations they might need before school started. His receptionist said that he could see them Thursday morning at ten o'clock. I decided not to tell them until Thursday morning. Getting shots was never high on their list of things they liked to do.
Marie arrived back from the doctor as the cleaning crew was pulling away from the house. Hildy had just told the boys that they had ten minutes to get washed up for lunch. Everything stopped while Hildy held Rosemarie.
"You might not want to hold her too long," Marie said. "I distinctly detected the smell of a dirty diaper just as we turned onto 306."
"She's still sweet, even with a smelly diaper," Hildy responded, handing Rosemarie back to Marie.
Marie took her and headed for the bathroom to change the diaper and clean her up. When she came back, all the boys were sitting at the table somewhat impatiently waiting for their return so they could eat.
After lunch, Manfred brought Jeannie and Ginny over to see the baby. They each got to hold her for a while. A little after two, Marie said that they had to be getting home. This did not sit well with Ricky, but a stern look from Marie and a whispered reminder from Joel and he reluctantly got ready to leave.
Joel received a sloppy kiss from Ricky as he was buckled into his car seat. "I'm going to have to take a bath after that juicy kiss," Joel told a giggling Ricky. "You be a good boy and come visit again real soon."
"He'd be here every day if I let him," Marie said, as she climbed into the car.
As we were walking back into the house, it dawned on me that I hadn't asked Hildy if she had talked to Mike's folks about coming to his going away party on Saturday. I asked her as soon as we were inside.
"Sorry, I should have told you when we got home from church yesterday. They said they would be able to be here and asked if they could bring anything. I told them no," Hildy said.
"How about Alice and Jimmy?"
"Gloria said she would let me know about Alice. I think Joel was going to check on Jimmy. The other four youngsters will be coming with their parents."
"Gloria is Mrs. Potter, I assume," I said.
"Yes, her husband's name is Keith."
"It looks like we're going to have a full house again. A quick count of everyone, I get 23. What do you think? Do we need to get the caterer again? Wait, I just had a thought. Maybe we should invite Mike's roommates to come also. If they bring their dates, that would add another four. That would make it 27. I'll ask them when they come for Mike on Wednesday."
"We could just keep it simple and grill some burgers, bratwursts and hot dogs. I could make potato salad and baked beans. Cole slaw would go good with that and I could make that German's Chocolate Cake that Mike likes so well. If you handle the grill, I think we can manage without a caterer. Manny can pitch in to help."
"If you think it's not going to be too much work, let's do it," I said.
"It'll be my pleasure doing it for Mike. He's been a great addition to our family. I'll go make a list of everything we're going to need so I can go shopping later this week," Hildy said, heading for her kitchen.
I went to talk with Joel. I wanted to find out if Jimmy was going to be coming on Saturday. I also wanted to let him know that we would be going computer shopping for Mike on Wednesday.
"Jimmy said he was going to try to switch his schedule around so that he could get Saturday off. He's going to let me know tomorrow. I hope he can," Joel said.
"I do too," I said. "Another thing, have you done any research to see what kind of computer we should buy for Mike?"
"Yeah, I've been checking the internet for the best deals on the latest ones. Here, let me show you what I've found," he said, turning to his computer. Bringing up a website, he continued, "This is the one that I think will be the best for him. It's not the top of the line, but it's close. This is the configuration that I believe will work for him from what I've heard from talking with Mike. We can order this online and have it guaranteed to be delivered by Friday, if we pay extra for expedited delivery. Otherwise it would be up to two weeks before it would be delivered."
"Go ahead and configure it the way you planned. Make sure that you max out the memory and put in a large capacity hard drive or maybe two. How about a printer? Does he have a good one?"
"His printer is pretty old. It's a dot-matrix just like mine. He could probably use an ink-jet. It would produce a lot better looking paper."
"What about a monitor?"
"A 19 inch will probably be good for him. It's not too bulky and would fit on his desk."
"Be sure to get all the software he'll need," I said. All the while I was talking and asking questions, Joel was quickly adding things to the 'shopping cart'.
"There," he said. "Here's what I think he needs. Take a look."
He handed me a printout of the configuration. I looked it over and couldn't find anything that I would add to it. "Okay, go ahead and purchase it."
"I'll need your credit card, Dad."
I took out my wallet and handed him the card. He quickly entered all the information and submitted the order including the expedited shipping and handling charges. He printed out a copy of the online invoice and handed it and the credit card to me. "Good, that saved us a trip into San Antonio. Thanks, son!"
I heard the phone ring as I was heading downstairs. By the time I reached the kitchen, Hildy had answered it. Hanging up the phone, she said, "That was Gloria. She called to tell me that Alice would be coming on Saturday. I told her to have the kids bring swimsuits because they would probably want to go swimming. They will be here around two."
"Great, now all we need to know is whether Jimmy and Mike's roommates will be coming," I said.
Tuesday morning, I asked Mike if he thought Jake and Bill would come to his going away party. We had never planned that the party be a surprise; however, he didn't expect it to be as big as it was turning out to be.
"I know both of them are not going to be working. They're taking off all this week, so I guess they could come. I can find out when they get here tomorrow," he said. "You know you don't have to do this. You've already done too much for me as it is."
"Nonsense, you've become an important part of this family and we are going to sorely miss you when you're off to college next week," I said.
Later, I called Donald and told him about the computer we had purchased for Mike. He was impressed, but I don't think he really understood all the technical details that I relayed to him. He just asked how much it was and said he would pay for half of it.
I decided that I needed to go to the foundation office to see how things were going and to meet the two new employees that Darcie had hired to ease the workload on the others. I told everybody where I was going and took off shortly before lunch. I couldn't have chosen a worse time to make the drive into San Antonio. There was a collision between a large truck and a car that had the highway blocked. It took me nearly an hour to get through the area of the wreck. The police had the traffic diverted to the shoulder of the road. It was one lane and a slow one at that.
I finally made it to the office just as everybody was returning from lunch. I told Darcie I would be back as soon as I grabbed a sandwich from the deli down the street. Thankfully the lunch rush was over and I was able to get my sandwich without the normal 10 or 15 minute wait to place my order. I took my sandwich and walked back to the office. I greeted Kenneth before Darcie invited me into her office where we could talk while I ate my lunch.
"How are the new employees working out?" I asked.
"Paul and Carol have been doing a great job training them. I think they're going to be very helpful around here. I'll introduce them to you when you've finished your sandwich," Darcie said.
"Tell me a little bit about them before I meet them."
"Raul Garza has a Master's Degree in Social Work. He worked in an adolescent rehabilitation facility in California before he and his wife returned to San Antonio. Her family is here and they didn't much like living in California. His duties there were to coordinate all the state social services available for handicapped children in the facility."
"I'm sure he was making more money there than he's making here. What do you think are his long term employment goals?"
"That's always an educated guess, but I'd say, from what I've seen of him, he'll stick around for several years. I could be wrong, but that's the gut feeling I get."
"How about the other one? The woman ... I forget her name."
"Pamela Wills, she worked for CPS for over ten years. I knew her when I was there, although she worked out of Kendall County. She knows all the ins and outs of the CPS system as well as many of the higher-ups in the state organization. She's a hard worker and hit the ground running. She also has a Master's Degree."
"It sounds as if you made good choices," I said, as I finished the last of my lunch. "Let's go meet them."
I was impressed with both Raul and Pamela. Darcie had indeed made good choices when she hired them. By the time I left for home, I was sure that the foundation was in good hands.
Thankfully the drive home was without incident. I was a little surprised as I was driving up toward the house to see TJ holding on to his bicycle while Peter was trying to ride it. Mike was standing by in case his help was needed. I watched as TJ ran behind the bike as Peter began pedaling down the driveway. He wasn't that steady, but at least he didn't fall off. I could see that I needed to take Peter and get him a bike of his own. TJ's was just a little too big for him. He could barely reach the pedals when he tried sitting on the seat.
It took about ten minutes before Peter got tired and hopped off the bike. I think TJ was getting tired as well. "That was fun," Peter said, giving his brother a hug.
"Yeah, you're getting good," TJ replied.
"I think it's time to get something cold to drink. It's hot out here," I said. "Go ask Hildy to give you some juice."
I drove the car into the garage now that the boys were no longer using the driveway. Joel met me as I entered the back door.
"Jimmy called," he said. "He's switched his work schedule around so he can come on Saturday. He doesn't have to work Sunday either. He's going to help Mike move his stuff."
I could see where this was heading. "Tell him that, if he wants to, he can stay over and help Mike on Sunday."
"Thanks, Dad," Joel said, and took off up the back stairs two at a time.
It was shortly after nine on Wednesday morning when the gate buzzer sounded. I checked the camera and saw that it was Jake and Bill so I activated the gate opener. Mike had gone up to his room so I went to greet his soon-to-be roommates. Jake was on the passenger side and rolled down the window as they approached.
"Mike will be down in a minute. I wanted to invite you both to a party we're giving for Mike on Saturday. You can bring your girlfriends if you like."
"That sounds great," Bill said. "Do I have to get humiliated on the tennis court again by a thirteen year-old?"
"Not unless you want to," I laughed. "We're just planning on grilling some burgers and brats, so it's not going to be a fancy party. Bring your swimsuits. We only want to show Mike how much we appreciated him around here."
"I'll need to check with Becky," Jake said. "What time is the party starting?"
"Mike's family is coming around two, but you're welcome to come earlier, if you like."
"I'll have to check what plans Jill has, but I'd sure like to come," Bill said, "even if I had to play tennis with that ringer."
Mike arrived and climbed into the back seat of the car.
"Give us a call when you know about your Saturday plans," I said.
I was met by the twins and Chris as I entered the house. "Dad, since Mike is going to go to college on Sunday, can we get him a present?" Larry asked.
"We've already ordered something for him. It's going to be from Donald and his family also," I said, noticing a disappointed look on their three faces. "What's the matter?"
"We wanted it to be from us," Chris said.
"Yeah," Lenny added.
"Well, have you thought about what you might want to get him?"
"We thought maybe one of those things you put in your ears and listen to people's hearts, like Dr. Sam has, but we don't know how much it costs," Chris said. "He's gonna be a doctor, too"
"You mean a stethoscope. I don't know how much they cost either," I said. "Why don't you look it up on the internet and see if you can find what it costs?"
That's all it took and the three of them took off for their room to get on their computer. I barely had time to pour myself another cup of coffee and sit down before they were back with a printout which they handed me. The stethoscope on the printout was available at a medical supply store in San Antonio not too far from Dr. Greene's office. The price was $62.
"Is this going to be for the six of you or just you three?" I asked.
"We thought it would be from all of us," Lenny said.
"Okay, you three go talk with your other brothers and see how they feel about it. If they agree, when we go into San Antonio tomorrow morning to see Dr. Sam, we'll go to the store and buy it."
"How come we have to see Dr. Sam?" Larry asked.
"We have to make sure that you're ready for school to start."
"But he'll give us shots," Chris complained.
"Maybe, maybe not. We need to make sure you have all your vaccinations that are required or you can't go to school."
"Oh, man," Larry groaned. "Do we gotta?"
"Yes, you gotta," I said. "Now go talk to your brothers."
A few minutes later the three musketeers returned. "We had to explain to Peter what a stethoscope was, but he said okay. Everybody else did too," Chris said for the group.
"We're gonna split the cost. You can take $10.33 from our allowances," Lenny said.
"Okay," I said. I didn't tell them about sales tax which would add to the total price. They would learn about taxes soon enough.
It was mid-afternoon when Mike and his friends returned. Both Jake and Bill had called their girlfriends and confirmed that they would be coming on Saturday.
Bill said, "When I told Jill about the time we had when I was here the first time, she has been after me to come see this place. She couldn't believe that someone would have a tennis court and a swimming pool. After she sees for herself that I wasn't pulling her leg, she'll expect that, if we get married, we will have the same. That girl has champagne tastes and as a new doctor, when I graduate, I will have a beer budget. I still love her, though."
"Yeah," Jake added, "Becky's been wanting to see the place, also."
"What did you guys think of the condo now that it's furnished?" I asked.
"I was bowled over," Mike said. "I really didn't expect it to be that nice."
"You can say that again," Jake said. "It looks like the only things we're going to have to provide are dishes, some pots and pans, and our bed linens."
Just then the boys came in from playing outside. They made a beeline for the kitchen. It was snack time. "Do you boys want to join my crew for a snack? It smelled awfully good when Hildy was making it."
"I suppose you could twist my arm," Bill said.
"Me too," Jake agreed.
"You know I'm always ready for a Hildy snack," Mike said.
Hildy must have anticipated having our visitors join in, so she had prepared a larger than normal platter of brownies which she placed in the center of the table. There were six glasses of milk on the table as well. "Do you gentlemen want milk or coffee?" Hildy asked.
"Coffee," was the response from them.
Jake and Bill left shortly after they finished their brownies and coffee. The boys went back outside to play.
As Mike and I were walking back into the house after seeing his friends off, he said, "The best thing that's ever happened to me is the day my Aunt Alice told Hildy about me needing a summer job and I ended up working for you. I can't thank her or you enough for the opportunity. The second best thing is meeting Donald. That scholarship will make it so much easier for me to become a doctor without a massive debt hanging over my head. I'll never forget what both of you have done."
Mike quickly took off for his rooms. I could tell he was close to tearing up. I went into the kitchen to talk to Hildy.
"Crane, has Mike said anything about what he will need for his new condo?"
"Not in so many words. The three of them did mention they were going to have to get bed linens and I assume towels, etc. They'll need dishes and all kinds of kitchen things."
"Manny and I thought we would get something for the girls to give him before he leaves."
"Donald and I are giving him a new computer," I said, looking around to see that Mike was nowhere within earshot. "The boys are going to give him a stethoscope."
"I'm not sure the girls would go for sheets, pillowcases or towels. Maybe something for the kitchen," she mused. "A coffee pot or toaster or even an electric skillet might work. I'll have Manny take the girls shopping for a present tomorrow while I do the grocery shopping."
"Looks like Mike will have most of the day off then. I'm taking the boys for their vaccinations tomorrow morning."
Thursday morning after breakfast I sent the boys to their rooms to get ready to go to San Antonio. Hildy asked Mike to go with her while she did the shopping for the party. At nine o'clock, I loaded the somewhat reluctant boys into the van and we took off for Dr. Greene's office. We only had to wait a few minutes before we were ushered into one of the treatment rooms. A few minutes later Sam came in.
"I've looked over your records and this is what you guys need," Dr. Greene began. "Starting with the youngest, Peter needs one shot, TJ needs two, Larry, Lenny and Chris each needs one. Joel, you're good." He then proceeded to take the boys' temperatures, listen to their heartbeats, and take their pulses. He recorded each reading on their charts. As he was finishing, his nurse brought in a tray covered by a white towel. When the towel was remove it revealed six hypodermic needles. "Okay, guys, this is your chance to moon me."
"What does that mean?" Peter asked.
"That means that you need to bend over and show me your bare behind."
"Oh," Peter said.
The five of them did as requested and the shots were administered with production line efficiency.
"My butt hurts," TJ said, as we were leaving the office. "That was no fair. I got two shots and you only got one."
"Well, maybe that deserves two scoops of ice cream instead of one," I said, putting my arm around TJ.
We walked to the medical supply store a few blocks from Dr. Sam's office. They had a number of stethoscopes on display. The prices varied from cheap to very expensive. When I approached the clerk and asked him about the one that the boys had picked out, he said it was a nice one, but recommended one that was only $5 more. He said it was better constructed and would probably last a lifetime. I picked up each one and after giving them each a close inspection, I agreed that he was right and told him we would take it.
Afterwards we went to the ice cream store and TJ got his two scoops.
To be continued.
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