Joel Books 1 through 6 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
The ground crew drove our vehicles to the parking area and we climbed into the plane.
"Hey, this is different than last time," TJ exclaimed. "It's bigger."
"Very observant," I said. "It is a bigger plane. Is that okay with you?"
"Yeah," he said, heading for one of the rows of three seats. "Come on Peter, you too William, let's sit here."
Everyone claimed a seat and it wasn't long before the captain came on the speaker and told us we would be moving into position for takeoff. There were three planes ahead of us before we could get airborne. Fifteen minutes later he reported that we were given permission to depart.
"That doesn't sound like your pilot," I said to Donald.
"No, he's one that came from the company that owns the plane. "Duane, my pilot, is riding in the right seat as copilot," Donald said. "Depending on what he reports when we get back, I may just trade in the company plane for this one or one like it. If we all head to Mexico after school is out, we'll need something larger than the current corporate jet."
"This one is nice," I said. "It's not as quiet as the other one."
"This one doesn't have as much sound deadening as dad had built into the corporate jet," he said. "I don't know if it would be cost effective to have that done to a new one. Dad had that one built to his specifications. To him any cost was worth it to keep the noise down. He did a lot of traveling and having to deal with the engine noise for him would have been unacceptable."
It wasn't long before a very attractive stewardess came around to take our drink orders. At the same time, the captain announced that we were free to move about the cabin. That was all the boys needed and they quickly went to the rear of the cabin where I had noticed a computer station and TV when we had boarded the plane.
"Dad, look, there's a Xbox," Chris said.
"What's an Xbox?" I asked, showing my ignorance.
"Dad," an exasperated Chris said. "It's a video game console that hooks up to a TV so you can play really neat games."
"How do you know so much about them?"
"A guy in our class has one and he was telling us all about it," Larry chimed in. "Can we get one?"
"Is it better than the ones you play on your computers?" I asked.
"A thousand times better," Chris responded. "The graphics are amazing. You gotta see. Come on, we'll show you."
I followed the two of them back to where Lenny was sitting in front of the TV manipulating a funny looking control he was holding with both hands. Chris picked up a similar looking control and began controlling a red car on the screen that was careening around a track. Lenny was doing the same with a blue car. I watched in fascination for a few minutes before I returned to my seat.
"I can see there will be no peace until there is an Xbox in the house," I said to Donald, shaking my head.
"Only one?" was his response.
"You're right," I grudgingly admitted. "If it happens, there will be restrictions on the time they spend playing with it. I can see where it could become an addiction."
"Can I play?" I heard Jeannie ask the boys.
"Do you know how?" Larry asked.
"No, but you could teach me."
"Okay," Larry said. "As soon as Chris or Lenny wins the race, we can show you how."
"I win!" Lenny exclaimed a few minutes later.
"You cheated," Chris giggled. "Your car was faster."
"Did not," Lenny said. "My car stayed on the track and didn't crash into that vegetable stand."
"Jeannie wants to learn how," Larry said.
"Okay," Chris said. "Sit down here and we'll show you which buttons to press to make the car do things."
What followed was a mind boggling description of the hand-held controller and how to use it. I wondered where the boys had learned all of this. I'd have to find out later. Jeannie seemed to catch on very quickly and she soon had her car racing around the virtual track. Ginny and Lenore did not appear to be interested in what was going on with the Xbox. That was not the case with TJ, Peter and William. There was a pause to the gaming only long enough to eat the cookies and drink the juice the stewardess served.
"Joel, aren't you interested in the Xbox?" I asked.
"Not really," he said. "I would be interested in knowing how the program works and how it reacts to the various controls. I'd like to see the source code."
"That would be interesting," I said. "I've heard there are ways to reverse engineer executables. I've never done it. I've always gone the other way."
"It would take forever to do it to that," he said, pointing to the Xbox. "I might be interested in learning how to program it though."
"Maybe someday you can do that, but let's get you through college first," I said.
"Good idea," Joel said, going back to reading his book.
Everyone who was interested got a chance to play the Xbox. It kept them occupied all the way to Las Vegas until it was time to return to their seats so we could land.
It was still early evening when we stepped off the plane. It was also hot. The weather at home had been very pleasant, but the 90 degree heat here really hit you in the face. It didn't help that we had been in a very comfortable, air-conditioned space in the plane.
There were two vans waiting to take us to the condos. We all climbed into what was really a small bus while our baggage was loaded into the other van. Our trip to the condos from McCarran International Airport took longer than it normally did due to a multiple-car pileup on the freeway. By the time we got to where the accident had happened, the cars were being towed away. That didn't stop people from slowing down to take a look.
"Mr. Baker," Ginny said, approaching Donald as we stepped out of the van at the condo, "can Lenore spend the night with us? Please?"
"Can I, daddy?" Lenore pleaded.
Donald looked at Hildy and Manfred and saw that they were both nodding their heads. "Okay, but only if I can come tuck you in."
"Thanks, daddy," Lenore said, reaching up to give her dad a hug.
"You're welcome, sweetie," he said, returning her hug and kissing her cheek.
The two men bringing our baggage began unloading it from the van. I told the older boys to grab something of theirs and to head for the elevator. It took several trips in the elevator to get everybody up to the condos, even longer for all the suitcases, golf clubs, tennis rackets and other miscellaneous items to reach the right floors.
"I'm afraid we'll have to order in something for supper. Either that or we can go out someplace to eat," I said, as the five of us adults stood outside Hildy and Manfred's condo door. "The cooks won't be here until in the morning. You're all invited up for breakfast in the morning, of course."
"Is there any food in the pantry?" Hildy asked.
"It should be fully stocked for the week," Donald said. "I confirmed it with the building manager before we left for the airport this afternoon."
"I'm sure, between Gilda and me, we can come up with something to fix. As soon as we get the girls settled, we'll come up and see what's there."
"You don't have to do that," I said. "This is supposed to be a vacation for you, as well."
"You know we love to cook. Besides, it will be a small contribution for all of this," Hildy said, gesturing with her hands toward the interior of the condo.
"We'll be up there in a half hour, as soon as we get our things put away and the girls and Manny settled in," Hildy said.
"Gee thanks," Manfred said. "You don't think I can take care of my own stuff?"
"Of course you can," Hildy said, giving his arm a squeeze and winking at us.
"I think we had better leave on that note," Donald said turning toward the elevator.
"I agree," I said. "I think we had better check to see how the boys are coming along with their unpacking. We'll see you all later."
Larry met us at the door of the elevator as it opened. "Can we go to the pool?"
"Have you gotten your things unpacked?" I asked.
"Yeah, everything's in the drawers, just like last time," he answered.
I looked at Donald and saw him nodding before I answered. "Okay, but you won't be able to swim too long. Hildy and Gilda are going to fix supper after while. Are all of your brothers going to go?"
"Yeah, they're getting ready now," Larry said and sprinted for the stairs going down to the lower level.
"I'll go with them," Donald said. "I haven't had a swim in a couple of weeks."
"Very well, I'll get our stuff put away," I said. "Why don't you give Manfred a call and see if the girls would like to go along?"
"Good idea," he said and went to pick up the phone. When he came into the bedroom a short time later he said that Manfred and the three girls would meet them at the pool. He opened his suitcase and retrieved his swimsuit and put it on. "Don't bother unpacking my stuff. I'll do it when we get back."
While everybody was gone, I took the opportunity to call Fenton Bigelow to see if everything was on track for the opening ceremonies for the Nicklaus course on Sunday and the Palmer course on Monday.
"Everything is a go," Fenton said. "The weather is supposed to be great both days. The ad that we've been running in the local papers announcing the grand openings has generated a lot of interest in the community. There has been a doubling of traffic in the office. I wouldn't at all be surprised if we have offers on at least ten lots before the week is out."
"That's great," I said. "What are you going to do if you sell all the lots?"
"I may just retire and play golf every day."
"Why can't I see that happening?" I laughed.
"You're right. I'd go crazy if I didn't have something to keep me busy," he said. "You haven't thought of developing another community, have you?"
"Bite your tongue. Don't mention it to Donald. He might just be in the mood to do something like that. He recently purchased a hotel in Mexico. Maybe that will keep him busy for a while."
"Well, let me know if you change your minds. This project has made us all a nice piece of change. I assume that you will be visiting out here tomorrow."
"Yes, we should be there mid-morning," I said. "Joel wants to look over both courses before we play them on opening days."
"I'll tell the pros," Fenton said. "I'm sure they would like to meet with you and show you the courses."
I had no more hung up the phone, when the doorbell rang. I went to the door to find Hildy and Gilda standing there. "Come in," I said. "Why didn't you just come in, the door wasn't locked?"
"I guess we could have. It's not like we don't do that at home," Hildy said. "Somehow it seemed different here."
"This is our home for a week, so treat it like you would back in Texas."
"Good, now let's see what we can rustle up for supper," Hildy said, and headed for the kitchen. Gilda was right behind her.
I heard them going through the pantry and the refrigerator and muttering to themselves and each other. I was used to Gilda talking to herself while she cooked, but Hilda usually either hummed or sang to herself.
"Yeah, that's what we'll do," Hildy announced.
"So, what did you find to fix?" I asked.
"Spaghetti and meat sauce, salad and garlic bread," Gilda informed me. "It's quick and all the kids love it."
"Sounds good," I said. "I'll leave you to it." I went into the main living area, turned on the sound system and selected several CDs and put them in the multiple-CD changer. Next, I checked the wine supply that the building manager had provided us with and selected a bottle of Merlot. A Chianti would probably have been more appropriate, but I found most of them to be a little dry for my tastes. I opened the bottle and poured a glass. I was not familiar with the label, but I found the wine to be very good. Wandering back to the kitchen area, I asked the two sisters if they would like a glass of wine as well.
"Sure, why not?" Gilda asked, looking at her sister who nodded in agreement.
I poured them a glass and asked if I could be of any assistance. I was politely told to "get lost".
A little over an hour later, the kids all returned from the pool. Manfred and Donald had gone with the girls to the condo below us and the boys ran down the stairs to the lower level of ours. It wasn't long before they returned, freshly showered and asking when we were going to eat.
"Soon," I said. "Why don't you guys set the table? You know where everything is from the last time. Joel, you can help me extend the table and put in the leaf."
Donald arrived with Manfred and the girls and quickly went into the bedroom to take a shower. It was only moments later when he returned, his hair still wet.
Everybody enjoyed the dinner. If I hadn't insisted that the boys use their napkins as make-shift bibs, they would have been covered with spaghetti sauce. As it was, their faces were covered.
As we were eating Larry announced, "We met a boy at the pool. He's our age and likes to play tennis."
"Yeah, his name is Eli and he lives in Houston," Lenny added.
"He wants to play tennis with us tomorrow morning," Chris joined in. "We signed up with the tennis courts for ten o'clock. Is that okay?"
"I'm sure it is," I said. "Carson Baskins, the young man who will be supervising you guys tomorrow, will be here tomorrow morning. He's on the tennis team at UNLV. Maybe he can play with you. What's Eli's last name?"
"Cone," Chris said.
"No, dummy, it's Cohen," Lenny said, punching his brother lightly on the arm.
"Yeah, Cohen, that's right," Chris said.
"I want to go back to the pool tomorrow," TJ said.
"Me, too," Peter and William said in unison.
"I'll take them," Manfred said. "Hildy and Gilda want to take the girls to do some shopping. I'd do anything to keep from going shopping."
"He's right," Hildy said. "That man hates to go shopping more than anyone. I make up for it, however."
"Yes and the credit card bills bear that out," Manfred chuckled. "Just kidding, sweetheart. Just kidding."
"You'd better be," Hildy said, getting up and planting a kiss on her husband's cheek.
"We didn't have time to fix any dessert, but there are cookies and ice cream if anyone wants some," Gilda announced.
There was unanimous agreement among the kids, that cookies and ice cream would do just fine.
Before leaving for their condo, Donald told Hildy to call the number he had written on a slip of paper first thing in the morning and let them know when they needed a car and driver. He had arranged for three vehicles to be available for our use upon our request. I was given the same instructions.
Due to the time difference between San Antonio and Las Vegas, the boys started yawning well before their normal bedtimes according to local time. I told them to go downstairs and get ready for bed. I said I would be down in a few minutes.
"Dad, what time are we going to the golf course tomorrow?" Joel asked.
"I thought we might leave here around nine o'clock," I said. "I would like to look over the golf pro shop and meet with the golf pros before we start the tour of the courses. Do you have anything you'd like to see or do while we are there?"
"I want to meet the pros, but what I really want to see are the courses," Joel said. The last time we were here they were pretty much under construction. I'm anxious to see the finished products. So you think we could hit some balls while we're there?"
"I don't know why not," I said. "The driving range has been open for a couple of weeks for the members to use. We can take our clubs and put them in a locker when we're done for the day."
"Great, maybe one of the pros can give me a few tips," Joel said. "Good night, dad."
"Good night, son."
Donald had left earlier to go tuck Lenore in and had arrived back just as I was heading down to check on the boys. He accompanied me down the stairs to say good night to William. My boys were barely awake when I entered their bedrooms. William was in much the same state.
After making sure the boys were all tucked into bed, Donald and I went back upstairs where he poured us another glass of wine. We took it out onto the patio and sat in a couple of lounge chairs. It had cooled off from the heat of the day and was quite pleasant. By the time we finished our wine we were both ready to go to bed.
I awoke early the next morning to a commotion in the kitchen. At first I was startled, but then I remembered that the cooks were due to arrive at seven to begin preparing our breakfasts. I looked at the clock and it was 7:04. I got out of bed and made my way to the shower. After dressing I went out to the kitchen where one of the two cooks offered me a cup of coffee.
"Thanks," I said. "You're right on time."
"Yes, sir," the older cook said. "How many will there be for breakfast?"
"Let's see, there are five adults and ten children," I answered. "The seven boys are eating machines. The three girls, not so much."
Shortly before eight, the boys rushed up the stairs. I was surprised that they had not smelled the breakfast being prepared before this. Evidently, yesterday had worn them out.
"When are we going to eat," TJ asked.
"It won't be too long. Pour yourselves a glass of orange juice and take a seat at the table. As soon as everybody gets here breakfast will be served." I was glad that Joel had taken charge of the juice pitcher. It was less likely that there would be a spillage incident. A few minutes after the boys had taken a seat, the front door opened and the rest of our party arrived. They soon had juice and had joined the boys at the table along with Donald and me.
The boys stuffed their faces with enough food to last them all day, but I knew they would be hungry again by lunch time. As the boys finished their breakfast and were excused from the table, they took their dishes to the kitchen where the two cooks took charge of them. Ordinarily, the boys would have rinsed the dishes and put them in the dishwasher. It had always been one of their chores at home. I told them to go downstairs and wash their hands before they did anything for the rest of the day.
As they were headed downstairs, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it," Joel said, as he was closest to the door. He soon returned with a young man. "Dad, this is Carson Baskins. I'll leave him with you and go get ready to go to the course."
Carson Baskins was fairly short, probably about 5' 8". He was rather handsome, had blond, almost white hair, and an athletic build. We all introduced ourselves to him and I asked him if he had eaten breakfast.
"I was running a little late and only had time to grab an apple on the way out the door," he answered.
"You'll need more than that to keep up with the three musketeers this morning. Have the cooks fix you a plate," I said, indicating the food that the cooks had not put away yet.
Andrew, the head cook, heard me and started fixing a dish. "Would you prefer orange juice or coffee?"
"Juice, please," Carson answered. Taking a look at the plate that was presented to him, he said, "If I eat all of this, I won't be able to keep up with your 'three musketeers'."
I noticed that he didn't leave anything on his plate when he had finished. "Now, here's the plan for the morning. The three musketeers have reserved the tennis courts for two hours beginning at ten. They will probably want you to fill out the fourth for doubles if their new friend doesn't show up. If the court is available before that time, they will probably want to use that time as well. The three of them are pretty good players, but if you have any tips that you could give them, they would appreciate it."
At that moment the three came bounding up the stairs. "Come here, boys, I want you to meet Carson Baskins. Carson, these are the three musketeers, Chris, Larry, and Lenny." They shook hands and then started asking him all about the UNLV tennis. As they were chattering away, the three younger boys arrived and were introduced.
The four tennis players decided to go check to see if anyone was using the tennis courts. Manfred arrived and said he was ready to take the swimmers to the pool.
"Our car should be downstairs about now," I said. "Joel, grab your clubs. I'll grab mine and we'll be off."
"I need to run an errand," Donald said. "I'll meet you at the clubhouse around lunch time and you can fill me in on what I missed. I also want to meet with Fenton, if he isn't too busy selling lots."
"He said there was an increase of potential buyers since we started running the grand opening ads in the local and LA papers," I said.
Joel and I loaded our clubs into the elevator and rode down to the ground floor. The car and driver were waiting for us and promptly helped us stow our clubs in the trunk of the Lexus. We were lucky to miss a lot of traffic and arrive at the clubhouse twenty minutes later. We retrieved our clubs, thanked the driver and I told him we would call before we needed a ride back to the condo.
We placed our golf bags in the racks outside the pro shop and went inside. I was very pleased with the quality of the merchandise that was on display for sale. When we walked up to the desk, the person behind it was on the phone. He looked up as we arrived and signaled that he would be just a moment. True to his word, less than a minute later he hung up the phone.
"Yes, what may I do for you gentlemen?" he asked.
"My name is Crane Johnson and this is my son Joel. We are here to meet with the head pros and to get a tour of the facilities including the two courses," I said.
"Did you have an appointment?" he asked.
"Yes, we do have an appointment. If you will notify them that we are here, I'm sure they will be anxious to see us," I said, getting a little bit aggravated.
"One moment," he said and picked up the phone. When the phone was answered at the other end, and he gave the party our names, his eyes got bigger and his face lost most of its color. "I'm so sorry, sir. Nobody told me that the owners were going to be here this morning. Please follow me. You are expected."
He led us through a door and down a hallway to a room that had what looked like, state-of-the-art electronics and teaching tools. Two men got out of their chairs as we entered the room and strode over to greet us.
"Mr. Johnson, I'm Max Link. It's good to meet you in person at last."
"And I'm Roger Groves. That goes for me as well."
I shook hands with each one as they introduced themselves. "It's good to meet you both," I said. "This is my son Joel. He's an avid golfer and much better than I am." Joel shook hands with them and I continued. "Let me get this straight. My memory is a little hazy. Who's in charge of which course?"
"The Nicklaus course is mine," Max said.
"And that leaves me with the Palmer course," Roger said.
We made small talk for a few minutes before I said, "We'd like to have a tour of the golfing facilities, including the pro shop. In other words, give us the cook's tour. Oh, another thing, we need to have locker space for our clubs. Right now they are in the rack outside."
Max picked up the phone and spoke to someone named Phil. When he hung up the phone, he said, "Your clubs will be taken care of. Phil will have keys for you when we get to his area." With that taken care of, he and Roger began explaining what all the electronic equipment did. There were even video cameras that could produce slow motion videos of your swing, so that the pro could show you what you needed to change. I didn't think I wanted to use that facility. I was afraid they would find too many things wrong with my swing. Joel, on the other hand, was eager to try it out. We decided to wait on that until later in the week when we had more time. Our tour of the facilities took just under an hour.
"I'm impressed," I said when we returned to the room where we started. "Joel is anxious to take a tour of the courses. Maybe we can get one in before lunch and then do the other one afterwards. He hasn't seen them since they've been finished. He toured them a couple of times when we were here before, but with all the construction going on at that time it was hard to visualize the holes."
"Do you have a preference as to which course you see first?" Max asked.
"Could we see the Nicklaus course first?" Joel asked. "I want to see that long hole. I've been dying to try it."
"Then the Nicklaus course it is. I have a four-passenger golf cart that we can use," Max said. "Roger, do you want to come along?"
"If you don't mind, I have a few things to do. Monday is fast approaching. I'll see you after lunch.
We walked out to where the golf cart was waiting for us. Max got in the driver's seat with Joel sitting beside him. I was in one of the rear seats.
To be continued.
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