Copyright 2003 by

This is a fictional story of loving between friends, young and old. If you don't like friendship, don't read it. If you don't like love, I'm sorry for you. If you are not old enough to legally read this, find your friend and have him read it to you.

Thanks again for the wonderful messages of support. I'm particularly honored that several of the readers have shared stories from their lives. I thank you for your story, I thank you for your openness, I thank you for your trust.

Over 1500 people have visited Stephy's class mates. I really hope you enjoy them.


Stocking Stuffer Part 16 Spring Break Part 6

Monday Steph almost pestered me beyond bearing before he headed for school to be sure and call my Wonder Kid Editor and change the arrangements to include everyone. I called at 9 am assuming I'd get voice mail, but surprisingly he answered. A few pleasantries and then he jumped right in. "Now, Nick. I know you hate these things, but you really can't get out of this trip."

"No," I laughed. "I'm actually calling to add some on to the trip!" I explained my new son had spring break and what we wanted to do. I gave him the names of everyone and the approximate ages of the kids.

He took good notes because he read it all back and then whistled. "Wow, have you had a lifestyle change! I sure can't wait to meet this crowd. I'll order a large limo and they'll pick you all up at the airport. I'll be in on Friday afternoon, so give me a call when you are in and settled and I can review the weekend meetings and any last minute changes. You know of course that the extra charges will ..."

"...come out of royalties!" I groaned. "Of course. Well my Stephen is worth it and he's now why I'm writing." We chatted a little more and he promised to fax me the new itinerary and hotel info later in the day.

I glanced over and saw my 'schedule' and realized I better get writing, my little task master wouldn't be happy if I ended up not writing anything or even worse, forgetting his snack again!

Despite the wild events of Friday and Saturday and the boisterous houseful of Steph all day Sunday (it rained about a floods worth!) I plunged right back into the story that had started to percolate up from my brain. For the depth of the writer's block earlier last week and the fact that I hadn't written a word since the day Steph knocked on my door to shovel my walk it was amazing, no maybe it was fitting that the words just flew from my fingers onto the screen.

When I write it seems that I always get the hook first. I get the germ of an idea that is either an interesting twist of fate, or sometimes just a weird juxtaposition of events and characters. Once that hook gets established, I start to flesh out the characters. In the case of my published works it is rather simple. My boys are good strong characters with lots of history and background. Of course I have to re-establish them for new readers, but that part is often the last thing that I write. I work from the point of view of my main characters and try to steer them towards the resolution. Of course there has to be little side plots and major suspense filled moments, but once I get that hook usually everything seems to just flow.

My Nifty stories are a little more complicated because I have to decide what kind of story it is first. Will it be a wild romp through the pasture, so to speak, or a sedate psychological drama in ten parts. Here too though, the hook for me is both the beginning and the end.

This story was one of the juvenile series and my detective boys were headlong into the mystery. In fact, they were so headlong that suddenly I heard the door crash open and my Tiger was shouting, "I'm home!"

Since I knew he'd be heading to the bedroom to shuck his clothes I rocketed myself to the kitchen and pulled a bag of chips from the pantry and grabbed the Cheezwhiz and salsa and quickly got a mixture into the micro. It was just dinging its thirty second shot of epicurean skill when Steph was twining his arms around me in a huge hug.

"Love you Nick!" he announced more to the aroma of the salsa than to me I bet.

"Love you too, Steph!" and I turned and lifted him into a quick kiss and cuddle. Don't want to run afoul of that schedule! Clearly it commanded, 3:30 Kiss Steph Home from School. Well its a terrible job, but somebody's got to do it! Yeah like I'd ever let anyone else! Remind me to talk to that Wonder Kid Editor about that research assistants pay. With the Great Cookie Caper in the mall, I knew my boy was a natural at detecting.

Steph was now more wearing the kitchen chair than sitting in it. His long right leg was twined seemingly twice around the chair leg. His left leg and foot hidden completely under his cute little butt in such a manner that it allowed him to vary his height several inches while he poured out his day at school.

It was amazing to me that my Tiger would tell me the full details of his day. Practically a minute-by-minute play-by-play. I remember my own childhood grunts of "Nothing!" when my mother tried to find out what was going on in that other big part of my life. I don't know for sure, but I bet Steph's mother had never ever asked him about his day and my interest and his growing knowledge that someone cared about him and loved him probably helped him past more demons, demons that I probably didn't even know existed.

Apparently this week was Skills Test week and this brought about another round of wonderment at my boy. I remember dreading that week and practically being ill before it was all done. Here was Steph spouting off about the neat tests, the fancy new answer sheets where they had to put the little dots, the cool stories they got to read and answer questions about. He did cinch up a bit when he announced that tomorrow was the spelling part and that he didn't really like that. Of course this monologue had been conducted across about a thousand calories of chips and cheezy salsa. When he was scraping the bottom of the salsa bowl he brightly looked up at me and asked, "What's for supper?"

Through my laughter I told him we were meeting everybody at the Chinese restaurant so we could go over our trip plans and I could share the flight times and we could work out all the details.

"Whoopee!" he shrieked and then was off to the den killing the purply things on the Gamecube.

Around six I carried some underwear, socks, jeans and a t shirt in to my one man monster basher and he reluctantly saved his game and started dressing. We hopped in the car and headed out as soon as he was ready.

We'd eaten our way around the world since Steph had come to me and beside the normal kids appetite for anything sweet, anything disgustingly bad for you (BK), and anything PIZZA, Steph also found a real affinity for Asian cuisine. We were about three blocks away when he cracked the car window in spite of the nippy air. I could see his nose twitching and his 'smelly boy' radar working overtime to get the first whiff of the garlic and soy sauce in the air. I knew we were close when I heard him sigh and settle back in the seat, then I smelled it too. I must admit, a Chinese restaurant does make some very heavenly smells.

Brian's minivan was already in the lot and Gene was just pulling in as we arrived. Steph and Scotty were instantly hugging, poking and generally horsing around when the restaurant door opened and Mike came flying out and practically flattened them as he hugged and poked and horsed right along. Gene and I both were smiling ear to ear as we entered and joined Brian and Tommy at the table.

Brian raised an eyebrow and asked, "Well, did our new little nuclear power plant wipe you guys out on the way in?"

Gene laughed and replied, "Well a Tomahawk missile seemed to merge with the energy fields of our phaser banks in the parking lot."

Tommy grinned and shook his head, but he had his lap full of all three little ones trying to get him to give them individual attention in a giant group hug. It actually might have been more a group grope as I saw eight hands writhing around on the four legs of a single chair. We pried them apart enough to get them settled in individual chairs. I took the opportunity of a little pat to each boy's behind to slip a little money in their back pockets.

Since we were celebrating our upcoming trip and since Mike had whispered to Tommy that he had never tried Chinese, I called the waiter over and ordered three of the giant poo poo platters, egg rolls and pot stickers for appetizers. I also ordered a selection off the Imperial Family Meal, so there would be soup, rice and lots of different choices. I know Steph loved hot Chinese, so one dish was Kung Pao Chicken. The waiter was always glad to see us, today the rowdy boys had him grinning, or maybe it was the prospect of the tip on what would easily be a check well over a hundred dollars!

Scotty started right off asking Steph if I had called "my edilator?" I laughed and wondered what the Wonder Kid would think of that title, but assured him I had. I produced copies of the itinerary and we talked about how we'd be staying at the Disney Contemporary Resort. That's the one with the monorails going through the lobby. I could see Gene and Brian trading looks, so I quickly proposed a toast and as everyone got their glass up, I informed everyone that this entire trip was on me as a celebration of my new son, Steph was beaming, my new friends, I toasted Brian, Gene and Tommy, and my new family, I toasted the boys. Everybody cheered and there were various versions of teaching each boy how to toast. I think we covered six languages between the four teachers and the three students.

I loudly cleared my throat and looking hard at the three boys I seriously intoned, "There is one requirement though." The boys were instantly silent and nervously glancing between them waiting for what hideous requirement I could come up with. "Scotty," I said and he gave a little jump. "You must absolutely promise me that you will wear or at least bring your magic pants."

"Huh?" was all he could stammer.

"Well, stand up boy," I ordered. He shyly did staying very close to Gene. "Now, those magic pants bought us dinner last night and it's very important that they help us on this trip too. Reach in that pocket there and get us some of your wild money."

"But I don't have any ..." he trailed off as his little hand came back out of his pocket clutching the ten I'd planted. His face was priceless and he just stared at the money and me and then dove into a hug on Gene's lap.

"Now that's a great idea," Gene added. "I think Stephy and Mike better be sure and bring theirs too!"

"What? Not me?" Stephy protested, but checked his pockets just the same. He started giggling before his hand even appeared because he knew he'd found something. Slowly he opened up a twenty.

We looked at Mike and he practically dissolved into Brian. "I never have any money," he whispered. "And these aren't even my pants, they're Brian's!" he plaintively whined.

Brian just hugged him and then sat him up on his knee and looked him right in the eye. "Mike, everything I have is yours. You are part of our family now and Tommy will show you, we share and we help each other. Now why don't you check that pocket right there and let's just see if Gene sells magic pants at his store."

Mike was very dubious, but slipped his hand in his pocket and the wonderment across his face was stunning as he too slowly pulled a bill from the depths. He held it forth and Stephy whistled as it was unfolded to show that it was a hundred dollar bill.

Tommy quickly stood up and started emptying every one of his pockets turning some inside out and he was the funniest of them all as he found nothing beyond a couple of quarters. "Man, I hate having to buy my pants in the mens department!" he said siting down dejectedly.

Stephy was giggling up a storm, Scotty was still checking the other pockets in his pants and Mike flew across to Tommy and was telling him he'd share, he didn't need any money anyway. Brian and Gene toasted my ingenuity and we all sucked in our breath and oohed and awed as the flaming poo poo platers were distributed around the table.

Dinner proceeded with the boys inhaling everything in sight. Mike was a little reluctant to try anything beyond the poo poo platter and when Steph yelped with the heat of the Kung Pao I think Mike was done with Chinese for a while! Steph just grabbed the white rice to absorb the heat and chased every peanut off the Kung Pao plate and down his little throat.

We talked between bites and I explained that Saturday and Sunday was the publishing convention where my book was being launched. Right now the schedule called for a morning radio and TV interview taping, an all authors luncheon, a release cocktail party and a formal dinner on Saturday. Sunday was a media day where I had to be available to any media in the morning and then there was a book signing in the Magic Kingdom in the afternoon. Disney may have missed a tie in with HarryPotterMania, but they were playing up their connection to the better selling authors in their stable.

The men decided that they and the boys would take Saturday and just enjoy the hotel resort. There would be lots of pool time, sailing on the lagoon, volleyball and general unwinding on the first day. Sunday everyone would go with me to the book signing and then they would begin to enjoy the Magic Kingdom Park. The rest of the week was open. We all decided that everyone would bring one good set of clothes and look in on the cocktail party, Steph asked if he could come to the formal dinner and I readily agreed. My Tiger would knock 'em out in a suit and I wanted to have his pleasant company among the rest of the business types that would be there. I did tell him we'd have to get Gene to help us with the right clothes because I wanted him "hot enough to cook any business sharks that got close."

He blushed but giggled an, "Aw, Dad!"

Gene asked what I did for a tux and I rolled my eyes and admitted I just rented one. With a quick glance between them Brian spoke up and said, "Well, you and Steph both have a fitting appointment for tomorrow at 5pm, if you are not busy."

I started to protest, but Mike interjected, "Way to go Dad!" Then he looked around the table and blushed, quickly hiding his face against Tommy's chest.

We all laughed and as Tommy ruffled his hair, he came peeking back out.

Dinner wound down, but Brian had one more surprise. As we paid and left the restaurant Brian suggested we stop by the Dairy Queen on the way home. The kids of course were over the top with hooting and hollering.

When we had all been served and the kids were up to their chins in dripping chocolate and vanilla Gene and I had a chance to ask Brian how Mike was doing.

"Well," he responded. "As you can see most of the time he's happy and excited. He sure loves Tommy, I couldn't get him out of our bed and into his own last night. We just all cuddled together. He hasn't talked about why he left home or how he got here or where and what he was doing, but that will come. I'm not going to push school or anything 'til after spring break, we all need to get to know each other a little better. Thanks for letting us tag along Nick it will be a great way for Tommy and Mike to re-establish brotherly bonds and it'll let me get to know Mike a little better too."

Soon my Tiger was hanging on my arm wiping about a half gallon of dribbles on my shoulder. I knew he was getting tired, I could see it in his eyes. "Hey, Tiger, let's get you home and to bed. Big spelling test tomorrow!" I announced. He groaned and rolled his eyes and taking my hand led the way to the car. I watched as Tommy took out his own set of keys and climbed into the drivers seat of Brian's minivan. My brain just groaned thinking that that would be my Stephy wanting to drive in just a few short years. I wondered at all the trial and tribulations Brian had gone through to get Tommy to this age with such a wonderful personality and kind heart. I hoped my Steph would be able to grow up just like him.

As we got in, I leaned over and buckled Steph up and gave him a big hug.

"What's that for?" he asked.

"Just 'cause I love you!" I sniffled back.

Steph reached over and put his hand on my thigh and kept it touching me all the way home.


BLUE BIRD is a Justin Time release, catalog JTR 8486-2. It's by the Boys Air Choir a production choir from several English cathedrals. There are only seven choristers and a teen choir master, yet it sounds like ranks of seraphim and angels. Much more info is at

A new group of Stephy's school mates are at

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