STANDARD WARNING: This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to individuals, living or dead, is pure coincidence. Do not read this story if you are offended by man-to-man romance or sex. Do not read if you are underage according to the laws in the country, state/province, county, city/town/village or township where you live. There is sex between males. You have been warned!

Copyright 2000 by archer. Permission is granted to Nifty Archives, ASSGM, and gaywritings, to post one copy. No part may be copied, reproduced, republished, or reposted on another website without written permission from the author.

Author's Note: This is the final chapter of Paternal Instincts. The creators of The Mary Tyler Moore show and M*A*S*H knew when enough was enough and pulled the plug on the shows while they were still ahead. I am doing the same. However, this is just the end of the beginning, for most of the characters will return in the sequel, Family Instincts which can be found at my website listed below. It will be published here on Nifty. I have suggested the Relationships section to the Archivist as an appropriate home for Family Instincts.


Paternal Instincts

By Archer

Chapter 43/Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

Matt had never been in Family Court before. He had never been in the Cook County building in Markham at all except to pay a traffic ticket when he ran a red light when he was nineteen.

It was December 23rd, and Matt and Tim both had to take the day off from work to go to court for Jake. Taking a day off was no problem for Tim. Winter was the slow time for construction and his father was the owner of the company. Taking the day off was an entirely different story for Matt. Christmas was critical and although his bookstore was running smoothly and exceeding sales plans, he was supposed to be there.

Julia, his district manager had said to him, "I understand what you need to do, Matt. This is important to you. Still, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't mention that you were required to work the last three days before Christmas."

"I understand, Julia. But this boy needs me. My family needs me. I couldn't ask for a postponement. It might be months before we would get another hearing. It took over two weeks to get this hearing, and this is considered an emergency hearing."

"I understand, Matt. You do what you need to do. Your family is the most important thing right now. And let me know what happens."

Immediately after this conversation Matt had a revelation: his family was his most important job, now.

Matt looked handsome in his navy blue double-breasted suit. He chose a traditional white shirt but added just a touch of gayness with a pink tie. I've got to express myself somehow, he thought. Tim looked stunning in a gray suit, white shirt and royal blue tie. Brian and Jake escaped sports coats, but Matt insisted on khaki slacks instead of jeans and shirts and ties.

In the upstairs bathroom with the door open, Matt stood in front of the mirror applying a tiny bit of toilet paper to a spot on his neck where he had nicked himself shaving. Jake wandered into the bathroom.

"I can't tie this tie," he complained.

Matt smiled. "Here." Matt struggled for a few moments until he realized he was trying to tie it backwards. "Turn around." Jake complied, and Matt knotted the strip of cloth easily. Both enjoyed the casual affection as he did so.

"Turn around again," Matt commanded and made final adjustments to the tie. "There. You look very handsome." He also looked terrified.

"What's going to happen?"

"To tell you the truth, I'm not really sure. Bill explained it to me. There won't be any lawyers there. This is just a hearing. We're going to talk to a judge and explain why you want to live here. Bill said that she's a fair judge, but very open-minded. If she agrees, they're going to give me legal guardianship until they can find your father. It will actually happen pretty quickly. Most of the time at the courthouse, we'll be waiting. She might ask you a few questions."

"What if she's there?"

"Your mom? I don't think she will be, but if she is, she won't be able to get near you."

"I'm scared," he admitted in a timid little voice.

Matt engulfed the boy in his arms. "We're going to be OK, kiddo."


As it turned out, they were the first on the docket that morning.

"All rise. The Honorable Kathleen S. Kildare presiding."

She was a stout woman with immaculately coifed shoulder-length black hair, which was streaked with gray. She wore tasteful makeup. Her eyes reflected an Asian influence in her heritage, although she bore an Irish last name. She wore a black robe and reading glasses on a chain around her neck. The courtroom was more like a classroom with carpeting. There were no exquisitely carved banisters and no marble floor.

"Well, I'm pleased to finally meet you Mr. Rosato. I have read your statements as well as the testimony sent in by your friends." She flipped papers as she read names aloud. "Martin Connor. Leah Levin. The Principal of Forest Trails Junior High, Joel Silver. A glowing letter from Mary Harrison from St. Luke's as well as one from Bill Ronkowski. I have great respect for both of them. I wish we had more workers like them. And like you, Mr. Rosato."

"Thank you, Your Honor."

"Would you identify the other people with you this morning for the Court, please?

"This is my roommate, Tim McGraw." They collectively held their breath. If the judge picked up on anything, it was not reflected in her face or mannerisms. "This is my foster son, Brian Kowalski. There is a second foster son who is at St. Luke's. He recently began weekend visitations."

For a long, breathless moment, she peered at them over the top of her reading glasses. Then, she turned her attention to the other papers on her desk. "You are unable to locate Jacob's natural father, is that correct?"

"Yes, ma'am. I mean, that's correct."

"When was the last time you saw him?

"At a party in September. Before that I hadn't seen him since our tenth high school reunion in 1988."

"I hate these scumbags who run," she mumbled as she pulled her reading glasses off. "We'll locate him sooner or later."

She turned her attention to Jake. "Jacob, your paternal grandmother in Mokena said that she would be glad to let you live there. Your older brother is living there now. Why do you want to stay with Mr. Rosato?"

For a moment he looked perplexed as if it were a trick question. He glanced up at Matt who encouraged him smilingly. "Because I don't want to go to a new school in the middle of eighth grade. And I want to live with Matt -- er -- Mr. Rosato. And Brian is my best friend."

She turned her expressionless face toward Brian. "You are Mr. Rosato's foster son?"

Brian stood up as if a firecracker had been lit under him. "Yes, ma'am."

"How long have you lived there?"

"About six months."

"Is he a good parent? Do you get along?"

"Oh, yes. He's excellent."

To Matt she asked, "What are your intentions for Brian?"

"We are in the adoption process."

"Excellent," said the judge. Illinois, like all other states, offered its foster parents a subsidy for taking foster children in. However, once the children were adopted, the payments stopped. Often these children had special needs such as counseling, physical therapy or special education. So in order to continue the subsidies, most foster parents declined to adopt their foster children so that the kids could obtain the expensive help they needed. Illinois lawmakers studied the problem and created a pioneering program to continue the payments after adoption. The goal was to increase the number of legal adoptions. It was one of the most successful programs ever designed for the foster care system, and Illinois consistently led the nation in adoptions.

There was a horrifying silence as she shuffled papers on her desk. "It's all very clear to me. Temporary guardianship and custody is awarded to Matthew Rosato until the end of the school year or until his natural father can be located. If the end of the school year occurs first, we will have another hearing." She looked up at Jake. "Jacob, stand up for a minute, please."

"Yes, ma'am." He wiped his palms on his khakis as he stood.

"You have been through some pretty rough experiences in the past few weeks. I won't deny that for a minute. But right now you have come to a fork in the road. Do you understand what I'm telling you?"

"No, ma'am."

"You could go down one road and continue to feel sorry for yourself. Eventually, that road will lead to trouble. And I'm going to tell you right now, if you land in my courtroom again because you have gotten yourself in trouble, I’m going to be very severe with you. The other road, Jacob, is the one offered by Mr. Rosato. He has very kindly and generously offered to take you into his home. He doesn't have to do it at all; he is not related to you in any way. He's doing you a favor by letting you finish junior high where you want to and be close to your friends." She shook her finger at him. "I'm very serious about this. I had better not hear that you have repaid his kindness by getting into trouble." She raised her eyebrows and peered over the top of her reading glasses. "Do I make myself clear?"

He gulped. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good. I am requiring individual counseling for you, Jacob. I am assigning Bill Ronkowski as your caseworker. I will receive monthly reports from them as well as progress reports from your school."

She paused again, this time looking at Matt. "And, Mr. Rosato, I am requiring that you and your roommate Mr. McGraw, file a Durable Power of Attorney statement within the next sixty days."

She knew! "Yes, ma'am," Matt answered.

"That's it. I'll look forward to seeing you next time when Brian's adoption is finalized. Next case, please."

To celebrate, Matt and Tim took the boys to lunch at The Courtyard in Palos Heights. It was a cozy little restaurant in a cluster of small brick buildings on Harlem Avenue. From the outside, it looked very unassuming. Once inside, they were seated near a wall of sliding glass doors that looked out on a common courtyard. The courtyard was barren, of course, since this was December, but even so they could tell it was lovingly landscaped. A fireplace crackled at one end of the dining room. It was still early for the lunch rush.

Brian pointed out a bright red male cardinal that flitted in the courtyard.

Matt slumped in his seat. "I'm glad that's over with. Maybe I can get some shopping done today. It's still early."

"What do you have to buy?" Tim asked.

"All my relatives. My mom - she's easy to please. Kirsten and Kyle and Karen. I have no idea what to get my dad…."

"I got him a gift certificate for K Mart."

Matt looked up at him, stunned. "You did? When?"

"A couple weeks ago. Brian and I went when you were working. I did all your shopping, except for the pile of books you have at the store. And, of course, what you got me."

"You did?" Matt took Tim's hand under the table. "How did you know what to get them?"

"From the list you gave me, babe. Remember the list?"

At last, he did. "But I said if you have time…"

"And I knew you wouldn't," Tim replied. The holidays were extremely stressful for Matt. He spent the majority of his waking hours at the store and when he returned home, he was often too tired to do anything but eat and sleep. In past Christmases he had always done his shopping last minute. He hated the thought of going into stores. All he wanted to do was forget shopping. For the first time, he had someone to help him. Tim cared enough to carry the burden of Christmas shopping for Matt. It was the best gift he could have given Matt.

"They're not wrapped, of course," Tim continued. "I wrap like a gorilla."

Matt squeezed his hand under the table and mouthed I love you. When he found his voice he said, "I did finally buy that pile of books at the store. They're in my trunk."

"We might have to do some snooping," Brian commented to Jake.

Lunch went well. The boys were on their best behavior, honored that Matt and Tim would bring them to such a grown-up restaurant. Their waitress was chummy and efficient and had a strong South Side accent. She called the men hon and the boys sweetie. The food was excellent, well prepared and beautifully presented.

Stuffed and contented, they hopped into the Jeep.

"Thanks," Jake said as he buckled himself in. "But I would have settled for a Big Mac."


As he rode the Orange Line to the North Side on Christmas Eve, Dennis thought that he was a man of the world. He only went home to sleep and he was spending half his nights at Ted and Scott's place on Aldine. His father no longer questioned where he went and what he was doing. On the few days he attended school, it was out of sheer boredom and because he didn't have a client.

He had just turned thirteen. And he was a hustler.

He was like thousands of other boys across the country. He was no longer welcome at home, although his father had not formally forbidden him to return. He was confused about his sexuality and his direction in life. Unlike female prostitutes who get into the business because of broken homes, incest or rape, male prostitutes enter the business because of their sexual orientation.

Dennis was unique in one aspect, however. Most female prostitutes have a pimp who controls who they see, how much money they make and how long they spend with a client. Most males are on their own. But Dennis had Scott who had shown him how to use his one marketable commodity; his youth.

Scott taught him that straight suburban businessmen would pay to touch his smooth, hairless body and caress his genitals. Scott taught him how to behave with a client, even how to fake pleasure. Scott taught him the price structure of prostitution. You charged more for kinky acts and more for unprotected sex. He had even given Dennis a pager, although he hadn't paged Dennis yet. Dennis had learned the lessons well.

With Ted's help, he had opened an account at Lakeview Bank and even had an ATM card. There was a modest amount of money in the account, but the ATM card had a Visa logo and that opened opportunities for him.

It was easy. You just hung around the street, looked bored and eventually someone would approach you. He really only had four clients so far. One took him to the Doubletree Suites hotel and put on a porn video. He never touched Dennis; he sat in a chair while Dennis lay on the bed and masturbated to a video. Another client gave him a blowjob. Dennis had shot within seconds and for this he was paid $50. So far, no one had requested anything really kinky with him, except for one really drunken client who threw up on his boots.

The wind was raw and coming off the lake when he exited the train. Dennis wondered where the action would be tonight. Unlike other cities, Chicago doesn't have one concentrated area where prostitutes congregate. Dennis would have to check several hot spots to see which one was most active this Friday night. He walked first to a park nicknamed Bughouse Square. It was a block-square park across from the Newberry Library. Decades past, it was a hotbed of male prostitution. But the vice squads had kept up their patrols and eventually most of the activity moved on.

Another area of activity was the near north side several blocks west of glittery Michigan Avenue. He tended to avoid the area because he knew that there had been several muggings.

He decided he would work the Broadway, Clark and Halsted area. It was eight o'clock and still early for hustling. He was hungry and he only had five dollars in his pocket.

Two hours later, he was huddled against The Century which had closed for the evening. He hunkered down in a corner and lit a Bic lighter in a vain attempt to warm his hands. He recalled a sad story he had heard when he was a boy. It was something about a little girl who sold matches to survive. She lit the matches one by one until the entire stock was gone. In the end, they found her dead. She was a stupid girl, and it was a stupid story. The only redeemable feature about the story was her grandmother.

If only his Grandma Balzekas were alive! Tears started to sting his eyes when he thought about her. He remembered the white crocheted shawl she always wore. Her hands trembled as she reached out to hug him. But she loved him! No questions asked. She fed him kuglis and kolachky and pierogies until he thought he was going to burst! She spoke very little English, but she didn't need to. He could feel the love she gave to him in English or Lithuanian.

"My little kukla," she always called him in her broken English. My little doll. He knew what it was like to be the favorite. She never told him he was her favorite, but he knew; he knew. Not that fucking Neanderthal Peter.

He wiped a tear from his cheek. He was so glad she wasn't alive to see him now. She'd be ashamed of him.

Well, he wasn't going to find a warm bed to sleep in tonight sitting here on his ass. He got up, swiped another stray tear angrily and started on his way.

"Whoa, baby! Where you going in such a hurry?"

Dennis had run into the tallest black drag queen he had ever seen. She was beautifully done. Her shoes, dress, makeup and hair were flawless. She had perfect red manicured nails. She wore a fake leopard coat over her tasteful red dress.

"I'm sorry."

"No need to be sorry." She held him at arm's length and looked him over. "M-m-m, they get younger each year."

"I gotta go." Dennis was uncomfortable around this black giant.

"Where ya goin' honey? What's your rush? There's no johns around. Take it from me, sweetie. They all at home having Christmas with the family."

"Tell me about it."

"Come on, walk with me a little bit. You're a cute little boy, you know that? What's your name, sugar?"


"Well, Dennis, how about a little dinner?"

"I don't -- I mean, I…."

"It's OK, honey. I'll take care of it. It's my Christmas gift to you. You can pretend you're my son." She threw he head back and laughed.

He followed her to an all-night restaurant at the corner of Halsted and Belmont. It was a well-known hangout for the gay community. Various groups had staked out certain tables and booths. Lesbians had their area; the activists had a separate place and the transvestites another space. But, since it was Christmas Eve the usual seating arrangement was up for grabs. There were just a handful of customers when they entered.

A waitress hailed the drag queen. "Miss Bokay! What are you doing out tonight?"

"Oh, honey, just slumming."

"Who's your young friend?"

"He's my date tonight."

They sat in a booth and Dennis watched her. Her hands started to tremble and she wiped her nose continuously with a tissue.

"It's a bitch, dear. Don't ever start."

"Start what?" Dennis asked, although he knew.

"This shit," she took a brown glass vial out of her purse. "It's prescription," she added quickly, although they both knew it was a lie. "Oh, honey," she called out to the waitress. "Could I get some water?"

The waitress brought a glass over. Miss Bokay produced another pill vial (this one looked like a prescription) and popped a pill in her mouth. Her hand trembled as she raised the glass. "That's much better."

"You know what the doctor said about that shit, Bokay," the waitress commented.

"Well, the doctor doesn't have to live the life I do. What's good to eat in this dump?"

"Anything you want. It's on the house."

"Pardon me? I think the pills are kicking in faster than usual. I thought you said it was free."

"That's what I said. Merry Christmas." She plopped two menus on the table.

By now, her hands had stopped trembling. "Well, sweetie, order up."

Dennis ordered a half-pound hamburger and cheese fries, a salad and a chocolate shake. For dessert, he ordered pumpkin pie.

"Aren't you going to eat more than that?" Dennis asked, referring to the salad she had ordered.

"It's the prescription. It kills my appetite. So tell me about you. Do you have anywhere to stay?"

"Sure," Dennis lied.

"How old are you?"


"Sure, and I'm RuPaul. Now tell me how old you really are."

"Thirteen," he mumbled.

She touched his hand across the table. "I understand, baby. I never got along with my family either. Where are you from?"

"Chicago Lawn."

"No kidding? I grew up in Roseland. We're both South Siders! Imagine that!"

"You're so young," she commented again. She glanced at her watch. "I do hate to eat and run, sweetie, but it's almost time."

"Time for what?"

"Midnight Mass," she mumbled. She was ashamed to admit she was going to church even to the boy. Outside on the street, the air was colder and sharper than it had been earlier. She led him west a few blocks on Belmont to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church. It was the site where the Archdiocese Gay and Lesbian Outreach Mass took place on Sunday nights. The parish was in the center of the gay community and they had a very diverse parish. Still, it was wise to be discreet outside the AGLO mass. One did not hold hands with a new boyfriend other than the Sunday night AGLO Mass.

They were just in time…..

"Good Evening. Welcome to Midnight Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Please join the choir in singing Hark the Herald Angels Sing."

"Alleluia! Christ in born! Welcome to the Midnight Mass at St. Irenaeus Catholic Parish. We welcome you all. Our Celebrant tonight is Pastor Grimes."

Matt, Tim, Jake and Brian were all dressed in essentially the same outfits they had worn to Jake's hearing the day before last. Tommy had joined them, uncomfortable and complaining in a shirt and tie. He was more than glad to alternate sitting on Matt or Tim's lap during Mass. Very, very discreetly, Matt and Tim found ways to touch each other during Mass.

On cue, the parishioners in Our Lady of Mount Carmel and St. Irenaeus, at Holy Name Cathedral on State Street and in St. Raymond in Joliet and in Catholic churches in the same time zone in North and South America stood for the Gospel reading.

  • The Lord be with you

    And also with you

    A reading from the holy Gospel according to Luke

    Glory to you, Lord.

  • "Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear. The angel said to them…..

    Fear not. For I love you regardless of whom you love. I love you no matter what you do. I love you not only in spite of your fears and pain and brokenness but also because of them. You are very special to me. I have called you by name. Come unto me all you sinners, and lay your burdens down and I will give you rest.

    Matt looked over his little family and said a silent prayer of thanks for them. How different his life would be without them! What have I done to deserve them? Especially Tim. Every day I depend on him more and more, yet I'm not afraid. Thank you for Tim.

    The five males took full advantage of the Kiss of Peace to hug as long as they dared in a Catholic Church. None of the surrounding churchgoers seemed to mind. They shook hands with the Rosato-McGraws in love and peace and joy.

    Miss Bokay's tremors started again around the Kiss of Peace. Dennis felt her trembling when she hugged him. He could smell her heavy, sweet perfume, but he worried when he saw the beads of perspiration appear on her forehead and upper lip. Dennis knew she wasn't feeling well.

    As the Kiss of Peace was ending and the Lamb of God beginning, Miss Bokay excused herself.

    "Where are you going?" Dennis whispered.

    "To the powder room. I'll be right back, sweetie."

    But she didn't return. He watched for her during Communion, the Concluding Rite, the parish announcements and the Recessional Hymn. She still didn't appear. He started to worry. When the priest and altar servers had exited the church, he asked a woman where the restrooms were.

    Downstairs to the church basement, he took the stairs two at a time. He burst into the men's room only to find it empty.

    Of course, he realized, she'd be in the women's room.

    He stood at the door of the women's room and called softly, "Miss Bokay?" When there was no reply, he called more boldly, "Miss Bokay?" Still no answer. Had she left the church without him? Was she still in there? Should he go in?

    A nun dressed in a short habit appeared. I didn't know they went to the bathroom, Dennis found himself thinking.

    "Sister, can you help me?"

    She smiled condescendingly. "Of course."

    "I have a friend. I think she's still in there. She's been in there a long time and I'm worried. Would you check for me?"

    "Certainly. What does she look like?"

    "Tall and black, I mean, African American. She's wearing a red dress and a leopard coat."

    The nun's smile vanished. One of those. But to the boy she said, "Of course."

    The minutes ticked by with agonizing slowness. Finally the nun opened the door and held it open with her body. Just inside he could see Miss Bokay's legs on the floor. One of her red pumps had slipped off her foot and was standing upright near her left knee. The image of her legs and red footwear burned into his memory.

    The nun put a hand on the boy's shoulder. "I'm afraid…" she hesitated. "It appears she is dead," she said gently.

    No, No NO! He immediately burst into tears. How could she do this to him? Why? Why did the people who loved him always leave him?

    Dennis backed away from the nun and ran toward the stairs.

    "Son," the nun called after him in vain.

    Tears blinded him as he took the stairs two at a time to the vestibule. There were still some parishioners greeting the priests and exchanging Christmas greetings. He rudely pushed through the clusters of people and out the front door. The cold night air froze the tears on his cheeks as he ran east on Belmont.

    Gloria had started it. When Matt was a boy, she had started the tradition of opening presents on Christmas Eve. Even as an adult and a mother, Matt's mom still retained a childlike enthusiasm when it came to gifts. So, when they returned from St. Irenaeus that night, they opened their gifts.

    Tommy loved his board games Risk, Pit and Sorry. He was thrilled with his new fifteen-speed bike. It, of course, was not wrapped. Neither was the other big gift they had given the boys, a new computer. It was a brand new Packard Bell loaded with Windows 3.1 and Microsoft Works.

    Matt and Tim had agonized over their selection of gifts for the boys. Jake and Brian both received clothes and they were pleased with the Nike brand T-shirts, prewashed jeans and white boxer briefs. He gave Tommy fewer clothes and stuck to the basics - underwear, socks and T-shirts. Tim had purchased the majority of clothes at Kohl's and the store was giving away train sets for every $100 purchased. Matt wrapped the train set and gave it to Tommy who was ecstatic.

    In addition, Matt had selected books for each of them. For Brian he selected a World Almanac and a book about automobile prototypes called Cars Detroit Never Built. For Jake, he selected books by Christopher Pike and a Sports Almanac. Tommy was the recipient of a selection of Goosebumps books and a bargain book about Chicago architecture with lots of glossy photographs.

    For Tim, Matt bought David Leavitt's new book Family Dancing. Tim looked at Matt, a bit puzzled but said nothing. Matt grinned because he had an additional surprise yet for Tim to discover.

    Tim gave Matt the This Old House book which he knew Matt had his eye on, and a Linda Richman T-shirt with the slogan 'We'll have Cawfee, We'll Tawk, No Big Whoop.' Matt laughed and kissed Tim.

    The boys dug into their stockings to find chocolates and candy. Matt had given Brian and Jake each their own razor and can of Edge shaving gel. In Tommy's stocking he substituted five Matchbox cars.

    Matt had hidden Tim's very special gift in the toe of his stocking. Tim pulled out a blue ring box. Inside Matt had given him a gold wedding band.

    "To replace the silver one. That was just the engagement ring."

    "Matt, I love it." Tim hugged him as if he were trying to press their bodies into one. "It's the best gift, ever."

    They picked up the wrapping paper, and dimmed the lights. In the soft glow of the lights from the tree and around the windows, they hugged each other again as if reenacting the Kiss of Peace. No words were spoken; words were superfluous. They were celebrating each other and offering praise to the Spirit that brought them together. They gave thanks for the love and the challenges, the fun and the hardships, the joy and the sorrow that bonded them to one another. Forever.

    Dennis stood outside Scott and Ted's brownstone on Aldine. He could see the Christmas tree aglow in the front window.

    Should he try to buzz them? Would they be awake? If they were asleep, they would be angry with him for awakening them. He threw caution to the wind and pressed the buzzer anyway. Three times he pressed the button with no response. He felt like crying again.

    Down the narrow sidewalk between the buildings he went. His destination was the garage to see if the white Cadillac was there. It was! So they were home. Maybe they went to a bar. Or maybe they're at a friend's house. Or maybe they're just ignoring him.

    He touched the doorknob and found the garage unlocked. He let himself in. He wrinkled his nose at the smell of gasoline, dust and motor oil. But he could sleep here! It would be a little warmer, at least, and if it snowed like they predicted it would, he would be out of the elements.

    The car was unlocked as well, and he stretched out on the back seat.

    He dreamt he was selling Bic lighters on the corner of Broadway, Clark and Diversey. Just like the little girl in the story. He tried and tried to sell his wares to the customers exiting The Great Ace and The Century, but no one would buy his lighters.

    Cold and hungry, he lit a lighter to warm his hands.

    In the flame, he saw his Grandma Balzekas beckoning to him. She was holding out her arms and he saw how her age-spotted hands trembled. She was wearing the white shawl. "Kukla," she called him, and motioned him toward her. Just before he disappeared in her unconditional love embodied by her embrace, the flame went out.

    "Jesus said, "Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14



    Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed it. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. I read and respond to all email (even if it takes a few days) Just click on one of the links below. And don't forget to check out my website (Chapters are always posted there earlier than here) and my other story here on Nifty, Pocketful of Stars, in the Young Friends section.


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