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This story is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to people, living or dead, is entire a coincidence. As the author, I retain all rights to this story, and it cannot be reproduced or published without explicit consent from me. This work is copyright © 2014 by Steven Wells.
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Sam and Chris
Chapter 35: The Journey South
Tuesday morning came early. The guys didn't leave until around 11 pm and then we cleaned up the kitchen. Lincoln and Roosevelt were almost as tired as we were when we finally hit the sack. But, we had two very happy dogs on the bed with us last night. They obviously enjoyed the attention from the guys.
Chris and I begrudgingly awoke to the sound of Chris's phone, Chris struggle to shut off the phone. He found his way back under the covers, "I think we need to rethink entertaining the night before we need to get up at the crack of dawn!"
"I agree," I groggily agreed after I gave Chris a kiss. Lincoln and Roosevelt decided to add a few licks before we dragged ourselves out of bed.
As we were throwing on some clothes, Chris added, "We have dogs to walk, showers to take, a car to load, and a trip to make. What are we going to do about eating?"
I answered as we headed out the door to the dog walk, "Well, as much as I hate to do this, we might need to stoop to a McDonald's drive through. Not many restaurants will let Lincoln and Roosevelt in!"
"I think you may be right," Chris answered reluctantly. "Maybe we can grab some takeout and eat lunch at the condo in Champaign."
"That could work," I answered as we trudged around the dog walk to allow Lincoln and Roosevelt to do their duty. "Besides, we have Christmas presents in our closet back at school!"
"Should we have ordered a moving van for the trip to your parents?" Chris asked.
"I think everything will fit," I answered as we headed inside after the boys had finished their bathroom duty.
We finally had the car loaded with our clothes, puppy food, cameras, tablets, and an ample supply of water for Lincoln and Roosevelt.
"We can stop at McDonalds and feed ourselves," Chris suggested. "I am actually very, very hungry. And, I have decided that everyone is coming to our place next Thanksgiving and Christmas!"
"Good idea," I answered as we pulled into the drive through lane. Once we had devoured our breakfast, we were on our way south.
Chris and I spent most of the three-hour drive to Champaign talking about condo renovations. Dorothy was shipping the final design plans to us in Florida. We were supposed to meet with her and the architect after we returned from Florida and before we left for school.
"I think we are going to be busy," I sighed. "Do you think we have planned more than we can handle? Maybe we should put off renovations to the condo."
"As you know, my mother has agreed to look in on the renovations fairly regularly," Chris answered. "It will give her something to do. She was a tyrant with the contractors when my parents refurbished their house. She still might have the whips lying around someplace!"
"At least we won't need to worry about that too much," I answered.
"Are you sure your parents won't change their minds about coming with us to Florida?" Chris asked.
"I doubt it," I answered. "My mother thought it would be too rushed. She needs to be back at school on January 5th. But, we'll see. They have made last minute decisions in the past. Nothing is ever set in stone with them!"
"I like that about them," Chris answered. "They seem so laid back and relaxed. Something my grandparents and my mother could learn from them. Three Type-A personalities are a bit too much at times!"
We finally arrived at the condo after picking up some Thai food. Lincoln and Roosevelt immediately began exploring their new surroundings.
"I hope Lincoln and Roosevelt don't get the impression we are gypsies," Chris said as they began exploring our condo at school. "They were at our place in Chicago for all of three days and we come here. Then, there will be you parents place and Florida!"
"I think they will adapt," I answered. "We will be the center of their universe no matter where we are."
"I suspect you might be correct," Chris continued. "But, we should be aware of dog depression symptoms just in case!"
"I will google that on the trip to my parents' house," I added with a smile.
We loaded the Christmas presents into the car and headed off. Lincoln and Roosevelt were playing in the back seat.
"If these two are depressed," I announce, "they seem awfully happy back there!"
I took out my tablet. I actually had a data connection as we raced into Southern Illinois. "Okay! I found some information about depression in dogs."
"What are the signs of depression in dogs? Dogs will become withdrawn. They become inactive. Their eating and sleeping habits often change. They don't participate in the things they once enjoyed. Major changes in a dog's life could lead to periods of depression. Those include moving into a new home, a new spouse or baby in the household, or adding another pet. Even a change in the dog's schedule, for instance a stay-at-home owner who takes a job, can cause a dog to get down."
"But the two most common triggers of severe dog depression are the loss of a companion animal or the loss of an owner. And be careful the dog isn't simply responding to the reactions of other people in the home."
"Dogs pick up on our emotions, so if the owner has died, the dog could be responding to the grief of others. Or the dog may not be getting the attention he's accustomed to, which is stressing him out."
I read the description to Chris. "So, they just moved into a new home, but I certainly don't think they are withdrawn or inactive!"
"That's for sure!" Chris added as he peeked in the rear view mirror.
I turned around and asked our companions, "Lincoln... Roosevelt... You will tell us if you are depressed, right?"
They both barked in reply.
"See," I said to Chris, "I told you that Border Collies were smart!"
Our two hour drive ended. We left our stuff in the car and headed inside with Lincoln and Roosevelt.
"Mom, Dad," I shouted into the kitchen. "We're here!"
My mother was immediately drawn to Lincoln and Roosevelt and picked up both at one time. "These guys are so, so cute!"
"It's nice to see you, too, Mom," I answered. My father hugged me and Chris. Then, it was my mother's turn. She handed the dogs to my father before hugging.
"I didn't mean to ignore you," my Mom said. "But, they are so cute!"
"Yes, they are!" Chris agreed. "And..., needy!"
"How was the trip down?" my father asked.
"Uneventful," I answered. "We stopped at school to get lunch and gifts. We didn't want to leave Lincoln and Roosevelt in the car while we ate. And, we had already done the McDonald's drive through for breakfast."
"We should bring in our stuff," Chris added. "It will be getting dark way too quickly!"
"Okay!" I acknowledged. "Mom, can you handle Lincoln and Roosevelt while we get our things out of the car?"
"We will be just fine," Mom replied.
Chris and I grabbed our bags and the gifts. When we returned, we were almost tripped by Lincoln.
"Where is your brother?" Chris asked Lincoln. He led us into the family room and sat down beside Roosevelt.
"How did you pick the names?" my father asked.
"Chris thought of Lincoln, and Roosevelt popped into my head," I answered. "Their names on their papers are a lot longer!"
We dropped our bags and fixed the dogs a dish of water which they attacked.
"I guess they were thirsty," Chris said.
"We can take the bag of gifts and put them under the tree in the living room, right, Mom?" I asked. I needed clarification of where to put things.
"Yes! The main tree is in there," she answered. "Just don't get too snoopy!"
"Yes, Mom!" I yelled as we made our way into the living room.
"Holy fuck!" Chris exclaimed when he saw the tree. "This thing is huge!"
The tree stood in the bay window of the living room. The ceilings on the first floor are 13 feet. The tree must have been 12 feet!
"My mother said she was going all out this year!" I added. "And, she was true to her words! I can't wait to see the one on the third floor... and the one in the front entrance foyer!"
"And, I thought my grandmother liked to decorate for the holidays!" Chris replied.
Next, Chris and I grabbed our bags and took them to our room. When we returned to the kitchen, Lincoln and Roosevelt were following my mother around as she was getting us a snack.
"It is so nice having puppies in the house again," my mother gushed. "We have decided to wait until I finish my Master's program before we get another dog!"
"You can always visit these two," Chris announced. "They seem to like being with you!"
We sat and the kitchen island and consumed coffee and some brownies that my mother had just pulled out of the oven. Lincoln and Roosevelt were staring at us hoping to get a treat.
"You can't have chocolate, guys," Chris informed the dogs. "But, you can each have one of these." He pulled out a puppy treat for each of them. They were happy.
"You will notice some changes to the farm operation if you take a look around," my father began. "The new owners have cleared some trees near the milking operation so they can build a dairy processing plant. When it starts up, they anticipate about 30 people will work there."
"Tell them about Mabel," my mother urged.
"Ah! Mabel," my father further explained. "At first the new owners wanted to get rid of Mabel. Don was all set to take her to his place. Then, the marketing people saw her. She is going to be in a commercial. They are even thinking of using the name of Mabel's Dairy Products for a line of products. She still pretty much does what she wants, which is to eat and hang out! She doesn't know yet that she will actually need to do some work to earn her keep!"
"Can we go see her tomorrow?" I asked.
"Of course!" my father answered. "I told the manager of the operation that you and Chris will probably like to visit and see all of the changes. So, he is expecting to see you around. His name is Philip."
"We'll go there tomorrow," I said. "Chris wants to see Mabel!"
Lincoln and Roosevelt returned to the kitchen after exploring more of the house. They sat near the back door looking at the four of us.
"I think they need to go outside," I said to Chris. "Their last walk was fairly early this morning."
"Mom," I ask as we were attaching the leashes. "Is there something we can wipe their feet with when we come back?"
"In the cabinet near the back door," she answered.
We headed out into the cold.
"I think they like it here," Chris said as we started on our walk. Lincoln and Roosevelt were pulling at their leashes.
"We could probably let them off their leashes," I said. "But, I think they need to get to know us better. These last few days might be a little confusing for them."
"I wouldn't want to chase these two around the farm," Chris added as we were pulled down the driveway. "I think they might be a little faster than us, especially dressed the way we are!"
Once they were done, we returned to the house. "It's good to be back inside," I said as I grabbed a towel to wipe eight paws. "It's colder here than it was in Chicago!"
"How can that be possible?" Chris asked.
"It's just a guess on my part," I replied. "I am glad we don't need to go too far this evening!"
We entered the kitchen and smelled dinner. "Something smells terrific," Chris exclaimed.
"It's just a pasta dish," my mother informed us. "I thought tonight we could do something light. Tomorrow the eating shall begin!"
As we ate dinner, Lincoln and Roosevelt curled up underneath the table. "They obviously had a tiring day," Chris observed.
"For me, too!" I replied.
We discussed the plans for the condo renovation. When my mother found out about the mid-century guest room, she made a suggestion. "Why don't you look in the attic? There are a few pieces you might be interested in using. I know there are some Art Deco bedroom pieces. And, I think they are in almost perfect condition. There are also a few Marcel Breuer-like dining room chairs. There might even be a contemporary dining room table. We can have whatever you want shipped to Chicago when you are ready for them."
"Isn't Marcel Breuer the dude who was mentored by Walter Gropius from Germany?" Chris asked.
"I really don't know much about him," my mother answered. "All I know is that when Sam's grandparents passed away we wanted to change the house around to make it less their style and more our style. So, there is a lot of stuff up there. We didn't get rid of anything! I am certain your grandmother, Chris, will know more about this stuff than I do!"
"I know my grandmother's colleague did some consulting work for the Museum of Modern Art in New York," Chris thought out loud. "His expertise in contemporary furniture. If my grandmother doesn't know, I'm sure he will."
"All I know is that we won't be using it," my mother explained. "It brought back too many bad memories for us."
"We will put that on our list," I answered. "We could take photos and send them off to Dorothy."
"It would be fun if we found something that would be part of your family, Sam," Chris added.
"I don't think we want to leave it in the attic forever," my father finally explained. "I am certain you won't want to clear out the attic once we are gone."
Around 11 pm, I asked, "Chris? Do you think we should go upstairs? We have a big day tomorrow!"
We said good night to my parents. Lincoln and Roosevelt needed help with the stairs so we each took a dog and the four of us scampered upstairs. We deposited them on the foot of the bed and they waited until we climbed in under the covers before they arranged themselves at our feet. All four of us were out like a light in no time. This was not going to be a sex night!
"What the fuck!" I said as a wet tongue licked my face. It was Roosevelt. Lincoln was waking up Chris.
"I think these two are trying to tell us something!" Chris whispered as we both fended off dog tongues.
We dressed quickly and warmly before we walked Lincoln and Roosevelt.
"This is fucking cold out here!" I complained after we were out for about 5 minutes.
"You've got that right," Chris agreed. "Maybe we need to buy long johns for our dog walks!"
"That's certainly an idea we need to contemplate!" I added. "I wonder if these two are as cold as we are!"
"They've done their duty in record time," Chris said. "So, maybe they are! Let's get the fuck back into the house and warm up!"
We put food out for our boys and went upstairs to shower. We skipped the sex part because we were eager to get on with our day! Another time!
When we arrived downstairs, my mother was making breakfast. "How about bacon, eggs, hash browns, and toast?"
"Sounds great, Mom!" I answered. "Don't go overboard on lunch though! We need to save ourselves for Christmas Eve dinner."
"I have some vegetable soup that I made a couple of days ago," my mother said. "All I need to do is reheat it. And, dinner just needs to be popped into the oven an hour before we want to eat."
I turned to Chris, "And, yes, Chris! Before you ask, she is always this organized for our Christmas feasts. And, I promise you will love the sea food casserole tonight! Everyone does."
"I am salivating already!" Chris exclaimed. "What is in it?"
"Well," my mother began, "this time I used scallops, shrimp, and Haddock. The Haddock adds a nice flavor. All I need to do is make a salad and rice."
"We can help, Mom," I interjected.
"Chris!" my mother exclaimed. "What have you done to my son? He has never offered to help cook!"
Chris laughed as I came to my own rescue, "I make a mean salad! Chris has even taught me how to chop vegetables without cutting off my fingers!"
As we were eating breakfast, we began to discuss the days ahead.
"What time are your grandparents and mother arriving today, Chris?" my mother asked.
"Between 2 and 3 this afternoon," Chris answered. "My grandfather likes to start a trip early in the morning—much to my grandmother's chagrin. I'm sure they will stop for lunch somewhere."
"Perfect!" my mother announced.
"Who will be here tomorrow?" I asked.
"About forty at last count," my mother answered. "Your grandmother, aunt Celia and uncle Herb along with their kids, your father's friend John and his family, Don and his family, and some of the others who helped on the farm. And, a few families from church will also be here. We are having drinks down here at noon and dinner upstairs at 2 in the afternoon. I hope, Chris, your mother and grandparents will not be overpowered with our guests."
"I wouldn't worry about that," Chris answered with a big smile. "They can generally hold their own in a crowd. My grandmother, especially, thrives when she gets to socialize with new people."
After breakfast, Chris and I gathered up Lincoln and Roosevelt and took my father's truck to the dairy operation. Phillip met us as we parked the truck.
"Good morning! You must be Sam and Chris," Phillip greeted us as we stepped out of the truck each with a dog under our arm. "I'm Phillip Harris, the GM here."
Chris and I each shook Phillip's hand, "It's good to meet you, Phillip. And, yes, I'm Sam. This is Chris. And, these two are Lincoln and Roosevelt. We just wanted to look around. My father said there have been changes on the farm we might want to see."
"There have been a few changes," Phillip began to explain. "I can show you around and point out some of the projects we will be undertaking in the next few years."
Phillip was probably about 30 years old. He had curly brown hair and the bluest eyes I have seen in a long time. He was about 5' 11" tall. And, he filled out his tight jeans nicely!
"Have you worked on an organic farm before?" I asked Phillip.
"I worked on a small farm in New England as an intern in college," Phillip replied. "I majored in business and agriculture at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. I've always had a dream of running an organic farm, but I never imagined something of this magnitude!"
"It is big!" I answered. "I never thought I would see the day that this place would be converted into an organic farm. I convinced my father to experiment with the 500 acre plot, but this is a little tough to wrap my head around!"
"Let's go inside the milking barn," Phillip suggested. "It's a little cold out here."
We stepped inside the milking barn, and it was, indeed, a lot warmer. We put Lincoln and Roosevelt on the floor next to the window wall that separated our area from the milking line.
"I think you will need to buy those two a farm," Phillip suggested as he pointed to Lincoln and Roosevelt. They were intently watching the cows on the other side of the glass.
"I guess their herding instinct has definitely kicked in," I answered.
Chris and I were greeted by several of the guys who were working in the milking barn. Finally, Phillip suggested we go visit Mabel. So, we stepped outside and headed to Mabel's patch of grass.
When we were beside the fence, I yelled her name, "Mabel!"
Mabel looked up to see me. Finally, she noticed Chris and began to saunter toward us. She was mooing all the way.
"I've never seen her move so fast!" Phillip observed. "And, I've never heard her moo before!"
"Yea! She seems to get excited every time she sees Chris," I answered. "They have a special relationship, I think!"
After Chris and Mabel had their reunion, Phillip showed us where the processing plant would be located, and he explained other projects he would be supervising.
As we were leaving, I said to Phillip, "Thank you for showing us around, Phillip. It was good to meet you."
"It was good to meet you two as well," Phillip answered. "I have been invited to your Christmas celebration at your parents' house tomorrow. So, I guess I will see you there!"
"Terrific!" I answered as we headed back to the house.
After we had Chris's family settled in their respective rooms, everyone gathered in the formal living room in front of the tree. My father had started a fire in the fireplace. So, we were all ready to celebrate Christmas Eve. We started with a champagne toast. The champagne was provided by Chris's grandfather—so Chris and I knew we were in for a treat!
My father gave a toast, "Thank you all for traveling here to celebrate Christmas. Elaine and I are looking forward to many more of these celebrations over the years to come. Here's to family!"
We all clinked our glasses. For my father, that was a leap into places he usually doesn't go. So, I decided to give my father a hug, "Thanks Dad," I whispered. "That made me feel very good!"
"And," Chris's grandmother added for my parents' benefit. "You must be so proud of your son's work on the gay homeless youth project the Washington Family Foundation agreed to fund. He gave a remarkable presentation to the foundation last Friday!"
My mother and father looked a little confused. "Opps!" I answered. "I sort of forgot to tell you about the presentation and that the foundation agreed to provide funds for shelter and other assistance to gay homeless youth in Chicago."
"Congratulations, Sam!" my mother effused. "And, yes, we are very, very proud of the thought and effort you put forward to help these kids. You had told us about the article, but we didn't know that you were successful in getting funding! That is absolutely amazing!"
"Thank you, mom," I added. "It just skipped my mind with all of the preparations for the holidays and adopting Lincoln and Roosevelt!"
"How much did the foundation agree to provide?" my father asked.
"Five million dollars the first year to get the program started and the operation for the first year. Then, one million dollars a year to keep the program running for 20 years," I explained.
"Oh! That's $25 million!" my father added. I think he was in shock!
"Thus proves the adage that I use often when describing Sam," Chris explained, "Sam usually gets what he wants!'"
The Christmas Day festivities began promptly at 12 noon. Everyone arrived almost at once. I was mingling with people I hadn't seen in several months. I introduced Chris to almost everyone and tried to do the same for Chris's grandparents and mother.
A few minutes before we were scheduled to move upstairs for Christmas dinner, my father's friend John Ritter cornered me when I was by myself.
"Sam," he began. "Could I speak with you privately for a moment?"
"Sure," I answered as we moved into an unoccupied corner of the room.
"Sam," John started. "When your father told me that you were gay, I was okay with that. It never occurred to me that my son was also gay. I accept that now probably because your father had no problem with you being gay. But, I do need to admit, I think your choice in boyfriends is not something I can readily accept. And, to think that you actually invited his grandparents and mother here to your parents' home to celebrate Christmas is just unbelievable to me."
"A...," I began, "what do you mean by my `choice of boyfriends?'"
"Sam," John further explained. "He's black! That must be breaking your parents' hearts!"
"Let me get this straight, Mr. Ritter." I was quietly seething, but I was determined to be calm. "You are saying you don't approve of my boyfriend because he is not a white person like almost everyone else in this room?"
"Yes," Mr. Ritter confirmed.
"Let me clue you in on a little secret, Mr. Ritter," I began. I could feel my blood start to boil. Maybe Chris was right, I do have an inner pit bull! "My mother and father both love Chris. Not because of the color of his skin, but because he is a loveable, sweet, caring, intelligent, and loyal man. And, his grandmother, grandfather, and mother are really very lovely people."
I didn't let my father's friend have another word. I just kept going. "And, my mother and father really, really like Chris's family, too! Let me fill in some of the blanks for you. Chris's grandfather happens to be the managing partner at one of Chicago's largest law firms. His grandmother teaches at Northwestern. You might want to speak with Dr. Washington about her teaching experience. And, his mother is a survivor who, in the end, stood by her gay son when her bigoted husband threw him to the wolves... Just to let you know, Chris is not only my boyfriend, he is my future husband. His grandparents and his mother will be my future in-laws."
Mr. Ritter's gay son Keith joined us. He could tell I was pissed. "Is something wrong, Sam?"
"I'm just explaining to your father, Keith, that Chris's race has nothing to do with why I love him and his family!"
"Oh shit!" Keith whispered to his father. "Please tell me you didn't say what I think you said!"
"He did, Keith," I answered for Mr. Ritter. "And, I'm just giving your father some pointers here. So, I will continue if you don't mind!"
"I want to hear this, Sam!" Keith again said in a solemn and low voice.
"I suggest," I continued now that Keith was aware of our conversation, "that you do not say anything to any of our guests, my mother, my father, Chris, or Chris's family about this conversation. I don't think that would be productive on your part. And, I am going to give you a couple of options. If you don't think you can keep your fucking mouth shut, I think you should get the fuck out of this house immediately. I will make sure everyone knows that you are not feeling well. Or, if you would like to stay, do not—I repeat—do not bring this subject up again while you are here. I will not mention our conversation to anyone, Mr. Ritter, whatever you decide. But, if you do decide to flap your fucking bigoted mouth to any of our guests, I will make certain that you will be thrown out of here—and I am certain me and my father will be two of the ones doing the throwing. So, Mr. Ritter, are you staying or leaving?"
"Ah..., I will be staying if you don't mind, Sam," Mr. Ritter muttered.
I hadn't noticed, but Lincoln had found his way to our discussion. I think he knew I was not a happy camper. So, he did the only thing an eight week old puppy can really do. He lifted his back left leg and pissed all over Mr. Ritter's foot.
To be continued...
I hope you liked the direction that `Sam and Chris' is taking. I've heard from many people and would like to hear from even more. Once I get a few more installments complete, I plan to setting up a Facebook so we can share our ideas with one another.
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