"We need to open the bunk house and air it out. No doubt we will have people staying."
"How many people are we expecting?"
"A lot! Cheytan and his family, that is a bunch right there. Then Uncle Jerry and I think he said that Tilman guy was coming too. Then there is Officer Bill, he said he was going to try and make it. Officer Jim said he had to work but would be over around mid afternoon. Ms Sharon from the Sawdust," giggling he smiled, "I think she'll be staying the night. Uh let's see, uh Michael and Cory and Mrs VanGordon and Ms Sandburg. So that is like Eleven of us and all of Cheytan's people. So I guess about twenty or so."
Nick turned around to find Ty sitting on one of the bunks looking at the floor. He could see tears staining the bare concrete floor where he sat. Nick rushed to his side, "Ty, what's wrong? Why the water works. You should be happy."
"I am," He sniffled. "I'm happier than you can possibly know."
"You have a funny way of showing it. Come on, we have a lot to do. We have to get eggs and feed yet."
They heard a truck pull in and a horn blow. Looking out Nick saw it was Ms. Sharon. He ran to hug her with Ty in tow. "It's good to see you, did you come early to help us get ready?"
"Hi boys, yes I know how Oggie is in the kitchen. Look I have a bunch of stuff in the back of the truck you want to tote it in for me? I brought some pies and my famous potato salad and there is a cooler with a bunch of steaks and burgers that your pa ordered. That may be a bit heavy so be careful."
"We've got it Ms Sharon."
"Get a chunk of this cooler."
Ty grabbed a handle and tried to lift it. He barely nudged it. "Uh, I don't think so. Better wait till we get some more help."
"Ok, let's take the rest in." They grabbed boxes and bowls and started carrying them in. As they started up the steps several pick-up trucks rolled in bringing a cloud of dust. Ty could see a lot of people in the back. It was Cheytan and his family. Nick smiled and gave them a nod as they continued in with the food. Ms Sharon took the bowls and placed them on the table and pointed to where they should put the rest.
"Pa, Cheytan's here and it looks like the whole clan."
"Great, drag one of the plastic horse troughs over in the shade by the BAR-B-Q and fill it about a third of the way with water. Cheytan has ice for the drinks so dump all the pop and beer in and let's get it chilling."
"On it Pa. We still need to feed and get eggs. Oh and the cooler with the meat, we can't budge it."
"Better get on with the feeding then. We're getting busy fast. Let me go out and see if Cheytan needs anything. Sharon, hun, I'll be right back."
"Come on Nick. I'll feed if you want to get the eggs."
"Cool, on it."
"Hey Cheytan, good to see you."
"You too. I guess it was touch and go for you there for a bit. How's our boy?"
"Doing fine now. Hey wait till you see what my brother is giving him for his birthday. You won't believe it."
"I can't wait. Hey, how can we help?"
"Well I ordered steaks and meat and it is in the back of the truck. About 300 pounds of it. Sharon brought it up in her truck. I think it will take four of us."
"Lead on! Chilly and Yooloo come one we need some muscles. Will why don't you and Henry make sure we have a clear path from the truck back to the B-B-Q.
Ty tossed a flake to Camille and Chewbacca and then one to Smokey. He paused a minute to talk to Camille. I can't stop to talk now Camille but I have so much to tell you. I'll sneak away later but for now we have a lot of things to do." He gave her a quick scratch and she turned her back on him. "Hey, don't be mad. I just got back. It wasn't my fault. I sure missed you though."
Camille looked over her shoulder at him and turned towards him. His smile was more than she could bare. She nibbled his cheek. "He hugged her. I don't want to be rude to my guest. I'll be back later though. I promise."
He came out to find the cooler making its way back to the BAR-B-Q with an entourage of beautiful shirtless golden brown men. "Damn!" Ty heard as Nick came around and saw what Ty saw. "The last time I saw Chilly and Yooloo they were our age. Think we will look like that in six or seven years?"
Ty smiled. "I've seen better but it doesn't mean they are good inside. I'll take you and five hundred pounds over a buff brainless idiot any day."
Nick looked at Ty and smiled. "Me too. And I'm hungry enough that you may not have to wait too long for it. Come on let's get these eggs in and see what's next on the list."
An FMC Motorcoach pulled up in the drive and maneuvered itself along side of the bunk house. The coach let out a loud hiss as the air brake was applied and then it shut down. As the dust cleared Karen stepped out with a very large hat tied on her head loosely with a scarf. She was followed by Michael and Cory and another young boy that Nick didn't know. She smiled as she walked up wrapping her arms around Nick and Ty. Sharon hugged them both and looked at Ty, "I hear you've had an adventure! I'm so glad you are alright."
"Thanks me too. It was a little scary for a while but that is over now. So much has happened. I'm so glad you could come, it's really good to see you again. How was the ride?"
"It was a long way but Chuck handled it perfectly. You remember Chuck don't you?" She said turning around. I hired him away from the company that had him. He brought his little brother along too." She turned and extended an arm to the boy who smiled weakly, "Troy this is Nick and Ty. And of course you remember Cory and Michael."
They smiled, Nick said, "Make yourselves at home. We are all family here. Back by the BAR-B-Q we have a trough with cold drinks and beer but it is up to your mom if you can drink the beer. Pa might let us have one this evening but for the most part the kids just drink soda's. Can we look at your coach later? It looks like a Movie stars bus."
"Sure, we'll give you the grand tour. But first I better say hello to your dad. You want to show me the way?"
They walked lazily towards the house as Michael and Cory set off exploring. Troy walked back to the coach where his brother was getting out large thick boards and putting them in the corners of the coach getting ready to use the hydraulics to level the vehicle. He walked inside and pushed a couple buttons and large pistons came down and pressed against the large boards lifting the coach to a level state. He pushed another and an awning rolled out and he pushed another and a section of the bus expanded like it magically added another room on to the side. Troy smiled. "That is too cool."
"Ya, it is. Why didn't you go with the other kids?"
"Nah, I don't know them."
"Well you know Michael and Cory."
"Ya but you know, they are together. I don't want to be in the way."
"Did I tell you Nick and Ty are gay too?"
"Ya but the same thing, and I don't know them anyways."
"Come on, I think you'll like them and there are lots of kids here."
"Do they know?" He asked looking around, "You know, about me?"
"Well Cory and Michael do of course and I think Nick might remember but I don't think anyone else does. Don't worry about it. Be yourself and everything will be fine. Come on. Let's go meet some people."
"What if they find out and don't like me?"
"What if they do?" He knelt down and looked troy in the eye. You can't be afraid to be yourself. You are a good person. And Troy, being gay is normal. It isn't the norm, but it is normal. We've talked about this. Remember, it's like being left handed. Being left handed is normal, it just isn't the norm because more people are right handed than left. But both are normal. And I don't think that is an issue here. Nick and Ty don't hide their love and everyone here is ok with it so I don't think you have any worries there." He smiled and held out his hand. "Come on."
"Pa Ms Sandburg is here. You should see the set of wheels she came in on. It looks like one of those movie star bus things."
Oggie turned drying his hands with a dish towel. "Hi Karen, so glad you could make it." He said leaning in and kissing her cheek. She stepped back and looked at Sharon. Oggie stood back, "Oh sorry, how rude of me, Karen Sandburg meet Sharon Andrews."
Karen Sandburg smiled extending her hand, "I'm so glad to meet you Sharon." Her attention went back to Oggie, "Mike just got back into town and was just too trashed from the flight to come this morning, but hopefully he will make it here this afternoon. He flew in from New Zealand yesterday and was still asleep when we came through LAX. He said he will try and make it up tomorrow so that you guys can go over the plans for the gallery. I can't wait to see what you have come up with."
"Great, I can't wait to show you." Oggie said placing his arm around Miss Sharon. "Meanwhile, make yourself at home, we're still scrambling to get it all ready."
She pitched her hat and sun glasses to the side and looked at Sharon, "How can I help?"
"Well first you can show Oggie the door, then we can talk about him while we get the salad done."
Oggie smiled and put his hands up, "I can take a hint." He leaned over and kissed Sharon and headed for the door. Walking into the back he could see that Cheytan already had the fire going in the Bar-B-Q. Oggie walked over to the awning that Chilly and Yooloo set up where an old man sat in the shade watching the kids play. Beside him was another older man but younger than the first. Oggie extended his hand to the oldest, man. "Welcome Tunkasila (Grandfather), Toniktwook-ahwoe (How are you? Informal)
"Waste' Na niye" (Good and you?)
"Waste' (good) It is good to have you here. Can I get you something?"
The Old man reached in his pocket and pulled a packet of cigarettes out and offered one to Oggie. He took one and thanked him. Oggie then turned to the next man, Hello father it is very good to see you again as well. They shook hands. Can I get you anything?"
"Thank you, no we're fine."
"Make yourselves at home. If there is anything you need just let me know and we'll take care of it.
Ty was watching with Nick fascinated by the old Indian. Looking to Nick Ty asked, "Since when did Oggie start smoking?"
"He doesn't watch," and they watched as Oggie held it behind his back to the other old man who took it and lit it and started smoking it.
"I don't get it." Ty said not taking his eyes off of them.
"To the Lakota, Tobacco is a sacred thing. If you give a man tobacco it is a kin to a blessing. He is sorta paying for his meal and hospitality. His son is a lot more modern and knows that Oggie would never dishonor the gift. So by him taking the gift back and smoking it he honors the grandfather for Oggie. The grandfather ignores the fact that Oggie isn't smoking it himself. And in doing so is son is honored by Oggie giving him tobacco. "
"Wow, how do you know all this stuff. I watch and ask questions. Later we will take him some lemonade and you can meet him. Grandfather is very old. He is in his mid eighties they think. They aren't really sure. They don't keep real good records."
"Wow, shouldn't he like be in a home or something?"
"He is in a home. His family is all around him."
"But I mean like a nursing home where they can take care of him if something happens to him. What if he falls?"
"Watch, you will see that he is well taken care of. If he stands to go to the restroom there will be a trail of people to help him. When it is time to eat, a plate will be prepared for him and he will eat before the rest; except for the babies and the little kids. He is treated with great respect."
"That's too cool."
"They would no more think of putting him in a home than cutting off an arm."
"But what happens when he is so old that he gets sick and can't get around."
"Well then he lays down in the woods and goes to sleep and doesn't wake up."
"What about the trail of people. They just let him lay down and freeze to death?"
"For them it is the way to go. Cheytan smiled when I told him I thought it was mean. He said what was mean was keeping someone alive just because we don't want to face death. He said I would understand when I was old." Nick stood up and looked at all the people around then looked at Ty, "Come on, follow me." He made for the house and then for the steps, Ty on his heels. Nick closed the door and kissed Ty. Stepping back he smiled. "I wanted to give you my gift before everyone got here and we got busy. I think now is as good a time as any." He went to his closet and got a box out of it and handed it to Ty.
Ty smiled, "I'm really uncomfortable here how am I supposed to act when someone gives me something?"
"Well you begin by saying thank you and then opening the gift. Now here is the really tricky part, even if you hate it you have to act like you love it anyways."
Ty smiled, "And what if I really like it?"
"Then you act like you really love it. That way you always know how to act. Now open it."
TY opened the box and separated the tissue paper to find the saddlebags for his drawing stuff. He ran his hand over the beautiful tooled leather. He looked at the drawing of Camille and marveled at the burnished brown tones of the leather, the intricate flowers tooled into the flap and the word, 'Everything' tooled across the bottom. Ty was silent as his finger took in every groove in the tooling. He stuttered for a breath before great huge tears flowed from his eyes, He slung the leather aside and grabbed Nick pulling him into him as he sobbed into his shirt. Nick just held him, not sure if it triggered a bad memory or what. Ty finally stopped crying and broke away to get a tissue for his nose.
"Does this mean you like it?" Nick said quietly wrapping his arms around Ty again.
"No, like doesn't even come close. It's beautiful, Nick. I think it is the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. You must have worked for days on it. How did you do it without me knowing?"
"When ever you went to work with Pa I went to work on it out in the tack room. You almost caught me a couple times."
"No one has ever put that much effort into anything for me before. It's worth more to me than you will ever know." He sniffled and his voice went to a squeak as Ty felt Nick's arms going around him. I think we better get some handkerchiefs ready. If you are like this for something so small wait until you see what Uncle Jerry has for you."
He turned to Nick. "I'm scared Nick. He doesn't like me."
"Ty, give him a chance to know you. He has only seen you from the other side of the courtroom."
A car horn sounded and Nick glanced out the window. "It looks like you're about to get that chance, he's here. Come on!" Nick ran for the door. Ty stood frozen looking at the imposing man getting out of the car. The passenger door opened and Nick saw the prosecutor. Both in Jeans. The Judge didn't look quite as imposing without his robes. He watched as Nick ran up and hugged the man who stole his life. Ty's heart was in his throat as he slowly backed away from the window to his bed, He sat staring at the door. Breathing hard. He could hear voices and then steps, coming up the stairs. His knuckles turned white as he gripped the blanket on either side of him, he watched the door sure men with come bursting in any moment to cuff him and end his dream. The door inched open and Nick's smile vanished when he saw Ty trembling and his blank stare. Moving to his side he noticed beads of sweat on his face. Nick sat down beside him and he placed his hand on Ty's.
"Ty, what's wrong. There is nothing to be afraid of. It's alright."
"He's here to end the dream!" Ty whispered. Nick was getting a little worried, Ty wasn't sounding rational. Nick pulled a chair around in front of Ty so his eyes looked into Ty's vacant stare. Nick felt like he didn't even see him. Nick laid his hand along Ty's cheek.
"Ty, look at me." He paused for a moment. Nick talked softly, "Ty, do you love me?"
Something stirred inside Ty, he looked at Nick briefly then slowly looked back at the door. "Yes, more than anything else in life."
Then trust me. He isn't here to hurt you. In fact he has brought you the most wonderful gift in the world. Ty looked at Nick. "He already gave that to me. He sent me here." Nick smiled and leaned in placing his forehead against Ty's.
"You may not believe this but it is even greater than that." Ty sat back with a bewildered look.
"There is nothing greater."
"Ok, but if it isn't greater then it is at least as great. Now trust me, come on."
"Why did he bring that guy with him then?"
Nick smiled, "Fishing. Now come with me."
"No! Please, I. . ., I, I need some time. Please, don't make me. Not yet."
"Ty, you are being silly. They're waiting."
"Lay down with me, hold me. Please. Just for a bit. Please. Then I'll go. I just need you to hold me for a bit."
Nick looked at Ty and his begging eyes told him what he needed to do. "Sure Ty, Come on lets snuggle for a bit."
They lay spooned fully clothed on top of the bed. Silently Nick held him tight against him. Ty grabbed Nick's wrist and held it tight to his chest. Minutes later, Nick felt his grip slacken and then go limp as his breathing became deep. Nick realized Ty was fast asleep. He lay still for a few more minutes to make sure his boy was asleep, before slipping off the bed and back down the steps.
Oggie sat with Jerry and Carl Tillman, each with a beer in their hand. Oggie looked up and saw Nick slowly coming down the stairs. He looked up at Oggie and his uncle and softly bit his lower lip on one side. It was a look Oggie knew all too well. "What is it Son?" Nick shrugged.
"Ty is laying down for a bit. He's pretty stressed out. I laid down with him for a little bit and he fell asleep in my arms. He is scared to death that you are here to take his dream away." He couldn't lift his eyes to meet his uncle's.
The Judge spoke up, "Well he's been through a lot over the last few days. Maybe after his nap he'll feel a little more sociable. Honestly I can understand his reluctance."
Ty looked up, "You can? I wish you would explain it to me because I can't wrap my arms around it. I mean sure you are the judge that sentenced him for the stuff you thought he did but you also fixed it. I can't figure why he can't see that you are on his side now."
"Well I am afraid that is my fault. You see when I had him in court I asked him when we were in chambers, why I shouldn't just throw him back down in the hole regardless of you and Oggie's feelings. I wanted to judge his reaction. I had to try and see what you saw in him. I had to be sure I was doing the right thing." He looked at Nick who had an incredulous scowl on his face. "Nick, please don't look at me that way. You have to remember, I have to judge a man on what I see hear and feel after only hearing a few sentences out of his mouth; sometimes not even that much. It may not be the best or the nicest way to get answers but it is damn effective."
Nick pursed his lips for a minute then looked up again. "What was his answer?"
The judge smiled a little bit, "He had quite a lot to say. But the gist of it was that you both showed him a love that changed him. He said if he had this bit to do over again, that he would do it exactly the same because you and your dad were too good to allow harm to befall you. He said he was expendable. Then he said you showed him a love that could see him through anything I could throw at him and that if I chose to throw him back down in the hole that when he was released on his eighteenth birthday that I could find him at the Ogden Castle Ranch because he would be here even if he had to walk.
That was when I was sure I was doing the right thing. And it wasn't even so much what he said as the way he said it. I knew he meant it."
Nick looked at Oggie, "Pa have you shown him his drawings?"
Oggie looked nervously at Nick and gave a smirk as he squirmed, "Uh no, I haven't. You know, Jerry isn't much into art. Nick."
Nick suddenly realized his uncle didn't know about the pictures or the relationship. Nick took a breath and looked first at his uncle, then back to his Pa. Then he looked back to his Uncle Jerry.
"Uncle Jerry, I have something to tell you and you probably aren't going to like it. But I don't know, I mean you are a judge and being fair is what you do for a living."
"Would you like me to step out?" Carl Tilman asked starting to get up. "This sounds like a family matter."
"No, please. Have a seat. I am sorry, I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable." Nick said. "Wait a moment, they say a picture is worth a thousand words." Nick jumped up and ran into the den coming back with Ty's sketch pad. "Here," He said handing the sketch pad to his uncle Jerry, "Ty did these."
The Judge took the sketch pad and lifted the cover. His face showed his astonishment at the detail.
"These are fantastic." He continued to turn the pages in amazement. He came to the naked pictures of Nick, "The boy is really talented. And Nick these are beautiful. You are a very handsome young man." But what is the part that is supposed to be so upsetting to me?"
"Uncle Jerry, I'm gay and he is my boyfriend." The judge looked at Nick, then looked at Oggie.
"Did you know about this?"
"Yes, I did."
"Why didn't you say something about it too me?"
"I was afraid it might affect your decision to help Ty. It would have made a difference wouldn't it Jer?"
"Yes, no, I don't know. But I feel like I've been played the fool."
"Why would you feel that way? We didn't ask you to do this so Nick could have a boyfriend. Jer, they are still very young. There is no guarantee that their relationship will last into adulthood. And even if it doesn't, he will still be my son. Nothing changes. The fact that Ty has brought out the beautiful love that Nick has had hidden inside him is just a benefit we hadn't planned on. And Jer, it is that relationship that has given this boy hope. That's something he hasn't had much of in his life.
Jer, I don't know if I was right or wrong in not telling you and honestly it wasn't planned it just never seemed important. But what I know for sure, is that you did the right thing by this boy."
The Judge got up and turned to Carl, "What do you say we go drown some worms."
"Sounds like a plan."
Jerry turned to Nick and reached in his pocket and pulled out a packet of thickly folded papers and handed them to Nick, "What's done is done." He looked at Oggie, "We'll be back in about an hour unless they are really biting." He looked back at Nick and winked. He tussled his hair before turning to the door.
Nick looked at Oggie and handed him the papers. "Pa, you need to deal with Ty on this. He is petrified."
"A while back you said you had an idea how to give this to Ty. What did you mean?"
"Well I did but it won't have the same impact if it doesn't come from Uncle Jerry.
"What was your idea?"
"For the judge to give him the papers and the buck knife that you got him. If the judge gave him the knife he would really know it was over."
"I think I can talk to him. Why don't you go check on our guests."
"Hey Ty, Why don't you sit up and talk to me a bit."
Ty rolled over and looked up at Oggie. "Is he still here?"
"Ya, he and Carl went down to the lake fishing. He gave me something to give you."
"He isn't mad because I didn't want to come down?"
"No. I think he understands why. And I'm sure he is alright with it. Ty I want you to look at these papers. They are about you. They also change your entire life." He handed them to Ty as he sat up and started to read.
"I don't understand what these mean Oggie. Tell me what they mean."
"What they mean Ty is that everything you are, or more accurately, were charged with that got you sent here has been summarily dismissed as having been satisfied. So that means that you are no longer under the court's control. You are done with it. All of it except the gasoline bit. And here is the best part. Nothing you did prior to this date can be seen without a court order. He sealed the files. He has also marked them to be expunged in two years automatically."
"What does that mean, expunged?"
"It means that in two years, those files get shredded and never seen again. So what it means is that he has erased your life and you are starting again, new as if none of it ever happened. And nobody can even open up the file and peek. In two years it will be as if it never happened at all. You are like any other kid from a good home who has never been stopped by a cop. You are a free, totally free boy."
"Is it true?"
"Yes Ty, all of it. And Ty, there is something else you should know. Jerry went out on a limb to do this. If that guy Carl wanted to push it he could make Jerry lose his job over the way he did this. Jerry applied pressure to him not to violate you. Carl called him on it but after the judge explained to him that he thought he acted wrong, that you were really innocent and he was just putting things right that Carl said he would not press the issue. This action could have made him without a job."
"If they had taken his job, could they undo this and make me go back?"
"No. Right or wrong, his ruling would have stood. He risked everything for you. There is one more thing I should tell you. He just found out about you and Nick today. Nick told him. He didn't take it too well at first. I'm not sure how he feels about it now, he didn't really react. But, you need to try and understand that he is trying to make things right for you. He told us about the courtroom and what he had said to you. You have to understand that he had to make sure in just a couple minutes that he was doing the right thing. He didn't have time to know you. He needed to judge you based on just a question or two. He told us what you said and it made me mighty proud. So whether or not you forgive him is up to you. I have no right to even suggest it. But He is legally your uncle now and you will see a bit of him. Do what you need to do to not carry your old life into your new. Hate and resentment is a lot like shame. It has it's day. Don't drag it along with ya. It'll slow you up."
Oggie started to get up. "Oggie, I love you." Ty said jumping up and wrapping his arms around him.
"Hey, you can call me pa now or dad if you like. You are legally my son. Tyson Ignacio Castle."
"Thanks, I got to go find Nick."
"Hey, aren't you forgetting something?"
"What? Oh! Right, he said getting the leather saddle bags Nick had made him"
"I meant your Buck knife? Can't be a free country boy without a knife."
Ty's eyes lit up and a toothy smile appeared as he ran to his nightstand and grabbed his knife, undoing his belt he slid it over the belt.
"Wait a minute, let me help you with that. You have to go behind the next belt loop or it will work its way around front and hurt you when you bend over for anything. Put it behind the next one back and it will be right where you need it, when you need it and out of the way when you don't."
Ty ran to the door and stopped, turning his head, "Thanks Pa."
"Ya?" He said sticking his smiling face back in the door.
"I love you son."
Ty ran back to Oggie wrapping his arms around Oggie, "Pa I love you so much it hurts. Thanks." He turned and bolted out the door again.
"There's Ty now Nick." Cheytan smiled, "Looks like he's worked things out."
"Hey, you ok?" Nick asked.
"Ya, pa and I had a talk. I'm ok now I guess. Still find it hard to believe. I mean, he only erased it on paper. It all still lives inside me."
"We all have a path to walk Ty. Some good, some bad. Don't ever forget where you've walked. You went there for a reason. Maybe to make you stronger down the road, maybe just so you will understand another. No one knows what is around the next bend. Maybe it was so you would know what to do to save Nick and Oggie the other day. The point is learn from it but don't let it control your tomorrows."
"You Indians sure are smart. How come you got your asses kicked by the white man so much?"
"Did we get our asses kicked? Many years ago our people sold Manhattan Island for $24 worth of beads and blankets. Well those beads turned out to be emeralds and sapphires and we've been selling those damn blankets back to the white man ever since. They buy them hand over fist. We're making a killing and they keep buying them. And look at the gambling! We are raking it up and no taxes! Did we really lose?"
"I never thought of it that way."
Cheytan put his finger to his lips, "Shush! Don't say anything. They still think they won. Don't let it out and ruin a good thing."
"Right," Ty said smiling. "So, that is your father and your grandfather?" He said nodding towards the awning.
"Yep would you like to meet them?"
"Ya but I have something else to do first. I think I need to go make peace with the white man."
"Your new uncle?" Cheytan asked.
"Ya. I'm not sure how I feel about him yet."
"You will have to make your own peace with that but one thing you should never forget."
"He did something that says to the world I know I was wrong about this boy. I was so wrong that I am confident enough to give him my name. He is my family now. What he does reflects on me. And remember that he is known for his honesty. It takes a pretty big man to publicly say he has wronged someone. It takes a huge man to say he is now my family and I am proud for him to bare my name."
"Damn Cheytan, you always seem to know just what to say to make the anger leave. How did you get so smart?"
"I have two ears and one mouth. I listen twice as much as I speak."
"Hi Judge, mind if I sit down?"
"Tyson! I'm so glad to see you. Please call me Uncle Jerry. I am that now you know."
"Yes sir, I do. I don't know how to thank you. I was afraid when I saw the prosecutor guy with you that you came to take it all back."
"I'm sorry, Tyson. I brought him along because he trusted me. He asked me before court if I was bending the rules and I didn't answer him. He could have made it real tough on me. What I did may have been right but in the court's eyes I did it the wrong way. But the court's way would have taken too long. By then you would be eighteen or damn close to it. I got a letter from some Sherriff deputy, Jim something or another. Anyways, he told me about a conversation he overheard that he wasn't supposed to. He seemed to think there was a miscarriage of justice. So I had to stop and think. I ordered all your records up and went through them. I'll be damned if I could find anywhere in your file where you did anything specific except be with the wrong people at the wrong times. That coupled with the request from Oggie and the obvious concern from my other nephew it made me give pause. After asking you in chambers why I just shouldn't throw you back down in the hole was just right. You said all the right things. You were different than the last time I saw you. So I was convinced this was the right thing to do. Tyson, I'm sorry. Only you will know for certain whether any of those things you were charged with was deserved. I wish I could roll it all back and make it so it never happened. Even I can't do that. I'm sorry Tyson. That's all I can say. I hope you can forgive me but I'll understand if you can't." He looked up at Ty. "I'm really not a bad ol'guy if you'll give me a chance."
Ty sat down next to him and scooted close to him. "I have a new name now and a new life now. It's easy to thank you for that. This family means so much to me. Cheytan says I need to forgive you or I'll carry it with me. That's easy in words but meaning it in my heart is a little different. I don't know how to tell my heart to co-operate with my mouth. But I'll try. I know it wasn't you. It was the system. You never judged me innocent or guilty. You only set the sentence. I know that too. But the system doesn't have a face. So I tied it to you. So I'll say now that I forgive you the part you controlled and I'll ask your forgiveness too."
"What is there to forgive you for?"
"I've said and thought some pretty horrid things about you. I think I may have even said a few of them. They weren't very nice I'm afraid."
"Well with you being innocent I probably had those coming. But I'll forgive you and thank you for caring."
"Judge . ."
". . . Hey, that's uncle Jerry remember?"
Ty grinned, "Oh ya, Uncle Jerry, that'll take a bit of getting used to but Uncle Jerry will you try and see to it that no more like me end up?"
"I can try Tyson . . ."
" . . . that's Ty, uncle Jerry."
"Right, Ty. That'll take a little getting used to, too! But I'll try. I really don't know how to change that and keep it from happening."
"They asked me in the pretrial and I told them my story. If someone had just read it and checked to see if it was true then none of it would happen."
"I'll tell you what. I'll have every pretrial read before I sentence them."
"No, the person you have read them may not do it. Please, read them yourself."
"Alright. I'll read them myself."
"You will? You promise?"
"I will, I promise."
"I think my heart is beginning to think like my mouth. Hey Where's the prosecutor guy?"
"He went over there to try and get some fish but they aren't biting today."
"Maybe you weren't using the right bait!" Came a voice from behind them.
"How long have you been hiding there?" The judge asked Carl grinning.
"Long enough to know that I made the right decision too."
"You had doubts?"
"No, not really. But it is reassuring to know I haven't lost my touch when it comes to reading people." He turned to Ty, "Ty if it's any help. I promise I'll read each one too. Maybe between the two of us we'll keep this from happening again."
"Can I ask you something?"
"Sure Ty, ask away."
"Why did you trust the judge, Oggie told me you could have made him lose his job maybe. What made you do it?"
"I'm not sure Ty. It was something in the way he said, 'Don't be late and be sure Tyson is in court. Normally it would be video court and you wouldn't even be seen in person. But I knew the judge wouldn't ask unless it was important to him. So I went with my gut. And I have to tell you Ty, I think I made the right decision."
"Thanks for trusting him. If it is any help, he never liked me. He told me that. I think he still isn't all sure about me. But he is. I didn't do anything against the law. I only tried once and that was when I tried to go buy enough drugs to follow my mom. I was arrested before I ever got a chance. I didn't do anything wrong but be born with a lousy father." He turned back to the judge, "Uncle Jerry I really do love Nick. He is the only one to ever love me. And I have grown to love Oggie. To have him be my dad, well I can't even begin to describe how it feels. But it feels as right as my original father felt wrong. Oggie is the best anyone could ever ask for."
"Ty," the judge said firmly.
"Yes sir, your honor, I mean Uncle Jerry."
"You said something in my chambers that was not true."
"No, I never said anything that wasn't true to you."
I disagree, "You said that you were expendable." He looked at Ty, "You are not expendable. You're very important. Can you imagine Nick if anything happened to you? Or Oggie, no son, you are not expendable. You're my nephew." He placed an arm around his shoulders and hugged him. Ty liked the older man's smell. Pipe tobacco and peppermint. He relaxed his squeeze but Ty stayed put with his head against his shoulder.
"Thanks," Ty whispered.
"Hey, those drawings. Did you really do those?"
"Ya, you think they are alright?"
"No, they are not alright. They are fantastic! How do you do that?"
"I don't know I just look at someone and take like a mental picture."
"Where did you learn to do that?"
"Visitation. Van-Go would get a couple smokes to do a tat of a girlfriend. I would walk by, take a look and then draw her. Van-Go would use the drawing for a pattern. I guess Cheytan was right."
"What do you mean he was right? About what?"
"He said we don't know why we have to go through the things that we do. They may be to make us stronger. Ms Sandburg has already paid me a lot of money for my drawings and she wants to help me with schooling to make me a better artist."
"That's pretty cool, what do you say we head back up and have some lunch? I'm pretty hungry."
"Ya, me too. I could eat a whole cow."
"You think we can cook up a few of these babies?" Carl held up a stringer full of fish.
The judge looked at Ty, "Beginners luck."
"Hello Grandfather, would you like some lemonade?"
"It's good, thank you. You are Hoksilah Kici Itowapi Nape? (Boy with picture hand)
"I don't know what that is."
"He asked if you are the boy with pictures in your hand. In other words, are you the boy who draws."
"Yes grandfather, may I draw for you?"
"I would like that. Thank you."
Ty got his pad from the new saddle bags and the pencils. He looked at grandfather and then sat at his feet so he could watch over his shoulder as he drew. Grandfather's amazement grew and he smiled as he saw depth and life come to his drawing.
Grandfather leaned over and whispered in Cheytan's ear. Cheytan leaned forward and whispered, "Grandfather is honored by your talent. He wants to give you a name. A secret Indian name but we will have to do it later at a secret naming ceremony. You will be one of his grandchildren then and a member of the tribe. This is great honor for you."
"How do I thank him for this?"
"Why not make the drawing a gift to him."
"But this is nothing compared to what he offers me."
"Both gifts are easy to one and a cherished gift to the other."
"Yes, I think I would like that. Thank you," He turned to grandfather, "Thank you grandfather, I am honored." He took the picture and removed it from the binder and placed it in Grandfather's hand. The old man smiled and took it. As he viewed it he smiled as a tear formed in the corner of his eye.
He looked at Cheytan, "He has drawn a very tired old man. It is soon time to rest."
"Let's have some steak grandfather."
Excuse me grandfather I have to talk to a horse about a man.
Nick walked into the barn to see Ty sitting on the rail of Camille's Stall. He seemed to have had a long conversation with her.
"Did she forgive you for being gone so long?"
"She held out but I won in the end."
"You've had a busy day. A lot has happened."
"There is a lot left to do."
"Ya what do you say to some steaks."
"Ya, I think I could eat a horse right now!" Camille whinnied. "Sorry, figure of speech Camille."
Google gave me a boot. I had the list backed up, but not my email. So, if you wrote but are not on the list, then drop me a line so I'll have your email again.
So I have a new email email@example.com as well as a backup, compliments of my editor and his significant other, Michael. They have also given me a corner of their site to privately host my stories. So the email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the new place where my stories will also be hosted is: http://mytrickybits.mandmsplace.com
Thanks Mark and Michael. You guys are really great. Happy Holidays!
Posting to all the regular sites will continue. Thanks to www.Nifty.org, www.IOMFATS.org, Gay Authors and www.Screeve.org for continuing to support online writing. Happy Holidays to all my readers.