Patient John Doe

Chapter 11

Mary had arrived when I got to the house. Roberts had already filled her in on the incident last night, and she was thankful none of us had been seriously hurt, but relieved Doeman was out of circulation. She was elated as I filled her in about my intent to seek custody of Johnny, and the hopes Sanchez had offered.

When I joined Roberts on the patio a couple minutes later he was filming toward the pasture. I smiled as I followed the direction of his lens and saw Johnny, Cindy riding behind him, galloping the pasture on Cindy's horse. 'For such a shy little rat, he sure can get what he wants,' I thought.

"When do you think Johnny will be well enough to sit a horse by himself?" I asked Roberts after he stopped shooting. "The Vet suggested Ginger be ridden for exercise, and you know what that's going to lead to."

"As long as he's careful I think it would be safe. Ginger might be the best horse for now, if he falls off her he wouldn't have as far to fall." he answered. "But don't you have to break her, or whatever they call it, first? I don't want him getting bucked off or such!"

"Yeah, I was going to do that in a few minutes," I replied.

"You! You're going to get tossed around and all that? You have more nerve than I!"

"Actually, the vet recommended someone smaller than I, I was going to ask you to break her," I said, trying to keep a straight face.

"ME!" he exclaimed. "I've lived in Texas almost ten years, but I'm no God Damn cowboy! You actually think I'd let myself get bucked and pitched around that way? Shit, I'd end up getting tossed to the moon and back!" he added, his voice raising with each word. I was careful to avoid his eyes, I had no idea I would stir him up that much and wasn't about to let him off easy.

"Hey, I saw you ride last weekend, you did great, you'd be a perfect choice!" I informed him.

"That's the second time I've been on a horse in my life, and my crotch STILL hurts! What do I look like, a short Clint Eastwood!" he barked.

"Well, you had said you weren't going to have any more kids, a good bucking horse ride might help you insure you won’t!" The veins budging out of his red face told me I had pushed far enough. "I'm kidding, I'm too big to ride her, I going to get Cindy or Ronnie to."

He seemed to hang on his wife's name until I added, "They don't buck and go nuts like in the movies, well unless they know John Wayne is watching. Really, all they have to do is get used to having a saddle on their back." After his face relaxed somewhat I added, "Besides, I'm a Psychiatrist, I'll just have a quick therapy session with her, and she'll be fine!"

"Are you sure that is wise?" he asked. His face broke into an almost evil grin as he added, "Are you sure you can handle a patient with a higher IQ than yours?"

Buddy was sound asleep, snuggled around some of the rags in his cardboard box on the patio, when the boys came back up to the house a few minutes later. They rushed inside for drinks, and I was sure a snack I don't think anyone noticed the box. A couple minutes later they began drifting back onto the patio, inhaling cups of fruit salad and juice as they walked.

"I was just about to go back down with you guys," I told them. "When you finish your snack we have some work to do," I added, earning matching glares from all four of them.

"But it's the weekend! I mean yes sir," Ronnie exclaimed.

"Oh, it won’t be that bad, I promise," I snickered.

I had to laugh with pride as we introduced Ginger to a saddle, and later a rider on her back. I had Cindy hold her halter, and Johnny and Mark reassure her while I gently draped a blanket, then a saddle onto her. She wriggled her back and hips somewhat as I pulled the girth strap just snug under her chest, but didn't resist or seem to object. As we started walking her around the pasture wearing the empty saddle she turned her head back to look at what was on her, then seemed to look at the other saddled horses as her ears perked. Shortly she was pushing her muzzle to Johnny, and looking at the other horses almost like she was saying 'Look, look, I'm a big horse now!'

After ten minutes or so I cinched her girth strap tight, and we walked her a little more. "Let's let her loose for a few minutes," I suggested. "You guys run up to the house and get everyone something to drink," I instructed as I grabbed Junior and Ronnie's neck. "And I want a beer!"

Johnny pushed under my arm as the other boys started toward the house and Ginger strutted toward the other horses, I could almost read the 'Look At Me!' thoughts she was broadcasting with her body language.

"She soooooo happy Pop, thanks! And she said thanks, too!" he bubbled. "I wish I could ride her, do you think I'm gonna getta? Please, I gotta!" he whined.

"You are going to ride Ginger, I promise," I told him as I pulled him against me. "But when you are Gonna Getta?

"Ah, well, ah, when am I gonna get to, , , ah going to, , , well, I don't got. I'm sorry sir, I want to talk right like you and Ronnie and everyone!"

"I'm not mad, I'm trying to help you do that!" I told him before kissing his forehead. "You're doing fine, but I'm going to correct your language, is that okay, son?"

He stiffened under my arm for an instant, but then melted against me. "Yeah Pop, I mean DAD!" he hooted. "I mean Yes Sir!"

"I like Dad better, okay?" I countered. Before he could answer Ginger pressed her long nose against our stomachs, pushing into our snuggle.

Johnny leaned into me as he hugged Ginger with his hand, snuggling for several seconds. "Do you think I'm ever really gonna get to live here? For real like Mark and Ginger?" he asked, I think both Ginger and I.

"Very soon, son. Didn't I say you were going to?" he looked up at me wide eyed again. "Please trust me, I promise you will," I continued, hoping Cindy was right.

After we let Ginger adjust to her saddle a few more minutes while we enjoyed our cold drinks, I held her halter while Cindy started to mount her. She resisted, turning away and pulling at her lead rope. After several tries the little horse moved so her saddle was next to Johnny and turned her head, as if telling him to get on.

"Johnny's not ready to ride you yet, girl. You have to let someone else ride you first," I told her, wondering even if I said it if I was really talking to a horse that way. To my surprise she looked at me, then her boy as if asking his reaction.

"Can I ride her? She likes me," Mark offered. I wasted no time in turning down his request, but as I did he was already in front of Ginger. "Will you let me ride you? I bet if you do our dad will let Johnny ride you soon," he told the animal as he stroked her snout.

I was wondering, hoping 'our dad' referred to he and his brothers, not the horse and him, when Johnny joined the snuggle. "It's okay, Johnny told the little horse.

"I'm sorry guys, but if she bucked Mark could get hurt," I interceded. "Let's let Mrs. Roberts try a couple more times, if she can’t I'll ask Mrs. Stewart to work with her on Wednesday."

"Wednesday!" Johnny hollered. "But, I ain't gonna be here Wednesday!" I was about break the news to him that he would, that I intended to have Mary pick him up so he could begin riding lessons when he pulled Ginger closer. "Please girl, you gotta!" they stated at each other for several seconds. "She promises she won’t hurt Mark, Pop! Tell him Ginger, tell him you won’t."

I had to do a double take as she turned her head and looked me directly in my eyes. I saw Cindy nod her approval. I thought about it for several seconds, every eye in the pasture, both human and four legged, staring at me, before taking a deep breath and asked Cindy to take Ginger's lead rope. Grabbing a handful of Mark's belt, I half lifted, half helped him as I made him drape his body across the saddle. The little horse shifted her weight and feet somewhat, as if testing her balance, but seemed calm.

Johnny and Cindy walked her for a minute or so while I walked next to the animal, maintaining my death grip on Marks belt, ready to jerk him off the saddle if she tried to buck. 'Here goes, nothing, or everything,' I thought as I told Mark to get down. Ginger moved her feet a little as his weight shifted, but then turned her head almost like saying, 'that's not all, is it?'

"No girl, we're not done," I said before I realized it. She turned back toward Johnny and let out a neigh, her tail rising into a proud arch. "Okay, you are not a cowboy," I told Mark. "If she bucks at all, you are to jump off, DON"T try to ride her if she does, promise?" He nodded. "And take your headgear off."

He had removed his straps and was pulling the facebow out of his mouth when Cindy barked, "He wasn't talking to either of you!" When I followed her eyes, she was snapping at Junior and Ronnie, already almost out of their appliances.

I snickered as I looked around at the rest of our audience. All the other horses were formed into a loose semi-circle behind us, with the boys in the middle. All of them watching as intently as a human would a good movie. 'Here we go!' I told myself as I helped Mark climb into the saddle, more for my benefit than his.

Ginger only shifted her body a little as it accepted the boy's weight, then stuck her nose higher into the air. I walked next to Mark as Cindy led them in a slow walk for a couple of minutes, making a few gentle turns and stops. The filly seemed to be loving it, the longer she carried her rider the crisper her step became, the further her head and tail rose with pride.

"Remember what I told you son," I reminded Mark before walking ahead, tucking Johnny under my arm. "Good girl," I said, stroking Ginger's head with my other hand.

Johnny petted the side of her head for a second as she looked over at us. "She said thanks Pop! Yeah, thanks for me too!" he bubbled. I almost found myself wondering if she really did as I looked at her eyes and face.

"Junior, go saddle Zeus for me." I asked. "Come here Zoe," I added, gesturing toward her. As soon as I mounted Zoe and took Ginger's lead rope, Cindy rushed over to her steed and climbed aboard. "Remember what I told you son," I told Mark before I started to lead our little pupil around the pasture, Cindy riding next to Mark on the other side. We rode for five minutes or so, walking and trotting her. All the while she seemed as happy as could be, looking over at Cindy's horse, then Zoe almost like saying 'Look at me! I'm a big horse now!'

"Carl said Johnny can ride by himself, what do you think?" I asked Cindy. Ginger almost stumbled before Cindy could respond.

"What, you need to ask?" Cindy quipped as she reached over and patted Ginger's head.

"Yeah Dad!" Mark injected.

I tied Ginger's lead rope to Zoe's saddle-horn before I climbed off Zoe. After I climbed up on Zeus and Ronnie mounted Zoe, we made another ride around the pasture with Ronnie leading the little filly and Cindy and I flanking her. She seemed even happier than during our first excursion, looking around and showing off to three horses now.

"Go mount up, Junior too," I told Mark after I climbed off of Zeus and helped him off of Ginger. "As soon as you put this on," I added, handing him his headgear. "Stay close to her, but don't scare her," I told him, popping his butt to shoo him to Hera.

"Well, you want to go for a ride?" I asked Johnny. He looked between my face and Ginger's saddle, his face in total disbelief, as I walked him toward the filly. "Hang onto the saddle horn, and remember to hold with your legs," I reminded him. He hesitated for a second or so until Ginger turned her head, gently pushing him toward the stirrup with the tip of her nose, as she snorted softly. "Have fun, son," I added as I lifted him and helped him swing his bad leg over her saddle.

Johnny looked down at me, then around briefly before standing somewhat in his stirrups and falling forward against Ginger's neck. My ass-hole sucked a good amount of wind as I reached to catch him before he fell, but he stayed in the saddle and wrapped his arm around his mount's neck crying, "Yeah! YEAH WE DID IT! YEAH GINGER!!!" He buried his face into her mane as she pushed her neck back against him, her tail swinging side to side.

Ginger behaved like she had been ridden for years as she proudly strutted around. Cindy and I rode on each side of Johnny for several minutes, praying she wouldn't freak and buck or try to run, before we backed away, letting the boys and their horses enjoy themselves. We gave both our horses a good gallop for twenty minutes or so before returning to the kids, Ginger still prancing like a show horse.

"I think Ginger, and you should rest a little," I suggested as I rode next to Johnny.

"But, Pop, please?" he whined. "Please, she's so neat, and please?"

"Well, but I am getting hungry, and I think it's almost time for her to take her pill,"" I countered. My tactic worked perfectly, Johnny seemed to snap instantly to the suggestion of food as did the other boys, and Ronnie turned back toward the pasture fence, Ginger still in tow. I got a frightened look from Johnny as everyone dismounted and I told the boys to remove Ginger's saddle, but he brightened considerably when I told him he could go for another ride this evening. "Go get her pill, and groom her," I told Johnny.

"That is an amazing horse, I have never seen an animal almost demand to be rode for the first time. And she loves Johnny, I have never seen that kind of loyalty from a horse, especially as young as she is," Cindy told me as we walked toward the house.

"I know," I answered. "I just wonder if she is really all horse, she clearly understands English! Who was the Greek God trapped in a horse's body?" I quipped. "Go look in the box," I told her as we walked onto the patio. I went to join Mary and Roberts at the barbeque pit as she gave me a curious look.

"Wow, thanks Adam!" Cindy bubbled as she joined us a minute or so later, Buddy tucked against her chest. "You are wonderful, I don't know who is going to be happier, Buddy or your boys!" she added, pecking my cheek with a kiss as Buddy leaned out in her arms and licked the other one.

"Or me, only three more to get rid of now!" Roberts teased. "Where's my kiss?" Everyone but Roberts laughed as Cindy held the puppy up to her husband's face and the little dog scrubbed him with his tongue. We were all still laughing and teasing Roberts as the boys began crowding around the pit, their stomachs almost bulging out of their eyes as they look hungrily at the feast cooking.

"Buddy!" Junior howled when he noticed the little fur-ball in his mothers arms.

"I don't believe it, there is something that comes between them and food!?!" I quipped to the other adults, as the boys en masse carried Buddy away, the little dog craning his neck like a giraffe to lick all of them.

I shuddered a few minutes later when we sent the boys inside to wash up and bring out plates and utensils for lunch, Buddy stumbling and tripping to keep up as they rushed inside. "Don't worry, that is what carpet cleaner is for sir, he won’t hurt anything!" Mary told me. She ignored my dirty look as she added, "His mess is easier to clean up than their grass stains and gym shoe odor!"

"He already knows he should go outside to do his business, he's a very intelligent dog," Cindy added. "He is still young, and can’t wait long, but don't worry, your house will survive." 'Thanks a bunch!' my wallet groaned, loud enough that I could hear it from my bedroom.

The rest of the day went perfectly. Mary showed me how she had spread newspapers across the floor of a small room off the kitchen for Buddy, suggesting we just move his box into it later, and I finally managed to get Mary to relax and sit by the pool, be a guest for a few minutes.

After we ate, and Buddy munched on the small bits of our meal Cindy allowed the boys to give him, he disappeared back into his box and crashed into a nap. I'm not sure who was happier, Ginger or Johnny as they went for an hour or so ride tethered to Ronnie. All too soon the evening attacked, and I sent the boys to bathe after Carl and Cindy left for home, and I went into my bedroom for a much needed shower.

"Well, I think things are getting back to normal!" I chucked as I saw the mountain of quilts and pillows stacked in the family room. "Did anyone think to look for any good movies?" I asked as I sat on the couch. "I don't guess anyone has time to get. . ."

A thin hand stuck a beer can in front of me before I could finish the statement. "Can we sleep here, please?" Johnny whimpered as I accepted the beer and he sat next to me, snuggling against me. Mark dove into my lap as Ronnie and Junior appeared from the foyer, struggling with another load of bedding.

I was about to tease them and say they had to sleep in the bedrooms upstairs when the stack of quilts next to me whimpered, and Buddy's puppy face surfaced from under them. "Shit Buddy! I told you to. . . Ah, I meant, ah, I'm sorry, I was gonna say. . ." Junior began.

"You were going to apologize for your poor language, weren't you!" I scolded. His ghost white face and quivering lips answered for him. "Please come here," I directed, "Now!" I added when he hesitated. I let him sweat for a minute before wrapping him in my arm and pulling him down on the couch on the other side of me. "Do you think a soap bar would fit under that thing?" I asked him, gently tapping in his facebow.

He blushed red, then turned even paler than before, muttering something I didn't understand.

"You stuck kid, you're my fourth son, and I expect you to behave like that! Okay?" I asked, tucking him into a tight snuggle and kissing his forehead as he nodded.

'Well at least we're not in the recliner!' I thought as Ronnie climbed into my lap next to his brother, depositing Buddy in the middle of our now mass nest.

"I'm glad you want to play with Buddy, but I want him to sleep in his box, in the backroom, understand?" I looked around at the five sets of sad puppy eyes staring back at me for several seconds before adding, "Just for awhile guys, until he's, , , potty trained."

"But he sleeps with me at home sometimes. Sir," Junior whined. "He hides under the covers and kisses me if he has to go. I promise he'll be good!" All four boys gave me liver lipped frowns, my three braces patients sticking their lower lips out so far they almost covered their facebows. I was trying to build up the fortitude to break their hearts when Buddy began gently kissing my hand as he softly whimpered.

"Will you, all of you promise to take him outside as soon as you wake up? And watch him closely?" Their faces answered for me and I agreed.

The little dog did just as Junior said. A little later when the boys crawled under the covers to watch a movie, Buddy burrowed into the blankets with them, snuggling between Junior and Mark.

I watched a few minutes of their corny Sci-fi movie before deciding to turn in myself. I knelt down, kissing each boy's forehead as I whispered good night to them. I was about to stand up when a tiny black snout appeared out the edge of the blankets, followed by one eye. "You too, Buddy," I added as I kissed his nose. 'Did I really just kiss a dog good night?' I asked myself as I entered my bedroom.

I was a little surprised to find I was alone in my bed when I awoke in the morning. 'Wow, what a day, what a week,' I thought as I cuddled with my pillow. Soon my nose rudely told my stomach about the freshly brewed pot of coffee it had detected, and my bladder began demanding its share of my attention. 'Yeah well,' I growled as I tried to convince my legs to cooperate.

Everyone was either sound asleep or dead, it was hard to tell which, as I looked at the kids on the way to the kitchen. So far so good, I decided as I looked around the family room and didn't see any gifts from Buddy. After I poured a cup of coffee and was walking through the family room to the patio your new little friend was peeking out from under the blankets, just his little nose and his eyes showing. 'Hi Buddy, you want to go outside?" I asked as I bent over, extending my free hand.

He glanced at Mark and Junior's faces for an instant and squirmed out of the nest toward me, allowing me to scoop my hand under his chest and pick him up. When I sat him down in the grass right next to the patio he scampered a foot or so and squatted, I could clearly read 'Relief!' on his furry little face. "Good boy, Good Puppy!" I praised when he finished. His tail began wagging like a propeller as turned back toward me, looking up at me with a happy face. I laughed so hard I spilled my coffee as his tail wag extended to his hips then rear legs and he fell over.

I was still laughing at the puppy as he tried to get up, despite his hypersonic rear propeller continuing to control his balance, when a thin body slammed against me. As I looked down Johnny buried his face into my chest as he slung his arm around me, pulling himself against me.

"Good morning, sunshine!" I exclaimed, wrapping my free arm around his bare little back. He pushed even harder against me as he let out a long sob, and began whimpering as his tears flowed down my abdomen like a water fall. "Hey, what's wrong pumpkin, are you okay?" He heaved a couple of attempts at speaking and began wheezing somewhat. I looked for a place to sit my coffee cup down for an instant before tossing it in the grass and wrapped both arms around his thin shoulders. "Calm down, Dad's here, take a deep breath, son," I told him as I scooped him up, one hand under his brief clad butt, the other around his back. I carried him over to the closest chaise lounge and sat down, dropping him in my lap.

"Relax Johnny, try to relax and take deep, slow breaths," I coached him as I took his pulse with one hand and snuggled him with the other. 'Fuck, where's my cell!' I thought as I read his heart rate, beating almost double what it should be, his respirations so short and spasmodic. 'Please God, HELP! HELP NOW!!!' "Relax Johnny, try to relax, everything is going to be fine,"

I stroked his back and neck and after several seconds he calmed somewhat and his vital signs began to settle. As he leaned against me he began sobbing softly. "I, I, I thought you was gone!" he sobbed into my neck. "I couldn't find you, you were gone! I couldn't find you nowhere!" he sobbed.

"I'm here aren't I?" I softly said as I pulled him against me. "It's okay son, relax, take a deep breath and relax! I'm right here, I just took. . ."

"But, well, I thought you was, I mean I was dreaming and then you were gone! You was just a dream I had!"

I held him tightly for several seconds before pulling his chin up toward my face. "Is that a dream?" I asked, kissing his cheek. "I'm here, everything is okay," I added. Buddy clawing against my shin distracted me. When I looked down he was jumping between my leg and the chase lounge, trying to get into the chair. I reached down to pick him up by his hackles, but as soon as I put my hand behind his head he flexed his neck muscles and used my hand as leverage to climb into the chair.

"Is he a dream?" I asked as the little fur ball stumbled his way across the chair and up my stomach, licking both Johnny and me as he did.

"Wow, I thought he was a dream! He's really here!" Johnny cried, petting our little friend.

"He's really here, and so are you. Feel better?" I rubbed his back with one hand and petted Buddy with the other.

"I love you Pop," the boy whispered. We cuddled for ten minutes or so, until my stomach began cursing me for throwing away its caffeine fix.

"Are you going to ride Ginger today?" I asked. He perked up instantly in my arms. "After breakfast we're going to see how she likes a hackamore, how's that sound?"

"A what?" he asked, looking up at me.

"It's like a bridle, but more comfortable. Then you can ride her without being on a lead rope." He perked up like a new kid. "Why don't you wash up a little and I'll make some breakfast, then we'll see what Ginger thinks. Why don't you jump in the pool!"

He pressed his body against me briefly before squirming out of my lap. He took a couple of steps toward the pool before turning back to me, now showing a somewhat evil grin. "If they're more comfortable, maybe you should get one for Junior! Well and Ronnie and Mark! Wait till I tell them!" he hooted before jumping in the water. 'He's got spunk!' I thought as I went inside.

The other boys were stirring when I when inside, and quickly joined Johnny in the pool. After breakfast Mark and Ronnie grumbled and groaned when I made them put on their headgear, and I got some dirty looks from them as I reminded them it was all day wear starting today, but shortly we were saddling up.

As soon as Ginger was saddled she pranced away, walking by all the other animals as if showing off. I let her roam for a few minutes to let her again get used to the saddle before hooking a lead rope to her, then slipping the hackamore around her snout, and over her head. She snorted and shook her head a few times, but didn't buck or seem to really object. Ronnie led as Johnny rode her for a few a brief time, until I was sure the filly would respond to her reins, but she seemed to be enjoying the lesson.

A few minutes later I cursed myself for not bringing my camcorder with me as I watched Johnny and Ginger go for their first independent ride. I was sitting on Zeus, watching them enjoy their great adventure, when Ronnie rode up beside me, then his brother rode up on the other side. "Thanks Dad," Ronnie exclaimed, as they both leaned over and hugged my arms.

"Come on guys, let's go ride with your brother," I answered, wiping my misty eyes as I prodded my big stallion into a trot.

I thought I was going to have to rope Johnny to get him off his small steed as the day went on. First to have him, and the poor horse rest, and later for lunch. 'Well, the vet wanted her to exercise,' I thought as I watched them trot off for the tenth or so ride of the day. Cindy arrived an hour or so after lunch to pick up Junior. She and I rode with the boys for awhile, which I think finally wore Johnny down somewhat, and he only slightly objected when we ordered the boys to unsaddle and groom all the horses.

I thought Johnny was going to break down when Cindy offered to take him back to Hill Country on her way home, he even pulled away from me when I tried to draw him into a snuggle. "Come on son, remember you have to finish getting well, right?" I asked him, only earning me a weak nod. "I want you to work hard, so you are ready for Wednesday afternoon, okay?" was answered with a slight shrug. His little brain seemed to vibrate briefly before he asked what he had to do Wednesday.

"That's your first riding lesson, yours and Ginger's! Mary is going to pick you up you are going to come out here for it, will that work?"

"Pop! For REAL!" he howled, throwing his arm around my waist. "Wow, I really getta!?! Ah I mean get to?" When I reassured him he would he yelled "YEAH! I gotta go tell Ginger!"

I barely had time to grab him around his thin, tight stomach as he darted toward the door, and for a second wasn't sure I could hold him without hurting him. "Settle down, Tiger! You can tell her when you tell her goodbye! I need you to do something else first," he pulled against me briefly before relaxing a little and looking at me.

"Before you leave I would like you to go upstairs and decide which bedroom you want. You're going to start living here soon, and Mary and I need to start getting it ready for you."

"I'm really gonna get to?" he gasped more than said. "I'm gonna get my own room?"

"Your very own, you can have any room except Mark and Ronnie's," I answered, the last part of my statement almost inaudible over the other three boys hoots and cheers.

"Come on dude," Ronnie exclaimed as he and Junior grabbed him and rushed him toward the stairs.

"When do you think he might be able to move in?" Cindy asked after the boys disappeared up the stairs.

"When can you get me that court hearing?" I asked. "I'm calling for a staffing tomorrow, but I know he is well enough, he is safe form that dick-head sperm donor that spawned him, as soon as that Judge's gavel drops, he is a day patient at Hill Country."

"Done!" Cindy answered. "Thanks Adam, but don't waste too much time getting that room ready! Oh, and get him a suit, tomorrow!" she bubbled as she gave me a brief hug.

Cindy was good to her word. When I arrived at my practice after my morning rounds, my scheduling nurse followed me into my office. "Your first session is in the waiting room already, so I will be brief, but I had to rearrange your schedule for a lot of the week," she began.

"You are have two appearances in court tomorrow morning, at 9:00 to brief the judge on Eric Ashley's evaluation, and now for a custody hearing regarding your new boy at 8:30. Of course you will need to cancel your morning rounds, I took the liberty of notifying the hospital." 'An eight-thirty court hearing?' I as myself. I had always assumed most judges were still in bed at 8:00, Rodriguez was the only jurist I knew of that opened his docket at nine in the morning.

"I also have cleared your calendar for all of Friday and Monday morning, and scheduled an appointment with Doctor Sanchez for Friday at nine o'clock their time," she continued . "You are flying out at six-thirty Thursday night on United, and have reservations at the Hilton there. Also a rental car is reserved for you at the hotel.

"Doctor Sanchez also asked you call him, sir" she added. "You both have blocked time between ten and ten-thirty today our time, may I place the call for you?" 'You're not REALLY to THAT point, are you? You can’t answer your own calls?' my ponytail pumped me before I asked her to arrange the call. 'Yeah well!' I told my hair.

"Yes, please," I meekly answered as she left the room. 'Damn, it great to have complete control of your practice!' I thought. I chased her into the hall, asking, "Please arrange a Staffing at Hill Country regarding Johnny Doeman this afternoon, and tell them I will be checking him out for the night." 'I'm glad Cindy is not the lawyer on the other side!' I thought.

Between patients I found time to call my computer supplier, Billy-Ray and Mary. Although it cost me an extra thousand dollars or so I managed to have all the changes to Johnny's room I asked for to be completed by mid afternoon. Mary also agreed to bring Mark and Ronnie into town and meet me at an Applebee's restaurant, I even talked her into joining us for supper. 'Another one of those weeks,' I told myself.

"Doctor, I have Doctor Sanchez on the phone, line two" my nurse informed me.

"Good morning Doctor Owens, I am looking forward to meeting you and Johnny on Friday!" Sanchez began after our nurses connect us. "I am also looking forward to having you visit Norfolk, have you ever seen our city, or our wonderful beaches?" I barely had time to answer I hadn't when he added, "I hope you will accept my invitation to be my guest, in my home, for the weekend. We are expecting you."

"Thank you Doctor Sanchez, thanks so much for examining my s. . . Johnny, especially on such short notice. But I couldn't impose, and also I intended to bring my other two sons on the trip. I have reservations at a hotel near your practice. Your commitment to examining Johnny is much more than I could have ask of anyone!" The phone was silent for several seconds.

"Thank you too, sir, but I have a comfortable, six bedroom home facing a private ocean beach, and only my partner and I live in it. We would be honored if you and your boys would be our guest. I will be expecting you." 'God, I cant impose on this dude any more, NO WAY!' I thought. "And my father is looking forward to meeting you, I will pick you up at the airport," Sanchez interrupted my thoughts.

"Thank you Doctor, but I already have made hotel reservations, and. . . I appreciate your offer, thank you so much, but I couldn't impose. I'm sure we will be comfortable in the. . ."

"Doctor Owens I assure you that you would be imposing, we would feel miffed if you refused to accept our hospitality!"

I thought about his statement for a second or so. From his conversation I was sure they were still childless, 'Does this fool know what he is getting into?' I wondered. 'Letting three full of piss-and-vinegar young teenagers loose in what sounded like a very nice home? He's either dumb, which I doubt, or. . .'

"Have you ever been to Texas, Doctor? I would be honored, I'm sorry my boys and I would be honored to accept your invitation to visit your home, but only if you will reciprocate and visit our ranch."

It was his turn to pause. "I am of Hispanic descent, I have read your people still shoot wet-backs on site some of those Texas ranches," he said, the chuckle in his voice clear even over the phone.

"Whatever, I understand you Yankee's still beat up hippies!" I countered. "I am looking forward to Friday, and meeting you. I will be the long hair deplaning United with three rock-clunkers in tow! Thank you Doctor, more than I can express." 'I like this dude, he's as wacky as I am!' I thought as we rang off, both of us laughing.

'How do I lay all this on Johnny at once, how can things be happening so fast?' I asked, I guess my big cat's steer wheel as I drove toward Hill Country. 'Fuck, you've got to be forty for all this shit! Yeah well!' Almost as if on cue Cindy called me, assuring me she was totally prepared for tomorrow. After a little convincing she agreed to Carl and her would join us for supper at Applebee's.

Johnny hugged me and climbed in my lap, then spent what seemed like forever showing me his progress both on his tutorials and therapy sessions. After I congratulated him for the tenth or so time I interrupted. "There has been a change of plans, and I want you to. . ."

He stiffened and almost got out of my lap before I could grab him. "I don't get to go live with you and Ginger do I!" he growled more than asked. "I knew I wouldn't!" he added as he tried to escape my grasp.

"Actually, I'm afraid you have to go back to the ranch tonight, would you mind spending the night there tonight?"

"Yeah well, , , What! WHAT!!! I getta!"

"You getta," I answered as he leaned against me. "A LOT of crazy things are going on that I'll tell you about later, but we have to, , , well, let's go home, we can talk about it in the car. Remember we're going to town first, okay!"

Cindy was the mother I wished all the boys had when we met. All I did was offer my credit card as she picked out a royal blue sport coat, dark blue slacks and an almost pink shirt that set off his hair perfectly. 'And this for your eyes," she said as she help up a tie that accented his beautiful miles deep eyes. A few tee-shirts and jeans later Johnny was much happier than my credit card.

We relaxed at Applebee's longer than I expected, and the boys and I didn't get home until almost eleven. I wanted to show Johnny his new room, but when Mark and Ronnie asked if he could sleep in their room I didn't argue. Johnny played with Ginger for a few minutes then with Buddy before I finally stuffed our little dog into her temporary room and my kids into bed.

"Thanks Pop, I love you!" Johnny's whisper said right after my clock radio assaulted my slumber the next morning. Still half asleep I pulled him into a snuggle as his tiny tongue licked my chest and neck.

"You are suppose to be in bed, so is Buddy," I mumbled as I realized I wasn't at all alone in my bed, and that Johnny wasn't licking my chest, but a fluffy little dog was between us.

"We are in bed!" Mark whined, almost crushing Johnny as he pushed over and kissed my nose. 'Are they still accepting boarding students in Afghanistan?' I asked myself as I tried to wake up. "Can we go swim? Buddy wants to go out too, can we?" Mark added.

"Go!" I answered. 'How long did I work for this big house, and the solitude of living on my ranch where no one can disturb me?' I asked myself as I crawled out of bed and stumbled toward my shower.

Cramming into a pressed white shirt and business suit was ALMOST worth it as we left the house, and Johnny ran down to the pasture fence to show off his new dress clothes to Ginger. 'STRANGE horse,' I thought as I watched her study him, beaming with pride at her boy's dress.

"Hi guys," Cindy said as we walked toward the courtroom door. I was surprised to see Mary walking with her.

"Come on guys, let's run down to the snack bar and get a drink before our hearing," Mary said. I started to protest, but Cindy's almost panicked look told me to nod at the boys to do as she asked.

"You are not going to believe this," Cindy said as she ushered me into a small conference room. "Doeman's arrest sparked some attention we didn't expect, you better sit down and take a deep breath," she told me as she closed the door.

I was glad I took her advise as she continued. As expected, authorities from several States had warrants outstanding for Johnny's dad. It wasn't until he came into custody that it came out Texas and another State were also looking for Johnny himself on ten or so offenses, from burglary to abetting armed robbery. Although they couldn't issue arrest warrants on a 13-year-old, there were enough petitions to declare him a juvenile delinquent scattered about to keep him in custody for several years. "I understand he did three months in juvi detention last year" Cindy concluded.

"That's what he was talking about," I absent mindedly answered before I realized I had said it. Seeing Cindy's lost look I filled her in on Johnny's frightened concern about getting sent to CPS when he and I had talked earlier. "Three months in Juvi as a twelve year old, I guess he does not want to go back! What to do?" I asked.

"Do you still want him?" she responded. I'm sure seeing my face she continued, before I bit her head off, "I'm your lawyer, I had to ask that. We are out of time, quit being mad and listen!" she chastised. "I don't know if we can pull this off, if we can still get custody of him or not, but it's pretty well up to you. How good a shrink are you? There are three prosecutors, and a couple of cops that are going to want a piece of Johnny's ass, and as skinny as he is, they wouldn't all get their share until he's thirty or so. Rodriguez thinks you can walk on water when you treat troubled kids, ready to dance on the wet stuff? You can do it Adam, if you still want to adopt Johnny you can!"

I stared after her as she walked back toward the hall, trying to take a normal breath as I digested everything she told me.

"Good morning, Doctor Owens, it is an honor to have you in my courtroom again for this type of petition!" Rodriguez began after his clerk called the court to order. "Oh, and thank you for wearing clothes again!" he snickered. "Ronald, Mark, you both look like you are doing well, your tans set off your freckles well!" both boys blushed so red their freckles almost disappeared. He climbed down from his bench and walked over to our table before adding "Braces now!" He looked around my hip at the thin body hiding behind me before continuing, "And you are Johnny?"

"Yes sir," I answered as the boy pushed further under my suit coat. Rodriguez took a breath, then turned and silently summoned Ronnie with his finger. Ronnie listened as the judge whispered into his ear before rushing behind me and pulled Johnny against him, then pulling Johnny away from me as he talked to him. Johnny gave me a scared look before following Ronnie toward the judge's chambers.

A minute or so later Ronnie stepped back out of the Judge's chamber. Instead of returning to his seat he stood in front of the door, cupping his arms behind his back and spreading his legs slightly as if guarding the door. Quickly the bailiff approached him telling him to return to his seat.

"He told me to wait here," Ronnie informed the big officer, the top of the boys head was about breast high on the man.

"Take your seat son," the cop said as he reached toward the boy.

"He told me not to let anyone in," Ronnie snarled, his lips curling back like an angry dog's. 'Don't get in the way of those teeth,' my arm seemed to say. They stared at each other for the better part of a minute before the cop withdrew his hand and took a step back. I covered my mouth to hide my grin as Ronnie actually stared the big man down.

Shortly afterward Johnny came back into the courtroom and ran to my side, and to everyone's surprise, Ronnie called Mark and sent him into the Judge's chambers. Mark’s session with the Judge lasted only two minutes or so, and as soon as he came back into the courtroom Ronnie disappeared into chambers, giving the big cop a final glare before he closed the door.

"Bailiff, seal the courtroom," Rodriguez ordered as he reentered the room, Ronnie tucked under his arm. Cindy motioned for Mary to sit behind us as the officer escorted everyone but the people that were related to our case out of the room. The Judge, looked down at Ronnie. "Go ahead," he instructed. Ronnie called Mark and Johnny to him, and led them into the Judge's chambers.

"Be seated," he said as he climbed behind the bench. "Ronald, excuse me Ronnie, is a remarkable young man," he said with a grin. "Doctor, it would be an honor to sign this petition right now, but I have to address another issue. It has been presented that this boy very well might have participated in delinquent activity on multiple occasions, including violent behavior. Not only could he be a threat to society, but to you and your sons. I am looking at eight creditable partitions asking he be declared delinquent and detained. In this light, do you still think your request is reasonable?"

"Yes sir, I do," I answered, wishing I had undergone surgery to remove the sweat glands from my face before going to this hearing. "I am sure any deviant behavior Johnny engaged in he performed under duress, that he was in fear of his life if he failed to act as ordered. It is my opinion he is no threat society or my family, that he deserves a fresh start."

"Your honor, this kid's an accomplished burglar and thief, and belongs locked up somewhere, either in your state or mine," a man with a thick southern accent objected.

"And you are?" Rodriguez asked.

"Assistant District Attorney Brown, representing the people of Arkansas. I don't know who this Doctor character is, except a fool for wanting a brat like this one. I am sure the great state of Texas don't take the word of some damn long hair any more seriously than we do, and I demand the boy be returned to Arkansas for adjudication."

"The ONLY one that makes demands in my court room is ME!" Rodriguez barked. "Further, the great state of Texas does NOT consider profanity, nor insulting remarks proper court room demeanor, you are fined five hundred dollars for your last remark. I will suspend that if you show a civil tongue until this hearing is concluded, but consider yourself under arrest until that fine is paid. For your information, DOCTOR Owens in not only a respected professional but an officer of this court. Did you have any other demands?" Cindy cupped my thigh as the man withered into his seat and Rodriguez summoned his clerk, whispering into her ear briefly.

"On the other side of the coin, as a Psychiatrist, what is your professional evaluation of the boy, your recommended plan of service for him." the Judge asked me.

"He belongs in a nurturing environment, where he can enjoy, or regain, his childhood and learn to be loved. He will require clinical and occupational therapy to be able to lead a productive live, as well as proper supervision." 'Fuck, I usually spend two or three hours preparing these presentations, am I spouting this shit correctly or fucking it up?' I thought. "And he needs the chance offered, the surgery that I hope will recover use of his paralyzed arm."

"Are you partitioning to adopt the boy so he can have this surgery?" the Judge asked, studying my eyes almost as if through a microscope.

"No sir. Although CPS denial of the surgery opportunity made me consider adoption, I want to adopt Johnny because I can help him, and I love him as do my other sons."

"Judge, I must protest again!" Brown drawled, Dixie dripping from his voice. "I just scanned the briefs, and this hipp. . . gentleman lives in total seclusion with two teenage boys already, is he adding another one to his stable? Who is to know what happens to these kids, who supervises them when the 'Doc' is at work, or out playing around?"

"I do!" Mary countered before anyone else could react.

Rodriguez rubbed his head in frustration before asking Mary to identify herself. "Mary Hope, I am the boys' Nanny," she answered as she stood up. "Johnny is a wonderful boy that deserves a chance!" she proclaimed, putting her hands on her hips and almost glaring at the Judge.

"Oh great, now an uppity wet back," Brown mumbled, I'm sure a little louder than he meant to.

"I might add that Mrs. Hope is a certified Occupational Therapist, retired after twenty-five years plus service at Central Baptist hospital, and a . ." I began, only to have Rodriguez cut me off.

"That statement bought you three days in jail!" the Judge roared. "Do I look wet too? Bailiff, get this trash out of my courtroom! I want him in jail NOW!" he thundered. He turned away from us for several seconds as Brown was handcuffed and led away. "Does anyone else have anything to add?" he growled, glaring around his courtroom. "I'm going to talk to the children again, and take this under advisement." he announced as he, and everyone else stood.

He talked with the boys for only a couple of minutes before they reentered the courtroom, rushing to Mary, Cindy and I.

Ten minutes later the court reconvened, the Judge walking in front of his bench instead of sitting behind its high desk. ."Mark, if you will," he began, twitching his head toward his bench. 'Not again!' I thought as my little Turkey scampered up to the bench and perched on top of it, but relaxed as I realized what the outcome might be.

"If I allow you to live with Doctor Owens, do you promise to keep working as hard as you have been to get well? And to behave?" he asked Johnny.

Johnny was so far hidden behind my body again I started to answer for him when his little pixie nose pushed from under my elbow. "I will sir, I promise! Ginger will too sir, she said she will! We promise Sir!"

The judge looked around at us for a second or so. "I hope you don't intend to petition to adopt Buddy, or Ginger like Johnny suggested, but. . . God bless you Doctor Owens, take good care of all three of your new sons. You have full custody of Johnny Doeman. Further, I want the adoption of Ronnie and Mark finalized, ASAP. As soon as you have the papers drafted, it is so ordered. "Now Mark!" he barked, followed by a sharp hammer strike and all the boys’ cheers.


To Be Continued…