If you are just joining this story, please note the DEDICATION of it, stated in the disclaimer page.
Again I thank my good friend Miguel Sanchez for his help in developing this work, along with work we are doing on future chapters. (Julio, of course, is now the mature Doctor Jay Sanchez in this story).
The boys were completely thrilled when I told them about our upcoming trip, even more than I expected. I was a little shocked when they offered no objection to taking school assignments on the trip, and Mary tutoring all of them Friday, and Monday if we were still in South America. I wasn't at all shocked though when Junior included himself in our plans. I had to shake my head when, after reminding him his parents might have a say in if he goes or not, I received identical 'Yeah sure,' looks from my gaggle of teenagers.
The rest of the weekend was a whirlwind of activity, dividing our time between enjoying our ranches and sightseeing in San Antonio. Cindy and Carl were tied up at a friend's wedding all day Saturday, and I didn't see them until Sunday afternoon, shortly before the Sanchez family was about to leave.
I noticed Cindy slipping away from the crowd several times, talking at length on her cell phone, but was too busy entertaining and helping my guests prepare for their trip home to think much about it. We had to wait for her to finish still another call before leaving for the airport later.
"We need to talk, as soon as we get back," she quietly informed me on the way out to the cars. Something in her voice told me it was not good news, whatever it was.
I had to snicker at the kids as we said our goodbyes at the airport. Despite our assurances that they would see Miguel this weekend, and that the other members of the Sanchez clan would be back in two or three weeks, you would have thought they were saying their last, almost tearful, goodbyes.
After my boys made their rounds, hugging each of the adults, and even Angelina, Steve and Ronnie drifted off to the side. A second or so later Junior, then Mark and Johnny joined their little huddle. Oh boy, what now? I asked myself as I watched one, then another pair of beady little eyes briefly study different adults, almost like a hunter evaluating their targets. I started to worry when I saw Steve motion his sister into their strategy session.
Here we go! I thought as they broke into small groups. Ronnie and Steve rushed toward Steve's parents as Johnny and Angelina approached Miguel. It quickly became clear I was Mark and Junior's assignment when they darted to me, pushing into a warm snuggle under my arms.
"Hi Dad!" Mark began. "It's so neat we're going to get to fly in Doctor Miguel's plane, thanks Dad!" he exclaimed, hugging my waist.
"Yeah, and go to Brazil! It's gonna be awesome Da, , , well Pop, thanks!" Junior added, pushing more tightly against me. "And Mom told me how neat it's going to be, and all the stuff we're going to learn! It would be so neat if all kids got to do stuff like that!"
"Yeah, Stevie wishes he could!" Mark injected. I felt Junior's little head jerk toward Mark. "And he could learn all that sculptures and stuff like Mrs. Roberts said we're gonna!"
"Cultures, stupid!" Junior snarled under his breath. "But it would, and Mary could help him do his assignments like she's gonna help us, and his parents are gonna say it's okay if you do, , , I mean he, well, they will!"
I don't believe this shit! I thought as I glanced around the tarmac, and the other adult/rat conferences being conducted. Angel and my eyes made contact for an instant, her face I'm sure as disbelieving as mine was. "Sorry guys, but not this trip. I'm going to be very busy, and, well, I'm not sure what the government would think of all this. Maybe next time."
"But," Junior began. He seemed to deflate against my stomach as he looked around at his coconspirators.
"But, Stevie can help you, find your way around and everything! His Dad used to live there so he can!" Mark suggested.
I almost felt sorry for them as the kids sulked away from the adults, seeming to lick their wounds as they talked. Oh shit, not again, I thought as they began to redeploy, this time Johnny and Ronnie rushing toward me. "No! I'm sorry guys, but not this trip," I snapped before they could begin their pitch.
The boys remained sullen as we drove back to the ranch, but brightened quickly as our white fence, and the herd of their four legged friends waiting by the road, came into view. Their faces were priceless as they bailed out of the car. They had only leaned forward to start toward the pasture fence and the horses when the aroma of my barbeque pit reached all our noses. After exchanging glances, Junior and Mark's stomach seemed to win out first and they darted into the house; the other boys right behind.
When Cindy and I followed them into the house they were already starting toward the patio door, stuffing sandwiches under their facebows. I started to suggest they go change out of their new Levis into something more comfortable, but realized I would be talking to the door as I watched them bolt outside, their teen backsides bouncing in their tight fitting jeans.
"I was sure they would be hungry, you were gone over an hour!" Mary teased, handing Cindy and I each a beer.
"You don't know half of it," I answered. "Their plotting little brains must have burned a million or so calories."
"Per second!" Cindy quipped. "My shy little boy is learning evil ways out here," she told Mary.
"The last time that boy was shy was when his OB/GYN caught his head on the way out," I snickered without thinking.
"I knew it was Carl's fault, I told him not to use a catcher's glove!" She enjoyed my embarrassed face for a second or so before gesturing me toward the deck.
Cindy's businesslike face worried me as I followed her outside. "Last night I reviewed the court order giving you custody of Johnny, and there might be a problem taking him out of the country," she began. "Judge Rodriguez gave you custody of him by making you his conservator, but the Immigration Service might not allow him to leave the country, or, more importantly, to get back in, with that type of custodial relationship. And I have no idea how Brazil will view it."
"Great. I can take Junior but not my son! What to do? We've already told him, you saw how excited he was. How could he get a passport? The custody documents went with the application." I asked.
"The same way he got one in less than a week," Cindy answered. "Miguel's influence. But, the customs officer at the airport might not know Miguel. You can take Junior out of the country because you have his parent's permission, but its not clear who would be the equivalent of that to Johnny, in international matters.
"I am working with a friend of mine that does a lot of international and immigration law, and I think we should try to get for a hearing with Rodriguez, either have the custody order modified to specifically authorize international travel, or ask him to sign an order authorizing the trip."
"Shit! What are the odds of getting a hearing between now and Thursday, and IF he'll help us." I more complained than asked.
"I'll call first thing in the morning. Judges grant expedited hearings in emergency situations, but it might be a little hard to justify a sightseeing weekend as an emergency. I just hope Rodriguez still likes you!"
"It is a business trip, I'm there to evaluate patients," I countered.
"But Johnny isn't. I'm working on it, I'm going to go home and do that. I'll call you as soon I know something. Give our kid a hug for me," she said. Fuck! I thought.
I was driving between the hospital and my office the next morning when my cell phone rang. Gulp, I though when I saw it was from Cindy.
"We're in luck, or maybe I should say your in with Rodriguez paid off again. We have a hearing tomorrow morning at 8:45," Cindy informed me. "I was impressed, he usually doesn't start until 9:00, but when I informed his clerk of the problem, she scheduled it without even asking him. Oh, bring Mark and Ronnie, we can get their visit out of the way at the same time."
"Damn, I didn't know any judges offered next day service!" I quipped. "I'm driving, I can't check my calender, but I'll make arrangements. I'll alert Mary also."
Damn, what next? I asked the steering wheel. My schedule was already cramped after rearranging it to take Friday off with such short notice, and now besides having the boys out of school Friday, they would have to miss tomorrow morning. Shit, by the time they go home and change, they're going to miss most of the morning! I cursed.
Well, you were stupid enough to ask, my big cat's wheel seemed to snicker at me as I realized Johnny only owned one set of dress clothes, the ones he wore last time he went to court. Isn't it great to be a carefree bachelor? I asked myself as I resigned myself to having to make a trip into town tonight.
I was rushing out of the hospital after my afternoon rounds when two young teenagers, wearing uniforms from a local private school, darted in front of me almost making me trip. I felt gears grinding in my head as I watched them rush down the hall, and remembered the never worn school blazers I had purchased for Mark and Ronnie when they started attending Cornerstone Academy, and that Johnny wears the same size clothes as Mark.
My little plot to save time worked out much better than I had expected. I was worried about how the boys, especially Johnny, would react to going to court, and on such short notice. I gently approached the subject, saying we were going to go tell Judge Rodriguez about our upcoming trip, but found myself almost talking to myself as my little carrot top pranced around the room modeling his school blazer, from his comments he was much more interested in showing his new prize off in public than anything else. Let it ride, I told myself. Mark and Ronnie were not too thrilled at having to wear 'dress' uniforms to school after the hearing, but quickly surrendered, I think more to Johnny's glares than my threats.
I only had time to lean back onto my bed after slapping my alarm clock's snooze button before Buddy's bark snapped me back to semi-consciousness. The happy shrieks coming from my patio door, and the wonderful aroma of my coffee pot told me it was indeed morning. The smell of bacon cooking almost levitated me out of bed.
As soon as I stumbled into the kitchen, Mary set a cup of coffee in front of me. I mumbled something of a thank you to her before sipping my first fix of caffeine. "Thanks for coming so early, and your help," I commented as my eyes began to focus and I noticed her smart skirt and blouse.
"I'm actually excited about the morning," she answered. "I know you have to leave early for your rounds, I am preparing you some breakfast tacos."
"Thanks for reminding me, I guess," I mumbled. I downed most of my cup and walked back toward my shower.
God, I don't want to do this, I thought as I looked at my several suits a few minutes later. I felt my skin crawl as I pulled a starched white shirt out of my closet. No, I can't take this shit, I decided when I twisted it to hang it on the closet door hook and it went somewhat horizontal, as stiff as an oak timber. I looked longingly at the Dockers pants and pullover shirts before picking out a pair of dress trousers and short sleeve white shirt. Sorry Judge, this will have to do, I thought as I picked out a sports coat and tie.
I was about two steps out of my study after retrieving my laptop when a pair of thin arms wrapped around my side. Two more little bodies flashed across the family room from the patio door and slammed into me an instant later. "You gotta go already?" Johnny whimpered, pulling his little body up toward my neck.
"Hey guys, I have to do my rounds, I'll meet you in town soon, I promise!" I answered as I enjoyed cuddling their bare, smooth backs and shoulders. "Give me a hug, I have to leave," I asked. I kissed the top of their heads and gave them another hug before rushing out toward my car.
Shit! I cursed as the morning breeze informed me how wet my pants and shirt were. Fuck it, I'll dry, I guess. What's a few wrinkles, we're just deciding my son's future!
Cindy was waiting for me when I entered the courthouse, but no kids or Mary. "Nice, but are you a fashion plate, or Yacht Club Commodore?" she teased, tossing my tie, still tucked under the collar of my sport coat, with her finger.
She let me blush several shades of pale, then continued as I knotted my neck into its noose. "I'm still not sure how this is going to play out. I was on the phone with my friends, and even the state's attorney until late last night. It's really going to be the Judge's call, but I've prepared for I hope anything he proposes," she said, pulling what had to be six inches of paperwork out of her bag. "Whatever happens in there, whatever I propose or the judge asks, DON'T act surprised. We carefully reviewed ALL of this, didn't we?" she tittered, holding the huge folder out. "Here they are!" she added before I could respond.
I stared, more gawked as I turned and saw my little angels filing into the building behind Mary. All three of them were wearing white shirts, their school blazers and ties, but also their uniform shorts and socks. I'm sure my face gave me away from Mark and Ronnie's blush as the three of them raced to join Cindy and I.
"What's this? A pack of English school boys?" I teased as I hugged them, earning several soft giggles as a response.
"Well, but Johnny didn't have any pants, well school pants!" Ronnie told my tie.
"Is it okay? What if he gets mad and, well, , ," Johnny whimpered.
"The Judge is not going to be mad, you guys look absolutely great!" I cut him off. "I know he is looking forward to seeing you, let's not keep him waiting!" I added, tucking Johnny under my arm.
He snuggled against me as we walked and we were almost to the courtroom doors when he stopped, gripping my belt and stuffing his head under my jacket. "Please Doctor Pop, ah Dad, what if he's mad or stuff! What if he says I gotta go back to, , , PLEASE I don't wanta go in there!" I felt my shirt being soaked as he buried his face further into it.
"The only place Judge Rodriguez is going to send you is home, to go ride Ginger. And to go have some fun in Brazil son! Remember" That is why we came here, to tell him about our trip!"
"I just wanta go home to Ginger, I don't wanta go in there!" he whined. He almost pulled out from under my grasp before I could react and clutch him more tightly.
I was trying to think of a response, a way to save what was about to crash into a meltdown for my youngest, when Mark's thin shoulders squirmed under my sport coat, his thin arms wrapping around Johnny and I. Ronnie pushed against Johnny's back and whispered something to him. Johnny remained motionless for a second or so, then twisted partly toward his brother when Ronnie whispered something else. He rolled his pixie little face up at me, then turned and moved against my stomach, his brother's lining up on each side of him.
Rodriguez walked to the middle of the room instead of climbing behind his high desk when the clerk called the court to session. "Good morning boys, it is good to see you again," he said to the kids, ignoring the several lawyers and other adults in the room. He walked over to our table before continuing, "You must be exercising! Or is Doctor Pop making you work? I don't remember including slave labor in my orders for them," he quipped toward me with a slight grin.
Johnny, then Mark pushed their tense bodies against me , "I apologize to the court, but I have several horses that must be ridden, and a swimming pool that demands regular use. I work them hard judge," I answered.
"I trust Ginger has developed as much as you have, how is she?" he asked the small patch of forehead and strawberry hair showing above my arm. Johnny more giggled than said a soft 'Yes Sir'.
"Come here, tell me how she is doing?" the Judge asked.
The youngster pushed more tightly against me as he looked up at my face. He glanced between Rodriguez, Ronnie and I a couple of times before slowly slipping from under my arm and timidly shuffled to the Judge. He twisted his long thin neck like an Owl to look back toward us as the Judge led him into his chambers, but didn't resist.
Two or three minutes later he bounced back into the courtroom, displaying an almost blinding silver smile as he rushed back to our table. Mark glanced between Johnny and Ronnie as Johnny whispered into his ear, but then dutifully went into the Judge's chambers.
I wasn't surprised a few minutes later when, as Rodriguez and Ronnie came out of their conference, Ronnie nodded to his brothers and they followed him in the chambers.
"Please join us, let's see if we can sort this out," Rodriguez told the state and CPS attorneys, setting a stack of files on our table and pulling a chair around to face us. "Congratulations, Doctor, I had a little trouble believing that was the same young man I interviewed not long ago," he began.
"I am sure I can presume there is no objection to continuing Johnny Doeman's placement, in the custody of Doctor Adam Owens," he asked the lawyers. "Does anyone have a problem with this minor traveling outside the country with the Doctor?" Thankfully no one objected.
"From Mrs Roberts' brief, it is clear this is not a one time trip, wherein lies our problem. I have no problem signing a court order allowing this travel." He paused when Cindy pulled a document from her thick folder and sat it on the desk next to her. The two exchanged glances before he continued, "Let me explain our situation. By my review of Brazilian and US laws, under Doctor Owens' current relationship with the minor, I would have to sign a new order for each excursion, because Johnny is still a ward of this court.
"I would be willing, actually am bound by law to review each of these occurrences, but that would occupy far too much of your time and my docket," he said to me. Oh Shit, I thought, trying to maintain eye contact with him instead of looking to Cindy to beg for a magic answer.
"Are you still committed to raising him? When you last appeared in this matter, you said you would be willing to adopt the boy, do you still feel that way?" he asked.
"I was sure that question was rhetorical, but I legally had to ask it. And I must insist your attorney review the commitments and responsibilities of your decision," he replied.
"We have, we discussed it in depth, and again last night your honor," Cindy injected. I felt her hand squeeze my thigh under the table. "I took the liberty of preparing the decree, and supporting briefs," she added, presenting the judge with another inch or so of paper.
"Mrs Roberts, some of the criteria for this was not met until I interviewed the child, and the other minors, only five minutes ago. How can you expect me to consider this valid?"
"Because I prepared for several possible scenarios, and that one is valid," she countered, pushing forward the couple of inches of paperwork.
"You should open your shop again, Mrs. Roberts," Rodriguez tittered as he scanned the documents. "In your case this is almost a formality Doctor, but have you read, and do you completely understand what is stated in these documents?" he asked me.
Oh shit, I thought. I can’t perjure myself, especially here, this dude is about twenty percent of my income. "No sir, I have seen the documents, but I have not completely read them," I answered. Cindy squeezed my leg so hard I almost jerked before I continued, "Although both our professions share Latin as their root language, your legalese is as foreign to me as I'm sure my medical jargon is to you. My attorney has completely explained what I am committing myself to, and I feel completely comfortable."
"Congratulations, Dad, we'll make it official in a minute," he replied. "Just to clear my docket, this morning accomplishes the final criteria to consummate a couple of more adoptions, when may I expect those filed?" he ask Cindy. His face tightened, then relaxed into a slight grin as Cindy again dug into her folder.
"I am sure your honor will find these acceptable," she said, pushing two more documents toward Rodriguez.
"Was there anything else you wanted me to sign today?" the Judge asked as he read the paperwork. "Nothing for Ginger, or Buddy?" he snickered.
All of us gawked at Cindy as she rifled through the folder. Rodriguez face was priceless several seconds later when she looked back toward him and said, "Not today, your honor."
"This is the part of my job I like," he told us. "Bailiff, please ask the minors to join us," he instructed over his shoulder.
The deputy retreated back out of the Judge's chambers an instant after he entered, and rushed to whisper something to Rodriguez. Oh shit, I thought as I the officer pointed at his forearm. "Excuse me," the Judge asked us.
A second or two later he stepped back out of his chambers with a pale Ronnie under one arm, Johnny under the other. Mark scampered up to the Judge's high bench, then hopped over the front of it onto the courtroom probably ten feet below.
"You are a remarkable young man Ronald, , , Ronnie," Rodriguez began, looking down at my son. "Please continue to take good care of your brothers. Are you sure this is what you want, if you say yes, it is forever," he asked Johnny. The boy's bright face and wide grin answered.
"I do have a concern, before I make my decision final," the Judge announced. "When you are running around South America, who is going to take care of Ginger?" All three boys stiffened, but Johnny recovered and whispered toward his judge. The jurist's face seemed to tighten, but he nodded.
"Now Mark!" he ordered. I snickered as the boy pulled the judge's gavel from behind his thin back and hammered it against our table. Mark's face was priceless when his judge told him the gavel was now his. "Bring it back when you guys come next time," Rodriguez told him.
The kids were already home and out riding by the time I got home after a completely whirlwind day trying to catch up. Mary seemed unusually buoyant as she gave me my afternoon beer and filled me in her day.
"My apartment is ready, would you like to see?" she asked when I came out of my bedroom after changing into my trunks, looking forward to a therapy session leaning against my favorite water jet in the pool. Knowing better than to object, I followed her through the kitchen. "Thank you so much," she told me as we walked around, "It is beautiful." She clearly was in heaven as she pointed out the whirlpool bath tub and other extras I had asked Billy Ray to install. "I would like to begin bringing my belongings here, when I come to work each day, would that be acceptable?"
"No," I answered. "I've already contracted a moving company for that, you just hand carry anything you might not trust them to handle, and they will do the rest. When would you like to move in?"
"Doctor, that is very expensive! I can move everything but the heavy furniture, and I can have some friends help me with, , ,"
"No Ma'am, I already have them on standby. These guys are good, they even know how to set the coffee pot timer, hell the VCR! And at MY expense. I'm sorry Mary that is an order." I cut her off. "Do you want to move before or after our trip?"
After a little argument she agreed to the first of next week, after our trip. Although she still looked a little flustered when she left for the evening, the quick kiss she gave my cheek told me she wasn't too upset.
The boys were much more relaxed about our day, and court appearance than I expected as the evening wore on. None of them had any real reaction until after everyone had done their homework and taken their showers.
After grabbing a quick snack they started up toward their bedrooms when Johnny turned back and pushed against my side. "Do I really get to use your name and stuff now?" he asked. "Did he mean it, well, about forever?"
"Yes, Mister Owens," I answered. I sat in my recliner and pulled his little frame into my lap before continuing, "Forever and ever, you're stuck with me! You are now officially my son." "Well, you are stuck with all of us," I added as two more little bodies climbed into my lap. I closed my eyes and leaned back as I felt Buddy land on my legs and burrow his way between his boys and me.
"Ah, well, can I sleep in your bed, just tonight?" Johnny almost whispered. Oh, thanks God, thanks so much, I thought as I felt both his arms tighten around my neck.
"Only if you promise to go right to sleep," I answered. "All four of you," I added, poking Mark and Ronnie in the ribs. All three boys giggled, and Buddy gave his answer with a lick of his tongue.
An hour or so later I enjoyed watching the bright moon reflect off of the small amount of foreheads and hair sticking out for under the covers for a minute or so before I climbed into my bed next to my sons. Oh, yes, this is heaven on earth, I thought as Mark squirmed beneath the blankets and cuddled up to my chest. Please God, don't make them grow up, ever, I prayed as Johnny and Ronnie pushed against their brother and me.
We somehow survived our overloaded schedules over the next two days. I chuckled as I parked at the private air terminal Thursday afternoon, looked out at the tarmac and noticed a man in a pilot's uniform walking around Miguel's Learjet, trying to keep from tripping over his four thin assistants, each pushing to get a better view of everything he inspected. 'I hope Miguel pays you well, you damn sure are earning it!'
Our flight was as wonderful as the one from Virginia, with plenty of snacks for the kids, some wonderful chilled shrimp for Mary and I, and seemingly well stocked with my favorite beer. I had to laugh at Junior more than my boys as he took his turn 'flying' the private jet; although the other kids had only experienced private air travel, and the air crew's amazing patience, once before, Junior's face was pricelessly disbelieving.
I was a little relieved when the covey of youngster were flushed out of the cockpit announcing we were about to land. "Well they didn't kill any of them, or toss them overboard," I whispered to Mary as everyone buckled their seat belts.
Miguel was waiting for us, standing next to a stretched limo. My lingering concerns about getting Johnny through customs resurfaced quickly when a uniformed man walked next to Miguel to greet us saying, "Welcome to Brazil sirs, and Madam. May I see your passports?" I retrieved the stack of all the boys' and my documents and offered them toward him as Mary held her's out. "Thank you, please enjoy your stay in our country." the officer said without looking at any of them.
After a short ride through town the limo turned into a rather large estate surrounded by a high rock wall. The mansion the wall protected was equally majestic and grand, a hundred year old plus two story that I wonder if was measured in square feet or miles.
"This was my father's home," the elderly doctor informed us as he showed it around. "I had it renovated so you and my other sons could use it while here," he told me. He reached down and pulled Johnny under his arm, and guided the youngster to a window before adding, "I couldn't provide any horses, as I know you would have wished, but I did have a swimming pool installed."
"Yeah Grande!" Johnny hooted. "Ah, can we, maybe,"
"Just don't let your mouth rust, please," Miguel chuckled. "My father's house is a home again, it is alive again," Miguel uttered as we watched the boys dart away. "Thank you, thank you so much for coming."
Miguel escorted Mary and I into a nearby sitting room, where a maid was waiting to serve us drinks as we began talking about our day tomorrow. As I had asked the latest reports and evaluations on the new boys were waiting for me, and assurances I would get updates before meeting with them tomorrow morning.
We chatted for several minutes before Miguel handed me a handgun, seemingly identical to the one he had loaned me on that long weekend in Norfolk. "Please keep this with you at all times," he asked. "This card, from a friend of mine, authorizes you to. You are in a strange land, with different values. Thank you for honoring my request," he more instructed than asked. As squeamish as I felt carrying a gun in a strange country I accepted it.
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing later in the evening when we told the kids it was bedtime for them. Miguel ignored their gripes and complaints and guided them into a nearby room, containing a huge stack of blankets, quilts and pillows. "I think that is your favorite bed, isn't it? Your nest?" he asked them.
The morning came far too soon for my body, but I struggled out of bed and followed my nose to the kitchen, and coffee pot. After joining Miguel for a quick breakfast snack I glanced in on my still sleeping angels and left to meet my new clients.
The Shelter the boys were housed in impressed me as soon as I stepped inside. Like most of the local buildings it looked rather well fortified, almost foreboding from the outside, but wonderfully comfortable inside. I thought back to Saint Paul's, where Ronnie and Mark used to live, as a motel compared to the comfortable Children's Home I was touring.
After meeting with the same staff I had met in San Antonio, I was shown into a small but comfortable office and assured that Edwardo and Ruben, my first session of the day, would be along shortly. I looked around the comfortable setting, and started to sit into one of the arm chairs when Miguel's handgun bit into my side. Sorry, I don't do patient sessions armed, I told it, stuffing it into my laptop computer's carry bag.
Edwardo and Ruben were even more beautiful than their pictures depicted them. Their hair as a chestnut shade of auburn, styled to accent the deep tan of their soft, immature faces. Their eyes were much more than the photos portrayed. The color of their wide stares reminded me of some of the most wonderful Texas skies I had ever seen, but the fear and distrust I saw in those same angelic eyes frightened me. I had seen the same look in many of my patients, but to see it contrasting their innocent beauty wasn't anywhere near what I expected.
"Good morning! I am Doctor Owens," I tried, attempting a relaxed face. "Please sit down, I would like to talk to you for a few minutes, and ask you a few questions." I asked, earning me a pair of lost stares. "I know you understand English, please sit down."
After exchanging lost glances, they stared at me until I indicated toward a pair of chairs with my hand. I don't think this is going to be the average intake interview! I decided. I tried several, several different ways to break the ice during the next few minutes, each try getting more response from the doorknob than from either lad. These kids are good, or seasoned, I thought as they displayed very earnest 'No speak'a dee English' lost looks in response to my questions.
"Well, thank you for coming, I would like to meet with you again later," I said, giving up. They didn't move, still looking around like I was speaking Chinese. Thanks Miguel, thanks a bunch, I silently mumbled as I stood and gestured toward the door. I waited until Edwardo had grabbed the knob before adding, "A little later I'm going to eat at the McDonald's I saw on the way here, would you like to come with me?" Got you! I thought as they exchanged glances. Ruben started to turn back toward me but quickly resumed his dumb look.
I leaned back against the open door, trying to relax after the brothers walked out. What did I get myself into? I asked myself. Well, I hope Karl's interview goes better. I thought as I heard Edwardo and Ruben exchange a couple of snickering comments to each other that I could not understand.
I was turning away from the door when another voice say, "No somos nuevos vivir aquíí, nosotros estamos esperando a nuestro papá " (`We are not new to live here, we are waiting for our dad'). I almost collapsed against the door as I realized it was Johnny speaking. The room was silent for the better part of a minute.
"Vocêê tem um acento estranho, éé vocêê cubano ou mexicano?" Edwardo asked. He paused a second before continuing, "Usted tiene un acento extrañño, es usted cubano o mejicano?" ('You have a strange accent, are you Cuban or Mexican?' Asked first in Portuguese, then in Spanish).
"Ah, I don't know, I'm just Johnny. I don't understand you too good, ah too well," he answered, his beautiful voice music to my ears.
"I am Ruben." a third voice chimed. "This is my brother Edwar, , , Ed."
"Hi! I'm Johnny! Oh yeah you knew that, ah this is my brother Mark, and Ronnie, and Junior!"
Is this shit for real!?! I gasp, fighting not to peek around the doorframe. Johnny doesn't speak the Queen's English, much less a second language! A budding Embassador, NOT, he's too shy to look in the mirror!
I was trying to decide how to react when one of the home's social workers stuck her head into the doorway. "Are you ready to meet with Karl?" she asked.
"Yes, please" I replied. I can't do any worse than the last interview, I thought.
Mary appeared behind the worker. "The boys have finished their lesson already, we stopped by to tell you we are going shopping with Miguel," she informed me. I nodded, then gestured her into the office.
"Did you know Johnny speaks Spanish?" I asked as I closed the door.
"Our Johnny?" she asked. She listened intently as I filled her in on what I had just heard in the outer office, then her face tightened. "I have wondered if he, at least understood it somewhat." She blushed slightly as she added, "Several times, when I have, cursed the stove or something, I heard him snicker. But he swears he didn't understand me."
"Well, life with him is never boring, but why would he hide it?" A knock on the door interrupted us. "I have to meet with a client, see what you can pry out of him."
Karl was as bashful as Edwardo and Ruben had been when he entered the room, but at least acknowledged he understood English. His photos did him more of an injustice than had the brothers. He might have passed for an eleven year-old at the most, but I had trouble believing he was thirteen. His face and petite, delicate body seemed to capture my heart as I was sure it would anyone that saw him; if whoever wrote the fable about the little Dutch boy that saved Holland by putting his finger in the dike had used this boy as his poster child, it would have been a Hollywood blockbuster.
"I'm Doctor Owens, how are you this morning?" I began. His soft, evangelistic little boy voice was as captivating as his appearance when he muttered a quiet answer.
"I believe the people here have told you about why I'm here, what we are trying to do for you, do you understand what they told you?" I asked.
"You're going to take me with you. If I am what you want."
"Not exactly. Can I explain why I am here?" I got a shrug as an answer. As I began explaining the program Miguel and his foundation were establishing, that we were considering providing him the opportunity to come to the US and be adopted, I was amazed how such a sweet, little boyish face could so clearly express so much disbelief, and distrust.
I was caught off balance when he replied, "You are going to sell me to them?"
"No one is going to sell you. Do you know what being adopted means, is?" All I got as a response was a nod. "I'm a doctor, the kind of doctor that specializes in helping children by talking to them." Never tried that explanation before, I thought. "I'm here to talk to you, and see if coming to the US and being adopted would help you. And to be sure you get adopted by the right parents, so you are happy and do well. If that is what you want, anyway."
"You are not a doctor," he very frankly informed me, stating it as if aa matter of fact. The harshness in his high pitched little boy voice shocked me. I guess my surprise showed as we stared at each other for a couple of seconds. "You are here to buy me back." he proclaimed. We exchanged looks for an instant. "Doctor's don't carry guns," he added, pointing at my laptop bag. "Is that for if I refuse to go with you?"
I silently cursed Miguel as I looked toward the bag. How could he possibly know there is a gun in there? I asked myself as I studied the smooth leather, no sign of what was inside was visible.
"The gun is just for my protection. Not here at the home, but when I am out on the streets, with my sons. I'm a foreigner here, and a sort of strange looking one," I answered, flipping my ponytail up. His face told me that didn't work.
"You do not have to go anywhere you don't want to, you are welcome to walk out of this room anytime you wish." His face remained unchanged. Fuck it, I decided as I reached over for my computer bag and pulled the weapon out. "Here, would you feel more comfortable holding this?"
His face turned from total distrust to shock. When he remained motionless for a second or so I leaned over and dropped the gun in his lap. His mouth fell open as he looked down at the big automatic. He glanced back at me for an instant, then picked the weapon up. He strained a little, but expertly pulled the slide partially back and verified the gun was loaded.
He glanced at me, then the gun a couple more times, holding it pointed in my general direction. "How do you know I won't just shoot you?" he asked, almost in a whisper.
"Because I don't think you are that kind of a person, and because I trust you. I would like you to try to trust me." His babyish eyes studied me as intently as if he was x-raying my head. "Oh, and I would really prefer you didn't," I added.
He turned a little red as he followed my gaze to the barrel, then pointed it away from me. He looked around a little confused, then set the weapon in his chair next to him, and turned his little head away from me for probably a full minute, staring out the window. I was trying to decide how to break the ice when he turned back toward me, tears dripping down his beautiful cheeks.
"I can't go back to America anyway," he sobbed.
"You have been to the US before, are you from there?" I risk.
"I, , , I have traveled there several times, but if I go back they will arrest me for a very long time." He looked back at the window briefly then stood. "Thank you for trying to help me Doctor," he whimpered and started to the door.
"Wait, please don't leave," I called after him. "Please come sit down." He glanced between the door and carpet several times, then shuffled to stand next to his chair. I made a mental note to add tissues to my laptop case as I pulled a handkerchief out of my pocket praying it was clean.
No way, I'm not seeing this, I thought as he wiped the tears from his cheeks with his forearm, and used my handkerchief to wipe down the gun, then hand it back to me. "Thank you, but please dry your eyes, and sit down," I asked, handing the cloth back to him and dropping the gun back into my case.
"I want you to listen VERY carefully to what I am going to tell you, will you do that?" I asked. I got a gentle nod, and frightened glance from his angelic face that made my heart skip. "Like I told you, I am a Doctor. Do you believe me?" earned another nod. "Because I'm a doctor, anything you tell me I am, forbidden from telling anyone else. If I ever do, I would be arrested. Do you understand what I am saying?" Failing a response I tried, "Will you still trust me?" which got another nod as a reply.
"Why do you think you would be arrested if you went to the US, to America?" Not getting an answer I risked, "Were you smuggling drugs?" He turned ashen, even for his light complection, but nodded he was. I resisted the urge to get on my cell phone and call Cindy for help. 'Never leave home without your lawyer,' an old favorite saying of Johnny Carson's from his TV show rang into my mind.
"This is very important, please help me. Were you actually arrested? I mean did you, get put in jail, did you, , , have to talk to a judge?"
I had trouble believing what I was hearing as, with a lot of prodding, he half whimpered half explained that after what I was sure was US Customs detained him, he escaped before they could search or arrest him, and traveled the streets of Washington DC until he could find his keepers and leave the country. He don't fuck around! Smuggling into the nation's capital? I thought.
"Is your real last name Aguilar?" I asked before I realized it. "Were you born in Brazil?" His frightened eyes told me to continue. "What is your real name, your birth name?"
"Pieter," he mumbled. I fought to keep my brain from going into overload as he told me he was born in Belgium as Pieter Reese, had been kidnaped when he was about nine, and used as a mule until being caught a year or so ago. "I know I won't be adopted or anything, but please don't tell anyone, they will sell me back if they find out," he begged.
"I won't, I promise. But I want to, to call a few of my friends, I don't know if you can get a home or not. Will you give me a chance? I will come back tonight and tell you what I have learned. Please give me a chance, Karl." He didn't resist or pull away, but didn't respond when I wrapped my arm around his tiny shoulders.
Fuck, is this for real? I thought my patients had problems! I asked myself as I closed the door behind my little mystery patient. 'They will sell me back'? I repeated, trying to believe I had heard it. I have no idea how, but I'm going to help that little guy, I told my laptop bag as I picked it up to transcribe my notes. I could feel the barrel of Miguel's pistol staring at me from inside its pocket as I pictured Karl/Pieter's beautiful face.
I was trying to decide if I should bring my files up to date or call Cindy and have her start sorting things out with my latest patient when I remembered the commitment I had made to Edwardo and Ruben. Oh well, if I get them to Mc Barf's I wonder if they will remember how to speak English, while I'm present? I asked my computer bag as hooked its strap over my shoulder. Working vacation my ass, I need to go back to work and rest up.
Why me Lord! I thought a minute or so later when the home's staff informed me Edwardo and Ruben had left with Miguel and my family right after I began interviewing my mysterious little angel.
To Be Continued…