My Carl


Dad and Tim had come back into the house and I was checking the ham when Carl came through the kitchen going into the garage. I had my hands full of cooking tongs, basting spoons and half cooked ham when he reappeared. I noticed he had something in his hand as he gave me a sheepish grin before disappearing back into the family room but paid no real attention. Tim's cell rang as I sat down to the kitchen table. He said okay, yeah and so on and such before ringing off and telling me it was Helen, she had tried calling me but no answer but was coming by for a minute. He opened his mouth to continue when laughter and pandemonium broke out from around the corner. Almost immediately Carl came power sliding around the corner his feet actually skidding on the carpet as he darted toward the patio door. Timmy was right behind yelling red faced "I'm gonna kill you! You're sooo dead! Tim tried to grab his son as he rushed toward the door but the boy's long legs had almost achieved hyper warp as he pursued his target like an enraged war bird.

All three of us were just standing to see what was going on when the twins appeared, trying to rush toward the battle scene but giggling so hard the were having trouble walking much less running. I made it out the door right behind Tim, just in time to see Timmy make a flying tackle that might have earned him MVP if he were in the Superbowl. - 'MVP' = Most Valuable Player, a coveted honor is US sports - We were rushing to separate them before anyone got hurt as Carl rolled onto his back throwing his arms up in defense. Timmy crawled to straddle his foe's hips but instead of hitting he began tickling Carl. When we finally got everyone at least partially calmed down we found out at least part of what happened. Carl, having gotten a can of WD-40 from the garage (aerosol penetrating oil) waited until Timmy stood up for some reason or another and acted like he had picked it off the carpet. Handing it to Timmy he said how he saw it fall out of Timmy's pocket, stating it was his mouth spray.

We had just gotten them dried off and sent them back into the family room when the doorbell rang. "Wow, it's the cops!" I heard Jeff proclaim. I went outside presuming it was Kiley's paperwork, which it was. After making me identify myself, one of the two deputies handed me an envelope informing me he was serving me with a court order. Thanking them, I spent a minute or so wishing them a merry Christmas before I carried the envelope back inside. I started to open it when I had a twin on each shoulder, staring wide eyed at the mystery package. Setting it off to the side I took a swallow of beer and sort of pointedly ignored them, hinting for them to go away. I was ignoring their 'cut the shit dad' glares when Jerry pulled away, staring at his brother for a second before rushing down the hall.

I was trying to read Jeff's face when it turned pale then ashen. "Dad, Carl is gone, he's not in his room." I turned toward him to ask what on earth he was talking about but seeing the frightened, clearly engrossed expression on his face rushed into Carl's bedroom.

My throat dropped into my groin as I looked around. Neither Carl or Jerry were there, the side window was slightly open and the screen pushed out. "His coat is gone dad" Jeff exclaimed, looking in the closet. He rushed over to the dresser jerking Carl's underwear drawer open and after slinging briefs and socks everywhere continued "So is his money."

I had to swallow hard several times to keep from vomiting before I could ask where Jerry was. Jeff looked away briefly before saying "He's trying to catch him he thinks he is pretty close." My head was spinning when dad interceded, sending Tim to check all the rooms in the house and Timmy to see if Carl was anywhere in the yard, the Colonel side of him resurfacing.

I considered my possibilities briefly before asking Jeff "Can you find your brother? I mean Jerry? Do you know if he's got any clothes on?" His forehead tightened for an instant before telling me Jerry was wearing his shorts and had one of Carl's jackets on and that Jerry was three blocks away in an alley. "Get dressed, warm clothes and get Jerry some warmups or something, you've got two minutes, MOVE." I snapped. "Get Carl some warmups too." I continued as I rushed to my bedroom to dress.

Within minutes Jeff and I were in my truck rushing to where he said Jerry was. Dad had agreed to monitor the phone at home and Tim was going to call Helen then drive around looking for Carl, everyone agreeing it would be better not to report him as a runaway as yet. I was pushing the edge pretty far as I maneuvered the rain slick streets following Jeff's directions when he yelled "Turn here, turn here!" I turned the truck sharply only to spin it out, but thankfully didn't hit any curbs or cars. I was making sure I hadn't really shit my pants like I thought I going to as I looked over at Jeff to see if he was okay "Yeah, dad! That was cool!" he roared.

We had driven around chasing Jerry for about an hour when Jeff asked me to stop the truck. After a few seconds he asked if I could turn the engine off then after pausing said he thinks he knows where Carl is headed. "Let's go, come on dad!" he demanded, his high pitched voice showing every bit of authority that any 14 year old General would. I swung the truck around and after several tight turns found myself begging my two wheel drive truck up a muddy path I'm not sure I would have tried in a good four wheeler tonight, but soon he asked me to stop again. "He's at the barn, we were soooo stupid why didn't we think of that?" Jeff said. Seeing my lost face he pointed at a clump of trees up the hill informing me the barn was behind them. "We like to go there sometimes, , , I mean some of our friends told us they go there sir" he said. I started to drive up the hill when he informed me if I did Carl would hear me so I walked the fifty yards or so up the hill.

'The Barn' was exactly that, some farmer's metal building clearly designed to store cattle food and equipment. Jeff backed away as we approached the door whispering he wanted to talk to Jerry. I was in the middle of nowhere, hoping he or I would not be shot by the farmer that owned this place, but after all that had transpired for the last hour or so didn't argue. I cautiously walked into the building, and slightly wondering if it was worthwhile called Carl's name. After my second attempt I looked around slowly, seeing no sign of life I turned toward the door to tell Jeff he was wrong. I reached the door and started to push it open when I heard a whimper.

"Carl?" I asked. After probably thirty seconds of silence I called him again still with no response. "Come on son, do you think I'm going to hurt you, please come here"

I was searching the dark barn for any sign of movement when he responded "What about the cops?" Saying there were no police here and such he responded "But they're gonna put me in jail." I sat on a nearby bench and trying to look relaxed, I asked in a couple of ways what he was talking about before he responded "My old dad told on me didn't he? Please pop if you don't give me to the cops I'll do anything you want, anything you want I promise!"

"There are no cops here, I promise. I promise they didn't want to put you in jail or anything like that when they came to our house. Please come here son" I replied. Waiting a few seconds I continued "The policemen that were at the house actually brought some very good news, for you and me both. But running away won't work, please come here." After several more seconds of no response I said "It's time to cut the shit son, I want to raise you, I want to adopt you, but running away won't work in my home. I'm getting cold and damn hungry and I'm going home, if you want to go with me come on now."

I stood and started to turn toward the door when I saw some movement near me. "You sure they ain't gonna put me in jail? I know I was bad but they made me, I promise!" Carl whined. After a second or so he stepped from behind a stack of hay. I was about to respond when I saw reflections of small metal arches moving toward him from behind.

Extending my arms I said "Come on guys, let's go home!" Carl slowly shuffled toward me the twins closing behind him. He was about three feet from me when he hesitated, looking to the side I think for an escape route when Jerry closed in on him pulling Carl against him. Extending my keys I asked "Someone want to go get the truck? This old man's too tired for the walk." Jeff grasped them quickly, I yelled after him "You get it stuck and its your ass!"

I called Dad and Tim as I let Jeff drive until we got back to public roads. Everyone was waiting when we got to the house and after some quick hellos I sent the boys to get into dry clothes. Asking Tim and Helen what impact tonight's escapade was going to have on our future they both said none, provided that is what I want. "Hey dude he's yours, you even got the title." Tim replied, pointing at the still unopened envelop from Kiley, "No refunds, no exchanges allowed."

"Just about." Helen injected "that's part of why I'm here." Removing a document from her purse she said "Sign here" Seeing my puzzled look she explained it was my contract with Casey, just stating what we had already discussed.

I started to look it over when Tim quipped "Just sign it f*** face, you can read it later." I teased about wanting to read the return policy and signed.

"The other thing I wanted to tell you is the FBI wants to interview Carl." Helen said. "We just found out this afternoon, we got the shrink to block it for now but we don't know for how long." I was considering my answer when she continued "They have confirmed you have a young porn star in your home, his pictures and advertisements are all over the web. He is a high dollar kid!"

The twins appeared in the hall interpreting our discussion. They both surveyed Helen's body as they walked in but I think seeing my glare managed to control their eyes as they entered the kitchen. Seeing the ham on the drainboard quickly distracted them, giving me looks that clearly proclaimed they hadn't eaten for weeks until I told them to help themselves.

Amid the instant clattering of plates and silverware I asked where Carl was, the boys replying he wouldn't come out of his room. After stuttering a little shuffling his feet Jerry injected "He thinks Ms Cruz is gonna take him with her." Rolling my eyes I started to get up when Helen put her hand on mine asking if she could try dealing with it. Everyone enjoyed the view as she made her way down the hall, her figure was even captivating my Dad.

After she disappeared around the corner I started to scan the paper I had signed a few minutes ago, but after what had to be a minute or so I sensed something wasn't quite right. It took several seconds before I realized what was wrong, it was far too quiet, silence was something that was all but impossible in my kitchen when the twins and food were both present. When I turned around I couldn't help but snickering. Both boys were staring, mouths agape, down the empty hallway. They were as if frozen in time, Jerry with a plate in one hand and fork in the other, Jeff with a piece of ham dangling from a fork. "Sorry guys, you'll have to settle for cured meat." I quipped.

It was at least ten minutes before Helen came back down the hall, Carl under her arm. She stopped in front of the table guiding Carl in front of her. He turned slightly red as she pulled his back against her, her breast just touching the top of his head. (I would have given a million dollars to see the twins reaction but knew better than to look away). After a second she whispered something to him. He tried to look up at her then glanced around the room before saying "I'm sorry I ran away. I'm sorry I screwe. . . I mean messed my everyone's day and stuff I won't do it again."

Before I could comment Helen said "Christian, its up to you, but I think we should tell why I'm here, why the police were here."

I glanced at Tim, then turned toward Dad who was holding Kiley's envelope out to me. I had just grasped it when I had a pair of matching boys pressing against my arms. Glancing at their partially eaten plates I commented "Shit this is GOT to be important, I didn't think an earthquake could get you two away from food." to my surprise I only got the briefest of glares before they locked their eyes back on the sealed document. "Okay, you're the oldest, I guess you get to look first" I continued, pressing it against Jerry then Jeff's forehead. "Damn you read quick!" I quipped, getting a slight giggle from Carl. As I tore the seal open I asked Carl "You remember I said I wanted to adopt you?"

Looking at his shoes he mumbled "Well I guess you don't now."

"No, I don't want to anymore." I responded. His chin almost dropped to the floor before I could continue "I already have, I did this afternoon and this is your adoption decree." I said, handing him the court order. He shrugged his shoulders and pushed back against Helen for a second or so before lifting his head, cocking it to the side, his face in that perfect 'What??? I'm lost' expression. "That's if you agree."

"Dude!" Jerry shouted rushing to Carl. I was even more impressed with Helen's athletic thighs as both twins slammed into her hugging their new brother. Somehow she managed all this and rescued the court order before the boys caused any damage as they pawed it.

It took several minutes to calm them down before Carl could break free, rushing to my lap. About a hundred thank yous and hugs later he looked away before asking "But what if my old dad says I gotta go back?"

I was about to reassure him his dad could not when Helen interrupted, asking him to come to her. Propping him on her lap she scanned the court order quickly before pointing to it asking him to read the paragraph. He looked around nervously before beginning "It is therefore ordered, ad, , , add judged? and degreed that the petit ahh,"

Let's read it together Helen suggested ". . .It is therefore ordered, adjudged and decreed that the Petitioner, Christian A. Miller be and is hereby granted leave to adopt Carl J. Fay, a minor child, and that from this date said Petitioner shall stand in the legal relationship of father to said child, and the said minor child shall stand in legal relationship of son to said Petitioner; and

"It is further ordered that the rights of all persons, if any they have, to the care, control and custody of said minor child shall be terminated and that the surname of said minor child be and is hereby changed to MILLER."

Flipping a page she pointed to the document asking "Does that name sound familiar?" Carl looked up at her asking her to confirm that it was 'his' judge.

"What about if I make pop mad or stuff? Well if I'm bad do I get sent back?" he whined.

"Come here turkey." I asked extending my arms. He pushed back against Helen but reluctantly climbed off her lap and shuffled to me. He only accepted my wrapping my arm around his waist as I said "If you agree, there is no sending you back, your are my son just like those twin turkeys over there. If you misbehave, I'll punish you, If you ever piss me off, I'll go outside and beat up a tree or something but I promise I will never hurt you. Can I adopt you, its your choice, but whatever you choose is forever, you choose." He jumped on my lap hugging me "You still want me? YEA Pops! " he explained pushing against me.

After we talked a few minutes I almost laughed as Helen carried our sleepy Carl to his bed, tucking the twins in on her way back. I was tempted to ask her if she wished them sweet dreams as she left but bit my lip.

When I woke up my alarm clock had honored requests (well more threats as I moved its nasty button to 'off' last night). I was almost shocked to find the only kid in my bed weighed about five pounds, had long ears and 'oinked' as he looked down at me from atop my pillow. I oinked back and shuffled to the coffee pot. The first of the regular Christmas Eve visitors were due for brunch in a couple of hours so I would have to wake the kids before long. 'Joy" I thought as I sipped my coffee, an hour with the in laws. Only for the twins sake had I stayed in touch with Sherry's parents after her death. I often wonder if somehow the abominable relationships between in laws depicted on so many sitcoms were written around our actual affiliation. I would be willing to swear in court that if somehow my supervisor called informing me I had been promoted to President of the United States, my father in law would ask if I had been taking lessons from Nixon.

I was about to wake the twins when I heard sickly groaning noises from Carl's room. Quietly opening his door I stopped and tried to analyze what I was seeing. Carl had a rope stretched horizontally from his closet to his window curtains, and was contorting his little body into different positions as he passed back and forth under it, some of the positions he has bending his neck and back into reminded somehow of an Ostrich born with severe chromosome problems. Stepping toward him for a better look I noticed several printouts from Beaver Creek before he noticed me. He turned bright red when I asked him what he was doing but after several stuttered attempts he got out "Well, I'm practicing being five feet tall." I tried for several seconds to digest his statement at least enough to provide some sort of reaction, but at a loss for words informed him we had company coming and he needed to practice with his tooth brush, then his shirt tucking in'ing right now.

The visit with my outlaws (no, that was not a typo) went better then I expected. As we ate brunch I kept wondering if they had gotten their medications mixed up this morning, him taking estragon and her testosterone, but just grinned politely as they rambled. I was thrilled at the way they treated Carl, they always gave everyone gift certificates as gifts and Carl's was equal to everyone else. I even saw what might have been a faint smile on the old ladies lips when we announced 'we' had adopted Carl.

Carl showed his first real interest in the presents under the tree as we dug out the inlaw's gifts. Dad and I had found it useful not to put name tags on the kids' gifts (along with several other security measures to keep nosy twins from sneak peeking inside the boxes), something that compounded Carl's bewilderment as he looked over the treasures under the tree. I let him stew a while before asking if he had found any that were for him. Looking again he replied he didn't know who any of them are for. Giving him an evil grin I responded "I know, but only I do!" Pausing I said "Yes, some of them are for you." He tried a couple approaches to get me to tell him which ones when I said "Look for the 'feather' light packages."

My extended family came over for lunch during which pretty well everyone enjoyed themselves, Carl really getting into the holiday spirit with a second round of gifts, again raking in bounty about equal to his brothers along with twenty or so 'congratulations, welcome to the family' comments.

I guess every family tree has its armpit branch, and mine was a cousin and his wife, if you look up the word snob in the dictionary you can see their pictures (he is a mortician and she is a harp player) With their usual class and charm the gave each of the twins a nice dress shirt and Carl a box of wooden pencils. Just as I had tolerated all of his snide remarks about poor kids that had inherited poor features such as bad teeth twins, he started in on orphans and illegitimate children. I stood up and was walking across the room to kill him but Dad, much quicker on his feet then I expected, subtly cut me off. Finally we had the house to ourselves for at least for a few minutes.

With Carl's help I began collecting the mountains of torn wrapping paper off the carpet expecting the boys to pitch in and help. After a minute I was about to call them when they appeared from the hall dressed only in gym shorts, rubbing their chests and backs like they had just been released from full length corsets. "Yea!" Carl shouted as he darted from the room, yanking his shirt tail out as he ran.

When I reminded the twins we still had company coming they gave me a lost look asking who. "The Young's and the Anderson's, remember?" I was rather rudely informed they were not company, Jeff commenting they weren't anyone; they are always here. "I'll be sure to tell Mr. Young you said that, if I remember he is almost twice as tall as you?" I replied, getting almost a dozen explanations of what he really meant. Red faced they quickly busied themselves gathering the glasses and snack plates from around the room. I found myself exploring ideas as they went into the kitchen, had I stumbled on a way to actually get them to do work?

I was patting myself on the back as I started into the kitchen, both arms full of discarded gift wrap when I heard 'slurp, slurp slurp', the impolite noise of someone trying to suck the last drop of liquid from a cup through a straw. I watched for a few seconds as the twins, each with a soda straw stuck under their headgear drained the last of everyone's mixed drinks and rum spiked eggnog from the glasses. Assuming my best 'you're dead meat' expression I cleared my throat. They both spun in unison toward me, Jerry's straw still dangling below his face bow as their faces turned pale. "How would you to like to spend Christmas day standing up, in just a minute your ass's just might get way to sore to sit on." I growled. "Load the dishwasher, NOW!"

Although I hadn't spanked them since they were two or three the threat still worked and I was trying to continue it with the glare in my eyes when dad said from behind me "You two know better, but your dad used to do it all the time, he just didn't have braces to get him caught." Realizing I had just completely lost my edge I shot Dad a 'thanks a bunch' look before continuing to the garage.

When I came back into the kitchen Carl was helping with the dishes, happy to be freed from his dress clothes. "How come Uncle Clarence is such a dick, ah I mean a butt head dad?" Jeff asked. Before I could respond Jeff chinned in "Yeah it's a good thing they don't have kids! You were gonna stomp him weren't you dad?"

I was trying to think of a tactful answer when Dad snipped "Probably Jeff found the reason, after thirty years of marriage I'm sure she's still a virgin!" ending the conversation, everyone just leaning back and roaring in laughter.

Carl and I chatted as I began preparing snacks for our annual cocktail party with Tim's and another neighbor's families, the last of our obligations each Christmas eve. He was enthralled by his day so far saying he never did anything on the eve, implying he had already gotten more Christmas gifts then he ever had on the actual day. I asked him to set out some paper plates and plastic ware and such. I had just started to steam a load of salad shrimp I had bought during our visit to the Texas coast when he asked what he could do next. Getting out a serving platter I sent him to the auxiliary refrigerator in my garage instructing him to retrieve the large can, the one with a red top. Quickly he returned wrestling the two gallon container. As I asked he spread a thick layer of ice cubes over the platter, I was impressed at the care he took to get it perfectly spread, seemingly enjoying being an artisan. Congratulating him on his work I handed him a slotted spoon asking him to load his ice layer with as much as from the can as he could fit, cautioning him to make it look presentable.

It took him several tries to get the lid off the can I found myself snickering with pride as he fought the can, sitting on the counter the lid was right at eye level for his little body. With the greatest of care he reached almost over his head to scoop out the first load and had just set the spoon on the ice when he realized what was in the can. Jerking back like he had gotten an electric shock he screeched "Pop!" his eyes locking to mine in sheer terror.

"Oh shit, I hope Judge Kiley don't hear about this!" I exclaimed looking at the spoonful of oysters. Picking one up with my fingers and popping it into my mouth I continued "Did you look, did you get the oysters or the snot?" I had just received my first 'up yours dad' glare from my new son when the twins rushed into the kitchen to see what was going on. Amid the confusion of the twins attacking the oysters I managed to pull Carl next to me. Holding out an oyster I said "Well you are already infected, want to try one more?" After another nasty look he closed his eyes and timidly opened his mouth. "You're mean pop, well, dad" he giggled as he gave me a hug.

Our cocktail party went well, going through load after load of drinks and snacks as we celebrated. Judy, Tim and I had agreed years ago, when we began this annual party, that only the kids would exchange gifts but to my surprise Tim handed me a present. Giving him a dirty look I opened it but then saluted him with only one finger, setting the quart jar of antacid tablets off to the side.

After our guests drifted home we spent a few minutes cleaning up before I sent the kids to get bathed. I had just poured myself a Margarita from the leftover pitcher and was headed toward my recliner when the phone rang. A couple of dirty looks didn't make it quit so I checked the caller ID, it was Tim's number. What now I thought as I answered.

It actually was Judy. After stammering briefly she began "Christian I am sure this is going to sound stupid, but I don't know much about orthodontics and such. Timmy is worried and I looked in the patient handbook they gave us, but I don't know what to do. Of course the doctor's office is closed, they are going to be closed until after you and Timmy leave for Colorado, well if he still can go." Thinking 'WHAT NOW?' I took a long swig from the glass named Margaret before asking her to explain.

The line was silent for a second or so before she continued "Timmy is telling me his braces could start rusting if he gets them wet too much. Your boys claimed theirs did when they first got them, they told Timmy he needs to get 'rust remover' to rinse his mouth with? I know I sound like a panicked paranoid mom, but what is going on, this stuff we forced into my son's mouth is going to rust?"

I digested her statements for a few seconds before realizing what was going on, what my pointy head little brats were up to. For the second time the same day, I was deciding which of my belts would best hold up to the butt blistering I had planned for the twins tonight, as I explained to Judy that braces were made of the highest quality stainless steel, that rust or anything harmful to the patient was absolutely impossible. I had almost decided on a very thick calf skin belt for the boys execution weapon when a more evil plot began to develop.

"Judy, my twerps are screwing with Timmy, I've had three kids in braces and trust me they do not rust. But I do need a favor." she asked what before I continued "Tell Timmy not to worry, please assure him I have plenty of Rust Remover, more then enough for all the kids for our trip. Please make him feel comfortable that if he needs any rust remover I have plenty and I'll do the rest" After I rang off I went to my bathroom and unable to find what I wanted started towards Dad's  bath. I paused at my closet looking over the several belts I had, but moved on. Finding the bottle I needed in Dad's bath I dropped it into my travel kit.

Christmas morning was perfect, Dad and I just had time to pour our coffee and warm some rolls before the kids filtered from their bedrooms (well maybe I should say thrust in) We picked on gramps about all the dozen or so white hairs left on his head as he played Santa, handing out the gifts. Carl's eyes grew wider and wider as dad sat the eight or so packages in front of him. He stared at his bounty as dad sat down and the twins began ripping into their presents. Looking around he came over and climbed in my lap, putting his mouth next to my ear "I think gramps screwed up sir, I can't get all that stuff!" Looking back at the stack of wrapped boxes he asked "Which one is mine?"

I tried a couple of assurances that everything was for him, just getting a disbelieving looks before I whispered "Well, okay. They are all really for you, but if it would make you feel better go pick one of them, I'll divide the rest of them between the twins." getting first a 'well whatever' look quickly followed by a 'you'll WHAT?' glare. "Merry Christmas young Master Miller," I whispered before kissing him on the cheek. "Now get to it before the twins see those unguarded gifts, they'll attack like pirates!"

He hesitated before climbing down. Looking over his collection he timidly picked up the smallest box carefully removing the bright gift wrap. He was awestruck as he opened the box inside, one of the gifts the twins had picked out for my co-workers, a beautiful 24 K gold choker neck chain. Soon he was ripping packages apart like a wrecking crew. He was equally impressed with the Bulova watch I gave him, the one I had to rush out and exchange the stainless steel one for gold. Dad was not a shopper. He had, I guess since my mother's death, taken the easy was out of Christmas shopping, and gave everyone a one hundred dollar bill for his present. Like all kids Carl opened the cards last, and I almost thought dad's gift had nuked my new son's brain when he half heartedly opened the envelope, at first glancing inside then gawking at the bill. He seemed to start recover after a few minutes parading his bill like a medal. Gramps offering of biscuits, ham and eggs for brunch brought him back to the present as everyone attacked brunch.

The kids disappeared into their bedrooms to stash their gifts and I was checking the weather on the internet when the twins reappeared asking to talk to me. Saying of course, I waited for a few seconds and getting no response suggested we go for a walk. After I got them on the patio Jerry began "We're sort of worried, Carl won't do anything with his gifts. He put them all in his closet he won't do nothing."

I was absorbing Jerry's comments when Jeff continued "He thinks he's gonna have to give his stuff back, dad." seeing my questioning face he said "Well he didn't say that but that's what he thinks." I started to ask him how he made that presumption but thinking back over the past few days answered my own question. I asked both boys if Carl believed, well knew what being adopted means, then if they understood what it meant. They both agreed Carl didn't understand but they did, Jeff summarizing "He's our real brother now, he's the Christmas present you promised!"

"Thanks for letting me know, I'm very proud of you two. I am going to the FBO in a few minutes, but you guys want to stay home and check out your gifts, right?" After a quick exchange of glances they agreed.

Dad and I herded all the kids back into the family room to clean up everyone's mess before I announced I was going to the airport, to load the ski gear and such on the aircraft and make sure everything was ready for our take off tonight. "Carl, want to go along and help me?" I asked. Quickly I got offers from all the kids but the twins 'remembered' they had to get ready asking if they could stay home.

I waited until I was on the freeway before I began "Turkey, you are safe now, you are my son and no one but God can change that now." he looked over at me with an expression I could not read. "A lot of things happened to you before, before you came to me. I know it was things you didn't want to happen, but I also know its not the kind of stuff that you can hide inside you for too long before it hurts you. Want to talk?"

He stared out the window before whimpering "No." after a long pause "Do I gotta?" I responded that he had to sooner or later but not today he asked "Well do I gotta if I'm gonna get adopted?"

"Carl you are already adopted!" I snapped, wishing I could take back the harshness of my voice. "I know it's Christmas, and no you don't have to talk about what happened to you before you joined our family right now, but we have to some day don't we?" He slowly nodded his head before I continued "Can we talk about adoption, about getting a new family?" Getting only another nod I asked him to tell me exactly what he thought was happening to him.

After a long pause he responded "Well I get to keep living with you for awhile." When I asked how long was 'awhile' he answered "Well until you get tired of me. . . I mean until I screw up sir"

'Merry F***ING Christmas fool, how big a can of worms did I open here?' I thought. "No, I'm sorry but you're not quite right. Adoption means you are my son now, just like Jeff and Jerry, and forever just like them. Yeah I'm going to send you away some day, but to college, and that's about six years from now, right?" Not waiting for a response I continued "What did I say happens if you screw up? I said you would be punished, right? That's just like the twins, you're my son EXACTLY like they are now!"

I had to swerve on the freeway to make the airport exit I almost missed. Neither of us spoke for the two minutes or so it took for me to park next to the hanger gate. Handing him the jewelry store box containing his new necklace I said "Your brothers picked this out for you, it would break their hearts if you won't wear it, you ready to join our family?" He stared at the box for a second or so before opening it. After another pause he stretched the chain round is neck a couple of times before admitting he didn't understand the clasp. "Turn around turkey" said, snapping it on him. Are you sure what forever means?" I asked him, he responded by leaping all the way across the truck seat into my lap.

After we loaded the aircraft we went into the operations center. I started to be concerned as I studied their weather radar, a storm front everyone had predicted to arrive mid day tomorrow was moving much faster then the legalized bookies many of us call weather forecasters blowing it again. I felt comfortable with our pending flight once I got above the storm but decided for safety to leave early. I took a minute to get Carl an aircraft owner's identification card allowing him to be in the hangar area unescorted before starting home. I called Tim then Dad stating we would have to leave early and asking them to get ready.

I was planning my flight, reviewing my options if I was wrong about the front as I drove home when Carl said "It says Carl Miller." glancing over he was reading his ID badge. "You're not shiting are you!" I was about to nail him for his language when he said "I really get to use your name?"

The only place I could reach without taking my eyes off the road was his lower thigh so I squeezed to saying "No, you don't get to use my name, you ARE a Miller now, remember?"

When we got home Timmy and parents were waiting in the house, luggage for him and the twins stacked by the door. Jeff and I grabbed our bags and as my boys loaded the van. Tim and Judy gave their child good bye hugs and such along with the normal 'behave yourself' and such cautions. We were saying our final Merry Christmas's and such when Judy said "Don't you dare take that headgear off unless Mr. Miller says you can, and don't worry about rusting or anything, Mr. Miller will make sure you won't. " I couldn't see too much of the twins' reaction except a brief paling of their necks as they turned away exchanging glances.

It had already started raining as I did my preflight. I told Jerry, who was helping me check the landing gear that we were probably going to do an instrument take off and I wanted either him or Jeff right seat, but I was going to fly the aircraft until we got above the storm. I was about to ask one of the twins to get in the 'cock' to finish my preflight when the landing lights came on, Jeff's silver smile radiating from the cockpit window.

I allowed Jeff to power the aircraft up and taxi it to the runway but took over the yoke as we took off. We had a few bumpy minutes until I could get above the storm but soon were flying above any disturbance, everyone enjoying watching the clouds below moving as if a giant snow shovel was raking them. We had to make two fuel (well and pit) stops, Carl ending up as my right seat for the last leg of our flight. ATC directed us to begin our decent toward Vail. Getting no response from Carl, I adjusted the aircraft's course before I took time to look at over at him.

I couldn't find a way to wipe the smile off my face as I landed, I would never admit it to the FAA but about ninety percent of my thoughts were about Carl's awe of the steep, snow covered peaks we were diving between toward the ramp, only about ten percent regarding landing on an icy frozen runway.

The kids were about to climb out of the aircraft when a hangar door opened, a line man gesturing me to taxi inside. Within minutes our baggage was loaded into a van and we were looking around as it carried us up a steep climb toward one of the peaks, the fading sunlight shadowing it in a wonderful vista. Carl, then Timmy, pushed against me asking if that was were we were going. "No," I answered. Pointing toward a dim set of lights about half way up the mountain that I was sure was Beaver Creek I continued "That's home for tonight, but wait until tomorrow!"

To Be Continued…