My Flock

Chapter 19

I took a couple of deep breaths and considered pinching myself to see if I was awake, if this was real, before gently laying my hand on the corpse's shoulder, then risked moving my finger to his throat and checked for a pulse.

"Pepe, are you alright?" I gasped. "What are you doing here?"

He blinked his eyes a couple of times as he twisted his neck before looking up at me. I almost jumped out of my skin when sprang to his feet like an explosive charge had been set off under his butt. "Good morning Col, , , Good morning Mister Pop! Pop, sir!" he exclaimed, maybe better put howled as he snapped to attention.

I took a second to try and recover from the shock his high pitched voice had given my very well hung over brain and ears. "Good morning," I managed to grunt.

"I wish to give you the morning reports, Sir!" he exclaimed. His face beamed with pride for an instant, they turned a little red as his eyes widened.

He blushed slightly redder as he squirmed his hips, and somehow managed to stuff two fingers into one of the back pockets of his tight jeans. After a little more twisting and digging he retrieved a small wad of paper. He unfolded the wad, smoothed it between his fingers a couple of times like he was ironing a dress shirt then looked down, carefully inspecting it. He stiffened his stance into a posture that would have made a member of the President's Honor Guard jealous and held two snips of paper, each about three by three inches, out to me.

"This is my first report to MY Director! Sir!" he proclaimed.

Despite still trying to recover from having what I thought was a dead body in the hall of my new employer's house, I was still trying to wake up, and figure out what was going on, I looked at the papers. After a quick glance back at him I had to dodge his bright, clearly proud face and huge smile to keep from pulling him into a hug.

It took a few blinks to convince my eyes to focus enough to read, but the wonderful aroma of Adam's coffee pot seemed to make my brain wake up enough to cooperate. Okay, whatever, I thought as I surveyed the small printed forms; each listed the Date, a check-box for A.M., P.M. or Bedtime, Cottage 'Number', and Absent/Reason with several lines drawn below that field. 'None' was handwritten into the last field of each of the papers, Arnold and Nemo had signed the bottom of them.

"Thank you Pepe," I managed. I woke up a little, or the parent side of my brain overrode my hangover as I glanced back at the forms. Where are these House Parents Adam told me about? God these little guys weren't on their own all night, aren't now! I wondered, or prayed. "But, shouldn't you, well should you tell the, your House Parents this? Are they available?" I risked.

Oh shit, what is wrong now! I groaned as he withered and his face melted. I opened my mouth to ask what was wrong, but he seemed to recover slightly and stiffened back into his military posture before I could speak.

"A First Boy reports to his Director, except, unless, , , if he can't find his Director, , , sir!" he stammered. His beautifully capturing eyes flicked like he was speed-reading for an instant before he nervously licked his almost ghost white lips and continued.

"If a Head Prefect cannot report to his Director he is to report to the House Parents, Sir!" he recited, as if reading from a manual of some sort. He stiffened even more as tears began rolling down his cheeks. "I thought I was your First Boy Sir, , , I'm sorry," he whimpered.

"You are my First Boy," I gasped, wishing I could crawl under the crack beneath my bedroom door and started this conversation over.

I resisted for an instant, but cast off caution and cupped his thin neck in one hand. I didn't have time to pull him into a hug, he threw his arms around me and pushed his thin little body against mine like a vacuum had drawn him in.

I cuddled him and rubbed his bony shoulders for a few seconds. "Are Directors allowed to drink coffee while they listen to their First Boy's report?" I tried. His head moved slightly, but he offered no response. "Would you like some milk or some, , ," I stopped, and decided to rephrase, not wanting to talk down to him. "Or some coffee?"

He didn't resist when I turned him around and wiped his eyes with my tee-shirt. I started to tuck him under my arm but he was too tall and I wrapped my arm around his back and cupped his thin chest as I guided him toward the stairs. Without thinking I pulled his thin body further into mine as I felt his arm wrap around the back of my waist.

"So, what do you guys do on Sundays? What is on the fire, on your agenda?" I asked as I used him as somewhat of a crutch to navigate the stairs.

I was impressed, but not very surprised as he rattled off the day's schedule. 'His' boys were probably finishing breakfast right now. When finished eating, they would clean their cottages, after which those that chose to would dress and ride the Ranch's vans to church services. Everyone had free time the rest of the day, he was even specific enough to say lunch was an optional 'raid the refrigerator' affair. He even detailed required supper attendance, study time and bedtimes for tonight.

He was only slightly distracted by my boys frolicking in the pool as we walked through the family room, then went on to tell me he had to leave soon to perform an inspection of the cottages and 'his' boys' bedrooms.

Although he stayed stuck to me like glue I managed to pour a very badly needed caffeine fix. From his face I could tell he wasn't too thrilled when I offered him a cup, but his face brightened like a new penny when I offered him a glass of milk.

It took me a second to snap as I mentally reviewed his commentary. "The other guys are finishing breakfast, have you eaten?" I asked.

"Yes sir! I made Tacos and ate some of them coming here Sir!" he answered between gulps of milk.

I digested his statement for a second, wondering if he had eaten anywhere near a full breakfast or was starving himself to impress me. A glance at his thin frame reminded me he could ill afford to miss any meals.

"I love breakfast tacos, what kind did you have? Did you get enough?" I asked, trying to be tactful.

He downed the last of his milk and wiped his face with a paper napkin. "I made ham and egg, and I put some potatoes and cheese on them," he told the refrigerator door. "And grilled onion, I like them. I ate six riding here, but I have four more in my saddlebag." he said to his empty glass.

I surveyed his flat, thin stomach and bony hips pushing out of his tight, maybe twenty inch waist Levis for a second, then couldn't help looking down at my thirty-six inch waist and beer belly flopping over it. Ten breakfast tacos, I'd explode! I thought. I was trying to think of a reply when I noticed him holding his empty glass up waiting for the last drops of milk to drip into his mouth. "Would you like another glass?" earned me a huge silver grin. I'm not sure if the bright reflection or the air currents his beautiful dimples caused dried my eyes enough to make me squint.

Mary stepped into the kitchen while Pepe was pouring another glass of milk, Dad right behind. "What, you're not in the pool with the other boys?" Mary bubbled as she kissed the youngster on the cheek.

"Yeah, go jump in, you have time," I told his questioning look. "Go ask one of the boys if you can borrow a pair of trunks, and swim!" I continued as turned to get Dad and Mary coffee cups out of the cabinet.

When I turned back the lad was already out of his shoes and tee-shirt and was squirming back and forth trying to jerk his tight jeans down from his hips and bubble butt.

"Well, he does come prepared!" I quipped as I watched his Speedo clad backside disappear out the patio door.

"Please be very careful with him Christian," Mary's voice rang. When I looked away from the door she was picking up the trail of clothes he had left behind. "He is an extraordinary young man, but is also a very fragile, frightened little boy," she told his tee-shirt as she carefully folded it and lay it on the couch.

"He also worships the ground you walk on, like nothing I could have imagined," she continued as she fluffed his jeans, then held them against her breast and carefully smoothed the wrinkles out of them.

"It took each of us weeks to gain his trust, and he's fallen in love with you overnight," she added as she turned to face me. "Please never do anything to violate that love, to disappoint him. Or hurt him." Her warm, grand-motherly face made me feel like she was giving parental advice, but her eyes told me her advice was also a stern warning.

"Yes Ma'am," I answered before I realized it. Not to worry, I silently added as I watched the tall, lanky brown haired teen bounce around with his shorter, younger buddies in the pool, his emerald eyes and wonderfully carefree face probably more innocent than the thirteen-year-olds swimming with him.

"Where is Adam?" I asked the glass in the patio door a couple of minutes later.

"He has on-call this weekend, he's doing rounds," Mary's answered from behind. "He'll be back in an hour or so, I think."

"Screw it, I'm, well, the Director," I told the glass as I watched Pepe playfully wrestling off Junior and the twins, who seemingly were trying to drown him.

I considered getting my laptop out and configuring it, but after glancing at both of the computers in Adam's study, I chose the one off to the side of his desk and minimized the database that was open on it instead of closing it before I logged onto the internet. It only took me a few seconds to log onto the site I was looking for and make my selections, but I called the site ten or twenty nasty words when I snapped that I had forgotten to have my new credit cards with me before logging on.

When I returned from all but sprinting upstairs to retrieve my wallet, the twins and Junior were glaring at the computer's screen. "Where's our file!?!?" Jerry snarled.

"Pop!" his twin snapped, just slightly less rudely than his brother.

"I didn't hurt your file," I countered. It seemed to be enough assurance to get me past their barricade. "See, there it is," I offered after maximizing the database.

"If anyone wants breakfast, SOMEONE better set the table!" Dad's command voice thundered into Adam's study.

Well, I'm glad they haven't lost their, sense of what's important! I chuckled as I watched the study empty at warp speed.

"I must leave, sSir, Pop," Pepe's high pitched voice rang from the doorway a minute or so later. When I turned he was already dressed, and displaying a fresh milk moustache.

I punched the last of my keystrokes and logged off the site I had visited before walking over to him. After he declined a breakfast invitation he gave me a small grin and started toward the door.

"Oh before you go, I'd like a few minutes of your time later," I called after him. When he turned back around his face told me I had lost him. "I would like to meet with you later," I tried. "Can you be available," Careful, fool, I cautioned myself.

"Can you meet me at your cottage at eleven o'clock? It won't take more than an hour or so," I tried. His frightened expression and saucer wide eyes told me I had only partially gotten through to him. "You are not in any trouble, I want you to run an errand with me. We need to, go into town for a minute, briefly."

He stiffened, but mumbled a soft 'yes sir'. "You didn't do anything wrong, I promise you will enjoy the trip," I offered as I wrapped my arm around his stiff, tense shoulder. "It's something a Director needs have his First Boy help him with," earned me a pair of dimples as deep as the Grand Canyon, immediately followed by a wide, almost blinding smile.

"Also, please select four or five boys, that have ideas for your flag pole. Ask them if they can meet with, , , Colonel Gramps tomorrow after school. Ask them to have any suggestions ready to discuss." Dad's gonna love me or kill me for that! I tittered.

"Yes Sir! I will be, prepared at eleven o'clock!" he proclaimed. He glanced between me and the door a couple of time as if wondering what to do.

His face was such a beauty of innocence, excitement and fright that he made me think of Loggins and Messina's folk rock classic song 'Christopher Robin' rang into my mind like the CD had been plugged into a slot in the back of my head. I felt like the wise old owl as his miles deep eyes ask 'how to loosen a chaw from the nose of a bear'. I could almost picture the lanky youngster counting bees and painting clouds into the sky.

"I will, , , I will choose names, nominate names for you to approve Sir! And I will, well, what should I, how should I dress, sir?" his voice fading as he finished.

"You look great just like this," I assured him. Just a touch of my hand on his belt made him push his little body against me. "And I didn't ask you to nominate boys, the ones you choose will meet with my Dad, Colonel Gramps tomorrow. You're my First Boy, you choose! Can you do that?"

He was motionless for several seconds and I started to wonder if I had overloaded him. I was about to back off when he barked "Yes sir Pop!" in an ear piercing voice.

Before I could say anything he slammed against me and threw his long thin arms around me. "I will Pop! I will!!!" he hooted. I groaned as he pulled my rib cage into an all but crushing hug. "I'm really a First Boy!" he told my creaking ribs.

I groaned, but turned him and ushered him to the patio door.

"Shoo, go inspect our boys' cottages," I chuckled as I gently popped him on his bubble butt. Just wait little man, have I got a surprise for you, I tittered as he galloped across the patio, threw his arm up over his head and yelled "Si, SI!"

My new 'staff' surrounded me the instant I pushed away from the breakfast table. "Can we show you something?" Jerry asked as he, his twin and Junior escorted into Adam's study. "We wrote this, is it okay?" he asked as I was forced into the chair in front of the computer I had used a few minutes earlier.

I was at first surprised, then shocked as I looked at the Database they brought up. They had not only entered all of the upgrades and tasks from my notes, but designed fields that linked like tasks that could be done together, even set some fields up that assigned the number of hours for each task, and even a billable area for each client. I had to shake my head to be sure I wasn't dreaming as I saw the double, even triple posting links they had set up, at the level we paid contractors big bucks to develop at work.

"Ah, I thought we had agreed to start on this, this morning," the parental side of me kicked in as I envisioned the number of hours it took to develop the database.

"We did Dad, we did!" Jeff answered.

"Well, but it's morning after midnight, Sir!" his twin muttered.

I had almost recovered enough to grab one of the twins by the throat and strangle them for disobeying me when Junior made a couple of mouse clicks. "And I, well, we wrote these scripts, Sir!" he announced.

I was nothing less than dumbfounded as I scanned his file. Although he had taken the long way around, all but beat the keyboard to death, he had written a script that was a workable 'push package'. We used these at work routinely to load programs and upgrades to multiple computers at the same time over the network, but developing one required programing skills far, far above what I thought any middle schooler was capable of.

"Where did you learn to do this?" I risked as I reread the script. "This is impressive!"

"We studied them last semester," Junior proudly proclaimed. "Did I get anything wrong?"

He indeed had not. I decided to wait until another time, after he enjoyed his moment in the sun, to show him how to streamline some of the long paths he had taken.

"It looks good!" earned me a blinding silver smile. I let his last for a minute or so before adding, "We need to have an activity log, so we can see when what push was applied to what box, do you want some help with that?"

"No sir!" he bubbled, as he reached around me and began pecking on the keyboard without even sitting down.

Nope, I guess you don't! I tittered as he not only scripted a log file to be generated with each push, but linked it to the twins' database so it too was automatically updated. Maybe I should keep my day job, I'm not sure I'm needed here! I groaned.

After a little arguing back and forth we ended up compromising; I had wanted them to go play with their horses and brothers and enjoy their Sunday, they wanted to resolve all the work I had lined up in one day. Once I realized I was fighting a losing battle and had to choose between giving in somewhat or deal with a full scale rebellion I relented. I chose five or six hours of tasks I was sure they could handle, and got them to agree not to work more than two hours today.

Damn, I wish I would have hidden a video camera in here, I tittered as I watched them boot up the other computer in the study. Long, thin fingers were pecking away at the keyboards like Woodpecker beaks as I left the room.

Adam had returned from his rounds and he and Tim were waiting for me, both of them softly chuckling when I stepped into the den. From their faces it was clear they had heard enough of my 'staff meeting' to know I had lost my ass, and I just slithered upstairs to change when they suggested we go riding.

Our opening gallop seemed like a sprinter's marathon. Zeus and Diablo seemed to feed off of Tim and the horse he was riding's competitive spirit, and I was beginning to wonder if the suction cup grip my rectum had on my saddle would fatigue and fail when we finally slowed to a sane speed.

"You should feel honored," Adam commented when I described Pepe's visit this morning. "It took weeks for him to warm up to each adult he met when he first arrived, he has never taken to anyone as quickly as he has to you. He's a remarkable child, he can earn the respect of other kids instantly, but is as shy as a worm with adults.

"Your idea is absolutely perfect too, but I wish I had a little miniature camera I could send with you to record his reaction!" he chuckled.

"Sonhos dourados Rancho, Ranch of golden dreams," he all but whispered before I could answer. Everyone, even the horses fell motionless as we followed his gaze to the top of his mountain and the fifteen or so mounted riders at the cliffs edge, the morning sun forming a halo around them.

Tim finally broke the silence by chuckling, "I thought they'd be skinny dipping."

"They either have been our will be soon," Adam quipped.

"Are there any fish in that tank?" Tim asked.

"I'm sure there are, Parks and Wildlife stocked it shortly before we bought the land. There might be some keeping size Bass and Catfish by now," Adam grinned slightly before continuing, "But if you decide to try your luck, I wouldn't bother using worms as bait." His grin turned almost evil as he added, "I am tempted to stock it with Alligator Gar, or at least tell the boys I'm going to!"

"Ouch!" was the only thing I could think of to say.

We rode a few more minutes before I excused myself in time to get back to Adam's house and go pick Pepe up.

Did I really do that? I asked myself as I closed the pasture gate and started up to the house. Did I really just explain to a horse why I am going to ride my bike instead of her? Did she actually seem satisfied when I promised to ride her when I got back? I thought. Let's not go there, I decided. Welcome to Wal-mart, would you like a shopping cart? I asked the patio furniture.

I didn't pay much attention when I saw that Junior and the twins were still at the house, but was a little surprised they were in the kitchen watching Mary and Dad work instead of on their computers. They caught me slightly off guard when they announced they had finished all the projects I had given them 'awhile ago', and were waiting for more.

I tried several arguments that is was Sunday and there was time to work next week, that they should go enjoy themselves and what was left of their weekend to no avail. "You should go find your brothers, I saw them a few minutes ago heading for the lake," finally caught their attention, and they disappeared upstairs like being beamed onto the Enterprise.

Well, I damn sure surprised him, them! I chuckled as I idled my big Hog into the compound and felt what seemed like a thousand eyes drill into my helmet, and skull. Okay, this might be fun! I thought as I shut my bike off and watched an entourage of youngsters hustle Pepe off the cottage's porch and toward me.

I wanted to pull the youngster into hug as his friends thrust him to me. Besides his freshly scrubbed face and still damp hair, he had changed clothes. He was wearing what were clearly brand new Levis, but a pair that were even tighter fitting than the ones he wore earlier, I would have sworn they had been painted on his hips and butt. At a second look he looked like a poster child for a world class Rodeo and Stock-show, his jeans as form fitting as tights, his thick western belt stretching the belt loops to the limit of bursting. A tight fitting tee-shirt tucked into his jeans made him look good enough to eat.

"Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?" I tried, a little surprised I didn't stutter. Several wide eyed glances at my bike, including Pepe's, was the only response. "It's just like riding a horse," I told him as I held a helmet out to him.

"Put it on, just like a hat," I instructed the little statue a second or so later.

Not getting any response I pulled his helmet over his head and buckled the strap under his chin. "Comfortable, does that feel okay?" earned me a deep swallow from his bony adam's apple.

This is going to fun, I moaned. Whatever, I decided, and climbed on my bike. "Come on, get on behind me. Keep your feet on the buddy pegs, and hold onto my waist." I instructed.

I had to shift my feet to keep the big bike from falling over as Pepe was seemingly lifted onto the buddy seat by a dozen or so other youngsters, followed by several gentle arm hugs and giggles from the other boys.

"Ready?" I asked as I fired the engine to life; a tight arm lock around my ribs was his only response.

"Hang on, you'll love it!" I offered as I turned onto the road and accelerated.

I navigated us onto the expressway before glancing behind me. A huge set of braces, and a mile wide smile zapped my eyes. I squirmed and fought to keep my mind on the road as this thin little body squirmed into the small of my back, and hugged me even tighter.

I wonder if I should tell him about getting bugs in his teeth, I snickered a minute later when I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw his huge silver smile, stretched all the way across the opening in his helmet, perched on my shoulder.

We were still molded together when I pulled off the expressway ten minutes later. As I pulled into the parking lot of the store I needed to visit I glanced back, and his smile had only diminished by only a quarter of an inch or so.

After I parked and killed the engine I waited for the better part of a minute. "Ah, Pepe, you have to get off first," I suggested. He let out an embarrassed giggle before letting go of my waist. "How'd you like it?" I asked as I climbed off and removed my helmet.

"It was totally awesome!" he hooted. "I mean it was much fun sir, may I ride again?" he blushed, snapping to attention.

"I like totally awesome better," I chuckled. "I'd bet you get to ride again, unless you know another way to get home!" earned me another soft giggle and a pair of dimples that seemed to pull the sides of his helmet inward. "You can leave your helmet here," I hinted.

His beautiful smile faded as he nervously reached up and ran his fingers over his chin strap. "Want some help?" I offered.

His smile instantly returned as he snapped even more rigidly to attention. I had a little trouble focusing against the reflecting sunlight to unfasten the chin strap as his silver grin grew wider and wider, but managed to get it loose and pull his brain bucket off. After I hooked his helmet next to mine on the bike I somehow resisted the urge to hug the wonderful little guy right there in the middle of the parking lot, and instead offered my arm out.

"Come on son, let's go pick up what I need, then I'll buy you lunch." he was instantly glued to my side, pushing the back of his thin waist into my hand and arm.

Unlike most teenagers he seemed completely uninhibited at being so closely escorted, arm in arm by an adult as we walked toward our destination, Circuit City. Once we entered the large electronics store his curiosity quickly got the better of him and he pulled away from me, rushing to investigate the different displays of TV's, home theater and other high tech adult toys. Thankfully there were only three or four people in front of me at the package pickup counter, and my order was waiting for me.

I know the feeling little buddy, I chuckled when I found him a couple of minutes later, fondling a portable DVD player as affectionally as I had my new bike right before I bought it.

"I know where to get the world's best hamburger, want one?" I offered. He flashed a wide grin and a pair of his earth-stopping dimples, gave the player a final nuzzle as his answer.

"America has so much totally neat stuff!" he bubbled as we started out of the store side by side. "I mean, there are wonderful products avail, , ,"

"Neat stuff!" I cut him off. I reached over and gently squeezed his collarbone and shoulder before adding, "Relax Pepe, I won't bite! Please quit being so formal, be yourself! Please don't be afraid of me."

"Yes si, , ,"

"Yes Pop, or okay Pop!" I interrupted him again. He blushed bright red and threw his arm around the back of my waist as an answer.

We walked arm in arm for probably a minute before he asked, "What did you purchase, sir, , , Pop."

"Oh, some things we need at the ranch," I offered. "No telling, there might be a flag pole in here!" I teased, holding my package out. After casting the bag and I a lost look he turned away and let out a quick giggle. "How tall do you like your hamburger?" I tried, hoping to distract him.

I guided him into Fuddruckers, an upscale hamburger shop, before he could answer. I thought the youngster's eyes were going to bug out his head as he looked around at the glass enclosed butcher shop, huge condiment/salad table in the middle of the room and small bakery off in the corner.

"Yeah, they start with a cow and a bag of flour, and turn in into a hamburger, they do everything fresh here," I told him as I pushed his thin zombied body toward the order counter.

"I'd like a half pounder, medium rare, with bacon, mushrooms and, Swiss and cheddar cheese melted." A glance at Pepe told me to order for him. "Give this young man a two-thirds pounder," I started to ask what he wanted on his burger, but his face told me not to bother. "The same way," I told the clerk.

"Do you like french fries, or onion rings?" I asked my little ghost. Failing an answer I asked for a large order of each, along with a large chocolate milkshake for him, a beer for me.

After guiding him to our table a couple of sips of his milkshake seemed to revive him, at least to the point that I was fairly sure he had a pulse, and even prompted a little breathing motion from his rib cage. A couple of minutes later when our waitress set his enormous sandwich in front him it was like Resurrection Day had arrived. He was right behind me as I walked toward the serving bar: he caught on quickly and returned to the table about a minute later with his now probably double sized burger stuffed with pickles, tomatoes and probably half of the garden Fuddruckers offered.

Well, he'll fit right in with mine, I snickered as I watched him somehow stuff his six-inch thick sandwich into his maybe three-inch wide jaws, chomping on it like a Beaver downing a tree.

"That was Yum!" he muttered as he stuffed a load of fries into the steel lined cavern I had thought of as a mouth a couple of minutes ago. "I mean thank you sir, that was a, , ," I think my glare cut him off, and he took a long drink off his milkshake before continuing, "That was YUMMY, Pop!" His mouth didn't even begin to close before he took another huge chunk off his burger.

I started to offer him another one, but after noticing the pound or so of food still stuck in his braces, and doing a quick calculation about the weight capacity of my bike I didn't. While he was away from the table raiding the ice cream machine I dug through the package I had set on one of the spare chairs around our table and found what I wanted.

"This is what we came to town for," I began, holding out a small box to him. "I think they will help us, well and everyone at the Ranch. This one is for you."

His mouth dropped open as wide as his platter sized eyes bugged when he looked at the box, then after a second he seemed to recover somewhat, and accepted the parcel.

"Thank you sir, Pop," he grinned.

He glanced rather longingly between his ice cream dish and the package, but after hesitating for an instant sat his spoon down and looked the box over. I was a little surprised he wasn't too terribly excited as he flipped the lid open, slid his thin fingers inside and pulled the Styrofoam packaging out of its cardboard sheath. His face flashed pale and his chin bounced off his chest so hard I would have sworn I saw some of the food impacted in his braces jar loose as he stared at the contents.

He mumbled several phrases I couldn't understand as his eyes darted between me and the little instrument, still tucked into its Styrofoam packing. He touched the little appliance a couple of times, started to pull it out of its packing, but set the container on the table instead.

"This is very nice, Sir. I thought you had just used the box to put something else in it." he mumbled. "It will help us, but it must be for our house parents, or for Mister, , , for Timmy's father?"

"It's for you," I answered. I pulled the little phone out of its packing and flipped it open, then reached under the table and sat the sack on the table before continuing. "And these are for your Prefects."

I had to clinch my jaw to keep from chuckling as I watched his emerald eyes widen larger than any of the crown jewels and ricocheted around the table, tiny wisps of what I was fairly sure was smoke seemed to puff out his ears.

"But, I cannot, but, it is not, , ,"

"I had some numbers programed into it for you, and you can add more," I cut him off as I turned my chair so we both could see the instrument's display. "Just push 'Phone Book', there is Doctor, , , Doctor Pop, and Nemo, and Arnold, and me. Just find who you want to call, and push 'Talk'."

A second later my cell phone chirped. "See, it's easy," I told him as I held my phone up.

"It says Pepe!" he gasp at my caller ID. "It says my name!" he exclaimed, his voice rising in pitch with each syllable.

"That's because the call is coming from YOUR phone!" I grinned.

He stared at his new phone for an instant, then looked google eyed at my still chirping display. "Thank you Pappa, thank you!" he hooted. "Thank you thank you, I love you Pappa!" he screamed as he bolted out of his chair and threw his arms around my neck.

"You are very welcome," I managed to gasp through his choke hold.

Oh boy, I groaned when I realized the entire dining area had fallen silent, the only sound to be heard was Pepe bubbling. What happened to the bashful, polite little boy I brought to lunch? I asked myself as I felt several dozen pair of eyes staring at us.

Pepe seemed to pick up on the attention we were attracting right after I did. He looked around for an instant before thrusting his new phone up over his head. "My new Pappa bought me a telephone! America is totally neat! My own telephone!" he proclaimed at the top of his lungs.

Yes mom and dad, here at Wal-mart we stock both Prozac and Thorazine in pediatric doses, I mumbled as several of the other customers began to clap their hands. As soon as I can find Adam I'm going to start carrying some, in injectable form! I told myself. Fast acting injectables, I decided as what had been my little shy-guy hopped off my lap and began rushing around, showing his new phone off to the diners at the nearby tables.

Somehow I managed to stuff the packaging from his phone back together, grab my sack with the other phones in it, and collect my First Boy before I died of embarrassment. What did I do to deserve this? I prayed as I found a nearby exit and we left the chuckles and scattered applause behind.

Thankfully he seemed to calm down, at least somewhat, as me made our way back to my Hog. After I showed him how to hook his phone onto his belt he checked it phone several times while I began separating our packages and stuffing them into the bikes saddlebags before the bike seemed to catch his attention.

He ran his long thin fingers over her fuel tank and the handle bars several times as he looked her over. "This is a very wonderful motorcycle Pop," he told the handlebars more than me.

"Scratch her on the bottom of her tank, she loves to be petted there," I said before I realized it. He gave me a completely lost look that rivaled Carl's 'lost puppy' stares for a second before letting out a soft giggle and stoked the bottom of the tank.

"It can travel at two-hundred kilometers?" he asked a second later. I wondered what he was talking about until I followed his eyes to her dual marked Metric/English speedometer.

"Yes, actually she probably can go a little faster than that," I answered.

"Awesome! Can we go that fast? Please!?!?" he cried.

Oh God, what have I done, what have I created? I asked the clouds above us. "Ah, not today, , , ah, she is too new," I tried. Can we rewind this day, get my little shy-guy back? I asked one of the bigger clouds.

"What about," I tried to remember my math, and the formula for English/Metric conversion, but glanced at the speedometer instead. I held his helmet out and offered, "How about a hundred kilometers for now?" hoping to distract him.

I had to snicker, and fight off the urge to hug him when he snapped to attention and jetted his chin out instead of accepting the helmet. Well, I've performed worse tasks, I chucked as I slipped his brain-bucket over his head and fastened the chin strap above his long, thin neck.

Well, I've been on worse rides too! I chuckled a I turned onto the freeway's access road and felt Pepe squirm even more tightly against me. What the hell, he seems comfortable, I decided. I dropped the throttle wide-open, down-shifted a gear and gave my big Hog her head as I steered into the expressway. Not too many better rides! I snickered as he tightened his grip around my waist and I felt his thin little body mold to me, then his crotch and oversized belt buckle push into the small of my back like we were being vacuum molded to each other. I had to be careful about looking into my rear view mirrors as we rode, each time I did the blinding reflection from his huge silver smile all but blinded me.

By the time it took to get back to the Ranch's driveway I had trained my eyes to take fleeting glances into the mirrors, each time I did they were zapped with the blinding glare of Pepe's miles wide smile. I fought off the urge to pull the little guy into a snuggle and kiss him when he climbed off the bike and snapped to his perfect military stance, and managed to convince my fingers to undo his chin strap and remove his helmet.

His face melted when I told him I had to go back town for the week later in the afternoon, but he perked up slightly when I assured him I would be out several times, and moving into the Director's residence next weekend.

"I'll call you before I leave, and you can call me anytime you want," I said. A pat of his hip and new phone brought his smile back to life. After I retrieved the other two phones from my saddlebags I added, "But, you have work to do, some equipment to issue!" his dimples appeared so quickly they seemed to change the air currents.

"Thank you Pop, Thank you," he hooted as he gave me a tight hug. "Nemo! Arnold!" he shouted so loud it seemed to echo off the surrounding hills as he raced away toward the cottages, his skin tight jeans straining like they were about to tear with every step.

When I rounded the curve in the road and Adam's whitewashed wooden fence came into view I wasn't at all surprised to see a big burnt brown horse's head pushed between the rails and staring in my direction. When I parked my bike she didn't seem as angry as I had expected, and after petting her for a minute and assuring her we'd go for a ride as soon as I checked with everyone in the house she quit giving my Hog death glares and didn't object when I started toward the front door.

Mary and Dad were nowhere to be found, but Adam, Tim and Roberts were sitting around the pool, but wearing riding clothes instead of swim trunks. I didn't argue when they stuffed a beer in my hand, and sat down with them. They chuckled and snickered as I outlined my adventure with Pepe, but seemed to be animated about something else too.

"I don't know what plan you chose for them, but I hope it has lots of minutes!" Roberts tittered.

They let me stew for a few seconds over what he meant before first Adam, then Roberts held up their cell phones and began flashing through photos of the three boys proudly displaying their phones.

"These have to be a classics," Adam chuckled, moving his phone so I could see it.

"Well, they're quick learners!" I snickered as he flashed a series of pictures showing each boy's name on their caller ID display. "Damn, they're fast too, I left him off fifteen minutes ago! How come all the pictures of them is from the waist up, and shirtless? Isn't that a, body of water in the background?"

My cell chirped before anyone could comment. "Shit, they've been busy too!" I exclaimed as I checked my caller ID. The patio burst into laughter as I held my phone out to everyone, and the shoulder up facial shot of Arnold with his name and phone number below it instead of the normal text style caller ID.

"Yep!" Roberts snickered a second later, showing us Nemo's customized caller ID. No one was surprised when Pepe's picture and name appeared on Adam's phone an instant later.

Diablo's loud, somewhat angry neigh interrupted us. "I think I'm being called from another of my kids," I tittered.

"Yeah, she's been driving us nuts," Tim said. "I have to get back to town soon but I want to go for another ride, let's go." earned him a snort from the pasture.

Somehow we managed to run, then ride the horses and field calls from the kids for the next hour or so as each of them, including mine, Adam's and Roberts' tested their new found picture ID technology.

I felt my stomach tighten a little when I finally got around to asking where Dad and Mary were, and learned that they had gone 'shopping', along with Cindy and Judy. It quickly grew into a knot when Adam informed me he had authorized Mary to buy a new refrigerator, but Tim's face was priceless when Adam added that 'they' wanted to look at some new furniture.

"Furniture?" my normally salty friend whimpered.

"Hey, you just got a raise!" earned me a death glare and one fingered salute.

As much as I loved to tease my fellow biker/best friend I felt a little sorry for him when we returned to Adam's house later and Dad told him they had dropped his wife off at their house. Tim seemed to recover somewhat when Dad informed him she was going to start supper, and for he and Timmy to be home by five, but the big guy all but crumbled when Dad added, "She said not to be late, she wants to talk to you about what to do with your old furnishings."

With Adam's help I somehow managed to stuff Tim's big frame into his pickup truck. Although I was somewhat worried he seemed to calm down a little when I assured him I would bring Timmy home, and would be there soon. I felt a little better when he successfully negotiated his truck through the curves in Adam's long driveway, but somehow even the tailgate of his truck reminded me of a condemned man driving that last mile to the execution chamber.

"I loved my wife, and miss her but it does feel good to be free, to be able to make my own decisions," I told Adam as we walked back into the house. "Poor Tim is a little Pussy Whipped," I teased.

"Well, they're back early again!" Adam quipped. I accepted a fresh beer from Mary before following his gaze to the pasture and flock of boys working with the horses.

"The boys and I have to leave soon, they have homework and we have a busy tomorrow," Dad chimed in. "In case I'm not up when you get home, you might have to prepare something for you guys' supper tomorrow. Bobby, Mike and I might not be home in time for supper, we have to be out here for your flag pole meeting, and to wait for the delivery trucks."

"Not a problem," I answered as I took a sip of beer.

Delivery truckS??? As in plural? Several? My wallet groaned as his words sunk in. I wonder if Wal-Mart offers its greeters overtime?

To Be Continued…