Patient John Doe

Chapter 32

Shortly after we put the ribs on the barbeque pit, kids magically started appearing on the deck and around the pit. 'Sorry guys, but I know the feeling', I silently chuckled at the group of forlorn looking horses, staring at us from the pasture fence.

Mary and Ronnie came to the pit's rescue shortly by bringing out a large platter of chips, dips and snacks. After inhaling everything but the platter itself, the boys disappeared upstairs and soon began drifting back onto the patio, all of them now in Speedos. Jay and I swam with them for a few minutes, tossing one then another into the air and having a good time.

When I slipped out of the pool a bit later to baste the ribs I didn't notice a mini fan club had followed me until I heard a couple of sighs behind me. "Do they look good?" I asked the pair of wide eyed, dark haired brothers standing a few feet behind me. "Come here, have a look!"

They glanced at each other and timidly took a couple of steps toward me. I tucked Edwardo under one arm and Ruben under the other. "Those are Texas style ribs," I told them. I let them goggle at the two huge racks of beef rib, each probably thirty inches long and at least a foot wide for a couple of seconds. "One of them is for each of you, I will begin cooking everyone else's in a few minutes," I told them.

Ruben let out a loud gasp, and Edwardo trembled as he stiffened under my arm. "I cannot, , but, it is so, , ," Edwardo began, his voice as high pitched as Pieter or Mark's.

"Oh, and we have a rule here, you are required to eat everything on your plate, you must eat all of it," I cut him off. "And of course the other dishes Mary and Ron, , , your dad are preparing," I added, fighting to keep a straight face and to resist the urge to look down at them.

"Yes, a big bowl of potato salad, some beans and lots of veggies," big Ronnie chimed in from behind. He gently pulled Ruben from under my arm as we exchanged evil grins. I almost felt sorry for Edwardo as he leaned forward a little and gawked at his upcoming assignment.

"I have eaten one of them and they are very delicious," Pieter injected as he slipped his wet little body against my hip where Ruben had been. "It was very hard, but Pappa required me to sit at the table until I ate all of it," he said with more sincerity than Charlton Heston could have ever dreamed of giving. 'Oh shit, what have we gotten ourselves into', I asked myself as I absorbed the sinister look on his face. I waited for horns to pop out of his pixie little head.

Edwardo's shoulders shuttered under my arm briefly before the tremor seemed to transfer down his little torso. "Thank you for preparing such a, a, wonderful feast for us, Doctor," he whimpered. "We are, , , honored," he all but moaned.

A muffled chuckle, followed by a soft giggle from behind us made Edwardo twist around. I could feel his body heat up through my arm as he flushed, then flashed bright red from the shoulders up.

"I forgot to tell you about another rule here, everyone is allowed to tease new kids!" I exclaimed as I gave his shoulder a hug.

"Karl!" Edwardo screamed. As he howled something in Portugese Pieter pulled out from under me and darted away, laughing so hard he grabbed his waist as he ran. Edwardo and Ruben bolted across the patio like galloping colts hot on his trail both of them yelling something I couldn't understand, with my boys right behind.

"For being so little he's fast, or damn scared!" I chuckled to Ronnie.

"But, Eddie said he was going to kill Karl, Pieter, shouldn't we, , ,"

"Not until you see blood Dad, welcome to parenthood," I laughed. I ignored Ronnie's groans as we watched Edwardo tackle his tiny Platinum haired prey and the massive dog-pile of giggling rats wrestle in the grass. 'Welcome home guys', I thought as I absorbed the wonder of their laughter.

All three of the new boys were cute, but Edwardo and Ruben were priceless when we sat down to eat a few minutes later. As they took their seats both of the brothers glanced nervously glanced around between the other kids and the adults; their timid little faces reminded me very vividly of the conversation we had in Brazil not long ago. Edwardo's 'We will be very polite sir!' shy promise, and his desperately pleading expression when they all but begged to meet the two men that were now about to become their new parents hit me like a drug flashback.

As big Ronnie, Cindy and Mary began serving everyone some salad, beans, corn and potato salad all the boys squirmed as if they were getting into the perfect position to attack their meal, but Ruben and Edwardo's eyes, then rapacious grins, seemed to grow in direct proportion to the helpings on their plates.

After I carved the first rack of ribs into individual servings and pulled them off the grill I chose a couple of longer, more meaty pieces for each of them. I began to wonder if I had screwed up as I dropped a pair of still sizzling slices on their plates and eyes all but bugged out of their heads, and their faces sprang so quickly into an ear-to-ear grin I was afraid their lips had torn.

A second later one then the other of their faces tightened, as did Pieter's. Edwardo started studying the long curved bone on his plate from different angles, as if trying to figure out what to do with it, while Ruben glanced around at his peers his face all but begging for advice. 'This is going to be good', I told myself as I passed the bowl of barbeque sauce around. Still lost, the brothers followed everyone's lead and spooned a load of the thick red sauce onto their meat.

Junior and my boys were not at all shy and jerked their ribs up with their fingers and chomped into them, their braces spattering an extra amount of sauce and mess onto each of their lips and chins. All three of the new boys stared briefly almost in embarrassed astonishment briefly before looking around at the adults.

I could feel their eyes focus on me as I picked up my rib with my fingers. I tried to resist the urge, but gave in and melodramatically bit into it, splashing a bit of sauce down my chin as I tore a bite of meat from the bone. They glanced around the table again, then at each other.

After risking another glimpse toward my young eating machines Ruben used the tips of his fingers to carefully picked up his rib in a manner that would have earned him praise for any of England's finest finishing schools. He risk another glance around the table and almost daintily parted his lips and bit off a tiny portion of meat. His eyes widened as he chewed it a couple of times then bit off a larger piece. 'Normal teenagers!' I thought a minute or so later as I watched all three of them chomping on their ribs with a furor that reminded me of Fred Flintstone destroying dinosaur bones.

I was still totally absorbed watching my little guests assault their meals a minute or so later when I felt what turned out to be Jay squeezing my elbow gently. When I followed his head gesture I couldn't help but grinning as I watched Johnny almost frantically devouring his meal, his braces flashing like the blades of an industrial grade scraping machine as he attacked his rib. It took me a second to snap, but I dropped my rib onto my plate as I realized what he was pointing out to me, that the boy was holding his entree to his mouth with both hands.

My eyes welled and throat tightened so much I started to leave the table when he reached down with his right, injured arm and shoveled a load of potato salad then beans into his hyperactive jaws. 'Wow, there is a God, and Santa Claus does work year around', I silently sobbed.

'Buy a second ice cream maker', I added to my mental to-do list a few minutes later. None of the new boys had paid any attention to the little electric barrel quietly churning off in a corner of the patio until we opened it as dessert was being served. 'Do they make beer keg size ice cream makers?' I wondered as I realized I wasn't destined to eat the wonderfully delicious treat this afternoon. Oh well, fresh pecan pie ala-beer doesn't sound that bad.

When the boys came back outside from cleaning up the dishes all of them were back in jeans and tee-shirts. I thought about it for a minute and excused myself from my adult guests. I guess the boys (or Ginger?) read my mind because when I stepped out of my bedroom after changing clothes a couple of minutes later my big stallion was saddled and standing at the pasture gate, giving me very impatient looks.

"I know what you have in mind big fellow," I told him, releasing my pony tail and swinging into his saddle. I wasn't wrong, as soon as I settled onto his back he bolted into a gallop, racing across the pasture at what seemed like mach two. 'Damn, it feels good to know I'm in charge!' I snickered as he raced past several of the kids and his mares, clearly showing off. We ran for probably ten minutes before he settled down somewhat and began obeying my beckoning.

"Your horse is very fast, I would be very frightened to do that," Pieter informed me as he guided Venus next to Zeus a few minutes later.

"He is a great horse and won't hurt me, but you are right, please don't try riding like that until you are ready," I answered. Something in his face told me that wasn't why he joined me. 'Is he afraid of the animals still?' I wondered. "You will learn to gallop later maybe in a few weeks, and love it, but wait until Mrs Stewart says you are ready to."

"Yes Sir." He leaned forward and hugged Venus' mane for several seconds. I was a little amazed at his balance and confidence as his steed wiggled somewhat and he seemed to relax more into his saddle and cuddle with his mount. "May I ask you a question?" he asked, probably more to his horse's mane than me. "A Doctor question?"

When I turned to look at him his beautiful little baby face was about half little boy, half corporate CEO, peeking shyly over at me. I guess my facial expression answered for me and he gave Venus' thick neck another hug and straightened into his saddle. His face tightened as he glanced at me, then back toward his horse's hackles.

"I am very frightened Doctor, Doctor Pappa," he told Venus' ears and wide head. I slowed Zeus to a stop and turned toward him hoping he would continue. He did, saying "I know I am dreaming, but it is too real, , , I am very frightened about when I wake up. Please Doctor, I don't want to! Am I now, mad? Or, , , how do you say, crazy?" He took a couple of deep breaths, then added, "Please Pop, Pappa?"

Wow, I thought as I surveyed the thirteen year-old boy, trapped in a ten year-old body begging for help understand his feelings with the maturity a much older child, or young adult could ask for. 'And I thought Psychiatry was the easy way! No weekend work! No field work, especially on horseback! Oh Well!'

"Let's go for a ride, I want to show you something," I suggested. I didn't wait for an answer and trotted Zeus away, hoping he would follow and that I caught him off guard enough to give me a few seconds to think before he caught up to me. 'How do I answer the same question again, an answer that will make him believe it?'

He did much better than I could have expected as Venus' saddle shifted side to side while she lumbered up the steep incline behind Zeus and I. Each time I glanced back at him his face gleamed with adventure and wonder, his thin hands tightly locked onto his mount's saddle-horn.

"Welcome to my mountain, my dream that came true." I gave Zoe's FBI trouser flag, still flapping in the gentle breeze, a mocking salute as we walked our horses past it toward the submit. We both almost ogled the beautiful vista below us for several seconds. As many times as I had been to this summit it still took my breath away when I first looked down at my land, and what seemed like half of south Texas. The sun, settling toward the horizon, offered accent lighting only God could have framed, setting off my and the Sanchez rustic ranch houses and out-buildings.

"To own horses, and live on a ranch with them has been my dream, from when I was much younger than you are now," I began after I caught my breath. I glanced over at the boy, and from his wide eyes and gaping mouth I was fairly sure he had tuned me out, that Zeus and that Venus were listening more than he was.

I dismounted and walked next to Venus. "Come here Son," I suggested, holding my arms out to him. After he didn't move for a couple of seconds I plucked the platinum topped little mummy off his saddle and tucked him against me. He softly let out one of his dough boy giggles and he leaned into me as I sat him down next to me at the summit's edge.

"This is the part of my dream that I hope I never wake up from. It is more beautiful here than I thought possible," I began again. "Every time I come up here I wonder if I am fantasizing, if I will wake up and find out it isn't real, but it is, and I own it now."

He squirmed, molding his little body to mine. "But you are a Doctor, and an American, and rich," he mumbled. He looked down at my ranch for ten seconds or so. "And your home is very beautiful, and old, like some in Recife, and in Belgium. It was your Father's, and your Grande's?" He glanced back at Venus and Zeus before adding, "And all your horses, they were their's too. I cannot ever have such things."

'Ouch', I thought, feeling some old memories reach out and jab me. "No Pieter, I have only lived here, and owned the ranch and the horses for a short time, maybe a year." I took a deep breath, not really wanting to continue, but did. "I don't have a father, or I should say I don't know who he is. My mother was a, , , waitress at a Dude Ranch, a resort, maybe I should say a hotel where people come to ride horses, and we lived there." I leaned my head back, but decided not to tell him she was a bar-fly and waited for a batch of memories to fade.

"I fell in love with horses when I used to help take care of them, and worked very hard to, to get to be able to have some. And to have a home like that one, down there, where I live and you are always welcome. What I want to be your second home," I whimpered more than said. Memories of shoveling manure out of countless stalls to pay my mother's bar-tab made me groan. "Dreams do come true, I'm sharing the one, that I'm still amazed really happened, with you," I whispered.

I felt his distrusting body language and his eyes drilling into me for the next several seconds, as harshly as when I first met him Brazil. I was wondering how to react when he let out a whimper and climbed sideways into my lap, threw his bony arms around my chest and began softly sobbing. I leaned into his cuddle and enjoyed our embrace for I don't know how long, several minutes.

"Some of your dreams have come true, haven't they?" I softly asked the top of his head. "And you woke up this morning and they are not dreams anymore, are they? You are no longer abused, you have a family, well two of them, and you really are in America, aren't you?" he squirmed more tightly against me as an answer. "Now it's time for a new set of dreams, then figure out how to make them happen, to become reality. Want to try doing that?"

He was silent for probably another minute, then twisted and pushed his bubble butt into my lap and leaned his thin back into my abdomen. He squirmed a little then pulled my arms around his stomach, clinging to my wrists. We both watched the sun, flashing us an upside down grin as it sank toward the horizon and cast some of the most wonderful shadows and rainbows of colors on the Eden below us.

"Pappa, that was gross! Yuck!" Pieter's soprano caterwaul snapped my eyes wide open I don't know how many minutes later. "Pappa!"

I felt something on my shoulder but before I had time to look up a wet, coarse squeegee scraped my nose and forehead, followed by a snort of foul smelling hot air. "Hi Ginger!" I snickered at the big cinnamon horse's head leaning into my neck.

"We was worried about you, Mary and ever'one said we gotta go find you! Pieter's Mom is pissed! I mean mad!" It took me a second to snap back to reality enough to realize Johnny, joining Pieter and my snuggle was speaking and not Ginger. "And Zeus told Ginger you was up here so she said to come get you," he informed me.

'Shit!' I thought as I looked around and realized the sun had disappeared below the horizon, and it was late into dusk almost dark.

"Come on Dad, Cindy, well Mrs R really is pissed!" Mark chimed in as he pushed against my other shoulder. "Where's your phone, they been calling and calling you!"

'Damn, talk about dreaming', I thought, seeing I had missed three calls on my cell phone. I started to call to say we were okay and on the way home as we mounted our animals, but the long, dark shadows and steep grades ahead of us, especially for young Pieter, made me concentrate on staying right next to him and to Venus and keeping him safe.

My concerns ended up unwarranted as he rocked and balanced in his saddle down the steep mountain, then relaxed as we broke into a fast trot toward the barn. We were only a few feet from the barn when Cindy appeared in the lighted doorway, making the boy pull up on Venus' reins and turn as white as his beautiful hair. Cindy's nasty glare, actually very clearly aimed at me, didn't help his fright as we walked our mounts inside and dismounted.

I could feel the tension radiating from his little body as his new mom helped him remove Venus' saddle and bridle, almost as harshly as I felt Cindy's eyes firing poison darts into the back of my head. I heard Cindy say something I couldn't understand to the lad and my throat tightened slightly when the boy let out a whimper.

"But that's not right, Pieter. Turn around," Cindy ordered a bit louder.

'No, I know her better than that!' I gasped when I looked over and saw her turning his thin backside toward her. To my surprise she briefly scratched his back between his shoulder blades.

"Now, which feels better?" she asked as she slowly ran her fingernails down his bony spine. He shivered and answered with one of his trademark giggles. "Now, try it, long slow strokes," she instructed, guiding him next to Venus.

He reached over his head and drew the grooming brush slowly down the Venus' fur, causing the big animal let out a happy neigh as her skin rippled like an ebbtide against the brush. "See, that's the right way," Cindy said above her son's soft, happy squeal.

The rest of the evening went quickly. All the adults leaned and rearranged their deck chairs to watch the massive engineering project associated with the expansion of the nest in the family room, but somehow great minds prevailed and the boys figured out how to add a couple of quilts and blankets on the end of their masterpiece. Probably as much from mental fatigue as their busy day all of them were sound asleep minutes after they cuddled together under the covers.

I felt sorry for little Steve the next day as his family formulated their plans. As expected Jay and his dad had to return to Brazil for Jay to perform his surgical procedure Monday morning, but Angel had decided stay in Texas and accompany her brother-in-law to Seattle the next morning, for a surprise visit to the hotel they owned there. I considered offering to sedate the youngster before his mother killed him when I was informed he would return to Norfolk and attend school the next morning, but Angel's death threats finally won out.

Ronnie and Mary became involved in some sort of extensive cooking project shortly after he returned from dropping his dad and brother at the airport, and I agreed to drive Stevie into town for his flight a couple of hours later. It quickly became apparent we had a choice, let the other kids come along to see their friend off or kill them, when everyone appeared in the entry hall, all the boys except Edwardo and Ruben wearing their skin tight Levi's and wide western belts. Soon I found myself wrestling the Sanchez' big Hummer down the road again, the back seats full of cackling kids.

'This thing is like driving an elephant, it's going to take forever to get to town at this snails pace', I told myself as I leveled off at what felt like a comfortable cruise speed on the freeway. I did a double-take when I read eighty-five miles-per-hour on the speedometer. I'll still take my kitty cat, I decided.

I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing as we saw Stevie off. After trying a last ditch pleading look he gave his his mother a brief farewell hug, he pushed against me briefly then embraced and high-fived all the kids.

After a minute or so he cast his mom one more wishful look and threw his backpack over his shoulder and shuffled slowly toward his grandfather's spare jet, tucked between my Ronnie and Junior. They stopped a the bottom of the aircraft's stairs and talked for a second or so before pushing into a three way hug. Yeah well, we must talk, that talk! I told myself as I watched Junior and Ronnie push their facebows against the Steve's cheeks, and him cup their tightly clad backsides in his hands. His mates reciprocated, each grabbing a bum briefly, before he turned and slithered up the stairs into the aircraft's cabin.

It was a little hard to believe the lost, saucer eyed expressions on Edwardo, Ruben and Pieter's faces when I turned back toward the Hummer. They didn't resist when their new friends guided them toward the car, but little Pieter seemed to drift almost toward a coma as everyone else climbed in.

After I prodded him a couple of times to get into the vehicle he muttered, "The airplane is just for him? Just for a boy?"

The aircraft's whine as its engines spun up to speed told me it was time to get inside the Hummer's cabin, so I scooped him up and planted him in the back seat. After I fastened his seat belt for him I kissed his forehead and pushed my mouth to his ear. "Dreams do come true, how did you get here?" I asked above the runway noise.

By the time I had wrangled the big tank I was driving back onto the freeway, the only thing I wanted to see was the gate to my ranch and my pool's water jet, the one that I favored. 'Oh well!' I decided a I glanced off the expressway. 'They will look cute, why not!' I told myself as I exited and turned into the parking lot.

As the kids bailed out of the Hummer and rushed toward the feed store I managed to catch my Ronnie by the neck and hold him back. "Find Edwardo and Ruben two pairs of jeans and a nice belt each, you know what to do!" I whispered to him. "And everyone gets a tee-shirt, you are in charge," I threw in. He flashed me a bright grin that I was afraid would blind drivers up on the expressway before darting away, assuming the point position of his pack of raiders.

'Should I tip sales clerks? I think these poor folks are going to earn one', I silently snickered as the boy invaded the boys' clothes area of the store, scattering jeans and shirts into disarray like a team of Federal Agents on a drug raid.

I ignored Angel's concerns about them being too young to shop on their own, that they'd never find the correct size and on and on, until she was finally distracted when she saw the department that sold deck furniture. 'Oh shit, what did I do?' I wondered five minutes later when she asked, "Do you know Ronnie and Jay's account number?"

After trying to stammer around telling her we shared the same account for a bigger discount, I gave up and filled her in. Ronnie's going to kill me, I though as she quickly picked out a couple thousand dollars worth of furnishings for he and Jay's new pool deck. I was beginning to wonder what our credit limit was when the boys began joining us a couple at a time. Soon everyone but Johnny and Mark were impatiently pacing between the patio tables and loungers waiting for Angel to finish getting her fix to satisfy her shopping addiction.

She finally purchased enough to seemingly fill every square inch of the new deck and was ready to leave, but still no Johnny, no Mark. I started to send the other boys to find them, but realized if I did I'd end up chasing down seven lost kids instead of two, so told everyone to stay with Angel and began my search.

They were the first place I tried, in the horse-tack section. As soon as he saw me Johnny's begging eyes told me we weren't done shopping for the day. When I said it was time to leave they quickly changed to the sad puppy eyes his brothers must have spent hours tutoring him about. He gave me a long dose of them before pushing against my side. After hugging for a minute or so he, glanced at his brother briefly, then turned both of us toward a display.

"This is pretty, Ginger would like it," he whined, running his hand down a lead rope.

It beautiful as if it was made to compliment the horse blanket I had purchased for the boy, or Ginger, earlier. A double braided rope, each of the multiple strands were made from different mixtures of cinnamon threads all but the exact color of Ginger's fur, bright red identical to Johnny's carrot topped head and gold threads.

"Please Dad, she'll love it," he begged. "And I got my own money," he added, reaching down toward his shoe.

"Ah, we'll charge it, why don't you pay me when we get home?" I exclaimed, pulling him back upright before he could pull his gym shoe off. 'Please! Get him a credit card!' my nose added, remembering his last money exchange. "Let's go pay for it, everyone's waiting for us," I told him. I grabbed the rope and guided both boys toward the checkout before he could get to his shoe. 'Forty dollars for a three foot rope?' I asked myself. 'Ten, no thirteen bucks a foot, is this God damn thing made out of Hemp, or real Cannabis!?!'

Edwardo and Ruben were cuter than I could have imaged right after we got home and they peeked out of their shy, overly polite shells briefly. During the drive home the boys informed them Mary would have to wash their new cowboy jeans so they would shrink and fit before they could wear them for the first time. They followed her into the laundry room so close behind her I waited for one, or both of them to step on her heels, but almost crawled back into the family room, their chins dragging on the floor after she informed them their new clothes wouldn't be ready for an hour or so. Somewhat reluctantly they followed the other boys toward the patio door and pasture, but each shot Mary and the laundry room door a very pronounced frown and dirty look before going to ride.

The gold plated lead rope ended up worth every cent I spent on it too. Ginger snorted and kicked her heels up when Johnny showed it to her, then clipped it on her halter and led her to the barn. I went along to saddle Zeus, and had to laugh at her after the boys saddled her and fitted her bridle. When Johnny tried to remove the new tether she jerked her head away and backed away. After he made a couple of attempts I interrupted, showing Johnny how to hook the rope onto her saddle so he could use her reins and leave it attached. Her happy neigh was a clear 'thank you' that didn't need interpreting from Horse to English as I walked back toward Zeus.

I rode with the boys for an hour or so until I saw Cindy on the patio and went up to chat with her, and to get into the pool before supper. Ronnie and Angel joined us on the deck right after I changed into my swim trunks, and right behind them came Edwardo and Ruben, giving us worried grins before rushing inside. "I wonder what they remembered?" I chuckled to my guests.

My boys were right behind and darted into the house, saliva dripping from their lips and facebows. "I know what they want!" big Ronnie hooted.

We were both right, five minutes later everyone rushed back onto the patio, Edwardo and Ruben in their new skin tight jeans, strutting like a pair of proud Peacocks warming up for mating dances, all of them stuffing sandwiches into their mouths. The new cowboy brothers beamed for a minute or so, thriving on our compliments and comments before asking if they could 'go show the horses'.

All the youngsters froze when Ronnie announced he wanted to talk to his new sons for a minute before he left. Both of them timidly shuffled in front of him as my boys loosely formed behind their new friends, so close to how the horses formed into backup formation behind I had to clench my jaw to keep from laughing.

"We are going to end our evening here right after supper because Aunt Angel and I have to fly out very early tomorrow morning," Ronnie began, making all seven boys stiffen. "I would like you to stay here tonight and tomorrow, but, , ,"

"But please Ronnie, ah, Uncle Ronnie!" my Ronnie cut him off. "They can, , ," my death glare cut him short.

'Go Dad!' I thought as big Ronnie's eyes fired a couple of poison-tipped darts at his younger namesake. "May I continue?" he growled. My son's embarrassed blush seemed enough of an answer and he turned back to his new sons, "Can you go to our house and get a change of clothes for tomorrow? Please remember to get clean underwear and socks."

"We need to get you backpacks, but look in the kitchen pantry and get some grocery bags to carry everything in," Angel added.

The brothers stared at their new dad for a second or so, then glanced behind at their friends. "We may do this by ourselves, , , without someone there? In your house?' Edwardo almost whimpered.

"In our house! You live there too now, don't you?" big Ronnie answered. "Come here boys, sons," he asked, extending his arms.

I snapped as I watched, and quietly slipped out of my chair. I gave Angel a 'wait' hand-sign before rushing into the basement, darting my eyes around my recreated old west salon for what I needed. 'What the fuck, I can find another pair, somewhere', I told myself as I climbed up and pulled an old pair of leather saddlebags off the wall.

"Why don't you guys put your clothes in these, they fit behind your saddle," I suggested a second later toward the three way hug still going on in big Ronnie's lap.

"I have seen these in movies, real cowboys use these!" Ruben gasp, carefully almost risking a touch.

"Or Bandidos?" I teased. Without thinking I kissed him on the forehead before adding, "Just take care of them, they are very old."

"Get going, before those bandits want them back!" their new dad teased, popping their backside. The clap of open hands landing on skin tight denim cotton flushed the entire covey of kids back toward their mounts at lightning speed.

"I hope they remember where the extra key is, and what the alarm code is," Angel exclaimed as we watched everyone vault onto their horses like Pony Express riders out of an old western movie.

"Don't worry, anything Ronnie can't break into, his little brother or Johnny can," I snickered. "Or I would bet young Pieter can!" I added making Cindy shudder slightly, then snicker.

"Thanks Adam, thank you so much," big Ronnie muttered. When I glanced at him his welled eyes were locked on the herd of boy mounted horses galloping across the pasture. "Thanks to you our lives are full, we have everything we could ever want," he all but whimpered toward the pasture. He let out a soft sob, bailed our his chair and rushed inside before I could answer.

'No, thank you, and your mate, thank you more than I can ever say', I thought as I watched Johnny stand in his saddle and lean against Ginger's mane like a racing jockey, wrapping his right arm around her neck. I had to wipe my eyes to see clearly enough to follow him.

He was standing by the kitchen sink drying his face when I entered the house. I stepped behind the bar and was about to grab two beer cans when he asked me to wait. He opened the kitchen's refrigerator and withdrew a large pitcher. "We made this for later, but there is plenty," he told he as he filled a pair of salted rim glasses.

"Are you okay?" I asked as we touched our glasses together.

"Yes, I apologize. The moment got the better of my emotions."

"Get used to it, a nasty side effect of parenthood," I tittered. We both took a long swallow of our Margarita before I continued, "All these little guys can get under your skin, and more importantly, your heart."

"That's a world class understatement!" he chuckled. He looked out the window toward the pasture for a couple of seconds, then turned back toward me and took a slow deep breath. "He called me Dad," he told the window. "Dad!" he repeated more toward the disappearing herd of horses we watched through the window. "I am sure I have never felt so honored, in my entire life." I tried to think of an appropriate response, but just refilled our glasses.

The evening went perfectly, and a little more quickly than I think anyone wanted. Angel and Ronnie excused themselves right after supper after enjoying an extended round of hugs from all the boys. Cindy was not far behind them, ignoring Pieter's concerned face and pleading looks until she was about to walk out the door. She earned one of his better trademark giggles when she kissed his forehead and said she would see him tomorrow.

The boys issued their normal complaints when I announced it was time to do their homework and get ready for school tomorrow, but didn't really argue. I was mentally debating on how to entertain the new boys while Junior and my sons did their homework when I felt a thin pair of shoulders slip under my arm. Pieter blushed as he looked up at me with a wishful expression.

He shuffled and leaned into me then began, "We were wondering, , , I mean we would like to, , ," He took a deep breath. "May we write letters home, I mean to Brazil, to our old home sir? May we use your little computer please sir?"

"We will be very quiet, and behave well, Doctor," Ruben added. When I looked he was standing about a foot from me wringing his hands behind his back as he sheepishly stared at my shoes. "Doctor Pop," he added.

"I think that I a wonderful idea!" I undocked my laptop and sat it on the coffee table in the family room. All three boys sat in front of it as I logged on. I was about to set it up so they would just have to start typing when Pieter reached out and gracefully guided the tiny mouse ball I always had so much trouble operating over the Microsoft Word icon on and screen and opened it.

"Watch and I will teach you," he told his students with the confidence of any soprano voiced Medical School professor. 'Yeah, and he did this one time before, how many days ago?' I asked myself as I watched his tiny little index fingers dance around the keyboard.

I rebuffed my boys last minute appeals to that they should be allowed to sleep downstairs in their nest 'because it was a special occasion' a couple of hours later, but didn't bother assigning Edward and Ruben to one of the guest rooms; I felt somewhat fortunate that everyone agreed to sleep in a bed, upstairs.

'Whatever', I snickered a few minutes later when I went up to tuck them in. 'I guess they're comfortable!' As usual Junior and Ronnie were tightly snuggled against each other, as close as their foreheads were to each other the facebows of their headgears had to be touching each other, or maybe overlapping. Pushed tightly against Ronnie was Johnny's back. Pieter was cuddled against Johnny, a lump deep in the blankets that I was sure was Mark, crushed between them. Edwardo and Ruben were on the far side of the same bed, both of them nuzzled against a black nose and patch of black fur sticking out of the covers between them.

Ronnie and my conversation from earlier today flashed back into my mind as I kissed everyone goodnight. 'Get used to it.' I had told him. 'Should I tell him there is no way to get used to visiting heaven-on-earth every night before bed?' I asked myself as l watched my angels sleep.

'God, I like that a bunch more than that fucking alarm!' I thought as a high pitched squeal disturbed my slumber. I glanced around my bedroom for a brief second as a few more giggles and squeals rang through my patio door before giving my bedside beast's snooze button a harsh slap, even though it had not gone off, and dashed into the bathroom.

I was about to climb into a pair of shorts and follow the aroma coming from the coffee pot for my morning caffeine fix when I heard a splash, then a high pitched voice giggle something in Portugese from the pool. Fuck it, I decided as I jumped into a pair of swim trunks and rushed out to the pool.

As soon as I hit the water I was besieged with wet little bodies howling and hugging me. I had just determined Pieter was the bony little torso that had his legs wrapped around my waist and arms hugging my neck when another thin wet body pushed against me from the other side.

When I reached around him with my free hand instead of a thin neck as I expected I cupped a thick padded strap. As I felt a thin piece of metal push into my ribs I shook my head and chuckled before looking down, knowing who I was cuddling.

"Junior!" I risked. His face had probably just reached its third or fourth blush when he looked up at me.

"Well, I'm sorry Pop, but I was in a hurry, I forgot!" he whimpered, almost frantically releasing the straps around his neck and head from his facebow.

I took a breath before risking a glance under water. 'Well, we are making progress', I thought when I saw he was wearing briefs. 'If Globalization ever happens, there goes the next President of the country Earth!' I told myself as I watched him wade to the bank a deposit the soggy batch of straps and metal his parents had invested several thousand dollars in.

I was as disappointed as the other boys a few minutes later when Mary appeared on the deck, setting a cup of coffee on the picnic table for me and telling the boys it was time to get dressed and eat breakfast, before they were late for school. She didn't wait for an answer before going back inside. The boys grumbled a little and disappeared inside as I begrudgingly climbed out of the water and took a couple of swallows of my coffee. Without realizing it I gave the kitchen window a dirty glance before shuffling into my bedroom to get dressed.

The breakfast bar looked like an overloaded Shark feeding area when I walked back into the kitchen, silver and white teeth attacking the mountain of pancakes and sausage with a frenzy that the Discovery Channel would have paid big money to film. I did a quick double-take when I saw that Pieter was wearing a Cornerstone Academy shirt like Junior and my boys were before I remembered Mary was to begin tutoring him today. Grandy Mary's Academy, I chuckled under my breath.

'I'm glad morning rounds aren't on a time schedule!' I thought as everyone exchanged hugs with me as I tried to make my way out the door. When I finally made it outside I felt relieved for an instant, then I turned back inside. Somehow we managed to fit into an eight sided snuggle before I started back to the car. I wasn't sure if I kissed the top of each of their heads, or the same ones several times, but it was enough of a fix to hold me for awhile.

Even with spending time to complete my assessment of Edwardo and Ruben's 'Evaluation' visit that I had unknowingly ordered, my day was wonderfully short, and I found myself performing my afternoon rounds at the hospital shortly after lunch. Just as I pulled out of the hospital's parking lot my cell phone rang. 'What now?' I wondered when I saw Cindy's name on the caller ID. 'You know your way home, go for it!' I told my big cat before I answered.

"Adam where are you, where can we meet?" Cindy shrieked into my ear. I couldn't read the tone in her voice, if it was frightened or excited, but knew it was somewhere close to panic.

"I'm leaving Central Baptist on the way home, where can I meet you?" I risked.

"I'll meet you there, please hurry!!!" she howled and hung up.

The knot that had begun to develop in my throat dropped into my stomach and grew like a tumor on steroids as I tried to digest her call. 'This shit has to be heavy, Cindy does not panic!' I told myself. I floored the accelerator but then backed off and pulled off to the side of the road. 'Meet me where, that is not Cindy, something is wrong!' I thought as I called her back.

She was only slightly calmer when she answered. "Well, Pieter is at your ranch, isn't he? Where do you think!" she snapped at me. I could hear noise from her Suburban's engine even over our cell phones as she exclaimed, "I passed the hospital's exit several minutes ago, I hope you won't be long!"

'Go for it, show me those Brits are not liars', I told my big cat as I forced my way through traffic and onto the expressway. 'Not bad, now get your legs under you!' I told her thirty seconds or so later when her speedometer's display hit 188 miles-per-hour, changed from green to red and began blinking, indicating that was the highest speed it could display, and I was above the speed the car ratings said the car could be safely controlled. 'Go, girl', I told her as she continued to accelerate.

As traffic thinned I started to call home on my phone, but for one of the few times in my life I found myself frightened enough to keep both hands on the steering wheel, and all of my concentration on the road. The words from an old song by Commander Cody, 'Hot Rod Lincoln' came back to me, 'I thought I saw spots, the lines in the road looked like dots' and 'We was passing cars like they was standing still,'. I was softly singing along with the song from the verse 'The phone poles looked like a picket fence' when I passed the glimpse of a blue Suburban seemingly parked in the next lane of the highway.

I was glancing between the rear view mirror and the road when something made me snap that I was heading into my exit way, way too fast. Thankfully my big cat was still driving, and skidded through the exit and onto the two lane road leading to her ranch/home before giving control of the steering wheel to me again.

'Wow, I haven't done that since I was a teenager!' I thought as I realized I wasn't going to die that afternoon. I pushed back down on the accelerator pedal and began to steer the winding road country road toward my boys, and home when my bladder announced it wasn't a teen anymore too. I just had time to pull off the road and run from the car into the bush before I pissed my pants.

I was trying to convince myself I wasn't getting old and cautious, scared or whatever as I drained the last of the fright produced urine from my system, when I heard another vehicle screech to a stop behind me.

"Adam, come on, what are you waiting for!" Cindy's voice yelled. "Oh, I'm sorry, but please hurry!" she added, I guess realizing what I was doing.

'Judge, I assure you ten grand a week in alimony would give Mrs Gotrocks her golf swing back', I rehearsed as I zipped my pants and prepared myself for opening my new practice. 'No sir, I no longer practice Adolescent Psychiatry, and yes, I will be collecting thirty percent of that ten grand, for life'. I practiced saying.

I made the mistake of showing my fly was closed I guess, and Cindy rushed toward me. "You have to sign these immediately!" she demanded.

I glanced at the documents being thrust under my nose, then up the road and saw what I thought was the corner post of my white wooden fence, and my refuge. "Let's go home, five minutes won't hurt," I answered.

I almost had time to open my car door before she blocked it and deposited the stack of documents on my cat's roof. "ADAM!!!" she snarled, her fingernails seeming to change into claws as she offered, or more accurately thrust a pen toward my hand.

I backed away from the door a little as I rifled though the paperwork, then glanced at my lawyer/captor. "I cannot sign these without talking to the people they impact," I told her, tossing them into the seat of my Jaguar.

'Surprise, surprise my little friend!' I thought as I left Cindy behind and punched my remote and waited for the gate to open. You too, Venus, I have a surprise for you like you could never expect! I silently told the big pair of eyes staring at me through the pasture fence.

'Or, , , no, no way!' I wondered seeing the knowing look on Ginger's face.

To Be Continued…

Notes from the Author:

A little later than usual, but another chapter. Sorry for the delay, but my holiday season has been more interesting and time consuming than most, thankfully turning into the most wonderful one I ever could have imagined.

I had endorsed a Yahoo group Miguel sponsors to provide support and help to gay youth, I think in Chapter 31, I want to again endorse and praise this group of youngsters and their adult sponsors, and thank them for their help. These little guys, and the couple of old farts that support them, probably saved a couple of lives from self-destructing over Christmas, one of which was mine. Thanks and God Bless each and every one of you.