"I'm on the phone, calm down guys!" I admonished the boys.
I did a double take as I looked down at Mark, then toward Ronnie, standing next to Junior in front of my desk. Mark and Ronnie were wearing Orthodontic headgears like Junior. Both of them had facebows sticking out of their mouths, along with thick straps going not only behind their necks but also up their cheeks, wrapping behind the top of their pixie little heads. When Mark blushed and gave me a nervous grin, polished metal brackets attached to his upper teeth gleamed in the room's light.
"Ah, wait just a minute, okay?" I told Mark. "I'm sorry Cindy, I suddenly have a lap full of, well, tin grinned kid! I had forgotten they started their treatment today."
"DAD! You don't gotta tell everyone!" Ronnie barked.
"What's wrong, BRIDLE BOY!" Junior snorted. He giggled as Ronnie attacked him, both of them wrestling onto the sofa, squealing and squirming like two-year-old's.
I didn't have time to glare at them before Johnny pushed against me. "Please Pop, will you take me riding, PLEASE?" he cried.
"Adam, we are running short of time, should I send this fax?" Cindy injected into the confusion.
"Please Pop, I'll do anything you want if you will take me for a ride," Johnny whined, pushing more tightly against me as his eyes welled with tears.
"Please Dad!" Mark cut his friend off. "Please, you're gonna let him ride aren't you?"
"Adam, can I send this or not?" Cindy more demanded than asked into my other ear as the boys spoke.
"Alright! Yes!" I barked at Mark and Johnny. "Now calm down, you are being rude!" They both stared at me wide-eyed as I continued into the handpiece, "I'm sorry Cindy, I'll give you a good deal on a couple of turkeys!" After the boys were silent for a second or so, still hugging me, I asked Cindy, "Now, where were we?"
"You just filed to adopt Johnny, I'm waiting to receive a confirmation," she answered. After I muttered 'but, but' she added, "You said 'Yes' when I asked you if I should! I'm getting what I'm sure is a filing confirmation already!" she bubbled.
"But I was talking to the boys," I exclaimed. "I thought you were. . ."
"Go take your new son for a ride, oh and hug him for me, for Carl and I both," she interrupted. "Don't prepare anything for tomorrow, I picked up some absolutely wonderful Tuna steaks for everyone, you'll love them! I have to go, Carl is home. Oh, remember the Vet is coming, see you tomorrow morning!" she concluded, hanging up before I could respond.
'Shit, she set me up for that one!' I thought as I started to re-dial her number. Johnny pushed more tightly against me, whimpering softly. When I look over. he was looking up at me, his pixie little face begging, his miles deep blue eyes swallowing me. 'Please?' his soft red lips silently mouthed.
"Let's go saddle Zeus," I said as I set the phone down and hugged him and Mark. "A little later I want to talk to you, I have some very good news for you," I added, kissing his nose. They returned my hug before darting out of the room ahead of me.
"Let's go you two," I said as I popped Ronnie and Junior on their round little butts. "Before I put a lead rope on those bridles," I added, earning a matching pair of dirty looks. I tucked both of them under my arms as we walked out of the house.
After he stopped blushing Ronnie filled me in somewhat about their trip to the Orthodontist, as we walked toward the barn. The doctor had installed brackets on all the upper teeth for each of them, along with their new headgear. He sent a patient manual home with each of them that we were to read together. I was impressed with Ronnie's maturity and honesty as he told me they were to wear the headgears intermittently, for longer and longer periods over the next few days, after that all the time, except at school.
"See, you're fitting right in out here," I teased Junior as I slipped a finger under each of their neck straps.
We rode an hour or so, Johnny completely controlling my big stallion as I sat behind as his safety, before more his stomach than his body decided he was ready to head back to the house for supper. After I mentioned food I received no argument from the other boys, and they agreed to groom the horses while I warmed whatever Mary had prepared us. I was a little surprised when Johnny asked if he could come with me, offering to help.
"You was talking about me, wasn't you? On the phone I mean," he shyly asked.
'He's damn sure no dummy!' I thought. "Were, not was," I corrected, sub-consciously buying time to think of the best way to answer, if I was ready to commit myself to the obligation a truthful answer would confer, not only to Johnny, but my other sons and the rest of the world.
'My OTHER sons?' I asked myself. 'Well, that answered that! But I'm going to get even with Cindy for this!' I thought. 'Fuck, you are losing it! Not only are you talking to yourself, you're carrying on a God damn dialogue again!'
"What's gonna happen to me?" Johnny prompted.
"Okay yes, I was talking to Junior's mom, she is also my attorney. . . my lawyer, and I talked to a CPS worker. Do you know who CPS is?"
He stopped dead in his tracks, his board ridged body told me he did. "I don't wanta go to one of those places again, I hate them!" he sobbed. "Please don't let them send me back there! Please, you said I can stay here until Sunday!"
'Send him BACK there? This might get interesting,' I thought, we had no knowledge of him being involved with CPS.
"We aren't going to send you anywhere, calm down, I promise we are not. CPS has custody of you right now, that means they are the people who make sure you are being well cared for."
"But you're my Doctor! And you're Pop now, you take care of me!"
"I do, but legally, well, let's not go there." I thankfully was able to pause for a minute as I opened the patio door and escorted him into the kitchen. I scooped him up by his thin chest and perched him on one of the kitchen counters. "Give me just a minute to start warming supper, and then I want to talk to you." I glanced at Mary's note of instructions as I added, "But, I want you to listen to me, no interrupting. Will you do that?" He gave me a frightened nod.
"Okay, there are two things going on I want to tell you about. Neither of them are to the point I can promise that they will happen, but I am very sure they will. I think you will like both of them, but remember, you promised to listen to everything I'm going to say before you speak, okay?"
"Yes sir," he whimpered. His distraught face was too much to resist, and I kissed his forehead, asking him to relax.
"Now, first I want you to remember you are still getting well, and you are probably going to be at Hill Country for a little longer before you are ready to be released. Maybe even a couple of weeks." He nodded.
"When you are well enough, I would like to, I mean I'd like to, ah," 'Say it ass-hole, your going to anyway!' 'Give Mary a pay raise,' I added to my mental to-do list when I found some of my beer in the kitchen refrigerator. 'A big one!' I added as I downed a big swallow of liquid courage.
"When you are, I want you to, well I mean you MIGHT be able to come live here, I mean would you like to come live here with Ronnie, Mark and I?" 'Good show, ALL that professionalism!' I chastised myself.
"POP!!! PLEASE CAN I?" he howled so loud my ears rang from his high pitched voice. I just caught him before he leaped off the counter. "Please, I'll anything, ANYTHING you want! I can make you really happy, I promise!"
I didn't want to know what he was suggesting, as I thought back on my late night conversation with Mark last weekend. 'Maybe if I could find pappa before the cops do, GOD I'd like to give that ass-hole some applied psychology, to his face, a couple of kicks to his. . . no don't go there!' I told myself.
"Anything I want? No, no. Remember, I said you might be able to, please don't get your hopes up too high, but at this point, I think you can. We are going to go to a, a meeting next week, but I think you can come live here with us. If you get to, what I want is for you to keep trying as hard as you can, and to work hard at being the great kid you already are! Would you be willing to do that?"
"I love you Pop, I love you!" he exclaimed, pushing against me. "I don't care what you want me to do I will, please if I can stay here! Mark said I don't gotta but I can do stuff for you, I will, I WILL!"
I pulled him tightly against me as I told myself, 'Well, you're hooked!' "I love you, son. All I want you to do is. . ."
"Pop! POP!!!" Mark's frightened voice shrieked from outside. "Pop, he's got a gun, he's a gun and he got Ronnie he won’t let him go!!! POP!" he screamed as he burst through the patio door. My ass-hole sucked a gallon of air as he slammed into Johnny and my snuggle.
Junior rushed in right behind him. "POP! There's a crazy man down there! He grabbed me and hit me and kicked me! I got away from him but he's got Ronnie, you gotta help Ronnie he's gonna fuckin’ kill him! He's totally crazy and he's got a gun! A great big one!" he panted, trying to catch is breath.
'No, God no this can’t be for real' I told myself. 'If I ever get to fart again I hope I'm alone, the amount of air my ass-hole as sucked in today I could be dangerous. God, this cannot be happening!' The bruise on Junior's cheek assured me it was.
"I want you, and Johnny and Mark to go downstairs, to the Saloon, the pool room. When you get down there, lock both the locks on the door, then call 911, and then your mom. You are not to open that door to ANYONE but your parents or me, do you understand?" I barked. I didn't realize I had a handful of his tee-shirt, jerking his face in front of mine for a second or so. "No one, even if they say they are police. This is important son, I need your help! Now go!"
"Yes sir, but,"
"I'm sure Ronnie will be okay, but you MUST be strong enough to help me. GO! DO IT NOW!"
They all gave me frightened looks as I ushered them to the basement stairs. I knew at least they would be safe for now, when I remodeled the house I installed a high security door into the basement; living so far from town, and realizing I could not expect any rapid response from the cops, it seemed like a good idea that had just paid off. 'God, I hope so,' I thought as I retrieved my pistol from its new hiding place in the study. I dialed 911 on my cell phone and filled the dispatcher in as I started out the door.
I dismissed the dispatcher's demands that I go back inside my house as I ran toward the pasture. After her third attempt I barked, "Lady, my son is in there, get me some Fucking Help! If you get here in time to help, I'm the blond guy with long hair, I'd appreciate it if you didn't shoot me!" I gave her a gate code, and hung up on her when she started on another round of crap, telling me everything would be fine if I stayed out of the way.
'Damn good way to get shot!' I thought as I made my way toward the barn. I didn't like the picture that was unfolding for me as I made toward it. The doors were closed, the only time I think they had ever been, and all the horses except Zeus and Zoe were staring at their barn almost in a defensive formation. 'During Viet Nam, everyone smoked a couple of joints before going into battle, where's mine!' I wondered. 'Why did I ever quit smoking!'
'Well, you have to start somewhere!' I told myself. "Ronnie, are you okay? What's going on?" I yelled through the barn wall.
"I got your brat! I'm gonna kill him, then you, if you don't shit up my bitch! NOW!" a voice snarled from inside the barn. "I'm going to butt fuck one of them, my brat or yours? I don't care!"
"AHHH! No I didn't do nothing! OH! Please don't hurt me!!!" Ronnie cried. From his agonized howl I knew he had been hurt. "POP!!! DAD!!! HELP!!!" he begged.
'No, please God, this cannot be happening!' I prayed as I rushed toward the doors. 'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want,' I began to pray as I tried to decide the best way to open them, and enter into hell.
I was about to test the door, to see if it would open, when the sheet metal next to me bulged outward as if a huge hail-stone had hit it from inside. I heard the beginnings of a groan before Zeus's distinctive neigh blocked it out. Just as I grasped the barn door to open it, pistol in hand, I heard Ronnie whimper, "Yeah Zeus, yeah! Someone go find Pop! Hurry! Tell him I'm hurt!"
I pulled on the double doors, but they were locked. "Ronnie, can you get to the door, let me in! What's going on?" I yelled. "Where's the ass-hole? I mean man? Open the door!"
"Ah, ah Zeus kicked him. He's not moving, he looks sorta dead. I can’t open the door, he tied me up!" he yelled. 'Fuck! What to do now?' I thought as I looked around for another way in. "Please Pop, please help me I'm bleeding!"
I took aim at the door lock with my pistol, but hesitated. 'Where is he, where are the horses? I could end up shooting one of them.' I grabbed the door and jerked wildly on it several times hoping against hope I could rip it off its hinges or something. 'Thank God,' I thought as I heard the wail of sirens in the distance.
"Open mother fucker!" I screamed at the metal barrier. I had just grasped the handle again when it flew out of my hand with a crashing sound that sounded like it had been hit with an explosive. I had just started to dodge to the side as a big black object brushed my hair, slightly glancing off my ear. I guess from survival instinct I ducked as I saw Zeus' huge rump cocking for another kick. "Zeus, it's okay, it's me!" I yelled just before the other door burst open.
'Please Lord,' I silently prayed as I stepped inside, gun at the ready. I was relieved and sickened as I looked around. The dent in the barn's wall was indeed caused by Ronnie's kidnapper. He was laying in a heap next to the wall, he somehow reminded me of an old cartoon, of Popeye after Brutus had worked him over. Ronnie was sitting, straddling a post for one of the stalls. His hands were tied around the post and he was bleeding from his forehead, and Zoe was standing between the boy and his assailant as if guarding the lad. I had to take a deep breath to keep from vomiting as I looked at his face and shirt, soiled by his blood and tears.
"You're safe now son, everything is going to be alright," I told him. I kicked man's gun a little further from him before picking it up and tossing it out the barn door.
I was rushing to Ronnie when I heard, "Ouch, what the hell!" from outside. "Holy Shit!' came another voice. As soon as I stuffed my gun in my belt I jerked my tee-shirt off and pressed against Ronnie's head as I gently hugged him. With my other hand I began untying the boy's hands as I reassured him.
"Police, Freeze!" someone barked from behind. "Put your hands on top of your head!" it ordered. I glanced around to see three cops, all of them with guns pointed at me.
"My son is bleeding, I have to stop the bleeding," I countered.
"Get your hands up or I'll shoot!" someone ordered.
"Get an ambulance, no better yet, get Life Flight out here! I'm the ranch owner, I called for you!" I said as I guided my boy to lay down.
"What the fuck!" I heard the cop cry.
"I said get an AMBU. . ." I stopped in mid-sentence as I glanced toward him. Zoe and Zeus were standing between me and the cops, their ears so flat against their neck they were invisible. Hera and Epona now lined up next their friends, putting about seven thousand pounds of very angry horse flesh between the cops and Ronnie and I.
The other horses, even little Ginger, were closing in on the officers from behind, they just looked like they were spoiling for a fight. "Zeus, it's okay. Down boy, down!" I called. "Don't make any sudden moves gentlemen," I added, guiding Ronnie to hold my tee-shirt to his wound.
"Down boy, down Zoe," I said in a soft voice as I slowly walked between them. "It's okay, they're friends," I said as I rubbed their necks. After a couple of seconds they seemed to relax slightly. "VERY slowly offer your hand to them, palm up," I told the cops. "Be gentle, or you could end up looking like him," I said, nodding my head toward the wrinkled corpse laying on the floor.
Almost as if they were a well drilled SWAT team all the other horses stared at the officers, their bodies clearly poised to attack, as Zeus cautiously sniffed each extended hand, looking each of them over. After a second he snorted, and as if on command all the animals relaxed their posture somewhat.
"You, there's a first-aid kit on that far wall," I said to one of the officers. "Does anyone have a flashlight?" I asked as I turned back toward Ronnie. "And where's my ambulance!"
The kit arrived just as I knelt back down next to my son, but I wasn't sure at first if one of the cops or Zoe sat it down next to me and opened it, her head was so closely following the man's hand. I had just begun cleaning Ronnie's wound to have a better look when a cop said, "Doctor, I need to ask you for that gun, just policy, sir"
"Help yourself, I'm busy," I answered, trying not to snarl too harshly.
Zeus's snort, followed quickly by the cop proclaiming, "Oh Shit!" were the next sounds that I heard. When I glanced around the cop was frozen like a statue, and white as a ghost. He was bent toward me with his hand extended out toward my waist; Zeus's big head was between him and I, although I could only see the his huge neck I could almost feel the death glare he was giving him. "Ah, perhaps when you get a free minute you could hand it to me sir?" the man murmured.
"Doctor, this man's alive, can you help him?" another voice asked. When I looked he was talking about Doeman.
"I only treat humans, that slime-bag is something sub-human," I barked. 'Here, you take care of him," I added, throwing him a band-aid from the first-aid kit.
Roberts rushed into the barn a couple of minutes later. The cops were about to stop him when our four-legged incident commander interceded, and they suddenly withdrew their objection. He looked at Ronnie briefly and told me Cindy was with the other boys, that they were scared but okay, before he examined Doeman. I was cuddling Ronnie, now sitting up and leaning against me when Roberts dialed his cell phone, ordering a Life Flight helicopter.
By the time the ambulance arrived, Roberts and I had decided Ronnie didn't need to be transported, that it would be safe, and less traumatic, if I drove him into town for stitches, and the crew began stabilizing Doeman. I could feel the weight of the world slip off my shoulders as we helped him to his feet and he walked, tucked under my arm, out of the barn. I even snickered a little as Zoe fell in on the other side of him, walking beside us looking around like a body guard.
It wasn't until I began answering the thousand questions game with the cops about what had happened that I noticed one of them had a swollen lower lip, along with small amounts of dried blood around a small wound. When I asked how he was injured and offered to examine him, a couple of other deputies snickered. The salty faced cop blushed before he answered, "I got slapped in the chops by the gun you threw out of the barn. In my eight years of law enforcement, my greatest fear has always been getting hit by an assailant's weapon, but I never dreamed it would come down like this!" 'These guys did NOT have a routine call here!' I thought as I tried to look innocent.
I wondered why the patio doors were blocked open, and all the windows I could see were also open, until Ronnie and I walked onto the patio. When I saw the cremated remains of our supper sitting on a patio table I knew. 'Yumm, smoke-dried oven grease!' I thought as we walked inside the pungent aroma stuck me.
It took a couple of minutes to calm the boys down and reassure them that Ronnie was going to be okay and that his injuries were minor. I gave them a brief overview of what happened, deciding to not to tell Johnny it was his dad for now, not until I knew if he would live or not. Thankfully the cops decided to move Doeman by ambulance to the road then load him onto the helicopter, I couldn't help wondering if they had had enough of Zeus and his gang.
We decided Roberts and I would take Ronnie into town for stitches and X-rays, Cindy volunteering to stay with the other boys and fix them something to eat. "Why don't you guys spend the night?" I suggested. They debated for several seconds, saying Jennifer was at a friend's house for the night. "I've lots of unused bedrooms upstairs, one with a hot tub on the balcony!" I bribed. It didn't take long for them to agree.
'Run kitty run,' I though as I turned onto the highway and gave my Jaguar her head.
"You were bad!" Ronnie exclaimed after a minute. "Thanks Dad,"
"Zeus was the hero," I answered. "And Zoe, they earned extra oats for a long, long time," I answered. 'A guard-horse?' I thought. 'Crazy world.'
I was enduring Roberts' quips about hippies and pacifists when I noticed a black and white car ahead of me on the road's shoulder. Almost immediately the red flashing lights mounted on it roof came on, and I saw a faint puff of smoke come from its rear tires. 'Fuck! How many times have I flown down this road, why tonight of all nights!' I silently snarled. 'Oh well,' I thought as I glanced down at my speedometer 165 mph it announced. 'Oh well, I can’t outrun his radio,' I thought as I took my foot off the accelerator pedal.
The trooper was much more considerate than I expected. As soon as I explained the situation, and he saw Ronnie's frightened, bandaged face, he suggested I follow him, that he would give me an escort. I think seeing my questioning look he added, "I can’t reach the speeds you were traveling at, but that was a little too fast for safety. Your car would have soon broken down at that speed anyway." I would have given a week's pay for a picture of his face when I told him I was only at about three-quarter throttle.
Roberts and I used our influence and Physician ID's to get Ronnie into the fast track at the hospital, and he had the lad into X-ray before I had even begun to fill out the paperwork. The ER staff had begun cleaning his wound and prepping for his stitches when Roberts rejoined me. "What about Doeman, is he going to make it?" I asked him.
"I would guess about a fifty-fifty chance, " he answered. "I asked the Triage Nurse to find out what hospital he went to and his condition, but I can assure you he won’t be robbing people or beating up kids for a long time, I am sure the kick broke his back, along with over half his ribs. If you want to add him to your Christmas card list, use his hospital address, he's going to be there a long time."
"Life's a bitch!" I replied. "I'm just heart broken I didn't get to kick him too. Maybe I should send him a Thank You card. Let's see, 'Thanks for the wonderful kid, asshole!' maybe." we both laughed.
Ronnie was in surprisingly good spirits after Roberts finished stitching his head. He showed off the hospital scrub shirt the ER staff had given him, and offered no argument about stopping in the hospital's snack bar for a milkshake and what turned out to be two hamburgers before we headed home.
"What's this, where is your nest?" I teased as we walked into the house, pointing at the clean, quilt free carpet in front of the family room's entertainment center. All three boys blushed. I snickered at their ice cream mustaches and the smudges on Mark and Junior's facebows as they rushed to hug Ronnie and I. "I'm glad Mrs. Roberts didn't spoil you!" I snickered as I pulled them into a snuggle. I didn't get any answer as they suddenly ignored me, and broke our hug so they could examine Ronnie's stitches and bruises, listening to his blow-by-blow description of his adventures at the hospital, then what happened in the barn earlier.
Roberts and I drank one, then a couple more beers as the boys talked. After a few minutes he and his wife excused themselves, hinting they wanted to climb into my second floor hot tub. I had just climbed into my recliner, praying the evening was winding down, when Johnny pushed against me, then climbed into my lap. He slipped into the crook of my arm and buried his face against my chin.
I stroked his thin little back and shoulders for several seconds. He seemed to relax as I did, his little body melting against me even more. After a couple of minutes he muttered something I couldn't understand two or three times, as if trying to decide how to say what he wanted, then finally let out a soft sob and fell silent.
"What's on your mind, Pumpkin, why are you crying?" His only answer was to push his head more tightly under my chin. "I know what happened was frightening, but it's okay now, it's all over and your brother is going to be just fine."
"But, my brother's dead," he whined. 'Good show, dumb ass!' I told myself.
"I'm sorry, that came out wrong, I meant Ronnie."
"I wish he was my brother," he sobbed. "I wish Mark and Junior was my brothers too." I was about to answer when he took a deep breath and continued, "I'm afraid, well I was afraid, well I was afraid that was my dad, that he came to get me. Please I don't wanta go with him! He'll hurt me again I don't want him to!" he started crying harder and trembling in my arms. I continued to rub his back, and began running my fingers through his soft, fine hair with my other hand, cupping his pixie little head against me.
"Your dad isn't going to get you, he isn't going to hurt you. You are safe now, your dad is. . . going to jail, and he's going to be there a very, very long time," I answered.
"But what if he comes before he goes? Before the cops catch him," he whined.
"They already have, they caught him not long ago," I tried as a dodge.
I could feel a slight vibration in his little head for a second or so. "That was my dad, wasn't it?" 'He's damn sure not slow,' I told myself as I took a deep breath. "Wow, you beat my dad up, you saved me!," he said, wrapping his arm around my chest.
"Yes, that was your dad. He's in the hospital now, and the police are guarding him, and later he's going to jail, for a very long time."
"But Ronnie said he was dead, that he looked dead," he replied looking up at me. I couldn't tell if there was doubt or, even, disappointment in his face, but it definitely showed no grief.
"No, he's not dead, but he's not going to hurt anyone again, probably forever."
"Oh," he answered, looking away.
"You're safe now, I promise," I told him. "Do you remember what we started to talk about earlier before everything happened?" I said, hoping to change the subject.
"Sorta," he whimpered. I waited, hoping to have him say more. "Well, you said maybe I can come stay here with you sometimes. Please do I still getta?"
"That's not quite what I said. I would like you to live here, , , I want to," I took a deep breath and tucked him a little more under my arm. "I want to adopt you," I blurted. He stiffened like a board, his saucer-sized eyes darting to meet mine as his mouth fell agape.
"YEAH DAD!" Mark's voice shrieked from next to the chair. He leapt into the other side of the recliner from Johnny and slammed into a tight hug with both of us. Ronnie and Junior were right behind, filling my straining lap with howling and cheering thin bodies, I could feel my thighs bowing under their weight.
"You guys weren't eavesdropping or anything, were you?" I snickered with the small amount of air still in my lungs. "Let's move to the couch, before I turn into a crushed Pop," I groaned.
After a few groans and gripes they reluctantly climbed down, and we moved to the sofa, again with Johnny in my lap, Mark and Ronnie snuggled under one arm and Junior the other. Even with my disclaimers that only the Judge could allow the adoption, or even for Johnny to move to the ranch when he was released from Hill Country, it took several tries, and minutes to convince the new addition to our family I was serious, and that he wasn't dreaming.
I decided not to go into our pending trip to Virginia, or the possibility that he might regain the use of his right arm, not wanting to overload him any more than I already had. We talked briefly about the incident in the barn earlier. After listening to their reactions to what had happened I concluded they would be okay, at least for tonight, and didn't delve into it any further either.
"It's getting close to bedtime for my flock of Turkey's, are you guys going to make your nest?" I hinted.
All of them exchanged looks, almost as if making telepathic links, for a second or so. "Ah, well, we wanted to sleep in your bed, please?" Ronnie answered.
"PLEASE Pop!" Johnny added, pushing against me.
"Yeah, please Pop!" Junior added.
"Mom and Dad are here, son," I reminded Junior. "I don't think they would care, but don't you think you should ask them?" He blushed slightly as he gave me a forlorn look, clearly trying to formulate an answer that would get his wish, and save face with his peers.
"Just don't wet the bed!" Cindy's voice rang from behind us.
His face flashed every color in the rainbow, before turning so red hot it reflected off his facebow, his mouth dropped open so hard I was afraid he had bent the metal in his mouth. "MOM!!!" he yelled as he jerked out from under my arm and started to swing his face around toward her.
"Got'cha!" Cindy giggled, pinning him back on the couch as she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, pulling him back against the cushion and into a hug from behind. She kissed the top of his head a dozen or so times. "I'll trade four big hugs, and good night kisses for letting my son sleep with this strange man!" she bubbled, tousling the other boys' hair. "Oh, and rights to raid your refrigerator!" she added, pushing my head sideways with her hand.
Ten minutes, a couple of dozen cookies, and a gallon of milk later the boys drifted into my bedroom. I thought for a minute, trying to word my question just right, before I asked Cindy, "The kids sleep with me sometimes, I'm sure when they feel insecure. You don't have a problem with Junior joining them... er, us?" I risked.
She gave me an almost disbelieving look for a second. "Adam, you are the best thing that has happened to little Carl in a long time," she began. "He's a very affectionate boy, he thrives on physical contact, and needs to be nestled and loved. But, when Mom cuddles him he feels babyish. I love my husband more than life, but with the children he is about as physically affectionate as a Cactus plant. If he didn't think it would result in a divorce I think he would shake hands with them as his way of tucking them into bed.
"Since he... we, have met you, Carl junior has flowered beyond anything I could believe in such a short time. His grades have gotten better, he loves life! Whatever you are doing, don't you dare quit or change, please!" she concluded, squeezing my hand. She kissed my temple lightly before excusing herself and starting out of the room.
"Well, except," she added, turning back to me. "Send his clothes home with him! Almost all his school uniforms are out here, my washing machine hates you!"
'Wow,' I simply thought as I stared after her on her way back upstairs.
My four little angels were under the covers, in formation, when I went to my bedroom. Junior was tucked tightly against Ronnie, both of them with their arm's draped over Johnny, only his pixie nose and forehead poking out from the blankets. Another lump in the covers almost made Johnny look very pregnant, except for a tiny tuft of golden blond hair peeking out of the top of the blanket, gently drifting toward and then away from Johnny's cute little nose as he inhaled and exhaled.
After I undressed I sat on the edge of the bed for several minutes, soaking in their beauty and innocence. 'Thanks God,' I thought as I ever so carefully climbed under the covers. 'Thanks so much,' I added as Mark, still asleep snuggled into my chest. As I closed my eyes I felt a soft push against my forehead. "I love you Doctor Pop!" Johnny whispered as he wrapped his arm around Mark and me, hugging us.
"I love you too," I softly answered as I stretched my arm over him and the other boys, kissing his strawberry hair as I did. "You too, my little tunnel rat," I added when Mark grunted as I crushed him between his new brother and I. 'God if I could only find a way to show you guys how much I really do,' I thought as I closed my eyes.
'Damn, no more hospital hamburgers for supper,' I thought when my stomach's harsh growl woke me up in the morning. My one working eye looked over the sea of sleeping angels snuggled next to me for several seconds when an even more distinct groan vibrated not only from my stomach but through my chest. 'Fuck, I hope this isn't how a heart attack begins!' I was in the middle of a mental triage of myself when the groan turned to a muffled muttering.
As soon as I leaned slightly onto my back a tuft of golden hair pushed its way out the top of the blanket. "I gotta pee BAD," mumbled as his freckled face appeared.
Within seconds of him scurrying out of bed Ronnie, then Johnny opened their eyes, mumbling about being woken up. Johnny sleepily looked at me for an instant before turning his head and looked toward Ronnie and Junior. "Wow, I'm really here! I thought I was dreaming. I'm not locked in there!"
"No, you're not. You are laying next to a bunch of people that love you," I answered, leaning toward him and pulling him against me by his thin back.
"Yeah dude, you're here," Ronnie almost whispered as he lay his face on the boy's neck.
Johnny purred like a kitten as he enjoyed our cuddle. "But Mark has a good idea," he whined after a minute or so.
"Yeah, me too!" Junior chimed in as he threw the covers off him. "Can we go swimming?" he called back toward me as they rushed into my bathroom. 'Well, it saves water!' I snickered as they all disappeared toward the toilet.
I had just gotten out of bed and was deciding between the pool and the coffee pot when all four of them darted across the room, still clad only in their briefs, as was I.
'Not again!' I thought as they ran out the door. I rushed onto the patio behind them, yelling "Junior, take off your. . ."
"HEADGEAR!" Cindy's voice chimed in as they dove into the water. I was already several feet away from the door. I could feel my face reddening as I looked around, and I'm sure I turned crimson when I saw her sitting in one of the chaise lounges. 'Fuck, I forgot about them!' I chastised myself, realizing I was in my underwear.
"I hope you didn't mind, I'm very much a morning dove," she said. I'm sure seeing my embarrassed face she held up a cup of coffee as if offering a toast and giggled, "Nice derriere, great thighs!" I felt small enough to hide my nudeness by walking in the cracks in the concrete as I half crawled back into my bedroom.
"Sorry about that," I told her as I joined her a couple minutes later, now wearing swim trunks and a tee-shirt. "I was still half asleep, I guess it doesn't take long to get used to living in the country."
"I wouldn't have traded it for the world," she snickered. "I'm surprised you guys don't skinny dip!"
"God, don't give them any ideas!" I countered.
We talked for ten minutes or so as we watched the kids frolic in the pool before Roberts joined us. He and I downed a quick cup of coffee and decided to ride together into town for morning rounds at the hospital, picking up a donut on the way. On the drive back we would stop by their house for fresh clothes, and the items Cindy had gotten for our lunch, while she fed the kids breakfast.
I found myself worrying when something was going to go wrong, as I finished with the last of my patients in what had to be record speed; even more so when Roberts was waiting for me when I went back downstairs. "Let's get out of here before something happens!" I whispered to him as we started outside toward the parking lot.
We quickly organized our efforts when we arrived at the Roberts' house. Carl left to pack a bag with fresh clothes for him and his wife, while I loaded an ice chest with the Tuna steaks and other foods Cindy had asked we bring. Ten minutes later we were making sure we hadn't forgotten anything as he started toward the utility room to check on their puppies.
"Actually, Buddy is old enough to go home, why don't we take him with us!" he commented as he looked over the fur-balls yelping at him. Seeing my lost expression he said, "Mark's dog, Buddy!" as he held a furry, floppy-eared little rat looking creature out to me.
"Mark's what? Mark who?" I almost stuttered, afraid I knew the answer to both questions.
"Your Mark! He asked Junior to hold the dog for him the first time you came over here!" he answered. Buddy squirmed in his hand toward me such that I had to catch the little puppy before he fell. He immediately crawled up my chest and began licking my neck with his long wet tongue.
"Ah, too bad he didn't tell me about this. I want to get a dog, but. . ." Buddy interrupted me, licking me in the mouth. As I cupped his tiny head in my hand to push him away from my lips he pushed his face against mine, whining as his little tail wagged as fast as an airplane propeller. "You're cute and you know it, don't you," I snickered, getting a dozen or so sloppy face licks as an answer.
I looked back as Roberts was scooping dry dog food into a plastic bag. "I'll send enough food to get you through the weekend," he said.
"Well, thanks, but maybe I should think about it for a few days, maybe I need to talk to the boys about this, I mean. . ."
"Okay, you tell that face he can't have a good home, with a houseful of boys to love him," he countered, rubbing Buddy's neck. He turned back around and began arranging rags in a cardboard box.
"Ah, well maybe he should have a few days, to say goodbye to his mother, well and his brothers and sisters," I tried. Buddy answered by madly licking my face again.
"Do you think that box is piss proof?" I asked a couple of minutes later, as I looked at the Italian leather seats in my only months old, fifty-thousand dollar big cat.
"I wouldn't worry about it too much," Roberts answered as he sat down, putting Buddy's box in his lap. "It's already broken in, I christened the back seat last night thanks to your driving! Somewhere between when you retracted the landing gear, and when you broke the sound barrier, I shit all over it!" he chuckled. "Let's take your grandson home, Doctor!"
"You know, I was single and normal until I met you!" I countered as I started the engine.
"Friend, I really doubt you were ever normal," he replied.
The boys were in the pasture when we got home, Johnny playing with Ginger while the other boys rode. Cindy was back on the patio, relaxing over a cup of coffee. "Buddy!" she bubbled when she saw the box. "You're going to love him, he was the runt of the litter, but has started thriving in the past couple of weeks," she told me as she picked him out of the box and kissed his nose.
"He's extremely intelligent, he is not quite eight weeks old, and is already starting to get the idea of being house trained!" she added.
"House trained?" I moaned. 'How many thousands of dollars did I just spend on new carpet? On having hundred-year-old floors refinished?' I asked myself.
"Don't worry, it only takes a few months!" Roberts quipped. From his face, I knew he was thoroughly enjoying my agony.
I was still in a fog ten minutes or so later when the Veterinarian, then the Farrier arrived. Roberts stayed behind to watch Buddy while Cindy and I went down to the pasture with them. None of the new horses had any serious problems, one of Cindy's mares needed a shoe replaced, but they both were declared in excellent health by the Vet.
After the poor animal doctor danced around Johnny as he examined Ginger, he found no real problems with her either, stating he was sure she could grow into a productive mare, and that although she would never be an enormous animal, a few months of hormone injections would be all that she needed to grow to a normal size, even suggesting she be ridden by a small rider to build her muscle mass. He suggested he give her the first hormone injection, then that I give her one a week thereafter.
Johnny freaked when he saw the doctor filling a large syringe for her. "No!" he cried. "No, don't hurt her!" When the vet tried to tell him the shot would not hurt, Johnny barked, "They do too! When I get them they do and that's too huge, please don't hurt her!"
"I won't hurt her, I don't hurt animals," he replied, setting the hypo down on his med kit. "But, I just remembered some more medicine she needs, will you help me give them to her?" he added. He dug into one of the tool boxes on his truck for a minute before pulling out a bag of small brown biscuits. "I want her to take one of these before she exercises, can you remember to give her one each time you come to, play with her? Why don't you open the package and get one out for her," he suggested, setting the bag on the tailgate of his truck as he slipped the loaded syringe into his back pocket.
I felt a little sorry for the boy as he wrestled with his one good arm to open the bag, but the vet had just injected Ginger when Johnny proudly announced, "I got it!" rushing toward Ginger holding out the biscuit.
"The boy doesn't live here full time, yet," I told the Vet as Johnny and Ginger ran away from us, playing like two human children. "What are the pills, how often does she need them?"
"They're just training treats, sweetened feed," he answered. "He's so cute, so devoted to her, I thought it would help them bond. And get him out of my hair! By the way, are you aware two of your mares are pregnant, perhaps a third?"
I couldn't suppress my smile as he pointed Hera and Athena, saying he was sure they were with foal, and that he thought Zoe might be. "Damn good stallion you have," he said. 'Yeah, if you even knew' I thought as I rubbed my ear.
Cindy decided to ride with the boys for a few minutes after everyone was done checking the horses. "I need to have a session with a bed wetter, a new patient," I told her as I started back toward the house. "But remember we have a surprise for the boys up at the house," I added as I closed the gate.
To Be Continued…