If you are just joining this story, please note the DEDICATION of it, stated on the disclaimer page..
I again want to thank my good friend Miguel Sanchez for his extensive help in developing this chapter, along with work we are doing on future ones. (Julio, of course, is now the mature Doctor Jay Sanchez in this story). (Also, sorry about screwing up his address before!)
I had to look away to keep from laughing out loud when the boys came down the stairs after getting dressed the next morning. Steve and Johnny were wearing their new, hip hugging Levis. Junior and my other two were wearing equally form fitting jeans and tee-shirts, along with wide western style belts I knew were not Ronnie and Mark's. 'Well, if they decide to be red necks it wouldn't be all bad!' I told myself as I watched them scamper outside, their tight round backsides wonderfully emphasized by their pants, their thin waists and chests highlighted by their shirts.
'SOMEONE else is driving this beast home, NOT me!' I decided as I turned the big Hummer into Santo's gate. 'This isn't a car, it's a God Damn leather cushioned Tank!' As soon as I started up the driveway all the boy began jerking against their seat belts as they tried to look over the numerous animals romping in the fields next to us.
"Wow! Are those real cowboys!?!" Steve hooted. I glanced to my side to see a couple of ranch hands, wearing jeans and cowboy hats riding among a group of animals.
"Steven! You know better than that! NEVER when the car is moving!" his dad barked. When I glanced into the rear view mirror his son had either released his seat restraints or torn them out of the floorboard, and was sprawled across Junior's lap, his face pushed against the Hummer's side window.
"But! I mean yes sir," Steve cried. After a quick glance to make sure I wasn't going to run into anything I looked back into the mirror, our young guest had slipped a couple of inches away from the window, his narrow head oscillating between the window and his dad.
Immediately after I stopped the Hummer doors started bursting open, all the kids climbing over seats and each other as they bailed out, dashing to the pasture fence. Young Steve had already sprang up two or three rungs of the pasture fence when I caught up to him, grabbing him by his thick belt and plucking him off the fence. "Be still," I told him in a soft voice as I pulled his thin, squirming frame against my stomach and chest. When I glanced behind me thankfully the boy's father was almost equally hypnotized by our surroundings.
"Listen, listen to me," I quietly barked into his ear as I wrapped both arms around his tight chest and pulled him more tightly against me. " I want you to calm down, you are to stay RIGHT next to Ronnie, you are to do anything he says," I told him. I ignored his stiffening shoulders and neck and added, ""It's better than getting hurt, or your dad ripping you a new ass-hole." I gave him another hug and tucked the top of his head under my chin for reinforcement.
"Yeah dude, chill!" my Ronnie added, pushing against us as he pushed his arm between my stomach and his friend's waist. Ronnie flashed a bright silver smile up at me as his eyes told me 'Got ya' covered, Dad.'
"I promise you will have a good time, but, well, , , chill, horses are wonderful creatures, but they are very big animals, it would break my heart if you got hurt son," I told Steve. Without realizing it I kissed the top of my youngest guest's head before adding, "Stay cool, okay?" He leaned against me and grasp my forearm, pulling it more tightly against his thin chest as his response.
"Thanks Adam," Steven whispered as I joined the others. "I was trying to think of a way to calm him down without embarrassing him. I think here he is referred to as a Green Horn?" I had to search my mental archives, but remember hearing the term in a few very old western movies.
"Good morning Doctor Owens!" Santos exclaimed as Steven and I joined the other adults. "Doctor Robertson, Mrs Robertson, how wonderful to see you again!" he continued, flashing his best salesmen smile.
"And a good morning to you, Mister Santos!" Cindy answered before I could. "Thank you so much for remembering us, but our name is ROBERTS!" she corrected as she gave him a warm grin. "These are our friends, and Doctor Owens new neighbors. May I present Ronnie and Steven Sanchez, and their father Miguel."
'Oh boy, she brought her lawyer suit,' I thought. 'Did she prep them?' I wondered as Miguel, then his sons fell right into line, seeming to accept her casualness using their first names.
"Buenas días amigo!" Santos said with a wide grin.
"I'm sorry, we are from Virginia, we speak very little Spanish," Miguel answered. From his grin I could tell he was bull-shitting a fellow bull-shitter. 'Good luck, you pirate,' I thought of Santos.
When I glanced around as we followed Santos toward one of his corrals, Johnny and Mark were in one of the larger pens near us, walking in the middle of the twenty or so horses in it, chatting and petting with them like they were school chums. 'Oh boy,' I thought as I saw Junior, my Ronnie and Stevie walking to join us. Little Steve had his thumbs tucked inside the top of his jeans right against his pelvic bones, walking with an almost bowlegged, cowboy gait that would have made John Wayne blush with jealously. 'If he says you'all, we're all in trouble,' I told myself.
Santos had, as usual, cut out some beautiful animals for us to choose from. He had a dozen mares in the corral, all of them all but perfect specimens, as well developed as they were even tempered. Steven, Cindy and I spent ten minutes or so looking them over before agreeing on eight we would like to ride and evaluate a little closer. I rode a couple of them while Cindy rode the others, finally Steven, his son and the kids rode them. I was starting to wonder if I had judged Santos money hungry, con man attitude, wrongly.
"Tell me, Doctor, did the little red filly survive?" he asked as he stepped next to me. "Did you have time to get her to auction, or did you have to put her down?" I just had time to turn toward him, trying to believe what I was hearing when he added, "And the little cripple, the boy with the game leg, what did you do with him?"
I didn't realize I had chocked my fist back and was about to deck him until a hand grasp my wrist, slightly knocking me off balance as it restrained me. "Steven wants you to look at one of the horses again," Cindy said, squeezing my wrist harder.
"I'd like your opinion too," Miguel whispered, stepping between Santos and I.
"Chill, Adam, jail garb would not become you," Cindy whispered as they hustled me away.
"I'm going to kill that wetback son-of-a-bitch!" I retorted.
"Okay, you are welcome to!" Cindy tittered. "But do it with your degree, I would suggest a ripping assault on his bank book. Do your thing, right in the ear about these horses, like you did for us." "Drop that on him as the coup-de-grace," she added, pointing toward Johnny, galloping one of the horses we were considering.
"Now I know what Hollywood means by a Horse Trader," Steven said when we joined us. "Cindy filled us in. These are excellent horses, in perfect condition, but when that man dies they won't bury him, just auger him into the ground like a corkscrew."
"You have made excellent choices, the best young Arabian mares I have!" Santos announced from behind us. "If you buy all eight of them today, I'll let them go for, say, nine each. Because the Sanchez' are just starting out, I will even offer them a discount for stud service from any of my stallions." He paused for several seconds before adding, "To help you get started, I will have my vet monitor them for, let's say, three months!"
"That is extremely generous of you, my friend!" I answered. "Your support is anyway, but your price is out of the question." I let him stew, and glare at me for the better part of a minute. "Considering the number of units, seven each. My stallion will stud them, and Steven is a veterinarian, he can provide any veterinary services needed." 'Well, I got your attention!' I thought as I watched his face tighten.
"Seven is impossible, perhaps, let's say eight five."
"Seven five each, paid right now. If you want a Texas bank you can have my check, you damn sure know its good," I countered. I enjoyed watching dollar signs float out of his eyes into the air as his neck stiffened. "The Sanchez' and I are looking at another, almost thousand acre plot, and several more animals soon, I hope we can rely on you as a reasonable supplier!" I told him, offering what I hoped was as crooked a smile as he had offered me so many times.
"Seven eight," he somewhat grumbled.
"Seven six, my final offer. Either the Sanchez' or I will cut you a check for, well, I'll be fair about it, seventy thousand. You are responsible for all the paperwork, and will deliver to my ranch. I don't want to upset my breeding program, I will expect four horses this afternoon, the other four tomorrow at eleven o'clock. Take it or leave it, I'm getting hungry." As I said the last phrase, I remembered the golden arches of McBarf, the only place to eat nearby.
Santos face seemed to age as he considered my ultimatum, but agreed. We all turned back toward the vehicles, but I stopped him and turned him back toward the corral, and the kids still riding the Sanchez new horses. "Oh, and thank you for asking," I told him. "The little crippled boy you asked about, the one with the gimp leg? He's the carrot topped boy racing the fifteen hand mare toward us!" I decided to let him squirm and ignored his queries about Ginger.
As we walked out of McDonald's, I was still trying to think of a tactful way out of driving the Sanchez' tank back to the ranch, when Miguel unwittingly came to my rescue, asking if I would mind if he drove, wanting to try out his sons' new vehicle. 'Yeah well,' I thought as I watched the big vehicle's speedometer climb to slightly over eighty miles-an-hour. "The newer year model does handle better than mine," the elderly Doctor commented as he set the cruise control, leaned back in his seat and steered with one hand.
Knowing Santo's truck with the new horses would be arriving soon, I used a little manipulation as we neared the ranch to convince the boys to go say hello to our horses, then go for a swim before they rode. 'You're a clever devil,' I praised myself as a couple at a time their speedo clad little bodies rushed through the family room into the pool a couple of minutes later. 'They're not about to go to the pasture wearing those,' I praised myself.
Carl and grabbed a beer, as did Ronnie. Cindy and Steven opted for iced tea as we began discussing plans for offloading and integrating the horses, and supper plans. As we talked something didn't seem right, and it took me a minute or so to realize the patio was far too quiet, no giggles or screeches that always accompanied a pack of kids swimming, not even any splashes of water were to be heard. I think Cindy's motherly instinct picked up on the problem at the same time I did as we simultaneously turned toward the back door.
"Well, that explains it, I take it Mary has been here," I told Cindy as we looked out the door. All five boys were huddled in front of my barbeque pit, leaning forward and peering inside as my Ronnie held the lid open an inch or so. Almost as if taking turns one, then another of them rolled his head back slightly as his thin chest expanded; I couldn't help wondering if the puddles of liquid below them was water that had dripped from their wet bodies or drool dripping from their mouths.
As soon a I opened the door the same wonderful aroma that I'm sure had attracted their attention drew me to the pit, and the huge brisket smoking on it.
"Wow, Dad, maybe we should taste it, I mean make sure it's cooking okay," Mark suggested.
"Yeah!" Johnny and Junior added in unison.
"Well, I'm sure Mary is cooking it," I answered. "If you are willing to explain to her why you disturbed it, without her permission, go ahead." Their necks snapped side to side so fast I felt my neck stiffen as they repeatedly exchanged glances, before Ronnie gently closed the lid.
"I would be willing to bet there are some sandwich makings in the kitchen," Cindy suggested. My neck cramped slightly as their's jerked around in another silent conference before they darted into the house, all ten little bare feet skidding as they turned toward the kitchen. "We should have thought ahead," Cindy quipped. "They only had two Big Macs and Malts each, and that was almost an hour ago!"
"You forgot about the large fries, and McCookies or whatever those things were," I jested.
I resisted the urge to pat myself on the back a few minutes later when the new horses arrived. As planned, Cindy and I went into the pasture while Steven opened the pasture gate for the truck. Although I was sure the boys' stomach's would keep them so occupied they would never notice us, Carl, Miguel and Ronnie positioned themselves at the bottom of my yard in case any of the lads tried to enter the pasture while we unloaded.
'Yeah!' I thought as I watched my big stallion. As soon as he saw the trailer he perked up like a colt, prancing toward his big Christmas present on wheels. The mares formed a loose formation behind their stud, and for a minute or so and seemed calm, watching the goings on.
I started to worry a little as Cindy and the driver led the four mares out of the trailer, when Zoe lowered her head, tucked her ears back somewhat, and began slowly walking toward the trailer. I blocked her before she got too close, and stroked her neck and snout as I talked to her, trying to keep her calm.
Just as I began to feel comfortable with her, a loud nay rang out from my herd of mares, and Ginger darted from the middle of them at a full gallop. "Cindy! Problem coming!" I called out as I realized the filly was going to successfully dodge me. 'Oh shit,' I thought as Zoe bolted and raced toward Ginger, who was charging at full speed toward the new horses.
"NO! Back away, she can be aggressive! Ginger can be aggressive!" I barked as moved to make a last attempt to block the little filly. "Everyone back away, now," I ordered when I saw Steven race toward the seemingly imminent confrontation.
"Get back here young man!" I heard big Ronnie's voice from behind me.
"Steven, all you, come here NOW!" Miguel's voice thundered.
'No, oh God no!' I thought as I turned and saw five semi-naked boys, wearing only their speedos and sandals, running toward the impending carnage. 'After getting this far, I'm going to die in a horse fight,' I thought as I raced toward the trailer.
Ginger didn't slow her pace until she was only a few feet from the new horses. As she almost skidded to a stop, she pushed her nose under the neck of one of the new animals; to my complete surprise the larger horse twisted her neck around and pushed her snout against Ginger, and the two horses began sniffing and rubbing against each other. I began to slow my pace to a sprint as a second new horse snorted and pushed against Ginger, seeming to join into their greeting.
Johnny cut his sandals into the turf, skillfully dodged both Cindy and Steven, and slammed into his filly, hugging her neck. I slowed to a jog when the new horses snorted then sniffed his thin body, accepting his one armed snuggles.
"Yeah, it's totally awesome, you don't gotta live at that place or nothing no more. It’s totally neat here! It is, that's Zoe, she's like a mom, and Zeus he's gonna be like your dad some," I heard him tell his new friends as I approached. "Here, you guys hungry?" he added.. I had to take a deep breath to keep from gagging when my new son pulled the crushed remains of a sandwich from his right armpit, took a bite of it, and offered it to the horses. 'Yes, I did buy a Nut Farm,' I told myself as I watched one, then the next horse sample the snack.
"Hi Pop!" Johnny hooted when he saw me. "This is Ginger's bud! Well they were buds when they lived there, at that place," he told me pointing at one of the new mares. He stuffed the last little bite of his 'sandwich', that was stuck between his fingers into his mouth before informing the new horse, "That's my pop, I mean my new dad."
"They was best friends, ever since Ginger was a baby. I mean ever since she was. Her name is," he paused, looking at his filly for a second. "Well, she don't know how to say it in people, ah, I mean English, but it's sorta like Raven." He looked back at Ginger for an instant. "Well, they don't gotta go back there or stuff do they? I mean the don't have'ta."
"No, you can tell Ginger her friends are going to live here, well actually next door, for a very long time," Steven injected, wrapping his arm around Johnny's bony shoulder.
Ginger let out a loud snort before Johnny could respond. `Is this shit real, or a flashback? My dad told me not to smoke that shit!' I thought as all the horses pranced and nayed as if celebrating a homecoming. 'This has got to be a flashback,' I thought as Zeus pushed his snout against my chest.
"Did I really hear what I thought I did?" Steven asked me as the boys and horses greeted their new friends.
"Welcome to my nuttiness," I snickered. "I hope you don't think I'm totally insane, but I am convinced that conversation really occurred."
"I have no doubt it did, I wish I could believe my ears! Well, we have found a name for one of them!" he answered.
I managed to call the boys back as they and their four legged fan club started toward the barn, reminding them speedos and leather saddles might not be a good combination. After a brief discussion with the horses, all the youngsters rushed to the house.
'Hmm,' I thought as we entered the house a couple of minutes behind the kids. Mary and Steve were seemingly facing each other off at the bottom of the stairs, the youngster with his hands on his bony hips.
"How could you do that! I don't have any Levis, now I cant go horseback riding!" Stevie barked with all the hostility his alto voice could muster. "My MOM could have washed them!" he growled as my Ronnie stepped between them, his face telling his friend to calm down. I managed to signal the boy's dad not to interfere as he started toward the confrontation.
"I checked your closet before I put them into the washer, you have other jeans here," Mary countered.
"But they're not TEXAS jeans! I cant wear them here, I'm scre. . . thanks a lot!"
"Well, I'm very sorry, it was not my intention to ruin your afternoon, I am so very sorry," Mary answered, giving him a very earnestly distressed face. "All I was thinking about was how much better Texas Levis wash in Texas washing machines," she added, offering an agonizing expression that could have earned her an Academy Award.
The youngster's face changed from an angry snarl to a confused look as he studied Mary's face. `Shit, she should be an actor,' I thought as I watched Mary's sincere, grand motherly expression. Stevie glanced between my Ronnie and Mary several times.
"Oh," he mumbled several seconds later. "I didn't know that. Will they be better? I mean, thank you ma'am. Well and I will have some all clean for tomorrow!" He blushed and started back toward the stairs, but turned back. "Thanks ma'am, you're an neat granny!" he hooted, flashing my nanny a wide smile before he darted upstairs.
Almost immediately after Ronnie and Steve reached the top of the stairwell Johnny, Junior and Mark raced down the stairs, through the family room and out the back door toward the pasture. All the adults teased Mary about her people skills, and unique clothes washing techniques as Cindy and I served everyone drinks.
My Ronnie and Steve flew down the stairs just as we were starting toward the patio. Steve was about half way through the family room when he turned back, and rushed into my laundry room. A couple of seconds later he reappeared, and gave Mary a quick hug before darting out the door. "I hope you realize, he might start Fedex-ing his laundry down here!" Steven told us as we moved to the patio.
Everyone had just begun to relax when the kids rushed back up the hill, their concerned faces announcing another problem. Cindy giggled aloud as we realized we had made the same mistake she had a few weeks ago; that we an added between today and tomorrow eight additional horses, and no saddles or tack for them. The other adults and I exchanged unhappy glances, none of wanting to drive back into town again, but I managed to convince the boys to ride with the tack we had. After Ronnie and Miguel assured them they would buy more equipment tomorrow, they seemed satisfied.
All of them started back toward the pasture, but Stevie turned back and pushed against my arm. "Are we going to the rodeo store, Pop?" He glanced toward his dad then back at me.
"Why, did you decide you like that pony blanket I picked out for you? We can stop by and pick it out if you like!" I answered. "You could wear it home!" I teased, popping him on the backside. He gave me a dirty look before rushing off.
A couple of hours after supper, our day began catching up with my body, and my eyelids. Shortly after the kids crawled into their mass nest everyone seemed to be as tired as I was, and when I suggested they make themselves at home and stay up, they were inside and heading upstairs to bed before I could excuse myself. After laying back on my pillow I looked out my patio door for a minute or so, admiring the star filled sky through my patio door then drifted into a blissful slumber.
"Dad, please Dad," an alto voice that I thought might be Mark's voice forced me back toward consciousness. I was wondering if, or really hoping, it was part of my dream when I felt a thin hand shake my shoulder. "Dad, you gotta wake up, Johnny hurt his arm!"
Whatever sleepiness was still clouding my mind cleared instantly as I flipped around in my bed, and my forehead collided with a metal object hovering above me. "Ouch!" Mark cried as my eyes focused on his facebow, a couple of inches from my head.
"Where is Johnny, is he okay?" I asked the reflection of silver teeth moving away from me. "Are you okay?" I added as I tossed the covers off my body and rubbed my forehead.
"It's okay Pop, it just hurts sorta," Johnny's voice added. "I told him not to screw with you sir!"
"No, no Pumpkin, come here," I uttered at the thin shadow sitting at the foot of my bed. "Come here Son, what's wrong," I added as I sat up and extended an arm toward him. My face tightened as I saw the anxiety in his face as he slid toward me. "How did you hurt yourself, did you fall or something?" I asked as I wrapped my arm around his tight waist.
"I just hurts some is all, I think it's mad at me," he whined. He let out a whimper when I tried to slip my fingers under his left hand, supporting and protecting his right elbow and forearm.
I reached over and turned on a bedside lamp. "Show me where it hurts," I instructed, pulling my hand away. "It's okay Pumpkin, Dad just wants to help," I reassured him, pulling him into a closer cuddle.
After a little coaxing from me, he looked between Mark and I a couple of times. My eyes bugged and chin dropped as he mumbled, "Well, sorta here, and here," pointing at his paralyzed elbow and biceps. "And some here," he added, pointing at his forearm muscles.
"It's okay, I won't hurt you, I promise," I reassured him as I reached for his arm. "How did you hurt it? What happened?" I asked both he and Mark as I carefully checked his limb for obvious injuries.
"I didn't do nothing or nothing Pop, I just was sleeping and it got pissed off and stuff!" Johnny whimpered. "I mean it got mad," he corrected.
"We were asleep and he started crying is all, Dad," Mark injected. 'Wow,' I thought as I prodded out of Mark that he and Johnny were snuggled against each other, and Johnny started moaning, then sobbing; he confirmed that Johnny had not injured his arm in his sleep.
I fought back both tears and my urge to smile as I satisfied myself there was no new trauma to his arm. 'Wow is a poor description, I think the kids say, , , Awesome!' I told myself as I realized what was going on with his arm.
"I don't think you hurt your arm, I think it is just sore," I told my frightened pair of boys. "I want you to take some medicine for me, and Mark is going to go get your arm splint," I said toward Mark. "I want you to wear it at least for tonight. You lay back while I get your pills," I told Johnny, guiding him to lean back onto my bed. "I'll tell you what is going on in just a minute, I promise good news," I grinned at him, unable to hide my emotions. I rushed toward the medicine cabinet in my bathroom but turned and went to my safe and prepared an injection.
Mark was already strapping his brother into Johnny's shoulder immobilizer when I returned to the bedroom. "Okay guys, would you like me to tell you what is going on?" I asked sitting next to them.
"Well, it still hurts!" Johnny mumbled.
"I know, and it breaks my heart that your arm is sore, but will you listen to me? Let me tell you what I think is going on?" I asked, picking him up and perching him on my lap. I instantly had another bony kid on my other knee, hugging his brother.
"When is the last time your arm hurt, Son?" I asked Johnny. "Before you were, , , hurt, right?" Both boys just stared at me wide eyed as their response. "What I think is going on is, that your arm is starting to get some, well, feeling back! Where you showed me hurts are muscles, like," I started to reach to point at his arm, but when he stiffened I pointed toward Mark's biceps.
"That's a great big muscle group, well will be if you ever quit being a skinny kid!" I said, poking Mark's bony arm, then his tight stomach. I let both boys giggle for a second before continuing, "Hey guys, think about it, are Johnny's muscles getting sore because they are learning to work again? Remember when you exercise too hard, , , like play real hard, and your muscles are really sore later?
"That is what is happening to your arm Son! Your surgery is working, your muscles are starting to work!"
"Yeah!" Mark exclaimed, hugging Johnny and I.
"But it still hurts," Johnny countered.
"It won't for long, not for tonight," I told him. "But, isn't it going to be neat when you can feel things, like this?" I quipped, gently punching his left, working shoulder. "Or this?" I asked, pinching the same arm.
"Pop!" he complained. He pulled his shoulder away from me just after I pulled the syringe out of his arm.
"I'm teasing, I didn't hurt you!" I teased, kissing his cheek as I softly tickled his stomach. "Let's get some sleep, I bet you will feel better very soon."
"What about the medicine, don't I gotta take them?" Johnny asked.
I started to send them back into the family room, but shifted him off my lap onto my bed. "You lay here for a few minutes, if you still think you need some medicine I'll get it for you," I grinned, stuffing him under the blankets. "You too," I told Mark. I couldn't resist gesturing the spent syringe toward his wide eyed face as I stood up to dispose of it, and he dove under the blankets.
Johnny was sound asleep, tightly snuggled against a lump in the covers I was sure was Mark when I sat back down on my bed. "Good night guys, thanks so much for giving me a great night" I whispered as I kissed each of them. I watched Johnny's pixie little nose and the inch or so of his strawberry hair, the only part of him not under the covers, reflection in the soft light from outside until I slipped back to sleep.
I wasn't sure if the voices I heard were part of a dream or not that interrupted my slumber. I ignored them and had almost melted back into sleep when I recognized Miguel's voice saying, "They are safe, they are in there."
"I wonder where they keep the coffee grounds, we have almost completely drained his carafe," I heard his son answer.
'Yeah well,' I told myself, waking up enough to vaguely remember I had house guests. As the incident with Johnny's arm rang back into my mind, I forced one eye open, and relaxed when it focused enough to find a few strands of carrot top fur reflecting in the morning sunlight. Mark seemed to announce himself as he buried his head more tightly against my chest. 'Yeah, Johnny's arm,' I thought. I carefully reached over Mark's thin chest toward my newest son.
'Where is his immobilizer?" I wondered as I cupped a bony upper arm, then shoulder. I gingerly probed it for a few seconds, thrilled not to find any swelling. `Good, he has even grown some muscle mass overnight!' I thought. 'A LOT of muscle mass! In, , , four hours?'
`I should have known,' I silently snickered after I leaned up and saw the row of hair tufts next to me. 'Well, at least they wore their appliances!' I tittered as I saw glimpses of Ronnie and Junior's headgear straps, mixed in with the batches of fur. When I risked leaning up against my pillow further my Ronnie, little Steve, and Junior were tightly snuggled against each other, all of them tightly pushed next to Johnny. 'Yeah well,' I thought as I relaxed against my pillow.
I leaned back up when I realized the small patch of Johnny's head was wearing something a little like Ronnie and Junior's headgear straps. `Well, the gang's all here!' I told myself as I again surveyed the small, black, leather-like nostrils, lined in fine black puppy fur pushed against the back of Johnny's head. "Hi Buddy!" I mumbled as I reached under the covers and stroked his neck.
"Hi Dad!" came an immediate answer.
'I quit! I HAVE lost it!' I told myself. I took a deep breath and let it out slowly before I risked another glance toward the little dog. 'Yeah well, you are getting close!' I cautioned my brain as I saw Junior's button nose and silver smile looking back at me.
"Can we go swimming, please?" he begged in a high voice. Stevie and Ronnie's heads popped up out of the covers at the same time, giving me wide, hopeful smiles.
"Don't wake Johnny, his arm was bothering him last night," I mumbled in a soft voice, my bladder informing me it was time to get up.
'Yeah well, he's not too sore,' I told myself as all five boys, and their puppy, bailed out of bed and darted out my bedroom door. "Junior, BOYS, TAKE OFF YOUR," I yelled after them, knowing I was too late. "Headgear," I barked at my bathroom mirror as I rushed toward the toilet. 'Hey, Johnny is feeling better!' I thought as I drained my bladder and began to wake up.
I was two, maybe three steps out my bedroom door toward the pool, when I realized that not only I was only wearing my briefs, but several of the lounge chairs on my pool deck were occupied, and not with my kids. I'm sure my bare feet left skid-marks on the deck as I darted back into my bedroom.
"Good morning Adam!" Miguel greeted me when I stepped back onto the deck in my swimming trunks. I felt the heat of my red faced blush cool slightly as he seemed not to notice my earlier appearance, and asked why Johnny was wearing his immobilizer again. Big Ronnie stepped onto the deck carrying a tray with a pot of coffee and a spare cup as I filled Miguel in on last night.
"We have to call Jay," Ronnie commented as he handed me a cup of much needed caffeine. He refilled his dad's, then Steven's cup before sitting down. "That kind of news will float him on cloud nine," he told the pool.
We were all silent for a minute or so as we followed his gaze and watched Johnny and the other youngsters playing and giggling. "I am, I think I'm floating above it," I whispered as we watched Johnny's arm jerk against his splint.
"Tell me Adam, do you have a Passport?" Miguel asked. "Forgive me for being intrusive, I have a reason for asking." I found myself wondering where he was going as I glanced at his sons' faces, now surveying my face, and answered I did not, that the only times I had left the US were day trips across the Mexican border.
"As you know, my family is very involved with a foundation that helps underprivileged children in Brazil, and in South America. Until now, almost all our efforts have been directed toward providing shelter, medical care and support to help them out of their circumstance. Many of these children are abandoned or homeless youth, many of them street kids, if you will."
"As were Jay, Ronnie and I, before Dad rescued us," Steven injected. "And my wife, after we moved to Virginia." I reflected back to Jay, big Ronnie and my late night discussions on their beachfront deck about their childhood, and the horrors they endured, as I digested his comments.
"Is anyone hungry?" Mary's voice interrupted my thoughts. "I've made scrambled eggs and sausage, and fresh tortillas, but it's going to get cold soon!" She cut us a somewhat knowing smile as the boys flushed out of the pool like a flock of ducks and darted inside. 'Whatever, she is pretty good at cleaning the carpet,' I told myself as I looked at the trail of water they left, that I was sure continued through my family room and over its carpet too. She gave me another almost frighteningly knowledgeable smile as she closed the patio door behind them.
"Some of the children we help would blossom, like my sons have, if they had the opportunity. I am not an expert, but some of the children I visit with when I am in Recife, well around Brazil, and neighboring countries, could thrive to their true potential, especially in loving homes here in the States, with all the possibilities that would be available to them here." Miguel told me. "We are seriously considering a new branch of the foundation, to seek out and provide homes here in the states, to accept some of the children that might benefit."
"Great idea, I'm sure you could help a lot of kids, kids that need help badly!" I commended them. "Can I help in any way?"
"Yes, you can," Miguel answered much more quickly than I felt comfortable with.
"Most of the kids we are talking about are, or were, street boys, like I was," Ronnie said. "Like my brothers and I were. Although things are much different in Brazil, subject to abuses not too unlike what your boys endured before you rescued them."
"Boys that have, understandably, not only psychological challenges, but some have questions about their sexuality." Steven added.
I stared out at the pasture for a few seconds, trying to understand what they were saying, or suggesting, when Miguel added, "We want to help these kids, and many of them are gay, or might be. But, we need your help, and would like to contract with you to evaluate them, to let us know who we can help. And to counsel those that would benefit."
"You don't care who is gay, straight or green, you are the expert on challenged kids, will you help?" Ronnie added.
"The foundation will pay your hourly fee, and of course expenses and travel," Miguel said.
I digested their statements, trying to understand their proposal for several seconds. "It sounds like a most noble undertaking." I began. I thought a little more before continuing, "I am honored by your offer, but, I'm not too comfortable this would be workable. I have really just begun my practice, my clinic is less than two years old, and far from paid for. And, I'm, unwittingly, beginning family life, along with the ranch." I thought again briefly before announcing, "I would love to help your efforts in any way I can, but not in the role you are suggesting."
"I do not think you are evaluating our proposal correctly," Miguel answered. "If our plan progresses as we expect, the program would help five, maybe six children per year. We have enough influence with our State Department, and other nations Foreign Ministries to bring most of the children here to San Antonio for your evaluation and treatment if you feel they need it.
"I would guess you might need to travel two, possibly three times a year, and only for a few days per trip." I was digesting his statements when he added, "Of course, as many of those trips as you wish would be scheduled around school holidays, and your new sons would be welcome to travel with you, at our expense. In our private jet of course."
"Ah, let me think about all this," I more gasped than answered.
"If things work out as expected, I think you would find the attorney we hope to retain easy to work with," Ronnie commented. His father's glare told me he might have spoken out of turn.
"I assure you a relationship with out foundation will not interfere with your life, but enhance it." Miguel informed me. "And that of your beautiful children. They are the reason we are making this offer."
"Thank you, but I must think about this," I answered. "I have Ronnie and Jay's Virginia numbers, and e-mail, can I contact you through them, perhaps later in the week?"
I relaxed a little when Miguel said he didn't want to rush me, to take my time. I thought I had talked my way out of trouble, at least for now, when he added, "I will be in San Antonio for a few days. Or, until I have your commitment."
To Be Continued…