Jack glanced between Tim and I several times, clearly unprepared for Tim's casual attitude and frank language. I was starting to worry that Tim had lost the man's confidence when Jack almost obediently picked up his beer can and downed a sizable swallow.
"That's what I thought!" Tim exclaimed, reading the label in the bag of pretzels. "They have cheese in them, damn these are good!" He continued, offering the bag to Jack. Not waiting for Jack's response he turned to me saying. "Where'd you get these, this is good shit!"
I surveyed Jack's face while I told Tim Dad had found them, I did not know where. My concern that Tim was being to indifferent regarding Jack's concerns deepened as the man numbly took a chip from the bag and looked away, absently chewing on the snack. I was trying to think of a way to tell Tim he was losing whatever credibility he might have when he interrupted my thought.
"I don't know how to advise you right now as to what you can do." Tim began, taking a swallow of beer. "What do you want to happen, what's the goal here?" He continued, tossing another piece of pretzel in his mouth. When Jack didn't respond for several seconds he continued.
"I know you love Mike, if you didn't this wouldn't be ripping you a new asshole like it is. But, what are you looking for? Do you want the innocent little boy that you had before his kidnapping? I can't help you, no one can." Jack gave no response.
"Do you want to know if your son is gay? If he is how to undo that?" Right now there is no real indication Mike as any sexual preferences, all indications suggest he is still figuring out what sex is all about. Despite what has happened to him he is really naive." Tim grabbed another handful of pretzels, offering the bag to Jack then to myself. He took another swallow of beer leaning back in the chaise lounge.
"Yeah sure," Jack grumbled. He gave Tim a somewhat distrusting look continuing "How can you act like you know my son, what do you know about him. I don't think you're listening, I think we should be leaving." He stated as he stood up.
"I know a little about him, your family is one of my cases." Tim responded, getting another glare from Jack. "I've spoken repeatedly to his case workers, and conducted a two hour interview with Mike myself. I talked at length with the two psychiatrists that examined him, one of those is the FBI's leading expert in sexual abuse.
"I've got almost of half meg of reports and data about Mike on my laptop across the street, including your interviews with my workers and with the police, if you'd like to see them. Actually I'm the one that signed the authorization for Mike to be returned to your custody." Jack stared open mouthed at the old biker for a couple of seconds.
"I need a fresh beer, what about you?" Tim remarked, climbing out of his chair.
"Let's review here." Tim suggested, handing each of us a beer can. He waited for Jack to sit back down before continuing. "You've discovered that your boy has been viewing male porn sites on the web. A boy that's first exposure to sex happens to be as an unwilling member of a child pornography ring, a boy that knows full well that pornographic pictures of him are almost certainly still floating around the web.
"Do you approve of Mike downloading nude pictures, have you talked to him about this?" Jack tried to protest that they were male nudes when Tim interrupted. "No, what I asked is if you approve of him downloading pictures, male or female."
"Of course not!" Jack snapped. "But why is he looking at boys and men?" Tim took a long swig of beer, I doubt Jack noticed it but I could tell by his face he was debating his answer.
"Let me tell you a quick story, I bet Christian remembers this. When Timmy was about five or six, we had a party one night, we had a lot of them back then." He snickered. "I don't remember what, but I asked Timmy to do something. Right in the middle all my guests he folded all but his middle finger to his palm" Tim demonstrated, holding the classic f*** you sign up "and held it as raised his arm over his head directly between him and I, a perfect 'up yours dad' expression if I ever had one."
I could barely keep from breaking into laughter as I recalled the near fatal night for Timmy. Jack stared at Tim somewhat lost, but clearly curious about the fable.
"I almost slapped his happy ass across the room, I probably would have killed him if I had hit him right then." Tim continued. "Something, probably his happy face, made me wonder what he was doing, so I pulled him off the side asking why he had done that. 'It's my rocket daddy!' he informed me, proudly sticking it back in my face.
"To us, when someone shoots the bird we of course think of the middle finger representing as a man's penis, the index and ring fingers testicles. It turned out Timmy, in his first artistic flare, designed this effigy of a rocket. To him, his middle finger represented the space shuttle he had watched on TV, his index and ring fingers the rocket boosters. He had no idea he was doing anything inappropriate."
It was Jack's turn to take a long swallow of beer. His eyes drifted away for several seconds as he seemed to analyze Tim's little fable.
"I wonder if Mike knows he is doing anything you or society consider inappropriate?" Tim suggested after minute or so. "His only exposure to the internet has been porn sites, some of which he was a star on. His only exposure to 'nude art,' if you will, has been regarding male bodies, including his own." Jack studied Tim's face for several seconds, his eyes moistening.
"And I'm suppose to tell him all this." Jack mumbled. "IF what you are saying is correct, he's 14 years old, he's going to start high school next year. He's got to know better!"
Tim's 'wake up and smell the coffee, fool' expression said more than volumes could have.
"Now I need a beer." Jack blurted. "Mary, you're driving home!" He exclaimed as he entered the kitchen.
"What should I do?" Jack asked as he sat back down between Tim and I, handing each of us a fresh can.
"Go back to being a dad. He's your son, TALK TO HIM!." Tim responded. "No different than before he was kidnapped, if he is doing something you don't approve of find out why, and help him find a better path! Ever heard of a 'the birds and the bees' talk, something dads do? BE HIS DAD, Jack!"
"He's so fragile now, I can't hurt him, I couldn't , , ," The man stopped in mid sentence. "Well, I guess I have to. I just hope I can." He stared off into space for a few seconds. "What if he is queer, I mean gay?"
"If he is, he is. How does someone become gay, do you know?" Tim more replied then asked. "Its all but proven that people are born gay, heterosexual, bisexual whatever. IF Mike turns out to be gay its probably not from what the kidnapers did to him, its Mike, possibly its in his DNA.
"IF he is, and if you want to help your son, you have a big job. You can't change him, you can't get him treatment, we can not surgically remove his gay. You can support him and you God damn sure better if you want him. Gay teens are the MOST prone to runaway and suicide of any group. Want to guess why?"
"Rejection!" Tim snapped, not waiting for a response. "All the shit Mike has been through, he's got a long ride ahead of him, just like you do. If you reject him, for being gay or whatever reason, I guaren-damn-tee you will lose him!"
I found myself in very uncomfortable position suddenly. The anger in Tim's face frightened me as much as his this old biker, former bike gang member's words surprised me. I was trying to evaluate his emotional outburst, his sudden anger, not to mention if I might have to try to pull this big man off my guest any second (which I wasn't looking forward to trying)
Tim emptied his almost full beer can before leaning back into the chase lounge. His face mellowed as he looked out toward the back yard for a minute or so.
"Jack, I lost a boy in my care, many years ago when I was a field worker. He too was 14, a great, completely lovable kid, and probably as smart as anyone I've known. He came into foster care after his father found out he was homosexual and tossed him out into the street.
"Back then, we thought of gay people as being mentally ill, I'm afraid like you are suggesting you think of Mike. Like a dumb f*** I stuffed in a placement, told him we could get him well and went on about work.
"A month or so later I had to visit the back yard where he hung himself. His suicide note didn't address his sexuality, what I had told him was his illness, just that no one understood him, they just wanted to change him from the monster they thought he was."
"A fruit fairy was the word he used, I'm sure he picked it up from me." Tim continued, tears forming in his normally expressionless eyes.
"IF your son is gay," he continued after emptying his beer can. "And you don't know he is, you BETTER learn how to support him as he grows, grows to what he can be. If you can't do that, I won't wait a heart beat before picking him up if I think he is in danger."
The two men stared eye to eye for several seconds. I was trying to think of something to say to defuse the situation when Jack broke the stare.
"I guess Mike and I have a lot to talk about." Jack proclaimed. Turning to me he said "I guess we better take Mike home tonight."
"I don't think so." Tim interceded. "You promised him a weekend with his bud, let him have his fun. Besides, do you know what you are going to talk about? Let Mike stay here as you had planned, I can send you some data that I would like you to read over, if you want I can have my staff contact you tomorrow morning if they can help. Let the kids enjoy their reunion while you get your shit together."
Jack looked away for probably a minute before responding. "You still want him to stay here, with your boys?" He asked looking toward me. He only briefly surveyed my face before continuing "Well, the wife's driving, you got any more beer?"
We talked for the next hour or so, the conversation drifting back and forth between Jack's concerns for Mike's well being and recovery from being abducted, and just casual talk. While Jack excused himself to use the restroom I got to tease Tim briefly about his people skills, but could not challenge his success.
"Dad, Dadddd!!!" One of the twins' muffled voice from inside the house rang into my ears. Just as I turned toward the patio door Jeff, his timing off turning the doorknob slammed into the door. With another try he got the door to cooperate.
"Dad, you gotta come quick!" He screamed as he rushed toward me. "PLEASE you gotta come quick, I think Carl just killed a cop!"
Tim and I bolted out of our lounges, bashing into each other as we rushed through the kitchen door. As we ran through the kitchen toward the front door of my home the loud shrill of sirens, clearly entering our normally quiet street, enhanced our concern toward panic. Mary and Dad almost collided with us as we all rushed outside.
Everyone seemed to freeze in place as we digested the commotion on my street, I was wishing it was something some Hollywood producer dreamed up. A police car sat with its front wheels in my yard, my crushed curbside mail box barely visible under the steam coming from the front of the damaged vehicle. Broken bricks from what had been the mailbox's pedestal were strewn across the yard. Two more police cars were in the street, policemen with guns drawn were scanning the area as they rushed toward the wrecked cruiser.
I widened my scan a little to across the street and I saw my other kids, along with Timmy, Mike and three or so other neighbor kids in front of Tim's house, all of them huddled around Judy. I could only see a thin slice of Carl hiding behind Judy's body. Instinctively I pulled Jeff against me locking him in a death grip as I tried to believe what was happening, much less how to react.
"Stay here, I mean it!" I told Jeff as I passed him to Dad. As I started walking slowly toward the street Tim fell in next to me, thankfully attaching his badge to the collar of his tee shirt. We hadn't gotten more then a few feet when two more police cars slid to a stop in front of the house. 'Shit, what now?' I asked myself.
Thankfully the newly arrived officers holstered their weapons almost as soon as they drew them. I felt a little more relieved when my gaze returned to the wrecked car, noticing the vehicle's driver being helped out of his car by his fellow officers. Tim split off from me, going to the crippled police car and newly arrived ambulance as I rushed to check on my boys.
After several tries I managed to half coax, half pry Carl from behind Judy. He instantly wrapped his arms around me, carefully positioning himself so I was between him and the carnage in the street.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to do it!" He repeated five or six times in a whisper, tears rolling down his cheeks soaking my shirt. As I tried to calm him I turned to glance back toward the street, in time to see one of the cops push the crashed vehicle's deployed air bag out of the way and retrieve a soccer ball from the car.
After playing the thousand questions game with him and the other kids for a minute or so, I started to get a rough idea of what had happened. About half my brain was trying to believe what I was hearing could actually happen, the other half was very occupied wondering what in this thin little body I was cuddling was such a cop toxin, could it be anywhere he went police officers were in peril?
I didn't have long to consider all this. Tim and three cops started toward us, an officer with Sergeant's stripes carrying our soccer ball. One of the other officers had a red mark, almost a bruise on his left cheek. I found myself somewhere between relieved and perplexed when he said something to the other as he rubbed his cheek, causing all of them others grin.
"Whose ball?" The Sergeant asked, holding the ball out in front of him. All the boys remained completely motionless, I couldn't even seen any of their thin chests offer any signs of breathing. After giving up on the kids answering, I acknowledged it belonged to my sons.
"I know you, you're the guy that got cut fighting off a burglar here, aren't you? How are you doing?" The Sergeant responded, handing me the ball. "How is your arm? We owe you a big thanks, the guy you helped us catch led us to making a huge bust, did you see all the raids on the news?" He bragged.
"Well congratulations, I'm glad I could help!" I responded, deciding this was NOT the time to cross this guy.
"Well thank you, it was just good police work!" He beamed, I could almost see his arm muscles quivering as he resisted his urge to pat him self on the back. When I glanced at Tim I had to quickly look away, the expression in Tim's eyes almost made me start to laugh.
"I am sure you noticed the damage to your postal box." He continued. "We are sorry it was damaged by a city vehicle, I am not sure how this will proceed. I have been on the force for 18 years and never encountered anything like this, I don't know who has what liability here, its almost like an act of God."
He went on to explain that his officer, while patrolling our street noticed a group of kids playing soccer (in Tim's front yard), paying little attention. He looked back to the road when something struck him in the face, causing him to jerk the wheel to the right and run over my mail box. He even apologized for the other officers racing in with weapons drawn, explaining that when the patrol car's air bad deployed it sounded an emergency radio signal, that they heard the driver say he 'had been hit'.
"I've never seen something like this. Its clearly an accident, but I don't know if the city is liable for your damage, if Mr. Young could be, this has to be one for the lawyers!" He said. "I think right now we just need to get everyone's names, if we need any statements we'll get back in touch."
I found myself hoping I wasn't hearing things, but was not about push it. I explained how thankful I was the officer was not seriously hurt, that I wasn't concerned about my mail box, it could easily be replaced and wasn't worth enough money to argue over. (Thanking God I probably wouldn't have to pay for the police car, or spend the afternoon bailing my new son out of jail!)
The tow truck's arrival thankfully broke up our little group, the Sergeant and the bruised officer going back out to the street. A couple of officers wrote down everyone's names, addresses and phone numbers and also left us.
Tim and his family followed my boys and I as we started back to the house to fill Dad and the Snyder's in on the events, Carl still glued under my arm. We were just entering my yard when Carl held back, scanning the mangled mailbox and brick strewn yard.
"I'm sorry sir!" He whimpered. He turned toward the damaged police car hanging from the back of the tow truck, studying it briefly before moving his gaze to the bruised officer. "I guess I better say I'm sorry." He said, starting toward the man.
"Ah, maybe we better wait on that for right now." I suggested, pulling him against me as I tried to think of a good response. "He's really busy right now. Ah, maybe you should send him a nice card, we can make one on the computer!" I could feel the vibration gears grinding inside his little pixie head against my chest as he digested the idea.
"Wow, I sure made a big mess." He commented after a second. I was trying to think of a way to downplay the event when the tow truck started its engine, drawing both of our attention. The crippled police car jerked on it tether as the big truck lugged away, causing four or so broken bricks to fall from under the car, bouncing in the street.
"Yeah, you did that." I answered. I found myself on the verge of laughing as I pointed him toward the house. 'Let's see, he is averaging taking down about a cop a week since he's been here, how many weeks until he is 18?' I found myself wondering.
I think at the twins prompting he was quickly soon inquiring who was going to pay for the mailbox, or hinting at finding out if he would have to. He jumped on my suggestion that I would buy a new box and the materials if he would help build the new brick pedestal. He got more excited when I proposed we design one that would look nice instead of the old square tower we had, and soon was occupied searching the internet for ideas.
The Snyder's announced their departure shortly after I filled everyone in on the incident. Mike got all the standard 'behave yourself' and 'do what Mr. Miller says' lectures as we walked them out to their car. Mary kissed Mike on top of the head before climbing into the car. Tim and exchanged glances as Jack entered the passenger side, his only farewell to his son was 'have fun.'
"Christian, are you sure you want to take this on?" Judy asked as we walked back into the house.
Catching me completely by surprise I had to consider her question briefly. Thinking she was talking about Carl's latest clash with the cops, I was wondering how to respond. Not that I would consider any other course of action, I actually had little choice anyway, an adoption was indeed forever. I looked back at her, trying to figure out where she was going.
"Five boys at once, that's not a sleep over it's a summer camp!" She exclaimed. "Its fine with me if Timmy sleeps here tonight, but I don't want to put you out."
I was digesting her last statement when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a covey of thin bodies scurry into the hall toward the bedrooms, like a bird dog had flushed them.
'Somebody want to tell me what the f*** is going on?' I pumped into my conscious thoughts.
'Ouch!', 'Hey watch it!' and 'Why'd you stop like that?' were some of the comments I heard from down the hall.
'Now, please!' I mentally broadcast. After a second or so of unintelligible whispers I thought I heard Carl say something like 'Oh shit' Shortly the twins appeared from the hall, very nervous grins showing behind their facebows. I could almost feel the heat from their red faces as I excused myself and they followed me onto the patio.
"We were gonna ask dad, we really were!" Jerry whined, both of them identically wide eyed. I only responded with a glare.
"Well we didn't know Timmy was gonna ask before we did!" Jeff chimed in.
"What are the rules about inviting company?" I snapped, trying to act upset enough to remind them not to make commitments without asking. Their little invisible antennas seemed to push out their headgear straps as they synched, eyes flickering between each other.
"If I say no, Timmy is going to be disappointed, and I'm going to look like the village asshole!" I said, causing their link to go into hyper warp. I noticed Jeff's head cock to the side slightly.
"Carl said he did it. . . I mean maybe Carl asked him, maybe he didn't know about the rule sir." Jeff suggested.
"Yeah dad, he's kind of new, maybe he didn't know!" Jerry chimed in. Jeff immediately agreed, subtly suggesting I should have told Carl about the rule, that I was to blame for the mix-up.
I was about to nail them for changing their story when a reflection from the patio door caught my eye. I glanced toward the door just in time to see two sliver facebows disappear from the glass. I tried to look as if I was in deep thought as I casually stepped out of view of the patio door, then against the house, slipping next to the doorknob.
When I saw what I was sure was a face through the glass I waited several seconds before jerking the door open. I was immediately rewarded with three thin bodies tumbling out onto the patio deck, tripping over each other as they tried to catch their balance. The face attached to each of the entangled bodies turned bright red with embarrassment as the they sheepishly looked up at me.
"Glad you could join us!" I quipped. I waited while the now snickering twins helped everyone to their feet before continuing. "Okay, guys, why is it you are not allowed to invite company without checking with me first?"
After a bit of stammering and stuttering they pretty well expressed what I wanted to hear, that they should coordinate the families' plans before injecting their own. I let them sweat what I felt was enough time to get my point across before agreeing that Timmy could spend the night.
I was pleased how quickly Mike warmed up and relaxed as the afternoon wore on. He and Carl disappeared into Carl's bedroom for an hour or so, I'm sure catching up on old news. When they came out Mike had changed out of his trousers and button up shirt, now wearing shorts and proudly flaunting his new Colorado tee shirt, Carl wearing his matching shirt. He was a little shy about jumping in when the kids launched their afternoon attack on the refrigerator, but I think after he watched the twins inhale their first 10 pounds or so of snacks he dove in, probably afraid there soon would be nothing left.
After inviting Tim and Judy to join us for supper and Dad set out several packages of hot dogs and buns, Judy suggested she could go get some take out potato salad as their contribution. As an after thought she offered to take a couple of the boys, that she would rent them some movies for tonight. Of course everyone wanted to go, Judy telling my boys they had to ask 'their dad.' Not wanting to start World War III, I said the twins then Carl could go, offering Judy the use of our van.
"Can I go pop?, , , I mean Mr. Miller!" Mike asked, turning a little red faced after calling me 'pop.'
"Yes, of course you can, but I think I like pop better." I responded. He gave Carl a somewhat chagrined look, almost asking for approval. I gently grasp the back of his long neck and started guiding him toward the door before continuing "NO kid kills cop movies though; you don't want to give Carl any ideas!" He giggled and leaned against my side until I pushed him out the door toward the other kids.
"You're a neat pop! I wish my dad was you!" Mike declared, leaning into me for a second or so before he rushed to the van.
To Be Continued…