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 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!)
"What's this?" I asked as the boys came downstairs for breakfast the next morning, after their morning swim. Johnny blushed so red his freckles disappeared as he slipped behind his brothers. "Come here, let me see," I added.
"Well, they're Mark's, but can I wear them? Everyone else does for school," he whimpered as Mark pushed him between Ronnie and himself. `Not a bad fit, except for being a little taller, he is Mark's size,' I thought as I looked over my still blushing son, dressed in Cornerstone's uniform shorts and polo shirt.
`God, they are so handsome, no, so beautiful, so cute!' I thought as I looked at my three little stair-steps. Ronnie and Mark's golden blond hair set off the fawn colored freckles on their noses and cheeks, as well as on their bronze tanned arms and thighs. as they hugged their strawberry topped brother, his almost red freckles, starting to reappear. The contrast provided an accent any master artist would have had to spend months perfecting on his canvass.
"Yes, of course, as long as it is alright with Mary," I managed to get out as I extended my arms. "You guys look great, I'm very proud of all of you! Keep working hard, and very soon you'll be wearing that uniform to school with your brothers," I whispered, trying not to sob audibly as I hugged them.
"Dad, is that suppose to be smoking?" Ronnie cried, snapping me back to the real world as he anxiously pointed at the stove.
"Oh shit!" I exclaimed, grabbing the griddle full of charcoal chunks that were almost done pan cakes minutes before. "How about frozen waffles for breakfast!" I suggested as I looked at the probably ruined griddle, several bits of pan cake cremate popping into flame as I threw the pan into the sink and turned the stove's exhaust fan to high.
Steam was still rolling out of the sink as I tried to extinguish the smoldering mess that had been one of my favorite cooking tools, when Mary's voice rang from behind me, telling the kids good morning. "It's good to know the boys have a tasty breakfast every morning!" she snickered, in an almost evil tone, as she stepped to the sink and gave me a `go away' glare. "Don't you need to dress for work before you eat, Doctor?" she quietly asked me.
I called my realtor on the way to my office, after finishing my morning rounds. `I wonder just how dumb he thinks I am?' I thought as I hung up. He was very thankful for the referral, but a little lost as he asked me for details. `Get ready to show the client something in a rural setting, in the 249 th Judicial District, he'll know exactly how to prepare,' I snickered.
Thankfully my morning was fairly routine, really quiet. My computer technician was in the practice, wearing his salesman's face, but did make a great suggestion regarding my needs. Although I was not shopping for new equipment, his idea occupied a fair amount of my thoughts as I met with my next patient. "How long would it take to get the equipment?" I asked the technician a few minutes later." `This guy is hungry!' I thought when he said about an hour.
"If you leave your laptop here while you go to lunch, I can have everything here done before you return," he informed me. "I would need about an hour out at your house to have everything done there."
"I'd like some of this to be a surprise, can you be at the house at three forth-five?" Of course he agreed. `I wonder who's going to happier with their new toy?' I thought as we reviewed his proposal
`This is going to be neat!' I thought as finished checking my e-mail before leaving my office this afternoon. `Damn, this thing cooks!' noted as I undocked my new laptop from its station. `Lots of new toys all around.'
I had to make a couple of stops after my rounds, but made good time getting home. As I walked into the house I was thrilled that Stewart had performed her part of my little plot, and that all the horses and boys were in the back pasture, unaware of the trucks in front of the house. `Beautiful,' I thought as I looked around my study. I dropped my laptop off with the technician before going into my bedroom and changing clothes.
"Thank you, Adam, this will help immensely," Mary said as she stepped in from the patio and joined me in the family room.
"Well, my old PC will help not only Johnny but the other boys," I commented as the workers set it up on the new computer desk, replacing the table Johnny had been studying on. "And I think this will make your life much easier," I added, handing her my old laptop.
She stared at me with a lost face for the better part of a minute. "I don't understand," she mumbled.
"I'm going to use my laptop both here and at work," I informed her as I pointed at the new docking station behind my home desk. "They are installing a network connection for you, so you can plug into the network when you are here, and then take the laptop home to do what you need, it will save you a lot of time."
"But, these are very expensive," she countered.
"A good investment in my sons' future, enjoy it." "Here, why don't you present these to Johnny," I added, handing her a package before she could respond. Her smile expressed her approval.
"What's this, more construction?" Cindy said from behind us.
"Yeah, well, I had a private study for a month or so!" I replied. "Hey, with two women involved, I'm surprised it lasted that long!" I teased, giving her and Mary snide looks.
Mary surprised everyone by countering, "It took that long?"
We spent a few minutes discussing plans for tomorrow evening as the workers and my technician finished up and left. Mary offered to be sure the boys had something to eat before they and I went to the airport to pick Ronnie up. She even volunteered to prepare some snacks for when we returned home, where Cindy and Carl would join us.
"You know you are probably going to get stuck with a spare kid tomorrow night," Cindy quipped.
"I'd bet I'm stuck with him until Sunday or Monday," I countered. "Are you going to let him stay tonight?"
"Are you going to tell them no?" Cindy tittered. "I spoke with the Sanchez at some length this morning. I'll fill you in, and we need to talk about another matter in a few minutes," she added.
The kids burst into the house before I could respond. After a group hug from all four of them, they darted toward the kitchen before turning back and hugging Cindy, then Mary.
"Wow! Check it out!" Junior hooted as he skidded to a stop at my study door. All the other boys joined him, and glanced into the study briefly, before they all turned back from the kitchen for a second time. They made several comments like `Cool!' and `Awesome' before all of them rushed to the refrigerator.
"I think they're impressed!" Cindy giggled. We watched them wrestle bowls of pudding and jugs of milk onto the breakfast bar before Cindy and I excused ourselves to the deck. "As I said, I spoke with the Sanchez's and their Virginia attorney at length this morning, but there is, , , another matter we probably should talk about first," she began.
"I've been delaying bringing this up since you got back, I knew you had a lot on your plate, but the feds are starting to push fairly hard, and I think we, you should respond to them." `Great, what NOW?' I thought.
I'm sure my face portrayed my thoughts, and she added, "It's nothing terribly serious, it's not about the boys or anything like that. Instead about the horses' attack on the FBI agents,"
`Great, a nice juicy PI lawsuit,' I thought. "Am I covered with my homeowner's insurance? I've got some kind of a rider about the ranch land and livestock," I risk.
"It's not about money or damages, they're staying away from that. It seems your horses are in possession of some, some government documents the feds are anxious to recover." I gazed down to the pasture, and my four legged spies for a second before turning back to Cindy with what I'm sure was a completely lost look.
"When all the mess with the mob members, and the threats regarding Johnny, well and all of you began, a couple of FBI agents, well actually two agents and about a dozen Sheriff's Deputies, descended on the ranch, demanding to search your barn and outbuildings for gangsters," she informed me. She began to chuckle slightly as she said, "When they started into the pasture, the several of your horses accosted them before they even got through the gate. The deputies backed off, even refused to accompany the FBI without someone that knew the animals well enough to calm them.
"Junior and I tried, but they challenged me, and from the look they gave my son I told them to forget it. The deputies agreed, but the highly intelligent, know it all FBI agents wouldn't listen." She shook her head as if in disgust, then snickered before adding, "Well, they made it about four feet inside the pasture before Zeus and Zoe disarmed them. One of them suffered three broken fingers, and the other was bitten in the arm and had to have stitches. I think as a warning, or a parting insult, Zoe bit one of them as he turned to run for the gate."
She stumbled over her words, trying to stop snickering, then finally said, "She got him squarely on his backside, he had to have over twenty stitches in his left butt cheek. But she also relieved him of the back side of his trousers, well actually quiet a bit of his pants and boxers. The problem," she said, pausing to regain her composure, "Is that his badge, and FBI credentials, including some very high security electronic badges, were in the pocket of those trousers."
"Junior couldn't retrieve them, trousers?" I asked, still trying to believe what I was hearing.
"Zoe ran off with them. The last we saw she was waving it toward the other horses as she trotted off behind the barn. Junior was able to recover their guns, but he couldn't find the trousers or wallet."
"I need, I mean I'd like another beer," I said as I stood up. I glanced at the pasture in disbelief for an instant before going inside, getting a fresh can for both Cindy and I without bothering to ask if she wanted one.
"While you were up north they threatened to get a search warrant, even a court order to have the horses tranquilized," she continued as I sat back down. "I was able to quell that effort by threatening to go to the media, promising to be most frank about their agents' stupidity. But, they would like their credentials back."
"Yeah, Zoe is going to sell this stuff to Zeus, so he can infiltrate secret FBI facilities," I suggested. "I'm sure the photo ID's wouldn't give him away." We both chuckled as we realized the bun I unintentionally had thrown out regarding the agent's appearance. "Oh, I forgot, the ID's must be facial pictures," I quipped. I hesitated, but couldn't help asking, "I was told three agents were injured, what about the third?"
Cindy giggled like a teenager. She opened her fresh beer as she said, "I couldn't believe that one. The FBI brought in an expert, , , they flew an agent down here from Wyoming who, `knew how to handle horses', he even bragged about being around them all his life. The stupid bastard walked boldly into the pasture like he had good sense, and tried to stare Zeus down when the stallion challenged him. Zoe and Hera each got a bite, one in each side of his butt. Something said for jeans, even the designer ones he was wearing, he only had to get six stitches, but he broke his ankle either running back to the fence, or when Zeus helped him over it with his snout. He was only airborne for fifteen feet or so!" "How do you want to handle the missing ID and such?" she asked.
"I'll talk to Zoe," I answered before realizing it. "I mean, I'll go look for it, and keep an eye on the horses. Can you get me a few days?"
She agreed, then suggested she was running out of time, and changed the subject. "Ronald is bringing everything we need to get the process started," she began.
She went on to explain that, once they had a way to establish residency in Texas, the process to certify them as suitable foster or adoptive parents could go forward while they satisfied the time requirement to become Texas residents. "I do need a certification from you regarding their fitness, if possible by Friday morning. I need a psychological work-up from you too, but I'm sure that will take you a few days."
`That's going to be interesting,' I thought. "We need to talk about that, how to, , , word it and stay both honest and positive," I asked.
"Pop! Thanks POP!" Johnny's soprano voice interrupted. He was in my lap hugging me before I could turn around. "Thanks, they're really mine, I really get to wear them?" he cried. He squirmed in my lap as he lowered his arm from around my neck and pulled a uniform shirt from under his paralyzed arm. "Look, it says Cornerstone Academy and ever'thing, and Mary said they're mine!"
"Very soon, you are going to have to wear them, when you start going to school there," I answered.
"Where is your splint?" Cindy asked, making me notice he wasn't wearing his shoulder immobilizer.
"Mary said I don't gotta wear it all the time now, I just gotta when it hurts or stuff," he told me as his face beamed with pride.
"Yeah, its working and stuff!" Mark hooted as he climbed into my lounge next to me. "Make it do it!" he added, pushing against his brother's arm.
"Yeah, it's cool!" Ronnie added pushing Johnny onto my left thigh as he climbed onto my right. Junior pushed against my arm, flashing an excited look between Johnny and I.
He blushed as red as his hair as he looked around at his audience, then looked down at his crippled forearm, his face tightening in concentration. After a couple of seconds he let out a breath, and turned his head away looking down toward the pasture. I wasn't surprise that Ginger's eyes met ours as I followed his gaze. After a second or so he focused on his arm again as he took a deep breath and held it. "It don't wanta, I don't think it wants ever'one to look at it and stuff!" he whimpered.
"Come on dude, you can do it!" Mark all but ordered. "Come on! He held Zeus's reins even Dad, watch!" he added, pulling his brother's arm into his lap.
Johnny gave Mark a dirty look before looking back toward the pasture briefly, and finally back at his hand. I felt his chest muscles tighten as he leaned forward. The world, even the wind, seemed to silence as we watched his little finger, then his thumb and index finger flexed slightly toward a fist. "Oh my God!" I mumbled as I watched his wrist spasm. "Oh God, oh GOD!" I whispered as I noticed his underdeveloped forearm muscles twitch.
"I'm sorry, please I'm sorry sir!" Johnny whimpered, ticking his cheek under my chin. I was trying to figure out what he meant when he added, "Please don't cry Pop, I'm sorry!"
It took me a second to realize I was sobbing, my tears dripping onto his hair and head. I had to take several deep breaths before I could whisper, "No, son, please don't be sorry, please do it again," I pulled him and Mark more tightly against me, trying to recover. I held them for several seconds, Ronnie and Junior pushing more tightly against me, before I addrf, "Have you ever been so happy it makes you cry? That's why I'm crying, please don't be sorry, PLEASE don't quit trying!" I said as my voice recovered somewhat.
`Oh shit,' I thought as Junior climbed onto my knees and my chair gave a groan even louder than my legs did. `No please!' I silently prayed as I saw Cindy appear over us. Thankfully, Cindy leaned over and kissed Johnny then Mark on the top of their heads. "You can make me cry that way every day," she softly said.
I almost started to cry again, this time in pain, as Junior squirmed toward our snuggle, wrapping his long thin arms around his friends. "Yeah, dude, cool!" He rolled his eyes to me, then up toward his mother as his face offered a wide, silver smile. "Maybe it'll get even better tonight, maybe I should, maybe stay here tonight, maybe I can help or stuff!"
`The little rat is resourceful!' I thought. `A future Congressman, maybe a Senator.' Cindy and I both began to smile as we exchanged glances. "Behave yourself," Cindy almost giggled as she kissed her son on top of the head. "I'll see you tomorrow. Let's do lunch," she added toward me as she started toward the door.
I was impressed how cooperative everyone was about bathing and completing their homework. Everyone lined up in an abnormal single file line, and patiently waited a they waited for me to check their assignments. Ronnie beamed with pride as I finished checking his and found no errors.
"Thanks for your help, Dad!" he gleamed as I handed his work back to him. He pushed his facebow into my cheek and gave me a kiss as he squirmed into my lap. Mark and Johnny pushed against the other side of my chest, slipping under my arm as Junior tucked under my other arm.
"Ah, I kinda got a mail from Stevie, ah, is it okay if he does?" Ronnie informed me, handing me a printout. "Please Dad, his parents said it's okay if you do!"
`Change the server settings,' I told myself as I read the printout and noticed it had been received while Ronnie was suppose to be studying, instead of reading e-mail. "Please Dad, his mom, and his uncle said he can! He can get his school stuff like we did!" Ronnie begged.
"I didn't tell no one nothing, I didn't sir!" Johnny groaned into my other ear. "I didn't and Ginger didn't."
`Enough is enough,' I decided, `Time to put my foot down, be a parent,' I told myself.
"It would be rad to meet him," Junior softly added.
"And he really, really wants to meet the horses and everything!" Mark contributed. All four of them squeezed against me.
`Yeah, well, , ,' I thought. "I'll call Virginia, but it's bedtime," I replied. `Well, a little of a positive reaction!' I silently snickered as all four boys gave me another hug and rushed upstairs. I leaned back into my chair, chastising myself for my poor parenting, when Ronnie reappeared next to me. "Ah, here's your phone, Dad! Thanks DAD!" he said with a wide grin, handing me my cell phone.
I wasn't at all surprised to find all four boys in Ronnie's bed when I went to tuck them in. "We sort'a wanted to celebrate Johnny arm, sir," Junior blushed as he peeked from under the blanket, snuggled tightly into the mass of kids. "I mean if his arm does something we can all help him," he sheepishly added. `A future President?' I thought. `Chairman of the Democratic National Party?'
"If everyone goes to sleep, no talking, not sneaking into my bed," I answered. I got three more smiles as a response as I kissed each of their foreheads and straightened their blankets. "Go to sleep guys, tomorrow's a school day," I instructed.
"Well, ah, what about Stevie, ah, sir. Please Dad," Ronnie injected, just his golden hair and miles deep eyes appearing from under Junior's arm.
"I guess we find out tomorrow night, at the airport," I answered. "But tonight would not be a good night to cross a dad, would it," I hinted, giving them a grin, ignoring their pleading glares.
After I turned off the bedroom's night I paused at the door for a minute or so watching the moonlight reflect off of their angelic hair and foreheads. "I love you guys, all four of you," I whispered before I stepped into the hall and closed their door.
"Ass hole," I growled at my alarm clock as it shattered my slumber. I slapped its snooze button and rolled back over. I was a little surprised, but pleased, when I noticed Buddy was the only other being in my bed, his tongue hanging out of his mouth as his happy face panted at me, his tail vibrating the bed. "How'd you get in here?" I mumbled, in my sleepy state waiting for an answer. "Oh, do you need to go out?" I added in a gulp as I became more conscious. `Shit, I hope it's not too late!' I thought.
"He already did sir," Junior's voice rang from behind me. "Maybe can we go swimming? Please, I don't get to at home, ever!"
I let out a slow breath before turning over, toward Junior and the other skinny boys, clad only in their briefs, huddled together just inside my bedroom door. "I thought you promised to stay in bed," I challenged them in a grumble.
"We did, we really did,"Junior countered. "But I woke up, I didn't wanta miss getting to swim! It's totally awesome, I always do so good in school when I get to!" My sons shy grins perfectly reinforce their spokesman's claims.
"What's it worth to you?" I asked as I sat up in bed. Extending my arms toward them was all the hint they needed and instantly I had a pile of kids, along with Buddy, smothering me in a group hug. "Get some towels to wrap in, in case Mary arrives," I told them as we exchange cheek kisses. "Go, or you might have to thread water in my bed," I added as my bladder demanded relief. `Don't forget your towel, Buddy,' I silently snickered as the little dog leaped off the bed and stumbled behind as his two legged friends dashed out onto the patio.
I was glad I donned a tee-shirt and gym shorts before I plodded toward the coffee pot when I saw Mary in the kitchen, preparing our breakfast. "You are putting on too many hours, Mary," I told her as I accepted my full coffee cup from her. "Damn, you'd think you live here."
"It's going to be a busy day," she answered. "Besides, my apartment gets lonely." She paused, looking out the window at the pool for a couple of seconds before saying, "And, I was hoping to get to watch you cook some more hotcakes!" `Ouch,' I thought.
After breakfast and hugging the kids goodbye for the day, I was synchronizing my new laptop before undocking it, enjoying my new toy, when I heard Mary tell the boys, "Remember to report to the office at one fifteen, Johnny and I will pick you up. Do both of you have your headgears?" Junior, Ronnie and Mark were rushing down the drive to catch their bus by the time I re-entered the family room. `Yeah, well, a Doctorate level parent I am, not,' I chastised myself as Mary reminded me that Mark and Ronnie had a dentist appointment, and that she had, as I had asked, scheduled an evaluation for Johnny at the same time.
Ginger, Hera and a couple of other horses were saddled, staring at me over the pasture fence as I stopped in front of the house after work. >From Ginger's glare I knew better than to go campaign for horse owner-of-the-year award, and went inside. "Hi Pop!" Johnny hooted as I entered the family room, all four boys diving off of their stools and rushed to hug me. `Great,' I thought as I looked down at their tomato laden faces, burying into my chest and shirt, then at the devastated trays of pizza on the breakfast bar. `Oh well, its wash and wear,' I thought as I looked down at my now smeared thirty dollar shirt.
"Look, come and look, Dad!" Ronnie exclaimed, prodding me away from the group wanting to lead me toward the kitchen. "We're making Whore Drawers, like Ronnie taught me!" he howled as he pointed toward the kitchen counter. "Ah, I mean Whore's Doors," he added in a voice that was at least an octave higher. He flushed so ashen his golden blond hair seemed to lighten toward platinum as his eyes met Mary's. "Well those yummy things you put on crackers and stuff."
I bit my lip to keep from laughing as I looked between my Nanny and my son, he was as embarrassed as she was frustrated. " `Or-derves', son" I tried, carefully phonetically pronouncing the word. "Say it, that way, try to, okay?" I began to think I was turning his cooking adventure into an overload as I looked at his face, then Mark's as the younger brother pushed his way under my other arm. "Say it, it's okay," I added, pulling both of them against me. Ronnie blushed still another time before all but whispering my correction.
"These are not like you prepared last time," I commented as I tasted a sliver of cheese from the tray. "Where's your hat, you cant cook Ronnie food without a chef's hat!" I announced, trying for a worried look. They exchanged intense glances before both of them pulled out of my snuggle and darted upstairs. I snickered as I watched Mary's face as her usually golden haired charges rushed back under my arms, all but their bangs and the hair below their headgear neck straps now covered with their stiffly starched white hats.
"Pop, Pop look, I getta get my teeth fixed, I geta go back!" Johnny announced, slipping under my arm as soon as Mark vacated it. He stuffed his thin little body behind my chest, and peeked out with only about half his pixie little face showing as Mary turned back, giving him a harsh glare. "I mean I'm gonna get to, I mean the doctor said I can go back so he can fix, ah he said he has gotta fix my, I mean I'm suppose to go back with my Dad," he finally tried, pushing an appointment card into my hand. "Well, if it's okay sir! Please, if you'll go? They said the lady at your office said you can, please if you can, please?"
`If you only knew what you are getting yourself into,' I thought as I looked at the Orthodontist's appointment card, scheduling a consultation to discuss his treatment plan for Johnny.
"Well, if my nurse said it's okay, I guess I can," I answered. I let him stew for a few seconds before adding, "Of course I will, I'm thrilled you want to take such good care of your body."
"We must finish our hois d', , , our snacks, and all of you must bathe and dress, you must leave for the airport soon," Mary interrupted. "Two of you help me, and who is getting in the shower first?"
"If you can spare him, I would like to talk to Johnny briefly," I told her, keeping the boy next to me. The three kids exchanged worried looks as I turned Johnny and guided him toward my study.
"Its okay, your are not in trouble or anything son!" I said, trying to reassure him as I closed the door. He stared at me as if waiting his sentence in purgatory as his only response. "I want you to help me a little more, about our secret, about Mr. Sanchez coming. Just for a few minutes," I added as I ignored his worried face and retrieved what I needed from my laptop case.
"When we get to the airport, I am going to stuff this under your shirt," I said as I pulled the back of his tee-shirt up. "When you and your brothers meet Ronnie, get in front of him, and pull it out like this, and point it so my camera can read it, can you do that?" I asked as I let the pleated cardboard stiffened printout fall open for him to read.
"What's that say? Is no one gonna be mad at me or stuff?" Johnny whimpered, before almost begged "What's a Yankee, too?". He looked at the poster, then me again before he giggle, "You're gonna get me in trouble! Mister Ronnie is gonna be pis. . . I mean mad!" "For a Dad, you're a weird Pop!" he hooted as he pushed his forehead under my chin and melted against me.
I began to wish I had visited the tack room at the ranch as we made our way through San Antonio's busy airport an hour or so later. Junior, Mark and Ronnie were somewhat hyper, taking in all the sights, but Johnny was almost ballistic, disappearing into the crowd each time we neared a window offering a view of the runway and arriving aircraft. `Why didn't I bring a halter, or maybe a bridle?' I asked myself as I caught up with him for the tenth or so time. `Kid's shirts should be equipped with leather collars, maybe with handles,' I thought as I guided him toward Ronnie's gate, a death grip around his thin neck.
"That is his airplane, he will be here soon," I told my little prisoner as we watched a silver jet taxi to the gate. "Are you ready, do you remember what to do?" I asked, as much to distract him as anything else.
He started to twist around to face me, but turned back, pushing his thin shoulders and back against me. I felt his arm push between my stomach and his back as he probed under his shirt briefly. "I hope he don't get mad or nothing!" he whispered.
"It's going to be great, you'll do fine," I whispered into the back of his head as I hugged him.
"There they are!" I told him several minutes later, as Mark and Ronnie rushed forward, hugging Steven, then his uncle. "Go on, you can do it, you'll do great!" I added as I prompted him toward our guests.
He did, after giving me a shy glance he embraced the group, giving Stevie a high-five and big Ronnie a shy smile. I just had time to adjust the zoom on my camcorder when he turned around, pushing his thin frame into the middle of the group, and pulled my sign from the back of his waistband, allowing it to unfold into the camera's view. `Yes, Ronnie is going to kill me, but this is priceless,' I thought as I shot my video.
I enjoyed watching through the viewfinder as Johnny shifted his thin body more against his brothers, giving me another angle of the group. I was about to turn the camera off and go to great my guests when I snapped to what I had seen. `Holy Shit, this can't, , , God, did I see that?' I asked myself as my eyes tried to pop out of their sockets and through the camera lens.
I moved the camera off to the side, and blinked several times, trying to refocus, and partly to wash the tears from my eyes, my eyes and brain refusing to cooperate.
"Adam, Adam, are you okay?" Ronnie's voice somewhat snapped me back to reality. As I look up big Ronnie was wrapping his arm around my shoulder to support me as the boys crowded around.
"Wow," was all I could muster as a response. "Ah, yes, I'm okay, I, just was startled," I managed to utter. "Where's Johnny, please come here?" I asked as I tried to clear my head. "Let's go home, do you remember where the car is?" I whispered to him as he pushed under my arm.
As we walked to my car I managed to recover somewhat, at least enough to drive. None to my surprise Zoe, Hera, Ginger and several other horses were waiting, staring down the road as if waiting for us, as we approached my ranch.
"Come on dude! They're sooooo cool!" my Ronnie told Steven as all the boys rushed out of the car, to the pasture fence, almost before I had come to a complete stop in front of the house.
"Don't be long, it's getting late," I yelled after them. "School night," I added, doubting I was heard.
"This is, well, more than beautiful," Ronnie announced as he climbed out of the car and looked around. "So tranquil, so, relaxed. Where are your neighbors?" he asked as he we wated toward my front door.
"The nearest neighbor is about two miles away, I've only met him one time," I answered, gesturing him inside. He still seemed to be miles away as I introduced Mary, Cindy and Carl, as we walked into the family room.
He politely, but distantly, greeted them before drifting to the patio door, gazing out at the sun gently slipping behind the mountains at the back of my pasture. "Well, Stevie seems to be comfortable!" he commented as we stepped out the door.
We looked over his shoulder as Steven walked a now saddled Zoe out of the barn. `You're dead meat!' I thought as my Ronnie appear right behind, leading Zeus. `You are all dead, cooked meat!' I silently grumbled as I watched the other boys walk their now saddled horses outside. They mulled around for several seconds, seemingly talking to Steve about his mount, before they noticed us.
After a series of timid grins, Ronnie pointed toward Zoe as he put one foot in her stirrup before looking up the hill toward me, all their faces changed to pleading expressions. I waved for them to come to the house, which earned me another set of sad, begging looks, before they all ran toward us.
"Please Dad, just for a little," Mark whimpered as he pushed against me.
"Please sir, Stevie's gotta or he's gonna die!" Ronnie added. I tried to nail him for saddling my stallion without permission, but my attempt went unheard from everyone's pleas. `Well, you can be an ass-hole later,' I told myself as I looked at them.
"Go change clothes, and I want those horses in the barn, being groomed, by dark. You've got half an hour after dark to be inside the house." I received an almost instantaneous, five way hug before they darted upstairs.
In what had to be record time they were back downstairs, and darted out the door and down to the pasture. "My God, he has clothes," Ronnie exclaimed he looked at his disappearing nephew. Steven was wearing what I was fairly sure were a pair of my Ronnie's jeans, a snug fit around his hips and backside, but the classic high-waters from `Spanky and Our Gang', showing his ankles and an inch or so of his lower calf.
"Yeah, but it would have taken an extra thirty seconds to get them out of the car. That's valuable riding time!' I quipped.
After serving everyone drinks, we settled on the patio, and chatted about their flight and such for a couple of minutes while we watched the boys ride, Buddy tagging along like another horse. As the subject drifted toward plans for tomorrow and the weekend, Ronnie verified that he had all the documentation Cindy had asked for, and they agreed she would meet him at the ranch to go over their strategy first thing in the morning. Ronnie announced he would like to go to the hotel their foundation owned in San Antonio sometime in the morning, to meet with some people and pick up a company owned car he had reserved for his use while here, suggesting we meet for lunch there.
I told him my realtor was anxious to work with him, and waiting for his call. "I'm afraid I wasn't very helpful as far as informing him what you were looking for, what kind of property did you have in mind?" I risked.
"How much do you want for this property?" he asked without hesitating. At first I snickered, presuming he was joking, until I looked at him, from his face I was fairly sure he was not.
"Sorry Dude, but they have not printed that much money, it's not for sale at any price," I answered as I heard the boys happy voices in the distance.
"Please forgive me, I did not mean to insult you," he answered. "I didn't really know until we arrived here, but, I do now. This is the most beautiful place I think I have ever visited. The flavor, the tranquility, the scenery and view, everything. If they had filmed Dallas here, it would still be on the air, this is bigger than life. If your agent could find a duplicate of this, I would buy it tonight."
"Actually, Adam, if you threw in the kids, you could come out way ahead," Carl injected. "I would be happy to donate Carl Junior, just to sweeten the pot!"
"Not unless he takes Jennifer too!" Cindy chimed. We all had a good laugh as they jokingly dueled several rounds about which kid they wanted to dump on Ronnie. "See, he wont behave that well at home," Cindy added after a minute, pointing toward the pasture as they boys walked the horses into the barn, still a bit of dusk's light showing behind the hills.
Cindy and Carl excused themselves shortly after the boys returned to the house. After I sent the kids to retrieve the luggage from my car, then upstairs to bathe, I suggested I call my realtor so he and Ronnie could talk a few minutes, giving him a little time to prepare for he and Ronnie's meeting tomorrow.
"He immediately thought of three listings he wants to show me," Ronnie announced as he hung up the phone. "He said he had shown you one of them before you bought here. He is also going to join us for lunch, then show me what he has found. Do you have any time tomorrow afternoon, that you might be able to join us, if I find something I am interested in?"
I synched my new laptop with my office, then beamed a hot-sync to my PDA, enjoying my new toys, as I answered. "I asked my nurse to clear as much of my afternoon calender as possible tomorrow. "Yes, if we can do lunch at 11:30, I have one afternoon session, and I'm free before two o'clock," I told him.
He noticed either a noise or movement in the family room before I did. When we stepped out of my study Ronnie and Steve were walking into the family room, both of them lugging a stack of blankets and pillows in their arms. Ronnie's jaw dropped as he saw me shaking my head from side to side. "Please, Dad, we'll be good!"
"It's a school night, no way. You ARE sleeping in your beds tonight, and everyone is going to sleep, no talking." From his face I could tell he was formulating a counter attack when I added, "I don't think you really want to screw up your chances of sleeping down here the rest of the weekend by arguing or such, do you? Bed time, everyone in bed, we will be up in a minute."
They looked at each other for two or three seconds before turning and starting back upstairs. They were only four or five steps up the flight when Johnny and Junior appeared on the upper landing, each laden with more bedding. I grinned with pride as I watched Johnny, carrying almost as much in one arm as the others were in two arms cast a downtrodden look at the bottom of the staircase, and turn back to his room.
"They are so refreshing, so rewarding," Ronnie said. "You are so very lucky, I pray this works for Jay and I." When I didn't respond for a second or so he asked, "I didn't get to asked you what happened at the airport, are you okay?"
I whipped my eyes before looking at him. "Let's go get them tucked in bed, and I'll show you." "I still need to edit it, but I have a few seconds of video that, well, that says it all," I said, trying to keep my voice from breaking, as I started upstairs.
I wasn't very surprised to find Junior, Ronnie and Steven cuddled together in Ronnie's double bed. "Well, please, Dad, we'll go to sleep," Ronnie whimpered. "We promise we will!"
"Just so you get some rest, I don't want any calls from school," I answered, kissing each of them on the top of their heads, including Steven, before I realized I had. "Sleep good guys," I said as I tucked the single mass of boy bodies under their blankets
I started out of the room, but stopped next to the door when big Ronnie leaned over their bed, then sat on the edge of it. He whispered something I couldn't understand before he kissed each of them, and adjusted the covers I had just arranged. He sat in to edge of the bed for probably a minute or so before standing and joining me at their door. His face said a thousand words as he glanced between me and the boys, their hair and foreheads reflecting the moonlight from the window.
I didn't realize he had followed me to Johnny's room, assuming he was still soaking in the beautify of his nephew and his bed-mates. As I expected, a bush of Johnny's Strawberry hair and his pixie nose were all that were showing out of the covers, but a lump was visible next to him. I carefully pulled back the covers and kissed Mark, and was tucking the bedding around Johnny's face when I felt something push against my back and shoulder.
"Do they always sleep like that?" my guest whispered into my ear. "They are so wonderful," he gasped, his voice barely audible. "All of them are."
I felt comfortable, almost honored, as I silently shared what was becoming my nightly ritual of watching the boys sleep, with Ronnie for probably ten minutes before going back downstairs.
"Please sit down, I'll show you what makes all this worthwhile," I told him, gesturing to the seating in the family room. I grabbed my camcorder out of my study and connected to the big screen TV. "I still don't believe this," I told him as I searched for the footage on its Smart-card I wanted to show him. "Here it is, watch this!" I announced as an image of Johnny, holding up my sign, began playing.
He shifted in his seat, cutting his less than thrilled eyes toward me as we watched Johnny flash a wide grin and hold up my folding sign reading, `Yankee Fry Cook, Report Here!' "He, is cute, with his little grin," Ronnie grumbled, clearly trying to keep the anger out of his voice. "But, Jay is going to hang that over my head for ever, I wish you had not, , ,"
"No, you missed it, you missed the staggering part of the recording," I exclaimed, still trying to believe what I had seen earlier. "Watch carefully, here, I'll slow it down, watch his right arm and hand," I ordered more than asked. He gave me a questioning glare, but turned his attention back to the screen.
"Look, look, right there!" I exclaimed. We both pushed forward out of our seats as we watched Johnny turn his sign toward my camcorder, then reach with his right, paralyzed arm to straighten the sign for the camera.
"Holy Mother of God. Rewind it," Ronnie muttered. "Hurry, has he ever don't that before?" he asked.
"Not that I know of, not since his, , , injury. I couldn't believe it either, I'm not sure is do now," I answered as we watched the footage again.
Without asking he stood and walked behind the bar, returning quickly with a bottle of Tequila and a pair of shot glasses, along with a salt shaker. A few seconds later he was back from the kitchen with several slices of lemon. "Play it again, please," he asked.
We watched the scene a couple of times as we enjoyed three shots of Tequila. "You have to send this to Jay, immediately! It will make his day, no his week, his month!"
I started to object to his suggest, that it was getting late and I had to work tomorrow, but his facial expression, along with the rimming full shot glass, and freshly cut lemon slice he was offering me made me hesitate. "But, I'm switching back to beer, or I'll be prescribing a Shock Treatment to myself tomorrow," I answered.
I spent five minutes or so editing at least some of the trash from the video, trying to slim all I could away, before attaching it to a new e-mail message. I had just written the text explaining to Jay what I was sending and was about to hit send, when I heard Ronnie in the background.
I sent the message and turned around, he was talking his cell, clearly to his mate. "You HAVE to get home and see this, IMMEDIATELY!" he proclaimed.
A few minutes later his cell rang again. He answered and spoke briefly before handing the instrument to me. "Adam, this is, is all but unbelievable, if it was from anyone but you and Ronnie I would not have discounted it as a fabrication video! Did you really see this?" I gave the phone a glare, trying to resist the urge to nail him when he continued, "Excuse me Adam, that was very poorly worded.
"Recovering voluntary control of the biceps, or triceps, well any of the Humerus related nerve bundles is impossible, I mean we thought impossible, this early. I am trying to enhance the video, but I think I saw what could be some involvement of the Orbital, or at least the Glenoid Cavity. Any of this should take at least three months, often longer before it begins to happen."
I was reviewing my anatomy when he added, "I need to examine him, as soon as possible and adjust his treatment schedule. I have two surgeries tomorrow morning I cannot delay, but I've asked Dad to send his airplane back up here, and I think I could be in San Antonio by mid afternoon."
`Holy shit, what did I stir up?' I asked myself. He continued before I had any more time to think, all but demanding I arrange an examination faculty he could use, both for tomorrow afternoon and Saturday if needed. `Wow, thanks,' I thought as he listed the advanced MRI, X-ray and other equipment he would need.
`Hello Doctor Ebestein, hello Doctor John, I thought as I rang off and considered my options. `You guys want to visit a Horse Ranch? Maybe a Horse and Kid Ranch?'
To Be Continued…