Patient John Doe

Chapter 13

"Surgery! You mean like cut me open again?" Johnny howled, cutting Sanchez off in mid-sentence. "You wanta do it NOW! No WAY!!!" he exclaimed, stepping away from us. He glared at Sanchez for an instant before he pushed his way under my arm, pulling my hand and forearm across his thin chest.

He melted into me as he looked down and his thin fingers clinched my little finger. As he pushed it tightly against his chest I could almost feel his blood throbbing as I did when it was stuffed inside his heart. My arm twitched slightly as if it agreed with him. "Ah, my arm feels a bunch better and stuff, I bet it'll start working by it self, yeah, it will!" the boys proclaimed.

"We are not going to hurt you, do you think I would?" Sanchez asked. "Your dad and I are going to work on you together, and you know he wouldn't hurt you!"

"But you wanta cut me open! Again!" Johnny told my finger more than us.

"We're not even going to put you to sleep. I'm going to make two little cuts in your skin about that long," Sanchez answered, drawing a short line on his tablet. Without realizing it I looked down at the half inch pencil mark probably more intently than my son did.

I ignored my stomach's burst of acid, and my arm's nasty twitch. "And I'm going to be with you, I'll talk to you the whole time," I contributed, pulling him into a tighter snuggle. 'God, am you REALLY committing us to this shit, AGAIN?' I would have sworn my finger ask. "And we will be home, well home to Doctor Sanchez's house for supper! Hey, I'm not going to let anything happen to you, I promise!" I added.

"Yeah, it would be cool for Dad to operate on me," Ronnie said.

"Okay, you get surgeried!" Johnny barked. "I'll even wear your bridle and you get it!"

Ronnie pushed Johnny, and Johnny pulled out of my hug as they turned, facing each other off, before Sanchez stepped between them. "Well, you may think about it for a few minutes if you wish, but I want you to take this anyway," Sanchez told Johnny, holding out a cup with a single pill in it. "It will help your shoulder," the doctor added. I had to bite my lip to keep from snickering when I saw the look on Sanchez face. I ignored my arm's silent request to take one.

"You're an evil man, Charlie Brown," I whispered in the Sanchez's ear as we walked to his car.

The medication kicked in faster than I expected, and before we completed the ten or so minute drive to the hospital Johnny was somewhere between relaxed and giddy, I doubt he would have objected if we told him we were going to amputate both his arms. The hospital staff prepped the lad while we changed clothes and scrubbed for the operation. Shortly I was sitting on a stool next to Johnny's little pixie head, while Sanchez and his nurses began arranging equipment over the boy's thin back.

"Ah, yes, this looks very promising," the surgeon commented a few minutes later as he looked through a microscope. "At least the person that shot him chose the proper ammunition. All of the severed nerves are beautifully clean bisections, this little guy is going to be playing baseball in a year!"

I watched in total amazement for the next hour or so as I relayed requests from Sanchez to Johnny to try and move his thumb, then this or that part of his damaged arm, some of them actually responding. It was hard to keep the boy entertained between instructions as the doctor made one finger, then another twitch as he worked.

"Don't, that tickles!" Johnny muttered with a sleepy giggle. When I asked him where I almost couldn't believe it when he said his right hand. A hand softly touched my shoulder a second later, followed by a nurse patting the tears from below my eyes.

"I believe we are done, put him on a clean IV," Sanchez ordered as he stepped away from the table. He leaned down to Johnny's head and added, "Close your eyes and rest, your dad and I will be in to see you shortly," before gesturing toward me to follow him. "He is a fortunate young man," he told me as we entered the scrub room. "I give him a 95 to 98 percent chance of a full recovery. Let's wash and go talk to your other boys, then get changed, I am very hungry and feel like celebrating," he added as he struggled out of his heavy operating gown.

Both boys darted toward us and pushed into a tight hug with me as we entered the waiting room. They calmed a little was we assured them that Johnny was okay, just sleeping, but their faces clearly expressed their continuing concern. "Well, let's go see him!" Sanchez suggested.

We followed Sanchez down a couple of halls, both boys still firmly planted under my arms. They pulled back as Sanchez opened a door labeled 'Immediate Family Only, No Children Under Fourteen Allowed'. "It's okay," I told them, as I prodded them to continue.

"Yes, I know the nurse, we'll sneak you in," Sanchez added, giving them a wide grin as he gestured them to enter.

The boys relaxed considerably, and I felt a huge weight being lifted off my shoulders as we entered the recovery area. Johnny was laying on his left side, his arm under his pillow, thumb in his mouth again. If it wasn't for the IV line running from the bed he looked exactly like he was in his bed at home.

"He didn't get surgery?" Ronnie whispered. When I told them he had he added, "Well, but that's not what getting surgeried looks like, I've seen it on TV!"

We stood next to his bed for a minute or so before Mark timidly reached out and brushed the hair out of his sleeping brother's eyes. Johnny's right eye opened slightly as he did. "You better get in bed before Pop finds out, he's gonna be pissed," Johnny mumbled before drifting away. Mark, then Ronnie and I leaned over and lightly kissed his forehead as Sanchez motioned us out of the room.

"He is going to sleep for a couple of hours, then we can take him home," Sanchez told us as we walked back down the hall. "Your dad and I are going to change clothes and then we will go have lunch. John might be ready to go home by the time we get back." The suggestion of food magically brightened them, and they stared impatiently after us as we went into the scrub room to change into our street clothes.

"Does Johnny's arm work now?" Mark asked as we drove.

"It will start to work in a few days," Sanchez answered. "It will take a few days for the swelling from his surgery to subside, and he will have to begin doing, , , exercises, until his arm is better. I will teach him how tomorrow, but he needs someone to help him with some of them." He looked over at me and winked before adding, "Would either of you like to help him?"

"YEAH!!! Yeah Dude, I will, I mean yeah, sir, I will" Mark hooted. "Yeah, yes sir!" Ronnie added, his voice bumping up a full octave. They were straining against their seat belts as Sanchez explained he had prepared a CD for our therapists and for Johnny, and would teach both boys how to do therapy on their new brother.

I was going to insist on paying for lunch, despite any objections from Jay, but my credit card groaned as he turned into a huge oceanfront hotel complex a couple of minutes later. "I think you will love their food, they have an excellent chef, my entire family eats here often," he told me as we entered one of its luxurious restaurants.

"Wonderful, a couple of them are here," he added as the maitre d' smartly stepped aside and Jay guided us toward a small corner table, occupied by an attractive young woman and an elderly man. They both stood and hugged him as we followed behind. "Adam, may I present my father, Doctor Sanchez, and my sister-in-law, Mrs. Sanchez. Dad, Angelina, this is Doctor Owens, and Mark, and another Ronnie, Adam's sons." he said.

"Miguel, please," the distinguished elderly man replied, extending his hand. "I have heard much about you, it's an honor to meet you, and your sons."

We continued to exchange greetings and fill them in on our morning, and Johnny's surgery as we moved to a bigger table. A waiter had just served everyone glasses of ice water when big Ronnie, wearing a stiffly starched chef's uniform appeared, hugging each member of his family, then the boys. "Since my other little buddy isn't here I presume you had a good morning, how did it go?" he asked Jay as I shook my hand.

We filled him in, and finished bringing the others up to date. "Fantastic!" he said. "While you order I will go change," he added, looking down at his uniform, "and I'll ride back to the hospital with you. I'm anxious to see the little guy." He stood and started away from the table before turning back, and walking behind the boys. "Yes, it becomes you!" he laughed as he dropped his tall chef's hat on Ronnie's small head. Everyone but my son snickered as the hat dropped down resting on the boy's ears and nose. After a second the lad giggled and pushed the hat back enough to see.

His brother was still laughing and pointing at him when I saw our co-host slip up behind him. He dropped an identical hat on Mark, it sliding over his ears and nose, stopping on his facebow. It took Jay and I both to calm their silly side down before they caused a distraction.

Jay and his unique family continued to fascinate me as we talked during lunch. Angelina was the CEO of a foundation that owned the hotel, along with several more around the country. Started by Miguel's father, the organization, among other things, supported free Children's Hospitals and Aids treatment efforts in Brazil. Ronnie's claim that he was a cook this morning was fairly accurate. He and Jay owned two of the five restaurants located in the hotel, along with several others located in other hotels owned by the foundation Angelina managed. Besides being President of their company Ronnie 'worked' part time as supervising chef for some of the more important events their establishments hosted.

We talked as I enjoyed a lunch that for me normally would have been one of those once or twice a year elegant suppers, to celebrate a very special event. I was watching the boys inhale their second helping of Chocolate Mousse when Jay's cell phone rang. "We better go, he is waking up, and a little grumpy," Sanchez announced. "I suggest we return to the hospital before the nursing staff, , , well I think he is awake enough to go home!" his face finished his sentence for him.

Jay, his partner and I stood as I told the boys we had to go. They in unison looked at me then back at their plates. They both protectively hunched over their plates and glared up at me when I said, "Come on guys, let's go see your brother!" It only earned me an more evil glare from them as they guarded their treats like Jackals.

"Why don't you two go ahead," the older Ronnie suggested. "If it's okay with you, our chow hounds and I will follow in my car." 'I have always heard blood is thicker than water, but I guess not thicker than chocolate!' I snickered to myself as Jay and I rushed to his Hummer.

Johnny was dressed back in his shorts and shoes, pacing around an examination room when we arrived. His eyes were a little dull, but he walked over and leaned against me as soon as I walked into the room. "I couldn't find you!" he mumbled sleepily. "I, well," he didn't finish, instead tucking his little head into my chest. I cupped the back of his head and pulled him against me.

"It's okay Pumpkin, we weren't far off," I told him.

When I looked up Jay had slipped on a pair of latex gloves. He nodded his head slightly toward me and began examining the boy's incisions while I hugged the lad. Sanchez listened to his chest, checked his vitals and even his elbow reactions so discreetly Johnny clearly thought what the doctor was doing was part of my hug.

Jay stepped back a few feet before saying, "What about me, do I get a hug too?" The boy nestled against me for a couple more seconds before he slowly turned and groggily walked to his doctor. They hugged for a few seconds before Jay lied, "What's this, you've got some sleep in your eyes!" as he tilted the lad's head up, checking his eyes. "Well, you want to go home?" he asked.

Johnny rubbed his eyes then mumbled, "You mean I don't gotta get surgeried? Are you gonna fix my arm?"

"Yes, I'm going to fix your arm," Sanchez answered, from his face I could tell he was trying to keep from laughing. "Let's talk about surgery later, for now I want you to wear a, , , sling on your arm, okay? The nurse is going to help you put your shirt, and the splint on while your dad and I go, do a little paperwork."

The boy gave us a frightened look until I added, "We'll be right outside, I promise. It won’t take but a minute."

Johnny shrugged and shuffled along side the nurse to a nearby stool. "I'm hungry!" he called after us. When Jay responded that he had just eaten some beef broth and Jell-O a rather angry glare crept across his sleepy face. "But that's not food! I'm hungry!" he proclaimed.

"Are you going to tell him about his surgery or am I?" Sanchez snickered as we stepped into the hall. "He's doing extremely well, but still a little groggy, and I am somewhat worried about him having too much on his stomach for a couple more hours," he said.

I filled him in on Johnny demand for food intake very shortly after his chest surgery, and how the boy responded. We saw Ronnie and the boys step off the elevator as he considered my statement. "Well, let's take him down to the snack bar, if he's going to eat right now I'd prefer he do it here at the hospital. But I don't think he knows he's at a hospital!" he responded with a grin.

Johnny emerged from the examination room a minute or later. His face flashed somewhat from sleepy to bright when he saw his brothers and joined us, smiling as Mark then Ronnie hugged him. The three of them stayed in a group hug as we guided them into the elevator, then into the hospital's cafeteria. We parked him at a table, and I moved toward the lunch line, Jay and his mate sitting down with what I thought would be Johnny and his brothers, but instead I had Mark and Ronnie appeared in front of me in line, looking up at me with hungry faces as if they hadn't eaten in weeks. "You guys want a snack already?" I asked.

I'm not sure who's eyes were wider, Johnny or big Ronnie's, as we walked back to our table, the boys each carrying a tray with their cheeseburgers, fries and malts, as I carried another with Johnny's lunch and glasses of tea for the adults.

"Good God, they can’t be hungry again, they can't be able to eat again!" big Ronnie whispered toward me. "They just had a four course meal, probably three thousand calories in thirty minutes!" he said as Mark and Ronnie began chomping huge bites out of their burgers, their facebows bending up toward their noses as they attached their sandwiches.

"But that was, , , almost twenty minutes ago!" I responded, looking at my watch for effect. "Not to worry, you are a cook, remember! By the end of the weekend, you might even progress to Fry Cook level!" Jay's chuckle as he poked his partner in the ribs made all three of us adults break into laughs as they boys ate. His face was priceless as I added, "Got'cha back!"

None to my surprise, Johnny revived quickly as he ate. He was slurping in the last of his malted when he started talking about wanting to go swimming and play on the beach. Jay snickered softly before he excused himself, saying he had to go back upstairs for a minute and that we should meet him in the parking log, as we started out of the lunchroom. "A spare, for swimming," he told me, handing me a small package as he unlocked his Hummer. I grinned as I looked in the bag and saw another shoulder immobilizer.

The boys rushed to their bedrooms as soon as we arrived at the Sanchez' home. Jay and I went directly onto the deck as his partner excused himself to shower, and shortly Mark, then Ronnie appeared out the patio door of their bedroom, now wearing Speedos. They wanted to go down and swim in the ocean. "You can only go to the beach with an adult. Let us rest a few minutes, and we'll go," I told them. Their faces saddened slightly, but healed quickly after they jumped into the pool.

Johnny was a minute or so behind, wearing a Speedo and the tee-shirt he had worn to the hospital. "This thing feels weird some!" Johnny announced, pointing at his shoulder immobilizer. "And I can’t get my shirt off!"

"How does it feel, does it hurt or anything?" Jay asked, gesturing the boy toward him. Johnny scampered over to him, jumping into his lap. Sanchez hugged the boy briefly before softly checking the lad's arm and shoulder, so discreetly the boy didn't notice it.

"It tickles, sort of," Johnny said When Sanchez asked him where he pointed at his thumb, then the back of his hand, nowhere near where the splint touched him.

"What about this, does it tickle?" his doctor asked, gently pushing a fingertip against the boy's paralyzed forearm in one then another spot. Sanchez's face brightened, then broke into a smile as his welled toward tears as he watched Johnny's thumb and fingers flex and extend, and Johnny squirm, giggling as his doctor felt around his arm. "Fantastic, you're doing great, I think your arm is going to be fine," he added, pulling the boy's thin frame against him.

"So I don't gotta get surgeried?" Jay and I looked at each other for a second or so.

"Actually, you had your surgery this morning, while you were sleeping," I told my new son as Jay and Johnny stared at each other. He looked at each of us with a disbelieving look before looking down at his chest and arm, asking where.

"Right here, and here," Jay told him touching his back and shoulder blade.

"But you gotta get all those wires and stuff in you when you get surgeried! And it hurts forever after!"

"Didn't I promise I wouldn't hurt you?" his doctor replied. Johnny smiled up at Jay's face and wrapped his good arm around the man's chest.

"Do I still getta go swimming and stuff?"

"Yes, of course. We just have to put a little medicine on before you do, and you can swim to your hearts content!" Jay ignored the boy's concerned face and slid him out onto his lap, removing the lad's splint, then shirt. "Let me go get the medicine, and you'll be ready," he added, replacing the immobilizer. As soon as he scooped the lad off his lap and stood up Johnny ran over to me, watching wide eyed as his surgeon went into the house.

He returned shortly, setting a small tube of cream on the table as he shook an aerosol can. "It won’t hurt, I promise," he told his wide eyed patient. When Johnny's face didn't change he pulled the boy's good arm away from his thin body and sprayed a small amount from the can onto the back of the boy's hand. "See?" he said.

Johnny looked at the glossy film on his hand for a few seconds and smiled up at us. Sanchez turned the boy slightly and shot some of the spray on each incision. "All done," he announced. He scooped the boy up in his arms and unceremoniously tossed him into the pool, his patient giggling like a two year old as he hit the water.

As he sat back down he handed me the meds, saying that for the next week I should spray the wounds before Johnny swims, and rub a small amount of the cream onto each cut after he swims or bathes. "What else do I need to know, what happens from here?" I asked.

"He's going to be on an anti-inflammatory for two weeks, and a course of steroids to regain his muscle strength. He has enough of the anti-inflammatory in his system to last until bedtime, and I have a supply of both inside for you. I want him in the immobilizer for a week, and you can take the sutures out in ten days."

"What about the limb, how will it progress," I asked.

"We have to wait for the swelling to go down to begin to see any major changes, but I really liked what I saw a minute ago," he began. "As I said, I have a CD that shows you, and your PT a series of exercises to help him regain. . ."

"Do those include elbow exercises?" his partner interrupted, setting a tray with a pitcher and three glasses on the table. "This, Doctor Owens, is a PROPER Margarita," he added, cutting Jay a snide look as he filled the salt rimmed glasses. "I know you ended up being at an amateur's mercy last night," he grinned as he handed us our drinks. "But I learned to make these in, , , Cook's School!" he enjoyed watching me blush for a second or so as he sat down next to Jay. "Fill me in too babe, how our little one doing?"

I took a sip of my drink, which was as perfectly prepared as our lunch, and hoisted my glass toward Ronnie as Jay brought him up to date on what he had just told me. "Besides elbow exercises," Jay continued after he took a drink.

He toasted his glass toward his partner adding, "But you cheated, you used Cachaca and Mezcal! I didn't know we had any Mezcal left." (Cachaca is an very sweet liquor similar to Rum, but exclusive to Brazil and parts of South America. Mezcal is a unique form of Tequila sold in Mexico and countries south, but not in the United States and no, contrary to legend, it does NOT contain Mescaline or other drugs but alcohol, and the 'magic' worm!)

"About half a bottle, until Dad goes back to Brazil," Ronnie answered. 'You will in a day or two! Yeah for UPS!' I thought.

After a few seconds of friendly jousting with his mate Jay went on to tell us that Johnny's recovery would take some time, that the boy would have to learn to use his arm and hand again. He was encouraging that much of it would be relearning eye to hand coordination and related skills, but would have to learn to redirect some nerve impulses.

Ronnie and I followed his eyes and watched the boys frolicking in the pool for a few seconds before he added, "He, all of you, have a lot of work ahead of you, but as I said in surgery, if he wants to he can be pitching in Little League next summer." His eyes moistened before he looked away, then stood and retrieved the pitcher of drinks. "I'd like to do a follow-up exam in about a month," he told me as he refilled my glass.

"Can you do it in San Antonio? I would be honored if both of you would come down as my guests, you would love a few days on my ranch." They were exchanging glances when I added, "I've plenty of extra bedrooms, and horses, and the boys would love it! If I have time I'll TRY to teach Ronnie how to cook a briquet, maybe even Fajitas!

"That would be worth the trip!" Jay quipped, earning a dirty glare from his mate.

"They are so precious," Ronnie said toward the pool. We watched as all three boys played in the shallow end of the pool, Mark almost always right at Johnny's side. I would have sworn Mark inspected Johnny's splint and arm a hundred times in the two or so minutes we watched them. "You're a very lucky man Adam, just being near them brightens my day, my whole life," Ronnie commented.

I looked at Ronnie, then Jay's faces for a few seconds as they watched my tribe. "Have you guys ever thought of having kids?" I asked. "Adopting or fostering them?" I added as they digested my comment.

They exchanged glances several times in the next second or so, looking over at me in between. Jay looked back at the pool full of skinny kids and said, "Let's go down to the beach, I bet the boys would love swimming in the ocean!" 'Oops!' I thought as he stood and announced our excursion to the kids.

I excused myself to the restroom as everyone began gathering towels and floats to go to the beach. I dialed my cell as soon as I closed the bathroom door. "Santos, you're an old horse trader that can pull anything off, I need a favor," I began. 'Crooked as a snake, but a good man to know,' I told myself as I rang off.

We all enjoyed playing in the surf for a few minutes, the kids rushing the waves and even trying some body-surfing. I never had been much of a surfer or beach person, and after a half an hour or so walked back onto the beach and sat down on one of the huge beach towels we had laid out, trying to tactfully get the sand and salt out of my crotch. Johnny wasn't far behind me, from his face I could tell his busy day was starting to take its toll on him. He sat next to me and leaned against my chest, relaxing in my cuddle.

"Getting tired, does your arm hurt?" I asked. He leaned his head against my chest as he said he was a little tired, but his arm didn't bother him. Jay joined as I asked Johnny if he wanted to go up to the house and relax.

"No, please, I don't wanta!" the boy exclaimed.

"Come here, let me look at you," Jay said, extending his arm toward his patient. Johnny looked up at me for a second. When I nodded he slowly scooted across the towel to his surgeon. After looking at the lad's wounds, and giving him a quick checkup Jay said, "I think what you need is to relax on the beach for awhile!" He brushed the hair out of the boy's eyes before adding, "Something cold to drink wouldn't hurt, how about some Gatorade? I'll go get it for you!"

"Why don't I get it, I need to go change, I wore the wrong shorts," I suggested as I saw my new son's pixie little face brighten. "I'll be right back," I added after Jay told me where to find an ice chest, and the drinks.

After I rinsed the sand out of my groin and salt out of my hair, I climbed into a clean pair of loose fitting shorts before icing down a chest with a dozen or so bottles of Gatorade. I had to smile as I walked toward the beach and our little group. Johnny was leaning against his doctor as they watched everyone else play in the surf. Jay's arm wrapped around the boy's tight waist, Johnny's working arm grasping Jay's forearm, as he had done with mine so often when he didn't want anything to break a cuddle.

I was about to announce my presence when I heard Johnny exclaim, "Well, but yeah he just sorta loves me. Why won’t he love me, well, let me love him?"

"I think you are wrong, Johnny, your dad, your Doctor Pop, loves you. He loves all of you. I can see it in his face, in all your faces, your family is filled with love for each other." I stood motionless as Jay paused for the better part of a minute. I could see his shoulders tighten before he asked, "Why don't you think your dad will let you love him back? Your dad thinks the sun rises and sets around you, and your brothers. When you give him a hug, or a smile, you make him happier than I think anything else on Earth could!"

"But that's cause he's just sorta happy. Why won’t he love me?"

"What do you think love is?" Jay asked after a pause, his shoulders and neck now tight like a body builders. I carefully sat the ice chest on the sand, trying to decide if I should continue to listen in, disappear back toward Jay and Ronnie's house, or just disappear. "What would you want Adam, Doctor Pop, to do to show he loves you?"

"Well, love me!" Johnny snapped back. "He won’t, and Mark said I can’t or nothing too or he'll get all mad and kick me out if I try! But he's so neat a pop why don't he want me!?!" I sat squat-legged in the sand, thankfully before my knees buckled.

"How do you think you should, you can show your new dad you love him?" Jay asked.

"I can! My old dad made me a lot, I can! I can love him really good with my mouth, and it sorta hurts but I can if he fucks me, I can! Why won’t he!" I could see Jay's stomach try to force its way through his throat even from behind, at least as much as mine did, but he tucked the little guy under his arm a little tighter.

"That's not love, that's, , , do you know what sex is, Johnny?" I heard Jay say despite the speed at which my head was spinning. I couldn't understand what the boy said before Jay continued, "What your birth father did to you is sex, not love! Did you like what he did, when he did those things to you?" Again I couldn't see or hear the response.

"Did you know I'm adopted, just like you?" Jay said more than asked. "I asked some of the same questions you are asking when I was about your age.

"Love is what you and, your brothers, and dad have, what your family has. What my family, what Ronnie and I have. I've seen your face when your dad comes into the room, or when he tucks you in bed, how does it feel, right down here?" I saw him reach around the boy's thin chest.

"That's what love is! When people are in love, not like a dad and his son, but lovers, they make love, but that's not what you are talking about. Do you understand what I'm saying?" He lay his chin on top of his patient's strawberry blond hair. "What your birth father did to you is what a lot of men did to me when I was a boy. That is not love, that is sex, a perverted kind of sex, not like lovers have with each other. Do you understand what I am saying?"

"Sorta," Johnny whimpered. They both were silent for almost a minute before Johnny added, "Well, but, well if he won’t let me give him love, how can I love him back! He's gonna get tired of me if I don't!"

I could only see Johnny look up at Jay, unable to hear what Jay said. They stared at each other for a minute or so before Jay added, "Your dad loves you, I assure you he does! If you want to show him you love you should. . ."

"Dad! What's in the cooler!?!" Ronnie's alto voice whooped above the sounds of the surf. "I'm hungry!" he exclaimed. I wiped my eyes and looked up, and saw him and Mark rushing toward us, big Ronnie following behind. Both boys rushed to me and attacked the ice chest, Johnny a second or so behind them. Thankfully Johnny didn't seem to snap why I was sitting on the beach ten or so yards behind him as everyone enjoyed their drinks.

"This tastes good, anyone getting hungry?" the older Ronnie announced after squirting about half of his bottle of Gatorade into his mouth. The boys looked at each other for a second or so before he turned the squeeze bottle toward them, spraying them with it. All three boys took off after him as he ran toward the house, trying to counterattack with their drinks.

"I guess we get to clean up the mess!" I snickered, as Jay and I picked up the towels and ice chest, following behind. "Thanks Doctor, I didn't mean to listen in." I told him as we walked toward the house.

We were almost to his deck as he turned to answer, but before he could we were drenched with a deluge of water from the deck rail. As we wiped our eyes and looked up, we saw a couple of buckets, held by thin arms, disappear from over the safety rail, followed by giggles and the sounds of scampering feet, one much louder than the others.

"You're a bad influence, Doctor," Jay laughed as we shook the water out of our faces.

The deck, really the house, looked abandoned as we exited the top of the stairs onto the deck. As we entered the kitchen Jay snickered as he pointed a bucket and two large cooking pots strewn on the counter top. After I sat the ice chest in the sink and started toward my bedroom I could hear a shower flowing in Ronnie and Mark's bedroom. 'Well, that's one way to get them in the tub!' I thought. Although it almost hurt to do so, I resisted the urge to reach inside their shower stall and shut off the hot water. 'No, revenge is too sweet not to let it age like a good wine,' I told myself.

The boys were already on the deck, wearing only clean speedos, when I joined them after showering and changing. Their faces were priceless when they saw me, all three of them trying to look innocent so hard the best Director of the old 1920's Melodramas would have gleamed with pride at their performance. "You guys are going to get waterlogged," I told them, tousling their still damp hair. "Or your mouths are going to rust shut," I added toward Ronnie and Mark, holding my thumb and index finger in front of my mouth.

They picked up on my hint quickly, whimpering 'do we gotta,' and 'but Pop'. "Yes sir," Ronnie muttered as they walked back toward their bedroom. They just shrugged when I told them not to forget sun block.

Johnny's face melted too as I told him I wanted him to lay down and rest for a while. He gave me a sad look, complete with the liver lipped frown he had almost perfected, as I unfolded his spare shoulder immobilizer. His face brightened when I added, "Just for awhile, crawl up in a deck chair and rest for a little while."

"I don't gotta go to bed?" he exclaimed as I fitted his splint.

"And not eat my supper? I'd be insulted!" big Ronnie barked as he walked up to us, brushing the back of the boy's head. "You relax out here for a few minutes and I'll make you the sandwich of your dreams, I promise you a great supper!" he added, leading the lad to a nearby chase lounge.

I had to follow behind to put the medicine on Johnny's surgical wounds. Ronnie started back inside as Johnny leaned back, almost instantly totally relaxing into the chair, but bolted straight upright as our chef asked, "Your boys do like Goose Liver sandwiches, with Artichokes and Prunes, don't they?" It took me a couple of tries to convince the lad he wasn't going to have Goose Liver and Prunes for supper, but when I finally got him to lean back he almost instantly fell asleep.

Our chef was at least serious about a sandwich. When he called everyone inside about half an hour later, there was what I'm sure Saddam Hussein would have called The Mother of all Sandwiches sitting on the dinning room table. Made from a loaf of french bread that had to be three feet long, it bulged almost to groaning with four or five different sliced meats and cheeses, and clearly had made a long trip through the vegetable garden. Next to it were multiple choices of chips, dips and snacks. "After our lunch, I though we should eat light," he commented.

"Yeah!" Mark exclaimed. He rushed to the table and pulled the sandwich's tray in front of a chair. "What are you guys gonna eat?" he grinned as he sat down.

"Be careful," I snickered toward Jay and his partner. "If he put his mind to it, he probably could eat the whole thing!"

The several helpings of supper, and I'm sure their long day, caught up with the boys as we finished eating. I ignored their objections when I told them I wanted them to let their meal settle before swimming again, and settled onto the couch in the Sanchez's den and began surfing the TV channels. I helped Jay and Ronnie clear the table, and when I looked in on them ten minutes later Mark and Johnny were snuggled against each other fast asleep. Ronnie was leaning against Mark, his head nodding toward his brother's chest every few seconds.

As we relaxed on the deck for the next couple of hours I somewhat expected the boys to rise back from the dead and appear on the patio. We had wanted to begin Johnny's PT after his surgery, but every time I went inside to check on them they hadn't moved, and we ended up carrying all three of them into Mark and Ronnie's bedroom, depositing them on the large bed. Both of my host's faces were priceless as we watched the boys crawl back into a tight snuggle, never waking up as they did.

"You two would make excellent parents," I commented as we stepped back onto the deck. The silence was almost deafening as we walked back toward our chairs. As we sat down and everyone took a sip of their drinks I thought I would have to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on Jay when I jokingly added, "I can leave a couple of them here, take your pick!"

To Be Continued…