Carl tossed and twisted for a few minutes. Finally fatigue got the better of him and he drifted off to sleep. I wasn't far behind him, this indeed had been a long day.
He was still gone to the world when I awoke. I congratulated myself on my own stupidity for a few seconds, I know better than to over do it with liquor. Finally I convinced my head to stop throbbing enough to gain some balance and staggered to my feet.
I quietly dug through my travel case until finding what I needed. After carefully arranging the covers as I tucked him in, I headed for the kitchenette and some much needed coffee and crawled on a stool. I got up to pour another cup and glanced at the clock. The boys were due at snow boarding lessons in slightly over an hour, 'just enough time for a quick breakfast' I thought.
Preheating the oven I spread three dozen canned biscuits onto baking pans. I started browning a couple of packages of ground sausage and preparing a large bowl of gravy while I waited for the oven. I had only had the biscuits in the oven for a minute or so when a pair of long thin arms wrapped themselves around my waist.
"Hi dad!" Jerry's sleepy voice whispered. Jeff almost immediately pushed his bony chest under my arm.
"What are you two doing up already? I figured I'd have to drag you out of bed!"
"Well we were wondering what's for breakfast." Jeff muttered, pushing against me as he looked through the oven's glass door. "Those are the buttermilk ones!"
I glanced into the oven. 'They haven't even started to rise, a drug sniffing dog couldn't smell that!' I thought, looking at the still cold biscuits. Knowing better then to ask I turned around to hug the twins, clad only in briefs and headgear.
"Hey, you guys better get dressed, remember it's cold in Colorado?" I said, pulling them against me. "Wake Timmy and Carl too, you got lessons this morning. Oh, Carl is in my bed, DON'T move his covers, okay." I ordered as I released my hug. I listened toward my bedroom door as the twins left the room climbing the stairs.
"Ouch!" Carl's sleepy voice echoed around the corner. "What? WHAT?"
As I walked into the bedroom Carl was rubbing his eyes, looking between me and the bed.
"Good morning son!" I began as I walked toward him. I stopped about a foot or so from him and stared at the sheets.
"What's this, are you shedding, do you feel okay?" I asked, picking up my old writing quill from the sheets. "Good God boy, don't molt here, you'll freeze to death!"
I got a couple of different dirty looks before he pushed up against me. I only hugged him for a second or so before he pushed away.
"I gotta pee!" he announced, rushing out of the room.
He was almost behind me as I returned to the kitchenette still wearing only his underwear. He gave me a small hug before climbing up and wrapping his legs around my waist, pushing his face into my neck. I cuddled him for a minute or so before picking up off the quill the counter.
"Hey, you better get some clothes on before you lose all these, here is another one!" I said, poking him in the butt with the feather and holding it in front of him.
"You're mean!" he hooted, pressing against my chest.
I felt somewhat like the piped piper as we skied toward the lift chairs. Timmy and Jerry had rushed ahead to the 'Kensington Condo' and I had probably ten parka stuffed little rats following along. I left the kids at the lifts that would take them to the snow board area and their lessons and grabbed a lift chair to the ski slopes.
After loosening up on the bunny, then intermediate slopes for an hour or so, I decided it was time to let off some steam and grabbed a chair for the advanced runs. I made two fairly careful runs, enjoying the wind in my face and the adrenalin flushing the stress out of my body.
"God, this is life!" I thought as I dropped off the lift chair for my next run.
I pushed over the summit right in the middle of the run, and was soon diving down the hill at flight speed. I made two cuts around the trail with what I considered perfect form, mentally acknowledging that I was still young and agile, but not for long. As soon as I leaned into my next course change I knew I had screwed even before my skis went out from under me.
Thankfully I plowed into a soft, fairly friendly snow drift. I spent probably a minute taking inventory of my body, not finding anything that was broken or missing.
"Mr. Miller, Ski Patrol, are you injured sir?" a voice came from above me. I recognized one of the three ski patrol pushing the snow off of me as he continued "We have paramedics on the way sir, are you hurt? Where are your agents, can we call them sir?"
"Thanks I'm fine." I replied as they helped me to my feet. I thought back to yesterday briefly before continuing "Ah, I'm sure they are taking care of the kids. I like to be alone sometimes. But thanks for your concern!"
I couldn't help but snicker as I slid down the rest of the run. 'How much had they searched the high ground for Tim's mountain snowman looking form, how well are we known on the slopes now?'
My ribs, that I thought had healed, suggested they at least were done on the advanced course for the day. Knowing better than to anger them any further I caught a lift toward the snow board area to check on the kids.
Everyone in the class was making runs, with the instructors giving pointers in between, when I arrived. I stood off to the side for a few minutes before Jeff noticed me, cruising over like his snow board was his much more familiar skate board from home. After we talked for a couple minutes Jerry and Chastity slid up, causing me to squint from all the metal glaring out from parka hoods.
"The cops are sure watching us" Jerry began. "Carl wiped out a little while ago and two of them ran over and helped him real quick!" I snickered and was about to reply.
"Yea and they don't pay any attention when the other kids eat it" Chastity added.
"I think they know us now." I commented, briefly filling them in on my experience. We chatted for another minute or so before I told them I was going back to the condo for a little while, informing them they could check in by calling my cell after they finished their lessons. Reminding them we had reservations to take a wildlife tour on snowmobiles this afternoon I asked them to be back at the lodge at noon and pushed off toward the condo.
After making a cup of hot cocoa, I powered up my laptop. Although I was on vacation my job required me to check my mail periodically, and I decided to get it over with. I had two messages in my in box, one from Tim and one from Bob Gordon. I opened Bob's first.
"Christian:" it began.
"It is 0200 local (2:00 AM military time) so I will brief. As soon is I send this I'm going home, to get a least a few hours sleep.
"On behalf of the Director, and the entire Bureau I wanted to thank you and your family for sacrificing part of your holiday to perform what was much more than your civic duty. Considering the assistance you provided this agency in solving a most major investigation, it is my professional opinion and recommendation that you and your youngest son's efforts be rewarded with commendation. I will be formally making such a request shortly.
"We are still in the early stages of our activities. However so far, as a result of your selfless efforts this agency has, based on information your son provided:
“1. Incarcerated ten individuals on child pornography, slave trafficking, promoting child prostitution and other charges.
"2. Recovered three minor children being held against their will.
"3. Seized two web servers and eight personal computers.
"4. Seized over sixty gigabytes of pornographic material. Based on seizure of this material we shortly expect to file for forfeiture of two homes, an ISP and a motel.
"Additionally, we expect in the next few days to shut down similar rings in two other cities. During this effort we expect twenty or so additional arrests.
"Thank you again for your help.
"Robert Gordon, J.D. Special Agent in Charge, South Central Region Federal Bureau of Investigation"
It took almost as long to read who he cc'd (copied) as it did to read his message. My supervisor, our Installation Commander (a three star General), on to the Director of the FBI) included.
I didn't realize I had consumed my hot chocolate as I read until I took a sip only getting air. 'Yea Carl, who would want a kid that can do all that in an hour.' I thought, cursing myself for not buying one of those portable printers.
Tim's message was shorter.
"Dude, you should be here just to watch the news. Last night they did a quick piece on the raids but this morning it took up about a third of the broadcast! Judy is taping them for you.
"BTW your name is mud here at CPS, we are getting swamped. All the referrals from the raids are hitting us at once. Gonna be a long week, hope you get frost bite! :-)"
I wanted to show the boys my e-mails when they came back for lunch, but as enthralled in the day's adventures and excited about this afternoon's trip as they were, I would have had to strap them down. As soon as they shed their snow suits they all but shoved me out the door and toward the lodge. The European cuisine was offering a deli buffet, and by the time my tribe had finished ravaging the Kosher meats and breads I'm sure there were several cross eyed Rabbis around Colorado, but soon we were on our way back to the condo.
From everyone's behavior at lunch I expected the kids to tear seams rushing back into their snow suits, but they seemed to stall, mulling around in the mud room. I watched the twins spend almost a minute in full synch, their little antennas protruding from their heads so hard I would almost swear I could see their headgear straps bulge out. While they were linking Timmy stepped toward me. He looked at me for a second or so and started to turn around, only to be bulldozed forward by Jeff.
"Ah, Mr. You. . . I mean Mr. Pop, ah pop," he began. "Well can, , , well never mind sir." 'What now?' I thought. Jeff pushed against him before he reluctantly continued
"Well can Ella go this afternoon? She thinks she can if you ask that lady."
"I think 'that lady' has a name?" I snapped, my heart not really in my correction. "And what about Chastity, and the girl you are always with?" I asked, looking directly at Jeff. The twins immediately developed identical facial expressions saying 'Oops, we're caught'. "Carl, did you have anything to asked?" He whimpered something about Erin.
"Yes, they can go, I'll go see Miss Armstrong, that's not a problem."
"Ah, dad, ah, we wanted to ask you, too." Jeff continued almost immediately.
"Okay?" I asked after waiting for several seconds, the twins eyes flashing in hyperlink
"Well, well there's a sorta carnival tomorrow night, and Chastity and Ella and everyone thinks maybe they can go to it if you go too, sir. Will you ask her if they can go with you?"
I bit my gums before responding, 'is it finally time to have that birds and the bees talk?' I wondered.
"Sorry guys, I don't set up dates. I'd love to go the festival (they were talking about a 'Torch Light Festival' at the Village, a lodge right below us, I was going to take them anyway) but you guys have to invite your own dates."
"Dates!" Timmy whined. "We don't wanta go on dates or stuff, that would be yuckie!"
"We just want them to go with us!" Jerry chimed.
"If they want a drink or something, who's going to pay for it?" I asked.
"We got some money, we got our Christmas money even, we will, please dad?" Jeff responded. I had to look away as I rolled my eyes back. 'Definitely its time for THAT talk' I told myself.
"You guys want to escort these young ladies to the festival, pay for their evening, but you're not taking them on a date. I understand." I waited for their embarrassed blushes to subside before continuing "You may tell Miss Armstrong I will be going to the festival with you, she is welcome to talk to me about it, fair?"
I'm sure realizing that was the best they were going to get, they rushed out toward the Kensington condo.
The snowmobile trip was perfect. Carl and Timmy, having never ridden a snowmobile before almost instantly mastered the vehicle, all totally impressing the female 'friends' riding behind them, arms glued around the boys' waists (God forbid the thought they had dates!). Watching a pair of Moose graze and several other wildlife sightings as we rode made for a wonderful afternoon.
When we got back to the condo I got no arguments when I sent everyone to bathe while I ordered out for supper, no arguments either about pizza from the lodge.
I booted my laptop again to show them the e-mails I had gotten this morning. I had another new message, from Sandra. She just said hi and that I should open the attachment she had sent. I had to blink tears out of my eyes as I read the attachment, a scan of a hand written note.
"Hi Carl, its Mike." It began "Mrs. York told me you are the 1 that got us found and well thanks! My mom and dad are coming here tomorrow and I get to go home YEAH!!! She said you got a new home too KEWL! Thanks dude I love you! Mike. Oh she said we can write to each other but she has to send them. write me ok!"
I'm sure the high school kid that delivered out feast had no idea how lucky he was. Almost immediately after the door bell rang I heard the thunder of footsteps racing down the stairs, but the twins only got to snap at his empty fingers one or two times as I pushed the door closed. The five large pies I ordered lasted about five minutes before everyone was attacking the ice cream from the kitchenette.
I waited until they had stuffed the last of the pizza boxes in the trash and washed their ice cream bowls before calling Carl to join me on the couch, bringing my laptop back to life. As we read the message from Gordon together I could feel the twins and Timmy closing in, reading over my shoulder. Carl was only slightly impressed but the twins were pushing against his shoulders congratulating and cheering him.
When I opened the attachment from Mike he scanned it quickly before jerking the laptop away from me, studying the screen again.
"Wow!" he whispered. "Wow, he's, , , yeah, YEAH!" he shouted, jumping toward me and throwing his arms around my neck. I just had time to watch my three thousand dollar laptop fly out of his thighs and begin its nose dive toward the floor before he pressed his face against mine. "He's okay, he's okay now!" he cried.
The six armed monster behind us quickly joined in the hug, Timmy falling over the couch and landing next to us, the twins almost choking me.
"Why is Mike safe now?" I asked Carl as everyone began to calm down.
"Well, cause Tom don't have him no more!" He sheepishly replied.
"How did he get away from Tom?" I prompted.
"Well the cops got him!"
"Could it be Mike is safe because of you?" I got a questioning look. "Mike is safe because you told the FBI where to find him." I paused a second, really for effect. "You probably saved his life son."
He turned red as the twins again congratulated him, rubbing his back and shoulders. I got the feeling something was still bothering him, but wasn't sure how to bring it out. Jeff retrieved my laptop, which thankfully was unhurt, so they could review Mike's note.
"Do you want to write him, maybe when we get home?" I asked. Gears ground inside his pixie little head for a minute.
"Well, do I gotta wait till we get back to your house? Ah I mean home?"
"No, but you'd have to write him on the computer, I can't scan anything until we get home." He shrugged his shoulders.
"Well." Giving my laptop a forlorn look. "I don't have a computer."
"You can use the laptop if you want."
"Well but its an Army computer, Jerry said we're NEVER allowed to touch it!" (Partly because my laptop had sensitive data from work on it, partly to keep it from getting hurt by young fingers, my laptop was very strictly off limits. One of the few offenses in my household that would automatically incur the death penalty.)
"It's a Department of Defense computer." I corrected him. "Hmm, you're a Federally protected Turkey, I think it would be okay."
"He gets to use the laptop! That su, , , Well we don't!" Jerry whined. A quick death glare convinced him to refrain.
"Well this time because it's a special circumstance." I replied. Turning to Carl I continued "Well, on one condition." He gave me a lost look. "You live in OUR home now, you ARE my son, okay? I want you to call it that, never call it anything but your home again, okay?"
I moved the laptop to a nearby coffee table as Carl sat on the carpet. (well it wouldn't have too far to fall!) I was debating if I should let him type on Word pad or maybe just Notepad when he double clicked on the Word icon and began typing as efficiently as our secretaries at work, the other boys adding comments to Mike's letter. Within a few minutes I had logged back onto my e-mail and fired his attachment to Sandra.
The boys quickly retired upstairs abandoning me in favor of the hot tub. I went up an hour or so later to check on them and they had already all crawled into bed, from the look on Carl and everyone else's faces I was sure they were gone for the night.
The next morning life in the frozen fast lane was clearly catching up with all of us. It took forever to get the kids up and dressed, and several muscles I had forgotten I had were filing pointed objections as I forced them to help me stand and walk. As they ate breakfast and woke up the boys seemed to rejuvenate anxious to get to the slopes, but I decided to hang around the condo and lodge, at least for the morning.
I read a novel for a couple of hours or so before checking my e-mail again. Sandra had received and forwarded Carl's note, and I had a message from Helen. She stated that Carl (as a part of the contract with Casey I signed but did not read), needed to undergo Dental, Hearing, Vision, and so on exams from specialists, even to testing his reading level. She asked if she may set these up for right after the New Year while he was still on school vacation. I replied she could, if there were any scheduling conflicts we would work them out.
After the boys checked in over lunch, I fell asleep on the couch, not even noticing they had come back until they woke me up, suggesting I get dressed for the evening.
As soon as we arrived the festival looked like it was going to be wonderful, of course the fair equal to Beaver Creek. Performers by the dozen were parading around in bright costumes inviting everyone toward booths offering anything from food to cute skits.
I let the kids wander in different directions, only asking that they report to me every hour, choosing an area near the Dutch booth for our meeting location. I drifted around for a few minutes enjoying a beer along with samples from several food booths. Shortly I noticed a couple about my age. The man was almost certainly a fellow pilot, a Cessna (an aircraft manufacturer) cap on his head adorned with multiple pins and badges. After I thought about it for a minute or two I went over and introduced myself.
He was indeed a pilot, the egotistical type I have always hoped I would never become. At first I was trying to find a way to escape (hoping one of the kids would get in trouble even.). I kept thinking back to the old joke 'What's the difference between God and pilot? God don't think he's a pilot'. But he also was a stunt pilot, retired Air Force and a Gulf War veteran. I started to enjoy myself over the next few minutes as he relayed a couple of air combat stories.
A few minutes after he bought another round of drinks Timmy appeared by my chair.
"Ah, Mr. Miller, Jerry needs you." he began. When I informed the boy Jerry knows where to find me he continued. "Well, but, well, please sir. Please pop you gotta come!"
The concern in his eyes and face almost reminded me to be careful what you wish for, but I excused myself from the couple, Timmy dragging me by the hand across the ballroom. He was leading me toward a fairly secluded corner when I hear a commotion to one side. I turned my head just in time to see Jeff burst rudely through a crowd of people and rocket toward us. Right behind were Carl and a couple of girls trying in vain to keep up.
I could feel my neck and shoulders stiffen as I saw Chastity and Jerry, engaged in a passionate kiss, Ella standing next to them as if coaching them. Several thoughts flashed through my mind almost instantly. 'Guess THAT talk is past due.' 'What is going on, it is completely unlike Timmy to squeal on a friend for kissing a girl!' 'None the less, I have to be the prude parent' I decided, loudly clearing my throat, but getting no reaction.
"Jerry, I don't think that is appropriate conduct in public." I exclaimed. All I got was an unintelligible mumble. "Jerry, that is enough, both of you !" I growled.
"Their stuck dad" Jeff panted as he slid to a stop next to me.
"Jeff, stay out of this. God damn it, you to do what I say or I'll. . ." I paused, starting to digest what I hoped Jeff had not said.
"Their braces are stuck together dad! Please you gotta do something!"
Still pissed at my son ignoring me I started to remind Jeff he had gotten here behind me when his statement sank in, and that he knew this from across a huge ballroom. A thousand thoughts besides 'this cannot be happening' rushed through my head. Somehow I found myself thinking back to the old Vaudevillian movies, the little guy in the page boy suit running through the theater yelling 'Is there a Doctor in the house?' God, should I send the kids to run around the festival yelling Is 'There an Orthodontist in the House'? 'Where am I going to find a dentist at 8 o'clock at night that climbs mountains?'
"You guys can't twist a little and get free?" I asked, realizing what a dumb question that was as I said it.
With Jeff and Ellas' help I guided to where a nearby light shined somewhat into their mouths, asking them to pull their gums back as best they could. All the other kids had to gawk almost pushing me out of the way until I shooed them back and got a closer look.
One side at least was not a major problem, an elastic Chastity wore between her upper and lower jaws was wrapped around Jerry's appliances. After a couple of tries I disconnected it with my fingernail. They tried to free themselves again to no avail. In what must have looked like a group of drunken Flamencos performing a mating dance we managed to guide them round so the other side of their mouths was in the light.
Of course this side was nowhere near so easy. A hook on Chastity's upper wire was firmly seated under Jerry's, actually wrapping itself around one of the brackets glued onto his teeth. I tried moving their heads this way and that, but it was stuck fast. I tried a little leverage with my thumbnail but it would not give. 'Are paramedics trained in braces?' I asked myself.
I searched my pockets for something that I might be able to slip under the hook to dislodge it. Initially the only thing worth even considering was my pocket knife, so I withdrew it from my pocket, opening it to inspect the blade.
"Dad!" Jeff shrieked. Almost immediately Jerry eyes bugged as big as hub caps. He uttered something, I was fairly sure I made out 'knife?' and 'God' as part of his phrase.
'Quit scaring him!' I thought as hard as I could. Jeff looked directly at me for an instant than backed up a step or so. Jerry must have had his antenna active too, because he jerked slightly and tried to turn to look at me.
I'm sure from Jerry's expression Jeff beamed him that I had put my knife away as I tried to think of another idea. I was wondering if I might have a key small enough for the job when I remembered the nail clippers that doubled as my key bob. The small swing out nail file looked like it might work.
"Okay kids, I know you're scared, but you have to help me okay?" I began. "Son, you HAVE to hold your head perfectly still, even if I push on it, can you do that?" I got a mutter as he ever so slightly nodded their heads up and down.
"Chastity, please try to trust me. You are hooked on Jerry, and IF I can get you guys free I need to be able to move your mouth around, I need you to relax." I gently laid my hand on her head, stroking her hair for a second. "Relax, I won't hurt you." I continued as I moved her head lightly from side to side, making sure she would relax enough so I could move her head as I needed.
I kept my free hand close to their bodies, out of their sight as I eased the file's point toward the entanglement. I pushed the file's tip very softly against the offending hook, more to make sure it was not going to slip off and poke one of them. After a couple of tests I felt faintly comfortable my idea might work (well as comfortable as one could here!)
"Be very still son, relax Chastity, just relax." I suggested in a soft voice. With a little more pressure the file slipped neatly between Chastity's hook and Jerry's bracket. I rotated her head ever so subtly as I twisted the file a little. I watched as the offending hook slid off the bracket only to hook itself on the wire connecting all of Jerry's upper teeth together. Another push and it slipped free of the wire, releasing them from their love lock.
They both pulled away rubbing and wiping their mouths until a fairly loud round of applause began from behind. They turned more crimson then red as they looked, besides my boys and the Kensington girls probably about fifteen more people had gathered to watch the show. I put my arms around both of them as I herded them back into corner, away from view.
I got about a hundred thanks and hugs from each of them before Jerry's face tightened.
"Ah, I'm sorry dad, but what are you gonna do to us?" he whined.
"I'm sorry Mr. Miller, we didn't mean anything!" Chastity whimpered. "Please don't tell Miss Armstrong, please sir? She'll send me to a penguin farm forever if she knew! "
"Where are your headgears?" I asked, actually buying myself a little time to think. They both almost dove into the coat pockets, their hands trembling slightly as they fitted their appliances and straps.
'What did they do wrong?' I wondered, still somewhat scared and a little pissed. After thinking about it for a few seconds the only offense I could come with was Jerry not wearing his headgear, and they clearly were guilty of the crime of starting to grow up. If it wasn't for their metal filled mouths they would have enjoyed a first kiss and gone on. I resisted the urge to send Jerry to boarding school or ground him until he was 21 before responding.
"No, I'm not going to tell your chaperon." I began, pulling Chastity under my arm. "But, if this happens again, well?" I let their sheepish blushes go on for a few seconds before I tapped on Jerry's facebow and continued "We had an agreement, didn't we? What do you think happens if I catch you cheating again?"
Jerry paused, seemingly consulting his shoes, before responding "I gotta wear it to school?" I left the topic open, hugging them and telling them to go get something to drink and have fun. As they started away I held Jerry back.
"And you, BOY, keep your pecker in your pocket, got it?" I whispered, getting a giggle from him and Jeff, who was too far away to have heard my voice.
I was rewarded with probably a hundred or so hugs and thanks from the Kensington girls, even a few more from my kids over the rest of the evening.
"Well, today's our last day here, what do you guys want to do?" I asked during breakfast. Everyone wanted to ski and snow board some more, of course with their new friends from Georgia. Carl appeared to be in deep thought for a minute or so before rushing upstairs.
"Can I ride these?" he asked when he returned, handing me a printout. I pondered his request briefly as I looked over the printout outlining Para-gliders.
"Well son I don't know, these can be a little dangerous." I responded, earning a heartbreakingly sad face. "I think this is more for bigger kids son."
"But you told them I'm big enough!" he replied, climbing in my lap. "Please pop, you said I was!" I was thinking about a response when Jerry snickered.
"Yea dad!" he giggled, giving me an 'I told you so!' look he had to have inherited from my dad.
"Let me think about it." I responded, causing him to stick his lower lip out in a perfect pouting face. "We'll go look at them, how's that?" I asked. The lip retracted only part way. Pushing him of my lap I said "Hey, you better go finish your breakfast, you sit around here too long the snow is going to melt!"
I was impressed with everyone's skill, especially Timmy and Carl's, as I made several runs down the intermediate slopes with the kids. After each run Carl would bug me about the para- gliders, soon joined by Timmy. By about the fifth run it was becoming clear I soon would have to make a decision. Unfortunately, there were no boarding schools on the mountain I could immediately stuff them in, so I should kill them or go over to the hang gliding area. Sadly, the point on my ski pole was far to dull for the first option, so I agreed to go and 'look'.
To my surprise the twins wanted to stay on the slopes, so Carl, Timmy Ella and a couple more girls skied to the para-gliding area.
At first, I thought the ride operator was going to make my life much easier as he expressed his concerns regarding the boy’s size and weight. I would have sworn that Carl had been taking lessons from the twins as he developed his best sad face, this time almost copying the sad puppy dog eyes the twins had spent years perfecting. Timmy followed suit, I was equally sure he aimed his head at just the right angle so his facebow reflected into his almost tearing eyes.
"Y'know, I got two drivers that could give you little guys a good tow." The operator declared. Seeing my 'why don't you drop dead?' look he continued. "Don't worry dad, we'll take good care of the little fellows."
As he led the boys, followed by their female fan club, to the equipment shack I made a mental note to buy my own pair ski poles in case we went on another trip. I spent a few seconds wondering how best to sharpen them to a deadly, razor sharp point before deciding they would be too tempting.
"Good morning, welcome to the parents waiting room!" A voice from behind interrupted my thoughts. Turning I saw two men walking toward me.
"I'm Frank Powell," a man about my size and age said "and this is Reverend Mark Russell." he continued indicating a man at least as big as Tim, standing next to him. "Are all of those yours?"
After introducing myself I explained that only the boys were with me. As we chatted for the next couple minutes I learned they were from Los Angeles vacationing together, that they were waiting for their teen age sons, both 16, to finish riding the para-gliders. I noticed that Frank was wearing skis but Mark was only wearing ski boots. I guess they saw me looking and the Reverend explained he had gotten out of his skis while they waited, tired of the lack of footing.
I was a little concerned as I watched the boys and chatted with Frank and Mark. The snowmobile drivers that were working with Timmy and Carl were just teens themselves, probably late high school or college freshman. However, after spending several minutes with their charges they began taking each boy for slow, short pulls, only going fast enough for their student to get a three or four feet of elevation.
I had been talking with my new acquaintances for probably ten minutes, glancing around to check on the kids occasionally, when I heard a cheer from several young female voices. When I turned Carl was probably thirty five or so feet in the air grinning like an opossum. He did really well for a minute or so seemingly having excellent control of his glider, until he leaned to the side to get a better look at his pep squad.
As soon as he did the foil banked very hard to the right, I was sure he was going to stall and crash to the ground. My trust in those little millisecond prayers was renewed as I watched him recover, stabilizing his craft somewhat, and even having the presence of mind to pull the emergency release on his tow rope.
The glider settled into an almost perfect gentle bank to the right, descending toward earth in a recovery maneuver any experienced pilot would have been proud of. After about a 180 degree turn he pulled out of the bank heading for a picture perfect landing.
I could feel my heart attempting to resume regular beats as I watched, until I glanced down his flight path toward where I predicted his landing point would be. Five or six people, two of which were wearing bright orange Ski Patrol coveralls were directly in his flight path.
I tried to yell something but only my lips cooperated, no air crossing my vocal chords. Thankfully someone in the group noticed his approach yelling 'get down!, hit the deck!' as he dove to the ground. Somehow, they all managed to dive face first into the snow before Carl arrived, but if his skis didn't graze two of them I am sure he was less than a millimeter above.
Right when I thought everything was over he seemed to get some lift under his glider, rising about ten feet as he banked about 90 degrees. The turn caused him to lose altitude, but now he was heading directly into another group of people. Thankfully they had heard the ruckus from his first attack and scattered like flushed birds as he finally landed right where they had been less than a second ago.
Frank and I both pushed off toward the crash scene, Reverend Mark, without his skis, remaining behind. I reached Carl a few seconds before anyone else. To my surprise he was giggling!
"Wow, that's neat. I wanta do that again!" he hooted. Suddenly his face paled and he darted behind me almost tripping me on his glider straps. I knew what to expect as I turned toward his gaze, two of the three ski patrol rushing toward us, less than pleasant expressions on their faces.
"Oh, Mr. Miller!" a ski patrolman that I recognized from Carl's great bowling incident began. He looked over at Frank before continuing "Is the young man hurt, sir?"
Before I could respond I noticed Frank waving up the hill at Mark. The cop and I both followed his wave. Mark, now holding his skis next to him waved back and seemed to abort putting them on. The two cops whispered something to each other before one of them expressed how happy they were that Carl was okay. After offering their assistance several times they beat a hasty retreat, glancing up the hill at the good Reverend's large frame several times.
Carl had risked peeking out from behind me a couple of times before his tow on the snowmobile and the girls arrived. After telling everyone he was okay several times he looked up at me.
"Can I do it ag. . ." he began. I think seeing my face his eyes widened as he continued "Ah, am I in a lot of trouble, sir?"
"I think that's enough flying for today." I replied, pulling him under my arm. "No you're not in trouble I'm just glad you are okay!" I paused.
"Well, you're not in TOO much trouble." He stiffened pushing closer into my parka. "But, we do have to talk about a few things." He looked wide eyed up at me as if asking me to make his death painless, or at least quick.
"You had your flaps at thirty percent during your final, in this thin air they should have been at least fifty percent! (Flaps are an control surface on aircraft used during take off and landing)" His face changed from fear to his Hollywood quality lost look.
"Also, you flared way too early, you could have boosted your ski patrol kills by three!" His neck cocked even further to the side. I popped him on the butt before adding
"AND, I told you not to molt up here, where were all your tail feathers?"
He continued to stare up a me for a couple of seconds than threw his arms around me giggling.
We had collected Timmy and were skiing back to the intermediate slopes when my cell phone rang, 'Beaver Creek' on the caller ID. It was the twins, starving of course. I told them to meet us at the lodge, assuring them they could make it that far without collapsing.
After lunch I sent the boys back to the slopes and started to pack for our tomorrow's departure. 'Hmm, twenty hours before I have to fly, I got twelve hours.' I thought as I looked at the one lonely beer in the refrigerator. (A steadfast rule among pilots is 'eight hours between the bottle and the throttle')
After a quick trip back to the lodge, I had just stuffed my new supply into the cooler and opened a cold one when someone knocked on the door. 'If one of them screwed up again I'm gonna kill all of them' I thought as I made my way across the room. My concern deepened when I saw 'Madam Kensington' at my door.
"Good day Mr. Miller." she said, in only a moderate snarl. I greeted her, and after a second she continued "May I come in?" I ushered inside inviting her to have a seat. Of course she sat down facing directly at my open beer can.
"I heard of how you assisted Chastity last night." she began, my stomach ricocheting off my throat. "I wanted to thank you." I am sure my jaw dropped as I realized what she said, and realized her face showed no anger (well for that face, , ,)
"Oh the girls told you?"
"Oh heavens no! They are sure I would send them to a convent or such if I knew such a thing. After twenty eight years caring for children, one becomes quiet attuned to pillow talk."
"Are you upset?" I risked.
"No, on the contrary, I am pleased to see the young lady maturing normally. Single sex boarding schools can be challenging to an adolescent's maturation process.
"I am most grateful for your interaction with my charges this week, you have provided them with a most wholesome and wonderful experience. I would be honored if you would allow me to show my gratitude by taking you and your family to supper tonight."
Probably because I was too shocked to say anything else I accepted. Agreeing on 6:30 she quickly 'took her leave'. I was beginning to recover slightly as I asked myself 'I wonder if she has ANY idea of what she is getting into, feeding my clan.'
When the boys called in for permission to buy a midday snack they already knew about our supper plans. Again, five minutes after their call the house phone rang, a concerned concession worker asking if it was okay for a couple of young teenagers to charge wholesale amounts of food to my account. 'Shit, I wish I would have bought stock in American Express before this trip, my bill will make their shares soar.' I told myself.
As soon as the boys got back from the slopes they raided the refrigerator, then darted upstairs jumping in the shower. When they began filtering back downstairs I was surprised to see everyone in dress clothes, hair, teeth and bodies scrubbed and groomed as if going to a wedding. I felt a little embarrassed even, slipping into my bedroom and changing my shirt and pants.
I could see the kids exchanging glances and occasional whispers as our large group followed the maitre'd to our table. The kids had fallen into loose boy/girl pairs, and as the stewards began ushering everyone to seats I could see the girls giving their care giver anxious looks as the were guided toward seats next to their escort. Finally, she seemed to pick up on their silent query, nodding her head. Several subtle grins were displayed as they rushed to seats next to the boys. I ended up with her on one side and Carl on the other.
As the waiter began taking orders for everyone's drinks I debated between iced tea and lemon water, neither of which I was really in the mood for.
"Mr. Miller, will you join me in a glass of wine?" she asked. I can only thank my years of experience dealing with surprises at work for being able to maintain my composure. I think the rest of the table was equally shocked as a deathly quiet silence fell for a second or so. When I agreed she suggested a Sherry and I agreed.
She seemed quite comfortable as the boys ordered meals that were clearly putting a major dent in her expense account, and actually carried on some fairly pleasant conversation as we ate. Everyone was waiting for dessert when she turned to Carl.
"Tell my young man, why are you the only one not undergoing orthodontia?" she asked. After Carl gave his classic lost look she continued "You are the only family member without braces." Carl just turned red faced and shrugged.
"Actually, he is going to be evaluated next week." I interceded. "As you know he just moved in with us." Carl's eyes darted toward me.
"We told you he'd get you!" Jeff giggled. My glare quickly quieted Jerry and his snickers.
As soon as they finished dessert the boys asked if they could go down to the arcade for a while. I checked my watch directing them to check in by 9:00. As I gave my approval I noticed all the girls eyes seemed glued on 'Madam Kensington.'
"You are to be in when your escorts are." she snapped. They started to get up from their seats when I called Jerry's name.
"Remember what belongs in your pocket." I said, causing him to turn red and all the other kids to laugh.
Shortly thereafter I excused myself, thanking her for supper and stating I had to finish packing. As I was leaving she said her girls wanted to go down to the airport and see us off, which I said would be fine.
The boys were on time to check in, asking if they could stay out another hour. I agreed provided they agreed to hit the beds as soon as they returned. They darted back out the door, to the cheers and giggles of several young voices clearly waiting outside.
The next morning I was pleased to see everyone still sound asleep in their bed (the shared one, I think the only one used during our stay.) I called the FBO to be sure my aircraft was being serviced, and powered up my laptop to check weather conditions and verify my flight plan. I had just logged off when Carl stumbled downstairs sleepily rubbing his eyes, dressed only in his briefs.
"Morning, turkey, what are you doing up?" I said as he climbed in my lap. He just yawned and pushed his thin little body against me. "Wow, how did I end up with such a sleepyhead?" I asked, kissing his forehead. He just snuggled tighter against me for a second or so.
"Do we gotta go back to your house?" He mumbled. "I wanta stay here forever."
"I do too son, but yes we have to. I think we might come back next year, maybe you can improve on your ski patrol count!" I responded, getting a soft giggle. "But where are we going?"
"Well, back to your hou, , , I mean our house." He paused before saying "I really am gonna get to live with you, ain't I. You really still want me?"
"No, actually I don't want you any more." I replied, rubbing his thin flat stomach with my other hand. He stiffened before I could continue "I don't want you, I already got'ya! You're my son just like Jeff and Jerry, remember?" he grinned slightly as he pushed his little head under my chin. I held him for a minute or so before his stomach gave out a fairly loud growl.
"I think we better put something in that thing pretty quick!" I said gently poking his tummy. "God, we don't want you to molt again! Go wake your brothers, let's get some breakfast!" He started to climb down from my lap, but hesitated.
"Do I gotta get that stuff in my mouth?" he asked. Seeing my lost look he said "The braces and stuff. Well like you told that lady last night."
I briefly explained that he had to go for a checkup, telling him he had to get his eyes, ears and several other things checked next week. I almost had to laugh as he shuffled back upstairs rubbing his teeth.
The boys seemed to be making one last effort at destroying Colorado's food service economy as they went through the all you can eat buffet, wiping out the production of several flocks of laying hens and hog farmers. We made a last stop at the souvenir shop on the way back to the condo. As always I paid for a shirt or whatever item each of them wanted, Carl and the twins selecting a couple more items that they paid for.
When we got back to the condo I told the boys to open their purchases and try them on before we left. They began doing this when Carl stashed a tee-shirt off to the side. After he tried on the shirt I bought him I picked up the other to open it for him.
"No, please pop!" he whined. I explained to him that he needed to try it on, if it was the wrong size he couldn't exchange it once we got home.
"That's okay sir." he answered in a soft voice. I reminded him that a shirt that didn't fit would not be much of a souvenir. He paused for probably a minute staring at his shoes.
"Well it’s for Mike sir, please don't open it!" He whimpered. I bit my lip before responding.
"Well, can it be a gift from all of us?" I asked, handing the package to him. "I want to pay for it."
"Well can we pay for it?" Jerry asked, the twins jerking the shirt out of Carl's hand for a look.
"Can it be from your family?" I asked Carl. Getting a weak nod I continued "I pay for all the family stuff, is that okay with everyone?" I got 'yeahs' and nods from the twins as they hugged Carl.
All the 'Kensingtons' were waiting for us in the lobby as we checked out. To my surprise "Madam Kensington' said her goodbyes as her girls and my boys boarded the van for the airport, explaining that 'Linda', one of the older girls would be responsible as she extended her hand. After enduring a very firm, almost masculine handshake with her we were on our way.
With the help of a dozen or so kids our baggage was stowed on my aircraft in record time. The twins and Timmy were having the time of their lives showing their new friends the Mooney as Carl and I preformed my pre-flight check. I hated to break up the party but reached the point in the pre-flight when I needed one of the twins in the cockpit.
"Who's my right?" I asked. The twins linked their antennas for a second before Jerry kissed Chastity through his headgear and climbed on the wing. Jeff rushed to Carl and I, poking Carl in the ribs a couple of times. Carl gave him a dirty look before whimpering.
"Well, can I be sir?" Not wanting him to expect to take the aircraft off I looked down at him for a second.
"Yea, you can be my right, but I am going to do the flying until I know there are NO Ski Patrol below!" He gave me a dirty look before rocketing toward the aircraft.
To Be Continued…