Patient John Doe

Chapter 25

The rest of our morning was a bustle of activity. The other four new horses were delivered without any problem, and I visited the Sanchez new ranch, to check on Billy Ray's progress, and arrange for the new mares care.

I thought my boys were going to burst with pride when big Ronnie 'hired' them to feed every day, and ride the animals periodically. We decided to leave the gate between our two properties open, and every evening the boys would herd the animals into a corral next to the main barn and lay out feed for them. For the present Billy Ray would open the corral and release the animals when he began work each morning. I thought my Ronnie was going to faint dead away when his older namesake handed the lad a set of keys to the land.

After we finished a light lunch, I felt genuinely sorry for young Steve when his dad sent him upstairs to pack, his little face fell into depression as the reality that his weekend was winding down sank in. I considered having a group therapy session when I sent Junior and my boys behind him to clean up and put on slacks and button-up shirts, reminding them we were going to dine at Ronnie's new restaurant.

Steve remained silent, slumped in the back seat, as I wrestled the big Hummer into town an hour or so later. I glanced in to rear view mirror as I turned into the feed store and had to snicker as he instantly perked up, almost as if he arose from the dead.

I got the impression the sales staff was thinking like I was, wondering if any of the horse halters and lead ropes would fit the boys; as all five of them darted between the tack and clothing sections of the store. I was fairly sure I would have to replace each of my boys gym shoes as the adults and I picked out bridles, blankets and the other tack the new horses would need. At any given time we had at least two kids under foot and in the way, all the while enough of them flying around the clothing section, driving those clerks toward insanity.

The clerk helping us choose tack became more and more tolerant of the kids as he realized the volume of equipment we were buying. Shortly after we began looking at saddles, asking if they had eight of a couple of different ones in stock, manager joined us. After introducing himself, he informed us if we bought for ten horses or more, he could offer a wholesale discount.

I exchanged glances with Miguel and his sons before answering, "Actually, we have sixteen horses, but eight of those we just purchased." I let that soak in for a few seconds, trying to decide if I would melt my credit card, before adding, "What kind of discount would you give us on, say a dozen saddles."

The clerk licked his lips, I'm sure from the taste of his sales commission, as he studied his boss's face. "I would be happy to set up a wholesale account for you. You would get a, fifteen percent discount on everything you buy here."

'Budding businessmen,' I thought as I found myself suddenly surrounded by skinny bodies. When I looked around Stevie was the only kid in the clothing section. "You guys want a new saddle?" I rhetorically asked. "Call Mom, ask her," I told Junior's wide eyes, handing him my cell phone.

I followed Steven's lead and let each of my boys pick out two pair of jeans, a western belt and a tee-shirt. 'What the hell,' I thought as Junior stacked his choices next to the other kids at the cashier's station.

I'm not sure who was more fun to watch as we ate at Ronnie's new restaurant, my new neighbor or Johnny. Big Ronnie sheathed himself between his brother and dad as we were shown to our table, while Johnny remained tightly tucked under my arm, almost like his shoulder and chest were glued to my stomach. After we were escorted into a fairly private area adjoining the main dining room he pushed to stand by the chair next to mine, clearly making sure he would sit next to me. His mouth dropped open when the maitre'd slid his and my chairs back for us, but after giving the steward a death glare he pushed back under my arm, looking around for another place to sit.

"Is this seat unacceptable sir?" the head waiter asked him. Johnny looked wide eyed at me waiting for me to answer.

"He is holding your chair out for you," I whispered. The boy blushed even brighter red than his hair before shuffling to his seat displaying an embarrassed grin.

When I glanced around as I opened my menu, big Ronnie was holding his higher than normal, I was sure to hide his face. I had just begun studying the different cuts of steak they offered, knowing it had to be gourmet quality meat, when I felt a pair of eyes cutting into my forehead. Instead of reading his menu Johnny was studying my face. 'Oh well,' I thought as I realized I would be ordering for both of us. 'God, I'd kill for a five-star New York cut, and twenty ounces, but, he can't cut it,'

"I would like the grilled shrimp," I told our waiter.

"Yeah, that sounds yumm, ah excuse me, may I have that too?" Johnny interrupted before I could continue.

"Damn, I'm caught," our undercover chef growled right after our meal was served. When I followed his gaze I noticed two very pale faced men across the room, staring at our table, as wide eyed as Johnny had been only a few minutes ago.

I felt good inside as Mark and Ronnie pushed under Miguel's arms as we walked back toward the Hummer after leaving his sons and grandson off at his private jet. "Is Steve going to come back, soon?" Ronnie asked Miguel as Johnny and Junior slipped under my arms.

"Yes, I am sure he will soon, in a couple of weeks I hope," Miguel answered. "If things work out as I hope, we will be traveling between here and Virginia often," he added, cutting his eyes at me.

After some struggle, discarding many of the boxes and packaging, we managed to stuff all the new tack into the hummer. Miguel hadn't even left the feed store's parking lot when the kids long necks began swiveling as they studied the mountain of saddle leather behind them. A second or so later I heard what I was sure was the sound of seat belt being stretched to their limits.

"We might be a little short on time this afternoon, I think it we better to try out to new saddles tomorrow, guys," I suggested. Their heads jerked to my eyes in unison and shot me with me five identical death glares. "It takes some time to adjust the stirrups, cinch straps and such the first time you use a saddle," I offered.

They exchanged glances before glaring back at me. After a second or so one, then another of the boys looked around, as if asking who was going to begin the attack. "You only have a couple of hours before it's going to be time for homework, and to get ready for school tomorrow." I paused briefly, letting that soak in, before adding, "It would take almost that long to fit everyone's new saddles, you decide."

I would have sworn I felt the Hummer vibrate from the gears in their brains grinding as they surveyed each other. "That was cruel," Miguel whispered as he looked in the rear view mirror. "You dumped the weight of the world on them. I wonder if there was that much tension in Kennedy's war room."

Our four legged welcoming committee seemingly made the decision for the boys when Ginger, Hera, Zoe and a couple of other snorted and licked up their heels as we waited for the gate to open. I was a little shocked when all the boys, even Johnny, just hooted a greeting as they climbed out of the car, and darted toward the house. 'That explains it,' I thought as Mark, then Ronnie wrestled out of their dress shirts before even reaching the front door.

"Johnny," I called out as he rushed through the family room toward the patio door a minute or so later. "Wait just a second, I'd like you to take some medicine," I told him as he turned toward me.

"Your not gonna shoot me again!" he exclaimed, backing away from me. "Please Doctor Dad, my arm's being good and stuff!"

"No, I'm not going to give you an inject. . . a shot," I answered, holding some pills out to him.

"But there's three of them! I'll NEVER wake up! Maybe I can take a couple of them now."

"They won't make you sleepy or anything. I want you to take an anti-inflammatory, and a couple of Children's Motrin, so your arm won't hurt later," I answered as I stepped closer. "Go on," I told him offering the pills and a small glass of water.

I didn't notice Mary walking up behind me until she leaned forward, looking at the medication. "Forgive me Doctor, but I think those should be taken with milk instead of water, actually I would recommend Strawberry flavored milk."

"Of course, I wasn't thinking," I answered. "Considering there are three pills, perhaps a large glass."

"Right away, Doctor," Mary answered, taking the medication out of my hand and wrapping her arm around Johnny's bony shoulder. The lad grinned slightly as they went into the kitchen. A few seconds he darted back toward the door, a pink milk moustache accenting his smile.

Carl and Cindy were both horseback riding when I followed Johnny outside. I earned a few more dirty looks as we unloaded the new tack into a locked storage room in the barn, but they seemed to recover as they galloped away on their steeds a couple of minutes later.

"Let's go for a ride, it's a beautiful afternoon!" Cindy suggested as we finished unloading.

"You guys are on your own, these old bones have had enough for today," Carl commented.

"Have you considered the Sanchez' offer?" Cindy asked as we prodded our mounts into a trot. "I hope you have, their resources and your skills could help some kids that need it." "Help like you have given your sons, and I guess our mutual son?" she continued when I didn't respond.

"I still am considering what they proposed, I assume you accepted their retainer?" I replied.

"Yes I have. I believe in their cause, and that I can help."

"What happened to being a full time soccer mom? What about your kids?"

"That hasn't changed, I made it very clear my children come first," she began. "It probably would be of benefit to them, to all our kids. If you, or I, travel, we are welcome to take them along, at company expense. I can't afford to take my kids to see Brazil, but I'd love for them to have the experience, your boys would benefit too."

"After our trip to Virginia, I'm not sure South America is ready for my three," I joked. "I can see the headlines now, 'Texas Teens Destabilize Southern Hemisphere', 'In One Day Visit!'"

"Do you really think you could get away with only taking three of them?" she quipped. "You'd have to sign commitment papers on our mutual son!"

"We didn't get to finish our discussion the other night about that, about Carl Junior, will you give me a chance to explain myself, to defend myself?" I interrupted her. "About sleeping, with, with Junior. I didn't get to respond to that, suggestion, the other night," I added, seeing her lost look.

We both stopped our mounts and she turned to face me, "Like I told you, you don't have to justify anything to me, you definitely don't need to defend yourself."

"But, I have not slept with Junior, with any of the boys." I countered. I blushed as I realized how my statement came out. "I mean, not in the way it sounds. No, please hear me out," I cut her off when she started to respond.

"You know, probably better than anyone but myself, what my boys have been through, and how insecure they are, that they need a lot of support right now. It is getting less frequent, but sometimes my bed becomes a family bed; I go to sleep alone and wake up in a mass snuggle. But, a mass of comfortable, secure kids. When Junior is here, he seems to appear in the mass. I assure you I have never done anything inappropriate with him, with any of the boys."

"Like I said the other night, all I see, all I care about is that what was a horribly confused teen, a boy I used to lay awake and pray I could get him some help before he hurt himself or did something stupid, bounces around my house now like a little bunny, he is the happy, thriving son I used to have. I don't care if he's sleeping in the hay loft, or a community bed out here, a few hours with you and he's good for another thousand miles.

"That's a gift you have Adam." she said, looking me directly in the eyes. "It has completely turned around all four of our boys, and it accounts for your phenomenal professional success." I was trying to digest her comment when she continued, "You are more successful in, what a year and a half, than most physicians are in ten years, and you have just begun. I hope you will share some of that gift with the kids the Sanchez' want you to help."

"Think about it, at least," she asked as she turned Raven toward the house. "By the way, as I said I completely believe you, but Carl Junior has some very vivid dreams, especially about your family bed," she tittered as she prodded her mount.

I had to laugh at Johnny right before his bedtime, when I asked him to take another dose of Motrin. He relaxed slightly when he saw pills instead of a needle; and when I poured him another glass of Strawberry milk he became a willing patient. "How did you know I gave you a shot last night?" I asked as I handed him his pills.

He blushed slightly and hesitated before answering, "Well, Mark sorta told me."

"But it didn't hurt, you didn't even feel it, did you?" I asked. "Why are you afraid of shots when it didn't hurt?"

He blushed a little redder as his face tightened into deep thought. "Well, they're supposed to hurt! Maybe you give weird ones or stuff!"

'I can't argue with that logic,' I thought as I hugged him and sent him to get ready for bed. He rushed off, and was almost to the stairs, when he turned back around, hurrying back into the family room and the recliner Miguel as seated in.

"Are you gonna come tuck us in?" he asked as he pushed against the elderly doctors's arm.

"It would be my honor," Miguel smiled, he gave the boy a quick hug around the waist.

"They are wonderful, so refreshing," Miguel softly told me as we stood in Ronnie and Mark's bedroom door.

"These five minutes refill me for the next day," I responded we watched my sleeping angels, the bright Texas moonlight highlighting the small patches of hair and faces as always.

"I can understand that," Miguel commented. "You have helped them so much, from what I have been told, and from being around them in Norfolk and here." "I hope you are still considering working with us, you can help other children enjoy the happiness you have given your sons." he added as we stepped into the hall.

'Ouch,' I thought, glancing back into their bedroom before closing their door. "What is involved, let's go downstairs and talk a little more," I suggested.

Miguel grinned slightly and stepped down the hall into the bedroom he was using. 'Oh shit,' I thought when he rejoined me, carrying a briefcase.

"If I committed to, say, a ninety-day trial period, what do I need to do, how do we begin?" I asked an hour or so, and a couple of beers later. 'Oh shit,' I thought as he smiled and withdrew a thick folder from his case.

"Sign these, and have the children sign theirs, and each of you must have passport photos made," he began, handing me several passport applications. "I had Cindy complete these earlier. Also, you might not be able to read all of this because it is in Portugese, but this is the paperwork to obtain your Brazilian Medical Licence. Cindy and I checked it carefully, but please make sure the dates and locations are correct and sign it."

'Attorney-client confidentiality?' I asked myself as I scanned the documents. Copies of my school transcripts, degrees, even our birth certificates and custody documents were attached.

"I actually am a little disappointed in Cindy," I snickered toward Miguel. "She has had all weekend to work on this, and she didn't come up with clandestine signatures and photos?"

"Please don't be to harsh on her my friend," he replied. "She has just started working for me. Give her time," he grinned.

After fending off the attack of my buzzing beast the next morning, Miguel and Mary's voices became audible as my head began to clear from sleep. 'Well, they're awake at least,' I told my alarm clock as I heard several high pitched squeals from my patio door. I slapped the Off button on the alarm clock a final blow before grabbing a pair of shorts and staggering into my bathroom.

"Good morning, Doctor," Miguel greeted me as I crept toward the coffee pot. He was already dressed, and perched on one of the stools around the breakfast bar, sipping on a cup of coffee as Mary scurried about the kitchen.

I grunted my thanks as Mary sat my morning caffeine fix in front of me as I crawled onto a stool. "Good morning Mary, Doctor," I mumbled as I sipped my cup. "You didn't want to go for a morning dip? You are welcome to," I added as the fog cleared from my head.

"Thank you, but no. I did enjoy the use of your hot tub earlier," he answered.

'Seven-ten, and he's already been in the hot tub, and gotten dressed? Whatever!' I thought.

"I hope my presence did not impose on your sons, I noticed they were swimming in their underwear, I did not know they were that shy," he continued. Mary let out a soft snicker as I looked out the kitchen window. 'Where did I put the address for that Iraqi boarding school?' I asked myself.

For a Monday, my day was almost frighteningly easy. Even my patients cooperated. I had hoped to get home early to fit the new saddles, at least for my horses, and I was less than saddened when my last appointment cancelled.

'Hmm, I wonder who was thinking like me.' I asked myself as Johnny, riding Ginger met me at the gate to the ranch. 'Or who was reading my mind, from in town?' I wondered as the little filly pranced like a show horse next to my Jaguar as I drove toward the house.

"Hi Dad!" Johnny's alto voice howled as I climbed out of my big cat. He was already over the fence and sprinting to me when I looked toward his voice.

"Hi Pumpkin!" I said as he slammed into a hug against me. "Have you finished your lessons this early?"

"I did all of them and everything, I'm all done!" He pushed against my side in a tighter snuggle, but slipped out from under my arm before I could return the hug. He scrambled into my car and grabbed my laptop case. "It's neat you're home Pop!" he told me as he slipped back under my arm and pointed me toward the house. "I'll put your 'puter away for you, I mean computer, sir!" he announced as he all but pushed me toward my bedroom. "Maybe can we go riding, please?"

'I wonder what he wants to ride on?' I chuckled as I changed clothes. I wasn't at all surprised when Johnny's bony hand presented me with a beer as I opened my bedroom door. "Thanks Son, let me touch base with Mary for a minute, then we will go down to the barn." As his face melted into a frown I stroked his hair and added, "I'll just be a minute." I ignored his glare as I walked toward the kitchen.

"I don't have anything important, go fit that saddle before he has a stroke," Mary told me as I entered the kitchen. "And fit him with a halter while you are down there." she added.

"Has he been acting up? Did he give you any trouble today?" I asked.

"Heavens no, he finished today's, and some of tomorrow's assignments ninety minutes early! He was determined to finish before you arrived. If he worked like that every day he could graduate from High School in six months!"

Ginger and a couple of other horses were standing at the pasture gate when we stepped out the patio door. She pushed her snout against Johnny's, then my chest, but instead of waiting for her boy to mount her saddle, she turned and trotted ahead of us toward the barn, looking back every few seconds as if telling us to hurry. 'She's no fool,' I thought as the little horse trotted directly to the storeroom were we had stored the new saddles.

'What the hell,' I decided as we approached the store room door. I pushed my hands into my pockets before saying, "Damn, I forgot my keys!"

Johnny's jaw dropped open as his face paled. Ginger turned toward me, her ears lowered as her eyes cut into me. I was deciding how long to let them suffer when Johnny turned, and bolted toward the house. He was almost out of the barn before I could call him back telling him I was joking. He gave me a strangely mixed look, about half relief and half anger when he turned back toward me. When I turned back toward Ginger and the store room door, Ginger's expression was as clear a 'Stuff it, asshole' look as I had ever gotten from a human being.

"Okay, tie her reins," I told Johnny as I pulled sorted through the new saddles for the one he had picked out. When I turned back toward them, both of them were staring wide eyed at me, Ginger's head tucked under Johnny bad arm. "What's wrong?" I asked, I hope to my son.

"She'll be good Pop, please, she hates getting tied up and stuff!" he whimpered. I felt my stomach knot when he reached to his neck and added, "Please, it sucks when you gotta get, I mean, , ," Ginger cut him off with a loud snort, and turned sideways, as if presenting her chest and back. "See, please Pop! I mean Dad!" Ginger twisted her long neck around and pushed against the saddle she was already wearing with her nose.

'Wow,' I thought. She remained motionless as I pulled her old saddle off and adjusted the new saddle to her torso. I was even more surprised as I pushed my foot into one of the stirrups and eased some of my weight on her to test the saddle. She shifted her shoulders and rump slightly to correct her balance, but didn't even turn her head.

"Good girl!" I praised her, stroking her neck. She shifted her feet then squirmed her body, almost like a person testing the fit of a new coat or shirt. "Up you go, Turkey, let me adjust your stirrups and we're done," I told Johnny, getting a happy neigh from his filly.

"Okay! You guys go play for a couple of minutes, no galloping; then I want to check her cinch strap," I told my son a minute or so later. Ginger wiggled her body again, but instead of obeying her rider's prodding turned and pushed her snout against my stomach and let out a soft snort. "You're welcome girl," I said before I realized I had.

'Oh well, Ginger, or Johnny has a big mouth,' I told myself as I turned around and noticed Zoe, Hera and Junior's horse behind me, in a loose line. 'Oh boy, not another psychic,' I thought as I noticed Raven shyly peaking her head around the barn door.

"Come on, let's get you guys fitted before your boys get home," I told my four legged audience. "You know, none of you are normal," I added as Zoe rushed in front of the storeroom door, and the others lined up behind her. "I used to be, somewhat normal, before I met you," I told her. 'Yeah, you used to be too sane to talk to animals,' I silently added.

The rest of the week, and really the weekend, went fairly quickly. Jay came to San Antonio, performed his first surgery, and visited his new property and Johnny, but I didn't get to see him. We acclimated the Sanchez' horses to their new home, every evening when I came home I was greeted by a mass herd of animals, but they seemed happy to follow the boys to their corral each evening, of course with Zeus escorting them like a key-holding Playboy club member.

Miguel's influence became clearer and clearer the next week. When I arrived at my office on Tuesday of the next week, my nurse presented me with a package containing the boys' and my passports, a process I knew from a little research on the Internet that took around ninety days. That afternoon my licence to practice medicine in Brazil, and their equivalent of a Board Certification in Adolescent Psychiatry arrived, thankfully with an English translation of the documents.

When I arrived home Wednesday I wasn't at all surprised to see Cindy's Suburban in front of the house. When I went inside, she was out riding with the boys and Stewart as the kids worked on their riding lessons. When I lightheartedly teased Mary about being the only one not riding a horse her taut almost tearful face quickly told me there was trouble in my little paradise. I started to ask her what was wrong as I accepted my afternoon beer, that had become a tradition, but she bustled away before I could. I more tossed than sat my laptop case in my study as I followed her into the kitchen.

"What's wrong, Mary?" I asked. I glanced out the kitchen window and mentally verified all three of my boys and Junior were frolicking happily on their horses, no one seemed hurt or distressed as they worked with their instructor.

"Nothing, nothing is wrong," she told the kitchen stove as she checked the pans on it. 'Yeah, I can tell,' I thought. I was considering the best answer when she grabbed a printout off the kitchen counter. "I received this earlier," she muttered, holding it behind her and not looking back toward me. "It, it's wonderful news," she sobbed.

'I can tell,' I thought. I downed the majority of my beer after I read the e-mail Mary had received from Cornerstone. After reviewing his latest set of Achievement Tests, they felt he was ready to attend classes on campus. Their new grading period was to begin Monday, and they felt that would be a good time for him to transfer into their program.

"Congratulations! This is a couple, maybe three months ahead of what we had projected. You are a miracle worker!" I exclaimed.

"Yes sir," she grumbled. She slammed a cooking spoon into the sink, not exactly expressing her joy. She started to turn toward me but turned back toward the stove.

"I do have a concern," I added before she could speak. "He is making remarkable progress, and his arm is responding wonderfully to therapy, it will not be too long before he has use of it again. With the limited use he has of it right now, I'm afraid he might be self-conscious, possibly even face some ridicule from his peers. Their grading periods last six weeks, I would think it would be more beneficial if he remained under your tutelage at least for that long, then we can reevaluate his circumstance. It's your decision of course, I will support your choice."

"Do you really think, , ," she asked the stove. I fought to suppress my gasp when she turned toward me and I saw the trails of teardrops on her blouse.

"I think one of the best things that has ever happened to my son, well sons, is you, Granny Nanny! Keep up your magic!" Without thinking I pulled her into a hug. "Hey Granny, some day we are going to have to ship them off to a college somewhere, what are we going to do then?" I got a kiss on the cheek as an answer.

'Damn, they had been doing so well,' I cursed as I went into my study to dock my laptop, and noticed what looked like part of one of the boys facebows sticking out from a piece of paper on the new computer desk. 'The little shit was trying to hide it,' I decided as I uncovered the rest of the heagear.

"Looks like you get some extra company after school or a few days, whoever owns this is grounded," I told Mary as I set the appliance on the breakfast bar. "They know better."

She blushed slightly, then bit her lip when she turned toward me. "Well, , , please don't be too harsh with, whoever's it is."

I was peering out the window, trying to tell who was cheating, when I noticed Cindy walking up the hill from the pasture, while the boys continued their lessons. 'Well, I'll find out soon enough,' I decided when Mary interrupted me, excusing herself for the evening. I paid little attention when she again cautioned me not to be too hard on the kids.

"Get changed, let's get in the pool," Cindy told me as she came inside. She disappeared into the guest bathroom as I stepped into my bedroom.

"Are you ready to go to work?" she asked me when she joined me in the water a minute or so later, bringing me a fresh beer. "Miguel and his sons, and Angel are going to be here Friday. Miguel, well everyone has been very busy, this is really going to work Adam!" she proclaimed.

Busy they had been. Jay and Ronnie were due in town Friday morning, Jay had scheduled another surgery. Miguel, Steven and his family were due to arrive shortly before lunch, and a luncheon meeting was scheduled that included all the adults in the family, Cindy and myself, and a couple of people Cindy described as Foundation Employees.

I was a little surprise to learn that Billy-Ray was far enough along in the renovation of their house that Ronnie and Cindy were going to spend the morning shopping for furniture, that enough of the bedrooms would be ready for occupancy such that everyone intended to sleep there for the weekend.

"Are you sure everyone is going to stay there?" I snickered as I noticed Stewart and the boys leaving the pasture. "If Steven's family is coming, I would bet I end up with at least one house guest!" "I wonder who is about to die?" I added as I tried to see who wasn't wearing their headgear. "Excuse me a second, I need to talk to one of my turkeys," I told Cindy as I climbed out of the pool.

I wanted to scratch my head as the boys came closer, the sun brightly reflecting off of Ronnie, Junior and Mark's headgears. "Hi Dad!" Mark and Johnny hooted in unison. All four boys broke into a run, and rushed into a group hug.

"Look Pop, I got'm!" Johnny proclaimed, flashing a wide silver smile at me. I guess seeing my shocked face he whined "I was gonna get them today, remember?"

"Of course I remembered! I, I was just surprised that, they installed so many of them. You are officially an Owens now!" I stammered.

"Yeah, BRIDLE BOY!" Junior exclaimed, pushing Johnny's arm.

"Yeah Dad, I got one of them too!" Johnny proudly announced, his face beaming with pride.

'If you even knew, you will soon,' I thought. "I bet Mary left something to snack on inside, but everyone go upstairs and wash up first!" I said. Thankfully all of them rushed directly to their bedrooms. I slipped inside and stuffed the mystery headgear back where I found it in my study.

After a little schedule jiggling I ended up picking up Miguel along with Steven and his family at the airport Friday. Mary and Johnny met us so that Stevie and Angela could spend the afternoon at my ranch while we had our luncheon meeting. Mary and Johnny were already at the private air terminal, sitting in her car when I arrived.

"Hi Dad!" Johnny exclaimed as he bailed out of the car and rushed toward me. "Mary said I don't have to go to school all afternoon, and I'm all in charge of all the horses, all afternoon!" he proudly proclaimed as he pushed his facebow into my chest and hugged me.

"Fantastic, I'm sure you will do a good job!" I said as I kissed the top of his head. "Please show our guests a good time, I know you will! But, you don't have to wear this right now, want to take it off until you get home?" I suggested, pointing to his facebow.

"Well, but, , ," he whimpered in a soprano voice. "I mean yes sir," he whined, his eyes tearing slightly as he reached for his headgear straps.

I gently blocked his hand and tucked it against his chest. "I'm very proud of you for being so conscientious, but I don't want to embarrass you. Do you want to wear it in public, when you don't have to?"

He pushed against my stomach and chest for a second or so. "Well, but regular kids get to wear them, can I? Please Doctor Pop, I mean Doctor Dad." I could feel his insecurity vibrate from his forehead as he tucked it tightly against my chest.

"Dad, just Dad, okay?" I answered, trying to keep from sobbing as I spoke. "I love you Pumpkin, I am so very proud of you," I whispered, pulling him into a tighter hug.

"Where are your cowboy clothes? You know we are welcoming some Yankees, and a new convert!" From his face I could tell I had lost him. "I thought you'd be in your Levi's and western duds! I bet Stevie is."

"Well, but this is my school uniform! Only kids that get to go there get to wear it!" he exclaimed, smoothing his shirt. "Well I'm gonna get to go there, I hope!" he added in a soprano voice. The only response I could think of was to hold him tightly against me and kiss the top of his head.

I was still enjoying his snuggle we watched the aircraft come and go, and paid little attention to a mid-sized corporate level jet stopped out on the tarmac. "There they are!" Johnny exclaimed as he pulled out from our cuddle. "Yea they're here!" He darted toward the jet before I could catch him, I was a little relieved when I saw Miguel start out of the aircraft.

"Good morning," I said to Miguel a second or so later. "Where is your Lear-jet? I was looking for it," I asked as we shook hands.

"It's over there, " he replied, pointing toward the aircraft we had flown back from Virginia in, parked not far away. "This is my new plane."

'Must be nice,' I thought.

"I hope you, Cindy and my other children can share the old one, it is at your disposal anytime you wish," he told me. I was trying to digest his statement when almost from the back of my mind I heard him say, "And it is great to see you, young man! If you allow your skin to tan much more, you are going to become Hispanic! A freckled Hispanic! With a rusty top! I understand you are making remarkable progress, will you shake my hand?"

My eyes focused just in time to watch Miguel push Johnny's right, injured hand into his. I gasped as I saw my youngest son's forearm muscles tighten as he squeezed our guest's hand. "I love you Grande!" he whimpered.

"Hi Pop!" Stevie's alto voice exclaimed as he pushed under my arm. He stiffened slightly and pulled away from me somewhat as his mother approached us. "I mean Doctor, , , P, , , Owens," he corrected himself.

"I like Pop better," I countered. I squeezed his thin shoulder adding, "Where's my hug?" He blushed as he glanced at his mother, then threw his arms around my waist. He giggled as I tousled his hair.

When I looked up Johnny was just breaking a hug with Steven. He flashed a bright smile as he wrapped his arm around Angel and accepted her embrace.

"Come on, you gotta meet the horses," he exclaimed toward Angelina. All three kids ran a few steps toward the cars before Johnny turned back and gave Mary a rather pointed 'Well, what's the delay?' look.

"Slow down Son, we have to get their luggage," I told him, earning myself a very impatient glare.

"What happened to the shy, mousy little boy you brought to Virginia? Young Mister Bashful?" Angel snickered

"Wait until you see him when he is excited," Miguel laughed as we followed the flight line workers, carrying their baggage to our cars.

Our lunch meeting was at least as surprising as was Miguel's arrival. I met the Foundation Employees, one of them a PhD level Psychologist, the other a MSW (Master's degree level Social Worker). As Cindy had suggested they had been very productive. They had already established a relationship with an international adoption agency, as they outlined the agency and the relationship they had established with it, it became clear they had found a way to overcome many of the challenges of immigrating children into the US.

I was a little shocked when Angel and Miguel presented their proposal that the Foundation purchase the eight-hundred or so acres adjoining our properties, with the intention of, sometime in the future, establishing a 'Boys Ranch' on it. "Of course, if you have no objection, what is your reaction?" Miguel asked me.

At first I wasn't too happy with the idea, but as I thought about it for a minute or so it became more inviting. "Well, a lot better than it becoming a housing development!" I answered.

After we finished lunch everyone except Jay, the foundation workers and I departed with Cindy, leaving for the ranch. The workers gave me three case files to review as Jay and I drove them back to the airport. After dropping them off in time to catch their flight back to Brazil, Jay and I went to the hospital and each of us did our afternoon rounds early.

'What the hell, it's Friday, only a couple of hours early,' I decided as we left the hospital a few minutes later. "If you don't mind, I'd like to make a quick detour on the way to the ranch," I told Jay after I made a quick call on my cell phone.

"This is beautiful, so sprawling, so open," Jay commented as I drove across Cornerstone's campus. "Virginia, the eastern seaboard, is so populous, land is at such a premium there. That is something I love about Texas."

"Yes, it's wonderful. Just wait, it gets better." I answered as I parked in front of the Administration building. "If I am correct, you are about to see guilt personified," I chuckled.

"See?" I whispered to Jay as we entered the Dean of Boy's office. Junior, Mark and Ronnie, all of their faces ghost white, were sitting in a corner of the outer office, studying the carpet below their shoes.

"Hi guys," I said. All of their shoulders stiffened as tightly as their thin necks did at the sound of my voice, none of them even looked up at me. All three of them slumped back into their chairs so much I thought Ronnie and Junior were going to melt and flow onto the floor when I continued, "We have company, I thought you guys might want to come home early and welcome them."

"Tell me, what did you think you had been caught doing this time?" I asked my three emotionally fatigued zombies as Jay and I walked back to my car. "From your faces, it must have been something serious!"

"You are correct, Doctor, you do operate a Nut Ranch!" Jay snickered as we climbed back into my big cat.

"Welcome to my world," I grinned.

To Be Continued…

Notes from the Author:

As many of you suggested, I am even worse at doing Math problems than I am at writing stories. Sorry about the latest, and greatest screw up regarding the cost of horse flesh. However, I can justify my screw up somewhat, the extra several thousand dollars Adam added to his check came out of this author's hide, via your e-mails! Ouch, but thanks for reading my story!

Gary, (missing a part of his butt cheek...)