My Carl

Chapter 17

When I awoke I discovered the weatherman's forecast was correct for a change. After crawling down the hall and pouring a cup of coffee, I peered out the window with my one working eye. The yard was covered in a light coat of ice and was being attacked by a miserable drizzle of freezing rain, just completely cold and nasty looking.

'Damn good day to stay inside.' I told my coffee cup. A good day to stay home and cook a pot roast in the crock pot I decided. I finished my cup and crawled out to the garage, getting a large roast out of the freezer. 'Maybe Dad will get the hint and cook you.' I told the pork roast, as I set the microwave to defrost. I had refilled my cup and just sat back down when a lanky pair of arms wrapped around my neck.

"Hi dad what'cha cooking?" Jerry asked. I looked around the kitchen quickly to reassure myself the only thing cooking was the coffee pot. Jerry's face assured me he wasn't interested in coffee.

"Were you reading my mind? What did I tell you about that?" I asked pulling his thin chest against me.

"No sir! Well I wasn't but you woke me up. I mean I just woke up." He replied. I digested his statement for a few seconds trying to decide if I wanted to go there.

"Hi dad." Jeff more yawned than said as he leaned against my other hip. "What's for breakfast?" He asked hugging my neck. "Can we have those little pork sausages?"

I looked away for a second then hugged them for a few seconds before popping them on their brief clad backsides.

"You guys get dressed and I might be able to find something." I suggested A little begrudgingly I reassured my coffee cup I wouldn't be away long and began emptying the refrigerator of the pounds of sausage and eggs.

"I hate to bring up disturbing subjects guys, but remember school starts again tomorrow." I announced as we finished breakfast. "You guys need to check your book bags and notebooks this morning. The roads are frozen and if you need any paper or supplies I don't want any last minute surprises." I added after the groans and grumbling settled down.

The boys disappeared into the family room right after they cleared the table. I went to my bedroom and began checking my e-mail and surfing the web. After a few minutes I went back into the kitchen for another cup of coffee checking on the kids on my way. Everyone was engrossed in a computer game, the twins fiercely fighting off some eggplant shaped spaceman before he ate Los Angeles while Carl cheered them on.

After refilling my cup I turned back toward my bedroom finding Carl standing in the entrance to the kitchen clearly waiting for me.

"Hi turkey! What'cha doing?" I asked.

"Well nothing sir." He looked around nervously before continuing. "Well I was wondering about something sorta."

I tried a couple of times to prompt him to continue before I sat to the table and called him to me. He pushed against my chest for several seconds without speaking.

"Come on son, this is pop. What's on your mind?" I asked stroking his back. He stared at the floor for several more seconds.

"Well what about, well tomorrow? What about my school? I gotta go back there now."

"Sorry kid but vacation's over. You have to go back to school and I'm stuck going back to work. I don't like it either but oh well, we gotta do what we gotta do!" I replied. I pulled him closer in some ways sharing his disappointment. I wished my time off could be extended as much I was sure Carl did.

"Well but I don't mind going back to school its neat some. Well but, , ," He looked down at his shoes then toward the patio door for several seconds. "Well but I'm Carl Miller here and everything but I still gotta be my old Carl for school and stuff. Whatevers, maybe I should just be Carl Faye sir."

"No you ARE Carl Miller, here, at school and everywhere. All we have to do is give the school a copy of your adoption decree, I mean the papers Judge Kiley signed." He gave me a somewhat uncertain look.

"Actually I was about to get everything ready, want to help?" I suggested. "Come on let's get to work."

I tucked him under my arm and lead him to my small safe. After I dialed the combination he peered curiously inside for an instant before quickly turning his back to the open door.

"I'm sorry I forgot!" He whined. Seeing my lost expression he added. "Well no one can see your Army stuff. Jerry and Jeff said you got war secrets in there!"

"They what? The twins said that?"

"Yeah they told me about it about the first time I ever came here. They tell everyone never even go close to it or nothing there's poison gas and stuff in there!"

I added 'kill the twins' to my mental To Do list before I withdrew Carl's court order and locked the war chest.

Carl was completely helpful as I separated the pages and began scanning them. He was so helpful it took about ten minutes to complete the two minute job. As the pages rolled out of my printer he grabbed each one and studied it closely.

"There it is!" He proclaimed pointing about half way down the third sheet.

I glanced over his shoulder in time to see his finger pointing at the paragraph ordering his name change. I had collated the copied documents and was about to staple them together when he pressed up against me.

"Are you sure they will say it’s okay?" He asked wide eyed. I flipped to the last page and pointed at the judge's signature.

"Would you want to argue with her?" I asked. He let out a soft giggle as his face developed an almost evil smile. I shooed him into his room to check his book bag before returning the original paper to my safe. 'Don't set off the poison gas' I snickered as I spun the dial.

I stepped down the hall to check on Carl on the way back to my bedroom. He had his now empty book bag sitting on his bed and was sorting its contents, placing everything into neat stacks on his desk. After proudly watching him for a few seconds I decided not to disturb him.

I spent the better part of the next hour surfing before logging off my computer and starting back to the kitchen. As I exited my bedroom I noticed the light in Carl's bedroom was still on. Assuming he had forgotten to turn it off I walked to his doorway and reached in to turn the switch off.

Carl was still in his room. Now not only was his book bag on his bed but a mountain of clothes were piled next to it, probably the majority of what he owned. Before I could look around the room any further another pair of pants landed on the pile.

"Hi pop!" Carl's angelic voice rang from across the room. He was standing in front of a mirror mounted on his dresser pulling a pair of jeans up his thin legs.

"What'cha doing?" I asked as I walked toward him.

"Well, sorta trying to see what I'm gonna wear tomorrow." He replied, clearly slightly embarrassed. I glanced into his closet, there were only three or four garments still hanging inside.

I watched as he pulled a blue polo shirt from his closet and held it up in front of his thin chest. He studied his image in the mirror for several seconds before hanging it back. He rushed over to his bed and dug through the three foot high pile mountain of garments, pulling another blue shirt out. Back at the mirror he held it up to his chest for several seconds.

I glanced into the closet at the first shirt. They looked almost identical. There was a slight difference in the shade of blue but it was almost so slight that only a printer or fashion designer would be able to tell the difference at a glance. His grunting made me turn back toward him, he had started to put the shirt on and had gotten the fabric hung on his facebow.

"What, is there some young lady friend you're getting ready for?" I teased as I helped him separate the fabric from steel facebow that was trapping him in his unwanted mask. He just blushed and turned back toward the mirror. He looked into his closet then over toward his bed clearly in deep thought.

"Pop can we go to the mall?" He asked.

"Its pretty nasty out there today turkey. If you need school supplies we can run to the store but can't the mall wait?"

"Well, , , I kinda wanted to spend some of my Christmas money. Please pop?" He responded his voice changing toward a whimper. I glanced at garment mountain then at Carl, now modeling for the mirror again. 'Oh shit, has he changed into a fashion plate?' I wondered.

"What do you need to buy today? Is it important enough to go out is this bad a weather?"

"I gotta get, , , I mean I sorta wanted to get a new backpack sir. Can we please?"

"Is this one hurt?" I asked picking up his book bag. "We can if we have too but its sure cold and wet out. I think there is even some ice on the roads."

He just looked down at his feet and shrugged his shoulders. He glanced back up at me a couple of times his eyes tearing slightly.

"Come here turkey, what's wrong?" I asked as I sat on the edge of his bed.

"Nothing sir." He whimpered. I pulled him onto my lap wrapping my arm around his thin waist. I ran my finger under his puffy eyes asking again what was wrong.

"Please can we go to the mall?" He almost whispered. "That's my old back pack. I want a new one for my new me. My Carl Miller me."

I took a deep breath as his statements sunk in.

"Has the new Carl decided what he's going to wear for his debut?" He just shrugged. "I like the shirt, but where are those stone washed jeans gramps bought you? The one's with the horse head on the back pocket."

My attempt at changing the topic worked better than I could have ever expected. Tiny flakes of metal dust almost seemed to puff out his ears and nose as he sat on my lap in total concentration. Suddenly he dove off my lap into garment mountain digging through the pile. Ten or fifteen pair of pants into the stack he jerked a pair of Jordache jeans out.

"I think that's the ones, they would go great with that shirt. Try them on let's see how you look. I have to sneak down the hall and take a wiz. Be right back okay?" I said as I stood and rushed toward the door.

I rushed into the family room retrieving what I needed and back down the hall. I paused a few seconds before flushing the toilet in the boys' bathroom to be sure my timing was reasonable. Carl was back in front of his mirror modeling for himself when I reentered his room.

"Hey that looks great they go together perfectly. Come here let me have a closer look." I suggested as I sat back down on the bed. He rushed over to me and stood between my knees, his posture proud and straight.

"I think this is what I'd wear, but turn around let's see." He turned slowly almost as if a modeling agency had choreographed his actions. I watched until he was facing away from me somewhat pompously displaying his butt. I gently pulled up on his center belt loop as if correcting the jeans fit. Pausing a second or so I brushed my hand over his backside.

"I don't know, your tail feathers are showing through!" I said, jabbing his bottom with my writing quill. He jerked around and stared then glared at the now familiar feather. "Shit, what if you lost some of these at school!"

"POP!" He shrieked. He pushed at my arm and gave me an over exaggerated frown his lower lip almost covering his facebow.

"You look great son. I'm very impressed you want to look your best." He gave me a very brief hug and rushed back over to the mirror. I followed him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders.

"Well but please can we go to the mall?" He asked after a few seconds. "Please?" He whimpered.

"Well you're a good looking kid and dressed great but I can tell you’re not going to be a happy looking kid until you get a new book bag are you. You put all that away." I said turning him toward garment mountain, "and get in some warm clothes okay?" He spun around giving me a warm hug.

"Thanks pop." I stroked his back for a second.

"Oh by the way, I pay for school supplies not you. The bag's on me okay?" I added. He renewed his hug burying his face in my chest.

I ignored the twins complaints about interrupting their video game and ordered them to check their bags for needed supplies. We ended up compromising that they could go even though they were on restriction.

I went to my bedroom and was changing into a sweat suit when my cell phone rang. I cursed my staff for fucking something up as I read 'US GOVT' on the caller ID. To my surprise it was Bob Gordon.

"Good morning Christian. Have you checked your e-mail recently?" He began. When I informed him I had maybe an hour a go he continued. "You might want to check it again. I think you will find a pleasant surprise in your mail box."

He went on to tell me that over the past couple of days all but one of the suspects from the porn ring had pleaded guilty to the charges against them. This done the vast majority of the reward money that had been offered was coming available and Carl and I were the recipients.

"Check your mail, I promise it will make your day." He added before ringing off.

I considered his statement for a few seconds before curiosity got the better of me. Still in my underwear I powered up my computer and waited for it to boot up.

"Pop!" Carl's shrieked from behind me, almost making me jump out of my skin. "Come on pop we gotta go, please? Come on get please get dressed!" He continued as I tried to get my wits back together after the start he gave me.

"I am dressed!" I exclaimed looking past my naked beer bell at my bare legs, all I was wearing was briefs and socks. "Come on let's go shopping!" I continued as I started toward the front door.

"POP!" He howled. "Get some clothes on!" His almost soprano voice ordered as he slapped me on the butt.

It was clear that if I wanted to check my mail I would either have to tie him up or lock him in a closet. I did take a second to look at my closet then his thin body wondering if he would fit, but turned my monitor off before and got dressed.

We survived the icy roads and freezing rain that battered us as we ran across the malls parking lot. 'Damn I'm glad I didn't spoil them' I thought as I brushed the sleet off my coat.

Still thawing, we searched a couple of stores before finding an office supply store that offered an assortment of bags that interested Carl. Before we left the house I cautioned the twins that they were still grounded and were to stay with me and was pleased how well they were conforming to their limits. They watched patiently as Carl poked and examined the 30 or so back packs on display.

"You guys want a new bag?" I asked. The twins synched their antennas for only a fraction of a second before presenting matching silver smiles.

"Well go find one!" I commanded.

Carl seemed to have found three or so bags seemed to suit his tastes. He took each one off the display and surveyed it, slipping his bony shoulders into a couple of them. He tried one on about three times and I was sure he had reached a decision when he looked the price tag. His face clearly showed disappointment as he placed it back in the display and looked over the others. I reached for the bag he seemed so interested in.

"Carl look at these!" Jerry hooted before I could look at it.

Carl and I both turned toward him. He was standing next to a nearby display of backpacks complete with matching notebooks and accessories. I was immediately impressed as I looked over his find. It offered a wide choice of colors and logo themes including sports teams, video games even space travel and aviation.

Carl looked mainly at the backpacks and after surveying one he slipped it on. He squirmed as if trying on a suit coat for a second before taking it off and examining each of its many pockets. I could tell as I watched whoever designed the packs had done an excellent job. There were pockets fitted to hold each of the accessories the system offered and plenty of room for other items. I picked up another pack and was again impressed. It was extremely well made it seemed rugged enough to even withstand the abuse the most energetic middle schooler could put it through.

When I sat the pack down Carl was gone. I looked around and saw him looking at the original display. After telling the twins to pick out what they wanted I walked over to Carl.

"You don't like those?" I asked pointing toward the twins.

"They're pretty neat but they cost too much. I want this one." He responded handing me a small backpack.

I took the bag from him and looked it over. It was, in a word, cheap. At 19 dollars I thought it was over priced.

"I like those better. I don't think this would last very long son, I think it would fall apart." I countered hanging his choice back on the display. I glanced at the price tag of the first bag he was interested in, 39 dollars.

"I'm not worried about the cost I want you to have something that will last and something that is what you need and want." I added.

"But they're 50 dollars!" He whined. "That's half my Christmas money!"

"Wait, I pay for school supplies remember?"

"But that's too much, you can't spend that much on me." I looked down at his 125 dollar Nike shoes dad had bought him trying to thinking of a response.

"Dad look! For five dollars they will put your initials on everything!" Jeff interrupted before I could speak. "Can we? Come on Carl get one of these so all three of us got the same. It will be cool!" He hooted. Not waiting for an answer the twins each grasp one of Carl's arms.

"Yeah dude you got a new name so you gotta get new initials." Jerry told his younger brother as the twins ushered him back to the other display. Jeff cut me a 'we got it covered dad' glance as they lead Carl away.

"Pick out what you want guys." I instructed.

Carl hesitated before choosing a pack and notebook with a Navy F-16 fighter jet theme. The twins added a pocket dictionary, calendar/organizer, and calculator to his stack. A sales clerk joined us telling me for 65 dollars I could get a complete package that included rulers, protractors, coloring pens and a variety of other supplies which I ordered for each boy. As she gathered the kits she asked each of them their his initials then what color they wanted their monogram.

"Silver of course!" I answered for them. When their questioning faces looked up at me I touched my teeth with my finger earning three identical 'up yours dad!' glares.

Ten minutes later we were at the checkout counter, everyone's new school equipment embossed and packaged. Carl backed away from the counter when the clerk took my credit card announcing my total was right at 200 dollars. I caught him before he got out of reach.

"You're worth every cent of it! But I sure would like to see some good grades come home in that bag." I said tucking him under my arm. I ran my fingers under his tear welled eyes as I guided him out of the store.

He followed the twins lead and slung the large plastic bag over his shoulder before pushing his way under my arm, his new treasure hanging off his back. We walked for several seconds before he put his empty arm around my waist.

"I love you pop!" He said pushing his facebow against my chest.

My cell phone rang before I could respond. I pulled him against me for an instant before checking it. Helen's name appeared on the caller ID.

"Hi Christian happy New Year! Have you checked your mail today? Isn't it exciting I almost couldn't believe it could you?" She asked. "I used to work with someone on their office and have access to the forms she referred to. I wanted to stop by and drop them off and say hi to your Turkeys on the way home would that be alright?" She added before I could respond to her first queries.

"Bob Gordon called me to but I haven't had time to check it, what's going on?" I asked.

"You don't know? Carl and you both are, , ,"

Three or so small crashing noises, along with Carl jerking from under my arm me distracted me. A louder thump followed by a man's painful groan from behind us made me lower my phone from my ear.

When I turned around my jaw dropped. Carl's sack had torn open and his new backpack and accessories were scattered behind us. An armed mall security guard, having tripped on the debris, was hopping around on one leg while he rubbed his other shin. His face explicitly his pain as he cut dirty looks at the heavy metal bench he obviously had just collided with.

"Oh God! Oh Crap!" He growled trying to regain his composure. I stared in total disbelief for several seconds before remembering Helen's call.

"Christian? Christian are you there?" Helen was repeating when I put the phone back to my ear.

"Let me call you back." I asked. After her several inquires as to what was wrong and was everyone okay I first asked to call her back but suggested "Well meet us at the house in an hour, you're not going to believe what just happened."

Thankfully the guard had only suffered a minor bruise to his leg. After a minute or so was able to put his weight on the injured limb and limp around. Carl had absconded down the mall as if running for his life but the twins had the presence of mind to go after him. When the three of them returned to the carnage a minute or so later he was still frightened, but calm as he hid behind the twins and stood next to me.

To Carl's chagrin two more guards quickly appeared. Thankfully they were only concerned about their colleague's condition, everyone writing the incident off as bad luck. I spent a minute or so talking to Carl's latest victim saying how unfortunate the 'accident' was and wishing him our best. To my surprise one of the other guards had placed Carl's packages into another bag and given it to the twins when I turned back to them.

"Here, I'll carry that." I suggested as I wrapped my arm around Carl's shoulder and escorted him out of the mall. I held him gently enough that I don't think he realized the death grip I had on him 'A cop a week for six years? Six times 52 equals, , ,' The sleet and freezing cold of the parking lot felt good as it distracted me from solving the equation as I stuffed my little angel into my van.

The house was full of the wonderful aroma of pot roast as we entered. The twins froze in the doorway for several deep breaths before they darted into the kitchen.

"Get away from there!" Dad's military command voice boomed. "I'll skin you alive. I mean it!"

I rushed into the kitchen. The twins were standing about two feet from our crock pot with their hands behind their backs. Both of them were leaning forward from the waist up at what had to be a very uncomfortable angle, their necks strained even further in front of them pressing closer and closer to the pot. Dad was standing next to the sink holding a slotted spoon more like it was a battle baton than cooking utensil.

Helen's arrival defused the confrontation before I could intercede. Only a few seconds after the door bell rang she appeared in the kitchen with Carl next to her, his silver smile radiating off the walls.

"You look like you've grown!" She exclaimed. "Let's see." She continued.

She grasp his thin shoulders and pulling him toward her. "No, only a little." She added as she tucked the back of my bright red faced boy's head between her breasts. "Have you been behaving?"

"And what about you guys?" She asked, gesturing toward my now mummified twins.

They shifted their gaze between Helen and the pot roast three or so times. For the first time in their lives they actually turned their backs on food and rushed to Helen. She cupped their pale faces for a few seconds as they stared at their new brother's head dress.

"Boys, go put packages in your rooms. I want to talk to Ms Cruz for a minute." I suggested, hoping to get them breathing again. After a minute or so all three of them started to show hints of life again. Giving me nasty glares they shuffled toward their bedrooms.

Helen, Dad and I laughed as I filled them in on what happened at the mall. She jokingly repeated Tim's disclaimer about Casey's exchange policy before asking if I had checked my mail yet. When I told her I had not she all but demanded we check it now, informing me it was well worth my while to.

I grabbed a beer and made her a bourbon and coke before escorting her to my bedroom. She settled on the small settee in the corner of the room while I logged back on to my e-mail.

I had a message from an FBI agent identifying herself as a 'Project Coordinator' for their Crime Stopper's support section. She informed me Carl and I had been named as being responsible for the arrest and conviction of several people sought under her jurisdiction, and that of several private reward funds she interfaced with. These organizations had agreed that the rewards we were eligible for should be split between Carl and I, Carl to receive 75 percent of the money and I the remaining 25 percent.

I had to read the next sentence three or four times before I believed my eyes.

"The sum of money now available for release is slightly over 850,000 dollars. Subject to conviction regarding other pending cases an additional amount of about 500,000 dollars could be available to your son and yourself." She went on to suggest I contact her via e-mail or phone so her section could guide us through the collection process.

"Holy shit, Carl is going to be a millionaire!" I mumbled as I reread the message.

"You're not going to do too badly yourself, congratulations! Oh by the way, by Federal law its tax exempt too!" Helen commented.

She went on to explain that the reward money would have no effect on Casey's agreement regarding Carl's expenses. As his parent I was responsible for dealing with his new wealth and could do anything I chose, provided it is in his best interest.

"I'm still in shock, but the only thing I know to do is set Carl up with a trust fund. Wow, that kind of investment gaining interest until he's 21 or so he is going to a very comfortable young man! Hey, I don't think I want to tell him about all this right now. Let's let him get settled back into school and everything. Is that okay with you?"

"He's your kid remember? Not a word from us." She reached over and cupped my forearm before continuing.

"Like I said I used to work with a member of their unit and took the liberty of picking up the forms for you. Fill them out and in a mouth or two you guys can expect some pretty impressive checks in the mail." She handed me an envelope from her purse.

"Oh she did say the section regarding Carl's Social Security Number is going to be trippy, his name change and number have not yet been processed. She showed me how to streamline it, can I go over them with you?"

I glanced at the e-mail again before sitting next to her on the love seat. We spent ten minutes or so reviewing the forms when she looked toward the hall.

"Hi guys!" She bubbled. I followed her gaze to find all three of my sons staring open mouthed at us. "Come here!" She said extending an arm toward them.

"We're going over some paperwork for Casey. Did you guys get your book bags ready yet?" I asked. No response from any of them, I was starting to worry if they were still breathing.

"How neat. You got new bags? Can I see yours, Carl?" She asked as she started toward them. As she tucked Carl under her arm and started toward his bedroom. I was sure the only thing that made his thin legs move was his inner ear's instinct to maintain his balance, not his comatose brain.

The twins weren't any more responsive as I led them down the hall. Dad was in the kitchen about to check the roast. When he removed the crock pot's cover its aroma reached their noses and they seemed to awake almost magically. They bolted from my grasp surrounding their grandfather.

"Gramps, Dad got Miss Cruz into his bedroom!" Jerry told probably the roast more than Dad.

"Yeah they were snuggled on his little couch. Together!" Jeff added. Dad rolled his eyes toward me showing a slightly evil gleam.

"Did you guys move everything into your new bags for tomorrow?" I asked, hoping to change the subject. Dad caught my hint quickly. He cut two small samples of potato from the pot offering each boy one.

"When you are finished getting ready for tomorrow you can have a bigger sample." He suggested. The twins stared between him and the pot for a few seconds before disappearing back into their room.

"What goes around comes around, looks like pretty soon for you!" He snickered. I would swear from his look he was enjoying a little revenge for the hell I put him through in my teen years.

About ten minutes later Helen walked into the kitchen with three young subjects around her. Dad and I invited her to join her for supper but she declined. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing as the boys tried to decide between seeing her out and attacking the bowls of broth dad had sat out for them, but breast won out over roast. She hugged each of them as I opened the front door.

"Do good in tomorrow school guys, promise?" She said as she hugged each of them and kissed their foreheads. She winked at me and grinned then gave me a quick peck on my cheek. "Call me okay?"

I don't think the boys said five words between them the rest of the evening.

All three kids were quiet as we ate breakfast. I was enjoying my last cup of coffee before leaving the house and rejoining the working world when I felt like I was being stared at, better put being analyzed. None to my surprise the twins were staring at me when I turned around.

"Ah, pop, well what about, , ," Jeff began. He hesitated before pointing at his facebow.

"What about them?" I asked.

"Well, do we gotta?" Jerry asked.

"You tell me guys, the doctor said you need to wear them as much as possible. What should we do?" I got identical questioning glares from my twins.

"You have been really great, you can leave the headgears home. You put them on the minute you get home this afternoon, agreed?" I more demanded then asked.

I was immediately rewarded with a pair of twins hugging me as they stripped their headgear off slamming it on the kitchen table.

"We have to leave in a couple of minutes you guys have everything ready?" I asked.

We were almost to the door when the twins stopped in front of me. After they synched their invisible antennas for a second or so they disappeared back into the kitchen. Shortly the rejoined us, stuffing their headgears into their backpack. I was trying to interpret their faces when Carl followed suit loading his headgear into his backpack. I got several 'Well!' glares from them as they guided me toward my truck.

Somehow all four of us crammed in for the drive to school. The twins quickly disappeared as soon as I parked to find their friends. Carl looked at the building then the truck seat as if he was wondering where he wanted to be. He hesitated and then looked up at me with a wide grin widely.

"Come on son, let's go get you ed-u-ma-cated" I suggested.

He was right next to me as we walked toward the school building. After slipping his back pack onto his shoulder I had to smile at the pride that almost radiated from his smart stride and wide smile. When we got inside he stepped in front of me leading the way to the office.

"Good morning Carl, did you enjoy your vacation?" The secretary asked. "Oh did you get those for Christmas?" She quipped pointing at his braces.

"No ma'am." Was his only reply.

"Well did you get any nice gifts for Christmas?"

He leaned his back against me, pressing his school bag against my chest as he grasp my arms and wrapped them around his chest. He rolled his head back to look up at me displaying one of the happiest smiles I had ever seen in his wonderful face. His eyes glowed even brighter than his braces against the overhead lights.

"Yes ma'am. I got a family!"

The End