The Little Pipsqueak

Chapter Fifty~Six

After all that had happened that Sunday morning, the one fortunate thing that happened for us was that we arrived at the restaurant after the lunch hour.  While there were quite a few people in the restaurant, we were able to be seated after only a few minutes.  We might have even been a bit overdressed.  This was one of those places that had a bucket of peanuts on your table and everyone just tossed the shells on the floor.

Both Jeffy and AJ were immediately drawn into adding to the ground covering.  It was Elliot that I was worried about.  He was such a neat freak that I could tell he wasn't comfortable at first.

"Pop, do they have to do that too?  I mean, it's just not right, to say nothing of being sanitary."

I guess a waiter heard him and came right over and, with a big smile, she assured us, "It really only looks messy, young man.  We do clean it up each evening and we've never had a problem since I've been here.  Please enjoy the treat on us.  It's really quite okay."

She left us to our menus and the boys to their snack.  Yes, Elliot finally had one or two, saying he didn't want to spoil his appetite and leaving the shells in a pile next to his napkin.

"I agree with you, Elliot.  Don't eat too many, boys.  You sure don't want to ruin your meal," I told them.

Lewis, in the provided highchair, was starting to make some restless noise.  He was leaning as far as he could toward Jeffy, who was sitting the closest to him on one side of the booth in which we'd been seated.  I was on his other side.  Every time Jeffy opened a shell and threw the shell to the floor, Lewis reached for it, then reached out to Jeffy to get one for himself.

"He's so funny, Dad," observed AJ.  "He wants to throw them on the floor too.  See?"

"That's all we need, another sloppy boy in the house," said Elliot, throwing up his hands in despair.

Lewis saw him and threw his hands up too, then whined and reached for Jeffy's next sacrifice to the floor gods.

"What would happen if I gave him one, Pop?"

"Well, I'm not too sure what he'd do with it.  But he sure isn't old enough to eat it, the shell or the nut."

"What if I hand him a whole one?  We could grab it if it went to his mouth."

"Okay, one."

Jeffy handed the boy a whole peanut in its shell and we waited to see what he'd do.

"I think he's gonna be a scientist, Dad.  Look at him."

AJ was right.  Lewis took the shell in his little fist and looked it over very carefully.  It went up to his nose as both Jeffy and I got primed to grab his little wrist if it went into his mouth.  But he was content to give it a hearty sniff.  Then his eyes squinted, his nose twitched, and he sneezed.

That wasn't what he wanted!

About that time, Jeffy threw another shell on the floor with Lewis watching his every move.  So, he threw his on the floor too, then whined when his new toy was gone.

"Ha ha, he wants another one," laughed AJ.

Lewis laughed too, as did Jeffy.  Only Elliot withheld his laughter for the moment.

Just then our waiter showed up.  He was a young man of about twenty, dressed in the house uniform of black slacks, a white dress shirt and black vest.

"Gentlemen, welcome to Johnny's.  I'll be your waiter, Dennis.  If there's anything I can get you, let me know.  Now, to begin, may I take your drink order?"

I think the boys were all impressed with Dennis' politeness and his cheerfulness.

We all told him what we'd like to drink, and he left to retrieve them.

"So, boys, this is our first kind of fancy place.  It's nicer than Wang's.  Have any of you been to a place like this?"

"You know I haven't.  I thought McDonald's was pretty snazzy before I came to live with you, Dad."

"And I was pretty small when my family went to a place like this.  I barely remember, but I seem to recall that it was my grandparent's idea to go," Jeffy told us.  "You can bet my mom would never have wanted to.  But when Elliot and me went with Uncle Sid and Aunt Harriet, we went to a real nice restaurant.  Didn't we, El?"

"Yes, and it's Elliot and I, Jeffy."

"How could it have been you and you, Elliot?" said AJ, barely able to keep a straight face.

Elliot was just about to answer when he caught on that AJ wasn't serious.  He laughed with us and shook his head in feigned disgust.

"Anyway, before I was so rudely interrupted . . ."

Which got another round of laughs.

". . . You can believe my parents wouldn't have spent money on a place like this.  We'd go to some place that served the most boring foods, if we went anywhere at all, and usually because a group from church went.  It wasn't until Jeffy and I got to go with Uncle Sid and Aunt Harriet that I had such a great meal.  It was really delicious."

"And where would that have been?" asked the waiter, Dennis.  He reappeared, standing over Lewis, ready to serve our drinks, which were balanced on a huge tray.

Of course, it drove Lewis nuts because he could only see the tray over his head, not where the voice was coming from.  But when Dennis noticed he moved to one side and Lewis settled down.  He sure was curious.

"I can't remember the name of the place.  Can you, El?"

"Nope.  Someone's name, I think.  I think it was Italian."

"And it was in the big city, I think.  Right, guys?" I added.

Two 'yeahs.'

"Well, I'm sure you'll enjoy yourselves here.  You look like you have good appetites, and this is just the place to satisfy them."

"Yeah, we've had enough excitement already.  It made me hungry."

"A stiff wind would make you hungry, little bro," laughed Jeffy.

I had to agree with that.


So, AJ gave Dennis a quick rundown of what happened at the store, with Jeffy and Elliot filling in the gaps when needed.

"Wow!  That was some experience.  I hope they don't bother him when he goes back to school."

"Naw.  We're settin' up a club so we can talk about bullying and stuff in the grade school and the high school.  Huh, Dad?" explained AJ.

"My, that's impressive.  My little brother goes to the high school.  I'll bet he'd be interested in your club.  But hey, let's get your orders in.  Now, we have lunch specials that should fill the bill for you gentlemen."

Dennis continued to lead us through our orders, then left to relay them to the kitchen.

He came back, and we exchanged information so we could find his brother to invite him when the boy's club started up after school started.

"Dennis, do you think he'd like to help us start the club?" asked AJ.

"Oh, well, I don't know.  I, um, I don't know if he'd be willing to go that far.  He's not too comfortable with the subject of sexual preferences just now."

"Huh?" asked AJ.

"It just means he's not out yet, AJ," explained Jeffy.

"Jeffy!  That was inappropriate.  No one mentioned anyone's preferences," I told him.

"Oh, sorry, Dennis."

"Oh, it's okay.  He isn't here.  But you should probably be more careful if you don't want to alienate your club from any kids that are still questioning."

Two 'huh's that time.

Elliot picked up on it.  "If we go around pushing people into the club, no one will want to take the chance to come and join.  They'll think everyone will think they're gay or lesbian.  Dennis is saying that it might be easier for someone to join if it's an established club and is definitely about helping to prevent bullying anyone as opposed to a gay club."

"O-o-o-oh," said AJ.  "Well, I'm not gay, so it can't just be a gay club.  But we will let anyone join who wants to stop the bullying, huh, guys?"


"Of course."

About that time Dennis went to serve another table, then came back with another huge tray loaded with lots of food!

It turned out to be all Jeffy and I could do to keep Lewis from grabbing anything he could reach.  It was frustrating for him and for us, but we were all laughing at his antics.  People at the booth behind us were even commenting on how cute he was.  Lewis was the only one not laughing.

I finally broke the crisp ends off of a steak fry and gave the softest part to him.  He was more than content with that.  He gummed away on it until it was practically mashed potatoes in his hand.  Then he looked at the floor and tossed it down with the peanut shells.

We were all stuffing our faces by then.

"Oh, yuck!  See what he's learning, Pop?  Next, his clothes will be all over your bedroom."

"Hey!" said Jeffy.  "That's not how it happens.  I just know I'm gonna wear them again real soon."

Dennis took a jar of vegetables to heat, so Lewis was soon enjoying his lunch as well, though it took two full jars, finally, and another steak fry.

It became very quiet as the three boys dove into their meals.  Each of them ordered a lunch special that included steak, potatoes, usually fried, except Elliot's, which was baked, and a side salad, with a slice of garlic bread.  I had the same but didn't eat the potatoes.

There sure were a lot of moans of pleasure as they took their first bite into their juicy steaks.  It was heartwarming to know that they could find so much pleasure in something that much of our country takes for granted.  To think that it took until their teens to experience it was something, I no longer spent time worrying about.  There were just too many new things to experience to waste time on the past like that.

"Well, gentlemen, it looks like you really enjoyed those steaks," commented Dennis as he began to remove our empty plates.

"Don't take Jeffy's yet, Dennis.  He hasn't finished licking it, yet."  Elliot was certainly enjoying himself.

"Oh, I am not licking it.  I am soppin' up the juices though.  M-m-m-m-m, that was sure good.  Thanks, Pop, for suggesting this place."

"You can thank AJ for that.  I promised him a meal here a while back and we never got a chance to try it out until today.  I'm glad you guys were around to take part in it.  All four of you," I said, poking Lewis in the belly.

He scrunched up and then did one of his explosive laughs that shocked Dennis and caused a few people to turn their heads.  The boys got a big kick out of how much attention one so little could generate.

"Wow!  He sure has a funny laugh.  Okay, guys, what'll it be for dessert.  Your meal comes with a generous scoop of one of three flavors of ice cream, plus we have a whole menu of other decadent desserts."

AJ and Elliot decided to split a piece of hot fudge cake, ala mode, which was the restaurant's signature dessert.  I decided on just coffee.  But Jeffy surprised me when he ordered just vanilla ice cream.  We soon understood why.

Once again, when Dennis brought the big tray with the boys' desserts on it, Lewis tried his darndest to look around to see what new wonderful thing was being brought out to him.

As soon as he saw the sweet treats, whether he knew what they were or not, he wanted some of each.

"See?  That's why I just got good ole vanilla, Pop," explained Jeffy.  "Can Lewis have bites of mine?"

"Um, I guess so.  I'm not sure."

"Actually, sir," Dennis said, "Babies should wait until they're closer to a year old.  By then they're used to other milk products that don't have the additives that foods like ice cream have."

"Really?  I didn't know that, Dennis.  My grandson is only about seven months old so he should probably wait.  But I believe we brought some applesauce.  Sorry, Lewis."

"So, Jeffy, is it?  That was a very generous thing to do.  Sorry, it didn't work out.  Would you like something besides the ice cream now that you can't share it with the little one?" asked Dennis.

"Oh, well, naw.  I guess I'm good," he said, though he did look a little envious of the huge plate of dessert that the other two boys were inhaling.

"Let me see what I can do," Dennis said as he turned and headed back to the kitchen.

In a few minutes, I noticed him walking our way with one hand behind his back.  When he got to our booth, he made like he was seeing if the coast was clear, then placed a slice of chocolate cake in front of Jeffy.

"Mum's the word.  Don't know where you got it, okay?  It's on the house," said Dennis, feigning secrecy.

"Um, wow, okay.  Hey, thanks, Dennis.  That was sure neat of you."

"Me?  It's okay.  I even checked with the manager.  When he heard what you tried to do, he was happy to let me serve you something more.  So, keep being a good, um . . . big brother?" he said, looking at me to see if he was right.

"Uncle.  All three boys are his uncles.  While Lewis is my grandson by birth, my three boys were handpicked by me and we're adopted."

That got me three of the greatest smiles from my boys, who looked like they couldn't have been prouder.  I know I couldn't have been.

"Nice.  What a great family, and you're trying to do a wonderful thing with your club, guys.  I know it will work out just great.  I'll be sure to tell my little brother to look for it when school starts."

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After I paid the bill, and we were getting everyone belted into the truck, I took just a second to talk to the crew before we drove home.

"Guys, you were really great in there.  You were all such gentlemen that I will be proud to take you anywhere.  You just continue to make me prouder each day."

"Yeah, and thanks for the great lunch, Pop.  It was swell."

"Yes, Pop, it was an excellent meal."

"Yeah, thanks, Dad.  That was sure good meat.  It was all juicy and stuff.  Nummy!  But I'm sure full."

The rest of the afternoon had us all taking naps at some point.  Lewis was conked out before we got home and AJ spread out on the couch and was sawing logs in a matter of minutes.  I looked over to Elliot laying back in his chair with his book propped up on his chest and his eyes closed.  Jeffy came down after laying the baby down and sprawled across the other recliner and was out in a few minutes.

I don't think we'd ever had such a lazy afternoon.  Of course, it came about after a very exciting morning, to say the least.

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Late in the afternoon, the telephone rang.  It was one of the first times that no one ran to get it.  I was sure I would have missed the call, expecting someone else to race for it.

"I was 'bout ta hang up, Tim.  Thought you weren't over there."

"Jeb?  Oh, the kids and I had quite a day and they're all conked out in the living room.  What can I do for you?"

"Well, son, I think I just may have called at the right time.  Joshua has been on my case ta let him cook up a meal and wanted me ta invite you all to come on over to taste his, well, whatever it is he's a makin'."

"Oh, man, Jeb.  I don't know.  We just had lunch at Johnny's Steakhouse.  We're all pretty full."

"Ha!  You know that won't last long.  You got yourself, young boys, over there.  Tell ya what, let's make it later'n usual, say 7 o'clock.  That should give 'em time for at least one leg to hollow out again.  Ha!"

"It all sounds wonderful, Jeb.  I'm sure if I mentioned it, I'd be talking to their backs before I was done anyway.  Sure, we'll come over about 6 o'clock so we can tell stories of our day.  It was something."

"Great," Jeb said, then turned away from the phone and yelled, "Joshua, they'll be here at six for dinner at seven.  Is that enough time, my boy?"

"He says, that'll be perfect.  Gosh, Tim, I sure am enjoyin' his company.  I don't know if I can give him up."

"Well, old friend, I'm sure we can work something out with him.  Maybe we need to build him a church over here somewhere."

"Ya think?  Ope!  Of course not, you scoundrel.  But we can talk about that at some point as well, right?"

"You bet."

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Before long I heard a wee voice with an amazingly high decibel level.  He must have had his volume turned up to the max.  I'm sure he'd been awake for a while and nobody bothered to rescue him, so he let us, and the world know that it would no longer be tolerated.  His gibberish was so cute I think I waited another minute at the door just listening.  He'd wait a few seconds between blasts of expletives known only to him.  When he didn't hear an immediate rush for the stairs, he set off on another long string of whatever he was informing us of, undoubtedly having to do with his soggy undergarment, his diaper.

But when I walked in, he was all charm and smiles, like the little angel he was.  I almost laughed out loud as I could imagine him saying through his dimples, 'What?  Who, me?'

I picked him up and laid him on the bed, grabbing a diaper and wipes along the way.

"Well, little man, did you have a nice nap?" I asked.

He grinned until I removed the heavy diaper from around his pudgy legs.  Then he let out a very satisfied sigh, like he was finally free of that disgusting nuisance.  I doubt that he will be too difficult to potty train.

I picked out a cute, big-boy shirt that snapped between his legs, something I wished they'd make in 13- and 15-year-old sizes to keep shirt tails tucked in on two of my bigger boys.  Along with the shirt I chose a pair of shorts.  It was too warm for foot coverings and I figured he wouldn't be getting splinters in his feet for at least a few months if he were barefoot.

After a while, I started organizing the boys so we could do our moseying over to Jeb's.  Elliot was the first one ready to go as soon as he found out where we were going, especially when I mentioned Joshua and his desire to cook us a meal.  Anything to do with Joshua was fine with him, but he had him on a high pedestal, among the finest chefs in the country by the time we were ready to go over to dinner.

"What do you suppose he'll make, Pop?" he asked me for the third time.  He'd been standing in front of the mirror in the entry, combing his hair until every piece lay down perfectly.  He was dressed in the same clothes he'd worn to our steak lunch, which was pretty dressy for Jeb's.

"I have no idea, Elliot.  What's his last name?"

"Christiansen," he said without missing a beat.  The boy was infatuated with the cute young vicar, to say the least.

"Well, let's see.  That could mean Scandinavian descent."

"Yes, or German," added Elliot.

"Oh?  Boning up on your European countries now?"

"Um, I may have looked up his name when we were at the library."

"Okay, so if he chose something from one of those cultures, we could be having any of a variety of things, many of which most of us have never tried."

"Well, we could go over and see.  What's taking everyone so long?"

"It's cuz someone was in the shower and hogged the bathroom for hours.  Jeesh," said Jeffy coming down the steps.  "Pop, you'd think he was going on a date or somethin'."  Jeffy was wearing a t-shirt and baggy basketball shorts, much like he would if he were going over to work on the house or just goofing around at home.

"You're going like that?" exclaimed Elliot when he turned to see Jeffy walking down the stairs.

"Ye-ah.  I'm not in love with someone I'm going ta see."

Elliot turned a bright red before he turned from the mirror and walked into the living room.

"Ready!" shouted AJ as he ran down the stairs, barely able to stop before he slammed into the front door.  He was dressed comfortably as well, but a little nicer than Jeffy.  At least he wore a button shirt to go visit his great grampa.

As we entered the house there were the distinct smells of German cooking coming from the kitchen.  It smelled like something vinegary to me.  I hadn't had German food in ages.

AJ hopped right over to his great grampa, who was sitting in his recliner and smiling at his beautiful great-grandson, anticipating, no doubt, whatever AJ would bubble over in enthusiasm.

The rest of us headed for the source of those great aromas and our friend, Joshua.

"I always remembered my grandmother making this dish, almost a casserole, but it's been so long since I've had it," our young cook told us.

I heard a kind of moan and looked over at Elliot.  His eyes were pointed in the direction of his crush, Joshua, but his awareness of all other things was a million miles away.  Evidently, Jeffy noticed too.

"Good grief, Pop, it looks like we're gonna have a problem here," he laughed, actually waving his hand in front of Elliot's gaze.

It took Elliot several seconds to shake his head and focus on something besides the young man at the kitchen counter, like breathing.

Joshua was dressed in a sports shirt and slacks like he was entertaining some important people though slightly on the casual side.  He barely looked up when we came into the doorway, instead concentrating on the steaming glass casserole dish in the oven.  As he straightened up, he smiled over at us, then noticed Elliot.  A very big grin lit up his face and it was instantly returned by his admirer.  Joshua then gave me a kind of sad, pathetic look, almost as though he were sorry for the complication.

I smiled my best, winked at him and barely shrugged my shoulders – that kind of a 'What are you gonna do?' look.

"Elliot, why don't you and the boys set the table for Joshua?  It looks like he's busy with the salad.  Elliot?"

"Um, oh, okay.  Sure.  Let's see, there's six of us."

Joshua's concerned look took on a grave expression as he corrected Elliot, "No, um, my date will be here in a few minutes.  That makes seven, I'm afraid."

"Oh, your . . . your date?" asked the devastated boy, trying to hold his own against such a blow.

"Okay, she's really my sister.  I was just teasing you, Elliot.  Sorry."

I thought Elliot would melt right there.  He looked like he was going limp right before our eyes; the relief was so great.

"Yeah, but what would Enrique say, Elliot?" asked Jeffy.

"Say about what?" asked AJ.

He'd been with his great grampa ever since we got there, really only a minute before.  He and Jeb had just walked into the opening between the dining room and the kitchen, off to the right of where Jeffy, Elliot and I had been standing.

"Nothing, AJ.  Jeffy's making another bad joke about nothing, nothing at all."  His look at Jeffy was surely stinging his brother's eyes.

"Oh.  Can I help you, Joshua?  They don't let me cook at my house, ya know," offered AJ.

"Why is that, AJ?  You do so many things well, I thought you'd make a good cook."

"Yeah, well, I have a little problem about keepin' things from burnin' and stuff.  It's really hard to keep it from happenin' sometimes."

"That's because, ya silly kid, ya keep leavin' the kitchen while you're cookin' and you aren't watchin' the stove or oven."  Jeffy just shook his head, as though he knew anything about cooking.

"But it's boring ta have ta wait an' wait."

"Dedication, AJ.  Dedication.  The finest creations usually take the longest to make.  You just have to be patient and see it through to the end," explained our evening's cook, reaching over to switch off the oven.

Just then the doorbell rang.

"I'll get it!" shouted AJ, turning toward the front door.

"No, AJ.  It'll surely be Joshua's sister.  Let's let him get it," advised Jeb.  Then turning to me, he said somewhat quietly, "So she doesn't get scared off right away.  Ha!"

"Hey!  I'm not scary!"

"Of course not, little one.  But she may be quite timid, um, shy, don'tcha know."

"My friends, may I introduce my date for the evening, my sister, Rachel?" said Joshua as he came up to us with a beautiful young lady at his side.

In an instant, especially after the gasp we all heard from Jeffy beside me, we saw the exact same look on his face as we'd all observed on Elliot's when we first got there.

I so much wanted to say, "Down, boy," but held back.

"I'm pleased to meet you all," she said in a very sweet, almost angelic voice.  Her smile was infectious.  It was almost hard to blame Jeffy for his behavior.

"Rachel, I'd like you to meet five, no six," started Joshua, pointing to Lewis, "Of the nicest people on the planet.  They have a way of making you feel like family from the get go."

He ushered his sister toward Jeb and started his introductions.

"This is Jebediah Harding, the gruffest, hard-headedest, and the most generous person you'll ever meet.  I'd say his bark is worse than his bite, but you never know with him."

It was so funny to see Joshua and Jeb almost dueling with their intense stares and pointed smiles at one another, almost like a thumb-wrestling match, with neither giving in.

But even the old coot couldn't hold back his admiration for the young lady.

"Thank you for putting up with my brother, Mr. Harding.  I know he can be a handful sometimes."

"Hey!" argued Joshua just as Jeb let out a . . .

"Ha!  You got him nailed there, young lady.  Quite a handful.  But I'll take his kind any day, alright."

"Oh, well, in that case," the accused said, with relief.

"And this is, let me get this right, Retired Gunnery Sergeant Timothy McGill.  He's the one that threw me at Jeb, you know."

"Yes, Joshua.  You told me several times and you still expect me to believe your dramatizations.  Obviously, you're enjoying yourself immensely."

"Ew.  She got you pegged, Josh.  Huh?" said Jeffy.

"I'm really glad to meet you, Rachel.  Please call me Tim."

I got a very nice smile and a small nod from the young lady before Joshua went on.

"The loud one is Daniel Jeffrey McGill.  Aka, the wise-guy."

"Pleased ta meetcha, ma'am.   I must say you don't look a thing like your. . ."

"And this is Elliot Patrick McGill."

Elliot nodded politely, still concentrating on her brother standing next to her.  She did a double-take between the two, then shook her head as if it weren't uncommon.

"His brother, AJ, um . . .  AJ, I don't know what the AJ stands for, do I?"

"Oh, oh.  It stands for Andrew James McGill and I'm pleased to meet you too, Joshua's sister."  He finished with a slight curtsy, which made us all laugh at the boy.  He beamed sweetly through crimson cheeks, his dimples to behold.

"And last but not least . . ." Joshua said, coming back to me and the bundle in my arms.

"Who is this adorable little cutie?  You didn't tell me there was a precious baby here, Joshua."

Rachel held out her arms and Lewis, as enthralled with the young beauty as we all were, twisted in my grasp and practically fell into her arms.

"Oomph!  What a sweetheart."

Lewis let out a great giggle and kissed her.  Well, he held her ears and gummed her nose for a second.

"What a little lover he is," Rachel said, looking up at all of us, a little drool hanging from her nose.

The boys were laughing but Joshua grabbed a paper towel to help out Rachel.

"His name is Lewis, and he is Tim's grandson," explained her brother.

"Well, he's adorable, Tim.  You are so fortunate to have such a beautiful family."

"So are your parents," observed Jeffy, blushing.

Elliot nodded his agreement, then added his blush.

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After stories of our exciting morning at the computer store, we all sat down to eat.

Dinner was great.  Joshua made a pretty simple casserole of sausage, potatoes, onions and sauerkraut.  He had the salad and some really nice crusty bread with it.

"Dad, um, Joshua, um, what's this stringy stuff," asked AJ, holding a forkful to his nose.

"It's called sauerkraut, AJ," explained Joshua.  "It's pickled cabbage.  It's really good."

"Why would you want to pickle cabbage?" asked Jeffy looking closely at his plate of food.

"It's very good, guys," said Elliott.  "Someone at our church used to bring it to potlucks all the time.  With the richness of the sausage, it's really a good combination."

"Um, I don't know," said AJ.

"Boys, all I ask is that you try it," I told them.  "If you don't like it, you don't have to eat it.  Not everyone cares for it."


Both boys took a very little bite and ended up getting seconds.

Lewis got a taste of potato.  His face contorted as a bit of sauerkraut juices hit his very new taste buds and his tongue began to push it out of his mouth.

The rest of us loved the wonderful food and, of course, the company.  Lewis got his dinner in a jar.

Elliot announced that he and the boys would do the dishes.  AJ almost looked excited to help.  Jeffy not so much, but mostly it was a show.

"If helping do a few dishes gets me that kinda great food, I'm in."

Jeb and I looked at each other doubtfully.  This was too good to be true.  They weren't impossible back at their own kitchen, but there were times when they discussed vehemently just whose turn it was to wash.

We sat in the living room, enjoying each other's company as we listened to the clanking and laughing coming from the kitchen.  I only got a little excited each time I heard an, "Oops."

"Oh, relax, son.  They're just being boys," said Jeb, waving at me to sit back down.

"That's what I'm afraid of, Jeb, they're just being boys."

"All we have is ice cream for dessert," Joshua told us.

The boys were at the doorway before he said dessert.

"I'm sure we're all too full.  What're you thinkin' there, Tim?  You too?"

"Oh, man.  I'm still really full.  I think we can skip dessert.  What do you think, Rachel?"


By that time two of the boys were almost in tears and Rachel and Joshua couldn't hold back their merriment at the teasing.

Elliot saw right through it.  Not too unusual for him.

"Uh, guys, you know their joking with you, right?"

"Oh, yeah, well, I knew that," said Jeffy as he backed off from his pleading to stand by Elliott and look cool, his hand on his hip and a smirk on his face.

"You sure?" asked AJ.

"Finish what you're doing, and I'll dish you guys up some.  How's that sound?" offered Joshua.

Can you believe that the boys, not even Elliott, wanted a snack by the time we got home, rather late?

Lewis was conked out in Rachel's arms before we called it a night.  I think Jeffy may have been a little jealous of him, but Elliot was very relieved that Rachel was Joshua's sister.

We all had a great time.  But we still needed to talk to Joshua about what his plans were.

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"Tim, my boy, have you seen ads for the county fair?  I think it would be a great experience for the boys to go and see what comes from the land and their neighbor's achievements in these parts.  How does that sound?"

"Jeb, I think it's a great idea.  I haven't been to a fair since I was a kid.  I'm positive that Jeffy and AJ have never been.  Their closest experience would have been Tyler's birthday, with all the booths and carnival foods.  I'm also pretty sure that Elliot was never allowed such frivolity either.  Say, we need to include Tyler and the Perkins.  That would be amazing to experience it with them."

"Sounds like a plan, my boy.  It's up to the county seat startin' tomorrow.  I think the next day is family day since it's in the middle of the week when most families can't make it.  Ha!  They are crafty that way, don'tcha know."

"Okay, Jeb.  I'll call Dan and Linda Sue and make arrangements for day after tomorrow.  I hope they can get time off.  It really sounds fun.  Thank you for bringing it to my attention."

"Well, no big deal.  I always go for at least one day.  I like to people watch and if that isn't the place ta do such a thing, I'm not sure what would be.  Ha, ha!"

I had been holding Lewis as we talked and, more than once he tried to grab the phone from my ear to see why his great-great grampa was in that tiny thing at my ear.  I started laughing at our tug-o'-war.  Of course, Jeb had to know what was going on.

"I can barely hold him, Jeb.  Gosh, he's a strong little poop," I said, laughing at the tiny one's antics.

"He sure is a spitfire, that one, Tim.  Takes after his youngest uncle.  'Course, not that Jeffy isn't much different.  He gets as rambunctious as AJ, doesn't he?  Now, Elliot, he's the more refined one of the three.  But it, sure enough, tickles the daylights out of this old man when I see him laughin' and takin' after the others with his sharp wit.  He can sure hold his own now, can't he?"

My head was swimming at the words of my good friend.  Memories kept flooding into my mind that kept making me prouder and prouder of my family.  Pretty soon, I could barely hear Jeb yelling at me as I realized Lewis had the phone up to his ear.  He had just started to yell back at Jeb and I could hear Jeb guffawing into the receiver on his end.

"Ha, ha!  Tim, you there?  Lewis, give the phone back to your grampa, little mite.  Yes, I'm happy to talk to you too, darlin', but . . ."

By the time I wrestled the phone from Lewis, it was pretty much covered in his drool.  Lewis made it clear that he was upset that I wouldn't let him find out how his great-great grampa got into that little place.  He was really upset when we'd said our goodbyes and hung up.

"What'sa matter with Lewis, Dad?  He seems piss . . ., um, mad or something."

"Hah!  He's just upset because I wouldn't let him talk to your great grampa all day, AJ."

"He talked?"

"Well, he thinks he was talking, I'm sure."

Lewis wanted nothing of me; he was still angry, I suppose.  He turned and tried to drop into AJ's arms.  Luckily, that was something we were used to so AJ was able to catch him, quite literally.

I took that time to my advantage and decided to call Dan and Linda Sue, however; I went into the other room to avoid another conflict with the little poop, who was being entertained by the little pipsqueak.

End of Chapter Fifty~Six.

Thanks again to RCN for his editing wizardry.  It makes for a smoother read.

I would like to hear/read your criticisms, good and bad. I'd love to talk about where this gets to you. Matthew Templar