I told Nick he could go with us, to help guide me around and make Bobby feel safer, but I told the other boys to wait there on the playground and make themselves comfortable, until we got back. I didn’t want to scare Bobby’s family, if that many people suddenly showed up and confronted them. My boys loaded the coolers back in the van first, so we’d have food and soda to give to Bobby’s family, once I’d located them. It wasn’t long before the three of us were on our way and Bobby was giving me directions to where his parents would be parked.
Before we got there, I found another grocery store and made another quick stop. I picked up lunchmeats, bread, some condiments and more drinks, before we started to load up with more non-perishable types of food. I purchased cans of Spam, Vienna sausages, vegetables, pork & beans, peanut butter, jelly, canned juices and bottled water. I also added a can opener, paper plates, plastic silverware, vitamins for both the adults and the children, and a gallon of orange juice. We paid for everything, carefully loaded the bags into the back, and were on our way again.
We discovered Bobby’s family in an isolated area of a large parking lot, which was part of a huge strip mall. I let Bobby get out first and he walked over to his parents’ car by himself. His mother spotted him first and jumped out of their vehicle and ran toward him. She grabbed him in her arms and was hugging him to her chest, as his father and sisters got out to greet him too. I take it his parents hadn’t had a say in his leaving and were glad he was back.
After several minutes of this affectionate reunion, Bobby started waving his hand at us, indicating we should join him. Nick and I got out and slowly walked over to where the family stood. Bobby introduced his parents and sisters to us, before he introduced us to them. After the introductions were made, I began to talk with the parents, while the kids went back toward the car.
I told them about my boys and myself, advised them we had purchased some food and other things for their family and then got to know a little more about their situation. After we had talked for a while and got to know each other better, I called Bobby and Nick over, so we could walk back to the van and grab the supplies from the back. We carried the groceries over and put them in the trunk of Bobby’s parents’ car, where they would be safe until needed. Bobby’s mother and father thanked us several times and I told them I would do whatever else I could before we left. I added that we would come back tomorrow afternoon to see what more we could do, and then Nick and I left, leaving Bobby with his family. We could see his mother starting to prepare things for them to eat as we drove away. It was a very rewarding sight.
Nick gave me directions on how to get back to the school and told me more about himself on the way there. I guess he was beginning to feel more comfortable with us and no longer felt we were any threat. Through this conversation, I discovered Nick had run away from his home in Oklahoma City, because he felt neglected and unwanted. He said there were other reasons, too, but didn’t want to elaborate on them, at least not yet. I did learn his parents were fairly well to do, unlike Bobby’s folks, but Nick had conflicts with his father and felt ignored by his mother. He also informed me that his father was planning to send him to military school in the fall, so he took off, since there was no way he was willing to attend there.
I was just beginning to understand more about him, when we reached the playground where we’d left my boys. Along the way, I had also talked Nick into staying with us, at least for a few days, since I was worried about him being alone now. As we pulled in to the parking lot, the boys raced to the van and wanted to know why we were gone so long. While I was explaining it to them, Nick ran back over to the bushes and retrieved his belongings, so he could bring them with him. As I was continuing my explanation about what we’d been doing, they all loaded into the van and I let Nick fill them in on the rest of what they had missed out on with Bobby and his family.
The afternoon passed by quickly, especially after being sidetracked like that, so I decided we should go to our motel. It was only about twenty minutes away from where we were, so it wouldn’t take that long to reach it. After I checked in, I informed the boys I would advise them of their room assignments shortly. However, I did suggest to Nick he would be staying in my room, if he didn’t mind, and he said that would be fine.
After I got everyone situated, I told the boys to clean up for dinner. Nick and I were alone in my room, as the four little ones were staying with the older boys tonight, since I planned to use this time to learn more about our guest. I told him he could shower first, but we soon discovered another problem. He didn’t have any clean clothes to put on afterward. I told him I’d borrow some from one of the other boys who were about his size and he could wear those for tonight. I added that we would all go to the Laundromat tomorrow, as we all had things that needed to be cleaned, and then we’d decide what other items he might need, so we could run to a store and purchase them.
Nick immediately told me I didn’t need to buy him anything and he could make do with what he had, but I told him we’d see, before I went to borrow some things for him. He was heading into the bathroom as I went next door.
Trey offered to lend Nick an outfit and soon had a pair of shorts, shirt, socks and underwear ready for me to take back for Nick to use. Kevin made a similar offer and gave me another set of items for Nick to have for tomorrow. After thanking them both for their generosity, I went back to my room and could hear Nick still in the shower. I grabbed one of the extra toothbrushes from my carry-on case and grabbed my travel shaving kit from the suitcase, getting everything together, when the bathroom door opened and Nick walked out. He was toweling his hair dry as he entered, not seeming to care if I saw him naked. “Did you get any clothes for me?” was his simple question upon entering.
“Yes, here are two different sets of clothes,” I informed him. “One is from Trey and the other is from Kevin. I know you don’t know which ones they are, but I’ll point them out to you later.” He was looking over the clothes, while I was checking out his body. I was surprised at how developed his frame was; obviously he must have worked out in the past or been involved in sports. He was circumcised and hung about 3 – 3.5” flaccid. He was pretty good looking, now that he was cleaned up, and I felt some of the boys might be attracted to him, after they saw him looking like this.
“I’ll wear this stuff tonight,” he said, showing me the set that Trey had donated. “Thanks for making the boys let me borrow these.”
“I didn’t make them,” I corrected him, “they volunteered. They’ve all been in similar situations and are really quite generous when it comes to others who could use some help.”
“I didn’t mean anything by that, but I will thank them myself later,” he corrected. “And thank you for helping me at the grocery store and for everything else. I don’t remember anyone ever being this nice to me before.”
“You’re welcome, Nick, but I would like to find out more about you later. Would that be okay?” I asked, hoping he’d be willing to continue to open up to me about himself.
“Yes, I don’t mind telling you,” he replied. “You seem to understand better than other adults. Most of them either don’t care or don’t want to be bothered. You’re different, though. I can tell, especially after seeing what you’ve done for all of your sons, grandsons and what you did for Bobby and his family.”
“I do care and I am interested,” I agreed. “We’ll be alone tonight, so we can get into this more later, but for now, it’s almost time to eat. Here’s a toothbrush and toothpaste, so you can brush your teeth. When you’re finished, I’ll take my shower and you can watch television or play a game while you’re waiting. There are a bunch of electronic games in that bag on my bed. Help yourself, since we brought them along so everyone could play with them to help pass the time.”
“Thanks, Mr. Currie,” he told me. “I’m sure glad you came into that grocery store today, or else I would be spending tonight in jail, instead of here in the motel with you.”
“I’m not sure they’d have kept you in jail for petty larceny,” I advised them.
“They would have once they found out I was a runaway and wouldn’t give them any information about myself,” he countered, and I had to admit he was probably right. “You saved me and I won’t forget that. Thanks.”
“Well, maybe you’re right,” I confessed. “They might have kept you for being a runaway or if you wouldn’t cooperate, and you’re welcome. Make yourself at home while I clean up.”
I went and took my shower, shaved and brushed my teeth. Soon I was dressed, so I went to see how the other boys were doing. They were all nearly ready, so I called the front desk for suggestions as to where we could eat. Once I had a place, got the directions and made a quick call to make sure they could accommodate us, I had everyone come to my room.
The boys began talking to Nick, as soon as they walked in, trying to make him feel welcome and to discover more about him. He told them a little, although not as much as he shared with me, and I began introducing him to the boys, a few at a time. Nick made sure to thank Trey and Kevin for lending him the clothes, when I got to them, and both told him it was nothing and he could borrow whatever he needed while he was with us. Nick just smiled and thanked them again.
We had a good meal and the boys used that time to tell Nick about themselves, while getting to know each other better. By the time we were ready to order dessert, Nick seemed like part of the family. During that time I also learned that Nick was fourteen and an active swimmer. That helped to explain his better than average body development for a kid his age. He also told us he was going to be a freshman in the fall. That gave him something to talk about with Trey and Carlos, as they were both going to be freshmen too. That didn’t keep the others out of the conversation though, especially since Ricky, Cole and Pat were all about the same age as well.
As we were returning to our motel, I grabbed a Phoenix newspaper out of one of those newspaper dispensers that are always around. There were some things I wanted to check out in it later. We all went back to our rooms and some of the boys asked Nick to come over and spend some time with them. I told the boys they would have plenty of time for that in the future, but I wanted to spend the time with Nick tonight, so I could learn more about his situation. The boys gave in, although they were not real happy about it, and Nick and I went to our room. We got comfortable and I began to ask him some more questions.
“So, why don’t you tell me more about your family and why you ran away?” I prodded him.
He didn’t even pause to think about it and just began to open up to me. “My dad’s a manager in the structural design and engineering department at Gulfstream. They build jets,” he informed me. “He is very bossy and everything has to be done exactly his way. I pity the poor people that work for him. He wants me to be an engineer or a doctor, and that’s just not for me. I’m not that good at math and science, but Dad doesn’t want to hear that. He says I could do better, if I applied myself. When I got my final report card and he saw my grades, he got angry and decided he was going to send me to military school in the fall. There was no way I was going to let that happen, so I took off. I packed a few things while my parents were out of the house and just left.”
“What about your mother? Couldn’t you have asked her to intervene between you and your father?” I wondered.
“No. Mom doesn’t care about anything but herself,” he stated, rather coldly. “She’s so wrapped up in going back to college to become a doctor that nothing else matters. She still goes out places with Dad, but she acts like I don’t exist any more. She put off going to medical school when she got pregnant with me, so now that I’m old enough to take care of myself, she returned to college to fulfill her dreams.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” I advised him.
“Not unless you forget about everything else, and that’s just what she’s done,” he shot back, somewhat defiantly. “It’s like she never had me. I hardly ever see her any more, we never talk or do things together, and she couldn’t care less about what I’m doing. The only reason my dad cares is because I’m going to carry on the family name and he wants to make sure I don’t embarrass him. Neither one of them gives a damn about me any more, other than that I live up to their expectations. They won’t even consider what I want or ask what I’m thinking. I hated living there with them, so once Dad started talking about military school, I made my decision to get the hell out of there.”
“Don’t you think you could work this out with them?” I pressed.
“No way,” he replied. “The only thing that Dad would accept would be for me to do exactly what he said. I can’t do that, so I won’t go back. Hell, they probably haven’t even noticed I’m gone yet.”
“When did you run away?” I asked.
“About three weeks ago,” he told me.
“And you don’t think they would have noticed you were gone by this time?” I challenged, thinking he might be exaggerating a tad.
“They probably just think I’m out with friends or something,” he offered. “I left a note in my room for them, but I doubt they’ve seen it yet. They probably won’t find it until it’s time to ship me off to military school. That’s when they’ll go looking for me and find out I’m gone.”
“Where were you going and what were you planning to do?” I asked him, wondering if he’d even considered those issues.
“I came here because I thought I could go to one of the reservations and talk them into letting me go on a vision-quest,” he informed me. “I’ve been to four different reservations so far and none of them will let outsiders do that. They say I would have to have someone from the tribe recommend me and they won’t do it unless they know you really, really well. I thought the vision-quest would tell me what to do next, so now I don’t know where I’m going to go or what I should do.”
“Well, you could stay with us for a while, at least until we figure something else out,” I suggested. “We’re on vacation and there are a few more places we are going to visit here in Arizona. You’re welcome to join us for the time being.”
“Thanks, I’d like that. I really like you and your boys,” he sort of gushed. “You’ve all been really nice to me and all of you seem to care about what happens to me. I wish my parents were more like you.”
“Maybe they are and you just don’t know it,” I offered. “Or, maybe they’ll change after you’ve been gone a while.”
“Maybe, but I doubt it,” he replied, with a touch of sadness in his voice.
“Give them a chance and they just might surprise you,” I advised him.
“Or maybe they’ll surprise you, but I’ll wait and see, like you say,” he agreed, although probably only half-heartedly.
“Good,” I agreed, thinking he was trying to meet me part way on this. “Look, you can do what you want until we turn in. I want to read the newspaper and check some things out. Will that be all right with you?”
“Sure, Mr. Currie. I’ve got no problem with that,” he told me. “Thanks again, and I want to thank you for Bobby, too. That was really nice of you and I know he and his family appreciated it.”
“Well, that’s part of what I’m working on now,” I hinted. “I’m going to try to see if I can’t find them jobs and a place to live tomorrow, before we leave here. I’ll want you to go with me, while I try to work things out.”
“But what about the other boys?” he asked, concerned that I was neglecting them.
“Most of them will stay here, but I’ll take some of them to the Laundromat, so they can wash our dirty clothes, and yours too,” I informed him. “They won’t have a problem with that, I’m sure. In the meantime, you have the games, television or I can see what the other boys are doing if you want to join them. It’s up to you.”
“I think I’ll just watch some TV while you’re reading. I’d rather just stay here with you for tonight, if you don’t mind. I’m kind of tired of answering questions and all.” I just smiled at his last comment, thinking about how much we had all grilled him today.
“No, Nick, I don’t mind. Let me do this and then maybe we can talk some more later,” I suggested, in case he just wanted to talk, rather the tell more about his family. Maybe he had some questions for me.
“Okay, that sounds good,” he responded, more eagerly than I would have expected.
We both did what we had planned and I made sure to set aside enough time, so we’d get a chance to talk more once I’d finished.