Our wedding was everything we had hoped it would be, and more. Jeff and I stood in the gazebo with Father Peter in front of us and Tyler by my side and Zach on Jeff's side and Paul with me and Jeff's assistant chief, Mary Lou, with him. When the time came to exchange rings the boys stood proudly and each one handed the ring from their suit pocket to either Jeff or me without dropping them and then stood there with their arms up waiting to be tickled as Paul and I had been at our father's wedding all those years ago. We didn't disappoint them and gave both of them the giggles before we returned to the matter at hand(who said I couldn't pun in my own story?) and Fr. Peter blessed them and we exchanged the rings, slipping them on our ring fingers of our left hands as we also exchanged our vows to each other, and to our new family.
We were all cheered after Fr. Peter declared us wed, and husbands under God and by Law. Zach and Tyler had their own cheering section in all the current kids of the two lanes and cousin Tom, and Jeff and I were cheered by my relatives and a few elderly aunts and uncles of Jeff's and the not on duty police force of the town, many in uniform as they would either return to duty or start their shift in an hour. Fill in officers had been recruited from the state police and neighboring towns for two hours this late afternoon as we wanted the sunset to occur at the end of our ceremony, the sunset visible through the gazebo as the sun set behind the mountains, visible almost thirty miles away. The whole crowd of guests walked up the lane to partake of a catered light dinner at the pavilion set up on the lawn just below the house and in front of the poolhouse at the dad's home at the top of the lane.
It was great to see everyone and a good chance for all the family to meet Tyler, who seemed perplexed by it all, but he had Zach and Tom to help him and of course, every so often he could be found clinging to our legs. At one point he asked if what just happened in the gazebo meant we were adopted, and it only took a moment for me to gather him in my arms and ask if that was what he wanted, because Jeff and I would like nothing more than to be his daddies forever. He had this really serious look on his face, he looked at me and said he thought that since I saved him he thought I was his daddy and now he had two because Zach and Jeff and me and him had all gotten married today. I kissed him on the forehead and told him I thought he was right, and Jeff then did the same, kissing him on his forehead and said we were going to be his daddies forever and now we were all married, and we loved him and Zach too.
Helen must have heard us because she chose that minute to hand me a card made out to Jeff and me and in the card was a slip of paper telling us we had a noontime hearing on Monday for my adoption of Zach and right after that the judge would hear our joint petition to adopt Tyler. It was a wonderful wedding present and she told us she would be there for us as well. The adoption of Zach by me was planned but our petition for Tyler's adoption was almost two and a half months early. Helen must have pulled some strings to get it put forward like this.
The dads were next and Dad Chris pulled an envelope out of his suit jacket and I wondered what they were doing. For years I had seen them give two acres here and two acres there at weddings and graduations, and sometimes even houses, but Jeff had already added me to his property, so I wondered what their surprise was. Jeff opened this one and he started to say, "Oh no they didn't" over and over but with a big smile on his face. He showed me the bill from the riding center for the four horses and the 4 ponies marked PAID right across it, and the check for fifty thousand dollars and the undated four others for the same amount, all five marked in the memo section," For barn supplies and Barn Manager Salary" Dad Noah leaned in and told us to just deposit all the checks at once so the money would be accruing interest as the next five years rolled on. They then hugged us, and for the first time they both called Jeff 'Son'.
Someone put some dance music on and Johnny Mathis was singing "Hold Me" and halfway through the song the whole flat area was filled with couples dancing and Jeff nodded to his right and there were Tom and Zach and Tyler trying to all dance together as Tom's parents both tried to get video of them on their cells. Paul and Alissa told us when they were closer to us that Paul had had a phone interview just before they came to the wedding and he was offered a full professorship at Amherst College over the mountain. They were moving back and finally going to order themselves a prefab house from Uncle Drew and have it placed on their own wedding lot.
The day just couldn't have been better and by the time the boys were tuckered out so were we, so we packed them into the car and after dozens of goodbyes and thank yous we were on our way home, Alissa and Paul following in their car. After we parked, and Paul pulled in next to us we three guys each took a sleeping boy up to Zach's bedroom and got their little suits off them and then tucked them all in the bed and we all went downstairs to rehash the day before we two married couples found our ways to our own beds and called it a day.
The next day, Sunday, we all went to church and there were a couple of dozen parishioners who congratulated Jeff and me on our marriage. Once home Alissa insisted on cooking us all breakfast and after one of her eggy casseroles we all went to the barn and made sure it was ready for tomorrow's delivery. We ran the water taps to make sure the water was running clear and we made especially sure the feed troughs were clean of any debris. The cats were tended to and I think they sensed that impending company for them was soon expected. Paul asked if we had any prospects for an employee and we told him we hadn't even considered it before and no, no one popped into our minds at the moment.
The first thing Monday morning Paul and Alissa had an appointment at Uncle David's to meet with him and Uncle Drew to begin the process of choosing and ordering a house that Uncle David and his company would prepare the foundation for and make sure the house was totally finished inside and out. Later in the afternoon they were to have driven home, but with the adoption hearings at noon they had decided to stick around another day, so they kept Tom at our house as we took Zach and Tyler with us and we drove to the courthouse and met Uncle Rich and Aunt Julia there and of course Aunt Helen.
First up was Zach and he wanted Tyler to go with him, but the kindly judge talked him into coming in to see him so they could talk together about Tyler and me. Zach came out about 15 minutes later and ran to me before his dad, but he leaned way over and gave his daddy a smooch before he took my face in his hands and smooched me too. In just five minutes I was declared a co-parent of Zach and then it was Tyler's turn, but not before Zach and he had one of their little confabs and then Tyler went off with the judge. They were in there a bit longer than it had taken Zach, and Tyler just snuggled into me when they came out, but the judge explained that Tyler had gotten a little emotional in there but he was adamant that he live with Zach and his dads because Zach and he were best friends, I saved him, and Jeff arrested the bad guy, so the judge declared our petition granted and Jeff spoke to him about the name change and Tyler's new birth certificate. I heard him explain to the judge that it wasn't him personally who had arrested the murderer of Tyler's mother, but the judge insisted that Jeff's groundwork had made it happen. I had a lap full of the two new brothers who were so happy little tears were dripping off their cheeks, but their giggles soon had everyone back in a happy mood. We submitted a copy of our newly minted marriage license to the judge and he made sure it went into our files and then we were off. Helen had to go back to her office in Springfield and Uncle Rich and Aunt Julia had appointments, so we said our thanks to the three of them in the lobby, even the boys getting in on the free hugs and kisses.
We went home to a very festive lunch with a lot of new relatives for Tyler and Zach. Their new granddads and some of their new cousins and uncles were there and Paul and Alissa were the instigators. Once everything started to calm down at home we were taken to the barn and there it was obvious Terry's crew had delivered our wedding presents. Four horses and 4 ponies and tons of hay and feed were stacked on the opposite wall from the stalls, all placed on skids to keep them off the floor. The tack for each equine was in the storage chest at each occupied stall. There was a young man fussing with the bedding hay in one of the stalls and I realized it was my nephew John, one of my younger brothers. I went over to him and hugged him and then Jeff did the same. He told us that he had heard we needed some help and he was offering his services for the rest of the summer, until he returned to college in the fall.
This was all working out well, we had horses on the property, Roscoe was actually getting used to them and seemed to understand they were to be protected as well as the children were, we had supplies for several weeks, maybe even a month or more, we had Jake to care for the barn and the horses, someone we trusted as he had worked for Terry all through high school at the barns at the riding center and not only that, he would be an extra set of hands and eyes as I taught the boys how to ride their ponies.
On Tuesday morning, as prearranged with John, as soon as Jeff left for the police station, John and I started giving the boys their first riding lesson. I had set up an old video recorder that the Dads had loaned me, and I had it directed at the spot we would be seating the boys on their saddles on the ponies. I had already shown them the various pieces of tack as I placed it on the pony I was working on and once the pony was geared up I asked them to repeat the part's name to me. Between the two of them they got the names right, if not pronounced quite right. When they were both mounted, both, John and I, began to teach them the fundamentals of reigning. The boys caught on quick and we began to lead them around in circles inside the big barn. After about ten turns around our imaginary rink we led them out the side door to the fenced in corral. I had forgotten the running camera, but John remembered and handed me the reins to Tyler's pony and ran back in the barn to fetch it. While he was doing that I asked the boys what to do with the reins to stop, or go, or to turn left or right, and I think they both had it. John sighted the camera up on the open area in the middle of the corral and we let the boys take the reins and told them to go around the oval of the big corral slowly.
I was so proud of them, they handled themselves and their ponies really well, especially for their first time. John commented on it and asked if I was putting him on, had I been training them already? I assured him I had not, and we watched as they each turned and went around in opposite directions, then passing each other and continuing around to where John and I stood. I was so proud of both of them and I told them I wanted them to show Jeff when he got home how well they were riding. That evening they did, and Jeff was suitably impressed. John and I continued to work with the boys over the next few days and by Friday morning we had decided to take them on horseback for a ride on the lower portion of the property, along the tractor wide dirt paths through the fields and out to the farm road gate at the end of the property.
The boys were quite excited about riding their ponies out to the far farm road, as we'd only previously ever walked there, to actually tire Zach out and walk off some of his excess energy, but since Tyler arrived we hadn't had to do that. For some reason, Zach was much calmer and collected these days, even with the ponies thrown into the mix. It truly was wonderful to see.
I packed a saddle bag with juice boxes on one side and snacks of crackers and peanut butter on the other and thought I had better toss in the first aid kit just in case, I hadn't been a boy scout for nothing. Roscoe was going to be running along loose with us, not that we expected to be galloping anytime soon, but he would be off in the fields sniffing and then running back to us as he did on our walks there, so I packed another saddle bag with bottled water, one each for Roscoe, John and me. The other pouch on this bag held an older plastic bowl for Roscoe's water and a couple of clean rags I had cut from a bath towel I had bleached by mistake. This saddle bag I'd put on the horse Jake chose to ride.
We set off about 9:30 in the morning, not too hot and not too cool for a Summer morning. John had the two ponies and the two horses all saddled by the time the boys and I got to the barn with Roscoe (who had already stopped twice to pee). We all mounted after I had set the saddlebags in place and we left the farmyard and started down the main farm track through the fields toward the far gate at the end of the property.
The ride went very well, and the boys didn't try to push it, they, I think, were more interested in seeing the fields and the mountains way off in the distance and the rolling fields we were riding between from up as high as they thought they were up on the backs of the ponies. The added height gave both of them a new perspective and they delighted in pointing out different things to John and me. It really made me look around myself and I realized that I hadn't seen anything like it since riding out here with Jeff as an older teen before his dad got rid of all their livestock, or when riding on my dad's property. It really was beautiful out here.
As we approached the big while railed farm fence across the lane where it met the farm road the boys were getting focused on the crackers and juice boxes, John was wondering where might be a good place to dismount and have our snack picnic, and I was wondering what that pick up was doing parked across the road and up a ways. The tailgate was down, and it looked like several trash bags were ready to be tossed into the state-owned wooded property on the other side of the road. As the other three veered off to the left of the gate to a small clearing, I instead waved them on and went to the right, following our fence line behind the trees and bushes closer to me, affording me a chance to spy a little. A year or so ago we had had a problem with people who had not been paying their town dump fees and were tossing their garbage and trash and unwanted items out on these secluded farm roads. The fines imposed for this were high, if the person or persons could be caught.
As I neared where the truck was parked on the opposite side of the road I slipped off my horse and tethered him to a bush and worked my cell phone out of my pocket, preparing to take pictures or a video of whoever was driving the truck. I squeezed my way through the bushes that now blocked my view of the road and there indeed was an older guy, maybe about fifty, tossing garbage bags from the back of the truck into the woods and then climbing down to get the two bigger bags off the tailgate and get them rolled into the shallow ravine on the other side of the road from where I crouched, catching all this on video. He then, having emptied out his truck bed, closed the tailgate and I got a good shot of his license plate. He climbed up into the cab of the truck and drove away.
I remounted my horse and rode back to the other side of our farm gate where the boys were watching John pour out water for Roscoe and I dismounted again and after tethering my horse I opened my saddle bag and handed out juice boxes for the boys and a couple of packets of the crackers and peanut butter. While the boys were engrossed in their snacks I quickly told John what I had seen and taped and told him I wanted him to keep an eye on the boys and I would walk over across the road and call the police to report it, I mean it was just a bunch of trash, but someone was going to have to come and collect it and dispose of it correctly.
As I walked up to the pile of trash bags I heard a strange noise, and saw movement among the bags, and knowing they couldn't have attracted varmints this soon I realized the sounds and movements were coming from the bags! I went to the nearest one that had movement and I ripped a hole in the bag and a puppy’s snout soon filled the hole. I quickly ripped a hole in the other moving bags and in each of them were puppies. There I was with three trash bags with live puppies in them. I called Jeff on his cell and told him what had occurred, and he said he'd have the town dog catcher come and meet me and he'd be over as soon as he could get to me at the farm road.
I really didn't know what to do about the puppies, but I had an idea. I went back to the boys and asked John to ride back to the barn and bring me two or three good sized cardboard boxes and to refill his water bottle. I stayed with the boys, wondering the whole time if I showed them the puppies if they'd want us to keep them, and wondering what Roscoe would do with a bunch of foster pups.
Much to the little boy's excitement, John came racing back on his horse, three boxes nested into each other in a free hand. He tossed them over the fence to me and I began to hand the boys over to him before dealing with the squirming bags. Just about then Jeff and a patrolman arrived in Jeff's official Chief's Cruiser and he helped me remove the puppies from the bags and place them into the boxes, the patrolman taking a video of all this. There were ten alive still, we found two little dead ones in the bottoms of two different bags. Jeff then asked me to show him the other trash bags as the officer continued to run his video camera. I took him to the shallow ditch on the other side of the road and he ripped holes in the four bags there and I soon had my answer as to what breed the pups were. Unfortunately, the four other bags held the corpses of the pups parents, 2 males and 2 females, each shot dead.
I showed the video on my cell phone to Jeff and his patrolman, hoping they might recognize the guy with the pickup, they didn't, but Jeff had me send the video to his phone and he'd be able to play it back on a big screen computer at the station and they'd get his license plate number off the back of the truck. In the meantime, the animal control officer(the dog catcher in our town) had arrived and took the four bags with the adult dogs' bodies to the truck he was driving and asked if we wanted him to take the puppies also. Jeff had asked him to extract and document each bullet he could find in the carcasses but that he and I would probably keep the mixed breed pups for a while, until a vet looked them over and we determined how old they were, I was secretly pleased, but wasn't sure just how long I would be.
Jeff placed the boxes with the puppies in the back seat of his car and I went and opened the farm gate to let him drive up the tractor track up to the barn. With his patrolman with him, he did that, and I closed and locked the gate back up and then I helped John get the boys remounted and we four followed the police cruiser up the lane and back to the barn, the boys wanting to see the puppies as soon as they were on their ponies.
We rode slowly back to the barn and once there, Jeff and his patrolman were kneeling down and playing with the pups and Roscoe was sniffing the unexpected visitors. They looked to be all brown, with white and black mottled spots, which reflected their parentage, both mothers had appeared to be short haired brown Labs, and the male corpses had been German Shepherd. The puppies looked to me to be about two months old, but my experience had been with sheepdogs which were a bit hairier. These pups all would most likely be short haired dogs, as their parents had been. Jeff had already placed plastic bowls of water in their boxes and although they were excited, they appeared none the worse for their ordeal.
John had been on his cell since we had started back, and he had gotten the number from Terry for the vet she used at the riding center and had called and asked for him to come to our barn, giving him the directions even before we had arrived back at the barn. Jeff had contacted the County Medical Examiner and they had arranged for a forensic veterinarian to get together with the animal control officer and do the post-mortem on the adult dogs together. Just then a strange car was pulling into the yard, Jeff got a call for assistance and he and the patrolman were off in a flash.
The vet and I introduced ourselves and I brought him in the barn and he began to examine each pup as I explained the circumstances that brought them here. He told me they were all healthy and about 8 weeks old. He said that two of them were really cute and he asked if I'd be willing to let him take two and we'd call his fee paid. I told him that would be fine and I got him a box from the grocery shopping I had done the day before and he picked out the two he liked and he left me his card after taking a quick look at the horses and ponies and then told me to call him in another month, he wanted to do a check on the chubby pony and one of our mares, he thought they were expecting. John and the boys were thrilled to hear that and I agreed to set up an appointment in a month so he could do a more thorough exam.
For now, we had 8 pups to care for and John proved to be an adept hand at taking some sheets of plywood and making one of the empty stalls puppy proof by tacking the sheets up on the slatted walls of the currently unused stall. We took some of Roscoe's dry dog food and mashed the chunks down and added a little water and milk to it, making a sort of puppy gruel and we placed it in a couple of those plastic bowls for them to eat out of and put a mixture of milk and water in others, so they could have more to drink. We released them in their new enclosure and all eight scampered a bit and then one or two found the bowls and they really went to town on the food. The boys were fascinated by the puppies and were loath to help with the chore of "undressing" their ponies, but I told them they at least had to watch and learn how because otherwise the ponies wouldn't let them ride them anymore. That got their attention and soon they were trying to curry the ponies' legs, which is about all they could reach. They went back to watch the puppies with Roscoe as John and I worked on our horses before putting them in their stalls for their evening feed.
As soon as Jeff got home, and the hugs and kisses were distributed, he told me that they had arrested the man who had so disrespectfully disposed of his canines. There were a number of charges placed against him, cruelty to animals(several counts of that) being the worst but then Jeff told me about what they had found in his home. His elderly wife, bedridden and suffering from dementia. All she kept asking for was her dogs. Jeff said it was a completely miserable afternoon.
We soon had others calling on us to look at the puppies and to hopefully adopt one into their home. By the end of the week we still had four and at church Sunday we had three parishioners ask if we still had pups and when we told them we did we also invited them to stop by after mass and take a look at them. They did and by Monday afternoon we only had a small female left that Roscoe seemed to be quite fond of. She became Suriya, after the orangutan in a show we saw on TV about the friendship between a dog and an orangutan. She doted on Roscoe and he was very protective of her. It was he that trained her to do her business outside, at about six or seven months old, and once that was learned she was welcomed into the house where she slept next to Roscoe on his bed at the foot of the boys' bed.
We had the monthly pleasure of going to the dad's house for a Sunday cookout with the whole family, and our boys fit right in with all their cousins and when they showed off riding one weekend Terry begged to have them attend her riding school after their kindergarten classes in the fall. We told her we had hoped she'd take them on, but we had thought about maybe when they were in first grade or later. She told us they could pick up bad habits by then, and wouldn't they look great jumping their ponies?
Jeff and I just grinned, we'd discouraged any showing off and here Terry was going to make a spectacle of them! At least they had a great teacher in Terry and we would like to see them show off, as long as I didn't have to watch the training. That was some months off, but we did make sure at these family gatherings, and the ones we had occasionally, that Miss Loretta was able to spend some time with the boys so she wouldn't be a complete stranger, after all, she was the grandmother of their cousin and friend Tom, who had begun to ride ponies at our place now that he and his parents had finally moved into their new house about a mile away from us. All three would attend Miss Loretta's in the fall, and it looked like all three would also attend Terry's riding school a few times a week after their preschool sessions.
Dad Chris called just after dinner one night in mid-August. He had a patient that needed a private duty nurse three mornings a week during the first 2 weeks in September. It was because his regular caregiver was going on her honeymoon and the temp they had hired was suddenly unavailable and had declined the offer of work. I had occasionally filled in for a nurse at his office before, or helped someone get resettled into their home after a lengthy hospital stay, so I wasn't surprised when he told me that most of what I would be doing was to provide therapy for the patient, who was a returning vet who had lost his foot to a landmine, the amputation much like my brother Phil's had been. Since the boys would both be in preschool by then, I told Dad Chris I'd take the case and he thanked me, telling me he would fax me the pertinent information and the therapy routines he was now having his patient doing.
I received the fax in our home office about a half hour later and was stunned by who the patient was. It was Charlie Cooper, a young man about John's age, a friend of his, at least he used to be until he went off and enlisted the day they had graduated from high school and he had never answered any of John's calls or letters or emails since. I knew it had bothered John to no end for some long months after, and we never heard from his parents about him being overseas or being wounded. I flipped through Dad's notes and found almost a half-page of notes written to me, most likely after we had talked that night.
Dad's notes were more of a personal nature, to me. In them, he told me I was not to disclose that Charlie was my patient, and in no way was I to let John know even that Charlie was home. It seems that Charlie had been being harassed by members of his own troop, and during a chase by some of them outside their encampment Charlie had stepped on a landmine. The five other men had been court-martialed and would be drummed out of the service after their sentences were served. Charlie had been grudgingly granted a discharge with benefits because of his injury and the way it had occurred. He was extremely depressed, and I would have trouble getting him to do anything for himself, but Dad had faith in me and my powers of persuasion. He told me it was a pretty depressing case, but that if I could get Charlie to open up, I might just turn his life around.
The rest of our Summer went well, and the boys became more and more comfortable on the backs of their ponies. We often went for rides as a family after dinner, once Jeff was totally relaxed and out of cop mode and into daddy mode. I spent as much time with John during his working hours as possible and got him to open up about his personal life and was disappointed to learn that he hadn't moved on from his childhood crush on Chuck(Charlie Cooper). He told me that the week before graduation he had come out to Chuck and Chuck had acted repulsed by John and had said some really hurtful things to John and had denied he too had feelings for John. John told me that never before had Chuck shown that he was anything but accepting of anyone’s sexuality and had gotten along with gays all through school and had shown nothing but a caring attitude toward John and it was when John and he both had gotten accepted at the University and John had suggested they room together that Chuck had become almost abusive toward John and had withdrawn into himself, rebuffing any attempts by John or other friends to get him to open himself up to any of them and explain his change in attitude, and two weeks later he had enlisted in the Army and was gone.
After Labor Day Miss Loretta had started accepting the new Fall group of kids into her preschool program and Zach and Tyler were ready to become big boys and go to "school". They both wouldn't be 6 until later in the Fall. That same week was when I started my sessions with Chuck at his parent's house.
My first impression of the property they lived in was not favorable. The lawn around the ranch-style house was weed-filled and overgrown. There was a rusted chassis of an old sedan on the side yard and a rusted and very shabby swing set on the other side. The house had clogged gutters and rusted drain pipes, and the front concrete stoop was cracked and discolored. The vinyl siding was cracked and chipped in the oddest places, as if it had been repeatedly struck with a baseball or something.
The greeting I received at the front door was strange, too. I was greeted by Mrs. Cooper who never once looked me in the face and she told me her son was sleeping and couldn't be disturbed. I asked where her son's room was, and she pointed down the short hall to what was a bedroom hall with three doors. The first one was a bathroom and the next was a really messy bedroom with a double bed in it and clothes, dirty I suspected, strewn all over the place, nearly obscuring the dresser in the corner. The clothing appeared to be all male clothes. Overflowing ashtrays were everywhere in the room, I spotted at least 4 and it wasn't just cigarette smoke I was smelling.
The third door was Chuck's room. It was pretty spartan but clean. It would appear that this room was the only clean place in the whole house, probably maintained by the nurse/therapist I was temporarily replacing. On the bed was Chuck, his once handsome face covered in a multi-day growth of beard and his longish hair greasy from not having been washed for several days, probably since his attendant had left for her wedding last week. There was a bottle of pain pills on his bedside table and a new looking foot prosthetic was on the floor by his bedside.
I really had to think this over, so I left the house and went outside where I sat on the stoop and thought about how I was going to handle this situation. Dad Chris had given me notes that stated that he had tried to get Chuck moved to the VA hospital in Holyoke and the recommendations of the nurse/therapist that he do the same, but the family balked at that, insisting that Chuck stay with them in their home. Chuck was a grown man now, he was Jake's age, 21 and legally in control of his own life and here he was, still sleeping at ten in the morning, still staying with his parents in deplorable conditions, and most likely turning over his military funds to his parents and they were enabling his continued lethargy.
I decided then to be a hard ass with him and I went back into the house and into his bedroom, his mother not in sight anywhere. Once in the bedroom I located his crutches in a closet and put them against his bedside, shaking his shoulder and telling him to get up and go take a shower. I repeated the shoving and the orders to him until he was fully awake and sitting up and I adopted the demeanor of his commanding officer and repeated my orders to get up, go take a shower and return to me here in fifteen minutes. He was obviously used to following orders and he swung to the side of his bed, reaching for his crutches as he did, and he clumsily got up on them, staring at me as I continued to tell him to go, go get showered and shaved, he had 10 minutes now.
I watched as he made awkward moves to go toward the bathroom as I continued to urge him to "get a move on". I went to his bedside table and ascertained that the medication was indeed authorized and there was a reasonable number of pills left in the bottle. I remade the bed and was just getting the therapy items out of my holdall when he returned and made to get back in bed. I told him that was not going to happen, I had just remade the bed and he was up for the day. I tossed him the stretch elastics he was supposed to be using to strengthen his stump and leg and told him to get a pair of shorts on and get working out, we didn't have all day to putz around. I guess being almost a head taller than him and outweighing him by about fifty pounds of muscle had him intimidated because he did grab a pair of shorts and put them on and started to exercise his shortened limb. I looked him over and cleaned up he was a good looker, and very trim. He had shaved his face and he looked his age now. His hair was clean and just in need of a trim, so I went back to my carryall and got my hair scissors and a comb and told Chuck to stop for a few minutes and I trimmed his hair to a more respectable length, not too short, but not touching his shoulders or curling around his neck either. I finished and gathered up the cuttings, putting them in a wastebasket by the bed and then I had him start with the small barbell weights, telling him to work on his arm muscles as he was kind of weak on his crutches and after fifty reps to get his foot on because we were going for a walk.
I could feel him watching me as I strode to the doorway and went in search of his mother. I found her in the kitchen, just sitting on a hard kitchen chair at the table with a cup of coffee in front of her, untouched. I sat across from her and bluntly asked what the hell was going on around here. I told her I remembered her from the high school cafeteria where she had worked, and I didn't think everything was alright here. She was sobbing and stuttered out that her husband was the boss and I would have to talk to him, to please leave her alone. My suspicions were raised even more as I saw the bruises on her upper arm as she reached for a napkin to blot her eyes.
I went back to Chuck's bedroom and told him to finish up his exercises, we were going for a walk. I knew from his records that he had therapy in the hospital in Germany after his foot was amputated halfway up his left shin and I watched as he correctly placed his prosthesis on and then stood to get his balance. I led the way and we walked out the front door. He was a bit rusty in his walking, but continued use of his prosthesis would take care of that. We started to go to the street and he told me he couldn't go there, and I asked him why not.
He told me that it wasn't allowed and when I pressed him as to who said so, he replied, "My Dad".