Later that evening, while I was preparing dinner, Dustin came up and asked me a question. “Dad, will you take us to the park again tonight?”
“Is everyone going to go?” I wondered.
“No, we’re not going to ask Kevin to go this time,” he informed me.
“That’s kind of harsh and not very nice,” I commented. “I expect better of you than that.”
“But he ruined the game last night and no one wants him to do that again,” Dustin explained, and I could see his point.
“Couldn’t you just tell him that and then let him decide if he really wants to play then?” I suggested, not wanting to inflame the situation any more than it already was.
“No, because he’s not talking to anyone,” Dustin offered.
“Couldn’t you try?” I hinted.
“I could, but I’m not sure that I want to,” Dustin told me. “He’s been acting like a jerk for a few days now and I don’t think anyone wants anything to do with him right now.”
“What if you were the one who wanted to be included now, and not have to wait until later?” I asked, trying to get him to put himself in Kevin’s shoes. “Do you think you’d have reacted differently?”
“Yes, I do,” Dustin admitted, forcefully. “I know this can’t be easy for him, but he doesn’t have to act like an ass and ruin things for everyone else just because of it. He spoiled our game last night and we don’t want to give him another chance to do it again.”
“And everyone feels the same way?” I pressed, wondering if this had been discussed and was a unanimous decision.
“Yes, EVERYONE!” Dustin assured me.
“Well, as badly as I feel for Kevin, I do realize he brought this upon himself,” I conceded. “Maybe it will make him realize what he’s done, especially after he realizes how strongly you all feel about this.”
Having said that, I agreed to take them later, so Dustin went off to tell the other boys. When dinner was announced, Kevin came down to eat and then went right back up to his room. The other boys went out and got into the van and I drove them down to pick up Jay again, before leaving them off at the field. I told them I’d return later to pick them up, but seeing they had even numbers tonight, they wouldn’t need me to play this time.
When I arrived back home, Kevin was sitting on the front porch, crying his eyes out. Seeing him like that broke my heart, so I went over to give him a hug and try to comfort him a little. At first, he started to pull away from me, so I prepared to leave him alone and simply go inside, but he spoke before I could move away.
“How come you still like me?” he asked. “Nobody else does.”
“I’ll always love you, Kevin. I just don’t like the way you’re acting right now,” I told him. “Do you want to talk about it?” He merely nodded and buried his head into my chest. After a few minutes of having a good cry, Kevin sat up and looked at me.
“I’m sorry I acted like such a jerk, but it’s just that getting my license is important to me,” he offered, in his own defense.
“I know it is. It’s important to a lot of kids your age,” I agreed, “but sometimes we have to wait for the things we want. Not everything can be provided for you instantly. You know, if you continued this much longer, I was ready to call off your birthday celebration. I wasn’t about to throw you a party, if you were going to be such a miserable guest of honor.”
“You were really going to do that?” he asked, with a look of shock and horror plastered across his face. He thought about what I’d just said for a few seconds more, before he continued. “Well, I guess I couldn’t have blamed you if you had. I was pretty awful, wasn’t I? Everybody else hates me now, don’t they?”
“No, Kevin, they don’t hate you,” I assured him, “they’re just upset about how you ruined their game last night. That’s why they didn’t want to give you a chance to do it again.”
“Do you think they’ll ever forgive me?” he asked, deeply hurt at being ostracized by the brothers he loved so much.
“Sure, I think they will, if you tell them you’re sorry,” I suggested.
“Can I ride down with you, when you go to pick them up?” he asked. “That way I can apologize to Jay too.”
“Sure, I don’t have a problem with that,” I announced. “Do you want to come in and spend time with the old man until it’s time to go?”
“Yeah, thanks, Dad,” he replied. “I’m sorry I was such a baby about everything.”
“You know, I haven’t seen that big a temper tantrum in a long time,” I informed him, “but it brought back some memories,” I added, as I hugged him to me.
“None of them good, though. Right?” he pressed.
“Right. But your tantrum had to be one of the best yet,” I announced, as I wanted to leave a lasting impression with him.
Kevin looked at me stunned for a second, before I flashed him a big smile. When he figured out I wasn’t really upset with him any longer, he smiled back.
“I’m already feeling bad enough,” he told me, “you didn’t have to make it worse.”
“Then you shouldn’t act like the wrong end of a horse and I wouldn’t be able to.” I don’t think he expected that particular response from me and gave me another shocked look. I hugged him and then he began to laugh.
“You don’t like to pull any punches, do you?” he asked. “I guess I deserved that, though. I really wanted my permit so badly that I just didn’t think about anything else. I’m sorry about the things I did, Dad. Will you please forgive me?”
“I already have,” I told him, so he gave me a hug in return.
When the time came, we drove down to the park to pick everyone up. Kevin got out of the van first and went over to apologize to everyone, especially Dustin. Soon, Dustin was hugging him again and I could tell that everyone else forgave Kevin too. After the apologies were concluded, everyone got in the van and we headed home. All the boys played around together, once we got back, and Dustin informed me he’d be sleeping back in with Kevin. I think we all slept well that evening.
The following day, around mid-morning, I got a call telling me our vehicles were ready, so I talked my friend into picking me up, so I could drive each of them home. I brought the Suburban back first, parked it in the driveway, and then got back into my friend’s car, since he’d followed me home on this trip. Once we returned to the lot, I got ready to drive the Grand Am home, but not until I thanked my friend for all of his help. I buckled up once more and made the final trip back home.
As I pulled in the driveway, all the boys, including Kevin, were checking out the Suburban, crawling in and out as they inspected it. They started to wander over to the car, so they could inspect it too, and the older boys took that opportunity to begin teasing me to take them out to practice. To their disappointment, I explained I had other things to do at the moment, but would take them down to the school parking lot after dinner, so they could all take a turn. That idea seemed to satisfy them for the time being, so I went into the house, while they continued to check out both vehicles.
While I was doing some paperwork, taking care of the backlog of mail and preparing for school to start again, the boys disappeared and entertained themselves and each other. Some went out to play kickball with the little ones, while others went to their rooms to listen to music or read. I was just thankful they were willing to allow me some time alone, so I’d be able to finish what I had to do.
As soon as dinner was over that evening, the trio began to pester me again, about taking them out to practice their driving. In the spirit of reconciliation, Kevin volunteered to clean up the dinner dishes so we could go sooner. The others noticed and appreciated this fact, so we all thanked him, but I also gave him a hug and a kiss on the forehead before we left.
I drove the boys down to the school parking lot and then Dustin and I switched seats, so he could drive first. I went over the list of things each of them should do each time before driving, like adjusting the seat, putting on their seat belts, making sure the car is in the correct gear and checking the mirrors to make sure they are adjusted appropriately, before easing out into traffic, although there was none around us at the moment. Dustin did fairly well for his first time, just having to be reminded to take his foot a little further off the accelerator when he made a turn. After about 30 minutes of practice, I had him stop and park the car, so he and Danny could trade places. Once they were back in the car and buckled in, I told Danny he could begin.
Danny did even better than Dustin had done, having learned from some of the instructions I had given to Dustin during his turn at the wheel. I was beginning to think we might not need to spend so much time in the parking lot and might be able to get out for some street practice earlier than I first anticipated. My biggest complaint with Danny’s performance was that he was too nonchalant about gripping the steering wheel and tried to drive with one hand, using a somewhat relaxed grip. In order to get him to understand why that was dangerous, I explained that if he hit a pothole, an object in the road or had a tire blow out while driving in that manner, the steering wheel could get ripped out of his hand and send his vehicle out of control. After my warning, he worked harder at using both hands and maintained a slightly tighter grip on the wheel. When his half hour was up, he pulled over, changed seats with Brandon, and we began with our last ‘student.’
Brandon took my advice to Danny about gripping the steering wheel tightly, a little too seriously. He had a death grip on the wheel and his knuckles looked almost white from the lack of blood flowing to them. This caused me to worry that his hands would begin to cramp up or his arms would go numb if he did this for very long. Therefore, I had to convince him to relax his grip a little before we started out. Brandon seemed a little tense behind the wheel, so I tried my best to calm him down. When I told him to take off, he stomped his foot down on the gas pedal, which sent all of us slamming against our seats and caused the tires to squeal. As he started to ease off the gas, I asked him to stop, so I could tell him what he did wrong. Unfortunately, as he removed his foot from the gas pedal, he thrust it against the brake pedal, sending us all flying in the opposite direction.
Luckily, everyone was wearing a seatbelt, otherwise some of us might have suffered facial injuries or lost a tooth or two during that episode. After we recovered and Brandon apologized for his mistakes, I told him it was all right and explained that’s why we were practicing, so each of them could learn from their own and each other’s mistakes. To my grave disappointment, the two in the rear weren’t quite as merciful and began ragging on him terribly.
“Danny, does he make those fast starts and stops in bed too?” Dustin quipped. “If he does, I’m amazed you haven’t had to wear one of those collars for whiplash.”
“Nah, luckily he doesn’t burn rubber when we make love,” Danny replied, “but his techniques can be just as aggressive. I guess that’s what makes him a great lover and a lousy driver.”
I could see Brandon was becoming embarrassed, and maybe even a little upset by this banter, so I decided it was time to bring it to a halt. “Okay, we can either continue with the lessons or go back home and gossip about such things,” I interrupted, “but we’re not going to do both at the same time. In fact, if you two can’t behave while I’m working with Brandon, then next time I’ll leave you home and just bring him. The choice is yours.”
Dustin and Danny quickly apologized for their snide remarks and promised to keep their comments to themselves, so I prepared Brandon to try this again. He was still slightly distracted thinking about his earlier performance and the comments the others had made about him, as I tried to explain how to gently apply pressure to the gas pedal when starting up and how to keep his heel on the floor as he pushed down on the brake, and then gradually let up as he the car came to a stop, so he wouldn’t snap the passengers about as he did so. We practice this a few more times, and he did do much better on his other attempts, so when his 30 minutes were up, he and I switched places, so I could drive home.
When we arrived back at the house, some of the boys came out to meet us. They asked how the practice had gone and Dustin and Danny began their amusing account of Brandon’s first effort. Brandon took the ribbing good-naturedly and even added some of his own embellishments to the story, before getting his revenge. That’s when he and Danny began their account of Dustin’s cornering techniques, complete with the sound effects for squealing tires and showing how their bodies slid in the seats. After this little bit of humor, Brandon and Dustin mimicked Danny’s lackadaisical driving method, with one hand held loosely on the wheel and the other arm over the back of the seat. After this amusing recounting of day one at the ‘Currie Driving Academy’, the boys all went in to clean up and relax for the rest of the evening.
Saturday was a flurry of activity, as we prepared for Kevin’s party. I wanted to make sure everything went well, especially after the disastrous first part of the week we had together. After lunch, Kevin, Dustin and I got in the Suburban and drove off to pick up Kevin’s old friends. Kevin had decided he was ready to make contact with those from his past life, when he had still lived with his parents, and had asked if he could invite them. I readily agreed, so Kevin and Dustin got in touch with the boys and made arrangements for them to come. I had never met them before, but the boys seemed happy to see Kevin and Dustin again. It was quite a joyous reunion, as the boys recounted tales of old adventures they’d had together and joked about things they had done back then, before Kevin and Dustin had moved away. They kept this up nearly all the way back.
When we got to the house, Kevin asked if it would be possible to take everyone to the school, so they could have a pick-up soccer game. I agreed and we squeezed all of the boys into the van. It was a good thing it was only a short trip, as it would have been very uncomfortable mashed together like that on a longer ride. When we arrived at the school athletic fields, the boys eagerly pried themselves apart and got out of the van, before spending more than an hour playing their game. I sat and watched as they raced about, passed the ball back and forth and took shots on goal. After about the first 20 or 30 minutes of this frantic pace, the four youngest dropped out of the game and went to do other things. This made the teams smaller, but the level of competition picked up considerably, as the boys played even harder, since they didn’t have to worry about hurting the younger boys. It was one hell of a game and all of them were exhausted by the time they finally stopped.
On the ride back, we noticed the boys smelled a bit ripe after that rough workout, so when we got back to the house, I had my boys round up some clothes that would fit our guests and then sent groups of young men to all three showers to clean up. Seeing most of these boys weren’t gay and had never fooled around with Kevin or Dustin, everyone took their shower alone. It took a while to run all the boys through this process and it was a good thing I have hot water heaters that recover quickly. Once they’d all finished showering, I threw their clothing into the washing machine, so they’d have them to wear back home tomorrow. After that, they went off to entertain themselves, while I got things ready for the cookout.
Sally and the Shays would be arriving around 5:00, so we had to hurry to get everything in order before they arrived. Danny and Brandon helped me get the grills started, since we started using two for such large get-togethers, and they also helped me carry the food and other items out to the picnic tables. When Aunt Sally, Aunt Mary and Uncle Steve arrived, we started putting the hamburgers, hotdogs and chicken on the grill. The other boys also helped take the salads out of the refrigerator and carried them out to the tables as well. We all chatted while the food was cooking, and some of the boys were throwing a football around, while another group was kicking the soccer ball back and forth.
When the meat was done, we called the boys in and watched nearly everything disappear in the blink of an eye. I was already working on a second round of meat on the grills and the boys were snapping everything up almost as soon as it hit the platter. I went in and got more meat from the refrigerator, throwing that on the grills next, but soon the boys started to slow down on their eating and I finally was able to get something for myself. Eventually, we all ate our fill and then we sat around and relaxed, deciding to wait an hour or so before we had the cake and ice cream. After a short rest, however, the boys went back to playing ball and entertaining themselves.
Sally, Mary, Steve and I chatted for a while and then they offered to help me clean up. Although I told them it wasn’t necessary and I had plenty of help, they ignored me and began taking the remaining food and breakable dishes back into the house. Then they helped me carry out the presents, cake and ice cream, so we’d be ready, once the boys finished playing their game.
After the boys got tired, they joined us and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kevin. The boys still get embarrassed being the focal point of this little tradition, but I still make them go through it. Actually, I think they secretly enjoy it, but their reaction is because of what their friends might say or think about it. Once we finished, I started serving the cake and ice cream.
While this was going on, Kevin opened his gifts. It was the usual assortment of presents, until he came to the ones from the family. He unwrapped the first one and discovered a driver’s manual and a copy of his appointment to take his written test in January. He simply held it up and beamed, giving me a wink in the process. Next, Kevin opened his big gift from the family. This gift idea had surprised me when he mentioned it a few days ago, but the more I thought about it the more I liked it. It was a guitar and a couple of books on how to play, with the first one showing him how to play nearly all of the major chords. He beamed even more when he saw this present and came over and hugged me. I was a little startled by this, as he was doing it in front of his old friends, who didn’t understand our closeness. However, as he did it, he also whispered in my ear.
“I’m really sorry I was such a jerk about the driving lessons earlier this week,” he told me. “You’re the best, Dad. Thanks for everything.” I gave him a hug back and then I sent him on his way.
After the party, Sally, Mary and Steve all said their good-byes to the boys before they left. They said farewell to Kevin as they passed through the house, since he was inside trying to learn to play some chords on his guitar, with the help of a couple of his old friends. When he learned his aunts and uncle were leaving, Kevin set his guitar down, so he could run over and hug them all, but he also gave his aunts a kiss. Once he finished, I walked our visitors out and thanked them for coming. I even stayed and watched them pull away. They truly are a valuable part of this family.
As soon as it got dark, the boys went outside and horsed around for a while, before coming back in to watch a video together. I left the boys to themselves and went to my room, so I could pack for my two-day trip to visit Nick and his parents. I would leave early Tuesday and return late Wednesday, which would be just long enough to meet his mom and dad and get to know them a little better.
Once the video finished, the boys got ready to go to sleep. They spread their sleeping bags out on the family room floor, as my boys went through the house collecting pillows from the rooms not currently being used. Most of the boys slept in the family room, with Kevin and his guests, talking late into the night and horsing around until the early morning hours. I waited a while, before I put into motion a little surprise I had laid out earlier.
The family room had been added to the house long after the house had been built and was merely a one-story structure that extended out from the right-front side of the building. Next to the family room was a large tree, which had branches that extended over the roof of the family room. I had rigged a hefty branch onto one of those limbs, tied a piece of clothesline to it and secured the rope outside the window in the downstairs bathroom. When the boys started calming down, I went into the bathroom and pulled on the rope, which caused the branch to bang on the roof of the family room. I did it a few times and then went across the hall to my bedroom. As I did so, I heard a commotion in the family room. At first it was only some loud talking, but then some of them came running in the foyer. Finally, Kevin came bursting into my room, quite excited. “Dad, something is on the roof of the family room.”
“Why do you think that?” I asked.
“Because we heard banging up there,” he stated simply.
I walked back to the family room with him and listened for a short time, but heard nothing – of course. Then a few of the boys followed me outside, as I checked around with my flashlight. I made sure I didn’t shine the light on the rope, but the boys who followed me out helped me investigate both sides of the family room’s roof and we saw nothing. The boys quickly decided that whatever it was had now gone, so things went back to normal. I let them settle down for a while, before I went back into the bathroom and did it again. I barely got back to my room this time, before a group of boys came running in, all excited.
“It happened again,” someone yelled. “Something’s out there.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Something pounding on the roof in there. It banged real loud, so it must be pretty big,” one of Kevin’s friends told me.
I got my flashlight once more and we went back out, again finding nothing. This time they also made me flash the light up on the main roof, seeing if whatever it was had gone higher. Finding nothing there, we went back inside. I just barely let them get back into the family room before I did it again. This time I didn’t even have time to get out of the bathroom, before there were a bunch of boys screaming for me. I told them that I’d be right out, but I gave one final hard jerk on the rope, to pull it loose from the limb. However, that also caused the branch to crash onto the roof and caused another very loud banging sound, before falling to the ground.
The boys who had remained in the family room now came running out, just as I emerged from the toilet, after flushing of course, to make it look real. Excitedly, they began telling me they heard something on the roof again, before urging me to go out and investigate what was causing all the noise. This time, however, we got out several flashlights and went out as a group. We searched the roof of the family room, the roof to the house and then walked all around looking for this mysterious creature. Nothing was ever discovered, although I did manage to inconspicuously kick a thick branch up against the side of the house, where it wouldn’t be noticed, and then we went back inside. When the boys returned to the family room, they listened for a while longer, but heard nothing more, so they settled down and finally fell asleep.
After checking in on them a couple of times, I thought, ‘another birthday party was over and another gag had been successfully pulled off by Dad!’