Substitute Dad

© 2006 - 2010 By Scribe1971 (scribe1971@hotmail.com)

Chapter 7

Theres Something About Christmas Time

Being awakened by having the wind knocked out of you is usually a pretty unpleasant experience. Having it done to you on Christmas morning by a very excited boy whom you love very much is somewhat more palatable.

That’s how I was awakened that Christmas morning. I was sound asleep when the boy missile struck. It was about 7:00 AM when Josh must have launched himself at me from my bedroom door. Next thing I knew, I was gasping to regain by breath while 100+ pounds of excited boy clung to me, nuzzling my face with his cheek and planting kisses on my forehead.

Once I started to breathe again, I opened my eyes and there he was. His amazing gray eyes staring hopefully into my face.

"Merry Christmas, dad! I love you," He said lovingly and flashed me his sunny grin.

How could I get angry with a boy like that? I wrapped him in my arms and hugged him tightly to me. "Merry Christmas, son, I love you too," I replied with a sleepy smile.

I rubbed his back gently as we lay there and cuddled for a couple of moments before my need to empty my bladder took over.

"How about letting me up, kiddo, I’ve got to take a leak so bad that my rear molars are floating."

Josh giggled at my comment and then rolled off me. I was amazed to see that he was already up and dressed for the day. He normally wasn’t what you’d call a morning person. I guess the lure of Christmas gifts was a powerful motivating factor.

"How about making me some coffee while I jump in the shower, kiddo?"

"Sure," he smiled and ran off to my small kitchen to fire up the coffee maker.

I drained my bladder and took a quick shower. I had just finished drying myself off when Josh entered the bathroom and handed me a steaming mug.

"Here you go, double-double, just as you like it," he grinned.

"Thanks kiddo," I said as I gave him a brief hug and then took a sip of the coffee.

He perched himself on the toilet lid as I went about brushing my teeth and shaving. I had a quick shave as Josh studied my every move. I don’t know why, but for some reason it has been my experience that many boys seem to enjoy watching men shave. When I worked at camp Tonawonka, I usually had half the boys in my group join me at the sinks every morning as I shaved. I was never been able to figure out exactly what the fascination was. With Josh, I think it was more than just watching me shave. I think he felt the same thing watching me shave as I felt watching him in candid moments.

With my morning ablutions taken care of for another day, I dressed neatly and Josh nearly dragged me up the stairs. Evidently Susan had told him that he had to wait until 7:00 and for me to get up before opening any presents. He came down and got me up at his first opportunity. I looked out the window as we made our way up the stairs and noticed that it had snowed again the night before. It wasn’t a lot of snow, but it was a light dusting, just enough to make it feel like Christmas.

The night before, after Josh had gone to bed, I had helped Susan to put the presents under the tree. Josh, of course was too old to believe in Santa Claus, but Susan had continued the tradition of not putting out the gifts until after he had gone to bed.

The nicely trimmed tree stood in the corner of the living room and there were plenty of gifts spread underneath. Susan had also hung out an overflowing Christmas stocking for Josh.

"Merry Christmas, Susan," I said cheerfully.

"Merry Christmas to you too, Tom," Susan smiled.

Susan and I sat down and nursed our coffees as Josh attacked his Christmas stocking with a vengeance. By the time he finally reached the bottom, he was surrounded by a pile of treasures ranging from chocolates and fruit to some cologne and other toiletries.

It was time for the main show. Josh decided to play Santa Claus and hand out the gifts. He did a great job of it and looked to be having a blast. Before long, the floor was littered with torn wrapping paper and all 3 of us were just as happy as clams. Susan had given Josh a Nintendo Gameboy and a collection of games to go with it. Susan had received a pair of earrings from Josh and I had given her a pair of tickets to see "Miss Saigon" at the Princess of Whales Theatre. I had also included a meal gift certificate for Honest Ed’s Warehouse which was located right next door. It was a classy restaurant which had really good food. She realized that I had blown the $50 limit, but she had too.

Susan had given me the complete set of "Pink Panther" movies along with the latest 3D shoot-em-up computer game. Josh had coached her as to my tastes in virtual mayhem and I couldn’t wait to try it out.

"Oh goody," Josh announced as he held up another present. "This one is from Tommy to me."

He sat down to open it and I could feel the anticipation building in my gut as I watched him. He unceremoniously shredded the wrapping paper and confronted the nicely carved wooden box with brass trimmings and a large Swiss Army symbol on the hinged lid. He carefully turned the box around, undid the latch and opened it up. He looked inside and stared silently for a moment, unable to speak.

The box contained several items. The first was a multi-function Swiss Army knife. It was one of those pocket knives which seemed to do everything except sing and dance. It had just about every tool and attachment you could imagine. The knife was engraved with the initials JMC for Joshua Michael Chambers. Next to the knife was a brown leather carry pouch which was form fitted for the knife. The pouch was also adorned with the Swiss Army logo. Along with the knife and pouch was an outdoorsman’s multi-tool, one of those devices which resembles a pair of pliers but which performs all sorts of other functions. The multi-tool also included its own leather carrying case.

Finally, a professional grade engineer style compass rounded out the contents of the box. It was one of those compasses which included sighting tools for orienteering and accurate navigation. It also featured a lanyard for wearing it around your neck.

"Take a look at the engraving inside the lid of the box, Josh," I instructed.

Josh tilted the box up to his eyes and read the engraved inscription out loud:

"Josh, I’ll always be there to guide your way. Love always, dad."

As soon as he read it, he jumped up and threw himself into my arms. I could hardly breathe because he was hugging me so hard.

"Thank-you, Tommy. Thank-you so much. I love you so much," he gushed as he kissed me tenderly on the cheek as he continued to hug me for dear life.

"That’s beautiful, Tom," Susan said as she looked at the gift. "You be sure to keep really good care of those things, Josh."

"I will mom," he said as he began to compose himself.

"I’ll teach you how to use all those things, kiddo. You’re going to need all those things with all the camping we’re going to do this year."

Josh smiled and repeated his rib crushing hug. "You’re the best, dad."

Susan smiled at us both and mouthed the words "thank-you" to me. I smiled and nodded my head.

I was thrilled that Josh had loved my gift at least as much as I had hoped he would. I had thought long and hard about what to get him. He was going to be a teenager in less than 2 months and I knew him to be responsible enough to own such things. I also knew that I was formulating some major plans for us this summer and he was going to need to own and fully understand how to use a compass and a Swiss Army knife in order to be a full participant.

After Josh spent some time tinkering with his Swiss Army knife, he resumed handing out gifts. We each opened a few smaller gifts when he pulled the last gift from under the tree. It was to me from Josh. He handed me the package and then climbed up on the easy chair with me to watch me unwrap it.

I carefully unwrapped the gift and saw what was inside. I was just as utterly speechless as Josh had been. There were 2 framed pictures. The first frame contained a collage of photos of Josh and I together. Some had been taken the previous summer at camp and some had been taken in the months since I had rented the basement apartment in his house. There was a shot of us in a canoe at camp Tonawonka; there was one of me giving him a ride on my shoulders, there was even a group photo of me and all my boys. The more recent photos included some pretty candid shots that I didn’t even realize had been taken. These included a touching shot of Josh and I snuggled up together on my couch, snoozing in front of the TV. Susan took that one without either of us even knowing it. The most recent photo had been taken the week before when I took Josh flying. I looked at the collection of photos, all carefully arranged to show a progression from the first days after we met right up to our current life together. My throat felt as if I had swallowed a golf ball.

I looked at the second frame and again, my breath was caught in my throat. It contained a large blown up copy of the photo of Josh and I standing arm-in-arm, smiling broadly in front of the Cessna that we’d just flown. Written with a gold coloured marker across the bottom of the photo in Josh’s unmistakable scrawl was:

"Tommy, you’re my best friend and you’re my dad. You’ll forever be the wind beneath my wings. Love, Josh." I carefully set down the pictures and then looked at Josh. I was totally unable to speak for a few seconds.

"Do you like it?" He asked.

"I love it Josh," I croaked out as I wrapped my arms around him and hugged him fiercely. "I love it Josh and I love you, son. I will always be the wind beneath your wings and you’ll be the wind beneath mine. We’re forever, you and I."

That was all it took to set him off too. Neither of us could say anything. We just held each other. I just held this amazing, special kid and felt the immense love flow between us. I really meant it, we were forever. Nothing was ever going to come between us.

"You guys are going to make me cry too," Susan said as she joined our embrace.

We finally released each other after another minute.

"Tom, I have to say something," Susan said. "I have never had the time to give Josh the attention that he really needs. I love my son dearly and I wish I could spend more time with him. He has had it rough because of his father, but he has turned the page."

Susan studied Josh and I closely before continuing. "Josh has changed so much in the past few months. He has grown up a lot. He has always been a wonderful boy, but the change in him since you came back into his life has been amazing. He truly considers you to be his dad. He could easily do a lot worse for a dad. I’ve watched you two together and the depth and strength of the love between you is obvious. I know you’ll never leave him and I know that you’ll never hurt him."

"Susan, I would lay down my life to protect him if it ever came to that," I said with sincerity.

"I know you would Tom, and that’s why I want to ask a rather large favour of you," Susan paused before continuing. "Other than Josh, I don’t have any family. Josh’s only other living relatives are those people you encountered at George’s funeral. How would you feel about being named in my will as being Josh’s legal guardian should anything ever happen to me?"

I was stunned and it took me a moment to respond. "I’d be honored, Susan. I don’t know how easily it would stand up to a court challenge but he’ll be 16 in just a few years and then it pretty much becomes academic. You have my word that should anything happen to you; I will raise Josh as my own." I felt Josh hug me tightly as I said that.

"You would have no financial worries. I have life insurance and the mortgage on the house is fully insured."

"Even without those guarantees, I’d take him. If his father’s family ever made a move to take him, they’d have to do it over my dead body," I stated emphatically.

We chit-chatted together for another hour before we thought it best to clean up the mess of wrapping paper that littered the living room floor. Once the living room was restored to its former neat and tidy self, Josh and I went down to my apartment to hang up my pictures. I retrieved a hammer and some picture hangers from my toolbox and then sought out the perfect place for both pictures. I decided to hand the large picture of Josh and I with the Cessna prominently on the hallway wall just inside the door of my apartment. I wanted to ensure that it was placed in such a way as to be clearly visible and readable to anyone who entered my apartment. I decided to hang the photo collage on my living room wall so that it was also easily visible to all visitors.

With that job taken care of, Josh and I joined Susan for a large Christmas brunch. We ate until we were all stuffed and then worked together to clean up the mess. Josh and I sat together at the kitchen table and I demonstrated all the functions of his new Swiss Army knife and the multi-tool. I gave him a thorough run-down on how to properly care for and maintain his knife was well as a thorough lecture on knife safety. I also demonstrated how to use the engineer’s compass. I promised to take him out tomorrow and show him how to correctly shoot a bearing.

By around one, it was time for me to head over to my mother’s house for Christmas dinner. Josh and Susan were going to take in an afternoon movie and then have a quiet Christmas dinner at home. I made a mental note to try to get us all together for Christmas dinner the following year.

Before leaving, I promised Josh that he could sleep downstairs with me that night and that we’d hold our own "Pink Panther" movie marathon. As I headed out the door, I gave Josh a firm hug and a peck on the cheek.

"I love you, son."

"I know, I love you too. Drive carefully; it might be slippery from the snow."

"I will kiddo," I said as I released him from the hug and headed out to my Jeep. The Jeep was a 4 wheel drive so I wasn’t worried about road conditions, but his concern warmed my heart.

I spent the rest of Christmas day with my mother and my brothers. I had to change gears from "dad mode" to "little brother mode". James who is 7 years older than me was there with his wife Anne and my 5 year old identical twin nephews Richard and Matthew. James and I had always been close. I tried to model a lot of my interactions with Josh along the same lines of the way that Richard had treated me when I was Josh’s age. I got along famously with Anne and I adored my nephews.

Richard and Matthew were rough and tumble little boys who loved to wrestle and rough-house with me. They were also a couple of little cuddle-bugs. I only had to sit down and within seconds, I’d have a cute and cuddly five year old snuggled up on either side of me.

Andrew, who is 3 years older than me is my middle brother. He and I were also very close. Unlike James, he was into camping and he had taught me everything I knew. We frequently used to go camping together. It was Andrew who actually convinced me to become a camp counselor after I left the militia. He was the senior counselor at Tonawonka and actually got me the job.

My mom, Dianne always loved Christmas and made a big deal out of it. As usual, I knew that I’d be going home tonight with enough leftovers and Christmas cookies to choke a horse. Mom always made up the best Christmas stockings for us boys. She also made them up for Anne and the twins.

We exchanged gifts and we all made out like bandits. My mom and brothers had pooled their money together and surprised the hell out of me with a new Toshiba laptop computer with CD burner. I was ecstatic. It was an amazing present. I thanked them all profusely for it.

I gave my mom a gold necklace and a pair of earrings – the same ones that Josh had given his mother. I gave James and Anne an automatic bread maker for their kitchen and I gave James a new winter tent with reflective insulation. I gave each of the twins a set of Tonka trucks.

We had a great visit. We laughed and reminisced about the past and I had a great time wresting with my nephews. I even managed to spend some time setting up my new laptop. I was going to have my work cut out for me transferring all my files from my desktop. I had decided that I was going to give my old computer to Josh.

Christmas dinner was a really big affair. My mom had cooked a really nice turkey and it came out juicy and tender. The leftovers were going to make excellent sandwiches for the next few days. In addition to the turkey, the table was buried under a pile of the usual trimmings. To top it all off, we finished with a belly-buster of an apple pie. By the time I left that night, I thought I had eaten a horse.

I arrived home at around 8:00 and Josh was waiting for me. I got my usual massive hug as soon as I walked in the door. "Tommy, you’re home!" he crowed. "I missed you."

"I was only gone for a few hours, kiddo!" I laughed as I returned his hug. "How about helping me bring in some stuff from the Jeep? I promise I’ll make it worth your while."

"Sure dad," He said excitedly as he threw on some shoes and followed me out the door.

I opened the rear of the Jeep and I thought Josh as going to cream his pants when he saw the laptop box. "You got a laptop? That’s so cool!" He enthused.

"I sure did. That means that I have an extra desktop computer that I don’t need. Do you know anyone who wants one?" I asked with a grin.

It took him a moment to process what I had said and then he seized me in one of his boa constrictor hugs, "I’ll take it if you don’t have anyone else you’d rather give it to," he said demurely.

"Did you really think I’d give it to anyone else?" I asked.

The kiss he planted on my forehead answered my question. We grabbed my gifts and the bags of leftovers and trucked them into the house and down to my apartment.

I unpacked the laptop and plugged it in to charge the batteries. I was dying to fire it up and start loading my software but I had promised Josh a movie marathon.

Josh fired up the TV and loaded one of the "Pink Panther" videos into the VCR while I made a large bowl of microwave popcorn and grabbed a couple of cans of Coke. We settled in on the couch to watch the movie. As usual, I was on the left side of the sofa with Josh snuggled up to my right side with my arm wrapped around him and his head cuddled against the side of my chest.

The popcorn and Cokes didn’t last long. Unfortunately, neither did Josh or I. By about the half-way point of the movie, I could hear Josh snoring softly and I was doing the old "head snap" trick. It had been a long and exciting day so I decided it was time to pack it in for the night. I carefully stood up without disturbing Josh and turned off the TV. I went into my bedroom, turned on the bedside lamp and turned back the sheets and then went for Josh. I picked him up and considered taking him up to his own room and then decided to put him to bed with me. I gently carried him into my bedroom and placed him on the bed. I carefully stripped him down to his briefs and then slipped him under the covers. He didn’t even stir. I kissed his forehead lightly after I tucked him in.

With Josh safely deposited into bed, I undressed myself, quickly brushed my teeth and then joined him in bed. I barely had time to turn off the lamp before he detected my body heat and snuggled up against me with one arm draped across my chest and with his legs all tangled up with my own. I wrapped my arms around him and gently rubbed his back. Rubbing his back always seemed to relax him and make him comfortable. He nuzzled his face into my neck and resumed his light snoring. I kissed him softly on his temple and cuddled my cheek against the top of his head. I lay there and listened to his slow and regular breathing. Within minutes, I was asleep.

We had big plans for Boxing Day. We shared a mutual distaste for the concept of going shopping and facing the bargain-hunting crowds. Instead, we decided to spend the morning transferring my files from my desktop PC to my laptop and then setting up the desktop in Josh’s bedroom. After lunch, we planned on going to High Park to try out Josh’s new compass. I planned to teach him some basic orienteering skills.

Once again I had the extreme pleasure of waking up to one of Josh’s world famous massages. I wasn’t sure whether I had rolled onto my stomach on my own or whether he had rolled me over himself, but that was how I awoke. Josh as straddling my back and was working the muscles on my shoulders and neck with gusto.

"Morning son," I mumbled to him. "I love waking up this way."

"Morning dad," he said as he leaned down to kiss the back of my head and cuddled for a second before continuing the massage. "I love waking you up this way. You do so much for me, this is the least I can do."

"You do a lot for me too kiddo," I smiled.

After about 10 minutes he finished the massage and climbed off me. I went to my own bathroom to shower and Josh went upstairs to do the same. We agreed to meet back in my apartment in 10 minutes to start the process of transferring computers.

Both computes had network cards so I was able to rig up a loop-back cable to speed up the process of transferring files. Transferring the data that way as opposed to using floppy disks meant that the process took only minutes rather than hours.

Josh was hovering around the whole time. He was so excited that he was getting his own computer. The fact that it was a used computer didn’t matter to him in the least. I had been teaching him some basic computer skills pretty much since the day I moved in. That meant that he was well prepared for having his own PC.

Once the files were transferred, I deleted the originals from the desktop. I also uninstalled any applications that Josh wouldn’t need. I left all my games and things loaded for him. We had the same taste in computer games. We both loved first-person-shooters. I was really looking forward to playing multi-player Doom with him now that we had our own PCs. The loopback cable would also prove useful for that purpose.

Once the data was transferred, I put Josh to work loading my applications and games onto the laptop while I disassembled the desktop and trucked it up to his bedroom piece-by-piece.

I cleared the typical teenage boy clutter from his desk and positioned the various components. I had it setup for him in no time at all.

"Hey Josh," I called down to him. It only took a second and I heard him thunder up the stairs.

"Cool! It’s all setup," he chirped.

"You’re already to go, bud!" I smiled at him and I was rewarded with another tight hug and a peck on the forehead.

"You’re the best, dad. I really mean that."

"You’re no slouch either, kiddo." I said as I winked at him.

"Hang out here if you want and mess around with your computer while I go finish loading the software on the laptop."

"Ok, but why don’t you bring the laptop up here and stay with me while you load it up?"

"Wery shrewd idea," I said in a terrible accent that made him laugh.

I retreated to my apartment, picked up my laptop and binder of CDs and returned to Josh’s room. I propped myself up on his bed and went to work as he personalized his new desktop.

"Mom, look what Tommy gave me," Josh shouted as Susan poked he head in to ask us if we wanted lunch.

"Wow!" Susan exclaimed. "You didn’t have to do that, Tommy."

"It’s ok, my mom and brothers bought me this new laptop for Christmas. I didn’t need the desktop anymore so I gave it to Josh."

"That’s a nice gift. It’ll be great for your school work. That was sweet of you to give the old one to Josh," She said with a smile.

"Do you guys want something to eat?"

"Sure" Josh and I answered at the same time.

Susan laughed and retreated to the kitchen to prepare lunch. It didn’t take long to finish setting up my laptop. We were done by the time lunch was served.

Josh and I devoured the soup and grilled cheese sandwiches that Susan had prepared and then we bundled up and hit the road. The drive to High Park took only about 20 minutes.

It was a glorious winter day. The sun was shining and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. The temperature was reasonable and the park wasn’t very crowded. I produced a map and worked out a course to take us from the parking lot to Grenadier pond and back.

"Ok Josh, have you ever done orienteering before?" I asked.

"We did it at camp this year but the counselor didn’t explain it all that well."

"That’s ok, it’s really easy. I’m going to show you how to navigate using your compass which is called orienteering and how to use your map and a compass to figure out where you are. That’s known as triangulation."

I proceeded to teach him how to shoot a bearing using the sights on his compass. As I expected, he picked it up right away. I had always known that Josh as a sharp kid and he didn’t disappoint. In less time than I thought we would need for covering the basics, he had a full comprehension of bearings, back-bearings and cross track detours. In no time at all, we had navigated ourselves around the park and made our way to the shores of Grenadier pond.

"You’re amazing, Josh," I said lovingly. "You picked this stuff up like a pro."

"I had a good teacher, that’s all," he said modestly.

Once he had mastered orienteering, I covered the more advanced topic of triangulation.

"Josh lets pretend that we are lost and we don’t know where we are. How would we navigate our way out?"

"I guess we’d have to figure out where we are," he replied.

"Right! So how do we do that?"

"I guess you could look or nearby landmarks. I know where we are now because of the pond."

"That’s one way to do it, but it isn’t very accurate and you might not have any recognizable landmarks within measurable distance of your position."

I was happy to see comprehension on Josh’s face.

"If you have a good compass, a pencil and a map it’s quite easy to find your position with a pretty good degree of accuracy. Take a look around and see if you can spot a major landmark that is shown on the map. Ideally you don’t want a landmark that’s too close to you. It should be a fair distance away."

Josh looked around and spotted a wooden dock on the far side of the pond. He checked the map and verified that it was shown. "How about that dock," he asked.

"Perfect. You need to shoot a bearing off that dock. Be as accurate as you can be. I watched as he shot the bearing like a pro.

"Now, use your compass and a ruler to draw a line right through the dock on your map. You want the line to exactly follow the bearing that you just shot. You want to make the line nice and long so that it runs through both the landmark and the area where you suspect we’re located."

Josh did as I instructed. He placed the compass on the map, turned the ruler edge to the correct bearing and used a pencil to draw a straight line.

"Excellent. Now do the same thing two more times. Each time, you want to find a landmark which is in a completely different direction than the others. The smaller the difference in the bearings, the less accurate our result will be."

Josh expertly repeated the process and soon we had 3 intersecting lines drawn on our map.

"Nicely done, kiddo," I smiled and ruffled his hair. "Take a look at the map and tell me what you see."

"Where the lines that I drew meet, they make a small triangle," he replied thoughtfully. "I GOT IT. Triangle – triangulation. We’re inside that triangle, right?"

"Exactly," I exclaimed. "That’s all there is to it. We know that we are somewhere in the middle of that triangle so we can now navigate our way to where we want to go. The triangle will be smaller or larger depending upon the accuracy of the bearings, the accuracy of the lines you drew on the map and the difference in direction between the 3 points."

Josh was beaming; he was so pleased with himself.

"Bud, I’ve never seen anyone pick up triangulation that quickly in my whole life. I’m proud of you."

"It was really easy and you explained it really well. You never treat me like a dumb kid, that’s why I learn so well from you."

"I’ll always treat you like the amazing young man you are, son. This is important stuff. I want to take you on some real camping excursions this summer and these skills, along with others that I’ll teach you could save one or both of our lives one day," I said solemnly. "We’ll go deep into the bush in Algonquin Park on a canoe and without these skills, we’d be lost in no time at all."

"I want to learn everything you know, dad."

We walked back to the Jeep and headed for home. On the way, we made a quick pit-stop at Tim Horton’s for some hot chocolate.

"One of these day’s I should start teaching you how to drive, Josh."

"Drive? I won’t be old enough for nearly 3 years," he said in a surprised voice.

"I know that, but what happens if we take a major road-trip somewhere and I get hurt in the middle of nowhere? You’d have to drive us out."

"That makes sense," he replied.

"This spring, we’ll find an empty parking lot and I’ll show you the basics. You’ll actually be lucky because you’re going to learn on a manual transmission. Most people learn with an automatic and have a hard time figuring out how to drive a standard."

A few minutes later we pulled into the driveway. We were just in time for dinner. Susan had served up some wonderful pork roast which the three of us reduced to a mere memory in no time at all. Josh and I helped with the cleanup and then retreated to my apartment to resume watching the "Pink Panther" movies. Susan went out for a few drinks with a couple of her friends leaving us to our video lunacy.

We took up our usual positions on the sofa and started the movie. Before long, we were both howling with laughter at the onscreen antics.

We had been watching the movie for about an hour when it happened. One second I was fine and enjoying the movie with Josh. The next second I was rocked by a sudden, excruciating pain in the right side of my head.

"OH SHIT!" I yelled loudly startling Josh. "Jesus Christ, it hurts," I groaned loudly as I leaned forward as the pain gripped me.

"DAD! Are you all right? What’s wrong?" Josh asked excitedly. I could hear the fear in his voice and see it in his eyes as he knelt down in front of me and took my head in his hands.

"Oh God, I just got a really bad headache. It just came on like a shot," I panted. The pain had literally taken my breath away. I had never felt anything like that before in my life.

"That isn’t normal, Tommy, we should get you to the hospital," Josh said seriously.

"I’ll be ok in a minute, just-" I barely got it out when I suddenly threw up all over the floor. I just barely managed to turn my head and avoid vomiting all over Josh. I felt dizzy as if the room was spinning and I couldn’t see straight. I felt Josh’s hand on my shoulder as he tried to steady me. His sweet face wore a mask of intense concern and his marvelous gray eyes were as large as saucers.

"Dad, I’m calling 911. You’re really sick. You’re so pale that you look like a ghost," Josh said. He was in control, but I could hear the panic lurking just below the surface. I looked into his eyes and he looked utterly terrified. His voice sounded oddly distant to me, it was like he was speaking into a barrel.

I started to tell him not to worry and that I’d be fine in a second when I felt myself lose all strength and slide forward as everything faded to black.


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