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© 2014 - 2015 Ted Louis

Joel VII

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This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

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Chapter 15

"Let's head for home," I said.

"Good," Joel said, "I need a shower and something cold to drink."

As we were talking a young man approached, took our clubs off the golf cart and began cleaning them before he headed for the locker room. We followed. When we got there, he set our clubs down and asked us which lockers were ours. I showed him which ones we were using and he placed the clubs inside and closed the locker door. I handed him a generous tip for which he thanked me profusely. We attached the padlocks and closed them.

I made a call to our driver and was informed he would be there to pick us up in about five minutes. He had been anticipating our call.

When we got back to the condo, Joel headed for his bedroom to shower and change clothes. I did the same after checking on the other boys. They were sprawled out on the floor and couches watching TV. There was some animated movie that held their attention.

"Mr. Johnson," Carson said, when he saw me, "is it okay if I bring my girlfriend tomorrow? Mrs. Strasser said that she and her sister were going to be gone tomorrow morning and I would feel better if there was a female here."

"Certainly," I said. "I'm sure that the girls would appreciate that. She will be paid, as well. Is she a swimmer?"

"If anything, she swims better than I do," he said. "She belongs to a synchronized swimming club."

"Good, have her stop by in the morning to meet the girls," I said. "Breakfast, too, if she is so inclined."

"Thanks, I'll tell her. Do you need me anymore this afternoon?"

"Stick around until I get out of the shower or Mr. Baker arrives home."

When I finished my shower and returned to the living area, Donald was there. William was sitting beside him on the couch. "We just got here," he said, patting William on the head. "We had a little shopping to do after we had our swim."

"Hey, guys, it's time to get ready to go to the club. We're eating there tonight," I said.

"Do we have to dress up?" Chris asked.

"I think long pants and a nice buttoned shirt should do nicely," I answered. "Did you all shower after you got home this afternoon?"

"Yeah," Lenny said. "Do we have to take another one?"

"No," I said. "We have about an hour before we have to leave for the club. Just don't wait until the last minute to get dressed."

"Can we watch the rest of this movie?" Larry asked. "It's over in about 15 minutes."

"Sure, go ahead," I said.

"How did you shoot today?" Donald asked.

"Don't ask," I said. "Joel was really on his game. Really, I didn't shoot all that badly considering I had never played the course before and I haven't played all that much this past year."

"I think I may try to go out on Wednesday, if I can find someone to play with who won't embarrass me," Donald said.

"I'm sure you'll be able to find some of the members who are not scratch golfers," I said. "Ask Roger or Max and they can line you up with a group who are bogey golfers. In fact, that's probably what the majority of members shoot, or worse."

"What time do we need to be at the club?"

"Our reservation is for 6:30, so we should leave at least by six," I said.

The mini-bus arrived shortly before six to take the ten of us to the club house.

"This is really beautifully done," Manfred said, as we drove into the development. "I'm surprised at how much greenery there is considering we're in the middle of a desert."

"A lot of water goes into keeping it that way," Donald said. "Thankfully, water is plentiful being this close to the dam."

We arrived at the club house where we all exited our ride. The maître d' greeted us as we approached his station. "Mr. Johnson, is this all of your party?"

"Yes," I answered.

"Just a moment and Calvin will be right with you," he said.

It was less than a minute when Calvin approached us. "If you will follow me, your table is ready."

Our table was situated so that we could overlook the outdoor patio that was set up as an extension of the restaurant. There were several tables occupied with guests dining in the cool of the evening.

After we were all seated, Calvin asked, "What would you all like to drink?"

Milk was the preference for the four older boys, while chocolate milk was the preferred drink for the three youngest as well as the three girls. The adults settled for wine. We left the choice of red or white up to Calvin, depending on what the chef had planned for us. Since our lunch was a success letting the chef select for us, we opted to have him do the same for our meal.

The chef's selection of medallions of pork enhanced with a drizzle of a mildly spicy sauce was excellent. It was served with a sweet-potato puree and fresh, green beans with almonds and pearl onions. The meal was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Even the boys liked it. I think they were hesitant, at first, not to order something themselves, but after their meal came, I didn't see any disappointment from them in what they were served. The white wine that Calvin selected for us paired very nicely with the meal.

Dessert was a Napoleon whose main components were chocolate and strawberry mousse layered between puff pastry, topped with whipped cream and dusted with cocoa powder. The boys looked at it as if to ask, "How do we eat this?" They soon figured it out and there were no crumbs left on their plates.

Calvin's service was excellent. I think we were his only responsibility for the evening. We were all pleasantly full when it was time to leave.

Donald asked for the bill and was told that there was none, that we were entitled to eat free. He insisted that he would pay for our meals and finally after Calvin conferred with the maître d', a bill was presented. I didn't see the total charge for the meal, but it could not have been cheap. I was a bit surprised when I saw Donald slip Calvin a hundred dollar bill as a tip. Calvin looked a bit in shock as we headed out of the dining room.

By the time we returned to the condos, it was almost time for the boys to go to bed. I allowed my boys to stay up another half hour to wind down and to let their stomachs settle. It wasn't long before both Peter and William found their way to the couch where Donald and I were sitting. They climbed onto our laps and snuggled into our arms.

"Did you have fun today?" I asked Peter.

"Uh huh," Peter mumbled. "Carson's neat."

"Are you going to go swimming again tomorrow?" I asked.

"Yeah, Carson showed us some swimming stuff," Peter said. "It makes you go faster."

"That's good. I think it's time for a tired little boy to go to bed," I said, picking Peter up and carrying him downstairs to his bedroom. TJ followed as well as Donald with William.

"I think I need to go check on my daughter," Donald said, after William was tucked into bed.

The TV program that the boys had been watching was just wrapping up when I returned upstairs. I gave the three musketeers each a hug and sent them downstairs to go to bed. Joel was reading one of his text books.

"What're you studying?" I asked.

"It's my calculus. I need to be ready for the CBE in a couple of weeks," he answered.

"Do you think you'll be ready?"

"Yes, all I'm doing now is reviewing the material. I've already done all the hard studying," he said. "Dad, can I ask you a personal question?"

"You can always ask," I said. "Depending on what it is I may not give you an answer. Go ahead; what do you want to know?"

"Do you love Donald?"

"That is personal," I said. "What makes you ask that?"

"Well, you never show any real affection toward him like people do in the movies."

"Joel, I'm very fond of Donald. I do love him, but I don't know if I'm in love with him. We are very compatible. We have made an effort not to be too romantic, for lack of a better word, in front of you all. I'm sure that you would not have a problem with such a display, but I think some of your brothers might feel differently. They have accepted that he is a part of our household and William and Lenore are something akin to a brother and sister. Would they accept him as a second father? I'm not so sure about that."

"I think you might be surprised," Joel said. "I'm going to get ready for bed. Good night, dad."

"Good night, son."

Donald returned from tucking his daughter into bed as I was pouring two glasses of wine. As we had done the last couple of evenings, we took our wine onto the patio. I relayed my conversation with Joel to him.

"Very interesting," Donald said, taking a sip of his wine. "He's a very perceptive young man. It's something for us to consider going forward."

After finishing our wine, we headed for our bedroom.

The cooks had arrived and were fixing breakfast when I came out of the bedroom. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down at the table. Carlo, the head cook, asked me if I wanted pancakes or eggs. I told him two eggs, toast and orange juice would do nicely. Joel arrived a few minutes later. It looked as if he had just gotten out of the shower. His hair looked to be still damp.

"Good morning, son."

"Morning, dad."

When Carlo asked him what he wanted for breakfast, Joel asked for two eggs, two pancakes, four sausage links and orange juice. I just shook my head. I didn't know where he put it all. I hoped that he wouldn't be too full to play his best golf today.

Donald soon joined us and told Carlo he only wanted a couple slices of toast and a glass of juice.

As Joel was finishing his breakfast, the doorbell chimed and he went to let them in, assuming it would be Carson and his girlfriend. It was. Carson was followed into the room by a very attractive young lady, who he introduced as Megan Wright. We made small talk for a few minutes until I heard multiple footsteps coming up the stairs. They hardly noticed Megan as they all took chairs at the table.

"Guys, this is Megan Wright. She is going to be watching the girls while Hildy and Gilda are off doing something this morning," I said.

They offered her a "Hi", but were mostly interested in the plate stacked high with pancakes that was being brought to the table. That plate was followed by one filled with link sausages and fried eggs. The cook's young female assistant soon brought glasses of orange juice and placed them in front of each boy. Carson and Megan joined the boys at the table for their breakfast.

The Strassers, Gilda and Lenore arrived shortly and the introduction of Megan was greeted by more than a simple "Hi". More pancakes, sausages, eggs and orange juice made their way to the table for the newcomers. The three musketeers looked longingly at the pancakes until Carlo sat another plate of pancakes on the table in front of them.

"Where are you two ladies off to this morning?" I asked.

"We decided to have our hair done at one of the shops we stopped at the other day," Hildy said. "I thought I would try a new style. I haven't changed it in nearly thirty years. I think I'll try something daring. Maybe I'll be a blond."

Manfred started to say something, but Hildy gave him a 'don't go there look'. That caused Donald and me to chuckle.

"Joel, Donald, I think our car should be waiting for us downstairs," I said. "We should have plenty of time to get to the course and warm up before it's time to tee off."

"I want to get some more time to practice on the putting green," Joel said. "They're a lot different than the ones back home."

"All right, guys," I said, turning to the remaining boys, "you behave yourselves for Carson and Megan. We should be back sometime this afternoon."

I got mostly waves from them as their mouths were full of pancakes and sausages.

Arriving at the club, Joel retrieved his golf clubs from the locker and headed for the putting green. Donald went off to confer with the person representing the Palmer course. I went to the pro shop to find Max and Roger. I found both of them at a desk going over some schedules laid out on the desk in front of them.

"Hard at work, I see," I said, approaching the desk.

"Yeah, just trying to work out all the requests for lessons," Max said looking up. "It seems as if every member wants some help. Our original intention was to give individual lessons, but it looks like we may have to set up groups of two or three."

"What's the membership up to?" I asked.

"Right now, it's about 65% filled," Roger answered. "Over half of the remaining 35% is reserved for property owners. Almost all of the current property owners have signed up for membership."

"Well, all those lessons should keep the two of you out of trouble for at least a while," I smiled.

"And the worst part," Max added, 'is that we won't have hardly any time to play golf."

"Are we all ready for the dedication ceremonies," I said, changing the subject.

"Yes, it should start right at nine and we should be able to tee off by at least nine-thirty," Max said.

The dedication ceremony was mercifully brief even with all the speeches. The ribbon was cut by the course designer, the construction manager and Donald and me. Our group was announced and Joel walked up to hit the first drive. As he had done the day before, his drive landed in the middle of the fairway about 275 yards long. This time my drive landed in the fairway, but trickled off to the right into the waste area. It did not look like this was going to be my best day. It wasn't. I ended up 16 over par. Joel, on the other hand, played an outstanding game and ended up two over par. He beat both Max and Roger by one and two strokes respectively.

"Congratulations, Joel," Max said, when we finished. "If you played like that all the time you could play on any college team in the country."

"I second that," Roger added.

"Thanks," Joel said. "I wish I could play that well every time. It makes you want to play more."

"Well, my young golf pro, let's head back to the condo and see what your brothers are up to. Maybe we can get in a swim with them before supper," I said. "Are you going to play again this week or should we take your clubs with us?"

"I don't think I'll play again before we head home, so I guess I should take my clubs," he said. "I need to spend some time with my brothers. I haven't seen much of them for three days."

"Good idea," I said. "That goes for me, too."

I called our driver and was told he would be here shortly. When he arrived we loaded our clubs into the trunk of the car and headed for the condo.

We arrived back at the condo and learned that everyone was still at the pool, so Joel and I donned our swimsuits and went to join them. They were playing a spirited game of water volleyball with the five boys against the three girls, Megan and Carson. The boys were at a slight disadvantage in that they were in the deeper water and had to constantly swim, while the girls were in the shallow end of the pool and could stand on the bottom. Carson and Megan made sure that the girls were involved in the game and got to hit the ball, although it didn't always go over the net.

"Hi, dad," Chris yelled, when he saw me. "You can be on our side and Joel can be on their side."

We played for about half an hour with a couple of time outs to catch our breaths. It had been a while since I had played with the boys in the pool and I realized just how much I missed it.

"I'm pooped," TJ said when we stopped playing.

"Maybe you'll be tired enough to go to bed early tonight," I teased.

"Yeah, right," he countered.

"Megan, did you enjoy your day with this wild bunch?" I asked.

"It was a lot of fun," she said. "The girls and I had a great time. Lenore is about the same age as my little step-sister."

"If you are interested, we're going to take the kids to Circus Circus to spend the day tomorrow and you are welcome to come along. That way the girls would get to go on some of the rides that their mother won't go on. It's up to you, but we'll pay you the same as Carson."

"I'd like to, but I have to babysit my little sister all day," she said.

"Bring her along," I said. "I'm sure our girls would love to have another one join them. Give it some thought. We are going to leave between nine-thirty and ten. We'll take care of all the expenses."

"Thanks, I'll talk to my dad tonight."

"Come on, everyone, let's go get something cold to drink and maybe the cooks have a snack," I said. That got everybody moving. It took two trips in the elevator to get us all to the top floor.

Hildy and Gilda were sitting at the table drinking cups of coffee when we arrived. "Did you girls have a good time today?" Hildy asked.

"Yes," Jeannie answered. "Megan showed us some of the stuff she does in the water. Her feet stick straight up out of the water and she turns around. I tried, but I couldn't do it. She said it takes a lot of practice to do it."

"You look different, momma," Ginny said. "Your hair's not the same."

"I went to the beauty parlor and they cut and styled my hair," Hildy said. "Do you like it?"

"I guess," Ginny said, furrowing her brow. "It's just different."

"Aunt Gilda looks different, too," Jeannie said.

"I just had them color my grey hair," Gilda said. "I didn't want to look old." The look she gave the rest of us clearly indicated that no comment was necessary from us.

"Will you need us anymore today?" Carson asked.

"No, I think we can handle it from here on," I said. "We will expect you around nine-thirty in the morning. You can sleep in a bit longer."

He smiled and turned to go, draping his arm around Megan.

When the boys had finished the fruit punch and cookies the cooks had put out for snacks, I told them to go take a quick shower.

"Where's my dad?" William asked when he came back from taking his shower.

"He had a meeting with his construction manager," I answered. "He should be here before too long."

"Okay," he said and went to watch TV with the other boys.

"When are we going home?" TJ asked, after William left.

"Are you ready to go home?" I asked.

"Uh huh, I miss Bandit."

"Let me talk to Donald and see what his plans are and I'll let you know," I said, giving him a hug. "Now go take a rest, you've had a busy day."

"Okay."

About ten minutes later, Donald came in the door. "Your son has been looking for you," I said.

"I guess I had better find out what he was wanting," Donald said, going into the TV room. He returned shortly. "He just wanted to know where I had been."

"And what did you tell him?"

"That I had a meeting with my construction manager to discuss some upcoming projects. I also wanted to make sure that he was prepared for when Kelly has his spring break next week and is scheduled to familiarize himself with the business."

"Have you heard from Kelly recently? How's he doing in his studies at Berkeley?"

"I usually get a call from him every week or so. From what he's told me, his studies are going great. He's really looking forward to spending the week in LA learning about the construction business."

"Is he going to take some time off before he starts working there this summer? I know the boys would like to see him again."

"We've talked about it and I've offered to get him tickets to fly into San Antonio when his classes are over, but nothing has been decided. It's a couple of months off."

"Remember, we're taking the kids to Circus Circus tomorrow. They enjoyed it so much last year and I think they are getting a little bored with swimming and tennis," I said. "In fact, it might be better if we head back home earlier than our Saturday plans. Are you still planning on trying to get to play a round of golf on Wednesday?"

"I talked to Max about that today, but I haven't made any definite plans. I told him I would let him know my plans tomorrow," Donald said. "I did get a quick tour of both courses."

"If we did want to cut our trip short, could you get the plane to fly us back?"

"Yes, all I would need is 24 hours' notice to get the plane here for our return," he said. "Why don't we discuss it with Manfred, Hildy and Gilda to see what they think?"

"What might we think?" Manfred asked. He had arrived unnoticed by us. Hildy and Gilda were with him.

"We were just trying to decide if we wanted to cut short our trip and return home early," I said.

"We were having that same conversation earlier," Hildy said. "We're all fine with whatever you decide. Just give us a couple of hours to pack up our things."

"We were thinking either Wednesday or Thursday," Donald said. "What do you think would work out the best?"

"Why don't we get all of us together after supper and get everybody's opinion," I said. "I think the kids should have input into our decision."

"Good, that's settled," Hildy said.

Right after supper we did have our family meeting. After a lot of discussion, the consensus was they wanted to return home early and that Wednesday was their first choice. Donald said he would call to have the plane ready for us to depart before noon on Wednesday.

Tuesday morning I told the cooks of our plans for Wednesday and told them they were welcome to any foodstuffs that were left over after our breakfast that morning. Donald let them know that they would be paid the full amount of the contract for their services even though we would not be making use of them for the full term. We, also, told them that we would be gone over lunch today so they would not have to prepare for it.

"We will make sure that your meal this evening will be memorable," Carlo said.

Everybody was finished with breakfast when Carson and Megan arrived. With them was a shy little girl who Megan introduced as Julie. She did appear to be about the same age as Lenore and the two girls immediately made friends.

"I'm glad you could come today, Megan," I said.

"My dad thought it was a good idea to get Julie out of the house and have some fun with girls her own age. I can see that she is already making friends."

Our day at Circus Circus was exhausting, at least for the adults. The kids thoroughly enjoyed themselves and were not really ready to leave when it came time. I think they had taken every ride they could, some of them multiple times. Carson and Megan were having as much fun as the kids. Julie and Lenore were inseparable. I don't think they ever let go of the other's hand all day.

It was a tired but happy group when we got back to the condo. I invited Carson and Megan to join us for supper, but they both declined saying they had to get Julie home and they were going out to a movie with some friends later.

Donald handed them each a check for their helping out with the kids. "This is too much," Carson said when he looked at the amount of the check.

"We had promised you seven days of kid-sitting and that is what you are being paid for," Donald said.

"But, I only was here four days," Carson protested.

"Your service was all we could ask for and we felt comfortable leaving the kids in your hands," Donald said. "Please accept it with our thanks for a job well done."

"Thank you, both of you," he said, looking at Donald and me. "Have a safe trip back. I'll have fond memories of this week." He shook our hands.

Megan thanked Donald for the check before taking hold of Julie's hand and then she and Carson turned toward the door and left.

The supper Carlo and his assistant prepared for us was a feast. The boys ate until I thought they would explode. I could never understand how they were able to put away so much food and still none of it went to fat on their bodies. I could not say the same for myself. I would definitely have to get back into the routine of running or swimming on a daily basis.

I had the boys pack all the clothes they would not be wearing tomorrow in their luggage before they went to bed. Donald had arranged for the plane to be ready to leave by eleven Wednesday morning.

By nine Wednesday morning we were on our way to the airport.


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