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.
This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.
Dreams Don't Grow on Trees
"I don't understand," Amy said upon learning that her dad was to be unemployed. "You've worked at the lumber yard as long for as I can remember."
"When Mr. Lander died his son Larry took over," Darrell explained. "Larry lived beyond his means and started to dip into the profits of the store. He took expensive vacations and even purchased an expensive condo in Florida."
"What will you do, Dad?" Haden asked.
"I can draw unemployment until I can find another Job," Darrell explained. "I figured up all of our bills today and if you two will pick up the cost of your auto insurance we can get by."
"Dad, I can sell the Explorer and you can use that money," Haden offered.
"Son, that won't be necessary," Darrell said. "We have a freezer full of meat, vegetables, and fruit, then there's also a lot of canned fruit and vegetables. And I have a little money saved. The thing I worry most about is not having health insurance on you two."
"Shouldn't Mom have to help pay for our health insurance?" Amy asked.
"That's a good question," Darrell admitted. "I'll talk to Steve about it."
"Dad, what if you don't find a job before your unemployment runs out?" Haden asked.
"Well, there certainly isn't much here in Sparks," Darrell said, "so I may have to find a job in Covington. There's a Home Depot as well as a Lowes there."
"Would we have to move?" Amy asked.
"I'd commute, at least until Haden graduates from high school," Darrell said. "I wouldn't want either of you to have to change schools."
"I'd better finish dinner," Amy said. "And, Dad, it'll all work out."
"Who could that be?" Amy asked when the doorbell rang as they finished cleaning up the kitchen.
"I'll get it," Haden said.
"Hi, Haden," Paul Miller said when Haden opened the door. "Is Darrell home?"
"Hi, Mr. Miller," Haden said. "Yes, he's home, come on in."
"Look, Haden, I think our families are close enough for you to just call me Paul," Paul said.
"Hi, Paul," Darrell said when Haden brought Paul into the living room. "I just made a fresh pot of coffee, would you care for a cup?"
"I could sure use a cup," Paul said.
"I'll get it," Amy offered. "You like it black, right?"
"Right," Paul said. "Darrell, you may wonder why I showed up unannounced. As you probably know, the bank had to take over the lumber yard."
"Oh yeah, I'm aware of that," Darrell said.
"I've been meeting with the auditors and they said that the lumber yard was actually making a profit in spite of the management. Larry was just taking out more than the business could support."
"It doesn't surprise me that it made a profit since it's the only business of its type in town," Darrell said.
"Well, I'll admit that it surprised me," Paul said. "We planned to close the place until I saw the audit. Thank you, Amy, as I told Darrell I needed a cup of coffee."
"So, you're not going to close the lumber yard?" Amy asked.
"I don't think so," Paul said. "This town needs it. And the employees like your dad deserve their jobs. I'll keep it open as long as it doesn't lose money."
"I'm sure glad to hear that," Darrell said. "I was afraid that I'd have to drive to Covington to work."
"Not only do I want you to continue working there, but I want you to manage it," Paul said.
"I'm not management material," Darrell protested.
"Sure you are," Paul said. "I talked to some of the guys at the lumber company and every one of them said you were the one they would like to see run the place. They said that you've been running it ever since the old man died. And there will be a salary increase because of the responsibility."
"I'm just happy to have a job," Darrell said.
"The pay will be about four times what you're currently making," Paul said.
"That's fine," Darrell said. "Wait ... what did you just say?"
"The pay will be about four times what you're currently making," Paul repeated.
"That's more than generous," Darrell said.
"No, that's about what a manager would make at any other company of this type and size," Paul said. "You'll also get three percent of the profits. That could eventually add up to a few thousand each year. That new salary starts tomorrow."
"This is sure a load off of my mind," Darrell declared.
"You're the right person for the job," Paul said. "Now I had better be on my way. Darrell, I'll see you tomorrow and get you situated in your office and talk about a few plans. Thank you for the coffee, Amy."
"Wow, Dad, it looks like you'll be rolling in dough," Haden said, after Paul left.
"Yeah, Dad, maybe you won't have to worry about money now," Amy added.
"I hope I can handle the responsibilities," Darrell stated.
"Oh, Dad, you know you can," Amy assured him. "Paul wouldn't have asked you if he didn't think you could."
"Maybe you can buy a new truck now," Haden said laughing.
"I don't need a new truck," Darrell said.
"Dad, your truck is at least ten years old," Haden argued.
"It's only eight years old," Darrell countered. "I want to save enough for a big down payment, then I'll think about a new truck."
"Dad, you need to think of yourself for a change," Amy joined in.
"I want to wait and see how things work out first," Darrell said. "At least if the tank breaks down I can now afford to buy another one now."
"Dad, we're going to be okay aren't we," Haden said, more as a statement than a question.
"Yes, Son, we are," Darrell said. "I'm sorry for what you kids went through before we got to this point."
"Dad, you have nothing to apologize for," Amy said.
"That's right," Haden agreed.
"Wow! Look at you," Amy said when Darrell joined her and Haden for breakfast the next morning.
"I thought maybe I should wear something besides jeans and a work shirt," Darrell laughed.
"Dressed like that you shouldn't be driving a tank," Haden teased.
"I don't think the tank will mind," Darrell countered.
"What're you thinking about?" Amy asked Haden as he drove them to school in silence.
"That I should be sorry that Mom's gone," Haden answered. "But I'm actually glad that she's gone. Finally our house is free of tension."
"I was thinking the same thing earlier. I only wish that Perry was here to see what it's like."
"Perry did have it worse than we did."
"He sure did," Amy agreed. "Hey, where're you going?"
"I'm dropping you off at the door. In case you hadn't noticed, it's raining."
"That's thoughtful of you. I'll see you at lunch."
Haden rushed to the restroom before going to the cafeteria at lunch time. Roger McFadden was at one of the urinals when Haden entered. His first notion was to leave. 'No, I'm not going to let him influence what I do,' he thought.
"Hi," Haden said.
"Fuck you," Roger responded.
"You'd like to, but you're not my type," Haden smiled. "Look, Roger, neither you nor I had anything to do with that mess. Can't we at least be civil to each other?"
"You're the one that started this whole mess," Roger said. "We had an income until you sued Brenda."
"Actually, the DA had already filed to have all the bank accounts frozen. This was all done before Mom hit me with Perry's trophy, but I think Mom's account is the only one that's frozen for now."
"Are you sure?"
"According to my attorney, the DA doesn't think he can file charges against your uncle or my mom for the scam. He doesn't think it's entirely honest, but apparently there're no laws against it."
"I hope you're right."
"Look, we don't have to be friends, but this is a small school, so we don't have to avoid each other either."
"I guess you're right."
"You're late," Amy admonished Haden when he joined her, Tony, and Kyle at their table.
"I ran into Roger in the restroom," Haden said.
"Did he start any crap with you?" Kyle asked in a concerned voice.
"We're cool," Haden said. "We agreed to at least be civil to each other."
"He's a real jerk," Tony said.
"I kind of feel sorry for him," Haden admitted.
"Why in the hell would you feel sorry for him?" Kyle asked.
"He has to go to that church and listen to his uncle preach hate every Sunday," Haden explained. "Mom was always a little messed up, but that church made her worse."
"I hadn't thought of it that way," Amy admitted.
"I still think he's a jerk," Tony said.
"He may be, but look at his family," Haden pointed out.
"And our own mother is part of that family now," Amy added.
"But we had one good parent," Haden said.
"Mom and Dad said that your dad has always been a good guy," Kyle said.
The first bell interrupted the conversation and each rushed to their locker before heading to class. Haden met Roger in the hall as he was going to class and Roger nodded acknowledgement without speaking. This was okay with Haden since he had no interest in making friends with Roger.
When the final bell rang ending the school day Haden went to his locker to get the books and notes needed for his homework. Tony, who was waiting at Haden's locker, said, "Amy had to go to the office and said for you to wait for her."
"She isn't in trouble, is she?" Haden asked.
"I'm sure that Amy wouldn't be in trouble, but I don't know what's going on."
Haden went to his Explorer and started the motor to let it warm up while waiting for Amy. Although Tony had assured him that Amy wasn't in trouble he couldn't help but worry. The heater was just starting to blow warm air when Haden spotted Amy with what appeared to be a worried look.
"What's wrong?" Haden asked before Amy was completely inside the vehicle.
"I have to go to the hospital tomorrow for an interview for a scholarship."
"Wow, that's great."
"I just hope I don't make a fool of myself."
"You'll do fine, but why don't you call Linda and ask her what to expect. She's the one that told you about the scholarship."
"Maybe I should. I sure hope I don't screw up the interview."
"You worry too much."
"Haden Harrington, you're one to talk."
"I guess it runs in the family, but I still think you'll do fine."
"We'll both have to drive tomorrow since I'll go to the hospital for the interview right after school."
"I'll start dinner when I get home tomorrow."
"That won't be necessary," Amy said. "I'll put a roast in the crock pot before we go to school."
Darrell was excited to hear that Amy had an interview for a scholarship. "I'm positive that you'll get it," he said. "Even if you don't get the scholarship, we'll manage to get the funds for your college education. It'll be a little easier now that I'm earning more money."
"If I don't get the scholarship I can always get a student loan," Amy said.
"That would have to be a last option," Darrell said. "We now have even more money in our savings account. I sold the livestock to Ray Reed. I've also leased the land to him too."
"Why did you do that, Dad?" Haden asked in disbelief. As long as he could remember they had always had farm animals.
"With just the three of us, we won't need as much meat as we did," Darrell explained. "So I don't see that much of a savings, and both of you will soon be in college and won't have that much time for the farm."
"We could manage," Haden said.
"I know you could," Darrell said. "But Ray made a good offer. He'll be by tomorrow to load the pigs. He said that he would just put a gate in and let the cattle run with the ones he already has."
"I guess that will give me more time to help Amy," Haden said.
"Maybe I can finally teach you how to cook," Amy teased.
"That's a good idea," Darrell said. "Everyone should know how to cook."
"I could have cooked breakfast," Amy said the next morning when she saw Darrell cooking sausage and pancakes for breakfast.
"I know you could have, honey," Darrell said. "But you have enough on your mind already."
"Are you nervous about your interview?" Haden asked while pouring a generous amount of syrup on his stack of pancakes.
"I am a little, but Linda said that I would do just fine," Amy said. "She said for me to just relax and give honest answers. She said that almost everyone said they wanted to be a nurse to help people when asked why they wanted to be a nurse. I think she was telling me not to give that answer."
"Have you thought about how you might answer that question?" Darrell asked.
"I would like to be able to help people," Amy said. "I've been trying to think of a better way to say it."
"Why don't you just say that it's an honorable profession and a good way to earn a decent living," Haden suggested. "That's an honest answer."
"Yeah, that's a good answer," Amy readily agreed.
"It sounds good to me too," Darrell concurred. "Now you two had better get ready for school. I'll cleanup here before I go to work."
"We can do it," Amy stated. "You'll be late for work."
"Paul said that I was on salary and he understood that as a single parent it would be best if I established my own hours," Darrell said.
"I need to put the roast in the crock pot before I go," Amy said.
"Go get ready for school, I can put the roast on," Darrell said. "Good luck with the interview, Amy."
"Thank you, Dad, I need all the luck I can get," Amy said.
"Oh, Amy, you'll do just fine," Haden affirmed.
"I hope you're right."
During lunch it was obvious that Amy was nervous as she mostly just pushed her food around on her tray. "Amy, you don't need to be nervous about the interview," Tony assured her when he noticed that she wasn't eating. "You'll do fine."
"That's what I tried to tell her," Haden said.
Haden arrived home from school to an empty house, one of the few times he was ever home alone. His first thought was to feed the livestock when he suddenly remembered that they no longer owned livestock. He went outside to play with Ranger for a while before feeding him and giving him fresh water.
"Maybe I'll have more time to play with you now," Haden said as he tossed a Frisbee for Ranger to catch. After a few minutes Ranger saw a rabbit and gave chase, ending the Frisbee game. Haden then went to the kitchen to see what he needed to do about dinner. He turned the crock pot to warm. He didn't need to prepare vegetables since there were vegetables cooked with the pot roast. The only thing left to do was to toss a salad and set the table.
"I see that Amy isn't home from her interview yet," Darrell said when he arrived home.
"No, and she wasn't sure how long the interview process would take," Haden said. "Dinner is ready when she gets home. Dad, I need to ask you something before Amy gets here."
"What is that, Son?"
"Could I borrow $200?"
"What do you need $200 for?"
"Well, as you know Amy will be in college next year. She's been using that old computer that we've had for years. She's going to need a laptop for nursing school. I want to get her one for Christmas."
"Why don't we split the cost and that way you won't have to borrow the money from me. I wasn't sure what to get her anyway."
"She could also use a new printer. You could get her a printer."
"Why don't I pay for the computer and you get the printer, then you won't need to borrow $200? I'll give you the money and let you pick it out. You know more about these things than I do."
"Okay, we could do it that way. Kyle and I are going to Covington to a movie Saturday and I could price them then."
"When you find out how much it cost, I'll transfer the money into your account. Why don't you let Kyle drive when you go? I'd feel better if you had a little more driving experience before you drive to Covington."
"Do you think I'm not a safe driver?"
"Son, I know you're a safe driver, but you're an inexperienced driver. I'd just feel better if Kyle drives. I'll not worry as much after you've had a little more driving experience."
"I hear Amy coming in. Amy, did you get the scholarship?" Haden asked as soon as she entered the room.
"I don't know yet," Amy said. "They said that they would send all the applicants a letter in a few days."
"Let's eat dinner and you can tell us all about the interview while we eat," Darrell said.
"I don't know how well I did," Amy admitted as they began to eat. "Linda was one of the three people who interviewed me."
"Did she ask why you wanted to be a nurse?" Haden asked.
"No, but Mrs. Martin did," Amy said. "I saw Linda smile when I gave the answer you suggested. Mrs. Martin is the Director of Nursing."
"I think you probably got the scholarship," Haden assured her.
"I don't know," Amy said. "There are two scholarships and I'm the only applicant still in high school."
"But you have at least one year of college credit from taking AP courses," Darrell said.
"I'll have all of the support classes completed except for microbiology, and I can take that this summer," Amy said. "I hope I hear before Thanksgiving."
"Speaking of Thanksgiving, Paul said that we were invited to have Thanksgiving with them," Darrell said.
"Are you disappointed that we're not having Thanksgiving here?" Amy asked as she was teaching Haden how to make a meatloaf the next day.
"Not really," Haden said. "Our Thanksgivings here were always tense. It will be nice to see how other families act."
"Saturday I want you to help me get this pantry organized," Amy said as she searched for an onion.
"I'll help you Sunday. Kyle and I are going to Covington Saturday."
"I'll go with you. I need to look for a dress for Thanksgiving."
"Amy, it's sort of a date."
"Wow, my little brother is going on a date. Okay, I'll just get a dress here in Sparks at Duncan's."
"Why don't you have Tony take you?"
"He's going deer hunting."
"Do we have to dress up when we go for Thanksgiving dinner?"
"No, Tony's family is actually laidback. I just thought I'd like something new to wear."
"Amy, you'd look good in anything. Tony couldn't keep his eyes off of you when you were wearing jeans and that blue sweater the other day."
"I still have a few days to decide."
"Remember how Mom used to drag you off to Covington to shop at resale shops?"
"I sure do. The good thing is that I learned how to find bargains. I do remember how Mom was embarrassed to be seen driving Dad's truck. She'd park in remote areas and we'd have to walk to the stores."
"She did have a few good qualities, but she couldn't accept the fact that Dad didn't make a lot of money and struggled to pay the bills."
"Haden, you always seem to see the best in everybody."
"I also see the bad too. I'll never forgive Mom for what she did to Perry."
"She wasn't exactly motherly to you when she hit you."
"That was physical. What she did to Perry was actually worse."
"See, making a meatloaf isn't that difficult," Amy said as she placed the meatloaf in the oven.
"I guess it isn't," Haden admitted.
Haden was awake early when Saturday morning finally arrived and having a bowl of cereal when Amy joined him. "You're up early," she said.
"Kyle and I decided to go to the mall, catch a matinee and then have dinner," Haden said without mentioning that he wanted to look at computers. "What are your plans for the day?"
"Since Tony and his dad are going hunting, Debbie called and asked if I wanted to go with her to volunteer at Senior Solutions. I thought it would be a good experience for me. I'm surprised Dad isn't awake."
"He went to work already. He said that he'll be working some Saturdays for a while. I guess the place was in really bad condition."
Haden was out the door as soon as he saw Kyle drive up, yelling goodbye to Amy. He was surprised when Kyle leaned over and kissed him. It was a sunny and warm November day that gave Haden a feeling of euphoria. As they left Sparks, there was a litter crew out, apparently getting an early start picking up trash by the side of the highway.
"Hey, that was Mom picking up trash," Haden said.
"Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. I guess she's doing her community service after all. From what Steve said, her time in jail wasn't very pleasant."
"You and Amy both seem happier now that your mom is no longer around."
"She's my mom and I love her, but I don't like her. I don't hate her. I just don't want anything to do with her."
"Maybe she would've been okay if she hadn't gotten mixed up with the preacher and his church."
"No, Mom has always been unhappy with her life. She wanted more than what Dad could afford. Sooner or later she would have done something stupid."
"What are your plans for the summer?" Haden asked to change the subject.
"I don't know yet. It's a little early to think about summer. Why do you ask?"
"Amy is going to take Microbiology in Covington this summer. I thought I would take a college class too."
"How can you take college classes when you still have another year of high school?"
"They'll allow it since I have good grades and I've already taken AP courses. If I take a three hour course I can enroll as a sophomore next fall."
"You know, we've never talked about what we want to major in when we do go to college. Have you thought about a major?"
"Something that will allow me to get a job somewhere besides Sparks."
"Don't you like living in Sparks?"
"I probably would if I wasn't gay."
"It's not easy being gay most places."
"True, but this state recently passed a law forbidding same sex marriage. They said it was to protect marriage. If that were the case they would have passed a law forbidding divorces. I'd like to go some place where people aren't so judgmental."
"I guess you're right."
"I know I'm right. What do you want to major in?"
"Dad wants me to be a lawyer."
"But what do you want?"
"I want to coach high school football."
"Then that's what you should do. Did you know that Perry wants to become a coach and teach history when he gets out of the army?"
"Yeah, he mentioned that to me," Kyle said as he pulled into the mall parking. "Which store do you want to hit first?"
"I want to price a laptop for Amy, so I suppose Best Buy."
The swarm of teenagers were beginning to congregate at the mall when Kyle and Haden arrived. The girls were ogling them while the boys saw them as adversaries. They paid little attention to the other teens since they were only interested in each other. Best Buy hadn't become busy and there was a plethora of sales associates ready to make a sale.
"May I help you select a laptop?" A pretty sales associate asked as they looked at a computer on display.
"I'd like to see this computer," Haden said as he handed her a printout of a computer he had found online.
"That's on closeout for $499,"Julie, according to her name tag, said. "I think we have three of them left."
"Crap, I only have $300 in my account," Haden said.
"I'd let you have it, but I only have $50 on me," Kyle said. "How were you going to buy it if you only have $300 in your account?"
"Remember, I get $300 a month from Mom, but I was going to borrow the remainder from Dad if I needed it," Haden said. "I was just pricing one today."
"Could he put it on layaway?" Kyle asked.
"I'm sorry, but closeout items aren't eligible for layaway," Julie said.
"Maybe I could call Dad and have him transfer enough money into my account," Haden said as he took his cell phone out and stepped away to make the call.
"Dad will call me back as soon as the money is transferred," Haden said when he returned. "He reminded me to look at printers while I'm here."
"What type of printer are you looking for?" Julie asked.
"Something small, but it needs to be wireless," Haden said. "Oh, and be a scanner too."
"This one is $99," Julie said.
"That's like mine, and I really like it," Kyle said.
"I may come and get one for myself after Christmas," Haden said as his cell phone rang. "Hi, Dad."
"Thanks, that was fast," Haden said. "Okay, bye. I love you too."
"I assume you want the printer and the laptop?" Julie asked.
"I do," Haden said.
"Get in and we'll move the car to the other side of the mall," Kyle said after they loaded the computer and printer in the trunk.
"What's wrong with this parking spot?"
"If someone saw us put the stuff in the car they may break in and take it. We'll leave and then come in on the other side of the mall."
"I wouldn't have thought of that."
"It's something Dad taught me."
After roaming through several stores the two decided on going to the food court to Pizza By The Slice for a snack before going to the movie.
"Do you want me to keep the computer and printer at my house until Christmas?" Kyle asked as they ate.
"Yeah, that would be good."
"Haden and Kyle agreed that they had seen better movies, but still they enjoyed it. After some discussion, they decided on dinner at Red Lobster.
"This has been a wonderful day," Haden said when Kyle stopped in front of his house.
"It sure has," Kyle said before giving Haden a passionate goodnight kiss.