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
"Welcome home, Lover Boy," Amy teased when Haden walked into the living room. "Did you enjoy your date?"
"We had fun," Haden said with an embarrassing smile. "How was your day?"
"Most of those seniors at Senior Solutions are the sweetest people. They were starving for company. I want to volunteer when I can. Oh, before I forget, Debbie said you could invite Kyle to join us for Thanksgiving dinner if you wanted to."
"Damn, does everyone know about Kyle and me?"
"Kyle and Tony are best friends, there are few secrets between them. I'm sure Debbie figured it out on her own anyway."
"I think it would be better if Tony invited him, don't you?"
"I suppose so. I'll have Tony invite him when I talk to him."
"One of his workers was having car trouble and Dad is helping him fix it."
"Do you think Dad is working too many long hours?"
"He seems okay, but he said that it should be back to normal after the first of the year. He's starting a tool and equipment rental service."
"I didn't know that. When did he tell you?"
"He didn't, Paul told me. He's really pleased with the way Dad's managing the store."
"Oh, I almost forgot, I saw Mom this morning with the litter crew picking up trash. I guess she's doing her community service."
"I saw the crew out there, but I didn't see Mom. Of course I was driving and wasn't looking for her. I was probably thinking that I'd be driving that highway to attend college soon."
"Oh, Kyle and I were talking about career plans, we decided we'd take a class or two this summer. We could share rides with you."
"That would be great. Tony is taking a class too. And just what are your career plans?"
"Well, like I told Kyle, I'd like something so that I could get out of this town and even this state. Kyle wants to become a coach. I'm still looking at career options."
"Why do you want to get away?"
"I just want to live someplace where people accept others for what they are. It shouldn't matter if a person is rich, poor, black, white, gay or straight."
"Why not stay in Sparks and fight for change?"
"Amy, you and I both know that people around here can't be changed, even with a brain transplant. Just look at how black people are treated still."
"Change takes time. It wasn't all that long ago that black people had separate schools and bathrooms, and had to ride in the back of the bus. They and a few whites had to work to bring about change."
"People in this state recently voted to ban gay marriage. Why are they so afraid of gay rights? They quote the Bible out of context. They say that we're living under the laws of the New Testament, not the Old Testament. Yet they quote the Old Testament to condemn gays. They do this because there's nothing in the New Testament to support their views. They crusade for prayer in public school, but what would they say if a Muslim conducted the prayer? These Bible thumpers say that we have too much government, then they want to control who can get married, force their religion in public schools, stop all abortions, and prohibit birth control. I too think abortion is a poor choice for birth control. However, if these fanatics would teach sex education or allow it in the schools instead of abstinence, then we would have fewer teen pregnancies."
"At one time separate but equal was legal, although it certainly wasn't equal. It was also illegal for a black person to marry a white person. Those laws got changed."
"There's never going to be real change as long as we're willing to spend more money on incarceration than education. We warehouse people in prison because of the out of sight out of mind attitude."
"Why do you think this is?"
"I don't know, but I suspect it's mostly because of uneducated preachers who can hardly read trying to tell their flocks what the Bible is saying."
"Haden, are you down on religion?"
"No, believe it or not, I actually believe in God. I just don't believe God would want his disciples preaching hate. I'm sure he wants them to teach tolerance and love. Remember how Mom used to drag us off to those unbearable services at her church?"
"I sure do, and I was so happy when Dad said that we didn't have to go unless we wanted to. How did we get on this topic anyway?"
"I guess it started when I mentioned Mom."
Haden woke Monday morning with a feeling of eeriness. He peered out his bedroom window to see the morning sun just ascending the horizon. Ranger had his nose to the ground, probably following the scent of a rabbit or some night creature that had already returned to its den.
After a quick shower, Haden made his way to the kitchen where Darrell was making biscuits and gravy for breakfast. Biscuits and gravy, a southern favorite, was also Haden's. Brenda had rarely made biscuits and gravy since she viewed it as 'poor folk' food.
The eeriness had subsided as Haden enjoyed a second helping of biscuits and gravy. "Thank you, Dad," Haden said as he wiped his mouth with a napkin. "That was really good."
"You're welcome, Son," Darrell smiled. "I noticed that you had two helpings."
"So did you," Haden countered.
"I had to, I was afraid you'd stuff yourself with a third helping if I didn't," Darrell teased.
"Amy may have wanted a second helping," Haden said. "Anyway, I'm a growing teenager and you're not."
"One helping was plenty for me," Amy smiled. "You two will be as fat as a pig if you eat like this very often."
"I'll cut back on what I eat at lunch today at school," Haden said.
"Speaking of school, we'd better clean up here and be on our way," Amy said.
"You two go on, I'll clean up here," Darrell offered.
The strange feeling returned for Haden as soon as he and Amy stepped out the door. "I don't want to go to school today," Haden stopped and said.
"You shouldn't have eaten such a big breakfast," Amy said.
"It isn't my breakfast, I've had this eerie feeling ever since I woke up. I don't know what it is. I just have a strange feeling that something's wrong."
"Look, it's a beautiful day. There's nothing wrong. Stop dawdling or we'll be late for school. You can't stay home unless you're ill. You know how Dad is about getting an education."
The morning classes seemed to drag on forever for Haden. He wasn't sure he was paying enough attention to even get all of his assignments. "What's wrong with you today?" Kyle asked when he noticed that Haden was hardly eating his lunch.
"He's been like that all morning," Amy said.
"I can't help it," Haden said. "I've had this eerie feeling since I woke up this morning."
"We all have those feelings at times," Tony pointed out. "Anyway Kyle, Mom said that she talked to your mom and all of our families are having Thanksgiving at our house."
"Mom mentioned that," Kyle said. "It should be fun."
In spite of the assurances of his sister and friends, Haden still had the gloomy feeling when the school day ended. He wasn't his usual talkative self as Amy drove them home.
"Dad's home already," Amy said when she turned into the driveway.
"Something's wrong," Haden said.
"You don't know that."
"I feel it."
Darrell was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in hand and said, "Sit down kids, we need to talk."
"What's wrong, Dad?" Haden asked, but afraid to know.
"Perry was injured by a roadside bomb, and they're flying him to the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany," Darrell said. "All I know is that he lost his left foot, but at least he's alive."
"Oh no, are you going to Germany to be with him?" Amy asked.
"I was advised to wait," Darrell said. "He's supposed to be transferred to Walter Reed soon after Thanksgiving for a prosthetic and rehab. I'll go see him after he arrives. It'll be a few days before we can even talk to him."
"Can Amy and I go too?" Haden almost begged.
"I don't want you to miss school," Darrell said. "We'll all go during your Christmas Vacation."
"But, Dad," Haden began to protest.
"Haden, you're not missing school and that's final," Darrell declared. "Besides, there's nothing any of us can do."
"I know that, Dad, but I can be there for him," Haden knew not to press the issue since his dad rarely changed his mind. "I just want to let him know that we love him."
"He knows that we love him," Darrell said. "But I'll tell him anyway."
"At least we can talk to him on the phone," Amy mused.
"I've already talked to Linda and Steve about you two staying with them while I'm away," Darrell said.
"Dad, I'm 18," Amy pointed out. "I think Haden and I are adult enough to not have babysitters. Anyway, look at Haden's arms. Since he's been working out, he's almost as muscular as Perry. I think he can protect us, and you taught us both how to use a gun."
"I know, honey, I guess I still think of you as little kids," Darrell admitted.
"I'd better start dinner," Amy said. "What do you guys want?"
"I have potatoes in the oven and steaks thawing," Darrell said. "I've already made the salad."
"Dad, are you going to tell Mom about Perry?" Amy asked during dinner.
"I asked Steve to inform her attorney," Darrell said.
"Perry wouldn't want to see her anyway," Haden pointed out.
"I'm sure you're right," Darrell agreed. "But it's only right that she knows. That should be between the two of them."
"It's Kyle, he probably wants to know about Perry, could I talk to him?" Haden asked when his phone rang. Darrell had a rule about not using the phone during meals.
"Under the circumstances it's okay this time," Darrell agreed. "I told Steve that it was all right to tell Kyle about the injury."
"That's good," Amy said as Haden left the table to talk in private. "Kyle and Tony are both Perry's best friends."
"I'm sure that Tony knows too," Darrell said. "I called Paul to let him know that I would be out of the office today. Everybody at the store knows as well."
"I think everybody in this town should know," Amy said. "It'll bring home the fact that someone we know and love is making sacrifices while the ones that got us in this mess sit safely at home."
"Kyle said that he and his parents would be by later," Haden said when he returned to the table.
"Paul said that his family would be by later too," Darrell said.
"Crap, with everything going on I forgot to feed Ranger," Haden said. "I'll do it and then help clean up here."
"Go on," Amy ordered. "It won't take me but a minute to clean up."
Haden gave Ranger food and fresh water and then spent a little time petting him. When he returned to the kitchen, Amy was busy mixing something. "I thought I'd make some brownies and lemon bars before everyone arrived," she said.
"Oh, Amy, I don't think they'll expect anything," Haden said.
"That's what I told her," Darrell said.
"I needed something to do," Amy admitted.
"These are really good," Linda said as everyone enjoyed their coffee and Amy's treats.
"They're from a mix," Amy confessed.
"They're still good," Tony added.
"Yes, they are," Paul said. "As I was about to say, Darrell, you take all the time off that you need. You have the store running well, and you made a wise choice naming Clay Ferguson assistant manager. He'll do fine in your absence."
"I won't need any time off until Perry is transferred to Walter Reed," Darrell said. "Then over Christmas vacation I'll take the kids there to see him. And Linda, Amy pointed out to me that she was 18 and capable of keeping Haden in line. So, I guess the two of them will be here while I'm away."
"They're both welcome to stay with us anyway," Linda offered. "However, I'm sure they'll be fine. Amy, I also want to congratulate you."
"Congratulate me for what?" Amy asked in puzzlement.
"Your scholarship," Linda said. "Didn't you get your letter? You should've received it today."
"With everything going on, I don't think any of us checked the mail today," Darrell said.
"You're the first high school student to ever receive this scholarship," Linda said. "It's for books, tuition, fees, and supplies. The only thing you'll be responsible for is your transportation."
"Honey, I'm so proud of you," Darrell said.
"I'll go check the mail," Haden said as he grabbed his jacket and a flashlight. The mailbox was at the end of the long drive and it was the dark of the moon.
"I'll go with you," Kyle said as he picked up his jacket and slipped it on before taking Haden's hand.
"You didn't have to go with me," Haden said.
"I know," Kyle said before giving Haden a quick kiss. "I almost forgot to tell you, Lacey called and wanted to know about Perry. They've been corresponding. She wanted you to call her when you knew more. She didn't have your number or she would have called you. I'll give you her number when we get back inside."
"You remember Lacey, Billy's niece from Billy's Bar-B-Que?"
"Oh yeah, she did seem interested in Perry. Hey, look it's a letter to Amy from the Hospital," Haden said as he illuminated the letter with the flashlight.
Haden and Kyle rushed into the house with the apparent good news. "It's here." he almost shouted.
Amy nervously opened the letter, although based on the news from Linda, she was sure the scholarship was hers.
Tears began to flow and Tony moved closer to Amy with his arm around her to offer comfort. "I can't believe I got this," Amy said. "Thank you, Linda."
"The scholarship is from the hospital, not me," Linda said.
"But I know that you had a lot to do with my receiving it," Amy pointed out.
"I voted for you," Linda confessed. "But you were the highest qualified applicant."
"Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to be a nurse," Amy said. "This scholarship makes it possible."
"Yeah, when we were little she would play nurse and I had to be the patient," Haden said. "I was splinted, bandaged, and made to lie down on a bale of hay as a hospital bed."
"At least she didn't try to give you an injection," Tony laughed.
"Oh, she tried that too, but I ran," Haden chuckled.
Although it was after nine when their company left, Haden decided to give Lacey a call. "Lacey, this is Haden, I'm not sure if you remember me... I'm Perry's brother," he said when she answered. "I'm sorry to be calling this late."
"Of course I remember you, Haden," Lacey said. "Thank you for calling."
"We don't know much yet, but Perry is to be transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center for rehab after Thanksgiving."
"Where's Walter Reed?"
"I think it's in Washington, D.C., but it's supposed to be moving to Bethesda, Maryland."
"How long will he be there?"
"We don't know much yet. We haven't talked to him. Dad plans to go visit him when he gets there. Dad won't let us go during school, but Amy and I are going with Dad to see him during the Christmas break."
"I'd love to see him too."
"I guess you two have been corresponding since he was home on leave."
"Haden, it's more than that. Didn't Perry tell you that I went to see him a couple of times while he was stationed in Texas?"
"Perry's always kept most things private. Why don't you come out for dinner tomorrow and meet the rest of the family."
"I'd love to meet your dad, I already know Amy. I had a couple of classes with her."
Both Amy and Darrell were pleased to learn that Lacey would be having dinner with them. Amy began planning the dinner meal. She decided on roasted beef tenderloin, scalloped potatoes, and vegetables.
Haden could see why Perry was attracted to Lacey. She was even prettier than he remembered. Over dinner they talked about Perry and how bad the war was. Amy and Darrell, too, were surprised that Lacey had gone to visit Perry in Texas.
"I wish I could go see him, but I'm afraid that I can't afford both the airfare and lodging too," Lacey said.
"We'll be getting two rooms, one for Amy and one for Haden and me," Darrell said. "I'm sure Amy wouldn't mind sharing a room with you."
"Not at all," Amy eagerly agreed.
"Thank you," Lacey said. "That's very generous of you."
"I have to pay for the room anyway," Darrell said. "I'm sure that Perry will be pleased to see you."
"Lacey, will it bother you that Perry will have to wear a prosthetic foot?" Haden asked.
"Of course it will," Lacey said. "I'm sure it will bother you also, but he's still Perry."
"Well said," Amy said with a big smile.
"Perry said that he wanted to be a coach and teacher when he got out of the army," Lacey said. "I hope he can still do that."
"I don't know why not," Darrell said. "He'll be using his knowledge, not his body. Are you in college, Lacey?"
"Yes, I plan to become an elementary teacher," Lacey said. "My parents struggle to make ends meet, but I have a small scholarship and fortunately Uncle Billy is helping with my college expenses. Amy, what will you major in?"
"Nursing," Amy said. "I got a scholarship through the hospital."
"That's wonderful," Lacey said. "What about you, Haden?"
"I haven't decided yet, I still have another year of high school," Haden said.
Before Lacey left for the evening there were promises to visit often. The Harringtons realized that Lacey was more than just a pretty face, she was a wonderful young lady.
Thanksgiving week arrived with a phone call from Perry. He would be transferred to Walter Reed the third of December. Darrell decided to go for a visit the sixth of December.
Thanksgiving was the best one Haden ever had. The three families joined together to make one enjoyable entity. There was no friction felt like all of the previous Thanksgivings at home.
The conversation eventually evolved to the upcoming family trip to visit Perry. "I'm relieved that we don't have animals to worry about while we're away," Darrell said.
"We still have Ranger," Haden pointed out.
"Bring him here," Paul said. "The previous owners of this property had hunting dogs and there's a kennel out back. I know he's used to roaming free, but I think he'll be fine for a few days."
"I'd be happy to take care of him," Tony offered.
"How long will you be gone?" Debbie asked.
"Three days," Darrell said. "With the cost of airfare and lodging, that's about the extent of what my budget can afford."
"The company got a corporate jet along with the lumber company," Paul said. "I need to make a trip to the D.C. area soon anyway, I'll just go when you go to visit Perry. It's a six passenger jet."
"A corporate jet, no wonder the company was going broke," Darrell said. "I'd be more than happy to help cover the cost."
"Nonsense," Paul said. "It's a business trip for me and tax deductable. I may as well get some use out of that jet before it's sold."
"Lacey will be pleased to know that she won't have to worry about the money for her airfare," Amy said. "As a college student, she's on a tight budget."
"I would have seen that she got to go," Darrell said. "It may have meant that we were only there two days rather than three."
"It's obvious that she's in love with Perry," Amy pointed out. "You can see it when she talks about him."
Haden wished that he too could go when the time came for Darrell to go see Perry. But he did realize that it was best that he not miss school. "Tell him that we love him," Haden said.
"I'll tell him, but I think he already knows that," Darrell said.
"Try to find out what he needs, so we'll have some ideas about Christmas," Amy said.
"I'm going to get him an e-reader," Haden said. "He'll have plenty of time to read for a while."
"I'll still have to think of something," Amy said. "Well, anyway have a good trip."
"I will and you two don't have any wild parties while I'm away," Darrell teased. "I'd better be on my way. I don't want to miss my flight. I hope I can figure out my connections in Atlanta. I've heard that's a huge airport."
"Dad, I'm sure you'll do fine," Amy said. "If you don't know, just ask somebody."
"Are you sure you don't want me to drive you to the airport?" Haden asked.
"No, I'll drive and park in long term parking," Darrell said. "Paul said that's what he does."
"Why don't you take my car?" Amy offered.
"I'll take the tank," Darrell said. "Nobody will bother it. I'll call you when I get there."
"I'm happy that you got a cell phone for Perry," Amy said. "We can talk to him more now."
"No, he'll probably use up his minutes talking to Lacey," Haden joked.
"I wish we could have gone too," Amy said after Darrell departed.
"Yeah, me too," Haden said. "But at least we get to see him during our Christmas break."
It seemed like days before Darrell called to say that he'd seen Perry and that he was in better spirits than expected. Darrell had expected him to be in a deep depression. He believed that the phone calls from Lacey had kept Perry in a good state of mind.
Darrell returned with the news that Perry would be getting a newer type of prosthetic that was attached directly to the bone. The bone would eventually attach itself to the prosthetic. It would function more like an actual foot and ankle.
"Perry seemed to accept his injury better than I would have," Darrell said. "I'm sure that Lacey being in the picture had something to do with it."
Ranger wasn't very happy when Haden loaded him in the Explorer to take him to the Millers for boarding while they were away. He rarely got to ride and that was mostly when he had a trip to the vet.
"He may bark a lot," Haden said when Tony came out to greet them. "He's used to roaming free."
"He'll be fine," Tony assured Haden. "We don't have any close neighbors to complain anyway."
"His food is in the Explorer, if you'll grab it for me," Haden said. "He's current on all of his shots. But I guess it doesn't matter since you don't have any dogs."
"Actually, there's one in the kennel. It's a stray that came here. She was emaciated, but she seems to be gaining weight. If nobody claims her, I guess we'll keep her. After she gains a little weight, I'll take her and have her spayed."
"Ranger was a stray when we found him. She'll be company for Ranger while he's here."
"I hope he doesn't get any ideas, she hasn't been spayed yet."
"He won't get any ideas, he's been neutered."
"Would you like to come in for something to drink?" Tony asked as they walked back to the Explorer.
"Thank you, but I need to get back home and finish packing. I've never been on a trip before and I'm not sure what to take."
"Think of what you need to get ready for school in the morning. You know, things like a razor, tooth brush, deodorant, and things like that. And Mom said that you're to have breakfast with us in the morning since you'll be coming here to ride to the airport with Dad. "
Haden wasn't sure what to expect when he first saw his brother, but he sure was looking forward to seeing him.