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
"Why do you keep the plane in Covington and not in Sparks?" Haden asked as they drove to the Covington airport.
"The runway at the little Sparks airport isn't long enough for a jet to land and take off," Paul explained. "We didn't know about the jet until recently. Larry tried to hide it, but spending that much money was like waving a red flag and our auditors easily spotted it. I'd like to keep it, but I'm not sure I can justify the expense."
"Why don't you have the accounting department do a study and see how much you spend on travel?" Darrell questioned. "You don't know how much we appreciate you letting us fly with you while you still have it." Darrell said.
"Don't mention it," Paul said. "I was going to be going anyway. Once we arrive, I'll need about three or four hours of your time."
"I can manage that," Darrell said. "But would you tell me why?"
"There's a tool rental place in Virginia that's going out of business," Paul explained. "If we're going into the tool rental business, we may as well go all the way. We can probably buy what they have for just pennies on the dollar. Since this is a business trip, save your hotel receipt and I can reimburse you for that. Unfortunately, I can't legally do the same for the room for these young ladies."
"That's very generous of you, but ..." Darrell began.
"No buts," Paul said. "This is a legitimate business trip. Thanks to you, profits have already increased at the store."
"How did you happen to find this tool rental place that just 'happened' to be near Walter Reed?" Darrell asked.
"I knew that you'd been looking, so I did an online search," Paul said. "I found this store and liked their inventory, but if this wasn't a bargain, I wouldn't have considered it."
The jet wasn't lavish by any means, but it appeared to be comfortable, and there was plenty of leg room between the comfortable looking seats. Haden quickly selected the seat right behind the cockpit.
"Where's the pilot?" Haden asked.
"You're looking at him," Paul said.
"Yeah, right," Haden snickered.
"No, really," Paul laughed. "I was a pilot in the navy during Desert Storm. Make yourselves comfortable and we'll be in the air shortly. I'll have to go over the checklist before we can take off."
After going through the long pre-flight checklist, Paul said, "Make sure you're all buckled in. As soon as the tower gives us the okay, we'll taxi to the runway."
Haden was a little nervous during takeoff, but he became more relaxed once the plane reached cruising altitude. "Dad, how does this compare to your flight last month?"
"It's much less stressful," Darrell said. "I was really worried about connections in Atlanta."
"I know what you mean by stressful," Lacey said. "I was certainly stressed out when I flew to Texas to see Perry."
"Nobody could be more stressed out than Haden was his first day of high school," Amy laughed.
"At least I didn't get on the wrong bus," Haden teased.
"That's because I made sure you didn't," Amy countered. "Besides, it was Perry's fault that I got on the wrong bus my first day of high school."
Haden enjoyed the flight and conversation with his father, sister, and Lacey, whom he hoped would be his sister-in-law. The time passed quickly and Haden was surprised when Paul said, "We're about 20 minutes from the airport. Everybody make sure that your seatbelts are fastened."
The landing wasn't as stressful for Haden as the takeoff, but he couldn't help but brace himself when the plane touched down. Paul taxied the plane to an area designated for private planes. The airport was huge compared to the one in Covington. After parking the plane and everybody was de-boarded Paul made arrangements for refueling and servicing. Paul had also arranged for a rental car. Haden hadn't thought about how they would get from the airport to the hotel and hospital. After stopping for a quick lunch and checking into the hotel the party drove to the hospital.
"He's in the lobby with some of the other patients," the nurse said when they asked to see Perry.
Perry was pleased to see everybody, especially Lacey. He gave her a long kiss without embarrassment. It was obvious that they were in love. "It's so good to see everybody," he said. "Damn, Haden, what happened to you? Look at those guns."
"I've been putting your weights to good use," Haden said, pleased at his brother's comments.
"It's good to see you too, Paul," Perry said. "Thank you for flying my family up here, and thank you especially for giving Dad the job."
"I was coming here on business anyway, and your dad deserved that position," Paul said.
"Hey, I thought you lost your foot," Haden said when he saw Perry's bandaged lower limb.
"I have most of the metatarsal bones," Perry explained. "They've put some titanium screws in and will later attach the prosthetics. I won't be able to run any races, but I'll be able to get around pretty well."
"When do you get to go home?" Amy asked.
"It'll be a few weeks," Perry said. "They have to attach the prosthetics after the bones attach to the screws, then I'll still have more therapy. So as you can see, I'll be here for awhile."
"At least you're not in Iraq getting shot at," Haden said.
"That's for sure," Lacey agreed.
"If you need a job, I'm sure I can find something for you at the bank," Paul said.
"Thank you, Paul," Perry said. "But I'm going back to school. I want to coach and teach. In fact, I'm already taking a class online now. I'll continue to do that until I can go full-time. I heard that the government will pay for my college as part of my rehab."
"It's time to get you ready for dinner," an orderly pushing an empty wheel chair said.
"Could he go out to dinner with us?" Paul quickly asked.
"I don't know, let me check," the orderly said with a pleasant smile.
Shortly, a nurse came and said, "I'm really sorry, but we can't take a chance on the bones not attaching to the screws properly. The screws were just recently put in. But you can put him in the wheelchair and dine with him in the cafeteria. Just make certain that he doesn't put any weight on that foot."
"Hospital food?" Haden questioned.
"If it's good enough for Perry, it should be good enough for us," Darrell said.
Immediately, Haden felt guilty and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way. I just thought it would be good for Perry to have some real food for a change."
"It's not that bad," Perry said. "It's not as good as what Mom or Amy cooked. Mom had her faults, but she was a good cook."
"That she was," Darrell agreed.
"I'll have to agree that Amy is a good cook," Lacey concurred.
"That's something we all agree on," Paul said.
"The cafeteria is just to the right," Perry said when the elevator doors opened.
The dinner conversation was lively and the meal wasn't bad after all. The conversation eventually evolved to educational plans, Perry was looking forward to actually attending college classes.
"There will be six of you commuting to Covington to college," Paul said. "Maybe you guys should consider car pooling."
"Lacey and I will be living in Covington," Perry announced. "We're getting married as soon as I can walk out of the church with her on my arm."
That created sufficient excitement to attract the attention of the other diners. Without embarrassment, Haden stood, pointed at Perry and Lacey, and announced, "They're getting married."
The patrons within hearing distance stood and applauded the news. Perry and Lacey seemed somewhat embarrassed, but Haden was happy for his brother.
"Haden, I want you to be my best man," Perry said.
"And, Amy, I'd like for you to be my Maid of Honor," Lacey added.
The conversation continued until Perry said, "I need to get back to my room. It's about time for them to check my foot for signs of infection."
"We'll get you back to your room and then head on to our hotel," Darrell said. "We'll be back in the morning."
"I have therapy in the morning and then some sort of meeting about my benefits," Perry said.
"Maybe tomorrow morning would be a good time to check out that inventory," Paul said. "You young people are welcome to come with us or just hang out at the hotel."
"I think I'd like to tag along," Haden said. "I haven't seen much of the country except between Sparks and Covington."
"It'd beat just hanging out at the hotel," Lacey agreed.
It was Haden's first time to stay in a hotel and for that matter, it was also Amy's first time. Darrell hadn't stayed in a hotel either before he visited Perry earlier. "Which bed do you want?" Haden asked his father.
"They look the same to me," Darrell said.
"That's what I was thinking," Haden allowed.
"Anything you want to watch on TV?"
"No, I'm tired and going to bed soon. Don't leave that thing on long. I'm not used to sleeping with a TV on."
"It has been a long day, but it was sure good to see Perry. I was surprised that he's accepted his injury as well as he has."
"Son, he's in love. I think Lacey's been good for him. You can watch TV for a little while, then turn it off and get some sleep."
"There isn't anything on that I'm interested in. I'm a little tired too."
Haden woke to the sound of the shower and checked the clock to see that it was almost 7:30. He saw that his dad had made a pot of coffee, but he chose not to have a cup until he could get in the bathroom to empty his bladder. Soon, Darrell came out of the bathroom dressed in his underwear. Haden hoped that he was in as good of shape as his dad when he reached that age. After sharing the small pot of hotel room coffee, father and son decided that the one pot would have to do until they went down for breakfast.
"What time do you think the others will be awake?" Haden asked when he finished his cup of coffee.
"I'm sure Paul's awake," Darrell said. "No telling about the girls, although Amy isn't one to sleep in. But no telling how long it'll take them to get ready."
"Dad, why didn't we plan our trip to be here Christmas day with Perry?"
"Because Paul can use this as a business trip, it doesn't cost as much that way. I talked to Perry about it and he agreed that it would be best if we came with Paul since Lacey didn't have much money."
"I hate that Perry is up here by himself on Christmas day."
"I do too, but it's better than him being in Iraq."
"Yeah, you're right. Did you bring his Christmas present?"
"I had planned to see what he needed first and then I was going to pick it up here. Since he's getting married, I'll just give him cash."
"That's a good idea."
"That's probably Paul," Darrell said when somebody knocked on their door.
"Good morning," Paul said when Haden opened the door. "I see that you two are dressed and ready for breakfast."
"We're ready as soon as the girls are," Darrell said. "Haden, call their room and see if they're awake."
"How do I do that?" Haden asked.
"Just dial their room number," Paul said. "If it's okay with you guys, we'll just stop at an IHOP or a Denny's for breakfast. I checked the hotel menu and it's pretty pricey."
"That's good for us," Darrell said, pleased to save a little money.
"They'll be over in a minute," Haden said as he hung up the phone.
After a big breakfast at Denny's, the group was ready to make the drive to Virginia. It didn't take Darrell and Paul long to decide that the inventory was truly a bargain. After Paul made a deposit on the inventory, it was decided that they would send a couple of men up with a company truck and trailer to pick the tools up.
"We have a little time to kill before we can see Perry," Paul said as they all loaded into the rental car. "Why don't we take an auto tour of our Nation's Capital?"
"Oh yeah," Haden readily agreed.
"Well, Haden, what did you think of the tour?" Paul asked, after driving past the White House.
"It was great, thank you," Haden said. "I'd like to come back when we have time to see more, like the Smithsonian."
"Perhaps we can all come back one day," Darrell said, thinking about how he'd never been able to afford a vacation for his family. "We've never really had a family vacation."
"Dad, we understand; don't we, Haden?" Amy said when she saw that their dad was feeling guilty.
"Of course we do," Haden said. "Besides, it was much more important that we always knew you loved us."
"Perry once told me that he couldn't have wished for a better dad," Lacey said.
"It's easy when one is lucky enough to have kids like the ones I have," Darrell stated with pride.
Perry was happy to see his family and after a lingering kiss with Lacey, gave each a hug, including Paul. "How was your morning?" He asked.
"It was great," Haden quickly answered. "Paul gave us an auto tour of Washington."
"We had a little time to kill," Paul said.
"How do they do therapy if you can't bear weight yet?" Lacey asked.
"For now, it's just massages, so the leg muscles don't atrophy," Perry said.
After visiting for a while, Darrell said, "Paul, I don't know about you, but I could use a cup of coffee. Amy and Haden, come along, we'll bring coffee back for Lacey and Perry."
"Yeah, I could do with a cup," Paul said.
"There's coffee right over there," Haden said. When Amy pinched his arm, he got the message and said, "But I'll bet it's a day old."
"Dad, that was pretty slick, giving Lacey and Perry some private time together," Amy said. "Numbskull here just about blew it."
"You should have clued me in," Haden said.
"Don't feel bad, Haden, I didn't get it at first either," Paul laughed.
"Time to wake up, Son," Darrell was gently shaking Haden the next morning to wake him.
"What time is it?"
"Almost 7:45, you'd better get your shower since Paul will be knocking on the door soon. I'll go ahead and call the girls to make sure they're awake. When you finish your shower go ahead and pack. We'll check out of the hotel this morning."
"What time will we leave?"
"We'll have lunch with Perry and then leave shortly after that. Now get a move on."
Breakfast was at the same Denny's as the previous morning. "I don't know how I can ever thank you for bringing me on this trip," Lacey said during breakfast. There's no way I could have afforded this trip without a huge strain on my budget."
"You're family," Darrell said. "We're pleased to have you come with us. I know that Perry is happy that you came too. Now, if everybody is finished with their breakfast, we should get to the hospital and spend as much time with Perry as we can."
"What's this?" Perry asked when Haden handed him his Christmas gift after their exchange of greetings.
"Open it and see," Haden said. "I wanted to give you your Christmas gift now since we won't see you until after Christmas."
"Oh wow, a Kindle!" Perry exclaimed. "Thank you."
"Merry Christmas, big brother," Amy said as she gave Perry a Christmas card. "It goes with Haden's gift."
"A gift card, thank you, Amy," Perry said. "I can download lots of reading material now."
"I really didn't know what to get you," Darrell said as he handed Perry an envelope. "So I decided that with your wedding coming up you could use cash."
"I haven't had a chance to Christmas shop," Perry said. "I'll have Lacey shop for me and give you my presents."
"No," Haden quickly said. "Having you back in the States and alive is our present."
"Haden's right," Darrell agreed. "You're going to need your money to get an apartment when you and Lacey get married."
"They're right," Amy agreed. "Haden and I get money that Mom has to pay in child support."
"Amy, you won't get that money much longer," Perry pointed out. "Once you graduate from high school it will end."
"I know, big brother," Amy said. "But I have a scholarship and I'll only need spending and gas money. I can always work a part time job."
"I think we can manage without you having to work," Darrell said. "That goes for you boys too."
"That won't be necessary for me, Dad," Perry said. "I'll have enough in government benefits to get by just fine. Besides, I've saved most of my salary while I've been in the army."
Goodbyes were difficult when it came time to depart. They were sad to leave Perry, but they were also anxious to get back home. There was little conversation during the drive to the airport, each in their own thoughts. After boarding the plane, everybody took the same seats that they'd had on their flight to Washington.
"Haden, would you like to sit in the co-pilot seat?" Paul asked, once they reached cruising altitude.
"Wow, sure!" Haden exclaimed. "Wow, this is cool."
"It is pretty cool," Paul laughed.
"Do you like to fly it?"
"Dad's right then, you know."
"Right about what?"
"About keeping the plane. Let your accountant help you decide if it's feasible to keep it or not."
"I might just do that. Well, Haden, have you decided on a career path?"
"Not yet. I want something that I can get a job almost anywhere."
"There aren't many employment opportunities in Sparks."
"I have no plans to live in Sparks when I graduate from college, or this state either."
"Why is that?"
"People in this area are too closed minded. They judge everybody but themselves."
"Maybe you should stay and try to change that."
"That's what Amy said, but I'm not sure these people can be changed."
"If anybody can do it, I'll bet you can. You and your family amaze me. Your dad is not only hard working, but he's smart. Look at your brother, I never once heard him complain. I hope someday that Amy becomes my daughter-in-law. She's intelligent, goal oriented, kind, and needless to say, she's beautiful. And you're the type of person that can actually make changes. That's why I hope you'll stay around and help make those changes."
"When do you think we'll be home?" Haden asked to change the subject, not wanting to discuss the real reason he wanted to get out of the state.
"I expect we'll be landing in about an hour."
"Haden, load up Ranger and we'll be on our way home," Darrell said when Paul parked in his driveway.
"I'll have Tony bring him to you in the morning," Paul offered. "I'm sure there'll be someone he'll want to see."
"I'm sure of that," Darrell laughed at Amy's apparent embarrassment.
"Dad, I need to go to Covington today and finish my Christmas shopping," Haden said during breakfast the next morning.
"Is Kyle driving?" Darrell asked.
"Kyle isn't going," Haden said. "I need to buy his Christmas present. Dad, you know that I'm a safe driver. I could have an accident here the same as in Covington."
"I'll go along with him if that will make you feel any better," Amy offered.
"I don't need a baby sitter, but you're welcome to go," Haden said.
"Who said that I gave you permission to go?" Darrell asked, halfway seriously.
"Dad, you have to let go sometime," Amy said.
"I guess I just don't want to see you guys grow up," Darrell said. "Go on, but remember the driving rules."
It was difficult to say who was happier to see the other, Ranger or Haden, when Tony brought Ranger home. "I see you still have the stray," Haden said when he saw her in Tony's truck.
"I guess she has a home with us," Tony said. "She's on her way to see the vet."
"I'll keep an eye on her while you go in and say 'hi' to Amy," Haden offered. "But don't take all day, we're going to Covington to finish our shopping. Do you want to go too?"
"Thanks, but I have to take Gretchen to the vet and then run some errands for Mom," Tony said.
"That was Roger McFadden," Amy said when they passed someone walking about 10 miles from their house.
"I thought it was," Haden agreed as he pulled over.
"What are you doing walking way out here?" Amy asked when Roger trotted up to the Explorer, apparently happy for the possibility of a ride.
"It's a long story," Roger said.
"Get in out of the cold, you can tell us along the way," Haden said.
"Thanks," Roger said as he climbed into the warm Explorer. "It's getting pretty cold."
"What happened to your car?" Amy asked.
"My dad found out that I'm gay and took my car and then kicked me out with just the clothes on my back," Roger said.
"We're on our way to Covington," Haden said. "Were you going anywhere in particular?"
"I just started walking," Roger admitted. "I hadn't even realized how cold I was until I got in your truck."
"Do you have a place to go?" Amy asked.
"My mother lives in West Virginia," Roger said. "My dad got custody of me because he paid off the judge. I'll admit I kind of liked the money he had and was able to buy things that she couldn't. She's a teacher and doesn't make a lot of money."
"Will she take you in?" Amy asked.
"I haven't talked to her in a long time, but I'm sure she will," Roger said. "I'll call her when we get to Covington."
"Haden, stop at that McDonald's ahead so he can call," Amy said.
"Dad took my cell phone too," Roger said.
"Here, use mine," Amy said. "We'll go inside and order drinks while you make your call. What would you like to drink?"
"Coffee would be great," Roger said. "But Dad took my money too."
"We'll get it," Amy offered. "I'll bet you haven't eaten."
"Not since last night," Roger admitted.
"We'll order you a burger and fries," Haden said. "Maybe that'll hold you until we can get some real food."
"Thanks, after the way I treated you, I don't deserve this," Roger said.
"Make your phone call and forget it," Haden said.
Shortly, Roger joined Haden and Amy at their table. "There was no answer," he said.
"Does she have a cell phone?" Amy asked.
"I don't know," Roger said. "Thanks for the food, I'm starving."
"You're welcome," Amy said. "Do you have any other relatives that you could call?"
"I have an aunt in California, but I don't know what town," Roger said.
"Well, you can try calling again later," Amy said.
After arriving at the mall, Haden purchased a jacket that Kyle said he liked when they were in the mall buying Amy's computer. Amy went her separate way to do some last minute shopping, and Haden asked her to pick out a gift for Lacey since he had no idea for a gift.
After making his purchase, Haden and Roger went to the food court and enjoyed a soft pretzel and soft drink while waiting for Amy. "Why didn't you just go to Grant Burns' when your dad kicked you out," Haden asked.
"Why would I go there?"
"Isn't Grant your boyfriend?"
"Not really. We messed around a little, but he's even more closeted than I was. If I could use your phone, I'll try to call Mom again."
"Just her voice mail," Roger said, handing the phone back to Haden.
"Dummy, give her my number to call you back."
"You and Amy will be going back home soon. I'll just hang out at the bus station out of the cold. I'll tell her that I'll be there."
"No telling when that will be. You'll go back and stay with us until she calls."
"Are you sure that would be okay with your Dad?"
"I'm sure, but if it will make you feel any better I'll call and ask."
"I'd feel better."
Haden called Darrell and explained what was going on. "Of course he can stay with us," Darrell said. "I'll call Steve just to make sure we won't get into any legal problems, but bring him with you anyway."
"Alright, bye, Dad," Haden said. "I love you."
"Hi, guys," Amy said as she joined Haden and Roger. "Any luck yet, Roger?"
"Still no answer," Roger said.
"He's going to give our number and going home with us," Haden said.
"Here, I'll write our home number as well as Haden's and my cell numbers for you to give her," Amy said as she began digging in her purse for a pad and pen.
When the three arrived home, Steve was there waiting to talk to Roger. "Tell me what happened," Steve said.
After Roger explained how he was kicked out with just the clothes on his back, Steve said, "Son, what your dad did was illegal. He can't just kick you out without making arrangements for your welfare. With your permission, I'll contact Child Welfare. They'll do a report that will make it easier for your mother to get legal custody of you."
"How much are you charging for this?" Roger asked.
"I haven't done anything yet," Steve said. "If it ends up in court, I'll see that your dad pays. A case worker from child welfare as well as a deputy sheriff will be here soon."
"Let's eat before they get here," Amy suggested. "Debbie gave me a crock pot recipe that I'm trying out."
"Honey, that was delicious," Darrell said.
"It sure was," Roger agreed.
Not long after dinner was finished and the kitchen cleaned up, the case worker Nora Langston along with Deputy Sheriff Coy Davis, the same deputy that had arrested Brenda, arrived. After hearing Roger's story, the case worker said, "I'm afraid there isn't much I can do. We'll find a foster home for you."
"Like hell you will," Steve said.
"Just who are you?" Nora shrieked.
"I'm Roger's attorney," Steve said. "Now get the hell out of here. I'm calling your supervisor."