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
"Dad, a restraining order will only make things worse," Haden argued when Darrell stated that he was calling Steve to get a restraining order. Besides, Kevin isn't smart enough to know what a restraining order is."
"I think we should still talk to Steve about this," Darrell insisted.
"I'm going to go cleanup while you call."
"Hold on a minute. Steve may want pictures."
"Dad, I'm really not hurt."
"Maybe not, but you're covered with blood."
"The cops took pictures," Adam added.
"Steve may want some of his own," Darrell said.
"Dad, I look like shit," Haden complained.
"Uh-oh, Dad, he said shit," Adam chimed in.
"Maybe I should wash his mouth out with soap," Darrell said, suppressing a smile "and yours too."
"But mine don't count," Adam insisted.
"Yours doesn't count," Amy corrected.
"Yeah, that's what I said," Adam agreed.
"It's grammatically incorrect to say mine don't count."
"Amy, school's out for the summer," Adam pointed out.
"You still have to learn correct grammar," Amy said. "Remember, you got a C in English."
"Oh phooey," Adam said with a mischievous grin.
"Steve said we didn't need pictures since the blood wasn't yours," Darrell said while holding the phone. "He'll be over after dinner to talk to you."
"Ask them to come for dinner," Amy said. "I'll thaw out more steaks."
"Yay!" Adam exclaimed at hearing that he would be having his new found favorite food.
"Haden, are you okay?" Linda asked when the Holden family arrived.
"He's fine," Adam answered before Haden could. "He kicked Kevin's ass. Oops, I shouldn't have said ass."
"No, you shouldn't have," Darrell said, unable to suppress a laugh.
"I thought since it's such a nice evening we could eat out on the patio," Amy said. "Dad, would you mind grilling the steaks? The baked potatoes will be ready soon."
"We can't eat out there," Adam protested. "I saw some bird poop on the table."
"Cleaning it off will be a good job for you," Amy laughed.
"Yuck," Adam said.
"Come on, I'll help you," Kyle offered.
"Adam, come and help me bring out the strawberry short cake," Amy said after all had enjoyed their steaks. "Adam helped me pick strawberries from the garden today."
"They're sooooooooo good," Adam grinned.
"You should know," Amy chuckled. "You ate about half of what you picked."
"Darrell said that you didn't want to file a restraining order against Kevin," Steve said when Amy and Adam went inside to get the strawberry short cake.
"It wouldn't change anything," Haden said. "Kevin isn't smart enough to understand what it means."
"He isn't going to try anything again," Kyle said. "Some of the football guys had a little chat with him and his buddies. He was so scared he may have crapped his pants."
"Whatever you decide. I'll do what needs to be done," Steve said, as he gave Kyle a stern look.
"I'll think about it," Haden promised.
"It's getting late and we should go," Linda said later when she noticed Adam yawning and leaning against Darrell.
Adam was asleep almost as soon as his head hit his pillow. The remainder of the family soon followed his lead.
Haden was surprised when he woke up the next morning and saw that Adam was also awake and staring at the ceiling. "What are you thinking about?" He asked.
"Do you miss her?"
"Maybe a little, but not enough that I want to live with her again. I know she was wrong to sell drugs, but I kinda wish she wouldn't have to be in jail."
"If she didn't go to jail the State might send you back to live with her."
"Then I hope she stays in jail."
"Would you want to go visit her?"
"Let's have breakfast and then go for a bicycle ride," Haden said, changing the subject. "Maybe we could ride out to Wilson Lake."
"Really? What if Dad says that I have to stay in the yard?"
"We'll ask, but I think he'll let you if I'm with you."
"Dad, what are you doing up so early cooking breakfast?" Haden asked when he saw Darrell in the kitchen.
"I woke up early... have a seat, it's ready."
"Dad, could me and Haden ride our bikes to Wilson Lake?"
"Could Haden and I," Amy corrected.
"Okay, you can go too," Adam giggled, realizing the error in his grammar.
"Alright, you may go, but Haden you ride behind Adam and keep on the right side of the shoulder," Darrell cautioned.
"There's a bicycle path from town out to Wilson Lake," Haden said.
"And make sure you take water," Darrell said.
"We have new water bottles," Adam declared.
"They have drinking fountains at the park at Wilson Lake," Haden recalled. "We can refill our water bottles there."
"I'll pack a lunch for you guys," Amy offered.
"It's going to be warm today," Darrell cautioned. "Don't send anything that could spoil."
"We have those insulated lunch bags with ice packs, I'll use those," Amy said.
"Stop and rest when you get hot or tired," Darrell cautioned. "And make sure you wear your helmets."
"Dad, I'm ten," Adam declared.
"You'll be fine, it's Haden I'm worried about," Darrell smiled.
"Okay, Adam, let's clear the table and go install the water bottle cages on our bikes," Haden said after finishing breakfast.
"Go on, I'll take care of this," Amy offered.
"I'm going to work." Darrell said. "You boys be careful and make sure you wear your helmets."
"Yes, Dad," Haden said.
"Yes, Dad," Adam echoed.
The weather was perfect for a bicycle ride. Adam was all smiles at the freedom of riding someplace other than the yard. Once they arrived in town they rested for a while at Brookside Park. Haden suggested that they rehydrate prior to proceeding on to the lake. Adam was all too happy to drink from his new water bottle.
"Are you ready?" Haden asked after resting for a while.
"I need to pee."
"The restrooms are over there," Haden pointed out the park restrooms. "You go first and I'll watch the bikes, then I'll go while you watch them."
"Someone could take them if we don't watch. The next time we go to Wal-Mart we'll get you a bicycle lock. I already have one, but I forgot to bring it."
"Did you wash your hands?" Haden asked when Adam exited the restroom.
"Go back in and wash them."
"Alright," Adam pretended to be annoyed.
Haden was surprised at how well Adam tolerated the ride to the lake. He did stop often to allow Adam and himself to rest and rehydrate.
"Wow, where did all of this water come from?" Adam questioned when he saw the lake.
"It comes from the creek that runs through our farm."
"Why is there so much here?"
"There's a dam a few miles from here."
"It's the water supply for Sparks and a couple of other towns."
"Can we eat now?" Adam asked, having already lost interest in the lake.
"It's a little early, but I bet Amy put a snack in our lunch bags."
"Oh boy! Apple juice," Adam exclaimed when he looked in the lunch bag.
"Why don't you save that for your lunch?"
"Drink your water."
"I don't have any water."
"Refill your water bottle from the fountain."
"But I'm hungry."
"You're being a pain in the butt," Haden teased. "I see an apple and a banana in there. Have one of those and drink some water."
"You're being bossy. Hee hee."
"Could we go swimming?" Adam asked after eating his banana.
"We didn't bring swimsuits."
"We could swim in the creek when we get home."
"Could Justin swim with us?"
"He could if Betty says it's okay. Why don't you call him? Here, use my phone to call."
"He said his mom can't bring him out because her sister has her car."
"I'll call Kyle and ask him to bring Justin out."
After phone calls to Kyle and then to Betty, it was decided that Kyle would bring Justin out at 2:00. The next call was to Amy to let her know what was going on.
"Hey look, there's a guy over there catching fish," Adam said.
"We'll come out here and fish one day soon."
"Could we come out here Monday?"
"No, not Monday, Amy and I start classes Monday and you start Church Camp."
"Please talk to Dad and ask him to let me stay home."
"Dad isn't going to let you stay home by yourself. Why don't you want to go to Church Camp?"
"I hate it. They're mean to me."
"You've never been to St. John's Church Camp before. You know Father Jensen and he's nice."
"They'll lock me in a closet if I don't learn the Bible verses."
"Who would lock you in a closet?"
"The church camp where Mom made me go would, they told us that if we didn't learn our verses they'd lock us in a closet until we did."
"So that's what you're afraid of. You don't have to worry about that, Dad would never send you there if they did that."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure. I'll tell you what, you go a day or two and if you don't like it I'll talk to Dad about it."
"Okay. I'm hungry, can we eat now?"
"Let's see what Amy fixed for us."
"Apple juice and a sandwich, oh yeah, there's chips, an apple, and two cookies."
"You got cheated, I got three cookies."
"You did not. You got two cookies the same as me."
"How do you know?"
"I can see and I can count," Adam said sticking his tongue out.
The ride back home took a little longer than the trip to the lake. Adam grew a little tired, so Haden made sure that they stopped and rested along the way.
"We have company," Adam said when they turned into the driveway. "Who is it?"
"I don't recognize the vehicle."
"What if it's someone here to take me away?"
"They wouldn't do that without Mrs. Holland being here too. Besides, they wouldn't be driving a pickup truck."
"Are you sure?"
"Look, little brother, Dad isn't going to give you up without a fight."
"Oh, it's just Perry and Lacey," Adam said when they entered the house.
"What do you mean, just?" Perry grabbed Adam and ruffled his hair.
"I thought maybe it was someone here to take me away."
"You're my brother and I'm not going to let anyone take you away," Perry said before giving Adam a hug, then Lacey joined in.
"Is that your truck out there?" Haden asked.
"Yeah, we traded Lacey's old car in on it. It's two years old and low mileage."
"Let's go look it over."
"Sure, do you want to take it for a little drive?"
"No, not today, Kyle's picking up Justin and we're going swimming with the munchkins."
"Hey, I'm not a munchkin," Adam protested.
"You don't even know what a munchkin is," Haden teased.
"Well, it doesn't sound good," Adam argued.
"We were going over to see my parents and Justin later," Lacey said.
"Why don't you call your mom and ask them to come over?" Amy asked. "We could have hamburgers."
"We're going swimming," Adam pointed out.
"We still have to eat," Amy said.
"Could we eat down at the creek?"
"That's a good idea," Amy agreed. "Perry, could you haul the picnic table and grill down to the creek?"
"I can do that," Perry agreed. "Why don't you call the Millers and ask them over too?"
"Justin's here," Adam yelled.
Justin was pleased to see his sister and brother-in-law, but was also anxious to go swimming. "Sis, why don't you and Perry go swimming with us too?"
"We are," Lacey said.
"Justin, let's go change into our swimsuits," Adam said, obviously eager to go swimming.
"I have mine on under my clothes," Justin divulged
"I'll be right back," Adam said as he rushed to his room.
"Put your sweaty clothes in the laundry room so that I can wash them," Amy called out.
"Mom wants to know if she can bring Rita along, she's there visiting," Lacy said.
"Sure, she's welcome too."
"Mom's bringing potato salad," Lacey said after closing her phone.
"Kyle, call your mom and tell her about the cookout," Amy said.
"You should call Tony and ask his family to come too," Haden suggested.
"Alright, while I call, would you call Dad and ask him to bring more ground beef and buns?" Amy asked.
"Mom heard and said she'll bring it," Kyle said.
"Can me and Justin go on down to the creek?" Adam asked and then corrected himself, "I mean, may Justin and I go on down to the creek?"
"You may not," Amy said. "You know you're not allowed to go to the creek alone."
"I wouldn't be alone, Justin would be with me," Adam objected.
"Alright, I should have said you're not allowed to go without an adult," Amy restated.
"We need to help Perry load the grill and table before we go," Haden pointed out.
After loading everything on Perry's truck and the food items in Haden's SUV, the group headed for the swimming hole. Haden was surprised at how well Adam swam, given his background.
"Who taught you to swim?" Haden asked.
"He was one of mom's boyfriends," Adam explained. "He was nice, but he didn't last very long."
"Let's play a game of chicken fight," Justin suggested.
"What's that?" Adam asked.
"I get on Kyle's shoulders and you get on Haden's, then we try to pull each other off," Justin explained.
The teams were evenly matched, but it really didn't matter since no one was keeping score. The game continued until others began to arrive. Mark and Cody joined Adam and Justin in the water while Haden and Kyle got out of the water to help unload extra folding tables and chairs that the Millers brought. The huge oak tree near the water gave a nice shade and the perfect spot for a cookout.
After eating, the adults sat and enjoyed the camaraderie. "Darrell, you and your family have done wonders with Adam," Rita observed as they watched Adam playing in the water with Justin and Mark.
"Thanks, I'm surprised at how well he's adjusted to living with us," Darrell said. "One thing I can't figure out though is why he doesn't want to go to church camp. He wants to stay home by himself. I'd have to take him to work with me if he didn't go to camp."
"Oh, I found out why," Haden spoke up. "His mom sent him to one where they threatened to lock him in a closet for not knowing his Bible verses. I told him that you wouldn't make him go if they did that."
"That's cruel," Debbie said.
"Well, that takes care of that problem," Darrell said with relief.
"He's been thinking about his mom," Haden said.
"How so?" Rita asked.
"This morning he said he'd kind of like to see her, but he never wanted to live with her again," Haden explained.
"After the way she treated him?" Betty asked.
"That's normal," Rita pointed out. "Kids usually still love their parents, regardless of how they were treated. What do you think, Darrell?"
"I don't mind if he wants to see her," Darrell said. "But I'm sure we'd have to take him to Tennessee."
"True, I don't think the Tennessee authorities would bring her here," Rita agreed. "I'll check with the State Office, they usually require the caseworker to go on out of state trips like this. It has to be a supervised visit."
"I'll fly you there," Paul offered. "It would give Adam the opportunity to fly in an airplane."
"Maybe you could take Mark and Justin," Debbie suggested. "They'd be company for Adam."
"Justin would love that," Betty said. "He's never been on an airplane."
"How is the progress of the adoption of Mark and Cody going?" Betty asked.
"It looks like we'll be adopting Mark in a week or so," Debbie said. "Steve, have you heard anything about Cody?"
"I'll check on that tomorrow," Steve said. "I'm sure you'll get the adoption, but it may take a while."
"I got word today that Cody's dad was arrested for beating up his wife," Rita said. "She's already back with him."
"Really!" Steve stated in surprise. "This could help speed things along."
"Debbie, have you heard from Wayne?" Amy asked.
"Yes, we talk often," Debbie answered. "He's happy where he is, but said he still considers us family. He has a car now and will soon drive here to spend a few days with us."
Soon there were three wet boys standing in front of the adults. After some nervous fidgeting, Adam asked, "Could Mark and Justin spend the night?"
"Mark has an appointment in Covington with his orthodontist in the morning," Debbie said.
"Could Justin spend the night, then?" Adam asked, turning to Betty.
"He didn't bring clean clothes," Betty replied.
"We're the same size, he can wear mine," Adam reasoned.
"Where would he sleep?" Betty asked. "Don't you share a room with your brother?"
"He can have my bed and I'll sleep with Haden," Adam proposed.
"Oh, no you're not, I've seen how you toss around," Haden said.
"Well, we're both little, he could share my bed."
"Haden and Amy would have to put up with you two," Betty laughed.
"They don't mind," Adam declared.
"If they get too rowdy, I'll toss them out to sleep with Ranger," Haden teased.
"Alright, but you mind Amy and Haden," Betty warned.
Haden noticed the disappointed look on Mark and said, "Hey, Mark, maybe if Kyle will help, we can take you guys camping at Wilson Lake. Cody, you're welcome to come too."
"Wow, that would be fun!" Mark exclaimed.
"Sure, I'd like to go too," Cody said.
"Could we go fishing?" Adam wanted to know.
"Sure," Haden agreed.
"We have that big family size tent in the garage," Kyle said, apparently willing to go camping.
"I think you're going to need a second tent," Paul stated. "We have one that Tony and I used when he was younger."
"I don't have a sleeping bag," Justin said.
"Honey, I think we might afford a sleeping bag," Betty said.
"This has been fun," Debbie said. "We should do this again after church Sunday."
"That would be fun," Lacey agreed.
"You guys help me load everything in the truck," Perry said. "Some of us have to work tomorrow."
To Haden's surprise, the boys fell asleep not long after going to bed. He speculated that they were tired from the day's activities.
"You ask him," Haden heard when he woke the next morning.
"He's your brother, you ask him."
"Yeah, I'm his brother, but he'll tell me no. So, you ask him."
"Call Perry and Lacey and ask if they will."
"That wouldn't work, they live all the way in Covington, besides they're at work."
"Dang, a guy can't sleep in with you two in the room," Haden said.
"He's awake, let's get him," Adam said as he jumped on top of Haden, followed by Justin.
"Hey, you guys, cut it out," Amy said as she banged on the door. "Wash up, breakfast is almost ready."
"Amy, tell Haden to take us swimming today," Adam said as he enjoyed his waffle and sausage.
"So that's what you were talking about," Haden said. "We have to weed the garden today."
"Amy, would you take us?"
"Hey, I didn't say 'I' have to weed the garden," Haden smiled. "I said 'we' have to weed the garden. Remember, it's part of your allowance agreement with Dad."
"Crap," Adam protested with a grin.
"Adam," Amy admonished.
"Well, at least I didn't say shit," Adam countered.
In spite of himself, Haden had to laugh.
"Dad may have to get his bar of soap out," Amy cautioned.
"Where is Dad?" Adam asked.
"He's left for work already."
"I'll help weed the garden," Justin offered.
"Adam's the one that gets an allowance," Haden said.
"He don't mind," Adam said. "I mean, he doesn't mind."
"That's better," Amy smiled.
"Don't you think you should give Justin something from your allowance?" Haden suggested.
"I'll give him a dollar."
"Just a dollar?" Amy questioned.
"Well, I only get $15.00 and I have to save $5.00 of that."
"You don't have to pay me," Justin offered.
"No, I'll give you $2.00 and Haden can give you $2.00," Adam giggled.
"That sounds like a good deal," Haden agreed.
"You guys did a good job," Haden said when the garden was finished by late morning, noting that only a couple of plants were mistaken for weeds.
"Now can we go swimming?" Adam asked.
"Let's have lunch first," Haden suggested.
"Good idea," Adam agreed. "I'm hungry."
"Go wash up," Amy said when the three came in for lunch. "I'll fix you a sandwich. You can shower after you eat. Justin, I washed your clothes and put them on Adam's bed."
"We're going swimming," Adam proclaimed. "Do you want to go swimming with us?"
"Thanks for asking, but I promised to drive Mrs. Hardesty to her doctor appointment."
The day that Adam was going to see his mom arrived. Needless to say, he had mixed feelings about the visit. He was excited about flying in an airplane with his friends, but he was nervous about seeing his mom. "What if Mom wants to keep me?" He had asked the day before the scheduled visit.
"That isn't going to happen," Darrell promised. "Remember, she's in jail."
"Amy, why don't you and Haden go too?" Adam asked, the morning of the visit.
"We have classes to attend," Amy explained.
The boys were all giddy about their first flight. Having his friends along helped Adam take his mind off of the upcoming visit. Darrell had already rented a vehicle for ground transportation from the airport to the correctional facility. Paul would keep the rental and hang out with Mark and Justin while Adam, Darrell, Steve, and Rita went in for the visit.
After going through security, the four were escorted to the family visiting room where Jill Woodson was waiting. At one time she had been a pretty woman, but the long term meth use had taken its toll. Jill insisted on a private visit with Adam, but Rita quickly explained that the visit had to be supervised. She then introduced herself, Steve, and Darrell.
"How's my baby?" Jill asked when she realized she wouldn't get her way.
"Do you miss me?"
"Maybe a little."
"What do you mean, maybe a little?"
"Dad, Amy, and Haden are good to me."
"What do you mean Dad? He isn't your dad."
"Yeah he is."
"Anyway, why didn't you stay where we left you? You got me in a lot of trouble."
"You left me there with no food or anything. I was hungry and Haden made me a hamburger."
"Oh well, you look cute. I don't care for your glasses though."
"I do and I can see better, and I can read better too."
"Who cuts your hair? That style isn't good for you."
"Andy at the barber shop cuts it. I like it because it's like Haden's."
"He's my brother."
"You don't have a brother."
"Yeah I do. Perry's my other brother and Amy's my sister."
"No, you just live there. They're not your brothers and sister."
"If you're just going to be confrontational with Adam, we'll end this visit now," Rita said. "But if you really want to visit, we'll let it continue. You haven't said one kind word to him since we've been here. Do you understand?"
The remainder of the visit was strained and all seemed to be thankful when it was over. On the way out, Adam took Darrell's hand and said, "I don't want to see her again."
"Son, I'll do everything I can to see that you don't have to," Darrell said.
"Adam, you have nothing to worry about," Rita added.
"I'm hungry," Adam said.
"He's back to normal," Darrell laughed.
After arriving back home, Adam and Justin spent most of what was left of the afternoon playing chase and fetch with Ranger. Although Ranger was old in dog years, he still played like a puppy with the boys. When Haden and Amy arrived home from the university, Adam and Justin rushed to greet them.
"Can we go camping tomorrow?" Adam asked right away.
"We can only go on a Friday," Haden said. "Amy and I have classes."
"Can we go Friday?" Adam asked.
"I'll have to talk to Kyle about it," Haden said.
"How did you like your airplane ride?" Amy asked
"It was fun, wasn't it Adam?" Justin answered.
"Yeah, and we got to take turns sitting in the copilot's seat," Adam agreed as Ranger grabbed the ball from Adam's hand and was immediately chased by the two boys.
"How did the visit go?" Amy asked Darrell when she and Haden went inside.
"It didn't go very well," Darrell said. "He doesn't want to see her again. I'm surprised the kid isn't a basket case. She tried to blame him for her being in jail. I was proud of Adam, he held his own with her."
Adam began preparing for his first camping trip. He made a list of items to take, and to Haden's surprise it was a well thought out list. Amy helped with the food plans. Darrell had surprised Adam with a new sleeping bag.
When Friday morning finally arrived, Adam eagerly helped load the SUV, and with Amy's help there was plenty of food. Once everything was loaded, they departed to pick up Cody and Mark. Kyle would pick up Justin and meet them at the lake.
Kyle and Justin were already at the lake and had the tent set up. "How did you manage to get this great spot?" Haden asked. "It's near the water and bathrooms too, and the tent is large enough that I don't think we need the other one."
"I came out yesterday and rented the space and set the tent up," Kyle explained. "We even have electricity."
"We're camping, what do we need electricity for?" Haden laughed.
"We need it for the fans," Kyle explained. "It gets hot in tents."
"I didn't think of that," Haden admitted.
"Could we go fishing now?" Adam asked.
"We need to unload our stuff first," Haden said.
"I'll help if they want to go now," Cody offered.
"Alright, go, but stay where we can see you," Haden instructed.
Three excited boy quickly gathered their fishing gear and headed to the water to catch their monster fish. Kyle, Cody, and Haden soon had the camp set up like they wanted it. They sat down to rest when Haden noticed a man talking to Justin, Mark, and Adam. This made Haden nervous and he kept a close watch on the activities. The boys gathered their fishing gear and came and sat next to Haden dejected.
"What happened?" Haden asked.
"That man made us leave, said that was his fishing spot," Adam said.
"It's everybody's fishing spot," Haden explained.
"Come on, boys, let's go fishing," Kyle said.
"Hey, I told these kids to get out of my fishing spot and not come back," the man, who appeared to be about 40 years old said.
"There was no one here when they came to fish," Haden countered.
"I went to get more beer," the man said as he popped open a can of beer.
"The lake is large enough for all of us," Kyle said.
"I don't share this spot with anyone," the man said. "Now, all of you get out of here."
Kyle ignored the command and cast his line into the water. The man opened his tackle box, pulled out a pistol and pointed it at Kyle, saying, "I said get out of my fishing spot."
"Drop that gun or I'll shoot," a park ranger, who none had noticed, said.
"They threatened me," the man said, as he dropped the gun.
"You're the one with the gun," the ranger said as he cuffed the man.
"We're the ones who called," a woman approached and said. "My husband and I are in that travel trailer right there. These three young boys were here fishing and having a good time when this man came and ran them off. These older boys came and started fishing when this man pulled the gun."
"Let me put him in my car and I'll get some information from you," the ranger said.
After some time, the ranger returned and said, "I checked and he's a convicted felon on probation and not allowed to have a gun or alcohol. There's also a sign at the park entrance stating that it's illegal to have firearms in the park."
After the officer took statements from all involved, he hauled the offender off to jail. The younger boys were a little shaken, but were soon ready to fish.
"Can we fish now?" Adam asked.
"Go ahead and start and I'll bring some sandwiches," Haden said. "Can you believe Amy made a bunch of sandwiches for us?"
Justin caught the first fish and Adam was a little envious until he got a strike on his line. It wasn't long until they had a nice stringer of fish.
"Can we have fish for dinner?" Adam asked.
"I've never cooked fish before," Haden admitted, "but I'll try."
"We have plenty, why don't we give some to the nice couple who called the park ranger?" Kyle asked.
"Yeah," they all agreed.
"We need to clean them first," Kyle said. "Come on, boys, and I'll show you how to clean and filet fish."
Adam and Justin insisted that they be allowed to take the filets to the couple. The two boys came rushing back and Adam said, "Mr. and Mrs. Burgess said to bring all of the fish over and they would fry them when they fried theirs. They have a fish fryer. She said we're invited to eat dinner with them."
"Well, that sounds great," Haden admitted. "I wasn't looking forward to frying fish for the first time."
"We'll take the rest of the fish over," Adam volunteered. "Come on Mark and Justin."
"Ask Mrs. Burgess what we should bring," Haden shouted out as the boys rushed toward the Burgess's trailer.
"Alright," Adam shouted back.
The boys were pleased that they had accepted the Burgess's invitation. The fish were cooked to perfection. There were hushpuppies, coleslaw, and french-fries to go with the fish. Ice cold watermelon was the dessert. Mr. and Mrs. Burgess were retired and lived in Covington. They had a son living in Phoenix and a daughter living in Atlanta. They also had five grandchildren.
"Adam is my foster brother for now," Haden said while explaining the relationships. "He'll soon be adopted and legally be my brother. Justin is my sister-in-law's little brother. Cody and Mark are foster brothers to my sister's boyfriend Tony. They too will soon be adopted by Tony's family. Kyle's my best friend."
"What wonderful families you must have," Mrs. Burgess remarked.
Haden suddenly had an idea and excused himself to make a phone call. "Our families are coming out tomorrow for a cookout and you're invited to join us."
"That would be nice," Mrs. Burgess said. "What do I need to bring?"
"Nothing, we'll have everything," Haden said.
Haden wasn't sure how well he would sleep as he'd never been camping before. However, he was surprised at how well he slept. The fans were definitely a good idea. Haden went to the bathroom to relieve himself and decided to shower before breakfast. Shortly, Kyle joined him and gave him a passionate kiss. The kiss was interrupted when they heard the door open.
"You guys go get your clean clothes and shower, Kyle and I'll make breakfast when we get back to camp," Haden said when he saw that it was Cody followed by the three younger boys.
Using the camp stove, Haden fried the bacon while Kyle did the sausage. Soon there were four hungry boys watching every move. After the bacon and sausage were ready, Haden scrambled eggs while Kyle made camp stove toast.
"What can I do to help?" Cody asked.
"You can get the orange juice out and pour it," Kyle said.
Haden was glad that he had scrambled the two dozen eggs since every morsel was consumed. "I'm glad you remembered to bring a coffee pot and coffee," Haden said as he and Kyle enjoyed a cup of freshly perked coffee.
"Can we go fishing?" Adam asked as Haden and Kyle enjoyed a second cup of coffee.
"Alright, but stay where we can see you," Haden commanded.
"Cody, didn't you want to go fishing too?" Kyle asked when Cody stayed behind.
"No, I'm going to clean up," Cody said. "You guys cooked breakfast. I'll wash up the skillets."
Haden started to say he could do it, but Kyle stopped him before he could say anything. "I think he wants to be one of the older guys," Kyle whispered. "Remember, he's closer to our age than the other three."
"You're right, I hadn't thought of that," Haden said. "Hey, Cody, Kyle and I are thinking about going to Covington to the mall next weekend and maybe see a movie. Why don't you go with us?"
"Nah, you know what they say about two's company and three's a crowd," Cody said.
"We wouldn't have asked you if we didn't want you to go," Kyle added.
"Alright, if you're sure," Cody agreed. "Mom or Dad would take me to the mall if I asked, but they've done so much for me already that I hate to ask."
"You shouldn't feel that way," Kyle said. "I've known them for a long time, and they wouldn't mind at all."
"I know, but I hate to take advantage," Cody replied.
"Cody, they're your foster parents now," Haden added. "And they'll soon be your legal parents."
Haden looked up and didn't see Justin with Mark and Adam. In a panic, he rushed to where they were fishing. "Where's Justin?" He asked in alarm. "You guys were supposed to stay where we could see you."
"Gawd, he only went to the bathroom," Adam replied.
"It doesn't matter," Haden said. "If I can't see you, I don't know where you are."
"Alright," Adam said, pretending to be annoyed. He was actually enjoying having someone care enough to be concerned.
"Have you caught any fish?" Kyle asked.
"Some small ones, but they were too small to keep," Mark said.
"Justin, we can't go to the bathroom without telling Haden first," Adam said when Justin returned.
"Justin, it's just that we're responsible and if you disappear we don't know where you are," Haden explained.
"Remember yesterday when that drunk ran you off from your fishing spot?" Cody added. This made Haden smile as he realized that Cody was more mature than he gave him credit.
"Can we go swimming?" Adam asked.
"Why don't you wait until after lunch?" Haden suggested. "I have to go find a store and buy some ice. Then I'll make sandwiches."
"I'll swim with them while you and Kyle go to the store," Cody offered.
"Alright," Haden agreed. "You guys, Cody's in charge. Stay out of the deep water. I know you can swim, but it'll be hard for Cody to keep an eye on all three of you."
The cookout with the Burgesses was a grand success. There were hamburgers, hotdogs, fried chicken, brisket, potato salad, and baked beans. There was also a selection of delicious desserts. Everyone liked the Burgesses as much as the boys had.
"Kyle, why didn't you tell us about that man pulling a gun on you?" Linda asked in surprise when Mrs. Burgess mentioned the incident.
"Mom, what could you have done?" Kyle answered.
"You guys should have at least called," Darrell said.
"I was impressed with their maturity," Mr. Burgess said. "You should be proud of how the older boys looked after the younger ones."
"You're right," Darrell agreed. "It just seems that if there's trouble, it'll find Haden."
"Yeah, but remember, he kicked Kevin's ass," Adam interjected.
"Adam!" Darrell half-heartedly scolded Adam.
"Betty, we need to get home," Grant said. "Remember, I'm an usher at church tomorrow."
"Alright," Betty said. "Will you guys be in church tomorrow?"
"We thought we'd skip church and break camp tomorrow afternoon," Kyle said.
After a breakfast of pancakes and sausage, the younger boys decided they wanted to go fishing again. After fishing with little luck the boys decided they would rather be swimming. "What are you going to do with these fish?" Kyle asked.
"Take them home, I guess," Adam said.
"There's hardly enough to take home," Haden said.
"We could throw them back," Mark suggested.
"I know, we could give them to Mr. and Mrs. Burgess," Adam suggested.
"That's a good idea," Kyle agreed. "It will be enough for two people. Let's clean them first."
Although the boys had a good time, they were anxious to get back home and gladly help break camp. "This was fun," Kyle said. "We'll have to do this again."
"Yeah," the boys yelled in agreement.