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
"Haden, will you talk to Dad about letting me buy Will's go kart?" Adam asked when Haden picked him up at school.
"Adam, he's already told you no."
"Yeah, but you're older, maybe he'll listen to you."
"Just a few days ago you were growing up because you turned 11."
"Come on, Haden, please do it for me."
"Why do you want this go kart so badly?"
"Will said it's a lot of fun."
"Will would say that since he's trying to sell you a go kart. You know Dad's right, you can't get much of a go kart for $350."
"Dad could fix it up."
"You may as well forget it; Dad isn't going to let you buy it."
"But he might, if you talk to him."
"You can forget that too. You know, Perry, Amy, or I would never have argued with Dad the way you did over the go kart."
"Why, would he have hit you?"
"No, we knew that when Dad said no, he meant no. Back then we didn't ask for much, because Dad didn't make much money."
"So, you think I'm being selfish?"
"No, but you need to know that Dad loves you, but when he says no... you need to let it go."
"There's no need to be sorry. You didn't know."
"Yeah, this is the first real family I've ever had."
"Sometimes you're like a kid, other times you're really mature."
"I guess I'm at that age."
"What age is that?"
"Mark called it being a 'tween'."
"Yeah, it's a difficult age. Do you really want the go kart or do you want it just because Will's selling it?"
"Then you're not sure."
"I guess not. When Will said he wanted to sell the go kart, Shawn Carson said he'd buy it, if he had the money. Then Will said he doubted that any of us had the money. That's when I said I had the money. I guess I felt proud that I had some money. I used to be lucky if I had a dollar in my pocket."
"Peer pressure is a bitch, isn't it?"
"You wanted to fit in and be accepted. That's normal, I was the same way. In fact, I think most kids are."
"I guess I'll tell Will no Monday. I know he'll make fun of me, because he said he didn't think I had the money."
"Do you really care what he thinks?"
"Yeah, I do. He'll call me a geek."
"He sounds like a bully."
"I know he'll make fun of me."
"I know you want to fit in, but just tell him Dad said no. Tell him that you have to save, so you can buy a car when you're 16. Whatever you do, don't let him see you're afraid of him."
"But I am afraid of him."
"Okay, but he doesn't have to know that. When he and the other kids laugh, laugh with them. Amy taught me that."
"Did that work?"
"Not at first, but the bullies eventually got tired of picking on me when I didn't react."
"Why didn't you kick their asses like you did Kevin's?"
"Back then I was a skinny awkward kid."
"But you have muscles now."
"That's because I work out. When Perry went into the army he left his weights, and I started using them."
"Could I work out with you?"
"We'd better talk to Dad first. I've read that weight lifting may be harmful for kids your age."
"It smells good in here," Adam said when they arrived home.
"I have a ham and potato casserole in the oven."
"Are we eating early?"
"Yes, I'm going to the high school football game tonight with Kyle."
"Could I go with you?"
"Sure, but you can't be running wild like I've seen some of the kids your age do."
"No, Dad wouldn't allow it."
"Can I help with dinner?"
"Thank you, but I've already made the salad and the casserole's in the oven. You can make the ice tea though."
"Could Justin go with us tonight?" Adam asked as he measured the ice and water in the ice tea maker.
"Sure, you can call when you've finished making the tea."
"Are Dad and Amy going to the game?"
"They used to go when Perry and Tony played, but I don't know about now. I suspect Tony will want to go since he still has friends playing."
"Yeah, I'm going to the game," Darrell said, upon entering the room unnoticed. "It sure smells good in here."
"It's ready. I thought we'd eat early," Haden stated.
"Where's Amy?" Darrell asked.
"She's in her room studying," Haden said. "Adam, will you go let her know dinner's ready?"
"Amy will be here in a minute," Adam returned to say. "Why does she study all the time? She's smart and shouldn't have to study that much."
"Your sister is smart because she studies a lot," Darrell laughed. "You could learn from that."
"I have good grades now," Adam countered.
"Yes, you do, and I'm proud of you," Darrell smiled.
"Haden, this is really good," Amy said as she savored the first bite of casserole. "Where did you get the recipe?"
"Linda gave it to me," Haden said. "She served it the other evening when I had dinner there."
None seemed to notice that Adam had become quiet during dinner, he even ate his banana pudding in near silence.
"Adam, you're really quiet tonight," Darrell finally said.
"Dad, I'm sorry," Adam said in near tears as he rushed to give his dad a hug.
"Why are you sorry?" Darrell asked in puzzlement.
"I shouldn't have argued with you about the go kart."
"What brought this on?"
"Haden said that you're right, the go kart probably wasn't worth what Will's asking. I guess I just wanted everyone to know that I could afford to buy it. Haden said that when they were young, they would've never argued with you about something like this, because you didn't have much money then."
"Haden's right, but you're still learning about this family. Just because I say no doesn't mean that I don't love you. We didn't have much money then, but if I thought they really needed something; I'd try to get it."
"I know, Dad."
"Son, you should never use money to impress others. Who's your best friend?"
"Justin's family doesn't have much either, but they do have love. Paul has more money than anyone in this town, but he and his family have love too. So you see, money isn't important to a loving family. Love is what makes for a happy family."
"Wow, Dad, that's so true," Amy quickly agreed.
"Speaking of best friend. Adam, did you call Justin?" Haden asked.
"Oh man, I forgot," Adam said. "I'll do it now."
"What caused him to discuss the go kart with you?" Darrell asked when Adam went to make the phone call.
"He wanted me to ask you to let him buy the go kart," Haden said. "I think part of the problem may be that Will's a bully and Adam's trying to keep on his good side. I told him to do like Amy taught me and not let the bully get to him."
"Maybe I should have a chat with the principal anyway," Darrell stated.
"I don't think Adam should know, if you do," Amy said.
"You're probably right," Darrell agreed.
"Justin will meet us there," Adam announced, interrupting the conversation.
"Adam, are you going with your brother or are you riding with me?" Darrell asked when it was time to leave for the game.
"I guess I'll go with you, so you don't have to go alone," Adam said.
"You can ride with your brother, if you would rather," Darrell proclaimed. "Your poor old dad can go alone."
"No, I'll ride with you, so we don't have to listen to you whine," Adam giggled as he ran and jumped in the truck as Kyle drove up. "Hi, Kyle."
"Hi, Squirt, where are you going?"
"To the football game with Dad. Haden's inside. Oh, there he is. I guess he saw you."
"Justin's already here," Adam said upon arriving at the football stadium. "Rita's here too."
"Yeah, I see," Darrell said, somewhat embarrassed.
"We saved seats for you," Justin called out.
Although somewhat embarrassed, Darrell sat next to Rita. "I didn't know you were a football fan,"
"It's the South... everybody likes football," Rita laughed.
"Are your dad and Rita getting serious about each other?" Kyle whispered to Haden as they sat behind the group.
"It sure looks like it," Haden said.
"Are you alright with it?"
"Of course I am."
"Hey, Dad, could I go get some popcorn?" Adam asked when he saw others with snacks and drinks.
"Alright, but find out if anyone else wants something," Darrell said as he handed Adam $20.00.
"Can you remember all of that?" Rita asked, after everyone gave their orders.
"I sure hope so," Adam said.
"We need some paper and a pen," Rita said.
"I'll enter it in my phone," Haden offered.
"I'll go help carry it back," Justin offered.
"I'll go too," Haden said. "I need to use the restroom."
"Hey, Adam, are you going to buy my go kart or not? What did your dad say? " Will asked as he blocked Adam's way to the concessions.
"I didn't ask him again," Adam admitted. "I decided I didn't want it."
"Yeah, I knew you were full of shit and didn't have the money," Will smirked.
"He does too," Justin came to the defense. "He got more than that for his birthday."
"Justin, it doesn't matter anyway," Adam said. "Would you please move, so we can get by?"
"I'll move when I'm ready to move," Will said.
"Could it be that you're lying about a go kart that's worth $350?" Haden questioned. "And Adam asked you to move, so we can get by."
"Who are you anyway?" Will timidly asked Haden.
"I'm Adam's brother, not that it matters," Haden said. "Further, I agreed with Dad about the go kart and advised Adam not to buy the go kart."
"Oh, okay," Will meekly said and quickly disappeared.
"Now you probably just pissed him off," Adam said.
"If he tries anything, tell the principal," Haden said. "He's probably just all show with no dog and pony."
"That would just make matters worse," Adam argued.
"I think Haden's right," Justin said. "I think Will's all mouth."
"Let's just get the damn popcorn and drinks," Adam said.
"I'm going to the restroom," Haden said. "Here's my phone, go ahead and order everything and I'll help carry it back."
"We can get it," Adam said.
"I know you can, but I'll help anyway," Haden declared.
"Dad called and said to bring four more popcorns and four more drinks," Adam said as he stood in queue to place the order. "I don't think Dad gave me enough money."
"Here's $10.00 more, that should cover it," Haden said. "If you need more, I'll be right here."
"I wonder who the extra popcorn and drinks are for," Adam said as they carried the refreshments back.
"Hey, it's Lacey and Perry," Justin said as they returned.
"Amy and Tony are here too," Adam said.
The game was a close one with mistakes by both teams. However, the Sparks Spartans won the close game 17-14. "I'm afraid it'll be long season for the Spartans," Tony remarked as the group headed toward the parking lot.
"You're right about that," Kyle agreed. "But they're still a young team."
"Remember our sophomore year?" Tony questioned. "We only won four games that year, then our senior year we won the district."
Haden woke the next morning with the sun shining bright in his bedroom window. After a morning stretch, he noticed that Adam's bed was empty. "Damn, it's after 9:00," he said to himself. He rarely slept past 8:00.
"Good morning," Amy said as she mixed the ingredients for an applesauce cake. "You slept late."
"Yeah, Kyle and I were out late. Where're Adam and Dad?"
"They went to get haircuts. There's plenty of bacon left, if you want it for breakfast, but you'll have to cook your own eggs."
"As much as Adam loves bacon, I'm surprised there's bacon left."
"Dad cooked breakfast and always cooks more than needed."
"I'm surprised to see you baking a cake. I thought you'd be studying."
"I'm caught up with my studying. Dad invited Rita to dinner, so I thought I'd bake a cake. Dad's grilling steaks."
"What do you think about Dad and Rita maybe dating?"
"I think it's good."
"I think so too. He deserves some happiness."
"Something smells good," Adam said, when he and Darrell returned.
"It's an applesauce cake," Amy said.
"When will it be ready?" Adam asked.
"Soon, but it's for tonight," Amy smiled.
"Shoot," Adam said, before grabbing a doggy treat and heading out the door.
"I haven't talked to Adam yet, but Rita and I are going to start dating," Darrell said. "Are you kids okay with that?"
"Of course," Haden quickly answered.
"We just discussed that," Amy said. "We're happy for you."
"Haden, something's wrong with Ranger," Adam rushed in to say.
"Is he hurt?" Haden questioned.
"I don't think so," Adam said. "But he wouldn't take the treat and just looked at me with sad eyes."
"We may have to take him to the vet," Darrell said as he followed Haden and Adam out the door.
"See, he's sick," Adam said.
"Let's put him in my truck and take him to the vet," Darrell said.
"He isn't there during the weekend," Haden pointed out.
"Then we'll have to take him to the emergency veterinary hospital in Covington," Darrell said.
"Is he going to die?" Adam asked with teary eyes as Haden loaded Ranger into the truck.
"I don't know, Son," Darrell said. "He's pretty old."
"Haden said that he's about 14," Adam said. "That's not old."
"It is for a dog," Darrell explained. "In human years he'd be in his eighties."
"Ranger's sick," Adam rushed to the reception desk and informed the receptionist upon arriving at the veterinary hospital.
"Let me get a little information, then we'll have Dr. Chandler check him," the receptionist said. "I believe you said his name's Ranger."
"Yes," Haden said while holding Ranger.
"How old is Ranger?" The receptionist asked.
"We don't know his exact age, but he's around 14," Darrell said.
"He looks heavy," the receptionist said. "Let's put him on an exam table, then I'll get the rest of your information."
"Hello, I'm Dr. Chandler," Dr. Chandler said when he came in to examine Ranger. "I understand Ranger isn't feeling well."
"He's really sick," Adam said.
"Let me check him over and see if we can fix him up," Dr. Chandler said as he began to exam Ranger.
"I have over $300 saved," Adam said. "I'll pay whatever it takes to get him well."
"I can tell you love your dog," Dr. Chandler said. "What's your name, young man?"
"My name's Adam and this is my brother Haden, but he isn't my dog," Adam said. "He's the family's dog."
"Adam, why don't you and your brother wait in the waiting room while I finish here and talk to your dad," Dr. Chandler said.
"No, I want to stay with Ranger," Adam argued.
"Go to the waiting room with your brother," Darrell said. "I'm sure you can see Ranger again after Dr. Chandler completes the exam."
"Why did Dr. Chandler send us out of the room?" Adam asked. "I'm afraid he wanted to tell Dad something bad."
"We don't know that," Haden said. "But Ranger is very sick."
"Why is it taking so long?" Adam asked after more than 30 minutes.
"I'm sure the examination takes some time."
"Dad, where's Ranger?" Adam almost yelled when Darrell returned to the waiting room.
"Dr. Chandler has him on an IV and wants to keep him," Darrell explained. "We'll come back and check on him tomorrow after church."
"Can't I stay here with him?" Adam pleaded.
"I'm afraid not, Son," Darrell said. "Dr. Chandler and his staff will take good care of him."
"I don't want him to die," Adam said as tears began to flow.
"None of us do," Haden agreed. "Ranger has been part of our family a long time... before I was even your age."
"Let's go say goodbye to Ranger," Darrell suggested.
"Dad, what did Dr. Chandler really say?" Adam asked on the drive home.
"Well, Son, Ranger is very sick," Darrell began. "He's in heart failure and there's a good chance he won't make it. Remember, he's very old."
"He's a good dog and shouldn't have to die," Adam said as he wiped tears from his eyes.
"Yes, he is," Haden agreed. "He even saved me from being kidnapped."
The three rode home in near silence, since none could think of anything to say. Haden had accepted the fact that his old friend probably wouldn't make it. Adam, in his youth, wouldn't give up hope.
"Perry and Lacey are here," Adam said when they turned into the driveway.
"I asked them to come for dinner tonight," Darrell said. He didn't mention that he'd called from the veterinary hospital and asked them to pick up Justin to be company for Adam.
Justin managed to keep Adam occupied with only a few moments of melancholy. It also helped that Perry and Lacey took the boys swimming, taking advantage of the last of the warm weather.
"It's going to be rough for Adam, if Ranger doesn't make it," Darrell said while Adam was away. "He even wanted to stay at the veterinary hospital with Ranger."
"He likely feels like he's abandoning Ranger the way he was abandoned," Rita pointed out. "What are Ranger's chances?"
"They're not good at all," Darrell admitted.
"Rita, if Ranger dies, what can we do to help Adam through his grieving?" Amy asked.
"I'm no expert on grieving, but I'd say let him grieve in his own way," Rita said. "Perhaps get out pictures of him with Ranger, if you have any."
"Oh yes, we have pictures," Darrell said. "Haden took lots of them. Now, if you'll pardon me, I'll go get the grill started."
"I'll do it, Dad," Haden offered.
"Thank you," Son."
Just as the grill was almost ready, the swimmers' uncanny timing must have kicked in, as they arrived hungry and ready to eat. "Could we help?" Adam asked.
"Dad likes to grill the steaks," Haden said. "But I'm sure Amy can find something for you to do."
"Man, that's a big tree," Justin said, looking up into the big oak tree.
"That's Haden's dream tree," Adam said.
"What's a dream tree?" Justin asked.
"Haden used to climb up there to daydream," Adam explained.
"Also to get away from me," Perry laughed.
"Why would he want to get away from you?" Justin questioned.
"Because back then I was really mean to him," Perry explained.
"Then you stopped when he got muscles?" Justin asked.
"He wasn't physically abusive to me, but he said mean and nasty things," Haden said.
"I'm going inside to see if Amy needs help," Lacey said.
"Would you tell Dad that the grill's ready?" Haden asked.
"I'm going inside to get a soda. Justin, do you want one?" Adam asked.
"Amy isn't going to let you have a soda," Haden pointed out.
"Your sister's like mine," Justin giggled.
"Hey, I heard that," Lacey said as she opened the door. "You boys can come and carry things out."
"Yeah, she's bossy like my sister," Adam snickered.
"Watch it, little brother," Lacey smiled. "Remember, I married your brother, so that makes me your sister too."
"Oops," Adam said with a giggle.
"He seems to be doing better," Haden observed after Adam and Justin went inside.
"He is," Perry agreed. "He cried some when he was telling Justin about Ranger. Justin was very good at listening and comforting him."
"There're sodas in here," Adam smiled when he and Justin came out with an ice chest.
"Yes, and but remember, you can only have one with your dinner," Darrell said as he followed the boys, carrying a platter of steaks.
"But, Dad, we're thirsty," Adam protested.
"You may have water or tea until dinner," Darrell said.
"I'll wait," Adam said.
"Then you're not really thirsty," Darrell concluded.
"This steak is excellent," Rita proclaimed. "Where did you purchase it?"
"I bought a steer from Leon Medlin and had it butchered," Darrell said. "We used to raise our own, but I sold all of the livestock. When I divorced, I thought it was too much to ask Amy and Haden to take care of them, manage the house, and keep up their grades. I hadn't planned on having a garden, but Haden and Adam had a productive one. This corn came from their garden."
"I love the flavor grilling gives the corn," Rita said.
"It is delicious," Lacey agreed.
"I used to garden when my husband was alive," Rita said. "Since it's just me, I don't bother. I do have a couple of tomato plants."
"Could Justin spend the night?" Adam asked, after finishing off a generous slice of cake.
"He didn't bring a change of clothes for church tomorrow," Lacey said. "Besides, where would he sleep?"
"Haden could go get them for him, and Haden could sleep on the couch," Adam said.
"Oh he could, could he?" Haden laughed.
"Perry, would you go get his church clothes?" Adam pleaded.
"We're spending the night there," Perry said. "Why don't you go spend the night with Justin?"
"Could I, Dad?"
"I suppose so," Darrell agreed. "Take clothes for church and don't forget clean underwear and socks."
"I'll go get them ready for him or he'll have them all wrinkled," Amy volunteered.
"Don't forget his tooth brush," Haden reminded her.
"Adam, mind Betty," Darrell instructed when Perry and Lacey departed with the boys. "I love you."
"I love you too," Adam said, giving Darrell a hug.
"I think I'll go inside and read for a while," Haden said while winking at his sister.
"And I need to look over my notes from class again," Amy said, having gotten the message.
"Thanks, kids," Darrell said after Rita went home.
"You cooked the steaks, we didn't have much else to do," Amy said.
"That's not what I'm talking about, but thanks for the cake too," Darrell said.
"Oh, that," Amy smiled. "But you need to take her on a real date."
"We're going to dinner and a concert in Covington next weekend," Darrell smiled.
"Let us know what day, so one of us will be home with Adam," Amy said.
"You know, I've been thinking," Darrell said. "We need a bigger house."
"Why do we need a bigger house?" Amy questioned.
"Tonight is a good example," Darrell pointed out. "Haden was going to sleep on the couch, if Justin slept over."
"Dad, in less than two years I'll finish my nursing training, then Tony and I will likely be getting married," Amy said.
"What do you think, Haden?" Darrell asked.
"I don't mind occasionally giving up my bed," Haden admitted.
"But I can afford to add another room now," Darrell pointed out.
"Dad, we really don't need another room," Haden said.
'What great kids I have,' Darrell thought. He was happy that he could now financially provide for his family.
"Dad, it's for you," Amy said after answering the phone and handing it to Darrell interrupting his thoughts.
"This is Darrell ... I'm not surprised ... Yes, I think that would be the best option. I'll be by after work. Goodbye."
"That was about Ranger, wasn't it?" Haden asked with teary eyes.
"Yes, he didn't make it," Darrell said. "They said they could dispose of him, we could pick him up, or if we wanted, they could cremate him. I thought it would be best if we cremated him. We can pick up his ashes Monday. "
"But, Dad, we could bury him here," Haden protested.
"If that's what you really want, we can do that," Darrell said. "I was thinking it would be best if Adam didn't see the body."
"I didn't think of that," Haden agreed.
"I think that would be best," Amy agreed. "Maybe we could let Adam scatter his ashes around some of Ranger's favorite places."
"I think it would be best not telling him about Ranger until after church," Darrell said.
"Maybe we should skip going to the buffet after church and come back here for lunch," Amy suggested.
"That's a good idea," Darrell agreed.
"I'll call Debbie and Betty to let them know," Amy said. "Haden, you can call Kyle; and, Dad, I'm sure you'll want to call Rita."
"Tell Betty not to say anything about Ranger," Darrell said.
"Alright," Amy agreed.
"Rita suggested that we have a cookout at the creek after church," Darrell said after hanging up the phone. "She said she was on her way to the store and would pick up what we needed."
"I need to call Betty back," Amy said. "I haven't called Debbie yet."
"Rita said she would call everyone," Darrell said.
"Are we going to Covington to pick up Ranger?" Adam asked after church the next day.
"We're going home for lunch now," Darrell said without giving the full details.
"Well, when are we going?" Adam questioned.
"We'll talk about it when we get home," Darrell explained.
"Son, let's sit on the porch and chat for a minute," Darrell said upon arriving home. "You know that Ranger was very sick," Darrell said as he sat on the porch swing with his arm around Adam. "Ranger didn't make it. We'll go tomorrow to pick up his ashes. I'll pick you up after school."
"Why did he have to die?" Adam sobbed.
"You know he was old," Darrell began. "Remember that Ranger had a good life. Haden loved him since he was a puppy. Then when you came here, he had another person to love him. There'll never be another Ranger, but when you're ready we'll get you another dog."
"I don't want another dog," Adam wept. "I wanted Ranger to live."