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
Adam would have gone every day to see his nephew, if he could. But it wasn't in the works this Saturday. Amy was still in Covington, Darrell had gone to take care of a personnel problem at work, and Rita had shopping to do. It was the type of late spring morning that Haden enjoyed. After breakfast, he took his Kindle and a cup of coffee to the front porch to enjoy the perfect Saturday morning.
"Will you be around for a while?" Rita came out of the house to ask Haden.
"I plan to be, why do you ask?"
"I need to go to Walmart and pick up the things on our shopping list, and Adam's over at Justin's. I don't want to take a chance on his coming home and be here alone."
"Don't worry, take all the time you need."
Haden continued reading until his coffee cup was empty and he went inside for a refill. When he returned, Adam was sitting on the steps with an arm around each dog ... a sure sign he was upset about something.
"I thought you were going to spend some time with Justin this morning," Haden said.
"Justin's an asshole."
"I thought Justin was your best friend."
"Do you want to talk about it?
"Alright, let me know, if you do," Haden said, and picked up his Kindle to continue reading.
"He treated me like shit, just because his cousin's there."
"Alright, what happened?" Haden asked as he put his Kindle down.
"I'm - was his best friend, and he acted like I wasn't even there."
"Maybe he hasn't seen his cousin in a while. Where does his cousin live?"
"Well, he sees you all the time, but doesn't see his cousin that often."
"That doesn't mean he has to treat me like crap."
"What did Justin say or do?"
"Nothing, he just sorta ignored me."
"Okay, think about it ... Justin sees you almost every day. On the other hand, he rarely sees his cousin."
"I'm thinking ... I'm thinking."
"That's good; you don't want to lose a best friend because you're jealous."
"I'm not jealous. Let's go riding."
"We'll go this afternoon; Kyle and Jared, and maybe Steve are coming out to go riding, then. Why don't you ask Justin and his cousin to go too?"
"His name's Colton, and I'll think about it."
"There's Mom, let's go help carry things inside."
"I'll meet you there. I have to go pee first."
"Did Adam get hungry and come home?" Rita asked when Haden went to help carry the bags in.
"His feelings were hurt, because he thought Justin was ignoring him since his cousin's there."
"Oh, I thought they were coming next weekend."
"I didn't know Justin had a cousin living in Florida."
"Colton's mother, Alice, and Betty are actually first cousins."
"Then Colton and Justin are second cousins, or would it be first cousins once removed?"
"I get confused about that too, but I think it would be second cousins. I think first cousins once removed would be Betty's relationship to Colton."
"Mom, Betty's on the phone," Adam yelled.
"Tell her I'll be right there," Rita said.
"Go on, Adam and I'll carry these in," Haden said.
"Betty invited us over for a cookout," Rita said as she began helping put the groceries away. "I suggested we have it here and let the kids swim."
"Yeah, that'd be fun," Adam said as he put the bag of potatoes in the pantry.
"Are you over being angry with Justin?" Rita asked.
"Haden, you told her?"
"Of course I did," Haden said. "After all, she's your mother."
"Well?" Rita questioned.
"Yeah, Haden and I talked," Adam said with a grin. "Did you forget to buy cat food?"
"Did you put it on the list?" Rita asked.
"I sure did," Adam said.
"You're right," Rita said, after checking the list. "It isn't checked off. I must have just overlooked it. Why don't you call your dad and ask him to bring it?"
"When you call, ask him if he wants to go riding with us," Haden said.
"I caught Dad as he was leaving," Adam said, after making the call. "He'll stop and get the cat food and be right home."
"Did you ask him about going riding?" Haden asked.
"You know he's going," Adam said. "Mom, why don't you get a horse and go riding with us sometimes?"
"I'd hate to spend money on a horse for no more than I'd ride," Rita said. "Haden, would you go to the garden and get some fresh lettuce? I'll make some bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado sandwiches."
"I'll go get the lettuce," Adam offered.
"I've never had a BLT with avocado," Haden admitted.
"You can have just the BLT, if you'd rather," Rita said.
"No, I love avocados," Haden said.
"Could I help with the sandwiches?" Haden asked.
"You can peel and slice the avocado, and slice the tomato while I fry the bacon," Rita said. "Haden, thank you for talking to Adam today. You're the perfect big brother to him."
"He really is a good kid," Haden said. "I can't imagine our family without him."
"I found this rabbit in the garden stealing lettuce," Darrell said when he and Adam entered the room.
"Well, mama rabbit sent me out there," Adam countered.
"Mom, this is one of the best BLT I've ever had," Haden said, after the first bite of his sandwich.
"Honey, this is a great sandwich," Darrell agreed.
"It is good," Adam said. "Dad, don't you think Mom should get a horse too?"
"That's up to her," Darrell said.
"That would be a lot of money for no more than I'd ride," Rita said.
"If you want to ride some, I think we could afford another horse," Darrell argued.
"I'll mull it over," Rita said.
"Mom, Jeff often takes in rescue horses," Haden said. "He nurses them back to health, then sells them for what he has invested."
"I'd like to think we could give a good home to a rescue horse," Rita said.
"Could we go riding now?" Adam asked, after finishing his sandwich.
"Call Justin and ask if they want to come over," Darrell said.
"He said they couldn't come, because Colton wouldn't have a horse to ride," Adam said, after making the call.
"Colton could ride Bonnie," Haden suggested.
"What would we do with Monday?" Adam asked.
"She could follow along," Darrell suggested. "Why don't you call Justin back? I assume Grant would be going too. Haden, call Jeff and ask if he wants to go riding - and we can talk to him about a horse for your mom. Maybe he could bring another horse for Colton to ride, and we could leave Bonnie here."
"Jeff's on his way with an extra horse," Haden said. "He's bringing a gentle horse, and the saddle his niece and nephew use. Steve, Kyle, and Jared are on their way too. I wonder if Paul and his boys want to come over and ride."
"Why don't you call and find out?" Darrell said.
"Don't ride too long," Rita cautioned. "Remember, Betty's having a cookout at the picnic area."
By the time everyone arrived, it was a good size group. Colton was a little apprehensive about riding at first, but later began to relax and enjoy the ride. Adam had apparently gotten over being upset with Justin, and was actually friendly with Colton.
Darrell rode up next to Jeff and said, "Hey, Jeff, Rita's thinking about getting a horse. If you get a rescue horse, let us know."
"Apache, the horse that Colton's riding, isn't a rescue horse; but I got him for next to nothing," Jeff said. "The guy that had him tried to break him, but he didn't know what he was doing, and eventually gave up and let me have him for $200. I can let you have him for $400. He's gently broke, as you can see."
"He's a nice-looking Appaloosa, but I'd better let Rita decide," Darrell said. "We're having a cookout, stay and eat with us, and we can let Rita make a decision."
"Jeff, are you swimming with us?" Kyle asked as they arrived back at the barn.
"I didn't bring a swim suit," Jeff said.
"You can use one of mine," Haden offered.
"Thanks, I love to swim," Jeff said.
"Why don't you younger guys go help bring things down for the cookout," Darrell said, after the riders arrived back at the barn. "We old guys will unsaddle and take care of the horses."
"Alright," Grant said and started walking toward the house laughing.
"Would you look at that, the oldest guy among us thinks he's young," Darrell said, also laughing.
"I think I'll take our horses on home and unsaddle them there," Grant said, still laughing over his attempt at a joke.
"The boys and I'll ride ours on home too," Paul said. "We'll be back soon."
"Don't forget to bring your swim suits," Haden reminded them.
"Darrell, you need one of those carts that you tow behind your lawn tractor," Steve said when he saw all the items the young people were carrying from the house.
"I don't need one of those - I have boys," Darrell joked as the boys arrived.
"You have boys for what?" Haden asked.
"To tote things from the house down here," Darrell said. "Steve suggested that I look into getting a lawn cart that we can tow with the lawn tractor."
"Hey, that's a great idea," Haden agreed.
"We all would benefit from it," Steve said. "We could all chip in and buy one."
"No, they're not that expensive, especially at my cost," Darrell said. "I'll bring one home Monday."
"Well, is anyone going swimming?" Adam asked as he stripped down to his swimming suit.
"I am," Justin said as he too stripped to his swimming suit.
"Me too," Colton said.
"Jared, are you swimming with us?" Adam asked.
"I didn't bring a swim suit," Jared said.
"You can wear my old one," Adam said. "It's too small for me, but should fit you. Let's go get it."
Soon the swimming hole was filled with swimmers, young and old. Haden and Adam had hung a rope from a large branch of the big oak tree that grew near the water; and Adam was the first to swing from the rope and drop into the water. Soon, there was a line of boys waiting their turns to do the same. Even Jared took turns swinging and dropping into the water.
"Who climbed the tree to attach the rope?" Darrell asked.
"I did," Haden said.
"Well, I wanted to, but Haden wouldn't let me," Adam proclaimed.
"Good for you, Haden," Rita said.
"Mom, I could've done it," Adam argued.
"And you could've fallen out of the tree too," Rita countered.
"Yeah, right into the water," Adam maintained.
"Adam, look at where the rope is tied - it's at least ten feet higher than the end of the rope," Darrell said.
"Well, I could've done it," Adam mumbled.
"All you need now is a diving board," Tony said.
"I could build one," Jeff said.
"How much would you charge?" Darrell asked.
"You provide the material, and I'll do it free," Jeff offered.
"No, I'd pay for your labor," Darrell said.
"I wouldn't want any pay," Jeff said. "I swim here too."
"Let's compromise - do the work while clocked in on company time," Darrell offered.
"I'll help you with it, if you can do it when I'm not in class," Haden put forward.
"I could help too," Kyle offered.
"I'll help too," Tony also offered.
"It's a deal," Jeff agreed. "I think we should build a deck out to the deeper water, then build the diving board on the deck. It would make for a safer dive."
"Go for it," Darrell said.
"Hey, there's Amy," Adam said, and ran to greet his sister.
"Tony, go on," Haden said. "We know you want to go greet her too."
"Where's Dustin?" Adam asked after giving Amy a hug.
"He's home with his parents," Amy said, then gave Tony a kiss.
"Are you back home now?" Rita asked when Amy arrived holding Adam's and Tony's hands.
"Yeah, Lacey said she could manage just fine now," Amy said.
"Thank you, Amy, for helping her out," Betty said.
"It was my pleasure," Amy said with a smile. "Dustin's a good baby, so I enjoyed it."
"What's this I hear about Perry getting his discharge from the army?" Steve asked.
"Yes, his discharge is Wednesday," Amy said.
"What are his plans?" Steve asked.
"He'll be going to college and working part-time for Uncle Scott in his insurance office," Amy said.
"I hope they can get by on that?" Grant said.
"They should, since Lacey will be teaching and Perry will be getting about $500 a month in veterans' disability," Amy explained. "He also has his VA education benefits. He isn't sure how much that will be, but he thinks it's plenty to pay his tuition, books, and other expenses."
"I didn't know about the disability," Grant admitted.
"He'll get a 30% disability for the amputation of his toes," Amy said. "He hadn't told anyone, but he also had an insurance policy and gets $50,000 for the loss of his toes. But they may decide to use that money to buy a house. "
"Well, he deserves that and more," Alice said. "I hope I get to see Dustin and meet Perry before we go home."
"They'll be here Sunday for church," Amy said. "Grandma, Grandpa, Uncle Scott, Aunt Julie, and their families will be here too."
"I'd be pleased to host lunch after church," Debbie said.
"Oh, there'll be so many of us, why don't we have it here?" Rita suggested. "Jeff, you're invited too."
"Thank you, it sounds like fun," Jeff said. "Should I bring horses?"
"I don't think so," Darrell said. "The kids can swim instead."
"Jeff, that's a nice-looking horse you brought today," Rita said.
"Thanks, are you interested in buying him?"
"I'm not sure I'd ride enough to invest in a horse. How much do you want for him?
"I'd take $400."
"Really? Now, how much do you really want?"
"Like I said, I'd take $400 - I got him for $200 and broke him to ride."
"What do you think, Darrell?"
"It's your decision," Darrell said.
"Jeff, is he gentle?" Rita wanted to know.
"Colton rode him."
"Goodness, we're becoming horse poor; but I'll take him."
Yay, Mom," Adam said.
"Betty, Linda, and Debbie, you need to think about getting a horse now too," Rita said. "I don't want to be the only female with a horse."
"I know we can't afford another horse right now," Betty admitted.
"What if we got you a rescue horse?" Jeff asked.
"How much would that cost?" Betty asked.
"You'd just pay any vet bills," Jeff explained.
"If you hear of one, let us know," Grant said.
"I'll do that," Jeff said. "You'd have to nurse the horse back to health, but I could help you with that."
"Betty, remember when we rode double on Uncle Charley's nag?" Alice asked.
"I sure do, and you fell off."
"So did you"
"No, you fell off and pulled me off as you fell. We were lucky that it was a grassy soft spot."
"You know, I might want a horse after we get moved," Linda said. "Debbie, what about you?"
"I haven't been on a horse since I was a young girl - I'd have to think about it," Debbie said.
"It's getting late, so we'd better get back home," Paul said.
"I should be going too," Jeff said. "Rita, I'll leave Apache here, if you're sure you want him."
"Apache ... that's a good name for him," Rita said. "Sure, I want him."
"I'll give you a check tomorrow when you come to the cookout," Darrell said. "Come to our church tomorrow, if you don't have a church."
"Thank you, but I have a church," Jeff said. "We're Presbyterians."
"Oh, then you must know Ellen Nottingham," Rita said. "She was my neighbor before Darrell and I were married."
"I sure do," Jeff acknowledged. "She's a very nice lady."
"She sure is," Rita agreed.
"We'll be home from church about noon, and probably eat at 1:00," Darrell said."
"What should I bring?"
"Bring your appetite," Rita said. "And why don't you bring your parents?"
"Mom will insist that she bring something," Jeff said.
"Amy, what did your grandma say about food?" Rita asked. "She usually organizes the food."
"You're not going to believe this, but Grandma said we should try potluck this time."
"Did everybody hear that?" Rita asked. "It's potluck tomorrow."
"I invited everyone to attend church with us tomorrow, and they accepted," Amy said as they walked back to the house. "Grandma was reluctant at first. Her church is a fundamentalist church, and she was afraid she'd make a mistake and embarrass everyone."
"How did you convince her?" Darrell asked.
"Well, I went to the Methodist church with Aunt Julie last Sunday, and I asked Grandma if she'd ever gone there. When she said yes, I told her that our services were very similar."
The church was full the next day, and it took a while to introduce all the visitors. After the introductions, Adam said, "You forgot my new nephew Dustin."
"He's my nephew too," Justin said, not wanting to be left out.
"Well, Amy, you were right; it was a lot like Julie's church," Grace said as they left the church.
"Mom, I told you not to worry," Julie said.
"Hush," Grace said with a laugh. "I like your priest - he gave a sermon that made sense."
"We all love Father Jensen," Rita said.
Extra tables and chairs were brought out to accommodate the large number of friends and family for the cookout. There appeared to be enough food to feed a small army.
"Well, there's Ellen with Jeff and his parents," Rita remarked.
"Rita, I hope I'm not imposing," Ellen said when she greeted Rita. "Jeff insisted that I come."
"I'm pleased that he did," Rita said as she gave Ellen a hug. "I should've invited you myself. This big wonderful family keeps me busy ... and I love it."
"I'd like to introduce you to my parents, Judy and Don Sellers," Jeff said.
"We're pleased you could come," Rita said. "Jeff's like one of the family."
"He thinks a lot of your family too," Judy remarked.
"Mom, could we eat now?" Adam asked.
"Adam, I swear, you're always hungry," Rita said with a smile.
"Yeah, and I want to go swimming after we eat," Adam said.
"Remember, you have to wait 30 minutes after eating before swimming," Rita said.
Because blood going to your digestive tract after eating steals the blood needed to keep your arms and legs pumping during swimming," Rita explained.
"Actually, that's a myth," Amy said.
"Is it really?" Rita asked. "I've heard that all of my life."
"So have I," Grace said.
"I heard the same thing," Judy said.
"Mom ..." Adam said.
"Alright, we'll eat, then you guys can go swimming," Rita said.
After eating, the swimming hole was full of boys, and a few adults. "It's nice to see everyone enjoying themselves," Ellen said. "And Rita, I'm so happy for you that you have this big happy family."
"Grandma, your phone's ringing," Amy said.
"Goodness, I thought it was someone else's," Grace said as she answered her phone. "Hello ... Oh hello, Reverend Moss ... Oh, no, we didn't miss church. We went to the Episcopal Church in Sparks with my son-in-law and his family. We have a new great-grandson ... Oh really? Now you listen to me, Reverend Moss! You're not going to tell me where I can or can't go to church ... Well, you can take your Bible and stick it up your ass."
"Mother!" Julie exclaimed.
"Grandma said ass," Wade giggled.
"Well, he tried to tell me that I might go to hell if I went to the Episcopal Church," Grace said. It was obvious that Grace was still angry.
"I told you I didn't like that new preacher," Walter said.
"Well, I agree with you now," Grace said. "He even said last week that all homosexuals would burn in hell. I didn't say anything to him, but now I wish I had. My Aunt Lucille was a lesbian, and you couldn't have found a better person. Of course back then, nobody mentioned that she was a lesbian. They just called her and her partner spinsters. But as I grew older, I came to realize that they loved each other."
"You're welcome to come to our church," Linda said.
"Thank you," Grace said. "I'll probably go to Julie's church, since it's closer, but I'd love to visit your church again."
"Don't I get a say?" Walter asked with a smile.
"Sure you do, as long as it's my choice," Grace said and laughed.
"Do you see how she treats me?" Walter asked as he gave his wife a peck on the cheek.
"Someone's hungry," Lacey said when Dustin let out a cry. "I'll take him up to the house and let him nurse."
"Oh honey, I wouldn't do that," Debbie said. "I breastfed Tony; I just made sure I was covered. I can show you how I did it, if you like."
"Thank you," Lacey said. "I'd appreciate that."
"I work with mothers who have trouble with breastfeeding in public," Linda said. "I tell them they can cover if they're embarrassed, also that breastfeeding in natural."
"He's probably wet too," Betty said.
"Oh, I'm sure of that," Lacey said.
"Does Perry help with him?" Darrell asked.
"Yes, I do," Perry spoke up.
"I can vouch for that," Amy said. "I've seen him change diapers, even the poopy ones. And he even bathes him."
"Lacey, I'm pleased to see that you're breastfeeding," Grace said. "I think breastfed babies are healthier."
"I plan to continue, at least until I go to work," Lacey said.
"You could always pump," Linda said. "A lot of working mothers do that."
"I'll visit with you about that," Lacey said.
"Lacey, do you have a baby sitter when you start working?" Julie asked.
"As a matter of fact, I do," Lacey said. "The principal at the school gave me the name of the lady who cared for her kids. She'll do it for only $100 a week. That's a lot less than a daycare would be. And she isn't far from the school."
"If I were retired, I'd be happy to care for him while you work," Grace said. "He's a sweet baby."
"He is until he's hungry or wet," Perry said as he smiled at his nursing son.
"Like father, like son," Darrell joked.
"Haden, what are your plans for this week?" Jeff asked.
"Kyle and I are going to the Gulf Shores for a few days," Haden said. "Why do you ask?"
"I thought we might start the deck and diving board."
"We'll be back next week, but I start classes, then. However, I don't have classes on Fridays, nor do Kyle and Tony."
"We'll start that Friday, then."
The group lingered around the swimming hole until evening, when Adam said, "Mom, I'm hungry."
"Son, there's plenty of food left," Rita said. "Help yourself."
Soon all of the boys were filling their plates, and the adults followed suit. After all had eaten, Haden began cleaning up the area when Grace began to help. "Grandma, we'll do it," he said as Amy, Perry, Kyle, Jeff, and Tony joined in.
"Goodness, you young people are going to spoil me," Grace said. "This gives me faith in our youth."
"Everybody's invited to the house for coffee," Rita said as the group prepared to leave.
"Thank you, but we need to get Dustin home," Lacey said.
Most declined, but Grace said, "I could sure use a cup of coffee."
"Did Adam go to bed already?" Amy later asked.
"Yes, he was exhausted," Rita said. "He definitely enjoyed himself today."
"He isn't the only one," Grace said. "I don't know when I've enjoyed myself more."
"Well, you were pretty upset when your preacher called you," Amy pointed out.
"Oh, that asshole really pissed me off," Grace admitted.
"Grandma, thank you for sharing about your aunt," Haden said.
"I believe God made each of us as we are," Grace said. "Reverend Moss said that being gay is a choice. I never believed that for a minute. I know that Aunt Lucille didn't choose to be a lesbian."
"Grandma, I'm not out to everybody ... but I'm gay," Haden confessed.
"Are you really?" Grace asked. "I would never have guessed - would you, Walter?"
"Not that it matters, but no, I wouldn't have," Walter admitted.
"Thank you Grandma and Grandpa," Haden said. "I love you."
"We love you too," Grace said, and gave her grandson a hug. "Is Kyle your boyfriend?"
"Yes, he is," Haden admitted. "As I said, we're not out to everyone. I think it's best to keep quiet about it. I haven't even told Adam yet. I'm not sure he's old enough to understand."
"As you once told me, don't underestimate Adam," Amy said.
"Adam's a great kid," Walter said. "I enjoy being around him. And don't worry about us saying anything about you being gay. It's nobody's business."
"I guess I should tell Uncle Scott and Aunt Julie," Haden said.
"You don't have to worry about them," Grace said. "They're both very liberal, and so are their spouses."
"Grace, you don't have to work tomorrow, but I do," Walter said. "We need to get on the road."
"Alright," Grace said. "Darrell and Rita, I want to thank you for making us feel welcome."
"You're always welcome here," Rita said.
"You know, Rita, it's strange that we were never allowed to be part of this family when Brenda was around," Grace reflected. "But now, thanks to you and Darrell, we have our family back."
"And the kids have their grandparents," Darrell said.
"It's hard to believe that we're great-grandparents," Grace said.
"Grace, are you going, or not?" Walter questioned.
"Oh hush," Grace said with a smile. "Good night all."
"Adam, you need to finish your breakfast ... we need to go," Darrell said the next morning.
"Did you forget that you're going to church camp?" Darrell asked. "Haden's going to the Gulf Shores and Amy's volunteering at Senior Solutions."
"I guess I did," Adam admitted.
"I'll pick you up on my way home," Darrell said.
"Then can we go riding?" Adam asked.
"Adam, we'll discuss it later," Darrell said.
"Why not now?"
"Because I need to get to work," Darrell said. "Now go brush your teeth and let's go."
"Oh, I told Betty that we'd take Justin to church camp and pick him up," Rita said.
"It's a good thing you told me, or I wouldn't have known," Darrell said before kissing Rita goodbye.
"Well, did you two have a good time?" Amy asked with a knowing smile when Haden and Kyle returned from their mini-vacation.
"We sure did," Kyle answered.
"It was beautiful, and the condo was fabulous," Haden added.
Although Haden didn't mind school, he didn't like summer classes. He saved his easier classes for summer; therefore, he'd have more free time. He was only taking the required sociology, speech, and health education classes. Haden thought nine credit hours were plenty for the summer. By the fall semester, he'd have earned enough hours to be a junior. And he would actually graduate the same year as Kyle.