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, a policeman is here," Adam said, rushing into the kitchen where Haden was cooking dinner.
"Yeah, he's driving a big police car," Jarred added.
When Haden answered the door, he was surprised to see a second car parked beside the police car... and there was a man in uniform at the door, and a woman stepping upon the porch. "Are you Haden Harrington?" The officer asked.
"I am," Haden answered.
"I'm Dan Archer with the Sparks Police Department," Dan said.
"And I'm Marissa Cowan with Child Protective Service," Marissa said, as she stepped up beside Dan. "I didn't realize Mr. Archer would be here at this time. I can come back and interview you later."
"I assume this is about Jon," Haden said.
"Yes, I'm here about Jonathon Workman," Marissa said.
"The same for me," Dan said.
"Wouldn't you be asking pretty much the same questions?" Haden asked.
"Probably," Dan said.
"Wouldn't it save time if you asked your questions together?" Haden proposed.
The questions asked were routine, and didn't take long for Haden and the boys to answer. The interviews were concluding when Rita arrived home.
"Hello, Marissa," Rita said. "I didn't expect a supervisor to be working cases."
"I have two workers out; one on maternity leave, and the other recovering from an auto accident," Marissa said. "I intended to call you, since I see no real conflict with your office handling the case. I already called the State office, and they agreed that if I saw no conflict after the interviews, we should transfer the case back to your office."
"I wanted to be sure there was no conflict, since it involved one of my sons," Rita said. "I'll try to find a temporary foster home for Jon. But we have a real shortage of foster parents."
"We have the same problem," Marissa said.
"It may be more than temporary foster care," Dan said. "The mom bolted and ran when Mr. Knight mentioned calling the police. We caught her a few miles from the school with a large quantity of meth. When we went to check her trailer house, her boyfriend was actually cooking meth. I'm sure she and her boyfriend will be put away for a very long time. This is her third offense for manufacturing meth; she's also on parole from Arkansas, and was supposed to have not left that state."
"What do you know about the dad?" Rita asked.
"He was killed about five years ago in a drug deal that went bad," Dan said. "Where's Jon now?"
"He's in the shelter for now," Rita explained.
"Excuse me, I need to finish cooking dinner," Haden said.
"I'll be on my way," Dan said.
"And I need to be on my way too," Marissa said. "Rita, if you need a temporary foster home, let me know. We don't have a surplus of foster homes, but I'll see what I can do."
"That may not be necessary," Rita said. "I have a couple who are interesting in fostering a child with the possibility of adoption, and they've already been approved as foster parents. And it sounds as though adoption may be a possibility with Jon, because of his mother's record."
"I hope so," Marissa said. "Call me if I can help."
"I'll be right back," Rita said, as she walked through the kitchen on her way to the garage, after ending an apparent phone call. "Do you have enough food for three more?"
"There's plenty, it's a big chicken casserole," Haden said.
"Where's your mom?" Darrell asked, when he arrived home from work.
"She said she'd be right back," Adam said, as he set the table with additional place settings. "I think it has something to do with Jon."
"Rita called me about that," Darrell said. "Son, I'm proud of you for not fighting him."
"Well, I was mad enough to hit him, but I knew better," Adam said.
"Dinner's ready," Haden said. "We'll eat as soon as Mom and whoever she's invited get here."
"I wondered why there were two extra plates set," Darrell said.
"There're actually three extras," Haden said. "Amy's having dinner with Tony."
"Why did you bring me here?" Jon asked, when he entered the kitchen and saw Adam and Haden.
"As I explained to you on the way here, you're going to a foster home, and we're meeting the foster parents here," Rita said. "I want all of you to forget there was an incident at school today. Do you understand what a foster home is?"
"Yeah, I've been there before," Jon said.
"Jon, your clothes are likely contaminated by chemicals," Rita said, to avoid mentioning that they were dirty and not in good shape. "Adam, would you go to your room and get a change of clothes for Jon when he showers. He can shower in the guest bathroom. Jon, when you shower, put your soiled clothes in this plastic bag."
"Jon, I'll show you where to shower," Adam said, when he returned with the clean clothes.
"Ray, Lois, come in," a surprised Haden said, when he answered the door.
"Where is he?" Lois asked immediately.
"He's in the shower," Rita explained. "We gave him some of Adam's clothes to wear, since his are likely contaminated by that meth lab; and frankly, they weren't very clean. We'll send another change with you for tomorrow. Sarah Smallwood will be your caseworker - she'll get you a voucher for new clothes. You'll also need to take him to see a doctor and dentist. Sarah will set that up for you too."
"How's he doing?" Ray asked.
"He seems okay now; but he was angry, confused, and upset earlier," Rita said. "Sarah will also arrange for counseling for him. She'll be contacting you tomorrow."
"Hi, Uncle Ray and Aunt Lois," Adam said, when he returned. "Are you going to foster Jon?"
"We are," Lois said. "I understand you two had a little problem this afternoon."
"Aw, we're over it," Adam said. "He apologized."
"That's good to hear," Rita said. "We'll eat as soon as Jon finishes his shower. Oh, here's Jon now. Jon, this is Ray and Lois Reed, your foster parents."
"Jon, will you be okay living with us?" Lois asked.
"I guess so ... I have to live some place," Jon said.
"Jon, we're pleased that you'll be living with us," Ray said. "And I promise Lois is a very good cook."
"Everyone, let's eat," Darrell said. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm hungry."
"Rita, this casserole is delicious," Lois said.
"It is, but the credit goes to Haden," Rita said. "He and Amy do a large portion of the cooking, and both are excellent cooks."
"It is good," Jon quietly stated. "I was really hungry."
"There's plenty," Haden said. "Would you like seconds?"
"If there's enough," Jon said.
"Take as much as you want," Rita said.
"That was so good, I think I'll have seconds too," Ray said, after Jon dished himself another helping.
"Why am I not surprised?" Lois said, as she chuckled.
Jon seemed to relax as he enjoyed what was likely the only good meal he'd had in days. Lois and Ray also seemed to bring about a relaxing atmosphere for him.
"It's getting late," Lois said, shortly after dinner. "We probably should get Jon to bed and ready for school tomorrow."
"I'm probably suspended," Jon said, as he hung his head.
"No, Jon, I talked to Mr. Knight, and he agreed not to suspend you," Rita said.
"Really?" Jon asked.
"Yes, but you'll have to stay out of trouble," Rita said. "Think you can do that?"
"I promise," Jon said. "I was mad at Mom, and took it out on that kid."
"That was Jarred; he lives two houses down," Rita said. "So, you'll be seeing a lot of him."
"Wait, I need to get Jon another change of clothes," Adam said, when the Reeds prepared to leave.
"I have some clothes at the trailer where we lived," Jon said.
"Oh, Jon, those are probably contaminated," Rita said. "You'll be getting new ones tomorrow."
"I don't think he'll need a change ... we'll stop by Walmart and get a few things for him," Lois said.
"Jon, are you going to be alright?" Rita asked.
"Oh yeah," Jon responded. "I've been in foster care before, and they seem nice."
"Aunt Lois and Uncle Ray are nice," Adam said.
"Thank you, Adam," Lois said. "I hope you boys can become friends."
"We're cool, right Adam?" Jon said.
"Right," Adam agreed.
One would have thought Jon and Adam were best friends at school the next day. He joined Adam and Justin for lunch, and talked enthusiastically about his new mom and dad. "They said I could call them mom and dad," he said. "I have a nice big room and my own bathroom. Mom said I could fix my room like I wanted it."
"When I was first fostered, I shared a room with Haden, but I didn't mind," Adam said.
"You're in foster care?" Jon asked in surprise.
"Not anymore," Adam said. "Dad fostered me, then adopted me. And after Mom and Dad got married, she adopted me too."
"Why did you share a room with Haden in that big house?" Jon asked.
"Well, when Mom and Dad got married, she sold her house, so they could add onto our house."
"Why were you in foster care?"
"My birth mom abandoned me, and I was hungry; so, I went to the first house I saw, and asked Haden for a peanut butter sandwich. To make a long story short, Mom was my caseworker and let Dad foster me."
"How did you get adopted?"
"My mom was arrested and got sent to prison for a long, long time."
"I hope my mom gets sent to prison for a long time too."
"Do you want to be adopted?"
"I sure do."
"Jarred's adopted too," Justin said.
"Really?" Jon asked in surprise.
"Yeah, his dad's cousin adopted him after his parents died," Adam said, as the bell rang for class.
Jon was all smiles when he saw Lois waiting to pick him up after school. "Adam, here are your clothes you loaned Jon." She called out. "We're going shopping for clothes now."
"How did it go with Jon today?" Haden asked, as the boys entered his vehicle.
"It went okay," Adam said. "Aunt Lois is taking him to buy new clothes now."
"Dial her number for me, and I'll ask them to dinner," Haden said. "She may not have time to cook tonight."
"I don't know her number," Adam said.
"Here, use my phone," Haden said. "Her number's in the directory."
It took some convincing, but Haden convinced Lois there would be plenty of the chicken and dumplings that Amy was making.
"Amy, the Reeds are coming to dinner," Adam announced, when he arrived home from school.
"There's plenty," Amy stated.
"Can I help?"
"Thank you, but I'm almost finished. If you have homework, you probably should do it, since we'll have company for dinner."
"I have a few math problems to work. I'm going to feed my dogs and cats, then I'll do them. But could I have a snack now?"
"There's plenty of fruit," Amy said. "Help yourself."
"Did you wash that apple?" Haden asked, when Adam grabbed an apple and headed out the door.
"I was going to wash it," Adam said, then turned toward the sink.
"Sure you were," Haden said with a chuckle.
"I hope Jon brings as much happiness to Ray and Lois as Adam has to our family," Amy said, after Adam left to feed his pets.
"There's no guarantee he'll be up for adoption."
"Mom said his dad's dead, and it's likely his mom will be locked up for many years."
"That's true, but he could have other relatives."
"Haden, according to Mom, he was in a non-relative foster home. Don't you think he would've been in the care of a relative, had a qualified one been available?"
"Haden, Bonnie and Monday are gone," Adam rushed into the house to announce.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. All the other horses are still there."
"Maybe Perry came and got them. I'll call and find out."
"What did he say?" Amy asked, after Haden completed the call.
"They closed on the house, so he came and got them," Haden said. "He was going to call us and let us know."
"He could've left them here," Adam said. "I'll miss them."
"He wants to start working with Monday," Haden explained. "Anyway, how would you like it if you had to go all the way to Perry's to see Dusty?"
"Well, I wouldn't --- but I'll still miss Bonnie and Monday. And Perry doesn't even have a barn yet."
"For now, he's storing their feed in the horse trailer, and the saddle in the garage. He doesn't know that Mom and Dad are getting a barn for him."
"Dad, Perry came and got Bonnie and Monday," Adam announced, when Darrell arrived home.
"They must have closed the loan on their place, then," Darrell surmised.
"They did," Haden said.
"It looks like we have another barn to put up," Darrell said.
"We're building Uncle Scott's this weekend," Haden reminded his dad.
"According to Jeff, they go up fast, if the poles are already set," Darrell said. "I'll have Jeff and his crew go set the poles. Then we could probably do both this weekend."
"Does Perry know you and Mom are doing this for him?" Amy asked.
"No, we wanted to surprise him," Darrell explained.
"How would Jeff know where Perry wants the barn?" Haden asked.
"I guess, I need to call Perry, then." Darrell admitted.
"What a long day," Rita said, when she arrived home. "We had to get the records on Jon from Arkansas. I'm surprised he was sent back to live with his mom. She skipped out on her last two drug tests, and he was still sent back home. A missed drug test is considered a positive one. He even told his case worker that he didn't want to go back home."
"Yeah, he said he hoped his mom was sent to prison for a long time, so Uncle Ray and Aunt Lois could adopt him," Adam said.
"They would certainly be great parents," Rita said. "They talked to me about the possibility of adoption a few months ago. We decided the quickest adoption would be to foster adopt. Children Jon's age and older are the most difficult ones to get adopted."
It was another large gathering when the 'family' gathered to build the two pole barns. Jon was introduced and made to feel welcome. It had been decided that Perry's barn would be first, then Scott's.
"We'll be the gofers," Adam told Jon.
"What's a gofer?" Jon asked.
"You'll see," Jarred said with a giggle.
There really wasn't much for the young boys to do but try and stay out of the way. They ended up playing with Dustin and sampling Rachel's freshly baked cookies. Shortly before noon, Perry's barn was complete.
The crew moved on to build Scott's barn. But before the men started, the ladies served lunch. Scott and Carol had borrowed folding tables and chairs from their church. The lunch served was a wide choice of everything from Grace's fried chicken to Lois' roast beef.
"Jeff, I have a gelding that I'd like to hire you to break for Jon," Ray said, as the group ate. "I normally break my own horses, but you're much better at gentle breaking them than I would be."
"I can do that," Jeff agreed. "I'll be delivering the horses to Scott and Carl in a few days; I'll pick him up then."
"I want to surprise Jon, so we'll not say anything just yet," Ray said.
After allowing enough time for their dinner to digest, the men decided it was time to get to work. The boys realized they weren't needed, and an improvised game of football began when Ethan brought out his football.
"Kyle, I thought you had a football game today," Paul said, as they observed the boys having fun.
"It's another away game, and I'm not on the travel team," Kyle explained. "Next week is a home game; I'll suit up then."
"How's Perry doing, working with the other coaches?" Ray asked.
"He seems to really enjoy it," Kyle said.
"He wanted to be here today, but he's away with the team," Darrell explained.
By early evening, the second barn was finished, and the ladies brought out the leftovers from the noon meal. There was more than enough to feed the hungry workers and energetic boys.
"Grandma, is there anymore of your strawberry shortcake left?" Adam asked.
"I'm sorry, Adam," Grace said. "You boys ate so much at lunch, there's none left."
"There are plenty of other desserts to choose from," Rita pointed out.
"The next time you come for a visit, I'll see that there's strawberry shortcake," Grace said, as she gave Adam a hug.
Adam and Justin remained best friends, and Jon became a good friend too. The trio was becoming the three musketeers. Most importantly, Jon was happy in his new home.
Jon was beyond himself when Jeff delivered his horse Blanket. He both laughed and cried when he was told that Blanket was his. Blanket, a beautiful Appaloosa gelding, had been purchased by Ray to be his preferred riding horse, but he decided he would be a perfect horse for Jon.
Ray was surprised to learn that Jon had learned to ride while in his previous foster home. Ray agreed to ride with Jon to show Blanket to his friends. Justin and Adam were riding their horses when they spotted Ray and Jon riding toward them.
"Hey, Jon, where did you get the horse?" Justin asked.
"Dad gave him to me," Jon said, as he gave Ray a big smile.
"He's beautiful," Adam said. "What's his name?"
"Blanket," Jon said. "But I didn't name him."
"Son, you can give him another name, if you don't like it," Ray said.
"No, Blanket is a good name," Jon said, while still not sure if he liked the name or not.
"It's a perfect name for him," Adam said. "The markings on his back do look like a blanket."
"Yeah, it's a good name," Justin agreed.
"Uncle Ray, could Jon ride with us?" Adam asked.
"Where are you riding?" Ray asked.
"Just in our pasture," Adam said.
"Alright," Ray agreed. "Is your dad up at the house? I'll go visit with him."
"Yeah, he's watching football with Justin's dad," Adam said. "We're going to Kyle's football game tonight. Hey, why don't you and Jon go too?"
"That's right, it is tonight," Ray said. "Yeah, we might go."
The boys were having fun riding when Ray rode out to get Jon. "Son, we need to get home and do our chores, if we're going to the game."
Jon actually enjoyed helping Ray with the chores. And he was surprised when his foster parents gave him an allowance. "You don't have to pay me," he said, upon learning about the allowance.
"You earned it," Ray assured him. "However, you do have to save half."
Most of the 'family' was in attendance at the game. Jarred was excited to see his brother in uniform. He was also happy to see his friend Wade.
It was a close game when the bad guys, the Commodores, went ahead 17-14 on a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. The Hornets were driving for the go ahead touchdown when the quarterback fumbled the ball on the 15 yard line. The Commodores took possession, and on the second play, the Hornet's backup safety pulled a hamstring. The starting safety was already out for an appendectomy. To his surprise, Kyle was sent in. The Commodores were driving downfield by running the ball and were on the Hornet's 31 yard line. Then with 45 seconds left, for some strange reason, the coach called a pass play. Kyle stepped in front of the receiver, intercepted the ball, and returned it for the winning touchdown.
Kyle was surprised when he was awarded the game ball; which Jarred insisted that he be allowed to keep in his room. Kyle agreed, with the understanding that it was not to be played with.
"You're home early," Haden said, when he arrived home from class a few days later and found Rita in the kitchen cooking dinner.
"I have a lot of comp time I need to take," Rita said. "You and Amy have been doing most of the cooking lately. Finally, we haven't had any crises in the past few days, so I decided to leave early and cook dinner for my family for a change.
"What are you making?"
"I'm making lasagna, since I haven't made it in a long time."
"Cool, I love your lasagna. I'll get it," Haden said, when the phone rang.
"Thank you, it's likely my office."
"Mom, it's Sarah Smallwood," Haden said, and handed the phone to Rita.
"Hi Sarah ... Really ... When did this happen? ... Thank you for letting them know. ... Bye. Haden, you're not going to believe this, but Jon's birth mom died."
"Really, what happened?"
"Sarah said it was a stroke. I imagine it's from all that meth use."
"Does this mean Ray and Lois can now adopt Jon?"
"It should speed things up. They've already retained Steve to handle the adoption. They were waiting for the birth mom's rights to be terminated. His grandparents had already been ruled out as foster parents."
"I wonder who that could be," Haden said, when the doorbell rang.
"There's no telling," Rita said.
"Hi, Lois," Haden said, when he opened the door.
"Hi, Haden, is Rita home?"
"She's in the kitchen, come on in."
"Rita, I guess you heard the news," Lois said.
"Yes, Sarah just now called."
"What will this mean for the adoption?"
"It should speed things up."
"That's what Ray said, but I can't help but worry that something will go wrong."
"These things are never 100%, but I don't foresee any problems."
"Lois, do you want me to pick up Jon when I go pick up the boys?" Haden asked.
"Thank you, Haden, but Ray is picking him up today," Lois said. "Rita, I don't know how we're going to tell Jon about his mom."
"Why don't you call Ray, have him come by, and you can have dinner with us," Rita said. "I made much more lasagna than we'll eat. Maybe I can help you with this. I've had to deal with things like this in the past."
"Thank you, but I can cook something" Lois argued. "We might have you help us when we tell Jon, though."
"I've made plenty," Rita countered. "After we eat, we'll tell Jon."
"Alright, but only if your family will eat with us tomorrow," Lois agreed.
"I'm going now to pick up the boys," Haden announced.
"Tell Adam what's going on, but not to say anything to Jon yet," Rita instructed Haden.
I'm worried that a relative will still show up and try to take Jon from us," Lois said.
"That's highly unlikely," Rita assured her. "None were found by Arkansas, and we haven't either."
"I'll be a nervous wreck until this adoption is final."
"I know - waiting is the hardest part."
"Does Adam ever ask about his birth mother?"
"He asked to see her when I was still his case worker. When we took him to see her, she was so hateful to him that he said he never wanted to see her again."
"Jon said pretty much the same thing when we talked to him about adopting him."
"He told Adam he wanted you and Ray to adopt him the next day after he went to live with you."
"He has brought more happiness to Ray and me than we ever hoped for. I don't think I told you, but Ray and I always wanted children. Since I have endometriosis, we were beginning to think we'd never have children when I became pregnant with Lane. He was three months old when he died of SIDS. Lane would be 16, had he lived. Now we have Jon, and we couldn't love him more if he were our own blood."
"I'm sorry that you lost your son. I can't imagine how awful that would be. It seems you needed Jon as much as he needed you. He seems to be adjusting well."
"The first few days after he came to live with us, he horded food in his room. We finally convinced him that he would never go hungry, as long as he lived with us. Oh, I guess I should call Ray and let him know we're having dinner with you."
If Jon suspected anything was wrong during dinner, he didn't show it. He seemed to enjoy every bite of Rita's lasagna. After dinner, Rita invited everyone to the den for coffee or hot chocolate.
"Son, sit over here between your mom and me," Ray said, when Jon started to sit next to Adam.
"Why, what's wrong?" Jon asked in concern.
"We need to talk to you about something," Lois said, as she put her arm around Jon.
"You're not sending me back to live with my mom, are you?" Jon asked in a near panic.
"No, Son, it isn't that," Ray said.
"Honey, I really don't know how to say this," Lois began. "But we got word today that your mom died of a stroke today."
After a few seconds of silence and teary eyes, Jon said, "I'm sorry she died, but I'm glad I'll never have to go back and live with her. Can I still get adopted?"
"The only thing that has changed is we don't have to terminate your birth mom's parental rights," Rita explained, "which should speed things up."