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
The water and electricity were turned on at the Reed Community Center, and the water source heat pump was installed. The volunteer workers were now working in a comfortable warm building.
"Ray, what do you want to do about the wall dividing the two classrooms?" Jeff asked, as the group worked one evening.
"I like the idea of having two meeting rooms," Ray said. "However, on the other hand, it's sometimes nice to have a larger room."
"If we have the money, we could install a folding wall," Jeff said.
"I like that idea," Ray said. "Do you have any idea of the cost?"
"I can't say for sure, but as a rough guess, I'd say between $3,500 and $5,000," Jeff said.
"We bought one for the middle school a while back, and it was $3,000," Steve said. "And that was for a room a little smaller than this one."
"That's right, you're on the school board," Ray said. "Jeff, get an estimate, and if we can do it for $5,000 or less, I'll pay for it, even if we don't raise enough money."
"I'll go half the cost, Ray," Steve volunteered.
"Go ahead and make the change in the plans, then," Ray said. "The wall was coming down anyway."
"I noticed the doors to the restrooms were taken down, is there a reason for that?" Ray asked.
"Yes," Jeff said. "They aren't wide enough to be handicapped accessible. We're enlarging them, and we also have to build a ramp for wheelchairs."
"I'll talk to Charley at Sparks Ready Mix and see if he'll donate the concrete for the ramp," Darrell said. "He owes me that since I donated the drywall for his church expansion."
"I knew we'd find everyone here," Grace said, as she and Walter entered the building. "I have some exciting news; we got the stove. We have five days to pick it up."
"I'll send one of our trucks and a couple of guys to pick it up," Darrell said. "I'm sure pleased we got it."
"Yes, that really helps with the budget," Roger Durham said.
"How are we on the budget?" Ray asked.
"It's about to take a hit," Roger said. "Jeff mentioned that the water heater needs to be replaced."
"When we had the propane tank filled, I asked for an inspection of the water heater," Jeff said. "The bad news is it isn't safe."
"Is there a way to tie a water heater into the heat pump or the solar panels?" Steve asked.
"I'm sure there is," Darrell said. "I'll do some research on it."
"Since we're going green, we may as well go green with a water heater," Ray said.
"Do we really need the propane tank, then?" Paul questioned.
"We sure do," Grace quickly responded. "The cook stove is gas."
"That stove from the school is natural gas and will need to be converted to propane, though," Walter pointed out.
"I'll get the propane company to do that," Jeff said. "We'll need to have the stove inspected anyway."
"Hey, Dad, there's a merry-go-round out there," Jon, with the other boys, rushed in to say.
"Yeah, and there're swings and a slide too," Jarred added.
"Yeah, I know," Ray admitted. "Stay off of it though ... I don't know how safe it is."
"The next warm weekend I'll look it over," Walter said. "It would be nice to have a playground for the kids."
"Will this building be ready in time for our Thanksgiving gathering?" Betty asked.
"It should be," Jeff said.
"How do we reserve it?" Rita asked.
"I guess I hadn't thought that far in advance," Ray admitted.
"When we have the funds, we need to hire a director," Steve said. "Meanwhile, we need to ask for a volunteer director."
"Jim and I could do it," Liz volunteered. "We live right next door anyway. However, I would like to have a sign or something asking the people to call the house if I'm not over here. I'd hate to sit here all day when I have things I could be doing at my house."
"We could install a wireless doorbell that rings at your house," Jeff offered. "Once we get a phone installed, you can put it on call forward and receive calls at your house."
"That'd work," Liz said. "I'd like to be able to lock the gate, if I have to be away from the house."
"You could also use one of those cordless phones with two receivers," Roger suggested. "That way, Liz would know if a call is for the center."
"Ray, why don't we convert the coat room into an office, rather than taking down the walls?" Jeff asked. "That would save money over the original plan of building a new office space."
"Why didn't I think of that?" Ray questioned himself.
"We're remodeling our bank in Wilson and have some office furniture available," Paul said. "I'll pick out the best and send it over."
"I think you'll need a computer and printer too," Debbie mentioned.
"I'm sure we can find enough money in the budget to purchase them," Roger said. "We may as well get a printer that can also copy and fax too."
"It appears we need to have another board meeting," Ray said. "I'll post a notice for Thursday, unless there're objections?"
"Mom, I need new athletic shoes," Adam stated during dinner the next evening.
"We just got you new ones when school started, and you already have at least three other pairs," Rita said.
"I know, but I want to go out for basketball, and Coach said we have to wear ones that are only used in the gym," Adam explained. "He said they just refinished the floor."
"Don't you have to have a physical before you play?" Amy asked.
"Oh yeah, I forgot about that," Adam admitted.
"Good grief, Adam, thanks for the letting us know so soon," Rita said.
"You're welcome," Adam said with a mischievous grin.
"Haden, I'll give you my credit card, if you don't mind taking him to purchase shoes," Rita said.
"I'm sure we'll have to get them from the shoe store downtown," Haden said. "The ones at Walmart aren't of the quality needed for basketball."
"I'll call in the morning and see when we can get you in to see Dr. Ortiz," Rita said.
"Adam, next time, don't wait until the last minute," Darrell warned.
"I won't," Adam promised. "But it really isn't my fault, Coach saw me in the gym and said I was one of the taller boys, and asked me to go out for basketball."
"Since I don't have Tuesday or Thursday classes this semester, I can take him either day for his doctor's appointment," Haden offered.
"I can always take him, if you can't," Darrell said.
"I'll ask Lois to pick up the other boys the day you take him," Rita said.
"Why are you stopping here?" Adam asked when Haden suddenly stopped in front of the court house after purchasing his brother's shoes.
"That's Mom coming out of the court house," Haden explained.
"I don't see her," Adam said.
"No, not our mom," Haden said. "It's my birth mom."
"What's she doing here in Sparks?" Adam questioned.
"I'm sure it isn't good. I'm going by the store and tell Dad."
"I'm sure she's up to no good," Darrell said upon learning his ex-wife was back in town.
"She was with a man I've never seen before," Haden said.
"No telling who that could be," Darrell said. "Since she was coming out of the court house, it most likely was an attorney. I'll alert Steve tonight before the board meeting."
"You won't need to wait," Adam said. "There he is now."
"Darrell, you're not going to believe this," Steve said.
"I'm sure it has something to do with Brenda being in town," Darrell said.
"How'd you know she's in town?" Steve asked.
"The boys just saw her coming out of the court house," Darrell said.
"Yeah, I saw her and Jerry Baker coming out of the court clerk's office," Steve said.
"Is that ...?" Haden began to ask if it was Perry's biological father.
"Yes, it is," Darrell said.
"Is what?" Adam questioned.
"An attorney from Dallas," Darrell said.
"It appears that Brenda Baker filed to gain half of your assets," Steve said, with emphasize on the name Baker.
"Do I need to worry?" Darrell asked.
"I don't think so," Steve said. "She already agreed to the divorce settlement. If you recall, Jerry wasn't all that bright, and he probably wouldn't have got into a law school had his parents not had all that money."
"I'll trust you to see that she doesn't get anything," Darrell said. "How much is this going to cost me?"
"After we win this, I'll file against them for filing a frivolous lawsuit," Steve said with a wide smile. Well, I need to get back to the office ... I'll see you at the board meeting tonight."
Needless to say, Rita wasn't happy to hear that Brenda had filed the lawsuit to gain half of the property, including the lumber company. "Is she crazy or what?" She questioned. "You bought the lumber company after the divorce, and I sold my house to help pay for the expansion of this house."
"Hon, don't worry," Darrell assured his wife. "Steve said she doesn't have a chance in hell of winning."
"How much is this going to cost us, though?"
"Steve said it's a frivolous lawsuit, and he'll recover our cost."
"That's good to hear ... now, would you find the rest of the family for dinner. We need to eat and get out to the center."
"Mom, this is really good," Adam said. "What is it?"
"Thank you, Son," Rita said. "It's eggplant parmesan."
Ray called the meeting to order and got right down to business. Reports were given, but the big one was by Roger, who reported that the $20,000 goal had been surpassed by $1,051 ... however, more would be needed to cover the cost overages. Martin Guinn reported that he had written several grant requests, and was hopeful they would be funded. One was to start a seniors' nutrition program, and another one was for a handicap accessible van to transport seniors. "I'm also searching for funding to pay a fulltime director," Martin said.
"It so happens that the next agenda item is to appoint a volunteer director," Ray said. "Liz and Jim Hollingsworth have volunteered."
"Correction, Liz volunteered us," Jim said, bringing on a big laugh.
Liz and Jim were approved by the board, and Ray continued, "Speaking of volunteers, there's usually someone working here every evening, and I want to thank each of you. As you can see, we're making the building handicapped accessible. You probably noticed the forms for a ramp. Sparks Ready Mix is donating the concrete, and will be pouring that tomorrow. Also, the restrooms have been made handicapped accessible. I'll ask Jeff to now give a more complete report, and answer any questions you may have."
"I believe the project will be completed sooner than expected," Jeff began. "If you got here before dark, you may have noticed the building has been painted and looks great. I know it's a brick building, but there was still a lot of painting to be done. The majority of the work left is in the kitchen. We still need to install the dishwasher, the icemaker, and the range hood. The cabinets need painting, and that's pretty much it except for a few minor things. Are there questions?"
"Why didn't you just buy new kitchen cabinets?" Herb Lancaster asked.
"We would have gone over budget," Jeff explained. "Once the old ones are painted, they'll look as good as new ones."
"I have another question," Herb said. "Why are we spending all that money to make this handicapped accessible? If we don't get funding, there can't be a senior nutrition program."
"The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that the building be brought up to code," Steve answered for Jeff.
"Herb, shut up, you old tightwad," Ingrid Lancaster said. "You didn't even donate."
"I intend to," Herb said with some awkwardness.
"Well, then get that checkbook out and write a check," Ingrid ordered.
"You may have also noticed that we converted the old coat room to an office," Jeff said.
"And we need to thank Paul Miller for donating the office furniture," Ray said.
"As many of you know, this was a two room school," Jeff continued. "We took that wall down and will be adding a moveable partition soon. This will allow more options for meetings."
"And speaking of meetings," Ray said. "If anyone wants to rent the building for gatherings, it's available except for Thanksgiving. That day's already taken."
"How much will that cost?" Becky Lawson asked.
"The board will be voting on that shortly," Ray said. "I suggest there be a $75.00 fee with $25.00 refundable, if the building is left in the condition in which it was."
"I would have two different fees," Grace suggested. "I'd charge more if the kitchen is used, since it's a lot of work to clean it up."
"I like that idea," Ray said. "Maybe charge $50.00 for the kitchen, and refund half, if it is properly cleaned."
"Haden, will you be able to take Adam for his physical tomorrow?" Rita asked on the drive home.
"It depends on the time," Haden said.
"Oh, I suppose it would," Rita said with a chuckle. "It's at 3:45."
"Yeah, I can do it," Haden said.
"Okay, Adam, I need you to go to the restroom and pee in this cup," Dr. Ortiz said during the exam.
"For real?" Adam questioned.
"For real," Dr. Ortiz said with a chuckle. "Your mom said a complete physical, and that's part of it. You can give the cup to Sandra when you finish, and she'll put a label on it."
"And wash your hands when you finish," Haden said.
"Haden, I detected a heart murmur during the exam," Dr. Ortiz said, after Adam left the room.
"Oh my gosh," Haden said in a panic.
"It's probably what we call an innocent murmur," Dr. Ortiz explained. "That means it's probably nothing. However, since he's playing basketball, I'm going to arrange for him to see a pediatric cardiologist in Covington. I'll do that before you leave."
"Haden, do I need to get one of them things that guys wear in sports?" Adam asked on the way home after his physical.
"Don't you mean one of those things? Haden corrected Adam's grammar.
"That's what I just asked."
"It's correct to say one of those, not one of them."
"Now you sound like Amy ... well, do I need one?"
"It's a jockstrap," Haden said while unable to suppress a laugh. "I doubt you need one unless your coach said to get one."
"Oh, so that's why they call guys jocks?"
"That's the reason, as far as I know."
"Does Kyle wear one?"
"I don't know, you'll have to ask him."
"You should know ... he's your boyfriend."
"How do you know he's my boyfriend?"
"I might be young, but I'm not dumb."
"So, you know that I'm gay?"
"Yep, I do."
"Are you okay with that?"
"You're my brother ... besides, everyone else if fine with it, so I should be too."
"You're alright ... I'm glad you're my brother."
"Yeah, I know."
Haden was relieved that his brother knew he was gay. He hadn't been sure how or when he'd tell Adam.
"Haden, thank you for taking Adam to the doctor," Rita said, when she arrived home from work. "Where is he?"
"He's in his room doing his homework," Haden said. "Mom, Dr. Ortiz heard a heart murmur and made an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist in Covington."
"He what?" Rita asked in surprise.
"He said it was probably an innocent murmur," Haden explained.
"How could a murmur be innocent?" Rita questioned.
"It means it's probably nothing," Amy quickly explained as she began dropping dumplings into the chicken and broth mixture.
"That's right," Haden agreed. "Dr. Ortiz is sending him to the cardiologist in Covington, because Adam's playing basketball. He's to see a Dr. Chandler Friday at one ... here's the card with the information. I have classes on Friday, so you or Dad will have to take him."
"I'm sure we'll both want to go," Rita said. "Does Adam know?"
"Nope, I'm leaving that to you and Dad," Haden said.
"I hear your dad now," Rita said. "We'll tell him about Adam before we eat and while he's still in his room."
"Is it serious?" Darrell asked upon learning about Adam's heart murmur.
"Dr. Ortiz said it's probably an innocent murmur," Haden said.
"That means it's probably nothing," Amy explained.
"We'll tell Adam later," Rita said. "I don't want him to worry about it. He's seeing a pediatric cardiologist in Covington Friday."
"Dinner's ready," Amy said. "Haden, would you go up and get Adam?"
"Oh boy, chicken and dumplings," Adam said as he sat at the table. "Dad, are we working at the center tonight?"
"Not tonight, Son," Darrell said. "There're volunteers there painting."
"Haden, you sent me to my room early to do my homework when I didn't need to," Adam complained.
"Well, it's done and out of the way, isn't it?" Rita asked while passing the coleslaw to Adam.
"Yeah," Adam reluctantly agreed.
Rita and Darrell decided not to tell Adam about his appointment with Dr. Chandler and simply pick him up at school.
"What's wrong?" He questioned when called to the principal's office and saw his parents.
"Nothing's wrong, Honey," Rita said. "As part of your physical for basketball, you need to see another doctor."
"Oh, okay," Adam said without further questions.
"Adam Harrington has a one o'clock appointment to see Dr. Chandler," Rita said as they were checking Adam in for his appointment.
"Why am I seeing a vet?" Adam questioned.
"You're not seeing a vet," Darrell said. "Why do you think you are?"
"We took Ranger to see Dr. Chandler before he died," Adam said.
"Oh, Dr. Chandler's brother is a vet," the receptionist said with a laugh.
"I'm pretty sure it's nothing, but I want him to have a cardiac sonogram," Dr. Chandler said after the examination.
"Will it hurt?" Adam questioned.
"Not at all," Dr. Chandler explained. "Let's go down the hall, I want to observe as the technologist performs the exam."
"This may be a little cold," Randi, the technologist explained as she smeared the ultrasound gel on Adam's chest.
"That is cold," Adam said as Randi placed the transducer on his chest.
"Just as I thought," Dr. Chandler said as he observed the examination. "It's nothing. Adam, it's safe for you to play basketball."
"Cool," Adam said, as he began to button his shirt.
"Hold on, let me wipe that gel off first," Randi said.
"What a relief," Rita said on the drive home.
"Mom, your phone is ringing," Adam said.
"Goodness, it is," Rita said. "Hello ... Yes, we're on our way home now ... Dr. Chandler said it was nothing and that he can play basketball ... Yes, we're relieved ... I'll be cooking something quick and easy, Haden and Amy have classes ... Oh Lois, we wouldn't want to impose ... Alright, if you insist. Guys, Lois invited us to have dinner with them."
"Lois, this is the best chicken fried steak I've ever had," Amy said as the two families enjoyed a meal together.
"Yes, it is," Rita agreed. "And thank you for inviting us.
"We're pleased to have you," Lois said.
"Adam, when do you start basketball practice?" Ray asked.
"It started last week, but I couldn't practice until after my physical," Adam said.
"Will we need to pick you up later?" Haden asked.
"Nope," Adam said. "I'm just switching from Physical Education to Basketball."
"When's your first game?" Jon asked.
"Not until after our Christmas break," Adam said.
"Be sure and let us know when you have your first game," Lois said.
"I will," Adam promised.
"Jon, why don't you try out for the team?" Adam asked.
"I'd like to, but I help Dad with the chores," Jon said.
"Son, if you want to play basketball, don't worry about the chores," Ray said.
"I wish I could do both," Jon said.
"We get out of practice at our regular time," Adam pointed out. "You could still do both. Talk to Coach and let him know you want to play."
"I will," Jon said. "Do you think Justin will want to play?"
"We can ask him," Adam said.
"How's it going out at the Center?" Rita asked.
"Walter and I checked out the playground equipment yesterday evening," Ray said. "We decided it was safe except for the slide. I went out there today and took it down."
"How much will a new one cost?" Darrell asked.
"Walter and I are going to build a tube slide," Ray said. "Walter saw one that was made using a large diameter plastic drainage pipe."
"Shoot we have those at the store," Darrell stated. "Also, Jeff said that the work at the center should be completed in about five days."
"That's great news," Ray said. "The water heater was installed today. It's solar with propane backup."
"Have you thought about having an open house?" Amy asked.
"Amy, that's a great idea," Lois said. "Ray, when do you want to have the open house?"
"It'll be another week before the movable partition arrives," Ray said. "Maybe the weekend after that would be good."
Adam, Jon, and Justin had played some basketball in their gym class, but they were still learning the rules and strategies. In their gym class, there was time for just goofing off, but basketball was an hour of working and learning.
"You guys are quiet," Haden observed when he picked the boys up after their basketball practice.
"Man, Coach worked our butts off," Adam said.
"He sure did," Justin agreed.
"Then you're ready to quit?" Haden asked with a smile.
"Not at all, it was fun," Adam quickly responded.
"Yeah, it was," Jon agreed.
"Coach said we have a lot to learn," Justin said.
"He wasn't talking about just us," Adam said. "He was talking about the entire team."
The community center open house was a huge success. Reservations were made for various functions, and additional donations were made in excess of $5,000. Channel 10 news was there to cover the open house, as well as both Covington and Sparks newspapers.
"Could I invite Uncle George to have Thanksgiving with us?" Adam asked during a family dinner.
"I invited him already, and he has plans for Thanksgiving," Rita explained.
"At least he won't be alone," Adam said.
Most of the schools in the state closed the entire week for Thanksgiving, and Sparks was one of them. After much pleading the boys had convinced their parents to allow them to ride in Ray's pasture. Steve and Linda decided that Jarred was too young to join the other boys. Jarred wasn't all that disappointed, since he was spending time with his best friend Wade.
"You make sure your phone is charged when you go riding," Rita cautioned before leaving for work.
"I will, Mom," Adam agreed.
"And remember, there's to be no racing," Rita added.
"Alright, Mom, we'll be safe and careful," Adam said.
"I'll have lunch ready around noon," Amy said before Adam departed.
"Oh, Jon said that Aunt Lois was making sack lunches for us," Adam said.
Adam was surprised to see his Uncle George when he arrived home from his ride. "Uncle George, Mom said you already had plans for Thanksgiving," Adam said after receiving a hug from his great-uncle.
"I did, it was to come and see you," George said as he gave Adam a second hug. "Your parents agreed to let me surprise you."
"Are you staying here with us this time?" Adam asked.
"Your mother insisted," George said. "So I'm sleeping in the den."
"Cool, but you could have my room."
"No, I'll be comfortable in the den."
Grace arrived early to get the turkey in the oven for the Thanksgiving gathering. It was a large turkey and would require time to bake. Once the turkey was in the oven, she began the task of preparing the dressing and other sides. By 10:00, the others began arriving with additional food.
A large screen TV had been donated to the center, but the kids opted to test the playground rather than watch TV. Of course, the adults were pleased they could watch Thanksgiving Day football. Amy, Lacey, and Joe's wife Lisa had decorated the center.
When the turkey was done, Grace sent Haden to gather the youngsters from the playground. They were ready to eat as were the adults. Everyone eagerly dug in as soon as Walter finished the blessing.
"Grace, this is the best dressing I've ever had," George said.
"Thank you George," Grace said.
"I told you Grandma made the best dressing ever," Adam proclaimed. "Well, everyone in my family is a good cook."
"Dustin really likes Grandma's dressing too," Adam said as he observed him eating.
"Yeah, look at him eat," Justin agreed.
"He's sure grown since I last saw him," George said. "And he's walking too."
"Yeah, and difficult to keep up with," Perry said with pride.
"He's going to have a little cousin," Lisa announced.
"Oh my God!" Betty remarked. "Why didn't you tell us?"
"We just did," Joe said, after hugging his mother.
"Let's go out to the playground again," Wade said after eating, since he wasn't interested in the adult conversation.
"We have to help clear the table first," Adam said.
"Go on," Lois said. "There're enough of us to do it."
"Thank you, Aunt Lois," Adam said.
"This is a great place for a large group like this," George said, as the adults enjoyed their dessert and coffee.
"Yes, it was originally a school, and it went back to Ray, since his family donated the land," Steve explained. "Ray donated the building, and we were able to remodel it with volunteer labor and donations."
"We hope to eventually offer meals for senior citizens," Debbie said.
"If I'm not being too nosey, how's the money situation now?" George asked.
"We have just a little left for utilities and such for now," Ray said. "But we've applied for grants, and hope to get some funding that way."
"I'd like to donate $10,000 to help you get by until you get funding," George offered, as he began writing a check."
"But you don't even live in this community," Ray said. "That's a lot of money."
"Well, my great-nephew lives here with his family, and I think I'd like to live here when I retire," George said. "And I can afford the donation."
"You'd be welcome to be a part of this community," Paul said.