The Little Pipsqueak
© 2012 Matthew Templar
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 copyrighted by Matthew Templar, 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.
Dan's house was a big two story house that sat on a slope and I was sure it provided him with a daylight basement in back. There were also four kid's mountain bikes and two larger ten speeds in the driveway leaning up against the garage door. It looked like he was having a bike sale.
AJ and I walked up to the front door. Well, AJ trailed me by several feet, worried, I think, about what lay in store for him inside.
My knock was answered by a young Hispanic boy of eleven or twelve. He was dressed in a long, faded t-shirt over basketball shorts that covered his knees. There was a little sweat around his shirt collar. It was pretty clear that he was one of the bike riders.
"Um, is Mister, I mean, Deputy Perkins here? I'm . . ."
"Yes, sir. Please come in, Sergeant McGill. Pop is expecting you."
We were shown up a few steps that led us to a small landing, to the left of which was the living room, with the kitchen in front of us. As we entered there was another boy laying on his stomach in front of a large television, playing a car race game. A younger boy was standing near him watching the action.
"Pop, it's Sergeant McGill, just like you said."
"Thanks, Enrique. Tuck in your t-shirt please. Tim, AJ, nice to have you over. Come in and make yourself at home." Tim had been in a huge leather recliner, situated halfway between the living area and the kitchen, giving him the view of both rooms.
"Jacob, turn off the game and come and meet our guests," he admonished the race car driver on the floor.
"Alright," said the redhead with some disdain in his voice. But he did switch off the game, put the controller away and stood with the other boy. Jacob was about 13 or 14 and the other boy, with chestnut hair and sparkling brown eyes was maybe nine or ten at most and much shorter than the redhead.
"Jacob! That's not how you were taught. Apologize please." Dan sounded firm but surprisingly calm as he corrected his, well, I wasn't sure yet what relation they were.
Jacob walked to the front of Dan's chair and started to speak.
"Not to me, you silly kid," Dan laughed, "To Sergeant McGill over there."
The other two boys laughed as Jacob blushed a beautiful crimson to go with his red hair, but he was smiling too. He walked up to me.
"Sorry, sir. We really are happy for you and uh, AJ to be here, really."
"Apology accepted, young man," I said as I held out my hand to shake his.
He looked up at me and beamed, maybe because of the 'young man' or me just accepting him. He reached and shook my hand, though it was pretty weak.
"Whoa," I said, getting into the spirit of things. "Hold firm and get a grip, like you mean it. That's what the person on the other end wants to feel. It speaks of confidence." I reached again and he gave me a good shake that time.
"Except if you're shaking the hand of a lady, Jacob, okay?" Dan added.
"Yes, sir," said Jacob still smiling at me.
"Boys, I'd like you to meet Sergeant Tim McGill and his foster son, AJ." Dan was now standing amongst us.
"Tim and AJ, I'd like you to meet the clan, my foster sons. You've met Jacob, he's fourteen. This is Enrique, he's twelve," he said of the boy that had answered the door. "Next we have Denver, who will be nine in two weeks?" he asked of the boy.
"Twelve days, sir. Pleased to meet you both," he said shaking our hands.
AJ was still somewhat behind me, but his hand came out when he was approached by one of the boys to shake his hand.
Just then we heard a toilet flush and in walked another twelve or thirteen year old boy, wearing glasses, with his curly black hair sticking up from the book he'd been reading. He had beautiful, healthy coffee colored skin. He practically bumped into AJ and me.
"Mel, what's got into you, son? We have guests; were you reading in the bathroom again?"
Snickers, until they all got the look from Dan.
"Oops. Sorry, sir," he answered.
That got a burst of laughter out of the other three boys.
"Well, please put the book down and welcome our guests."
"Yes, sir. I'm Melvin, but please call me Mel. I'm pleased to meet you. Dan said you and AJ were coming over." He reached out to shake our hands.
I was certainly impressed by their manners. They weren't crisp and too proper, but for young boys, they were just great.
Questions were popping into my mind as fast as possible. I almost found myself looking for pen and paper to take notes.
"Boys," said Dan, "Why don't you guys show AJ your games and see if he'd like to play one with you. You are also free to talk about yourselves if you want, but AJ doesn't have to if he doesn't want to. Okay?"
"Four 'Yes, sirs' in unison echoed throughout the room. Three of them walked over toward the television, Jacob motioning AJ to come as well. Denver stayed behind, however, and walked up to Dan.
"But 'member, I'm grounded from the games for two more days? What should I do?" he asked, somewhat hopeful.
"Well, what do you think you could do under the circumstances, Denver?"
"Um, well, I could just look on until we got ta talkin', then I could join in too. 'Kay?"
"Very okay, Denver. Good choices. You might want to get your sketchbook out and show AJ some of your drawings. You're a very talented artist."
Denver's smile grew from the time Dan started to encourage him until he mentioned the pictures. He could have lit up the room, he was so proud.
"Hug?" asked Dan, with his arms out.
How could the smile have gotten bigger? Denver was in those arms and got one tight squeeze before he was off with the others, happy as could be.
I must have looked as confused as I was.
"Let's go into the kitchen so we can talk. I'll explain everything in there, a little bit farther from the boys' ears."
After we got hot drinks and sat down, Dan began to explain.
"I found myself in a position of responsibility as a deputy where I came upon needy kids quite often. It tore my heart out from the time that I was mostly over what happened to my family (talking of the massacre of his family when he and his brother were very young.) I was helpless to be any good to these kids so I started to take courses toward social work with an emphasis on kids. As soon as I finished with a bachelor's degree I went into the service for four years, where I got my taste for protecting people, not just the kids.
"When I got back, I was thrilled that my brother had gotten married, had a child and was happy with his life. But it all left me with an emptiness; I wanted some of that kind of happiness too.
"It wasn't long after that that I picked up a young boy that was homeless and had been abused by his stepfather. He was such a sweet kid so I decided to give him a home. I almost didn't tell anyone, much like you, I might add," he said with a chuckle.
I was probably turning red with some guilt when he simply waved it off and continued.
"So, I saw this kid, Ralph was his name, through his court appearances. I found out that the court was going to place him in an institution upstate because they had no one locally to take in kids.
"I made a plea for the custody of the boy and, to my good fortune, I received my first ward of the court.
"Since then, I've had maybe sixty boys go through here and quite a few interns from the college."
"Interns live here?" I asked.
"Yes, well, I'm still a deputy and I need to have someone home for the boys, especially if I'm called out or work late. We have a pretty strict schedule, as you can imagine, trying to move all of us around," he said.
"We rely on a tight schedule so that we can all get the things done that we need to start and end our day, but we also want to have good quality time together. There's so much to talk about and these guys are always ready to do something to burn off their unending energy. You probably saw our bikes outside?"
"But it goes beyond that, Tim. All of these kids have been abused, either emotionally, physically or both and as a result most have become abusers themselves. The local state and county officials have established strict boundary limitations they are required to adhere to. It simply means we're a bit restricted as to where I can take the kids. Like nowhere that there are groups of small kids playing; that sort of thing. Plus, some of them can't even visit their families yet. It's all court driven. But if it wasn't for this place, I know these kids would be in a juvenile delinquent center somewhere. I couldn't stomach that. These guys are too precious, too important for that, and they are certainly not delinquents."
"Pop, can we have some juice or something?" asked Enrique, kind of sheepishly.
"Yes, but Jacob has to pour it for you, remember?"
"Yes, sir," he answered with a big grin before he turned and called to his older foster brother.
Soon, Jacob poured out drinks from a jug in the fridge, filling five glasses half full.
Then the boys each took one and walked over to look out of the sliding glass doors to a nice deck or just stand and talk as they finished their drinks while still on the tile kitchen floor. Another rule, evidently. Most of the boys thanked Jacob, except Denver and AJ.
"Denver, did you forget something," asked Dan.
He looked around and then at Dan and said, "No. I don't think so."
"Did you appreciate what Jacob did for you, pouring your drink?"
"Oh," said Denver, after which he went up to Jacob and thanked him, after which Jacob ruffled his hair.
AJ happened to be looking at us as Dan coached Denver. After Denver went up to Jacob I tossed my head toward Jacob to indicate to AJ to do the same. He looked puzzled for only a second until he heard Denver thank Jacob, then he got his own sheepish look and went up to Jacob to thank him. I loved it. It was so easy . . . looking.
When they were all done with their drinks and had stuck their glasses in the dishwasher they went back into the living room. It was fun just sitting there and watching them interact and socialize while they drank and looked outside or while the other boys helped AJ learn about their games. Every once in a while AJ would look over and see me smile, which he would return and then turn back to the other boys with some enthusiasm. I imagined it was the first time he'd been in that situation. There was no threat from any of the boys, just good natured, clean fun.
"Now, let's see, where was I?" asked Dan, as if he didn't know. "Okay, I know. It's not like these kids are criminals or anything although living as some had been, it wouldn't have taken long to groom them."
"Groom them?" I asked.
"You know, where someone they look up to talks to them, plays in ways that lead them to where they are hooked, or trapped more likely, into the ways of the other kids that are turning into gang members and hoodlums, even addicts."
"Yeah, like AJ might have become if he lived that long."
"And there are those too who won't survive against their peers or, even worse, against others taking advantage of them, as most of them have already experienced.
Denver approached and tried to get between me and his foster dad.
"Denver, it's rude to walk between us while we're talking. It's also rude to listen in when you aren't invited." I was impressed that Dan's demeanor and voice sounded calm and patient; traits I needed to work on for my boy.
Dan even took the boy into his lap as he 'scolded' him.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it and I didn't hear anything; really I didn't." He leaned his head against his foster dad.
"It's okay this time, little one. Now, what can we do for you?" asked Dan patiently.
"You said I should show AJ some of my drawings. Can I go get them?"
"May I go get them?" corrected Dan.
Denver sat up, looking slightly confused. "Okay, but do you know where they are?"
I think we both almost choked to death trying to keep our mouths tightly sealed until the moment passed. He was so cute.
"I meant you should use the word 'may' when you are asking permission, like now. You should use the word 'can' when you're asking if you are able to do something. Do you understand?"
He had the biggest grin, complete with adorable dimples in each cheek.
"Uh huh! So, can I?" he asked, jumping from Dan's lap.
"Go on, you little po-dunk," said Dan swinging at the boy as he pranced off.
"Is it wise to hold them like that, Dan, if they've had abuse issues before?"
He leaned in a bit closer to me to say, "Denver is our newest child, Tim. He's only been here a few weeks. He isn't here with the issues that the others have. His father shot his mother while the boy was hiding in a closet in the next room. He had to leave the house and get help all by himself after he heard his father shoot himself. He's waiting to see if relatives on the coast want to take him. I swear, if they don't I just might."
Dan had this far away look as his eyes followed Denver down the hallway.
End of Chapter Eight