The Little Pipsqueak

© 2012-2013 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.

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Chapter Thirty-nine

Water in its clear softness fills whatever hole it
finds. It is not skeptical or distrusting. It does not
say this gully is too deep or that field is too open.
Like water, the miracle of love is that it covers
whatever it touches, making the touched thing grow
while leaving no traces of its touch.
                --Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

The rain pounded on the house. The wind beat the sides until I thought it would come through. Thunder cracked as if it were right outside, ready to strike its next victim. It had been one of the worst nights I could remember, as far as summer storms go. I got up twice because the storm that attacked the house made the whole place rumble and shake. I was sure the house was going to come off of its foundation and we'd find ourselves standing in a heap of rubble, cold and wet. I had promised my boy that would never happen to him again.

The two older boys were with Jeffy's great aunt and uncle for a few days. It had been planned for some time and they apologized for taking part of our family, but I guess it was okay. No big deal, right? After all, they couldn't know that our event would be scheduled while they were gone.

I checked on AJ both times that I got up and I found him sound asleep the first time, though the second time he was restless and tossing and turning. I wanted to wake him from his ordeal and ease whatever was in his thoughts.

But, selfishly, I mostly wanted to be close to him and ask him again if the next day was what he really wanted. I had no doubts and I was sure he had none either; I guess I just wanted to hear him say it again. I loved the look on his face when he told me that it was his best dream ever.

I went back to bed when he settled down and we both finally slept. But I woke with a start. The power had gone off so it was rather late when I woke up and we still had to eat, get cleaned up and dressed and be in town by ten o'clock. I never slept in, rarely, even when I returned from Iraq, but that morning of all mornings ...

"AJ, AJ, time to wake up. This is the day. We need to get downtown in a hurry and we're running late," I told him as I shook his shoulder.

He turned away from me and groaned. I'm sure he hadn't got the rest he needed. I knew I hadn't. Still, he looked so wonderful to me. How he had changed in so many ways to a young man to be proud of. He had gone through so much to get to this place.

This place. Our place. Everything I had was his. There would be no taking that away anymore. I had no desire to hold anything back from him or the other boys for that matter.

I sat on the edge of his bed and stroked his soft hair. Did I hear a purr?

He was still such a little boy, in some ways I could only guess, but some, like the dancing dolls on the pink bench that was still against the wall in his room; like chasing the birds and squirrels in the yard, were precious memories for me.

I thought of all the things his hard years had kept from him and I wanted to replace every single one of them, every missed experience, every hug and snuggle that he didn't even know he'd missed out on until he came to live with me.

It wasn't that long ago either, but it seemed like a lifetime in some ways. We'd both changed so much, with patience and kindness and love. It was a love that sought no boundaries or conditions. A love that poured itself on both of us constantly and reminded us of what a true family is all about, especially with the wonderful addition of Jeffy and Elliot. A family that would be bound together, that very day, in the very legal sense, as we had been nurturing it to grow with us in the very real sense.

But it wouldn't happen if I couldn't get the boy awake!

"AJ, I want us to be a family. This is that day. It's just you and me, son, and I'd like it to be as relaxing as it can be. To do that we need to get our butts in gear and hightail it outta here."

Loving, kind, yet firm. See? I was learning.

So, I grabbed his blankets and sheet and pulled them totally off of him!

"HEY!" he said, sitting straight up and laughing. "I was really awake. I just liked the feeling of you playin' with my hair. That's nice."

"Thank you. I love you too. Now, skedaddle to the shower and then get dressed. I'll lay out your clothes. Then come on down and we'll have a quick breakfast. And be sure to dry yourself this time!"

I could hear the rain pelting our roof, trying to test the shingles' job of keeping us dry. It had barely let up from the storm that had lasted all night long.

When AJ came down his hair was a mess but I quickly resolved that with a brush which I kept in the drawer under the hall mirror. He was sitting as I brushed, stuffing bacon in his mouth and drinking his milk.

As I served the scrambled eggs the way he liked them he brought up a sore subject for me.

"I guess I don't get why no one can come, Dad. School's out and stuff so where's Stewart? I know his parents hafta work prob'ly. Dan's kids don't have school but I s'pose Dan is busy with his sheriff stuff. Is Great Grampa going to go with us?"

I sighed. It was a big letdown for me, too. I tried to sound positive for my boy, though.

"Linda Sue Cottington will be there, AJ, with Tyler, I hope and of course, our favorite Judge Davenport. I don't know why Jeb can't make it. Oh, Cybill, Jeffy's lawyer, said she was on her way north to see her sister. I guess we have to realize that it came on such short notice; really short. Judge Davenport hurried things along so well that evidently no one could make plans. I'm sorry, son. I really wanted everyone there too."

"Even Jeffy and Elliot aren't around, huh?"

"Nope, when Jeffy found out his uncle and aunt lived close by; he made arrangements to see them yesterday and today. Elliot was invited too."

"Yeah, I know. That's great. It's just that ..." started AJ, sounding very discouraged, like how I felt.

Then he straightened up and smiled one of his best smiles at me. I couldn't help but return it. It was that kind of a smile. He could just bring me out of the depths of my self-pity in a heartbeat and his smile.

"Dad, I really wanted 'em all there, but the most important person I want there is my dad. I want you as my real dad so bad I don't care if it's just the judge and us. I'm glad Ms. Cottington will be there too. I like her. And I hope that means Tyler can come."

I returned his smile and tried to take on his positive attitude as I sat in front of him and tied his tie. I loved him so much. One big hug was what we needed and it didn't take me much to instigate it.

A crack of thunder and an instantaneous flash brought us back to our place in time and I realized we had to hurry.

"Come on, boy. Times a wastin'!" I shouted as I ran to get our coats. As I joined AJ with his arms held out for him to slip into his overcoat, I noticed how sharp he looked in his dress clothes. Nice blue slacks and light blue shirt, a neat tie he'd picked out with swirls of blues and reds and even some silver sparkle threads. His jacket was almost the same shade of blue as his slacks but had a pattern of light blue lines running through it, just to make it look a bit more casual. He was a good looking boy.

"You look terrific, son. You look really nice all dolled up like that."

"Thanks, Dad. And, uh, I really like the shoes too."

We raced for the truck amidst the rain and were pretty wet by the time we'd run the few steps and jumped inside.

As we drove in silence, each of us drawn into our own thoughts, I realized how often I heard AJ say thank you anymore. I remembered that it seemed like it took forever to get him to say it at first. Now, he's always thanking people and is one polite kid. I was so proud of how far he had come in such a short time.

He looked like he was somewhere disconnected from that particular time as we traveled toward the city. His eyes seemed to drift and then, finally, they teared up and overflowed down his face.

He looked over at me as he wiped his eyes with his sleeve and laughed, self-consciously.

"Are you okay?"

"Yeah, I was just thinking of stuff from way back when I was a little kid."

"AJ, you're still a little kid with a whole lifetime ahead of you. Only, you're my little kid, who I am so proud of," I said, squeezing his leg a little.

"I know and that's what made me cry. I can't make the life back then be better 'cause it's in the past. And when I thought about it some I decided that if I could change it, I might not have met you. I guess I had to go through all that icky crap to get to the good stuff, huh? And that makes it all worth it."

Damn. I hate it when the defroster is blowing in my eyes. It makes them tear up something fierce, making it really hard to see.

"See what I mean, Dad? You can be sad about all the bad stuff that's happened, but the good stuff, like where we are today, wouldn't o' happened like it has."

"Are you sure you're only thirteen?"

"He he he, yup."

You would think that all the water tanks up in the heavens would have been drained by the time we got to the courthouse. But we had to run a good block from where I had to park to the steps of the building. I hadn't seen so many cars downtown in a long time. There was even a school bus, for heaven's sake. I could only imagine how happy those kids were to go on a special, summer school field trip and have it rain all day.

Just as we got to the steps of the courthouse, the heavens opened up their blanket of clouds, the rain stopped and the sun poured down. It would be a glorious day weather-wise as well! We even slowed down to look up, then at each other, laugh at the wonder of it all and then, holding hands, ran up those steps two at a time. Yes, a glorious day!

We scooted up to the fourth floor and, when we came out of the elevator, it seemed like the guards knew we were coming. It felt weird. One of them stood there with a smile on his face while the other said to wait while he asked Ms. Cottington to come out. He just opened the door and stuck his head in.

When Linda Sue came out, we'd taken off our outer coats and were shaking them off. As the door swung closed I heard,

"All rise! The honorable ..."

"George, be still. You'll wake the dead." That was Judge Davenport.

"Something else going on in there before us, Linda Sue?"

"No, no, Tim. My, you two look so handsome. Oh, I am so proud for this day to finally be here. And it couldn't be a better day, could it?"

I found it hard to match her enthusiasm, thinking of the storm and no friends there, but I was glad I was with AJ and her for our most wanted event.

"I'm glad to be here, 'course, ma'am, but I sure miss having some friends here too. Dad said we could invite anyone, but ..."

"Hey, I'll bet they are all wishing you the most spectacular day of your lives, both of you. And Tyler is right inside. Now, let's go in and put on a happy face and do this wonderful chore. I can't wait!" She was almost bubbling over.

I tried my best to be as excited as she because I wanted this time to be special for AJ more than anything.

God, I loved him so.

"Come on, then," she insisted as she signaled the guards and they each grabbed a door handle.

I took a deep breath; I heard AJ do the same and then smile up at me with red eyes and take my hand. Then the doors were pulled open and ...

Every single friend, no, I think every single person I knew, was in that courtroom!

"Dad! That school bus we saw," shouted AJ, pointing to practically his whole class, including Stewart, his teacher, Ms. Spear and even the principal, Mr. Tremble. They were all waving and pointing, as excited as AJ was becoming.

"Even Brad and Devon, Dad!"

Stewart's parents were sitting behind his class and on the other side of the room were Dan and the whole Perkins clan, including Ralph. They were all waving as well. I saw Cybill and Lenore beside them all. There were even a few people we didn't know or at least we didn't know we knew them at the time.

And in the front row was our own Jebediah Harding, sitting as smug as ever, trying very hard not to let any of the smile escape that I could tell was building from within.

"Great Grampa!" shouted AJ, creating the smile we so loved on the old man.

Next to Jeb was our own Tyler Cottington. His smile was just as precious. I'm sure all the pomp was taxing him something fierce. I couldn't imagine all the new things going through the boy's brain right then.

Sitting at the table beyond the gate where we would be sitting in a moment were Jeffy and Elliot, too. Both were dressed so spiffy and had the greatest smiles attached.

"Wow!" said my son, well, minutes away from being my son, for real.

"Of all the nerve, filling my poor little courtroom with this rowdy bunch of people," started the judge. "Well, I never ... In fact," he paused, and took a deep breath, "I've never seen such an outpouring of so many friends in one place at one time. I think we have in our midst two of the finest people in our county, heck, state maybe. What do you all think?"

There was applause and shouts and cheers from everyone. I wasn't seeing so well again and was afraid to move my feet for fear of them falling out from under me. I have never been so moved in my life. Then AJ grabbed hold around my waist and sobbed against my side.

I rubbed my boy's back and finally knelt down and held up his face to mine. I kissed his cheek, wet with new tears and said,

"You are the special one that deserves all this. This is what you've been waiting for all your life and you didn't even know it, did you?"

He just slowly shook his head, trying to make a smile come through the tears.


"Okay, order in my courtroom or I'll have you all thrown out. Ha! Yeah, right!" said the judge, as the place began to quiet down.

"The bad news is, we have to wait on one other family," the judge continued. "The good news is, then we can get this shebang done with so those two, no three, uh, no four, wait, five now? can be a family and we can all go and have lunch."

"Oh brother!" groaned Jeb, shaking his head.

But everyone I knew was there, I thought. Who was left?

Jeffy came through the gates and guided AJ to a chair up front, then I went and sat down with them, anticipating the rest of the happiest day of my life.

But then ...

"Sorry we're late, sir!"

That voice! Who ...?

Through the double doors came a young lady I remembered from somewhere, not her but pictures of her, I think. In her arms was a young child a few years old. Then it hit me as in walked the man behind the voice I almost didn't recognize - Lenny, and his wife and child. Only Lenny was on crutches, though very much alive and actually looking very well.

I rushed through the gates and hugged the bejeezus out of Lenny. Tears were streaming down my face and I totally forgot that there were dozens of people in the same room as us, looking on in total ignorance of who this guy was, dressed to the nines in his full dress Marine uniform.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said the judge, "it gives me great pleasure to introduce Gunnery Sergeant Leonard Farmer and his wife Sheila and their daughter, Marie. Sergeant Leonard took over Sergeant McGill's team when Tim came home from Iraq some time ago. I would also like to assure you all that the Sergeant's injuries, while sufficient to send him home from his tour in Iraq a little early, will not be debilitating."

"More about that later," Lenny said to me, trying to catch his breath. "Suffice it to say I got a Forest Gump wound," he said laughing and looking at his own behind.

I noticed that AJ had walked up. I looked up at the judge and he nodded to me, so I took the time to introduce them.

"AJ, do you remember when I talked about my time in Iraq? Well, this is my very good friend and the man that took my place when I left to come home and find you. Lenny, in just a few minutes, this will be my son, Andrew James Vit ..."

"Nu huh. Andrew James McGill. Pleased ta meet you, sir."

"And I'm pleased to meet the reason my best friend is so happy. You're getting a good man here, young man."

AJ beamed and the tears started again. He reached around me with both arms and said, "Yeah, I'm the lucky one, huh?"

"Oh, I don't know about that, AJ. I don't know you well enough yet, but I'll just bet that your daddy is far more lucky than either of you could have ever imagined."

I pointed out my other two boys and Lenny just gave a whistle and shook his head in disbelief.

Then Lenny turned and put his hand on his wife's arm, leading her closer to the new family of two.

"Sarge, I want you to meet my wife, Sheila, and my best girl, Marie."

"Pleased to meet you, Sheila. I'm so glad to meet you and your little one. Maybe we can talk sometime while we change our little ones' diapers together."

"Hey, I don't wear diapers," exclaimed AJ, slapping me on the arm. But I got a cute smile from my ...

"Okay," said the judge, "Enough violence. Let's do this thing."


AJ blushed real nice when he heard the judge's admonishment, but then he gave me his serious look. Time at the kitchen table, no doubt.

"Bailiff, please read the petition while the families sit down."

"Yes, sir. One Gunnery Sergeant Timothy McGill, Retired, petitions this court to become the legal, adoptive father of one Andrew James Vitale. Oh sir, there's the amendment to the request which has his name as Jebediah Joseph Briscoe. It will mean Mr. Harding giving up rights to the boy."

"No, wait! I want McGill as my name!" said AJ, jumping up to his feet.

"All in good time, young man, all in good time," answered a very tickled judge. "Go on, bailiff, please."

AJ blushed again and sat.

"Oops!" he whispered to me.

"Young Vitale or Briscoe or ... anyway, besides wanting to be a McGill," said the bailiff, looking at AJ, who kind of hid in my arm, "he is represented by Linda Sue Cottington of the County's Children's Services Division."

He went on to read the body of the petition which Linda Sue and I had filled out weeks before. It contained my name, age and address. He read my relationship to AJ as his foster dad. He read that AJ was recently orphaned to someone who was not his mother and then went on to read about the relationship of Jeb Harding to AJ.

I think both AJ and I shivered when we heard that. He reached over and gripped my hand. I laid my other one on his and gave him a slight squeeze. He looked up but I could see his smile. I wanted that smile for my own for a long, long time.

The bailiff completed his reading with the petition Jeb had introduced earlier to show his intent to give up guardianship of his great grandson.

At hearing that, we both looked at AJ's real, honest to goodness great grampa and exchanged smiles with him. He had our love and gratitude for an eternity.

"Thank you, Bailiff," said Judge Davenport. "First of all a little correction. There is nothing in the law that prevents someone from adopting a child even if someone still has parental rights or a guardianship over him. It's like a stepfather adopting his wife's child. It happens all the time. So, let the record reflect that Jeb Harding is still Andrew James' great grandfather with all the rights and privileges that go with that. God knows he's waited long enough to be able to enjoy that."

AJ and I both looked at each other with open mouths, then turned to see our Jebediah beaming with pride. Oh, it was a glorious day!

"So, moving on, it is the responsibility of this court to provide a child with an environment and custody that is in that child's best interest. In the case of Andrew James Vitale, or really, Jebediah Joseph Briscoe, we have an unusual situation in that it has been determined that his real identity was taken from him before he had any knowledge thereof. His family was also taken from him most violently and knowledge of his relationship with his great grandfather only recently surfaced."

AJ looked up at me with his nose scrunched up. He didn't know what all that meant.

"Young Andrew," said the judge, "That means somewhere down the line you were given a false social, um, well, identification number. I think you may have heard that the woman you knew as your mother was not your biological mother. It was only by chance that it was determined you were related to the old, I mean our Mr. Harding here," he said with a snicker.

"I was concerned at first because we hadn't gotten to the bottom of this mystery, but I'm so pleased that it is all behind us now and that we can proceed with your foster dad's petition for your adoption. Do you understand?"

"Um, I guess. No one knew who I was 'cause my mom stole me or somethin'? But now I got a great, great grampa and I get a dad too?"

"You mean a great grampa, AJ," said the judge.

"Nu uh, sir. I mean my great grampa is a really great man and I love him so much," said my boy with more tears flowing from his red eyes.

"Well, that I can agree with, young man. He is, as you say, very great. Now, moving on, Mrs. Cottington, is it your intention and, therefore, that of the county's, to let this adoption of Andrew James or Jebediah Joseph, oh whatever, by Sergeant Timothy McGill, to proceed with your recommendation?"

Linda Sue was sitting on the other side of AJ and when she spoke, she took AJ's hand in hers.

"Oh, your honor, I couldn't be more pleased with their relationship unless it was sealed by this adoption. They are made for each other."

"I'll take that as a yes," chuckled Judge Davenport.

"Now, I've made it my practice over the years to take the adoptive child into my chambers to have a little heart to heart with him to see if an adoption is really what he wants. Usually, it weighs heavily on the child's best interest. I'm always careful to let the child answer on his own, away from any undue influence that may sway his answers."

"Uh oh," whispered AJ, his eyes big in anticipation of dealing with the judge directly.

"But for the first time in my career I've decided to forego that practice for two reasons. Oh, I'm still going to talk to him, but we'll talk here, in front of his friends and, well, his family, if that's alright with you, AJ."

"Um, I guess. I never did this before you know," he said so serious and sitting up so straight.

Of course everyone in the room chuckled, as did the judge.

"No, AJ, I suppose you haven't. Let's just make sure we only have to do this once. Okay?"

"Um, 'kay."

"The two reasons to talk with AJ out here are that I've come to know something of the dad and son-to-be over the last few weeks. With the aid of our mutual friend, Mr. Harding here and relative now, I know a little more about their relationship than I ever have in a case like this. The second reason is ..." He paused until we were all a little tense to hear what he was going to say. "The second reason is I wanted you all to have the pleasure that I was selfishly going to keep to myself, that is, getting to hear young AJ give me his answers."

It was amazing to hear, then to hear the quiet giggling of the whole room. There were only a few people that hadn't had the unique experience of talking with AJ down the road. It made perfect sense to me to let them all enjoy him once again. Not that I was overly proud or anything.

It didn't seem to effect AJ. He was so intent on what the judge was saying he wasn't paying any attention to the rest of the courtroom's amusement.

"So, AJ, will you answer a few questions for me, my boy?"

"Oh, yes sir, your Honor, sir," said AJ very enthusiastically. He was sitting as straight as he could too. Gawd, he was so cute. I was so lucky.

"Good, good. You've been through a lot, haven't you, before meeting your foster dad, I mean?"

"Yes, sir. I didn't have much fun growing up when I was younger. Not like now."

"And now is so different? How?"

"Oh, sir, judge, um, it's so great. I mean, we had ta train Dad, I mean Tim ..."

"It's okay to call him dad, AJ," interrupted the judge.

"It is? Oh, good. Anyway, he needed lots of training on how to be a dad and not a drill sergeant or something, huh, Dan?"

I'm sure I was as red as a Delicious apple and just as sure that Dan was enjoying his part in this.

"He sure did need a ton of training, but somehow we made it work, didn't we, AJ?" said Dan from his seat.

The smile on that boy's face ... wow! He looked as proud as he ever had and the room was brighter for it.

"Yeah, and even with all that trainin', he still taught me a lot about growin' up."

"He did?" asked the judge, leaning forward on his elbows, his robe's sleeves falling to the desktop, his head propped up in his hands.

"Oh yeah. He taught me about lookin' for ways to help people even when it didn't seem there was any way you could. Yeah, and it worked, huh, Stewart?"

Stewart stood up next to his parents and beamed.

"It sure worked, your Honor. But mostly, I not only got AJ as my first real friend ever, but I also got two other friends and they were the thugs that bullied me," he said turning to look at Brad and Devon who were both turning crimson.

"Oh my, well, I'm glad that worked out for you. And I'm sure you two boys, um, Brad and Devon, is it? I'm sure you now know the difference between true friendship and being a bully, don't you?" asked Judge Davenport of the two blushing ex-bullies, with a sparkle in his eyes and a smile on his face.

Both boys nodded but Brad was quick to stand and say, "Yeah, but the pipsqueak there made us. Okay, well, we wanted to and all but then he even made us buy ice cream for the runt, I mean, for Stewart." Brad couldn't even get through his little speech without a smile.

Devon was nodding the whole time too.

Of course, AJ was about to bust out of the suit he was wearing. His smile radiated. He stood up and continued.

"And, we got to talk to all o' the school board people because of that day too, and that was my dad's doin' too. He made it so Principal Tremble over there (pointing to the man) couldn't help but go to that meeting with us and make things right, especially for Brad and Devon, 'cuz they didn't know what they were really doin' and shouldn'ta been blamed for all of it. It was so perfect, huh, Dad?" he finished, looking down at me.

"Your principal is a really wise man, AJ. He knew what he had to do and he saw to it that it happened," I told him. "But you and Stewart had all the best ideas, especially when it came to helping your friends, Brad and Devon. You guys are heroes."

AJ looked at me for almost a minute before he slowly turned to Judge Davenport.

"And that's who I want to be my dad, my real dad, sir. I want it so bad I could cry. And on top of everything, if it hadn't been for him, I would be layin' at the bottom of Cryer's Point right now, dead. I tried but, he wouldn't have it."

A few people gasped, but most knew the story behind his words by then.

His voice wasn't doing so good. I had no idea what his face was doing because I had something in my eyes. I did manage to look back at his teacher, Mrs. Spear, who smiled and nodded to me. I noticed a lot of handkerchiefs just then, too.

"I, I don't know if you knew that, Dad, but you didn't let me go up there and do, well, you just took me home and saved me from everything. And, judge," he said, turning back to the bench and the man sitting there with a tear falling from his eye, "I want him to be my dad so he can keep saving me and doing what he does so good all the time - just being a good dad to me."

And, after saying his piece, he sat down.

The silence lasted about a minute before I saw the judge shake his head, get his bearings and begin to speak.

"I, um, ahem, after hearing all this testimony, I have no option but to grant the adoption of Andrew James Vitale, I mean Jebediah Joseph Briscoe to Sergeant Timothy McGill, with the blessings of this court.

"We've already determined that you'd prefer to continue to go by the name Andrew James, but what surname do you wish to go by from this minute forward?"


"He means, what do you want for your last name, AJ, as if we didn't know?" said Linda Sue, leaning over to my boy.

"Oh, that's easy. I wanna be ..." But then he turned to look at his great grampa.

That kind of surprised Jeb but he came up with a huge grin and a slow nod, giving AJ the permission he sought of his only blood relative.

"Yeah, I wanna be Andrew James McGill, sir, like I said. I really, really do," he said as he put his arms around me and squeezed. Our heads clunked together but he didn't let loose and I sure didn't want him to.

"Then it shall be so recorded from this time forward that Andrew James McGill is the legally adopted son of Timothy McGill. This case is closed. Andrew, come up here, quick!"

"Wha ... me?"

"Yes, hurry!"

AJ turned to look at me but got out of his chair and walked cautiously around our table and up to the front of the bench.

"No, no. Come around up here, my boy. Up here with me."

AJ slapped himself on the chest in disbelief and the judge nodded enthusiastically with a great smile and even waved him on.

AJ hurried around the bench and climbed the steps that took him to where he stood beside the judge, who got up and motioned for AJ to sit. Judge Davenport then handed him the gavel and said,

"Make it all legal, AJ. It's up to you now."

AJ was in shock, barely able to hold the gavel up. Then he looked down at me, a big smile filling his face and that glint in his eyes when things are going his way. His hand went up as high as he could reach, and ...


"Court's adjourned!" he shouted to even the judge's surprise.

The ensuing applause was deafening.

I was in such a daze it took forever for me to figure out why they were all clapping. I stood up because Linda Sue, then everyone, stood up as they cheered. About that time I almost got bowled over by AJ who leaped into my arms, knocking me back to reality.

The congratulations started along with the slapping of our shoulders. I returned as many thank you's as I could. Everything seemed to be happening so fast.

AJ wandered over to talk to his classmates, along with Mrs. Spear and Principal Tremble while I was surrounded by other friends and well-wishers.

"Announcements!" shouted Dan. "Party at the home of Timothy and his son, Andrew James as soon as you can get there. Don't worry, it's inside if need be or under covers in the backyard."

"Huh? Wait! I ..." I fumbled.

"Ha! It's all taken care of, Tim, old friend. The caterers should be just about done ransacking your place and doing their thing. You have nothing to worry about. This is for you and AJ, our gift to you both."

Just then I felt arms around me and looked down to see my son - yes, MY son squeezing me, a smile county wide on his cute face. I couldn't help but pick him up into my arms, give him a big hug and kiss his cheek in front of everyone. He was finally mine - I was finally his.

"Three cheers!" shouted Lenny.

"Hip, hip, hurray!"

"Hip, hip, hurray!"

"Hip, hip, hurray!"

We both laughed at each other and bawled!

End of Chapter Thirty-nine

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