The Little Pipsqueak

© 2012-2014 Matthew Templar
matemp1148@yahoo.com
Thanks again to RCN for his editing wizardry. It makes for a smoother read.

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 Fifty-eight


On Sunday morning Elliot had arranged to attend the Curtain's church. When AJ heard that his brother was being picked up by Stewart's family, he begged to go too.

"You don't have to beg, AJ. I'd loved to have you go with me. You have to kind of dress up, though, like slacks and a nice shirt, maybe even your tie," Elliot informed him. "If we find out that it's less formal there, maybe we can be more comfortable next time."

This attitude was really all new to Elliot whose strict, smothering parents expected perfection from their only child, not because of what it ingrained in him but of what it showed others at their church what great parents they were. The thought of being comfortable was something he looked forward to, in many ways than just what he was wearing.

The night before, AJ had been laying out the clothes he was going to wear to church when I came into his room.

"Hey, Dad, I get to go to church with Elliot and Stewart. Isn't that neat?"

"It sure is, AJ. Have you been to church before?"

He stopped what he was doing, paused for a few seconds and then slowly turned toward me with a slight smile. I don't think I recognized that look but it wasn't devious or playful even.

"AJ?"

"I was just 'memberin' back to the times I'd go to the mission for somethin' ta eat. I guess that was the closest thing ta church I'd ever been to. All it was, really, was a old time song and the head guy talkin'-like, 'member? That was when I learned about doin' to others like you wanta be treated. Well, I really learned it from you, Dad."

I was a little surprised that I didn't see a tear in there somewhere. Was my little boy becoming my little man?

"I may have said something, AJ, but you're the one that acted on it. I'll never forget that day."

"Yeah."

"So, I thought I'd describe a bit what you might experience at this church. I used to go with Viv, my wife, when she would go. But it was rare because I wasn't around too much. Anyway, you might get to go to Sunday School with Stewart."

"School? But ..."

"No, not like regular school. This will be more fun. You'll get to learn about the bible stories and maybe get to do a craft or something. They might even have a time when all the kids are together for singing and other fun things. It might even be during the adults' church. And the good thing is, no homework!"

"Wow! Neat! That is cool. 'Kay? What's their church like?"

"I don't know exactly, but usually they sing a few hymn, um, songs, then someone reads from the bible, then the pastor, the head guy, reads a story about Jesus. The longest part is his sermon which is where he teaches everyone about what Jesus and God expect of us."

"Ugh. That part sounds kinda strict-like," said AJ, scrunching his nose.

"It's not bad. If he's a good preacher, um, talker, you might even wish he'd keep going."

"And I get ta go with Elliot. I think that may be the best part. We've never done noth ... uh, anything just the two of us."

"No, I guess you're right."

"How come you aren't goin,' Dad?"

"Well, not this time. You come home and you and Elliot can tell me all about it and I'll decide if I want to go next time. Okay?"

"Sure. Wow. I can't wait."

Just then Elliot came into AJ's room.

"You guys talking about church tomorrow?"

"Yup, uh-huh. I told Dad that this was the first time you and I would be doin' something together, just the two of us."

"Hm-m-m. Yeah, I guess you're right. I've never been to this church, but Mr. Curtain said everyone was really welcoming and we'd feel right at home as soon as we got there. That's sure not like my old church, the one my parents dragged me to."

"I thought you liked church, Elliot," said AJ.

"Oh, I do, but not when everyone is so stiff and strict about every little thing. It was a lot different before this last pastor came. But Stewart's church sounds like I remember ours being some years ago."

"Good, Elliot," I said. "But there's others too if you want to try them. Elliot, do you know where Joshua goes to church now?"

A blush came over Elliot, as though I'd asked him something far more intimate.

"Um, no, I didn't even think about it. Okay, I did but the Curtains said they don't remember seeing him there. How would he get there with only his bike?"

"I don't know. Maybe you should go ask him. You can call over there, you know."

"Really? You think that'd be okay?"

"Of course. He's your friend. You care about him. I think he'd be pleased that you thought about him in that way."

"Um, okay. Um, where ... um, I don't have his number. I ..."

"It's in the little book by the kitchen phone."

"Oh, um, okay. Excuse me. I'll go call him now. It's not too late, is it?"

Elliot was fidgeting around like he was standing on hot coals. I tried hard not to laugh, he was so cute.

"No, Elliot. I don't think seven-thirty is too late. His bedtime is probably a bit later than that."

"Oh, yeah. Ha!"

And he was off.

"Man, he sure does act weird sometimes, huh, Dad?" observed AJ, shaking his head.

"Yes. I'll explain it sometime, AJ. He's just being an infatuated teenager."

"Infat ...? Well, anyway, he's weird sometimes."


We were having a quiet time on that same Sunday afternoon. Elliot was still in his church clothes, something he was rarely allowed to do when he lived with his parents. Of course, from his tales, they'd spend most of Sunday at church or with church friends of his parents. I wasn't keen on him getting them dirty but I also trusted him ... especially him, to take good care of his things. I know he appreciated the trust I had in him too.

AJ had gone to church with him but quickly changed to his shorts when he got home. Something he rarely did also - wear clothes, that is. He was doing a small puzzle on the living room floor.

Joshua didn't go but made a promise to Elliot that he'd like to attend whatever church Elliot decided on. Elliot wasn't too disappointed. After all, he had a rain check to cash in. Both he and AJ seemed to enjoy the service. Sunday school was out for the summer and the service was short so it held AJ's attention.

Elliot mentioned how well behaved AJ had been, even sitting next to Stewart throughout the service. Oh, he found out that it was also Ray's church.

"It's really casual, Pop, and they preach the Word. Some churches use the newspaper or some other thing for their text. This was a good teaching today."

"And everyone was really nice and we got donuts and juice after it was all over, Dad. That was neat."

After putting the baby down for a nap and a nice, simple lunch together, I'd divvied out parts of the Sunday paper to Jeffy and Elliot; I gave sports to Jeffy and some inside pages to Elliot. He'd eventually read most of the paper.

I was enjoying some of it too when I noticed my Elliot standing over my shoulder, newspaper in hand.

"Pop, I'm sick of reading these stories," said Elliot.

"What are you sick of, Elliot?" asked AJ, looking up from his puzzle.

"Stories about people, young people like us, committing suicide."

"Oh. Yeah."

AJ looked down and placed a piece of puzzle then pushed it to lock it into its partners' arms.

"It is upsetting, Elliot. I read that article too," I told him. "It says lots of kids think about it. More teenagers and young adults die as a result of suicide, for example, than cancer, heart disease, HIV/AIDS, birth defects, stroke and chronic lung disease combined."1

"Wow," said Jeffy, setting his sport section down.

"I'm sure glad you guys never got to the point where you felt like that was the only answer," I told the boys. "Well, except you, AJ, oh, yeah, and you, Elliot. Wow. I've put so much of that time out of my mind."

"Yeah," was all AJ said, concentrating on his puzzle. But I noticed a sparkle appear on his puzzle.

"Pop, whaddya mean? I thought about it a lot back then too. I was too out of it when I was in that jail, but before that I'd thought about it."

"Me too, Pop. But after my attempt at the hospital, and when I was lying across that altar at the camp, I was angry because things were just getting good and if I'd gone through with my attempt in the hospital I wouldn't be here now."

Slowly, AJ rose to his feet and walked over to me. As usual, he didn't wait for me to move the paper, he just turned and plunked his thirteen years' worth of boy into my lap, causing me to sit up a little straighter and hold him.

"Do you ever think about Cryer's Point anymore, AJ?"

"Nu-uh. That was back then, like a long time ago. So many great things have happened since then. No, I don't need to think like that anymore. I got you guys and everyone else."

"But it's only been a couple of months. Things have changed that much?" I asked, hoping I knew the answer.

"Yeah, Dad," he said, smiling at me as I held him in my arms, "I see all the good things that can happen tomorrow and I like to think that this day can be the best with all the others, ya know? He, he. Now I look behind me and only see the goodest memories."

We were both startled when Jeffy jumped to his feet and ran until he was standing stiff behind AJ and me.

"Yeah, I see what you mean, little bro. The best is behind you, huh?"

"Wha ...? Oh brother!" said Elliot as we all laughed at one of Jeffy's best dumb jokes.

Our laughter must have carried because it caused a stir in our littlest guy up in his crib, just awakening from his nap.

"I'll get him!" shouted Elliot, running to the stairs as if to beat out any other takers.

"Okay!" shouted Jeffy, with a smirk that told me he'd be glad to let his brother suffer through a messy boy.

We were quiet until the two came down, one fidgeting, excited little boy in his older uncle's arms, looking as hard as he could at anything he might have missed, happy to be a part of the world again. And Elliot had taken the time to change into more casual clothes. Isn't that what you say when you don't want to let the big boy hear you say he's in his play clothes?

When I saw them, all I could think was that I hoped Lewis would never have to consider an extreme, such as ending his own life.

"Pop, it still makes me mad that there's so little that can be done. I wish everyone was as open and honest as AJ is so we'd know when someone was going to try to ... well, to take their own life."

"How come me, Elliot?"

"AJ, if every kid was as open about their feelings, good or bad, there wouldn't be any hiding the kinds of things that lead to suicide. I'm willing to bet on that."

"Yeah, but you shoulda heard me tryin' to hide what I was thinkin' when I asked Dad to take me up there that day. If he heard something in me or even just felt something was wrong, well, it saved my life. I didn't try to stop. He stopped me."

"But you're so ... "

"Yeah," interrupted his little brother. "But that's just been since I felt so safe with Dad and you guys. 'Member, I'm the richest guy in the world."

"Hey, AJ, El, Pop, you think our clubs will help guys not wanna try suicide? You think it will help?"

"I think it will provide some of the kids an opportunity to see that there is something to look forward to, some place to build trust and to answer their questions. I think that's a big key to erasing the feelings that cause kids as young as you boys to think about ending their lives."

"You know what they say, Pop, if the clubs will help just one kid decide to try life instead
of ..."

"No!"

Everyone looked at AJ. He'd sat up in my lap and tears were streaming down onto his chest.

"AJ?"

"I said, No! I don't want just one kid to live. I want 'em all to live!" He was really crying by then. "They could all be my friends and I'd have ta miss every one of 'em. It's not fair for any of us to have to think about that stuff, to end our lives. I don't want there to have to be any more stories about it. I want stories about how kids were saved."

Lewis reached for his youngest uncle. When Elliot handed him to AJ in my lap, Lewis put his hand up and touched AJ's tears. Then he grabbed AJ's ears and gummed his nose, a very precious kiss from a very precious, loving baby.

We all laughed as AJ tried to free himself from the attack to his nose.

Elliot walked over to where he'd been sitting and picked up the section of the newspaper he'd been reading.

"Heh!" he laughed, holding up the page with the story he and I had read about so many suicides. The story was illustrated by a picture of a small white cross surrounded by candles and flowers. "Maybe we ought to call our clubs, 'No More Crosses.'"

"If it worked, it would be fine with me," voted Jeffy.

"So that means, Pop, we need a way to talk about more than just the bullying and helping them stop. We need to help the bullied kids to go beyond not feeling threatened. We need to have a way to make everyone feel like their lives changed and they had no reason to feel those feelings anymore."

"Yeah, Elliot!" said AJ. "There's so much that needs doin' and for all kinds of kids. It's not just for gay kids or kids that people think are different. It's for anyone who feels they need someone to, well, give 'em a good reason to not go up to Cryer's Point."

"Until they got themselves a date with someone," added Jeffy, followed by the nicest cerise blush.


The remodel had been progressing well and seemed to be making visible headway. At the end of each week or if something out of the ordinary had to be discussed, the contractor would meet with me and discuss where they were on the construction timeline. Then he'd often renew the timeline and it seemed to be getting shorter, only weeks away.

The noise was disturbing once in a while, especially at nap time. Lewis' that is. But the guys seemed to understand and do quieter things and even take their lunches then. But when the kids were outside screaming and yelling and splashing their way through the hot days of summer, the men went about their tasks with great vigor.

The kids had been having such a great time, creating ways to make their water play more fun, using only a wading pool and a Slip and Slide, and because they'd already destroyed one wading pool by hard use, I decided to invest in a larger pool.

For some reason I was by myself. Lewis was down for a nap and the boys, Elliot and AJ were just hanging around the house. Jeffy had gone to Jeb's to do some renovation work - with Joshua, I suppose. I was doing some grocery shopping, something that had to be done about every other day to fill the vast voids of three young men and one baby.

As I was putting the bags of groceries into the truck I noticed an outside display of the pools they sold at Walmart. One of them was about twelve feet in diameter and a good three to three and a half feet deep. I wasn't sure how Lewis would benefit from such a deep pool but he wasn't very good at sitting up yet anyway in the shallower pool.

As I was paying for it, the sales clerk assured me that it was their sturdiest model, for its size.

That made me think of something else while I was putting the pool boxes in the back of the truck.

I went back into the store to the baby section and bought a brightly colored baby walker. It had things sticking up to hit and round things to spin, all while the baby could sit up within a protective shell with wheels. It would put Lewis at a higher level than laying on the ground. It just seemed time to move to that step.

As I drove back I began to realize that Lewis seemed to be developing at a rapid rate. I was no expert but just the fact that he practically lunged at his next victim of a good nose slobber said he was strong, intelligent and sensitive to others. Of course, I wasn't the least bit biased.

When I got home, Jeffy was just coming up the driveway and I stopped to give him a ride the rest of the way.

"You're covered in paint, Jeffy. Did you get any on whatever it was you were aiming at?"

"Yeah, Pop. Duh! We did a good job. We're working on the back of the house and it looks great."

"Well, I hope it's dry enough so it won't get on the seat."

"Oh, well, yeah, me too," he said sitting up a bit to look under him.

"Why don't you take a couple bags of groceries in and then go take a shower. But please send the boys out to help with the rest."

"Sure, Pop. Thanks."

After AJ and Elliot helped me get the groceries inside and put away, I had them help me with the boxes in the back of the truck.

"Wow! A real swimmin' pool, Dad! Is it for us?"

"Of course, AJ. You guys have so much fun with what little you have out there, I thought this would be a great addition. What do you think?"

"Well, we won't be doing laps but it sure looks refreshing during these hot days," said Elliot.

"Hey, Dad! Look! A seat with wheels and neat stuff for Lewis. Wow! You got a lot of really neat things today."

"Do you think he'll enjoy it?" I asked.

"Oh, man. He'll have a blast, Dad."

"Yeah," added Elliot, "and I'll bet you'll have a blast pushing him around, huh?"

"Well, yeah. It's what good uncles do, ya know."

"Okay, guys, let's take it in and set it up, then we can come out and set up the pool. Is Lewis awake yet? It's been several hours, hasn't it?"

"Yeah, he's on the floor, playin' with some of his toys. I put him in the center of the living room so he can't reach anything else."

"He's okay, Pop, but you can see that it won't be long before he'll be scooting around and then crawling."

I had to talk to the boys about Lewis and the new, bigger, pool. It didn't have a deck so the boys would have to climb over the edge on a ladder. It certainly wasn't deep enough to dive into.

"At least not for us big guys, Dad, huh?" said AJ.

"That's true but I don't really want you to toss Lewis around or something. I know there are water babies classes available like at the 'Y' or somewhere. I don't even know if we have a YMCA or YWCA. Do you guys?"

"I've never heard of one, Pop. My parents let me go to a public pool about twice in my life. I don't even know where it was. There was a pool at the campground where I learned to swim."

"Okay. I'm going to call Linda Sue and see if she can recommend someplace."


"Actually, Tim, I'd recommend having Karen over again," she told me when I called. "She helped lead a class of water babies for a summer maybe even last year. And Lewis is right at the age where it will come very naturally to him. I've seen babies take to water like fish. It's really amazing to see. I'll have her call you."

When I went into the living room to tell the boys about Lewis' impending swimming lessons and Karen coming over to administer them, I got four different reactions. First, I explained the water babies class to them and told them what Linda Sue said about babies taking to the water at Lewis' age.

"So, Lewis," I asked him, after grabbing him up off the floor where he'd been playing and after a few minutes of bouncing him on my knee, "What do you think about learning to swim? Don't you just think it'll be fun, fun, fun?"

He laughed at my antics and the boys laughed at him. He sure was a happy baby. He drooled some and then laughed out loud.

"Dad, maybe we can all learn too. You think she can teach us to swim? I don't know how to at all."

"It's really easy, AJ. The trick is to let the water do its thing and then relax and let yourself float."

"Easy to say, El," mentioned Jeffy. "You already know how to swim. I can swim some but I don't get my head up and out of the water to breathe. And I don't know about Karen holding onto me while I'm trying to kick and stuff."

Jeffy was blushing and fidgeting uncomfortably as he mentioned Karen holding him. He was sure cute when he talked about our very pretty house mother.

"Oh, brother, if it bothers you, I'll do that part for you," offered Elliot.

"How exactly is you being held by her instead of me going to help me learn to swim right?" asked Jeffy, scrunching up his nose.

"No, Jeffy. I'd do the holding instead of Karen. Duh!"

"Oh. Well, come to think of it, it might not be so bad." He was almost the shade of a ripe delicious apple by then, as he looked at each of us as if to see if his embarrassment was noticeable to anyone else.


When Karen finally called, we arranged to talk about it in the next few days while the pool was set up and we let the water warm up.

"It's important for the water to be warm enough for Lewis."

She had Lewis on her lap and would tickle him to get him to laugh.

"He needs to be very comfortable or he'll react poorly to what should just be a fun experience for him. You know, he won't actually learn to swim. That'll come in a couple of years. But he will learn to not be afraid of the water. That's the key to enjoying the water for the rest of his life."

"Karen, Jeffy and AJ also want to learn what they can in such a small pool. Do you think you can help them to be comfortable in the water as well?"

"Hmm, we'll see. I know they can practice kicking and even strokes in such a pool, but downright swimming isn't going to work in that size pool, I'm afraid."

"Of course. I know Jeffy can swim some but he told me he can't get his head up to breathe."

"We can go over some of the basics. There is a city pool that we can use when it's time. Until then, the boys can learn to kick correctly and even float. But this pool will be just the right size for our precious one," she said, poking Lewis in his ample belly.


So, the first day that Karen was to come to teach the boys to swim, I think Jeffy had been hanging around the front door most of the morning.

"She's not coming until two, Jeffy," I said over my newspaper from the living room.

"Hey, I'm not ... um, how do you know ... Ya know if she came early, I'd be ready to open the door for her," he informed me as he walked back into the living room.

Swoosh!

"Well, you might as well go put on your ..."

But before I had a chance to finish he hooked the side of his shorts and pulled them down enough to show me the top of his swim suit. He then gave me a disgusted look like he couldn't believe I didn't think he'd be ready.

"Oh, so you've decided to let her teach you to swim?"

Swoosh!

"Um, I guess I at least want to be ready if she, like, needs help with Lewis or AJ. Yeah, that's it."

"Oh, well, that's good. Lewis can be pretty heavy when he's soaking wet, huh?"

"Po-o-op! It's not that and you know it."

"I know, son. I was your age once too, ya know. And, yes, they had invented water by then."

Jeffy rolled his eyes just as AJ and Lewis went swooshing by again.

The entryway floor was hardwood and the kitchen was linoleum, though that room would soon be remodeled and have ceramic tiles laid. But it meant that AJ could scoot Lewis in his bright colored, plastic baby walker through those two rooms without touching carpet.

The first time we put Lewis into the contraption he didn't seem too excited. Oh, he didn't try to keep from getting in it. He just didn't know what it was ... yet. He flopped around a bit until he found out if he put his hands out and held on he could stay pretty much sitting up. Since that was new to him, on his own anyway, he thought that was cool. He smiled up at us and then went back to check out all the fascinating toys sticking up all around him. One thing twirled when he batted at it, another bent over and sprang back up, almost bopping him in the nose. That kind of startled him, then he laughed and did it again. There was one toy that squeaked and that set him back almost to tears until he did it again by accident but not as hard. He liked that.

Now, you have to realize that he was a little young to be coordinated enough to have any skill at aiming at each possibility in front of him or to either side. So he would try and try to work each item and eventually got it to do what he wanted. I also had to hold AJ back from wanting to show his little nephew every toy and what it could do. I wanted Lewis to have the joy of discovery, just like his uncles had with many experiences since they'd been with me, though not quite so infantile, I'll admit.

One time Lewis got so excited when he bopped one of the toys that he jumped up from his seat and went forward about two feet! That was something he wasn't used to, by himself anyway.

We all got excited too. All the boys had an encouraging remark about how smart or big or whatever their nephew was to do such a marvelous thing. The look on his face was one of amazement and pride. It also ended in some frustration because he couldn't figure out what he'd done to scoot along like that.

Well, AJ took care of that pretty quickly. He reached under Lewis and, holding his pudgy little feet, made like Lewis was walking. Of course, Lewis was so absorbed in what AJ was doing that he didn't realize that he'd circumnavigated the entryway, where we'd all been watching Lewis perform.

Pretty soon Lewis became tired of AJ holding his feet and he grunted and kicked until AJ let go and it pushed Lewis back a couple of feet. That was just as amazing to him. He was slumped in the chair a bit, so Elliot started to reach over to pull him up a bit when Lewis pushed himself up with his legs to sit up. That sent him back some more. His eyes were so big and he had to look down between his legs to see how that happened. He stamped his feet and nothing happened.

"No, ya have ta push, Lewis," instructed AJ.

He started to go to him again but I held out my arm in his way.

"Give him a little more time, oh impatient one. He needs to learn on his own sometimes."

"Okay, but ..."

So AJ sat on the floor to one side of Lewis and looked like he was directing traffic or that his movements would somehow cause enough drag to push Lewis along without really touching him.

Elliot finally did help Lewis sit up, then he and I went back to what we'd been reading in the living room. It was carpeted so there would be no movement on Lewis' part if he were in there or the dining room. Jeffy and AJ stayed with Lewis and watched as he played with the toys a bit more. But little ones' attention spans are shorter even than AJ's and he began to fuss. Jeffy let him out and carried him into the living room to play with his more familiar toys on the carpet.

It wasn't until I was fixing breakfast the next day that I heard the first swoosh. I turned in time to see some bright colors go sailing by the entryway opening into the kitchen, then the bare backside of my youngest son taking up the rear.

I went to the door to see AJ spin the walker around at the end of the entryway and Lewis swing around without much control.

"Be careful, little man. He's only a baby. He breaks."

"He loves it, Dad. Watch."

Then he pushed the walker as fast as he could across the open space while Lewis' face looked like he was experiencing at least Mach one. He did not look happy. When they got to the front door, AJ abruptly stopped, causing Lewis to fall forward. At least he didn't hit his head on any of the toys. But when AJ turned them around to head down the space again, Lewis let out a wail and reached for me as he made eye contact as if in panic mode.

"Okay, AJ. I think your new toy has had enough for the time being. Let's let him out and relax a little while, say a week."

"A week! But, Dad, he really likes it."

"I was kidding, but you need to slow down until he's more used to what you're doing. That's all new to him," I said.

I picked Lewis up out of his walker and held him in my arms. I got a nice hug and smile, then he looked over at AJ and actually gave him a raspberry. I couldn't help but laugh.

"See, AJ? He knows what he likes and he doesn't like that speed yet. If you want him to enjoy his toy, and I emphasize, his toy, you need to go easier on him."

By the time Karen came over for swimming lessons, a couple of days later, Lewis was pretty comfortable with AJ pushing him around. He'd even laugh when AJ twirled the walker with him in it, to point back again, and off they went.

And the day she came over, Jeb and Joshua moseyed on over to visit.

"Well, gosh a' mighty! That is some slick trick you boys got there. It's a regular swimming hole above ground."

"Great Grampa, Lewis is gonna learn ta swim and everything. Karen's gonna teach him, then me and Jeffy."

"Jeffy and me, AJ," corrected Elliot, hands on hips, of course.

"Oh, I thought you knew how, Elliot?" AJ answered with a smirk. Yes, he knew.

"Joshua, have you met Karen yet," I asked of the young man whose staring was almost a bit comical.

"Um, oh, um, no, sir, I don't believe I've had the pleasure."

As Joshua walked toward Karen, Jeffy came between them, crossed his arms and told Joshua, "She's just here ta help teach Lewis ta swim. Then she goes home again."

"Oh, I see."

"Jeffy, if you don't mind, I'd like to introduce myself to, um, Joshua?"

"You would? But ..." Jeffy moved to the side, a bit rejected.

"I'm Karen Spear, Joshua. I'm very pleased to meet you," she said, holding out her hand.

"You are?" said Elliot, with much the same look on his face as Jeffy had, though it might not have been because he was afraid of losing Karen's attention.

"Karen, it's nice to meet another friend of the McGills. They seem to have quite a few. Oh, and, if it's any help, I have my lifeguard certificate as well as first aid. I was a lifeguard in the summers during college."

"Yeah but you don't have a swim suit and by the time ya get it, her lesson'll be over, prob'ly," announced Jeffy, quite satisfied with his solution to get rid of his competition.

"That's okay. Joshua, I'm sure you can fit into one of mine. They're up in my room," I told him.

"Oh, yeah, I can help you find it, Joshua, if you want, that is. And, uh, I can help you put it ... well, I suppose you can do that yourself," said Elliot, complete with crimson blush.

"Thank you, boys, but I think I'll just watch her technique this time. If she gets in trouble, I think we can pretty much reach about anywhere in that size pool from the edge."

"Oh," came from two disappointed boys.

They eventually came around and we all had a great time. Lewis was thrilled to see Karen again and did very well with his new sport. When she dunked him he automatically held his breath and came up none the worse for wear, and with a big, excited smile. I was encouraged to practice with Lewis too. Karen wouldn't be there all the time and, frankly, Lewis needed to continue to bond with me.

AJ spent some time practicing his kicking. He was very proud of how good he did.

"So, AJ, you can practice your kicking until the next time. But also have fun," said Karen when they were done with the lessons.

"And, AJ, I can try to teach you other stuff in between Karen's visits. You too, Jeffy, if you want," offered Elliot.

"Thanks, El. That'll be swell."


Karen had to leave but the rest of us enjoyed a nice, simple meal outside, amidst lots of laughter and, of course, stories from Jeb. Afterwards, we all walked Joshua and Jeb back to their house. Even Lewis was up, though he was asleep by the time we got back. We were all tired after such an invigorating day.

__________

1http://jasonfoundation.com/prp/facts/youth-suicide-statistics/


End of Chapter Fifty-eight.


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