The Little Pipsqueak

© 2012-2015 Matthew Templar
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 Sixty-four

There was some obvious feeling of regret as we pulled up stakes, literally, and loaded the vehicles, our four days of new experiences having been too short for many of us. Still, I was missing our littlest one.

Amidst laughter in his voice, Coach Pendergrass ribbed George. "Not much like roughing it with all your wife packed for you, George."

"That would be 'for us' I believe. And I'm sure you enjoyed her thoughtfulness," George said, smiling at the man. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised at how little is left over."

"Ha! I'll admit it. She thought of everything and more. Please give her a hug from the Pendergrass'," he said as he grabbed up his son in a quick squeeze.

Brad still wasn't used to his dad's recent turnaround from the vindictive grouch that held him in his grip, to the man whose warmth spread through the young boy's heart, eliciting the smile that his dad had earned.

I turned to see Stewart and AJ taking in the exchange with their ever present smiles plastered to their faces. Some of the pride they'd earned was evident in their looks.

"Please give her a hug from the Perkins clan too, George," added Bill Perkins. "She saved the boy's and my skin by having packed that insect spray. I don't know what we would have done without it."

"Sirs," said a small man in wrinkled overalls as he approached the group, "It has been a pleasure having y'all this week. I have enjoyed you bein' here. You also gots me ta do some stuff around here that might have been neglected fer a spell. Should any of you want to return, and I hope it's soon, I'll be givin' you a discounted price." Then he turned, looking over his shoulder toward the office, before he added, "Just don't tell my wife. She might be a tad upset but you deserve it, so there." He finished by stamping his foot, then quickly, timidly, looked over his shoulder again, and winced as though he was feeling the pain reserved for him should she find out.

We all shook his hand and said our goodbyes just before we all got into our vehicles to leave.

Somehow, the place didn't seem quite as rundown as when we first arrived. Though little had been done, the feelings were more personal and warm in their own way, after the amazing time we'd just had. I, for one, cherished the thought of the unique happenings that my boys partook in; something that, I'm sure, would be a long time before they forgot.

Even the entrance seemed to be cleaner, better kept up than when we'd arrived. As we pulled out onto the road, sure enough, there were two cars pulling in to rent spaces at the campsite. That was two more than we'd seen all the time we'd been there, well, except for the van with the little ones in it.

After we all congregated together at the first burger place that we came to in the next city, and had a raucous lunch with all the boys and men firing non-stop descriptions of their time in camp, we split up and made our ways toward our homes, confident that another such trip was in our future, maybe even before the summer was out.

"Sir, may I ride with you to take Tyler home, before you take me home?"

"Joshua, you only live across the road from us. I was planning on going to the Cottington's first," I answered him.

"Thank you," he said with a big grin. "I'm looking forward to observing little Lewis when he sees his family."

And I was feeling guilty for leaving him for almost a week. I missed the little munchkin so much.

The chatter in the truck as we drove was special. It wasn't only AJ that had to relive each and every event of our time at the camp. The other four boys entered in as much. Tyler mentioned a few things and was usually quick to point out when they got some timing or a fact wrong. But he was so gracious and polite that the boys thought it was pretty neat of him.

"Okay, what was your favorite part, guys?" I asked.

There was a long pause until Tyler spoke first, "Tim, um, I've never been with so many people, um, men and boys, for such a concentrated time before."

"'Course not, Tyler. You didn't get to do anything until just recent, and neither have most of us been on a trip like this, huh?" said Jeffy turning to the other guys. "I'm sorry. Go ahead with what you were about to say."

"Oh, okay. Well, I wanted to say that my favorite time was the whole time since we left my house. In fact, it's still my favorite time. Being with Ralph and Joshua was very wonderful as well. They are great friends of mine, you know. But my most favorite of all was being able to help the little boys and make sure they were safe."

I looked in the mirror to see heads nodding and a tear run down Tyler's cheek. Then I looked down and saw a big grin on AJ's face, next to me, and a tear on his cheek as well.

"I agree, Pop. They may never have found their families," said Elliot. "Or, in Paco and Lica's case, maybe never found a family that would take them."

"Yes, son, you're right. I hope they find a good home until they can be reunited with their family somehow."

"Pop, that's my favorite part too, by far, but," Jeffy said, "I gotta say that I enjoyed working with Kennedy on that wall. It sure was neat looking at what he did."

I had to think on that one for just a minute. He was sitting next to AJ, by the door, and he was looking at me like he wanted my approval.

"Jeffy, it was a very wonderful piece of artwork, but I want you to take from it one more thing. I hope you learned to respect other people's property. You both did good work, but it would have been better to ask for permission."

"Yeah, I learned that. And thanks for not coming down on me too hard. I just got caught up in all of it and didn't think."

I heard a chuckle from the back, Elliot, I suspected. Jeffy heard it too and looked back there.

I couldn't help but wonder what became of the young man, Kennedy, who Jeffy befriended, much to my dismay. There was no doubt that I had a soft spot for any kid his age and younger, wanting them all to be well protected and under the guidance of someone more mature than most of them.

"Well, guys, I think it was, over all, a great experience. Do you think we should do it again sometime?"

I got unanimous 'Yeahs' from all the boys.

"But, Dad," said AJ, putting his hand on my arm, "I wanna do it with just us sometime. I think that would be special too."

That also met with approval from most of the boys.

"Even Joshua and Tyler, huh?" added AJ, looking at them and smiling. "You guys were fun to have and, Joshua, I liked what you did at our campfires. The singin' and stuff was great."

More enthusiastic 'Yeahs' from everyone, me included.

"Thank you, guys. It was a very meaningful experience for me as well. I think I enjoyed it as much as Tyler. Every part of it was great fun."

"Even the rain storm?" asked Jeffy.

"Yup, even that. It was all part of the experience and none of us was the worst for wear from it."

"Even Wilbur?" asked Elliot, sounding almost pathetic.

All of us laughed. Wilbur was a wonder that only made me appreciate where I came from - civilized society - all the more. Still, he added a special something that made our experience a little more memorable.

As we got closer to our destination, I had Jeffy call ahead to Linda Sue to see if she was home. When she answered he put the call on speaker phone. I was curious when we all heard her voice welcoming us home and looked in the rear view mirror to see Tyler's reaction to her voice. He was radiant! He glowed with a mixture of pride and longing. These four days had been the longest he'd been away from her protective care since we rescued him, including his stay at the hospital.

"Oh, it's so good to hear your voice, Jeffy. Is the rest of the family ...? Well, of course they're with you. Is my Tyler with you as well?"

"Yes, ma'am, we're all here. I got ya on speaker phone so's everyone can hear ya. Tyler is right behind me in the back seat. So's Elliot and Joshua. Pop's drivin,' of course."

"I'm here too," AJ added.

"Well, I can't wait to see you all and there's someone here, well, who is down for his nap right now. But I know he'll be crazy to see his family again."

"Linda Sue, I hope he was no trouble for you," I said.

"Oh, posh, Tim. You know better than that. He was a perfect angel as always. I don't think he was the least bit uncomfortable for even a few minutes after you left. Karen started playing with him and I joined in and we had a ball the whole time. He is a charmer. I hate to give him up, but I'll trade him for my Tyler in a minute."

"Thank you, Mom," said a blushing Tyler from the back seat. "I missed you, well, some." To which he looked around and blushed even more.

"I can't wait to hear stories. I'm sure it was a splendid experience for all of you."

"It truly was, Linda Sue," I said. "Of course, you know of our situation with the five little cuties. I know we can't wait to hear how their reunions go with family for the three boys and who the two brothers will be joined with."

"Yes, it's a bit early to have heard but I was assured that I'd get an update on each of them. The group sounded very positive after they'd been in contact with the three families in the States. We'll probably have to wait a little longer to hear from the two brothers."

"Linda Sue, we're about to turn onto your street so we'll sign off and see you in about five minutes."

"Okay. Goodbye for now, then."

It was almost as though the truck burst open, to see all the boys explode out of it and race for the front door. It was also amazing to me to see them waiting, a bit less than patiently, as I made my way to the door.

"Joshua said we should wait for you, Dad, so we can all see Lewis at once."

I looked to see Joshua's cheeks blush a bit above a sweet smile.

"That was very thoughtful of you, Joshua. I, for one, can't wait to see him and hold him again."

Just then the front door opened slowly.

"Mom!" said Tyler, louder than I was used to hearing him speak.

"Sh-h-h-h, boys," she said quietly, her finger to her lips. "The little one is just finishing his nap but it might scare him if you were all so boisterous when you come in. I want you to be quiet until he wakes up completely."

"Karen!" said Jeffy, then looked at Linda Sue, who turned to look at her niece walking up behind her.

"It's okay, guys," said Karen, smiling. "I can hear him just waking up. But let me go get him and change him. I know he'll love to see you all again."

We all crowded into their living room, except for Joshua and Tyler, who went to take Tyler's things out of the truck and bring them into the entry hall. By the time they were done and had joined us, Karen was walking in with our youngest.

He was snuggled against Karen with his head over her shoulder, looking back the way they'd come. Karen was talking softly to him as she rubbed his back.

"Lewis, I think there's some people here that would like to see you again."

At the sound of her voice he straightened a bit and looked into her face, giving her a sleepy smile.

It was Tyler that said, "Aw, he sure is cute, huh, Mom?"

Lewis immediately swung around to see who belonged to that different voice. After all, it seemed like forever since he'd heard a voice besides Karen's or Linda Sue's.

When his eyes took in the whole group he did the funniest thing. He looked like he panicked a bit, then turned his head into Karen's neck like to hide, then turned around again as if to see if he was actually seeing us.

He wore a dazed expression as he was caught between just waking up and getting his immature brain working again.

Then his expression took on a serious look as he realized I was in the room as well. His eyes filled with tears and his chin started to quiver and he reached out to me. I quickly moved to take him from Karen. Luckily, he was content to be in my arms and didn't actually start crying. I think that would have laid a guilt trip on me miles in length.

He immediately curled up into me, his head under my chin this time, then he straightened up and looked at me face to face. He was serious for the first few seconds, then he mellowed and finally gave me a nice smile. He teared up again and his chin did its quivering thing but only for a few seconds. Then he hugged me.

After our time together, maybe a half of a minute, he finally looked around at all the boys that were in the room. When he saw Jeffy so close to him, he leaned into him until I handed him off. He poked at his face with his little pudgy fist as if to see if he was real, then gave him a nice smile and a sloppy nose smooch.

That made the other boys laugh, which made Lewis look around again, finally focusing on Elliot, that time, and leaned into him until Jeffy parted with him.

By that time it was a game. Each time he reached for someone else, the boys would laugh, then again when he kissed the latest boy on the nose. AJ was next, then Tyler and Joshua even got in on his loving. He finally ended up in my arms again and looked out at the rest as though he were king of the mountain, again.

"If that wasn't the sweetest thing I have ever seen," said Linda Sue. "He loves you all so much."

We stayed long enough to tell a few stories and describe our five little ones to Linda Sue and Karen, sharing some of the digital pictures the boys had taken of our little guests. Then we gathered up Lewis's possessions and made our way to the truck amidst hugs and a grateful thank you on my part for watching our youngest.

We moved the car seat to the truck and squeezed everyone in and drove home.

First stop was taking Joshua home. When we got to the front door of Jeb's place it was very quiet. The sun had started to go down and there didn't seem to be any lights on.

"It doesn't look like anyone's home," said Joshua, looking through the window on the porch.

I tried the door and it was unlocked so we went in. There was one light on in the living room and, as we all went in, we saw that it was Jeb's reading lamp over his recliner. In the recliner was a snoring old man.

We all stood there for a minute until Lewis grunted and reached for his great great grampa.

That's all it took for Jeb to open his eyes and straighten up the chair from its reclining position.

He jumped when he noticed us all staring at him.

"Oh my God! You gave me a fright! How long y'all been standin' there?"

AJ walked up to his great grampa and sat on the arm of the recliner.

"Not long, Great Grampa. We just got here and moseyed in."

Lewis was not happy waiting to get to Jeb. He leaned way out until I thought I'd lose him until I got him close enough for Jeb to finally grab him.

"Umph! What a big boy you're getting' ta be, young 'un. Soon you'll be as big as this big boy next to us. So, tell me all about it. Did you all have a swell time? Oh, tell me about your five little guests. Are they all accounted for and taken care of?"

"Great Grampa," asked Jeffy, "How did you know about them?"

"Well, if it don't beat all, that fine lady friend of ours, Linda Sue, invited me over ta supper last night and told me most of the story."

"Was that the only time you moved from this chair, Mr. Harding," asked Joshua, almost as though he were the old man's mother.

"Now see here, dag nabbit, I'll have you know I moved around a lot while you were gone!"

As one, our attention turned to the end table and the coffee table upon which sat an assortment of glasses, cups, and small plates, enough to answer to almost every meal and then some, for the four days we were gone.

"Hm-m-m. Okay, maybe I did find comfort for my old bones here in my living room while you youngsters were out gallivantin' around the country with the rest of your mob. Humph!"

I started laughing, as did the rest of the boys.

"Well, it is good to have you folks home again. I'll admit I missed ya. Not enough to go with, mind ya, but enough to be pretty pathetic while you were away. I need my entertainment, boys! Ha!"

We talked for a while, telling stories of our adventures. Finally I called and ordered several pizzas to be delivered to our house. We all began to mosey over to our house, except for Joshua, who asked to drive the truck home so we could enjoy our walk.

As we walked, I noticed that the Ramirez' were at their car, unloading. They looked up and waved as we walked passed their driveway. I didn't have to call Elliot more than twice to continue on with us instead of detouring to Enrique's side.

"But, Po-op. I'll just be a minute. Honest," he whined.

"Yes, but school will be starting in a month or so and you need to be home."

The others laughed at my cut. Elliot wasn't quite as jovial. Still, he did continue with us, waving at his boyfriend.

Just as we came to the road down from Jeb's house that led to our house, three trucks came down our driveway and rolled off toward town. One was a king cab pickup, another was a flatbed with side rails, loaded with all sorts of pipes and tools, mostly industrial strength, and the last one was a larger pickup pulling a flat trailer with quite a large hydraulic excavator on it.

"Wo-ow! A digger thing, Dad! What's it doin' at our house?" called out AJ, running ahead a few yards.

"Oh good grief! Haven't they left yet?" moaned Jeb, slapping his forehead in disgust.

"What, Great Grampa?" asked AJ, running up beside his favorite blood relative and taking his hand.

"Oh, um, it's really nothing. I, um, just didn't want your first night back to be a noisy one. Um, yes, that's it."

Now none of my boys were particularly good liars, but I would have expected someone with the conniving experiences of Jebediah Harding behind him to have mastered the craft by that time. Well, he wasn't doing a convincing job in the least.

"Jebediah Harding, I don't think it's any secret that the remodel is not only beyond any digging, especially as massive a dig as would need such a huge shovel, but it's almost all complete. There should be landscapers leaving for the night, not excavation crews. What gives, you old sidewinder?"

"Well now, um, a little respect please. After all... Hey! Hey! Come back here you three!" he yelled at my three sons as they raced each other around the side of the house, likely to see if there was a hole or something left by the crew that was departing.

As we walked up the driveway, Elliot was the first to wander back around. He never took his eyes off of us but they were as big around as truck tires and his mouth was gaping open almost as big as the shovel we just saw.

"Dad! Dad!" yelled my youngest boy, running full blast at me, ready to knock me on my behind if I wasn't careful. "There's this huge hole behind the house and ..."

"Pop! You'll never guess what they've been doin' back there," Jeffy yelled as he hightailed it back to us, finally standing next to his older brother.

"I guess they dug a big hole, Jeffy," I said, looking at AJ as he nodded in agreement.

"Well, yeah. It's gigantic too."

"But Dad, what's it for?" asked AJ.

"Huh?" gasped Elliot, his eyes getting even bigger, if that were possible, reality obviously striking him. "Swimming pool," he said, almost in a whisper while turning to his great grampa to verify his theory.

"Oh my good gracious! Can't a guy have any secrets around here? You boys are just too danged curious for my own good, don'tcha know."

"I'm sorry. I think I heard 'swimming pool'?" I asked while beginning to copy Elliot's facial expressions.

"See? Nothin' gets past y'all. I'm afraid Christmas will be fer naught if y'all keep up this secret revealin' crap."

Jeb was swinging his head in disbelief. But soon it was all replaced by a huge smile. "You podunks enjoy the water so much I just had to gift ya with something to make this place better 'n ever. I hope you don't mind my goin' ahead while y'all were gone gallavantin' into the woods."

"You're kidding, Great Grampa?" asked AJ with awe in his eyes.

Ever the man of humor, Jeb just looked down and patted his stomach, which for a man of 84 was not in bad shape.

"Nope, AJ, I don't believe I'm kidding. I usually leave that up to the women to get pregnant."

"Huh?" asked Jeffy, scrunching up his nose.

Joshua, who'd joined us by that time, groaned at Jeb, then turned to Jeffy. "Get it? Kidding... pregnant?"

"O-kay?" said Jeffy slowly, still not convinced. Then, "O-o-oh! I get it! I think."

We continued walking around the house to see what had been done so far. As we got around and got closer to the hole in the ground, Jeb warned us.

"Now, don't get all rambunctious, boys, and get too close. There's nothing to support the walls yet and you could knock them in with your weight. So, stay back a little farther."

Sure enough, we had a hole in our backyard. Ironically, the above ground pool had been drained, taken apart and was heaped in a pile a little ways away. PVC pipes were laying close by in several places, ready to be laid in when their ditches were dug, both to the pool from the house and under where the pool would go.

"Okay, to save all kinds o' time I ordered a forty by sixteen sized pool all made up. They just haul it on over and darned if'n they don't just drop it in that there hole. They hook up the pipes and it's a done thing. Ha!"

"Hey! Easy peasy, huh, Great Grampa?" said AJ.

"Well, if you say so, little one. Then it's easy peasy. Ha! Kids!"

Dinner was pizzas, which were delivered almost as soon as we got inside and had most of our bags brought in. It just seemed the best solution since there was little to eat in the house. We kept up the story telling until each boy must have told his view of everything that took place during our time camping together.

Too soon for my boys, their great grampa and Joshua moseyed on home. I think Joshua was still telling Jeb about the great time he had for the last four days, as they walked down our driveway.

Bedtime came. Of course, little Lewis had gone up to bed long before the older boys' bedtime. Still, I believe my boys were actually anxious when the hour finally arrived for them to admit they were too tired to stay up any longer. After all, it would be their first time back in a real bed, their own beds, since we'd been gone. Four days of roughing it. How they endured it we'll never know.

After I tucked in AJ, pulling the sheet up to his chin and kissing his forehead, I went to the older boys' room to hear them whispering.

"Jeffy, I'm trying to sleep."

Jeffy was propped up on an elbow, leaning over Elliot, who was lying on his side away from his brother.

"I know but it feels good to sleep in a real bed again, huh?"

Elliot turned to look up at Jeffy. "Yeah. It was horrible. Only thing between us and Mother Earth was a queen-sized air mattress and a down sleeping bag. How'd you ever survive, my hero?"

"Okay, that was sarcasm, right?"

I couldn't help but laugh. I'd been standing in their doorway, listening. Both boys turned to look at me.

"Sorry, guys. You two are so funny. Have you ever thought about doing standup?"

"You're kidding, right?" asked Elliot as he plopped back onto the bed.

I went to his side first. Their sheet was at their waist. It was still warm so I asked if that's where they wanted it, instead of pulling it up and tucking them in.

"I'm too warm, Pop, especially with the steam engine next to me all night."

"Hey, you're hot too, ya know," said Jeffy, still on his elbow.

"You know you guys can have your own rooms in just a little while. The remodel is almost done on at least one of them."

"Huh? Um, I don't wanta. But if you do, El, I guess I could move out or you could." Jeffy fell back onto the bed and stared straight up, like he was pouting.

"No. We're fine, Pop. If we didn't have something to argue about, we'd think the other one was mad or something." Elliot didn't move except to pull his knees up, closer to a fetal position.

"Hmmm, yeah," agreed Jeffy with a nice, satisfied smile on his cute face.

"Well I, for one, don't think I've ever heard you guys raise your voices to one another. Have you?"

"Naw. We just ignore each other for... well, I don't think we've gone more than an hour or so pissed, I mean upset at the other. Huh, El."

"No, but I'm working up to it. I need to go to sleep."

"Okay, guys. I just had to come in and pester you, but you seem to have control of that too."

With that, I bent down and kissed Elliot on the temple.

"Mm-m-m-m, thanks, Pop. Night."

"Good night, son."

Then I walked around to Jeffy's side and leaned in for a kiss. He surprised me by reaching up and pulling me down in a hug.

"I had a great time, Pop. Thanks again for not getting' too mad at me for the Kennedy thing and paintin' the wall and all."

"Not a problem, Jeffy. I think you learned from it. Right?" I answered and gave him a kiss on his forehead.

"Yup. Night, Pop."

"Good night. In fact, good night to both of you."

As I lay in bed, trying to let sleep take over instead of the thoughts I was having, I was reminded of my conversation with Ray Carlton's mother before we went on our camping trip.

I couldn't get over the nagging feeling that something just wasn't up to par. Sure, he and his father may be on a trip, but I wasn't convinced that it was for pleasure. I didn't want to believe that Ray was in any danger from his father. After all, his dad almost smothered him at the hospital after the boys were found at the campground. And Ray, well, besides being embarrassed by his dad's reaction and emotion, seemed just as glad to see him.

But there was something.

I finally took an aspirin and did some deep breathing, my way of relaxing enough to let sleep conquer me. As I drifted I reminded myself to ask Jeffy or Elliot to call the boy in the morning.

When I woke up the next morning I had two beautiful blue eyes staring at me. I had missed them so much that I couldn't help but laugh at my grandson looking through his bars at me. And when I laughed, he blessed me with one of his deep belly laughs. It was so deep I think he even surprised himself.

I quickly changed him and laid him on the bed next to me. We weren't sleepy. We were just examining all sorts of things. Everything was more fascinating than the last, and less than whatever came next. Every wrinkle in the sheet or a protruding nose or ear or finger on my hand was special, it seemed.

I enjoyed watching him discover more about his new world. While I couldn't imagine being that intrigued with every little thing, I cherished the thought that we, the boys and I, were providing such stimulation for one so small - our one so small. It was as though we had the opportunity to give him a means to better himself in so many more ways than if he had stayed with his birth mother and that... that other woman, his grandmother.

It wasn't long before AJ's head peeked around the doorframe and laughed when he saw Lewis and me in bed. Of course, that made Lewis turn and look at his big boy uncle and laugh as well.

"Come on in, son, and say good morning to your nephew."

"Yeah. I kinda missed him, Dad. Did you?" he asked plunking himself onto the bed on the other side of Lewis from me.

Lewis tried somewhat successfully to roll over and get a hug from AJ. That had both AJ and me laughing as the little pudge grunted and wiggled to get his arms around to him.

"I have to admit, AJ, it was hard for me to leave him while we were gone for the last four days. Yes, I really missed him. It takes all of us to be our family, doesn't it?" I answered the boy, smiling and reaching over Lewis to muss up his already messy hair.

"Ye-e-eah," said AJ with his patented grin.

Soon, Elliot wandered in, holding his glasses in one hand while rubbing his eyes with the other.

"Son, you don't look like you're quite ready to get up."

"Ugh. Yeah, I am. But I didn't want to miss anything, then I heard you guys in here laughing and I had to see."

Lewis was all giddy and tried his best to grab a hug from Elliot as well. Elliot beamed as he scooped up the little guy.

We had a really nice breakfast that morning. Elliot said he wanted a day off from his exercise routine and stuck around to help me rustle up some waffles and bacon. Jeffy finally came down when I sent AJ back up to his room to cover his sleeping outfit - nothing! In fact, we all lolled around in our underwear, and one diaper, until after the breakfast dishes were done.

"Jeffy, Elliot, I can't help but be concerned about your buddy, Ray Carlton. You know he and his dad couldn't come with us because they were out of town, but I didn't like the way his mom sounded when she told me."

"What do you mean, Pop?" asked Elliot.

"Oh, I'm not sure. It just sounded like she was on the verge of tears. I didn't know if it was because of her being worried about them or what. I was hoping one of you could call him and see if they're alright."

"Sure, Pop. I'll call, but I'm sure everything is fine. They always got along great, if that's what you mean."

"Well, I thought so too. I guess I don't know what I mean."

So, both Jeffy and Elliot went into the kitchen, where Jeffy dialed their number.

I sat in my recliner with two little guys playing at my feet. I strained to hear what was being said but my little ones were too noisy to let me hear anything.

It wasn't but a few minutes that they were walking back into the living room.

"Pop, Mrs. Carlton said they won't be back until Saturday, um, tomorrow. She didn't say where they were but she said she'd have Ray call when he felt up to it. I don't know what that means unless he's too tired after their trip or something."

"Okay, boys. Thanks for doing that. How did she sound?"

"Um, I guess," said Jeffy, looking at Elliot as he answered me, "She sounded okay. Maybe tired, but okay, I'd say."

"Yeah, Pop," answered Elliot. "I had my ear up to the phone and she was okay, I guess." He didn't sound convinced though.

"Alright. Let's try again Sunday afternoon."

End of Chapter Sixty-four

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