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Chapter 75 – LeVar’s Big Idea

 

We blankly stared at LeVar for several moments before I finally sputtered, “Um, excuse me, I’m sorry.  I think my ears went a bit wonky there.  Would you care to repeat that, please?”

 

“Sure,” LeVar replied with a chuckle and decidedly wicked grin.  “I’d like to create a series based on you, your life and your family.”

 

“Uh, yep, that’s what I heard the first time,” I muttered in disbelief.  “I had to be sure.  Are you serious?”

 

“I don’t play around with things like this, Max.  Of course, I’m serious.”

 

I looked to Tom to gauge his reaction to LeVar’s proposal and saw nothing but surprise flooding his face.  “Uh, Earth to Tom, you in there, big guy?”

 

He slowly turned to look at me and finally found his voice again.  “Uh, yeah, I think so.  I could swear I just heard this crazy dude say he wants to make a TV series outta our lives.  Tell me I’m dreamin’.”

 

“Not a dream, big guy, more like your worst nightmare come true.”  I returned my attention to LeVar and asked, “Just how do you think you’re gonna pull that off?”

 

“Well, we’d have to sell the idea to a network like HBO to get by with the rampant nudity involved, but I think I can do it.”

 

“I don’t know LeVar, that sounds like asking for a miracle.  While I know some studios don’t have a problem with full female nudity, for some reason, they still really avoid it with men.  Like the plague.  It’s like they think seeing a man’s penis would induce mass hysteria in the viewing audience.  And kids, well, hell, you might as well just tell ‘em you’re gonna show two guys screwing each other in the middle of Time Square in broad daylight.  Actually, you’d probably have a better chance of getting that on the air than a naked kid.”

 

“All true, Max, but it’s a concept I’m willing to fight for.”

 

“But why?  And why us?”

 

“Well, it’s kinda like what Ray said, in the short time I’ve been around you and your family, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and you guys.  And I have no doubt that I’ll learn a whole lot more from all of you the more we’re around each other.”

 

“Like what”, I queried.

 

“Yes, give us some examples here, LeVar, so we know what you’re talking about,” Tom added.

 

“First, I guess, is the family or social nudity.  While it’s something I’ve contemplated over the years, I just never felt secure enough with my own body, my own feelings, my body’s possible reactions, to give it a try.  But now that I have, I can see there’s absolutely nothing wrong, weird, creepy or obscene about it.  It’s just people living their lives, albeit, without the suffocating restrictions of clothing.  And I find myself reveling in that freedom.  After spending most of the day nude, I couldn’t wait for everyone to leave so I could return to that state of comfort.  And to my credit and surprise, I’ve only had one, um, erection.”  Tom and I chuckled at his comment before he continued.

 

“Second on my list would the positivity all of you exude with your whole-hearted embracing of your sexuality.  And for your sons, at their ages, to be so positive and confident about that aspect of their personalities simply boggles the mind.  All you ever hear these days are the horror stories of kids dealing with abuse and bullying because they’re gay, trans or whatever.  And right here in this house, you have four kids who don’t give a rat’s ass what others think of them, and they’re ready to take this world by storm.  Their support group at the school, and the fact they’ve already saved one kid’s life because of it just proves the point.  My God, talk about role models that other people should embrace and emulate.

 

“Third would have to be how much you all truly care about other people.  On that front, you have the fact you’ve agreed to adopt four boys who were probably all but unplaceable due their ages and sexuality, but you didn’t care.  You welcomed them into your lives, your home and your hearts, and they’re all that much better off for that selfless act of kindness.  Then you took in Andy shortly after the others had moved in, as if it was something you do every day.  A few weeks later, you added Logan to the mix when he had issues with his dad.  And now that his dad is gone, I’ve no doubt you’re going to continue to support and help him, even adopt him if that becomes an option.

 

“Lastly, you have the new home you plan to build so you can help even more kids than you already are.  You have no idea what kinds of kids you might get, what their problems might be or how long they might live with you, but those issues don’t seem to be slowing you down one bit.  Come hell or high water, you’re going to make it happen.  I firmly believe you’d build a house two or three times the size of what you’re already planning so you could help as many kids as possible.  Go ahead, try to tell me I’m wrong about any of that.”

 

“No, you’re not wrong, LeVar,” I smiled.  “And I’d build a fucking twenty-story hotel if it meant we could help more kids.”

 

“But we get the penthouse,” Tom added with a chuckle.

 

“And I don’t doubt that one bit, you two,” LeVar laughed.  “Look, I spent a fair amount of time with the boys yesterday and came away from that being very impressed with their compassion and desire to help other kids.  They’ve already started doing that with their group at school.  And with what they said to Ray and the way they handled themselves in front of a camera just adds further proof to their true character.  I’d like to see them do anything they want in the future because I can already see the positive change they’ll create.  With what I do for a living, the best way I can further that impact is to capture their spirit on video and share it with a viewing audience.”

 

“Whoa, LeVar, hold on there a second.  I’m not too sure we want the boys, or ourselves for that matter, being recorded for the entertainment, or even the education, of the masses.”

 

“No, no, you misunderstand what I want to do.  I wouldn’t dare intrude into your lives like that.  I just want to base the show on you, not have you in it personally.  I’d build a facsimile of your home on a soundstage, hire real actors to portray you and create storylines that more or less follow your real life.  All the character’s names would be changed, along with the location and other things in an attempt to minimize the impact on you.  I want to do this as a regular series as much as possible, just using you all for a basis in reality instead of being pure fantasy.”

 

“Well, that sounds a little better, I guess,” was my hedging response.

 

“What, you mean I don’t get to become an international screen sensation?” Tom pouted.  LeVar and I both cracked up after that comment.

 

When we settled back down, LeVar finally asked, “So, what do you think?  Are you with me?”

 

“I don’t know,” I answered thoughtfully.  “While I’m intrigued with the idea, I worry about how being involved in such a project could affect our lives.  You’ve obviously been giving this a lot of thought today.  Can you give us a general idea of how you think you’ll pull it off?”

 

“I’ve thought of hardly anything else and I’m glad you asked,” LeVar replied while clapping his hands together and scooting forward to sit on the edge of the loveseat.  “My initial thinking is to take the first season to cover the childhood and early adult years of the main character, who I’ve named Jackson.  We’d start with Jackson at about the age of five, move through the ages of, say, seven to eleven, depicting his confusion and internal struggle after realizing he likes boys more than girls, even though his parents and church say it’s wrong to feel that way.  Then move on to the early to mid-teens and the abuse that stymied his growth into adulthood to, say, about the release of his first book. 

 

“We’d follow that up as we deal with the next ten or twelve years and end the first season about where you were late last year, depicting his acceptance of being gay, the rejection by his parents and the depression that followed.  I think we could cover each of those stages in three to four shows for each time period, so say, twelve one-hour episodes, and we’d end the season with Jackson’s decision to try adoption.

 

“We follow the same story arc with, uh, Tim, let’s say.  From young childhood through early adulthood and intermingle bits of each character’s life throughout each episode.  And to help keep a bit of separation between reality and fiction, we’d have Jackson and Tim be the same age.  That way the audience can see the development of both the main characters.

 

“The second season would pick up from there, and the biggest hurdle we’ll have to cross then will be finding parents who won’t object to their sons being filmed nude.  I’m sure it won’t be an easy task, but I think as long they’re allowed on set during taping, we could quell any concerns they may have.  We’d almost have to have scripts for the entire second season ready to go when we do the casting so everybody would know right up front what they’re getting into and what will be expected from the actors.

 

“Since most of the first season will be mostly Jackson and Tim, we could do it with a minimum of other actors to help keep production costs down for the first year.  I’m assuming you didn’t become a real nudist until after you moved into this house, so we wouldn’t have to worry too much about that the first season either.  The only trick will be finding a male lead who’d be willing to be nude for most of the day as we taped each of the later episodes.

 

“While what we depict on the show wouldn’t be a direct parallel of your actual lives, I’d like it to be as close to the truth as you’d be comfortable with.  So, what do you think?”

 

“And just what, exactly, do we get out of it?” Tom asked bluntly.

 

“Untold wealth and riches,” LeVar laughed.

 

“Eh, already got that,” Tom reflected.  “What else ya got?”

 

“My undying devotion for helping the project succeed?” LeVar asked warily.

 

“Okay, I’m in,” Tom chuckled.

 

I looked at Tom in surprise at his easy acceptance of LeVar’s proposal.  Though I was liking the idea and seriously considering being involved with it, I was still a bit hesitant to jump in with both feet.

 

“I have to think about this, LeVar.  In theory, it sounds great, but I’m not sure you’re going to find anyone who would actually let you tape a show with nude kids, let alone air it.”

 

“That’s my fight, Max.  And while I won’t fight it to the death of me, I’ll still give it my best shot.”

 

“We also need to talk to the boys to see how they’d feel about their lives being seen by that many other people.  I’m not too sure they’ll like the idea.”

 

“Are you kiddin’ me?” LeVar laughed.  “They’d do it themselves if you’d let them.”

 

After a moment of reflection, I realized LeVar was right in his assessment.  “Yeah, no doubt they would.  But we still need to talk about it ourselves and with the boys.”

 

“That’s as it should be,” LeVar responded.  “Do you think you might be able to give me an answer before I leave tomorrow?”

 

“That shouldn’t be a problem.  What do you think, Tom?  Or is it Tim, now?”

 

“Nope, I’m still Tom.  Tim’s my alter-ego, kinda like Jake is yours.  And I already said I’m in.  Or did you miss that?”

 

“No-o-o, I caught it, just makin’ sure you didn’t change your mind.”

 

“Not a chance,” Tom countered.  “If you think your book is gonna help people, just think how many a TV show will help.  A lot more folks watch TV than read books, ya know.”

 

“Don’t remind me,” the author in me moaned.  I turned back to LeVar and added, “Okay, we’ll talk to the boys tomorrow morning and see what they say.  Fair enough?”

 

“I can live with it, guys.  Thanks for hearing me out.”

 

“I’ve got one more question for you before I have that talk, though.”

 

“What’s that, Max?”

 

“How would you handle the abuse part of the story?”

 

“Very delicately, of course.  I’d be looking for a kid who could portray a sullen, moody, angst-riddled teen without a problem.  That shouldn’t be too difficult to accomplish since almost all young teens fit that description to a tee.  The abuse scenes themselves would be done in way that while all we actually see onscreen are the faces and torsos of the individuals, and we’d hear their voices, there would be no doubt about what was happening.  And I would only use that footage to show the beginning of the abuse.  Any following scenes we’d need would simply be Jackson and his abusers disappearing into the office.  We’d record enough of the abuse that we could use snippets in later episodes to show flashes of it as Jackson deals with his suppressed memories coming back to him.”

 

“So, the actors in those scenes wouldn’t be nude during their recording.”

 

“Absolutely not.  They’ll be difficult scenes to deal with, for sure, but with the right camera angles, lighting and gentle editing, we can pull it off.”

 

“Okay, I just wanted to know how you’d handle that.  I know the abuse part of my life is super important to the overall story, but I had to understand how’d you’d incorporate it without being too graphic.”

 

“No worries, Max, I understand.  I’ll treat the subject with kid gloves.”

 

“Thanks, LeVar.”

 

“Max, can I ask you somethin’?” Tom quietly voiced.

 

“Shoot, big guy,” I replied as I turned to face him.

 

“Now that you know that Jake is based on you, and he’s saddled with most of your same foibles and insecurities, do you think there’s any chance he was abused like you were?”

 

“Well, hell, I hadn’t even thought about that.”  I sat quietly for a few moments as I mulled over the implication of Tom’s question.  “I suppose anything’s possible, but, after some quick thought, I don’t think so.  When I started writing and created Jake, I had no idea at the time what had happened to me, so it seems unlikely.”

 

“Well, you were hiding deep in the closet at the time, too, but you still created Jake as a gay man.  Any chance your subconscious heaped the abuse on him along with everything else?”

 

“Tell you what, let me get the next couple of books written and ask me again.  I might have a real answer for you by that time.”

 

“Deal,” Tom answered with a smile.

 

“Well, I don’t know about you two, but I need some shut-eye,” I commented.  “This weekend has ‘long days’ written all over it.”

 

“Nope, I’m ready, too,” Tom agreed.

 

“I’ll be awake for bit,” LeVar said, “but I promise I’ll be quiet.”

 

“We’ll see you in the morning, then.  Sleep well, LeVar.”

 

“Thanks, you too.”

 

We headed to our bedroom for a well-earned good night’s sleep, but I had some questions for Tom before we could even think about it.  Once we’d settled on the bed, my first question was, “So, what happens next with Charlie?”

 

“Well, we don’t have to deal with identification.  Dylan and I already took care of that with Sebastian.  Next, Sebastian will do an autopsy, though I don’t think there’s much question as to the cause of Charlie’s death.  It’ll be more checking to see if he was under the influence of something, or had a heart attack or stroke, most likely.  With Charlie’s experience of dealing with things alone, I’m sure he was extra careful whenever he was around operating equipment.  We’ll just have to wait and see what the M.E. finds.”

 

“Okay, what do we about a funeral or whatever?  Should we deal with all of that, do we include Logan in those decisions?  And what about any other family?”

 

“Derek will take care of tracking down and notifying any other family members.  After Sebastian left, Derek was going in the house to see if he could find anything to help him with that thankless task.  He told me he’d let us know if he did.  As for the funeral, I don’t know, babe.  Once Sebastian is done with his work, Charlie’s body will be released for pick up by a funeral home to take care of him.  Since Logan’s mom died just a year ago, he should know who took care of her arrangements and I guess we call them to take care of Charlie also.”

 

“Yeah, I guess so.  I’m going to call Carol in the morning to let her know what’s happened.  She’ll need to deal with where Logan goes from here.  While I’m hoping he can stay with us, I’m sure any of his mom or dad’s next of kin would come before we would.”

 

“Logan won’t much like it if he has to move.”

 

“We won’t either, but if that’s what has to happen, we need to accept it.”

 

“Oh, I’ll accept it, but I sure ain’t gonna like it.”

 

“I’m with ya on that, big guy.  Okay, it sounds like we have half of a plan for tomorrow, anyway.  Guess we’ll try to figure out what happens Sunday tomorrow night.”

 

With our conversation over, we curled up together and, after a sharing a kiss and ‘I love you’, let sleep take us.  I was out of it until I woke up about two-thirty in the morning and felt the bed moving.  It wasn’t until I felt something crawling over me that I realized what was happening.  I opened my eyes just enough to make out the sad face of Logan in front of me, eyes silently begging.  My reply was to scoot back a bit to leave a munchkin-sized gap between Tom and me before lifting the covers.  Logan quickly filled the empty space and backed into me so I could hold him as we drifted off.

 

When I was awakened by the sun streaming through the windows in the morning, I was confused as to who I was holding.  I knew it couldn’t be Tom since the body’s frame was so small.  Upon opening my eyes and recognizing the back of Logan’s head two inches in front of my face, I flashed back to my middle of the night sleep interruption and remembered him climbing over me and under the covers.

 

“You awake, buddy?” I whispered.

 

“Yeah, Dad,” he answered as he rolled over to face me.  “Been awake for a while, now.  I didn’t really sleep much last night, even though I liked the way you held me.”

 

“No, probably not,” I agreed.  “You doin’ okay?”

 

“I don’t know,” he muttered numbly.  “It’s still sinkin’ in – my daddy’s gone.  He is, isn’t he?  It weren’t just a bad dream or somethin’ stupid like that, was it?”

 

“I’m sure it feels like the worst dream ever, but yes, Logan, he is.”

 

“Damn it, that sucks big ol’ donkey dicks.”  I couldn’t help but snicker at his minor outburst.  “Why does bad shit keep happenin’ to me?” he whimpered quietly.  “First momma, now daddy,” he moaned.  “What the hell’d I do to deserve shit like this?  Everybody I love just keeps goin’ away.  I mean, who’s next, you and Pops?”

 

“Logan, listen to me.  You’ve done absolutely nothing.  Nobody ever deserves to lose the people they love.  But, sometimes, life just sucks and there’s nothing any of us can do to change that.”

 

“Ya ain’t gotta tell me that,” he chuffed.

 

“No, I guess I don’t.”

 

“You ain’t gonna leave me, are ya?”

 

“Not if I can help it, I won’t.”

 

“What’ the hell’s that mean?”

 

“I guess it depends on if you have any other family members who might take you in.”

 

“Well, there’s my Uncle Troy.  He’s daddy’s brother and lives outside of Dexter, way down south in Missouri.  He’s got a tree farm, grows peaches and apples.  An orchid, I think daddy called it.”

 

“I think you mean an orchard, Logan.”

 

“Yeah, that’s it, an orchard.  But what about him?  I don’t wanna go live with them, he’s even meaner than my daddy was, and my cousins are all shitheads, too, just like him.  They was always pickin’ on me whenever we got together and I hate all of ‘em.”

 

“We may not have a choice, kiddo.  When a kid your age loses both parents, the courts take over and they really want to keep families together when possible.”

 

“But, don’t I get a say in where I live?”

 

“If you were a little older, a judge might listen to what you had to say, but at nine, that seems unlikely.”

 

“And there goes life, fuckin’ me all over again.”

 

“You know we’ll do whatever we can, but our hands may be tied.”

 

“I gots a damn sharp knife that’ll fix that problem in a jiffy,” Logan grinned.

 

I chuckled and answered, “I bet you do, young man.  It sounds like we need to call your uncle today and let him know what’s happened.  I’m sure he’ll have something to say about your dad’s funeral arrangements.”

 

“Ain’t none of it gonna be nothin’ nice, so why waste your time?”

 

“It’s called common courtesy, Logan.  I know you and your dad had some problems, but Troy was his brother.  He needs to know what’s going on.”

 

“Yeah, all right, but I don’t wanna talk to him.”

 

“That’s fine, Tom and I will do all the talking.”

 

“Good.  Now, what’s for breakfast?”

 

“There’s the eating machine we’ve all grown to love.  I just knew he was hidin’ somewhere in there,” I chuckled as I poked Logan’s belly.  “How’s waffles and sausage sound?”

 

“Yummy, Dad.  Let’s go.”

 

“Tell ya what, you go roust Damon and your brothers while I get Pops movin’ and we’ll all meet in the kitchen.”

 

“You got it, old man,” Logan giggled as he crawled out from under the covers, jumped off the bed and flew through the door. 

 

I shook Tom’s shoulder to wake him up and after his eyes fluttered open, I said, “Time to rise and shine, big guy.  We’re doing waffles and sausage for breakfast.”

 

“Mmmphh, what you need me for?  You go have fun and come get me in a couple hours.”

 

“C’mon, Tom.  We’ve got a lot to deal with today.  Plus, your mom and dad are stopping by on their way home, remember?”

 

“Oh, yeah,” he answered as his eyes popped fully open.  “I’ll be out to help right after I hit the john.”

 

“If you aren’t, I’m siccing my minions on you,” I retorted as I left the bedroom to make my way to the kitchen.

 

“Oh, the horror,” he mockingly laughed to my back.

 

By the time I’d reached the kitchen, the boys were lined up on their stools and anxious for breakfast.  As I got busy with making the syrup and the waffle batter, the boys got busy setting the table for nine of us.  Tom finally put in his appearance and after pouring a cup of coffee for himself, he pulled out the waffle iron and got it plugged in so it could warm up.  With that minor chore taken care of, Tom started cooking the sausage on the double burner griddle plate.  I let him work on the sausage about five minutes before I poured the batter for the first waffle into the iron.  Just as I closed the lid, LeVar rounded the corner to join us.

 

“Mornin’, guys, what’s for breakfast?” he asked.

 

“Waffles and sausage, Mr. Burton,” Logan answered.  “It was my idea.”

 

“That sounds good to me, too, Logan,” LeVar agreed.  “Anything I can do to help out?”

 

“I think we’ve got everything under control, LeVar, but thanks for asking,” Tom answered.

 

“Have you had a chance to talk to your sons about my idea?”

 

“What idea?” Alex quickly asked.

 

“Uh, not just yet.  I thought we’d do that over breakfast,” I replied.

 

“Good, then I’ll be there to answer any questions they may have.”

 

“C’mon, Dads, spill it,” Joey demanded.

 

“When we’re sitting down, Joey, which will be soon enough,” Tom said.

 

“Fine,” the twins grumped. 

 

With keeping the waffles and sausage warm in the oven as we continued to cook, we were soon ready to sit and enjoy our breakfast.  The boys allowed us just enough time to add butter and syrup to our waffles and take our first bite before the conversation began in earnest.

 

“Okay, Dads, what’s the scoop,” T.J. demanded.

 

“What, you don’t already know?” Tom asked.

 

“No, there’s too much other junk flyin’ through the air from these other goobers.”

 

“Yea, Dad, spit it out already,” Mike chuffed.

 

“Fine, here’s the deal.”  Between bites of our meal, Tom and I spent about five minutes laying out LeVar’s proposal from last night.  When we finally finished our explanation, I asked, “So what do y’all think?”

 

“Why do you two even ask us such silly questions?” Joey giggled.

 

“Yeah, it’s like askin’ a cop if he likes doughnuts?” Alex laughed.

 

“Well, speaking as a former cop, I’ll have to say that’s a definite yes,” Tom chuckled.

 

“Does anyone have any questions for LeVar before we give him an answer?” I queried.

 

“Nope, we’re on board, Dads,” T.J. answered.

 

“All of you?” Tom asked.  The answer to that question was six heads nodding so vigorously they looked like they might fly off the shoulders to which they were attached.  Tom then turned to LeVar and said, “There’s your answer, LeVar.  What do you need from us?”

 

“Nothing right now, guys.  I’m going to skip New York and head for home this afternoon so I can get some things organized there and at my office on Monday.  Once I talk to some of my people, I’ll be in touch to make arrangements for us to come back and talk to each of you.”

 

“Why do you need to that?” I asked.

 

“I just want the background details we provide for each character to be as close to the truth as possible.  The best way to do that is to get it all direct from the horses’ mouths.  I also want to get pictures of all of you so when it’s time to select our cast, we can make sure we select people who are at least close in appearance to who they’ll be portraying.  Same with trying to record impressions of each of your personalities, too.”

 

“Why go to all that trouble,” Joey asked.

 

“Yeah, why not just let us do it ourselves?” Alex added.

 

“See, what’d I tell you two last night?” LeVar asked with a grin while looking at Tom and me.

 

“Doesn’t surprise us a bit, LeVar,” I laughed.  By the time our chat was over, it was time to start cleaning up the mess we’d made.  While nine of us got busy with that task, LeVar excused himself so he could start getting his things together for his trip home.  After placing a call for a limo to pick him up, he settled into the living room with his baggage, and the clothes he planned to wear were draped over the arm of the loveseat.  While the boys disappeared into the theater, Tom and I joined LeVar.

 

“Enjoying your freedom as long as you can, I see,” Tom commented.

 

“You bet I am.  I’m gonna have to talk the boss into trying it once I get home.  Maybe if she joins me, we can finally visit one of those resorts I found.”

 

“I wish you good luck with that, LeVar,” I chuckled.  “So, what do you have to do when you get back?”

 

“First thing Monday morning, I’ll get with the legal eagles and have them get the basics drawn up for the contracts on the movie project.  Hopefully, we can get those sent Monday afternoon so you, Rich and his dad can look them over.  If everything looks good, just sign them and send ‘em back.  If you want changes, let me know and we’ll see what we can work out.”

 

“As long as they come in with the same terms we discussed the other night, I don’t see where we’ll need any changes.  I’m still going to have my attorney review them before we sign, though.”

 

“As you should,” LeVar agreed.

 

“What about the other project?” Tom asked.

 

“When I’m talking to legal about the movie contracts, I’ll have them draw up the contracts for that one at the same time.”

 

“Why would you need them?  We’ve already given our approval,” I replied.

 

“Well, first, I want to make sure we’re all in agreement as to what the plan is.  The only way to do that is to have a contract listing those specific details and have your signatures saying you agree with them.  Second, there’s the not so small matter of payment to you and your sons for the rights to your stories.”

 

“Wait, what payment?” I asked.  “You didn’t say anything about that last night.”

 

“Oops, I guess I forgot to tell you ‘bout that in my excitement,” LeVar chuckled.  “The boys, including Logan since I assume he’ll soon be joining the family, are going to receive a million dollars each for their rights, and you and Tom will get two million each for yours.  All of you will be credited as ‘Creative Consultants’ for the show and will also be paid for each episode as such.”

 

“Oh my god!” I exclaimed in surprise.  “You can’t be serious.”

 

“As a heart attack, guys.”

 

“But what if you can’t find anyone who’ll take on the project with, wait, what’d you call it last night?  Oh yeah, the ‘rampant nudity’,” I added with a chuckle.

 

“I’m going to do the series, one way or another.  While I hope I can find a partner who will accept it the way it should be is another story, but it’s going to happen.  I know we’re gonna be pushing the envelope with what many people consider ‘acceptable’, but I think it’s high time we did so.”

 

Tom and I stared dumbly at each other at this unexpected windfall as we tried to absorb the news.  He finally broke the silence when he numbly mumbled, “Pinch me.”  After doing as requested, he added, “Yep, not a dream.”

 

“Boys, this is your life, get used to it.”

 

“We’re tryin’, LeVar, but there’s so much happening, it’s hard to keep up, sometimes,” I replied.

 

“Well, that’s the last surprise I have for you.  Today, anyway,” he added with a quick chuckle.

 

“Thank god for that,” I moaned.  The drive sensor chose that moment to announce someone pulling in.

 

“I bet that’s my cue to get dressed, damn it,” LeVar said as he stood up and grabbed his clothes.  He pulled on his shorts, shirt and shoes, then turned to us to say goodbye.  “I want to thank you for letting me stay with you the past couple of days.  I’ve had a great time getting to know all of you and I look forward to seeing you again.  It’s going to be fun working together.”

 

“We’re glad you came out, LeVar.  We’ve enjoyed the visit and getting to know you also.  I can honestly say meeting you has been the highlight of my life.”

 

“Wait, what about me?” Tom asked.  “I thought I was the highlight.”

 

“Well, you’re number one, for sure,” I reassured him while patting his cheek.  “And the boys would have to take the next six places on that list.  But LeVar is right after them.  Feel better, now?”

 

“Much, thank you,” he replied with a cheesy grin.  The theater door banged open and the house shook as the herd rumbled across the house to join us.

 

“Is that Grandma and Grampa comin’?” Alex asked.

 

“Probably LeVar’s ride so he can head back home guys.”

 

“You’re leaving already?” T.J. asked.

 

“Yeah, I’ve got a lot work to do when I get back home.  But I’ll be back soon, don’t worry about that.”

 

“Sweet!” Joey enthused.  “Bye, Mr. Burton.  It was really cool to meet you,” he added while giving LeVar a hug.

 

“It was cool to talk about Star Trek, too,” Alex added as he joined in the hug.  That was all it took as all the boys surrounded the dazed man and hugged the stuffing out of him.  When they finally broke up, Tom and I stepped in to say our goodbyes, also.  We tried to shake hands, but he pulled us both into a hug and thanked us for welcoming him into our ever-growing family.

 

“We’re glad to have you become a part of it.  Have a safe flight home.”

 

“I will.  And thanks for your hospitality.  We’ll be talking sometime next week, I’m sure.”  With that final comment, LeVar turned and aimed for the front door.  To avoid his driver seeing our current state of dress, we all waved goodbye from the living room as LeVar stepped outside and closed the door behind him.

 

Tom and I sank back into our chairs and took a few moments to collect our thoughts while the herd stared at us with questioning looks.  When I felt I was ready to tell the boys of what LeVar had just informed us, I looked to Tom and asked, “You ready, yet?”

 

“No time like the present, might as well get it over with,” he agreed.  He turned to the group still surrounding us and said, “Boys, have a seat, we need to talk.”

 

“Now what?” Andy asked nervously as the couch and loveseat filled up.

 

“We didn’t know about this until just a few minutes ago, but there’s one more thing you all need to know about this series LeVar wants to create about us.”

 

“Are we gonna like it?” Mike asked pointedly.

 

“Well, we hope so,” Tom replied.  After a short pause to let the suspense build, “Part of the deal in allowing LeVar to do the show is he is going to pay us for the rights to our stories.”

 

“Yeah, how much?” Joey asked excitedly.

 

“So, what?  We get a few bucks, big deal,” Alex said.

 

“It more than just a few bucks, Alex.” I replied.  “You guys are going to get a million dollars.  Each.”

 

“HOLY CRAP!” Alex screamed.

 

“WE’RE MILLIONAIRES!” Joey added at full volume.  The others were too surprised at their good fortune to be able to say anything.  All except for Logan, that is.

 

“And there goes life, fuckin’ me all over again,” he grumbled.

 

“Why would you think that, young man?” Tom asked.

 

“Well, I ain’t really part of the family, am I?” he whined.

 

“Not officially, no, but LeVar said you’re included in that, too,” I replied calmly.

 

“You’re shittin’ me, right?” he retorted with surprise filling his face.

 

“Not a bit, young man,” I answered with a grin.

 

“Oh, my God,” he cried as he broke down into a sobbing heap.  I quickly moved over to him so I could hold him as he cried.

 

After letting him go for a few minutes, I finally asked, “What’s wrong, buddy?”

 

“I’m gonna get rich and daddy ain’t here to enjoy it with me,” he whimpered.

 

“I’m sorry, Logan.  I’m sure your dad would be happy for you.”

 

“S’okay, I’ll get used to it.  Someday.”

 

“I know you will, but it’s gonna take a while.”

 

“Yeah, I know.  I been through this hell once already, I can do it again,” he replied as he snagged some kleenex and wiped his face dry.

 

“We know it won’t be easy, but we’ll help you through it, okay?”  After a quick nod, I added, “Now, would you guys watch a movie or play a game for a while.  Pops and I need to deal with some phone calls.”

 

“You got it, Dads,” T.J. answered.  “C’mon, dudes, I can hear the Uno cards callin’ our names.”  As they started towards their bedrooms, I held on to Logan for just a moment so I could ask a question to which only he would know the answer.

 

“I hate to ask this, but do you remember who took care of your mother’s funeral?  I figured we’d have them take care of your dad’s arrangements, too.”

 

“Oh, yeah, it was just the place over in New Berlin.  And she’s buried at the church just out the Old Jack a bit.  I think when daddy took care of that, he bought a spot for him, too, so they could be together.”

 

“Thanks, Logan.  Scoot on out of here, then, and we’ll get busy on the phones.”  We watched as he slowly headed down the hallway to join the others, his head hanging low as he plodded along.

 

“That is one sad kiddo,” Tom commented.

 

“For good reason, hon.  Okay, Logan told me in bed this morning about his uncle Troy, Charlie’s brother.  You want to call Derek and see if he’s found any other family while I call Carol and fill her in?”

 

“Sure thing, babe.”  Tom picked up the phone to make his call while I headed to the kitchen to make mine.  I called Carol’s cell number since I didn’t have a clue where she would be today.

 

“Good morning, Max.  You wouldn’t be callin’ me on a Saturday with good news.  What’s happened?”

 

“Charlie Campbell, Logan’s dad, died last night in an accident on their farm.”

 

“Oh, no, that’s horrible!  How’s Logan doing?”

 

“Not too good, but he’s tryin’ to hang tough.  Any idea what’s going to happen to Logan now?”

 

“First it depends on if Charlie had a will.  Usually, parents will make a request of who they’d like to take care of any minor children they may have if they die before the child becomes an adult.  If there’s no will, we’ll try to find other family members of the deceased who would be willing to give any minor children a home.  Failing that, then it’s up to the courts, in our case, Judge Corgan.”

 

 “Well, I don’t know about a will, but Logan told me this morning about an uncle who lives in Missouri.  Should we contact him or let someone else deal with that?”

 

“Why don’t you let the police handle the notification?  They’re much better equipped to manage these situations, Max.  And if the uncle needs to get in touch with you for anything, let him go through the police, too.  With a child involved, especially after a death, emotions are often out of control and you’d be better off to keep Logan out of any possible difficult situations.”

 

“That works for me.  Tom was calling Derek to find out if he’d had any success with finding the uncle while I called you.  From what Logan told me about the man this morning, he sounds like a real piece of work I’d just as soon not know.  What about funeral arrangements?  Since Logan’s living with us, do you think we should be involved with those?”

 

“Again, that’s probably something you should leave up to Logan and the uncle.”

 

“But I feel like we should be doing more.”

 

“You guys just take care of Logan.  He’s the most important.  Everything else is a minor inconvenience.”

 

“I think Charlie may disagree with you on that.”

 

“He probably would, but I’m only concerned with Logan.”

 

“All right, all right, I get it.”

 

“Look, I know I don’t have the answers you were looking for, but I’ll see what I can find out.”

 

“Thanks, Carol.  I appreciate your help.  Talk to you later.”

 

“Bye, Max.  Tell Logan I’m thinking about him.”

 

I hung up the phone and headed back to the living room to see if Tom had better success than I did.  After sinking heavily into my chair, I asked, “What’s the scoop, big guy?”

 

“Derek got a hold of Troy this morning and he’s coming up here to deal with things.  From what Derek said, the guy sounds like a real pain in the ass.  He was actually pissed off that Derek went into the house.”

 

“Give Troy a little break, would ya?  He just lost his brother.”

 

“I’ll try, babe, but it sounds like the dude’s just an asshole.  Derek said the only thing he asked about was what’s going to happen to the farm, not Charlie, not Logan, the damn farm.”

 

“Did Derek say anything about finding a will?”

 

“He didn’t see that anywhere, but he did find a locked fireproof storage box.  He has no idea what’s inside it.”

 

“Do you know David’s number?”

 

“Yeah, thanks to our poker nights.  You really think we need to call him?”

 

“We need to protect Logan and his interests.  I think I know what Troy’s thinkin’, and I don’t like it.”

 

“Well, what are you thinking?”

 

“From what Logan and Derek have both said, it sounds like Troy believes he’s should be the one to inherit the farm.  If Charlie left a will and those were his wishes, then so be it.  But if he didn’t have a will, then I think Logan would be the one who inherits.  If that’s the case, we need to make sure that’s what happens.”

 

“You know somethin’, you shoulda been a lawyer,” Tom chuckled.

 

“Let’s not be nasty, hon,” I retorted before adding, “Make the call, please.”  Tom dialed the judge’s number and after a few rings, the call was answered.

 

“Tom, is that you?” Margie greeted.

 

“Good morning, Margie.  How are you today?”

 

“I’m doing well, thanks.  I’ve been meaning to send you a congratulations greeting, but I keep forgetting to follow through with my thought.”

 

“Thanks.  I hate to bother him on a day off, but is his Honor available?  I need to discuss a possibly serious legal problem with him.”

 

“He always has time for you, young man.  One moment while I call him to the phone.”

 

“Thank you, Margie.  Have a great weekend.”

 

“Thanks, you too.  Hang on.”  We could hear Margie calling David to the phone and he joined us shortly.

 

“Good morning, Tom.  To what do I owe the pleasure.”

 

“Not much pleasure this morning, your Honor.  Max and I need a legal opinion from someone who will know the answer without having to look it up.”

 

“Well, shoot, young man.”

 

“Logan’s father, Charlie, was killed last night in a freak accident on his farm.”

 

“Oh, no!  I hate to hear that, especially when the two seemed to be back on the road to a more normal father and son relationship.  How is Logan handling things?”

 

“Not well at all, your Honor.”

 

“I’d imagine not.  Please, let him know we’ll be thinking about him.  So, what’s your question?”

 

“Well, I guess we actually have two.  The first is what happens with Logan now?  Will he get to stay with us or will he have to go somewhere else?  The second is what will happen with the farm?”

 

“Well, I’m sure you already know the answer to both questions all depends on if Mr. Campbell has left a will stating his wishes in the event of his death.  If he did, then the will would need to be probated, and the executor will disburse the estate following the instructions set forth.  If there is no will, then, under Illinois law, the child would stand to inherit the entire estate as the sole surviving descendant of the parents.”

 

“That’s pretty much what Max thought on the estate question.  But what about Logan, himself?”

 

“Again, if there’s a will, then a designation as to whom would become the child’s legal guardian until he reaches the age of majority will probably be noted therein, and he would go live with said guardian, most likely, a member of the child’s extended family.  If there is no will, then the court will generally lean towards placing the minor child with any found extended family, unless there is sufficient cause to believe that would not be in the child’s best interests.  In that case, the child will be placed in foster care in hopes that an acceptable adoptive family can be located for him or her.”

 

“Would Logan have any say in where he lives?” I asked.

 

“To be bluntly honest, at his tender age, no.  If he were a few years older, say fourteen or so, then a judge will sometimes listen to the minor’s request and give that request due consideration.  But even then, if the minor’s request is deemed by the court to be unsatisfactory or not in the child’s best interests, then the court will do what it feels is the proper thing.”

 

“So, what you’re saying is that Logan could end up anywhere and neither he nor we have any say in it,” Tom said, asking for clarification.

 

“Unfortunately, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.”

 

“Um, excuse me, David, Max again.  Logan has already told me that, basically, his uncle is not a good man and he and his cousins have always been extremely mean to Logan whenever they’ve been together.  Wouldn’t that have some bearing on where Logan ends up living?”

 

“If there were proof to back up those accusations, most definitely.  However, lacking that proof, the court would have no option but to grant guardianship to the decedent’s next of kin.  Providing, of course, they are interested and willing to take the child into their home.”

 

“I was afraid that was going to be the answer.”

 

“Listen, boys, I know it’s not what you wanted hear, but that’s the bald truth of it.  Since any court proceedings concerning the young man in question will, undoubtedly, be heard in my court, you can rest assured that I will do the utmost to protect his well-being and interests.  Despite the fact that I know you personally and feel that your home is most likely the best place for the child to live, I must, of course, follow the laws of the state.”

 

“We know that, David,” I groaned in abject defeat.  “I just wanted to make sure where we stand.”

 

“I wish I could give you better news.”

 

“We do, too, your Honor,” Tom replied.  “Thanks for your time this morning.”

 

“Always happy to help.  Try to have a good day.”  After ending the call, we sat in silence for a few moments before either of us dared to speak.

 

“Well, to steal a phrase from Logan, that just sucks big ol’ donkey dicks,” I muttered.

 

“I won’t argue that point with you one bit, babe.”

 

“So, what do we do now?” I wondered aloud.

 

“Don’t have a clue.  Guess we wait for Troy to get here.”

 

“No!” Logan exclaimed as he rounded the corner from the hallway, followed by the rest of the herd.

 

“What do you mean, Logan?” Tom asked.

 

“I wanna go get some stuff from the house before he gets here.  I don’t wanna hafta worry ‘bout him throwin’ out somethin’ I don’t wanna lose.  Him and his whole family never liked my momma and he’d pro’lly trash everythin’ that was hers just ‘cause of that.  ‘Sides, I need to see how Buster’s doin.”

 

“Who’s Buster, your dog?” I asked.

 

“Nah, we ain’t never had a dog,” he giggled in reply.  “Buster’s the baby bull that got born last week.  I needs to make sure he’s okay.”

 

I looked to Tom and asked, “You up for a field trip?”

 

“Guess I better be,” he laughed at my unintentional pun.  He turned back to face the herd surrounding us and added, “Boys, get dressed, we’re goin out.”  All seven munchkins disappeared down the hall amid a round of cheering at the unexpected detour while we headed to our own room to follow suit.  Five minutes later we had regrouped in the living and were ready to roll.  Not knowing how much Logan wanted to retrieve from home, we decided to take both cars to ensure we’d have plenty of room.

 

After ten minutes of following Logan’s directions, we pulled in the drive of his family’s farm south of New Berlin, though I was already thinking of it as Logan’s farm.  We parked by the side of the sprawling two-story farmhouse and got out of the cars.  It seemed to be very quiet to me, but with never being on a farm before, I realized I didn’t know what one should sound like. 

 

I finally broke the silence that had befallen us when I asked, “Where do you want to start, Logan?”

 

“Let’s check on Buster first,” he answered as he turned towards the barn.

 

“Whoa, young man,” I called out as I grabbed him by the shoulder.  “I don’t think we should go in there, not just yet, anyway.  Why don’t you guys go in the house with me and we can start collecting the things you want from there.  I’ll have Pops check out the barn before we go out there, okay?”

 

“Oh, yeah, didn’t think ‘bout that,” Logan muttered.

 

“Good, you guys head inside and I’ll be right behind you.”  After they charged up the front steps and vanished through the door, I turned to Tom and asked, “You don’t mind doin’ that for me, do you?”

 

“Don’t worry about it, babe, I was thinkin’ the same thing.  Though we didn’t have great light to work by last night, I don’t think it was too messy.  I don’t remember massive blood loss or anything like that, if that’s what you’re worried about?”

 

“Thanks, I knew you’d understand, that’s why I love you so much,” I whispered as I hugged him.  “Be careful, please, and come back to the house when you’re done.”

 

“I’ll watch my step, for sure.  There’s critters out here, ya know?  If I step in the wrong place, you might not let me drive home.” 

 

Despite the situation, I couldn’t help but laugh before responding, “Oh, you can drive home, all right, just as long as you leave your shoes here.”

 

“Deal.  Be back in a few minutes.”

 

We went our separate ways and soon enough, I stepped inside the house.  From appearances, it was your basic farm home, though very nicely appointed.  I could hear noises emanating from somewhere up the stairway, so I followed the sounds of doors slamming and drawers banging.  What I found when I reached the top of the stairs could only be described as pure bedlam.  All seven boys were in what was obviously Logan’s bedroom, emptying the closet and dresser onto Logan’s bed, clearing off all the shelves, and a pair of feet was sticking out from under the bed as someone was trying to retrieve an item from the deep recesses below. 

 

I soon heard a muffled voice call out, “Got it dudes, pull me back out!”  Joey and Alex grabbed the exposed feet and gently extracted Logan from under his bed.  When he reappeared, he was clutching the most worn and tattered teddy bear I’d ever laid eyes on.  I quietly laughed to myself, then turned and headed back down the stairs to take a quick survey of any other items Logan might want to take with him today.  There were multitudes of family photos on the walls, tables and shelves, and I also found several albums containing more pictures on a set of shelves next to the fireplace in the living room.  I set the albums on the table in front of the sofa so we wouldn’t forget to take them with us.

 

As I continued my wandering, I heard the front door close behind me and returned to the foyer to find Tom coming back from his inspection of the barn.  “So, how is it out there?”

 

“Okay, I think.  Sebastian had untangled Charlie’s coveralls from the equipment and took them with him.  Except for a few dark spots on the walls in the corner where we found him, you’d never know someone died out there last night.”

 

“That’s good for Logan, I guess.  I’d sure hate for him to see anything that would upset him more than he already is.”

 

“Where’s the herd?” Tom asked.

 

“Upstairs, clearing out Logan’s room.”

 

“Not no more,” Logan called out as he came down the stairs dragging the blanket from his bed, the rest of the boys following in his wake.  The blanket had been bundled up to keep anything from falling out and each of the others was carrying armfuls of books and other items from the shelves in his room.  “Okay, that’s everything I want from upstairs, Dads, time to take care of the downstairs.”

 

“What the devil is all that?” Tom asked.

 

“Just all my clothes, shoes, books, toys, everything I don’t want Uncle Dirtbag to have a chance to throw away, ‘cause he’d do it, just to piss me off.”  Logan then turned back to the boys who had relieved themselves of their burdens and said, “Dudes, let’s grab every picture off every wall, shelf and table and bring ‘em back here.”  All seven split up and began following Logan’s instructions, disappearing into other rooms, then coming back to the living room and carefully placing the pictures on the sofa.  When that was done, Logan, said, “Guess we’re gonna need some boxes to put all this junk in.  Joey, Alex, Damon, come to the basement with me.  There’s boxes down there we can dump out.”  The four went through the kitchen and headed down the stairs.

 

Once they were out of earshot, T.J. asked, “Is Logan really movin’ in with us for good?”

 

“I don’t know, son.  We’re going to do everything we can to make it happen, though,” I answered.

 

“I hope so,” Mike said.

 

“Yeah, we’d miss him if he had to leave,” Andy added.

 

“We would, too, guys,” Tom agreed.

 

The other four returned from the basement with eight boxes and Logan put them all too work.  “Okay, guys, do me a favor and put all this loose junk in the boxes.  I’ll sort through all of it later.  I gotta call someone.”

 

“Who do you need to call, Logan,” I asked.

 

“Mr. Bartley.  He lives just down the road, ‘member?  I need to tell him what’s happened and see if he can take care of the animals ‘til we figger out what’s gonna happen with the farm.”  He promptly turned for the kitchen and I followed along.  After consulting the list of people’s names and numbers tacked to the wall next to the phone, Logan picked up the receiver and dialed the number.

 

“Hey, Ryan, it’s Logan.  …  Campbell, ya twit, from down the road.  …   Not too good, man.  Hey, listen, I gotta talk to your dad.  …  Yes, now, ya moron.  Go get him, will ya?  …  Thanks, I ain’t goin’ nowhere.”  A minute later, the tense conversation continued.  “Mornin’, Mr. Bartley, it’s Logan and I need your help.  Can you come down to the house, please?  …  I’ll tell you ‘bout it when you get here.  …  Yeah, okay, thanks.”  After hanging up the phone, he turned to me and said, “He’ll be here in a few minutes.”

 

I knelt in front of Logan and said, “You don’t have to deal with this stuff right now.”

 

“Yeah, I do.  After momma died, Daddy always told me if somethin’ happened to him, the farm was mine.  And since there ain’t no one else to take care of this crap, I gotta.  I ain’t lettin’ the animals starve to death just cause the old man’s gone.  ‘Specially Buster.”

 

“Logan, listen to me.  You need to give yourself some time to cope with your dad’s death or you’re going to end up just like him, mad at everybody and everything because of life’s unfairness.”

 

“I hear ya, Dad, but now you listen to me.  I know what I hafta do.  First thing is to make sure the animals are taken care of.  They ain’t worth much, but if they die, they ain’t gonna be worth nothin’ to no one.  I’m gonna make sure that don’t happen.  Mr. Bartley took care of things ‘round here while daddy was in jail and I think he’ll do it again.  Once I got that handled, I’ll take care of myself.  Promise.”

 

“Just remember, you aren’t doing this alone.”

 

“I know that, Dad.  And, thanks.”  I pulled the munchkin into hug and didn’t let go until we heard the crunch of tires on rock from outside.  I released Logan from my tight grasp and we headed towards the front porch.  As we passed through the living room, Logan said, “You dudes did great, thanks.  Can you and Pops start loading all that into the cars while Dad and me talk to Mr. Bartley?  Pops’ll probably have to deal with the blanket ‘cause it’s pretty heavy.”

 

“You got it, Logan,” T.J. answered.

 

The two of us stepped onto the porch just as Joe and Ryan climbed the steps.  Logan quickly gave Ryan a hug before shaking hands with Joe, then stepping back to take care of business.  “Thanks for comin’ down Mr. Bartley.  I gots a problem and I hope you can help me out.”

 

“What’s goin’ on, Logan?” Joe asked with concern.  “You know I’ll do whatever I can.”

 

“Well, it’s like this.  Daddy died last night …”

 

“What!?  How the hell’d that happen?”

 

“Don’t know for sure, some kind of accident when he was grindin’ feed.  But the farm’s mine now,” Logan answered.  “An’ I can’t deal with none of this ‘til after daddy’s funeral.  Can you take care of the animals here ‘til I figger somethin’ else out?  I’ll pay you for your time.”

 

“Logan, buddy, don’t you worry ‘bout a thing.  We’ll do whatever you need, and don’t you dare think about paying us for doing it.  We always help out when other people need it, don’t we?”

 

“Well, we used to ‘til momma got sick.  Daddy kinda quit helpin’ anybody after that.”

 

“And we all understand why he did Logan.  Now it’s our turn to help you.”

 

“Thank you, sir, I ‘ppreciate it.  Guess it’s a good thing ain’t nothin’ got planted yet, so I ain’t gotta worry none ‘bout that.”  Logan then turned to Ryan and added, “Ryan, I gots a special project for you.  Follow me, dude.”  Logan grabbed Ryan by the arm, led him down the steps and across the yard towards the barn, Joe and I following closely behind the pair.  As we made our way through the barn, we passed the tractor still attached to the feed grinder.  I couldn’t help but take a quick look around the area and I noticed that Logan had done the same.  We finally stepped through a doorway in the back wall of the barn and into a small fenced-in area where we found the calf named Buster and his mother.

 

“Aww, look at you, Buster.  Ain’t you just the cutest little dude,” Logan cooed with a smile as he stepped closer to the pair of animals standing next to a water trough.  “Sorry I wasn’t here to help last week when you was born, but shit happens, ya know?” he added as he patted Buster on the head.  “I hope you’re takin’ good care of him Bessie.”  It seemed as though Bessie winked at Logan in response, but I’m sure that was just my eyes and mind playing tricks on me.

 

“So, what’s this project you had for me,” Ryan asked.

 

“I need you to take care of Buster.”

 

“But I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout takin’ care of a bull!” Ryan protested.

 

“Your dad can teach you, buddy.  I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t think you could do it.”

 

“Geez, man, you don’t want much.”

 

“Look, as young as Buster is, he’s still nursin’ off his momma and will ‘til he’s over six months old.  All you gotta do is make sure Bessie gets fed and Buster’ll be just fine.  And maybe give ‘im a good brushin’ every now and then.  Bessie, too.  They’ll like that.”

 

“Brush a cow?  Have you lost your mind?”

 

“Nope, just my daddy.  Here, let me show you.”  Logan zipped back into the barn and came back with a big brush.  As he spoke softly to Bessie and Buster, he carefully moved closer until he could reach out and touch Bessie on the snout.  While stroking her nose and then her neck, he moved around her side and began to run the brush across her flanks.  You could see the calm that came over the animal as Logan continued.  He finally waved a hand at Ryan, beckoning him to come closer.

 

When Ryan reached the trio, Logan handed him the brush and said, “Here, brush Buster, let ‘im get used to you.”  Ryan followed his instructions and started running the brush over Buster’s back and sides.  “That’s it, man, smooth even strokes.  And talk to him while you do it.”  Ryan added a little patter to go with his brushing and Buster soon started leaning into each stroke of the brush.  “Good job, Ryan,” Logan encouraged his friend.  “I think Buster’s startin’ to really like you.  You got this?”

 

“Yeah, man, I got it.  This is fun.  I’ll take good care of them for you, dude.”

 

“I knew you would.  Thanks.  We can go now.  I’ll show you where I keep the brush inside the barn.”  As they turned and headed towards Joe and me, Buster followed along, nudging Ryan in the back.  Both boys were laughing hysterically at the young calf’s antics, but then, Joe and I were also.  When they had rejoined us, the four of us continued inside the barn, Buster still closely following Ryan.  Logan stopped and before he closed the door, said, “No, Buster, you have to stay here with your momma.  She’ll take care of you and I’ll come back to see you when I can.”  After one more pat on the head, the door was closed and we continued our trek back to the house.

 

Logan showed Ryan where the brush was stored and as we passed by the tractor again, Logan stopped and said simply, “This is where it happened, ain’t it?”

 

With no visible retreat from the query, I answered him honestly, “Yes, it is, Logan.”

 

“I figgered as much.  Can I have a minute, Max?”

 

“Sure thing, buddy.  We’ll be right outside.”  Three of us continued on our way and were soon back out in the bright sunlight of the day.  “Joe, I want to say thanks to you and Ryan for helping Logan with things.”

 

“No problems, Max.  We’re happy to do our part.  Is what Logan said about the farm being his true?”

 

“I don’t have a clue.  He says that’s what Charlie always told him, but until we find out if Charlie left a will or not, it’s all up in the air.”

 

“Well, I know Charlie had a brother, but I don’t think they got on very well with each other.”

 

“That seems to fit with what little bit Logan’s said about the man.  That’s the only reason we’re here right now, Logan didn’t want his uncle to have a chance to get rid of anything Logan might want to keep.  Well, that and to check on Buster,” I added with a chuckle.

 

“Logan’s a good kid and he’s got his priorities straight.  For a farmer, anyway,” Joe added with a grin.  “Ya gotta make sure the livestock’s taken care of.  After that, then the crops, and like he said, nothin’s been planted yet, so no worries there.”

 

Logan finally exited the barn, head held high and proud.  “Okay, Max, we can go back home now.  I done all I came for.”

 

“Before you leave, I have something I’d like to discuss with you,” Joe said.

 

“What’s that Mr. Bartley?” Logan asked with curiosity.

 

“Well, I’ve been looking to buy some more land, or at least rent some.  I know you have a lot to deal with right now, so I don’t expect an answer today, but once you know what you’re going to do with the farm, I’d like you to keep me in mind.”

 

“You have first dibs, Mr. Bartley.  And thanks for takin’ care of things out here for me until I can deal with it.  I promise you’ll get paid for your time, so you better keep track of it.”  Logan then turned to Ryan and added, “Same goes for you, bubba.  I don’t expect you to tackle my problems for nothin’.”

 

“Thanks, Logan, you’re all right, dude,” Ryan replied. 

 

The two boys shared a quick hug while Joe and I shook hands before we parted.  As Joe and Ryan climbed into their truck to head back home, Logan and I returned to the house.  As we entered the living room, we found Tom and the boys waiting patiently for our return.

 

“Okay, guys, I think that’s it for now,” Logan said.  “Thanks for all your help gettin’ it loaded up.”

 

“Um, before we go, Logan, there’s one more thing we should probably take,” I said.

 

“What’s that, Dad?”

 

“Derek told Pops he found a fireproof lockbox somewhere.  I’m guessing you probably don’t want Troy finding it.”

 

“Damn right, I don’t.  He ain’t got no business with whatever’s in it.  Be right back.”  Logan ran up the stairs and returned shortly with the lockbox in his hands and a key on a string around his neck.  “Okay, let’s get outta here.  I’m ready to get back home.”

 

That was all it took for the rest of us to get up and file out the front door to our cars.  Logan was the last one out the door and he made sure the door was locked and deadbolted before leaving the porch.  With Logan’s things loaded into both cars, space was snug as we climbed in them, but we weren’t going that far and I figured we’d all survive the trip.  As we turned from the drive onto the road for home, a truck with Missouri license plates and bearing several people turned in the drive.

 

“Should we see who that is?” I asked Logan.

 

“No, I know who it is.  Just keep goin’.”

 

I continued on up the road, keeping an eye in the rearview mirror.  I watched as the truck backed out of the drive and quickly settled in on the bumper of the Flex.  “Uh, don’t look now, but we’re being followed.”  Of course, the four boys in the car with me turned as one and stared out the back window.

 

“Aw, dammit.  I didn’t wanna deal with him today,” Logan groaned in defeat.

 

“Pops’ll handle him, Logan.”

 

“Nah, I got it.  I’m gonna hafta to do it sometime, might as well be today.”

 

“Well, we’ll be right there with ya.”

 

“Thanks, Dad, I know you will.”

 

“Not that I mind, but can I ask why you used ‘Max’ when talkin’ to Mr. Bartley?”

 

“Well, I didn’t want him to go thinkin’ or spreadin’ ‘round that I replaced my daddy with somebody else already.  You’re a great sub, Dad, and I love you, but you ain’t never gonna replace my daddy.”

 

“And I would never try to, Logan.  Fathers are irreplaceable.”  The rest of the short trip home was covered in silence, truck firmly glued to the rear of the Flex.  On arriving back home, we pulled in the garage and the truck parked on the drive.  “Andy, Mike, T.J., in the house, please,” I said before we got out.  Whatever was going to happen next, I didn’t want them in the middle of it.  As we climbed out of the car, I heard Tom telling Alex, Joey and Damon to head inside also.  With those six out of the line of fire, Tom, Logan and I turned to greet the occupants of the truck.

 

“You wanna tell me who the fuck you think you are and what the hell you was doin’ at my brother’s house?  From the looks of what’s piled in your cars, I’m guessin’ you was robbin’ the place,” the man yelled as he exited the vehicle, followed by a woman and two hulking teenagers.

 

“My name’s Max and this is Tom,” I replied, “and this, of course, is your nephew Logan,” I added as I laid a hand on his shoulder.

 

“Ain’t no way that puny little piece o’ shit’s related to me.”

 

“I am, too, Uncle Troy, whether we like it or not,” Logan retorted despite shaking like a leaf under my hand.  “What the hell you doin’ up here anyway?”

 

“I’m here to bury my brother and take what’s mine,” Troy answered viciously.

 

“There ain’t nothin’ up here that belongs to the likes of you.  My daddy always told me the farm was mine when he was gone.  Well, guess what, asshole?  He’s gone and I’m claimin’ what’s mine.  You just go back to whatever hole you drug yourself out of ‘cause you ain’t gettin’ squat outta me.”

 

“We’ll see ‘bout that, you snot-nosed little brat.  I’m goin’ back out there right now and take whatever the hell I want.”

 

“Troy, you listen to me and listen good!” Logan began in a forceful tone of voice we’d not heard from him before.  “The house and ever’thing in it belongs to me, along with all the land, ‘quipment and animals.  You step one foot on my land, I’ll have your scruffy nerfherdin’ ass arrested and thrown in jail for trespassin’, along with them useless excuses for cousins.  You hear me?”

 

“All I hear is some useless little pissant squealin’ like a stuck pig.”

 

“Tom, can I borrow your phone for a minute?” Logan asked while looking up to the big guy.  Without question, he slipped the device from his pocket and handed it to Logan.  Logan promptly unlocked the phone, opened the contacts, then scrolled and selected Derek’s name.  He placed the phone to his ear and waited for Derek to answer.

 

“Hello, is this Sherriff Timmons?  …  Sherriff, this is Logan Campbell.  …  Yeah, thanks.  …   About as good as I can get, I guess.  Listen, I got a problem.  My stinkin’ uncle just showed up and he’s tellin’ me he’s goin’ out to my house and he’s gonna take anything he thinks he wants.  …  Well, yeah, I know that, and I just told him the same thing, but he ain’t listenin’.  …  Well, if ain’t too much bother, could you or one o’ your guys go out there and make sure nothin’ happens to the place?  …  Thank you, sir.  I ‘ppreciate the help.”  Logan calmly handed the phone back to Tom, then turned to face his uncle again.  “You heard that, right?”

 

“All I heard was some little shit who thinks he’s better than us fakin’ a damn phone call.”

 

“Well, to be real honest with ya, Troy, I am better than y’all.  Always have been, always will be.  But, if you think I faked that, you go right ahead and go back to the house.  By the time you get there, there’ll be cops waitin’ to arrest your sorry ass.  If’n ya don’t wanna go to jail tonight, I think y’all oughta go find some culvert to crawl into until daddy’s funeral.  You should feel right home there.”

 

“You snot-nosed little fucker,” Troy screamed as he stepped towards Logan.  Tom quickly stepped between the two to keep them separated.  “I’m gonna beat your ass like it ain’t never been beat before.”

 

“I don’t think so, asshole,” Tom growled.

 

“It’s cool, Tom,” Logan said as he stepped from behind his protector.  “This turd ain’t never gonna lay a hand on me, ‘cause if he even tries it, I’m gonna geld him,” Logan hissed as he pulled out a pocket knife and smoothly flipped the blade open.

 

“You weren’t kiddin’ about havin’ a knife, were you?” I chuckled.

 

“Nope, and I know to use it.  If that bastard gets one step closer, he’ll find out real quick-like just how good I am with it, too.”  Troy abruptly halted his advance and stared at the blade gleaming in the sun.  “Yeah, ain’t so tough now, are ya, asshole.  Y’all just get in that filthy truck and get the hell outta here.” 

 

From the corner of my eye, I caught Alex step next to Tom and hand him his gun.  “Here, Pops, looks like you might need this,” he said with an evil smirk crossing his face before stepping back behind us.

 

Despite being surprised at the gun suddenly materializing in his hand, years of training kicked in and Tom smoothly racked the slide as he lifted the gun and aimed it at Troy.  “I think now would be a very good time for you to leave,” he intoned calmly.  “There are plenty of hotels in Springfield and I’m sure you can find somewhere to spend the next couple of nights.  You step foot on this property again, you’ll be leaving it in a body bag, understood?”

 

“I ain’t scared of no asshole with a gun,” Troy protested.

 

Tom quickly lifted the gun straight up, fired a round, and then re-centered his aim on Troy’s forehead.  “Well, you should be.  That was your first and only warning.  Next one is goin’ right between your beady eyes,” Tom said smoothly as he held the gun with both hands to steady his aim.

 

The four from Missouri quickly glanced at each other and silently agreed this was not the time to press the issue.  They retreated to their truck and just before Troy closed his door, he yelled, “Don’t think this is the last you’ve seen of me, assholes.  That little fucker is mine, now.”  With that final comment, the truck turned around and peeled rubber as it escaped down the drive.

 

“Gee, that sure makes for a fun afternoon,” Logan deadpanned.  “Sorry to be such a problem, Dads.”

 

“You are not a problem, Logan.  Alex, on the other hand …,” I muttered as I turned to find him scampering back into the house.

 

“Look at him go,” Logan cackled with laughter.  “I ain’t never seen him move that fast.  Unless it was time to eat, that is.”  Tom and I both cracked up at that comment.  The three of us finally headed for the house and after locating Alex hiding in his bathroom, sat in the living room for a serious discussion.

 

While his head was hanging low, I asked the obvious question.  “Would you please explain to us how you got Tom’s gun from the safe just now?”

 

“We-e-ell, I went into your study a couple weeks ago to get some paper and saw the instructions for it layin’ on your desk.  So, I read ‘em and the next time I had a chance, I went searchin’ for the thing.  I shoulda known you’d have it hidden in your closet.”

 

“Finding it is one thing, but how the heck did you open it?”

 

“That’s why I read the instructions.  I programmed it for my fingerprint, too.  I thought if somethin’ happened to the two of you, we may need to get in it for some important papers or somethin’.  Looks like I was right ‘bout that,” he grinned mischievously.  Everybody let go a giggle of amusement at his astute observation.

 

“Alex, Alex, Alex,” I muttered quietly.  “While on one level, I appreciate your inquisitiveness and industriousness, on another level, I can’t believe you did that without asking permission.  And you should know better than to handle a gun without adult supervision.”

 

“Oh, I do, believe me, but it really did look like you guys needed it and couldn’t get it yourselves.  ‘Sides, I never let my finger get close to the trigger, even though the safety was on.  And I carried it with both hands on the grip and kept it pointed at the floor all the way through the house and outside.  I might be just a kid, but I ain’t a complete fool.”

 

“I never said you were.  And while I’m not at all happy with what you’ve done, you did kinda save our asses just now, so I guess we’re gonna let it slide.”  A wide smile crossed his face and a loud sigh of relief exited his tiny body.  “But, you ever get in there again without one of us specifically telling you to do so, I am going to tan your hide, you understand me?”

 

“Yes, sir.  I’m sorry,” Alex groaned.

 

“All right, then, time to move on.”  I turned to Tom and asked, “Do you know any security companies in town?”

 

“I don’t, but Dylan does.”

 

“Good, would you call him and see if he can get somebody out here for the next couple of days.  I won’t feel safe until Troy goes back home.”

 

“Consider it done, babe,” he replied as he headed to his office to make the call.

 

After he was gone, I turned to Logan and said, “Logan, I want you to know how proud I am of you for the way you’re stepping up and taking care of things.  You’ve really impressed me today, especially the way you stood up to your uncle.”

 

“Thanks, Dad.  I may be just a stupid farm kid, but sometimes a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, ya know?”  All of us cracked up in laughter and were still laughing when Tom came back, confused as to the reason for such hilarity.  When I had finally calmed down enough to fill him in, he joined us in our temporary insanity.  When we finally calmed down, Logan asked, “Okay, what’s next?”

 

“Why don’t we unload the cars?  I’m just not sure where we can put everything, though.”

 

“We could just drop it in the storage building,” Logan offered.  “I don’t really need any of it right now, I just didn’t want to leave it at the house.”

 

“That sounds like a plan to me, guys,” I agreed.  “Let’s make it so.”

 

“Yes sir, Cap’n Picard, sir,” T.J. said as he stood at attention and offered a quick salute.  The boys all giggled and after offering their own salutes, headed down the hall to the garage.

 

As Tom and I followed along, I quietly asked, “Any luck with Dylan?”

 

“Yeah, somebody should be here in about half an hour.”

 

“Good, that’s one less thing we have to worry about.  Do you think we should arrange something for Logan’s farm?  At least until Troy goes back home?”

 

“It wouldn’t hurt, I guess.  I’ll talk to the guys who show up here today and take care of it.”

 

“Thank, hon.  Let’s get this done.”  When we reached the garage, the boys were nowhere to be found.  I stuck my head out the big door and found them halfway to the storage building already.  Turning back to Tom, I said, “Looks like they’re walking.  We better get a move on.” 

 

We climbed in the cars and followed the herd down the drive.  After reaching the building and backing the cars up to the big door, I unlocked the side door and disabled the alarm before punching the button to open the big door.  We made short work of the job, putting most of Logan’s things on shelves on the upper deck.  That task completed, we returned to the house to settle in and relax for a while.  As we stepped inside, the drive sensor dinged and Tom headed to the front door while the rest of us turned for the dining room. 

 

Logan was carrying the lockbox in from the car and said, “Might as well open this thing up and see what’s inside.”  We took chairs at the table and Logan wasted no time in using the key on the string around his neck to open the container.  After lifting the lid and peering inside, he commented, “That’s a buttload of paper, let me tell ya.  What is all this junk, Dad?”

 

“Well, let’s look through it and see what we can figure out.”  I pulled out the handful of paper and started to sift through it while letting Logan know what each bundle was.  “Okay, this first is the deed to the house and property.  From what I’m seeing, it looks like it’s fully paid for, so you don’t have to worry about mortgage payments, just insurance and property taxes.”

 

“Well, how am I gonna be able to pay those, I ain’t got no money.”

 

“Don’t you worry about that right now, let’s keep digging.”  The next item I reviewed looked to be ledger of a bank account kept the old-fashioned way, which considering Charlie’s attitudes, seemed to be just about right.  “According to this accounting your dad kept, it looks like you have about 265,000 dollars in the farm’s accounts at the bank in New Berlin.  That should be plenty to tide you over for any other expenses for a while.  Your dad looks like he was pretty frugal and saved well.”

 

“Yeah, he was a cheapskate, all right,” Logan snickered.  “But he was about to buy seed for this year, too.  That’s probably why there’s so much there.”

 

“This next file looks like it holds the bills of sale on the equipment your dad had bought over the years.  Here’s one for the tractor, the feed grinder, the plows, the harvester, and looks like a bunch of receipts for supplies like water troughs and such that would have been for the livestock.  I’m sure he kept all these for tax purposes over the years, but they’ll be good to have to help set values on any items you might want to sell.

 

“This next file looks like receipts and manuals for all the appliances and electronics in the house.  Then we have some miscellaneous files that don’t look to be anything of much importance right now.”  I reached into the box one more time and extracted the final item.  It turned out to be a manila envelope with a wax seal keeping the flap shut.  When I looked at the return address on the other side, it appeared to from a lawyer’s office.

 

“What’s that one, Dad,” Alex asked.

 

“I won’t know until I open it, now will I,” I replied.

 

“Open what?” Tom asked as he finally joined us.

 

“This envelope from Logan’s lockbox,” I answered.  I looked to Logan and added, “I think this is from a lawyer in Jacksonville, do you want me to open it or do you want to do it?”

 

“What do you think it is?” Logan asked.

 

“Best guess, your dad’s will.”

 

“You open it, then.”

 

I carefully slipped my finger under the flap and broke the wax seal while everyone watched me intently.  I slid the few pages from inside the envelope and quickly read the cover letter included only to discover I was, indeed, holding Charlie’s will and Logan’s fate in my hands.  I looked to Logan and said, “This is your dad’s will, kiddo, do you want to read it now?”

 

“Might as well, don’t ya think?  But you do it.  I don’t think I could focus on it too good,” he answered with tears starting to fill his eyes.

 

“Okay, give me a few minutes to read the whole thing then I’ll let you know what it says, okay?”

 

“Fine, I just hope y’all can read really fast.”

 

“I’ll do my best,” I chuckled.  I quickly skimmed through the document to pick up the highlights, smiling at one point and frowning a bit later.  When I reached the end, I found a surprise that shocked me to no end, and I was pretty sure Logan didn’t have a clue about it, either, since he’d not mentioned it yet.  I reread that paragraph several times to make sure my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me and when I finally accepted what it said, I laid the will on the table and turned to Logan.

 

“Okay, I’ve got good news and bad news for you.  First, what it says here is exactly what your dad had told you, the farm, house, equipment, livestock, it’s all yours, lock, stock, and barrel.  He specifically stated that your uncle should not receive anything from the estate.  Since you’re a minor, he named John Billings at the bank to be the executor of the will and trustee for you until you turn twenty-one.”

 

“Yeah, that’s cool.  Mr. Billings was always nice to me.  And even though Daddy had turned mean and nasty, Mr. Billings still liked him.  Okay, what’s the bad news?”

 

“You’re not going to like this, but the will says your Uncle Troy is to be appointed as your guardian.”

 

“No way!” Logan yelled in anger amid moans of defeat from the others.

 

“Unfortunately, that’s what it says.  And after we talked to Judge Corgan this morning, I don’t know any way to change that.”

 

“Well, it’s real simple, Dad, I ain’t goin’ nowhere with that ass,” Logan protested.  “All he wants is the farm and the money.  He don’t give two shits ‘bout me.”

 

“All I can do is send the will to my attorney and have him check it over for us.  If anyone can help you now, it’ll be Clarence.”

 

“Do it now, please.  I don’t even wanna think ‘bout livin’ with them scumbag losers.”

 

“I’ll take care of it first thing Monday morning, Logan.  Clarence doesn’t work on the weekends.”

 

“You better,” he fumed with disgust at the idea of moving.  I let him stew for a moment before I shared the surprise I’d discovered at the end of the will.

 

“Okay, there’s one more thing mentioned here you should know about.  It surprised the hell outta me since you haven’t said anything about it before, so it might be a surprise too you, as well.”

 

“What’s that?  I gotta sleep in the same bed with my ignorant cousins or somethin’ stupid like that?”

 

“Not at all,” I smiled.  “Have you ever heard the name William Charles Campbell.”

 

“Nope, who’s he?  Another lowlife uncle like that loser Troy?”

 

“No, Logan, he’s your brother.”

 

“WHAT!?  I gots a brother!?  Holy shit!  How the hell could that be and I don’t know ‘bout him?”

 

“From what your dad said in his will, he was born shortly after your parents were married and had bought the farm.  They didn’t have much money at the time and your mom and dad felt he would be better off living with another family, so they gave him up for adoption.”

 

“Oh, my God.  I got a brother out there somewhere, a real live brother.  And since I didn’t know ‘bout him, I bet he don’t know ‘bout me.  We gots to find him, Dads.”

 

“All I can say right now is we’ll try, Logan.  Adoption records are usually sealed, but we’ll check into his whereabouts and see what we can do.  Charlie didn’t leave him anything in the will since he didn’t know where he was, or if he was even still alive, but your dad did say he hoped William could be found and you’d share your inheritance with him.”

 

“You’re damn right, I will.  Hell, he can have it all since Mr. Burton’s payin’ me all that money.  We just gotta figger out a way to keep Troy from gettin’ his greedy paws on any of it.”

 

“That’s what the trust is for, Logan.  Mr. Billings will be in charge of that and he’ll make sure you’re protected.”

 

“Good, that’s one less thing I gotta think about.  Now, what should we do about Daddy’s funeral?”

 

“Well, Carol thought we should leave that up to you and Troy, but it’s up to you.”

 

“I don’t want him to have nothin’ to do with it.  Will you help me deal with all that?”

 

“Of course, we will.  I’ll call them in the morning and see what we can arrange.”

 

“Thanks, Dad.  Whew, that’s a shit-ton to take care of.”

 

“Yes, it is, but like I said earlier, one step at time, all right?”

 

“You got it.”

 

“Okay, Tom, what’s up with security?”

 

“We have three guys here, one at the end of the drive and two roaming ‘round the house.  I hate to say this, but I’d suggest we remain covered while they’re here.”

 

“We don’t care ‘bout no security dudes seein’ us naked, Pops,” T.J. retorted. 

 

Tom shot me a quick glance and I only shrugged my shoulders.  “If the boys don’t care, I don’t either.”

 

“Yippee!” Mike and Andy squealed.  With that, all seven hightailed it to their rooms to get comfortable.  They were next seen as they charged back through the dining room on their way to the theater, the disc for Real Steel in Joey’s hands.

 

“Were you able to get somebody to keep an eye on Logan’s farm?”

 

“Yep.  The guy in charge here, Dirk, called their office and another team of three should be out at the farm shortly.  I also called Derek to let him know we had it handled and thanked him for having one of his guys camped out in the drive until they could get there.  Derek said it was a good thing Logan called him because a truck with Missouri plates went by the place about twenty minutes after Logan called him.  No doubt in my mind who that was.”

 

“Mine either.  Okay, it sounds like we have all the immediate concerns handled.  I’m gonna drop this will on my desk so I can get it to Clarence Monday, then I’m crashin’ by the fireplace to decompress for a bit.”

 

“Sounds like a good idea to me, babe.  Count me in.”

 

As we aimed for the bedroom, I asked, “Since Logan says he wants to take care of funeral arrangements, you have any idea when we might hear from the coroner?”

 

“Not a clue.  And I didn’t think to ask Derek about that when I talked to him.  I guess it depends on when Sebastian was going to do the autopsy.  Once he’s done, he’ll notify Derek and I’m sure he’ll pass the word on to us.”

 

“Okay, I just wondered.”  After reaching our room, we both decided to join the boys in comfort, then after leaving the envelope with the will on my desk, headed back to the living room where Tom started the fire and we both sank into our chairs.  Our decompression only lasted about twenty minutes when the drive sensor went off.  Fifteen seconds later, the phone rang.

 

“This is Tom.”

 

“Mr. Wright, it’s Dirk at the end of the drive.  I have an older couple in a gray Chevy, Illinois license plate ‘Wright 1’ with me.  They claim to be your parents.  Shall I let them enter the property?”

 

“Please do.  We were expecting them, and I forgot to tell you they’d be coming in.  Thanks.”

 

“No problem, sir,” Dirk replied as he clicked off the connection.

 

“Nice to see they’re doing their job properly,” Tom laughed.

 

“And I’m glad they are.”  The theater door banged open as the boys joined us with their regular flurry of activity and noise.

 

“Is that grandma and grampa?” Mike asked as they drew closer.

 

“It sure is,” Tom answered.  “Why don’t you and Andy meet them at the door?”  Those two scrambled towards the door, both anxious to be the one to let them in.  The rest of the boys settled on the couch and loveseat, Damon looking decidedly nervous.

 

“What’s wrong, Damon?” I asked with concern.

 

“I don’t know, guess I’m just a little freaked ‘bout them seein’ me naked.”

 

“It didn’t seem to bother you last night,” I offered.

 

“Well, I s’pose it didn’t, but we were in a dark theater most of the time, too, and when we weren’t, I was kinda hidin’ behind the others.  They couldn’t really see too much of me then.  It somehow feels different with it bein’ broad daylight.  What if they laugh at me and my tiny you know what?”

 

“First, Damon,” Tom started, “Mom and Dad would never do that.  Second, part of being a nudist is being comfortable with and accepting of who you are, both inside and outside.  Third, they used to change my diapers, so they know what a small penis looks like.”

 

That brought a smile to Damon’s face and he laughed out loud before saying, “Ain’t so tiny now, is it, Uncle Tom?”

 

“Well, no, but they aren’t still changin’ my diapers, either.”

 

“Lord, I hope not,” Damon laughed again.

 

Andy finally opened the front door and Bill and Estelle stepped inside, only to be instantly mugged by both rugrats manning the door.  Not content with receiving a quick hug, Bill picked up Andy while Estelle hoisted Mike and settled him on her hip.  After Bill kicked the door shut with his foot, all four ambled across the house to join us in the living room.  As soon as Mike and Andy were set back on the floor, the rest of the herd surrounded their grandparents and a mass hugging ensued.  Damon seemed to be testing his new confidence a bit as he let Bill wrap an arm around his shoulder and guide him back to the loveseat.

 

“What the devil is goin’ on out here?” Bill asked.  “It felt like we were trying to get into the White House grounds today,” he added with a laugh.

 

“We’ve had a little excitement out here today, Dad,” Tom answered.  He went on to explain our trip to Logan’s house and the confrontation with Troy on the driveway when we returned home.

 

“Well, he sounds like a nice fellow,” Estelle giggled.

 

“Too bad he ain’t,” Logan vented.  “Daddy always said he was the south end of a northbound mule, and just as hardheaded, too.”

 

“I’m sure he means well, young man,” Bill offered.

 

“No, he don’t.  And now I hafta go live with that jackass.  Dad was right as rain this mornin’ when he said life sucks sometimes.”

 

“I’m sure Max and Tom will do what they can so you can stay here,” Bill commented.

 

“We’re going to try, but after reading Charlie’s will, I don’t know what we could do,” I replied.

 

“I’m sure that was written long before Charlie knew there might be somewhere else for Logan to live,” Estelle said.

 

“I think he would have changed his will to allow you to stay here if he’d had time to do so,” Bill added.  “Well, we’re not going to stay long.  We just wanted to drop in and say hi on our way home today.”

 

“Say, don’t we have another birthday coming up?” Estelle asked.

 

“Yep, mine,” T.J. answered with a smile.  “It’s on the twenty-third.  I hope you can be here.”

 

“We wouldn’t dream of missing it, T.J.,” Bill replied.  “Just let us know the date and time of the party.”

 

“That’s up to the Dads.”

 

“We’ll be sure to let you know when.  Did you have a nice time with Mom and Dad last night?” I asked.

 

“Great as always, Max.  We’re really looking forward to sharing this house later this year,” Bill answered.

 

“What did you think of our interviews on TV?” Andy asked.

 

“We think you all did great.  I almost felt sorry for Ray by the time he got to the end of the show.  You guys are a hard act to follow.”

 

“Thanks, Grampa,” Joey said with pride.

 

“And we’re gonna get even harder, soon,” Alex added.

 

“What’re you talkin’ about,” Estelle queried.

 

“Mr. Burton’s gonna make a TV show outta our lives,” T.J. answered.

 

Tom and I quickly jumped into the conversation and explained LeVar’s idea to Bill and Estelle.  To say they were surprised at this new development would be a serious understatement.

 

“Sounds like all of you will be working closely with him for quite a while then,” Estelle commented.

 

“No doubt, we will, Estelle.  He’s supposed to be coming back to talk to each of us to get more detailed backgrounds and personality traits for the actors to follow.”

 

“Well, he’s probably going to want to talk to us, too, then,” Bill offered.

 

“Why the heck would you think that?” Tom asked his parents.

 

“Who else is better qualified to tell him about your background than us,” Estelle answered logically.  “He’ll want to talk to Jim and Rose, too, I’d imagine.”

 

“Oh, crap,” I muttered.  “I hadn’t even thought about that.”

 

“Oh, don’t be so uptight, Max.  I’m sure they’ll only tell LeVar and his people the truth.”

 

“I sure hope so.  But then, we haven’t talked a whole lot about me for quite a while, so who knows what wild stories they might come up with.”

 

“It’ll be fine, you’ll see,” Estelle said, trying to placate me.

 

We spent the next hour visiting, the boys filling them in on how school was progressing among other miscellaneous topics.  Bill finally called time out and said they had to hit the road, so we followed the travelers to the front door where it took several minutes for everyone to receive their hugs and say goodbye.  Once the complete round was accommodated, Bill and Estelle departed for their hour and a half trip back home.

 

As we headed to the kitchen to start work on supper, I asked, “So, Damon, was it as bad as you thought it would be?”

 

“Not at all, Uncle Max.  I know they saw how small I was, but neither one of them said anything about it.  I wish the kids at school could be like that in the locker room after P.E..”

 

“Kids can be cruel, Damon,” Tom replied.  “And that’s because their parents don’t teach them how to behave properly in some situations.”

 

“Man, I wish I lived down here so I could go to school with your boys.  I bet they don’t treat other kids like that, do they?”

 

“Absolutely not,” I answered.  “Why would they?  Living the way we do, there aren’t any secrets around here, and we’ll answer any questions they may have.”

 

“Yeah, that sounds like Dad and Poppy.  They’ve answered a lot of things for me the past couple weeks.  And I feel a lot better about myself than I used to.”

 

“That’s a good thing, Damon,” I said as I patted him on the shoulder.  I turned to the assembled crew and asked, “Grilled ham and cheese sound okay to everyone?”

 

“Tomato soup, too?” Mike asked.

 

“Always,” Tom answered.

 

Agreement rang though the group, so we got busy in the kitchen while the boys took care of the table.  Twenty-five minutes later, we sat down to enjoy our simple and yummy meal.  While we were eating, we’d reached a consensus to watch some Star Trek before going to bed, so once the plates and bowls were emptied, we cleaned up the mess and adjourned to the theater.  Between the second and third episode for the night, we took a bathroom break and then set the kiddos up with cookies and milk for a snack.  With the snack completed, we returned to the theater for the night’s last show.  When it ended, the boys headed for their showers and to get ready for bed.  Logan and Damon opted to use the shower in the empty bedroom so they wouldn’t overcrowd the twins’ bathroom.

 

 

“Hey, Logan, can I ask you somethin’?”

 

“Sure.”

 

“Do you think my dick’s too small?”

 

“Nah, looks fine to me.  But what the hell do I know?”

 

“Well, you been naked around Eric and Josh, too, and they’re both bigger than me.”

 

“So what?  Can you piss out of it?”

 

“Well, yeah.”

 

“And does it get hard when you play with it and you get all tingly?”

 

“Um, yeah.  That feels really good.  ‘Specially when my friend and I do it to each other.”

 

“Well, sounds like it’s workin’ right, then, so don’t worry ‘bout it.  You’ll start growin’ someday.”

 

“But I hate how little I am.  Shit, I’m even smaller than you are.”

 

“Dude, you ever been on a farm?”

 

“Not until today, no.”

 

“Well, compared to a bull, pig or horse, ain’t none of us got nothin’ special, believe me.  I ain’t never seen a dude that could match the size of a horse’s dick.  Well, ‘cept Uncle Dylan.  Now, that dude is hung.”

 

“Ain’t that the truth,” Damon laughed.

 

“Look, don’t worry none about how big your dick is.  As long it works the way it’s s’posed to, that’s all that matters.”

 

“Can I ask you somethin’ else?”  After a quick nod, I pressed on, “Do you, Alex and Joey, ya know, play around with each other?”

 

Logan giggled and asked, “Does a donkey have a big dick?”

 

“Don’t know, never seen one.”

 

“Well, trust me when I tell ya they do.”

 

“So, you three really do shit together?”

 

“Most every night.  Well, Joey don’t do nothin’ with us no more since he got a boyfriend, but that don’t stop me and Alex from havin’ a whole lotta fun together.”

 

“Do ya think it’d be okay if I was a part of that?”

 

“If ya want to, why the hell not?”

 

Damon took a step closer to Logan and wrapped his fingers around the stiff cocklet protruding from Logan’s groin.  As soon as his fingertips touched his palm, he leaned close to Logan’s ear and whispered, “I want to.”

 

“Yeah, I can feel that,” Logan moaned in pleasure as he cupped Damon’s hardness and balls in his hand.  “Let’s get the fuck outta here and do somethin’ ‘bout these boners.”

 

The two excited young boys turned off the water, dried off and returned to the twins’ bedroom, proud of the erections leading their way.

 

 

Tom and I appeared just after the foursome climbed in bed and we shared our regular nightly rituals with them before turning out the light and moving on down the hallway.  We found Andy, Mike and T.J. still in the shower and after just a bit of prodding, got them out, helped them dry off and hustled them into bed also.  We again shared kisses, hugs, good nights and love yous with all three before switching off the light and closing the door.  As we headed back to the living room, we could hear lots of giggling filtering from under the door to the other occupied bedroom but continued on our way with only smiles of understanding on our faces.

 

We landed in the living room, but our stay was short before we decided to call it night, too.  As we stepped into the bedroom, the phone rang, so Tom answered the call while I headed for the bathroom and a relaxing shower.  Tom joined me soon enough and we sat on the bench to let the steam work it’s magic.

 

“Who was on the phone,” I asked.

 

“It was Brady, the lead of the new security team who took over for the night.”

 

“Good.  Ya know, I didn’t’ even see the other guys even though I know they were somewhere close.”

 

“Well, Dirk said they’d be as unobtrusive as possible.  I’d have to say they succeeded.”

 

“They sure did.  I hope the guys out at the farm are more visible.  I’d hate for Troy to miss Charlie’s funeral because he decided to do something stupid.”

 

“I think that’s probably all he knows how to do, babe,” Tom chuckled.

 

“I really hate the thought of Logan having to go live with likes of them.”

 

“We all do.”

 

“Hay, are you all done with that first group of checks for Carol?”

 

“I have to write up a couple of reports for her Monday and send them in, but that’s all for the moment.”

 

“Good, so you’ll be available to take on another case?”

 

“Yeah, you know of somethin’?”

 

“I do.  And you do, too.  I think you should investigate Troy, get the proof David will need to see that’s not going to be a good place for Logan to live.”

 

“Great idea.  I should have thought of that myself.  I can take Dylan with me to help.”

 

“Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten he was going to be here Monday.  Shit, so is Ron.  We’ll need to change the bed in the middle bedroom again.”

 

“Didn’t think about that.  Oops, I need to call Bob and Bill to get Dylan’s desk and computer delivered and set up.  Geez, how the hell’d I forget that.”

 

“I don’t know, hon.  It’s not like we’ve had anything out of the ordinary goin’ on the past couple of days,” I laughed.

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know.  I’ll make those calls first thing Monday.  God, what a monumental dumb ass I am.”

 

“Oh, I don’t know, I think your ass is kinda cute.  In a manly sort of way, of course.”

 

“Thanks, babe.  I love you, too.”

 

With the stink of the day washed down the drain, we finally climbed out of the shower, dried each other, crawled into bed and curled up together where we finally shared our regular hug, kiss and love you before letting sleep have its way with us.

 

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