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Me and my big mouth. I just had to get all full of self pity and whine to my friend Linda that my life was over and all a waste. You see, I’m a 27-year-old ex-school teacher. Yeah, ex. Last summer while visiting my sister in Birmingham, Alabama a drunk driver ran off the road and three yards later stopped on me. My back is now a mess. I set off all the alarms in airports and courthouses. The up side is the drunk was old money so now I’m new money (well I can live comfortably anyway). Anyway back to my big mouth. I’m complaining that I have this nice four bedroom house (was my grandparents) with a nice piece of land and I can’t do anything.
Linda says she can fix that if I want. So, BIG MOUTH me, tells her to go for it. A mere two weeks later she has me set up as a foster parent. No little ones just ages 9 and up. Since I’m a single male, no girls. When Linda had everything all legal, she gave me a plaque that says “Lee’s Boys Club.” We had a good laugh at that.
I’m not laughing now, I’m sweating. Tuesday afternoon the middle of October and Linda just called, and is bringing over my first foster son.
I’m looking out the window when she pulls up. I go out to meet him and am shocked by the sight. He’s not five feet tall, the right side of his face is very red and he has brown hair on the left side of his head and none on the right. His right arm is bandaged and he is walking very carefully, like it really hurts. Linda says, “Mitchell, this is Mr. Harris. Lee this is Mitchell Bartlett. He has just been released form the hospital, he was in a fire and lost his parents.”
“Hi, Mitchell,” I said, lamely.
He just stood there like in a daze. I took his left hand and said, “Let's go inside, and get settled.” I took him into the den and gave him the remote, and got a cold soda from the fridge. He found a show and Linda pulled me back into the kitchen.
“Lee, he has been through a lot. The fire just a week ago took everything, we have a debit card here with $500 on it to get him clothes and whatever. Here is his Medicaid ID for his medicine and doctor visits. He turned nine two months ago. He hasn’t talked much, but will answer direct questions. Until his skin and hair get back to normal, we would like for you to home-school him. Your certification is already in place, and his supplies and books have been ordered. He was a B and C student in the forth grade. I wish I could stay and fill you in more, but I have an abuse case that just got called in. Here is the file, call if you have questions. Bye.” Linda was out the door and gone.
I walked back into the den. Mitchell was huddled into the corner of the couch taking up as little room as was possible. I sat in my chair that had special supports for my back. “Mitchell,” I began. He jumped when I said his name. “I'm not going to lie to you and tell you I know how you feel, ‘cause I don’t. I do know how it feels to have your whole world turned inside out and upside down. I was hit by a drunk driver, and have to live a totally different life than I ever thought I would. Maybe we can work through some of this together.”
He just looked at me with those huge brown eyes. I thought I detected glasses marks on his nose. “You lost your glasses too?”
I looked at my watch, 2:30. I picked up the phone and 411 got me through to my Optometrist’s office. I explained the situation, and they said come on into the office and they would see Mitchell. We returned home about six with new glasses, the doc said he was pretty nearsighted and had some astigmatism, and needed them all the time. I got Mitchell’s few belongings, a couple changes of clothes, and a box of medicines and put the clothes away in the dresser in his room. He just stood and watched.
Then a call, and a large garbage pizza with everything except anchovies was delivered. After eating, my new boy seemed happier. He was now looking around with interest at the stuff around the room. “You got handrails everywhere.” He observed.
“Yeah, I need them when I’m tired or do too much. My back is all wired together and I am pretty limited in what I can do.”
“It hurts to do much for me, too. My clothes rub on my burns,” He said.
“Wow that sounds pretty bad. Look, I don’t mind if you want to take some off, to be more comfortable.” Silly me. BIG MOUTH strikes again. Suddenly I have a completely naked nine-year-old in my kitchen. His chest, back and both legs were red and blistered, and some skin was pealing. He obviously was wearing briefs in the fire, as this area was blessedly normal pink and his privates were just fine. All in all, I thought, he should still be in the hospital.
“Oh, man that feels so good. Could you put the lotion on me now?”
I went and found the box Linda left. There was a large pump bottle of lotion. I read the label, moisturizer, antibiotics and topical anesthetic. The directions read to apply at least twice a day, up to every 2 hours as required for pain. There were also pills, and I read the dose info on those and got out the two he needed now. He took the pills and I applied the lotion. I learned three things; 1) the lotion numbs your hands, 2) the evening med's knock a kid out in twenty minutes, and 3) rubbing a naked boy made me horny as hell (That was the biggest surprise, I didn’t think I was gay, and certainly didn’t think I was a pedophile.)
I left Mitchell sleeping on the couch on an old soft beach towel, and went and turned down the sheets in his room. I thought about his burns and turned back the air conditioning to 78. I gently carried my foster son to bed, and covered him lightly with the sheet. I looked back at him from the doorway, and realized my heart was lost to this little guy. Well just drop a load of bricks on my head.
Sometime in the early morning hours, I was jolted awake by a blood-curtailing scream. I ran into Mitchell’s room. He was standing on his bed shaking like a leaf in a thunderstorm. His eyes were wide open and viewing a scene of his mind’s making. Just as I started towards him, he screamed again and collapsed onto the bed. Then he groaned and opened his eyes and looked around until he spotted me standing there like a frightened deer, caught in headlights. We stared at each other for what seemed a long time. “Did I scream?” he whispered, as he found his glasses I had put on his nightstand.
“Twice,” I replied. “You want to talk about it?”
He shook his head.
How about some lotion, and something to drink?”
“Coke or hot chocolate?”
I let that pass for now; I knew it would surface again later. I motioned for him to follow, and went and grabbed a couple of cokes. I needed the caffeine, and he probably did too.
He took a big gulp. Then handed me the lotion. I put on the latex gloves this time, and explained to him how numb my hands were before. He actually giggled at my exaggerated tale, especially when I went on about not knowing what I had a hold of when I went to the bathroom. If I hadn’t already lost my heart to this boy, that would have done it.
After I had him coated again, and on a towel, this time to try and save the couch, we sat and finished our drinks. I was now completely wide-awake, and he looked that way too. “So Mitchell, what do you like doing?
“Uh, Mr. Harris? Could you call me Mitch, my folks only called me Mitchell when I was in trouble.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Mitch it is.” I replied. “Unless you’re in trouble.”
“Thanks,” with a faint smile. “What’s going to happen to me? They told me Mommy and Father and Billy were dead.”
Well leave it to a kid to get right to it. Since I was totally new at this too, I figured honesty was the best policy, I guess Boy Scouts taught me something. “I don’t know all the details, but if you have some other family, Aunts Uncles or Grandparents, you stay here until they can get you.”
“What if I don’t?”
“Then it’s you and me, till you are all grown up.” I said, hoping it was true. I made a mental note to be sure Linda knew. Wow, twelve hours, and I wanted a family! Me the confirmed bachelor. Who would have thought? Certainly not me.
He thought about that for awhile, “Okay.”
He seemed to be reassured. We sat and talked (me mostly asking questions and him giving me nods and one word answers.) till I noticed it getting light outside.
“Wow, champ, we get to see the sunrise.”
He looked out the window, “Kind of like camping with Father and the Webelos.”
So he was a scout. I would have to find a Pack near by, and get him sighed up again. He could make some friends before he had to go to school.
I fixed us some scrambled eggs, bacon and toast for breakfast. Then I took a nice hot shower. I gave Mitch a once over in the important places, with a washcloth. “Do you feel up to getting dressed for awhile?”
“Maybe, after some lotion.” He said.
I got him all set, and we went out to my barbershop. We were the first there, as I had hoped. I sat in Richard’s chair and had him do my standard #2 buzz, as I called it. After he got started, I called out, “Hey Mitch, you want Debbie to even yours up like mine then it can all grow back together.”
He looked at me, then Debbie then himself in the mirror. “’Kay.” He went and sat in Debbie’s chair. She very gently went to work and in half an hour we walked out looking much better.
“Thanks, Mr. Harris.” Mitch said.
“No problem. Now you look like my son with a bad sunburn and a hurt arm. Together, we should scare just about everybody.” I acted like the hunchback and made a goofy face. Mitch actually laughed at me.
In the little strip-mall where the barber shop was, there was also an electronics store. I had found their prices reasonable, and their service great, when I crashed my computer. Mitch was wide eyed, as I asked him about what kind of computer he wanted. We decided on a desktop, with a flat screen and scanner/copier/printer. Of course, it had the game package, and controllers. While Tracey was getting it all set up, I told Mitch to go pick out two PS2 games. He came back with two, off the used rack; I already had one of them.
“Put that one back ‘cause I’ve got it at home. Don’t worry; look at the new ones too.”
His eyes got wide, behind his new glasses, “Really?”
Twenty minutes later, I had the computer loaded in the trunk, and Mitch had three new games, and I had one too. I could tell I had pushed Mitch pretty hard. I got a sheet to cover the sofa and told him to get comfortable, and I’d put more lotion on. He gladly complied. Soon he was numb and happily killing zombies or some such on the PS2. I set the computer up and made sure it worked on my wireless internet.
Mitch looked over where I had set it up. He looked a little disappointed.
“No, not in your room. Sorry, but it stays out here where I can see what you are looking at.”
“You going to look at my e-mail too?”
“Not unless you do something that makes it necessary, or ask me to.”
“Fair, I guess.”
“I try. Look, I’m new at this stuff, so if you think I’m messing up, talk to me. You will know what I’m thinking, ‘cause I’ll tell you. So I guess House Rule #1 Talk About It.” I typed it into the computer, and saved the file as house-rules.
The rest of the day passed with no new problems. At 9:00 I gave Mitch his lotion and meds, and settled him into bed. I followed him to dreamland.
At midnight, I was running across the hall in response to those screams.
This time, I found Mitch collapsed by the closet door. I went down on my knees and gently stroked his left arm. I wished my back would allow me to pick him up and hold him, but all that would do was put me back in traction. He slowly came to consciousness, and opened his eyes, to look at me.
“I had the dream again.” He whispered.
“I figured. You okay?” I asked.
“I, ahh, I guess.”
“Would you like to sleep the rest of the night with me?” I offered.
“Uh, huh,” He got up and hugged me.
Soon we were settled in my Queen-size bed. The thought ran through my mind that it was a perfect size for a man and his boy. Again the thought surprised me. Oh, well.
Mitch was cuddled up against my right side, with his right arm resting across my chest. I wish he didn’t have all those bandages. He settled, and then began in a soft voice.
“I was back in the fire. My stuff by the window was in flames, I ran to the door and the knob was hot, but I couldn’t get out the window. I opened the door, and ran for the stairs, there were flames leaping out of Mommy and Father’s door, I had to run through them. I felt my hair burn, as I ran down the stairs, and the front door was open, and I ran outside, and the firemen turned the hose on me. My whole house was on fire. Then nothing. Then I wake in the hospital, and everything is all blurry and funny, and then someone is asking questions, and says my Mommy, Father and little brother were burned up. Then I woke up.” He was panting and shaking by the time he finished.
“Is that what really happened, or just a dream?” I asked.
“Don’t know. I can remember the dream real good, and it was the same both times, but don’t really remember that night at all.”
“Well, sounds pretty real to me.” I happened to remember his feet, they weren’t burned. “I want you to think for a second, did you put on shoes, in the dream?”
He concentrated for a few seconds, “No, when the dream starts I’m standing by my bed screaming, my slippers are on, yeah, I have on my slippers.”
“That’s good, Mitch. I think your mind is bringing back what happened, in the dream.”
“Mmmmm,” and he was asleep.
I lay awake thinking, something was wrong. I wasn’t a fire expert, but the pattern Mitch described, didn’t make any sense to me. His window was blocked by fire, and the fire had fully involved his parent’s room. Why was his door closed and his parents open? How long had the fire fighters been there, when he ran out? I drifted off and had dreams of fire demons chasing my little Mitch.
The ringing of the phone woke me. I answered groggily.
“Good morning, Lee.” Linda’s cheerful perky voice invaded my ear.
“You are EVIL. An evil, evil person.” I focused on the number glowing on my digital clock. “Good God woman it’s only 7:00 O’clock!”
“Half the day is gone, sleepy-head. So why are you asleep, when there is a nine-year-old running loose in your house?”
“Ha, I have him hog tied right here.” Mitch was curled in a tight ball pressing into my back.
“Boy, it didn’t take you long. So, really how are you doing?” she asked.
“I owe you big time. I’m having a ball with Mitch.” I filled her in on our shopping and haircut trip. “I need to have a good long talk to you, about this little guy. If there is no family, I want him to stay. I don’t know how all this stuff works, but I’m lost with this guy. He needs so much right now and I can give it.”
“Wow, Lee. I don’t get surprised much anymore, but that just surprised the Hell out of me. I thought you would be begging me to get him out of there. I guess I can call the Henderson's, and tell them they aren’t needed.” She sighed. “I’ll be over at the end of today. I have more information about him for you. The Arson investigator wants to interview Mitchell.”
“No.” I interrupted her. “He has been having nightmares. I think he is remembering that way but his dream is very far from complete. So far it’s just him running out of the house. But have the guy call me, and I’ll tell him what I know, and maybe he can help me understand what happened.”
“Man, Lee, you have really gotten into this.”
“What, you didn’t think I had a heart?” I asked jokingly.
“To be honest, Lee, not like this. I thought you were a good guy, but jeez, you are like, sounding like dad material.” There was amazement in her voice.
“Dad, huh? You want to know something really weird? That sounds like the best thing in the world to me right now. But rest assured; I’m more surprised by that than you are.”
“Okay, look, I got to go and get busy. Here is arson inspector Brown’s number. Give him a call. I’ll see you about 6:00; I’ll bring Chinese for the three of us, okay?”
“Sure, I never say no to free food. See ya, Bye.”
I hung up the phone. And turned to face Mitch. He shifted and faced me. His eyes stayed closed, he slept on. My bladder was talking to me, but not yet desperate. My morning wood was very happy being snuggled by another smaller version. I had never thought about having those, when I was little. I just sort of assumed they began at puberty, but I remember playing with my dick in second grade, so I guess little guys get morning wood too.
All good things must come to an end, and I had to make a dash for my bathroom. I was well into my Niagara Falls imitation when Mitch joined me, and his stream added to mine.
“Kewl,” he said as we both ran dry. “You don’t mind that I came in, do you? I didn’t think I could make it down the hall,” he explained.
“Not a problem. It’s just us guys. You’ve been running around naked, and I certainly am not shocked, seeing a penis, after all, I’ve got one too.” I replied.
“Yeah, but yours is like HUGE!” he said admiringly.
“Didn’t you get to see your father’s, sometimes?” I wondered aloud.
“No, way. He’d never let anyone see, well I guess, Mommy…”
“Yeah, well I hate to disappoint you, but mine is pretty average. Yours will be this big someday, too.”
“Nice. Can you rub on some lotion on my right leg?”
“Sure thing, Mitch, lets get this day started.”
Later, after we had eaten and Mitch was comfortable in the den, I retreated to the bedroom and called inspector Brown. I related the dream, as I knew it. He was very interested and asked me to please keep him informed, if Mitch remembered any more details. I got the impression that there was a lot here I wasn’t being told. I was worried that they thought I was safer if I didn’t know, but I felt very much at risk and I felt Mitch was too.
Later in the afternoon, Mitch complained about itching. I offered to rub on some lotion, and realized he was pealing in places like from a bad sunburn. The painkiller in the lotion killed the itch, and the moisturizer didn’t hurt either. If I were a sadistic person I would have taken pictures to torment him with later. Where was that digital camera?
Linda was right on time, and she was loaded down with food and papers. With a young boy, it was definitely FOOD FIRST. I enjoyed some beef broccoli, fried rice and a couple of egg rolls, Mitch consumed what Linda didn’t manage to save for herself. She accused me of abusing Mitch by not feeding him. He got a panicked look, and jumped to my defense immediately.
“It’s okay, champ. She’s teasing me. She knows you would eat a horse if I cooked it for you.” I said to calm him.
Linda came back with, “So animal cruelty too.”
“Relax, my oven isn’t big enough, besides, I couldn’t lift a horse into it.” I retorted.
Mitch was catching on, he added, “I’d help.”
We all busted out laughing. When we recovered, I decided not to hide things from this very intelligent lad. “Linda, Mitch needs to know that if no other family is found, then he will stay here with me. I would very much like that also.”
Linda looked at me, and I nodded. “I certainly do not have any plans to move him. After a year, we have to re-evaluate the situation, and then look for a permanent foster placement or adoption.”
“I’m okay with either. What gives Mitch the most security?” I asked.
“Adoption is permanent, and legally binding. The disadvantage is you lose State aid and benefits. We’ll work on that later, but I am noting both of your wishes, and those will help determine the placement. I really don’t see him being removed, unless one of you has a problem.”
Mitch grinned and came over and gave us each a hug. “Lotion,” I said to Linda when she looked surprised, he could stand contact.
“By the way Mitch, I like what you’ve done with your hair. Just one little thing…” Linda said. I could tell by the glint in her eye that she was going to strike.
Mitch ran his hand over his buzz cut. “Uhh, what?” he asked cautiously.
She struck like lightning, “Makes you look like him!” she pointed at me.
I grabbed my chest like I’d been shot, “Got me.”
We all laughed. The rest of the evening went smoothly, with us kidding around. About 10:00, Mitch asked for some lotion, and he looked pretty tired. Linda said goodnight and left. We went to Mitch’s room, and I applied the lotion. He sat very still, looking at the floor, when I was done. He made no move to get in bed. I thought I knew what was on his mind. “Not looking forward to being alone?” He shook his head. I took his left hand, “Come on, let’s go to my room.”
I got him settled, and I went in and took a shower. And by the time I got back, he was sound asleep. I pulled on a clean pair of boxers, and joined him. He scooted over, and laid his right arm across my chest. I soon followed him into dreamland.
I may be deaf in my right ear forever. Having a nine-year-old scream in terror right in your ear at 1:30 in the morning is an indescribable experience. When my heart resumed beating, I wrapped the boy in my arms. He was rigid as a board, then he woke up, and looked at me. “There was more this time.” He whispered.
“That’s good, Mitch. Want to tell me?” I asked.
“I woke up and heard some thumping sound, then splashing. I was curious, so I got out of bed, and started to go to my door. I remembered how cold the floor in the bathroom was, so I went back and put on my slippers. There was a sound like wind or something, and then suddenly flames jumped up out of the vent under my window. Then what I dreamed before.” He said, and was shaking.
I hugged him and said softly, “its okay. I think you are remembering just fine. As a matter of fact, I think that is all there is. I want to talk to you in the morning, and maybe have a fireman come over, so he can find out what you know.” I was talking to myself, Mitch was back asleep.
I surfaced into consciousness with Mitch spooned to my front. Somehow during the night, he had gotten on the other side of me. I carefully unwrapped him, from my arm, and made my way into the bathroom. I decided it was close enough to wake up time, that I took my morning shower. Then I opened the shower door. I was startled to find Mitch sitting on the closed toilet seat, waiting for me. “Ahh, hi guy.” I said.
“Morning,” he replied. He kept looking down.
“You okay?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders.
I finished drying, and knelt in front of him. “You’re not okay.”
He shook his head and suddenly was wrapped around me like a boa constrictor. Sobs and tears, and I was completely knocked off balance. Luckily I was nearly on the floor, because I went down. We didn’t bash anything, and my back didn’t kill me, so I guess I was going to survive. I lay on the cold wet bathroom floor, while Mitch cried on my chest. I stroked his back and murmured soft words to him. Finally he stopped and looked into my eyes. “I was scared you were gone.”
I gave him a hug. “I’m not going to leave you. You have a place here in my house, home and heart. No matter what, you are safe here.”
“I wasn’t safe at home,” he said.
I didn’t have an argument for that. I held him for another minute, and then asked if he was hungry. Silly question, boys are always hungry. He got off my chest and even helped me up. It felt good to be off the tile floor. I dressed and headed for the kitchen. We were soon having a couple of toaster strudels and juice.
When we were done, I asked if he remembered the dream from last night. He replied that he sure did. I told him there was a fireman who was investigating the fire, and wanted to talk to him. Mitch agreed to talk to him if I stayed with him. I called inspector Brown, and he was delighted to hear from me. He said he would be right out, and should be here in about twenty minutes. I started a new pot of coffee, and loaded the dishwasher. Mitch went into the den, and played one of his PS2 games.
When the doorbell rang, I answered and let Lt. Brown in. We went into the den, and Mitch looked slightly disappointed. Lt. Brown smiled, “I only wear the gear at a fire. How about I set up a time for you and your foster dad to come down to the station and see the trucks, and stuff?”
“Wow, that’d be Kewl!” Now Mitch was excited.
“Okay, deal. Now, Mitch, how about just telling me what you can about the night of the fire.”
“When should I start?” Mitch asked.
“Well, was there anything different before you went to bed?”
“Just that Father had been real touchy for a couple of weeks. He told Mommy work was getting pretty bad, but everything should be over in a couple more weeks.” Mitch offered.
“What did your Father do?”
“Something real important. He was a prostituter.” Mitch stated proudly. Lt. Brown did real good not to laugh.
“Okay, so what do you remember?”
“Well, I woke up, there were some kind of popping sounds, then a gurgling splashing sound, then it was quiet. Then a whooshing and flames shot up out of the air vent under my window. I stood for a few seconds, then opened my door, and there were flames in the hall. I couldn’t get out my window, so I ran as fast as I could down the hall. Flames were really shooting out of Mommy and Father’s room, so I kept running. I ran downstairs and the front door was open, so I ran straight outside. There were firemen there, and they squirted me with the hose and the next thing I remember was in the hospital.”
Lt. Brown was taking notes. “Mitch did you hear any voices?”
“No sir, just the sounds.”
“Thank you very much Mitch. I’ll call when I have that visit set up. There may be some other investigators that want to hear your story. I’ll tell them, and maybe that is all they need.” He said.
“Okay,” Mitch replied, and picked up the control and returned to his game.
Lt. Brown handed me a note, it read: “We need to talk.”
I motioned with my hand, and he followed me into the kitchen. I poured us each a cup of coffee, and we sat at the table.
“Mr. Harris, Mitch is in a great deal of danger. As you can probably figure out, his family was murdered. He was either missed, or they figured the fire would get him. His father was lead prosecutor on the mob case that’s been in the news. If they find out who he is, and where he is, they will come after him. They will never believe he doesn’t know something. Who knows he is here?”
Now I was scared. “I really don’t know. Linda is his case worker; she has sent forms in for home schooling. So I guess Mitchell Bartlett can be found through those records.”
Lt. Brown suddenly laughed. “I had forgotten that. I’ll bet he is perfectly safe here.”
“What?” I asked.
Mitch’s Mom remarried after her first husband died. Mitch doesn’t show up as the prosecutor’s son, and he has a different last name. Look, just be extra careful, and if you are suspicious of anything, call me or the FBI.” He handed me a card. We shook hands and he left.
When I turned around Mitch was right there. I could see it in his eyes, he had heard every word. I grabbed a chair, and held out my arms. He looked at me then came and climbed onto my lap. “Well, this is a tough bit of news to swallow.” I said stroking his back lightly.
“Why did they kill Mommy, Father and Billy? He was only two.” Man this kid asked the tough questions.
“Sometimes there isn’t a real good answer, Mitch. Sometimes we run into evil, and it is very hard to understand. When good people are hurt, it may be for some purpose only God can know. Although this is very painful for you right now, maybe you and I were supposed to be together, and now we are.” I don’t know where those words came from, but I knew as I said them that they had the ring of truth in them.
Mitch hugged me, and then said, “I’m glad I’m with you. I couldn’t talk to Mommy or Father like this.” He sat looking in my eyes, and I guess he liked what he saw there. “Mr. Harris, can I call you Dad?” His voice was very soft and tentative.
“Wow, are you sure? I don’t want you to feel like am trying to make you forget your parents.” I said. “You calling me Dad would be about the best thing you could do for me.” I was getting choked up.
“Don’t worry; I couldn’t forget them, Dad.” Well that did it, we both shed tears of joy for awhile.
We had just recovered when the doorbell rang. I looked out the peephole and it was the UPS man. I opened the door and signed for the box. He set it inside for me, since it was very heavy. It was from the state department of education. When I opened it, it was the materials for Mitch. I had him carry things into the den. He spent the next hour looking through the work-books, and I read through the instructor manuals. By the time I finished, it was close to lunch time, so I asked if Mitch was ready to eat. He certainly was. I asked if he needed lotion, and he said not yet. I thought that was a very good sign.
Soon we were at a little restaurant, not far from my house, and I ordered an All American Deluxe Bacon Cheeseburger. Mitch did too. I smiled and nodded to the waitress. When our plates arrived, Mitch’s eyes just about popped out. This is a huge burger, ¾ pound of prime beef, fresh Kaiser Roll, lettuce, cheddar cheese and four slices of lean bacon. There was also a generous pile of hot homemade French fries, and a half Kosher dill pickle.
I grinned at Mitch. He watched as I picked up my burger, squeezed it together and took a bite. He tried too. He really had to stretch to get a nibble, but it was worth it. He was soon attacking the monster with all his enthusiasm. He surprised me by getting a little more than halfway through it before calling it quits. I asked for a doggy bag.
“But you don’t have a dog.” There was a strange tone to his voice, and I just looked at him. A dog wasn’t a bad idea. It might give us some warning if someone was stalking the house, and it sure would be company for both of us.
Big mouth opened and, “How about we fix that? Now that I have a boy, I think I need a dog too.” He lit up like the fourth of July.
“We going to a pet store?” he asked eagerly.
“Nope. I thought maybe you should pick out one at the pound. It might be nice for you to adopt a dog that has lost its family too.” I really don’t know where some of this stuff that comes out of my mouth comes from. If I had thought about that last comment, I wouldn’t have made it.
Mitch considered that for a time, then nodded his head, “Yeah, I’d like that. Then he and I can talk and understand each other. I think that is just what we should do. Can we do it today?”
“We’ll go straight from here.” The waitress brought a box, and the check. I packed Mitch’s leftovers, and left a nice tip. I asked for a phone book, and got the address for the city pound. I recognized the road, so we were off.
The parking lot wasn’t very full, so I got to park close to the front doors. We entered a waiting room with a receptionist at a window on the far wall. “How may I help you gentlemen?” She asked.
“Well, we’re looking for a dog.” Gee, what an intelligent thing to say in the City Pound,
“Can you describe your dog?” she said.
“Ah, no we haven’t lost our dog; we want to adopt a dog.” I corrected blushing slightly.
“Sorry, a common mistake around here.” Come on through that door, and I’ll meet you and show you our current crew.”
We did as directed and we were led into the kennel room. On the left were smaller dogs in two rows of crates; on the right were larger dogs in pens. There were all kinds.
“What were you looking for? A big dog for protection or a small companion dog?”
“Yes.” I answered.
She laughed. “Do you have a large yard?”
“Humongous!” Mitch replied.
I chuckled, “It used to be a farm. I’ve still got a little over a hundred acres.”
“Well, Max, over there was a farm dog. He is a good watchdog, but I’m afraid he is definitely an outside dog. He is good with kids, but not carpet I’m afraid.” While I was looking at Max, Mitch had continued on, and was standing in front of a cage with a Pomeranian yapping at him. I cringed; I don’t like ‘yappy’ dogs.
I walked over to Mitch. He pointed to the cage above yappy. There was a brown mutt puppy, which was about the size of a Chihuahua; my guess is it was about six months old. It was laying there staring at Mitch, and its tail was wagging like crazy. There was little doubt in my mind I was witnessing love at first sight, on both of their parts.
“Well, would you look at that! She has just laid there for a week, and now look at her.” Our guide said.
“Can we see that one please?” I asked.
“Certainly.” She replied, and went and got a large ring of keys. She unlocked the crate and put a blue slip leash around the puppy's neck, and brought her out and carried her back the way we came. Instead of the waiting room she led us into a smaller room and said, “Why don’t you three visit for a few minutes. She handed me the puppy, and left. Mitch was about to pee himself he was so excited. I did a quick assessment. I squeezed a paw and she looked at me and whined but didn’t try to nip me. She let me turn her over on her back. So she was good tempered and respected people as leaders of the pack. I set her on the floor and Mitch sat on the floor and she went right to him. They seemed to bond instantly. By the time the attendant returned I knew we had our dog. When she came in, she had Max on leash too. He stood there waiting.
“Look, I’m going to do something we’re not supposed to do, but can you take Max too. I talked to the boss and we will waive the fee for him if you can give him a home on the farm. He’s six years old and no one has had any interest in him, and well Tomorrow…” Her voice trailed off but her meaning was clear.
I reached up and took the leash from her hand and patted Max on the head and scratched behind his ears. I had just lost my heart again, twice. It took about a half hour to get the paperwork all filled out. Both dogs had been neutered, and all shots were up to date. Each had a form from a vet. As to their health and fitness. The adoption fee was fifty dollars and included the shots and a year's dog license. The neutering was another fifty, but I would get a thirty dollar rebate for that being done and yearly tags were only five dollars for neutered pets and thirty for un-neutered. I wrote out a check for Three hundred dollars. She started to protest but I told her the extra was a donation to help support what they did. She went and got us a five pound bag of puppy chow, and 15 pound bag of adult dog food. I asked her if she could carry the big bag because of my back and she did.
The trip home was exciting, Mitch was talking at warp speed about how smart his puppy was, and how she was the best dog ever. She lay in his lap and dozed the whole trip. Max, on the other hand, sat on the back seat looking out the window. I could hear his tail start to wag, as the buildings turned to houses and then more into country. He was ready to go, by the time I got to the house. He was disappointed when I pulled into the garage. However his good spirits returned when I let him out the back door of the garage into my 100-acre back yard. He ran and pranced around like a puppy then set about learning his new territory.
Mitch brought his charge inside. We discussed housebreaking and feeding. Mitch made all the kid promises, to feed and care for Ginger. The name he selected seemed to fit her color and personality perfectly.
I almost broke down crying when you mentioned Ginger's name.
You might find this hard to believe, but you described perfectly the day we brought our little Ginger home form the shelter when I was around six.
The only wrong part was that our six year old farm dog had just been killed by a hit and run driver, who had hit him on purpose. I saw him swerve directly at the dog. My folks got Ginger to help me forget about Socks. As I said I think I was about six, and there socks lay dieing beside the road and my mom wouldn't let me go near him, cause she was afraid he would hurt me. I know in my heart, he would never have hurt me. He loved me. I am not sure I will ever forgive them for that. I still miss him, and I never got to say good-bye.
They took me to the pound to get a puppy.
I wasn't having any of it
I hated all the dogs I saw there. I was walking along the cages and saw this puppy sitting there looking pretty glum, till she saw me looking at her. Then her tail started wagging and she whined at me. My heart melted and we were each in love with the other. The attendant said almost exactly the same words about her not responding to anyone till that day she saw me. He was floored, because the personality she had shown before was totally passive and laid back. She was anything but laid back toward me. She covered me with wet doggy kisses, and that tail would have powered a small plane. What a wonderful memory you gave me. Thank you.
Fort Chief Editor's Notes:
It is great to see a wonderfully heartwarming story about unadoptable kids give a chance at love and a real life. It is a good thing to see people who have their own issues and problems reaching out to help those in need. Keep up the great work Str8mayb and Mitch maybe you can teach Neal a thing or two.