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Subject: Transitions First Christmas Chapter 7 As you can see Im writing then posting in bulk what I have completed when I have internet. Not fun but I was always thrilled when I got a huge chunk of a story all at once. Hopefully you are too Help out Nifty with a nice donations Transitions First Christmas Chapter 7 I should prefer to have some boy bend them. As he went out to fetch the cows- Some boy too far from town to learn baseball. Whose only play is what he found in himself. Summer or winter and could play alone. One by one he subdues his fathers trees, By riding them down over and over again, Until he took the stiffness out of them. And not one but hung limp Not one was left For him to conquer He learned all there was To learn about launching out not too soon. And so not carrying the tree away Clear to the ground he always kept his poise To the top branches climbing carefully With the same pains you use to fill a cup Up to the brim and even above the brim Then he flung outward feet first with a swish Kicking his way down through the air to the ground So was I once myself a swinger of Birches And so I dream of going back to be. For some reason Eric woke with this poem Birches by Robert Frost in his head. Well part of it anyway. Its kind of true. He does wish at times he could go back to being a boy and playing with his boys as a boy not a man. Though that is not possible though he sometimes tries. Eric looks at the time and its 6:15 He gets up puts on his robe and slippers and goes to the kitchen to start some coffee for himself and the crew that’s soon to arrive. He gets it going and thinks about breakfast for the boys. He knows they wont rise until late morning as they were having great fun most of the night. Or so he hopes they have had great fun. He decides he will just make them some of the flavored oatmeal packets. They like those just fine. He sits down and enjoys his first cup of coffee for the day. He is planning the day ahead and thinking of his boys. It just seems so natural to him to have two now instead of just Alejandro. He never ever thought he would have any others. He loves Alejandro so very much. He didn’t think he could ever feel that way about anyone else. But, he is rapidly caring for Joey just as much in just as quick of a time as he fell in love with Alejandro. But, he is certain he will only have the two boys. As he finishes his first cup he hears a truck pull up. He walks to the door and opens it to greet the carpenter. “Good morning Larry How are you?” “Doing great. Yourself?” “Good. Come on in and get a coffee and I will show you what I want done.” “Sure thing.” Eric gets Larry a coffee and they go upstairs. “I probably should have pulled everything out to make it easier for you guys. But, well I honestly didn’t think about it until just now.” “That’s OK where do you want it put? Me and the guys can get it all out in a jiffy.” “Well. I guess for easiness sake you can just set it on my room for now.” Eric says walking to his room. “Just set it all over here in this area over by the dressing area. Its a huge area and should fit everything in it easily enough.” “Sure easy as pie.” They hear another vehicle pull up and some chatter outside before they hear the bell ring. They head down to meet Larry’s crew. Its five guys. Eric gets them all some coffee and they grab their tools and they get started pretty quickly. They have the furniture moved out in ten minutes and they have hammers and a saw zaw going and have the wall down within an hour. He knows the boys will sleep through this without a problem. The only thing that wakes them it seems is Eric getting out of bed or the smell of bacon, or any food for that matter. The men are bringing down the former wall less the woodwork and tossing it in the back of the trucks. He hears them cutting the trim and nailing it into place where it is supposed to go now He saw them take up a couple sheets of drywall earlier. He sees one of them bringing down the bathroom fixtures from the one he is having removed. No need for two bathrooms in one bedroom and it seems silly to have a bathroom to the hall when all the bedrooms either have a bathroom or are connected to one. He hears them demolishing the walls to the bathroom now. He is thinking they may get it done today the way they are working. Then thinks no they have to let shit dry first before they can paint. He thinks if he wants them to move the door so its aligned with Alejandro’s and decides no to leave it on the end like it is and close the other one off. Which is exactly what Larry suggested. While this is going on Eric grabs the angel tree requests and goes through them making lists of what to get for the kids. It takes the better part of an hour to get lists together. He has a few of different places to go for things. The ones that touch him the most are the requests where kids ask for things for their siblings. For those he is going to honor their desires and then get the one requesting something for someone else a nice gift card with just cash on it. That way they will hopefully get something for themselves. He has heard from cops he knows that in the shop with a cop program that’s a big issue for them. So they say that they can get gifts for others. But, can only use part of it for that. Kids are beautiful the way they think before the world taints them. After that Eric grabs a book to relax and enjoy as he waits for the boys to finally get up. Around 11 the boys come downstairs and sit down next to Eric at the table who is reading a book. “Whatcha reading Poppi?” Alejandro asks wiping sleep from his eyes. “One of my favorite books. Well maybe a novella really. Its pretty short. It is called Pearl Of A Great Price By John Steinbeck.” “Oh. Didn’t you read a different book by him a while ago?” “Yes I did. He is one of my favorite authors. I was reading Cannery Row then before that I was reading the Winter of Our Discontent.” “How many books has he written?” “Don’t know buddy a lot I guess. I have them all though. I think when you gt older you will like them. They are good and make you think about how life is and how people are.” “Yeah maybe. I’m hungry now.” Boys always seem to be hungry. “Me too dad.” Joey says. “I thought I would just make you boys some oatmeal and toast this morning. Since I knew you would be getting up later. Is that OK with you guys?” They both agree it is more then fine. Eric gets up and slips some bread in the toaster and starts it. Puts some water in the kettle and gets it to going. Eric gets out a couple of bowls and pours in two pouches of oatmeal in the bowls for the boys. He always gets either the apple and spice or the maple and brown sugar. Its what Alejandro likes. Eric is fine with either. He makes them maple and brown sugar this morning. Eric mixes some sugar and cinnamon together. And as the toast pops up he butters it liberally and adds the mixture to the top and shakes off the excess. He mixes the oatmeal and puts it all in front of them then adds a glass of milk. “This is yummy.” Joey says trying a bite of the toast. “Yeah Poppi is always making stuff like this. When I first met him I never had half the stuff he makes. But its all good. All except the broccoli.” Alejandro shrivels up his nose at the mere thought of it. Eric just smiles. “I don’t make you eat it. I find other veggies you like now don’t I?” “Yeah.” “You thought asparagus looked awful and you tried it and you like it right?” “Yeah.” “So whats that tell you?” “To try everything because you just may like it.” “Exactly. Now eat we got things to do today.” “Like what?” “Just Best Buy my little brown inquisitor.” “Cool can I get a game?” “Is it violent?” “No.” “Then probably,” “So no Mortal Kombat then?” Joey asks. “Um no.” Eric says quickly. “But its fun.” “Absolutely not will I ever buy that game or any other that glorifies violence. I don’t believe it causes more violence that school shootings. But, I don’t think that people, especially children need to play games where they are killing people.” “But..” “You better stop now. You will never win. I tried.” Alejandro says to Joey. Who in turn shuts up. “I’m going to get dressed when you boys are done you do the same.” Eric says a bit more tersely then he meant to. As he is walking out of the room he hears Alejandro tell Joey a story. “Yeah Poppi doesn’t have many rules but, he means them when he says them. I bought a game off a boy at school and I was playing it one day. Poppi came in and was way mad. He took the game and broke it. He smashed it with his foot. He was so mad he was red. I was kind of scared he was so mad. Then he grounded me from my games for three weeks. You don’t want to push him on rules.” “Oh.” Was all he heard Joey say. He goes and gets dressed and checks on the progress. They have most everything done. “Larry I’m taking the boys to Best Buy need a few things. If you get done before I get back let yourself out and lock the door OK.” “Sure thing boss man. We are just about done in here for the day. We want to go over and take the measurements and get the snow out of the way for the garage. “You want that one or two car?” “Hmm. Make it a two car. Julius will be driving in a few years or she may want to put stuff out there. Two car seems better.” “Gotcha.” “While I am thinking about it leave the house unlocked in case you or your crew needs the restroom or something. Just lock up if you leave before I get back.” “Gotcha.” Eric goes up and gets dressed. His usual attire slacks a polo. Sweater and some loafers. As he heads back down the boys pass him on the steps to get dressed themselves. “Joey all your things are in my room. So you can get dressed in there. We got a lot to do today guys so get a move on.” “Sure thing Poppi.” Alejandro says with a smile. “OK Dad.” Joey says a little glumly. Once the boys are dressed they pop back down and Eric grabs his coat and they all pile into the Escalade. When they get to Best Buy Eric tells Alejandro and Joey to pick out their five favorite games they like on both games systems that the store has in stock and bring them to him. The boys do as they are asked and a sales lady walks up and asks what she can do to help him. “OK this is going to sound nuts. But here we go. I need 18 Play station 4s I need 22 of the new X Boxes I also need 8 30 inch TVs. I like these here they seem nice enough.” He says pointing to a Samsung that runs about 200. “You need what now?” “Oh and these games for each system.” Eric says handing her the games and the list. “Are you for real?” Eric just nods his head. So she gets someone to help to get everything together. While she is doing this Eric is looking at the 60 inch TVs. Once she has everything to the front she comes and gets him. “I also want one of these please. Also I want a wall mount for it as well.” “Sure thing sir.” She runs off and gets it. Eric and the boys head to the front of the store and wait for her to return. Once she does she rings it all up and The total is pretty substantial. Eric hands her his card and she swipes it. No issues as if there would be any. A couple of guys wheel the stuff out and load it into the back of the Escalade. Eric then heads to Walmart to the toy section and loads up three carts of toys. He got trucks and dolls and easy bake ovens, toms of legos, and games of all varieties, mostly classic board games. Just a plethora of stuff on the lists and some that wasn’t. Its easy to shop for the boys when they think its all for others. He grabs a ton of wrapping paper and bows and cards to put names on the gifts. He also grabs about 2 dozen visa gift cards. He loads $100 on each card. This is for the kids that wanted things for their siblings. He also got one for little Maria, Joeys friend, as well. He also got a few gifts for his Maria ankara grup escort and her family, since they would be over on Friday to celebrate Christmas with them. Cant forget them. Once they get it loaded all in the Escalade is filled to capacity and they even had to put some in the front seat next to Eric. They get back to the house and see Larry and his guys have gotten all the snow removed from the area next to the house and are setting up the area to pour concrete the next day. Its supposed to be 50 tomorrow. Life in the Midwest in December. The temperatures fluctuate greatly at times. Its just insane. Eric and the boys carry everything in to the living room. It takes him and the boys a good while. Eric leaves the 60 inch TV and one of each system at the bottom of the stairs because they are for Joeys room. “Poppi this is a lot of work. But, its a lot of fun knowing that we are making lots of people happy.” “Yeah it is fun. I never got so much stuff in my life.” Joey adds. “I am proud of you guys. You never asked for anything for yourselves.” “I got everything I ever wanted Poppi. What more could I want. I even got a brother for Christmas.” Alejandro says and hugs Joey. “Yeah Dad. I know you got one of each of the games for me. Cuz you told me you was going to. I don’t even need that. If you want we can give those to someone else. I know Alejandro wouldn’t mind me playing his.” “Nope sure wouldn’t. If you want I can put them in your room and we can do that. Or we can put them in the basement and make that like a game area.” Alejandro suggests. “But, what If you guys have friends over and want to spend time just with them.” “Dad we kinda got the same friends.” Joey says. “Well yeah I suppose.” “Poppi lets do that and then we can give Carlos and them the game systems and games. I know their mom cant afford them I know they would like them a lot.” “Yeah Dad. We should do that.” “Are you guys sure?” “Poppi you say all the time that just because we got lots of money doesn’t mean we should waste it.” “I just was thinking that one of you may feel slighted if I did that.” “PSHAW.” They both say. “Poppi what makes us feel special isn’t all the stuff. Its you.” With that Eric just walks away because if he didn’t he would cry. Its not that he minds crying in front of the boys. He just didn’t think he could stop if he started. He is so proud of these boys. For the next several hours they wrap toys and put names on them. Each one with a personal note from Santa on them. Some in English some in Spanish. He knows a lot of them are too old to believe. But, that’s not the point. He want each one of them to know that someone in this world cares for them. With the gift cards he puts in a personal note as well telling the child that asked for something for someone else that they are truly a special person putting others before themselves and its a special gift for them that he hopes they use at least partly on themselves if not all of it. One little girl asked for a heater for their house because it is cold and her dad works all the time but still cant afford it. That one had already been taken care of. He told the H VAC guy about it when he ordered it and the guy did the entire job dressed as Santa. He told Eric the girl who was six was simply delighted that Santa got them a heater.. The guy told Eric that once he got done he went to the toy store and spent $500 on toys for all the kids in the house he is dropping off Christmas Eve. He said he also found out the dad wanted to better his career but, just couldn’t afford to miss work to go get more training. So he hired him as an apprentice and they guy is making more now at one job then at both he had previously. These are the kinds of things that Alejandro has started with his angle trees. Eric is constantly hearing stories like this and has been sharing them with Alejandro. Alejandro just smiles and sometimes cries. Once they are done with all the gift wrapping and everything Eric and the boys are starved nearly to death. It is seven so the boys are way past the usual feeding time. “I feel like fried chicken.” Eric says. Alejandro grabs him and squeezes. “Nu uh you feel like Poppi to me.” He says giggling and Joey laughing as well. Eric just rolls his eyes. “You boys want some fried chicken?” “Poppi Julia is going to be mad you keep feeding us junk.” “Well, I’m sure not going to tell her. She scares me.” He responds making the boys laugh. “I like fried chicken.” Joey says. So Eric pulls up the uber eats app and orders some KFC he usually would go and get it. But, he is just tuckered out and doesn’t feel like driving. The boys and him get the gits separated for delivery by the group of Santa’s Eric has got to help. Because its just too many deliveries for him and the boys. After they get that done the doorbell rings and the KFC is arrived. Yay fried chicken. They get it all set up in the kitchen the boys getting milk and Eric having some a Coke. They have a nice dinner and chat about the fun that they had on their day. As they are finishing up Eric’s phone rings. He looks and is kind of surprised by who is calling. “Hello Marco what can I do for you tonight?” “Eric its funny you should put it like that. I know its kind of short notice and all. But, I need some people tomorrow to help serve lunch and Dinner at the soup kitchen. You always said if I needed some help to call. I wouldn’t ask but, a church group that was supposed to be here tomorrow canceled out at the last minute. Can you help out tomorrow?” “What time do you need me?” “Lunch I will need you from say 10:30 to say 1:30 and dinner say 4 to 8 if that’s OK? What I need is someone to serve and to help clean up afterwards. If you want to that is?” “Not only do I want to I have a couple of helpers that will be happy to join me.” “I saw the news. Are you talking about your sons?” “Yes. Is it all right that they are only 9?” “I don’t mind and to be honest it will be a help because this time of year a lot of the people that come in are families. Heat bills are high and food costs aren’t getting any cheaper. So a lot of families that have homes come in because they just cant make everything stretch. With the morons running the government signing executive orders cutting food stamps. I don’t see it getting better any time soon.” “Yeah it is a huge problem isn’t it?” “Yes. We have some help for heating. But, it is just never enough.” “OK Marco so you can count on three helpers for lunch and dinner for sure.” “I was sure hoping just for one. But, with three you are a life saver.” “I am sure you would have found someone.” “Maybe. Never know. People like to say they want to help. Then they just never show up.” “I’m sure that’s frustrating.” “Sure is. I will see you tomorrow then.” “For sure. Have a good night.” “You too.” Eric says and ends the call. “Well. Boys tomorrow we are going to help at the Stew Pot. I guess some people called in and Marco needs some help.” “I ate at the Stew Pot a few times.” Joey said. “But, I had a lady keep bugging me asking me where my mom was. I didn’t want to say. Hey lady my moms out selling herself for some drugs. So I just quit going.” “Yeah I went once had someone ask me a bunch of questions too. I didn’t talk at the time and they got really mad thinking I was being rude.” “I understand boys. Sometimes people think they are helping when they should just give you something to eat. Tell you that they care about you and leave you be. I mean there was a reason you boys were there by yourselves. Maybe I should talk to Marco about it.” “I am happy to go help though Dad.” “Me too Poppi.” “That’s why I am always so proud of you boys. So now that its around 8:30 you boys need to go and get ready for bed. Since we got lots to do tomorrow. You want to sleep in the ball room again tonight in the tent?” “Yeah!” They both shout. “OK. While you guys get showered and get ready for bed I will get some snacks and some juices for you in the cooler. Since you don’t need any caffeine tonight since you need to get to sleep kind of soon tonight. Not super soon but, earlier then last night.” “Sure thing Poppi.” Alejandro says and they take off up the stairs. Eric walks the two flights of stairs to get the cooler and the trash the boys left from last night. He straightens out their sleeping bags and pillows for them. He heads back down with the cooler filled with the trash. He grabs some juices pouches and puts new ice packs in to keep them cold. He also grabs a few cookies and other little snacks like Gogurt that they may or may not eat. Who is he kidding they will eat it. Both came from situations where food wasn’t. readily available and its important that they know food is always available. He tosses in a bag of baby carrots hoping they will eat them as well. He takes this all back upstairs and the boys have already beaten him up and are settling in playing a board game that they must have brought up. Because Eric didn’t. “Here you go boys. I brought up some snacks and some juice for you to have if you want.” Eric says and starts to walk back down stairs. “Hey Poppi where are my hugs?” “Yeah Dad.” Eric just smiles and turns around and they pounce on him. Seeing as how they followed him over to the stairs. Alejandro hugs him and whispers in his ear. “Poppi I don’t think I could sleep without my hugs.” Then kisses him on the cheek. Joey hugs him and kisses him on the cheek as well. “Good night boys I love you.” Eric heads to his room and sets his phone to make sure he is up for Larry and the crew tomorrow. Of course he will probably shut it off. But, you never know better to be safe. He himself gets a shower and gets into some sleeping pants and a t shirt. He slips on his robe and starts watching some TV until he his sleepy. Once he is he gets up turns off the TV and slips into bed. “This is a big bed when I am in it all by myself.” He says to no one. He climbs in and is out in seconds. He sleeps through the night like a bear hibernating and when he wakes he feels extremely refreshed. He gets ups and takes care of the morning rush to the restroom. Then ambles downstairs to get some coffee started. He looks at the clock on the stove it read 5:45. As Eric sips his coffee he scans through the news. He reads them all the left and the right. He figures the truth may be somewhere in the middle. When did the news become so damn political. It used to actually be news. Not all propaganda to further others interests. It is a sad state of affairs that’s for sure After he looks at a few stories he just gives up and grabs his book. Steinbeck may have been a socialist but, at least he didn’t try to hide it. He reads for a good while and he hears Larry pulling up. He walks to the door and greets his carpenter. “Morning Larry ready for some coffee?” “Sure am I got us donuts to go with it.” Larry says holding up a couple boxes of fresh Dunkins. “Yum. Tell me you brought some Boston Cremes.” “Of course isn’t that everyone’s favorite?” “Not sure about everyone. But, it sure as hell is mine.” Eric says laughing. “I made sure I got enough for my crew and your boys as well.” “I appreciate that. I know they will too.” “You got a couple of neat kids. Those two yesterday they sat and watched us work for half an hour didn’t say a word. Then one of the guys asked what they think. The brown one he started in on how it would have been easier if the guy did his job this way. Then the white one he says. Yeah but. If he did this it would have been even easier. Then they go back and forth. My guy is just sitting there listening. After they left the guy looks at me and says. You know they are right. So that’s the way we are going to do it from now on. I figure I owe them donuts for saving me hundreds of man hours over the rest of my life.” “Yeah they are clever gümüşhane escort that’s for sure. I don’t know which one is smarter. They are both way smarter then I ever was. Hell am.” “What are they going to do when they grow up you wonder?” “Honestly. I think anything they want to do. But, I think Alejandro is going to be a doctor. Not sure about Joey yet. Maybe a politician, he said he wants to make the world better. He has the gift of mediation that’s for sure.” Shit, we need that nowadays.” “Boy howdy ain’t that the truth.” Eric says. They sit down to visit for a while as Larry waits for his crew and they hear the piano playing. Its Claire de Lune. Larry listens for a minute. “You got the radio on or something?” “No Joey is playing. Sometimes he wakes up and has a song in his head and needs to play it. I’m guessing that’s whats up.” “Jaysus he plays that well what is he like 8?” “No hes nine and he takes to some things like he is born to do them. Like I bet you he can beat you at bowling.””No way can he beat me at bowling. I got almost a 200 average.” “Care to wager on it?” “Shit if a nine year old boy can beat me I will take 20% off your bill.” “Ha. What if two nine years old’s beat you?” “Bull shit is what I say. If that happens I will take off 30%” “I will make you a deal. If my boys beat you you donate a grand to toys for tots.” “Shit if your boys beat me I will donate two grand.” “Joey!!” Eric shouts. The piano stops. They both hear the pit-tar patter of naked feet on the hard wood floor coming their way. “Joey is Alejandro up yet?” “Yeah Poppi he is watching some toons. Why?” “Larry thinks he can beat you boys at bowling. You up to an early morning game?” “Sure Dad he want one game or a set?” Eric looks at Larry. “Well One game or a set?” “I guess a set is more fair to them.” Eric just laughs. “Go get your brother and get dressed and put on some socks.” “Sure thing dad.” Joey races off to do as he is asked and Larry asks. “Do you really think that they can beat me?” “I guess we shall see huh?” “So what do I get if I win?” “I will give you McDonald’s free for a year. Two if you beat both.” “Man I am going to get fat the next couple years.” Eric just laughs. “I guess I better go get my ball and shoes out of my truck then.” “Guess you better. I don’t want any excuses.” Eric says smiling. Larry is thinking he has just made the shrewdest bet of his life. Larry comes back in and has his bowling bag with him. A few minutes later the boys come down and spy the donuts. “Umm Poppi?” Alejandro says not taking his eyes off the donuts. “Yes you both may have some. Larry says thank you for showing his guys how to do some job easier.” “Your welcome and thanks for the donuts.” Alejandro says. “Anytime guys. Your dad and I made a bet on our bowling. I will make one with you boys too. If You win the series I will bring you donuts every Sunday for a month.” “Cool. We like donuts.” Joey says. “Boys Larry is a pretty good bowler you better take it serious.” “For donuts Poppi we gonna take it serious.” Alejandro says around a bite of do nut. Eric gets them both some milk to wash them down with. After they finish their third one Eric tells them they have had enough. Both give him that look like they are going to starve if they cant have just one more. Eric just shakes his head. “Fine one more then that’s it for real.” “YAY!!!” They cheer. And snatch another. “Glad you brought food I only feed them once a week.” Both boys roll their eyes and Larry says. “I got four boys I know. When they were teenagers I thought I was buying Kroger’s every week.” The boys finish their last do nut. and down their milk as the door bell rings. “Looks like your crew is here. I will go let them in. Boys go ahead and show Larry downstairs.” “Sure Poppi.” “No we can wait. I want my crew to see me win some free food.” Eric just smiles. “You sure?” “Sure I am.” Eric goes and lets them in and gets them some coffee and they grab the donuts and Eric fills the carafe with more coffee so they can have some more if they like. Everyone heads down stairs and the boys turn on the lights. The crew is shocked. Larry isn’t because he and his wife put in the score keepers. The boys go and get their shoes and favorite balls to play with. Eric sets up the computer and cycles the pins so its a fresh game. “I figure we let the boys go first. You know the young and pretty before the old and ugly.” Eric says making the crew laugh. Eric has Alejandro start off the game alphabetical you know. He steps up and throws an absolutely perfect ball and the pins fly. Starts with a strike. Joey walks up gives him a high five. He grabs his ball and his ball isn’t as perfect yet still gets a strike. Looked for a second like it was going to be a split but. A pins spun and knocked them down. Alejandro jumps up and meets Joey and gives him a high five. Larry is just staring at the new pins being set in place. He glances at Eric. He just gets a smile. He grabs his ball and he steps up to the line and throws his ball. Hits the head to much and has a seven ten split. His crew laughs. Joey walks up to him and is talking to Larry in almost a whisper. Larry nods. He gets his ball as it returns. He walks to the line and he throws the ball. He hits the ten nearly perfect. The pin slides and just misses the seven. Everyone lets out a groan. Joey claps and shouts. “Almost maybe next time.” “That’s the closest I ever got to getting that.” He replies. Alejandro steps up for his second frame. He tosses another strike. As does Joey. Larry follows with a strike. The boys end up throwing six strokes in a row. Larry throws 4 then a spare. Both boys get a spare in the seventh. Alejandro opens in the eighth and is mad about it. Joey ends up just sparing out because he is just a little low on the head pin. All said and done the boys got a 237 for Alejandro and Joey got a 242. Larry well a 198. Which isn’t bad at all. When the series is done Joey got over a 700 series. Alejandro just missed 700 at a 692 series Larry winds up with a 632 series. “Well I ll be damned I got womped by two nine year old’s. I got to say I’ve never seen boys your age bowl so well. A bet is a bet.” Larry says pulling out his check book. He writes a check out for two grand to Toys for Tots. He hands it to Eric. “I guess your crew is going to rib you a while over this.” “No sir we aren’t. We couldn’t have beat neither one of them.” One of the guys says. “I bet they are going to be professional bowlers.” “No Cindy says I am going to be a doctor.” Alejandro says. “Whose Cindy?” Larry asks. “Shes gonna be my wife.” Alejandro states as if its not crazy for a nine year old say that. “I don’t know what I’m gonna do yet. Dad and I were talking about it a little the other day. But, I don’t know yet. I got time to think about it. I just know I want to make the world better.” Joey says. “I know you will buddy. When did Cindy tell you this Alejandro?” Eric says to them. “Got me a while ago.” “Hmm.” Is all Eric says recalling his dream about Alejandro before he even brought him home. “Having your wife picked out at nine makes things a lot easier for later on.” Larry says. “Yepper. Don’t have to worry about finding her later on.” “I met my wife in first grade. Didn’t know I was gonna marry her until I was 16 though.” Larry says like this is completely normal. Eric glances at his watch. “Boys go get ready we got to get going in about fifteen minutes. Here I’m not even dressed yet.” The crew gets up and heads to get their work done and the boys race to get their shoes. Eric rushes to get dressed. The boys have on their coats and Eric grabs his from the coat rack by the garage. “Car boys.” Eric says as they head to the Escalade. They change directions and get in the XTS. “Dad why we taking the car.” Joey asks after they are buckled in. “Because we don’t need the extra room and I still like my car too.” “Oh.” Eric puts on some Kenny Wayne Sheppard because he knows Alejandro likes it. He isn’t sure about Joey yet. But, after a few minutes of driving he is certain Joey is now a fan too. “Who is this playing?” He asks. “That’s Kenny Wayne Sheppard baby.” Alejandro says bobbing his head. “Cool.” Is the response and back to finger tapping on his legs. Eric is tapping his fingers in the steering wheel as Kings Highway plays. After driving about twenty minutes and a few songs later they finally reach the Stew Pot at 10:20. They get out and walk in the front door and a line is already started for lunch. Eric has donated money to this group for years but, never time. He is surprised yet not at how many families are there. It looks like for every adult there are two or three kids. Kids of all ages from newborn to about 13. Eric and the boys walk to the back and find Marco in the kitchen getting some things out of the oven. “Eric so glad you made it. Glad your helpers made it too.” Marco says with a big smile. This man you can just feel is as real as they come. He couldn’t lie if he was paid. Its just not his nature he is just a genuinely great person. What some people would refer to as salt of the earth. “We are glad you called us to help. We are just thrilled to help you out today.” “Yeah we like to help people.” Alejandro says. “Yeah we do.” Says Joey. “So what do you need us to do?” “Here we act like its a restaurant. When its time people find a seat and then we take the food to them. So you guys are going to be running food out to tables. After they all eat the kids generally go to the play area and play for a while as the adults chat about whatever they want.” “Cool” All three of them say. “Eric why don’t you go let people know to go ahead and take a seat. Then you boys can start taking out drinks for people. I got some trays set up with some Kool aid and iced tea in glasses already. Once you get it passed out as you see they need it we got pictures to refill them.” So that’s what they do. They pass out drinks to a table and then food and so on and so forth until everyone has something to eat. Then they all grab pictures and start refilling glasses. All of them chatting with everyone as they are going. Not long talks just a quick word here and there. Once people are done they take there dishes up to get washed. There is a man at a window who takes them and thanks them for eating with them today. Nice touch Eric thinks. Once everyone has eaten Eric and the boys start wiping down the tables to get ready for the dinner crowd. Eric is amazed that Marco does this every single day. He doesn’t think the man has had a day off in years. Not that he would complain. He loves what he is doing. After they are done Marco has some plates for himself and the helpers to sit and have lunch together. Its one of the ways he says thank you. That and its nice to visit with the people who help. Because those who help are from every walk of life. Some are forced to by judges. Some just want to help. Some are poor and cant donate money so they give time because they want to help. Some are wealthy and do it from guilt. Some like Eric just want to give a hand when its needed. Its just fun for Marco to meet people in the community. As they sit and talk the boys just eat and don’t add anything to the conversation. They just listen. Once they eat and get their messes cleaned up Eric and the boys leave, They get in the car and thank Marco for allowing them to help. They all promise to be back at 4 to help with dinner. They ride back to the house without any conversation. Once they get home Alejandro and Joey disappear for a while. Eric is in the kitchen reading and sipping on a cup of coffee. Alejandro and Joey grab some paper grocery bags from under the counter and go back upstairs. Eric is kind of curious what they are doing but doesn’t question them. They are good boys and knows they aren’t halkalı escort up to anything bad. A while later he hears the door to the garage open and close. He doesn’t think anything of it. Thinking they are getting the sleds out or something to play in the yard. A couple hours pass and its 3:30 and he gathers up the boys and they head back to the Stew Pot to help with dinner. Once they arrive the boys get out and wait for a second for Eric to get out as well. “Poppi can you open the trunk please?” “Why?” “Just cuz Poppi OK?” Eric hits the button on his key fob and the trunk opens. Both boys grab out four bags each. Eric cant really see whats in them and they walk in the building. The boys go in front of him and they put the bags in the toy area. Eric still isn’t sure whats going on. But, he is pretty sure that whatever it is he is going to be proud of his boys again. They get some things ready and Marco greets them again. They get the people seated and start serving. The boys are quicker this time around and they all get done in about fifteen minutes. At this time the kids are starting to wander over to the toy area to play. Some of the adults that are by themselves leave to make room for new people showing up. Eric looks over as he is serving one of the new people and sees whats going on with the bags. A little girl about five strolls over to play. Alejandro reaches in the bag and he pulls out a stuffed animal. He says something to her and her face just lights up. She takes the little animal and hugs it to her chest. She them promptly gives both boys a hug. Every time a new child walks up out comes a toy that is fitting for them. A truck for a boy. This goes on for a while until all the bags are empty. Alejandro folds up the bags with Joeys help and they play with all the kids for a while. Then they get back to work and start helping to refill glasses and wiping down empty spots. Feeding new people as they come in. When they are done and they all sit down to eat together after all the guests have eaten Marco stands up. “I would like to propose a toast to two very generous boys tonight. It was brought to my attention that these boys gave out toys to every child that came in tonight. So here’s to Alejandro and Joey.” he says lifting a glass. “Here here.” Says the man who washes dishes. The boys are both red as beets at this and try to ignore the praise. Eric just smiles at them. Proud as always at their thoughtfulness of those that are less fortunate. Granted they know what its like and know it just sucks. Once everyone is done eating and the last dish washed Eric and the boys get in the car to head back home. Eric breaks the silence first. “You know if you would have told me what you were doing I could have helped.” Alejandro answers for the boys. “We know Poppi. We wanted to do it on our own.” “What made you think to do it?” “At lunch time we were playing with some of the other kids and some of them said they like coming here because they get to play with some toys. They said at home they don’t really have any. So Alejandro said to me when we got back that he has tons of toys he doesn’t even play with and that he should let them have them instead of them just sitting there.” Joey says. “I think that makes perfect sense.” Eric says. “Poppi can we go help tomorrow night too?” “You got more toys to give away?” “No I just like helping. I know what its like for them. I just want to help when we can.” “You boys have school tomorrow. I know you only go Tuesday to Thursday this week. But, It is still school and I am sure you will have more then just parties. So if we go help then you will have to do your homework when we get back. That wont leave much time to play.” “Its OK Dad. We think its better to help. It wasn’t. even a week ago and I could have been any one of them being hungry wanting someone to get me something to eat. So its kind of important to me.” “Yeah Poppi. We don’t care. Besides once we get home we can have some fun bowling maybe if we don’t have lots of homework.” “If that’s what you boys want to do. I don’t mind at all. I am proud you boys want to help.” “Poppi?” “Yeah buddy?” “I want to do a tree for angels there too. Can we do that?” “Its angel tree buddy.” “No dad he got it right.” Eric thought a minute. Shook his head in agreement. “Yeah buddy we will do a tree for angels there. I will get it set up with Marco tomorrow.” When they got home the boys went to Joeys room to see it was done and all the furniture and things were back in the right place. Eric was with them and on the bed was an envelope. It was addressed to the boys. Joey opens it because its in his room. He pulls out a sheet of paper and opens it up. Cash falls out onto the bed. He ignores it and reads the note. He hands it to Eric who reads and hands it to Alejandro. Joey is picking up the money and counting it. Its over $400. The note reads. Dear boys: After you beat Larry at bowling he told us that you beat him for money for toys for tots. We wanted to help out a little bit too. You are great boys and Mr Eric is lucky to have you for sons. Larry’s Crew And they all signed the note. “Dad we can use this for the tree for angels. You think that would be OK?” “I think Larry’s crew would be pretty happy about that. As a matter of fact I got an idea.” Eric says pulling out his phone. “Hey Larry we got your crews note. That was really nice of them. I have a question for you though. The boys and I have set up a few Angel trees at my stores and we need some help getting out all the gifts on Christmas eve. Do you think you and your guys might be interested in helping and being Santa’s for us? I mean no pressure if not we can figure out something else.” “Are you shitting me. I know I would love too One of my guys was telling us at lunch that if it wasn’t. for toys for tots he would have never had any Christmas presents. That’s when my crew said hey we should help too. I know that if they aren’t busy they would love too.” Larry says excited at the idea. “That’s great. Hey Larry not to sound mean but um buddy you kinda look like Santa.” “Are you saying I’m fat?” Larry says laughing. “Well, um no.” “Just pulling your leg Eric. What are you thinking?” “You know the Stew Pot right?” “Sure the wife and I donate some money to them every month. Its a good program. What about it?” “The boys and I helped out tonight and they really loved helping the people. They found out that a lot of the kids don’t really have any toys to speak of. So the boys thought that we could do a tree for angels there as well. I was thinking to make it even better we could have you go in as Santa and ask the kids what they want. You could get their names and addresses and we could deliver their gifts to them as well. I think it would be more fun then a tree.” “Oh my god Eric I love the idea. Hold on a minute.” Larry says. He can hear him talking to someone n the back ground who is laughing and giggling. “Eric I just asked the wife about it. She LOVES the idea. She said she will dress up as Mrs Claus and make some cookies for the kids as well. We are soooo on board. When do you want to do it?” “Not sure yet. I was going to call Marco in the morning. But, I think I will call him now. I will get back to you in the morning when you show up for work.” “I cant tell you how excited I am to do this. Man this is going to be such great fun.” Eric and Larry end the call. The boys are jumping around all excited about their idea growing into something even better. It seems the more involved the bigger it gets and can get. Eric calls Marco who is nearly excited as the boys. They figure that this week they will post signs that Santa will be there on Saturday and Sunday since its the busiest days for them and they can get more kids involved. The more the merrier as they say. Eric says he isn’t sure Larry can do both days but, he will find out for sure tomorrow. The boys are excited and say they want to go play video games for a while before bed. Eric tells them that’s fine but, get ready for bed first. Then he heads to the living room to see if he can find something to watch on TV. He finds Holiday inn on and settles in to watch it. Its really not a very PC show in this day and age. But, in its time it wasn’t. an issue. He sits back and watches the film and is enjoying it. Once its over he looks at his watch and sees its almost 9. Time to get the boys into bed and sleeping to be prepared for school tomorrow. He heads up to Alejandro’s room and they are into some game and having a good time. Eric sits on the couch and watches them. They both noticed him and both know whats about to happen and are doing their best to act like hes not there. The game ends and they look back at him with sad eyes. “Oh don’t give me that. You know its bed time.” They both get up and put up their controllers. Alejandro powers off the game and TV. Joey climbs up on Eric’s lap and gives him a hug and a kiss on the lips. “Goodnight Dad.” “Goodnight Joey. Do you like your room now?” “Dad it was great before. Now its even better.” “Good go get in bed I will be in to tuck you in after I tuck in your brother.” “OK Dad.” Alejandro gets into his bed and Eric follows him over and sits on the edge. “Alejandro do you know how proud of you I am?” “I think a lot. Because you always tell me that.” “You are absolutely right about that. I was really surprised today when you gave away all the toys.” “I didn’t do it for you to be proud Poppi. I was really embarrassed when Mr Marco said what I done.” “I know buddy. That’s what makes me the most proud is that you did it just because you saw the boys and girls that didn’t have anything and you have a lot. It made my heart swell to know that you wanted to share what you have.” “Poppi please stop. I don’t want all the talk about it. I just wanted to make them feel good not me.” “I know buddy. I think your tree for angels idea is really special.” Alejandro smiles big. “I think Mr Larry is going to make a good Santa He has a big belly and a white beard too. Its going to be so much fun isn’t it?” “I think its going to be great fun for sure. I didn’t tell you but Larry’s wife is going to dress up like Mrs Claus and make cookies too.” “I hope peanut butter. That’s my favorite.” “I will make sure I mention it to her.” “No don’t do that Poppi. Its not for me. But, if I get one I wont be sad.” He says smiling. “Oh I bet you wont.” Eric says tickling his ribs making Alejandro squeal in delight. He stops after a few seconds. “I love you buddy. I am so happy you are my son.” Alejandro sits up and wraps his arms around Eric. “Me too Poppi. Me too.” Eric gives him a quick peck on the lips and tucks him in. “I hope you have wonderful dreams and dream of puppies and candy.” “Can we get a puppy?” “Umm well.. I don’t know. Maybe.” Eric says taken aback by the question. Its not like Eric doesn’t like dogs. He does. Its just hes never had one. Before its just because he was so busy with work. Now he has the boys. He never really gave it much thought. “I hope so. I always wanted a dog.” “I will think about it.” Is all Eric says. He heads over to Joeys room to tuck him in. “Dad life is funny you know.” “It is. But, how do you mean.” “Well. last week I was hungry and didn’t know what I was going to do to eat. This week I have lots of food. Lots of love and people leave money on my bed to help other people. Its just funny you know.” “I understand what you are saying. If any of the guys or me would have known about you last week any of them or me would have helped. That’s a real problem in this country. A lot of people need help. Lots of people want to help but, don’t know who or how.” “Maybe we can fix that.” “Maybe. I don’t know how we could. But, I am sure hoping that we can figure it out.” “Me too Dad.” Eric gives him a hug and a quick kiss. “I love you Joey. Sleep well.” “You too Dad and thanks.” “For what?” “For everything and for just being you.” “Your welcome. I am glad to do it.” Eric tucks the covers around him better and heads to his room to get some sleep. He gets in bed and thinks. A dog? Then drifts quickly off to sleep.

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