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Second Time Around

Chapter 2 - Tornado Beau Strikes!

By Arli J

Edited by Radio Rancher
Based on Characters from Pinochle, by E Walk

The characters in this story first appeared in Pinochle, by E Walk. The two stories move parallel to each other for a while, since the action involves the characters in both stories. They will gradually separate after Ben and Grant begin their studies at Cornell. Both stories can stand alone, but the reader will understand the action better by following both.

We dropped the bags beside the front door and Gregg waited while I turned on some lights. At this time of year it is still so light outside in the evening that I had forgotten to leave a light on when I left for the airport.

He looked around the living room; "This looks really cozy." He noticed the TV on a stand in the corner; "Do you get good reception here? Do you have cable, and how many channels can you get?"

"The cable company offers about three or four different plans, each one featuring more channels and movie stations than the previous one, and, of course, each one is a bit more expensive than the previous one. I just have the basic package; 11 channels, including two public broadcasting channels. I like the shows on the PBS. They feature some good documentaries and news programs, and they offer quite a few of the British sitcoms, which I just love! I really don't watch a lot of TV, except in the winter time, and I'm more apt to rent a movie I want to see and spend the evening with that."

Gregg was looking somewhat uncomfortable. "Could I use your bathroom? It's been a long trip, and I didn't like to bother people."

"It's no bother! It's right down the hall, first door on your right. The light switch is on the left side of the door. There are fresh towels on the rack by the sink. If you need anything else, just holler."

"Thanks." He disappeared quickly down the hall. In a few minutes I heard the toilet flush, then the sound of running water in the sink, then silence. He appeared a minute or so later. "Oh, that feels somuch better!"

"Are you ready for the tour? It's only five dollars, and includes a free glass of water in the kitchen." He looked at me with a surprised expression.

"Oh, yes, I forgot; people from Nebraska get a free tour, this week only, and the tour includes a beverage of your choice - if I have it in the house!"

He laughed, "Are you always this crazy?"

"Gee, and I thought I was passing for sane! But, to be honest, yes. I'm just a little bit "round the bend," as our British friends would say. It keeps my life from being boring."

"I guess I'll just have to watch out, then." He grinned, seeming more relaxed than he had been all evening. "Would the house beverage list include coffee?"

"Oh, yeah! I might run out of anything else, but there is always coffee in the house. Do you mind Colombian? It's my favorite, but if you don't like it, I'll pick up something else tomorrow. I have to go grocery shopping, anyway."

"No, I really like Colombian coffee. It has such a rich, full taste."

"That's what I like about it. Ready for the tour?"

"OK." I stood in the middle of the living room. "Here we have the grand salon, furnished in early Salvation Army. Now, if you will follow me down the hall." We passed the bathroom and stopped at the bedroom door. I turned on the light. "And here we have what the French so delicately call "ma chambre." Not exactly a Statler suite, but it works for me." The bedroom was furnished with a double bed, a night stand with a table light and the alarm clock, and the tall dresser. One wall was taken up by the closet. "Now, here's the deal; while you are here, you have the bedroom. I've cleared the top two drawers in the dresser for your things, and there is plenty of room on the right side of the closet for your hanging clothes."

"Hey, wait a minute! I can't take your bedroom. What are you going to do?"

"You may not have noticed that the couch in the living room is a fold-out futon couch. It's very comfortable. I've slept on it a number of times when the kids were visiting. And anyway, I'm something of a night owl. I'm up and down several times in the night to go to the bathroom, and I usually wind up making a snack or having a half cup of coffee - just to get ready for the next trip to the bathroom, I guess. I'd rather have you somewhere quiet, so I know I'm not keeping you up half the night."

"Gee, I don't know. It doesn't seem right, putting you out of your own bed."

"I'm fine with it; in fact, I'd prefer it this way."

"Well, if you say so."

"I say so. Now, let's get on with the tour." We went back down the hall to the living room, then through a wide French door into the family-style kitchen. The kitchen itself was U-shaped, wrapped around three walls. It had an island counter of maple butcher block close to the sink, in the middle of the far wall. The stove and refrigerator took up about half of the left hand wall, and cabinets extended from the sink around the corner of the right hand wall to a washer/dryer. Beyond the washer was a floor-to-ceiling window, with glass shelves displaying my small collection of orchids. Opposite this window was a double French door leading out to the deck. The dining room table and six chairs took up most of the remaining space.

Gregg seemed most impressed with this room. "This is neat! You've got everything you need, and it's all handy. I like that. If I were designing a kitchen, I think I'd go for something like this."

"Uh, well, you may be designing a kitchen. And a living room, and all the rest of your place. You said you wanted a condo, and I've had a friend of mine, a real estate agent, looking for something for you. There aren't any good condos available around here, but she found a really nice building on the Commons - that's the shopping center of the city - with a storefront, and two floors of apartments. She says you could easily remodel one floor to make a really nice apartment and still have the other apartments to rent out."

"Well, that's an interesting idea. I hadn't thought of anything like that, but it sounds as if it might work. When can we see it?"

"I asked Sally to see if she could set up an appointment for us for tomorrow. I'll call her and see what she has going for us."

I called Sally, and found out that our appointment was for 2:30 in the afternoon. I gave a deep sigh of relief at that, since it would not only not conflict with the meeting with Beau, but would give us a chance to have lunch and stroll around the Commons so that Gregg could get an idea of what it's like.

When I told Gregg the news, he was excited. "You know, I think I like the idea. It would put me in the center of town, and I wouldn't have to drive to work. I really hate to drive now. I hurt my leg in the accident, and I've had a lot of emotional issues surrounding it. I really don't want to go into it much now, but I had a partner whom I loved deeply for over twenty years. He was killed in the accident. I came out of it with a bum leg and this little scar." He gestured toward the scar on his cheek. "I guess I still feel guilty, somehow, because I lived through it, and he didn't."

I could see his eyes becoming misty. "I'm sorry, Gregg. You don't have to talk about it, if you don't want to. I just wish there was something I could do to help."

"It's OK. Most of the time I don't think about it too much any more, but every once in a while, there it is." He turned away, and I could see that he was wiping his eyes. When he turned back around, he was smiling. "So, we're going to see the building tomorrow. I'd kind of like your input, too, because this is a whole new idea for me. I'm not sure what I need to do."

"Well, when we see the building, you'll have a better idea of the possi-bilities. Then, if you decide it's what you want, we can go from there. If you don't like it, after you see it, I'm sure that Sally can come up with some plan that will work for you. She's very good at what she does, and I trust her. Now, you've completed the tour, and coffee will be ready in a few minutes."

"Great." We sat down at the table, and there was brief but awkward pause. Gregg cleared his throat. "So, what do you do? Don't you hate that question? As if the way you make a living determines who you are?"

I had to laugh. "You know, I've always felt the same way. But how else can you find out about someone's occupation? What do I do? Well, let's see. I work for a government program which places older workers in non-profit organizations. We work twenty hours a week, at minimum wage, but we get training in all the modern technology, and it makes us "old folks" feel as if we're doing something useful. I work in the information and referral service of one of the big clearing houses in the county. We have a huge database of agencies to meet almost any need someone may have. When people need something, from housing to food, from support groups to rape counseling, from programs for the elderly to day care centers, they call us. We find out what their specific needs are and refer them to the agencies that can help them."

"That sounds like a really rewarding job."

"Yeah, it is. The pay isn't much, but it supplements my Social Security, so I can pay my bills, and I feel really good when I've been able to connect someone with an agency that can meet his or her needs."

"I think it's very important to have a job that makes you feel good about yourself. That's really why I opened the toy shop. I love kids, and I knew I'd never have any of my own. I didn't really need the money; my partner, Jerry, and I had a very profitable business - and I have to tell you that Beau and Becca gave us some advice that made it even more profitable. When we decided we'd had enough, we sold the business for a good profit, and we planned to travel. We never got to do it, though." He paused, and his eyes misted over again. "So, anyway, I opened the toy shop. It wasn't awfully busy at first, so I amused myself by carving puppets. It's really just a hobby, and I never thought they would be so popular. The first one I made, Pinochle, was an attempt to make a puppet that looked like Jerry. He came out quite well, and then I couldn't sell him. He was special. He was my gift to Jerry. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I made him as much like Jerry as possible, and he was - I think the term is "Anatomically correct." Jerry was, well, shall we say, very well endowed. I carved Pinochle to look like him, in all respects. But I think memory played a little trick on me. Well, um, I guess... You're going to have to know sometime, so I might as well get it over with now. You're probably not going to believe this story, but I swear to you, on my word of honor, every word is true.

Ben came into my store, looking for a summer job. I knew his father and what a worker he is, so I took a chance that his son was like him, and I hired him. And, by the way, he is a very hard and conscientious worker, just like his father. As we stood there talking, he was playing with Pinochle, who was lying on the counter. Like all the other young people who came into the store, Ben couldn't resist running his fingers across the front of Pinochle's pants to feel his penis. Suddenly he said, 'Hey, why did you do that?'

'Do what?'

'Make Pinochle kick me.'

'I didn't.' Actually, I couldn't have done it, because his controls were lying on the other side of the counter, by Ben, so I couldn't have reached them if I had wanted to.

Ben kept on stroking the front of Pinochle's pants. All of a sudden, Pinochle kicked Ben again; I actually saw it that time. And the front of his pants had a wet spot. Ben checked it out, and it certainly looked like semen. Ben had made a puppet ejaculate!

I have no idea why, and I don't think that Ben does, either, but he bent over and kissed Pinochle on the lips. Then it happened.

Pinochle began to grow and change. His clothes split apart, as he grew out of them. In seconds, my puppet was a naked teenager reaching out to Ben. I've read the story about the puppet that became a real boy, but I've got to tell you, I never expected to see it happen in my shop!

I think we were all freaked out. Ben recovered first, and suggested that we get Pinochle out of the shop and dressed. We wrapped him in a blanket and drove him over to Ben's house. His father was home, so we had to explain to him what had happened. I was sure that Beau was going to laugh at us and try to get the "real story" from us, but he accepted it as if it were the most ordinary event you could think of.

Ben took Pinochle upstairs, got him into the shower, then loaned him clothes to wear, since I certainly had nothing that would fit a teenager; it was a surprise to discover later that the two are exactly the same size and can wear the same clothes without a problem."

"That's an amazing story, Gregg. If just anybody were to tell me the same story, I'd laugh them out of town, but I can see that you are dead serious, and - difficult as it is to believe - I accept the whole story."

"You haven't heard the really bizarre part yet. This is the part that I have trouble accepting, and I was there when it happened!"

"There's more?"

"Oh, yeah! It seems that Ben knew someone who had an in with a couple of wizards - yes, wizards! He made a couple of phone calls, and in about an hour - you are not going to believe this, but I swear it is true! - a carriage pulled by winged horses landed in the back yard. Out stepped these two men, and they talked to Ben and his father, then they talked to Pinochle and me. Ben had asked them to give Knock, his nickname for Pinochle, a whole history and the knowledge required for him to go to Cornell with Ben. I thought the two would just laugh at Ben, but they took him seriously, and they promised him everything that he asked. There were a couple of little stipulations that I won't go into now; the story is too strange, as it is. The two stayed and had dinner with us; they were really nice guys. If you met them, you would never guess that they were wizards. After dinner, they said they had to get back for an important meeting the next day. The carriage and winged horses reappeared in the back yard, the two got in, and they just disappeared."

"Wow! This story just keeps getting better and better! So what happened, then?"

"We really didn't want the story to get out, but you know small towns, and you know the old saying that three men can keep a secret only if two of them are dead. We've managed to keep it in the family and among a few very close friends, but quite honestly, the three of us were beginning to feel like the main attraction at a freak show. We couldn't wait to get out of town. As far as most people know, Grant, or Knock, is my son who has come to live with me. But gossip will get out, and I just don't want to live with it."

The coffee was ready, so I poured us each a cup. I was pleased to note that Gregg drinks his coffee black, as I do. I sat back down at the table, facing him. "So now what's happening?"

"Well, the boys and Brian, Ben's younger brother, are going to England next week as guests of friends of the family. When they get back, Beau wants the family to have a last vacation together before the boys leave for school. So it looks as if we'll be back here to stay in a little over two weeks. Or, at least, that's the plan as far as I understand it."

We sipped our coffee and chatted; he told me stories about life in Fremont, and I told him a little about life in Ithaca. Before we knew it, it was midnight, so I sent him off to bed and made up a bed for myself on the couch. It had been a long day, and I was ready for a good night's sleep.

* * * * *

From Gregg's diary:

This has really been a day. Flying halfway across the country to meet someone who is supposed to be helping me settle into a whole new life.

I was really worried about meeting him; Beau hadn't told me much about him, and what he did say made things worse. Harley has kids; that means he was married, if he isn't still married. How am I going to deal with a stranger who may well be homophobic? So many people are, it seems.

He met us at the airport. He seemed nice enough. Not a bad looking guy, either. I think he is older than I am, but that doesn't matter. Hell, when you turn sixty, your choices tend to narrow a bit! But he has a nice smile, and he is very soft-spoken. I haven't had much of a chance to get to know him, but he really took a huge load off my back when he told me he is gay; that's why his marriage didn't work.

We all went out for dinner, and then Beau, Becca and the boys went to the hotel, and Harley brought me here to his home. It's a small place, but very comfortable. I can't believe he gave up his bedroom for me! But, in a way, it's a good thing. I'm sure that during the time I'm here we will both be needing moments of privacy. I can come in here and shut the door. I'm sure he thought of that when he offered the room. He seems like a very thoughtful person, the kind of person I'd really like to get to know better.

I wonder just how much Beau had to do with all this. He can be very sneaky, when he is trying to get people to do things that are good for them, and they don't want to do the things he suggests.

I can't believe that Harley has gone to all the trouble to find a place for me. It sounds perfect; I can't wait to see it. It has the store I want, and two floors that can be made into a perfect home, and it's right in the heart of town. I'm really excited about the project.

This is a rather pretty town, what we got to see of it this evening. It's in a valley at the end of a long lake. We could see the lake and the town as our plane came into the airport. All the hills around! You're not in Nebraska any more, Toto!

I can't help wondering what Harley thinks of me. Of course, after I told him the story of Grant and how he "came to life," he probably thinks I'm a raving lunatic. I hope not. I really hope we can be friends. When I told him about Jerry and what happened, I could just feel the warmth and sympathy flowing from him. I think he is a good man.

* * * * *

In bed, in the darkness, Gregg smiled. Then he turned on his side and, worn out by the day, fell into a deep and dreamless sleep. On the couch, Harley was smiling, too. He pulled the pillow to his chest, whispered, "Good night," and drifted off to sleep.

Editor's Notes:

Very nice chapter. I really like how this is going. The characters are so real and have their own personalities. I hope they can build a strong friendship and more. Remodeling the apartment should give them a reason to spend more time together. I'll be looking for the next chapter, soon I hope.


Second Editor's Notes:

Well, I want you all to know just how much I am enjoying this story. I totally love it. I can tell that Arli has that same wonderful gift that several authors I work with possess, namely the ability to bring their characters to life and make us love them. That quality is one of the main things I look for in a story I want to read. I become even more excited when the author of a story like that is willing to have me edit for them. As you might have guessed, I am basically on cloud nine over being invited to be a part of the editing team. I know everyone who reads this story will love it. Don't forget, there are more stories waiting to get out and meet you, from Arli's fertile imagination. He and E Walk have teamed up for this great story, and Arlie has a lot more wonderful ideas to work with and bring you many more great stories. Stay tuned to find out just where you can find them. Str8mayb and I have been busily editing another one that we believe will warm your hearts as much as this one has.

Like str8maybe said, I can hardly wait for the next chapter, so I hope Arli can get it to us soon.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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