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The Redemption, Book 2

by Joe Writer Man

Chapter 9

He began his chores by gathering up pales of oats and putting them in feeders located in the pens. He found another pale for me to use. In short order we had the feeders filled to capacity. He then grabbed a shovel, pointed out one for me to use, and together we shoveled horse and cow shit and put it in wheelbarrows then took it out and put it into their vegetable garden.

We had an absolute blast… and before all was said and done, we ended up lobbing 'cow pies' at one another, and generally making a big mess out of both ourselves and the barn – making a mess to be cleaned up. But at the same time we were just being boys; mischievous, adventuresome, happy and go-lucky… something we'd not had enough of during our earlier years.

After cleaning the barn following our adventures, Skeeter headed us to the chicken coops to shovel yet even more shit, gather eggs, turn the heating lamps on so that the chickens would lay eggs, and generally do what chickens do in their man-made habitat.

We then went down to the horse field and made sure they had fresh straw and water. His mare, named Gerta, walked to us, and it allowed me to nuzzle its neck and feed it fresh corn that we had gathered and put into our pockets to give to it. Skeeter promised that the next day he'd ask his dad if we could ride her.

The sun was heading down quickly. The air quickly chilled. We had left our jackets up in the loft so by the time we got up there we were nearly frozen to death, or so it had seemed.

After dawning our jackets, we stood and held each other close savoring our body heat, our togetherness, our closeness, our breaths, and quite a bit of salivary gland offerings. Once again, our touches became loving and tender caresses, desirous, wanton, needy, and intense, and yes, once again without any pressures or over activity, we filled our underwear with seedling offerings.

After draining our sexual reservoirs, the usual need to pee became strong. Quickly, I made my way to the barn door and let loose with a massive stream of pent up liquid residue. Skeeter joined me midway then we shook the others tools and then headed to the house.

Because of the cow shit escapades Skeeter's mom intercepted us and made us strip to the skin. She quickly put our clothes into the washing machine located in the ante room then we streaked to the bathroom buck ass naked where took a good hot bath, warming us up nice and toasty. Finished, we wrapped towels around us and then headed to his bedroom where he had decided I would sleep. After putting on long, baggie boxers, we headed to the kitchen where his mom was doing the last preparations for dinner.

It was then that I got to meet all his brothers and sisters. There were a total of 9 kids, including me and his parents making a total of 11 people sitting around a huge oak dinner table.

Dinner time was a trip in and of itself. I mean there were bowls, serving dishes, forks, knives, towels for the little ones, proper linen dinner towels for the older ones … hands and fists were going here, there and everywhere. The conversations were light, jovial, and informative about school and other such activities… when dinner was finished, I almost hated to get up because I was so full, but did. Stacy and Vera ran me out of the kitchen as I 'attempted' to help with cleanup – but – I did get away with taking the paper trash to the incinerator for later burning. James took the food leftovers to the pig pen.

As you know already, I'm used to making my own way, and more than that I don't want to be thought of as a mooch. By the time I got back to the house I was frozen solid, or so it seemed, since I hadn't put on a jacket simply because I wanted to leave undetected.

Arms, legs, torsos, toys, even a bicycle being worked on was in the living room so I gingerly made my way through the masses and sat down on the floor next to Skeeter.

"Damn dude, you're cold. Did you go outside?"

"Yeah, I just walked around for a little while to settle that delicious meal your mom made. She's a really good cook."

"You got that right." Skeeter said happily as we cuddled in together since he was all nice and warm. His fragrances were getting to me but then a little boy named Kevin left his perch on the floor, walked to us and stood looking into my eyes. His eyes sparkled with mischief then he broke out in an ear to ear grin. Impishly he asked, "Can I sit with you?"

Without waiting for an answer he sat on my lap and pulled my arms around him. He leaned over to Skeeter and kissed his cheek which Skeeter returned to his little brother.

To me he said, "He's my brother. Are you my new brother?"

"No, but I'm your brothers' best friend. You can be my best friend too, right."


I was in like flynn when he reached for and kissed my cheek. He settled down, somewhat, and jabbered about this, that and everything that passed through his 4 year old little mind. Between the three of us we had a three boy Musketeers sandwich. The day soon caught up with him that sent him to la la land asleep. I must admit that I began nodding off myself, sleepy tired from the days' activities. Skeeter wasn't far behind... his eyes had that glazed look to them.

"Come on bud, time for bed. I'll take Kevin upstairs to the bathroom then tuck him in."

I didn't argue.

We broke the sandwich. No sooner than Kevin's feet hit the floor than he said, "You take me, okay, Joey? Please."

"You've got a friend for life, Joey. He doesn't normally chum up to strangers like he has to you. Consider yourself blessed." Skeeter said solemnly.

"I do and am. Okay Kevin, ya ready to visit the ole sandman?"


Skeeter and I led Kevin to the bathroom where he peed and we brushed our teeth. I then took my turn to pee. Curiously, looking intently at my penis, the little one asked, "What's that on your pee pee, Joey?"

Skeeter said, "Mind your own business. Come on, let's brush your teeth. It's the same thing as Luke wears sometimes."

At the conclusion of my pee I ripped a big fart that caused Kevin to giggle loudly and decisively. Of course he tried to copycat but it didn't work out for him.

Skeeter peed while I helped Kevin finish with his teeth then we headed to Kevin's room. It contained a bunk bed which he crawled into then waited. I wasn't sure what he was waiting for until he asked impishly, "Put my pajamas on okay, Joey?"

They were hanging on the bedpost so I took off his shoes, socks, shirt and pants. He then put his fingers in the waistband of his underwear and sent them flying, all the while laughing. He was hard like a rocket so I made quick business of putting the PJ bottoms on then got him all comfy with the sheet and blanket. He then closed his eyes, pouted his lips up and out which was an invitation and a request for me to kiss him good night. I leaned down, pulled him into a hug and kissed his lips quickly and lightly, "Good night little one. Sleep good, I love you." Skeeter entered the room then did his good night regimen with Kevin. When he stood up, Skeeter said warmly, "See what I have to put up with every night <sigh>."

Skeeter then quickly looked around, and seeing nobody he quickly kissed my lips, took hold of my hand and then led us to his bedroom, shutting the door behind him. He turned away from the door, stood transfixed. Our eyes met, searching out our souls. Our moment wasn't uncomfortable in any sense of the word; we were simply drinking in the person who stood in front of us, relishing each and every detail, storing away for future memory recollections.

When my sleep fogged brain was filled to capacity, I walked to him, took him into my arms. Our lips met but briefly. I was moved to say, "I love you Skeeter, don't ever forget it, even when I forget to say it often enough."

"We're finally alone, Joey. You don't know how long I've been waiting for this moment. You never knew that you were my idol and that I've loved you deeply since time began."

Some of my old memories of long ago began crowding into my brain... memories of him being in danger, of him getting cut and beat up by Christopher on that cold, damp evening, his offerings to me of cocaine, the party at Vito's... Brokenly I said, "I didn't know. I'm sorry. I've made so many mistakes in life and put you in danger, how can I ever forgive myself."

Skeeter took me in his arms and held me tight. After clearing his throat he said, "I forgive you, now forgive yourself and don't think another thing about it. That's our past life… Joey, it seems so long ago in some ways, yet at times, times like right now when it seems like it was just yesterday. We've got today… it's all that matters, just right now."

We stood holding each other for an undetermined amount of time. Finally exhaustion took over. Skeeter stepped away and reached for his shirt hem but I stopped him and whispered, "Let me. Please."

Skeeter dropped his hands, smiled genuinely, warmly and with every single ounce of love emanating from him. I only hoped my love was flowing into him as readily and eagerly as his was flowing into me as I gently, caringly, lovingly, carefully and willingly removed all clothes except his BVD's.

I stepped back and drank in the beauty of his essence. He would have no part of the distance. He took the step to close the distance between us. Without hesitation he reached for my hands and placed my thumbs in the waistband of his underwear and urged me to finish the task which I did without hesitation, savoring each micro-millimeter of skin as the cloth material slid down and over his globes. I stopped because I couldn't go any further but continued lightly squeezing his buns, running my hands up and down them, and then settled into the crevice where God had split him in half. "Joey, I've wanted you to do this forever and a day. I hope you know it."

"Me too." I said then stealing a moment of strength I pushed his underwear on down to the floor which he then kicked off.

He then reached for my shirt, pulled it over my head and tossed it to the floor. Shoes and socks were next, and then he reached for the fastening devices for my jeans. Likewise, he teased them down and over my globes. He slid his hands down my underwear and then worked them down to my ankles. I tossed them aside to join his recently shed clothing.

I reached down, removed the catheter and tossed it into the trash can then returned to him where we kissed tenderly, caringly, lovingly.

As he turned around and lowered the covers so we could get in I saw the little dimple in the middle of the crevice and the backs of his low hanging testicles. He quickly turned around and with an impish smile said, "Whatcha lookin at? Are you perving on me?"

"You damn straight I am. Get that sweet ass of yours in bed so that we can do some serious cuddling." I said seriously, with a smile on my face as I thought about sleeping with this beautiful person standing in front of me.

Skeeter turned away toward the bed and pushed out his butt. Immediately I took his gesture to be an invitation to kiss his fine butt... so I did do exactly that.

He giggled, walked to the light switch, flicked it off which plunged the room into total darkness. On his way to bed he grabbed my appendage, urged me into bed where we cuddled, and probably to both of our dismays quickly fell asleep.

Sometime later we were awoken from a sound sleep by the door banging open and a voice saying, "Get up you goofballs. It's time to do chores. Joey, this is the way it is every morning. Get your ass up! Ah... ain't that just sweet!"

The light then flicked on, "Holy crap, hey mom, you oughta see these two lovebirds all cuddled up together. They're so cute!"

Skeeter groggily replied, "Fuck you, Mark."

I sat up in bed suddenly aware that we were naked. Not only were we naked but the sheets were sticky wet. Alarmed beyond belief, thinking I'd peed the bed, I sniffed my fingers – nope, wasn't pee.

Sleepily, yet awake, I said sheepishly, "We'll be up in a minute." I snickered and added, "Okay, okay, we're up." Then I laid my head back onto the pillow.

Obviously, that didn't satisfy Mark so in no more than two steps he walked to the bed and yanked the covers off that totally exposed our true nakedness. He began laughing and said very loud, "Oh my God, Geezus. You guys have it bad… sleeping all naked and stuff. Ha haa, MOM COME LOOK AT THIS!!!!"

"Oh shit. You're dead Mark!" Skeeter yelled then added, "Get the damn cover!"

Just as I was gathering up the covers Vera walked in. Her eyes grew wide like saucers then she started giggling and quickly left the room but not before saying, "Oh my. I've seen love then I've seen love! Dan, get in here ha haa."

"What now dear? Aren't those boys up yet?" Dan bellowed.

"Oh yeah, they're up, just not out of bed."

"Vera for crying out loud… that's just way too much information for this early in the morning. Boys get your butts up… sorry Joey, but we don't run a hotel here." Dan chuckled loudly.

He then walked into our room. Seeing us scrambling to put on our underwear he turned to leave but not before saying, "Hurry up. Mom's getting breakfast on the table."

Dan walked on out, chuckling all the way until his footsteps were heard on the landing below.

Skeeter gasped, "Fuck me."

Despite the rude awakening, I rolled from my side of the bed onto him and began mockingly humping his nice upturned butt. That cracked him up. We both fell out of bed laughing so hard.

Kevin came bounding into Skeeter's room. His eyes, too, opened widely. He snickered and exclaimed, "YOU'RE BUTT NAKED!!"

"You're right Kevin... now go away!" Skeeter said while reaching for Kevin. Kevin, smarter and faster ran down the hallway to the bathroom.

Peace at last.

No, not really. When we turned around Luke, James and Thomas were looking on. So their presence was startling.

"Can't a guy have any privacy around here?" Skeeter groused.

"Nope." Skeeter's brothers said in unison then they were gone.

"See what I have to deal with? Yuck, I had a wet dream." Skeeter exclaimed then reached under his bed for a cum rag and wiped himself off. He handed it to me. I did the same. That cracked us up. After putting on our underwear we headed to the bathroom. Their bathroom in the mornings was like an assembly line.

Vera fixed a very fine breakfast. Hotcakes was the centerpiece. Plates of bacon, eggs, grits, hashbrowns, and toast with homemade apple butter were being torn apart and shoveled into hungry stomachs.

Vera smiled and asked me, "Did you sleep well, Joey? Sorry for the rude awakening this morning... these boys don't know when to quit."

"Yes ma'am. I slept like a log. Yes ma'am the wake-up call around here is going to take some getting used to. Uhm... sorry ma'am." I said seriously.

Dan looked at me seriously. The table got really quiet. Mouths stopped chewing. Dan asked, "Joey, what are you sorry about? I didn't see that you did anything wrong, did you?"

"Uhm... sir... I guess, you know, well, we were... you know." I said lowering my head down as if I were praying. I guess I was praying though not in a church kind of way.

Skeeter put his hand in mine, squeezed firmly then whispered into my ear, "Dude, we didn't do anything wrong... what are you apologizing for?"

Dan smiled, "Son, you're not the only boy around here. And you and Stephen are not the only two boys who sleep in their skin... now are they boys?"

Skeeter was grinning. He said laughing, "Of all people, Mark, you don't have any room to make fun of anybody."

Mark grinned... but it was the kind of grin that basically said, "Fuck you." But it was all taken in good nature.

Dan said, "I didn't think so. Now, Mr. Mauer, it's like this around here. First, we apologize for what we do or say that might hurt or harm someone in some way … but … we don't apologize for things we don't do or say that didn't hurt or harm anybody in some way … do you understand me?"

"Uhm, yes sir. So it's okay... you know?" I asked sheepishly.

"Well, it's like this: we really don't want to see you boys, that goes for all of you, prancing around the house buck naked – other than casually like going from room to room but what you do or how you dress in your bedrooms is solely up to you. None of you have any reason to be ashamed now do you?" Dan asked.

"No sir"'s, and shakes of heads gave him the answer he and I was looking for.

"I didn't think so. Come on let's eat up. Thank mom for a wonderful breakfast. We have chores to do. Joey, I want you to follow me around today so that you have an idea of what our operation consists of. Ask questions, any question will do. Until you are checked out by Thomas or me you're not to operate any motorized equipment. In the wrong hands those machines can be and are dangerous. Even for experienced people like Stephen's oldest brother and me they are potentially dangerous."

"Yes sir."

Dan got busy working on some adult chores... in fact he was helping Thomas move some bales with the tractor so I jumped in and worked alongside James and Mark. They showed me what was up though they weren't all that keen but I insisted that I earn my keep.

Mr. Richardson walked into the barn and saw me helping Skeeter move some implements around. He walked to me and said seriously, "Joey, I told you to stick with me today. Those implements are dangerous pieces of equipment when not handled correctly. Stephen knows what he's doing... you don't. Now stick with me today. I won't tell you again."

I looked Skeeter's dad straight up and said, "I don't expect a free ride, Mr. Richardson. I'm here. I'm strong. I'm willing. And I want to work. And I will work. I earn my keep, Mr. Richardson, sir."

The guys stopped what they were doing (we were shoveling shit in the barn) dead in their tracks, looked at me like I had deliberately broken and smashed apart an expensive piece of farm equipment, then looked at their dad, then looked back to me. There was fear in their eyes. The greatest fear was in Skeeter's eyes though – his eyes were wide as saucers, his mouth was hanging in a most unnatural position… as if he would step on his tongue at any second.

"Oh shit." Were the only two words that would escape Skeeter's mouth before their dad said calmly and collectively, "Boys go back to work. Stephen, fetch me up the razor strap. Joey wants to be treated as one of you all so he will be treated equally and equally alike. Joey, follow Stephen."

"Yes sir. Sorry sir."

Skeeter led the way into the tanning room. When we arrived he grabbed my shoulder harder than he intended to. He said dead seriously, "Don't ever backtalk dad. There's hell to pay dude. There's nothing I can do about it."

With that said he handed me a thick and wide piece of strapping material of some kind. I'd later learn that the piece of material was actually what was used to sharpen knives, shaving razors, and other delicate metal objects to a fine edge. While they were relatively soft they had a firmness about them that would not soon be forgotten.

I walked to Mr. Richardson. Skeeter stepped back.

Dan said, "Boys I told you to get back to work. This is between Joey and me."

I looked around. The other guys followed orders and got back to their chores. Skeeter walked to his dad and said, "Sorry I took so long dad. Be easy on him, please." He then whispered something in his dad's ear. His dad looked at him cockeyed then something dawned on him. Once more he told the guys to get busy doing their chores all the while staring me down. His eyes weren't evil. They weren't even mad or angry… but they were determined, and I knew it.

"Joseph Mauer, go find yourself a stall, pee, then come right back here, do you understand? Don't run away because I'll find you."

"Yes sir. I'll hurry sir. Don't worry."

I was too afraid to move. Skeeter nodded assuredly and said, "Go ahead Joey. You'll have your privacy, promise."

I turned away and slowly headed to the horse stalls. Dan said, "Joseph, you're wasting time. You have 30 seconds, starting right now."

I ran into a stall and just got it out just as it sprang forward with a flood of nervous piss. Quickly, I zipped up, turned around and was just about ready to run back to Dan but he met me in a hallway, of sorts, and said, "Joseph, you have a mouth on you that has earned you a licking. Your mom, dad and I talked about this extensively. Your parents use psychology to deal with your mouth. I use tried and true physical anatomy and physiology methods to keep my boys in line and respectful. Now, go back into that stall, drop your drawers, and grab your ankles so that we can get this done and over with."

Dutifully, respectfully, I went into the stall as instructed, unhooked the hasp to my jeans then unzipped them and dropped them around my ankles. Not wanting to do anything wrong, I began lowering my underwear as well.

"No, leave your underwear up. I won't disgrace you; I don't do that to my boys, ever. Now turn around and grab your ankles and put your head up against the wall."

I felt the burn of hot tears trying to escape my eyes… I was trying so very, very hard to keep them in. Here I went and fucked up a good thing. Here I was getting punished… but how? What was he going to do to me? I didn't understand.


"Yes sir. I'm sorry sir. I'm just not a leach sir."

"I know you aren't a leach. But you're disrespectful. Now bend over, let's get this done so we can get to work."

SMACK! SMACK! SMACK! Went the razor strap across my underwear clad buns. Son of a bitch that hurt, and son of a bitch the tears flowed, and son of a bitch just for the son of a bitch of it… but I kept my mouth shut.

"Get dressed, get yourself together then meet me by the combine in the other barn." Dan said calmly, gently.

(Footnote: I never again disrespectfully challenged him or any other adult for that matter. I learned a great and valuable lesson that day.)

When I walked out of the stall and back into the barn where Skeeter and the rest of the guys were working, Skeeter walked over, patted my shoulder and whispered in my ear, "I'll kiss it later."

"I had it coming, sorry. And… thanks." I said knowing what he had told his dad without me hearing it, without Skeeter acknowledging that he said it, nor did not say what I knew he had said.

When I walked into the barn where Dan was, he guided me to a tool box and sat down. I sat down next to him. He said, "Joey, as I explained, a farm is a dangerous place. There is farm equipment that can and will injure or kill human beings beyond recognition, just like that (he snapped his fingers). There are farm animals on a farm that can and will injure or kill human beings beyond recognition, just like that. I've been farming my entire life. I can't ever imagine leaving it behind. My dad died in the fields here. My mom died in the kitchen. They were both 84 years old at the times of their deaths. It runs in the family. I still don't know everything there is to know about farming, I learn something every day. You, son, have been here less than 24 hours and already you're sassing me. Don't worry, I sassed my dad once. He gave me 5 licks with the same razor strap I tanned your hide with. Don't worry, each of my boys have sassed me. They learned real quickly just as I had learned. Stephen, well he's a hard head… probably the city boy in him… I've tanned his butt three times… finally I think I got through to him and broke his old ways of acting, and ways of thinking."

"Yes sir. I hope I learned my lesson. Sir, I'm a hard head too. Thank you for talking to me… I just about really gave up on myself this time. I'm sorry. I hope I don't make you mad again."

"Son, look at me."

While we'd been talking, I had bored a hole into a spot between my tennis shoes, and wasn't ready to give that seemingly safe place up quite yet… that is until I realized I was disobeying him by refusing to follow his request.

Quietly, I looked up. He had tears in his eyes; one escaped and ran down a line in his sun baked skin and onto his overalls which he quickly blotted away with the back of his massive hand. He coughed, looked up at the roof in the barn then looked back down at me.

"I've never been mad. I've not even been angry. If I ever hear you directly, or if I hear from your parents that you are giving up, then I will thrash your ass from here into the next county, do you understand me? I'll fly one of those air gizmos, I will find you, and I'll thrash your ass but good. You'll be unable to walk for a year, at least. If you gave up, Joseph Mauer, that, boy, would royally piss me off. Do we have an understanding?"

"Perfectly clear sir. Thrash my ass. Me trashing myself, my giving up… that sir would piss you off. You would fly to where I live, find me and thrash me into the next county. Perfectly understood. Thank you for explaining, sir."

"Good. Now, come with me. We've got chores to do."

That day, of all things to learn, I learned how to thrash hay and make nests for the animals to use when they were in the barn to give birth to their offspring. I learned how to safely roll hay bales off the loft, tear them apart then thrash them. By lunch time, my back was near its breaking point but I kept on ever reminding myself of Sensei Sanders' instructions to maintain an even keel so that perseverance was my saving grace and strength.

Just as I was finishing the last stall, Skeeter entered then sat down on what they call a 'birthing stool'… actually it looks like a short picnic table bench that people sit on to assist with the birth of an animal such as a cow or horse. He looked tired and weary, and sad too.

I walked over and sat down next to him, "What's wrong Skeeter? You look like you lost your last friend – which you haven't by the way."

Before he could answer, I turned his head toward me then kissed his lips very firmly. When he didn't respond, I kissed him again the difference being that I opened his lips with mine so that we could share some salivary juices.

He brightened up considerably, so I continued giving him my special brand of 'medicine' until he was smiling widely.

"You had me worried for a minute bud." I said warmly then added, "Want to talk about it?"

"I'm sorry you got licked. I should've told you he was like that. Anyway, it's too late for me to apologize, sorry."

"It wasn't your fault. I'm the one that spouted my big fuckin mouth off. He's right. I was wrong. That's just the way it is. I actually feel better. When I've been thrashing <giggles>, hay that is, this morning, I've been thinking a lot, and well, your dad got to me in a way that no adult ever has gotten to me before. When I think back to how I talked to and treated Ma, I'm totally ashamed of myself. I'm going to go visit her grave when I get back to Chicago next week. I need to apologize to her spirit."

"You're more of a man than I am, Joey. Some days I'm so happy, and some days I'm living back in those days when we first met… you know when Buzz put us up against each other? God. Man, I can't believe we did that shit."

"Well, yeah, I've thought about that too. Can we talk it out now so that it doesn't get in our way again?" I asked sincerely.

"Yeah, I'd like to but we need get up to the house for lunch. Maybe I'll ask if we can eat in our place, is that okay?"

The only answer I gave to him was a wet meaningful kiss on his lips all the while pulling him in for a body hug. He willingly and readily returned the gesture.

As we got up and headed out of the stall, Dan was standing there big, tall and strong as an ox. I don't know how to explain it… I only knew that I felt safe and protected.

He grinned widely. His grin was almost mischievous. Sure enough when we started walking out of the barn, he called to Skeeter and me to walk beside him. Then he put his massive arms across our shoulders. Then before I knew what was happening… Skeeter and I were being carried like sacks of potatoes on his shoulders up to the house, laughing and protesting that we were big enough to walk ourselves. Dan would have no part of it, and in fact, he ignored our mild protests.

When we arrived at the house and went inside, Kevin came running up to his dad, started slapping Dan's knees, saying, "You let them down daddy!" He was giggling like crazy then squealed when Dan picked him up and slung him over his knee and began playfully slapping his butt. Meanwhile, Skeeter and I were able to escape his clutches. We took off upstairs, washed our hands and faces, combed our hair, took a good country piss and then went downstairs to eat lunch.

Kevin was 4 years old. He'd just been adopted by the Richardson's. He'd been rescued in the Dallas area on their trip to 'Six Flags Over Texas', an amusement park designed for children and adults alike. Dan and Vera were very evasive with details of his situation. They did say he was found crying inside a trash can on the park grounds. His twin brother was with him, but the little one was already dead from starvation and neglect.

My blood boiled yet tears freely flowed down my cheeks, landing on the cloth napkin on my lap. Skeeter wrapped his lower leg around mine then squeezed. He then put his hand in mine. When I could look up, his eyes were watering too though his reaction did not visibly appear as strong as was mine.

Kevin got up from his seat at the table, walked over to me then wormed his way onto my lap where he faced the table. Vera brought his plate over and sat it down next to mine. She wrapped her arms around my shoulders, leaned down, kissed my cheek then went back and sat down in her chair.

Vera said wistfully, "He's never done that before." But she wouldn't elaborate. I reached down and kissed Kevin's cheek then went back to eating.

Mark then spoke up, "I'm their older brother. I couldn't save my brother Aaron… I didn't even know where he was at the time. Our mother was a crack-head. Our dad, well, we never knew him. He was never around that I can ever remember. I did what I could do to keep them safe, but I didn't…"

Vera said, "Mark you're actually okay now, we know you did all that you could do to protect your brothers. You're a very gentle child but yet you are very strong. Remember what Pastor Bill told us… he said that you saved Kevin by putting yourself in grave danger. Child, remember you aren't God. Child, remember that God has Aaron in his loving arms and is taking care of him until you arrive a hundred years from now."

"Yeah, mom, sorry, sometimes I forget. You're right." Mark said woefully.

Dan spoke up, "Boy, you can't carry that on your shoulders. Aaron was hurt just too badly. There was nothing you could've done. Mom's right… Aaron is being taken care of by someone much greater and stronger than our entire family all put together. We love you. We'll support you but you're the only one who can make those demons go away from inside of yourself."

"I'm trying dad."

"I know you're trying. You're making progress. I'm so very, very proud of you."

Mark nodded but didn't say anything more. He went back to eating.

Eric spoke up, "I was dumped at a hospital when I was 9. I thought everything was fine at home. My parents were very loving and they took care of me. One day, they came home from work early. I was doing homework when dad said we needed to go see grandma at the hospital. She'd been sick for a long time. She'd been in and out of hospitals for as long as I could remember so I didn't think anything was out of the ordinary. Dad let me finish my spelling words and arithmetic. He actually helped me. Then, as he had always done, picked me up, tickled me to the point where I was about to lose control of you know what. <He stopped speaking then looked at Vera. She smiled and nodded for him to continue>. Anyway, we, he, mom and I went to the hospital. Mom said for me to go on in and wait for them in the lobby. She had tears in her eyes. Anyway, I waited and waited and waited. Finally, the guards came to lock the doors. One of them came to me while the other one locked up. He asked where my parents were… I told him I didn't know but that they would be along very soon to get me. They were surely up in the ICU where kids can't go. Anyway, he went up to the ICU and couldn't find them. I had had a picture of them in my billfold… I gave that picture to the guard before he went. The other guard sat down next to me and waited for his partner."

With a shuddering breath he continued, "When the guard, the one who went back to the ICU, returned, he was extremely concerned. He asked for my grandmother's full name then went to the computer, punched in her name, I guess. Anyway a few minutes later he said, "Son, there's nobody here in the hospital with that name. What's your parents' phone number? I gave it to him. He called using his cell phone. There was no answer. There never was an answer. I still call it once in a while. The phone's been disconnected."

Eric looked at Vera then to Dan. They both nodded.

Eric continued, "The guards called the police. The police took me home but there was nobody there. The furniture was all gone. I went to my room. My furniture was all there… just like I had left it when mom and dad took me to the hospital. I told the cops I'd wait for them to come home. They said they couldn't let me do that. They took me to McDonald's. After I ate, the one policeman made a phone call to CPS. A lady met us there then she took me to a house where I laid my head down that night. Then she came and got me early the next morning and took me to another house."

"On another day, she came and got me and took me to yet another house. They had boys about my age, and two girls, both younger than us boys. We got along great. They told me my parents would show up soon. They fed me good. They put me back in school, a new one but it was okay. I got all A's in reading, writing and arithmetic. I thought everything was fine."

"Then one day it all changed. Damon, their oldest son, he was 15, stayed home with us… there wasn't any school that day… it was parent-teacher conferences, or something, I don't remember what it was or why we were out of school… anyway, we had all been playing and messing around after we got our homework done. Everything was normal. We didn't do anything bad or anything… nothing got broken. Anyway, <he looked at Dan and Vera again, for approvals or something, I couldn't tell what passed between them>, he continued "Sometimes we all messed around, you know, well, we uhm, sometimes we did sex things… Dr. Will said boys will do that… that it's normal… anyway, well, uhm, their mom came home… and well, she caught us. She went ballistic, told me I was a worthless piece of you know what and that I caused her sons to do what they were doing. I didn't know what to say to her… I felt ashamed. Damon and his brothers tried to defend me but she wouldn't hear any of it. Anyway, her husband came home, grilled me to the bone then they took me to the CPS office and dumped me..."

Eric stopped. His shoulders were shaking. He hid his face in his hands, bowed his head so that I could not see him, "May I be excused?"

Without waiting for an answer, he got up and ran to his room then slammed his door.

Dan got up then quickly went to Eric's room, entered then shut the door behind him.

"What happened to him mom?" Skeeter asked carefully.

"Child, when he's ready to talk about it, he will. Don't push him. He's on very shaky ground." Vera replied.

"How did he get here?" I asked seriously.

"I'm afraid I can't really say. I'll just say that God brought him here somehow. We actually found him wandering the streets in Wichita. From out of nowhere He simply walked to Dan one day when he and I were shopping. He grabbed onto Dan's leg and held on like his life depended on him. To make a long story short, he's here now."

When Vera stopped talking, while she was wiping a tear from her eyes with her napkin, Mark spoke up, "He's come a long way. He used to scream a lot at night. He'd finally allow me to hold him then he'd fall asleep. Mom and dad moved him in with me. We sleep together every night. Otherwise he wakes up in the middle of the night screaming from a nightmare."

"I've had my share of nightmares. So I know what he's going through." I offered knowingly.

Just then, Eric's door opened. Dan and and the boy walked down the stairs and resumed their seats. Somewhat reluctantly, Eric picked up his fork and continued eating quietly. Vera asked him, "Are you strong again, Eric?"

"Yeah, sorry." Eric said.

"I have nightmares too. Sometimes they're pretty bad." I said to Eric.

"Yeah, but I'm okay now. Dad knows exactly what to say to calm me down and make me strong again. Thanks, dad."

"Any time young man, we're here."

I spoke up again, "Eric, you aren't the only one who played around. It's normal. I'm sorry that your foster parents couldn't see that…"

Eric nodded casually then added, "I don't do that stuff anymore. I'm trying to be a good boy."

Dan looked at Eric. Eric said softly, "Sometimes I do..."

Vera smiled warmly, "You're a very good boy, Eric. I'm proud of you. Now if the rest of my boys would just watch you and take after you…"

A bunch of groans escaped from several mouths around the kitchen table… Eric giggled. It was obvious that they'd had that same conversation before. The mood lightened considerably. Vera was quick to formally introduce each of the rest of the kids.

There was Allen. He was age 3. He was a live-wire with an ornery look in his eyes, but he was smiling and happy.

Next was David. He was 8. While he was quiet and reserved, he had a ready-made smile. "Can I have some more steak, mom?"

Dan looked at David. David said, "Sorry, May I have some more steak, please, mom?"His father nodded affectionately then returned to his plate..

Vera reached for another hamburger steak, put it on David's plate and then ladled a generous portion of mushroom gravy all over it. David looked at me and said, "My favorite… thanks mommy."

"Anytime sweetheart." Vera said meaningfully, motherly.

"I'm Alex." A little boy who appeared to be about 6 years old said. He definitely had a mischievous grin on his face. He then offered his plate to Vera, "More please."

Vera repeated the procedure but left off the gravy, however, she did make sure he had plenty of ketchup and mustard for him to dip each bite into.

Dan then introduced Luke. Luke was 12 years old. He had a ready smile when spoken to and about. Dan said, "Luke came here two years ago. He's come so far but he still doesn't speak. He'll nod or grunt. He understands when we talk to him. The doctors say he's had some bad stuff happen to him, and somewhere along the way he lost the ability to speak." Dan then looked at me knowingly.

I replied, looking directly into Luke's eyes, "Luke, I know where you're coming from. I lost my eyesight and the ability to walk. I still lose control of my bladder when I get tense or anxious. I then got up, walked around the table to face him. Without any embarrassment, although I had turned away from Vera and Dan, I pulled my penis out then showed Luke the catheter encasing it.

After seeing what I showed him, Luke looked deeply into my eyes. A lone tear drop escaped from them. He took hold of my hands after I zipped up. With his thumb he pointed up in a thumbs' up gesture. Dan nodded. Luke led me to the bathroom where he shut the door tightly. He then lowered his jeans, and with some hesitation, pulled down his underwear. He too was wearing a catheter. "I pee my pants too." He whispered.

Then without giving me any time to respond, he pulled his pants back up, opened the door and disappeared back down the stairs leaving me standing there alone. I closed and locked the bathroom door, and cried, no, I sobbed.

A gentle knock on the door interrupted my moment of emotion. Quickly, I tore off a large piece of toilet paper, wiped my eyes, blew my nose then opened the door. Vera stood there. Without invitation, she pulled me into a deep, deep hug. When my emotions once again spontaneously released, she held me tighter, and I held her tighter. When they passed, I said, "Luke talked to me then he got scared."

"Oh sweet Jesus, Joey, I just knew that his voice was right underneath the surface of his tough exterior." She then shook inside of her skin. I held her tightly as her own emotions clinked.

"I can help him, Vera. I've been right where he is. Sometimes my legs still get weak, and sometimes my vision fades out a little bit, and sometimes I have accidents. If you'll let me, can I talk to him?"

"Honey, one of his chores is to feed and milk the goats… he just loves doing that. Maybe you can go with him so that you guys can be alone."

"I'd love to. My mom said a day would come when all of my troubles and problems might help someone else. My group of friends, you already know who they are, <Vera nodded> say the same thing…"

That said, and with our emotions under control, we went back downstairs and finished eating dinner.

Dan looked at James, Skeeter's 14 year old brother. James offered, "I did a bunch of sex stuff in Wichita. I did it just because I liked doing it. I was a burden on my folks... I didn't like them... they didn't like me... I was pretty much living on the streets anyway... they just made it official. I've ran away from foster homes. I had planned to run away from here too… but this is the only place where I really give a fuck."

Dan admonished, "James, you'll not use that language in this house. You are cruising young man. Joey broke in the strap today so it's pliable. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Yes sir, I'm sorry."

"Your mouth is going to get you busted AGAIN!" Mark exclaimed giggling.

"And you're cruising for a place right next to him." Dan said sternly, leaving no room for doubt that he meant what he'd just said.

"Yes sir, sorry sir."

Looking at me, Mark said knowingly, "My mouth gets me in trouble every time, sorry everybody."

Luke grinned.

"That goes for you too buster." Dad admonished Luke. Luke shrugged his shoulders then returned to eat the last two bites of food on his plate.

He looked at Vera, then to me. Vera nodded, "You're excused Luke. Don't forget you have chores to do."

He looked at Vera knowingly then walked to the coat rack and put on his heavy jacket. He walked out of the house silently. Vera looked at me then nodded.

I quickly picked up the last two bites of food on my plate, shoveled them in and then moved to get up. Dan admonished, "Finish your meal. You're not excused yet."

"Yes sir." I mumbled through a mouth full of food. I sat down.

He added, "You'll choke... don't speak with your mouth full."

I nodded then and after swallowing, said "May I be excused please?"

"You may. Take Skeeter with you. Skeeter, you're finished, right?"

Skeeter looked up, "Yes sir. May I be excused, please?"

"You may."

Vera spoke up, "Dan, Joey needs to go help Luke with his chores. They have a lot to talk about."

Dan looked at Vera with a searching look deep in his eyes. Vera responded, "You heard me Mr. Richardson, leave them be."

Dan looked at me. He nodded.

I turned to Skeeter. Skeeter whispered in my ear, "I'm fine. I have my own chores to do. I'll see you later, okay?"

He followed me into the ante room. We drew each other into a deep, deep hug then kissed passionately. Skeeter said, "Help him Joey. You may be the only person able to reach him."

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