"If you have committed iniquity, you must expect to suffer; for vengeance with its sacred light shines upon you."
The almost imperceptible shuffle of feet and softly spoken words of teens and pre-teen boys, their voices quite distinguishable from their older peers by the timbre, having not reached that difficult age when one's balls control the adjustments in one's voice, caused me pause, but after a moment didn't deter me from my rounds! More, forward, back, forward, back, around; forward, back, forward, around, back; forward, back, forward, around, back, flexing my hips in small circular motions in order to stimulate not only myself, but Aidan's sphincter and prostate, until I pushed deep, Aidan squeezed, pushed back to pull me closer, quivered and quivered again as we both groaned, simultaneously signaling and experiencing our release!
Laying back, catching our breath, much relaxed and gratified emotionally and physically, pleased we were able to bring to fruition which had been disrupted and the ardor cooled by weariness the night before! Aidan shifted so his head rested in the crook of my arm.
"I wonder if Avery woke our boys to chores?" he asked.
"I never heard a thing," I confessed, "until I heard them go down the stairs."
"Hah; how could you? All of your attention and energy was focused on something else—thank god!"
Kissing him on the nose, "If its chores they were doing, we better hit the showers now, 'cause they'll want to clean up before breakfast."
The smell of freshly brewed coffee and the ambrosial aromas wafting up the stairs from the kitchen bringing drools of saliva to our mouths, quickened our pace as we headed toward the kitchen. Passing though the dining room, I noticed the table already set and crock-pots on the folding table ready to receive whatever delectably delicious items were being prepared by our new housekeepers, now our new family members.
Avery was sitting at the smaller, compared to the one in the dining room, kitchen table where, prior to the explosion of numbers in acquiring our "new family members," we took our meals, a cup of coffee in his hand, a smile on his face as he listened and conversed, in both English and Spanish, in response to the happy banter of Estela and Carissa busy preparing breakfast. The stomach-rumbling redolence of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, peppers, chili beans, unidentifiable spices and the soft, warm smell of baked bread or biscuits drifting about in the closed space of the kitchen were mingled with the hot coffee brewing in the coffee maker. Without missing a word in the happy chatter with Avery and Carissa, Estela poured us each a cup of coffee, pointed at the cream pitcher, and turned back to her work.
We both thanked her and took a seat at the table. I thought the conversation going on between the three of them, although I'd not been paying any attention up to this point, focused instead on having the pleasure of my first cup of coffee of the morning, sounded like old friends who hadn't seen each other in many years and now trying to catch up.
Before I could center my attention on what was being discussed, ready to invoke the age-old, snoopy, almost insidious practice of "eavesdropping," Avery turned to us with a wave of his hand toward the kitchen door and the yards beyond;
"Chance and Tommy are out showing the boys what chores need to be done. Looks like you two have lost your jobs!" and laughed, laughed harder and with more delight than I'd heard from him since I moved in, causing me to wonder what transpired within the past twenty-four hours! I thought, at one time, I had everything figured out in this household, but suddenly something would show up to alter my conclusions, something I was to learn wouldn't be anything unusual. Avery was one happy man and I was reminded how stupid it is to conclude you have all of the answers or jump to conclusions.
Giggling boys, stomping feet, and an admonishment from Chance to take off shoes, head upstairs to shower and change clothes because "El Jefe and Uncle Aidan are taking you shopping for new clothes after breakfast and we don't want people to think our boys are a bunch of little scruffs, do we?"
A mixed roar of laughter and promises, in Spanish, to do as they were told, and the boys trooped in, the little boys, Carlos and Luis, each carrying a full basket of eggs, put them on the counter, and headed upstairs, while the rest of the boys, sans Alex, greeted Estela and Carissa, said a "good morning" to Avery, Aidan, and me and followed Carlos and Luis up the stairs. Alex, smiling and visiting with Chance and Tommy, was advised by Tommy,
"Better catch up, Alex, "or who knows what they'll be doing without you!"
With a laugh, he bounded up the stairs to join the rest of them!
"Well," Aidan inquired, "did you get them all squared away on the morning and evening chores?"
"At least the morning," mused Tommy in answer, walking toward the coffee pot after picking up an empty cup, "we'll have to see about this evening, although I must admit they're a hard-working and bright bunch so I don't think they'll have any problems."
"They really, really want to please by doing things right!" Chance emphasized.
Aidan and I could easily attest to that after watching them work in the fields. There were no doubts in my mind and, I'm certain, in Aidan's mind, Carlos and Luis would be just as diligent in their duties, given the examples set by the older boys. I know it made me feel proud to hear them praised for their hard work! Avery just smiled knowingly and nodded his head.
Chance and Tommy were the ones who woke the boys, about the same time he'd awakened over the years to do the same tasks, early enough to take their time in dressing and still get chores done before breakfast. It'd change somewhat once school began and they had a school bus to catch, but summer was a good time to start learning, except, as Chance added, "I had a cow to milk as well!"
"You don't have to worry about buying pajamas for our boys; never saw so many naked bodies outside shower rooms at school or in the service bailing out of bed in my life, even the little boys," he continued!
How well Aidan and I knew of their nakedness; Efrain and Javier's large, low hanging orbs held in velvety smooth sacks, and stout, long male appendages with soft, flexible foreskins covering their helmet, plum-shaped heads, from our observation, were quite comparable, except Javier who was "king of the mountain" so to speak, to the other boys, except Carlos and Luis still in the pre-pubescent stages of life, who, if their smaller, yet healthy sizes were any indication, would grow into just as virile and magnificent specimens as their older peers!
He and Tommy gathered them together in the barn and explained what must be done each morning and each afternoon, in terms of daily feeding, providing water, gathering eggs and cleaning stalls, pens, or laying boxes periodically or as needed. Chance pointed out to them how important it was to take good care of the animals since those same animals would provide meat and eggs for household use on their tables and, if it was anything like when he was growing up, an animal or two to raise and sell on their own. They also understood all of the meat products served at "Mudpuppy's" is grown on Bend in the River Farms and the quality of those products is what brought customers back for more time and time again.
According to Tommy, the boys did a great job, before he and Chance headed up the stairs to take their own showers.
A thundering of footfalls rumbled down the stairs, accompanied by a happy vocalization, in both Spanish and English, heralding the appearance of our boys! This time, before heading for the breakfast buffet laid out on the folding table, the boys detoured to give their grandmother a hug and kiss on the cheek, signaling their love and respect for her. Javier and Efrain made one additional detour to give Aidan and me both a hug and a kiss.
Although nothing was said, at least in our presence, a definite hierarchy was evident among the boys as they filled their plates. Luis and Carlos were first in line followed by Manny. Javier and Efrain helped Luis and Carlos with their meal by holding glasses of juice and/or milk or dishing up something for them. In no way did they pander to them, but helped them as they also encouraged their charges to make their own decisions or serve themselves. When Luis, Carlos, and Manny sat at the table, to the left of Aidan, Efrain and Javier returned to the line following Julio and Concepcion, toward the end in just in front of Alex, who, evidently was recognized as the de facto leader of the group of boys or so I thought at the time, brought up the rear as all good leaders should, allowing others to eat first. I was certain, as I observed the actions, if food was scarce, the older boys would make certain the younger ones were fed first and Alex and Javier, if there was insufficient for all to eat, would, by choice, go hungry!
It didn't take long for eight boys and seven adults to make short work of two gallons of milk, about an equal amount of orange juice, and huge quantities of eggs, sausage, bacon, beans, tortillas, and whatever else edible on the table! I made a mental note to start picking up milk six gallon at a time from the store. I know I shouldn't be concerned since no one told me Aidan and I were responsible for grocery shopping nor was I responsible for paying the bills; Avery was! No matter, I still felt the responsibility. Paying the ladies, and raising these boys, clothing and feeding them, along with school fees, and who knows what else, was going to be an expensive operation!
The longer I contemplated the future, knowing I didn't make enough to cover the bills, the more concerned I became, not only for the financial aspects, but for the welfare and health of a group of boys I suddenly was becoming to love as our own. What "if's" started popping into my mind; for example, what if one of them got hurt, how would we pay the bills if they didn't have health insurance, which I now assumed they didn't? Where did they go for treatment? How did they transfer from one school to another as they traveled our country following the crops? Did they want to go on to college? How did they gather all of their transcripts? I realized I might know the language well, but I knew little of the migrant life and what it entailed; the hardships, the vagabond nature, the lack of roots, the prejudice and slurs they met every day, yet seeming to maintain the great attitude I recognized in Aidan's and my little band of boys.
I pondered whether it was my place to speak to Avery concerning the questions I had and how the needs of the boys were going to be met or would it be proper to speak to Chance instead? They might tell me to mind my own business, but how could I when we were becoming so attached to them? Would Chance even have any idea why Avery took on this responsibility and have any inkling how it was to be paid for?
Of course Chance would know; he was privy to every secret of Avery's. They interacted, not as nephew and uncle, but more like father and son, so interconnected were they in thought and deed! In fact, Chance and Avery were similar in so many ways; facial expressions, thought processes, physical build, idiosyncrasies, and the ability to keep secrets and their mouths closed. The Welsh coloration wasn't the only thing they had in common; the Morgan Family traits were personified in the two of them.
As was their habit, the boys helped clear the table, putting dishes in the dishwasher and left-overs, there were very few, on the counter so they could be put in the refrigerator for use another time, and waited patiently for instructions.
"I had one of the men bring the van over while we had breakfast," Chance announced, "so once you're ready, you can leave."
"El Jefe!" Estela called quietly, motioning me over, Aidan by my side.
She tapped me lightly on the shoulder and quite seriously, with obvious concern, advised softly, "Make certain when they buy pants and underwear there's plenty of room for their cojones . Okay?"
I nodded solemnly, indicating my understanding for her concern, acknowledging to her I'd make certain of that, and trying damned hard not to laugh at the same time! She knew her grandsons only too well!
Following the boys outside to the waiting van, Aidan quickly whispered, "What's cojones?"
"Shit, I've got to learn more Spanish, don't I?"
It was a fun ride to town, Aidan behind the wheel, and both of us listening to the excited chatter of boys about to embark on a shopping trip for clothes. They also had numerous questions;
"Who's paying for everything?"
"Oh, Poppa Morgan!"
"He thinks you need them!"
"Yep, underwear, tee-shirts, socks, shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes."
They settled down and I thought the questioning was over, until I heard a small voice, Luis to be exact, hesitantly ask, "El Jefe?"
"Can I get a big hat, you know, a cowboy hat like you and Uncle Aidan wear and maybe some boots too?"
"Luis!" Alex scolded quickly, obviously thinking Luis just might be too bold and perhaps greedy.
"It's okay, Alex," Aidan said from the driver's seat, "I think it's a great idea; cowboy hats and boots for everybody. Nothing is too good for our boys!"
There was a soft, collective "wow" from the group!
I suppose some people may've worried we'd take advantage of Avery's generosity, but neither Aidan nor I were concerned. From the short time we'd known the boys and our observation of them both at work and at home gave us no reason to believe they'd act just as if it was their own money they'd be spending and would spend it wisely. I was certain they'd never had such a generous gift in their life and were almost overwhelmed by it.
The first big-box store we stopped at where I intended to buy everything except the cowboy boots and hats, brought us to the attention of store employees the minute we walked in the door! We were met first by a store security guard who smiled and began to follow us as we walked toward the "men and boys" section where he was joined by the store manager and several other store supervisors. I suppose that many young men of color entering all at once, could cause some nervous jitters by those individuals who might have more than just "implicit bias."
Aidan and I found the store staff less than friendly, even after I explained our purpose and would pay by credit card. The boys, having more than one experience in their short lives with ethnic prejudice or bias, quietly gathered behind us. Carlos and Luis tucked themselves in tight next to Efrain and Javier while Manny headed for me. Alex, with Concepcion and Julio about two steps behind him, stepped between Aidan and me, smiled broadly at the store manager and greeted him in Spanish.
"We'd like to shop in your store. Do you or anyone of the others speak Spanish?" and kept on smiling waiting for an answer.
The store manager frowned, looked toward the security guard, then back at us, and sort of flipped his head as if saying "we need to keep an eye on these guys!"
With a grin, Alex said confidently, "I didn't think so; your attitude sickens me you dumb fuck, so we're saying goodbye and kiss my ass!" With a flick of his hand to the rest of the boys, signaled it was time to leave, and we did!
How the boys kept a straight face through it all, I'll never know, but I'm willing to bet it wasn't the first time they'd been through this! There's no doubt in my mind, as we drove away, the store manager breathed a sigh of relief thinking he'd save his store a massive loss through either shop-lifting or credit card fraud. Of course, he also missed out on about twelve hundred to fifteen hundred dollars in sales as well, but that's tough shit as far as I was concerned.
In the van, Alex interpreted to Aidan what he said to the store manager. After he finished, Luis, Carlos, and Manny chimed in they'd just have to teach Uncle Aidan Spanish and meant it! All of the boys agreed they'd help.
Aidan drove us down the road to a very large store, almost a mall on its own, one of those that has a jillion stores all over the world. The reception we received when we walked in was just the opposite of the competition store we'd left earlier. We were greeted by the older gentleman handing out carts and baskets and we walked back to the men and boys section, quite unmolested or challenged.
Stopping in the men and boys section, I turned to Aidan complaining, "I forgot to get a tape measure to help with sizes."
Concepcion stepped up, smiling, as it seemed the boys did most of the time around us, offering, "Grandma sent one with me so you could measure us," handing me a tailors tape measure, "but make certain you leave enough room for our cajones !"
With a laugh, Julio handed me another, adding, "Auntie Carissa sent one too and my cajones are not as large as Javier's so don't worry about me."
"Yeah," piped up Manny, "none of us are as big as Javier."
"No one's as big as Javier," Luis stated matter-of-factly!
I guess everything is in the eye of the beholder!
I kept one tape measure and handed the other to Aidan and we began to measure waists and inseams for jeans. The boys lined up in two rows; Efrain, Javier, Concepcion, and Luis in mine and Alex, Julio, Manny, and Carlos in Aidan's. Javier joked that perhaps he should drop his pants so I could "measure" him, but I reminded him I was fully aware of what he concealed under his britches! However, Concepcion took me by surprise! I stretched the tape measure from the top of his instep to his crotch and as I snugged it up to make a correct measurement just to the left of where I assumed his balls were, he put his hand down on mine and slyly pulled it into contact with his manly parts and winked!
Softly, not wanting to cause a stir, I responded, "I'm already taken Concepcion!"
"I know, but it doesn't hurt to dream does it?"
I couldn't argue there!
There wasn't much difference in pants sizes, underwear (all chose boxers although I thought some bikinis would've set off their beauty), tee-shirts, short-sleeved shirts, and socks, except for Javier and Manny. Javier was so slim-hipped it was hard to believe pants would stay up without a belt and had just a little longer, coltish looking legs than the other boys. The older boys all took a "medium" size although it did look a little big on them, whereas Manny wore a "small." He'd grow into larger sizes before the school year was up, I was willing to bet. Carlos and Luis, after a swing through the boys section were outfitted as well.
We left the store with two shopping carts full of clothes, a troop of happy boys, and about twelve hundred dollars less for Avery!
Aidan drove us to the farm and ranch store (there are no ranches around here I'm aware of) where we bought hats and boots, where, within a half hour, every boy had a pair of cowboy boots and sported a "big hat" on their heads. Trooping toward the van, since they all insisted they wear their boots and hats, I remarked to Aidan it looked like a band of happy " vaqueros !"
It was close to lunch so Aidan drove us to a burger joint where the boys all ordered the "super special meal deal," which I paid for, bringing up the rear, and we sat down at two tables, side by side, to enjoy our meal. As I ate, I couldn't help think how well they handled the incident at the first store we stopped at as I listened to their banter and laughter concerning what was said. Unfortunately, it was but the first incident of the day!
Carlos and Luis, hats setting squarely on their heads, walking like two miniature, very cute, vaqueros sauntered over to the soft drink dispenser to refill their empty cups. Their happy talk came to an abrupt halt when they were approached by two, bigger, rougher looking, unsavory types perhaps in their late teens or early twenties. I was too far away to hear what was said in the encounter, but it must've been intimidating or frightening enough to cause our two young lads to quickly step away, bring Javier to his feet, and heading in their direction! Strolling nonchalantly in their direction, his soft drink container in his left hand, giving every appearance to those others in the restaurant he was simply on his way for a refill. Javier was followed, close at heel, by Efrain apparently on the same soft-drink mission.
Smiling as if he'd met old friends, Javier slipped in between the two smaller boys and their adversaries, who by now were ensconced behind Efrain, letting him be their shield and protector. I heard Alex give a soft cough and just as casually, he, Concepcion, and Julio rose from their seats to join Javier and Efrain. When Manny started to get up, Alex motioned with his hand and said a soft "no," putting him back in the seat next to me!
The three of them took up positions behind the two ruffians, waiting, if one were to ponder their purpose, for a turn at the soft drink dispenser. Manny, evidently certain his job was now to guard us and keep us posted on what was happening, commented,
"Javier is the smartest of all of us and really quite clever! Alex says he can talk a basketball team out of their jockstraps and they don't know they're gone until they're running down the court and their cocks and balls are swinging out from the legs of their shorts!"
"People think because Javier is so slim and good looking he's some sort of chocha (pussy), but he's not!"
"Watch now," he quickly said excitedly, "Seen how his right hand is behind his back? He's probably asking the two assholes if his cousins threatened them. Hah, as if those little guys could!"
Watching closely, we saw the hand behind the back and also heard the two thugs laugh and saw them sneer at Luis and Carlos. Javier kept smiling and talking, but the bullies suddenly didn't think what was being said was funny! In fact, one of them blanched pale and looked over his shoulder at Alex, Concepcion, and Julio, all three grinning like they'd just shot their rocks in their shorts!
"Now Javier," nodding his head, Manny added absently, " will say something like, 'you're wondering if what I have behind my back can cut your balls off before my three companions behind you carve out a couple of new assholes in you so you'll shit at least in three directions, aren't you?'" and smiled.
Aidan asked, "What would happen if they'd call his bluff?
"I don't know; it's never happened! I suppose they'd lose their balls."
Manny paused, thinking, before commenting, "Javier doesn't fight fair so they better watch it!"
Javier said something else and the two guys with a couple of furtive looks, decided retreat was the better part of valor.
"I'll bet he said something like No mames (get the fuck outta here) or if he really wants to piss them off and make them worried if they go to the can while in here, Te quierro joder (I want to fuck you)" Manny snorted laughing.
When our boys returned to the table, I asked Javier what he was holding behind his back, he held up a drink straw.
"My other one was bent so I had to get another one!"
End of discussion!
The boys, big hats on their heads and new cowboy boots on their feet, trooped into the kitchen at home, each one carrying the packages containing their new clothes and were met by Chance and Tommy, sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a beer. Spotting all of those new hats, Chance grinned and said,
"Take your clothes up to your rooms and come back down! I need a picture of you boys in those big hats."
Picture taking was just finishing as Avery drove up in his pickup truck with the two ladies with him. As they climbed out, the boys were first to notice the tears in their grandmother's eyes and became concerned something terrible happened! Concepcion quickly stepped forward cautiously and in a concerned voice asked his Grandmother if everything was okay. She assured him all was well and quickly changed the subject. With open arms and a happy sound, laughingly said,
"My, what a handsome group of young men to greet an old lady!"
The boys all, now relieved all seemed somewhat okay, but not quite, stepped forward to give their grandmother a hug.
"Well," she announced, "why don't we all go into the living room and take a seat, so I can tell you of my afternoon."
Dutifully and desiring to hear what may've brought such sadness to their grandmother and Avery, we retired to the living room. Her grandsons gathered on the floor in front of her, Estela took a deep breath and began,
"Boys, my own sweet boys, my loving grandchildren, you are not the first of my family to have lived in this big house with Avery Morgan, to enjoy his benevolence, work this land, or enjoy life with him. Your mother or Aunt Carissa to some of you, Avery, and I went to the cemetery where most of the Morgan Family dead lay resting, to visit the grave of my older brother Francisco Montoya. Francisco was twelve years older than me and was a good looking, smart, and talented man."
Pointing at Javier, "You, Javier, were named after him; his name, Francisco Javier became your name, Javier Francisco. His full name was Francisco Javier Espinosa De Los Montoya, but used either Espinosa or Montoya depending on where he was and who he was with, but here, with Avery, he used his full name, but always signed as 'Francisco Montoya' with Montoya as his last name, as we all did with the Anglos. They sometimes couldn't understand why we had such a long name; besides most of the paperwork they tried to make us fill out wouldn't have enough room."
The Montoya Family were migrant workers, traveling from south to north and north to south following the various crops usually working vegetables and fruit crops, but sometimes sugar beets and Christmas trees, depending on the weather and availability of work. Francisco left home with some friends when he was about twenty years old. The family heard nothing from him until a couple of years later, writing his mother and the family all was well. They received periodic letters from him after that, but delivering mail to migrant families can be difficult at best.
Estele had no idea how he ended up in Morgan's Landing since the family never worked in the area before, preferring to bypass the area on their way to Wisconsin vegetable crops. There were migrant working in the onion, potato, melon, and other vegetable crops south of Morgan's Landing about fifty or sixty miles. In his letters, he revealed little of his life or where he was living, only saying he was happier than he'd ever been in his life. It was a full year after his death before the family learned of his death, again because of the mail difficulties.
"I'd forgotten about the letter Momma received informing her of his death. I'd saved it, along with other important papers when she died. When you boys came home, the first day of work, and told me you were working for Senor Avery Morgan, the name seemed familiar to me. There was no reason it should've been. I thought at the time, since all of us," pointing around at the boys and Carissa, "never worked here either. If you remember, we were on our way to Wisconsin to work when your grandfather's (God rest his soul) old van broke down."
"Remember, Julio, it was just as we came into the Quad Cities on this side of the river. It'd be too expensive to repair, so Carissa and I decided it just might be time to find some permanent place to settle and moved into the little house north of here near the Cities. She found work and I spent my time at home caring for you boys."
"I remembered the letter, dug around through the papers, and found it. I noticed who it was from and wondered if he was the same man you were working for and called him. Avery came to see me and to my surprise, it was! I was so happy and so was he! As a result, at his insistence, we came to live here!"
By now Estela was weeping and Avery's eyes were flooded with tears as well, each of them missing someone so dearly loved and so happy to reunite a family. Luis started it, giving Avery a hug and a "thank you" before moving to his grandmother. He was followed by the rest of the boys. More than one of them displayed a quivering lower lip, trying to restrain their emotions. Javier waited until his brother and Alex paid their respects, walked up to Avery who leaned forward and drew the teenager into his arms. I heard him choke out in Spanish,
"Oh, my dear little one, you who look and act so much like my beloved Francisco. I see him in you every day and I'm so thankful! I loved him as you love Efrain."
I leaned over and whispered to Aidan my interpretation of what was being said and he nodded solemnly, understanding as well as I did what was transpiring in front of us. We both were surprised Avery knew of the relationship between Javier and Efrain, but knowing Avery, there was nothing about the man shocking us anymore.
The revelation of Avery's love for Francisco and their apparent intense relationship added an entirely new dimension and dynamic to the household. The conversation was more relaxed, as if it could be any more relaxed than previously, but Avery was no longer referred to as "Poppa" but "Uncle Avery" in recognition of his relationship to their Great-uncle Francisco. It became more of a "family" dinner, with the boy's grandmother, mother, and "uncles" gathered around the table enjoying a meal.
After the meal and everything cleaned up, the boys were anxious to learn more of this Uncle Francisco, who they never knew or were aware of until now. Estele spent quite some time talking and answering questions about him, where the family traveled for work, how it differed from today, where they lived when not following the crops, and really responded when their grandmother happened to mention the beautiful voice her brother Francisco had.
"I can remember," she said happily, "when I was very young, my older brother would pick up his guitar, after tucking me in bed, and sing me to sleep. He'd entertain us and the camps at festivals or just because he wanted to. We missed it when he left!"
It didn't escape my attention, as she spoke, Julio, Alex, Concepcion, and Efrain darting a glance at Javier, communicating something to him I didn't know. Avery entered the conversation saying,
"Oh, my god, Estela, he could sing and play! After he moved in with me, he'd often spend a Saturday evening entertaining our dinner guests at 'Mudpuppy's'. People enjoyed his music and he was well thought of in Morgan's Landing!"
It seemed to grow quiet, everyone waiting for something to happen or be said. Javier broke the silence asking,
"Uncle Avery, do you still have any of Uncle Francisco's things?"
Avery seemed to be taken aback, momentarily, by the question, but furrowed his brow as if in deep thought, pondering the "why", but soon seemed to reach a conclusion, nodded, answering,
"Yes, I do, Javier; they're in the closet in my bedroom. Why don't you and I take a look and see if there's something there which might interest you or the family? Francisco was very dear to me so I saved most of what I thought was important and always vowed someday, if given the chance, I'd return them to his family."
The old fox either knew something, suspected something, or read something in the looks the boys gave each other earlier. Avery was damned good at reading people or assessing situations! He and Javier left the room and in less than five minutes reappeared, Javier smiling and carrying a guitar case.
Luis jumped up, clapped his hands, shouting, "A guitar; now you can play for us again!"
Javier set the case down, opened it, and carefully removed a beautiful, wood, flat-top acoustical guitar. A few careful plucks on the strings revealed it was in sore need of tuning. Aidan suggested I get my guitar from our room to use to tune the one Javier now held. I obliged but also brought along a pitch pipe I used to tune mine.
A guitar not played for quite some time must be carefully tuned, a little at a time, for the strings to stretch and the wood to adapt to the increased pressure. As it is played the first several times, it must be re-tuned time and time again because of this. It wasn't long until Javier had progressed from tuning to tentative playing to entertaining, not only us, but himself.
I leaned over to Manny, sitting in front of me on the floor, and asked, "Evidently, Javier had a guitar before; what happened to it?"
"A couple of pinche culeros stomped it to pieces," he whispered back angrily!
Night was upon us, the hour growing late, and two small boys, Luis and Carlos, were sound asleep, lullabied to slumber by the music of Javier and me, entering where I could. Javier's voice was crystal clear, enchanting, and entertaining; his playing was excellent, but it didn't stave off sleep for the two. I picked up Luis and Aidan, Carlos, and we carried them upstairs to bed. The other boys followed. We stripped the little ones, tucked then into bed, bade the others a "good night," and returned downstairs. Estele and Carissa were in their room so Chance, Tommy, and Avery were the only ones waiting for us.
Chance never met Francisco, his presence at Bend in the River Farm and death occurred before he arrived. Curious, addressing his uncle, he said,
"Uncle Avery, you never really told me how Francisco came to live here or how he died!"
Avery acknowledged it, "I suppose you're right. Francisco and I got together about two years – no, it was fall of 1933 – after Leo passed away."
I heard something on the stairs and held up my hand indicating it'd be best to stop our conversation, and pointed at Concepcion ,Javier and Efrain, clad only in their shorts, sitting on the stairs, obviously eavesdropping on our conversation their curiosity insatiable, apparently, in learning more about Francisco and Avery.
Chance raised his eyebrows and was about to speak, but Avery spoke up first.
"Come on down, boys, and join us!"
Turning to those of us already there, he explained, "They're old enough to hear what I have to say. I think the three of them already have found kindred souls in us and know enough, if they're like their Uncle Francisco, to keep their mouths shut!"
"You better get some clothes or blankets to cover up with if you're going to sit up with us," advised Tommy. "We tend to be night owls and this could be late tonight."
It didn't take long for Efrain to scamper back up the stairs and return with two blankets, one for himself and Javier to share and one for Concepcion.
Avery, telling the boys they probably would have to speak to Chance concerning what he'd covered over the past few weeks, if they were interested, sipped slowly on his brandy; one sip, then two, and with a satisfied "Ahhhh!" began.
I drove out to Momma's to let her know of the arrival of her new grandson born in that faraway island, Hawaii! She was pleased all was well with the baby and Melissa and extremely happy they finally had a child to share their life and enjoy. We both knew young Robert couldn't have better or more loving parents!
We also discussed the business deal Leo proposed and I concurred with! After some discussion and thought, she agreed, so we set up a meeting with our attorney to finalize it.
Leo passed away April 18, 1932 on a beautiful spring day! The wake was scheduled for April 21 and the funeral and committal service the next day. I anticipated a fairly large crowd at the wake and the funeral and, knowing the funeral home in Morgan's Landing wouldn't be large enough to handle it, made arrangements with Momma's church to hold the wake and the funeral service. It had the largest sanctuary with an attached meeting room so I figured it'd suffice. I was wrong!
Leo, even though not a particular religious person and an individual who probably broke every law on the books, did, however, do great deal of good for our community and the people in it; albeit, making a significant amount of profit in the process. As a result, the people turned out to the wake to pay their respects to a man whom they thought a great deal of and, if the truth be known, to me as his partner. From their attendance and conversations with me I gauged they also wanted reassurance I'd continue what the two of us started. I reassured each and every one I'd do so, with their help, given the hard times we were facing.
At eight o'clock, the hour I'd set for visitation to end, about wore out from greeting the long lines of people who came, accepting their condolences, and from standing near the casket throughout the entire time of the visitation, I was approached by the funeral director who explained there were several gentlemen outside who wished to have a private viewing. I knew who it might be since the flower arrangements from "friends" were large, extensive, and extremely expensive! They were arrangements no one in our area could afford. I told the funeral director to invite them in and then close the doors to any others.
Four men dressed in mourning black and accompanied by two men apiece, moving several feet behind each of them scanning the interior of the church, coats open for easy access to whatever they had concealed beneath them, entered, slowly walked up to the casket, bowed their heads, and turned to greet me. Upon invitation and request for a private room to meet with me from the oldest and most senior of the group, acknowledging to him and the others there was a need to do so, I led them to the sacristy, a small room holding the various items used for services and the pastor's office.
Once gathered, before any one of the four could speak, I offered, "You have my undying thanks and gratitude for your thoughts, words, and actions toward me in our time of loss. You were and have been loyal friends of Leo, and now mine, coming to his aid in his times of need, willing to sacrifice much for him. Leo never forgot his friends, nor will I and always urge loyalty and generosity for them."
"In his spirit and my gratitude, knowing our business connections, I am stepping aside and out of our association, leaving it to those who know better than I how to manage them. In that spirit of generosity and loyalty, I ask you to make no further division of assets with me, but to share that portion previously going to Leo and me among yourselves."
I paused, letting the financial implications of what I was giving sink in, stepped forward to each almost dumb-struck man, and kissed him on each cheek, saying softly, "mia gracious!"
The small room grew very still as the weight of what I'd said, the impact of my decision on the four of them, and the fullness of my gratitude to them lay heavily on their minds and shoulders. In Leo's name, I'd given them all of his share of the business connections, the revenues from them, and stepped aside from any future involvement, giving them full control with no interference from me!
My decision did several things as far as I was concerned: it separated me from those highly illegal and most suspect aspects of their "business" keeping me somewhat inside the law and insulated from any future problems, although I must admit not entirely since I still swung a "wide loop" locally and statewide through my "gifts" and charitable contributions and political influences and; it purchased their loyalty and support for the future. It was a "win/win" for both of us and they knew it!
The spokesman nodded gravely, referring to me in Sicilian " the little one's" before returning to English, "generosity will not go unnoticed and is more than generous to old friends, but we feel we must do right by him by offering him a small gift in return and our pledge of loyalty and friendship throughout his life. He knows we will respond at any time, for any call, should he need us."
The breadth of their "gift" was discussed and agreed upon. The acceptance of their pledge confirmed honorably among "honorable" men freed them of any future financial obligations beyond what was agreed upon and permanently sealed my lips! The gift would come as payments in cash over the next four years, but the pledge would last my lifetime. Little did I know at the time how important that pledge would become and how it'd be used in the future!
I'd purchased a family plot with twelve grave sites on it in our cemetery and Leo was buried there. My intentions were, I'd be interred there as well, plus room for any family members who so desired to be buried there. Again, I am now amazed at my own foresight.
Keeping "Mudpuppy's" operating as well as my farming and other business interests kept me quite busy. The Depression was on us and times continued to be desperate for many. When our licenses were due to be renewed for "Mudpuppy's", Momma signed the applications as partner/ owner. Since Leo's death, she and I owned the business, with full rights of survivorship. I was really determined to maintain full control of the business upon her death.
Monthly letters from Robert and Melissa, along with pictures of Chance (nicknamed because his father said he was their last chance) buoyed my spirits and gave me energy to continue and recover from the loss of Leo. The pictures of him, doing little boy things and growing, pleased me and made him a part of my life.
Roosevelt was elected President of the United States in 1932 and after his inauguration things seemed to begin changing. March 27 th the Farm Credit Administration was authorized giving farmers support when it came to obtaining loans to keep their farms. It became a little more difficult for me to obtain property through auction, but there were still plenty of opportunities for me. We changed the name of "Mudpuppy" to "Mudpuppy's Saloon and Steakhouse" in 1933 when Prohibition was repealed. We continued to serve breakfasts, lunches, and dinners along with 3.2% beer and other "beverages."
It was in the fall of 1933, my life was about to change again!
Fall harvest wasn't yet underway, but within days for soybeans. Our oats were threshed and either stored or sold. Albert, my older brother, and I were discussing how the locker plant and meat market were doing. He'd taken it over shortly after my father's death. Albert was without work and had a wife and six children to feed and care for. The owner of the locker came to me and asked if I'd be interested in purchasing the facility since he really wanted to retire.
He knew very well the facility was important to my business and our community since all of the beef, pork, and poultry I raised and served at "Mudpuppy's" was processed there. I was familiar with his financial situation, so after a lot of haggling, we came to an agreement and I purchased it, with a proviso; he'd remain for a year in order to teach the new owner the business. This occurred about the same time Momma informed me Albert was going to lose his job, so it worked out well!
I had an empty house on an eighty acres "Bend in the River" was farming and, with a little work, it'd be habitable for him. It wasn't far from town so it was convenient. Albert and his family lived with me for about a month before moving to their own house.
I walked Albert to the front door of "Mudpuppy's" and stepped outside while he crossed the street to walk up to the locker and market. For whatever reason, habit I'd suppose, I looked first up the street in the direction Albert walked and then down where I saw someone, dressed in denim jeans and shirt, cowboy hat on his head, and a pack on his back walking up the street, on my side. He drew closer and when he was across the parking lot, stopped, looked at me, and smiled! It was then I met Francisco Espinosa De Los Montoya!
Avery stood, stretched his arms over his head, announcing, "I don't know about you boys, but I've got to piss!" and walked down the hall to his bedroom where his bathroom was located. Chance, Tommy, and Concepcion took the cue and headed outside to do the same. Aidan and I intended to join them but waited for Javier and Efrain. A blanket still covering the two of them, Efrain was sitting on Javier's lap, his ass squarely planted on Javier's crotch.
Earlier while Avery was speaking, I noticed Efrain make a move under the blanket and when he was almost seated moved in such a way which only could've been to slide his shorts down or off. Once that maneuver was completed, he settled back down, wiggled a little, and with a satisfying smile and sigh, apparently embedded Javier's fat cock up his ass!
Javier leaned his head forward to rest on Efrain's shoulder, moving his arms so he not only held Efrain close to him, but also gave him access to Efrain's cock as well! Javier's subtle movements would've gone unnoticed by most, but not me. He was giving Efrain a good and deep fucking!
When Avery took his break and Chance, Tommy, and Concepcion went outside, I leaned over to Javier and Efrain;
"Since you've already got off once, do you want us to leave so you can do it again?"
Without embarrassment, Javier held up two fingers; "Already did two, just resting for number three," and moved the blanket aside.
I was right, Efrain's shorts were down to his ankles; he stood to pull them up to cover his very ample and nice teen cock, while Javier, after giving his own extremely ample and long teenage penis a couple of jerks, tucked it into his shorts, and stood to join him!
The four of us went outside just a Concepcion, Chance, and Tommy came in. The four of us stood, pissing in the moonlight. As I shook my own cock to clear it, I looked over and saw Efrain and Javier, both with their shorts around their ankles, Javier chest to back on top of a bent over Efrain, his head resting on Efrain's shoulder, giving it his all as they headed toward number three!
The two of them, came back in just as Avery was continuing his story of meeting Francisco.
"Feel better, boys?" Avery chuckled.
They blushed, but said nothing in return, instead hunkered down, Javier covered both of them with the blanket, and got comfortable, ready to listen to their uncle.
"I waved him over to me!" Avery beginning where he'd left off. "The closer he came to me, the closer look I got at a most attractive, slim waist, narrow hipped, black haired, dark eyed, Mexican man about my age. To say I was smitten with him was an understatement. When I extended my hand greeting him with my name and he returned my welcome with a firm, secure, lingering handshake and a brilliant smile, saying, "Francisco Espinosa De Los Montoyas," I was hooked!
Avery invited Francisco to join him for a drink and a meal, spending the dinner hour and into the evening at "Mudpuppy's" enjoying each other's company, getting to know each other. Francisco accepted his invitation to spend the night at Avery's home and after a refreshing, cleansing shower, joined Avery in bed. He not only joined Avery in bed, but joined with him by inserting his length deep and full into Avery's body and once released, turned accepted willing Avery's longing libido and throbbing penis into his own rear orifice. The two of them joined, not only physically through a sexual act, but in life as partners, friends, and definitely lovers.
"Francisco was the consummate lover," Avery murmured softly, "always concerned for me; how and if I was pleasured, much as he treated me in our everyday life, with love and concern, outside of our bedroom. I don't think I was ever any happier in my life, far surpassing the relationship I'd had with Leo. There was no worry he'd ever engage in a relationship with anyone else."
Francisco wasn't a citizen of the United States; crossed the border one night with the rest of his family when he was young to work the fields and orchards in order to bring about a better life for them all. It made no difference to Avery, since he, as many others, realized love has no boundaries.
"In our years together, he taught me Spanish, for which I am grateful, opened my eyes to a different culture and way of life, and taught me to love. I, in turn, taught him all I could about business."
Avery stopped, swallowing hard, fighting to keep his emotions in check, so great was his loss of love from Francisco.
"What happened to him, Uncle Avery?" Javier asked, surprising us all since he was usually so quiet.
"The 1930's weren't all that tolerant of minorities especially blacks and Mexicans or, as you might say today, Latinos, Hispanics, or Spanish. Lynching and beatings weren't only found in the south. The Spanish community received less publicity, but beatings and murder did occur for whatever reason, but many were as a result of racial prejudice."
"A summer night in 1937, Francisco was driving home from "Mudpuppy's" after closing for me. I was a little under the weather and went home early to rest. I wish now I'd stayed and have replayed it a thousand times in my mind. He never made it home! His truck was in the ditch between home and town and his body, badly beaten and mutilated was found not far from it. The empty bank bag with the day's receipts missing was found in the front seat. It was almost an afterthought, the sheriff said, the killers decided to take the money."
The county sheriff informed Avery two rather scruffy looking white men were seen in town across the street from "Mudpuppy's" around closing time, but he had little else to go on. Avery was heartbroken with grief, but after Francisco's funeral and burial in Avery's cemetery plot next to Leo, he gave his former business associates a call, explained what happened, and his wish for justice to be served.
"I vowed after his death, I'd not take a lover again!"
"Did they ever find the men?" Efrain asked sadly.
"The sheriff never did solve the murder, although he did try his damnedest so the murder remains unsolved to this day. I heard, about two months later, two white guys were found about one hundred miles away across the river, up against a fence; both dead!"
With that, Avery stood, bowed slightly to us, said, "Good Night," and went to bed!
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