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The Apprentice

by Sahypo

Chapter 38

It was four days until the Christmas holiday began, and a lot of people were taking care of last minute business, before everything shut down until January. Nicky and Kurt had appointments with Nicky's pediatrician and they were sitting in the waiting room at 10 am. Jerry had brought the boys down since Sharon felt that they were at an age where it would be embarrassing if mom was in the room. Of course, that didn't make a lot of sense, because up to about a month ago, Nicky never wore anything in the house unless someone visited, and never gave a second thought to his nudity in front of his mother. He would probably still be a little nudist had she not insisted he start wearing something around the house. With Kurt now in the fold, that was easier to enforce than it had been.

Nicky was the first to go in for his checkup, and took his shirt, shoes and pants off as the nurse had instructed, and sat on the table in his briefs as he and Jerry waited on the doctor. Doctor Patel had been Nicky's pediatrician since he was four, and he always found the doctor's accent amusing. Several minutes later, he came in the room and closed the door behind him.

"Hello, Mister Jarvis, Nicky, how are you today?"

"Doctor, good to see you" Jerry said, shaking the physician's hand.

"Um, good." Nicky replied.

"Excellent. I can see that you have grown a bit taller and gained weight since we saw you last time, Nicky. Let's take a look at you." The doctor put Nicky's chart on the desk and gloved up. Picking up an otoscope, Doctor Patel looked in Nicky's ears, nostrils and throat. "Mmm hmm" he hummed at intervals, presumably satisfied with what he saw.

"Sit up straight and deep breaths for me, please" Nicky stiffened and set his shoulders back as Patel listened to his lungs, first on his back, then with the stethoscope on Nicky's chest.

"So how many packs a day do you smoke?" Doctor Patel asked, stunning Nicky and Jerry.

"Huh?" The boy's eyes went wide, and his m o u t h t r i e d to work, and he and Jerry stared at each other. "B..But...I never even held a cigarette!" Nicky protested.

"I am messing with you, Mister Nicky! I could not resist." Nicky rolled his eyes and sighed, but he had to admit, the doctor had gotten them both. Jerry chuckled and Patel winked at Nicky, who smiled.

"So tell me, have you been sick or having any problems...headaches, throw up.. like that?"

"Um, not really. Haven't been sick in a long time." Nicky replied.

The doctor nodded as he checked Nicky's patellar reflex with the little hammer, then had Nicky lie back on the table. He began pressing on Nicky's abdomen below the navel, and Nicky grunted from the pressure .

"Do you feel any pain from this?" Patel asked. Nicky shook his head. "That's good. Okay, I must ask you to pull down the briefs for a moment. Does Mister Jarvis wish to stay, or wait outside?"

"It's okay if he stays" Nicky declared, as he slipped his briefs down.

"I am checking for rashes, infections and so on" Patel said, as he handled Nicky's penis gently, examining it from all angles. "And now, I do same on scrotum". Nicky hoped Doctor Patel wouldn't squeeze anything too hard, but the doctor had gentle technique as he rolled Nicky's testicles checking for anomalies. After a moment he was finished and told Nicky he could pull his briefs up. He then asked Nicky to stand so he could look at his back and spine, and checked Nicky's feet and arches. Once he was satisfied, he made entries in Nicky's records.

"Mister Jarvis, everything seems in order and Nicky is healthy. He has definitely started puberty. Nicky, now that you are becoming a man, there is something you must begin to do on a regular basis. You must check your testicles to make sure there are no lumps or bumps that were not there the last time you looked. If you find anything different, you must tell your mom or dad without understand?"

Nicky nodded. "What do I have to do?"

"You roll the testicles under the skin like I just did, and see if anything is changed. That's it. It works best if you do it in a hot shower or bath so the scrotum relaxes."

"Sounds pretty easy."

"It is Nicky. Uh, you can get dressed again please... Do you have any questions for me?" Nicky shook his head. "Mister Jarvis?"

"Uh, well, you say Nicky started puberty..."

"Yes, he has"

"Isn't eleven a bit early?" Jerry asked

"It is on the lower end of the age range, yes, but I have ten-year-old patients at his stage of development...he isn't unusually early at all."

"How do you determine that a boy has started to the pubic hair?"

"No... The official indication is when the testicles begin to enlarge beyond their size and volume in childhood. Generally when the testicles are an inch long or more is when, and Nicky has probably met that criteria for some time now." Doctor Patel explained. "Pubic hair can vary with race, and it usually comes after the testicular growth has begun."

"Interesting...I never knew that. Thanks, Doctor." Jerry said

"My pleasure. Shall we see Kurt now?" Jerry nodded. "Nicky, can you wait out front, please? Nurse, can you bring Kurt in please?" Patel left the examination room for a moment.

Kurt was shown into the back hallway, where he was measured and weighed, and then brought into the examination room where Jerry was sitting. The nurse asked him to sit on the exam table and took his blood pressure, pulse and temperature. She then left and closed the door. Kurt undressed to his briefs and socks, and sat on the table with his arms across his chest. Jerry could sense that Kurt was out of his comfort zone, and assured him that as soon as this was done, they would be out of there and do something fun.

"Do you mind if I stay with you during the exam, Kurt? I think its important since we don't have a lot of medical history on you." Jerry explained.

"It's okay, I guess, sure." Kurt replied.

Doctor Patel came back in and was introduced to Kurt by Jerry. He noticed the very light residual bruising on the boy's arms, but did not say anything in front of Kurt.

"Kurt is a new member of our family, Doctor Patel. This is our first checkup for him, and we want to make sure all is well."

"Sure, sure. I think we will draw blood and do a urine test too, yes?" Patel replied. He opened the door and signaled for a nurse. A moment later the nurse knocked and entered.


"Yes, Beverly. Please draw some blood and bring us a specimen container? Thank you."

Doctor Patel began his examination of Kurt in the same way he performed Nicky's check up, and a moment later, the nurse returned with a small cup, a vein puncture device and three vacuum filled blood sample tubes. She pulled a length of rubber tubing and an alcohol wipe out of her pocket and stood next to Kurt, who was sitting on the exam table.

"Okay, Kurt, have you had blood taken before?"

"I don't think so...I'm not sure. I don't remember it if I did."

"Okay, well, it's not that bad. Let me look at your veins a second here. Mmmm, I think we'll use your left arm...that looks like a good one I'm going to tie this on your arm, and swab you with a wipe. It will feel cold, okay?"

Kurt nodded, as the nurse wiped the inside of his elbow with the alcohol wipe, and pulled the cap off the puncture device and watched as she slid the needle into his skin. He was surprised that the needle didn't sting much at all, and seconds after it was in, she had begun filling the tubes with dark magenta colored blood. In less than a minute, she was done and had taped a cotton ball over the tiny puncture mark left by the needle.

"How bad was that, sweety?" she asked.

"Not bad, and faster than I was expecting" Kurt observed.

"That's how we like it...Hold a little pressure on that pad for minute."

She smiled and left with the tubes of blood, and Doctor Patel resumed his examination, pressing Kurt's abdomen, and so on. When Kurt slipped his briefs down, Doctor Patel said

"I will be checking for infection, rashes and so on, Kurt. Can you pull your foreskin back for me as far as you can without pain, please?"

Jerry was mildly surprised. He had assumed that Kurt was circumcised, like Nicky, or just about any other non-Hispanic boy in Texas. Things had changed since Jerry's school locker room days. Patel looked into Kurt's urethral orifice, checked the inner foreskin lining and frenulum gently, and rolled Kurt's foreskin back into place before inspecting the rest of the penis which looked long and thin on Kurt's tall and slight torso.

Kurt's testicular examination was quick and not too uncomfortable, and again, Doctor Patel explained self examination to Kurt, as he gently handled the boy's gonads.

"Do they seem small to you, Doctor?" Kurt asked. He had been made keenly aware of the difference in the size of his testicles after handling Nicky's larger organs.

"Kurt, everyone is different…Some bigger, some smaller, others in the middle, yes? But truly it makes no difference. You are maturing quite normally, so I can assure you they are working properly." Doctor Patel replied. "Does that make you worry not as much?" Kurt nodded, and Patel smiled.

Kurt imagined himself examining Nicky's testicles and had to suppress those thoughts before his body responded there on the exam table.

Kurt pulled his briefs up as Doctor Patel had finished his examination. After a check of Kurt's posture, and with no sign of scoliosis, Doctor Patel asked Kurt to leave a urine sample in the cup, and wait with Nicky out front. He gave Kurt the sample cup and the nurse met Kurt in the hall and directed him to the restroom. "Just set it on the shelf on the wall in there and we'll get it." She said.

Once the door closed, Doctor Patel turned to Jerry and said "This boy has had a lot of bruising on his arms, Mister Jarvis. Is this what I suspect it may be?"

"Yes...It is. That's why he is here, with me Doctor. Sharon and I became Kurt's guardians when he had to be permanently removed from his home. His mother is going to prison for abusing him. We have made him part of our family now."

"I see. Well, I suppose he has a much brighter future now. Good."

Jerry asked "Is there anything I should be aware of with Kurt? I mean we know so little about his history and all."

"He may be a little underweight, but it's probably nothing, and may be normal for him...does he smoke? I'm serious this time, no joking." Doctor Patel asked.

"Not that I'm aware of...Kurt's been with us about a week or so. I've never seen him smoke or smelled it on him...I'm sure that his mother does, though."

"Any coughing?"

"Not that we noticed, no."

"He may have a touch of bronchitis or asthma. I detected some sounds in his lungs. Has he complained of anything of this nature?"

"No, doctor."

"Has he told you that he has asthma?"

"No, he hasn't."

"If he was living with a smoker, it would explain things. Was his home dusty or unclean?"

"Atrocious, like pack rat conditions except for his own room. Mother is a non-functional alcoholic."

"He will probably improve in a better environment...but, if he has symptoms or difficulties, I want to see him then. But to keep it short and sweet, both Kurt and Nicky appear to be healthy and fit. I would not have worries on that."

"OK, good to hear. Uh, Kurt's not circumcised?"


"I had just assumed that he would be..." Jerry muttered mostly to himself.

"Not necessarily...perhaps half my patients Kurt's age are not circumcised. It used to be pretty routine to do it, but that started to change maybe 20 years ago...this generation of boys is much more likely to have a foreskin than yours did."

"I see...thanks, Doctor."

"Certainly. I will call you with the test results when they are finished, Mister Jarvis."


With that, Jerry and his boys left, and he decided to take them out for fried chicken. The boys found that to be a capital idea, and besides that, it would give Sharon time to pick up the boy's Christmas present and get it wrapped before they got home. They had picked up gifts for Nicky long ago, and today's trip to secure some things for Kurt was last minute, but not rushed. Sharon knew what she was looking for. Jerry's next stop was the huge local building supply store, to get a Christmas tree or Hanukkah bush, as Sean had called it. They selected a 7 footer which was nailed to a couple of wooden slats arranged like an X to hold it up. A couple of store employees wrapped the tree in disposable netting, and one of them carried the tree to Jerry's truck, and the other carried a box of twine. They strung twine from one corner of the bed to the opposite corner, and tied the twine in place.

"I don't think it will go anywhere, Sir."

"Thanks, guys" Jerry replied, as the two boys waved and walked back into the store. They were most likely college students working temporary holiday hours...

The Jarvis boys and Kurt rode home from the tree lot, and Kurt looked out the window without saying anything. Nicky reached into Kurt's lap and squeezed his hand. Kurt looked over at Nicky, and Nicky asked.

"Whatcha thinking about so hard, dude?"

"Just things...nothing." Kurt replied.

"It's gonna be your first Christmas without your mom, isn't it?" Nicky asked, still holding the teenager's hand.

"I never had a Christmas with my mom, either. I guess it's the same thing either way." Kurt replied.

"Well...this is going to be the best one either of us ever had then, won't it?" Nicky chirped, his eyes gleaming, and his smile wide, with two missing teeth.

Kurt grinned and giggled. "You look funny like that" he said as he pointed at his own teeth.

"Yeah, well, mom said my real teeth would take like another year to all come in."

"Nicky, all your teeth are real teeth, you goof." Kurt said, as he felt Nicky pulling him out of his little depression moment.

"C'mon, you know what I mean, right?"

"Yeah" Kurt replied, as he poked Nicky in the ribs, setting off a scuffle in the front seat between the adolescents. Nicky giggled as he complained

"Daaaaaad! Kurt's AHH! poking me in AHHH! the ribs!" The eleven-year-old squeaked.

"Then you better poke him back" Jerry deadpanned.

"Some help you are!" Nicky teased.

"You did want a brother...I clearly remember hearing you say that."

"Yeah, a small one who can't AHHH! poke me!" Nicky and Kurt giggled and mainly grappled with each other to maintain a fragile peace. After a few more minutes, they were turning into the neighborhood, and the boys lost interest in the game.

Over at Isaac's. Pat and Lizabeth had come to town to spend Christmas with their sons. Timmy's thirteenth birthday had come the first week of the month, but Timmy had agreed to wait until Pat and Lizabeth came in to town to let them celebrate it with him. Lizabeth and Debbie had planned a Christmas party and feast on the 27th, with the Jarvis's, Sean and Melanie, Claire, William and Wesley and Doug and Robin all on the guest list.

Christmas Eve and Christmas day was spent quietly at home by each family. Pat and Lizabeth showered Timmy and Isaac with gifts as expected, and Melanie took Sean out to a Christmas concert. Nicky and Kurt shared their first Christmas together, and their gifts were mainly games that they could play together. Kurt said that Nicky was right, this was the best Christmas of his life, and it made up for all the ones he had spent by himself.

Dennis and Debbie gave the boys a new pool for Christmas, and they spent Christmas day putting it up in the backyard and spent the rest of the day afterwards eating and relaxing as the pool filled. The boys were in the pool naked as soon as the water began to rise, and got very excited when June and Edward came over late in the afternoon to spend Christmas with their grandsons. They didn't bother getting dressed to hug their grandparents, and the older couple took it in stride. They had seen the boys this way on numerous occasions. They did seem disappointed when Dennis said he had to cover the pool until it got warm enough to use. They did get to play for several hours however, even though Debbie was sure that they would freeze once the water got above their ankles.

On the twenty seventh, everyone gathered at Dennis and Debbie's for a family and friends

holiday potluck. There was semi-continuous football on the front yards of the adjacent neighbors, and in the street in front of the houses. Several of the neighbor kids joined in, and the cast of players rotated as players joined, then dropped out to find cold beer, soft drinks, bathroom breaks, more food, etc. At the end of the day, everyone was hot, sweaty, tired and full. The Hussmann's showed up and stayed for a short while. Wesley's arm was now in a sling and he was getting around much better. William played on the front yard with the crowd while everyone had a chance to chat with Claire and Wesley. Peter and his parents stopped by for a while, then left to have a family dinner with Keith as their guest.

After the Christmas holidays, everyone settled back into their pre-holiday routines, and after a week of research, Child and Family Services had located James Aaron. Armed with a booking photo of Marie, the case worked locked her desk and left the office building to track Mr. Aaron down.

A short drive across town later, the case worker pulled into the parking lot of Jimmy's Catfish Shack. It was a small restaurant with neon beer signs in the window, and a reputation for outstanding catfish and steaks. She went in, and at this time of day, few people were inside. The place was spotlessly clean and several employees were cleaning tables and waiting on two men who were drinking beer at the bar and talking. Jimmy's must have just opened for the day.

"Happy New Year! What can I gitcha?" asked a cheerful red haired teenage girl in a Jimmy's tee shirt, with an unmistakeable East Texas accent.

"Is Mister James Aaron around?" the case worked asked.

"Well, sure! Have a seat and I'll fetch him." The cheerful girl said before she disappeared into the kitchen. A moment later, a slender and slightly built black man in his mid thirties came out of the back and walked over to the table where the case worker was sitting, and stuck out his hand.

"Hi, I'm Jimmy, ma'am, what can I do for you?" The case worker was surprised and somewhat disappointed that finding Kurt's might take a bit more time than she thought. She shook Jimmy's hand and said

"Jimmy, my name is Brenda Hayes. I'm a case worker with Child and Family Services, and I need your help." It was obvious that Jimmy was not Kurt's biological father, but he might know something.

"Coffee?" he asked, as he sat down. She nodded.

He sat down and called to the teenage waitress

"Chloe, two cups of coffee, please." Brenda took out Maries' booking photo and showed it to Jimmy.

"Do you know this person, Jimmy?"

"Uh-huh" Jimmy nodded and grimaced. "Whoo-wee! She sure didn't look like that when I knew her. What happened?" Jimmy asked. Two cups of coffee were delivered to the table and Brenda put creamer in hers before speaking.

"A decade of binge drinking is my guess. How long ago was it that you knew Marie?" Brenda asked.

"Oh man...Like, maybe 12, 13 years ago. We were all just getting out of high school. Marie and me went out a couple times, I guess. Hard to remember. Girl liked to drink...way too much, and she got bad mean when she did. I didn't grow up like that and decided to put that fish back in the sea, if you know what I mean."

"So you two didn't stay together as a couple…"

"No, ma'am."

"Do you know Marie's son at all?"

Jimmy shook his head. "I don't, no… Uh...Is this about the welfare?"


"Yeah some guy from the state came to talk to me years ago about that. They come to collect back welfare payments from that boy's daddy. I was able to convince them it wadn't me!" Jimmy chuckled at his humor, and Brenda smiled.

"Actually, I told them about that boys' daddy and they closed the case, I think."

"No, this isn't about child support...But we are trying to track down any family this boy might have, Mister Aaron."

"Oh, its just Jimmy, ma'am. Something happen to Marie?"

"Yeah...We had to take the boy into state custody...Marie was sent to prison for abusing him. He is in foster care now, and before he can be eligible for adoption, we have to find any one he might be related to. "

Jimmy was visibly disturbed to hear these things and said "Man, I sure hate to hear about a kid done wrong like that. What did she do to him?"

"Physical assaults, beatings...that sort of thing."

"Yeah, she did that with me, too. That's why I walked away. So how is he doing?

"He's living with some good people who are taking super good care of him. Um, if he has an interest in meeting you, would that be acceptable?"

"Oh, sure...of course. That'd be just fine."

Brenda nodded.

"Thank you. So who was the child's father, Jimmy?"

Jimmy smiled. "She hooked up with Sketty before I came along . . . "


"Yeah...that boy was like six foot three and weighed a hundred pounds...he looked like a spaghetti noodle with eyes...That's how he caught that name." Jimmy chuckled at the memory.

"What was his real name?"

"Bobby Gentry. I never called him that. I don't think anyone did. He was always Sketty."

" What happened to him?"

"He's dead now...Marie and him got together about the time he signed up to join the Air Force. His thirty days' enlistment deferment came up, and he went into basic training. Next we heard, he had suffered heat stroke or a heart attack or some such a thing and that was it." Jimmy snapped his fingers. "It like to killed us too…We all took it really hard."

"Did he have family that you know of?"

"He was a late baby. I know his momma was in her sixties when he passed, she musta been in her late forties or so when he was born, and his daddy already passed, back when he was a kid. He had a sister that was older too."

The case worker made some notes. "Was Marie with anyone after you broke up with her?"

"I don't think so. She missed her period after we stopped seeing each other and she made a big stink about me getting her pregnant, but her doctor said she was too far along for it to have been me. Then when the baby was born, we knew for sure. It was Sketty's kid. No doubt about it."

"How long after Sketty went in the Air Force was it before you started seeing her?"

"Maybe a month and a half...Once she found out basic training was 13 weeks, well, she wasn't going to do without for that long. Girl always had to have her a man."

"Do you remember the time of year this was?"

"HOT! Hot as hell. I'm sure it was June, July. Yeah, had to was just after graduation that year."

"Did you two stay on friendly terms after you stopped seeing each other?"

"Aw, sure...I drove her t o the hospital and back to her place when she had the baby." Jimmy said.

that's why she put your name on the birth certificate." Brenda said.

Jimmy nodded. "And it's why those welfare people tracked me down."

"Why didn't she name Sketty as the father, I wonder." Brenda mused.

"She weren't the sharpest nail in the hardware store....and I bet she figured naming a dead guy wouldn't get her anything either." Jimmy observed.

Brenda finished her coffee and conversation with Jimmy, and went back to the office.

She contacted a military liaison office, and gave them a rundown of what she was looking for, with the information Jimmy had given her. A week later, she received a call from a military information officer and learned that there had been one death due to natural causes during basic training in the south central United States during the 13-week training cycle in question. Robert Gentry, 18 years of age, had died of a burst aortic aneurism, a complicating feature of Marfan Syndrome. What got Brenda's full and undivided attention is that Marfan's can be hereditary. It was imperative to establish that Robert Gentry and Kurt were related.

The military information office told Brenda that Gentry had been autopsied, and like all US military personnel, a DNA profile existed. This greatly simplified the process of identifying the remains of fallen soldiers. Since it was likely that Kurt was the dependant of military personnel and may have inherited a life threatening condition, the chief medical officer of the base agreed to process Kurt's DNA.

Wesley and William had generally adjusted back to life with Claire, although Wesley had yet to return to school. He was healing well, and seemed to have largely escaped permanent brain injury, although he still had no memory of the events that had so gravely injured him.

Two weeks into the new year, Ron Walsh called Claire Hussmann to check on the family, and also let William have some news.

"Miss Hussmann, I really apologize for letting this get away from me for so long, but William had requested to meet the officers that responded that night..."

"Yes, I know that had been on his mind, Mister Walsh. I think Wesley would actually be interested in coming too."

"Could we get everyone together about six tomorrow evening?" Walsh asked. There was a moment as Claire talked to William in the background.

"Yes, that will be fine, thank you."

"I can drop by about half past five to pick you all up, and bring you home after if that makes things easier

"That would be wonderful, thank you."

"You're most welcome. Tomorrow evening then..."

"We'll see you then, Detective."

Walsh hung up, and checked in with Officers Trimble, Duncan and Moreno, to confirm that they were able to make the meeting, and satisfied all was in order, left himself a note on his desk blotter.

Brenda Hayes called Sharon and introduced herself, and told Sharon that she had been assigned to track down relatives that Kurt may have. Since nothing she found so far had been confirmed beyond any doubt, she simply requested if Kurt would provide a buccal DNA sample for a control. Sharon agreed, and Brenda stopped by that afternoon and swabbed Kurt's cheek in the same manner Timmy had provided a sample. Now it was a matter of waiting for the results.

Sharon had suspected that Kurt had difficulty seeing at a distance, and an incident one afternoon confirmed her suspicion. Kurt and Nicky had been watching television after school, when Nicky looked out through the patio door and noticed a lizard sunning itself on the fence. Sharon also saw it, but Kurt was unable to pick it out, even after Nicky described its location. A trip to the mall one hour eyeglass franchise, and Kurt's eyes were tested and a pair of glasses made for him. Although he was reluctant to admit he couldn't see, and protested that he wouldn't get used to glasses, he was amazed at the things he could now see that weren't visible to him before.

Detective Walsh stopped by the Hussmann's and collected the family for the meeting at Metro Police headquarters that William had been waiting for. When they arrived, they were shown into a conference room with a large table and comfortable chairs. They were very careful to make sure Wesley was comfortable, then the three officers came in and took seats after Walsh introduced everyone. Moreno was the first to speak.

"Mrs. Hussmann, we are all so glad that we are able to meet you folks...None of us was sure Wesley would survive..." Trimble and Duncan nodded in agreement. "It's really wonderful to finally meet you, son." Moreno said to Wesley.

"I still don't remember anything that happened, but thank you guys for saving my family." Wesley said.

"Those first two days I wasn't sure we hadn't lost him, either." Claire replied. "Things were very much touch and go in the hospital until Wesley woke up. If you hadn't gotten there when you did, we probably all would have died."

"We were certain of it." Trimble offered.

"Without a doubt." Duncan replied.

William was looking down at the table. Walsh went over to him, stood behind William's chair and put his hand on the boy's shoulder. "William? Are you okay?"

William nodded. "I'm just glad everything's over. Nobody is being mean to us, and…the nasty stuff... stopped. I'm sorry...I'll never keep secrets from my brother again. I should have told him...told Mom something..." Tears began to flow down William's face. "Thank you guys for making it stop...and for saving my mom and my brother."

Moreno reached out across the table to William, and William put his hand out to let Moreno take it.

"Look, William....uh, none of this is your fault. You didn't know what to do, or how to handle this. Most kids don't know what to do when faced with a predatory situation. You did nothing wrong, William. That man made a choice...He could have chosen not to do things to you...He could have chosen to put the table leg down, but he didn't. Everything that happened is entirely on him."

William nodded and squeezed the officer's hand as he struggled to control his emotions.

"How are you guys recovering from everything so far?" Walsh asked.

"One day at a time." Claire replied. With that, everyone wished Wesley and Claire a full recovery and William gave each officer a hug and a separate thank you. Walsh then drove the family home.

Brenda Hayes had pursued other case work the last two weeks while Kurt's DNA testing was in process. It was just before lunch when she received a call from a lab technician who told her that paternity had been established between Robert Gentry and Kurt Aaron. The lab faxed data to Brenda a few minutes later. Now Brenda had something to discuss with Kurt, and called Sharon, who agreed to bring Kurt by the county office building after schoool.

When they arrived, Brenda ushered them into a conference room and closed the door.

"Can I offer you anything? Water, soft drink?" Brenda asked. Kurt and Sharon shook their heads, and said "We're fine, thanks" almost in unison.

"Okay, well, I do have some news to tell. I did find your father, Kurt, as well as some other very important information." Brenda began.

"You found James Aaron, then?" Kurt asked, his interest piqued.

"Yes, …Uh, I found him, too, and I interviewed him Kurt, but...he isn't your father. Marie used his name on your birth certificate, and gave you his name." Sharon and Kurt looked confused.

"So who is his father then?" Sharon asked. "And who is James Aaron in all this?"

"Your father was Robert Gentry. He and Marie and James went to high school together and your mother and Robert dated briefly before Robert signed up for the military."

"You said was..." Kurt observed.

"Yes....Robert Gentry died during basic training, Kurt. He had an aortic aneurysm that burst."

"Uh, what is that?" Kurt wondered.

"It's a weak place in an artery that ruptures, Kurt. The aorta is the main artery that leaves the heart." Sharon explained.

"We need to talk about this a bit. Robert had something called Marfan's Syndrome, Kurt. It can be hereditary, and vessel wall defects are common. You need be screened for this, and the county will pay for the scans."

Sharon nodded.

"Mar-…what?" Kurt asked.

"Marfan', I wrote it down. I'm no expert on any of this stuff." Brenda said.

"I might have this thing on my aorta too?" Kurt asked. Sharon reached over and squeezed the back of Kurt's neck gently.

"We'll call Doctor Patel right away and get this taken care of." Sharon replied, a bit shaken at this news.

"Okay....Um, So....who?" Kurt continued, getting back to the other issue on his mind.

"Is James Aaron?" Brenda finished the question.


"James and Marie had a brief romantic fling after Robert left for the Air Force. James was actually with Marie at the hospital when you were born, and drove the two of you home afte ward."

"So she thought this James was my dad, right?" Kurt wondered.

"Uh, maybe she did before you were born, but not after." Brenda said, confusing Kurt.

"Your mom was already pregnant when Jimmy...he wouldn't let me call him James, began seeing her. And also there is no resemblance between the two of you, Kurt."

Brenda took one of Jimmy's business cards out of her folder and handed it to Kurt. "James is the Jimmy in Jimmy's Catfish Shack."

She pulled out papers, and looked at them briefly before passing them to Sharon. "This is the autopsy report on Robert Gentry. Your doctors may need that. And this is the lab report on your DNA test, Kurt."

"Is there any other Gentry family alive?" Sharon asked.

"Yes...Robert's mother, er, your grandmother, in a nursing home now. There is a sister to Robert we haven't tracked down yet." She wrote the address of the care facility down for Kurt. It was two and a half hours away.

"Doesn't Marie have family?" Sharon asked.

Brenda shook her head. "Marie's family threw her out when she was fifteen, then died of carbon monoxide poisoning two years later. The fire marshall found the furnace flue was rusted out...She was an only child. There is a first cousin who is doing time, has been since you were little, Kurt. No one else alive that we could find information on."

"No wonder she never mentioned anyone." Kurt said. "So what does this all mean?"

"Well, it means that you are eligible to be adopted, Kurt, if the right situation comes along, and you want to pursue it." Brenda said.

"But I don't have to do anything right away, do I?"

"Nope...You don't have to do anything. It's completely up to you and the Jarvis's."

Kurt nodded, and looked at Sharon. She smiled and took Kurt's hand and gave it a squeeze.

"The four of us will sit down and discuss this when everyone is ready to take the next step, okay? But for now, I think the priority is getting you in to see a heart specialist"

"Okay, I guess... but what if I do have this thing?" Kurt asked.

"You either do or you don't, Kurt. Either way, there is no sense worrying over it until we know that you do. If you turn out to be clear, there was nothing to worry about in the first don't worry about it."

Kurt nodded. "Okay, mom, I won't." Brenda smiled.

"I'll send a note to your coach to have you excused from P.E. until we know." Sharon said.

"Well, that was all I had, thanks for coming in, folks." Brenda said, as she got up.

"Thanks so much for the update, and the information on his father." Sharon replied.

"Thanks for finding out who I really am." Kurt said, as he hugged Brenda, startling her for an instant.

When Kurt let her go, she touched his face gently and replied "I'm happy that I was able to help you, Kurt. Good luck and I hope everything works out for you."

They left the building, walking slowly together. Sharon put her hand on Kurt's back as they walked to the car. Kurt was quiet on the ride home, immersed in his thoughts. He finally spoke as the car pulled into the driveway next to Jerry's truck.

"Would it, could we go see that Jimmy guy and the lady in the nursing home?"

"You mean your grandmother...of course we can, Kurt."

Kurt and Sharon shared what they had found out with Nicky and Jerry at the dinner table, and after eating, Kurt took a shower and went back to his room in just a towel. He took it off and hung it on the closet doorknob, and lay down on his bed and looked at the autopsy report. It only indicated that the external examination yielded no findings or abnormality, or signs of trauma on a Caucasian male, appearance consistent with that of a 18 year old male, circumcised, no marks or tattoos. All internal findings normal with the exception of gross dissection and rupture of the aorta, with massive hemorrhage into the chest. Death was nearly instant. A compliation of witness statements attached to the investigation report said Gentry had dropped like a sack of potatoes while standing in assembly for a unit inspection.

There was a knock on the door.

"Who is it?" Kurt asked.

"Me" Nicky said, in the in-between voice of a person no longer a boy and not yet a man.

"Come in." Kurt said, and the door opened and Nicky clad in only a pair of shorts came in and closed the door. Smiling at Kurt's nudity, he sat on the bed next to Kurt and asked

"Whatcha doin?"

"Reading through this stuff, just wishing there was more, you know. It feels like I got closer, but...Well, he's dead, so its like I never quite get there." Kurt said.

"I'm sorry. Are you okay? What about the heart thing?" Nicky asked.

"Mom said it was dumb to get worked up over it until we had the whole story. She's right." Kurt said.

Nicky slipped his shorts off and took the papers out of Kurt's hand and put them on the desk. He locked the door and lay down on the bed next to Kurt, and ran his hand over the teenager's crotch, feeling the long thi n penis harden under his palm. Kurt gently caressed the root of Nicky's cock between two fingers, and felt the eleven-year old's erection build as Nicky's penis bobbed back and forth as Kurt moved his hand. Soon both boys were as hard as they could get, and Kurt suddenly said

"Let's stand up, I wanna try something."

"Kay" Nicky replied.

"Got your oil?" Kurt asked.

"Back in a flash" Nicky said, as he unlocked the door and peeked out in the hall, cupping his crotch in his hand before he darted across the hall to his room and returned with the bottle.

"Here" Nicky said, giving the bottle to Kurt. Kurt put several drops on Nicky's penis and worked it around the boy's glans and shaft, and put several drops into his foreskin, and worked the oil around until the pucker was quite wet.

He retracted his foreskin and pushed the tip of his glans up to Nicky's and rolled his foreskin over both penises, and began to stroke both cocks inside his skin. Nicky gasped and put his hands around Kurt's waist to keep them a constant distance apart while Kurt kneaded and stroked their meat. Soon, Nicky began to pant and breathe harder as Kurt worked.

"A little faster" Nicky whispered to Kurt. "Oh....shit yeah." Nicky moaned and panted as Kurt squeezed Nicky's smaller penis a bit tighter in his foreskin, and sped up gradually as Nicky stiffened and suddenly reached a climax. Instantly, Kurt came and flooded the space inside his foreskin with his hot seed. After a moment of recovery, the boys separated and giggled at the mess they had made on each other.

"Guess we better take a shower" Kurt suggested as they made their way to the bathroom.

Doctor Patel listened to Sharon briefly describe what they had learned from Robert Gentry's autopsy report, and gave her the number and address for Dr. Steiner. Next, Sharon called Steiner's office and made an appointment for Kurt. Her next call was to Jimmy's Catfish Shack, and Chloe answered in a bright and bubbly voice.

"Jimmy's Catfish Shack! What can we git cha?"

"Yes, would it be possible to speak to James Aaron, please? My name is Sharon Jarvis."

"Just a second, I'll see if he can come to the phone." Jimmy was actually sitting right next to Chloe, going over the receipts from the previous night. He reached out and Chloe put the phone in his hand and whispered "Sharon Jarvis"

Jimmy frowned in confusion, not being familiar with the name, and nodded to Chloe.

"Mrs. Jarvis? This is Jimmy."

"Ah, Mister Aaron, this might sound like a strange request, but I'm the foster parent of Marie Lester's son."

"Oh, I kind of expected you would call, actually." Jimmy broke in.

"Oh really? Um...I'm sorry if this is inappropriate, but Kurt would like to meet you. I think he is looking for anything you might be able to tell him about Robert Gentry."

"Yes, ma'am that's perfectly all right. Tuesday evenings around five are pretty slow. Me and the boy can talk as long as he wants."

"Oh, that's wonderful. Thank you Mister Aaron."

"It's just Jimmy, ma'am, and you're welcome."

"Until Tuesday at five then."

"Yes, ma'am, take care."

Kurt was pleased to hear that James Aaron had agreed to meet and talk to him. He was nervous about the visit to the cardiologist, but he listened to Sharon and decided not to worry about things he couldn't do anything about.

That Friday after work, Jerry bought resident fishing licenses for himself and Kurt at the sporting good store after work. He had talked to Isaac in passing about a day trip to the river on Saturday, to begin the process of bringing Kurt into the family. Kurt and Sean and Timmy would need licenses to fish, while Nicky would not in this state until he turned 12. He stopped at Isaac's down the street and between the two of them, they decided they had enough rods and tackle to outfit all of them. They made plans to leave the house at 6:30 in the morning, get breakfast at the Micky Dees, and be on the river at around 7:30 or so. Isaac told Sean to leave a note to Melanie to let her know Sean would be out early and all day with him and Timmy. He refused, of course to divulge to Sean exactly what they would be doing. He just told Timmy to be prepared to get up and be ready to leave at 6:30.

Jerry made sure Nicky and Kurt were in bed early and told them the same thing. The next morning four tired boys and two men were in Jerry's minivan heading for egg and sausage muffin sandwiches and black coffee, with orange juice and milk for Sean, Nicky and Kurt. Jerry got two bags of ice next door while they waited for the food.

The boys wrinkled their noses at Timmy and the adults, while Timmy closed his eyes and savored the aroma of the dark roast coffee...

"Ignant Sabbages! No appreciation of the finer things in life.... mmmmmm" Timmy purred, hamming it up.

"Dude, it's...burger joint coffee...made by some.... you." Sean teased.

"It could be swamp water filtered through dirty underwear, served out of an alligator's titty... I don't care." Timmy declared, and a second later, Jerry and Isaac both looked at their own coffee, then at each other. The boys all broke out laughing at the looks on their faces. Timmy held up his cup and winked at Jerry in the rearview mirror. Jerry shook his head.

"I've never heard of tits on an alligator." Nicky cracked, and everyone broke up again.

Soon, Jerry turned down a county road at the edge of town, and drove under an interstate overpass at the river bridge. He parked the van in the shade of overpass off the shoulder of the county road, and everyone got out. In the back of the van were the pooled collections of gear from the Jarvis and Daniels homes, and Isaac and Jerry each brought their spinning rigs. For the boys, there were six rods with Zebco 303 reels.

The Zebco was an inexpensive and almost foolproof bait casting reel that generations of Americans had learned to cast with. Looking like a short soda can with a button on the back and a crank on the side, all you had to do is push the button in with your thumb, and let it fly during a cast and even a beginner could throw bait to the middle of a pond. It was almost impossible to jam the reel or cause a bird's nest line tangle with a Zebco. Jerry asked Kurt if he had ever been fishing, and Kurt shook his head.

"Let me show you how to cast first, so you can get started. We'll talk about fishing when you bait up." Jerry took Kurt's rod and cut the hook off. Taking a half ounce lead weight from the tackle box, he showed Kurt how to tie the line to the weight, then walked the teenager to the river bank.

"Kurt, look where you want the hook to go, bring your rod up and back, and swing it forward...check behind you before you do it, so you don't whip one of this."

Jerry demonstrated how to swing the rod a few times, then said. "Okay, that's the swing. Now watch this and hold the button,"

Kurt nodded. "Push and it."

"At the right time in your cast, let the button go." Jerry said, as he let the button go and began pulling line out of the hole in the middle of the reel without resistance. "Now your bait is flying out to where you want hits the water and sinks. Now you need to stop the line." Jerry turned the crank slightly and there was another loud click as something inside the reel re-engaged, and Jerry could not easily pull any more line out of the reel.

"Now you are on the drag." Jerry said. "The bigger the fish, and the higher the strength of the line, the more drag you can use. Too much drag and you break lines. The drag also gives a fish something to wear himself out against if he runs."

Kurt nodded.

"Let me cast two or three times, then its your turn." Jerry said. He brought the rod back, pushed the button

Push and hold" Kurt said. Jerry nodded, then swung the rod and let the button fly, and the weight sailed out into the river about sixty feet.

"Just like that, son. One more." he said as he reeled the line back in, and cast the weight again. He handed the rod and reel to Kurt, who reeled the line in, and got ready to cast for the first time. He brought the rod back over his shoulder, pushed the button, and swung the rod. The weight hit the ground ten feet in front of him with a loud "Spluck!"

"Let your button up a smidge earlier in your cast, just have to find the sweet spot is all." Jerry said. Kurt nodded and reeled the line in. Kurt's second attempt gained slightly more yardage. "Keep practicing, Kurt." Kurt nodded and smiled at Jerry.

After several more casts, Kurt was able to put the lead out where Jerry had, and everyone commented on how well Kurt had gotten the hang of the thing. Kurt was beaming with pride, and Jerry was tickled pink that Kurt was enjoying himself. Isaac had been working with Sean on the same thing, and Sean had taken to it almost instantly. Soon all four boys had been shown how to bait a hook for sunfish, and were

spread out on a line on the river bank, far enough apart not to interfere with each other's casts.

In short order, the voracious sunfish and bluegill began to bite, and Kurt was the first to land a big sunfish, about the size of a man's hand. The fish had tried to steal the bait, but Kurt felt the nibbling through the rod, and gave it a quick flick as Jerry had described, and set the hook. Instantly, the rod went crazy in Kurt's hand, vibrating as the hooked fish went into warp drive to escape.

"Oooh! Oh, I got one!...I got one!" Kurt exclaimed, as he felt the throbbing rod, and saw the line zig-zagging in the water.

"Start bringing him in, Kurt." Jerry said calmly, as Kurt began to crank. "Nice and steady, son." Soon Kurt's fish broke water, still flipping hard on the hook. The other boys crowded around to see Kurt's trophy. "Swing him over here." Jerry said, catching the line as Kurt waved the fish toward Jerry's hand. Jerry reached out and expertly swept his hand over the fish from nose to tail, folding the sharp fin rays back to avoid being spined.

"You see how I grabbed him so he couldn't stick me with his fins?" Jerry asked, and the boys nodded.

"You'll all forget to do that...once. Right, Isaac?"

"Yes, Sir...only once." Isaac replied, grinning, as the boys watched Jerry intently. Jerry backed the hook out of the fish's mouth, making a little crackling noise.

Sean winced and said, "Oh, God! That had to hurt! I felt that over here!" making everyone laugh.

"Sean, most of this is cartilage. He'll be fine and no worse for the experience."

"How many can we catch? Do we eat them?" Nicky asked.

"These are good to eat, but we'll need a whole mess of them, like fifty or sixty." Jerry said. "There's no limit on these, Nicky. Fish all you want."

Jerry put the first fish on a stringer, and staked it to the river bank. The fish could swim and breathe, but with the stringer line through its gill, it could not escape.

Soon everyone else began to catch the fierce little perch, and as lunch time approached, Nicky had caught 13, followed by Sean and Kurt at a dozen each, and Timmy managed ten. Jerry and Isaac tied at fifteen fish each, and the stringer was full.

Even bluegill averaging four to five inches begin to weigh something when there are 67 of them, and the boys helped unlace the stringer and put the fish in a cooler with two bags of ice.

"Sean, guys did awesome being the newbies. Did you guys have a good time?" Jerry asked.

"It was awesome, Dad." Kurt said.

"Thanks for taking me, guys." Sean said, poking Isaac in the shoulder. "I thought this would be all boring and stuff."

"Well, sometimes nothing bites, and you get skunked, Sean. That's why it's called fishing, not catching." Isaac replied. "But you're welcome, and we can do this anytime you guys want to go."

Timmy had slipped away along the right side of the van, to let loose of some of the coffee. Nicky was preoccupied with fish, and didn't see Timmy leave, but had the same urge, and moved down the left side. He was pulling his zipper down and getting ready to pee in front of the van when he looked up and saw Timmy in mid off-load.

"Oh, sorry, Timmy." Nicky said, but being that he was committed, he stood and let his stream fly.

"It's cool. Great minds think alike." Timmy replied, as he checked Nicky out. There wasn't anything else to do at the moment, so Nicky got a good eyeful of Timmy's ample endowment as they relieved themselves. He had never seen a penis that thick, and the foreskin didn't look like Kurt's either. There would be plenty of time to take this up later, however, and the boys zipped up and went back to stowing the gear.

When the crew got home, they unloaded the van and Jerry set up a table in the garage and showed the boys how to clean the fish for frying. Perch and bluegill were easy to clean. Cut the heads off, slit the belly open and pull the guts out. The rest of the fish, scales, fins, tail and all, is soaked in salt water for a while. When ready to fry, the fish are taken out of the brine and rinsed, then tossed in spiced flour batter and fried.

Jerry fired up a fish fryer with a gallon of peanut oil inside, and soon as the propane burner had the oil at 350 degrees. All of the fish was ready to go, and Sharon brought out drinks and a salad, and Jerry began dropping baskets of ten fish at a time into the fryer. Isaac stood by with a pan as Jerry dumped the basket, then loaded the basket with fish for Jerry to drop. It was a good system that got the whole catch fried quickly.

"Just pick the skin off with your fork, and pull the backbone out of the meat, folks." Jerry said, as the gathering began to eat. Sharon and Melanie gave the feast thumbs up.

Monday morning came, and Sharon and Kurt stayed home while Jerry went to work, and Nicky went to school. Kurt would see Doctor Steiner at eight o'clock, and go to the hospital at eleven for his imaging. Kurt was not looking forward to this, as he could not eat until he was done, and Sharon sensed his somber mood. He had never been in a hospital before and didn't know what to expect.

The trip to Doctor Steiner's was made in silence, as neither of them spoke. Once there, it was a classic case of hurry up and wait, although Kurt was the first appointment of the day. Sharon sat down with Kurt and they began to fill in Kurt's medical history, what there was of it. The only thing they could check "yes" to was "other" under the general heading of heart disease and conditions.

Once Kurt's paper work and county insurance was done, he was led back into the exam room area and weighed, and a nurse shined a red laser in Kurt's ear and wrote numbers down on a chart.

"What is that?" Kurt asked the nurse.

"It looks deep into your soul… and tells me what your're thinkin". The nurse deadpanned. Kurt gave her that "Do I really look that dumb?" look, and she giggled.

"It's just a thermometer…Don't worry, your secrets are all safe." She gave Kurt a wink, and took him by the elbow and guided him to a nearby exam room. She patted the exam table. Kurt sat and the nurse wrapped his forearm with the blood pressure cuff, and together they waited for the machine to cycle. She wrote the numbers on Kurt's sheet, and said

"We are going to do an EKG on you, so I need you to take your shirt off, Kurt." Kurt pulled off his tee, and the nurse began pulling contact tabs off a sheet of slick paper and sticking them to various locations on Kurt's chest and back. After applying a full dozen of these, she began clipping leads to the contacts, and turned the EKG on. Paper tape began slithering out of the machine marked with Kurt's heart traces. It only took about 90 seconds to get all the rhythms the doctor needed. It literally took longer to hook Kurt up than it did to run the test.

"Okay, Kurt, you can put your shirt on when I get done pulling these off." she said, making Kurt wince as she removed the contacts. "Sorry...If you think that's bad, it's a lot worse for the hairy guys."

"Oooh....I bet." Kurt replied, happy that he wasn't a hairy guy.

"Doc will be in to talk to you in a moment. Is it okay if your mom comes in?"

"Um, uh yeah.".... Kurt said, pulling on his tee shirt. Sharon came in a moment later and sat down. Doctor Steiner came in a moment later. After introducing himself, he looked at Kurt's EKG traces, and put his stethoscope in his ears, and slipped the pick-up under Kurt's shirt and began moving it from place to place.

"Breath deeply through your mouth, Kurt...Good....ah, breathe normally...." Finally satisfied with Kurt's sounds, Doctor Steiner put the stethoscope in his lab coat pocket and said

"It seems that whatever Doctor Patel had been concerned enough to have you on a course of antibiotics for has cleared up. I hear no signs of congestion in your chest. Your heart sounds normal and I see nothing in the EKG trace that concerns me. Now you had noted that your father died of a burst aneurysm, and you had concerns about your chances with that?"

Kurt nodded. "Um, what are my options if you find something today?"

"Well, hopefully we won't, Kurt. Congenital defects of the aorta are uncommon, but if we do find a problem today, there are things we can do that would be appropriate for your case. Unfortunately, those things are surgical procedures. How old was your father when he passed, Kurt?"

" boot camp." Sharon handed Doctor Steiner Robert Gentry's autopsy report.

"It was before I was born." Kurt offered.

Steiner glanced at the report, nodded and made a few uh-huh noises. "Okay...we have already set you up for eleven over at County General. Any questions for me?"

"Um, what happens when I get there?" Kurt asked in a quiet voice. It was pretty clear that Kurt was out of his element at the moment and feeling fear.

"Well, you will go upstairs to Cardiology, and put on a gown. We will bring you in the lab, where you will lay on a table. Doctor Tran will inject a dye in your arm, and you will be scanned. The whole thing is painless except for the line in your arm, and you might feel a hot flush from the dye. The whole thing will take less than an hour, and then you get dressed and go home."

Kurt nodded. "Okay...will we know the answer today?"

"No, Kurt, probably not...but I will tell you this. If we do see something that looks like a problem, we will not wait to operate. So if you go home this afternoon, you have a 99% chance that you're clear...okay?"

"I understand...yes" Kurt said in a whisper. Doctor Steiner paused and put a hand on Kurt's shoulder.

"Look, son...I know this has you worried...but the imaging procedure is very safe and the risks are well understood. If you do require surgery, our team has a lot of experience. We won't let anything happen to you, Kurt. Promise."

"Yes, Sir." Kurt replied.

There really wasn't much more to say, so they finished up the visit and left. Since they had several hours to kill, the pair went to the mall and walked around and took in the sights. It was good exercise and took their minds off things for a bit. Sharon's phone alerted, and when she checked it, she saw a text message from Roger Cook.

Sharon, pls call me

"Honey, let's stop for a second. It's Roger..." Sharon said as she dialed.

"Roger Cook, Child and Family Services."

"Sharon Jarvis, Roger; I just got your text message."

"Um, yes. Sharon, are you aware of Kurt's artistic abilities?"

"Yes, Nicky showed us Kurt's sketches." Kurt looked at Sharon, but didn't try to break into the conversation. Sharon put her hand on Kurt's shoulder and gave him a pat.

"Great! Well, I talked to the head of the art department at City College about Kurt, and if he's interested, I will give you his number so you can set up a meeting."

"That would be wonderful. I'm sure he will jump at that, Roger."

"His name is Pyotr Calcesciu...his extension is 25915."

Sharon looked at Kurt and said "Remember this...Pyotr 25915." Kurt nodded.

"We got it. Thanks, Roger."

" are things going?"

"Kurt's having his angiogram today, so keep your fingers crossed."

"Will do Sharon. Give him my best wishes, please."

"Thanks, Roger. Bye."

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