Jimmy (by Grant Bentley)

Jimmy

By Grant Bentley

If any nice person, nasty person, place, event, happening, thing, or sport, seems familiar, it is purely coincidental.


Jimmy loses his mom to a drug overdose and sets out to look for the dad hes never met.
What are his chances of finding him?


It was supposed to be spring, but it was snowing as hard as I think I’ve ever seen it snow. It was almost total whiteout conditions. If it wasn’t for the fact that Morrison was just a few miles ahead, I think I would have pulled over and tried waiting it out. Suddenly, I realized someone was walking down the side of the road, but not before I’d already passed him. If I missed hitting him by more than six inches, I’d be surprised. I immediately slowed to a stop. Well, as quickly as I dared, considering the road conditions. I honked the horn several times in case he couldn’t see me. It took him about three minutes to reach my Jeep, shake off as much snow as he could and get in.

As soon as he got in, he pulled his hood back and said, “Thanks.”

When I got a good look at him, I realized I had just picked up a kid about twelve or thirteen years old.

“What the hell are you doing out in this weather?” I asked him, “You trying to freeze to death or get killed? It’s minus twenty out there, never mind I could barely see you and damn near hit you.”

“Sorry,” was his simple reply.

“Are you on your own?” I asked, wondering if there was a car full of people stuck down the road somewhere.

“Yes,” he replied.

“So no one else was with you?” I asked, just to be sure.

“No,” he replied.

Our conversation ended there as I decided the sooner we got to Morrison the better, as the conditions weren’t getting any better. Fifteen minutes later the lights of the Morrison Motel came into view. I sighed a big sigh of relief and pulled up in front. I told my young passenger to wait in the Jeep and not to go anywhere. I don’t really think he needed to be told since he was starting to get wet as the snow he was covered in had started to melt. He had been shivering quite vigorously for the last few minutes. I lucked out and they still had one double room available. I waved him over as I came out of the office, and we both made a run for the room.

Once in the room, I told him to get out of his wet clothes and to have a warm shower. He undressed slowly and as he did, he kept an eye on me. Once he was down to his boxers, he went into the bathroom and a few seconds later I heard the shower come on. While he was in the shower, I hung his clothes wherever I could so they would dry.

After about ten minutes, he came out of the bathroom and lay on top of one of the beds and almost whispered, “You can have me if you want.”

I just stared at him in shock as I had no idea how to respond to that.

“Look…‘Jimmy,’ he filled in for me…Jimmy, I don’t want anything from you. I just want to help you.” I finally replied.

“Everybody wants something,” he responded.

“Okay, I’ll tell you what I want,” I said, “I want to save a young boys life…yours. How’s that?”

 He stared at me for at least a minute before saying, “For real?” in a questioning tone.

“Yeah, for real,” I replied, “You’re safe with me…I swear. So just relax.”

Although he seemed to believe me, the look of mistrust in his eyes didn’t diminish by much.

“I’m going to get us something to eat from the restaurant, what would you like?” I asked.

“A burger maybe please,” he replied.

“How about a burger, fries, and a Coke?” I asked with a smile.

“Yes please,” he replied, looking a little more relaxed.

When I got back, he was laying under the covers this time. I handed him a Coke, a burger and packet of fries and actually got a little smile from him. I took my coat off and sat back on the other bed to enjoy my own Coke, burger and fries.

Once I finished, I went to the bathroom, came out, undressed and crawled into my bed. He watched my every move until I crawled into the other bed, then he got up, scampered to the bathroom, came back out and almost dove under the covers of his bed. I turned on the TV and then threw him the remote and told him to find us something good to watch. He flipped through the channels and stopped at The Big Bang Theory. He glanced at me to see if I approved of his choice. When I smiled, he smiled and we both made ourselves comfortable to watch the show. About halfway through I noticed he had fallen asleep. I got up, took the remote, shut off the TV and lights, and within minutes, I too was fast asleep.

When I woke up then next morning, he was still sleeping. I did my morning rituals, then checked his clothes to make sure they were dry. They were, even his parka was dry. I just lay back on my bed and relaxed as I waited for him to wake up. I thought he needed all the sleep he could get and I didn’t want to go over to the restaurant in case he fled while I was gone. When he did wake up about a half hour later, he scrambled out of bed and made a dash to the bathroom. A few minutes later he was racing around the room grabbing different items of clothing and getting dressed. As soon as he was dressed, I suggested we go for breakfast. I didn’t know about him, but I was starving and really needed a coffee.

When we got to the restaurant and looked over the breakfast menu, he whispered to me that he only had three dollars so would they give him a half order of pancakes. I just laughed and told him not to worry. Breakfast was on me and he could order whatever he wanted. He tried to argue that it wasn’t fair for me to pay for him as I already fed him the night before, but he lost the argument.

Once the waitress had taken our order, I had to ask the obvious question, “Why were you walking down the side of the highway fifty miles from nowhere in a full scale blizzard?”

“My mom just died so I’m going to my dad’s,” he replied.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said.

“Don’t be,” he responded a little coldly, “She wasn’t much of a mother. She died of a drug overdose.”

“She was still your mom and she loved you,” I said.

“How would you know?” he asked with an edge to his voice.

“That’s how parents are,” I responded, “Parents love their kids.”

“Do you have kids? he asked.

“No,” I replied, “But, if I had a son like you I’d love him.”

“You’d love him?” he asked.

“Of course,” I replied.

“Would you sell him?” he asked, again with a distinct edge to his voice.

That comment also surprised the hell out of me. Damn what’s this kid been through I wondered.

“Of course not,” I replied as quickly as I could.

“I didn’t think so,” he responded.

Just then our food arrived. He dove right in and, not surprisingly, our conversation was over for the time being. However, my mind was going a mile a minute. I was pretty sure I had an underage runaway on my hands. The snow had let up a bit, but it was still too dangerous to drive. I was thankful for that, because it meant we would be staying here, and that would give me time to sort things out with respect to Jimmy and why he was really out here. To me, his story just didn’t add up. If he was in fact going to his dad’s, I would have assumed that his dad would have at least paid for a bus ticket.

As soon as we finished eating we returned to our room. I handed him the remote and left him to watch TV while I moved into the bathroom and called in to my commanding officer, Captain Harrison. I asked if there was a report of a missing boy about twelve or thirteen years old named Jimmy. It took him about thirty seconds to confirm my suspicions. A James West had disappeared from Jamison Boys’ Home in Westchester during the previous night and, considering the weather, they were frantic about locating him.

His description fit my Jimmy perfectly. His mother had died of a heroin overdose two weeks ago. He had been placed in the boys’ home a day later. According the Captain, it had not been a good fit, and he had faced a great deal of bullying. He was going to be transferred to another group home next week. The captain was more than pleased when I told him Jimmy was with me and was safe and sound. He said he would let the authorities in Westchester know and once we made it back to Riverdale, we could make arrangements to get him back to Westchester. I explained I was stranded in Morrison for the foreseeable future and there was no way anyone from Westchester should be driving through the mountains in this weather. He agreed and said not to worry. Westchester would know Jimmy was in good hands and he was sure there would be no rush to get him back there.

I replied that I was sure that, as long as they knew he was safe and in the company of a police officer, they shouldn’t be too concerned. I also reminded him that I had the week off and had planned on stopping at my sister’s for the week. I mentioned it might be good for Jimmy to spend some time with my nephews. See some friendly faces for a change. He didn’t see that as being a problem.

He said, “If they want him badly enough, they can drive out to your sister’s and get him. But I don’t see that happening, Jeff.”

“I agree,” I said, “They know me well enough to know he’s in safe hands. I’ll see you on the 15th then. Bye.”

“You phoned the police about me didn’t you?” Jimmy asked as soon as I came out of the bathroom.

“Actually Jimmy, I’m Jeff Wilson. I’m a policeman with the Riverdale Police, and yes, I phoned my Captain to find out about you,” I replied.

“Oh,” was all he said.

It wasn’t hard to tell he stopped paying attention to the TV show he was watching. My first thought was that he was plotting his escape. That is until I saw the tears. I sat down beside him and put my arm around him to comfort him and, in an instant, he was almost on my lap with his arms wrapped tightly around me sobbing his heart out. I just hugged him close and kept telling him it would be all right. It was absolutely heartbreaking and I think I may have shed a tear or two myself.

Once he calmed down enough to talk, he barely whispered, “I can’t go back there. They’re going to kill me.”

“Well you won’t have to go back to Jamison,” I said, “They’re transferring you to a new boys’ residence. This one they told me is a good one.”

“There is no ‘good one’ for kids like me,” he responded, “Even foster parents don’t want me.”

Once again I was taken aback and again I didn’t really have a response so I just hugged him a little tighter and felt his arms tighten around me as he pulled himself in as close as he could get. Nothing more was said for the next several minutes. 

Finally he quietly asked, “When do I have to go back?”

“Well, we’re not going anywhere until the weather clears and the Captain said you can stay with me until we get to Riverdale. I’m going to visit my sister and her boys for a week. So you can come with me and relax for the week or, if you prefer, I can get one of the guys from Riverdale to pick you up and take you to Westchester once the roads are clear.”

“Can I come with you please?” he asked pleadingly.

“Of course you can,” I replied, “I’d like that.”

We spent two more days in Morrison before the highway and the avalanche danger zones were cleared enough to allow travel again. During that time I learned a lot about young Jimmy. Despite the fact that he looked like a twelve-year-old, it turned out that he was fourteen. He was in grade eight in school, when he was in school. His mom had been a drug addict for as long as he could remember. She had prostituted herself to pay for her addiction. When he told me she had also prostituted him, starting when he was twelve, I didn’t want to believe him. But after thinking about his ‘offer’ that first night, I was pretty sure he was telling the truth. I was also having a hard time imagining the life he had been forced to endure. As I thought about it, my first instinct was to care for him and protect him.

Our conversations weren’t always depressing and we got into a number of interesting topics. His favourite hobby was building model cars and his favourite car of all time was the 1963 Corvette split window coupe. He said that when he grew up he was going to save all his money in order to buy one. As we talked, it became obvious that he was a very bright kid and once he began to trust me, his keen sense of humour became increasingly apparent as well. Throughout our early conversations it also became apparent that his one and only wish was to find his dad, which cleared up the question as to why his dad hadn’t bought him a bus ticket. He may have been going to his dad’s but apparently he had to find him first. That I thought would be better done through our office or Westchester’s not his wandering aimlessly across the country.  

Throughout our frequent and sometimes disturbing discussions, in the short time we were together, the two of us became surprisingly close. Close enough that, on the evening of our third day, he hit me with another unexpected truth. He came out to me. I made sure I was very supportive. I told him I had no problem with him being gay and he should be proud of who he was. I told him there was absolutely nothing wrong with being gay. Like any other kid, he could become anything he wanted to be, a doctor, an engineer, a mechanic, whatever he wanted, and it made no difference who he fell in love with. I even gave him a little hug and got a big hug and smile in return.

“Thanks,” he said with a big grin, “I knew you’d understand.”

“Thanks for believing in me and trusting me,” I replied and got another hug.

When we finally hit the highway again, it still took three hours to get through the mountain pass, into the valley, and back onto dry pavement. Another two hours and we were pulling into my sister’s driveway in Parkerville. Almost before I had stopped the Jeep, my nephews, Brice and Kevin, had the door open and were pulling me into a hug and then going for my suitcase. It was then that they noticed Jimmy was with me. As soon as they did, they were introducing themselves and shaking hands with him. A few minutes later we were sitting at the kitchen table in front of a huge batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. Kevin poured himself and me a cup of freshly brewed coffee while Brice poured Jimmy and himself a big glass of milk each.

“Mom will be right back,” Kevin told us, “She just went to the store for a few groceries.”

Sure enough, Sarah pulled into the driveway about five minutes later. The boys, including Jimmy, ran out to help her carry in the groceries.

As soon as she got into the kitchen I got a big hug and kiss on the cheek followed by the obvious question, “Who’s your little buddy?”

Before I had a chance to say anything, the boys came in and Kevin introduced Jimmy to Sarah. I got another questioning look from her, so I told her that I would fill her in later when the boys were off doing something else. As soon as they brought in the last bags of groceries, they sat back down at the table with me. Sarah poured herself a coffee and joined us as we explained our harrowing trip over Morrison Pass and forced motel stopover. We didn’t mention our close encounter on the highway though. When we had finished our coffee or milk and most of the cookies, Sarah and the boys got up to put the groceries away. Once again, Jimmy was right in there helping. He did have to ask where a few things went, but he fit right in and his smile was a mile wide.

After the groceries were put away, the boys decided to go downstairs and watch a movie. Once they had their popcorn and had disappeared for a few minutes, I began to fill Sarah in on our meeting and what I knew about Jimmy’s life before, during, and after his time in Jamison Boys’ Home. Several times I took a break just to give Sarah a chance to recover. As I told her his story, her mood went from near tears to outright anger, to almost rage, and back to near tears several times.

When I was finally finished, she said, “My God that poor little guy. I can’t imagine the horrors he’s had to face. No child should ever have to live through that. I’m amazed he didn’t run away long ago.”

“I know,” I responded, “I don’t know how he did it. There’s no doubt he’s a very strong willed and determined kid. As angry as he seems with her, I’m sure he cared for her and did his best to look out for her the only way he knew how. I think too that holding on to the hope he would eventually find his dad kept him going.”

Suddenly three boys came charging up the stairs. Brice headed for the pantry and came out with three big bags of chips, Kevin headed for the fridge and grabbed a big jug of juice, and Jimmy headed for the cupboard and grabbed three large glasses.

“We’re gonna camp out in the basement and watch a couple more movies,” Brice announced, “Jimmy can use your sleeping bag, right Uncle Jeff?”

“You better not be planning on staying up all night,” Sarah warned.

“We won’t,” Kevin assured her.

“Uh huh,” she responded with a grin.

After they took all their refreshments downstairs, they came charging back up and ran upstairs. Ten minutes later they were charging back down to the basement with sleeping bags, pillows, and air mattresses.

“If you don’t slow down someone’s going to get killed,” Sarah warned as they charged by.

“No we won’t,” Brice responded.

“It’s not you three I’m worried about,” Sarah replied, but it was too late. They were already down the stairs.

After the boys disappeared, Sarah and I chatted and got caught up on the last few months since we had seen each other. Both boys were doing well in school. Kevin was in his sophomore year and Brice was a freshman. She had been given a promotion and raise at work and was now in charge of her department. That meant a few more hours a day at work and the odd trip to head office. Thankfully the boys were old enough and got along well, so there were no worries about leaving them for a couple of days. It was almost midnight before we went to bed. Sarah peeked down the stairs and the boys were still wide awake watching some horror show.

~~~<<>>~~~

It was almost noon before we heard any motion downstairs. The first to appear was Kevin. He wasn’t moving very fast as he came into the kitchen and poured himself a coffee. It was another fifteen minutes before we saw Brice and Jimmy make their way into the kitchen. They managed to find some cereal and milk and poured themselves a glass of milk and bowl of cereal. Kevin decided to pour himself a bowl of cereal as well. By the time they had finished eating, they were beginning to wake up a little. Once fully awake, they decided we should go to the indoor pool after lunch and spend the afternoon swimming and leaping off the high diving board. Jimmy didn’t look quite as enthusiastic as the other boys, but when Sarah told him he could wear a pair of Brice’s swimming trunks, he was seemed more than willing to go along.

When we got there, Kevin and Brice dove in and swam the length of the pool as Jimmy looked up at me and said, “I can’t swim. I’ve never been to a pool before.”

“Well, tell you what,” I said, “I’ll do my best to teach you. How’s that?”

I got a huge smile followed by, “Really? You’ll teach me?”

“Yep,” I replied as I jumped into the shallow end.

Within minutes, the other two were right there with us showing him how to float, how to kick his feet, and how to move his arms. For the first while, I kept my hands under his tummy to hold him up. Within an hour though he was floating and moving through the water along side the boys. His technique was more dog paddle than crawl though. Once the boys got him swimming the width of the pool, they decided it was time to hit the diving board. Jimmy didn’t look at all confident about jumping into the deep end though.

I promised him I’d be right there to help if he got into trouble. Brice and Kevin did a couple of pretty fancy dives to start off. Then Kevin showed Jimmy how to do a simple straight forward dive. He slowly made his way to the end of the diving board and looked down into the water. When he saw Sarah and I treading water just off each side of the diving board, he leaned forward, stretched out his arms, and basically dropped into the pool head first. Within ten seconds, he resurfaced, looked at me, grinned, and started to paddle towards the ladder. As soon as he was out of the pool, all four of us congratulated him on a good dive, getting an ear-to-ear grin.

They spent the next half hour jumping and diving into the pool and Jimmy was loving every minute of it. He made sure I was watching him and every once in a while would make his way over to me to ask how I thought he was doing. Of course I told him he was doing great. Then the time came to jump off the high diving platform. Jimmy climbed up there once, looked over the edge, and decided there was no way he was jumping off that into the pool. Brice and Kevin were good with him and told him it took them a long time to get up the nerve to jump. That left Jimmy feeling quite satisfied that he was not being wimpy about it. Instead, he and I worked on his swimming technique while Sarah did some end to end swimming.

After about three and a half hours, it was time to head to Sarah’s for dinner. Well first we headed for the pizza shop and then to Sarah’s. When we were deciding what kind of pizza we wanted, I suggested meat-lovers. Jimmy immediately piped up that that was his favourite and we should get at least one of them. As it turns out, that’s what everyone wanted, so we ended up with four large meat-lovers pizzas, three large Pepsis, two boxes of cinnamon bits, and five apple turnovers. Enough to feed an army I thought but I was wrong. It was barely enough to feed two adults and three boys.

That evening, we all decided to watch a movie. Since Kevin and Brice had picked the movies last night, they told Jimmy it was his turn pick one out. He looked through several until he found, the original Star Wars. He looked at it for a few seconds and then asked me if I would like to watch it. When I replied in the affirmative, he handed it to Kevin, who put it in the DVD player, turned it on and we sat back to watch it. It wasn’t long before he had climbed on the couch and sort of leaned in against me. As soon as I put my arm around him, he cuddled right up to me. Something that didn’t go unnoticed by Sarah as she gave me a knowing grin.

Once the movie was over, the boys announced that they were going to campout downstairs again. They came up with Sarah and me, grabbed some snacks and sodas, and back down they went. Sarah and I made ourselves a pot of coffee, grabbed some snacks of our own, and sat back in the living room to relax. We chatted for a while, mostly about the boys and how well they got along, but we did touch on other topics of interest to both of us. It wasn’t long though before we were both starting to doze off. Sarah checked on the boys and they were all sleep, so she turned off the TV, and she and I decided it was time for us to get some sleep too.

~~~<<>>~~~

Morning came much too soon, as did the boys request to go to the go-cart track. I responded that maybe after four or five cups of coffee I might be ready for go-carts. Kevin immediately went over to the cupboard, grabbed five cups. He filled each one with coffee and then sat across the table from me with his arms crossed and a big grin on his face.

“Smart ass,” I said laughing, “If I drink all those now we won’t be going anywhere. I’ll be peeing all afternoon.”

“They’ve got a washroom at the park,” he responded grinning.

“Okay, okay,” I said, “But not till after lunch.”

“Works for me,” he said, “Thanks Uncle Jeff.”

Then he poured three of the five cups back into the pot and he and I drank the other two. I asked him how school was going and he replied that it was going well. He wasn’t on the honour roll but he was close with a 78% average. I congratulated him and our conversation quickly changed to volleyball, lacrosse, and soccer. The volleyball team had come in second in their division. He was captain of the lacrosse team and, at the moment, they were in first place. Soccer was still a month away but he figured they had a pretty good team lined up. The other two boys made their way upstairs at that point and began fixing themselves breakfast. Kevin mentioned an assignment he had due for Tuesday after the break and headed to his room to work on it.

As soon as we were finished lunch and the boys had helped clean up, we were on our way to the go-cart track. I was surprised when Sarah decided to come with us. Also, surprisingly, when we arrived, we were the only ones there. We talked to the attendant, paid our admission and looked over the carts for what we figured was the best one. I noticed that after I picked mine which happened to be red, Jimmy looked around until he saw another red one and that would be his cart for the afternoon. I don’t think I had been on a go-cart for fifteen years and I had forgotten how much fun they were. The boys, of course, were having a blast and Jimmy was obviously thrilled. His grin couldn’t have been bigger. When we decided to quit for the day, I couldn’t believe we had been chasing each other around the track for two and a half hours. No wonder my butt hurt.

We stopped at Dairy Queen for some ice cream on the way home. Once again, Jimmy waited to see what I ordered and ordered the same. I didn’t give it much thought though. I just figured he was trying to be an adult in his choices like me.

When we got home the boys grabbed a soda each and headed downstairs. I poured myself a coffee and plopped down at the kitchen table.

Sarah did too and then gave me a look before asking, “Have you been watching Jimmy since you got here?”

“Yeah, of course,” I replied, “He’s having a great time with the boys. I think he’s feeling happy and relaxed for probably the first time in years.”

Her look changed from a casual one to a knowing one and she asked, “That’s all you’ve noticed?”

“Well, yeah, pretty much,” I answered, wondering where she was going with this.

“You haven’t been watching very closely then,” she said, “He looks for your approval constantly and he watches your every move.”

“Yeah I guess,” I replied.

She looked at me for several seconds before asking, “You did notice where he ended up while watching the movie the other night didn’t you.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” I replied, “He just needed a little cuddle. It’s probably the first time someone’s cuddled him in years, if ever.”

“You think that’s all it was?” she asked.

“He just likes the attention,” I replied.

“Just likes THE attention…or just likes YOUR attention?” she questioned before adding a qualification I really wasn’t ready for, “I don’t think he’s looking for HIS dad. I think he’s looking for A dad…and I think he believes he’s found one…you.”

My first reaction was, “No, you’re reading too much into his actions. He just sees me as a way to find his dad, that’s all.”

“Maybe,” she said, “I find it hard to believe there would have been no contact for fourteen years. I think you need to consider the fact that he’s bonded with you whether you recognize it or not and you need to be prepared to deal with that.”

As we sat there, I ran the last few days through my head and it became obvious that after the first day in the motel, he never spoke of finding his dad. Then there was the day at the pool when I helped him learn to swim or at least manage in the water, cuddling up during the movie, picking the red go-cart, and the same ice cream flavour, plus several other things he did where he focused on me. I began to wonder if she was right and if she was, what would it do to him if I turned him over to Westchester? Would he feel rejected and devastated? I knew if he had really attached himself to me, there was little doubt he would be. How would that affect his life? Being prostituted by the one woman who should have loved and protected him and then being rejected by the one man he had come to trust and count on could all but destroy him. On the other hand, like I said, maybe we were simply reading too much into his actions.

“Time for me to get dinner started,” Sarah noted, “But you think about it. Okay?”

As she started to peel potatoes, I made the mistake, or not, of walking over to go down and join the boys.

They were talking about all the things we had done in the last couple of days when Brice said, “You gotta be the luckiest guy in the world to have Uncle Jeff as a dad.”

Oh my God, Sarah was right I thought as I spun around and sat back down at the kitchen table. Sarah took one look at me, came back to the table and sat down across from me.

“Okay, spill it,” she said, “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”

“I just overheard the boys talking about how lucky Jimmy is to have me as his dad,” I replied, feeling somewhat shocked.

“Oh my God, I knew it,” she responded, “So how are you going to deal with him now you know?”

“I…Oh God,” I replied.

“He’s a little sweetheart looking for someone to love him,” she said.

“Yes he is,” I responded.

“And I haven’t just been watching him,” she added, “I’ve been watching you too, and it seems pretty obvious that you’ve become attached to him as well, haven’t you.”

“Yeah, actually I have,” I replied with a little sigh.

“Do you feel you can take on a teenager?” she asked.

“Considering how much time I’ve had to think about it,” I replied, “I don’t know.”

“You want to though, don’t you?” she asked with a knowing smile.

“Actually, it scares the hell out of me,” I responded, “But…yeah, I do.”

At that point the boys came charging up the stairs and Jimmy came straight for me and wrapped an arm around my neck.

“Dinner ready yet?” Kevin asked.

“I just started making it,” Sarah replied, “Your uncle and I have been talking.”

“Oh Mom,” Brice whined, “We’re starving.”

“You’ll live,” she said laughing, “Come back up in a half hour and it’ll be ready.”

“If I starve to death it’ll be your fault Uncle Jeff,” he said with a grin, before the three of them disappeared downstairs again.

“You did notice that gesture didn’t you?” Sarah asked grinning.

“Oh yeah,” I answered, “That was a little hard to miss.”

I got up, and between the two of us, we had dinner ready in the promised half hour, and in exactly half an hour the boys were back in the kitchen acting like they hadn’t eaten for a week. Jimmy pulled his chair over beside mine and sat down at the table. Kevin and Brice sat across from us and Sarah sat at one end. As soon as the food got passed around, there was dead silence as the boys dug in. One could easily believe they hadn’t been fed for a week. Once dinner was done, the boys cleared the table, washed the dishes, even the pots and pans. There were no leftovers to worry about so Sarah and I sat back with a coffee each and watched the boys work. Jimmy was right in there again as if he had lived here for years. As soon as they had everything cleaned up, they once again disappeared into the basement.

Sarah and I just looked at each other until she burst out laughing.

“What?” I questioned.

“You ready to have your butt whipped at Crib…Dad?” she asked as she reached for the Cribbage board and deck of cards.

I needed to think about something other than Jimmy, so I took her up on her challenge. We played several games, all of which I lost, before we gave up and decided to watch some TV. As the evening progressed, one or the other of the boys would appear every so often, for chips, or juice, or popcorn, or cookies, or whatever. After about ten o’clock, we didn’t see them anymore. Either they had found a good movie or they had fallen asleep. By about eleven I was starting to fall asleep in my chair so I said goodnight to Sarah and made my way to bed.

However tired as I was though, I don’t think I slept for more than two or three hours all night. I ran every possible scenario over and over in my head a hundred times. I was thinking about adopting a fourteen year old boy who had been raised by a drug addict and prostituted to who knows who. What kind of baggage was this boy going to bring with him? Was he going to need counselling? Was he going to fit in with the kids at Riverdale High? Was he going to be bullied because of his small size? What would happen if the other kids found out he was gay, or just decided he was gay because he was small? Questions on top of questions on top of questions crossed my mind.

~~~<<>>~~~

I don’t know what time I finally fell asleep, but even though I slept until 10:00, I certainly didn’t feel rested. When I finally made my way down to the kitchen for a desperately needed cup of coffee, the boys were just finishing up their breakfasts. Jimmy gave me a great big smile and an equally big ‘good morning’ as I sat down next to him. I returned his a smile and good morning, as I did for the other two boys. Sarah poured me a nice big mug of coffee and sat down to finish her breakfast. I poured myself a bowl of cereal and after the boys disappeared the two of us sat quietly eating.

It wasn’t long before they decided to go to the park and shoot some hoops. They grabbed a basketball from the utility room and they were gone. After they left, I picked up the phone and dialled our office. When Larry answered, I asked to speak to Captain Harrison. Once I got him on the phone, I asked him if he knew the procedures for becoming a foster parent and/or adoption. At first, he thought I was joking, but once I convinced him I wasn’t, besides laughing and remarking about Jimmy getting to me, he said he would contact Mary Olfort, a social worker we knew, and get the ball rolling, as he put it. I thanked him and, as I hung up the phone, I got a big hug from Sarah.

As I sat down at the table to finish my coffee, I had to wonder if I knew what I was about to get myself into. I leaned back and stared at the ceiling for a minute or two before looking across the table at Sarah’s big smile, and just from that smile, I somehow knew things were going to work out fine. Plus, I had been watching Jimmy over the last few days and I don’t think I’ve seen a happier kid in my life. He fit right in and was enjoying every minute we were there. Not to mention, he appreciated every kind gesture sent his way. It made me wonder what he must have endured when simply sitting on the deck drinking a glass of juice or even doing dishes after dinner brought a smile to his face.

Captain Harrison phoned me two days later and told me that Mary had contacted Westchester social services. They had discovered no mention of a father or father’s name in any of their records, including his birth certificate. Their only concern was that I was a single male looking at fostering or adopting a gay boy. However, since they knew I was a well respected police officer of over ten years, and the Westchester police as well as Captain Harrison vouched for my character and reputation, they decided it wouldn’t be an issue. In fact, Mary already had all the paperwork together from Westchester and Riverdale. Knowing the right people proved to be very beneficial in this instance. All I had to do was sign a few documents when we got to Riverdale and I would be a foster father with the option to adopt. Can you say nervous wreck? Good, because that’s what I was at that particular moment.

On the last day we were there, more for my own reassurance that there was no dad to be found, I took Jimmy aside and asked him if, when we got back to Riverdale, he wanted me to help him find his dad. For the first time in the week, his smile disappeared.

He looked at me tearfully and said quietly, “I don’t have a dad.”

“Where were you going when I found you on the road then?” I asked him.

“I don’t know,” he replied, “Just away…away from the hurt.”

“Your mom never told you about your dad?” I asked.

“She never told me about anything,” he responded, “Besides, I don’t think she knew who my dad was anyway. It could have been anyone.”

“Okay now,” I said, “You need to think carefully about what I’m going to say next.”

“Okay,” he replied nervously.

“I know you don’t want to be in a group home, so if I knew of someone that wants you to live with them, what would you think about living in a foster home?” I asked.

He just looked into my eyes for a few seconds and his arms were wrapped so tightly around my neck I could hardly breathe.

“I didn’t say who,” I managed to choke out.

“You didn’t have to. I could see it in your eyes,” he responded, as he released his choke hold and looked into my eyes again.

“So you wouldn’t mind being a cop’s kid then,” I asked.

“Are you kidding?” he replied, “I’ve wanted you to be my dad since we were at the motel.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you cared about me,” he said, “Even after what I did and after I told you I was gay. And even after I told you about all the really bad stuff I’ve done.”

“I do care about you,” I said, “You’re a great kid and you deserve to be cared for and loved.”

He looked into my eyes again for a few seconds, grinning from ear to ear as tears rolled down his cheeks, before repeating his choke hold and whispering, “I love you…Dad.”

This time I did have a few tears as I whispered back, “I love you too…son.”

He did allow me to breathe again and we sat there for several minutes grinning at each other without saying a word…but words weren’t necessary.

 


Thanks to Colin for editing, prepping, and posting this story for me.