Volunteered (by Grant Bentley)

Volunteered

by Grant Bentley

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


Jackson experiences a rather interesting year.

He'd never been in trouble in his life before, and still wouldn't be if it hadn't been for the jerk he’d punched in the face telling him he needed to shut up and get a life. How was it any of his business that he’d complained about the length of the line-up for the club, or that he’d demanded the doorman move him to the head of the line like the important person he was? Like seriously. And how did he know the guy standing behind him was an off duty cop. I mean he’d offered to apologise right away, but he’d still been arrested for assault and assigned to appear before a judge.

Unfortunately for him, she was like Judge Judy and nailed his spoiled-brat ass. She told him he needed to do something meaningful and helpful for others and maybe, just maybe, it would help him become a decent human being instead of a demanding arrogant spoiled brat. You see, he’d been born eight years after his brother, and being the sweet little baby of the family, had lived a charmed life from day one. Then after hitting his teens he gave a whole new meaning to the word charmed.

The judge volunteered him for twenty days of community service. It was that or time in a youth detention centre. He was now on Sunday number twenty of serving food to the homeless in the Community Fellowship Hall. He had less than half an hour left and he was done. Then Riley came back to see if he could have seconds.

“May I have a second helping please?”  Riley asked holding out his plate.

“Yes of course. No problem,” Jackson replied.

A few minutes later the supervisor, Martha, asked, “Jackson, would you like to eat?”

“Yes please, and thanks.”

“Just grab a plate and help yourself.”

Jackson got his food and couldn’t think of a better place to sit than with Riley.

“May I sit here?”

“It's a free country.”

“My name's Jackson, what's yours?”

“It's Riley, but what do you care?”

“I don't have anything in common with the other people here.”

“And you think you do with me?”

“Well, we're both young.”

“Yeah and that’s about it. ‘Rich, I can do what I want,’ you and ‘poor, I have to beg for free food,’ me. So what's the deal?  Why are you here?”

“I punched some guy for telling me to shut up and get a life and the guy standing behind me was an off duty cop. I offered to apologise but I got arrested for assault. The judge gave me twenty days of community service serving food here in the Fellowship Hall.”

“Didn’t think you volunteered.”

“So what's your deal?  Why are you here?”

“I don't want to talk about it.”

“There’s a reason you said  ‘I have to beg for free food, me,’ so come on.”

“I don’t want to. I have enough shit going on without dealing with your hate filled attitude when I come for food.”

“Come on, please. I really want to know and I won’t hate you, I promise.”

"You're one lucky bastard. So what's it like to have a hot red convertible?"

"How'd you know?"

“I saw it in the parking lot and I can't imagine anyone else having one. And it looks like one I've seen at JP High.”

“You go to JP?  I thought I’d seen you before,” Jackson said before saying “Whoa, whoa, whoa, you’re changing the subject.” 

“Okay fine, if you really need to know, three weeks ago god told my mother to throw her worthless faggot son out. Apparently since I’m going to hell anyway he didn’t see a whole lot of point in her trying to raise me to follow in his footsteps.”

"Shit.”

“I’ve seen you in school and I knew you’d hate me when you found out. That's why I didn't want to tell you.”

“I didn’t say shit because you're gay. I said shit because your mother’s nuts.”

“So you don’t care?”

“My parents didn't exactly rejoice and throw a party for me when I came out, but they were pretty good about it.”

“Seriously? You’re gay and out?”

“Yeah, seriously, and my folks are cool about it. I'm sorry things have gone to hell for you. Is there any way I can help?”

“I don’t see how you can and I don’t need it anyway,” Riley replied, getting up and heading for the exit.

Jackson jumped up and caught him.

“Okay, I’ll leave it alone, but come back next Sunday, please.”

“Why should I?”

“Cause you’re cute and you go to JP.”

“Asshole … but yeah okay … I guess,” Riley said as he turned and left, making sure Jackson didn’t see his grin.

At closing time, not surprisingly, when the supervisor told Jackson he was now free and clear, he suggested that maybe he’d like to keep coming back and helping. Also not surprisingly, after glancing towards where Riley had gone, she smiled and replied she’d love to have him back whenever he wanted.

She noted the boys were a study in contrasts though, as Jackson seemed to have pretty well everything he could want, Riley seemed to just be trying to survive. Jackson had come a long way in twenty weeks though, and it seems the spoiled brat persona had all but vanished. He was certainly not the same guy Martha had met twenty Sundays ago.

Riley did come back. In fact for the next several weeks. He even let his guard down and the two of them talked and laughed together like old friends as they munched on their Sunday meals. Their conversation usually revolved around school, likes, dislikes, music, and stuff like that. And Jackson didn’t pry into what was going on in Riley's life, as the last thing he wanted to do was offend him.

However, as school approached with fall not far behind Jackson wondered how Riley would survive the cold weather. He was pretty sure that he had no place to go and was probably sleeping in the park or something. A guy didn't carry bags with all his stuff everywhere he went for nothing and he really wanted to help. He’d had a plan in the works for a couple of weeks. He’d even spoken with his parents about it.

After a somewhat chilly night, hoping they shared a couple, he started with, “What classes are you in next semester?”

“I'm registered for Bio, Physics, and English, with calculus first period.”

“That's the same as me. Maybe we can study together. We could get together at my place after school every day. Hey, you could even stay over whenever you wanted.”

“You mean kinda like move in with you? I don’t think that’s gonna happen.”

“Riley, please...”

“Okay, okay, sorry. Really, it's a kind offer, but how could I ever pay you back?”

“That’s not an issue.”

“What will your parents say?”

“We've discussed it already and they're fine with it.”

Just then Riley sneezed and coughed big time.

“Okay, that’s it!  You're coming down with something and you can’t spend another night out in the cold.”

“What cold? It’s not anywhere near cold out yet.” 

“Yeah well it will be. Come on … please.”

Riley hesitated for a bit even though deep down there was nothing he could think of that wanted more, and in minutes they were in Jackson’s car. They chatted back and forth and it wasn’t long before they turned up the driveway of a rather nice big old house and a garage door seemed to open automatically. When they got in the house Riley felt amazed as he looked around. The kitchen was open to the dining room and living room and he had to admit it was nicer than any house he'd ever been in.

As they crossed the kitchen, Jackson said, "Come on and I’ll find you some clothes I think will fit you. Then we'll get you warmed up, cleaned up and prettied up.”

While Riley was in the shower, Jackson found the best jeans, shirt, socks and briefs he could find. Not long after he was done, Riley came out of the bathroom and he wasn’t even wearing a towel and he gave Jackson a rather nice and complete view of his slender young body.

“Whoa! I think maybe you'd better get dressed before something happens that shouldn't.”

“I'm ready to do whatever you want.”

“Oh god Riley. Not that I don’t want to … oh god man … I meant maybe tutor me in physics and calculus.”

“Oops.”

“Riley I more than like you.  I've realized for some time that I care about you a lot. And yeah I want to make love to you, and you standing there in your nothingness isn’t helping … like really not helping … oh my god.”

Riley almost shed a tear before they had a quick hug and shared their first kiss. Riley's reaction was quite obvious since he was still naked. Jackson’s was a bit less obvious thanks to his jeans. Riley then hurried to get dressed before looking at Jackson and giggling at what was going through his mind.

Riley planted another quick kiss just as they saw lights coming up the driveway. They were soon interrupted by a text on Jackson's phone. His mom was asking if he’d made any headway with Riley and told him it would be a good time come down for cocoa and cookies. When he texted her that Riley was with him, they could hear her excitement all the way up the stairs.

“Riley, it's great to meet you.  You’re all that Jackson's talked about for ages.  He seems to be quite taken with you,” Jackson’s mom said as they came into the kitchen.

“Mom!” Jackson exclaimed.

“Thanks, Mrs. Wallace. It's a pleasure to meet you too,” Riley responded, as he gave Jackson a look and a smile.

“Please call me Joan,” she responded as she gave him a quick hug.

“And call me Ray,” Jackson's dad added as he shook Riley’s hand.

They then spent about forty five minutes visiting. The adults were friendly and relaxed and didn’t do the twenty questions thing with Riley or put him under a microscope, for which he was very grateful. They did ask his age and how he’d feel about them fostering him.

When after almost fainting at the request and thanking them half a dozen times, he agreed, and Ray simply said, “Good. I’ll see to getting it all sorted out.”

Then after a couple of hugs, as they left, Joan told them she would be making a hot breakfast in the morning.

“Not too early I hope,” Jackson said with a grin.

“OMG, you’re parents are willing to foster me?”

“Well yeah of course.”

“OMG, I never dreamed.”

“Of living with someone as cute as me?”

“Of you, your folks, a second chance. Of all of this. Oh yeah … and you wish.”

Naturally, video games were in order before bedtime. Later, when they went to bed, there were a lot of things on Riley’s mind. Jackson’s mom and dad knew they were both gay, knew they liked each other, knew they were in the same bed, and didn’t seem to mind. Okay, cool. They were also wearing only their briefs, and with Jackson’s arm touching his, Riley’s had started to feel quite tight, never mind that the next morning he didn’t know where they were. And for the first time in weeks he had felt warm and comfy and had slept very well.

Now that Jackson wasn’t only seeing Riley once a week for a meal on Sundays it was time to make him known to his crew. It seems the crew already knew a quite lot about him. They just hadn’t met him yet. First stop was Jay’s Café for a coffee. There Riley met Leon and Wes. They were probably Jackson’s closest friends and they had been a couple for two years. The four of them had a great chat and to say they were impressed with Riley would have been an understatement.

“You have no idea how much Jackson has changed. He’s like a different guy. No demanding, no bitching, no sneering, no strutting. Love it,” Leon said quietly when Jackson went up for coffee number three.

“He should have been sentenced to community service a couple of years ago,” Wes stated with a chuckle.

“Yeah but then he wouldn’t have met Riley,” Leon said laughing.

“Yeah,” Riley responded with a grin.

By the end of the day he had met Don, Jason, Josh, Ian, Carol, and Karla, and not surprisingly, it seems they all knew him quite well, except for what he looked like. Carol even took him aside and thanked him for bringing the old Jackson she’d known in middle school back.

The thing that continued was serving food at the Fellowship Hall every Sunday, and this time he had a partner working with him. Needless to say Martha was very happy and impressed for two reasons. Jackson’s chip had totally fallen off his shoulder and he was a joy to be around, and she knew Riley now had a home where he was looked after, safe, and loved.

It should be said too that it took Riley some time to adjust to the new lifestyle. Not that it had been all that bad before his mom asked him to leave, it was definitely a learning experience with Jackson. First off, he had a bunch of new friends, the crew, second off, he was very well looked after and lacked very little, and third off, he was learning a ton of new things, skateboarding, roller blading, volleyball, swimming, and a few things not to be mentioned. Needless to say he thoroughly appreciated everything. Plus Jackson’s parents loved him to bits, as did the crew.  

Of course it seems like before they knew it they were driving into the student parking lot at JP High, JP being Jasper Place. Oddly, as they walked up the walk and down the hall kids would step aside as if they were trying to avoid them, and when Jackson said hi to many of them he got some really strange looks.

“What happened to you?” a voice suddenly asked, “You just disappeared.”

When they turned, there was Warren, Riley’s one time next door neighbour.

“Hi,” Riley replied after a second or two, followed by, “I don’t think you want to know.”

Warren just grinned and replied with, “You mean she found out you’d prefer a boyfriend to a girlfriend? You know, someone like maybe Jackson here.”

“Uh yeah, kinda,” Riley responded as Jackson took his hand.

“You do know Jackson’s an asshole, right?” Warren asked.

“No he’s not,” Riley stated, “He’s been nothing but awesome as long as I’ve known him.”

“We’ll see,” Warren said as he looked at Jackson and grinned.

But see they did. Hell, to their surprize he became friendly with everyone. And when he saw two guys picking on a smaller guy he made it clear that if they didn’t leave him alone he have them turned into eunuchs. An hour or so later, after one of them found a dictionary, they decided to leave the guy alone.

It also wasn’t long before Warren, and Riley’s friends Kyle, and Greg became part of the crew. He also ran into a few other school acquaintances during the first few days. One of them was Adam who had apparently undergone some rather intense conversion therapy at a summer camp. After Riley introduced Jackson, Adam introduced Shemuel, who preferred Sam by the way. Oh, and Sam was now living with his brother and Adam was living with his uncle and aunt. Apparently finding each other during conversion therapy wasn’t one of their parents expectations, and they weren’t impressed.

Another bonus was when Jackson had mentioned they had the same courses, he hadn’t realized they would be at the same time with the same teachers. But they were, and that made learning at the same rate and studying together much easier. Plus one of the other things that impressed Jackson was that, unlike last year, the teachers didn’t seem to have an attitude when they spoke to him. He wondered why?

With school being school, every day was similar to the day before and before they knew it, it was Halloween. And on Halloween there must be a costume dance. The question was what to go as. It had to be a couple obviously. Going as Batman and Robin was too obvious and spending a lot of money to look cool somehow didn’t matter to Jackson this year. When Leon suggested they all go as zombies though, it was a go. After all there’d only be a dozen or so of them. Well, not quite. It seems it became more of a zombie dance than a Halloween dance as more than three quarters of the school had decided to come as zombies. And yes, fun was had by all.

But as they were walking home, they heard a thump and some rustling in the trees by the playground. When they looked over, it seems like they could see what looked like a figure, a figure hanging from a tree branch, and they ran over.

It was a figure. The figure of a rather small thirteen-year-old boy. Jackson immediately held him up while Riley took the rope from around his neck. When Jackson laid him down and sat by him he quickly began coughing.

It wasn’t long before he got his breath and asked, “Why? Why couldn’t you just leave me the fuck alone?”

“What? And watch you die? That wasn’t going to happen,” Riley stated as he sat down by the boy.

“But it won’t go away,” the boy stated.

“What?” Jackson asked.

“They’re all gonna hate me, especially my mom,” he added.

“Why?” Jackson asked, hoping the boy would start to make sense and say what was so wrong.

“Everyone’s gonna hate me,” he repeated.

“Please,” Riley said, “Why will they hate you? What’s so wrong?”

“Don’t you read the internet?” the boy asked, “I’m a faggot and everyone will hate me.”

“What? No they won’t,” Jackson said, “We’re gay and most everyone we know likes us.”

“Guys like the Family Research guys hate us and want us dead. Trump and Pence even speak at their meetings and they want us dead too,” he replied.

“Oh god kid,” Riley replied, “It doesn’t matter if you’re trans, gay, straight, bi, or whatever, a few people will still hate you … and they’re sure as hell not worth killing yourself over.”

“But my mom likes them,” the boy said, “They’re on her computer. So she’ll hate me.”

“Oh geez …” Jackson started looking at the boy.

“Tommy,” the boy added.

“Tommy, look, there’s no way we’re going leave you alone,” Jackson stated.

“I can’t just go home and pretend everything’s all cool. I can’t go on living this lie. I’m scared all the time,” he replied.

“And you know she’ll hate you?” Riley asked.

“Well she likes them and they hate me,” he replied.

“Look, we gotta do something,” Jackson stated, “How about we take you home, talk to her, and if there’s an issue, you can come with us. My dad will help you.”

“But I don’t want to,” Tommy replied.

“But what if you’re wrong and she still loves you?” Riley asked.

After about a half hour of repetitive discussion and argument they walked into the kitchen at his house. Since her son had come home with two zombies, at first she looked at them kinda puzzled. Then she looked more closely at Tommy, saw his neck, and freaked. She pulled him in to her, and burst into tears.

After a minute or two she pulled back and said, “Tommy, oh my god, Tommy. What did you do?”

“You’re gonna hate me,” he responded.

“You tried … oh my god … Tommy,” she managed.

“You’re gonna hate me,” he repeated.

“Hate you?” his mom replied, “Hate you? I could never hate you.”

“But I’m gay,” he stated, “Trump, Pence, and the Family Research guys hate me and they’re on your Facebook. You like them.”

“Oh god Tommy, I’m so sorry,” his mom said, “Yes they’re on my Facebook, but they’re there because sometimes I just need a good laugh. And sometimes it’s fun to see what the idiot sector has to say.”

“So you don’t like them?” Tommy asked.

“No, not exactly,” his mom replied.

“And you don’t hate me?” he asked.

“Honey I love you with all my heart and always will,” she responded.

At that moment he noticed Riley and Jackson watching them and pointed at them saying, “These guys stopped me.”

She looked at them smiled and said, “Oh god, thank you boys, I’ll never be able to repay you for what you’ve done.”

“You just did,” Riley stated.

“Yes you did,” Jackson said and followed up with, “Shouldn’t you see a doctor Tommy?”

“No, I’m fine, “ Tommy replied, “You guys didn’t even let the rope get tight.”

“Aw, sorry,” Riley answered laughing.

Then after some cookies, hot chocolate, and a lot of discussion, everyone was feeling a lot better, but as it was a tad late they were also all a tad tired. Once the discussion kinda concluded Riley and Jackson decided they should head home, and after several minutes saying bye, they were on their way.

“I never imagined Halloween could be this scary,” Jackson said as they wandered along the walk home.

“No kidding. That was way too scary. I felt totally lost back when, but I can’t imagine feeling that hopeless. ”

“I can’t believe what he tried to do either. He just about killed himself because he assumed his mom would hate him. He didn’t even talk to her.”

“Yeah, no kidding, and that is so scary. I think I’m ready to call this a night though before something else happens,” Riley said as he took off running with Jackson right behind him.

As they were getting ready for bed, Riley said that next Halloween he wasn’t leaving the house. Needless to say though, they had something to talk about for the next week or so. It brought up a lot of topics besides saving Tommy. Not surprisingly they discovered that their discussions proved to be far more beneficial to them than they ever could have imagined, and their friends. In fact many other discussions opened up that helped them and several friends realize things and deal as well.

“It’s funny how we see the guys every day. We laugh and joke and chat, yet haven’t got a clue about what’s going on with some of them half the time,” Riley said as they turned up their walk to their house.

“Yeah I know. It’s weird how the outside doesn’t always match the inside.”

“Look out!” Riley shouted as a small body suddenly landed on Jackson’s back and wrapped its arms and legs around him.

Jackson grabbed the arms, pulled the body up onto his shoulder, and found himself face to face with Tommy.

“Well hi there. You seem to be doing pretty good.” He stated.

“Great, yeah,” Tommy replied.

“And just how did you know where we live?” he asked.

“I followed you the other night,” Tommy replied laughing.

“Seriously?” Jackson asked.

“Well yeah. I mean you guys saved my life so I wasn’t going to let you get away,” Tommy replied with a grin.

Obviously he was invited in for some pop and a couple of handfuls of cookies, then some video games, and finally some basketball in the driveway before it was time for him to go home for dinner. After he left, Jackson couldn’t help but remark how he was one of the most active, sweetest, funniest, kids he had ever met, and he’d almost ended it all.

It also wasn’t long before they met Layton, Tommy’s boyfriend. It seems they had spent a considerable amount of time eyeing each other until finally Tommy got up enough nerve to say hi and invite him to A&W for a burger and fries, after which all was well. And naturally he had decided to take Layton over to see the boys, say hi, and to celebrate their two week anniversary. So a couple of handfuls of cookies, some video games, and some basketball in the driveway it was. And yes, Jackson and Riley saw quite a lot of Tommy and Layton, as did the crew. And yes again, the crew thought they were total sweethearts.

As time went on they’d been laying around groaning after eating too much on Thanksgiving, then they’d been zombies, then they’d saved a life, then they were standing in front of the memorial with their folks remembering those lost to war, and wondering why it had to be snowing with a 30mph wind, and then they were listening to incessant Christmas carols everywhere they went.

And what did they want for Christmas? They wanted all the money their folks had designated for their Christmas presents to be given to Martha and the Fellowship Hall for Christmas dinner and/or supplies for the homeless, many of whom they had gotten to know over the months. So outside of a few gifts they weren’t told about till Christmas morning, a donation it was. And to say Martha was rather pleased with their donation would have also been an understatement. In fact they both got a big kiss on the cheek and a big hug from her. They also spent a rather pleasant afternoon serving Christmas dinner to about 170 people the Sunday after. And guess who showed up to help? Tommy, Layton, their moms and Layton’s dad.

Of course there were 14 days of Christmas break, and they were 100 miles from the mountains, and the mountains had lots of snow, and the mountains had three ski hills, and Jackson, Riley, and the crew had to go to the mountains, and they had to go snowboarding, and Riley had never snowboarded before, and he had to take lessons, and he learned how, and he snowboarded, and then he discovered that if you’re afraid of heights ski lifts suck, but fun was had by all … even Riley.

And as for New Year’s Eve, let’s say a lot of homeless people have the moves and can dance like Jagger, as Jackson, Riley, Tommy, Layton, and the crew found out. When they weren’t helping they danced the night away with them at the Fellowship Hall. And yes, food was had by all. They even toasted in the new year … with orange juice.

Then, in the wee hours of the morning, after welcoming in the new year, and as they were cuddled up in bed together, Jackson laughed and said, “It’s funny how a guy can go from being a nice kid, to being an arsehole, to not being an arsehole anymore, to meeting someone somewhat cute, and living happily ever after, isn’t it?”

“No kidding,” Riley replied, “The right people at the right time can totally change your life, and so much more. Oh, and when was the last time you saw an eye doctor … somewhat cute?”

Then a couple of kisses and a couple of, “I love you”s, later the boys drifted off to sleep.

After celebrating New Year’s Day and studying their asses off for a couple of weeks they got to write final exams for semester one. Jackson actually ended up with an 87% average which kinda beat his 53% average from last June. Riley ended up with a 94% average so nothing was new there. Oh, and a couple of teachers congratulated Riley on Jackson’s marks, which he found funnier than Jackson did. Of course they both gave Jackson a pat on the back, told him they were proud of him, and to keep up the good work.

Then on to second semester where they got to enjoy Chemistry, Math, Social Studies, and a spare. Thankfully for Jackson they had Chemistry and Math together, so same times, same teachers, and same tutor.

About three weeks into the semester, as they were serving at the Fellowship Hall, a girl who appeared in the family way approached with a plate in her hand. About three feet from the servers’ table she slumped over and dropped to the floor. Jackson and Riley ran to her and knelt beside her to see if they could help. She was moaning and groaning and breathing funny. They carefully picked her up and Martha guided them to a couch where they laid her down. She kept sort of crying out in pain and breathing funny, and then seemed to be pushing, like in taking a big poop.

Then, “Holy shit,” Jackson exclaimed, “She’s having a baby.”

“Take her underwear off, take her underwear off. Quick,” Riley almost shouted.

“Holy shit. I see it. I see it. I see its head,” Jackson exclaimed a few seconds later.

“I’ll get some towels,” Martha said as she ran off to grab some, phone in hand.

“I got it,” Jackson exclaimed after several minutes of carefully supporting the baby as it came out.

“Hey, it’s a boy,” Riley called out as Jackson gave it a little pat on the feet and the sorta crying, snorting, and then breathing started.

“Ewww. And what am I supposed to do with this cord thingy?” Jackson asked.

“Nothing. Just leave it attached,” Riley told him.

Martha told them an ambulance was on the way as she brought some towels and they placed the little guy on mom.

“I think it supposed to be skin-to-skin,” Martha noted just as an EMT showed up and thankfully took over for them.

After some prep and fiddling around, the EMT’s, mom, and baby boy were on their way to Foothills Hospital. They’d made sure to give Jackson and Riley praises and congratulations as they left. They also got major praises from Martha and a dozen or so others who watched the spectacle.

So Jackson and Riley had found themselves delivering their first ever baby, a six pound seven ounce, kinda icky looking, baby boy.

Jackson just sat on the floor for about a minute of two afterwards before he looked up and said, “Holy shit. I sure as hell wasn’t ready for that. What’s next?”

“I don’t know and I don’t wanna know,” Riley replied, “OMG.”

Given a bit of a break while Jackson thoroughly washed his hands, they were back to serving food once again.

One guy grinned as he got his, saying, “You guys are too cool. So what you doing for next week’s entertainment?”

“I thought we’d do a neutering,” Riley replied laughing, “You wanna volunteer.”

“Considering all the fun I’ve been having lately I might as well,” the guy said laughing. Before turning to walk away with his food and adding, “But then again maybe not. Take care boys.”

“Take care,” they both replied.

An hour later they were on their way to Foothills Hospital with Martha right behind them.  A half hour later they were walking into Linda Grey’s room looking at a rather beautiful young lady holding a cleaned up and very cute little baby boy.

“Hi,” Jackson said as she turned to look at them, “I’m Jackson, this is Riley and Martha. We were there when your baby was born.”

“You’re the guys who delivered him, aren’t you,” she asked before adding, “Oh and I’m Linda by the way.”

“Well I’m not sure we delivered him,” Riley replied, “Jackson did keep him from falling on the floor though.”

“Thank you so much,” she stated, “I don’t know what else to say. Thank you.”

“So how you doing sweetie,” Martha asked.

“Good and not so good,” the girl replied, “Everything with JR and me is great. There’s just other stuff I have to deal with.”

“JR?” Martha asked.

“Yeah, Jackson Riley,” Linda replied, “I decided that as soon as the guys told me their names.”

“OMG, seriously?” Riley asked.

“Hey he’s always going to know who helped and who kept him from falling on the floor,” Linda replied laughing.

“Yeah, OMG, thank you,” Jackson said, “That is so cool. But I didn’t exactly do that much. He was coming out and he didn’t care who was holding on to him or trying to help.”

“Oh yeah, he wanted out, that’s for sure,” Linda said, adding, “Oh, and Jackson Riley Martha crossed my mind,” Linda said.

“Umm, maybe not,” Martha answered laughing.

“Okay, how about Jackson Riley Mart?” Linda asked, “That okay?”

“Aww thank you,” Martha said before asking, “And you said you have stuff to deal with?”

“Sort of yeah. My boyfriend decided he didn’t want to be a father and forced me to leave a couple of days ago,” Linda replied.

“Where are you staying,” Martha asked.

“Nowhere at the moment,” she replied, “But as soon as they can my parents are coming and I’m going home with them. Sadly they live way across the country.”

“How long are they keeping you here?” Martha asked.

“Till tomorrow,” Linda replied.

“Do you know what time?” Martha asked.

“Three in the afternoon,” Linda replied.

“Okay. I’ll be here,” Martha replied, “I haven’t listened to a baby cry for twenty years. Hell I even have a bassinette in the attic. It might need new little blankets though.”

“Seriously? You don’t mind us staying with you for a bit?” Linda asked.

“Not at all,” Martha replied, “I think it’ll be fun.”

“Thank you so much,” Linda said.

Two weeks after moving in with Martha there was a knock on their door. When Linda answered the door, it was her dad and mom. Her dad had talked to his boss, had taken his holidays early, and they had driven 3800 miles to pick up their daughter and grandson. Linda nearly lost it as she threw her arms around her dad and then her mom. Martha had a big dinner planned including Jackson and Riley the next evening. Oh and the little guy’s official name was Jackson Riley Mart Grey.

The big dinner was a brilliant gourmet event. Apparently Martha could cook. Jackson, Riley, Martha, Linda, her mom and dad, and Jackson Jr. had an amazing time together, and Linda’s parents couldn’t have been more grateful. After a fairly teary goodbye Jackson and Riley had to head home about 11:00, school tomorrow. Then after a second teary goodbye the next morning, Martha waved as Linda, Jackson Jr. and her folks started the long drive home.

Not surprisingly, or surprisingly, but definitely gratefully, most everything went on as per usual from there on, going to school, serving on Sunday, and hanging out with the crew. The most exciting thing was Tommy and Layton becoming Tommy and Greg, soon accompanied by their close friends Layton and Michael. Yep, young love at its best.

Did I say everything went on as per usual … sorry. Jackson and Riley were having a nice quiet day and they decided to walk along the footpath by the river, you know, relax and listen to the river. Not too long after rounding a corner a blue truck came flying towards them at what seemed like a hundred miles an hour. Both boys leapt from the footpath with just seconds to spare as it flew by. Right behind it was a police car. They just lay there on the ground for several seconds.

“Holy fuck!” Riley exclaimed, “What the hell?”

“OMG,” was about all that Jackson could say.

In answer to, “What the hell?” It seems the news that evening mentioned a twelve-year-old girl along with her friend deciding to take her dad’s truck for a spin. All was good until she noticed a police car flip its lights on behind her. She decided that since she was driving a truck, she could off-road it and lose the police car, cause cars can’t do off road. Maybe yes, maybe no, but either way it seems that a fifteen foot wide footpath isn’t exactly off-road. Not to mention, “Holy fuck!” when she pushed the gas pedal to the floor. That being just a bit before Jackson and Riley chose to quickly leave the footpath.

“Geez I hope nobody else is on the path,” Riley said just as they heard a rather big splash a ways down the path.

They both just looked at each other as Jackson said, “Should we go take a look?”

“Yeah I think so,” Riley said, “Like just in case someone got hurt.”

About five minutes later they walked part way around a corner. The police car was stopped on the footpath and the truck was about ten feet out in the river with water almost up to the windows. They stopped and watched for a few minutes as the policeman waded out into the river and brought the girl driving to shore before he headed back to get the other one. As soon as they were sure both were okay they decided to turn and continue their walk.

“I don’t think we need to get involved in that,” Jackson said.

“Yeah, no kidding,” Riley replied, “There’s not much we could do anyway. Besides, they’re okay and all we did was jump for our lives and that might make it worse for them, what with nearly killing us.”

“You did say, ‘nice quiet walk, right’?” Jackson asked.

“Well the first part was,” Riley replied laughing.

“I need a Coke, a burger, fries, chocolate cake, and some lemon meringue pie,” Jackson stated and they turned and headed through the trees towards Murphy’s Lunch Counter.

For sure the year had indeed been interesting, and nothing would be the same, ever. Jackson had realized he’d been a spoiled demanding brat and made almost everyone’s life miserable. He’d met Martha and come to know, care about, and help many homeless people. He’d met, come to know, and fallen madly in love with Riley, a homeless boy. Then, he and Riley helped save a young boy from committing suicide and gained a close friend. Then they had a baby named after them after they, well mostly Jackson, had helped deliver him. Finally they nearly got hit by a twelve-year-old driving her daddy’s truck, but Jackson wasn’t sure if that counted. It did trigger the trip to Murphy’s though.

At any rate, he and Riley made it to the end of the year … together and alive … and it had all basically started thanks to a Judge Judy think-alike.

The End



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