The Man from Swift Current
© 2011 Russ Nielsen
All Rights Reserved




Chapter 58: Road Trip

Rick lay awake listening to Glenn's breathing.   His thoughts followed the emotional roller coaster he had been on all week.   Rick had tried to be strong and not let Glenn see just how much he was worried about leaving Glenn alone.   As it was, Glenn was not handling his upcoming deployment very well.   His thoughts returned to the beautiful young man who had become his lover.   Glenn's blond hair tickled his chin as Glenn shifted in his sleep.

Rick thought, "No one has ever placed so much trust in me as Glenn has.   He is almost childlike in that he trusts me to always take care of him.   I've never had anyone so completely place their emotional and physical well being in my hands.   It's almost overwhelming, sometimes, to think that he loves me so much that he trusts me with his heart and soul.   When he sleeps, he likes to lay his head on my chest.   He says it's because I make him feel so safe and warm.   Thinking of warm, I'm going to really miss the warmth of his body next to mine.   I thought the fantastic sex would be what I would miss most; but I'm really, really going to miss Glenn's smile and his laughter that seems to always add light and sparkle to my life.   He makes me feel so alive!  

"Leaving him behind will be the hardest thing I will have ever done in my life!   Yesterday, I spent nearly an hour telling Ben everything he needs to do to watch over Glenn.   Ben finally told me everything would be okay and to relax a little.   I want to let Glenn sleep; but I also want to leave Glenn with happy memories of this morning not just the emptiness that will come when I leave."

Rick shifted Glenn so he could see his face and gently began kissing the slightly smiling lips of his lover.

I was dreaming that Rick was kissing me and I was really getting turned on.   As I started to wake up, I found it wasn't a dream at all!  I opened my eyes and looked into my lover boy's face as he stopped kissing me.   What a way to wake up!  

Rick said, "Good morning."

I looked into his eyes as I said, "Good morning to you, too!   I love waking up to your kisses."

Rick smiled and said, "I'm sorry to wake you up so early; but I wanted us to have time for me to make love to you this morning before I have to leave.   I didn't think you would object."

I grinned back at my lover boy, "No, I certainly don't object in the least."

There was no need for words as we expressed our love for each other.   Afterwards, we fell asleep, again, because the next thing I remember was Rick kissing me, again.   "Wake up, Babe.   We need to get showered."

 I slowly opened my eyes to look into his eyes.   He pressed his lips to mine and began kissing me very passionately.   When he stopped, I said, "Lead me to the shower, sweetheart."

"My pleasure, Mr. Nielson," Rick said.   Rick rolled off of me and pulled me to my feet.   We took a nice long shower together.   Then we helped each other get dressed.

Rick looks so handsome in his fatigues.   Of course, seeing him looking so good had things moving down below!   Rick laughed, "You'd better finish getting dressed or I won't be able to leave on time!"

I smiled, "I just wanted you to see what you do to me in the morning!"

Rick grabbed me and gave me a hug before helping me get dressed.   "I love you so much, Glenn."

"I know you do.   Let's go see who is awake this morning," I said.

We walked into the kitchen to find breakfast already on the table.   Grandma smiled as we sat down, "Good morning, boys!"

"Good morning, Grandma," I said.  

Rick echoed my greeting, "Good morning, Grandma."

Grandpa and Ben joined us.   "Good morning, everyone," Grandpa said.

We chorused our "Good mornings" in return.

"Let's say grace," Grandpa said.   He proceeded to say grace, asking God to bless Rick during his deployment and to watch over me in Rick's absence.

I squeezed Rick's hand, "Thank you, Grandpa.   I'm truly blessed to have a wonderful family to help me while Rick's gone."

Ben said, "Yes, you're really lucky to have such a great guy as myself as your cousin!"

Rick laughed, "Yes, Ben, you're right, and Glenn needs to learn to appreciate you more."

I knew I was being teased so I replied, "Well, I guess someone has to keep Ben out of trouble; so I volunteered!"

Ben grinned, "I don't think so, cousin.   I seem to remember it was I who was watching over you at school your senior year."

"I agree.   You did a great job of making me part of your group of friends.   You guys made me feel welcome and I had a great time," I said.

Ben nodded and said, "I just wanted to set the record straight.   I plan to do the same thing for you next year.   We do have a change of plans, however."

I looked at Ben with a puzzled look, "What's changed?"

"Kyle won't be sharing an apartment with us.   His parents need him to help out with their family business for a while until his dad recovers from his surgery.   So I've found someone else to take his place," Ben explained.

"Who's that," I asked.

"His name is Fernando Hernandez.   He's from Panama.   We call him Frank.   He seems like a good guy and he roomed with Takaaki last semester," Ben said.

"Cool!   We'll certainly be international with two Canadians, a Panamanian and a Japanese living in the same apartment.   How is their English?" I asked.

Ben grinned, "Passable; but they both tend to say some pretty funny things!   Taka, that's Takaaki's nickname, always says, "I can't afford my money" when he doesn't have any cash!   When I heard him say it the first time, I wasn't sure what he meant."

Grandma said, "It sounds like you will have an opportunity to learn about other cultures."

Ben replied, "Yes, we will.   I'm looking forward to next year."

Rick said, "I expect that you both will keep me posted as to what you're doing."

"You bet we will," Ben said.   "I'm sure that Glenn will be doing most of that, though.   I'm not much of a writer, and I certainly don't use the cell phone much, either.   My parents complain that I don't keep in touch with them like I should."

We finished eating breakfast and we all pitched in to clean up the kitchen.   Rick retrieved his duffle bag from our room and sat it by the door.   He turned and took me by the hand, and led me back into our bedroom.   He hugged me really tight and gave me one of his million dollar kisses!   This is the moment I had been dreading since the day Rick came home with the bad news about his deployment.   I still don't know how I'm going to survive without my lover boy. 

The tears were falling down both our cheeks as Rick said, "I love you, Glenn.   Be strong for me, okay?"

I was so choked up I couldn't speak so I just nodded my head as I tried to get control of my emotions.

Rick put his hand under my chin and lifted my face, so he could kiss me again.  "I've got to go, Babe," he said.   He pulled me close and I leaned against him with my head on his chest.

After a few moments, I pulled back so I could see his eyes and said, "I love you, Rick.   I'll be waiting for you when you return.   Don't forget to keep your promise to stay in touch with me if you are able."

Rick smiled, "Yes, sir!"

Rick knew that he could get me to smile with that cocky response!  "Alright, you wise guy!   I love you," I said, releasing Rick.

Rick kissed me one more time, then led me back out to the front door where everyone else was waiting to say good-bye.   Kerry and Keith had come upstairs as well.   Everyone gave Rick a hug and wished him well.

We followed him out to his car.   He gave me one last kiss before he got in and started the engine.   We waved to him as he pulled out of the parking lot and drove through the gate and turned onto the street.  Watching Rick's car disappear around the corner just about wiped out any control I had over my emotions; as the reality of his absence in my life hit me hard.   It was like I had been sucker punched.   I felt it in every fiber of my being.   The tears were coursing down my cheeks by this time.  

Ben put his arm around my shoulders, "Glenn, we need to go back inside."   I let him lead me back inside and up to our condo.   The rest of the family followed us inside.   Ben escorted me back to my bedroom so I could compose myself in private.   "Take some time to get yourself together.   We'll be waiting in the front room."

I gave Ben a weak smile, "Thanks, Ben."

Ben smiled back at me, "Cheer up, dude!   We've got an adventure to plan.   You're not going to have time to pine for your sweetheart; because I'm going to make sure you're so busy, you won't even notice he's gone.   Then he'll be back in your arms before you know it."

I laughed at the thought of Ben trying to keep me that busy, "I hope you're right; because it's going to take a lot to keep me going right now."

Ben put out his hand for a high-five, "That's my mission in life, Glenn.   Rick made me promise to keep you from missing him too much.   That man really loves you.   He spent a good hour telling me how to take care of you!  I finally had to tell him that I knew you pretty well; and that I knew what I needed to do to keep you going."

I slapped Ben's hand in the high five he wanted.   Ben left the room, closing the door quietly behind him.   I got up and went into our bathroom.   I looked in the mirror and saw my red eyes; and the streaks my tears had left on my face.   Boy!   Rick hasn't even been gone 30 minutes, yet, and I'm already a basket case!   I splashed cold water on my face and tried to make myself look presentable.

I found my family in the front room talking quietly.   Ben looked up from the conversation he was having with Keith.   "Cousin, we need to get our list of supplies completed so Grandpa can take us shopping," Ben said.

Ben and Keith got up and followed me into the kitchen.   Keith said, "Do you have some paper and a pencil?"

"Look in the top drawer next to the phone," I said.

Keith pulled open the drawer indicated and pulled out a notepad and a couple of pencils.   He handed each of us a piece of notepaper and a pencil.

We sat down at the table and started making out our lists.   Ben pulled a list out of his pocket he had already put together.   He sat down next to me, "Look at this list.   Did I miss anything?"

I read over his list and then started to add a couple of more things.   "There I think that should do it.   What do you think?"   I handed the list back to Ben; who looked it over.

"That should do it," Ben replied.

Keith looked up from the list he was making, "Let me see your list."   Ben handed him our list.

Keith looked it over and made some additions to his own list.   "Thanks, guys.   I think we're ready."

We walked back into the front room and handed our lists to Grandpa to review.

 "Here are our lists, Grandpa," I said, handing mine to Grandpa as did Keith.

Grandpa looked over the lists and reached out his hand for the pencil, which I handed to him.   He made a couple of additions and said, "I think those are good lists.   Let's go pick this stuff up."

We left the condo and spent the rest of the morning shopping.   Grandpa had one more surprise for us.   We pulled into the Land Rover dealership in Buckhead.    As soon as we had gotten out of our cars, several salesmen approached us.   Grandpa ignored them and entered the dealership.    He gave the receptionist his name.   The receptionist made a phone call.  Soon, a very well dressed older gentleman appeared and greeted Grandpa.

"Chris, how are you doing?" he said.

"I'm doing great!   Thanks for seeing me on such short notice," Grandpa said.

"Not a problem.   Who is the lucky young man who will be getting a new Land Rover today?" he asked.

Grandpa pointed at me, "Let me introduce you to my grandson, Glenn.   This is Mr. Carpenter.   He will be helping you choose a new Land Rover to take on your trip."

I was totally stunned!   I never dreamed that Grandpa would buy me a new car, let alone a Land Rover.   Keith and Ben were just as excited as I was.   Kerry was happy for me; but cars aren't her thing.   The guys sat with me as we poured over the different options available.   After a brief discussion with Grandpa, we decided what we wanted.   I say, we, because I'm not into cars; but Keith and Ben are, and had lots of advice.

Grandpa voiced his approval, "Good job boys.   Mr. Carpenter, do you have a Land Rover on the lot that fits the specifications the boys have outlined?"

"Yes, we do.   I will call and have it brought out front for you to test drive," he said.

"Thank you," Grandpa said.

A few minutes later, the new Land Rover was parked out front; and Mr. Carpenter invited all of us to inspect the vehicle.   Keith and Ben popped open the hood to examine the engine; while I climbed into the front seat and listened as Mr. Carpenter explained where everything was located.   He also demonstrated some of the special features of the vehicle.   Kerry and Grandma expressed their appreciation for the spaciousness of the back seat, and how comfortable it was.   Keith and Ben seemed satisfied with what they saw in the engine compartment.   Mr. Carpenter handed me the keys, and invited Grandpa to join me in the front seat so we could take the car out for a test drive.  

I drove around Buckhead and returned to the dealership.   Grandpa asked, "What do you think?"

"I love it, Grandpa.   Thank you so much!" I replied.

"Good.   Let's complete the paperwork to make it yours," Grandpa said.

While Grandpa paid for the car and filled out the paperwork, we looked at some of the other vehicles on the lot.   As we returned to the showroom, Grandpa signaled for me to join him.   "You need to sign these documents, since the car belongs to you," he said.

Once I'd signed the documents, Grandpa made out the check, completing the sale.  Mr. Carpenter returned and said, "I will have the car detailed and the tags put on.   It will take about 30 minutes to complete."

Grandpa said, "We'll grab lunch while you take care of the car.   We'll see you in an hour or so."   Turning to the rest of us, he said, "Follow me.   I want to take you to a nice French restaurant near here."

We piled back into our cars and followed Grandpa to the Soleil Restaurant.   The wait staff seated us on the outdoor terrace, where we enjoyed a nice lunch.   The food was good, but I was amazed at the prices!   I'll have to remember to bring Rick here for a romantic evening out; but it will have to be a one-time thing because of the cost!   I shouldn't have thought about Rick, because it instantly brought tears to my eyes.   Damn!   I thought I was doing so well!   Just at that moment, I felt my cell phone vibrate in my pocket.   I excused myself from the table and walked over to Grandpa's car as I answered the call.

"Glenn, I'm at the airport with my unit," Rick said.   Hearing his voice made me miss him even more!

I was a little choked up, so I didn't' speak at first.   "Glenn, are you there?" Rick asked anxiously.

I answered as best I could, "Yes, I'm here Rick.   I was just thinking about you when you called."

"I was thinking about you, too, sweetheart.   I'm flying to Germany.   Where we go from there, I can't say right now," Rick said.

"Take some photos for me," I said.

"I will.   I just wanted to let you know where I was going; so you wouldn't worry," Rick said.

"I love you," I said.

"8-3-1-4," Rick replied.  

"Did someone just come up to you?" I asked.

"Yes," Rick replied.

"Call when you can," I said.

"I will.   Bye for now," Rick said.

"Bye," I replied.

I returned to the table.   Kerry looked at me and asked, "That was Rick wasn't it?"

"Yes, it was.   He's headed to Germany with his unit," I replied.

Grandma said, "He will like Germany.   We love traveling there.   The people are so friendly, and there are so many things to see and do."

Grandpa said, "It's time to return to the dealership.   We have things to do this afternoon."

He paid the bill and we followed him back to the dealership.   As we entered the dealership, Mr. Carpenter greeted us.

"The car is ready.   Here are the keys, young man.   Congratulations!" he said.   He turned to Grandpa, "Thank you, Chris, for doing business with us."

He shook our hands and we left.   Ben and I drove the Land Rover home.

Ben said, "You're one lucky guy!   I can't believe your Grandpa just bought you a new car!"

I grinned, "Well, believe it; because it's true.   You and I are going to tour in style!"

Ben laughed, "And I won't have to walk everywhere anymore.   Dad wouldn't let me have a car at school.   He said I didn't need it since I was living in the dorms and had a generous meal plan."

"I know what you mean.   Since Rick had a car, I didn't need one until now.   I'm glad Grandpa is helping me.   I know that Mom and Dad don't have the money to pay for college for me.   I'm not sure what Dad will say when I tell him Grandpa bought me a car," I said.

Ben grimaced, "I know how your dad feels about taking handouts from people.   He's not going to be happy."

"I know!   I'm going to ask Grandpa to tell my parents; so I won't have to listen to Dad's tirade about being a self-made man; and how I need to stand on my own two feet.   He has a lot of pride, and he's fiercely independent," I said, thinking I was in for a lecture when I next talked to Dad.

We arrived at the condo and I parked the car where Rick used to park.   We waited for everyone else to arrive.   They helped us pack everything into the Land Rover; so we could leave first thing in the morning.

Keith and Kerry packed their car as well.   Satisfied that we had everything we might need, we rode up in the elevator with Grandpa and Grandma to our floor.

Grandpa asked me to follow him into the front room, "Glenn, we need to decide what to do with your condo."

"Rick and I have already made arrangements for a couple of our friends to rent it while we're gone," I said.

"Are they college students?" Grandpa asked.

"Yes, they are a newlywed couple we met through our neighbors downstairs.   They were looking for a place to live and Keith and Kerry suggested they talk to Rick and me about renting our condo," I said.

Grandpa said, "I'd like to meet them before you let them move in."

"Sure.   I'll call them right now.   I'll invite them for dinner so you can get to know them," I said.   I made the call and Tab and Ann accepted my invitation to dinner.

The rest of the afternoon, Ben helped me box up our stuff so I could put it in the storage unit downstairs.   I'd already packed most of my stuff.   Rick took care of his things before he left.   Tab and Ann arrived as scheduled.   We had a nice meal together.   Grandpa agreed that they were a nice couple, and approved of our choice of renters.

I gave them the keys to the place, and went over a few things with them before they left for the evening.    I played the piano for Grandpa before I decided to retire for the evening.   I had been in my room for about an hour, crying my eyes out, when I heard a soft tap on my door.   I tried to get control of myself as I got out of bed.

I crossed the room and opened the door.   Ben walked in, clad in his boxer shorts.   "I thought you might need some company tonight."

"Yeah, I guess I do," I replied.

Ben said, "By the looks of you, you're in pretty bad shape.   Jump back in bed.   I'll spend the night with you tonight.   Just remember I'm NOT Rick!"

I laughed, "No, you're not Rick.   Thank you for being here, Ben."

We climbed into bed and I tried to get to sleep.   It wasn't long before I heard Ben's regular breathing.   Ben always could sleep almost anywhere!   Just having him close gave me some comfort.   I feel so lonely.   I looked over at the night stand just as my cell phone beeped.

I picked it up and flipped it open.   Rick had sent me a text message, "I love you.  I know you're awake, feeling lonely; because that's how I'm feeling right now.   Get some sleep!  8-3-1-4."

Just that little message helped!   I sent back a message, "Love you.   I'm going to sleep.   Promise!"

I held the phone close to my heart as I pulled the blanket up around my shoulders and managed to fall asleep.

Ben woke me up the next morning.   "Wake up, sleepy head.   We need to get ready to go."

Ben had stripped out of his boxers and was sporting a major woody this morning.   I'd forgotten how good looking my cousin is.   He laughed as he saw me looking him over.

"Boy, Glenn, you sure are gay!   If I wasn't your cousin, I'd be worried about you trying to jump my bones!"   Ben exclaimed, jokingly.

That caused me to blush, "I'm sorry, Ben.   It's just that I've not seen you naked since we graduated.   You've added a lot of muscle in all the right places!   Being on the hockey team has done you a lot of good in that department."

"Yes, it has.   Well, you'd better get used to seeing me naked; because I like to run around this way in the dorms.   I figured if someone wants to look, let them," Ben said as he headed to the bathroom.   I heard the shower running as he started singing.

I'd forgotten about that too.   Ben can't carry a tune; but he sure loves to sing in the shower!   Ben had really filled out since last year.   He is in top physical condition and looks great!   Wow!   I'm sure we're going to have hoards of adoring girls in our apartment, trying to get his attention!   Ben finished his shower and came back wearing a towel wrapped around his waist.

Ben smiled as he caught me checking him out, again, "Man, you've got to stop that stuff.   I know I'm the best looking guy around; but I can't have my cousin hitting on me, okay?"

"I know, but I can't help but appreciate the handsome guy you've become," I said.  

It was Ben's turn to blush.   "That's quite a compliment, coming from you, cousin.   I've seen Rick and I don't even compare to him."

I laughed, "You're right about that.   I've been very spoiled by having the best looking guy on earth as my partner.   But before you go putting yourself down, Ben, you are a very good looking guy; and if I weren't your cousin, I would surely try to get you to be my boyfriend!"

Ben laughed, "You wouldn't succeed!   I'm not into guys.   I'm hoping that you can help me find a new girlfriend.   I'm so shy around girls; I feel like I've become a social hermit.   The guys on the team have tried to set me up with a couple of girls; but all they want is sex, and I want to have a relationship that will last.   I want what you and Rick have in your relationship.   I've watched you two, since I arrived, and the love you have for each other is very evident.   In fact, it gave me goose bumps when Rick started telling me how to take care of you.   No one has ever cared that much for me, except my parents; and that's not the same."

"Yes, we love each other very much," I said.

"You need to get in the shower, Glenn.   Keith and Kerry will be here shortly," Ben said, as he opened the door and went to his room to get dressed.

I quickly showered and got dressed.   I carried my suitcases to the door and went into the kitchen where Grandma had already made breakfast for us.   Keith and Kerry were already there, as were Ben and Grandpa.   Grandpa said grace, as usual, and we ate quickly, as we excitedly talked about our trip.   Grandpa and Grandma saw us off.   We promised them to drive safely and to call when we arrived at each stop on our itinerary.

We spent the next ten days playing tourist.   Ben and I got to see some of the famous places in U.S. history.   Ben's favorite place was New York City.   I have to admit, it was mine, too.   Keith and Kerry wanted to take in a couple of Broadway plays; so we decided to spend more time there instead of moving further north to Boston.   We all agreed that next time we would make sure to visit Boston.

Ben and I bid farewell to Keith and Kerry.   They headed south to Atlanta and we headed west on Interstate 80.   My excitement grew as we approached Buffalo after nearly 8 hours of driving and 650 kilometers (about 400 miles) of driving.   We had stopped only for gas; and to grab a bite to eat at lunch time.  

Ben glanced over at me, "You're excited to see our family, aren't you?"

"Yes, I'm very happy to be going home," I agreed.   "I love Grandpa and Grandma and certainly, I love Rick; but I miss being with Mom and Dad and the rest of the family."

It took us about an hour to make it across the Peace Bridge and into Canada.  Ben followed the Queen Elizabeth Way to St. Catharines.   When we reached our exit, we jumped off it and navigated through St. Catharines to Uncle Carl's house on Guy Road.   We pulled into Uncle Carl's driveway and were greeted by a huge banner hung across the front of the house that read, "Welcome Home Ben and Glenn!"

Seeing the banner brought tears to my eyes.   I looked at Ben, "See? I told you we have the best family in the whole world."   I smiled and jumped out of the Land Rover and ran over to give Mom and Dad a huge hug.    Then I hugged Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary.

"I've missed you guys so much," I said. "I just wish Nancy and Cynthia could be here as well."

Aunt Mary replied, "They wanted to come with us, but they still have a couple of weeks of school left before graduation.   They are very excited that you will be there to see them graduate."

By this time, Ben had come up behind me.  Aunt Mary hugged Ben and gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Welcome home, son."  

Uncle Dave was next.   He greeted us both with a hug. "Welcome home, boys."

Just then, I saw my brother, Randy, and his partner, Shawn.   I threw my arms around Randy's neck and hugged him tight.   "Thank you for coming, Randy.   I love you so much," I said through my tears of happiness.

"We wouldn't have missed coming.  Shawn insisted that we needed to be here for you," Randy said, smiling at his husband.

Shawn nodded his agreement, "Yes, I insisted we come."  Shawn smiled and took me into a close embrace.   "Everything will work out for you, brother-in-law.   You just have to be patient."   Shawn kissed me on the cheek and released me.

Randy and Shawn helped me and Ben get our things out of the Land Rover.   As we entered the house, Aunt Hannah called out, "Put your things in the spare bedroom, boys."

We moved down the hall and into the spare bedroom.   Randy said, "You guys get to stay in here with me and Shawn."

I looked around and saw that Uncle Carl had put up two full-sized beds in the room and had moved the dressers into the closet to make room for them.   It was cozy; but that was okay by me.

"Mom and Dad are staying across the hall and Uncle Dave and Aunt Mary opted to stay with Uncle Gordon and Aunt Sylvia in Fenwick," Randy said.

I shivered at the memory of what had happened to me in their home, Randy noticed, "Are you okay, Glenn?"

"I'm fine.   It was just a bad memory," I said, smiling back at my brother.   "Nothing I want to dwell on.   Are you guys going camping with us?"

Shawn answered, "Yes, we wouldn't miss it!   I love being out in the woods, away from the city!"   He smiled broadly and hugged Randy.   "I especially like hanging around with Randy when we're out camping."

Randy grinned, looking at his partner. "You just like sleeping in the same sleeping bag with me!"

Shawn's smile got even bigger, if that is possible. "Of course!   I have every right to enjoy my husband's company!"

Randy sat down on the bed pulling Shawn with him, "You can enjoy my company right now!"   Randy kissed him passionately.  

Watching them making out made me so horny I thought I would pop.   Before I embarrassed myself, I grabbed Ben's arm and said, "Come on, Ben.   Let's leave these two to enjoy each other's company!"  

I pulled Ben out of the room and back into the kitchen where all of the adults had gathered around the table.   Aunt Hannah had supplied everyone with their favorite beverage and the table was covered with all kinds of snacks.   As we pulled up chairs to join the crowd, the conversation continued.   It seems that the adults wanted to go over to Niagara-on-the-Lake for the day.

I spoke up, "You know, we just visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore where the British tried to take the city.   Maybe we could tour Fort George.  Then, we could have lunch at one of those cafes on Queen Street."

Uncle Dave said, "I think that's great idea.   I wouldn't mind touring the old fort, again.   It's been such a long time since we last went there.   Then we could spend the afternoon and evening down at the falls."

Aunt Mary said, "I would love to eat at the Skylon Tower Revolving Dining Room.   It's got a great view and the food is good."

"We will need to call ahead to get reservations there," Uncle Carl said.   "It's the peak tourist season right now and it will be packed."

"You're right, of course.   I'll call right now," Aunt Hannah said.  She picked up the phone as Uncle Carl looked up the telephone number.

Dad looked across the table at me. "I'm glad you suggested touring the old fort.   Your Uncle Dave and I used to play army games when we were kids; and the fort was a great place to act out some of our battles."

Uncle Dave nodded, "We sure did have some great times there.   Mom and Dad would take us for picnics at the old fort and let us play until it got dark."

Uncle Carl said, "Yes, you two were always getting into trouble, too; dreaming up all kinds of crazy stunts to pull!"

"We weren't the only ones, dear brother," Dad said, grinning.   "Boys, don't think for a moment that your Uncle Carl wasn't in the thick of things with us.   In fact, he was just as often the instigator of our little pranks as the two of us!"

I loved hearing the three brothers talk about their time together when they were little.   It always reminded me of how happy we were to get together with them and their families.   They continued to reminisce and share with us the memories of their childhood.   It was a happy one for all three of them.

When the snacks had all but disappeared, Aunt Hannah pulled out more and refreshed everyone's beverage.   Most of the adults were drinking coffee but Ben and I had opted for sodas, instead.   There was something about drinking coffee that just didn't seem right at that time of day!   Of course, I hate the taste of coffee anyway; so I'm not the best person to ask about coffee.

Randy and Shawn came into the kitchen holding hands; and both had big smiles on their faces.   Randy asked, "Is anyone up for a quick game of soccer at the park across the street?"

I replied, "Sure.   Ben, are you up for it?"

Ben said, "Yes.   I need to get some exercise after spending the last week or so eating everything in sight!"

Randy looked over at my Dad and his brothers, "How about you old guys?"

Dad smiled and said, "Sure, as long as you young folks are evenly split between the two teams to make it fair."

Uncle Carl laughed, "Yeah, you young bucks will just have to learn a trick or two from us.   Let's go.   I've got the equipment in the garage."

Uncle Dave agreed to play joining Uncle Carl as he left the kitchen, "Indeed, we will have to teach you boys how to really play soccer."

We young guys looked at each other and laughed at the same time.   "Okay, guys let's go!" Randy exclaimed.  

Aunt Hannah smiled at us and said, "We will grill some hamburgers when you guys return from your game.   Go have some fun with your Dads and your uncles"

We crossed the street and moved to the soccer field to play.   We quickly set up the cones and recruited a couple of guys who were kicking around a soccer ball.   We formed two teams that were pretty evenly matched.  Ben and I ended up on the same team while Randy and Shawn went to the opposing team.

Ben and I played forward and Uncle Carl played goalie.   Randy managed to score on us during the first few minutes of the game.   That really got us going!  

Ben shouted, "We can't let them win!    Let's even the score!"

Shawn responded, "Let's see you try!   You know that we're going to win; so don't even try!"

It felt good to get out and do some exercise.  The ball came my way as Ben passed it off to me.   I saw my chance for a score and took the shot.    Dad made a valiant attempt to stop it, but failed!   It made me feel good to be able to score on Dad!   Dad has always been an avid soccer player, and has held us to very high standards of play.  

I high-fived Ben, "That was a great pass!"

Ben grinned, "And a great goal!   You know that we make a great team you and me."   Ben slapped me on the back.

I grinned back, "Yeah, I guess we do."

Dad kicked the ball back out to center field, "Great goal, son!   It's good to see that you can still handle the ball!"   He grinned and gave me the thumbs up sign.

"Thanks, Dad!"   That was high praise from my Dad.   It felt good to be back among my family.

Randy congratulated me as I returned to the other side of the field. "Good goal, Bro.!   You almost might become a real soccer player!"

"Yeah, I think I'll do it, again, just to show you how it's done!" I responded.

Shawn said, "Think, again, short stuff.   I think we've got you covered!"

"Hey!  Who are you calling short stuff?" I asked.

"You and Ben are the shortest ones here!" Shawn said, with a big grin and a sparkle in his eyes.   Shawn knew how sensitive I am about my height; and was trying to keep me from focusing on the game.

"You won't be able to distract me with that stuff, so be prepared to give up another goal!" I responded.

Shawn laughed, "I've got to use every advantage I can get!"

The ball was back in play as we trotted off down the field.   It wasn't long before Ben was dribbling the ball and passed it across to me, as Randy tried to steal the ball away from him.   Again, I saw my chance and made the shot.   Dad managed to block the shot, and brought the ball out and kicked it back into center field.   A few minutes later, Ben and I were back; but this time I passed the ball to Ben, who took the shot, and managed to get past Dad's outstretched hands.

"Great work, Ben!"   I grabbed Ben in a bear hug.   We high-fived and turned as Dad came back with the ball.

Dad said, "Ben, you handle the ball very well.   I'm glad to see that you haven't forgotten everything your Dad and I taught you."

Ben's face brightened with Dad's praise, "Thank, Uncle Don."

Dad said, "I meant what I said Ben.   You handle the ball very well."

We played for about another hour, before we decided we'd had enough exercise.   Our team won 2 to 1.   Randy came up to Ben and me and put his arms around our shoulders. "Great work, boys!   I'm glad you two have learned to play well together."

I jabbed Randy in the ribs with my elbow. "Don't get smart!"

Randy looked innocently at me, "Who? Me?"

"Yeah, you," I said, grinning.

Randy returned the grin and turned to Ben, "Do you think I can get Glenn to blush?"

Ben laughed, "I'm sure you can, Randy!"

I pulled away from my brother, "Oh, no you don't!"    I took off at a run across the field with both Ben and Randy in hot pursuit.

Randy caught up to me at the edge of the field and managed to tackle me.   Randy pulled me to my feet but didn't let go, "You should know better than to try to out run me!"

"I had to try," I responded, still breathing hard.   "I couldn't let you start teasing me without at least trying to distract you from your goal of embarrassing me!"

Randy pulled me into a quick embrace, "I love you, little brother.   But you still haven't escaped!   I will have you turning as red as Ben's tank top before tonight's over!   I promise!"

I laughed. "You're so bad!"

Randy laughed as well. "You know it!"

Ben joined in Randy's laughter. "I would love to hear more about Glenn, Randy.   Maybe you can tell me some really good stuff to help keep him humble!   He does get kind of arrogant sometimes!"  

Randy laughed, again, and said, "Sure thing, Ben.   I'll let you in on all of Glenn's secrets!"

At that point, the rest of the guys joined us.  All of us were pretty hot and sweaty.   We thanked our new friends for joining us; and we crossed the street back to the house, and headed for the showers.   Uncle Carl remodeled the house a few years back, adding on a recreation room, a master bedroom and two full baths.   The home had started out as a small square home with two bedrooms, living room, kitchen and one bath.

After getting cleaned up, we joined the rest of the family on the deck where; Uncle Carl had fired up the grill and was cooking hamburgers and hot dogs.  

We sat down with Dad for a few minutes.   Dad asked me, "Glenn, how are you holding up?"

I replied, "I'm doing okay.   Ben has been pretty good at keeping me distracted.   It's only at night now that things get really hard for me.   Rick has managed to send me text messages every day, and has called me a couple of times.   That has helped out a lot!   I miss him so much."

Ben smiled and said, "I haven't given Glenn much time to have a pity party.   We've had a great time touring and I can't wait to go camping."

 Uncle Carl came up to us and asked, "Are you boys ready to eat?   It looks like the food is ready."

We all got up from our chairs and grabbed a plate.   We loaded up on the great food.   After supper, we retired to our room for the night.   I was so exhausted from the long drive and the soccer game that followed.   I stripped down to my boxers and crawled into bed.   Ben did the same.   It didn't take long for me to fall into a dreamless sleep.

Prev To be continued . . .