ROCKIN' by Phyllis Loafman

ATF "Little Britches" Universe

Nettie Wells drove her white compact down the interstate until she reached the turnoff that led to the ranch known as Four Corners. She was making her fourth visit to the ranch to check on the boys staying in the foster care of the owner, Chris Larabee, and his partner, Buck Wilmington. The two men had petitioned for custody of the boys after they had discovered the two small children living alone in a warehouse.

The oldest boy, Vin Tanner, was ill from a gunshot wound and had almost died. Only the loving care of Chris Larabee had drawn the boy back to life. Larabee had sat in he hospital room and talked to the boy, showing Vin that someone cared.

JD Dunne, the younger boy, had been taken in by Buck Wilmington. Nettie liked the man, but he had a reputation with the women and, therefore, she was unsure of the kind of care the boy would receive at the man's hands.

Each time before, the boys were clean and healthy, but she decided to make an unscheduled visit. Sometimes you could learn more about the home life if the caretakers were unprepared for a visit.

She arrived and parked out front. As she exited the car, she could hear music coming from within the house. She knew both men were home because she had talked to Gloria Potter, the current housekeeper. Gloria and she were old friends and Gloria had nothing but good things to say about the men and the boys. But, Gloria was a mother herself and a softie, to boot, so Nettie took what she had to say with a grain of salt. Just because the boys were well fed and clean was no indication of their well-being in the new household, especially with no woman present except for a housekeeper.

She rang the bell and waited. The music was quiet loud, so she rang the bell again. Still no answer. The song changed and still no one came to the door. She knew the layout of the house and went around to the side entrance. The door on that side of the house looked into the living area off a dining room. She could clearly see into the living room. The sight stopped her hand as she started to knock.

Buck Wilmington was on his knees and young JD stood in front of him, arms and legs flying around like he was on fire. Chris Larabee had Vin's small hands wrapped in his large ones, swaying the boy's shoulders forward and back. Though the small feet were firmly attached to the floor, the small hips swiveled around to the rhythm of the music.

As Nettie surveyed the scene, the words drifted through the door and she listened to the smooth voice of Elvis as she watched Buck mouthing the words as the others danced.
Stuck on you.
Gonna run my fingers through your long black hair,

Buck mussed JD's long black bands and then grabbed him around the waist and snuggled his little prisoner to his chest.

Squeeze you tighter than a grizzly bear.
Uh-uh-uh, yes-sir-ee, uh, uh
I'm gonna stick like glue
Because I'm stuck on you.

Hide in the kitchen, hide in the hall
Ain't gonna do you no good at all,
'Cause once I catch ya and the kissin' starts
A team of wild horses couldn't tear us apart.

Nettie watched as Vin suddenly broke from Chris and ran into the kitchen and then to the hall with Chris close behind. They reentered the living room and Chris grabbed Vin by the belt loop and swung the boy up into his arms. The child squealed (a word never before used to describe the somber child) as Chris tickled his ribs and pretended to plant kisses all over him.

Try to take a tiger from his daddy's side
That's how love is gonna keep us tied.
Yes-sir-ee, uh, uh
I'm gonna stick like glue
Because I'm stuck on you.

The song ended with the two men lying on the floor, laughing, as the boys continued to dance. The next song started up and the boys did their impressions of the 'Elvis swivel'. Not to be outdone, Buck jumped up and joined them in a little Jailhouse Rock. Chris leaned back against the couch and clapped his hands in time to the music. Nettie chuckled at the sight of the three 'boys' singing and swaying to the music. She thought to herself that, actually, Buck did a fair impression of the 'King'. Give him some sideburns..

Oh, Lord she thought. She turned and crept back to compact car. She started the engine and drove back up the way she had come.

She smiled as she turned back toward Denver. Yep, sometimes it was better to see the foster families in those unguarded moments. A body can learn a lot by making unscheduled visits.


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