"Talk to it, JD."
"What do I say?"
"You were going to tell about Uncle Ezra watching us this weekend."
"Oh, yeah. I forgot. Okay, I'm ready. Well, it all started when Buck and Chris had to go out of town, Uncle Ezra said he would take care of us, cause Mrs. Potter couldn't stay cause she had plans to go out town to visit some family, cause she hadn't seen em in a long time and "
"Take a breath. The computer can't keep up if you don't breathe every once in a while."
"Okay. Chris and Buck had to go away and Ezra came out and stayed with us. They called to tell us that Uncle Ezra was coming, but he was already here."
Mrs. Potter answered the door and found Ezra Standish standing on the stoop.
"Mr. Standish, what a pleasant surprise. What brings you here?" she asked.
"Good evening, Mrs. Potter. As always, it is a pleasure to see your lovely face." Ezra stepped into the house as the housekeeper moved aside. "It seems that Misters Larabee and Wilmington were called away to a meeting in Kansas City. They will be away until Sunday morning. I was unencumbered this weekend and volunteered to entertain the young gentlemen for that timeframe. I believe that Mr. Larabee is planning to call and confirm this arrangement. He and Mr. Wilmington both feel that they should talk to the boys to assure them of their return this Sunday."
"Yes, that would be a good idea. The boys are still a bit skittish when there is a change in the normal routine."
The phone began to ring as they entered the kitchen area. Gloria Potter reached for the receiver as the back door burst open. Ezra intercepted the two young orphans as they crossed from the mudroom to the kitchen.
"Uncle Ezra!" The youngest boy greeted as he ran up to the man and stood looking up at him.
"Well, good afternoon, Mr. Dunne, Mr. Tanner. And how are you gentlemen, today?"
"We's fine. We was watching the mama horse feed her baby. Why are you here?" the five year old asked.
Vin clamped a hand over the younger boy's mouth. "JD. It's not polite to ask that. Buck told you that."
The little boy yanked the offending hand away and pursed his mouth as he stood with his fists propped on his hips. "And it's not p'lite to cover somebody's mouth, so there" he retorted, sticking out his tongue.
Ezra simply waited. He knew that the boys would eventually remember he was there. A moment later, they turned back to him and Vin greeted him.
"Evening, Uncle Ezra. It's nice to see ya." Vin smiled sweetly up at the man.
Before Ezra could respond, the young boy turned to the smaller child. "See? That's what you're supposed to say."
Ezra heard a chuckle behind him, even as he saw JD's tongue come out of his mouth once again. Then Vin ruined the entire lesson by saying, "Why are you here, Uncle Ezra? Where's Chris and Buck?"
"Boys, come over here, please." Mrs. Potter instructed.
They both scooted around Ezra and ran over to the woman. She stood with the phone in her hand as the small boys approached and slid to a stop.
"There's a phone call for you. Vin, you first." She handed the phone to the boy even as she placed a hand on the younger boy's shoulder.
Vin took the phone and after looking at the housekeeper again, he put it to his ear. " 'ello?"
"Hey, cowboy. You being good?"
"Hi, Chris. Yeah, JD and I are having fun. Are you coming home soon? Why's Uncle Ezra here?"
"Well, that's why I'm calling."
The little blond nodded as he listened. He began to chew on his lip as the man talked; the anxiety was evident on his face. To the boy's credit, he kept that anxiety out of his voice as he responded to the man. Finally, he nodded as he handed the instrument to the younger boy and turned away.
"Hi, Chris." He listened for a moment. The boy's voice was subdued as he said, "Okay."
There was a pause and then JD heard another voice in his ear. "Hi, Buck. When ya comin home?"
JD's voice trembled as he asked the question. He knew Vin was upset and hoped that it did not mean what he thought it did. "Are you sure you can't come home?" the boy asked after the man spoke, big tears in the hazel eyes. He nodded at the man's answer.
"JD? Are you still there?"
"JD, I can't see you if you're nodding."
"I don't want you to go," the boy whispered.
"I know, but I have to. We'll be back in two days. And in the meanwhile, Ezra is going to take care of you and Vin."
"Okay. Bye, Buck. I'll see you in two days."
"See ya soon, Little Bit."
"I wuv you, Buck."
"I love you, Little Bit."
The little boy handed the phone to the woman and moved to stand next to his friend.
With a sigh, Ezra Standish squatted down in front of the two boys. "Do not fear, my young friends. We will have a great time this weekend."
"That was the first night. Mrs. Potter left and Uncle Ezra moved his stuff into the bedroom he used when he was hurt and Chris wouldn't let him go home. It's nice, cause he's real close at night in case we needs him.
He took us to Mickey D's for supper. Uncle Ezra said we could pick the place and we picked Mickey D's. We went in Uncle Ezra's car and, since we can't eat in it anymore, we got to stay and play in the Play place."
Climbing into the chair, JD waved the long French fry around as he described the show he and Vin had watched that afternoon.
"Yeah, and they build their nests on the side of cliffs and if the baby falls out, he falls all the way down and into the water." He stuffed the fry into his mouth and climbed down from the chair.
Running around to the seat next to Vin, JD climbed up. He lay across the table and pulled his hamburger paper across, pulling the burger and fries with it. He took one fry in his hand and held it over Vin's head.
"And the mama and daddy bird brings food and drops it down into the baby bird's mouth."
Obediently, Vin tipped his head back and the fry was dropped in.
"Well, that is most interesting, JD. What do the infants eat?"
"They eat meat that their mama and daddy's find and chews up and feeds them."
The boy promptly stuck a fry in his mouth and chewed. He was still standing over Vin when he reached in and removed the partially chewed food and held it over the older boy's head. Ezra momentarily froze when the young blond tipped his head back and opened his mouth. The temporary immobilization quickly dissipated and he leapt across the table.
The two boys froze in mid-feeding.
"Vincent, don't you dare eat that."
Vin dropped his head to his chest as JD sank into the chair. He lay the mushy pile of potato on the slick paper wrapper.
JD crossed his arms across his chest. "I just wanted to show ya how they feed the babies" he whispered.
Ezra moved around the table and knelt between the two boys.
"I understand and I commend your comprehension of what you saw on the documentary, but it is impolite to remove food from your mouth in public and pass it to someone else."
The man saw the tears in the young boys' eyes and shame colored his cheeks that he was the cause of their discomfort.
The boys didn't look at him.
Frowning, Vin and JD turned and looked at each other before looking at the southerner.
Vin smiled and rolled his eyes as JD giggled behind his small hands.
Ezra looked at the dark haired boy and, "Peep."
JD picked up a French fry, a fresh one, and put in the man's mouth when he tipped his head back. Ezra stood and took the little boy in his lap, relieved that the tense situation was resolved.
After all the deep fried potatoes were gone, the two boys went out and joined several other children playing in the plastic pipes. Ezra sat at a table, two small pairs of shoes sitting in front of him.
"We had fun that night. We fed Uncle Ezra French fries like he was a baby bird and he peeped at us and the lady at the table behind us was laughing.
"Maybe we should go to Mickey D's with Uncle 'siah. Chris got a lady's phone number and Uncle Ezra got a lady's phone number. Buck don't need no more phone numbers. At least, that's what Chris told Miz Potter. So, that leaves Uncle 'siah, cause Uncle Nathan has Aunt Rain and he's not allowed to get numbers."
"Well, we can ask Chris later. He'll tell us if we can. Are you done, yet?"
"NO. I just told about the first night."
"Well, talk faster."
"I'm trying. Okay, the next day we got up "
"Uncle Ezra? Are you awake?"
Standish heard the words, but did not move. The bed creaked and dipped slightly as the two boys climbed onto the wide bed.
Whispering could be heard and the man waited.
"Uncle Ezra?" A tiny hand peeled back an eyelid and hazel eyes peered down at him. Standish's eyes flew open and he sat up quickly.
"Aggghhh!" he roared, wrapping an arm around both boys and gathering them close. The boys screamed and giggled as the man rolled them around on the bed.
"So, what shall we do today, my young friends?"
"We could go riding."
"How about the zoo?"
"Or a movie?"
"Or we could "
"Hold up a minute. Perhaps we should break our fast and we shall plot the day's activities while we eat."
The three sat around the table and suggestions were made and discarded. One thing that they had to do was take care of the morning chores. Afterwards, they cleaned up and headed into town. Ezra took them to the science museum and they spent several hours exploring the wonders of everything from dinosaurs to computers to space travel. It was mid afternoon before they arrived back home.
"Vin, what was that thing Uncle Ezra made in Buck's truck? Cuzy, juky?"
"Ah, it was a jackzy. No, wait a minute. It was a ja-cus-e, I think."
"Computer still has the little squiggly red line."
"Maybe I ain't saying it right, or fast enough."
"Hey, that worked. Thanks, Vin. When we got home, we played outside for a while."
"Boys, what have you been doing? You are both filthy. I think that you are going to need baths before you can even sit down at the dinner table."
"Baths? We had baths yesterday."
"Well, I don't believe that Mrs. Potter would appreciate all that dirt being tracked into her clean house."
Looking at the two dirty faces, turned down in despair, the man considered an alternative. A smile pulled at his lips as he glanced at the yard and the treasure it held.
Thirty minutes later, the two boys were sitting in the bed of Buck's truck. Ezra had pulled the tarp from the hay stack and fitted it into the back of the vehicle. The boys had dragged a water hose over to the vehicle and started to fill the bed.
Ezra returned from the barn with a shop vacuum and put the hose into the water. Both boys were relieved of shoes, socks and their shirts, leaving only their shorts and briefs. They climbed into to the bed of the truck and immersed their bodies in the cool water.
"Yeah!" was their answer.
The man reached down and flipped the switch. The vacuum pulled air in through the intake and blew the air out through the submerged hose, churning the water with thousands of bubbles.
"Cool, Uncle Ezra."
The boys splashed and wallowed around, taking the hose and inflating each other's shorts. They lay on the floor of the truck and made fish faces at the man leaning on the side of the vehicle as he laughed and tickled exposed feet. He allowed them to play until pale puckers appeared on their fingers and toes.
Both boys sat up and groaned when the vacuum was cut off.
"Now, boys, you've been in long enough. Wait just a minute and I'll drain the water."
Ezra lowered the tailgate, jumping back as the water cascaded down. When JD started to climb out, Ezra picked him up and placed him back in the bed.
"Just wait here. I shall return with some towels and clean clothes. Don't get down from the truck until I get back."
"We got out of a bath, didn't we, Vin?"
"Yeah. We was clean after all that swimming around. Didn't need no bath after that."
"So, we got dried off and put on dry clothes. We dragged the tarp out after Uncle Ezra backed the truck out of the mud. We put the vacuum back in the shed and then we went inside and watched the movie that Uncle Ezra bought for us."
"Yeah. He got the new 'Atlantis' movie. So we watched it while Uncle Ezra made some dinner."
"Hey, this is my story."
"Oh, sorry, JD. You can tell about the teepee."
"We got bored that night "
"Boys! What in the world is all the yelling about?" Ezra asked.
He had been in the kitchen preparing dinner when the two boys started arguing about what to do next. JD expressed the desire to play cowboys and Indians, to which Vin had agreed. The disagreement came as to who was the cowboy and who was the Indian.
Normally, they both would want to be the cowboy, but after watching 'Indian in the Cupboard' that afternoon, both wanted to be the Indian.
"We're sorry, Uncle Ezra. We didn't mean to be make so much noise." Vin explained, talking into the carpet as he sat on the floor.
JD looked angrily at the other boy, his arms crossed over his chest. "Vin always wants to be the cowboy, Now that I 'want' to be Little Bear, he wants to be the in'jun."
The southerner sighed and marveled at the control and restraint that Wilmington and Larabee constantly exercised with their two young charges. After a moment of thought, he smiled.
"I have an idea. If you can play quietly until supper is prepared, I think I know a way you can both be the Indian. Is that agreeable to you both?"
Seeing the bright smiles and bobbing heads, Ezra felt a warmth spread through his body and he quickly nodded and beat a retreat to the kitchen as the feeling remained.
The meal was finished without further incident and the dishes and leftovers put away. The two boys followed the man outside; curious about what he had planned. They frowned when he once again removed the tarp from the extra hay bales stacked against the side of the barn.
Ezra brought the tarp around to the front. Laying it down, he opened a box of items he had collected from the house and lay them out-a flashlight, a small personal fan, and some tissue paper.
He then returned to the tarp and began to straighten it and then fold it at the corners to make a large triangle with a rock the size of softball in the center. Vin stood in the door of the barn, a long length of rope trailing behind him.
"I am ready for the rope now, Vin."
Taking the end of the rope, Ezra tied at around the rock and knotted it securely.
"Okay, gentlemen, I need eight to ten rocks about the same size as the first one."
Both boys scrambled off in search of the rocks, wondering what the tarp and rocks had to do with being Indians.
By the time they had gathered the rocks, Standish had tossed the other end of the rope over the joist that protruded from the hay loft and tied it off so that the tarp was hanging, partially off the ground.
"Those are excellent choices. But now we need six pieces of wood about this long." He indicated the length with his hands and the boys were off again.
When they returned, they stopped dead in their tracks at the sight in front of the barn. Ezra had spread the tarp out and using the rocks to hold the edges in place, creating a canvas teepee.
"Come along, boys, It will soon be dark and we want our small home complete before that time."
They joined the man in the makeshift Indian teepee. Ezra took the flashlight and turned it on. He placed it in the center of the doorway, but back from the entrance by a couple of feet, He then plugged in the fan to a cord he had run from an outlet in the barn and placed it next to the flashlight. He had already torn the tissue paper into various lengths and widths and now lay the logs over the light and fan with the tissue paper lying across the fan, which he then turned on. The light flickered around the floating tissue paper as the fan caused the light weight paper to dance. The 'campfire' provided everything but heat and the two boys were awestruck by the sight, but soon recovered and laughter floated out of the 'teepee' as darkness descended on the landscape.
The night was wiled away reading stories and telling tales. Sleeping bags served as animal hide beds and popcorn, popped inside and carried out, was, in fact, 'roasted nuts', a favorite among the northeastern tribes according to Ezra.
Way before their normal bedtime the two boys were crashed, laying together on one sleeping bag and the second tossed over their small forms. As Ezra sat, cross-legged in the dust, he could not remember ever feeling more content.
"So, we sleeped in a engine teepee that's not the right word."
"Don't worry about it. Uncle Ezra can fix it later. Just finish the story."
"Stop rushing me. I'll leave something out."
"Okay, but Chris and Buck will be home soon and we need to finish, so Uncle Ezra can save and print it for us."
"Okay. Anyway, we sleeped outside in a teepee. And when we waked up, the sun was up and the chickens and the horses. And Uncle Ezra was sleeping in the dirt and his hair was sticking straight up on one side."
"Are you gentlemen just about completed? Your fathers are due any minute."
"Almost. Uncle Ezra fixed us breakfast and we took down the teepee and put all the rocks and wood in one place so we can play again with Buck. Maybe next time we can have a real fire and cook wieners'"
"Okay, that's all. That's what we did while you were goned away. Bye, Buck. Bye, Chris. I love you. Vin tell 'em bye."
"They're coming back now. You don't have to say goodbye to 'em."
"Oh, yeah. Okay. Bye, computer."
Next: Batter Up...
In The Good Ol' Summertime (Index)