Hi Dr. Will.
Hi Dr. Will.
It looks like you're having a lot of fun in here.
Yeah, me an' Vin's makin' a castle.
I can see that JD. Can we talk while you're building?
Great. Now, I guess your fathers told you that I'm going to have a tape recorder
with me when we talk, right?
Yeah. Da said it'll kind 'a be like talkin' to our 'puter when we're makin'
Are you gonna make a book too, Dr. Will?
Well, it won't be as neat as the books you boys make, I'm sure. But I hope
to write a book, yes.
Chris said yer book might be used by folks learnin' to be doctors.
That's right, Vin.
You mean a school book? Me an' Vin's gonna be in a school book?
If it gets published, yes.
[Laughter] I take it you like the idea then?
Do we gotta have our pictures in this book?
No, Vin, you don't.
Do you boys have any other questions about all of this?
Can I see the tape 'corder?
Sure, just don't push any of the buttons.
wow, it's little.
Yeah, it is, isn't it? It's made small so that people forget it's there.
Because some people are nervous about speaking into a tape recorder.
Really? Not me.
[Laughter] I'm not surprised, JD. Vin, how about you? Are you okay with the
Well, I'll tell you what, if you ever decide you don't want it on, you just
tell me and I'll turn it off. Deal?
Great. So, how was the week?
Okay. We been helpin' Chris an' stuff.
An' we had pizza three times and Chris said he's gonna turn into a pep'roni
but Da said since Chris can't cook an' stand on his crunches he's just gonna
have to live with it.
Okay, Buck do you have anything to add?
Only that I wanna go on record as saying that we only had pizza twice since
Duly noted. All right, who'd like to come into my office first?
All right. JD, I'll leave you with the building and we'll be back in a little
Okay, see you later. Buck can you help me make the castle bigger?
Will Lowery ushered the seven-year-old into his
office and invited him to sit down. Placing the recorder on the corner of
his desk, he saw the neatly folded piece of paper in Vin's hands. The little
boy was fidgeting with it nervously. He noted the stiff posture and tense
actions of the child.
Smiling gently, the therapist said, "I have the
feeling that you're still a little uncomfortable about all this."
Shrugging, the little blond said, "a little,
"Well, that's understandable. I think that if
it was me, I'd be uncomfortable, too. It's hard to talk about the really
"Yeah," Vin said in a relieved tone. His wide
blue eyes brightened and his little body relaxed just a little.
Lowery was happy to see the change. The boy was
dealing with a lot of heavy issues; getting his trust was slow going at best.
Moving ahead he nodded toward the paper as he asked, "so do you have something
there for me?"
Nodding, Vin began to unfold the paper. As he
carefully smoothed it out he said, "It's my homework."
As the little boy held the paper out toward him,
the doctor said, "It looks like you put a lot of time and effort into it."
"Yeah, me an' Dad sat down every night after
dinner and 'scussed it. We sat at the table so I could write. JD an' Buck
went in the den an' talked 'bout what JD was s'posed t' talk 'bout while
we was talkin' 'bout this."
"Sounds like everyone's been working hard. Would
you like to read your lists or would you like me to read them?"
"Do you mean out loud?"
Flashing a look at the tape recorder, little
Tanner said, "You c'n read 'em."
"Okay." Lowery took the paper and looked it over.
The page was set up in a grid. One side was headed by "Good" and the other
side by "Bad". Everything was printed in the meticulous, if ungainly, hand
of his young client.
"I'm going to read through the entire list. Then
we'll go back and talk about at least some of them. Is that all right with
"Okay," Vin was too relieved that he wouldn't
have to read the list that anything else sounded fine to him.
Seeing a little more relief and a little less
tension in the little boy, Will began. "Okay, I'm going to read a good thing
and then a bad thing, since you were supposed to write one of each every
night. Now if I get any of the words wrong, I want you to tell me, okay?
Then, like I said, we can discuss the list afterwards."
All of the list entries on the "bad" side were
heart breaking as well as very telling. The doctor was happy to see that,
with his foster father's guidance, the child had truly thought about things.
"Shall we talk about some of these?"
"How about we start with the good list?" When
the child nodded, Will continued. "Okay, the first one says that you got
to stay up as late as you wanted. Tell me about that."
"Well, we didn't have t' go to bed at a special
time. We could even stay up all night if we wanted. Sometimes we watched
th' sun come up 'fore we went to sleep."
"When did you sleep?"
"A lot 'a times we went t' sleep in the daytime."
"Ah, okay," Lowery paused to allow the boy to
continue. When he didn't the therapist said, "Okay, what about not taking
a bath? Tell me more about that."
The little blond giggled. "I put that on th'
list 'cause I never liked t' take baths."
"Ah, so do you like them now, or are they still
a bad thing?"
I kind 'a like 'em, but sometimes
I still don't wanna take one."
"Got'cha." After another brief pause, he said,
"next one on the list is that you didn't have to eat vegetables."
Vin's nose wrinkled. "Yeah, veg'bles are icky.
"Why do you think your dad wants you to eat them
if they're icky?"
Hesitating only briefly the little boy said,
"Unca' Nathan says they're 'portant 'cause they make you healthy."
"Yes, that's what they say."
With a long suffering sigh, the child said, "Yeah.
"Yeah, even broccoli." As the child grimaced,
he said, "I agree. I don't care for it either. Now, the next thing on the
list is 'I got to be the boss and there wasn't any rules.' Can you tell me
more about that?"
"Well," Vin drew the word out, then hesitated
as he mulled the question over. "'Fore I lived with Chris I didn't have no
growed ups to tell me what to do. I got t' d'cide what t' do an' when I did
stuff. So I got t' be th' boss."
"Oh," Will said, with a thoughtful look on his
face. "That's the sort of thing we were talking about last week, isn't it."
"Yeah," Vin said softly. "Me an' Dad talked 'bout
that for a long time th' other night."
"Did you?" Lowery responded then waited to see
what the little boy might add. After a minute Vin met his gaze, but didn't
say anything. Realizing the child was waiting to be asked, he said, "so,
can you tell me more about what you and your dad talked about?"
Smiling shyly the seven-year-old said,
"Thanks, Cowboy," Chris said as Vin
pushed the chair around so that it was beneath his right leg. He lowered
the cast to rest on the seat then leaned back. As he did, he let go with
a long, drawn out sigh.
"Are you okay, Dad?" The little blond asked
with concern. "If yer too tired or yer leg's hurtin' too bad
"I'm fine, buddy," Larabee reassured the child.
"The cast just gets a little heavy sometimes."
Vin nodded. He remembered the way his own arm
had ached at times when he had been in a cast. "If y' want, I could rub yer
leg 'fore I go t' bed."
"Thanks, Pard," the blond man said with a smile,
"I might take you up on that. But for now, let's figure out what to add to
your list tonight."
They tossed around a few thoughts before settling
on the two entries they would add to the list. The two of them talked about
how frightened the little boys had been while they lived on the streets.
Chris' heart ached at the thought of Vin and JD victimized time and again.
Sometimes he wondered how the two boys had remained
as pure and loving as they were.
He looked across the table, watching as the
seven-year-old played with the pencil he was holding. It took much longer
to finish the nightly project with Vin handling the writing. However, the
little boy had decided that it was his responsibility. It was, after all,
The time it took didn't matter to Larabee. What
was important was the time they were spending together.
"So, can we talk about it?" Chris asked gently.
"Talk 'bout what?" Vin asked.
"About being the boss then, and not being the
Shrugging, the little boy said, "we talked 'bout
"Yeah, but I think maybe you still have some
questions that we need to find answers for." When all he got was another
shrug, Chris pushed on. "It's pretty scary, all these changes, huh?"
"I guess," Little Tanner responded evasively.
Inwardly the man counted to ten, took a deep
breath, and counted to twenty. Then, as he often did when he saw no other
way, he went straight ahead. "You know I talked to Dr. Will, right?" When
the boy nodded, he continued. "He told me about some of the things you talked
about. Not everything, just some things that I might need to know. Things
that I might be able to help with."
Vin looked up at the man. "I know Dad. It's
okay if y' know what me an' Dr. Will talks 'bout. I don't mind."
"Good. I don't ever want you to feel like you
can't talk to him or tell him things. If there's ever anything you don't
want him to tell me, that's okay."
"'Kay," the little blond said. It was clear
that he really wasn't bothered about the therapist sharing their conversations.
Chris felt his heart leap at the gift of the child's trust. Smiling at his
son, he said, "That's good, I was just checking. One of the things that Dr.
Will told me was that you're still confused about all the changes. Any time
you need to ask me, or Buck, or your uncles about it, you can.
"One thing I want you to understand
is this. We will never, ever, ever be disappointed in
you. Even if you do something that makes us upset, we will not be disappointed
Chris stopped, watching as the little boy processed
the information. It was the same thing he and the others had said several
times before. However it was obvious that Vin still needed help understanding
just what that promise meant.
The little blond climbed down off the chair
and moved around to where his foster father sat. He wasn't certain why, but
he wanted to be closer. At a loss, he studied the designs he and JD had drawn
on the big cast. One little finger traced over the picture of a horse he
had made in blue.
Larabee tucked a finger beneath the little chin
and tilted the child's face up. "Vin, I can understand if sometimes you wish
you still lived back in the warehouse."
Tears shone in the big blue eyes. "I don't really,
Dad, I don't."
Hearing the fear in the little voice, Larabee
reached out and lifted the thin little body onto his lap. Wrapping his arms
around the boy he said softly, "I know buddy. It's a good thing, too, because
I don't think I'd like leaving here."
Leaning back slightly, Vin looked up at his
"Well you don't think I'm going to let you leave
on your own, do you?" When Vin continued to look at him quizzically, he
explained. "You're my son, Vin. If you move, I have to move. So if you really
felt like you'd be happier going back to where you used to live; I'd have
to move with you."
"Well sure. And I think it would probably get
crowded, because JD would want to come. Then of course Buck would have to
come. So then we'd have to take the dogs, and Torkus, and the horses. Mr.
Cochrane couldn't take care of them all the time." He paused then said sadly,
"I don't think the horses would be very happy. They'd have to stay indoors
all the time."
"You'd all come live there if I went back?"
"Yes," Chris stroked his fingers through the
thick hair. Gently he continued. "Vin, you and I both know that sometimes
moms and dads and kids don't get to stay together because things happen.
But you need to know this, buddy. You have a great big family now. And no
matter what, you're going to be a part of this family forever. And that means
that no matter what you say, or do, or think, or whatever. You're stuck with
Vin grinned, relief shining in his wide eyes.
He wasn't certain how to express the feelings that flooded through him. So
he did the only thing he could think to do. Shifting on his father's lap,
he pulled up to his knees and wrapped his arms around Chris' neck.
The blond smiled as he returned the hug. He
knew that his son would need reassurance again, but he would make certain
that it was given.
From where he knelt, Vin whispered, "I don't
ever wanna leave, Dad. I don't ever wanna live no where else."
"That's good, Cowboy," Chris whispered back.
"But when you grow up and get married your wife might not want to sleep on
the top bunk of a bunk bed."
Vin giggled, realizing that the man was teasing.
Trying to sound serious, he said, "Well, she could sleep on the bottom bunk."
Enjoying the child's humor, Larabee said, "What
"Well," the little blond replied, "I reckon
he'd just have t' sleep in the toy box."
Dr. Lowery chuckled as the seven-year-old finished
recounting the conversation with his foster father. "Well, it sounds like
you've got it all figured out. But do you think JD would like sleeping in
a toy box?"
Vin giggled. "I wouldn't really want him t' sleep
in th' toy box."
"Well that's good. By that time he'd be awfully
big." He enjoyed the sound of the child's laughter and hated for it to end.
He had a job to do however.
As the room grew quiet, Will said, "You know,
you have such a good list of things here, Vin. Could I keep it here in your
"Sure, I guess."
"Thank you. Some of these things are really big,
important things. I'd like to talk about some of them again later."
"Okay," the little boy shifted in his seat looking
a little uncomfortable.
"What are you thinking about right now, Vin,
can you tell me?"
Shrugging, the seven-year-old said, "I just thought
we'd talk 'bout all of 'em t'day an' it'd help me stop havin' the bad feelin's."
"We'll talk more about these things today, too.
But remember what I said last time? It may take a little while to get all
of this sorted out and you still need to be patient."
Vin sighed. "I've been patient a whole week."
With a compassionate smile, the therapist said,
"I know. I know it's hard, Vin, honest. But it's going to take longer than
"Two weeks?" Little Tanner asked, hopefully.
Leaning forward, the doctor said, "Buddy, I can't
say for sure. You know I won't lie to you, so I won't tell you how long it
will take. I can't, because I don't know."
Vin drew a long, shuddering sigh and a few tears
trailed down his face. Drawing himself up, he said bravely, "okay."
"I know it's hard, Vin. I wish I could make it
better right this minute. But I don't know how to do that; no one does. So
we've just got to keep working on it."
Letting the little boy have a few minutes to
process and grieve for his dashed hopes, Lowery considered his next move.
While there were several heavy duty issues reflected in that brief list,
making Vin comfortable in the changes he was undergoing had to be the focus
of therapy right now.
"Vin, I want to ask you how you felt when Chris
told you that you're going to be part of his family forever."
"I felt happy," the child replied. He gave the
therapist a look that said the answer was obvious. "Dad said that he won't
never be dis'pointed in me, even if he don't like somethin' I do. He said
it's okay if sometimes I wished I still lived back there."
"In the warehouse?"
"Yeah. An' he said he knows I wouldn't really
go back there."
"Do you believe him?" Will asked, knowing that
he was baiting a bear cub.
"Chris don't never, ever lie. You cain't say
he does!" The little boy glared defiantly at the man, daring him to disagree.
"Then if he says he's not going to send you away
because you don't know how to be a different boy - "
"Then he ain't gonna send me away!" The blue
eyes flashed angrily.
Will Lowery smiled understandingly. "Then you
can stop worrying about making Chris disappointed in you."
Vin stared at the man, comprehension slowly
brightening his little face. He opened and closed his mouth before he managed
a small, "yeah."
"Good," Will replied, "Then we can work on figuring
out who Vin Tanner is and who he can be. You know now that your dad and Buck
and everyone else will help you however they can. And they'll be there however
they can be."
A myriad of emotions flashed across the fine
features as Vin said again, "Yeah."
Nodding, the therapist turned and retrieved something
from his desk. "Okay then. The best way I know to figure out who you are
is to figure out who you were."
"Huh?" The boy asked in a confused tone.
"What we're going to do for the rest of our visit
today is talk about you when you lived in the warehouse."
"Okay," the seven-year-old was still uncertain.
Holding out the picture Vin had chosen the week
before, Lowery said, "Do you remember this picture?"
"Sure. I picked it out last time."
"That's right. Can you tell me why this picture
reminds you of how things were for you back before you came to live with
Studying the picture for a moment, the boy said,
"Well, he don't look very happy. He looks sad. And he's all alone. He's got
a black eye, like maybe someone beat 'im up. An' there's all this food layin'
around like someone throwed it away."
"Okay," Will said when the little boy's explanation
came to an end. "Vin, are you good at making up stories?"
"Y' mean like lies, or th' kind 'a stories people
write in books?"
"Like the stories in books."
Shrugging, the little blond said, "I used t'
make up stories fer JD sometimes."
"Okay, good. I want you to pretend that the little
boy in the picture is living in the warehouse now. He moved in right after
Chris found you. Make sense?" When he received a nod, he said, "Now, what
I want you to do is tell me a story about this little boy. What would he
be doing if he's living just like you used to live?"
"Well, he'd have t' try an' find somethin' to
eat. Sometimes he might get someone t' give 'im money. But most times he'd
have t' eat whatever he can find in th' trash.
"He has t' make sure nobody finds where he lives.
Some people might steal his stuff or even take his place. An' other folks
might try an' take him away."
"Like Chris took you away?"
"No, that'd be a good thing. But some folks try
an' take kids away t' do bad things to 'im."
"Did anyone ever do that to you?"
Shaking his head, Vin said, "I can run real fast,
an' I can hide real good."
His heart aching for the little boy, Will said,
"I'm very glad, Vin. Can you tell me more about this little boy?"
"Well, he don't have t' go to school, but he
don't learn nothin' like how t' spell or add numbers. He gits t' do whatever
he wants but sometimes that gets borin'. There ain't no growed ups t' tell
him t' brush his teeth or go t' bed 'r nothin'. But there ain't no one t'
say he's a good boy, or say 'I love you'."
"Does he get to be the boss?"
"Yeah, he does, but
"But?" Lowery prompted.
"But he's sad. See how sad he looks?"
"Yeah, he does look pretty sad," the therapist
agreed. "Why might he be sad, Vin?"
"'Cause he's all by hisself. He has t' d'cide
what t' do, cause there ain't no growed ups t' help him. An' he's scared,
'cause bad things could happen to 'im. He's sad 'cause he knows that some
kids live in houses an' have moms an' dads an' families. He's sad 'cause
he knows that some kids have good food t' eat an' nice clothes t' wear."
"Does he want that stuff, too, do you think?"
"Yeah," Vin said wistfully.
When the boy trailed off once more, Lowery said,
"Okay. Now pretend that there's someone like Chris that said he would give
that little boy a home. But if he did, he couldn't be the boss any more.
He would have to follow the man's rules. The little boy has to decide what
he wants to do. He can stay where he is and be his own boss. Or he can live
with the man and let the man be the boss. The little boy isn't sure what
he wants to do. What would you tell this little boy he should do?"
"The man's just like Chris?" Vin asked cautiously.
"He don't wanna do bad stuff to 'im?"
"Just like Chris," Lowery reassured the child.
"Then he should go live with the man," the little
boy said firmly.
"But he has to follow rules."
"That's okay. Rules are mostly to protect you
or help you."
"But sometimes it's hard to follow those rules.
And some of those rules just seem really dumb."
" the little blond considered the
man's comments. Then his face brightened. "Then he should talk to th' man
an' ask him 'bout th' rules. Th' man would be able t' help him."
"But if he asks questions or can't follow the
rules the man will send him away."
"No, he won't! The man loves him. He won't send
him away!" Vin's body was rigid, eyes flaring once more.
Will Lowery easily identified the 'baby glare'
that JD had mentioned last week. Pitching his voice loud enough to be heard
by the indignant child Will repeated, "No, he won't."
Then he said more softly, "and if sometimes that
little boy misses his old life, that's okay, too. Because that old life is
part of him; part of who he is. There's nothing wrong with missing something
he used to have even if it's a lot different from what he has now."
"It's okay?" The child asked.
"Sure. Just like it's okay for you to miss being
the boss and miss living in the warehouse."
Grinning broadly, the little blond repeated,
Letting this latest in a series of revelations
soak in, Lowery said, "Okay one more thing before you go back to the playroom.
Can you look through the pictures again?"
"Sure. Y' want me t' find another little boy?"
"I'd like you to find a picture that makes you
think of how you are now. When you look at it you think of Vin Tanner like
he is living with Chris and Buck and JD."
"Okay." The little boy looked through the pictures,
studying each one. Then his face split into a grin and he held up a picture.
"This one, Dr. Will!"