Marco, Marty and the Twins

by Nick Brady

Chapter 14

Copyright © 2016 – 2016 by Nick Brady, all rights reserved.

Marco woke up the next morning to the sound of Brian going from tent to tent trying to rouse the sleepy cubs. They stumbled up to the house and made a line for the bathroom, then came out and sat down around the dead campfire looking hungry.

"OK," Brian said energetically as he rubbed his hands together. "Is anybody ready for some biscuits and gravy?"

He was answered by sleepy eyes and nodding heads.

"Alright then, let's get the fire going. Does anybody remember how to build a fire?"

Lawrence and Kenny stood up and started sorting through the remains of their firewood. Several others joined them and began making the required three stacks of wood.

"I think you have taught them well," Marco said to Brian.

Brian grinned. "They're doing pretty good." Then he went over to help them build the teepee, wax fire starter and all. As if by magic a nice fire was soon blazing.

Brian took Ben and Sam over to the dutch oven, poured out the water that had been soaking in it and showed them how to scour it out with a pad of steel wool. They dried it out with a paper towel and took it back over to the camp fire. Then Marco approached the picnic table and patted a box of Bisquick and a mixing bowl.

"Biscuits are easy," he assured them. "I don't really measure this out, but let's put some mix in the bowl and then we want to add a little milk to it." He dumped about half the box of mix in the bowl, made a depression in the center and added a modest amount of milk.

"Don't put in too much milk or it will be soupy." Marco took a wooden spoon and started stirring. The mixture began to stick together but was a little dry. "OK, let's add a little more milk, there, that looks right." The goop in the bowl finally stuck together in a stiff dough. "If it gets soupy we would just put in some more mix, and if it won't stick together we could add more milk, OK?" He decided it looked about right.

"OK now, use the spoon to scoop out a little ball and round it out with your hands. Does everybody have clean hands?" They all looked at their hands and self consciously wiped them on their pants.

"Well, I guess the heat from the oven will sterilize them," Marco chuckled. "I want each of you to roll out a couple of balls of dough and put them around on the bottom of the Dutch oven."

Brian had rubbed cooking oil over the inside of the pot and sat it on the table. The boys tried to make a neat layer of dough balls over the bottom. While they were doing that, Brian took Tony over to the fire and pulled some coals to the side to make two cooking areas. On one they sat the Dutch oven.

Brian put on the flanged lid and then instructed them. "Now when we are using a Dutch oven to bake something, We want a little heat on the bottom and a lot on top. Heat rises, OK? So we will put a pretty good pile of coals on the lid and the biscuits will bake evenly." They all watched as Brian scooped more coals from the cooking fire and laid them carefully across the lid of the Dutch oven.

Brian stepped back and looked at his wrist watch. "Let's give it about fifteen minutes then we will check on them."

Now it was Marco's turn. "How about some sausage gravy to go with the biscuits?" There were enthusiastic responses from the boys who were now wide awake. Marco took a frying pan that he had brought out from the house, set it on the second little layer of coals that had been pulled aside and dropped in a package of sausage. "We want to brown this like we did the hamburger last night." He held up the spatula. "Who wants to do this?"

Ben grabbed the spatula. "I can do this, I'm hungry!"

Ben chopped up the sausage and watched as it turned brown and gave off quite a bit of grease. When it was ready, Marco scooped up a big forkful of the biscuit mix and stirred it into the grease. The mixture began to thicken.

"If you were doing this in the kitchen you would probably just use flour," Marco told them, "But the biscuit mix will work just as well. The fancy name for a mixture of flour and grease is a roux just in case you ever hear that term. Be careful not to let it burn, now we want to pour in some milk." He poured in a generous amount of milk and stirred the mixture vigorously. "Who wants to do this?"

Sam grabbed the fork. "Let me. I can do this."

Marco stepped back and watched with a smile. This was the first time either of the twins had shown an interest in cooking. As if by magic, the soupy mixture of flour, grease and milk began to thicken and look like gravy.

"Watch it close," Marco said. "If it gets too thick we would add more milk and it if won't thicken we could add more flour. This looks about right though." After a minute he told Sam to pick the pan up and set it on the picnic table.

"How are those biscuits doing?" Marco asked Brian.

"It's about time, let me check on them." Brian took a pair of pliers and carefully lifted the lid of the Dutch oven. Inside was a steaming layer of golden brown biscuits. The small balls of dough had risen and now looked large and fluffy. "Looks good to me." Brian decreed. The oven was hoisted from the coals and laid on the table next to the pan of gravy.

"Anybody hungry?" Marco asked. The line formed immediately and each boy had a pair of biscuits split and placed on his plate to have sausage gravy spooned over the top. The smell was intoxicating.

The boys squatted down and devoted themselves to their breakfast with enthusiasm.

Marco sat down next to Brian and they ate together. "That worked out great," Marco said. "We make pretty good team."

Brian kept his eyes on his breakfast but smiled. "We do actually. This is delicious."

"How are you doing today?" Marco asked, thinking about their conversation from the night before.

"I'm OK," Brian said without looking up. "You gave me a lot to think about actually."

"Good," Marco nodded. "I'm here for you, anytime."

They polished off whatever was left then Brian took charge again. "OK now, if we want to do this again, we need to clean up the skillet and the Dutch oven. Who will help me?"

There was a lack of response until Sam and Ben got up. "We can help. What do we do?"

Marco smiled. "I can throw that skillet in the dish washer, but why don't you work on the Dutch oven."

They squatted down with Brian and he took the pad of steel wool and scoured out the crusty remains of the biscuits then wiped it out with a paper towel. "We want to leave a film of oil inside so it doesn't rust, OK?" He handed a paper towel to Sam and gave the bottle of cooking oil to Ben. Ben poured a little oil in the bottom and Sam rubbed it around with the paper towel to coat the inside. He was careful not to miss any spots.

When he finished he looked up and Brian. "How's that?"

Brian took a look inside. "That looks great Sam. Good job guys. Now this will be ready for next time."

Sam and Ben looked very pleased with themselves.

Brian and Marco coached the boys a little as they took down the tents and rolled them up. Marco was pleased to see that Lawrence and Kenny fell right in and looked like they knew what to do. Tony walked around and policed up whatever trash had appeared and they doused water on the campfire. No policemen today.

By the time they cleaned up and had everything put away it was almost noon. Marco called them together.

"How did it go, guys? Did you learn anything this weekend?" They said they did.

"Did you get enough to eat?" Yes they did.

"Did you have fun?" An enthusiastic yes from them all.

Marco smiled and put his hand on Brian's shoulder. "Listen guys, I want to tell you that I truly believe you are as fine a group of boys as I could ever hope for. I think you did great and I'm really proud of you. Thank you."

He looked at Brian, "And I have no doubt that we have the finest Den Chief in the whole wide world. What do you think?"

There was a chorus of affirmative responses and Ben started clapping. All the boys joined in and Brian grinned and actually blushed. "Thanks guys. You did great," he said.

The boys horsed around and ragged on each other as they waited to be picked up. Leroy came for Tyron, Mrs. Hernandez picked up Tony, and Kenny and Lawrence were fetched by their dads who honked for the boys but did not stop to introduce themselves. Finally Joyce stopped by to get Bobby and Brian.

"How did it go boys?" she asked.

"It was cool Mom, we cooked stew and made biscuits and gravy. I can show you how!" Bobby offered cheerfully.

Joyce laughed. "Well I will let you do the cooking when we get home." She turned to Marco. "Thank you for doing this. I know it was a lot of trouble but these boys are having a great time. I appreciate it."

"Well thank you. We all had a good time." Marco looked at Brian. "I have to tell you that it would not have gone nearly as well without Brian. Your nephew is quite a guy."

"Yes he is," Joyce agreed. "I am real proud of him."

Brian looked away and didn't say anything, but his smile said he was pleased.

"See you later Brian," Marco said as they walked away.

Brian nodded. "I'll see you Monday afternoon, thanks for everything."

Marco went in the house and sat down with Marty. They were alone at last. "So great scout leader, how did it go?"

"I am bushed," Marco admitted. "But I think it went fine. We survived."

"Except for a visit from the local police it seemed to go smoothly," Marty chuckled. "They didn't arrest anybody."

"Brian kind of saved our bacon. He stepped up and charmed them, the younger one anyway. It seems that he had been in scouting and was impressed by what he saw. Impressed with Brian in particular."

"Brian seems to be an exceptional kid," Marty smiled.

"He is that," Marco agreed. "If you will excuse me, I'm going to take a nap. It's your turn with Sam and Ben."

The twins began to relate the weekend's adventures to their Papa. They had a great time. Marco looked at them and was thankful, then went into the bedroom and collapsed.

Monday came and all the boys showed up with what looked like renewed enthusiasm. Brian was there and was his usual helpful self. It was as if the painful conversation had never occurred, but there was a new bond between him and Marco. They understood each other.

October rolled by and it became time for Brian's fifteenth birthday. "What are you going to do for your birthday? That's coming up isn't it?" Marco asked after the den meeting.

"Brian shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, nothing really. I don't usually do anything special."

"Well you should do something to mark the occasion. How about a movie?" Marco suggested.

"Really? Yeah, that would be cool." Brian agreed.

"How about you come over on Saturday and we will all go to the movie of your choice?"

Brian smiled, "That sounds good. Can we all go together" I mean Sam and Ben and Marty?"

"The whole family," Marco nodded.

"OK, I would like that. Thanks. I'll be here."

"Do you want me to come get you?" Marty asked.

"No, that's alright. I can ride my bike over here. It's not that far."

"Will that old bike make it?" Marco teased him.

"It's not bad. It's kind of old but it's in pretty good shape," Brian said. "I know how to work on a bike."

"I'm sure you do Brian. I think you can do anything."

Joyce pulled up and Brian and Bobby ran out to the car and drove away.

"Hey Marty, want to go to a movie on Saturday afternoon?" Marco asked him.

"Sure, what's the occasion?"

"Well, it's Brian's birthday. I thought maybe we could all go to a movie together."

Sam and Ben were listening and immediately thought that was a great idea. "Can we go see Star Wars?"

"I guess," Marty answered. "But it's Brian's birthday. He should get to pick the movie."

"I bet he would like to see Star Wars," Ben thought.

"Are we going to get him a birthday present?" Sam wondered.

"I don't know. What do you guys think?" Marty asked.

"I think we should get him something cool," Ben suggested. "He has helped us a lot with Cubs."

Marty smiled. "I think that's a good idea. What do you think he would like?"

Ben looked thoughtful. "He rides that old bike over here sometimes. It looks kind of ratty to tell the truth."

"Yeah, he could use a new bike, or at least a better one," Sam suggested.

Marco thought about his stint as a bicycle messenger. "I still have that old single speed I rode for a long time. Do you think he would like that?"

"But you still ride that sometimes Daddy. What would you ride if you gave it away?" Ben wondered.

"We should get him a new one," Sam suggested. "An old bike isn't as nice a birthday present as a new one."

"That's true," Marco agreed and looked at Marty. "What do you think?"

"I think Brian is worth a new bike. If we don't have to spend a fortune to get a decent one."

Marco nodded. "Maybe I can stop by and see what the bike shop has. I would rather not just get him a Walmart bike. It doesn't have to be top of the line but it should be dependable."

Sam and Ben thought that was a great idea providing that they could come along.

"OK, maybe tomorrow after school you guys can come and help me pick something out." Marco laughed.

And they did. Marco went to City Cycle and talked to Marco's old friend Wayne who now was the owner.

"Hey Wayne. I see you're still in business." Marco greeted him.

"Marco! It's been awhile since you've been in here." Wayne was pleased to see him.

"I'm doing well, thanks. I brought some friends with me."

"Wow, you guys are getting big. How're you doing?" Sam and Ben felt big,

"What can I do for you? You just slumming?" Wayne teased.

"No, actually we are looking for a birthday bicycle for a friend of ours," Marco told him.

"Well you came to the right place. What are you looking for?" Wayne asked, all business now.

"We want a good dependable multi-speed bike but don't want to spend more than we have to," Marco admitted.

"I see. Let me think what I have. Do you want it now or would you like for me to order something for you?"

"Well, the birthday is Saturday so I guess we need to see what you have on hand."

"OK, let me think. Would you settle for a reconditioned bike." I might be able to make you a better deal on that," Wayne suggested.

"We could do that," Marco agreed. "Remember that reconditioned single speed you sold me when I was riding for that messenger service. That was a darn good bike. I still have it."

"I remember that. It was a State Contender," Wayne recalled. "Yeah, that's a warhorse. Those things are tough. Are you looking for something like that?"

"I don't know," Marco hesitated. "This is for a fifteen year old boy. He is fit, but not real big."

Wayne frowned. "Nah, he won't want a single speed. You have to be a horse to ride one of those."

Sam and Ben nudged each other. Obviously their Daddy was a horse.

"How tall?" Wayne wondered. Marco held up his hand to estimate Brian's height.

"I have just the thing. Let me show you this." Wayne disappeared into the back room and rolled out a metallic blue 15-speed bike.

"Wow, that's a beauty!" Ben exclaimed. Sam nodded vigorously.

"That does look nice," Marco agreed. What have you got there?"

"It's Shimano," Wayne said, almost reverently. "This is a fantastic bike Marco. Aluminum frame and fiber wheels, light as a feather – disk brakes, bar end shifters. This thing will fly."

"Impressive," Marco agreed. "But this is for a kid. Will it hold up?"

"Oh yeah. This thing is tough, and it handles really nice. Why don't you take it for a spin?" Wayne pushed the bike in front of Marco.

"Well, I don't know. It is a little short for me."

"But it will be perfect for your friend. Take it for a ride. The stem is quick release. I can pop that seat up for you." Wayne nodded and smiled.

"You're still a good salesman Wayne," Marco laughed. "But it does look real nice. OK, put the seat up a little and I will try it."

Sam and Ben looked excited. "Let's see you ride it Daddy," Ben encouraged him.

Wayne raised the seat a few inches and rolled the bicycle out to the curb. "The traffic is light if you will turn back off the main street at the corner."

Marco sped off and swung around the corner as Wayne suggested. He found himself on a residential street with no traffic. He stood up and powered forward. He had expected the aluminum frame to flex under stress, but it was solid as a rock. The shifters were very smooth and he took it through all fifteen gears. When he got up to speed he braked hard and the bike shut down very quickly with no vibration. Marco was impressed but now was concerned about what the bike would cost.

He sailed back in the in the bike shop's front lot to where Sam and Ben were watching for him.

"How was it Daddy?" Sam wanted to know.

Marco smiled and nodded. "This is a very nice bike. Now let's see if we can afford it."

He rolled the bike into the shop where Wayne was waiting. "How did you like it?" Wayne asked.

"It's a beauty," Marco admitted. "I was worried about the aluminum frame but it seems very solid."

"Oh yeah, don't let the light weight fool you. That is one tough bike. Unless that kid abuses it he will get a lot service out of it," Wayne assured him. "Who is this for? What's the deal?"

Marco explained. "This is for a boy who's helping us with our Cub Scout den. He is my Den Chief if that tells you anything."

Wayne nodded. "I am an Eagle Scout, Marco. I know exactly what that is."

"Really! I wouldn't have guessed that," Marco admitted.

Wayne laughed. "Eagle Scouts come in all flavors."

"OK, then, this is for my Den Chief. It's his birthday and he's making Life Scout, and we are treating him to a movie on Saturday. The boys and I decided that he needs a new bike. The one he has is, well...."

"Ratty." Ben volunteered.

"Right, he needs a better bike," Marco agreed. "He's a really good kid and doesn't have much to work with..., you know."

"I got the picture," Wayne nodded and looked thoughtful, pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and studied it.

"I took this as a trade for a tandem bike," Wayne chuckled. "The guy got married and his wife wants them to ride together. Let me see what I have in this thing."

After a minute he looked up. "It was in pretty good shape when I got it but I did a little reconditioning. It's like new now. Let's see." he took his cell phone out of his pocket and brought up a little calculator. He clicked on it a few times and looked up.

"I have $225 dollars in this thing. Can you give me that? A new one costs about $675."

Marco blinked. That was more than he wanted to spend, but this was a lot of bike, and well worth what Wayne was asking. He looked at Sam and Ben. "What do you think guys? That's a lot of money."

Ben looked serious. "Brian is worth it Daddy. He is the coolest guy I know."

Sam agreed. "Brian Is like our best friend and big brother. I think you should do it."

Marco laughed. "Well there you go. It's unanimous. I guess you sold us a bike Wayne."

Wayne laughed. "That was a Boy Scout price Marco. I could have got another hundred dollars out of this bike, but your friend sounds like he needs it."

Wayne and Marco shook hands, Marco pulled out some cash and Wayne helped them load the bike in the car. They took the wheels off so that it fit in the trunk and drove home.

By the time they got there Marty was home from work. "Look what we got, Papa," Ben shouted.

Marty came out and looked it over as they put the wheels back on and Marco adjusted the chain. "I don't know that much about bicycles, but that looks beautiful."

"It's a nice bike. I think Brian will like it," Marco nodded.

They put it in the garage and waited for Saturday.

The movie was at two o'clock but Brian rode his bike over just after noon. The family was sitting down for hamburgers when Brian knocked and let himself in. "Hello?" he called from the front door.

"Brian! Come in and eat with us," Sam told him.

"Oh no, that's OK. I already ate," Brian told him.

"What did you have for lunch?" Ben asked him.

"Well, uh...," Brian hesitated.

"That's what I thought. Come in here and sit down. We have plenty," Marco told him, and put a hamburger and some coleslaw on a plate and set it in front of him.

Brian grinned and said, "Thanks," and ate as if he were hungry.

Sam and Ben were bouncing with excitement. It was really hard to keep birthday secrets. Finally Ben said in a low voice. "We got you something."

"Ben, you'll spoil the surprise," Marty scolded him.

"Can't we give it to him now?" Sam asked.

"What?" Now Brian was very curious.

"Oh, OK," Marco got up and went into the garage and rolled the blue bicycle back in the living room.

"Happy Birthday!" Sam and Ben yelled with big grins on their faces.

Brian stared at the bicycle with his eyes wide and his mouth open. He looked at the bike, then at Sam and Ben. Brian closed his mouth but still didn't say anything. He looked at the beautiful bicycle and his eyes got wet.

"Don't you like it? Ben asked with concern.

Brian sniffed and nodded his head. "I can't believe this," he croaked out. "It's the most beautiful thing I ever saw." He stepped over to the bike and put his hands on it, almost caressing it.

"I don't know what to say. Th-thank you very much."

"Happy birthday Brian. The boys picked that out for you," Marco told him in a soft voice. "It's from all of us."

Brian kept examining the bicycle. "Geez, this is a Shimano." he picked it up, testing its weight. "Is this aluminum? It is so light. I can't take this. It must have cost a fortune."

"No, no, it is a used bike Brian. It is reconditioned and in great shape but it's not new," Marco assured him.

"But still," Brian looked stunned.

"Hey, I got a good deal on it," Marco told him.

Sam spoke up. "We told Daddy you were worth it. We told him you were our best friend and our big brother. We hope you like it."

Brian stepped over to the twins, sank to his knees and took them in his arms. "Thank you guys. This is the best birthday I ever had."

"Well it is kind of for your Life Scout too. That's worth something," Marty reminded him.

Brian sat down on the floor and looked at all of them. "I can't believe you guys. I don't know what to say."

"Isn't your court of honor on Tuesday?" Marco asked him.

Brian nodded.

"We are all going to be at your court of honor. We wouldn't miss that," Marco told him.

Brian got up and went to the bike, looking at it lovingly. "Can I ride it?"

"I think we have time. Why don't you take it for a spin?" Marco suggested.

Without another word Brian rolled the bike into the front yard where Marco showed him how to adjust the seat. It was a perfect fit. He pushed off and started down the street, testing the gears and the brakes. He disappeared from sight and reappeared in a few minutes, his face flushed and smiling.

"Wow," he said. "This is an amazing bike."

"Enjoy it. We're glad you like it," Marco said.

"I like it," Brian replied simply.

"Well, we better get going if we are to make the two o'clock show. Is Star Wars OK?" Marty suggested.

"Perfect, I have been wanting to see that!" Brian reluctantly pushed his new bike into the garage and they shut the door to keep it safe.

They went to the movie and shared a jumbo bag of popcorn, passing it back and forth. They all enjoyed the show then stopped at a Mazio's for pizza. When they got back to the house Marco surprised Brian with a birthday cake with his name on it and they sang the birthday song to him as he sat smiling. When they were finished it was time for him to go he looked almost sad.

"What's the matter Brian," Sam wanted to know.

"I don't know, I guess I don't want this day to end. I don't know how to thank you – all of you. This is the best birthday I ever had, ever!"

"Many more to you, kid." Marco gave him a hug and was joined by Marty and the boys. It was a five-way hug.

Brian opened his mouth but nothing came out. Finally he croaked out, "See you on Monday," retrieved his new bike from the garage and sailed away.

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