by Nick Brady
It was a Saturday morning and both Jack and Joseph were at my apartment. They sat on my bed in the room I shared with my brother Kevin. Kevin and I were sitting on the other bed.
"So what is the big news?" I wondered.
Jack smiled. "I wanted to tell you guys all at once since we have worked on this together. It looks like the four illegal brothers might become legal."
"Wow, that's terrific!" I was really surprised. "How is that going to work?"
"It looks like I am going to be sponsoring the four brothers while they work through the immigration process," Jack told them.
Kevin laughed. "So you are going to be a daddy."
"Not quite, but it is a responsibility," Jack chuckled. "I realize I am taking a chance on this but I have to have faith in these guys. I have talked about it with Pablo and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make this work."
"Where will they stay?" I wondered. "Do Pablo and Juan have room for all four of them? And what about Carlos? Have they located him?"
"Yes, that has been worked out too. I think the problem was with Tony since he had gotten in trouble. But it seems that he has kept his nose clean at the Tulsa Boys Home and they have approved his release." Jack put his arm on Joseph's shoulder. "Your attorney is amazing Joseph. I am very impressed by him."
Joseph smiled. "Actually, I heard this was going to happen although I didn't know the details. I have the understanding that Mr. Clarke took a personal interest in this case. I believe that the idea of four brothers with no family being deported back to Mexico rather offended his sense of justice. He did more than required to earn his fee."
"So not all lawyers are heartless crooks," Kevin observed.
Joseph shook his head. "No, not at all."
"So the question remains, where will they stay? Does Pablo's place have room for four?" I repeated.
"No it doesn't, not without some of them sleeping on the floor. I think the housing arrangements will have to pass muster before they are allowed to move in together. That's another detail to be worked out," Jack admitted.
"So what will they need, a two bedroom apartment?" I asked.
Jack nodded. "I believe so. Pablo and Juan are in a tiny efficiency apartment right now. They sleep in the same bed, although maybe that is not unusual in their culture." I knew that Dad had a couple of empty apartments and wondered if they could rent one of them. They might not be able to afford it but I thought I would ask Dad. I decided not to say anything until we had talked to him. The conversation turned to Joseph.
"So how is your Mom?" Jack asked.
Joseph's smile faded. "Since she came home at the first of February, things have been tense to say the least. My father said he was going to ask her for a divorce when she got home, but I don't know what will happen. No one talks to me." "Is she drinking again?" I wondered.
Joseph sighed. "I don't think so, but I don't know how long that will last. She is supposed to go to AA meetings. She went to a few the first week but has not continued. I think she felt she had nothing in common with the other people there."
"It's not a social club," I scowled.
"Her chances of staying sober are not very good if she doesn't go to those meetings," Jack warned. "I would say that is very dangerous."
"So what is going to happen?" Kevin asked.
"I believe it will come apart soon," Joseph stated frankly. "My father comes home late, if at all. They scarcely speak to each other. She is sullen and withdrawn. It is over I think. I suspect that very soon they will separate and to be honest, I expect she will go back to drinking."
"I thought she was on probation," I recalled.
"Yes, and in that case I expect that she will spend some time in prison," Joseph said with resignation.
""That's terrible," I said. "What will happen to you?"
Joseph looked down and sighed. "I suppose Alice and I will have the house to ourselves at first. I don't know how long that would last," he shook his head. "Actually I think that Father may want to close the house. It is worth a great deal of money and expensive to maintain. I doubt he will want to live there even if Mother is not there."
Kevin looked distressed. "Where would you stay? With your dad and his girlfriend?" Joseph shrugged.
"You can stay with us!" Kevin exclaimed.
Joseph smiled in appreciation. "I doubt you want to take up permanent residence on the sofa, Kevin."
"We could do something," Kevin insisted.
Joseph looked around the bedroom at the three of us. "How fortunate I am to have such dear and loyal friends. I can't say how all this will work out, but I know that I have friends who will see me through whatever may happen."
"That is what friends are for," Jack said with a smile. "But I have to say that there don't appear to be many possibilities for a happy ending to this. I suppose that your mother might be able to stay sober and pull herself together. Alice runs the house anyway. Maybe life will go on but without your father."
Joseph kept his eyes on the floor. "Yes, perhaps," then he forced a smile. "At least I will still have my piano."
I put my arms around Joseph and hugged him tight. "I love you, we all love you. We will work this out together. It isn't like you are going to have to get through this by yourself." Joseph spent the weekend with us and seemed to forget his troubles for a few days. He stayed through Sunday until after dark when Alice came to get him. He seemed to be reluctant to leave and made a point of giving Mom a hug.
The next day I saw Joseph briefly at the flagpole. "Hey, how are things?" I asked.
He didn't smile. "Mother is in such a state. It might be better not to come over for a few days."
"What's the matter?"
Joseph looked away. "Mother is very cross and irritable. I know she misses her usual sedative. I think she and my father had a terrible fight. I suppose he told her he wants a divorce."
"No wonder she is upset. I have to feel bad for her." Joseph started to speak then saw Alice pull up to the curb. He waved and ran to the car. I rode home and arrived earlier than usual to find Kevin in his usual place on the sofa.
"Hey brother, what's up?" He waved me over to sit next to him.
"Oh same old, same old I guess.
I shrugged. "I don't know, depressed as usual. He is in a bad spot right now."
"We need to talk to Dad," Kevin said firmly.
"Yes. The illegals need a place to stay, and it would be good for them to be in the same building as their sponsor, right?"
I laughed, "Are they collectively known as 'the illegals' now? Actually it might be a good idea for them to be near Jack. But Dad can't just give them an apartment."
Kevin was thinking. "Doesn't Juan had a job now? What if they rented the two bedroom unit on the third floor right next to Jack? That would be only two guys to a room. We have shared a room forever."
"You are right, we need to talk to Dad. He is a good guy, maybe he can work something out for them," I agreed. "Jack is real solid, but I don't know how responsible the illegals would be." When Dad came home from work, we waited until after supper then brought up the subject. We tried to explain about the four brothers and Jack being their sponsor and all. It began to sound kind of complicated but he and Mom listened patiently.
Dad sat quietly and considered the situation. He surprised me by asking. "How is Joseph? What is going on with his family?"
I tried to explain. "Well, I guess you know about his mother and her being in rehab. She is out now but not doing very well, he says. In fact I think Joseph's parents are talking about splitting up," Mom made a face.
"That boy doesn't deserve to be in that fix He is such a fine boy," she said with a frown. Kevin and I sat silently while our parents exchanged looks. We kind of knew when to just be quiet and let our parents consider something.
Dad began to speak. "Actually, your mother and I have been talking. You boys have had to share a bedroom for a long time. We have three vacant units in the building, a two bedroom up next to Jack, and another right next door to us. Down on the end is a three bedroom unit. Actually it is two bedrooms and a little office, but the office would make a nice little bedroom for Kevin, and you and Joseph could share the other when he is with us. Your mother and I can take the bedroom closest to the bathroom and I think we can all be very comfortable," Dad seemed to have worked this out in his head.
"As for Jack's friends, the two bedroom on the the third floor is a possibility," Dad looked at Kevin and me. "How responsible are these boys? How well do you know them?"
We looked at each other. "Pablo is very responsible I think, and Juan seems like a steady guy. I couldn't say about the younger boys," I told him honestly.
"I would have to talk to them," Dad said. "When is this supposed to happen?"
"I don't know for sure. Soon I guess, in a few weeks maybe. It depends on them finding suitable housing," I told him.
Dad sat for another minute. "Talk to Jack. If he is willing to commit to this then I would like to talk to all of them – sort of a general meeting about it. I don't promise anything, but I will see what we can do." He and Mom exchanged looks, nodded, and that was the end of the conversation. After our talk with Mom and Dad, Kevin and I went back to our bedroom.
"Man! I'm going to get my own room! That is so cool!" Kevin was pumped.
"I thought you liked sleeping on the sofa."
"It's OK, but it will be nice to have some privacy. Be sure you knock before entering," he grinned.
"That's a deal," I agreed.
Kevin stretched out on his bed. "I have to admit, our parents are pretty cool. I mean, it's nice of them to move to a unit so we can have our own rooms, but I think part of this is for Joseph's benefit."
I nodded. "No doubt. I was kind of surprised by that. They are half expecting Joseph to move in with us. I'll tell you what, Dad is usually pretty easy going, but when he takes charge, things happen."
"No kidding. Dad can be pretty awesome sometimes," Kevin acknowledged.
"You know I would love to have Joseph here, but that would mean that his family has split up," I reminded him. "I would hate to see that."
"That's true, but from what Joseph says, that's kind of a given," Kevin leaned back and looked deep in thought. "If I get my own room, I will need a new bed."
"Maybe they will just put a single bed in each of our rooms," I suggested.
Kevin laughed. "No, dummy. Then somebody is on the couch again. The twin beds will stay in your room for when Joseph is here."
"Well, maybe the twins beds will go in your room. They are really bunk beds you know. Maybe I can get like a double bed, you know?"
"Fat chance. So you and Joseph can screw around all night? That would be pushing it. I should get the double bed, and you get the twins."
"You know that Mom will make that decision for us," I predicted. "We'll just have to wait and see." Unfortunately, we did not have to wait for long. Joseph telephoned the following Saturday evening with bad news.
"Oh Nicky. May I come over? Things have fallen apart here," he sounded like he had been crying.
"Sure, do we need to come get you or can you ride your bike," I asked.
Joseph's voice was choking. "I can ride over now, but I will have to come back for some clothes. I hate to impose, but I might need to stay with you for several days."
"You know that's no problem. Can Alice bring you?"
"No," Joseph sobbed. "Mother wrecked the Lincoln, Nicky. She is back in jail."
"Just a minute," I told him and called to Dad. "Can we give Joseph a ride over here? He needs to stay with us for awhile."
My father saw my stricken look and needed no other information. He stood and walked toward the door. "Let's go," he said.
"We will be right there," I told Joseph.
When we pulled into Joseph's drive he was standing outside the garage with a suitcase and a duffle bag. He immediately began to apologize. "I am so sorry to impose on you, but I didn't know who else to call. It will just be for a few days I'm sure."
Dad told him sternly. "You are welcome in our home for as long as you need to be with us. It is absolutely no problem, Joseph. You are part of our family. No more apologies please." Once in the apartment we all gathered around to hear what had happened. It took several minutes for Joseph to compose himself.
"I am afraid that the worst has happened. Mother began drinking again and tried to drive somewhere and had an accident. I think she drove off the road and into a tree. The police called and would not talk to Alice. Father was not home so they talked to me," He was struggling to compose himself. "Fortunately there were no serious injuries but I think the Lincoln was totaled. I'm afraid this is the end for her."
"Will she go to prison now?" I asked bluntly.
"I don't know," Joseph sobbed. "I suppose she will. She violated her probation and was driving with a suspended license. I tried to call Father but was not able to reach him. I called our attorney Mr. Clarke of course, and he told me he would handle it, but he was not encouraging."
"Oh Joseph!" Mom hugged him and tried to comfort him. We all felt so bad for him but didn't know what to say.
Dad spoke up. "Joseph, you may live here with us for as long as you need to. We have already made some plans for moving to a larger unit. You will be very welcome here. Please don't be concerned about where you will live."
Joseph clung to my mother and sobbed. "I would be so lost without all of you. Thank you, oh thank you."
Mom held him and patted his back. "Now Joseph, don't worry. Everything will be alright." As it turned out, the worst did happen. His mother was almost immediately sent to Mable Basset, the maximum security prison for women in Oklahoma. She might be able to be transferred to a minimum security facility later, but she would start out there. It was a sad comedown for her. Joseph was in a difficult situation. He might be able to stay with us, but he was separated from his beloved piano. He might be able to live at home with Alice, but that situation was uncertain just now.
"I need to talk with your father," Dad told him after the first week.
Joseph told him. "I have spoken with Father and he seems content that I am with you. I think he wants to close down our house and it is convenient for him that I am elsewhere. Alice plans to move to Los Angeles to live with her daughter. She has talked about that before. I will miss her," Joseph said glumly. "My Father wishes to make some sort of arrangement with you for housing me."
Dad nodded. "I have a suggestion for you to consider. We have a three bedroom unit that's available. Kevin can have the smaller room, and you and Nick can share the other."
Joseph was very pleased. "Oh, that would be extremely generous of you. Please let my father compensate you for the added expense."
"Oh I will," Father said. "Under the circumstances I am very willing to let him foot the bill. I am sure he can afford it and that seems quite fair to me. I will contact him to work out the details."
This will be a solution to his problem," Joseph said with a wry smile. "I am certain that he will be willing to pay you handsomely to provide for me. I only regret that it seems left up to you to solve this dilemma."
Dad put his hand on Joseph's shoulder. "Honestly Joseph, it is not a problem. We love you and you are already a part of our family. Please don't worry that we are being inconvenienced. This is going to work out." Joseph was obviously very grateful, but had a look of concern on his face.
"What about my piano?" he asked mournfully.
"Oh, your piano. Of course," Mom looked very thoughtful. "You can't live without your piano. What can we do about that?" she asked, and looked at my Dad.
Dad was quiet for a moment. "How big is your piano?"
Joseph paled. "It is a concert Steinway grand."
"It's big, really big," I confirmed. Dad sat down on the sofa and looked around thoughtfully. He had that 'do not disturb' look.
"How about this idea? The two bedroom apartment next to this one is vacant. It is a mirror image of ours, that is, the living rooms are on opposite sides of this wall." Dad pointed at the back wall. It would be possible to remove this wall and create a four bedroom apartment with a large living room, large enough to accommodate the piano."
Mom's eyes brightened. "The kitchens are adjacent too. That would give me a much larger kitchen. Oh, I like that idea!"
"But wouldn't that be expensive?" I wondered.
Dad smiled. "That is where Dr. Anderson comes in. Do you suppose your father will be willing to finance some remodeling?" he asked Joseph.
"I am very sure he will see that as an excellent solution to his problem," Joseph answered. "I would suggest that you include whatever additional remodeling you have in mind and propose it to him as a package."
My mother was already working all this out in her head. "This might be a good time to update some of our furniture. Our living room sofa and chair have gotten awfully shabby."
Joseph began to get into the idea. "My house if full of furniture. If Father is going to vacate, we can certainly lay claim to whatever you need. Some of it is very nice."
"What about your bathroom?" I thought of his wonderful double shower.
Joseph smiled. "That would require one of the bedrooms, actually."
"Oh well," I shrugged. "It was just a thought." We sat around and talked about where we would put things. With a combined four bedrooms, we would all have a room. I sort of wished that Joseph and I could share a room, maybe with a double bed, but nothing was perfect. Mom and Dad were very understanding but had their limits. We all agreed that this new arrangement would be an improvement for all of us. We would each have our own bedroom, Mom would get a new kitchen, and Joseph kept his beloved Steinway. It would take a few weeks to get this in place. In the interim, Kevin would camp out on the sofa and let Joseph use his bed.
"You know, I think I will miss this sofa. All its sags are in the right place," Kevin said.
"But you will have your very own room," I reminded him. "Think of the privacy."
"Hmmm. That's right," he smiled. "Don't forget to knock." Joseph was particularly pleased with the arrangement. In his mind it was the ideal outcome. He would miss sweet Alice, but other than that he saw this as a great improvement in living arrangements. He would be with me and his loving family, and he would have his beloved piano. He was heart broken about his mother, but there was nothing to be done about that. It was a good outcome for all of us.
"Won't you miss your big bedroom and the balcony and everything?" I asked.
"No, not at all," Joseph replied. "It was always a lonely place for me. I will be much happier here. This is the most loving family I have ever known."
Mom asked. "Do you practice your piano every day?"
"Yes, I'm afraid so," Joseph told her. "You may get tired of the noise."
"Of course not. We will have our own private recital, every day. How wonderful!" Mom enthused. ----------------------------------- It was almost a month before Tony was ready to be released from the Tulsa Boys Home. At Jack's request, he and Carlos were both made available to meet with us to talk work out the details of their living arrangements. It was on a Saturday morning and Jack, Pablo, Juan, Carlos and Tony were all in the living room of our apartment with me, Kevin and our parents. It was crowded, but we were all together. Joseph was at his house deciding what furniture to move to us.
Dad stood and began to speak. "I am glad that we can all be here to discuss your plans. Tony, Carlos, this is my first time to meet you and I am very glad you can be with us. Jack has told me about your situation and I am very sympathetic. I understand that you need a place which will allow you to live together, and I believe that I may be able to help you."
"As you probably know, your sponsor Jack is living here in an upstairs apartment. It is too small to accommodate more than one, however I do have something to offer you. There happens to be a two bedroom apartment adjacent to his which is available. I believe you could live there comfortably, however there are conditions."
"I work full time for American Airlines and these apartments provide our housing and supplemental income. Our family is comfortable, but by no means well off. We depend on our renters to pay promptly and take good care of their apartments. I would have to say that Jack probably represents my understanding of the ideal renter. You would do well to look to him as an example. If I were to rent to you boys, you will have to pay your rent promptly and maintain the apartment in good repair. Those are my firm expectations."
Dad continued. "Please excuse me if I sound blunt, but I want there to be no misunderstandings between us. While I have met Pablo and Juan before I don't know any of you very well, and you have no family to provide you with support, financial or otherwise. It appears that you are on your own and will be responsible for your own conduct. I will not tolerate any drugs, alcohol, or destructive behavior from any of you. I'm sorry if that seems severe, but it is an absolute condition on my part."
Dad concluded. "I am not given to long speeches, but I want to be very clear about this. Jack, and my sons Nick and Kevin have spoken for you and I am hopeful that we can help you find a safe place to live together. I must add that their mother and I are aware of your difficult situation and want very much to see you succeed. We can make this work, but we will have to work together on this. Am I clear?"
All four brothers nodded their heads enthusiastically and said in unison. "Yes sir."
Dad spoke again. "I am asking $350.00 a month for the apartment. How will you pay?"
There was a pause. "I am paying $200.00 for my little place. I can pay that much here, and Juan is working now."
Juan nodded. "I am working for a roofing company. I just started but I will be able to help too. I can pay the other $150.00."
Tony and Carlos were hesitant to speak so Pablo spoke for them. "My brothers are really too young to have steady jobs, but I know they will find ways to make some money. Some good ways, that don't get them in any trouble."
Pablo went on to say. "Please sir, we don't want any problems. We have had enough trouble already. Jack is my friend and I am very grateful for his help. He is a good man and we will try very hard not to disappoint him or you, sir. We know you are taking a chance on us and we appreciate it very much," heads nodded all around. "This is our first chance to finally be a real family, sir. We will do everything we can to make this work. Thank you very much sir."
Dad looked around at all of us. "You brothers will bear the primary responsibility for the success of this effort, and I know it will require some real work on the part of all of you. Jack will help and advise you, and you could ask for no better sponsor. We are raising two boys of our own, and certainly understand about boys," he smiled, then looked at Kevin and me. "You boys are part of this too. You need to be helpful to your friends and must do your part to make this work. Do we all understand each other?"
We all indicated our agreement. We talked some more about details, and after awhile Dad seemed to be satisfied. "Very well," he said. "I am willing to try this. I think Nick and Kevin can tell you that I can be very firm at times, but I try to be fair. I wish you the best."
Jack finally spoke. "Thank you Mr. Brady. I think what remains is working out when we can begin." Mom and Dad looked at each other and smiled.
"The apartment I am offering is unfurnished so you will also need some things," Dad said. "Do you have any resources among you to buy some things to set up housekeeping? I might suggest a thrift shop."
This was a new thought for the brothers and they became animated with the idea of making a home for themselves. Pablo volunteered. "I have a little money, and a few things in my place that we can use. I think mostly we will need stuff for a second bedroom. We don't need anything fancy."
Mom brightened. "I think we need to go shopping. Would you like to do that now?" We were off to shop the thrift stores. Mom and Dad in his Buick, 'the illegals' in Pablo's DeSoto, and Jack, Kevin and me in Jack's old truck. It was the first time that Tony and Carlos had seen Pablo's long red chariot and they were suitably impressed. After a thorough search along East Admiral, we found what we needed. We located two pair of bunk beds for the brother's rooms, along with some old dressers, night stands, and a few necessities. I'm not sure how Pablo paid for his things. I think Jack may have helped. None of us had much money, but there was enough. The single bed that Pablo had been using was to go to Kevin, and I was to keep the twin beds in what was now my room. Dr. Anderson would provide the furniture for Joseph's room later. We crammed most of it in Jack's truck. I had hoped for a double bed, but that was not to be. It would work.
We came back to the apartment to make further plans. "Are we ready to go?" Jack asked?"
Dad smiled. "All we need to do is coordinate this with the landlord."
"That's you, right?" Jack pointed out.
"That's me," Dad grinned. "Let's go."
Mom considered what had to be done. "It will take me some time to sort out all our odds and ends, especially the kitchen. But we can go ahead and set up the bedrooms I think. That will be nice, and more comfortable for you boys. We will leave the new living room open for Joseph's piano and we can bring that over after we remodel."
"Let's do as much as we can while we have all this extra muscle," Dad smiled. We spent the rest of the day moving furniture. The big challenge was muscling the furniture up two flights of stairs to the apartment next to Jack for the four brothers. We got the bunk beds set up in their rooms, and Jack took Pablo to his old efficiency apartment to retrieve what furniture he had there. Some of it would have to come later, but we got the big stuff. It began to look habitable. We left Pablo and Juan to go back and box up their smaller items while Jack, Tony and Carlos helped us move the things from our apartment to the new one next to us.
I was in the bedroom with Tony, stuffing my clothes into paper bags. It was the first time we had been alone. "So this is your room?" he asked.
"Yes, Kevin and I have shared this room for a long time."
"I have not seen you since last summer," Tony said. "I don't know if you even remember me."
"Sure I remember you Tony. How could I forget you? It's good to see you again. I guess I saw you at Gilcrease Museum that time but we didn't get to say anything," I smiled. "You have had quite an adventure."
"Yes, Nick. A lot has happened to me. You were a special friend for me, I can never forget you. Now we will see each other again, a lot I guess. Your family is so nice, it's hard to know what to say," then he added. "A lot has changed since last summer. I have changed too."
I nodded. "We all change, Tony. I hope this works out for you. You guys need a break."
Tony hesitated. "You had a friend with you at the museum, a tall, dark haired boy."
"That would be Joseph. He and I are sort of together now. He is going to be living with us too."
"Ah, I see," Tony said. "He looked like a very nice person," he paused. "So we are all together now in the same place."
I had to laugh. "That's right. Actually, I think that will be nice. It's good to be with friends and family."
Tony looked almost wistful. "Are we still friends, Nick? I mean, after so much has happened?"
I paused in my packing to look at him. He was taller now, and with a wisp of a mustache on his upper lip, but he was the same Tony. "Sure," I smiled. "We will always be friends."
Tony smiled, almost shyly. "I have changed, Nick. I can't change who I am, but I can change who I become.
Author's note: There will be an epilogue to follow, but we are leaving Nick for now, and will continue with Tony's story. Thank you for reading, and especially for those of you who have provided encouragement over the life of the story. I do appreciate you
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]