What Else Is There?

by Al Norris

Chapter 12

At Luciano's, we were shown to a table for four. Mr. Lundquist was already there and a lady I didn't know was seated with him. When they saw us, they both stood up and Larry held out his hand.

"Peter, good to see you, again. Even if it's with a brand-new, and if I do say so myself, a very impressive black eye. Allow me to introduce you to my wife, Margo. She is also a Paralegal with our law firm."

I shook his hand, then offered my hand to his wife. "Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Lundquist."

"Please, call me Margo. It's good to put a face to the name, Peter."

"Margo, if I must call you by your first name, then please call me, Pete."

"Pete, please, it's Larry. Let's not be so formal." Larry turned to unc, "George have you told Pete what this is all about?"

"I just said this was likely to be a celebration, but I didn't tell him what it was about."

"Lordy… You and your drama!" Margo quipped with a shake of her head and a smile.

"Hey! So far the drama has all been Peter's! I was getting jealous."

A young man came up to our table. "Good evening, Lady and Gentlemen. My name is Phillip and I will be your server tonight. Our Chef, Luke, has arranged your dinner tonight. I would like to start you off with a delicious white. Luke has suggested an Amici Sauvignon Blanc from Sonoma California. It is a consistently full-bodied Sauvignon." With that, Phillip took my glass and poured a finger into it, and handed it back to me. Now I'm not much of a wine connoisseur but I know what to do at this point. Although I did wonder why Phillip was serving a 14-year-old!

I lightly swirled the liquid, looking for a defining film on the glass. Brought it to my nose to smell. Yes, it had a fruity odor, a suggestion of peaches. Good sign. I took a small taste, swishing it gently across my tongue and upper palate… Yes. A hint of guava and peaches. This was definitely one of the better Sauvignons I had tasted. Hey, you've got to remember, I was only fourteen. I nodded my head and held out my glass for a fill. Phillip filled my glass and proceeded to fill everyone else's glasses. "Please tell Luke that this is a very good pick for what I believe he has prepared for us."

Phillip nodded his head and left us.

Uncle George looked at me, "You know what our meal is going to be, by the wine that was selected?"

"Yes Uncle. I believe I do. Especially as Luke had me served first. That was the giveaway!" I just smiled at everyone. "OK, I suspect dinner is already prepared and will be served shortly. So you guys want to tell me what's going on?"

"Uh, uh. A couple of things I want to know first. One, you are clearly underage, yet you were served the wine for approval. Two, how can you know what our pre-determined meal possibly be?"

I snickered before I could answer. "You all realize that white wines are most often served with chicken or fish? I was told by Luke that I had a mature palate. If you take your time and smell the wine, you will get a hint of peaches. Do the same and taste the wine, and you will notice both a hint of guava and peaches. Sauvignons are not the driest of whites. This one is not even the driest of the Sauvignons. Yet there is no hint of sweetness." Everyone was doing what I just suggested. "If there had been some sweetness to the wine, I would have said that we were having a fish platter of some sort. Likely, salmon.

"No, we are having chicken, likely a breast that has been braised. I would bet it is a new entré for Luciano's. We are actually being served the dinner wine, not an aperitif."

No sooner had I said this than Phillip returned with our dinner. Margo was served first, then Larry, Unc, and myself.

Uncle George took one look at his plate and a wide smile graced his face. "Phillip? How long has Luke been featuring this dish and how has it been received?"

"You know what this is?"

"Oh yes, Peter made and served this a couple of weeks ago to some other friends of ours."

"This is your recipe, young sir? No wonder Luke instructed me to have you sample the wine!" Phillip appeared to be genuinely impressed. "We have been serving this plate since last Monday. The meal has progressively been a good seller. This last Friday and Saturday nights, we have sold out."

"Wow! I would never have thought that Luke would put this on his menu, let alone it be a success!"

"You folks eat up, while it is still hot. I'll be back in a while." Phillip left and we all began eating.

Margo took the first bite. "Oh my!" Was all she said as she tucked in.

As we finished eating, both Larry and Margo commented on how good the chicken and the sauce were. They actually raved about the sauce. Uncle George though had some questions about it.

"Peter, what was different about the way Luke did this? I'm not saying yours wasn't as good, but…"

"Well, I have to admit Luke's braised chicken is much better than mine. No question there. I think I know what he used and how he did it, but I would have to ask to be certain. As for the gorgonzola sauce, he used a sauvignon blanc reduction instead of the chardonnay reduction I used.

"It's good, but I still think my reduction was better. But I also know why he went with the sauvignon."

"OH? Why is that, young man?" I looked over my shoulder and sure enough, Luke was standing right there.

I smiled, "Hi Luke. Chardonnay costs more. It's a matter of simple economics."

"Got it in one, Pete." Luke laughed. "So did you folks like Pete's recipe?"

"It really was his?" Larry asked.

"Other than the two things Pete mentioned, yes it is his recipe. Pete, if you would stop by sometime this week, before 4:00 pm, I can show you how we braise our chicken. I think you'll like the way we do it."

"I already like your way better than mine. It's much tastier."

"Good. Just show up at the door and be prepared to work for an hour or so."

"I'll get with Uncle George later and decide what day he cooks for himself," I grinned.

"Oh sure! Abandon me to my own cooking. See how you are!" Everyone laughed at that.

"How would you all like to have Phillip bring you all some tiramisu for dessert?"

"I can't say for anyone else, but that would be wonderful, Luke." Everyone agreed with me. Luke left us and a couple of minutes later, Phillip brought us our dessert.

"I had told Peter that we were coming here tonight to celebrate, even if I didn't tell him what we were celebrating. When I called for reservations, Luke took the reservation himself and told me he already had a dinner planned out for us. I had no idea he was going to present us with Peter's recipe! That's reason enough to celebrate… So, Larry, can you start the ball rolling?"

"Sure George. Peter, Carl Turner took a plea and was sentenced today. There was no trial, which is why no one notified you."

"OK… As the victim, shouldn't I have been notified even if it was only a sentencing?"

"Ordinarily, yes. Under the circumstances, those being your further injuries at the hands of Dr. Danbury, and the continued threat against you, we felt that you had enough stress. Then there was the assault last Saturday. At that point, everyone felt you did not need the added stress. At least that was our thinking. We did talk this over with your Uncle and he agreed."

"All of that aside, what happened with Carl?"

"He was placed into the Juvenile home for up to a year with a year's supervised probation. The court ordered him to get a GED… Do you know what that is?" I nodded. "Then after getting his GED, he is eligible to be released from Juvenile but he must get and maintain employment."

"I'm assuming that with time served, Carl has about ten months to get his high school equivalency?" Larry nodded. "Once he gets that, he can be released and he must get a job?"


"I'll assume he will work for his dad. That's almost a no-brainer."

"You're probably right there."

"That sounds pretty fair. Can I assume he pled to a misdemeanor?"

"That also would be correct."

"Good. No matter what I think of the guy, he doesn't need a felony following him."

"You're more forgiving than your uncle, Pete." Larry laughed. I couldn't really tell you what it was, but something in Larry's demeanor changed that said the topic was closed. "You remember George saying that he had to be in court this morning?" Larry reached for his briefcase, which up to then, I hadn't seen.

"Yes, he told me."

"Weren't you at all curious?"

"Why? If there was something about his business he wanted me to know, he would tell me. He didn't, so I didn't give it another thought."

"Pete, have you ever been told that for a teenager, you are just plain weird?" Larry was smiling as he passed some papers to Uncle George.

"Hmm, coming from an attorney, I should probably assume that question was rhetoric…"

"Do you even know what rhetoric is?"

"Sure. It is the art of persuasion. Especially in composition. In your case, you were using hyperbole, a common approach, to persuade everyone else at the table that I'm weird."

Larry just rolled his eyes while Margo chuckled.

Uncle George smiled, then glanced at the paperwork and handed it to me. "That only proves that you can read a dictionary, which for a jock your age, is definitely weird."

I looked at the papers and I immediately recognized it as a legal pleading (we studied this a bit in one of my classes last year). Then I looked at the title. I tried to read what else was there, but my eyes were watering and wouldn't focus. My mouth was quivering and my whole body began to shake. I dropped the papers on the table and leaped off of my chair… Straight into my uncle's arms.

"Thank you… Thank you!" I tried to say, but I was definitely blubbering and I don't know if I was making myself understandable. I was too busy hugging my uncle who was hugging me back, just as hard. I'm sure we made a hell of a scene. I was completely oblivious to the fact that several people in the restaurant were looking at an obvious teenager, hanging on to an adult, bawling his heart out, and wondering why their dinner companions were smiling. It was one of the few times I really didn't care what other people thought.

All I cared about were the three words at the top of the documents:

Petition For Adoption

After a few minutes, Uncle George and I disengaged. I sat back down in my chair and was wiping my face when Larry produced another set of papers.

"Pete, when your mother signed over guardianship to George, there was always the possibility that she could revoke that status at a later date. So when George came seeking advice about adopting you, we had to have her sign away her parental rights. This would allow George to seek permanent legal guardianship, prior to adoption. It is also Nevada law that the birth parents, in your case the birth parent, release all claim to any custodial rights to the minor child.

"We drew up the paperwork and sent our process server down to San Bernardino to get that release. She did sign the release but added a notation to her signature. It may be distressing to you what she wrote. However, you have the right to read this, and I have the unfortunate duty to show it to you."

Larry slipped over another set of documents, which I assumed was the release. I took it and looked at the last page where my mother's signature was located. I read the notation, just above her signature:

"Do what you want with the little faggot I don't care"

"That just figures." I sighed.

"This doesn't seem to bother you, Pete. Why is that?"

"Larry, on Christmas day when I left to take the bus up here, do you know what she said as I was closing the door?" Larry shook his head. "She said, 'Good riddance to bad trash'. So this doesn't shock me at all."

"My God!" Margo gasped. "How can a parent be so heartless?"

"Ask Mr. Breslen about his son, Jimmy…"

"Margo, Peter has been a straight-A student since the fourth or fifth grade. Last year, he began as a freshman in high school, at the age of twelve. He took four Advanced Placement classes that year. He also began playing baseball and was good enough to be placed on the JV team. This last fall semester, Peter was 13 and a sophomore. He was good enough to be a second-string wide receiver on his school's varsity football team. Still a straight-A student. Still taking four AP classes. As you may know, this semester, at 14, he is on the varsity baseball team.

"From the time my brother, Peter's dad, died until he left home, last Christmas Day, his mother constantly told him he wasn't doing as good as what his dad had done. She told him he was irresponsible and essentially, worthless.

"There's a lot more that went on, but those are the basics… With one exception. His mother and her brothers and sisters are extremely homophobic. I don't doubt for a minute that Peter would be dead if he still lived with his mother and it came out that he was gay.

"I suspect her little note was due to the national coverage that CNN and Fox News made over what Carl had done, and what the Principal of his school did."

Margo was almost in tears. "How can a parent treat a child like this? What about the other kids?"

"That's the really sad thing, Margo. Mary is a very good mother to Peter's brothers and sisters. It has always been Peter that she obsessed with."

"My sisters have bought into the homophobia of that side of the family. Ever since CNN went national with the story, they have hung up on me, when I've tried calling. Any family I may have had back in San Bernardino is gone."

"Don't fret over it, Peter. As they grow up, their views may very well change. Just keep an open mind.

"Well, I think we are all done here. You do have school tomorrow, Peter. Now, be a good lad and pay the bill." This last was said in the snootiest voice I have ever heard from my uncle.

Remembering our last dinner with Mitch's parents, I stared at him, for a moment, like he was an unknown person. Larry and Margo were laughing their collective butts off! I then gave him one of my best smiles and signaled Phillip for the check. I reached into my blazer for my wallet and extracted my debit card, which I handed to Philip.

Uncle George was staring back at me, and it appeared he would be sputtering if he wasn't in shock. Margo was chortling and Larry looked at George, grinning. "I do believe Young Master Peter has just called your bluff!"

Phillip came back with the receipt. I penned in the tip and signed the receipt but kept my copy, handing the signed original back to Phillip. He wished us good night and I thanked him for his excellent service.

I stood up and held my arm out to Margo, "Shall we, m'lady?" Larry was still laughing and Uncle George was still sputtering. I looked at Margo and said, "I think this is the first time I have gotten the best of him."

She smiled and as we walked out of the restaurant, she asked "So how much did dinner cost?"

"Don't tell anyone, but the meal was comped. All I paid was $40.00 for the wine. I quickly figured what the cost would have been and left an 18% tip for Phillip."

"Were you figuring on $35 to $40 a plate?"

"Yes, I figured it at $39.95, so $40 a plate plus $15 for the tiramisu."

"If I tell Larry about this, he will never let George live it down." She chuckled again as we walked to the cars. "Tell me though. You were so nonchalant about it, could you have paid for the meal if it had been full price?"

"Oh yes. I was counting on paying full price. When I moved here, I still had over a thousand in my bank account. I don't remember if I said, but I was earning my own money and paying for my clothes before I moved up here. Uncle George has not allowed me to pay for anything since I moved here. So yeah. I have the money."

We reached Unc's car and Margo pulled out a fob and unlocked the car next to it. "Ah… So Uncle George parked right next to you. Sneaky!" Unc and Larry walked up to us, so I took Margo's hand and kissed it, "A delightful evening m'lady."

"Don't press your luck, ya jerk" Uncle George growled. Larry and Margo both laughed.

"Take me home, George…" I had to say it. I just had to! "Father… I still have homework to finish."

Dad's mock glower disappeared behind a massive smile. "Yes, son, I do believe it's time to go home."

"George, you're going to need to be careful. Your boy has pushed your buttons twice tonight and done a good job of it." Laughed Margo.

Larry was grinning. "Give me a call in the morning George and I'll give you my 'be careful what you ask for' speech. If you're really lucky, you'll get it, and I think you have."

"Yeah Pops, they're right. You're really lucky I know where your buttons are! I can help ya keep from losing them."

My new Dad rolled his eyes, "You ain't too big that I can't paddle your behind."

"Oohhh… Kinky!" I held both hands over my heart, pretending it was palpitating.

Dad pointed to the passenger side. Margo giggled and Larry chuckled. We said our 'good nights' and we all got into our cars to go home. As I slid into the seat and buckled up, life was good. Very good.

Tuesday at school was somewhat less embarrassing than it had been on Monday. Still lots of back-slapping and fist-bumping, just not quite as much. Of course, I might not have noticed it because I was still on a high from last night.

There was also something that was tickling the back of my mind, and it wasn't until lunchtime that it gelled.

It was what Micca Breslen had said before he slugged me. I made a mental note to talk to 'dad' when I got done with the PT today. 'Dad'… Damn but that sounded good!

I went and got my lunch and sat at our table. Tom took one look at me and said, "OK Pete. What's up? You've been wearing this shit-eating grin ever since we made our run this morning. You want to share what's going on?"

"Uncle George is gonna adopt me. I'm gonna have a real dad!" If I grinned any harder, I was gonna crack my face!

Amidst the resulting 'woots' and 'woo-hoos', everyone congratulated me. That is until that kid Aaron spoke up.

"Pete, doesn't your mom have to give up her parental rights? I know you said that your uncle was your guardian, but was that permanent or can she revoke it?"

"You know about that stuff, Aaron?"

"Um, yeah. My dad's a family law attorney. So I've learned a bit about some of the procedures."

"OK, so it wasn't a permanent guardianship. But Unc's lawyers were on it. From what I gathered, they sent what they called a process server down to San Bernardino to have my birth mother sign away her parental rights. She didn't hesitate."

"Wow, man. That can't have felt good, to know she did that so fast."

"It might have if she hadn't called me nothing but garbage when I left Christmas Day. That's when I knew for sure she had no feelings for me."

"Shit, that would have hurt!" Tom was shaking his head. "I can't imagine either of my folks saying something like that."

"Anyway, Mr. Lundquist showed me a copy of the paperwork." I just chuckled, which made a couple of the guys look at me with questions on their faces. "Just above her signature, she wrote: 'Do what you want with the little faggot. I don't care.' At the time, I hated it when those stories about me went national, but now I think maybe there was some good in it. I see now that she must have watched them to know I was gay. Her whole side of the family is extreme homophobes. Anyway, she signed the papers and that is a good thing.

"So, I guess the Judge saw that, terminated her rights, and granted my uncle permanent guardianship, preparatory to the adoption."

"I take it you weren't out down there?"

"Oh god no Aaron! If she had known, she would have gotten her brothers to have a little talk with me. Ha! My uncles would have beaten me to death. Literally."

"You can't mean that, Pete!" Tom said.

"Unfortunately, I do. If they hadn't beat me to death, my mom would have chucked what was left of me out on the curb with the rest of her trash."

"I've heard about and read about stuff like that. But I've found it hard to believe, sometimes."

"Trust me, Tom. It happens all too often. I even thought that being here in a small town was gonna be worse! I'm surprised that you guys are more accepting than the Land of Fruits, Flakes, and Nuts."

Table talk then turned to Jimmy and how he was doing. We finished up our lunches just before the bell rang and headed off to our next classes.

We played flag football for PE again. I didn't give anyone a chance to tackle me today. I sprinted every single time I went out for a pass. I did just fine until the defense got wise and started double-teaming me. That left the other wide receiver open. Of course, the defense always has to keep an eye out for the tight end. So double-teaming me meant they (the tight end and the other wide receiver) had a better chance at making the play.

About three-quarters through the period, Coach Anderson began instructing the defense on how to defend against me. He made sure I couldn't hear what he was telling them, but after four plays, I figured it out and talked with our quarterback. We altered our play.

At the end of the period, we took our showers, dressed, and went home. Today I didn't have an escort. I kept an eye out for anyone following me and when I made it to the footbridge, I jogged the rest of the way home.

Uncle George, er, Dad (it was almost funny, calling him that. I was so used to him being my uncle) picked me up at 3:45 to take me to my PT session. My therapist was very pleased with my recovery. He asked what we were doing in PE at school and when I expected to get back to playing baseball. After our hour was up, He wrote me a note that cleared me for full activities, starting next Monday! He told me to keep using the range-of-motion exercises for the next two weeks. I asked, and he told me I didn't need to come back unless I was re-injured. He stressed that if my shoulder began giving me trouble, I was to see an orthopedist as soon as I could.

As we headed home, I gave, um, dad the good news when I was done.

"That is good news, Peter. Just don't blow it by overworking that shoulder."

"Not a chance. I figure one to two more weeks to get back into condition before I'll be fit to play. As relief second baseman, I might not play any innings, right off the bat."

"Relief? When did this come about?"

"Monday at practice. Jack Truman took my coaching to heart and really worked at what I was telling him. He is almost as good as I am now. I told the coach I just couldn't see putting him back to relief after all the work he'd done. I figure that he's earned the spot, especially as I still need a week or two to get into shape. Jack will have at least three games worth of experience by then and experience is all he needs to get better. Just wouldn't be fair to him."

"Have I told you that you are an amazing kid?"

"Aw, come on, dad. I'm just doin' what's right."

"DAD… I'm liking the sound of that, son. Now, you can say whatever ya want, but it's like the newspaper said; you're a hero."

"Yeah, that's what a lot of people, including some teachers and Coach Anderson say." I know I was blushing again, "But I don't want to be on that pedestal. If I fall off, it's a long way down."

"Peter, if ya keep doing what's right, ya won't fall."

We drove into the garage and dad triggered the door. We had just walked into the kitchen when dad's cell phone went off. I could tell by the ringtone that it was his attorney, Larry.

"Hello, Larry. What's up?" Of course, I couldn't hear the response. "Hold on. Let me put this on speaker so you only have to say this once." He turned to me. "Sit down Peter. This concerns you." I sat at the breakfast bar and dad placed the phone between us. "Go ahead, Larry. Peter's listening."

"OK. Here's the deal, Dr. Danbury was supposed to be in court today. They were gonna select the jury for his trial. His attorney showed up, but without his client. The Judge gave the attorney until 4:00 pm to locate Dr. Danbury and get him into the court.

"It seems that the good Dr. Danbury is no longer anywhere in Elko. His house is vacant. All utilities have been shut off and paid for. His cell phone no longer works, or he has changed the number.

"A bench warrant was issued for failure to appear and violation of the terms of his bail."

"Do we know how long he has been gone? Water, gas, or power companies? When was the last time his kids were in school?" Dad's voice was surprisingly serious as he asked the questions.

"That's something we won't find out until tomorrow. But I thought it was important to let you both know."

"You don't think he would go so far as to do something to Peter, do you?"

"Well, it's clear he is running with his whole family. So I don't think so. However, you can't be too careful about these things."

"Shit! Just what I need…"

"Quiet Peter… Larry, do we have any idea when the last time he was seen was?"

"Again, that's not something we will know until tomorrow."

"Well thanks for the heads-up, Larry. Let me know what you find out."

Dad took his phone off speaker and said goodbye to Larry.

"You don't think there is any real danger do you?"

"No. If he was gonna do something, it would've been before he ran. But I would like to know when he left."

"Hmm… I think when I get to school tomorrow, I'll try and talk to Mr. McNaulty. He's worked with Danbury long enough to maybe know what he might do or where he might go.

"Umm, Dad? All this reminds me that there is something I meant to tell you but forgot until now. It's what Mr. Breslen said before he slugged me."

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