One Summer Morning

by Biff Spork

Chapter 9

Mani turned his gaze to me and choked, "Oh, Kevin, what are we going to do?"

"About what? What's the matter?" I asked, hoping it was something simple I could solve with my debit card or a noodle soup.

"Everything," he said and wiped his tears away with his hands. He sat up and dried his eyes with the sheet. "My whole screwed up life!"

I hugged him as hard as I could and said, "Everything's gonna be okay. Please don't worry."

He shook his head and looked at me. "Hey, you and me is fantastic. I never ever let myself even dream something this good. I was afraid I would just die if I knew something like this, someone like you, could happen to me and I couldn't make it real or permanent." He put his hands on my shoulders and gently shook me. "But this is a dream, Kevin. Any day now the 'authorities' will come and collect me and drag me back into my real life. And you and me will be just a nice memory." Two more big tears grew in the corners of his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. I felt a couple roll down my cheeks too. We just stared at each other then for a minute.

"I'll do something, Mani. I don't know what I'll do but I'll do something."

"Kevin? Mani?" called my mother from the stair landing. "Breakfast is ready."

We went into the bathroom, splashed some water on our faces, got dressed and went to meet the day.

An hour and a half later, my father pulled up in the parking lot near the forest trail. I went around to get my bike out of the trunk of the car and overheard him talking to Mani beside the car. He said, "It's been a real pleasure to meet you, Mani. We hope you'll come and stay with us again, maybe for a little longer next time. You'll always be welcome in our house."

"Thank you, sir," said Mani. "It was really nice to meet you and Mrs. Klein. I had a really good time." He paused then said, "...Uh..." and lurched forward into a clumsy hug. Then he said, "Oh, sorry...I don't know...."

My father reached out and pulled him into a real hug. "Nothing to be sorry about, Mani. I like you, too. I really do hope we'll be seeing a lot of you."

We waved my father goodbye, chained my bike to the rack there and set off down the forest trail towards the beach.

"You said you were gonna teach me that song," said Mani, "that valderie song."

"I don't actually remember most of the words but I'll teach you what I know," I said. "The chorus goes,

Valderie, Valdera,

Valderie Valdera ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

Valderie, Valdera,

With my knapsack on my back.

We shrieked that out a couple of times while jogging down the trail. Then I taught him the only verse I remembered.

I love to go a wandering

Along the mountain track

And as I go I love to sing

My knapsack on my back.

We ran faster and faster and sang louder and louder, our ha ha has echoing among the forest giants, and when I heard the raven laughing in answer I felt like everything was going to be okay.

Mani's good spirits seemed to have returned as well and by the time we got to his campsite on Haystack Beach we were busily planning our day. The first thing we did was have a race to get our clothes off. We agreed it was a tie as we pulled ourselves into the most glorious naked hug, as if we had been apart for years. It was like the whole universe gave a sigh of relief when we wrapped our arms around each other and pressed our lips together. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else existed.

I had noticed that there were a couple of different kinds of shore birds down by the tidal pools and Mani had described a few others he had seen down there earlier in the summer. We decided to spend the morning at that end of the beach with the camera and binoculars and see what we could capture. Our last time there I had caught a glimpse of a Black Oystercatcher and I wanted a picture of one for my life list. Something about their big pink feet made me like them.

We strolled along the beach and sat down with Jack on his blanket. Without discussion we moved in on him, one on each side, one under each arm. He looked at us, one at a time and said, "Well, good morning, boys. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"We just wanted to say hello," I said and handed him a package of cookies I had brought. "And to thank you for all your help and kindness. I thought you might like some cookies."

"It was a pleasure," he said. "Any time I can help.... I see you're looking like you're tanning pretty good now. I guess you don't need any more of that sun screen?"

"No, thank you," I said while stretching out my legs.

"I didn't think so," said Jack, "so today I brought along some suntan lotion, just to keep your skin from drying out and help it tan better...." While he dug around in his pack Mani and I exchanged a glance. Mani stretched out on his stomach on one side of Jack and I followed suit on the other. Jack produced a large bottle of sun tan lotion.

"Maybe you could put some of that on us?" said Mani.

Jack did our backsides first and then our fronts, covering every single inch of skin and, with admirable restraint, not lingering unduly long on any risible areas.

"Thank you, boys," Jack said as we shouldered the camera bag and binoculars. "I haven't had such a nice morning for years."

The warm tidal pool was so comfortable we lolled in it for an hour or more while I gave Mani a crash course in photography. I didn't know much so it didn't take long to share and he was quick to understand. Then, keeping a low profile we crept towards the water's edge where several Black Oystercatchers were snacking off the numerous limpets firmly sucked onto the rocks along the shoreline. In another hour Mani had captured dozens of good shots of the oystercatchers and several other smaller shorebirds I espied with the binoculars.

My mother had outdone herself with our lunch and we did it justice, ending up sprawled against the driftwood surrounded by empty containers. Even stretching out legs out and wiggling our toes seemed to have no effect on our little pot bellies. I was still able to slide an orange into Mani, segment by segment. Then he dragged me to my feet and insisted that movement was the only cure. We threw the frisbee back and forth, lazily at first and then with more energy. After an hour we raced into the water to cool down. Then we retired to the sleeping bag beneath the tarpaulin.

"Pull up a seat, podner," said Mani. I dropped down beside him as the heavy blanket of drowsy afternoon heat folded around me. I reached out for him and hugged and kissed him and we lay so close together we were like one thing. We drifted into sleep enfolded in a cloud of pleasure generated simply by touching each other from head to toe.

I woke to Mani kissing my eyelids. I rolled onto my back and stretched, a long luxurious stretch. Mani grinned at me and leaned over and kissed my belly button, then the very tip end of my outstanding penis. I held his head down on my stomach, just to feel his ear with my belly. He laughed, "I can hear your stomach gurgling and your dick is poking up my nose. I love your tummy," he said, then added more quietly, "I love all of you."

"I love you, too, Mani," I said. Then I got up and began to get dressed.

"You're going already?" said Mani.

"Yeah," I said. "I want to talk to my mom and dad, a lot, about us. But I'll be back as early as possible tomorrow."

"Okay," he said and began to dress himself. "I'm coming with you to the parking lot."

After I had unlocked my bike Mani and I had a good hug and I headed home. As I pedalled along the bike trail my mind was busy thinking about how best to tell my parents about the problems Mani and I were facing. I decided the main principle was to tell the truth but not get into details about our times on the beach.

I was happy to see both cars in the garage when I got home. I raced through the kitchen to dump my stuff upstairs. I looked at myself in the mirror, not to primp but to fix my mind on being honest. This was too important to screw up.

I went into the living room where my dad was sitting with his evening newspaper. We exchanged greetings and then I said, "Dad, I need to talk to you and Mom about Mani."

He called my mother in and they sat opposite me expectantly.

"I haven't been telling you the truth about Mani," I said. They waited and listened while I told them about Mani's life and the real situation and that we had invented Uncle Jack so Mani could come and have a sleepover. Then I told them what we feared – that the Social Welfare people would catch him and force him into another bad foster placement so we wouldn't be able to see each other any more.

My parents sat in silence for a minute, then exchanged a glance. Then my father said, "What do you want us to do? I can't say we'll do it. We have to act like responsible adults. But it's very important that we know exactly what you want us to do, what you expect from us."

"I want Mani to become a part of our family, like my brother, with you as his mother and father. You've met him and you know how good he is. Mostly I think he's better than I am. It's just not fair that he's had such a rotten life. He made me realize how lucky I am to have parents like you and a house like this to live in. But I've never been so happy as since I met Mani. I want to share all this with him. And I want to share him with you."

My parents digested this silently. Then my father asked, "Mani's down there sleeping on the beach without anyone taking care of him?"

I nodded. "Jack, the fake Uncle Jack who talked to Mom, he stays on the beach too. He's camped a little further along. And he really is an ex-policeman. He kinda acts as Mani's bodyguard. He's a nice guy. Mani says all he has to do is shout and Jack will be there to defend him."

My father stood up. "Your mother and I need to talk together about everything you've said. But that will have to wait. One thing I do know for sure right now is that no thirteen-year-old boy is going to spend the night alone on some deserted beach, not if I know about it," he said. "How long will it take us to get to where Mani is camped?"

"About two or three hours to Haystack Beach," I said.

"It'll be dark before we get back," my father said. "Get some warm clothes. I'll dig out a couple of flashlights." He turned to my mother and said, "We'll have to wait supper until we get back."

"I'm coming too," said my mother. "I'll put some snacks and drinks together – we can munch as we go."

"You guys are the best," I said and hugged them both. Fifteen minutes later we were on the road.

Twilight was well advanced by the time we got to Johnson Point and the sun was sunk below the horizon. "It's not far now," I said, "only about five minutes."

Mani's campsite was dark but for the embers of small fire. My parents sat down on some driftwood logs while I went further back into his campsite. He was wrapped up in his sleeping bag under the tarpaulin, fast asleep. I knelt down and shook him gently by the shoulder and said, "Mani, wake up." His eyes blinked open and he looked at me.

"Kevin," he said, then lifted the sleeping bag covering him and pulled me down beside him. His warm naked legs wrapped around me. "This is great. But how come you're here?"

My parents couldn't see us so I risked a quick kiss and said, "I told my Mom and Dad everything and they said we had to come and get you, to stay with us. They're waiting by the arbutus tree. Get some clothes on and we'll get you packed up."

Mani just muttered, "Wow!" and dug his clothes out. When he was dressed we left his bed and went out to where my parents were sitting.

"Hi Mani," said my father. "Kevin has told us about your situation and we want you to come and stay with us, at least until we get this all sorted out. I hope that is okay with you?"

"Hi Mr. Klein, hi Mrs. Klein – this is fantastic. It won't take me long to get my stuff together."

I held a flashlight for Mani while he stuffed his clothes and toiletries and a few other personal possessions into his small pack.

Then we heard a voice from the darkness. "Mani? Is everything okay? Are you okay? What's going on?"

"Hi Jack," said Mani. "Yeah, everything's okay. Kevin's here with his Mom and Dad. They say I should stay with them for a while."

Jack came up from the beach and I could see he was wearing a pair of board shorts and a hoodie. "That sounds good," he said. "Are you okay with that?"

"Yeah," said Mani. "It's okay. Don't worry. I think it's great."

"Okay," said Jack. "I'll keep an eye on your stuff here until you get a chance to come down and get it."

"Uncle Jack!" said my mother.

"Hi, Mrs. Klein," said Jack. "It's nice to meet you in person."

"Jack, I know you're no Uncle, but you've won these boys' friendship and that's good enough for me."

"Thank you, ma'am. I hope you're gonna let them come down to the beach from time to time. They're really good boys and I'll miss them if I don't get to see them. I didn't like spinning a tale to you, ma'am, but I have to confess that I really did like being Mani's uncle."

It was full darkness by the time we got to Johnson Lagoon and though we had flashlights and the forest trail was well marked it was slow going. Yet, for me it was a glorious procession. My father was there because he was a great father. My mother was there because she wanted Mani to know that it wasn't just me and my father who wanted him but our whole family was there to be beside him and bring him home.

That is the story of how of Mani and I came to be together. There are lots of details remaining but they're mostly bureaucracy and logistics. My parents met with the Social Welfare people and became foster parents to Mani and then, a year later, they were allowed to adopt him. Mani and I spent a lot of summer days on Haystack Beach and always included a visit with Jack. We still keep a life list and it gets longer every year. When we graduated from middle school our family spent a month in Thailand and Mani and I were able to add almost a hundred tropical birds to the list. It seems we love each other more every day.

~ The End ~

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