Marco, Marty and the Twins

by Nick Brady

Chapter 6

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

School started on the last Monday of August, and Cub Scouts began meeting a week later. The summer doldrums were over and the twins were back to being very busy. They reestablished many friendships with boys they knew from school and scouts and made some new ones as well. Samuel and Benjamin were sociable boys. They made friends easily and got on well with most all of them. In addition to being good looking kids, they had been raised to be courteous and respectful of others and seldom found themselves at odds with their friends. While friendly and basically outgoing, they both had a natural reserve that made them easy to be around.

After the first several den meetings they were getting enthusiastic about the Cubs.

The first Monday of each month is our pack meeting," Ben was explaining the schedule to Marco and Marty. "We have to bring our Bear books to get things checked off."

"And we will need pocket knives," Sam reminded them.

"Do you need to be armed for these things?" Marty asked.

"No, but we need to know about knife safety and learn how to whittle," Sam explained.

"It's for our Whittling chip. It's one of the requirements," Ben added.

"I see. I guess we will have to get some pocket knives for you guys. Is it a special kind of knife or what?" Marco wondered.

"Not really, just something you can use to carve stuff, I Think we start out carving on a bar of soap," Ben said. "They will tell us about it at the pack meeting tonight."

"OK then. Get your uniforms on and let's get ready to go," Marco told them.

The pack meeting was held at the same elementary school that Sam and Ben attended and was only a few blocks away from their house. When they arrived the activity room was swarming with boys in blue Cub Scout shirts. A game of some sort was in progress and the twins raced in to join their friends. As the noise subsided the boys were herded into small groups of cubs by their dens and encouraged to sit together and pay attention to a heavyset young man who appeared to be in charge.

"That's Mr. Brown, he's the Cub Master," Sam explained.

Ben found the other boys in his den and made some quick introductions. "Hey guys, these are our dads Marco and Marty." Pointing to each of the other boys he named them. "This is Tony and his mom Mrs. Hernandez. She's our Den Mother, and this is Bobby, Tyron, Alex and Marshall." It was not clear which of the restless boys was who, although Marco had seen them when he dropped the twins off for scouts.

Then Ben smiled and introduced us to a slightly older boy with short cropped blond hair. He was wearing a Boy Scout shirt with a Star patch on it. "This is Brian. He's our Den Chief, he helps with our den."

Brian greeted us politely and extended his hand. The younger boys were too distracted to pay much attention to the introductions, but Brian glanced quickly at the two dads with a look of understanding. He flashed a quick smile and nodded his head slightly. "Very nice to meet you. Sam and Ben are a lot of fun."

We shook hands all around and then the boys scurried off to sit together while we took our place behind them with the other family members.

Four boys in tan Boy Scout shirts approached the front of the room with US and Oklahoma flags. The Cub Master held up two fingers in the cub scout sign as a signal for them all to stand and get quiet. The flag bearers took their places and stood solemnly to lead the pledge of allegiance and then the Scout promise.

Sam and Ben stood proudly and recited the pledge and then the promise,

On my honor I will do my best To do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.

This was followed by a somewhat mumbled version of the Scout Law,

A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful,

friendly, courteous, kind,

obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.

"It's hard to remember all that," Sam said apologetically.

"I thought you did good," Ben reassured him.

"We're supposed to memorize that stuff," Ben said.

"We will. We can work on it together," Sam predicted.

After a few announcements the boys were broken out into different groups by age to receive some instruction. This also served to let boys from different dens get acquainted. The three Bear dens in the pack were assembled on one corner of the room to receive instruction on their whittling chip. An older gentleman in a rumpled scout shirt gathered them around as he explained about how to properly carry and care for a pocket knife. He took out a folding knife and tried to show them how to sharpen it and how to use it to cut shaving from a wooden stick. He emphasized basic knife safety then showed the boys some simple wood carvings he had done with his knife. He was careful and methodical and the boys mostly gave him their attention.

The pack reassembled and one of the Webelos dens did a funny skit.

Six boys sat in a line of chairs with their legs crossed, right over left. The boy on the end turned and asked the boy next to him, "Is it time?" to which each boy turned and asked the boy next to him, "is it time?" When the boy on the other end received the question he shook his head and replied, "Nope!" his response was relayed back down the line to the first boy. He waited for a moment and began the process again, receiving the same reply. On the third time the boy on the far end replied, "Yep, it's time." This was repeated back to the first boy at which time he said, "OK," and the line of boys all recrossed their legs left over right.

It was a great little scout skit – short, simple, silly and funny.

The Cub Master reviewed some of the plans for the year. There would be a Pinewood Derby in a few months, the boys were to sell fund-raising popcorn, and there would be a Blue and Gold awards banquet in the spring. Some additional information resulted in quite a bit of restless wiggling and giggling before another game was announced.

"Alright boys, now it's time for a game. Everybody make a circle," the Cub Master instructed.

As the boys shuffled themselves in a ragged circle in the center of the room, they noticed that a large pile of balloons had been inflated. To each balloon was fastened a 6 foot length of string which was then tied to the ankle of each boy.

"OK Fellows. The game is very simple. You will all move into the circle and attempt to stomp and break your friend's balloon. When your balloon is broken you will go back out of the circle and sit down. The last boy with a balloon will be the winner. Got it? Go!" he instructed.

There was a flurry of chaotic activity as a room full of cub scouts began wildly shuffling and stomping on the balloons which flew about following the movement of the boys. With each step the string jerked the balloon in a random direction making it difficult to step on. There was a great noise of laughter and popping balloons until only a few perspiring boys were left. When there was only one balloon left, the owner was given a cheer and declared the winner. It was not one of the twins but rather a very small but agile little Wolf cub who looked somewhat dazed but triumphant as the room erupted in applause.

"Wow, that was fun!" Sam shouted to Ben.

"Yeah, mine got popped by some big kid. I don't even know who it was. That was crazy!" Ben shouted in return.

When the meeting was over they went to the car and drove home. Clearly Sam and Ben were very pumped up about the cubs.

The weekly routine had been established: church on Sunday, school each day and cubs on Monday evening. The new highlight of their week had become the cub meeting.

The meeting was held in the Hernandez home which was only three blocks away, but Marco drove the boys over then and returned to pick them up an hour and a half later. He usually just sat in the car until the boys ran out but tonight but this time was invited in to watch as the meeting progressed. Mrs. Hernandez was a rather pretty dark haired woman with her son Tony and a younger brother who obviously wished he could be part of the group. The routine was that they opened by reciting the scout pledge and law, then discussed whatever activity they were supposed to be working on, followed by a game and then some simple snacks.

Brian was a Star scout and had volunteered to be their Den Chief. He was a sharp kid of thirteen, fit looking and very blond. He had gone through the cub program himself and obviously knew his stuff. Brian was patient and good natured but focused on getting things done. The boys obviously liked him and paid attention when he talked.

The topic for the evening was the requirements for the whittling chip and Brian was demonstrating the basic of handling a pocket knife safely.

"There are all kinds of pocket knives," he told them, and had several for them to look at. "The classic scout knife they sell at the Scout office is fine. It has only one big blade and is a good knife. You see these Swiss Army things with all kinds of blades and I know they look cool, but they aren't really what you want. They are too bulky and hard to keep clean." he told them.

"What you want is something small enough to fit easily in your pocket and keep sharp. A dull knife is more dangerous than a sharp knife because you have to push harder to get it to cut anything and it will slip and cut you."

He showed them two knives that he favored. One was a small knife with a bone handle and two blades which opened from opposite ends. "This is good because one blade is longer and if both are sharp you can do some nice whittling with it. But you have to be very careful how you handle it because the blade can accidentally close on your finger."

He showed them a slightly larger knife with a single blade. "This is a lock blade knife. See, when you open it there is a latch that clicks and holds it open. To close it back up you press on the latch and it releases the blade. I like this because it won't slip closed and cut your finger."

"How much do they cost?" one of the boys asked. "Are they expensive?"

Brian shook his head, "These aren't. You can pay a lot of money of some name brand knives but I got both of these at the Walmart and neither cost more than ten dollars. If you keep them sharp they will work just fine for you. Besides, pocket knives tend to get lost and I would rather lose a ten dollar knife than a forty dollar one." The boys nodded their heads.

"Let's talk about how to keep your knife sharp," he continued and showed them a couple of knife sharpeners. The first was a flat plastic device with a pair of slots containing ceramic material. "This is good because it will fit in your pocket and is really easy to use. You just draw the blade through it and it will keep a pretty good edge on your knife if it 's already sharp, see?" He demonstrated with his pocket knife.

"But if you have a dull knife that needs a lot of work, the best thing is a whetstone." He showed them a flat stone of carbide material. "This will put a really good edge on a knife but it requires some skill. You have to put a little oil on it and hold the blade at just the right angle. It takes some practice but it will make your knife razor sharp."

Brian demonstrated while the boys watched carefully. I like this best but to tell the truth, you might want to save this for when you have more experience. If you don't know what you are doing you can bugger up a knife with one of these." More nodding heads.

"When you get a knife you can bring it to the meeting and I will show you more about this," he said. "But understand that if you carry a pocket knife it needs to be closed and in your pocket. I don't want to see any of you guys waving a knife around, OK? That's very important."

The lesson was over and since it was a nice day they were sent out to kick a soccer ball around in the back yard. Marco went out to watch and to chat with Mrs. Hernandez.

"Your Den Chief knows his stuff," Marco observed.

"Oh yes," she chuckled. "Brian was with me last year too. I don't know what I would do without him. He really runs the meetings and the boys love him."

"He is very good with the younger boys. Not all kids his age are that focused and patient."

"He comes from a scouting family. I think he has an older brother who is an Eagle scout and Brian has learned a lot from him I think."

Marco nodded thoughtfully. "If the scouting program helps develop a boy like Brian it speaks well of the program. I hope our boys stay with it."

Mrs. Hernandez hesitated. "Samuel and Benjamin have two fathers?"

Marco smiled, "That's right. Marty and I have been married for almost six years. We adopted the twins when they were four."

She glanced away for a moment. "Well, I think that's nice. Sam and Ben love you both very much. They are nice boys."

"Yes they are. We are very lucky to have them."

And that was all that was said.

Life was good. Sam and Ben bought pocket knives at the Walmart and carved some respectable looking bears out of bars of Ivory soap without cutting any fingers. They made good grades in school without bringing home any disciplinary notes from their teacher. They went through acolyte training at Saint Jerome's and looked resplendent in their cassocks and cottas as they processed into the service carrying the tall candles. Father Hoover's comment was that they looked like bookends.

They enjoyed all the holidays. For Halloween they considered wearing their Indian regalia then rejected the idea and opted to be Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. A pair of masks from Walmart and a trip to the Goodwill store for some makeshift costumes and they were good to go. Thanksgiving was spent with Uncle Eugene and Aunt Eunice for traditional turkey and dressing, and at Christmas they drove down to Austin to spend a few days with Marty's mother Irene.

"Oh my Lord, you boys have grown a foot since I saw you last," she exaggerated as she smothered her grandchildren with hugs.

"It smells good in here," Ben noticed.

"It always smells good in your grandmother's house," Marty assured them. "I grew up in this house you know."

Marty showed them his old bedroom still complete with high school posters and a pair of bunk beds, "You should feel right at home in here."

"Oh, it is so nice to have you here, I wish you lived closer," Irene told them.

The house was decorated for Christmas with little knick-knacks of Santas and snowmen placed around. A Christmas tree was placed in the front window and a wreath was on the door. "It just isn't Christmas without boys in the house," She declared. There was a pile of presents under the tree.

"You are going to spoil these boys," Marty told her.

"I intend to," she laughed.

They went to the Christmas Eve service with her at the same little Methodist church that Marty had grown up in then returned for pie and hot chocolate after the service. "Now you boys need to get to bed so Santa can come," She told them.

"Well, we kind of know about Santa," Sam said.

"Besides, it looks like he has already been here," Ben added, looking at the presents under the tree.

"Well, you never know, he might surprise you," Marco told him.

The boys were shooed off to bed while Marco and Marty sat with Irene in the living room and talked.

"So how are things going with you?" Irene wondered.

"Very well," Marty said. "Better than we could have imagined actually. The boys are doing great, our work is going well and we could not ask for more."

Marco assured her, "Marty has been promoted to a director position and my paintings are selling. We are blessed, really."

"So what is new with you?" Marty asked his mother. "I keep thinking you will find a boy friend," he grinned.

Irene blushed. "Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that."

"Oh, really?" Marty laughed with surprise.

"Now it's not like that, but I have been seeing this nice gentleman. W e are just friends of course, but I did invite him to have dinner with us tomorrow."

"Who is this lucky devil?" Marty asked.

"Well his name is Ronald and we met at an AARP social. He is really a very nice man. Now we are just friends you understand."

"That is the best way to start out," Marco told her. "That's great. Marty worries about you being all alone here."

"So tell us about Ronald," Marty said.

Irene looked pleased. "He is a widower and has grown children and two grandchildren. I haven't met them but he has shown me pictures. He is a retired civil engineer and he likes to dance. He takes me dancing," she smiled brightly.

"Oh Mom, that's wonderful," Marty told her. "I am so happy for you."

"He is a very sweet man," She admitted. "It is nice to have someone to do things with. But we are just friends," she insisted again.

"Mother, did you think I wouldn't approve?" Marty asked.

"Oh well, I don't suppose I thought that, but it has been such a long time since your father left. I may have wondered what you would think."

"Well I think it's wonderful and I'm looking forward to meeting him."

"Me too," Marco added. "I bet he's a nice guy."

Irene looked very pleased and after a little more chat about the boys, excused herself for bed. Marco and Marty went into the spare bedroom and undressed.

"Gee, your mom looked happier than I can remember. She was positively bubbly."

"She did for a fact," Marty agreed. "You know, it' hasn't been easy for her. My father left her alone to raise a son and she has never complained. I don't know where this will go for her but I am just delighted. We need to try and not run him off."

Marco chuckled, "I don't think we will be any surprise to him. Irene has photos of us with the boys all over the place."

"We will have to be on our best behavior," Marty agreed.

Christmas morning was a bustle of activity as Sam and Ben plundered the packages under the tree. Irene had supplied them with several sweaters and shirts, video games and packages of socks. "Socks for Christmas are a family tradition," she reminded Marty.

Marco and Marty had a nicely framed photograph of the four of them for Irene, and a bottle of nice cologne as well. "It turns out you might be needing that," Marty joked, causing his mother to blush.

After pastries and coffee for breakfast, Irene began putting the finishing touches on Christmas dinner. "I decided to do a nice beef roast this year," she said. "You get in here and help me Marco. You're a better cook than I am."

"I doubt that, but I will try to be helpful," Marco smiled.

"Remember, your gravy was what won her over," Marty reminded him.

At about one o'clock Irene had everything in the oven and well on the way to completion. She excused herself and went into her bedroom to change for dinner. When she emerged forty-five minutes later she had been transformed. She was wearing a new dress that Marty had not seen before, her hair was just so and she had skillfully applied some makeup.

"Mom, you look terrific," Marty grinned. "You didn't need to get all dressed up for us."

Irene snorted and smiled. "You aren't the only one coming for dinner, you know."

"Grandma, you look nice!" Ben exclaimed.

"Well don't sound so surprised," Irene said defensively.

Marco wisely remained silent.

Just before two o'clock a car pulled into the driveway and Irene went to the front door, waiting before she heard a knock, then opening it to a white haired gentleman carrying a brightly wrapped box. He was tall and slender with a well trimmed white beard and mustache.

"Come in Ronny," she said and opened the door wide.

She took the gift and waved at the rest of the family. "This is my son Marty and his partner Marco, and their sons Samuel and Benjamin."

They all shook hands, including Sam and Ben, exhibiting their best Sunday manners.

"It is very nice to meet you," Ronald said. "I have heard a lot about you. And especially about you boys," he smiled at the twins. "Your grandmother thinks you are pretty special."

"It's nice to meet you too," Marty told him. "I understand you have some grandchildren of your own."

"Yes, I do," he said as Irene took his coat and hung it up. I have two daughters, one is married and has a boy and a girl, and my other daughter is still in college."

They sat down and Irene brought in some coffee. "How old are the grandchildren?" Marco asked.

"Jason is eight and Stacie is twelve. They live in Houston so I don't get to see them as often as I like."

"My boys all live in Tulsa so I don't get to see them nearly often enough," Irene volunteered. "Isn't it nice to have them here for Christmas?"

"I'm glad you came so I could finally meet you," Ronald assured them.

Sam and Ben sat politely for a few minutes then eased over under the tree to look at their new video games while the adults made conversation. Ronald seemed like a nice fellow and looked to be a little older than Irene but well spoken and well kept. They liked him.

They talked in generalities for several minutes then Irene excused herself and went into the kitchen. "Come help me put this together," she said to Marco who followed her to render assistance.

"You have a very nice family," Ronald said to Marty.

"Thank you. We are blessed. Our situation may not be altogether conventional but it seems to work for us," Marty replied.

Ronald smiled gently, "There is nothing wrong with two people who love each other raising a healthy family. Although in this day and age that may be unconventional. I would agree that you are blessed. I believe that everybody deserves to be happy."

Marty reflected on that for a moment. "I have to admit that I was a little surprised that my mother had found a gentleman friend but I am pleased that she has. Mom is a very nice person and I worry about her sometimes. She has been on her own for a long time, too long perhaps."

Ronald cleared his throat. "My wife died over six years ago and I have done alright I think, but I do get lonely sometimes. Your mother has been on her own for much longer. She is a lovely person and I have wondered why she remained single."

A little surprised by Ronald's candor, Marty tried to respond honestly. "I have wondered about that too. In fact I have felt rather guilty, as if it were my fault."

"How is that?"

"Probably she has told you this, but her marriage to my father did not end well. He drank a lot and frankly was rather abusive. She is not the sort of person to stay in an abusive relationship so she basically tossed him out and they were formally divorced a few years later when I was fourteen. He went his own way and I have only seen him a few times since then. I think Mom devoted herself to raising me. Maybe now that I have made a life of my own, perhaps she is ready to get on with hers."

"She is very proud of you Marty. She is fond of Marco and dotes on your boys."

Marty nodded his head. "Yes, I know. Our relationship was a challenge for her but she has really been great. But I suspect that she has told you all this."

"Yes she has, and it is the same as what you have just shared with me," Ronald acknowledged. "But I wanted to hear it from you."

Unsure of where the conversation was going, Marty sat silently and waited.

Ronald shifted his position in his chair. "I think I would like you to know that I am very fond of Irene, and wanted to know how you felt about her seeing someone."

"I think it's great," Marty told him. "I want Mom to be happy. She is savvy enough to make good choices. If you are asking for my blessing, you have it."

Ronald looked relieved. "Of course you don't know me at all, and Irene and I have not discussed anything serious, but I suppose I wanted to know how you felt before I proceed. I am rather a cautious person and the last thing in the world I would want is to create a problem for your mother."

Just then, Irene announced that dinner was ready. They stood to go to the dining table.

"Marty smiled and said, "Good luck."

The dinner was superb. Irene asked Ronald to carve the roast which he did expertly. The more they saw of Ronald the more comfortable Marco and Marty were around him.

After chatting for some time Irene brought out an apple pie and a carton of ice cream. The boys were called in from the living room and they all enjoyed dessert. At seven-thirty Ronald stood to leave.

"I need to be running along," he said. "Thank you for a lovely dinner."

"It's not that late," Irene said. "Do you have to leave so soon?"

"Yes, I have things to do. Besides, you need some time with your family."

Irene walked him out to his car, said goodbye then came back in the house.

"I like your friend," Marty told her.

"Do you? I'm glad. He has been very sweet to me."

"Mom, I know you must be lonely. I hope this works out for you," Marty assured her.

"Well, we are just friends," she insisted one more time then smiled. "But it is nice to have someone to do things with."

Marco had not said much, feeling that it was a matter best left up to Marty and his mother. They talked for awhile more then Irene asked him directly, "Marco, what do you think of Ronald? You have been rather quiet."

Marco smiled. "I like him. He seems to be a very nice person and I was impressed that he was concerned about what Marty thought of him. It seems to me that he is very fond of you but is proceeding cautiously. I suspect that he would like to be more than just friends but he is afraid of hurting you. Basically he's letting you call the shots which I think speaks very well of him. I think he's a class act and an OK guy."

Irene smiled, "I like him too. I'm not sure where this is going but he does make me very happy. You know, I do care what you think. I have been alone for so long that the idea of dating at my age is intimidating."

Marty laughed, "Go for it Mom. You aren't getting any younger."

The next morning they loaded up the car and Marty took them all out for breakfast. The menu said they could choose any three toppings for pancakes and the twins were trying to decide what to order.

"How about strawberries, peanut butter and chocolate syrup?" Ben wondered.

"We could have chocolate, caramel and whipped cream," Sam suggested.

"Maybe blueberries, chocolate and coconut," Ben thought.

"Ugh, that sounds gross. I don't like coconut that much," Sam said.

"How about peanut butter and chocolate chips?" Ben asked. "That would be kind of like a Reese's."

"Oh look, you can get M&M's too," Sam pointed out.

"Hang on guys. Think about how it would actually taste," Marco warned them." I would hate to have you puking in the back seat all the way to Tulsa."

In the end they opted for peanut butter and maple syrup, just to be safe. Marco ordered the same and Marty and his mother got omelets and toast.

"It has been so nice having you with me for Christmas," Irene told them.

"We enjoyed your hospitality and it was nice to meet your friend Ronald," Marty said.

Irene sighed. "I don't know what to do about him."

Marty took her hand and smiled. "Remember what you told me when you met Marco? Take your own advice and do what makes you happy, OK?"

She smiled and said, "Maybe I will. We'll see."

It was a seven hour drive from Austin back to Tulsa. Marco and Marty took turns but it was late when they got home. The twins had slept part of the way and played with their video games, but were getting tired and cranky.

"OK guys, put your stuff away and take your shower. It's time for bed," Marco told them.

The boys were too tired to argue. They took clean underwear to the bathroom and got under the warm water to wash each other's back.

"It was nice to see grandma but I'm glad to be home," Sam said.

"Yeah, me too. I like to shower in my own bathroom and sleep in my own bed," Ben agreed as he rubbed soap over Sam's butt.

"That feels nice," Sam said. "I just couldn't relax in somebody else's house."

"Me either," Ben agreed and turned around, "Now do me."

They dried off and went into their bedroom, closed the door and sat down together on the bottom bunk.

"Now it feels private," Ben decided.

"Yeah, it does," Sam grinned.

In their room Marco and Marty were undressing for bed. Marty looked at Marco as he changed out of his underwear. "You know, you still look pretty damn good to me," Marty told him.

"Oh yeah? You think so?" Marco replied, slipping into bed in his birthday suit.

"I think so," Marty murmured. "You can still turn me on kiddo." Marty grinned as he crawled into bed naked. "Well the door is closed and we have a little privacy. Care to dance a little horizontal Mambo?"

Marco just smiled and snuggled close.

Things were back to normal.

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