The Apprentice

by Sahypo

Chapter 51

The boys fell into a routine that had them eat breakfast together, but usually as a part of a larger crowd of kids at the table their second day there. Sean felt that Brooks was definitely nervous and uncomfortable and joined the conversation only when directly spoken to, but he was beginning to relax with Sean. Sean made a mental note to set the alarm fifteen minutes earlier, to see if the dining hall was quieter and less stressful if they arrived earlier than most of the other campers.

This proved to be the case, and on the third day Brooks was noticeably more relaxed. He had been to his first sessions yesterday, which had consisted of each player taking a turn demonstrating his or her ability for four minutes, after which the guest instructor segregated the group into smaller teams by skill level. Brooks wound up in a quartet with three girls. One flirted with him, which was confusing; the second acted as if he didn't exist at all and was aloof to the other girls, and the third was nice and made him feel less nervous in the situation. In all, there were four groups in the room, and each group was attended to by a guest instructor/musician, who led the players on exercises, and offered advice and insights.

Late on the fourth day of camp, the boys had had a full day, a big evening meal and swam for two hours in the pool. Brooks had been quiet and acted distracted the entire time he was with Sean after they met for dinner after their last sessions of the day. He was affable and responded to Sean, but Sean was doing the talking, and noticed that his little friend was even more reserved than usual. It was almost curfew when they got back to the room in wet swimsuits, their damp towels over their shoulders.

Sean let Brooks have the bathroom to change as he stripped his trunks off and dried himself before pulling on a pair of briefs. Brooks had changed into his pajamas as he usually did, and climbed into bed as he glanced at what Sean was looking at on TV.

Sean picked up his wet trunks and took them into the bathroom to dry a bit before tomorrow nights swim session, and handed the remote to Brooks as he climbed into bed.

"I'm not watching anything."

Brooks looked at the remote and turned the TV off before placing the remote on the nightstand between the beds.

Sean lay back and looked at the ceiling.

"Brooks, did I do something?"


"Did I do or say something? You've been different tonight."

"Really? Er, no…you didn't do nothing."

"Something is bothering you; I can tell."

"No. It's nothin'."

"You can't lie to me, it won't work. I'll just keep bugging you until you talk to me."

"I can't…You'll get mad at me."

"Have I ever gotten mad at you?"

"You've known me just four days. There's still time." Brooks replied, deadpan. Sean cracked up laughing, thinking Brooks had made a joke. The little red-head was confused.

"What… did I …say?"

Sean recovered a bit of composure and spoke

"I'm sorry…I'm not laughing at you, it's what you said, okay?"

Brooks nodded.

"Okay, why would I get mad at you?"

Brooks blushed crimson.

"Because, well, you'll think I'm weird if I um, you know, ask you stuff, but I can't…"


"talk to anybody I know about this 'cause they'll think I'm weird…"


"Uh, yeah, sorry."

"I already got the weird part…it's why I like you, okay? This stays between us, I promise."

That seemed to satisfy Brooks, and he looked up, but did not meet Sean's gaze.

"Um, why am, um, I getting lots of uh, boners lately and stuff?" Brooks whispered. "They hurt sometimes when I can't let it out, and they are distracting and…."

He was beginning to get worked up again.

"… so embarrassing! I don't know why they're happening or what to do about this."


"I hear those boys at school talking about stuff I don't understand and I can't ask them, or anybody …



"It's well, it's because you're not a little boy anymore."

"Oh…um, you mean…"

Sean was about to ask if Brooks' dad had ever explained things to him, then realized that his own father had never told him anything about these things either. He fought down an urge to giggle, knowing how serious Brooks was, and that laughing at his question would be misinterpreted as laughing at him. The boy would be crushed and devastated. Like a lot of parents, his father thought he still had time before Brooks was ready for The Talk.

"Yeah." Sean replied. "When did it start getting bigger?"

"Um, since like Easter, I guess."

"It's puberty starting."

Brooks nodded and lay there silently for several minutes, watching Sean closely.

"How do… how do you make the white stuff come out?"

"Well, I guess kinda like this." Sean replied, making the motion with his fist over his midsection above the sheet. "Until you come."

Brooks had a blank look on his face.

"Come where?"

"No, just come. You know, have an orgasm, shoot sperm?" Sean replied.

Brooks shook his head in the negative.

"You know what that is … right?"

"Kinda…Er, well, not really…Uh, no…no, I don't." Brooks admitted.

"It's okay. You do…jerk off, don't you?"

Brooks blushed scarlet. Was he really going to admit this to another person? Then again, Sean had never given him reason to doubt his sincerity. In for a penny, in for a pound, the saying goes.

"Er, a little I guess, yeah."

Again, Sean fought to control his reaction, and urge to laugh out loud.

"What does a little mean?"

"Um, well, sometimes I um, you know, play with it and stuff."

"And what happens when you do that?"

"My arm gets tired, and I stop. One or two times I stopped because I almost peed."

Sean grinned and shook his head. "Oh, man." He whispered.

"Huh? What?"

"You didn't go far enough. You just stopped too soon."


"You weren't going to pee, Brooks. It's called the point of no return, when you get that feeling it means you are just about to shoot."

"Oh." Brooks replied. He shifted in the bed and his hands were busy arranging things under the covers.

"Want me to show you?"

"Y-yes. Please. I-I mean if you…don't -…" Brooks replied nervously.

He wasn't sure what Sean had in mind, but he had been thinking about what he had hoped would happen if he were to find anyone to talk to about the changes his body was going through. Up until a few months ago, his penis had been passive, benign and not of interest to him. But lately it had become almost willful, gaining length at a rate that concerned him. He was worried that it would now show in his slacks and draw attention to himself. Then the frequent erections began, random ones that were more persistent than the morning boners that went away as soon as he peed. The last weeks of school were hell as the weather had warmed and he would have looked odd carrying a jacket or sweater to cover himself with. He had tried positioning his length along his thigh, but that was painful when his penis stiffened and began to rise. Trapping it under the waistband of his briefs stimulated the sensitive places under the glans constantly, causing him to abandon that idea within minutes. Mercifully, school was out and he could wear an old pair of gym shorts and a tee shirt around the house when his father was present, and ditching the shorts when he was alone and his father at work.

He had reconsidered coming to camp, but his father had talked him out of that, thinking that the boy was worried about being homesick.

He stammered as he attempted nonchalance in his reply to Sean's offer.

"..-want to, it's um…okay"

Sean got up and touched Brooks' cheek..

"It's cool, relax"

The gesture surprised Brooks a bit, as he wasn't expecting Sean to do that. He wasn't aware that he was trembling. His mouth was dry and his heart beat rapidly as he tried to relax.

Sean said, "I'll be right back" as he turned and went to the bathroom and retrieved the little bottle of lotion from the countertop and a towel. He went back and sat on his bed

"You want to do it, or you want me to?" Sean asked.

"Er, y-you, I-I guess?" Brooks replied, not quite sure what "doing it" was. He was both excited and terrified.

"You need to take those off, dude." Sean said patiently, and waited as Brooks rolled the wad of sheets off of his lap and stood up and turned around. The tent in his pajamas was insanely obvious as Brooks tried to hide himself.

"Brooks, you have to trust me if we're gonna do this."

Brooks blushed and turned back to face Sean with a sheepish look on his face.

"Yeah, s-sorry."

"If you aren't okay with this we'll stop." Sean said reassuringly. "Just tell me."

Brooks was too curious and horny at this point to rebuff Sean's offer, and the embarrassment he had suffered after accidentally exposing himself to Sean was almost forgotten.

He slipped the pajama top off and tossed it on Sean's bed. His body was smooth, pale, hairless and lightly freckled. The only hint of pudge was a slight puffiness of his nipples. He slipped the bottoms down as he lay back on the towel Sean spread out on the bed. Sean got his first good look at Brooks' erection. It was as skinny as a garden hose, about six-and-a-half-inches long with a curve up and a bit to the left. There was a prominent tan circumcision scar on the shaft, and the pink acorn glans featured a large round meatus in the center. The frenulum was still partially present and split into a pair of tiny lip-like structures on each side of Brook's peehole.

"Jeeminy Christmas, you have a long dick. How old are you, anyway?"

"I turned twelve last month."

"Damn. No telling how big it will be when you're fourteen." Sean replied. causing Brooks to blush in confusion.

He had no idea that his endowment was anything unusual, although he was gathering that Sean didn't see it that way. He had only been bathed by his mother until he was old enough to do it himself, and had never seen his father out of briefs. He would only use a urinal if he was alone and if others were in a public restroom, he would wait for a stall if necessary.

Brooks stared at the ceiling as Sean sat on the bed next to his feet, and opened his legs a bit when Sean touched him inside the thigh.

Brooks flinched and grunted as Sean gently slid his fingers up and down the boy's thigh, and gently pinched the base of his long cock between his fingers and wiggled it back and forth, before releasing the thin organ and moving lower. Sean smiled at Brooks and settled in to a long slow massage session, hoping to make the boy's first time an experience he would never forget. He had wished that something like this might happen from the instant he first laid eyes on Brooks in the bus. The fact that the boy was incredibly endowed was icing on the cake.

"Oh, uhhhh."

Brooks gasped as he felt fingers lightly touch his perineum. His pecan sized testicles drew up in response as Sean began to caress the sides of his scrotum. His penis got harder and he moaned softly, and allowed Sean to push his knees apart. Sean worked Brook's small nuts gently for over ten minutes, purposefully ignoring the twitching penis, rock hard in anticipation of some attention.

Brooks' eyes were now closed and he was totally relaxed, legs spread wide open, his lips slightly open as small moans and sighs indicated the pleasure he was feeling in his scrotum and anus, which Sean was gently circling with his fingers.

"How's that?" Sean asked as he began to run a fingertip up the underside of Brooks' shaft. Brooks gasped and shuddered as he sucked in a breath and replied

"Feels…so good."

"Just getting started."

Brooks smiled, but didn't open his eyes.

Sean stopped for a moment to open the lotion, and Brooks opened his eyes and tilted his head down to watch Sean.

"Uh, what is ….?"

Sean emptied most of the tiny bottle into his hand and began to massage Brook's long cock with the lubricant.

Brooks moaned loudly as Sean lightly circled his glans with a ring of slippery fingertips.

"OH, ahhhh! that feels good." Brooks purred, his question answered.

Sean smiled, and teased the tiny ridges on each side of the peehole. Brooks arched his back, trying to push his thin organ deeper into Sean's grip.

Brooks groaned as Sean stroked the entire length of his penis and squeezed the smooth glans before he slid back down the long shaft and pressed his fist lightly against the boy's groin. Brooks bucked his hips up to meet Sean's strokes, entreating Sean to speed up a bit as Brooks' breathing became rapid and a bit ragged. His eyes were closed tight and his head was cranked back. His hands were gripping the bed sheets as if he would fly off into space if he let go. Sean increased speed slightly each time Brooks grunted and bucked rapidly into his fist. Sean worked rapidly now, stroking outward, squeeze the glans, stroke inward, repeat. He gradually began to shorten his strokes to stay up on the highly sensitive glans. His experienced hand tightened its grip ever so slightly, and Brooks began to swing his head side to side on the pillow as he began to lose control, overwhelmed by these never before felt sensations.

Sean could see the boy's testicles pull up tighter until they gradually disappeared and all that was visible was a flat patch of wrinkles. Sean slowed his pace and moved down off the boy's glans to keep Brooks on the boil a bit longer, before resuming his massage of the boy's glans.

Brooks began to hold his breath and gasp every ten seconds or so. Sean knew he was there and just required a bit more to climax. He poured more lotion on the boy's rod, and the change in lubrication had an immediate effect.

"I'm ahh…I'm gonna pee!" Brooks panted.

"Remember, just go with it, Brooks." Sean said reassuringly.

"Gaaaaaahhhhh! Ahh! Ahhh! Oh my…Gaaah! Awwww!, Ahhhhhh G- God!"

Brooks stiffened and convulsed like he had been electrocuted. Sean felt the slender appendage seem to swell in his hand before it began to pulse strongly, and watched as the contractions of Brooks' taint were clearly visible. After fifteen seconds of bliss, his penis went still and he made Sean stop. There was no sign of any ejaculate, just the lotion mess. Brooks' small testicles slowly relaxed back down into his smooth scrotum, which loosened to accommodate them.

"Shiiiiit!" Brooks slurred, suddenly exhausted. It may have the third time in his life he had used the word out loud.

"How was that?" Sean asked, grinning.

"I…had no…idea it …did that" Brooks panted. "Did it, uh, shoot stuff?"

"I'm sure you will before long." Sean replied.

Brooks looked down at his still rigid boyhood, and blushed as he came down from a post-orgasmic high and the reality of what had taken place gained hold. He felt a bit embarrassed and slightly guilty, like they had crossed a line in their brief friendship. He watched passively as Sean got up and found a hand towel in the bathroom. He came back into the room wiping lotion off his fingers as he sat back on his bed and turned the light off. He tossed the towel to Brooks, and it landed on his chest. Their eyes grew accustomed to the low light coming from the edges of the drapes, and Sean could see Brooks eyes glittering in the gloom as he wiped the lotion from himself.




Sean rolled up on his side and looked over at Brooks. The younger boy struggled to choose words to express his gratitude for Sean's understanding and patience.

"I'm glad you're my friend."

"Likewise, Brooks." Sean replied quietly. "Good night."

"Night" Brooks replied, as Sean rolled over to sleep. Brooks left his pajamas on the floor and fell asleep.

At the railroad museum, Henry stood impatiently in front of Timmy, hands on hips, tapping one foot. His eyebrows were raised in a questioning expression, combined with anticipation and impatience. He was dressed in his usual attire, tee shirt with a pocket, shorts, and slip-on shoes with no socks.

"You better tell him what he wants to know before he explodes…or pees himself." Gene joked.

"Does he always get this excited about stuff?" Timmy wondered.

"Yeah, pretty much."

Timmy looked into Henry's eyes and made sure the child was paying attention before giving him two thumbs up and mouthing "yes".

Henry instantly slammed Timmy into a hard hug as he bounced up and down and made a strange squealing sound. He looked up to make eye contact with Timmy, a huge grin on his face. Typical of a child his age, two teeth were missing.

Timmy retuned the squeeze and giggled, as Gene shook his head.

"You done did it now, you know." Gene intoned solemnly. "He was really dreading eight hours in the car each way, and sittin' through something he can't appreciate."

"Yeah, I woulda hated that, too if it was me."

Henry released Timmy and brought one hand to his mouth in a motion like blowing a kiss, but without pursing his lips.

"He says thank you." Gene moved to stand behind Henry, facing Timmy. "Do this."

Gene demonstrated "You're welcome" for Timmy, and watched as Timmy did it. Henry's face and eyes lit up.

"Guess I did it right?" Timmy wondered.

Henry responded by balling a fist and rocking it up and down at the wrist in a nodding motion.

"That's a yes." Gene interpreted.

"So, you know sign language?" Timmy asked.

Gene snorted.

"Hardly! Only a few signs for now. I'm picking up more as I go. Fortunately for us, he's really good at lip reading."

He squeezed Henry's shoulders and tickled the sides of the boys' neck with his thumbs. Henry instantly ducked to escape, but when that failed, he flailed and grabbed at Genes' hands to stop the tickling, shrieking with laughter as he struggled to get free. Gene raised his head to avoid getting smacked in the nose with the back of Henry's head as the eleven-year-old flopped like a hooked fish. After a minute or two, Gene let him go and Henry smiled and cranked his head back to look up at the teenager.

"Yeah, we're talking about you, nosy boy!" Gene said with a grin, and Henry put on an annoyed face, but was still smiling. He leaned back against Gene and reached his arms back to pull Gene tighter as the teenager ruffled his long hair before continuing the shoulder massage.

"He gets really upset if you cover your mouth to keep him from listening. He thinks we talk about him when we do that."

"I can see how he would think that was being mean." Timmy replied.

Gene stopped the massage and drummed on Henry's stomach. The child giggled and let go of Gene and turned to face him.

"That's all, buddy." Gene said, and Henry put on a show of exaggerated pouting, causing Timmy and Gene to laugh. Henry made some motions with his hands, and pointed at the lathe.

"He wants to know what we are doing." Gene advised. He signed to Henry to wait, and walked across the shop to a cabinet, and reached inside.

He pulled a pair of goggles out of their plastic wrapper and walked back over to stand in front of the boy.

"If you are going to be in the shop, you have to put these on." he spoke, making sure Henry was watching his lips. He stroked the boys' hair back and adjusted his glasses on his nose before slipping the goggles on his face over the glasses.

Henry felt some excitement to be included, since Gene and Timmy were wearing the same goggles.

Gene picked up a finished bushing off the table and handed it to Henry. The boy looked the part over until Gene tapped him on the arm to make him look up.

"This is what we are making." Gene mouthed. He turned back to the lathe and started the spindle again. A long thin string of brass began to spiral off of the cutter. The cutter was moving ever so slowly along the part, until it reached the end of the cut. Gene stopped the spindle, and backed the cutter and carriage off and moved it down the lathe out of the way. He picked up a pair of calipers and measured the part. He motioned for Henry and Timmy to come over to the big table and sit on the stools. He showed Henry the scrap of paper with the sketch of the bushing and desired dimensions laid out, then pointed to the numbers on the caliper dial, and wrote them down. Henry nodded to indicate that he understood, then Gene handed him a pencil and asked him to subtract the measurement he had taken from the diameter that the customer had specified on the sketch. Henry quickly complied and got the correct answer, and Gene gave him two thumbs up.

"That's what I get too. Okay, now that's how much we still have to take off." Gene said, and Henry nodded.

Gene drew a circle to make a cross section sketch of the part and the tip of the cutter on the paper and held it up so Henry could see Gene speak and the sketch at the same time.

"In order to take off this much, we move the cutter in half that distance. Metal comes off the back side of the diameter at the same rate it comes off the front, so it's double. Like this…" Gene said, drawing a second circle inside the first. Henry nodded again.

Gene guided Henry over to the lathe, and moved the carriage to start another cut, as Henry watched. Gene pointed to a crank handle on the cross slide, and showed Henry a sleeve on the handle that had marks on it that rotated with the handle. There was an index mark on the carriage itself so the lathe operator could make repeatable adjustments of the cutter position. He set the sleeve to line up the zero mark with the index as Henry watched. He took out a pencil and pointed to a mark on the sleeve and put Henry's hand on the crank.

"Turn it to this mark."

Henry did so, fascinated at the complication of the machine and excited that he was being allowed to touch and do things at long last.

Gene next pointed to a lever that stuck out from under the machine just below knee level. Gene raised the lever, and the spindle began to rotate. He clicked the lever back down, and the spindle stopped. Clicking the lever down past "neutral", the spindle began to rotate in the opposite direction. Gene pointed to the lever and nodded to Henry, making an upward motion. Henry reached over and raised the lever, and the machine started. The watched as the cutter began to slowly advance toward the spinning workpiece and the wispy brass string began to form.

Gene got Henry's attention, and said

"When I give you the signal, put that lever back down again, okay?"

Henry nodded. The three friends watched the machine make its pass until the cutter got very close to the end of the cut and Gene tapped Henry on the back of the hand. The boy put his hand on the lever, and Gene signaled him to wait…A second or so later, Gene waved his hand and Henry put the lever down, stopping the machine.

He pointed to the crank that Henry had set earlier, and twirled his finger in the air to indicate the direction Henry should turn it to back the cutter out of the workpiece. He showed Henry how to disengage the carriage and roll it away from the workpiece, then gave him a lesson in how to take measurements with the caliper. Once Henry calculated the figures again, Gene said that the part only needed a bit of polishing with fine sandpaper to come in at the desired size.

They made three more bushings before lunch, with Henry essentially operating the lathe for one of them while Gene showed the younger boys how to indicate the stock, bore the hole in the center of the part and take measurements. Henry proved to be very adept at the math and making the adjustments to the cutter depth. His small hands could only tighten the chuck jaws so much, so Gene had to give Henry some assistance with that task.

At one point, they noticed Henry was bouncing up and down slightly, and gripping his crotch, a desperate look on his face. Gene stopped the machine and looked at him.

"Henry, do you have to pee?"

Henry emphatically nodded his head, and Gene laughed.

"Well, go, silly! We'll wait for you."

Henry turned and sped out through the door to the gift shop.

"He's so afraid he will miss something, I guess." Gene observed. They cleaned up the lathe a bit while they waited. Several minutes more went by and still Henry had not returned.

The door opened and Martha called to them.

"Lunch is on, boys."

Timmy and Gene laid their goggles on the table and followed her into the gift shop. Past the public restrooms, there was a small kitchen and employee breakroom with a table and chairs. Henry was seated at the table waiting as Gene and Timmy washed up at the sink. Henry still had his goggles on, and protested when Martha reached to take them off. He waggled his finger at her and shook his head, causing all of them to laugh. Megan set a plate of ravioli in front of Henry, and gave him a fork. He began to dive into the food as Martha put other dishes and sides on the table, and Megan began pouring glasses of lemonade.

"So, how's it going out there?" Martha wondered.

"Good. We'll have those parts ready to ship out tomorrow. Hey, did you guys know Henry has a thing for math?" Gene replied.

"It's his favorite subject, actually." Megan replied. She finished pouring the lemonade, and sat down next to Henry. He was busy with the ravioli, and didn't see her reach over and poke him in the ribs and snatch her hand back.

He made a noise that sounded like a screech combined with a sheep bleating, and gave her a dirty look. Megan grinned at him and batted her eyes. He shook his head and rolled his eyes in response, and kept busy on the ravioli. He did his best to look like he was ignoring Megan, but Gene and Martha knew that Henry had a huge crush on her, from the way he would watch her longingly when he thought they weren't paying attention.

He looked up often to "listen" to the conversation around the table. He caught Timmy's attention and winked at him, just as he returned Megan's poke in the ribs. Megan gave a jerk and a shriek, as Henry shook with laughter. He gave Megan a reproachful look and shook his finger at her and made a sign.

"Oh, no! We are not even…not even close, Mister!" Megan said and signed, and gave Henry a "just you wait" look. Both of them looked at Martha, Timmy and Gene and smiled.

"You two gonna have a church wedding, or just elope?" Gene joked. Henry snickered and batted his eyes at Megan. Timmy giggled as he imagined Megan staring smoking holes through Genes' eyes and out the back of his head. Gene grinned, pleased with himself.

"Oh, God, Gene. Don't encourage him. He might only be eleven but I think he's already girl crazy. Alice is getting spy reports from his teachers." Martha cautioned, holding a glass up beside her mouth to block Henry's gaze.

"So, who does he have crushes on lately?" Gene wondered, wearing a grin and looking at Henry, who was totally confused.

"Several…but they are crushes on Henry, it seems." Martha replied, giving Henry a "we know what you're up to" look and a slight smile.

Henry signed "What? What's a crush?" and looked at Gene, waiting for a response.

"It's when you like a girl so much you can't stand it." Gene explained, causing Henry to blush purple and shrug his shoulders. A sheepish grin spread across his face, and he signed that they just like his hair.

Megan translated this, and replied that Henry had prettier hair than the girls at school. Henry got mad, slumped in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest in a pout.

Gene got his attention and said

"We're only teasing you, little buddy. It won't be much longer 'til you get your old hairdo back."

Henry's face softened, and he nodded and smiled.

Martha could see that Timmy wasn't following, and stepped in to help

"Henry and some of the other kids at his school volunteered to grow out their hair, and donate it to a charity that makes wigs for cancer kids. He's been at it for a year now."

After lunch break, everyone put their dishes in the sink and the boys went back out to the shop. Timmy waited until the door to the gift shop closed behind them before he spoke.

"Um, does Megan date anyone?"

Gene stopped and turned, a grin on his face.

"Hmmm, got your sights on her, Timmy?"

"Er, no, just curious if …"

"Me and her?" Gene asked.

Timmy nodded.

"Nah… Megan and I grew up together almost as close as brother and sister, and I kinda think of her that way. Besides, Martha keeps her on a pretty tight leash, if you know what I mean."

"They're religious?"

Gene chuckled. "Not a bit. Listen. I never told you this, okay?"

Timmy nodded. "Got it."

"Martha has older kids that are grown and gone. She had her oldest when she was 16, and she doesn't want Megan to do that too. She's a great lady and the best mom, but you could say she's a bit overprotective toward Megan, I suppose."

They talked as they kept an eye on Henry, who was slowly wandering the shop looking over tools and machines, but keeping his hands behind his back, not sure if he should touch anything.

Gene walked across the shop to put himself in Henry's field of vision, got his attention and waved him back to the lathe. Henry's goggles were fogging a bit and Gene made him take them off so he could clean them. Once the boys put their eye protection on again, they were ready to resume where they left off for lunch. Gene handed Henry the calipers and watched as the child wrote down measurements, then showed Gene his notes.

Gene gave Henry the thumbs up and the boy grinned and returned the gesture.

Just then, David came into the shop and greeted Gene and Timmy.

"It's good to meet you, son." He said, shaking Timmy's hand. They made small talk, as David looked over to see what Henry was doing, busy with the calipers and one of the bushings.

"Is he getting in the way, or…?" David wondered.

"Uh, no, actually. He made this one." Gene said, handing David one of the bushings. "I coached him, but he did the operations himself on the machine, and all the math on that sketch."

David was impressed.

"I didn't know he had aptitude for this sort of thing…can't say that I'm surprised."

"We didn't either, to be honest." Gene replied.

"Well, being able to help you guys around here has been all he can talk about lately. He says this has been the best summer ever."

"He should be careful what he wishes for…he's about the right size to muck out the boiler." Gene joked.

"Hmmph! The dirtier he can get, the better he likes it. He almost came in the house covered in mud the other day. I damn near took him to the car wash."

Timmy and Gene laughed.

Henry came over to stand beside David and wrapped him in a hug.

"Muddy Buddy missed me, it seems." David said, returning the hug and pulling Henry off the floor. Henry grunted as he was squeezed and giggled as David set the boy back on the floor. Henry clamored to be lifted again, but David waved him off.

"Getting too big and heavy and I'm getting too old!"

At four feet ten inches and eighty pounds, Henry was average for boys in his class, and athletic despite his nearsightedness. He loved to run and ride his bike on the path that David built around the property. Aside from a few spills and scraped knees, he gave David and Alice little to worry about. They lived on sixty acres outside of town, almost all of it wooded. In the winter when it was cool, Henry and his parents would clear out undergrowth and brush and pile it for rabbit habitat. There was a small pond a few feet deep on the property, and a platform David and Henry had built twenty feet off the ground in a huge oak tree. It was a castle in the clouds, a huge jet bomber, the summit of Mount Everest, or any of a thousand things in Henry's imagination when he was up in the tree. Sometimes he would lay very still on the platform, and watch squirrels do whatever it was squirrels do high in the tree on the limbs above.

Henry was a happy child, despite the obstacles life had placed in his path, and he brought joy and peace to his adoptive parents. Alice suffered numerous miscarriages in the early years of her marriage to David, and the fifth pregnancy turned out to be her last. It was ectopic, and the eventual rupture of the fallopian tube almost ended her life. Lifesaving emergency surgery had taken her fertility, and a year and a half of depression and sadness filled their lives until a fateful event changed the couple's lives.

The wife of the pastor of their church had knocked on their door. A friend in the county welfare office had asked if she could recommend a good home for an abandoned baby boy, at least until other arrangements could be sorted out. The child appeared to be blind and deaf, and none of the foster homes in the system could or would take him. After many tears and lots of prayer, David and Alice agreed. The church swung into action and everything the new family would need showed up at the house. A crib, toys, clothing and anything else the other members of the church no longer needed was freely given. That was eleven years ago; those pending "other arrangements" had been put off permanently.

Henry was in fact not blind, and their church congregation raised the funds to operate on Henry's congenital cataracts and restore his vision. He was left with severe nearsightedness, and further surgeries would be required as he matured to improve his sight. His hearing was totally gone by the time he was nine and a half, and the hearing aids in his glasses had been turned off. He would get new glasses made when his vision required it, and the bulky temples would be no more. Henry had been able to hear enough in the first half of his life to know what some words sounded like before he went completely deaf. He had never spoken, giving some the impression that he was mute. To compensate, he learned to write legibly incredibly rapidly, read lips and sign. He always kept his little notepad with him at all times, as it was much easier than playing charades with people who didn't sign.

Reading was the window to his imagination, and by the end of fourth grade, he had read every book in his school's small library. In spite of everything life had thrown at him, Henry was happy. He had learned to make his way in the world, and had proven to be anything but handicapped.

David turned to Timmy and said

"Thanks again for agreeing to stay with Henry this weekend. It really helps us out, and made Henry so happy."

"They did gang up on me and twist my arm a bit, but I'm glad to do it."

"Martha and Alice?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I guess us guys have to stick together, then. And just call me David, please."

"Okay…David" Timmy replied. "Uh, I'm just curious why you and Alice would trust someone you just met with Henry?"

David chuckled.

"Henry asked for you, and he's never wrong about people. Glen vouched for you as well, and I know he's never taken on a summer hand before, so you must have impressed him a good deal."

Timmy blushed and David went on

"There wasn't anything TOO unsavory in your FBI file, either."

Timmy giggled and gave David his best "I wasn't born yesterday" look.


"Uh, no…. It was ALL unsavory…actually." David teased.

"That's better!" Timmy chirped.

"Well, I came by to collect His Highness, Alice is running long at the doctors'. I guess we'll talk more Friday night when you come to the house, Timmy."

Timmy nodded.

"What time should I get there?"

"Whenever you get done here is fine, Timmy."

David tapped Henry on the shoulder to make him look up.

"We've got to get going, little buddy."

Henry dropped his eyes, disappointed, but nodded. He took out his pad and pencil and wrote quickly.

Wish I could stay

Henry reluctantly took the safety goggles off and handed them to Gene.

"We'll keep these handy for ya, Henry."

The boy nodded and smiled. He waved goodbye and turned to follow David out of the shop. It was just after 3 in the afternoon.

By the middle of the next day, Gene and Timmy had finished the bushings, crated and shipped them from the truck terminal. They started on a new order after Glen filled them in and went over the job with Timmy and Gene. They would be pouring some castings and had to make wooden patterns. The job was links and rods, not very complicated as there were no hollow areas to core for, and the machining required to finish the items was basic and not too extensive. The customer specified four separate parts, quantity one each. Glen had seen the customer's prints when he had given them a quote, which had been accepted. Glen knew how much metal would need to be poured, how much it would cost to melt the requisite material, and how much labor would be needed to make patterns and set up the molds.

It was now up to Gene and Timmy to translate the blueprints into three dimensional wooden patterns. The drill was pretty much the same, glue and stack pieces of lumber yard 2 X 12 pine boards to make two solid pieces large enough to cut the pattern out with a bandsaw. The two halves were drilled and pinned together before sawing. They did a lot of sanding and shaping until the wood was smooth and could be painted. Gene showed Timmy how to mix auto body filler to fill the imperfections and end grain in the patterns. They painted the patterns and left them to dry. Thus ended a 12-hour day.

The next day, Thursday, found Timmy cutting pine boards to make the casting mold boxes.

Gene fired up the furnace, and began loading pieces of scrap steel into a large crucible. Once he had gotten as much in as he could, he lowered the crucible into the roaring cyclone of flame in the furnace. He closed the lid and went to assist Timmy, as the steel would take a while to come to temperature and melt.

There were no tops or bottoms on the boxes, which were more like frames that stacked on top of each other. Timmy screwed ordinary door hinges onto the boxes to fasten them together for the pour. To separate the boxes, they would drive the door nails out of the hinges.

Preparing the molds was simple. They lay a sheet of plywood on the floor and place one half of the pattern on the plywood, then lay the mold box down on the plywood with the pattern inside. Gene sprinkled talcum powder on the plywood and the pattern half, before shoveling green sand into the box and packing the sand down with a re-purposed furniture leg. They kept filling and packing the specially treated sand into the box until it was full, packed and the surface of the sand was struck smooth off the top of the box.

The sand had been mixed with sodium silicate, and Timmy had drilled small holes in the sides of the mold boxes. Gene injected carbon dioxide gas into these holes with a small tube, and several minutes later, the sand had hardened as if glued together. Now they could turn the box over, and line up the other half of the pattern using the wire pins. More talcum powder and the top box was attached and the filling and packing of the green sand was repeated for this half of the mold. Timmy injected the carbon dioxide as Gene had showed him, and when the mold half was lifted off, the pattern popped out and left a perfect impression in the sand of the part to be cast.

Using a sharpened piece of copper plumbing pipe, Gene cut holes in the upper mold half to allow the melted steel to flow into the mold through what is called a sprue, and just as importantly to vent the cavity as the metal entered.

They repeated this process for each of the patterns, and Gene checked the melt several times to add scrap to it as the pieces settled into the crucible making room for more.

Timmy tried to look into the furnace as the melt was progressing, but the intense heat and infrared radiation kept him back. Gene was wearing sunglasses and a caster's hood that protected his face and eyes, and his welder's smock covered his upper body. He would need Timmy to help lift the crucible for the pour, so he rounded up a welder's jacket and helmet that would suffice to protect him, but nevertheless, this was going to be a hot task.

Gene lay a crucible turner on the floor close to the mold boxes which were lined up touching each other to minimize the distance they would have to cover, handling the liquid steel. The crucible turner had handles and a ring the crucible sat in, that would allow the boys to lift and tilt the crucible over the mold boxes. It reminded Timmy of the old time two-man buck saws that had handles on each end. If Glen's calculations were correct and Gene had melted the correct amount of scrap, they should just have the required amount to pour the four castings, with a bit left over.

Gene checked the melt and pronounced it ready. He had rehearsed the moves with Timmy, and asked

"Are you ready? Any questions?"

"No, I'm ready."

"Here we go." Gene said as he cut the fuel off and the furnace went silent.

He swung the cover off to the side, and dipped a small metal scoop on a long handle into the melt and drew off the slag on top. He flicked it into a tub of water, which boiled and hissed violently as the 2700-degree slag sank to the bottom and surrendered all of its heat to the water.

"If I drop this thing, you run your ass off, cause it's going to go everywhere, got it?" Gene warned.

Timmy made a mental note of the direction of the door, gulped and nodded, and flipped the welding helmet down.

Reaching into the furnace with what looked like huge salad tongs, Gene pulled the crucible up and out of the furnace, grunting and sweating from the weight. It lit the shop up with a bright orange almost white glow. He carefully set the crucible in the ring of the turner and slowly removed the tongs. He motioned to Timmy as he bent down to grip the handles, and waited until Timmy had his handles manned, and they slowly lifted the ring up under the rim of the crucible. They carefully lifted the insanely hot melt and together, began to tilt the crucible over the first of the mold boxes. The metal started to pour like water out of the crucible, and the mold box began to hiss and smoke out the vents as the metal made a gurgling sound as it ran into the cavity of the mold. Timmy could imagine that hell looked like this…or at least an active volcano lava field.

They poured until Gene saw the metal begin to back up in the vent and sprue, then they tilted the crucible back level and moved to the next mold box. Timmy was glad to see that they had poured the largest mold first, as a lot of weight went with it, and the crucible turner was easier to handle as the crucible emptied into the three remaining molds.

When they finished the pours, there was very little melt left to pour out of the crucible, so Gene and Timmy set the crucible down and lowered the turner to the floor. Gene grabbed the salad tongs and lifted the crucible into the furnace where it would be safe from damage, and neither of them would inadvertently walk into it. Letting it slowly cool in the hot furnace also lessened the risk that it would crack as it cooled.

"What's the next step?" Timmy asked, looking at the still smoking molds.

"Let them cool overnight, then we strike the molds, clean up the castings and then set them up to bore the holes."

"How hot will they be tomorrow?"

"They might still be warm to the touch, but I doubt it." Gene replied.

They were both sweating from the heat of their work, and looked forward to a dip in the pool.

The next morning, the molds were cool, and they broke the castings out of the sand and cleaned the mold boxes so they could be used again. It was Timmy's job to sweep and vacuum up the greensand on the shop floor, while Gene began sawing the sprues off of the parts. All of the pours went well, and the castings were all usable. Once they had been cleaned, Timmy joined Gene at a surface table, where the perfectly flat and level surface would reveal how much milling would be required to surface and bore the parts within the accuracy limits the customer had specified. Gene measured various points on the parts with a height gauge, and determined where he would have to shim the casting on the mill table.

Gene gave Timmy an introduction to the mill, and its features, and made sure he understood what was going on. The castings were slightly larger than the blueprint specifications, to allow for machining to size. With the first part clamped in place, Gene selected a shell mill cutter and locked it into the spindle. He brought the table up under the cutter just shy of touching the part, and turned the machine on. He carefully raised the table until the cutter just "kissed" the rough casting, and set this as zero for the depth of cut. Dialing in the amount of cut he wanted, he engaged the traverse feed and the mill began to emit a metallic throbbing whine as the cutter began to move across the surface. Several passes would be needed before the casting would be measured and turned over to true the opposite surface of the part. Back and forth the table went, each time raising a slight amount before beginning a new pass. In time, the casting arrived at the thickness specified, and Gene stopped the machine and removed the cutter. Several large holes were required in this link and once the centers were located, Gene would start the holes with drill bits. When they had used the largest size bit the shop had on hand, Gene installed a boring bar to open the holes the rest of the way. By adjusting the bar, Gene could "sneak up" on the final size to within half of a thousandth of an inch. He measured the holes, showing Timmy how to use the instrument, then had Timmy measure them to provide a second set of eyes. The holes were close enough to size that a light honing would put them dead on size.

The main lesson that Timmy received was that this work took time and patience. It could not be rushed, and usually you only had one shot at getting it right. They spent the rest of the day setting up and boring pivot point holes in the other parts. They swept and cleaned the shop floor, and vacuumed the chips off the machines, then it was time to close up for the night.

They got in Gene's truck which Glen had passed down to him when he got his driver's license last year. The air in the one-ton Ford pickup felt good after being in the shop all day, and they talked about Timmy's next adventure, staying at Henry's house this weekend. They pulled up to Gene's house and Timmy ran inside to get the things he had packed that morning. Timmy looked around his room to think of anything that he might have missed, but the only thing that came to mind was the mobile phone Isaac had given him. Would he need it? He couldn't shake the feeling that he shouldn't leave it behind.

He threw it in the bag and ran back out of the house to the truck and got in.

Dave and Alice lived out past Gene and Glen's place, about twenty minutes ride from the museum. The only thing visible on the county road where Gene slowed to turn was a metal gate and a mailbox. There was a grove of trees between the house and the road that blocked any view of the property from the road, but the roof of the house was just visible above the trees. The road past the gate disappeared into a tunnel of green. Timmy got out and opened the gate and waited until the truck passed through, then closed the gate again. They drove into the trees and a hundred feet of so later, came into a clearing that surrounded the house. As they approached the house, the front door opened and a small figure came bolting out of the house heading directly for the truck. It was wearing an overall tan, underwear and flip-flops.

Gene stopped the truck in the yard close to the other cars and chuckled "Oh, my God" as the boy ran around to Timmy's side. Timmy did not recognize Henry for a split second. He actually looked like a boy now…

"He looks totally different with his hair….and clothes off!" Gene remarked.

Henry's long brown hair was gone, replaced with a neatly trimmed above the ear style that suited him. With his thick glasses, he looked like the stereotypical nerdy boy genius.

Timmy opened the door and got out just as Henry mobbed him and knocked him down onto the grass. He tried to grab Timmy's arms and pin him in a wrestling hold, but Timmy was on to him, and quickly had him on his back and pinned. He began to tickle Henry, and the little boy bucked and kicked and fought to gain leverage, but Timmy held fast and soon Henry was shrieking with laughter and fell limp as he exhausted himself.

"Hi, Henry!" Timmy mouthed down to the panting child. Henry nodded and smiled. "I see you're dressed for the occasion." Henry stuck his tongue out and grimaced at Timmy, who just grinned.

Gene and David exchanged greetings as Timmy helped Henry up off the grass and got his bag out of the truck. Henry brushed grass clippings off himself and followed Timmy around to the driver's side.

"I'm sorry, we should have made him put something on…Go get clothes on, so we can have dinner." David ordered, and Henry went back into the house.

"Hello, Timmy …Sure you're ready for this?" David joked, winking at Timmy. "Now's your last chance to run."

"I'm not afraid…yet." Timmy joked.

"So, I can abandon you without feeling guilty about it?" Gene asked.

Timmy chuckled and nodded. "Go ahead, feel guilty!"

"Oh, I will…NOT!" Gene joked. "Timmy can call Dad or me at the house if anything comes up, David." Gene assured. "I got to get going."

"Can you stay and eat with us, Gene?" David wondered.

Gene blushed.

"Uh, can't. Got stuff going on…and stuff." Gene said, nervously.

"Ahh. This…stuff involve a young lady, kind of stuff?" David teased.

"Er….well, if you're gonna drag it outta me, yeah. I met a girl in town the other day and we're going out. I got to get ready."

"Yeah, you smell like a boar hog." Timmy joked causing David to laugh. Gene grinned and started the truck.

"This hoggy gotta run, see you Sunday, Timmy." He said as he backed the truck and left.

David and Timmy watched the truck drive off and David waved Timmy toward the door.

"Come on in and let's get you settled. Dinner is beef stew tonight, is that OK?"

"Sure, I love beef stew." Timmy replied as they went inside. The house was cheerful and roomy inside, and with a large living room just inside the door. A large set of bookshelves dominated one of the walls, and several of the shelves were stacked with games and puzzles. A carved alabaster chess set and board occupied the table in front of the couch.

They continued into the kitchen, and met Alice. She greeted Timmy with a quick hug and said

"Welcome to the mess. We'll eat in about fifteen minutes."

David led Timmy past the kitchen down a hallway, pointing out the bathroom, and a spare bedroom with a twin bed.

"You can use this bed, there are clean sheets and covers on it." Timmy nodded and dropped his bag on the bed.

"Here is Henry's room… or, as we call it, the shrine." David said, slowly easing the door open enough to peek inside before opening it all the way.

"Henry can't hear you knock, so just peek in before you enter. Don't worry, he's been taught to lock the door if he wants privacy."

Timmy gasped as he followed David into the boy's room. No wonder they referred to this room as the shrine; the kid was absolutely crazy about wrestling. Posters of all the popular wrestlers lined the walls and the ceiling over the bed and desk. Wrestling action figures stood on top of the dresser. What was not typical about the room was the neatness. There were no clothes on the floor, dishes, cups, trash or clutter. Other than the visual assault of the posters, the room was organized and orderly.

"Wow" was all Timmy could say, looking around and above.

Henry was sitting on the bed wearing a long T-shirt that came to his knees. His nose was in a book, and his glasses on his desk by the bed. He looked up when Timmy and David came into the room and put the book down. Timmy could see that it was printed in large type, like all of Henry's other books.

"Who is your favorite wrestler, Henry?" Timmy asked.

Henry just spread his arms wide and grinned up at Timmy, gesturing around the room.

"They all are" David replied, interpreting. "He roots for all of them."

"Your room is really cool, Henry!"

Henry reached for Timmy's arm and pulled him down onto the bed, and pushed and prodded to make him lay on his back next to where he was sitting. He pointed at the ceiling, and Timmy gazed at the posters and laughed when David suggested that this was the Sistine Chapel of wrestling.

Timmy tapped Henry's arm to get his attention.

"So, is it fake, or real, Henry?"

Henry rolled his eyes and gave Timmy a look suggesting that a three-year-old could figure this one out. He reached for his pad on his desk and scribbled a fast note and showed it to Timmy.

They'd get hurt bad if it was real

David and Timmy read the note and chuckled.

"Yeah, that makes sense, huh?" Timmy replied as he got off the bed.

"What do you like most about wrestling?"

The trash talk and when they bounce off the ropes and fall out of the ring Henry wrote.

"Yeah, that's pretty funny." Timmy agreed.

"Did you ever go see it live?"

Henry nodded and smiled. He wrote

A few times with Mom

"Shall we see if we can help her with dinner?" David suggested and they went to the kitchen where Alice was stirring the pot. She waved her hand at Henry.

"Set the table, honey." She said, and Henry opened a drawer and grabbed utensils. He made quick work of the task, and waited, watching the others. David busied himself cutting up greens for a salad, and Timmy stood next to Alice and wondered what he could do.

"Just relax, Timmy. You're our guest after all."

"Henry tells me you're a wrestling fan too?"

Alice laughed.

"In this house you pretty much have to be. It's all fake and pretty stupid, and Henry knows that, but he's totally nuts over it. I suppose its harmless as long as he doesn't get the bright idea to jump off the roof or do a knee drop on some kid at school and break half their ribs." She winked at Henry who gave her a disgusted "Mom, I'm not an idiot!" look.

"Do you cook?" she asked, switching subjects.

"Um, yes, ma'am. What does he like?"

"Mac and cheese, burgers, spaghetti…pretty much anything. There is plenty of food in the house, and snacks."

"Is it OK if I show Henry some cooking stuff?" Timmy asked.

"Of course. He would love that, Timmy." She turned to see if Henry was looking.

"He just wants to be treated like anyone else, not special. He wants to help and learn. When you let him come into the shop the other day…"

"I know, I wasn't thinkin'…if he had gotten hurt…" Timmy blubbered.

"Well, he didn't…and he felt ten feet tall that day, Timmy. Thank you." Alice smiled and made eye contact with Timmy.

"You're welcome. I never met anyone who is deaf before."

"Did that make you nervous?"

"Um, maybe a little at first, I guess. But when I saw that he could understand me, it was okay. I feel like the odd one out because I don't know how to sign."

"That's why he writes the notes." Alice replied. She turned to the table, where Henry and David were busy in a silent conversation. Turning here gaze back to the stove, she spoke over her shoulder.

"This weekend is a really big thing for him. It's the first time he's ever had a friend stay over, and the only thing he cares about is spending time with you. He lives in a world where most people don't know how to sign…so don't spend energy worrying over it, Timmy."

Timmy nodded and swallowed. "Okay" he agreed.

"Shall we eat?" she said, lifting the lid on the pot to begin filling bowls of stew. Timmy stepped over and offered to put them on the table.

"Oh, thank you." she said as Timmy put the first bowl on the table in front of Henry. Soon they were all seated, and David began asking Timmy about his home life, and Timmy told them the basics of his story. He began to suspect that David knew more about him than he let on.

"What do you guys do?" Timmy asked.

"Well, David runs the county honor farm, and I teach school there…It's how we met, actually."

"Honor farm?"

David spoke up. "This county has a boot camp program for non-violent juvenile male offenders. Instead of jail, they spend their sentences in a structured living program, get clean if they have a habit, get back to school and back on track in their lives."

"Boot camp…Like the Army?"

"Exactly, ten-mile hikes and all."

"I bet they hate that." Timmy said, as David took a bite of salad.

"Mmm, some of them actually don't want to leave. The farm is the first safe place some of them have ever been."

"What kind of stuff did they do to get sent there?" Timmy asked.

"First offences for stealing, using or dealing drugs, vandalism, underage drinking…" David began.

"Truancy, bullying, disrupting school, fighting." Alice added. "The boys that get expelled from their schools come to the farm school."

"Alice's school." David pointed out. "She's the principal, actually."

"I teach half a day and do principal stuff the other half. I just didn't run fast enough in the other direction when they needed an administrator." Alice joked.

"They're no girls?"

"The farm is for boys only. There is a girl's reformatory close to Dallas. The state has been down to visit us to see how we do things here, and there are plans to start a girl's farm or ranch based on our methods."

Timmy asked. "There are animals there, right?"

"Yes. Have you been to a county fair, where they show livestock and animals?" David asked.

Timmy thought back to the tractor pulls where he and Isaac had met the Weideman's.

"Yes, last year."

"Well, here at our county fair, a lot of the kids showing animals in the stock show are from the farm. It's a great way to teach responsibility. They enter vegetable shows at the fair with pumpkins and squashes and so on, and the older boys restore an antique tractor every year to show."

"So, it's an actual, real farm then…"

"Yes, and what we don't eat we sell to the supermarket in town. The goal is to make the farm pay for itself with minimum taxpayer expense."

"How many boys live there?" Timmy wondered.

"Right now, sixty-one. Our youngest is eleven, oldest are eighteen."

Henry "listened" for a while, then waved his hand. Alice looked at him and he signed to Alice with both hands rapidly.

"It has to be a short tour, honey." She said. "Your dad and I are going to turn in early, and we'll be gone already when you get up in the morning."

Henry nodded and signed that he would bring Timmy back to the house before it got late.

"Henry wants to show you his tree house after supper. Are you afraid of heights?" Alice asked.

"Not really. It's the sudden stop after the falling that I'd rather skip." Timmy quipped, cracking David up.

"How high is this treehouse?"

"About eighteen or twenty feet, I think." David answered. "Henry says it's high enough to keep the less than completely committed on the ground."

Henry snorted and giggled and nodded.

"He really said that?" Timmy wondered.

David nodded. "You'd be surprised at what he comes up with. Henry…make sure you check the steps when you go up, right?"

Henry nodded and snapped a thumbs up.

They finished the meal, and Henry helped clear the table before he grabbed Timmy's wrist and headed for the sliding door at the back of the living room. His small red Van's sneakers were parked there, and he wiggled his bare feet into them without bothering with the laces. The oversize tee shirt he had on came down to mid-thigh, and the only other thing Henry seemed to have on was a thin leather thong around his neck that disappeared under the shirt in front. When Henry bolted out the door, Timmy gathered that he didn't take a lot of time to dress at home.

He followed his host out the door into the early evening sun, and crossed the lawn behind the house and took a path into the woods. They walked about a hundred yards down the disused road, and Timmy could see a clearing on the right. They got closer and Henry skipped off the path and stopped in front of a pond, which looked to be about a hundred feet long and half as much wide. A band of grass surrounded the water, with the woods immediately behind on all sides. The water was calm as glass, and the boys could see the evening cloud cover moving over them reflected in the water. An insect stopped and landed on the surface, and was immediately snapped up by an unseen resident of the pond. Henry saw this and looked at Timmy, his eyes wide and eyebrows raised.

"I saw that, too." Timmy said, and Henry flashed a quick smile, his way of letting people know he understood. Henry turned back to the pond and watched for few more minutes to see if anything else would happen, then turned to Timmy and grabbed his wrist again. He guided Timmy back to the path/road again, and they proceeded deeper into the woods another hundred yards. They approached possible the largest tree Timmy could remember seeing, and on the other side of it, a set of steps rose on treated six by six-inch timbers, which were set on concrete pads. A set of proper stairs went up about six feet to a landing, and went up two more flights to what appeared to be a deck in the tree. Henry mounted the steps, and slapped one foot on each one to make sure none were rotten or decayed. David had spent a small fortune on treated lumber when he built the structure, so it was unlikely that Henry would fall through a step, but he had taught the boy to watch for dangerous things. Timmy followed Henry up the steps, and once on top he could see that the treehouse wasn't actually attached to the tree or built into it, but was a freestanding tower next to the tree. The deck was about ten feet by twelve, and surrounded the huge tree trunk with a gap to allow the tree to sway in the wind without knocking the deck off of its timber columns. A steel pipe railing surrounded the deck, at about chest height on Henry. The lower rung of the railing was about knee height. Henry could remember the ride to the plumbing company with David when they picked up the cut and threaded pieces, and how it took two days of screwing pipe and fittings together to assemble it all.

They looked out into the woods from the height and Timmy told Henry he had a pretty neat treehouse. Henry pulled his little notepad out of the shirt where it hung on the leather thong.

"I was wondering where that was!" he exclaimed. Henry grinned and wrote

Now I can talk


Im glad you like the sky fort really wanted you to see it

"Sure. This is so cool, Henry. Bet you see a lot of stuff from up here."

Henry nodded and wrote

Squirrels birds deer

Henry sat down on the edge of the deck and dangled his feet, and rested his arms on the lower rung of the railing. Timmy sat next to him, and the boys scanned the woods. Shadows were beginning to gather in the darker corners and it would be just about mosquito hour. The air was still and very warm, and the sun was still an hour from the horizon. They sat there, watching squirrels on the nearby trees for some minutes.

Suddenly, Henry pulled his feet back up, and stood. He walked over to the railing on the other end of the deck, his back turned to Timmy. Timmy turned to see what Henry was doing, just as the sound of liquid splattering the ground below reached his ears. Henry was on tip toes, with the front of the tee shirt pulled up and a bit of his briefs clad butt visible from behind. A moment later he was done, and shaking himself dry. The hem of the shirt fell, and he turned back to Timmy and sat back down. His face was a bit flushed.

"Feel better?" Timmy teased.

Henry giggled and nodded, making hand motions describing something swelling up and bursting.

"Why didn't you go before we left the house, silly?"

Henry shook his head, and pulled the pad out.

More fun to pee up here.

Timmy shook his head, Henry broke up laughing at his reaction. The boy jumped up again, and ran to the steps. He looked back to Timmy, and motioned to him to hurry up and follow. They rushed down the steps and Henry began to run down the road, toward the woods and away from the house. Timmy fell in beside the child, and they maintained a pace that wasn't slow, but one they could maintain for an extended period. Henry suddenly veered over into Timmy, trying to run him into the weeds, and giggling. Timmy gave back as good as he got, and pushed Henry off the path a few times as well. Henry was giggling when Timmy looked around and stopped. He asked

"Where the hell're we going, anyway?"

Henry pointed down the path to continue in the same direction, and sprinted off again. They were making right turns, so Timmy figured they were running on a loop. Ten minutes later, Timmy could hear a vehicle on a road beyond the trees, and Henry led Timmy through a gap in the undergrowth. They were at the front of the property now, and came out of the trees into the front yard, where Gene had dropped Timmy off earlier.

Both boys were sweating in the muggy evening heat, and Henry pulled his long tee shirt off as they walked through the door, leaving him in briefs and the red sneakers. The air conditioning felt good.

Alice was sitting on the couch watching television and looked up. Henry signed and Alice replied in sign and translated for Timmy.

"He wants to play Monopoly with us before David and I turn in."

"Love to…I got to get a shower first if I can." Timmy replied. Henry signed quickly again.

"Thank you, Henry. He's going to lay out a towel for you. They're kept under the sink."

Henry kicked off the red sneakers near the door and walked past Timmy and Alice down the hall to the bathroom.

Timmy went to his room and retrieved a clean t-shirt and pair of shorts and entered the bathroom just as Henry was closing the cabinet under the sink. He placed the towel on the closed toilet seat and smiled at Timmy, and made motions with his fingers in his hair. Timmy reached back and picked up a shampoo bottle, but Henry slapped it away gently and shook his head. He put his fingers in his hair again, and pointed at his eyes.

"Look… at your hair?" Timmy asked. "You want me…to look at your hair…"

Henry nodded strongly. He spelled T….I…C…K….S on his palm with a finger.

"Check for ticks in your hair, right?" Timmy asked.

Henry nodded and turned his back to Timmy, and whispered something that sounded like "pizz" or "pwizz"

Pwizz?…Pwiss? ….Oh, PLEASE, he said….OH MY GOD, he spoke! He spoke to me! Timmy thought. It had hit him like a ton of bricks. Henry isn't mute!

Henry closed his eyes as Timmy began to run his fingers through Henry's short hair, looked in his ears and made a thorough check, finding no parasites. When Timmy finished, he turned around and raised his arms and let Timmy look his smooth armpits over.

"Nobody there, Henry." Timmy reported. Henry nodded, signed "thank you", and left the bathroom.

Timmy undressed and got out of his sweaty clothes and turned the water on in the shower. It was one of those one lever shower controls, and Timmy swung it to full hot and waited with his hand in the spray. After a few seconds he dialed the temperature back to the middle and stepped into the shower. He hurried through his shower and dried and dressed. As soon as he opened the door, Henry came in and turned the water back on. Timmy closed the door and put his dirties in his room, then went out to sit with David and Alice at the table.

Henry was so eager to play Monopoly that it took him less than three minutes to wash his hair, soap and rinse his body and get out of the shower to dry off. He stood behind Timmy and began going through Timmy's hair on a tick check. He had put on a clean night shirt and pair of socks, and sat down at the table after finding nothing evil in Timmy's hair or ears. The boy nudged Timmy to raise his arms and pulled the sleeves of the tee shirt down to inspect the small patches of hair. He shook his head and sat down at the table. Alice almost finished setting up the game.

"Are ticks really that bad out here?" Timmy wondered.

"Yes, and yes" Alice replied. "They're thick out in the woods, and they can be very bad. Lyme Disease is nothing to mess with. We are all in the habit of looking for ticks if we've been out in the woods."

When Henry sat down, they rolled to choose their game pieces and it seemed that Henry was doomed from the start. He landed on a string of crummy properties while David quickly snapped up Park Place and Boardwalk with a couple of lucky rolls. Timmy and Alice established some lucrative rent traps that Henry just couldn't avoid, and after almost an hour, he was bankrupt and his assets broken up. He sat and watched as Timmy and Alice died broke, handing the win to David. He and Alice excused themselves and hugged Henry before heading to bed.

"Oh, Timmy…before I forget." Alice said, leading Timmy into the kitchen.

"This is where the first aid supplies are. Disinfectant, burn ointment, bandages. Hopefully you boys won't need it, but you know its here. There are two fire extinguishers under the sink. Do you know how to use them?"

"Pull the pin, throw it at the fire and run, right?" Timmy joked.

"I'm pretty sure that's not what it says on the label!" she replied, laughing. After several seconds a quietness descended between them.

"Alice…I won't let anything happen to him. I promise."

"I don't want anything to happen to either of you, Timmy."

Timmy nodded. "I know. Thanks."

"Good night, Timmy. We'll see you Sunday."

"Good night, and have a safe trip."

Alice hugged him. "We will." She said, turning off the kitchen light as they met David by the living room.

He was wrestling with Henry, who was straining to get out of a hold and thoroughly enjoying the attention.

"Need some help there?" Timmy asked, as he began to poke Henry in the ribs causing him to scream and giggle and struggle harder.

"Tag me, partner! I'm going to bed!" David hollered, officially making Henry Timmy's problem. Henry turned to see where David was going, and signed "good night, father."

"Good night, Henry. Listen to Timmy and don't beat him up too bad, so he'll want to come back. We'll see you the day after tomorrow."

Henry smiled and nodded, as David turned and went down the hallway. He turned to Timmy and held his hands up, fingers spread. Timmy locked his fingers into Henry's and the pair began to vie for leverage. Timmy could easily just fold Henry's small hands back and force him to his knees but he allowed Henry to press his attacks, resisting just enough to make Henry have to work at it, tiring him out. They both leaned forward, trying to push each other backwards, Henry's lack of height and weight putting him at a disadvantage, as his feet began to slip, and the socks slid on the floor. Suddenly, Henry let go of Timmy's hands and bent over, planting his forehead in Timmy's tummy and grabbing him behind the knees. Timmy found himself on his butt with Henry's head on his chest, but recovered quickly and pinned the boy between his legs in a scissors.

Henry's arms were the next things that were immobilized as Timmy grabbed one in each hand and folded them back like he was handcuffing the child. Switching to one hand on both of Henry's wrists, Timmy held Henry's hands behind his back and gently pinched his nose. He looked down and grinned at Henry, who had a big smile on his face. When Timmy pinched his nose closed, his mouth would pop open, making him look like a guppy in an aquarium.

Timmy then began to work on Henry's neck, knowing he was terribly ticklish there. It took every thing Henry had to not scream and disturb David and Alice. Timmy knew he couldn't get too carried away either, so he took it easy on Henry.

Henry flexed and strained but it was hopeless. He sagged against Timmy and gave up. Timmy moved his legs, and released Henry's hands, but instead of getting up, Henry lunged forward, straddling Timmy and pinned his hands on the floor, locking fingers with Timmy again. He grinned and figured he had a pin, but Timmy just pushed up and bench-pressed Henry. The surprised look on Henry's face was priceless as Timmy began to do reps, with Henry as a set of barbells. Henry kept his arms and back straight and as rigid as possible as Timmy finished ten reps, then let Henry flop onto his chest as he rested and caught his breath. Henry was giggling and wanted Timmy to do more pushes, but the teenager just lay there and mouthed "Gimme a minute to catch my breath, Henry."

The boy rolled off Timmy and both boys got up and stood facing each other again to square off. This time, Timmy faked linking his fingers with Henry's, and surprised the boy by sweeping his left foot behind the child's feet, planting his weight on his right foot and gripping Henry in bear hug as Henry lost his footing and Timmy took him to the floor and instantly pinned him.

Timmy was on his knees next to Henry's left side, and held his shoulders to the floor as he gazed into Henry's eyes and counted slowly to ten. Henry bucked and thrashed and kicked to free himself, but as he just wasn't strong enough to push Timmy off of him, he eventually relaxed and waited for Timmy to let him up.

As soon as he got to a sitting position, he jumped onto Timmy, who was on his hands and knees, trying to stand up. He locked his arms around Timmy's neck and tried to mount him, but Timmy began to tickle him and Henry melted, unable to continue his attack. He curled into a ball on his side facing away from Timmy who poked and dug into his ribs, underarms and neck. He wore an ear-to-ear grin, eyes closed, clearly enjoying Timmy's attention.

Timmy worked him over until he sensed that Henry was getting tired, sat back and let the boy relax and breathe.

Henry uncurled and stretched and the nightshirt slid up uncovering his hip. It was instantly apparent that Henry had not bothered to put underwear on after his shower.

It was a brief glimpse, as the shirt moved back into position as Henry relaxed from the stretch and opened his eyes. He seemed either unaware or unconcerned that he had exposed himself as he stood up and pointed to the chess set on the coffee table.

Henry stood next to the coffee table and his face was easy to read… do you play chess his eyes asked. Timmy smiled and nodded, and they sat down on the floor on either side of the table. Henry opened the first game, and proved to be a good, but not brilliant player. Timmy found him a bit harder to beat than he had expected as Henry did play defensively very well, and did not make simple mistakes or miss developing vulnerabilities.

The difference between the two was strategy. Timmy set up a check mate that took twelve moves to execute, and had to modify the plan twice when Henry made moves that Timmy had anticipated. Timmy's strength in the game was offense and attack; Henry seemed not to be as bold…At first.

Henry watched Timmy and memorized his moves. The second game was harder for Timmy because Henry began to anticipate his friend's strategy. In the end, they played until quarter of ten, and Henry began to yawn and look visibly tired. They had played four games, and Henry had beaten Timmy once.

"You played well" Timmy told him. Henry signed thanks and yawned.

"Me too, Mister." Timmy said quietly. "I'm off to bed."

They stood and moved toward the hallway. Timmy stopped as Henry turned off a light, then followed.

Henry went for the bathroom, and began brushing his teeth as Timmy passed him on the way to his room to gather his own toothbrush. Henry moved to one side as Timmy stepped in and wet his brush. The boys looked at each other in the mirror as they sawed the plaque away, foam beginning to leak out of their mouths. They giggled as they spit out the toothpaste in the sink and rinsed their mouths. Henry turned the bathroom light off and waved at Timmy as they went to their rooms.

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