Living in a Small Town

Chapter 5


"You got a new blankie," Kaden blurted as he, Stan, and Jude stood on the porch of their home.

"You're not supposed to be peeking," Jude pouted at his son. "I wanted to surprise you guys with the house."

"We know what the outside looks like, Jude," Stan complained. "None of the work that's been done on the place was out here in the front of the house."

"That's where you're wrong, love," Jude corrected. "Turn around and look at our front yard."

"There's a fence… a white picket fence," Stan gasped. "Oh, Jude."

"Are you ok, Momma Stan? You're crying," Kaden asked in concern.

"A long time ago and far away, Momma Stan told me that he wanted to someday live in a cute little cottage kind of a house with a white picket fence complete with two kids and a family pet. Now we're almost there," Jude explained as Stan wiped tears from his face.

"Does this mean you and Momma Stan are going to give me a little brother?" Kaden blurted excitedly and pointedly stared at Stan's stomach.

"It doesn't exactly work that way when your Momma's a boy, sweetheart," Stan said with a bit of a blush.

"Not that we can't try," Jude whispered.

"You hush," Stan scolded his husband. "Unless you want to give the birds and bees talk to our second-grade son."

"Shutting up," Jude conceded quickly. "Come on inside and see what we've done. It took a few weeks, but the electrical and plumbing work is all done, all the horsehair plaster has been cleared out and replaced with drywall, and I think I should point out now that I made an executive decision as head of the family."

"What did you do?" Stan asked nervously.

"Well, it was so difficult to clean the plaster dust out of the carpet, sooooo… I told the guys to get rid of it all. When we did, we found hardwood floors all through the house, even in the kitchen, so that linoleum from the seventies is gone as well."

"Hardwood floors?" Stan whispered. "Really? Are they…. Do they…."

"Go inside and see for yourself," Jude laughed.

"Daddy, isn't all wood hard?" Kaden asked in confusion.

"It's a weird building term, son. It just means that the floor is made of real wood, not fake wood, or covered with vinyl or carpet."

Stan was already in the living room and nearly screamed for his husband. "Jude! How did we not know this was here? Oh, this is so gorgeous. I mean I was just expecting plain old wood planks."

"Apparently Old Miss Pettibone had friends in the trades, so yeah the living room floor is something none of us have ever seen before. There are at least seven different woods in this weird square pattern with more different wood used at an angle inside the squares. Banker Pettibone is going to try to find any paperwork of any kind that will give us some clue about who did this floor and how it was done and stuff. It's not the only unusual floor though. The hallway is oak, we think, with two different stains, and a weird herringbone pattern," Jude answered as he and Kaden walked into the house as well.

"That's not bones, Daddy," Kaden corrected. "It's pretty tree leaves in ziggy zaggy stripes."

"It is?" Stan gushed and then rushed to the hallway. "Oh, Jude I didn't think I could possibly love this house any more than I did but this is….  Oh, Kaden sweetie, come see your room."

"I really do got a room here? I don't sleep in the closet no more?"

"Darling baby boy, no one sleeps or lives in closets in this house," Jude told him as he scooped his son up and walked to the door of his room. "Now your floor I did for you. It was just normal wood, but I know how much my little boy loves purple, so I stained your floor for you."

"Kaden, angel, what's wrong? Are you hurting again?" Stan asked quickly wiping the tears from his son's eyes and joining Jude in hugging the boy as tightly as they could.

"There's purple furniture and purple walls and purple floor, and blue walls too…. OOOOOO windows so it won't ever get so dark, and I won't be stuck inside if I can't open the door. It's so pretty and you said it's for me, but I don't want to go in it and mess it up being a dumb messy little kid," Kaden sobbed as he clutched his parents desperately. "It's too pretty for me."

"Well, I for one, don't think it's near pretty enough for you, my helper man."

Everyone turned to see Mrs. Rita standing in the hallway just behind them. "MRS. RITA!" Kaden yelled. "Lookit, Mrs. Rita, I get a whole room, a real, whole room. And it's the prettiest colors in the whole world. I even got a great big humungous desk and… and… there's daffydillers on the drawers! Did you do them, Mrs. Rita?"

"I sure did, sweet baby boy," the woman told him as she was pulled by the hand into the room by the boy who had dived out of his parents' arms to hug her. "Do you like the room, Kady?"

"I love it, Mrs. Rita, but what if I mess it up?" the boy asked her nervously.

"Then you clean it up, like the good little boy I know you are, just like you used to help me clean up my house," Rita said with a smile and ruffle of his hair. "When you get done looking at your room, you come out back to the patio, ok? I got someone you're going to want to meet."

"Yes, ma'am," he nodded eagerly as she left the room wiping tears that she made sure he didn't see.

 "Don't you worry, Momma Stan, it's the happiest tears I've had in a while," she whispered before Stan could finish opening his mouth.

"Wow, I got two beds," Kaden squealed. "Look Daddy, there's one down here I can reach and another one way up there. I don't sleep on a old couch cushion no more."

"No more couch cushions for you unless you build a fort with them," Jude vowed with a broken voice as he squeezed Stan's hand tightly.

"You can build a fort out of cushions?" Kaden gasped.

"You sure can, and tonight you and I will build the best cushion fort ever and we can sleep in it while Daddy is at work," Stan told the boy. "We'll make chocolate milk and have cookies and watch cartoons until we can't stay awake anymore, and then Daddy can wake us up in the morning when he comes home."

"Awesome," the little boy cheered as he hugged Stan. "I gotta go meet Mrs. Rita's friend now. Where's the patty, the place Mrs. Rita said she'd be waiting for me at?"

"It's this way," Jude announced taking Stan's hand in one of his and Kaden's in the other. He led them back up the short hallway into the kitchen.

"Whoa, this room looks like a broccoli exploded all over it, there's green everywhere. The cabinets are green, the table and the chairs are green, even the ceiling is green," Kaden blurted. "There's even icky veggibles on the walls. Wait, is this room green and veggied so I won't notice when you try to sneak icky green stuff and veggies in my food?"

"I promise not to sneak icky green stuff in your food, sweet boy," Stan vowed seriously. "But I will offer you veggies that sometimes are green because they will help you grow big and strong like Daddy. I will make a deal with you, if you eat one bite and you really, truly don't like it, I will find something else for you to eat that day."

"The whole room isn't all green, son," Jude pointed out. "See the countertops and the floor aren't green," he added pointing at each surface in turn.

"Oh, Jude, oh, Jude, this floor," Stan stammered.

"I was told this floor is maple, apparently the same maple that was used for the butcher block counters that you loved so much when we first saw the place," Jude told him happily.

"Oh, I think I'm going to need a moment," Stan mumbled as he started to sink into one of the chairs at the little dining table near the center of the kitchen.

"Oh no you don't," Jude told him. "You are not going to sit in here and cry. We're going to go mingle with everyone and have a party," he added as he pulled Stan up and out the French doors onto the new trellis covered deck with steps leading down to a brick patio with a matching grill with a trellis covered eating area beside it. The hydrangea had been protected and was looking positively regal in its place of pride.

"Well, Sarge and Sarge's boss, does it meet expectations?" Ike called out as they stepped onto their covered deck.

"I knew I had found our perfect home when I saw this place, but now everything is so much better than anything I ever expected. It's all my dreams coming true. First the house, then little Kit, and now Kaden. I just never thought it would all actually happen to us. And to top it all off, we have a family and friends now who accept us and love us and want us in their lives." He choked and sobbed before he could say anything else.

"You just try getting away from us now," Flo said as she came over and squeezed Stan in a hug.

"That's right, you're in the asylum with the rest of us now, there's no escape anymore," Johnny laughed, and then yelped as his wife hit him. "I meant it good."

"I know you did, that's why I'm going to kiss it better when we get home later," Emily announced causing everyone to hoot, holler, and laugh at them. Well, everyone except their two girls who were making gagging noises at the kids picnic table that had been set up.

"What do you think, Kaden?" Rita asked as she came over with a yellow lab puppy on a leash.

"Blondie?" the boy whispered. "I thought Blondie died."

"Blondie did pass, but this is his son, Zero," Rita smiled. "He's named for a dog in a movie because he was born on Halloween. He is seven months old now." The dog in question had pounced forward and was licking the little boy all over his face, making the boy giggle and squirm.

"He's a lot more kissy than Blondie was," Kaden laughed as he simultaneously tried to pet the dog and escape from the dog's tongue. "He's awesome, Auntie Rita. Oh, sorry. I meant Mrs. Rita."

"Well, maybe that's what you meant, but I like Auntie Rita heaps better," the woman sniffled as she hugged the little boy. "Looks like you and me are both getting whole new starts thanks to your daddy and Momma Stan. I'm going to have me a regular job working at the same office as your daddy. I don't have to go out and catch bad guys, though. I just answer the phone and send your daddy and the men out to take care of the town."

"I never thought HE would ever do something that helped me, but I'm sure glad he put that stinky old lab in the basement," Kaden said as he hugged Auntie Rita.

"You know something, little man? I'm getting pretty happy about it myself, even if it did cost me everything I had," Rita agreed.

"What do you mean?" Kaden asked her.

"Well, you see my house burned down, too," the woman explained. "All I managed to get out with was the clothes I had on and my purse, but it had the stickers I got for you in it, so that was all I needed."

"But… but you mean… No more bookshelf with the doors at the bottom that we put the daffydillers on?" Kaden wondered sadly.

"Well, no, it's all gone, but you know what? When I get my new place, you can come over and we can put daffodil stickers all over the house."

"I can still come over even if I don't live next door no more?" Kaden asked her in surprise.

"Of course you can," she smiled. "Who else is going to play with Zero and teach him all the tricks you taught Blondie? And how could I make my extra special secret recipe cookies without my extra special baker's assistant boy?"

"You mean the ginger mole butt cookies?" Kaden asked eagerly.

"I told you every time we made them, molasses isn't a dirty word, it's a really thick, really sweet syrup," Rita laughed.

"Sure sounds like a dirty word," Kaden told her. "I got a whole new family now and I don't want to get in no trouble with them, so I'm going to keep saying mole butts so it's nicer." Several nearby adults laughed and hugged Kaden, including his Granny and Poppa, who both reassured the boy that he would never get into trouble with them for saying the word molasses.

While Kaden was inadvertently entertaining everyone in earshot, Jude had taken Stan by the hand and led him back up onto the covered deck to show him some things they had missed earlier. "This is an adoption present for us from Uncle Henry and Aunt Ellie," he said as he lifted the cover off the brand-new hot tub.

"Oh, Jude, that looks downright sinful," Stan purred.

"Not as sinful as you're going to look when you're in it," Jude replied. "Now look here," he added with a gesture to the end of the deck in the corner of the house.

"Jude, you really did it. You really gave me French Doors," Stan gushed.

"I like that," Johnny said sarcastically from nearby. "I'm the one that cut the window out and put those doors in."

"Do you want Stan to kiss you instead of Jude?" his wife asked pointedly.

"Yup, Jude did a real great job on those doors," Johnny blurted loudly. Several men and women laughed, including Stan and Jude.

"If you're ok with it, I'll hug you later," Stan called out. Johnny blushed and squirmed but agreed bashfully. Jude opened said doors and pulled Stan inside their bedroom and a second later Stan screamed, "FLO!!!"

"I believe that's my cue for my hug," the woman announced and headed for the steps to the deck. Stan jumped down them and embraced her as he wept deep gut-wrenching sobs. "Hey now, it's just a few fake flowers and some old tree limbs and stuff," she tried to console Stan, but he just clung to her and cried more.

"I think there's something more going on here than just thanking you for one of your fake rose bushes, Flo," Emily Langtry said quietly.

When Stan finally calmed down a bit, he pulled Flo and Jude over to the picnic table to sit down. A few other people followed them, most particularly PittyPat who stood behind Stan hugging him as his husband sat on one side holding a hand and Flo sat on the other side holding that hand. "Jude has asked before why I have such a thing for roses and pink, but I've never been able to answer him. It's time to tell the story, I think. You see, I wasn't born the only child of my parents. I had an older sister, named Rose. She was a good bit older, fifteen years older in fact."

"My parents hadn't planned for me, and to be honest, didn't exactly want me messing up their lives when I was born. My sister was thrilled though. She spent lots of time with me and even read my bedtime stories to me when I was a baby. She loved roses, of course, and the color pink, too. Her room was even more pink than ours, Jude. When she left for college, I was three years old and distraught at her not being around, so she recorded her voice reading my bedtime stories so I could still hear her every night almost as if she was still with me. She didn't stay at college for long, though.  She got sick and started missing classes. They diagnosed it as cancer. She came home to fight it, but she died two months later. I was just old enough to remember her, and I still have those recordings."

"That's the box of tapes you broke into your parents' house for after they kicked us out," Jude gasped.

"Jude, I love you, you big goofball, but you don't blurt out to the entire police force that we broke into my parents' home when we were seventeen years old."

"I believe the statute of limitations is up on that particular crime, son," the sheriff announced as he walked over and moved everyone out of the way so he could bear hug Stan.

"Mr. Stan, you say you still have those recordings?" Callie Mae asked him, walking up close. "Sergeant called them tapes, please tell me you don't mean cassettes."

"Well, yeah," Stan admitted. "What else would they be?"

"Give them to me after the party," the girl ordered. At the look on his face, Callie Mae put her hands on her hips and said coldly, "Not every tech geek is a pimple faced nerdboy living in his parent's basement."

"My girl's got brains!" Sean called out proudly, causing another wave of laughter.

"Why do I suddenly feel like Bill Clinton's mother after meeting Hilary?" Flo asked in a groan.

"If either of us become president, Mrs. Hanson, it will be me not him," Callie Mae informed her. To Stan she said, "I'll convert the tapes to audio files so you can preserve them longer. I will do the best I can to enhance them so they sound the best I can get them, but don't expect miracles if I'm starting with home recorded cassettes."

"Just being able to hear them again will be awesome," Stan told the girl tearfully. "I can't believe my big sister will now get to read bedtime stories to her nephew."

"You would let me listen to your special stuff?" Kaden asked in wonder.

"Of course, I would," Stan promised. "You are my son now, so naturally you get to share all sorts of special things with me, like my favorite books and tv shows, and my secret recipes for cooking." Kaden hugged him as tightly as he could manage at that point, and everyone drifted away to give them a little privacy despite being in the crowded backyard.

"Can I show Janie where I get to stay?" Kaden finally asked.

"Only if you start calling it your room, which it is," Jude told the boy. "It isn't just where you get to stay. It is your room where you get to live, just like this is your home," he added indicating the house and yard. "And this is your family and friends," he gestured to everyone in the backyard.

"I'll work on it with him, Uncle Jude, but he is a boy, so it might take a while," Janie announced.

"Hey, just cause I'm a boy don't mean I'm that dumb," Kaden protested. Their argument faded as they walked into the house, but a moment later everyone heard both of them screaming. Jude and Stan took the shortcut through their new French doors into their bedroom while Uncle Henry and Aunt Ellie went through the kitchen.

"That sounds like my cue," the sheriff said mysteriously as he followed his in-laws into the house. When he got to the room, as he expected, he found both children crying and pointing at the closet. "Now Janie, I'm surprised at you," he said quietly, the low tone of his voice settling the kids down instantly. "You've seen my monster drawings before."

"But Uncle Willy, I watched you do them then, this bunch sneaked up on us," the little girl whimpered as she clung to her grandparents while Kaden hid behind his parents. "Besides, I wasn't scared, I was just screaming because he did."

"You made the monsters, Poppa?" Kaden whispered. He then stuck his tongue out at Janie. "You did too get scared first. I wouldn't even have looked in the closet if you hadn't made your scaredy cat noise." When Kit made a disgruntled meow from the upper bunk bed, Kaden apologized immediately. "Sorry, Kit. I know you're much braver than Janie." The little kitten nodded and then went back to her nap.

"You take that back Kaden," Janie ordered. "I am too braver than a dumb old cat."

"Daddy, get her out of my room," Kaden demanded of Jude. "Now, please. I don't want to get in trouble for yelling at her."

"We'll handle this, Jude," Aunt Ellie said as she pulled Janie out to the hallway. Uncle Henry shut the bedroom door behind them as he left as well.

"That was very mature, Kaden," Stan said as he hugged Kaden. "I'm very proud of you for asking for help instead of doing something you might regret later."

"Well, Janie don't know how special and smart Kitty is, mostly 'cause I forgot to tell her," Kaden explained. "So, Janie didn't mean to be dumb, she just didn't know everything she thought she did. That happens a lot. I think it's a girl thing."

"As the straight man in the room, I will judiciously stay out of this conversation," Poppa said with a laugh. "Now, Kady, let me explain the monsters in your closet."

"They're scary, Poppa," Kaden whispered. "I thought you love me."

"I do love you, sweetheart, very, very much," the older man assured him. "That's why I put them in there. You see these are good monsters so that no bad monsters can ever get into your closet to scare you at night."

"Good monsters?" Kaden questioned.

"Yes sir, the best monsters I could come up with," Poppa agreed. "Let me show you how I make the good monsters." He then took a piece of paper from the desk and a pencil, and he wrote the name Stanley on the paper, then he spun the paper around and drew a mirror image of the letters right beside them. He then connected lines and drew a little around the letters and right before everyone's eyes, the name was turned into a monster on the paper.

"That's KEWL!" Kaden squealed. "Hey, that's one of the monsters in the closet." He ran to the closet and pointed at a monster that exactly matched the one his Poppa had just drawn.

"That's right, my very smart grandson," Poppa told him. "See, this monster is your Mama Stan, and this one right beside it is your Daddy Jude, over here is your Granny and me, and up here is Uncle Henry and Aunt Ellie. I even put your Uncle Alex in here for you."

"Willy, you haven't drawn your little monsters since we lost Alex." No one had heard Granny come in the room, they had been so closely watching Poppa draw the monster and point out the ones in the closet.

"I might not have my little imp anymore, but now I have my angel, Kaden," Poppa said softly as he hugged the boy and wiped tears from both their faces. "These monsters will make sure that you're always safe and protected from the bad monsters that hide in little kids closets. I promise you I will do a better job of protecting you and your dads around town than I did with your Uncle Alex, too."

"Willy, you know no one blames you for what happened to our Alex, right?" Granny said softly. "Not me and not anyone else in this town. If I blamed you, I would have to blame myself as well, cause all of us believed those lies that two faced monster spouted off all over town. No one blames you, darling."

"I do, and that's enough," Poppa sobbed as he put Kaden down and left the room. "I'm going back to the office now."

"Granny, I like my monsters now, I promise," Kaden cried. "I didn't mean to make Poppa sad."

"Poppa is making himself sad, my little angel," Granny told him with a hug. "Let's go back outside and you can play with that puppy some more."