Arkadelphia Plantation

by Sequoyah


Chapter Two

The following day, Mrs. Edwards was waiting for Ethan when he got to the office. After they spoke, Mrs. Edwards said, “Ethan, wished you’d spoken up sooner. I’m amazed at the change in Davis after a just-seventeen-year-old told him where to get off. I called today to find out why your dad wasn’t receiving home nursing service for which we pay taxes and he is entitled. Guess no-one ever signed him up. Well, he’s signed up now and a home care nursing assistant will be by Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday to do what he needs and that includes bathing him.”

“He’ll not like that,” Ethan smiled. “He’ll really not like that.”

“Know the type. Married to one. He doesn’t mind me putting myself out doing for him when someone is available who could do it better and take the strain off of me. Anyway, there’s a new doctor in the clinic at Braggton part-time. He’s here six months as a part of his training at Mercer. He’ll check out your dad.”

When Ethan got home, his dad was waiting for him. “Ethan, have a seat. I have a bone to pick with you. What do you mean interfering?”

“You’re talking about what in particular?”

“Telling Molly Edwards I needed a nurse and a doctor and all that shit.”

“First of all, I told Mrs. Edwards no such thing. I just told Mr. Edwards he was not to use the word fag in my office, he was not to call me boy and he could stop the shouting and cussing.”

“So how the hell do I have a nurse—who looks like a linebacker—washing my ass and saying the doctor would see me Friday?”

“Just lucky, I guess,” Ethan said, then told his dad what Randy had done as well and how that set Mr. Edwards thinking. “Seems to me getting your ass washed and seeing a doctor is a small price to pay for a decent house, a nice increase in income and a possibility of college for me.”

“Don’t mean I have to like it none,” his dad replied. Ethan laughed.

When Ethan got to the office Friday, there was a note from a Dr. Killian. He had had Mr. Taylor picked up by an ambulance Wednesday. He was taken to Audubon for an MRI and afterward brought back to the clinic in Braggton for an examination by Dr. Killian. The note said Dr. Killian was on duty at the hospital in Audubon after 4:30 and Ethan should call him there. When he did, he had to leave a message and Dr. Killian called back a few minutes later. “Ethan, I understand you are more or less acting head of the family and since there was no phone at your place, I told your dad I’d report to you.

“Mr. Taylor told me he had suspected something major was wrong and didn’t bother seeing a doctor because he didn’t think anything could be done about it. Well, I’ll be honest and there’s no way to soften this, he pretty much nailed it. Had he seen me earlier, there could have been surgery, radiation and chemo but, frankly, in his case, it might have prolonged his life for a short and miserable length of time. The only thing we can do now is pain control. I’ve put in a request for hospice care today. That will make life easier on all of you.”

“Doctor, I graduate in a few weeks. Think he can make the ceremony? It’s kinda important since I’m the first in the whole extended family who will have finished high school.”

“I don’t think there is any way to stop him,” Dr. Killian chuckled.


Davis’ ‘Road to Damascus’ experience had taken place the first week of April. Four weeks later, Mrs. Edwards walked into Ethan’s office before he had logged on the computer. After they spoke, Mrs. Edwards said, “Ethan, the office can wait until tomorrow and if it can’t, it won’t matter. We’re going to take a look at your new place. Then we’ll talk about furnishings.”

The weather-beaten house of a few weeks ago hardly looked weather-beaten now. It sported a fresh coat of white paint with dark green trim. The dump skid piled with old windows and torn screens witnessed to the fact that all the windows and screens had been replaced. Inside, the rooms had all been painted and the heart pine floors refinished, bringing out the beauty of the rare wood. The kitchen, sporting new appliances, cabinets and tile floor, was a dream. On the left as you entered the front door was the living room and behind it a dining room opening onto the kitchen. Ethan was sure the dining room would seldom be used as the kitchen had space for family meals. The kitchen was open to the den and a door opened onto the screened-in porch which ran across the back of the house. Two bedrooms with a connecting bath completed the downstairs. One bedroom had two doors, the original opening off the hall and a new door opening off the den. It would be Mr. Taylor’s.

Upstairs there were four rooms, more than twice the size of those where the Taylors were living, but smaller than the downstairs bedrooms. One was being fitted out with bookcases. “This will be your office and study,” Molly said. “When I was planning the renovation, I thought you’d need to be downstairs with your dad, but Davis reminded me you have a brother and sister who need to take responsibility as well. If your dad is in the bedroom next to the den, it will be easy to move him from one to the other. The child responsible can keep an eye on him in the den even when working in the kitchen. I guess one of you will need to sleep downstairs as well to take care of anything which might arise at night.”

“Mrs. Edwards, this is all hard to believe,” Ethan said.

“No more than you deserve. Davis got you on the cheap and you have been doing an excellent job and, more importantly, we need to keep you. Add to that the fact that you brought Davis and Jeff together, something I thought would never happen. That is worth more than any amount of money. So, anything you need to bring, bring, but this is a big house compared to where you live. I have stuff stored in the old barn and when I checked, it was all good. Minnie Maude Chambers has redone her place twice in the past five years—two daughters and two weddings seemed to require two major redecorating jobs.” She chuckled, “Ethan, have sons.

“Anyway, she has stuff stored in a warehouse and was complaining about the cost of storage. I suggested she could help furnish your place. We can go Saturday to look it over. Plan to bring your brother and sister along. I’ll send Claire Bell over to stay with your daddy.” Technically, Claire Bell was the Edwards’ housekeeper, but was far more a family member than servant.

Saturday, Mrs. Edwards came by the house at eight with Claire Bell. Ethan gave her the instructions for caring for his dad he had written out. “The home health care person will be here between ten and noon. He’ll give him a bath and do whatever he deems necessary. Dad’s clean clothes are on his bed,” Ethan told Claire Bell. She had known the family for years, but had only spoken to Ethan in passing. As they talked, she was impressed by how mature he was.

When Claire Bell was settled, Mrs. Edwards pointed her big Lincoln toward Minnie Maude Chambers’ place, picked her up and headed to the warehouse. The two women talked a blue streak for ten minutes then Minnie Maude said, “Molly, I was thinking. I have very little in the way of furniture for boys’ rooms. Unfortunately we just had the four girls and would likely have had another, but I put my foot down. Stewart would have gone on having kids until there was a boy, but enough is enough.

“Ethan, Jamie, what’s with males thinking they have to have a boy to prove they are a man? I declare, it’s like they think it takes some superhuman macho strength to produce a boy. Men can be so stupid. Anyway, we’ll see what’s in the warehouse. Any of it you can use, take. I know I’ll never use it and the girls don’t want it. I need to get rid of it and stop paying warehouse rent.” That said, Minnie Maude turned to asking about the kids’ dad, what Ethan would be doing after graduation, what Jamie and Sally Ann would be doing during the summer, finally suggesting Sally Ann spend time at her place with Linda June, her daughter, as she was the same age as Sally Ann. Sally Ann didn’t look too thrilled at the prospect.

They reached the warehouse mid-morning and went inside. The guard looked at Mrs. Chambers’ identification and led them to a large open area. Standing by was a fork lift with operator. Mrs. Chambers gave him a list of the pallets she wanted and he brought them. The furniture was covered by large plastic sheets which Ethan and Jamie removed. When several pallets had been uncovered, Mrs. Chambers said, “Sally Ann, here’s the bedroom furniture from the girls’ rooms, take your choice.” After having had very little in the way of bedroom furnishings, she was hard pressed choosing among the several possibilities, but finally picked one that suited her and her personality well.

Mrs. Chambers kept pushing for the three to select more and more furniture. Sally Ann picked out a living room outfit she wanted. It was covered in off-white satin-like material. Ethan and Jamie were quick to tell her it was nice, but not something that a family with two farm boys needed. She did pick out very attractive dining room furniture and a very practical table and chairs for the kitchen. Jamie chose two sets of den furniture, one they would use for the den and the other for the living room.

Ethan and Jamie picked out two bedroom suites which had been in Mrs. Chambers’ guest rooms—both with queen-size beds—for their dad’s room and the guest room downstairs. Mrs. Chambers had said they would have a hard time finding boys’ bedroom furniture and she was correct. There was nothing, ‘even for a gay boy,’ Ethan said to himself. Mrs. Edwards said she thought she had the boys’ rooms covered. When they had made their final selections, Mrs. Edwards called a moving company and the furniture would be picked up and delivered Tuesday. Sally Ann was really excited and both the young men were pleased, but managed to appear somewhat more subdued.

After the question of the furniture had been settled, they all went to lunch. As soon as they had been served, Mrs. Chambers started asking Ethan all sorts of probing questions about girlfriends. Before she could really get going, Ethan said he didn’t have time for girlfriends what with school, baseball, working and helping care for his dad. Jamie, on the other hand, considered himself quite the ladies’ man and was only too happy to discuss his girlfriends and Ethan was thankful.

Saturday afternoon, Molly called and said she was coming by to pick up the brothers to go look at furniture she had stored in an old barn. When the stored furniture was uncovered, Jamie saw a rough and tumble ‘western’ outfit—full-size bed, dresser with a large mirror, chest, night stand, desk and chair and had to have it. “There is also a western rug, draperies and bed covering Jeff had with this outfit,” Molly said when Jamie told her he wanted the outfit. “You may have to alter the draperies.” Jamie assured her he could do that.

There was another outfit which had belonged to Jeff and Ethan thought he could use it although he didn’t like it very much. “Ethan, that’s all the boy bedroom stuff here,” Molly said, “and I’d be very surprised if you liked it. There’s another bedroom suite which was in the guest room. It’s called mission style. I think you’ll like it.” Ethan did, very much.

“We have everything furnished except your office,” Mrs. Edwards said. “I think I have just what you need. Davis went to a pecan growers’ conference in Texas two and a half years ago and while he was gone, I had his office redecorated—new paint, carpet, furniture, everything. When he saw it, he pitched an Edwards hissy fit, picked up the phone and called local movers and had the new furniture stored in the barn and his old things put back. I think you’ll like it.” Ethan really did and was glad Davis hadn’t.

Mrs. Edwards called Randy and asked if he was available to help move some furniture and when he said he was, told Jamie to go get the flatbed truck and pick up Randy. The first load of furniture included the rug for Jamie’s room which was put down and then his furniture placed. The office rug was also put down. The other heavy things from the barn were put in place, but the lighter things were just put in the correct rooms to be put in place later.

Saturday night, Jamie found his dad sound asleep when he went to get him for supper. When he finally got him awake enough, he said he didn’t want supper and promptly went back to sleep. As soon as the three Taylor children sat down for supper, Jamie said, “I know you have seen how much trouble Dad has getting around. I saw him come so close to falling earlier that I could see there’s a real danger he’s going to fall and break something. He manages okay—slowly, but okay—with a walker, but he won’t use one every time he gets up. I’ve thought a lot about it. Sally Ann, no way you could get him up by yourself. Ethan, you have only a few weeks until you graduate. No way it makes sense for you to stay home. The only thing that makes sense is for me to drop out for the rest of the year. If he falls, he’s sure to break something and we’ll really be in a bind.”

“Not happening, Jamie, not happening. I agree Dad needs to use the walker and if he did, we could rest easier for right now at least, but you’re not dropping out.”

Sally Ann asked, “Why don’t we just put it to him straight. Either he uses the walker every time he gets up or Jamie’s going to have to drop out of school.”

“We can sure try it,” Ethan agreed and Jamie nodded agreement as well. When they were having breakfast the next morning, they put it to their dad straight, he either agreed not to get up without the walker or Jamie was dropping out of school. “Dad, that means you get up one time without the walker and Jamie drops out the last few weeks of school and loses a year’s credit. Their dad started grumbling and Ethan had had it. “Damn it, Dad, I know life’s treating you rough, but it’s doing a job on us as well. We’re doing the best we can and we need some cooperation. You fall and break something and we’ll be up shit creek. All we’re asking is that you use the damn walker so Jamie can stay in school. Is that too much to ask?”

Mr. Taylor looked sheepish and said, “No. I’ll use the damn walker.”

After breakfast Ethan said he was going to work in the office until noon. Sally Ann would stay home to care for their dad and do some packing. Ethan dropped off Jamie to work on getting the new house in shape. Jamie had finished with his room and was working on Sally Ann’s when Molly called from downstairs, “Jamie? Hello?”

Jamie called out as he ran downstairs, “I’m here, Mrs. Edwards.”

“Good,” Molly said as he entered the room. “There are three large boxes of pillows and bed linen in the the back of the truck, enough for your family’s beds. I realized you probably had twins in your old place and the new ones are all queen size except yours which is full size. There’s also a box with the draperies and bed covering Jeff had when he had the furniture you selected. If you don’t like the things for your room, I’ll take them to the thrift store. I have no use for them.”

Jamie thanked her warmly and unloaded the boxes. The truck unloaded, Molly left. Jamie added two pillows and the full size sheets and pillowcases to the box with the draperies and bed covering and took them to his room. He made the bed and was delighted with the bed cover. When he had hung the draperies they were just perfect. Jamie was beside himself at having a room of his own and how it looked.

Ethan was surprised when Mrs. Edwards came to the office and told him hospice was bringing equipment for their dad’s room between 1:00 and 2:00.

Ginger had invited them to lunch and as they walked over, Ethan told Jamie about hospice and said, “I’ll call tomorrow to let them know when they can send an ambulance to move Dad.” After lunch with Randy and Ginger, the two headed back to the new place at quarter to one.

Promptly at 1:00, a van from a medical supply company pulled up and the crew brought in and set up a hospital bed. The regular hospital mattress had a topper with an attached pump which inflated and deflated random cells to keep someone on it from developing bed sores. There was other equipment and supplies which were stored in their dad’s bedroom. It was all in place by 2:00. Jamie and Ethan worked until 6:30 and were exhausted when they headed home. Ethan cooked supper while Jamie stayed with their dad. Sally Ann went for a walk just to get away for a while. As soon as supper was over, Mr. Taylor said he was ready for bed and Ethan helped him get to his room, undressed and in bed. The three young Taylors watched a program on their small gets-one-channel black and white TV and then headed off to bed. Tomorrow was a big day for the Taylors.

Molly knocked on the Taylors’ door at 7:30 the next morning just as Sally Ann was clearing the table. Ethan was helping his father get dressed and Jamie was putting the last box they were taking to the new house in the truck. Everything else would just be left. As soon as Mr. Taylor was dressed, Claire Bell, who came with Molly, took over. Sally Ann got in Molly’s truck and the two left. Jamie and Ethan loaded the boxes into the truck, then followed. When they reached Arkadelphia, Jamie and Ethan quickly unloaded the truck and Ethan took Sally Ann and Jamie to school. Ethan had been exempted from school since the seniors were having a career day and he had plans which he had already turned in.

The moving van arrived at 8:00 and started unloading the furniture from Mrs. Chambers. Ethan only had time to direct them to the proper room for the next hour. The unloading went quickly. When the movers finished, Ethan opened the refrigerator to see if Sally Ann had left something for lunch and was surprised to see it full of food. When Molly arrived a short time later, Ethan asked her what was going on.

“I don’t suppose you have ever heard of a pounding. Years ago about the only people who moved around in this part of the world were Methodist preachers. When a new one came, people ‘pounded’ on his door carrying things he needed moving in—food, staples, whatever. Later it became a way of welcoming new people to the community, especially newlyweds who needed everything. Seemed like a good thing which kinda died out. Well, Minnie Maude Chambers and I got to talking and we decided we’d have a pounding for you folks. Didn’t talk to you about it because we knew you’d start that foolish pride thing about accepting charity, so we held it last night. Had a real nice party. Folks enjoyed an excuse to get together and you have the household goods—linens, kitchen pots and pans, dishes, flatware, food staples, cleaning supplies as well as food for the next couple days while you are getting settled. We also made sure everything was clean and ready for you. Folks enjoyed doing it.”

“I’m sure you are right about our objecting. I know Dad would have big time, but thanks. I don’t know what we have done to deserve all this.”

“You’re good folks who are having a hard time. Some of us are able to help. Serves both of us well. I’ll leave you to it.”

After Molly left, Ethan got busy again getting the house in order. There were sheets and pillow cases to make the beds—the bed for Mr. Taylor’s room was stored in the attic since he had a hospital bed. When he stopped for lunch he had not completely finished, but he was about done with the downstairs. ‘Any reason I shouldn’t call hospice and tell them they can bring Dad over?’ Ethan asked himself and couldn’t think of one, so he made the call. It was sure nice to have a phone!

The ambulance arrived at 3:00 just as Jamie and Sally Ann came in from school. Mr. Taylor was able to walk using a walker, but not very far or very long. He did, however, manage to walk into the house. He looked over the living room, walked through the dining room and stopped in the kitchen. “Sally Ann, think I could get a glass of water?” Sally Ann got a glass from a cabinet, walked to the refrigerator and filled it from the door dispenser. “Damn! That’s fancy!” Mr. Taylor said when handed the glass. “Cold too.”

Jamie helped get his dad into a recliner in the den and sat with him while Sally Ann and Ethan finished getting their rooms in shape. Sally Ann relieved Jamie so he could work on the guest room. Ethan worked on the office, but that would take time. When they sat down for supper, they were essentially moved in.

His changed surroundings seemed to give Mr. Taylor a new lease on life. He really wasn’t better, but wasn’t getting worse as rapidly as he had been. He told Ethan he was pleased people thought so much of his kids and he was happy knowing they were not going to be left destitute when he was gone.

Two weeks before graduation, his dad was to the point where Ethan didn’t want him to be alone. Fortunately Ethan didn’t have to go to school Monday, Wednesday and Friday and got home by 1:00 Tuesday and Thursday since seniors could leave as soon as they finished any finals they had. Claire Bell sat with his dad the two mornings he was at school. Ethan worked in the house the mornings he was home and in the plantation office after Jamie and Sally Ann got home. His dad was obviously getting weaker and Ethan was just hoping and praying he’d make it until graduation.

The following week seniors were technically still in school, but unless they had to make up an exam, no-one checked roll so Ethan was home or in the office. By Tuesday night, everything was in its place and it was wonderful. Mr. Taylor seemed to be doing exceptionally well. It was a happy family that headed for bed. Sally Ann and Jamie were very excited. Ethan was as well, but he had to be very adult about it. A happy Ethan lay in his bed and got off without worrying about being caught. He knew Jamie did as well.

Graduation was Thursday and Mr. Edwards made arrangements for a van with a lift to pick up Ethan’s dad and take him to the school for the ceremony. Mrs. Edwards had insisted Ethan have a suit for graduation and took him shopping. Instead of a suit, she finally agreed to gray pants and a navy blazer. They fit perfectly without alterations. She saw that Jamie had a similar outfit and Sally Ann had a new dress. While it hung on him because he had lost so much weight, Mr. Taylor wore the suit he had bought when his wife died.

Ethan didn’t graduate at the top of his class, but close and he did graduate with honors. His dad was very proud of him and very happy that he was able to see him walk across the stage and receive his diploma.

Mrs. Edwards found out there was a graduation party at River Bend Plantation and asked Ethan if he was going. He said he wasn’t because he needed to be home with his dad and he knew the party would last most of the night. Mrs. Edwards was having none of that and said Claire Bell would stay with Mr. Taylor, Jamie and Sally Ann. Reluctantly Ethan agreed to go.

He enjoyed himself and was happy to discover Scotty McCarter was there as well. After they all had a beer or two and had eaten, someone cranked up the music and couples started dancing. Mary Beth Steinburner, a cheerleader rumored to have done the whole football team and who had been caught under the bleachers giving the captain head, came over and said, “Scotty, a little bird told me you could dance,” grabbed his hand and pulled him to his feet. Scotty frowned, but started dancing. He knew what he was doing! Mary Beth did as well. Scotty was dancing like Ethan had never seen except on TV and, damn, he was hot! Little Mr. Taylor agreed and rose up to get a better look. Ethan was having a hard—well, difficult—time hiding the erection tenting his pants. To make matters worse, Peggy Sue Albritten came over, grabbed his hand and dragged him to the floor. As they danced, he gradually lost the tent, but not before Scotty looked at him and grinned.

There was plenty of alcohol around and Ethan had two or three more beers before he decided that was enough since, sooner or later, he’d be driving home. As he was finishing the last one, he saw Mary Beth grab Scotty again. He had noticed Mary Beth was hitting the non-Baptist punch pretty hard and when she had Scotty dancing, she sure looked as if she was trying to fuck him. Scotty looked as if he wasn’t enjoying it at all.

The following Friday evening Randy came by to ask if Ethan and Jamie would like to go fishing Saturday. He planned to be up early and be on the river by 7:00. Jamie was eager to go, but Ethan debated leaving Sally Ann alone all day with his dad. When he said so, Randy replied that they would be back not later than 1:00. Sally Ann urged them to go and Ethan said they would.

The two young men got up early and headed downstairs where Sally Ann had breakfast waiting. They were just finishing when Randy knocked. After he spoke to Mr. Taylor, the three piled in his truck and headed for the river. When they arrived, they got the boat from the trailer and in the water and were soon floating on the river, fishing.

They had been fishing for an hour and had caught nothing when Randy suggested they move upriver to another spot he liked. As they approached, they saw another fishing boat with two men anchored there. Ethan was sure he recognized one of them because of his curly, golden blond hair. Randy cut the motor and Jamie used a paddle to move closer to the other boat. When they were close enough, Randy asked, “Catching any?”

The older man in the boat replied, “Yeah,” as he held up a string of fish. “Where y’all from?”

“Arkadelphia Plantation. Y’all?”

“River Bend Plantation. I’m Eli Welsh and this is Scotty McCarter.”

“Randy Ashton. Thought I recognized you, Eli.”

“Yeah, you’re manager at Arkadelphia, right?”

“Yeah. Jamie and Ethan Taylor are from Arkadelphia as well. Ethan graduated Thursday,” Randy said proudly.

“Congratulations Ethan,” Eli said. “So did Scotty.”

“Thanks, Mr. Welsh. How you doing, Scotty?” Ethan called.

“Fine, Ethan. Didn’t know if you’d recognize me.”

“After Thursday night? Sure. What’re you up to this summer?”

“Starting some courses at Audubon State. More to keep busy than anything else.”

“I’ll be starting courses as well.”

“Any on campus?”

“I think I’ll be doing a couple on campus and two online. Dr. Bailey told Mr. Edwards he thought I could handle that and do my job as well. If not, I’ll drop a course. Dr. Bailey said I could go over a couple of days a week and take two courses.”

Scotty said “Give me a call and we’ll, maybe, sign up for the same ones on campus.” Scotty suddenly seemed shy when he had said that and even blushed a little.

“Sure. Be glad to.” Of course, Scotty was no stranger to Ethan, but he didn’t know him well. They didn’t have a class together except for PE. Unlike almost all of his senior classmates who had been at Braggton since starting high school, Scotty had entered February of his senior year. That’s not to say he hadn’t noticed him at school. In fact he had taken some pretty good looks—often with hardening results!

Scotty had also done more than his share of looking and had wanted to get to know Ethan, but he was a baseball hero and seemed very busy. Ethan was friendly, especially in PE, well, that was the only class they had together, but he spoke and smiled at everyone when he walked down the hall. Scotty’s heart had almost stopped when, shortly after he arrived, some of the PE students started picking on him and Ethan gave them hell for it and they never bothered him again.

By eleven, the three from Arkadelphia had a good string of fish. Randy said there were enough for all the Arkadelphia families to have fish for supper. “If we have enough, how about lunch?” Jamie asked.

“Sounds good to me,” Randy said and called out “We’re going in,” to the other boat.

“Where y’all eating lunch?” Eli asked.

“My wife packed one. We’ll eat here.”

“So’re we. Mind if we join you?”

“More than welcome,” Randy replied.

They went back down the river to the boat launch and took their boats out of the water. Jamie said he and Ethan would filet the fish. Scotty said he’d do his and Eli’s if Ethan would show him how. Thirty minutes later, they put the last fish in a cooler and headed to the river to wash up for lunch.

As they sat down under an old oak with Eli and Randy, Eli said, “So, Ethan, you said something about working.”

“Yeah, I work for Davis too.”

Randy laughed, “Sometimes I wonder if Davis might be working for Ethan one of these years.”

“What do you do?” Scotty asked.

“I keep the books. Been doing that since I was a sophomore.”

“You keep the books for a plantation?” Scotty said, in an incredulous voice.

“Yeah, Mr. Kimes helped me get started and once you get the hang of it, it’s pretty simple. Only real problem is getting receipts and all turned in.” Ethan grinned as he gave Randy a look.

“I suspect there’s a lot more in his future at Arkadelphia than just keeping books. Davis and I have been talking. Nothing firm yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him an assistant manager before much longer.”

“You plan to stay at Arkadelphia Plantation?” Scotty asked.

“I’d really like to. I’d like to see it become a real show place with me as a part of that,” Ethan said with a dreamy look.

“Boy’s a dreamer, Randy,” Eli said.

“Would watch calling him boy,” Randy laughed. “He gave Davis an ass chewing for calling him boy.”

“And he didn’t get fired? Hell, the whole county knows about Davis Edwards’ temper.”

“Got him his house and college instead.”

“That’s a story I’ve got to hear,” Eli said.

“Randy, you’re embarrassing me,” Ethan said and ducked his head.

“Just the truth,” Randy replied and told the story of Ethan’s kicking the boss’s ass, omitting any reference to Jeff.

When they finished lunch, Ethan made sure he had Scotty’s number and they headed back home.

Ethan’s dad had been doing extremely well and Ethan dared hoped he might actually be getting better. He knew otherwise Sunday morning when it had been his turn to sleep downstairs. Around eight, his dad called and asked for more pain medicine. He was obviously in great pain and not doing well at all. Ethan gave him the medicine, then called hospice.

When the hospice nurse came, she called the doctor who okayed increasing his dad’s pain killer. “He’ll likely sleep most of the time now,” she told Ethan, “but without the medicine, he would be in horrible pain. I just hope the pain killer keeps working”. The doctor left an ‘on demand’ order for the pain killer, but no more often than every two hours. “Otherwise, he’d likely stop breathing,” he told Ethan.

Sunday night, Ethan called Scotty. They talked for half an hour about nothing in particular then got around to talking about courses they might take in summer school. When Scotty finally asked what he planned on taking in college, Ethan told him he wanted a degree in horticulture and business, focusing on small business and pecan horticulture. Ethan laughed. “Arkadelphia seems like a pretty big business to me, but I guess to the world it’s pretty small. Know where you’re headed?”

Scotty answered, “Probably English or psychology. I want to be a teacher, but I’ve been warned about degrees in education and all the mickey mouse involved. What about this summer?”

“Well, I’ll get credit for my AP English classes, so I have that requirement out of the way. Same with chemistry and physics. I understand you can test out of some of the requirements as well, but I thought about getting some the remaining requirements out of the way as well as taking Accounting 101 and Intro to Business online.”

“I decided I had gotten so far behind in my AP classes I was taking before I came here I didn’t take the only one offered,” Scotty said. “Did you notice the university requires a freshman seminar? Suspect it’s pretty much a discussion of bullshit and mutual ignorance, but it’s offered as a one night a week course on Thursday. If there’s an afternoon class we’d like to take on campus, that would be good. Maybe get by with only one trip a week to campus.”

They looked at the catalog and didn’t find a one day a week afternoon class, and settled on a world literature class to fulfill a humanities requirement which met at 2:00 Tuesday and Thursday. An hour and a half long, they could use the time Thursday between classes on the campus network since both would be using dialup at the plantations. That decided, they agreed to meet at the Piggly Wiggly grocery parking lot in Braggton Monday at 9:00. Both had appointments with an academic adviser at 10:00.

Ethan’s dad seemed to be doing better Monday morning. He hadn’t needed to have as much pain killer during the night as he had Sunday and was fairly alert. Ethan told him he was going to the college to see about classes and Jamie and Sally Ann would be with him.

As Ethan was getting into his old truck, Randy drove up and hopped out of his. “Glad I caught you, Ethan. Davis told me to get this truck over to you. Afraid you’re getting a hand-me-down as he’s having a new one for me delivered today. One of the perks of your position is a truck. Frankly, I’d as soon keep this one, but Davis decided otherwise. The truck is only a year old and is pretty much loaded. It is, of course, a working truck and not a pleasure vehicle, but it is nice.”

Ethan arrived at the Piggly Wiggly parking lot ten minutes before he and Scotty had agreed to meet. Five minutes later, he saw a beautifully restored Triumph turn into the parking lot and recognized Scotty’s blond curls. He climbed out of the truck and waved and Scotty parked beside him.

“New truck?” Scotty asked as he got out of his car.

“Perks of the job,” Ethan said and smiled. “Got satellite radio. Wanta go in it?”

“Sure,” Scotty said and locked his car.

When they left the parking lot, Ethan said, “Randy said the channel guide for the radio was in the glove box. I just got the truck as I was leaving. When I turned it on it was country and religious stuff. Not my kind of radio. Set the classical first.”

“Include opera?”

“No, I’ll pass on that and no rap or hip hop.” Scotty set the presets as Ethan agreed on channels. Ethan was surprised that his taste in music and Scotty’s was practically identical.

Had anyone been observing, they would have noticed Scotty sneaking glances at Ethan during the trip to the campus—a matter of less than half an hour from the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. Ethan didn’t seem to notice.

When they reached the administration building, they found their advisers were on different floors. “Let’s meet at the student center when we finish,” Ethan said, consulting a campus map he picked up at the information desk. “Probably be time for lunch then anyway.” Both advisers told the two they would likely be among a very few younger students in the evening freshmen seminar. It had been added specifically for students who worked or had to keep kids during the day which generally meant older students. Ethan did get the accounting and business classes online he wanted and both got the literature class as well as the freshman seminar.

Mr. Taylor was resting comfortably when Ethan got back at 2:30. Again, he needed much less pain medicine recently and was more alert than he had been. Wednesday night at two in the morning, he called Ethan and he gave him medicine for his pain. He gave him more at four and Ethan called hospice. The nurse was there in forty-five minutes and shortly afterward, Ethan’s dad breathed his last.

He had asked for a simple graveside service and Mrs. Edwards arranged for that and he would laid to rest beside his beloved wife Saturday. Ethan became father as well as brother to Jamie and Sally Ann.