Castle Roland

Book I

by MultiMapper


Chapter 23

Posted: 27 Nov 14

Copyright © 2012 - 2015 by MultiMapper and The Revolutions Universe Partnership
All Rights Reserved

Red Glare

Metamorphosis Logo"Where's Jody!?" A voice abruptly asked into the otherwise silent car.

"JD, either shut up, or I'll rip your heart out and stuff it in your big mouth." A gruff voice muttered from the seat in front of his.

"Jorry, wake up! Nick's gone, too!" JD said in panic.

Jorry's eyes snapped open at the declaration as an expression of terror overtook his features.

"Oh shit! My dads are gonna kill me if I lost Jody." JD said as he looked out the windows of the SUV at the cars surrounding them, hoping to catch a glimpse of his younger brother.

"Go back to sleep, guys. They're fine. Jody and Nick said that they're hiking up to the truck stop to get some... chips or something, I don't know. I was half asleep when they told me." A sleepy voice said from the front seat.

"And you just let them go!? Christian, we're a quarter of a mile from that truck stop. A lot of bad things could happen to them between here and there." Jorry said anxiously.

"And my dads are counting on me to take care of Jody." JD interjected as his tears threatened to fall.

"Think about it, guys. Jody and Nick were sleeping the whole night while we were up driving and trying to keep each other awake, so we could catch up to this monster convoy. They woke up this morning and the rest of us were asleep. I'm sure they were bored out of their minds and wanted to walk up to the truck stop to get away from this smell, or maybe just for something to do. You've got to face it, they're not little kids anymore. Nick's fifteen and even Jody's officially a teenager now. You've got to give them a little freedom."

After a moment, JD quietly said, "I guess you're right, Collin. It's just that, after everything he's been through, Jody deserves to be protected."

"You do protect him, JD. He knows that if he's ever in trouble that he can go to you and that you'll take care of it... without a doubt. But you've got to give him a little room to take care of things for himself, sometimes. It's part of growing up." Christian said seriously.

"Nick hasn't been right since... well, you know. He never went back to being himself. He needs me." Jorry said urgently.

"I think Collin and Christian are right. Jody and Nick need to know that we're there for them and that if they ever need us for anything at all, we'll help them. But when they choose to go off and do something like this, on their own, it's a good thing. I think it means that they're healing and getting more secure." JD said reasonably, then gently added, "Remember, I know how you feel."

"No, JD, you don't." Jorry said firmly, "Everything that happened to Jody, happened to him before you ever met him. There's no way you could have protected him from it. What happened to Nick was because I let down my guard around my asshole-bitch mother. I could have stopped it. If I'd just paid closer attention to what was going on around me, she never would've been able to send him to that fucking place."

"But, as soon as you found out, you got your dad to get a lawyer and a court order, and you not only got him out of that 'conversion camp' but you also fixed it so your dad had permanent custody. If your mom hadn't pulled her shit, Nick would still have to spend half his time with her." Collin tried to reason.

"Nicky got hurt and I could've stopped it. That's all that matters. I still don't know what they did to him at that place, but whatever it was, was bad enough to change him. He was always so open with me about everything before. Now, he barely talks to me." Jorry said regretfully.

A knock on their window caused all of them to look up suddenly.

Jorry cautiously rolled down the window, just a little, and asked, "Do you need something?"

"We're just getting with everyone who joined us during the night to make sure that you have a CB radio." A young man said seriously.

"Yeah. We've been using it to keep track of where there's trouble ahead." Jorry said slowly.

"Good. If you turn it to channel 14, that's where we're making announcements to the whole convoy." The young man said, then before anyone in the car could respond, he hurried to the car that was parked behind them.

Jorry turned the volume of the radio up and switched to channel 14.

"I don't think it'd be such a bad thing if you wanted to hike up to the truck stop. You know, just to buy some snacks or something." Christian said into the ensuing silence.

Jorry and JD shared a look and it was finally Jorry who said, "No. We've got to start trusting them sometime."

"But, if they're not back in, let's say, twenty minutes or so, then maybe we could go and get some last minute munchies for the road." JD said cautiously.

Jorry slowly nodded his agreement to the arrangement.

Father Doherty woke up a little earlier than was usual for him. He quietly gathered his things and went to the public restrooms to clean up.

When he got there, he found that there were a few other people awake and doing the same, and he chatted with them as he went about his business.

Upon returning to the bus, he found that most everyone was awake and just beginning to start preparing for what promised to be a long day. Father Kinsey and Emo were at the small, gas stove, and seemed to be preparing breakfast for everyone, including Colton.

Father Doherty silently watched them for a moment, then glanced out the window at the car parked just beside them. Colton's mother was in that car, just a few feet away. But Father Doherty had the sense that the distance was far greater... and increasing all the time.

Although he didn't want to think the worst of Angela, his years of helping teenage mothers just like her had taught him to be prepared.

As Father Doherty approached the stove, he quietly asked, "Do you think I'd have enough time to pick up a few things at the truck stop, before breakfast is ready?"

"Yes. You'll have plenty of time. Since I don't have enough burners to cook everything at once, I'm just getting the first few things started." Father Kinsey said frankly.

"How are you doing this morning, Emo?" Father Doherty asked gently.

"Colton was such a good baby last night. He only woke up once, and even then, all he did was fuss a little until I changed him and got him a bottle, then he went right back to sleep." Emo said lovingly.

Father Doherty smiled at the baby who was awake and alert in Emo's arms and seemed to be soaking in every bit of attention that Emo was heaping on him.

"I'm going to the truck stop to pick up a few things. Can you think of anything you need?" Father Doherty asked with a smile.

"No. I think we're fine. As long as Colton's got a pacifier and someone to hold him, I think his world is pretty much complete." Emo said softly.

Father Doherty gave one last look at Emo and Colton before quietly making his way off the bus.

"Are you sure we got enough money?"

"Don't worry, Jody. Jorry gave me plenty of money the last time we stopped, I think, so I'd stop bugging him." Nick said seriously.

"I know that Collin and Christian's dads gave JD a bunch of money before we left, but I get the feeling that he's trying to save it, in case we need it later." Jody said anxiously.

"Well, I'm not gonna blow the money on nothing but junk. But I'll go crazy if I have to ride two more days in that car, with that smell, and without anything to distract me." Nick said honestly.

"Twizzlers. We NEED twizzlers." Jody said as he walked to the shelf and picked up two packages.

"You should get a couple more. We're not gonna get this just for us. We need to get enough for the rest of the guys." Nick said frankly.

Jody picked up three more packages, then looked up as someone walked onto the aisle with them.

As soon as Jody saw the priest's robes, he turned to see how Nick was doing, only to find him gone.

Jody walked three aisles down and found Nick ducked down in an aisle of hygiene products.

"It's okay, Nick. He's not going to hurt you." Jody whispered as he approached.

"I'm not going back there." Nick said in a trembling voice.

"That place is a thousand miles away from here. You never have to go back there again." Jody gently whispered as he finally chanced putting a hand on Nick's shoulder.

"Don't touch me! He might see!" Nick hissed as he flinched away.

Jody regretfully pulled his hand away, then glanced over the top of the shelves to see where the priest was in the store.

"Nick, walk to the end of the aisle and turn right when I tell you. He's coming this way, but if you go now, he won't see you." Jody said calmly.

Still in his crouched position, Nick duck-walked to the end of the aisle and waited nervously.

"Go now." Jody whispered in a rush, then casually walked to the end of the aisle and followed Nick back to the candy aisle, where they had started.

"Are you okay?" Jody asked gently.

"Where is he now?" Nick asked nervously as he remained in his crouched position.

"He's over on that aisle with soaps and baby stuff. He looks like he's looking for something, so he might be there for a little bit." Jody said carefully.

Nick slowly stood enough so that he could see over the top of the shelf, then seemed to wilt with relief when the priest was right where Jody had said that he was and seemed to be involved in his shopping.

"It's going to be alright, Nick. I won't let anything happen to you." Jody said soothingly.

Nick glanced at the priest again, then back at Jody with obvious anxiety.

"I know that you can't believe me, right now, but it's true. I won't let anyone hurt you. You know how JD used to be scared to death of women? Me and my dads helped him and kept him safe, and now he can even be in the same room with women... he still doesn't like it, but he can do it." Nick said softly.

"They hurt me, Jody. And every time I see anyone wearing a cross or dressed like a priest... I'd rather die than go back there." Nick said as tears started falling down his cheeks.

Jody couldn't hold himself back anymore and pulled Nick into his arms and hugged him firmly.

"Don't! He might see!" Nick gasped.

"Think, Nick. This guy isn't one of them that hurt you. He wasn't anywhere near there when it happened." Jody said reasonably.

"But he's like them!" Nick struggled to make Jody understand.

"Do you want for us to leave?" Jody asked gently.

"No... I can do this..." Nick said, then stopped to take a long, slow breath.

"If you get scared, just hold on to me. You can close your eyes if you need to. You can trust that I won't let anything happen to you." Jody said quietly.

"Do you do that for JD?" Nick asked as he chanced a look into Jody's eyes.

"Not for a while, but I have, when it was just the two of us and we were around a woman." Jody said honestly.

After a moment to consider, Nick finally hesitantly nodded.

"Let's finish our shopping. JD's gonna have a cow if I'm not back before he wakes up." Jody said with a smile.

Nick nodded as he quietly said, "Jorry, too. He's been as protective as JD since..."

"Then let's hurry and get back to them." Jody said in a determined voice.

"Wait, here he comes again." Nick said as panic filled his eyes.

"Hold on to me." Jody said as he gathered Nick into his arms and held him firmly.

The priest walked by their aisle, carrying an armload of various baby supplies and didn't even seem to notice the boys as he passed.

As Jody was about to let go of Nick, he saw the priest returning, with his purchases now in a handbasket.

"Stay still. Everything's fine." Jody whispered as he placed his hand on the back of Nick's head to keep him from pulling away.

The priest stopped at the end of the aisle for a moment, staring at the two boys, then went about his business.

"He just went to get a basket. Now he's shopping again. We're okay." Jody said gently as he released Nick from his arms.

"Thanks." Nick said timidly as he looked Jody in the eyes, then quietly added, "You're pretty strong."

"I'm as strong as I need to be." Jody said simply, then smiled as he leaned forward to whisper, "I think I can be as strong as you need me to be, too."

Nick shyly nodded, then averted his gaze.

"Pardon me for asking, Father, but did someone give birth since last night?" Mrs. Ferguson asked with a chuckle as she bagged up the various baby supplies that Father Doherty had selected.

"No. There's just a young woman traveling with us who has a newborn baby, and I'm not sure how many supplies she brought with her. Add to that, the fact that a young man on our bus seems to be taking on the role of surrogate father..."

"FATHER! Are you still in here?" Ferguson called as he scrambled into the store.

"Right here, is there a problem?" Father Doherty asked with concern.

One of the two boys who were in the store shopping, stepped forward to listen.

"Father! I just heard on the radio! There's rockets! Missiles! They're headed this way! There's no telling if we're the target or not, but they're headed this way! You need to get out of here! Get your people moving!" Ferguson screamed in panic.

"Does this place have a public address system?" Father Doherty asked as his mind raced.

"Yes. For the pumps." Ferguson said quickly.

"Before anything else, would you make an announcement on the CB, on channel fourteen? Then, if you would, please make the announcement over the public address speakers." Father Doherty said, then stopped with indecision as he looked at the baby supplies on the counter.

"Go on and take them." Mrs. Ferguson said firmly to Father Doherty, then noticed the wide-eyed skinny boy at the end of one of the aisles. "You need to get on back to your parents, so you all can leave."

"We got here at around five this morning. We're parked about a quarter mile away from here." Jody said as he started to tremble.

Father Doherty gathered up his bags, then said, "Whatever you're going to do, you need to start doing it."

"Nick, come on. We've got to go." Jody said as he held his hand out and urged his friend to take it.

Father Doherty watched as the obviously older boy, timidly took the younger boy's hand.

"Does your family have a CB radio in their car?" Father Doherty asked as he motioned for the boys to follow him out.

"Yeah. That's how they know if there's trouble up ahead of us." Jody said seriously.

"Listen, I think things are about to go crazy for a little while. If you want, you can call your family from our bus and we can make arrangements from there to..." Father Doherty said, then was interrupted by the public address speakers.


"Our bus is right there." Father Doherty said as he gestured in front of him.

Both boys scrambled ahead of him to the perceived safety of the bus.

"Father! They're saying that there are missiles coming this way!" Artimus said in a panic as Father Doherty stepped onto the bus.

"Yes. Let's get moving!" Father Doherty said as he rushed past the two boys who were frozen in place, just inside the door.

Artimus jumped into the driver's seat and pulled the door closed.

"We need to wait for Angela!" Emo called out as he scrambled back to his seat with Colton in his arms.

Father Doherty glanced out the window, then said, "Actually, it looks like we'll need to catch her."

Emo looked out the window and said, "She left without Colton?"

"Why aren't we moving? As long as we're sitting here, we're a target." Father Doherty said as he dumped the shopping bags onto the seat beside Emo.

"Here we go!" Artimus called in return, then the bus lurched as he let off the clutch a little too quickly.

Everyone fought to keep their balance as Artimus tried to get the bus onto the road and up to full speed.

Several of the other vehicles were racing past them, full blast.

"Art! Euan! You need to get on the radio! Our best chance for survival is going to be to know what's going on." Father Doherty said decisively.

Both boys were frozen until Father Doherty addressed them. As soon as they heard his words, they scrambled forward to take their places at the CB radio.

After a few tense minutes, listening to the engine race, Father Doherty finally calmed enough to notice that the two boys from the truck stop were still frozen, just inside the door of the bus.

He took a long, slow breath to calm himself, then walked forward to talk to the obviously frightened boys.

"Back off!" The younger boy growled as he moved to shield the older boy behind him.

"You boys are safe here. No one's going to hurt you. Please come back and have a seat and calm yourselves." Father Doherty said gently.

The older boy seemed to be having difficulty breathing, and Father Doherty recognized his condition as possibly being a panic attack.

"We'll sit down if you'll back off. Nick was hurt by some religious nutjobs and he'll totally freak out if you get anywhere near him." Jody said firmly.

Father Doherty looked beside him and quietly asked, "Trav, would you mind moving back a few seats so the boys can have the front seat?"

"Yeah. No probs." Trav said simply, then picked up his jacket and relocated two seats further back.

Father Doherty backed down the aisle a few seats, then said, "There you go. You can have the front seats all to yourselves and I'll stay back here."

The younger boy seemed to survey the bus, looking for threats, before he took his companion by the arm and led him to take the first seat by the window.

"What are your names?" Father Doherty asked gently.

"I'm Jody, he's Nick." The boy said cautiously, then asked, "Can we call our brothers on the radio and let them know that we're okay?"

"Yes. Of course. Euan, would you make an announcement that we have Jody and Nick on our bus and that they are safe?" Father Doherty asked hopefully.

"Yes, Father." Euan answered immediately.

The boy by the window, Nick, seemed to be huddled into himself and not entirely aware of his surroundings. But, in contrast, Jody seemed to be aware of every single thing that was going on around him.

Jody had his attention focused on Euan at the radio as he spoke, then he glanced at the boy beside Euan.

A spark of recognition lit up in Jody's eyes, and he suddenly said, "Hey! I know you!"

Art and Euan flashed Jody matching warning glares.

"Aren't you..." Jody trailed off when Art nodded his head.

Jody quickly looked around the bus to see if anyone else was following along with their conversation. Father Doherty had obviously been listening, but didn't seem to understand.

Jody turned his attention back to Art and mimed zipping his mouth shut.

Art flashed him a relieved smile, then turned his attention back to the radio.

Jody watched Art and Euan at the radio anxiously, then was relieved when Art motioned for him to move forward.

"Calm down. Here he is." Euan said into the microphone, then handed it to Jody.

"JD? Is that you?" Jody asked hopefully.

"Yeah. It's me. I'm glad you're alright. I thought the dads were gonna kill me cause I lost you." JD said with relief.

"Nick and I are fine. We're on the Lesbian Gravy tour bus." Jody said seriously.

"We're all fine back here, too. Well, at least we're fine now that we know you two are okay." JD said happily.

Jody could easily picture the expression on his brother's face as he said the words.

"Can I talk to Nick?" Another voice asked hopefully.

"Um, there's some, um, priests on this bus. Nick's kinda in his own world right now. In fact, I should get back to him before he freaks out." Jody said honestly.

"If it gets too bad, get them to let you off and let us know where you're going to be and we'll pick you up." Jorry said seriously.

"It's okay, Jorry. I'll keep him safe. I promise." Jody said earnestly.

"Thanks, Jody." Jorry said sincerely.

Jody handed the microphone back to Euan, then walked back and took the seat beside Nick.

"I don't know how hungry anyone is at this point, but since it looks like we won't be stopping for breakfast, I took the liberty of finishing the meal." Father Kinsey said into the silence that had fallen over the bus.

"Thank you. I'm sure that we'll all enjoy it." Father Doherty said gently.

"Father! Look!" Jim called out as he pointed out the window.

Father Doherty turned and felt his blood run cold as he saw two rockets streak by, overhead.

"Dear God, please, protect those who you've given into my charge. Amen." Father Doherty muttered as he tried to will his hands to stop shaking.

"Cover. Need to find cover. Enemy forces advancing..." A panicked voice was muttering.

Father Doherty turned to find that Harry was sweating profusely and had a wild look in his eyes.

After a moment to consider, Father Doherty moved back to stand in the aisle beside Harry's chair and quietly said, "Come back to us, Harry. You're not there anymore."

Harry grabbed Father Doherty forcefully by one shoulder and pulled him down as he hissed, "Stay down or they'll blow your fucking head off!"

"Harry. Listen to me. You're safe. What you're seeing happened a long time ago. Right now you're on a bus in Wyoming... and you're safe." Father Doherty said urgently.

Harry had a puzzled look in his eyes, then, as he looked at Father Doherty, there was a spark of recognition.

"You're not there anymore. You survived." Father Doherty assured him.

After a long, silent moment, Harry's eyes focused on his hand on Father Doherty's shoulder. As soon as what he was seeing registered, Harry quickly snatched his hand away and said, "I'm sorry, Father. Did I hurt you? I'm so sorry. I didn't mean..."

"Shhh. You did nothing wrong." Father Doherty soothed.

"So sorry... I'm so sorry..." Harry said as he curled into himself.

The people surrounding them looked on as Father Doherty and Harry began a very intense whispered conversation.

Everyone did their best to look like they weren't paying attention.

When the hushed conversation was finally finished, Father Doherty stood and made the sign of the cross.

Father Doherty went quickly through a prayer of absolution before ending in latin, "...ego te absolvo a peccatis tuis in nomine Patris et filii et spiritus sancti. Amen."

"Thank you, Father." Harry said in a voice that was equal parts wonder and relief.

Father Doherty smiled and gave Harry a comforting hand on his shoulder before returning to his seat.

"Where's Jingo?" Arthur asked suddenly.

Father Doherty looked around to confirm that she wasn't with them, then looked at Trav with question.

"Last time I saw her, she had her tits all hoisted up an spillin outta her top and she was wearin her 'Gonna get laid' perfume. I don't know where she's at, but I'm bettin she's doin alright." Trav said frankly.

"So you and Jingo aren't a romantic couple?" Father Kinsey asked cautiously.

Trav smiled at the question as he looked back at the priest, then quietly said, "Naw. She ain't got what I'm lookin for."

Father Doherty tried to restrain his smile as he nodded.

"Speakin of perfume, does anyone else smell that?" Trav asked as he looked around.

"I smell the breakfast cooking." Arthur said seriously.

"No, somethin else. Somethin that don't belong." Trav said cautiously.

"Yes, I smell it now. It smells like French Fries." Jim said confusedly.

Father Doherty sniffed the air, and could definitely detect what the others were smelling.

"I smell it, too. What is that?" He asked as he looked around.

After a moment, Jody turned in his seat and timidly said, "It's us, me and Nick. Jorry's car is bio-diesel powered and we've been using whatever we can get our hands on as fuel... including used deep fryer grease."

"It's okay, guys. It's not a bad smell, we were just curious as to where it was coming from." Father Doherty explained.

"Well, speaking of smells... I think someone just made a poopie." Emo said reluctantly.

"Do you need any help with that?" Father Doherty asked as he moved forward.

"If you can just put the diaper bag in your seat, I should be able to get it." Emo said seriously, then thought to ask, "What is all this stuff, anyway?"

"A few baby supplies." Father Doherty said simply as he got the diaper bag out and positioned it on top of the shopping bags from the truck stop.

"Father, Ferguson just called to tell you that everyone in the convoy has left the truck stop and is on the way. He also wanted to thank you again for taking his family with you." Art said from the radio.

"Please extend to him my best wishes for him and his wife in the days ahead." Father Doherty said solemnly as he watched Emo changing Colton's diaper, ready to jump in and offer assistance when it might be needed.

"Oh my God." Jim gasped and seemed to go pale.

"What is it, Jim?" Father Franklin asked cautiously.

"The missiles we saw, they hit Billings." Jim said numbly as he shifted the headphones off his ears.

Father Franklin walked forward and took the microphone out of Euan's hand.

As everyone else in the bus listened, Father Franklin called to be sure that Keith, Emmogene and Gunner were safe.

"Boys. Father Kinsey asked me to bring these to you." Greg said as he handed plates of food to Jody and Nick.

"Thank you, and tell him thanks for us." Jody said timidly as he accepted the food.

"Don't worry about it. He understands." Greg said with a smile, then hurried back down the aisle.

"Is there anything we can do to put your friend at ease?" Art asked Jody quietly.

"Nick doesn't do 'at ease' very well. At least, not anymore." Jody said regretfully.

"What happened to him, if I may ask?" Art asked gently.

"His mom found out that he's gay, so she sent him away to some religious guys who said that they could 'fix' him." Jody said as he glanced at Nick with concern.

"What did they do to him?" Art asked as he followed Jody's gaze.

"I don't know. He won't talk about it. I mean, we know that they starved him and wouldn't let him sleep, but I'm sure they did worse than that." Jody said frankly.

Art slowly nodded, then gently said, "Let me know if there is anything that I can do for him."

"If I think of anything, I'll let you know." Jody responded, then turned his worried gaze back to his friend.

"Floor it, Collin. We need to catch up to them." Jorry implored.

"It's your car, Jorry. So if you want me to pull over and let you drive, just say the word." Collin said with uncharacteristic annoyance.

"No. That'll just throw us farther behind, and with the way this convoy is moving, it's going to take everything we've got to keep up." Christian said from Collin's side.

"Do you think they're really alright, I mean on a tour bus for a band called 'Lesbian Gravy'?" JD asked anxiously.

"With priests." Jorry added in a bewildered tone, temporarily broken out of his escalating panic.

"Haven't you been paying attention to the CB?" Christian asked into the back seat.

"Yeah... well, no. Not really." Jorry finally admitted.

"The 'Lesbian Gravy' tour bus is running this whole thing. That's who's deciding where we're all going." Christian said frankly.

After a moment, JD hesitantly asked, "That English kid on the radio is the leader?"

"No. He's the radio guy on their bus. From what I've been able to piece together in the radio chatter, there's a priest on that bus who's calling the shots for the whole convoy." Collin answered as he kept most of his focus on driving.

"Yeah. And I heard last night, before we joined up with them, that whenever the convoy stops, the priest walks around handing out food and warm clothes to anyone who needs it." Christian said into the back seat.

"There were also people saying that he got some people new cars and others CB radios, so that no one would be left behind." Collin said seriously.

"And that's who Jody's with right now?" JD asked cautiously.

"Yes. And from the sound of it, they're probably in the safest, best place that they could possibly be." Christian said with a reassuring smile into the back seat.

"I hope Jody's not scared." JD said in a small, worried voice.

Christian chuckled, then said, "Think about what you just heard on the radio, JD. Jody's not thinking about being scared right now, he's got all his attention focused on protecting Nick."

JD slowly nodded as he replayed his conversation with his brother over in his mind.

"Hang on!" Collin called out, then jumped into an opening in the next lane, barely big enough for their SUV to fit into.

As Jorry pulled himself back into his seat, he asked, "What was that all about?"

"You wanted us to catch up to the lead bus, so I'm doing what I can to make that happen." Collin said unrepentantly.

"Yeah. Just because we probably won't be able to do it, doesn't mean that we're going to stop trying." Christian said with a reassuring smile at his distant cousin.

"Thanks, guys." Jorry said sincerely.

"Yeah. Thanks." JD offered, but still seemed to be carrying a heavy burden of worry.

"Things seem to have calmed down, for a bit. Is there anything you need to be more comfortable?" Art asked Jody quietly.

"Nick's a basket case right now. I'm not sure he even knows where he is." Jody said frankly.

"Just give him time to work things out in his head. You're both in a safe place." Art said gently.

Jody and Art were both surprised to see Nick turn his head away from the window and look Art in the eyes.

"Nick, listen to me. I have been traveling on this bus, with these people, for two days now. They've not done a single thing to harm me in any way. They've given me food and shelter and even protection when I didn't feel safe." Art said slowly, trying to see any sign that Nick was understanding his words.

Finally, Nick nodded slightly.

Art smiled at the action, then continued, "Jody tells me that you were harmed by some religious people. I don't know if it will help you to know this, but I hope that it will. The priests we have on the bus with us aren't really priests anymore. They resigned from the priesthood when they were ordered to throw the people they protect, out of their mission and lock the doors behind them. Instead, they arranged for a bus to take us someplace where we could be safe. We call them 'father' out of respect, but they are just men... good men, who gave up everything they had to protect people less fortunate than themselves."

"They're not priests anymore?" Nick asked cautiously.

"No. They still dress that way, I suppose because it's expected of them... or maybe they don't have any other clothes with them. I don't really know. But I was there when it happened. They've resigned and are doing all of this for our sake." Art said gently.

"Do they preach at you?" Nick asked thoughtfully.

"No. Never. The most any of them has done is to say a prayer, and even then, it was only for a moment." Art said seriously.

Nick seemed to be lost in thought, then got a curious look as he started smacking his lips.

"Did I just eat something?" Nick asked curiously, directing his question mostly at Jody.

"Yeah. They gave us some food and you ate it while you were all zombied out." Jody said with a smile at his friend.

Nick had a puzzled look on his face as he looked around.

"You were out of it for a few minutes, but it's okay. You're safe." Jody assured him.

"What happened?" Nick asked in confusion.

"We heard that some missiles were spotted, headed our way. Do you remember that?" Jody asked cautiously.

"Sort of." Nick said thoughtfully.

"Well, we were so far away from the SUV, and you were so freaked, that I just dragged you onto this bus, so we could get out of there. I figured that once we were safe, we could worry about what to do next." Jody said frankly.

"Where's Jorry? Is he alright? He's gonna have a cow!" Nick said anxiously.

"Jorry's fine. I talked to him on the CB radio, and he knows that you're safe." Jody said gently.

Nick stared at nothing for a moment, lost in his thoughts, then looked at Jody and quietly said, "I'm sorry. I'm older. I should be the one taking care of you."

Jody chuckled, then said, "No. Taking care of me is JD's job, just like taking care of you is Jorry's job. But you and me, we take care of each other."

Nick seemed to be pondering that for a moment, until he finally nodded his agreement.

"Now that you're more alert, is there anything that you would like? Food or a drink, maybe?" Art asked with a smile.

"Who are you?" Nick asked cautiously.

"I am Art, and my friend, Euan, is over there, at the CB radio." Art said pleasantly.

"Friend?" Nick asked slowly.

"Friend." Art said simply.

Nick nodded, then thought for a moment before timidly asking, "If it's not too much trouble, and if you've got it to spare, could I have some more food? I know that I ate something not too long ago, but I don't remember eating it, and I'm still feeling hungry.

Art looked toward the back of the bus, then smiled as he said, "That won't be any problem. Father Kinsey is still in the kitchen area, so I'm sure that he'll be happy to fix you something."

"Thank you." Nick said with surprise at Art's friendly demeanor.

"Are you really okay, now?" Jody asked gently.

"Yeah. I think so. Although my therapist would probably have a joygasm if she found out about this." Nick said with a weary chuckle.

"Why is that?" Jody asked curiously.

"She always gets real excited when I'm having problems, she's all like 'Oh boy! I've finally got something to do!'." Nick said with a roll of his eyes.

"So she'd be depressed if you got better?" Jody asked cautiously.

Nick thought about it for a moment, then said, "Yeah. I guess so. Maybe knowing that will give me the motivation to really try."

Jody giggled, then said, "You're just like Jorry."

Nick looked at Jody with surprise, then quietly said, "Thank you. No one's said that about me since..."

"You're getting better." Jody said simply.

"How can you say that after I just went all catatonic for who knows how long?" Nick asked desperately.

"Nick. Remember what JD and I have been through. This is what my dads call a 'bump' on the road to recovery. It doesn't always look like it, but it means that you're getting better." Jody said firmly.

Nick nodded slowly, then thought to ask, "How are you doing?"

Jody chuckled, then said, "I'm fine. Now that you're doing better and I know that JD isn't worrying about me. I'm really okay."

"Except for the rocket attack." Nick said in nearly a whisper.

"I overheard them say that the rockets we saw ended up hitting Billings, Montana." Jody said quietly.

"You actually saw the rockets?" Nick asked cautiously.

"Yeah, they flew right over us. Everyone saw them." Jody said simply.

"Aren't you freaked out?" Nick asked somewhat hysterically.

"Yeah. But what more can we do?" Jody asked as a little of the concern that he was feeling could be seen in his eyes.

Nick noticed that the bus seemed to be travelling at an unusually high speed.

As he looked outside, he could see other vehicles jockeying for position... basically, fleeing for their lives.

"It'll be okay. We're with good people and our brothers are just a radio call away." Jody said comfortingly.

"But what if we get attacked? What if whoever is shooting those missiles points one at us?" Nick asked in a trembling voice.

"Then, we deal with it... unless we die. Then we don't." Jody said frankly.

"How can you be so calm about this?" Nick asked disbelievingly, but was strangely reassured by Jody's calm facade.

"Trust me, I'm just as freaked as you are. I guess I'm this way because of what JD taught me about being afraid." Jody said introspectively.

"What's that?" Nick asked anxiously.

"To face it." Jody said simply.

Nick looked down as he realized that he had done just the opposite.

"No. I'm not saying that that's what you should have done. I'm saying that ever since I can remember, JD's been telling me to face my problems head on. Now, it's a habit. It's not something I decide, it's just become part of who I am." Jody said frankly.

"I think JD taught you something really good." Nick said quietly.

"I could teach it to you, too." Jody said with an encouraging smile.

"What do you mean?" Nick asked cautiously.

"Well, you're afraid of priests. We're on a bus with priests... what do you say?" Jody asked hopefully.

"I don't think I'm ready." Nick said anxiously.

"Well, DUH! That's the whole point. You can't only do things when they feel safe or wait until you feel like you're ready. You just put on your big boy pants and make yourself get up and do it. Will you be afraid? Yes. Will you freak out and go all catatonic on me again? Maybe. But if you want to get better, you've got to get used to taking some risks." Jody said firmly.

"I'm sorry, Jody. I can't." Nick said in defeat.

"Maybe after you eat. It's easier to be brave on a full stomach." Jody said seriously.

"It is?" Nick asked curiously.

"It is for me." Jody said with a shrug, then smiled as Art walked up beside them and handed Nick a plate.

Father Doherty sat next to Jim and motioned for him to take off his headphones.

"How bad is it, Jim?" Father Doherty asked quietly.

"Cheyenne, Wyoming was hit first, then Billings, Montana. That's all I've heard about so far, but that doesn't mean much. We're lucky to have gotten as much news as we have." Jim said honestly.

"Thank you for keeping track of the news for us. I wanted to be sure that I told you before I got distracted with something else, how much I appreciate your contribution to this massive undertaking." Father Doherty said quietly.

"Thank you, Father." Jim said in surprise, then quickly recovered and added, "And I saw what you did for Harry. I don't think any of us will ever be able to thank you enough for all that you do. I don't want to imagine what we'd be going through right now if it weren't for you."

Father Doherty timidly smiled, then quietly admitted, "All that I've done is God's will, to the best of my understanding. It is no different from being in my mission and comforting a grieving mother or counselling a distraught youth. I simply look at each thing as it's presented to me and do my best to react in a way that is consistent with the Holy teachings."

"It sounds so simple when you put it that way." Jim said thoughtfully.

"Yes. It is usually simple, but it's not always easy. I think that's the part that trips people up." Father Doherty said with a smile.

Jim chuckled, then said, "You're probably right."

"I'll let you get back to it. Thank you, again." Father Doherty said as he stood.

"Thank you, too, Father."

Colton seemed to be unusually agitated. As much as Emo tried to soothe him, nothing seemed to be working.

Finally, Colton let out a lusty cry that didn't show any sign of letting up soon.

"Shh. Your mama will be back soon. You're okay. It's safe here and I'll take care of you." Emo crooned.

Colton was having none of it. If anything, his cries became even louder and more agitated.

Father Doherty was about to move forward, but suddenly stopped.

"She's hungry."

Emo looked up suddenly and saw the older of the two boys from the truck stop, standing beside him.

Father Doherty watched the timid boy beside Emo, then noticed that the younger boy was watching the development with as much interest as he was. After another moment, Father Doherty got up from his seat and walked to the back of the bus.

"I used to take care of my little sister a lot. That's a hungry cry." Nick said frankly.

"But I fed him not too long ago." Emo said as he looked at Colton with concern.

"Babies get hungry on their schedule, not yours." Nick said frankly, then put out his hands, offering to take the baby.

"I guess I didn't give him a full bottle. That was just all I had left. Now, we're all out of milk and his mother is in a car, probably somewhere up ahead of us." Emo said anxiously, then carefully transferred Colton into Nick's waiting arms.

"I bet that if we look around, we can probably come up with something to get him by." Nick said assuringly.

Emo watched as Nick slightly bounced the fussing baby and made shushing sounds.

It took a moment for Colton to decide whether he liked that or not. But, finally, he stopped his crying, although he didn't look to be entirely happy.

"You're really good with him." Emo said gently.

"I got a lot of practice." Nick said with a distant smile.

"Father Kinsey is the one doing most of the cooking. If you tell him what you need, he should be able to tell you if we've got it." Emo said seriously.

"Um..." Nick said nervously as he looked to the back of the bus, where he could see two of the three priests sitting. One was talking to a black man who, from all appearances, seemed to be a street punk. The other was sitting quietly and looking out the window, and seemed to be lost in his thoughts.

Emo waited, not understanding Nick's hesitance.

"Do you mind if I join you?"

Emo turned and did a classic double take when he saw Father Doherty, dressed in blue jeans and a navy blue plaid button up shirt.

Nick seemed to be frozen in place, so Emo answered for him. "Colton's hungry and we're all out of milk. This guy was just saying that we could probably come up with something if we looked through the stuff in the kitchen."

A hand placed on Nick's shoulder nearly made him jump out of his skin.

"I'm here. Just remember what I told you." Jody said gently.

Nick closed his eyes and took in a long, slow breath before saying, "I need to face it."

"Right." Jody whispered.

When Father Doherty could see that Nick had calmed down a little, he quietly said, "While I was at the truck stop, this morning, I picked up a few baby supplies for Colton, just in case they were needed. One of the things that I bought was some infant formula. I can't be sure that Colton will accept it, but it's the brand that most of the new mothers who stayed at our mission used."

As Father Doherty stepped forward, Nick automatically took a step away.

Father Doherty looked Nick in the eyes and quietly said, "We haven't been formally introduced. I've heard that your name is Nick. My name is Brian Doherty, you may call me Brian."

Nick couldn't seem to find his voice, so he dumbly nodded.

Father Doherty smiled at the reaction, then reached down to the bags that were still in the seat beside Emo and started going through them.

"Here we go. I hope that Colton will like this." Father Doherty said with a smile as he took a can of powdered formula from one of the bags.

"Are we going to need milk for that?" Emo asked with concern.

"No, you mix it with water." Nick answered nervously.

"That's right. And if you're ever in doubt, there are step by step instructions on the side of the can." Father Doherty added with a smile.

"If you want to take him, I can fix the formula." Nick offered cautiously.

"Give me just a moment to talk to Father Kinsey and Father Franklin. I want to let them know not to approach you." Father Doherty said before hurrying back.

"Thanks." Nick muttered nervously, then realized that Emo was waiting to take Colton back from him.

Nick glanced back in the bus to find Father Doherty talking quietly with one of the other priests before gently transferring the baby into Emo's waiting arms.

Colton cooed, then blew a raspberry.

"I missed you, too." Emo chuckled.

Colton started making sucking sounds as his look became serious.

"I know you're hungry. Hang on for just a few more minutes." Emo said gently.

"Come on, Nick. Tell me what to do and I'll help you." Jody whispered, and gently guided Nick to walk further back into the bus.

As Nick nervously walked, he noticed that Father Kinsey and Father Franklin were purposefully avoiding making eye contact with him as he walked by.

"You're doing great, Nick." Jody said when they arrived in the kitchen area.

"Thanks. I never would have thought that I could do even this much." Nick said honestly.

"You're doing fine. And if anything happens, I'm right here. I've got your back." Jody assured him.

"I know. That's the only reason I can do this." Nick quietly admitted.

"Don't go pinning your success on me. I may be helping, but you're the one who made yourself do it, even though you were afraid." Jody said seriously.

"I couldn't have done it without you." Nick said as he met Jody's serious gaze.

"If you keep telling yourself that, you'll begin to believe it. But that's enough talk. There's a hungry baby waiting on you." Jody said, finishing with a smile.


"Father, Shoe Fly just contacted us. He and his son have stopped to help some motorists who began having car trouble. He seems to think that he can repair their vehicle in short order and said that regardless, they will catch up to us later." Art said seriously.

"Thank you, Art. Please help me to remember to check back with him. If they don't catch up, we'll be sure to send someone back." Father Doherty said thoughtfully, then glanced back to the kitchen area and quietly said, "That young man, Nick, is obviously terrified by priests, that's why I'm dressed like this. Would you please address me as Brian when we're in his presence? It looks like it's taking every last bit of his self control for him to be within five feet of me. I'd rather not give him another reminder to make him fear me."

"Yes. I'll be sure to tell Euan, as well." Art said with an understanding smile.

"Thank you, Art. I don't remember if I've told you, but I appreciate everything you and Euan are doing. You're playing a pivotal role in helping hundreds of people. Many times, people look back on things like this and have regrets, wishing they'd done more. You two are going to be able to look back on this and be very proud of what you've done." Father Doherty said sincerely.

"Thank you, Father." Art said warmly, then walked back to the front.

"This should be just right." Nick said as he handed the prepared bottle to Emo.

Colton nearly lunged for the nipple.

"He knows what that's for." Emo chuckled.

"Watch out, he's gulping. You need to burp him, then let him have more." Nick said carefully.

Emo turned Colton onto his belly, then started to rub his back as he slowly said, "He just got a little excited. He's a good baby, he'll figure it out."

"Yes. He is a really good baby. If you would've taken the bottle away from my sister like that, she would have screamed and howled and had a full-out tantrum." Nick said frankly.

"Is that where you learned how to take care of babies?" Father Doherty asked gently.

Nick jolted at the sound of his voice and looked to see that Jody was close by before responding, "Yeah. She was the loudest, fussiest, most pig headed baby anyone ever saw. For the first three years of her life, I think all Palin ever did was cry."

"Palin? That's an odd name." Emo said with a wince, then immediately looked at Nick apologetically, instantly regretting his words.

"Yeah. Palin Ayn. It could be worse, my first name is really Nixon." Nick said with a weary look.

"Ouch! Are your parents assholes, or what?" Emo asked as he sat Colton up and gave him his bottle again.

"Yeah. Pretty much." Nick said simply.

"They really are." Jody interjected.

"It's kinda funny. Jorry and I used to hate being stuck taking care of her. Of course, our mom would dump her on us anytime she wanted, which was most of the time. Now, I'm finally away from there, and I miss her... Palin, that is. Not my mom. She can go straight to hell." Nick said frankly, then paled when he remembered who he was talking to.

"It's fine." Father Doherty said gently, and remained very still, so as not to spook the nervous boy.

"Nick's mom has forbidden him to have any contact with his sister. Jorry, too. She cut them off completely." Jody said quietly, trying to draw the focus from Nick's anxious state.

"How could any mother do that?" Emo asked rhetorically.

"She thinks that I'll corrupt Palin." Nick said regretfully.

"What's going on?"

Everyone turned to see Ahmid walking up from the back of the bus.

"How are you feeling, Ahmid?" Father Franklin asked as he quickly stood and walked to his side.

"I'm feeling so much better, I can't even tell you." Ahmid said with a smile.

"I bet you're hungry. I'll have something ready for you in just a minute." Father Kinsey said as he hurried to the kitchen area.

"I'll help you." Trav volunteered.

"Do you think it'd be alright if I sat out here? I'm feeling a lot better and I'm tired of laying down." Ahmid said honestly.

"Yes. But if you start feeling tired, be sure that you go back to bed right away. We don't want you overdoing it." Father Franklin said as he guided Ahmid to sit in a chair near the kitchen area.

"What happened to him?" Jody asked Father Doherty curiously.

"That's Ahmid. He was shot, back in Chicago. But he's only just had the bullet removed since he's been here, on the bus with us." Father Doherty said honestly.

Nick looked around at all the people, then quietly said, "I'm sorry. All I've been doing is thinking about myself and being afraid. I'm sure that there's a lot more important stuff that you need to be dealing with."

"Everything that can be done, is already being done. You haven't caused anyone any trouble at all." Father Doherty assured him.

Nick appeared to be fighting within himself to accept Father Doherty's words.

"Artimus is driving. Art and Euan are keeping track of the convoy on the CB radio. Jim is keeping track of the outside world on the AM-FM radio. Emo is taking care of Colton. Father Kinsey is cooking. And everyone else is doing their best to help and reassure each other. You haven't caused a problem for anyone. In fact, you helped us out by preparing the formula for Colton." Father Doherty said seriously.

Emo once again had Colton turned on his stomach and was gently rubbing his back.

Nick watched for a moment, then his eyebrows went up when Colton let out a lusty burp, worthy of a baby twice his size.

"That means, 'Thank You'." Emo said with a smile at Nick.

"Just let me know when he's hungry again and I'll make him some more." Nick said before turning to go back to his seat.

"Thank you, again, for helping." Father Doherty said as Nick and Jody returned to their seats.

"I'm so proud of you." Jody said with a grand smile.

"There were a few times that I thought I was going to lose it." Nick admitted reluctantly.

"But you didn't lose it. You faced it. And now you're stronger for it." Jody said seriously.

"I still feel afraid and I don't want to be around priests or anyone religious." Nick said warily.

"Well, neither do I." Jody said honestly, then added, "But now you know that you can. Mr. Cooper used to talk to me and JD a lot about stuff like this. One of the things he used to say is that fear isn't a bad thing. It helps to protect you from dangerous stuff. It's when your fears are unreasonable, that they become a problem. When I was little, I was afraid of just about everything. I would've been happy to stay in a cardboard box and never ever come out of it. But JD helped me to start facing my fears. And Mr. Cooper made me stop and look at my fears and decide which ones were reasonable and which ones I should try to overcome."

"Jorry and I have been going to therapists for years, and it was all just blah, blah, blah. The only good thing we ever got out of it was that it was nice to have someone to talk to about things, sometimes." Nick said quietly.

"Well, I'm your therapist now and I'm telling you that you just took a really big step in the right direction. Now that you've done that, you can sit back, feel good about it, and let it sink in that you really talked to a priest without freaking out." Jody said proudly.

"Thanks, Jody. I won't say that I couldn't have done it without you, cause that'll piss you off. But I know that it was a lot easier and went a lot smoother because you were with me." Nick said sincerely.

"I'm glad I could help." Jody said shyly, then stopped fighting the urge to hug his older friend.

"Do you mind if I talk with you for a minute?" Emo asked cautiously, holding Colton cradled in his arms.

"Sure. No problem." Jody said easily.

"I just wanted to say thanks for fixing Colton's food." Emo said quietly.

"It was nice to be able to help." Nick said with a smile.

"I was thinking, that since you know what you're doing, that maybe you could give me some ideas of what to do for Colt. I mean, maybe I won't need it, his mom might come back... but... well, when everything happened and we all took off, Angela took off without Colton." Emo said anxiously.

"His mother left without him?" Jody asked with surprise.

"Yeah. I can't believe she did that. Doesn't she know that Colton needs her?" Emo said sadly.

"If you ever met my mom, you'd know that a mother leaving isn't always a bad thing. Sometimes it's what's best." Nick said quietly.

"Yeah. I don't know if anything would've been different at all if my mom had left us. My brother was the only thing like a parent that I ever really had." Emo said thoughtfully.

"So you know how it is. What Colton needs is someone who loves him and someone who will put his needs first. It sounds like his mother isn't the person who'll do that for him. I think maybe you are." Nick said frankly.

"I don't know. I mean, if she doesn't come back and get him, of course I'll take care of him. But doesn't he need his mother?" Emo asked, at war within himself.

"I don't know about that. Me and my brother and sister would've been a whole lot better off if our mother wasn't ever a part of our lives. She's never done anything positive for us." Nick said darkly.

"I don't remember my mother. So I can't really say anything about that. But what I do know is that since I started living with my dads and my brother, that my life has been great. I've never wanted or needed a mom. I think that whether Colton's mom comes back or not, you'll see that he's going to be fine." Jody said thoughtfully.

"But I don't know what to do for him." Emo said anxiously.

"You'll have help. Everyone needs help with a new baby." Nick said seriously.

"Yeah. Nick'll be all kinds of help, since he knows stuff. And I can help too, if you'll tell me what I need to do." Jody said happily.

"We'll have to see what happens with Angela. But if Colton ends up needing me, full-time. I think I'll do it." Emo said as he smiled at the sleeping baby in his arms.

"We'll be there for you as much as we can. I don't know what's going to happen when we get where we're going, but we'll find a way to keep in touch with you and help you out." Jody said seriously.

"Yeah. When things settle down, I'd really like to do like I used to do with Palin and just sit and read to Colton... I'll read him the Benny Bear books." Nick said with a distant smile.

Jody flashed a frown at his older friend.

Emo looked back and forth between them, then cautiously said, "That sounds nice."

Nick was looking at Jody expectantly.

Emo followed his gaze and waited for whatever Nick was wanting him to say.

"Have you ever heard of the Benny Bear books?" Jody reluctantly asked.

"Yeah. I haven't read them or anything, but I've heard of them." Emo said cautiously.

"I wrote them." Jody said simply.

"Seriously?" Emo asked with surprise.

"He not only wrote the books, but he drew the pictures and designed the cover art." Nick said with a grand smile.

"But aren't there like a dozen of those books? You really wrote them all?" Emo asked in wonder.

"I've written twelve, but only ten have been published. I have one coming out in a few weeks, in time for Christmas. The next one after that is scheduled for a late spring release." Jody said seriously.

"I can't believe that someone your age could do something like that." Emo smiled.

"My dad and my brother are both writers, so it wasn't that much." Jody said shyly.

"Except that your books have sold more than your dad's and your brother's combined." Nick said proudly.

"They're just kids books. The stuff that my dad and JD write is serious. Mine's just fun." Jody said timidly.

"Kids all over the world read your books. How many languages are your books in, now?" Nick asked with a grin.

"Ten, I think." Jody said shyly.

"Weren't the religious nutjobs all upset about your books a couple of years ago?" Emo asked curiously.

"Yeah. At the end of my fourth book, Benny Bear said something about going home to his dads. It was just one sentence, but you'd think from the way people reacted to it that I'd written a book about how to have gay sex, complete with diagrams." Jody said with a reluctant smile.

"Yeah. The video preachers were getting all purple in the face over it." Nick said with a nod.

"My publisher wanted me to change that line, but I refused. My dad made sure that I'd have final say about any edits. If they didn't do what I said, I'd be able to cancel my contract and go to another publisher." Jody said seriously.

"The funny thing is, that Jody's books started selling like crazy after that." Nick said warmly.

"They said that my book sales more than doubled." Jody said frankly, then quietly added, "Maybe it was the nutjobs buying my books so they could burn them."

"The reason your books sold so much is because people love them. Just about every library and daycare in the country has one or more complete sets of your books. And just about any parent with a kid under the age of six probably has at least one of them." Nick said firmly.

"I guess. It's just that I know how hard my brother and my dad work on their books. They'll sometimes work for months on a book, and when it's finally done and it gets published, that's it. No one's telling them how good they did. The most they'll get is someone asking when the next book is coming out." Jody said quietly, then looked Emo in the eyes and said, "All I do is tell a little story, the kind of story that I'd like for someone to tell to me. I just write something that makes me feel good."

"You make other people feel good, too. Palin would make me read them over and over to her, because they made her happy. That's why people buy your books and share them with their kids." Nick said sincerely.

"I think, when Colton's ready, it'd be great if we could share some of your stories with him." Emo said gently.

"I think Colton's ready, now. Even if he can't understand the words, I'm sure that he'll appreciate someone talking to him and paying attention to him." Jody said with a smile at the baby.

"Do you want to, now?" Emo asked cautiously.

Jody smiled and said, "Sure."

"Father! I mean Brian. I mean... Just, come here! You're needed on the radio!" Euan said excitedly.

"Why? Is there a problem? Is something wrong?" Father Doherty asked as he hurried to stand.

"It's the first checkpoint for Kettle Falls! They want to talk to you! We're almost there!" Euan said joyfully.

Father Doherty hurried up the aisle, his spirits feeling substantially raised.

To Be Continued

Editor's Notes:

Well, it looks as though there's another group getting close to Kettle Falls.

I was worried there for a while, afraid they might get hit by one or more of the bombs. They sure got that convoy moving in earnest, didn't they?

I am really proud of Nick. Even if he doesn't seem to think it's that significant. He really has made some progress. And Jody really did a great job of being there for him.

What is it with Colton's mother? I get the distinct feeling that she is going to take the easy way out, when it comes to Colton.

She knows that Emo, and Father Doherty will take care of Colton and see that he has people who will love him and be there for him... and she can get on with her life, without worrying about a baby she never wanted.

It was nice of Father Doherty to spell out what could happen if she decided to leave, and assure her that Colton would have a good life.

It was great that Nick had some helpful information for Emo, about Colton and his needs.

He's right about reading to a small child. They love hearing a loving person read to them.

And just think, Colton eventually will realise he knows the author of the Benny Bear books. I find myself wanting to read them, myself.

I guess I'll have to ask Jody to send me one of them for review. yeah, that's It. I'll review it, and he will sell even more of them.

I really liked what Jody said about the kind of books he writes.

I know at least three authors who told me in almost those exact words that the reason they started writing was because they wanted to write something they themselves would enjoy reading.

The first one that told me that said he had been waiting too long for a favourite story of his to post a new chapter, so he started writing his own.

The second one told me he had been in the hospital and didn't have much to read, so he started writing stories he thought he would enjoy reading. As it turned out, a lot of us enjoyed reading his stories.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher

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