"We're running out of waffles down at this end of the table," called out Frank banging his knife and fork on the table while grinning. "What's taking so long?"
"The next batch is just about ready," replied Kathy. "But you're not getting any until you get Jason and Jamie some more sausages."
"I guess that means I have to get up doesn't it?" said Frank in mock horror as he got up and walked over to the stove to pick up the frying pan.
"Only if you want more waffles," said Kathy as she headed over to the table and put the steaming hot waffles she had just taken out of the waffle iron onto Jamie and Jason's plates. Jason immediately reached for the butter and using his knife spread some over Jamie's waffle and then his own. Jason then passed Jamie the maple syrup. Frank came back to the table with the frying pan and popped two more sausages each onto Jamie's and Jason's plates and then offered some to Graham.
"Thank you, but I couldn't eat any more even if I tried, I'm ready to burst," said Graham. "I wish I could though, it's been a fabulous breakfast."
"That doesn't seem to be stopping the boys," laughed Kathy watching both Jamie and Jason still eating with gusto.
"These sausages are fantastic," said Jamie between mouthfuls. "I've never had one's like these before."
"Those are Bratwurst sausages," said Frank. "Brats for short. We get them from a butcher down at the village here on the island. He makes them up special for us the old-fashioned way. They're not like the ones you see at the big supermarkets back in town that are made from leftover scraps. Good sausages like these are just the thing for hungry boys."
"And what's your excuse for eating so many?" asked Kathy with an innocent-looking smile.
"Well, I'm a growing boy too," said Frank with a feigned expression of injury.
"Looks to me like you're mostly growing sideways," laughed Kathy as she poked a finger at Frank's stomach.
Jason and Jamie both started to giggle at Kathy's quick-thinking response. Frank frowned at Kathy and then stuck out his tongue which only caused the giggles to turn into full-blown laughter. After he stopped laughing Jamie glanced around the kitchen and quickly picked up the last sausage that was still sitting on his plate and hid it inside his hand. Then watching carefully that he had not been spotted he looked over towards Cindy who had been lying on the floor off to the side. Her alert eyes had not missed anything, and she was now looking at Jamie and licking her lips. Very slowly Cindy stretched herself as if she was getting up after a nap and walked innocently in the general direction of the breakfast table. Jason who realized what Jamie was about to do distracted his mother at the crucial moment by asking for a refill of his orange juice and in an instant the sausage in Jamie's hand had disappeared.
"What are you and Jamie going to do today?" asked Kathy bringing the orange juice over to the table for Jason her eyes twinkling having not missed noticing Cindy's lightning-quick unofficial breakfast.
"I'm going to take Jamie over to the stream to fish today," said Jason. "Then we can have trout for dinner tonight. He told me that he did that once a long time ago with his uncle."
"I guess I'd better go to the grocery store then and get some things that go with trout," said Graham. "Bring the fish over to my place afterwards and I'll make dinner for everyone."
"We'd better get moving Jamie," said Jason. "Let's go and get cleaned up and then we can pick up the fishing gear."
"Thank you very much for the wonderful breakfast," said Jamie. "It was really great. I never had anything like that before ever. Thank you for inviting me to come over this morning."
"I'm glad you liked it," said Kathy with a smile. "You're always welcome here anytime at all."
"Let's go get ready Cindy," said Jamie as he got up and she followed the two boys out of the kitchen.
After Jamie and Jason had left the kitchen Frank said with a sigh, "I guess Jamie's speaking the literal truth when he says he's never had anything like that before based on what you were telling me on the phone the other day."
"I'm afraid it is," said Graham sadly. "Eating like this or the salmon that we had at my place his first night here is like a dream for him. On Friday morning in town, I didn't have much left in the refrigerator and I just stirred up some eggs and leftovers for breakfast and he thought he was in gourmet heaven. When I found him asking for change outside where I work he told me that the last thing he'd had before that was something that he'd found in a dumpster a couple of days earlier."
"That's just horrible," said a shaken Kathy looking up from the sandwiches she was making for the boys. "We can't let him go back to that. We have to do something."
"I'm going to," said Graham. "I just want him to have some time first so he can see that we're not all like his parents or the people that have taken advantage of him on the street."
A few minutes later Jamie and Jason were standing by the back door putting on their coats and getting ready to leave while Cindy stood close by waiting for them. Jason had collected his fishing gear from the garage and it was sitting beside the door ready to be picked up. While they were dressing for the walk up to the stream Jason saw that Jamie was putting on his new running shoes and quickly went back up to his room and grabbed his old pair of hiking boots and brought them back for Jamie to wear.
"Use these then you won't get your nice new running shoes all wet and dirty," said Jason handing the boots to Jamie. "They'll also keep your feet warmer too."
"Thanks a lot," said Jamie. "Are you sure you don't mind if I borrow them?"
"You go ahead and keep those Jamie," said Frank looking down the hallway from the kitchen at the boys while they were getting ready. "That's an old pair that Jason doesn't use anymore. You'll need boots like those now that you're over here with us and away from the pavement and concrete sidewalks."
"Thanks," said Jamie with a big smile while lacing them up. "I never had boots to wear before."
"We're going now," said Jason as he opened the back door. "We'll be back when we catch enough fish for dinner."
"You'd better take this with you," said Kathy coming down the hallway and handing Jamie a small bag she had just finished assembling. "You and Jason will be wanting something to eat when it gets to be lunchtime."
"You didn't have to do that," said Jamie. "Breakfast will last me a long time."
"Perhaps it used to," replied Kathy with a smile. "But now it doesn't have to. I also put in some of the cookies that I made a couple of days ago and there's an extra sausage for Cindy too."
Jamie blushed realizing that he had been spotted sneaking food for Cindy and said, "Thanks, that's going to be really great."
Jamie closed the door after him and followed Jason and Cindy across the grass to where the trail into the forest began. The day was partly cloudy and cold but with the gloves and scarf that Graham had found for Jamie earlier in the morning added to the leather jacket he had given him back in the city Jamie was warm and comfortable.
"Your mom must have seen me give my last sausage to Cindy," said Jamie as they started walking through the forest along the trail.
"She doesn't usually miss very much," laughed Jason. "I sneak stuff for Cindy too when she stays with us while Mr. M. is at work during the week but Mom usually spots me."
"Doesn't she get mad when she catches you?" asked Jamie as he walked along the path with Jason and Cindy.
"Not really," replied Jason. "She knows I only do it when I've eaten everything I can and it's going to be leftover, anyway. She only gets upset about the things that really matter and even then I usually know that she's right about whatever it is."
"That's so different," said Jamie wistfully. "My parents would blow up over almost anything and then I'd really get pounded."
"Mr. M. is like my mom and dad so you don't need to worry," said Jason. "The only time I ever saw Mr. M. get upset was when he first came over to the island and found out that the people that had Cindy were hurting her. My dad didn't know they were doing it either and when he found about it he got really upset too. He made sure that the people knew that if they messed with Mr. M. they were going to have him to deal with too. That's when they finally gave up and let Mr. M. have Cindy. That's also when we first met Mr. M. and got to be friends with him."
"This morning before we came over to your place for breakfast we had some grapefruit juice and I accidentally dropped the glass and it broke," said Jamie. "I thought Graham was going to kill me and I got really afraid but he didn't do anything except help me pick up the pieces. I was sure surprised. I thought I was dead for sure."
The boys continued to talk as they headed for the stream that Jason had shown Jamie when he had first arrived on the island. Cindy occasionally got the scent of a rabbit trail and would bark for the boys to follow but Jason would shake his head and she would then come back and follow along the path that they were taking.
After about ten minutes of hiking through the forest, Cindy and the boys arrived alongside the trout stream. It was quite full due to the runoff from the mixed rain and snow that had come down heavily overnight and Jamie could see a fish swimming lazily in one of the eddy pools along its edge.
Jason put down the tackle box that he was carrying and proceeded to slide the two sections of a fishing rod out of the long case that he had also been carrying over his shoulder. Jason carefully aligned the two pieces and then pressed them together firmly before handing the completed rod to Jamie. Taking the parts to a second fishing rod out of the case Jason repeated the assembly procedure. Handing the second rod to Jamie, Jason then leaned the case up against a nearby tree and knelt down to open the tackle box. Taking two reels from the box Jason attached them to the handles of each of the fishing rods in turn as Jamie exchanged them with him. Jason then strung the rods with fly line from the reels and added a tippet to the end of each line carefully showing Jamie how to tie a nail knot in order to join the uneven sizes of line together. Jason then looked at the stream and the surrounding ground carefully before checking the selection of flies that were lying in a tray in the tackle box. Since it was winter, there was very little insect or nymph activity evident and so Jason selected a couple of Hendrickson dry flies from the tray in the top of his tackle box. They were a rusty brown in colour and had a wispy tail at the hook end. Jason showed Jamie how to tie a blood knot as he attached first one and then the other fly to the tippets at the ends of the line on each of the fishing rods.
Jason passed one of the fishing rods back to Jamie and took his place at the edge of the stream. With careful deliberate motions, he then showed Jamie the proper way to cast the fly.
"You go back and forth with the fishing rod from ten 'til two like a metronome then make sure you snap it slightly so the fly stays in the air and then watch the line for a figure-eight shape. That way you know you've got the right rhythm. Slowly strip line from the reel and then let it slip through your fingers a bit to get the distance you want," explained Jason carefully while demonstrating the technique for Jamie. Jason cast the line smoothly and his movements as he did so were graceful as if it flowed naturally from within him.
"Make sure you have just a little bit of snap in it so the fly doesn't land too hard on the water's surface or you'll spook the fish," Jason continued and as he did this, the small fly landed deftly on the water right in the middle of the eddy pool that he had been aiming for and began to drift slowly in the water. "The big key to it is your wrist and forearm action. You need to feel like the fishing rod is a part of you when you're casting."
"How do you do that without catching yourself on the hook," said Jamie as he watched Jason repeat the procedure with the second fishing rod before handing it to Jamie.
"My friend Pony is a good teacher. Of course I did catch myself in the ear once and that taught me even faster," said Jason with a grin.
"That must have hurt a lot," winced Jamie in sympathetic pain.
"You better believe it," said Jason. "It was dug in good and the barb didn't want to come out. It didn't hurt nearly as much as when I got my ear pierced."
Jamie shivered as he listened to Jason describe the gruesome details of the incident and getting the hook out of his ear. Smiling Jamie admired the skill with which Jason spun out the second fishing line and settled its fly down onto the surface of the water in a second eddy pool.
"So what do I do now?" asked Jamie. "Just wait for a fish?"
"No," replied Jason. "You let it drift for a bit in the eddy pool that you've landed the fly in, then you make a quick jerk which pops the fly off the water, and then you start casting again. The idea is that you're trying to make the fly on the end of the line look like a real fly to the fish. Insects land on the water, take a drink or rest, and then fly off again. So you want the fish to think that's what you're doing. Trout eat insects and so you want them to try and take a bite at you. When they bite, they'll get caught on the hook and that's how you catch them."
"How long should I let it sit before I wind it back in and try again?" asked Jamie.
"No more than thirty seconds," said Jason. "The exact amount of time isn't too important, just as long as you don't do it for too long. Take a look at the eddy pools along the stream and watch for any fish that might be coming up towards the surface of the water. If you see one, try and aim for that spot. They might see your fly land and try to grab it."
Jamie reeled in his line and prepared to try casting. Remembering how Jason had done it Jamie swung the rod back and forth a couple of times letting the line out as he did. On the final swing towards the stream, he held the rod steady, and the fly dropped down into the middle of the stream about five feet away from the eddy pool that he had been aiming for.
"That's pretty good for a first try," said Jason with a smile. "As you keep doing it your aim will gradually get better and better."
Jamie let the fly drift for a bit in the stream and then jerked on the line again and began to swing the fishing rod back and forth letting the line feedback out. This time Jamie's aim was better, and the fly landed close to the edge of the eddy pool that he was aiming for.
"I'm getting closer," said Jamie with a grin.
"You're doing great," said Jason. "You keep going like that and you're going to be an expert before long. Another thing that you can do when you get really good at it is what's called Shadow Casting. That's where you hover the fly as long as you can over the same spot. You keep doing that until you see the trout start to surface and then you let the fly drop down gently onto the water. If you're lucky sometimes, they'll think it's an insect that just landed and they'll go after it."
Seeing that the boys were going to be fishing for a while Cindy walked over, circled once, and then settled herself down on a pile of soft leaves that were laying on the forest floor underneath a group of currently barren Alder trees. She yawned and then put her head down between her paws and kept a careful watch on Jamie.
"Has Mr. M. told you about the Christmas Barbecue that's coming up in a few days?" asked Jason while they fished.
"He said your dad cooks up some meat and then you have friends come and bring other things to help out," replied Jamie.
"You're going to love it," said Jason. "This year dad has three different things planned. He's going to do a brisket in the smoker plus prawns and steak on the barbecue. Dad marinates the brisket for a whole day ahead of time, then on the day of the party he gives it a spice rub and puts it into the smoker early in the morning. Later in the afternoon he starts putting sauce on it and it slow cooks the entire day. When it's done, it's just incredible."
"Sounds really good," said Jamie with enthusiasm. "Graham took me to a place the night before we came over here that had ribs and they were fantastic."
"It's not just going to be just meat either," said Jason. "My mom makes a really great potato salad, Pony came over last year and brought some salmon, Mr. M. made a couple of really incredible cakes for dessert, and there'll be other people coming too with other stuff. Everyone shows up in the middle of the afternoon and it usually goes on late into the night. I'll ask Mom if you can sleep over too then you don't have to worry about going back after and you can stay all night."
"Are you sure that'll be OK?" asked Jamie skeptically. "They know that I was ..."
"None of that matters," said Jason firmly. "You saw how everyone feels about you when you came for breakfast this morning, and you're starting to relax around my dad now too. You're going to love it. It'll be great and we'll have a lot of fun, you'll see."
Jason continued telling Jamie about the people that would be showing up at the barbecue and the food that everyone brought last Christmas. Despite having just finished a big breakfast, Jamie's stomach was making its interest in the upcoming barbecue unmistakably clear to him. While Jamie was listening to Jason he suddenly felt his fishing rod wiggle slightly. At first Jamie did not pay attention but then it happened again and he looked over towards the end of the fishing rod which he saw jiggling.
Finally, the line in the fishing rod jerked hard and Jamie shouted, "I think I've got one!"
"Be careful you don't jerk the line too much, you don't want to lose the fish," cautioned Jason quickly.
"Can you help me do it?" asked an anxious Jamie offering his fishing rod to his friend.
Jason quickly reeled in his own line and put his fishing rod down. Jason then went over to Jamie, took his fishing rod, and showed Jamie how to slowly let out some line so the fish would not break free, "You loosen the drag on the side of the reel here and then you hold your palm against the side of it to slowly let some of the line go when the fish pulls. Then as the fish moves back in your direction again and the line goes slack, you wind it in slowly. If he starts to yank too hard, don't keep reeling the line in, instead let it go again. Get the net and you can help me land this one."
Jamie quickly picked up the net and went over to the side of the stream and Jason gradually guided the fish into towards where Jamie was standing. When Jason got the fish close enough Jamie put the net down and then lifted the fish up and out of the water.
"We got it!" said an excited Jamie. "We got a fish!"
"Can you get the bucket over there and fill it with water for me?" asked Jason as he put down the fishing rod and reached into the net to quickly remove the hook from the fish's mouth. Jamie picked up the bucket, dunked it into the stream to fill it, and then put it on the ground next to Jason who then gently let the fish go into it.
"Wow," said an impressed Jamie. "It's a big one."
"Looks like about a twelve-inch brook trout," said Jason. "It's a good sign to catch the first one that fast."
The boys continued to fish and took a break around noon. Digging into the lunch bag that Kathy had prepared for them Jamie found a sandwich for them both. They sat down on an old log near the stream and began to eat. After a few minutes, Cindy got up and came over beside Jamie and looked up at him with her deep brown eyes whereupon Jamie dug into the bag again and found the sausage that Kathy had put in for Cindy. Jamie tore the sausage into several pieces and gave them to Cindy in between taking bites of his own sandwich. When the sausage had completely disappeared Cindy licked her lips and rubbed up against Jamie. Jamie looked into Cindy's eyes for a moment and then tore off a bit from the last part of his sandwich, gave that to Cindy as well, and then popped the rest into his own mouth.
"You'd better be careful or she'll want all of your sandwich next time," said Jason with a smile.
"She looked hungry and I know how that feels," said Jamie wistfully.
"You don't have to worry about that anymore," said Jason putting his arm around Jamie. "Those days are over with now that you're safe here."
"I hope so," said Jamie. "It would really be nice to not have to worry about that and everything else anymore."
"I'm sure Mr. M. is working on a way to make sure that you'll be able to stay and I know my parents have been talking about it too," said Jason. "Now that I've got a special new friend I don't want to lose you."
"No one has ever listened before or tried to help me," said a doubtful Jamie. "Even when I tried the last time to tell them nobody would listen."
"Things are going to be different this time I just know it," said Jason.
"Should we try and get more fish?" asked Jamie putting away the lunch bag.
"Let's see how many we've got now," said Jason getting up and walking over to the bucket that was sitting next to the stream with Jamie and Cindy following along close behind.
"Looks like five so far," said Jamie. "Let's get another one."
"No," said Jason. "We only need five. Taking any more would be wrong."
"Why not?" asked Jamie with a puzzled expression.
"My friend Pony taught me that we should never abuse nature," said Jason as he sat down on an old tree stump next to Jamie and motioned for Jamie to join him. "Nature will give us what we need but we should never take anything more than what's absolutely necessary. Someday it'll be our turn to give ourselves back to nature but until then it's up to us to look after it. We have to always remember that we're just one small part of something that's much bigger than we are. A lot of people think that we're special or different and can do anything we want to the world or the people and things in it but that's not true. We aren't any more important than any other part of nature."
"I never thought about it that way before," said Jamie. "That's a really different way of looking at things. All my life it's always been the other way around - people just taking and doing whatever they wanted and whenever they wanted to do it. I never had anything to say about it."
Jason looked deep into his new friend's eyes and put his hand on top of Jamie's and said, "I think it's time you did the deciding and choosing yourself."
Jamie hesitated and then looked down while slowly saying, "I've never been able to choose before."
"You can now if you want to," said Jason very softly as he moved his head closer to Jamie's.
"It's a lot better this way," said a breathless Jamie a few seconds later.
"When I first saw you I knew that you were special," said Jason after another brief pause.
"Has there ever been someone special ... I mean, have you ever had a friend that ..." stuttered Jamie.
"No," came Jason's muffled voice. "I knew I wanted to wait until I found the right one."
"You know that I ..." began Jamie almost inaudibly.
"No," said Jason with determination while putting his arms around Jamie. "You've never had someone special in your life before either."
"You're right," came Jamie's voice a few seconds later. "It was never like this before."
A few minutes later Jason said reluctantly, "I guess we'd better get these fish back to Mr. M's house or everyone will be wondering what happened to us."
Cindy who had been sitting next to Jamie watching barked her agreement and got up whereupon Jamie giggled and said, "I guess it wouldn't be the best way to explain why dinner was late arriving."
"Yes, and we'd get scolded for having had dessert first," said Jason with a twinkle in his eye.
After disassembling the fishing rods, picking up the tackle box and the bucket with the fish, the boys began to hike back towards Graham's house. Jamie looked at the trout in the bucket he was carrying and over at Jason as they walked along with Cindy leading the way. The only sound to be heard in the cold crisp air was the crunch of their hiking boots on the forest undergrowth and fallen tree branches. Overhead patches of blue peeked out from behind the clouds scattered across the winter sky. It had only been a few days since Jamie had been sleeping in a back alley in the city and already it seemed as if that life was a million miles away. Jamie could feel the heaviness that always weighed on him lifting but at the same time he wondered how long the current state of calm would last. What would it be like to be able to live like this every day? What would it be like if Graham let him stay and he could sleep in a warm bed every night? What would it be like to have a special friend like Jason to spend time with?
Jason noticed Jamie was lost in thought and decided that it was time for a distraction and said, "Don't forget this afternoon we're going to help Dad look at Mr. M's jeep."
"Sorry I was daydreaming and didn't hear you," said Jamie self-consciously. "What did you say?"
"That's OK," replied Jason with a smile. "I know you've got a lot on your mind. I was just saying when we get back remember that we're going to help my Dad change the oil in Mr. M's jeep."
"Can you hand me the five-eighths socket wrench please," came Frank's voice from underneath the jeep.
"Wrench coming down," said Jason as he passed the requested tool down into Jamie's hand which came up from below.
"Put the wrench on the oil plug here," said Frank as he showed Jamie who was laying alongside him under the jeep. "Then you pull on it this way to loosen it. Only loosen it about one turn, don't take it all the way out yet."
Jamie pulled on the wrench and grunted with the effort but the plug was stuck and refused to budge. Frank reached over, put his hand on the wrench as well, pulled with Jamie, and the plug gave a squeak and began to loosen.
"Now you have to be careful at this point or you'll get your face covered in oil," said Frank. "Pass that tray over here and put it just off to the side of the oil pan. Always put it about six inches or so off to the side because the oil will arc out instead of coming straight down, that way you don't end up with oil all over the ground or on yourself. Now that you've got the tray positioned and yourself out of the way, take the plug the rest of the way out."
Jamie put the wrench back on the oil plug and gave it another turn. When the plug felt loose, Jamie removed the wrench and undid the plug the rest of the way with his fingers. Just as Frank had explained the oil immediately sprang out of the drain hole and curved down into the tray that Jamie had put in place.
"Wait until the oil stops flowing completely and all you have left are drips," said Frank. "In the meantime take this rag and clean the plug off and make sure that it's in good shape. Sometimes if you go to those quick lube places, they don't pay attention and next thing you know you've got a bolt that they've slammed in too quick and it's cross-threaded. That's probably why it was so hard to get this one started, they screwed it in too tight."
Jamie listened carefully and then took the cleaning rag and wiped the accumulated grime off the plug and checked its threading carefully. Then seeing that the flow of oil had reduced itself to a trickle Jamie got ready to put the plug back into the bottom of the oil pan. When the trickle turned into slow drips a few moments later, Jamie reached up and hand-threaded the plug back into the drain hole. Jamie then took the socket wrench, flipped the ratchet lever on it, and tightened it up.
"I think you've done this before," said Frank impressed. "How did you know that you needed to flip the lever on the wrench?"
"It just made sense," said Jamie as he tightened up the oil plug. "The wrench was set to loosen the bolt the way it was, so I knew there had to be a way to change it and that's the only thing on the wrench that could be adjusted."
"I think we have a budding mechanic on our hands here," said Frank with a smile while Jamie blushed. "Now all we need to do is change the oil filter and then refill the crankcase."
Jamie and Frank slid themselves out from underneath the jeep and looked down into the engine compartment together. Frank reached up and adjusted the position of the work light to illuminate the area where the filter was located.
"You can see it right there," said Frank pointing to the dirty cylindrical oil filter. "We'll need the oil filter wrench to get it off."
Jamie walked over and looked into Frank's toolbox and examined the selection of tools for a moment. He then reached in and selected a tool that had a thin metal band joined at both ends to a handle and brought it back.
"You are a born mechanic," said Frank happily. "How did you know that's the right tool?"
"It had to be something that could grab onto the case of the filter and this is the only tool that could do that," said Jamie matter-of-factly.
"Did you hear that Jason?" asked Frank. "I think I'm going to leave-taking care of the house and garden to you and hire Jamie here instead as my new apprentice down at the gas station."
"Sounds good to me," said Jason with a grin. "I like the outdoors more than working on cars, anyway."
Jamie was pleased with the unaccustomed praise from Frank although somewhat embarrassed at the same time. At home before he ran away being complimented was something that had been completely foreign to Jamie. Anything Jamie had ever attempted had invariably brought him an endless barrage of withering criticism. Long before he had finally given up and run away, Jamie had ceased all attempts to do anything knowing in advance that he would be attacked over it.
"Think you might like to give it a try when the weather starts getting warmer?" asked Frank. "When the tourists begin showing up on the island, I'm always run off my feet trying to take care of everything myself."
"You really mean it?" said a shocked Jamie unable to believe that Frank was serious. "You want me to come and work for you?"
"Absolutely," said Frank. "I think you'd do well. You can start with the easier things and work your way up gradually. I'd pay you and then you'd have money of your own to spend on whatever you want."
"But what about Jay?" asked Jamie with concern. "He's your son, not me. I shouldn't get in the way between the two of you. You don't want someone like me taking his place."
"Go for it Jamie," said Jason. "Dad's tried to turn me into a mechanic but I just don't have the knack for it. I'm better at working with plants and things like that. I can help Mr. M. do the changes he wants to make to the flower garden next year."
"That would mean I'd have a real job instead of having to ...," said Jamie softly with amazement and then he started to cry.
"What's the matter Jamie?" asked Jason quickly putting his arms around Jamie.
"No one ever trusted or wanted me to do anything before," cried Jamie. "They always said I was a useless idiot and only good for ..."
"No you're not Jamie," said Frank kneeling down next to Jamie. "I'm completely serious. I think you'd be a great helper for me at the station. I wouldn't be making the offer or be willing to pay you if I didn't think so."
"You aren't an idiot Jamie," said Jason looking into Jamie's face. "You're a wonderful person and I'm really glad that you've come here. I've always wanted a friend like you."
"You really mean it?" asked a still doubting Jamie wiping away his tears.
"I wouldn't have told you what I did earlier if I didn't think so," said Jason meaningfully.
"Oh right," said a now completely embarrassed Jamie.
"Things have changed Jamie," said Frank. "Graham will figure out a way for you to be able to stay and we're going to help him. The bad old days are over and it's going to be different for you from now on."
"It's hard to believe sometimes," said Jamie. "It all seems like a dream here and then I start worrying that I'm going to suddenly wake up back in the city hungry and shivering in an alley."
"No more going hungry and no more having to sleep in alleys," said Frank. "That's over with now for good. Graham won't let that happen to you anymore and neither will I. You come and work for me and I'll teach you everything that I know about cars. How about a handshake to seal the deal?"
Jamie thought for a moment and then shook Frank's extended hand with a smile and said, "It's a deal."
Just then the door at the side of Graham's house opened. Graham came out into the carport to see a smiling and slightly oil-stained Jamie shaking Frank's hand.
"How are things going out here?" asked Graham.
"Jamie just got himself a job for the summer working at Dad's gas station," said Jason happily while Jamie smiled shyly. "Now I can help you enlarge the flower garden like you want and maybe we can try to draw up and plan out that greenhouse you've talked about building someday."
"That's right," said Frank. "Jamie's going to be my new apprentice. He's a natural and I think he's got the makings of a great mechanic."
"That's wonderful," said Graham with a smile. "Does that mean I'll get a discount if I bring the jeep into the station now?"
"I don't know about that," laughed Frank. "Now that I'm going to have a new employee to pay I might have to raise prices."
"So how is the jeep doing?" asked Graham. "Did you come across any problems while you were changing the oil?"
Frank's eyes sparkled, and he nodded to Jamie with a serious look on his face. Jamie looked over at Jason who nodded back while trying not to grin.
"It's mostly in good condition," began Jamie. "But it looks like the buckle on the fan belt is loose and Frank noticed that the muffler bearings were out of alignment."
"Oh no," said a worried Graham. "Is that going to be expensive to fix?"
Frank fought to keep a straight face and took over saying, "Well it's a good thing we caught it early or it could have been pretty bad. However, with Jamie's help, we've been able to take care of everything so you should be OK now."
"I always try to be careful when I drive," said Graham. "Is it something that I did?"
"This model has always been prone to those kinds of problems," said Frank in a grave tone while catching a glimpse of Jamie and Jason out of the corner of his eye biting their lips to try and not burst out laughing.
"After you're finished out here let me know if you find anything else," said Graham. "You're probably hungry after all the hard work you've done out here so I'll go back in and get started fixing up a snack for all of you."
A few seconds after the door closed behind Graham the giggles began and within seconds turned into peals of laughter.
"I didn't think he'd believe it," laughed Jamie. "I thought he'd know we were pulling a joke on him and then get mad."
"I told you he'd fall for it," said Frank while continuing to laugh. "Graham's a great guy and is incredible with computers but he doesn't know anything about vehicles."
"But he'll figure it out eventually and then get upset," said Jamie with concern.
"Oh, we can take care of that," giggled Jason. "We'll hide a little box in the back of the jeep with some small rocks in it and then he'll start wondering where the rattling sound is coming from."