Author’s note: It has been over 50 years since I hiked the New Hampshire Mountains. Please forgive me if there are errors regarding the details of some of the trails.
Psalm 121 from the King James edition of the Bible had great meaning for me back then, and I rejoice to return to it.
Weary from driving through rain most of the day, I checked us into a motel and gave the key to my son Donny before grabbing our bags from the car. Donny raced through the pouring rain and into the unit. As I closed the trunk lid, I was startled by a voice behind me.
“Hey, mister. I can give you a nice blow job for 10 bucks, or you can fuck me for 25.”
“Oh, my God,” I thought. I looked down at the speaker, who was a slender, soaking boy just emerging from the shadows.
I gazed at him for a moment and then said, “I certainly don’t want to stand in this downpour. You’d better come in where we can talk.” I opened the door and motioned him into the room, which was basic and cheap. It had two queen-sized beds, a desk and chair, a dresser with a TV on top, and an upholstered chair which looked rather uncomfortable.
When the boy entered, he was surprised to see Donny already there. The boy looked at me quizzically as he stood by the bed, shivering, and I realized he was only wearing a T-shirt, shorts, and torn sneakers although it was a cold night for August. I also realized that he stank.
“Before we do anything else,” I said, “you need to take a nice hot shower with lots of soap and shampoo.”
Looking at the floor, he asked, “Do I really smell that bad?”
“Yeah,” said Donny.
“Go in the bathroom and take a shower,” I said. “When you take off your clothes, toss them into the room. I’ll wash them.”
He thought for a few seconds before he did as I said. A moment after he’d gone into the bathroom, his clothes came flying out. While he was showering, I went to the main building and found the laundry area. Fortunately for me, the rain had lessened. I put his clothes into the washing machine along with some soap and prayed that the machine worked. I inserted the required number of quarters and the washer started.
Back in the room, Donny asked, “What’s going on?”
“I’m not sure,” I replied. We listened to the shower for a moment, then we unpacked our clothes and I turned on the TV to watch the 11:00 PM news.
The shower ran for quite a while. Clearly the boy was enjoying the wash and the hot water, but eventually I heard the water go off. There was silence in the bathroom. Then the door opened a crack and the boy asked, “What should I wear?”
“Your clothes won’t be ready for more than an hour,” I said. “Why don’t you just wrap a towel around yourself.”
He didn’t say anything, but shortly he appeared with the towel draped modestly around him. He stayed as far away from me as he could and looked suspiciously at both of us. I was sitting on the desk chair and Donny was in the upholstered chair, so the boy sat on one of the beds.
Looking at Donny and then at me, he said, “I can give a special rate for the two of you.”
I looked at him carefully. Now that his face and hair were clean, I saw that he was quite a looker ─ auburn hair, green eyes, and a lovely mouth, although I had yet to see it smile.
“So, you offered a blow job or a fuck,” I said. He nodded. “Well, I have to tell you we’re not interested in either one.”
“Who says?” asked Donny, grinning.
“I do,” I replied. Then, looking at the boy again I said, “I suspect you need money though.” Again, he nodded.
“When’s the last time you ate?”
“Yesterday morning I finished a box of dry cereal. There wasn’t anything else in the house.”
“Wait here a minute.” I walked back through the last of the rain to the main building where there were a couple of vending machines and brought back some snacks and cans of soft drinks for the boys and some coffee for me.
When I returned, the two boys were sitting silently, looking at each other.
“That’s about all I can do for food until morning,” I said, handing him the packets. The boy didn’t say anything, but the snacks were gone almost before I had a chance to sip my coffee.
“So, what now?” he asked.
“I think we’re all too tired to make any rational decisions. Why don’t you sleep in the bed you’re sitting on and Donny and I’ll take this one?”
I could tell he was thinking about the suggestion. Finally, he asked quietly, “You don’t want to sleep with me?”
I sighed and began to reply when I realized I didn’t even know his name. “What’s your name?” I asked.
“Rob. What’s yours?”
“Adam,” I answered. “This is my son, Donny, and no, we don’t want to sleep with you.”
Donny looked at me with another grin on his face which told me he’d be happy to sleep with Rob. I shook my head.
Rob looked at him and nodded as though he understood something before asking me, “Why won’t you let me be in your bed? I’m clean now and I could really make one or both of you happy.”
“Because none of us would get a good night’s sleep, and besides, I’m not into sleeping with boys.”
He looked crestfallen. “So why are you helping me?”
“I can see that you need some help. You were alone and cold in a rainstorm, you’d eaten nothing since yesterday morning, and you were filthy. Tomorrow, you’re either going to walk out the door, which is your right, or you’re going to go with us to get breakfast and then you’re going to tell me what in hell is going on.”
Rob sat for a few moments, clearly thinking about his options, and then he sighed and crawled under the covers.
I told the boys I had to go put Rob’s clothes in the dryer and I’d be right back. When I returned, a few minutes later, Rob was sound asleep, even though the light was on.
Donny and I quietly watched the end of a baseball game on TV while Rob’s clothes were drying. When I brought them back an hour later, he hadn’t moved. I folded his clothes and set them on top of the dresser, where he’d see them in the morning. Then Donny and I did what we needed to do in the bathroom, stripped to our boxers, and climbed into the other bed. I put my wallet under my pillow to keep it safe in case Rob decided to get up in the night and run off with it.
I lay awake for a time, wondering what I had gotten myself into and what I was going to do. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep.
I awoke in the morning to see that the other bed was empty and Rob’s clothes were gone. “Well,” I thought, “so much for being a rescuer.”
I took a shower, and while Donny took his, I dressed, packed up my bag, and went out to the car. Fortunately, the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. After I put the bag in the car trunk, I went into the office to pay my bill. While I was there, I asked the desk clerk about a place for breakfast, and he recommended Molly’s, which was just down the road about a mile.
Going out the office door, I saw Donny just leaving the room with his bag, and Rob walking across the parking lot towards us.
“Good morning,” I said to Rob.
He looked at me and nodded.
“So, where did you go?”
“Just in the woods over there,” he said, motioning to his right. “I usually think better when I’m in the woods.”
“Ah,” I thought, “a true son of New Hampshire.” Aloud I asked, “And?”
“And I decided to take you up on your offer for breakfast and a talk.”
“Okay,” I said, “climb in and we’ll go find us some breakfast.”
After the three of us had ordered our food at Molly’s, I asked, “Rob, how old are you?”
“Fourteen, and I know what you’re thinking.”
“You’re thinking that I’m too young to be out on my own and too young to be selling sex.”
“Well, I’d say that you were spot on, but I’m sure there’s a reason behind what you’re doing, and I hope you’ll tell me.”
“Because maybe I can help you.”
“What if I don’t want your help?”
“Then you’ll go on your way, but I have to tell you that I’d probably call the police. You shouldn’t be alone, and you certainly shouldn’t be selling sex.”
At that point our breakfasts arrived, and we dug in. Donny and I talked as we ate while Rob consumed his meal ravenously and silently. Soon his plate was empty while I had just begun.
Donny looked at Rob and said, “I’m fourteen too.”
Rob nodded before asking me, “Can I have some coffee?”
I motioned to the waitress, asked for cups of coffee for the boys, and watched as Rob poured in a lot of sugar and cream.
After taking a swallow, he asked, “So, how can you help me?”
“Well, first I need to have more of an idea of what’s going on. Let’s start with where you live.”
“How did you get to the motel from Lincoln?”
“I ran. I always run.”
“Hmmm,” I thought, “that could simplify some things.”
“Okay, who do you live with?”
“See, that’s the problem. My mom and I live in the same house, but she doesn’t do anything to take care of me. She doesn’t feed me. Until recently she had a different man each night and I’d listen to them fucking. When she wasn’t doing that, she was drinking or doing drugs. Now that’s all she does. It’s worse than living alone.”
Donny sat in silence but listened intently. As I watched Rob closely, I knew I had to tread delicately. I understood that if I said anything critical about his mother, he’d leave. I felt pretty sure he was okay saying things about her, but it wouldn’t be okay for anyone else to do so.
I decided to ask him about what I’d been considering. It might change our plans for a few days, but plans should always be flexible.
“Rob, I know you like the peace of the woods for thinking. How would you like to spend a few days hiking in the woods and on the mountains?”
I nodded. Donny looked at me with an expression that clearly said, “You’re not!”
Looking back at Rob, I said, “It would give us both some time to think and figure out what to do.”
“I’ve never done that. Oh, I walk in the woods, but I’ve never been on any of the mountains. Where would we sleep?”
“I have a tent in the car which is big enough for the three of us. Sometimes we’d sleep in the tent; sometimes we’d sleep in the AMC huts. I’d need to buy a few things for you, but that’s not a problem if you want to go.”
“What are AMC huts?” asked Rob.
“AMC stands for Appalachian Mountain Club. The club maintains huts throughout the White Mountains.”
“I still don’t understand why you’re doing this.”
“Well, I’d planned to do the hiking and camping with just Donny, but I thought you might like to go along. It would give you a bit of time when you don’t have to worry about what you’ll eat or where you’ll be. Then you’ll be able to relax, and eventually maybe we can talk about how to help you.”
“Is climbing the mountains hard? I mean, do you climb with ropes and things?”
“No. Climbing the mountains in New Hampshire is usually just walking uphill or scrambling over rocks for a few hours. The views from the top are pretty spectacular though.”
“And you’re really offering to do this for me? You don’t want anything from me?”
“Just your companionship.”
“What if I try it and don’t like it?”
“Then you can stop.”
He was silent for a time, pensively drinking his coffee.
“What about my mom?” he finally asked.
“We’ll have to let her know what you’re doing, Rob. It would be very illegal for me to just walk off with you. Even last night was probably illegal.”
“Okay,” he said, putting down his coffee. “Let’s go tell her.”
Before we left, Donny said he needed to use the restroom. His look to me said, “You too!”
We walked into the restroom leaving Rob at the table. As soon as the door closed behind us, Donny blurted out, “I thought this was supposed to be a trip just for the two of us.” He was clearly angry and there were tears in his eyes.
“What would you have me do?” I asked. “Would you have had me leave him out in the rain last night?”
“Would you have me just leave him here today to sell sex?”
Donny sighed. “You’re always helping kids and I admire that about you. But just this once I would’ve liked to have you to myself. I guess that’s selfish, but I can’t help it. I was really looking forward to this. Just us.”
I nodded. He was right. Donny was my own son, but I was also a foster parent and there were always foster kids in the house. We had only been able to make this trip because the last kid had just left, and we wouldn’t have any more for a while.
I nodded. “I’m sorry, Donny. I just wanted to help the kid. Do you want me to tell him I’ve changed my mind? I will if you want me to.”
“No,” he sighed. “Maybe he and I will learn to get along. But you still owe me some time just with me.”
“Agreed,” I said, and we returned to the table.
Before we left, I wrote for a minute on a piece of paper, paid the waitress, and we went to the car.
“What’s on the paper?” Rob asked.
“It’s just an agreement that your mom is letting you go with me. It’s not a legal document, but it might help if there’s a problem.
The drive to Lincoln was only a few miles, but I marveled that Rob had run from there to the motel and apparently did it regularly. He gave me directions to his house, which was on a dirt road where I thought I might seriously damage the car. It was full of ruts and potholes and the middle of it was up so high a few times I could feel the car scraping. As we went farther, trees reached out on both sides and I feared for my paintjob. At last, we arrived at a small clearing and a rundown cabin.
We walked up to the front, leaving Donny in the car. Rob and I went through the doorway. There was no door.
“Mom?” he called. When there was no answer, he called again.
After his second call I asked if she might have gone out.
“She never goes out,” he replied. “Wait here.” He went towards the rear of the building and I could hear him talking.
I looked around for a place to sit, but the few chairs were piled high with clothes. I tried to look out a window, but it was so dirty there wasn’t much of a view. I stood in the doorway and thought. More and more, I felt sad for Rob having to live in such conditions. There was a substantial wait before I heard steps shuffling down the hall.
I turned and saw Rob guiding a disheveled woman to a chair which he emptied by tossing the clothes on the floor.
The woman was thin. Perhaps emaciated would be more accurate. I judged her to be nearly 60. Her hair fell down her back and had clearly not met any shampoo for a long time. She was wearing a thin, dirty nightgown, but most noticeable was her face — not only thin and dirty but bruised and scarred. I was sure she looked older than she really was.
I walked over to her as Rob said, “Mom, this is Adam. He wants to take me hiking for a few days.”
Looking through half-closed eyelids, she asked, “Why?”
Rob looked at me. I looked at her. When I answered, I tried to keep my voice gentle although I was really angry that Rob had to live with her in that cabin.
“I think it would be good for Rob to get some exercise and fresh air,” I answered. “I would see that he ate well and that he was safe. Then, in a week or so, I’d bring him home.”
Rob looked sad as I said the last sentence. Perhaps he was hoping I’d take him away from all the squalor.
“What’s in it for you?” she asked.
“Just companionship and a chance to share something I love with a boy who hasn’t yet experienced it.”
“You’re gonna fuck him, aren’t you?” It came as a statement, not a question.
“Absolutely not,” I answered. “I have no such designs on your boy.”
“Can I go, Mom?” Rob asked.
“I guess so,” she said with resignation.
I produced the paper I had prepared and gave it to Rob to read to her. When he finished, she sighed and asked for a pen.
She scribbled her name on the bottom of the paper and returned it to him.
“Thanks, Mom,” he said. “We’ll be back soon.” Then he leaned down and kissed her on her cheek. I could see tears in her eyes and was happy to observe that there was still some affection between them.
Rob and I went out the door and climbed once again into the car. As I caught a glimpse of him out of the side of my eye, I could see he was crying.
We rode for a time in silence, before I asked, “You still love her, don’t you?”
We drove across the Kancamagus Highway to Conway, where I was sure I could buy the equipment that Rob would need.
Inside a store the boys helped me find Rob a sleeping bag, a backpack, a flashlight, and some clothes, including a warm jacket and a poncho. I knew that the temperatures could be cold even in daytime on the summits of the mountains. Then I bought him some hiking boots and socks to go with them.
“Why do I need boots?” he asked, “Won’t my sneakers be enough?”
His sneakers were old and had holes in places. I knew that the rocks on the mountains would quickly tear them to pieces. All I said however was, “Your feet will be a lot more comfortable when we’re walking on rocks.”
I had spent more money than I’d planned on, but everything I got was essential, and truly, money was not an obstacle for me. I had enough.
I told him to go into the dressing room and put on a new T-shirt and a pair of shorts. When he came out, holding his old clothes, I suggested that he throw them in the trash. He hesitated for a moment but did as I said.
Before we left Conway, we went to a market and bought some food, as originally I hadn’t planned on feeding anybody but myself and Donny. I loaded the food, along with some ice, into an ice chest and we left town.
We turned back the way we had come. This time, the two boys rode together in the back seat. We rode in silence, but I knew we were all thinking about what was happening.
After a ride of less than an hour, I pulled into a campground.
Staring up at the mountains on both sides of the road, Rob asked, “Are we really gonna climb those?”
“Yup,” I answered. “We’ll start tomorrow.”
We left the car and went into the office, where I paid for a tent site for four nights. I planned to do three different hikes near the campsite and then move on to the Presidentials.
I drove to our assigned site and we unloaded what we would need for the night.
I had Rob and Donny help me set up the tent, teaching them as we worked. Inside we laid out the sleeping bags and the clothes we would need for the morning. Donny arranged the bags so that I was in the middle between the two boys.
We built a fire and I let Donny light it. It took him three matches, but he got it going. Sitting on logs which ringed the fireplace, we cooked and ate a supper of hamburgers, beans, and cornbread.
Rob ate everything in sight. When he finished, he sat back with a satisfied, “Ahhhh.”
We had a view of the mountain across the road from us, and he observed that there was an aerial tramway going up it.
“Are we gonna ride up that way?” he asked.
“Nope, we’re gonna walk.”
“All that way?”
“Yup. There’s not much point in going halfway up a mountain.”
“I just thought the ride looked like fun.”
“It might be if you couldn’t walk.”
Looking at me, he asked, “Is it okay if I go into the woods?”
I nodded. “Stay on the trail and don’t go too far. Oh yes, and don’t pee in the woods. Not here. Use the toilets.”
He agreed and off he went.
After Rob had disappeared, Donny said, “He’s not gonna murder us in our sleep is he?”
“No,” I answered, “If he was going to do that, he would have done it last night.”
Donny giggled. “Thank goodness I didn’t think of it last night. I wouldn’t have gotten any sleep at all.”
When it began to grow dark, I started to worry, but Rob soon emerged from the woods, smiling. It was the first time I saw his smile, which seemed to light up his face.
I announced it was time for bed as we’d be getting up early in the morning. We climbed into our sleeping bags and settled down. I lay for a time, thinking, but I was quickly aware that Rob had spooned up beside me and was asleep. Donny was awake longer, and he kept turning over, trying to get comfortable.
What the hell am I doing with this kid? I wondered. It was a question I couldn’t answer. I realized that the boys had said almost nothing to each other. Finally, I turned on my side with my back to Rob and went to sleep.
Shortly after sunrise I awoke, climbed out of my sleeping bag, put on some shorts, and went to the restrooms. When I returned, Donny and Rob were still asleep.
I shook them gently and said, “Time to wake up.”
Without opening his eyes, Rob mumbled, “What time is it?”
“It’s 6:15. Time to get going.”
“Unnh,” was the only sound I heard from him. Donny opened his eyes and looked around as though trying to remember where he was.
Shaking Rob a little harder, I said, “C’mon, we need to have breakfast and get on the trail before it gets crowded.”
Donny climbed out of his sleeping bag and left for the restrooms.
“Do I need to pour water on you?” I asked Rob, although of course I wouldn’t do that because it would get his sleeping bag and my tent wet.
His eyes popped open, he sat up, and said, “Shit no. No way!” He slowly crawled out of his sleeping bag. He had the customary morning erection which he tried to hide with his hands. I left the tent to give him some privacy, and he put on his shorts and went to the restrooms.
While they were gone, I dressed for the day and built a fire before preparing our breakfast ─ scrambled eggs and sausages.
By the time they returned, the fire was burning, and I had the frying pan heating to cook the sausages and eggs. I also had a coffee pot filled with water on the fire. While the sausages were cooking, I cracked eggs into a pan and whisked them around until the yolks and whites were blended, adding a little milk to them as I worked.
After the boys emerged from the tent dressed for the day, they stood gazing at the fire and the food. Soon, I handed them plates of hot eggs and sausages.
I filled a pot with water and placed it over the fire. Taking the coffee pot off the fire, I poured some coffee grounds into the boiling water and stirred it. While I waited for the coffee, I fixed a plate of eggs and sausages for myself, and sat between Donny and Rob to eat.
A few minutes later I poured a little cold water into the coffee pot and the grounds all settled to the bottom.
Handing cups of coffee to the boys, I said, “Some people call this ‘cowboy coffee’. The good thing about it is that boiling the coffee gets all the acid out of it.”
It didn’t take Rob long to clear his plate and pour a second cup of coffee. He didn’t say anything until he asked, “What should I do with the plate?”
“Put it in the heating water. We’ll clean the dishes before we leave.”
“Where are we going?”
“Across the road to climb Cannon Mountain.”
“That’s the one with the tramway?”
“Yup. I’m sure when we get to the top, we’ll meet people who have ridden up. But for us it’ll make a good, stiff climb.” I knew that Rob must be in fairly good condition from his running, and Donny also was in good enough condition to handle the mountain.
“What if I can’t make it?” Rob asked.
“That’s the wrong outlook,” I said, looking straight at him. “If you doubt that you can then you won’t make it. You have to tell yourself that you can do it even if it’s slow. I wouldn’t take you anywhere I didn’t think you could manage.”
I could see him chewing on that for a bit.
“Okay, I’ll race you and Donny to the top.”
“A good, steady walk is all I ask. We don’t race on mountains. With all the rocks and loose soil around, it’s too easy to fall and break something. While I’m on the subject, when you’re coming down a mountain it’s tempting to go too fast, and you can lose control. You’ll need to be careful.”
“Okay. I get it. Slow and easy wins the race.”
“Right. Just like the tortoise and the hare.”
We packed lunches, our jackets, and our ponchos to carry with us. Then we cleaned everything up and put it away. I also packed some insect repellant and my first aid supplies, hoping that I wouldn’t need to use either. We filled our canteens and were off.
At the trail head, I let Donny go first. I had debated having Rob lead, knowing that he would set too fast a pace at first, but I also knew that he would see a lot more of the trail and the woods than those who followed. But I thought Donny could do with a few perks right then, so Donny led followed by Rob with me bringing up the rear.
This would be a climb which would test us but which we could manage.
When we’d walked a few hundred yards, Rob turned and asked, “Is it this steep all the way up?”
“No. Much of it is steeper.”
“Oh,” he said and set off again, following Donny.
We walked for perhaps a half hour, and I suggested we stop to rest. I didn’t need to say it twice. Immediately, both boys sat on convenient rocks.
“Stretch your legs out in front of you,” I suggested.
“Why?” asked Rob.
“So they don’t cramp up while you’re resting.”
“Cramps aren’t fun,” Donny added.
Rob stretched his legs out and looked around, taking in the woods around him. When I suggested we move on, he rose slowly, sighed, and headed uphill.
In another half hour or so I called another rest stop. He plopped himself down and I could tell he was breathing hard.
Donny’s breathing, on the other hand, was only a little labored.
When Rob got his breath back, he asked, “Is this supposed to be fun?”
“Rob,” I said, “by the time we come to the end of our trip and head back home, you’ll be able to answer that question. Right now, like anyone beginning a new physical activity, it’s hard for you, and perhaps even painful. I could have taken you on easy little hills, but I think we all need the challenge.”
He sat silently until I announced it was time to continue.
The hike from the trailhead to the summit is 3.8 miles, far enough to stretch oneself but not far enough to reach total exhaustion. Rob was having a difficult time as we kept going, but he didn’t complain. I did call for more frequent rests, though, and he took full advantage of them.
As we approached the summit, the trail began to level off and the trees changed, growing smaller until they disappeared altogether. We walked the final few hundred feet and suddenly, we were there.
At once, Rob and Donny both flopped down and, with my reminding, straightened their legs. Sure enough, there were people on the summit who had come up in the tramway. As they stood, they blocked Rob’s view, so he stood up and moved forward until he was with them.
A teenaged girl looked at him and said, “Don’t tell me you walked up all the way.”
He nodded but I could see that he also stood a little straighter. He was suddenly proud of what he’d accomplished. That was one of the reasons why I chose Cannon Mountain for our first climb. We wouldn’t meet many non-climbers again until the summit of Mount Washington, near the end of our trip.
Soon there was a little cluster of people around Rob asking him questions while Donny and I stood by and listened. Donny chuckled hearing what was being said.
Rob answered people’s questions, such as “How long did it take you?” and “Was it difficult?”
To the first question, I noticed that he shortened the time some, and to the second, he assured them that it wasn’t too hard.
That time, Donny laughed out loud.
When Rob came back to us, he was grinning and almost laughing.
“What a blast!” he said. “I didn’t expect that at all.”
“You certainly had them snowed,” Donny said. I believe it was the first time he’d actually spoken to Rob since we left the motel. Rob grinned.
We sat and ate our lunches as the people on the summit changed each time the tramcar appeared. By the time we finished and Rob had grown tired of answering questions, we were ready to get away from the tourists. We put our lunch bags and orange peels back in our packs and headed out.
One of the less attractive features of this climb is that the hike down is on the same trail as the one up, so there’s not much new to see and absorb.
Rob led us down, but not before I reminded him of my caution about not going too fast down the trail. Although he led the way with fewer stops, near the bottom, he suddenly sat down.
Looking up at me, he said, “My legs have turned to rubber.”
I nodded, knowing that descending a mountain can work some leg muscles harder than ascending. We sat until he said he thought he could continue, and we headed back to the trail head.
At our campsite, Rob looked up and said, “That was a lot of work, but it was fun on the top.”
“And it wouldn’t have been if you hadn’t worked to get there, would it?”
He shook his head.
After we rested for a few minutes, we all headed to the showers before they became too occupied. As expected, Rob was reluctant to show certain parts of his body, but Donny and I simply stripped and stepped in. Rob watched for a few moments, perhaps taking in our equipment, but then he stripped and stepped in as well.
Back at our campsite, we rested and chatted before Rob asked, “Where are we going tomorrow?”
“We’re going up the road a little for a shorter climb. It should be fun. Then we’ll go swimming.”
“But I didn’t bring a bathing suit.”
“That’s okay. When you dress in the morning take off your boxers and just wear your shorts. You can swim in those.”
That evening I made a phone call, updating my reservations at the AMC huts. Fortunately, they both had room for a third person.
Later, when we were in our sleeping bags, Rob said, “Guys, thanks for not perving on me in the showers.”
I was surprised that he would mention it. “You’re welcome,” I said. “To be truthful, I have no interest in perving on you or any boy.”
“Okay, I thought maybe you were gay.”
I heard Donny snicker. He knew perfectly well that I was gay.
There it was. How should I respond? Finally, I sighed and said, “Rob, I am gay, and I have a husband. Only a very small minority of gay men are into perving on boys. Besides, some straight men do it as well. I would never do that.”
He was silent. Then he reached an arm over and gave me an awkward hug. “Thanks for telling me,” he said as he squeezed a little. Then he lay back and soon we were all asleep.
In the morning we rose again shortly after the sun. When Rob moved, he groaned. “Adam, I don’t think I can climb today. I’m not even sure I can walk.”
“You will,” I said. “Get up and put your shorts and a shirt on and then sit out here.”
It took him a while, but he did it, walking rather stiff-legged.
“Naturally you’re stiff,” I said. “Yesterday you used muscles you haven’t used for a long time, if ever, and this morning they’re complaining. But if you don’t work them today, then tomorrow you’ll be right back where you were before we climbed. Stick your legs out in front of you.”
He did and I knelt in front him, beginning to massage the muscles in his legs. At first he complained that I was hurting him, but we got past that. I rubbed in an analgesic cream to help take the soreness away. I worked for nearly half an hour. When I finished, I stood up and told him to stand as well. He did, and as he walked, he began to smile. Then the smile turned into a grin.
“You’re a magician!” he exclaimed.
“No. Your body is the magic. You just need to learn how to treat it.”
Donny asked for the same treatment, although he didn’t need it as much. I decided he really needed me just touching him, so the muscles were an excuse.
With that done, we ate breakfast, packed up our bags, including lunches, for the day and drove out of the campground.
We rode a little north to a parking lot, climbed out of the car, hoisted our packs, and walked till we came to a sign that read ‘Artist’s Bluff Trail’.
“This is a loop trail,” I said. We’ll go one way up and come back the other.”
We set out walking with Rob leading. It was a pretty trail with different varieties of trees, both hardwoods and evergreens, as well as shrubs. Birds were singing and little animals scampered in the woods. At a junction we veered to the right and caught some glimpses of Artist’s Bluff. There was a steep rocky climb for a bit around the cliffs before we reached a trail which led out to the top of them and views of the valley. We looked up to see Mt. Lafayette looming majestically above us. Looking down, we could see Echo Lake. We continued to the top of the hill and then followed a trail which descended to the Bald Mountain spur. Following that, we climbed a bit and circled round the side of Bald Mountain, finally emerging on the ledges. We scrambled over rocks and arrived at the summit. From there we could look out over the valley ─ east, west, and north ─ to more and more mountains. I pointed out some to the west that were in Vermont.
Looking across at Franconia Ridge, Donny asked, “Are we gonna climb all of those?”
“Most of them,” I replied. “Tomorrow we’ll climb up to the ridge you see across the road, walk along the ridge, and end up on Mount Lafayette, which is the tallest mountain in New Hampshire that’s not in the Presidential Range. After that, you’ll be ready to try some of the Presidentials. If you look where I’m pointing, the tallest mountain over there is Mount Washington. It’s the highest mountain in the northeast.”
“Are we going up it?” asked Rob.
“Oh, yes. But there’s an AMC hut near the summit where we can stay.”
We ate our lunches admiring the beautiful views before Donny led us down from the bluff on the other part of the loop. That part was steeper with a lot of loose rock which made the descent interesting. It was a good hike, not long but enough to challenge our legs.
Back at the parking lot, we climbed into the car and drove the short distance to Echo Lake, where we took off our shirts and hiking boots and plunged into the water. Rob tried a bit of splashing in my direction, but I quickly grabbed him and threw him into the air. He splashed and went down but bobbed right up again, laughing.
Donny’s swimming had indeed improved since the first time he’d been to the lake, but he too liked to be thrown in the air.
We played around for a while and then sunbathed, drying in the sun before we returned to our campground.
On the way back, Rob said, “I thought the water would be colder. It was really nice, cool but not freezing.”
“Freezing wouldn’t have been good for the muscles you used today. We’ll wait until we get to the Presidentials to experience freezing water.”
After we showered, I pulled a map out of my backpack and showed the boys where we’d be going the next day. We’d climb Little Haystack and walk along the open ridge to Mount Lincoln and then on to Mount Lafayette, before descending a short distance to spend the night in an AMC hut.
As we sat gazing into the fire after supper, Rob asked, “Can I ask you a question?”
I was a little surprised as he’d never needed permission to ask anything before.
“Sure you can ask. How I’ll answer depends on the question.”
Hesitantly, he asked quietly, “Do you and your husband fuck?”
Donny looked shocked.
Oh dear. How to answer him? Deciding to be honest, I replied, “Yes, but it’s done in a very loving way.”
“Oh.” He was silent for a bit before asking, “Does it hurt?”
“Oh.” More silence. Then he said, “I was fucked when I was eight years old, and it hurt a lot.” There were tears in his eyes.
I managed not to show my surprise as I nodded.
“There was nothing loving about it. I was raped by one of Mom’s customers who thought I’d make a good dessert after he did Mom. When he left, he gave me a $20 bill.”
Again I nodded, just to indicate that I was listening.
“So later when I needed money, I couldn’t think of any other way to get it. I figured out that I could go to motels and make an offer like I did with you. There are four motels I go to now.”
All I could say was, “I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. It doesn’t usually hurt now, and I need the money,” he responded, quickly wiping his eyes.
What could I say? This kid was selling sex and I thought that because of STDs and other dangers he was inviting each time he sold himself, he might be dead before he was 20.
At last I said, “Rob, let’s think about it and see if we can figure out another way for you to live.”
“There isn’t one,” he sighed.
Donny had listened intently to the conversation. Rob wasn’t the first boy Donny had known who’d been raped or who’d sold sex. A few of our foster boys had experienced the same. But clearly, the question Rob asked about me and my husband shocked him. I don’t believe he’d ever thought about that before. After all, most kids don’t think about their parents having sex, and if they do, they’re usually disgusted.
That was the end of the conversation for the night.
By this point in the trip, we had adapted to sun time. It was a warm evening, so we lay on top of our sleeping bags as the sky began to grow dark. The boys were soon fast asleep. Fresh air will do that for a person after a day of climbing, and it was certainly working on the boys. I lay on my side and both boys snuggled up, one in front and one in back.
I didn’t need to awaken Rob in the morning. As soon as I stirred, he sat up and stretched.
“Good morning,” I said.
“I hope so,” he replied. “I’ll let you know tonight if it was a good morning or not.”
I laughed and we climbed out of our sleeping bags. Rob volunteered to build the fire, so I began to get breakfast ready, while Donny helped me. That morning it would be oatmeal, sausages, and the inevitable eggs, with coffee to wash it down.
Rob had a little difficulty getting the fire started, so I coached him, and soon he had a good blaze going.
Finishing breakfast, we cleaned the dishes and fixed trail lunches. We loaded up our backpacks, including jackets and ponchos, fastened our sleeping bags on the top, and were ready to go.
From the campground we took the Bridle Path Trail for just a bit before coming to the Falling Waters Trail which branched off to the right.
This was the first time Rob and Donny had carried backpacks with sleeping bags on them, so it took them awhile to find their balance. The packs were also heavier than they had carried before, and we took our time, resting often.
The trail really does have falling waters, three to be precise. The first, Stairs Falls, did just what its name implied. Then came Swift River Falls which was about 60 feet of cascades. When we reached the path to the base of Cloudland Falls, we took off our backpacks and walked the short path to the base of the falls. They were magnificent, dropping some 80 feet, and roaring as the water tumbled down. For a time, we stood, simply admiring the sight before returning to the trail and our backpacks.
As we climbed, we crossed the river several times, and I pointed out to the boys that they never would have made it in sneakers without getting very wet and blistered feet.
At the top of Little Haystack, we sat admiring the view and eating our lunches. Fortunately, it was a clear day with just a few puffy clouds. When we were ready, we moved on along the Franconia Ridge Trail, Rob staying as far away from the edges as possible. Soon we arrived at Mount Lincoln, a little higher than Haystack but less than a mile away, and the trail was above the trees the entire way.
“I’m glad you told me to wear my jeans, today,” Rob remarked. “It’s a lot colder up here.”
“Yes, we’ll be over 5000 feet on the summit of Lafayette. Never climb without taking some extra clothing,” I said, as we all put on our jackets.
After stopping briefly on Mount Lincoln, we moved on to Mount Lafayette, again along the very open trail and another mile away.
When we arrived at the summit, the boys plopped themselves down without even removing their backpacks.
Rob gazed all around before saying, “Tell me that’s all the hiking we’re going to do today.”
“Are you planning to sleep here?” I asked.
“I bet I could.”
“Well, it’s all the climbing we’ll do today, but we still have to hike down to the hut.”
We met a few people on the summit who had come up by way of the Bridle Path and would be returning the same way. Rob and Donny removed their backpacks, stood, and talked with them, telling them how we had arrived there. I suggested that if they were staying at the campground, they could climb the Falling Waters Trail to see the waterfalls. But I did caution them about the water on the trail, because three of them were only wearing sneakers.
When we had rested, we once again shouldered our backpacks and began the descent to Greenleaf Hut, which was a little over a mile down. Again, the boys had to get used to their balance as they descended.
At the hut, we were greeted by the hut crew, or as they spelled it, ‘croo’. There were two young men, Thomas and Eddie, and a young woman, Vanessa, all college students and very experienced hikers. We explored the hut, which had co-ed bunkrooms, a common room, and separate washrooms as well as the kitchen.
We claimed our bunks by putting our packs on them and then used the washroom to clean up some before we rested, sitting outside. Eddie came out a few minutes later and talked with us, asking where we’d been and what we’d seen.
Rob and Donny answered his questions while I sat back listening.
“Have you hiked in the mountains before?” the man asked.
“No. This is my first time,” Rob said as he shook his head.
“I’ve done some,” replied Donny, “but I’ve never been up here before and I’ve never stayed at a hut.”
“Well, good for you,” Eddie said. “You’ve done a lot in a few days. What’s next?”
“We’re going to tackle some of the Presidentials,” I said. “If the weather holds, we’ll hike for four days.”
“Right now, the forecast after tomorrow is good for the next several days, but as you probably know, the weather on Washington can change in a minute, so be careful.”
I assured him that we would and that I’d climbed it several times.
The supper that night was served family style, with everyone sitting at long tables and passing dishes. The hut was full to capacity which made for lively conversations. Donny joined right in, but Rob was more reticent. The food was excellent ─ meat, vegetables, homemade bread, and dessert.
After supper we got talking with Vanessa, and Donny asked her how they got the food to the hut.
“We carry it up The Bridle Trail,” she said.
“Isn’t it heavy?” he asked.
“We carry about 100 pounds each, and we’re used to it by now, so it’s no problem.”
“It’d sure be a problem for me,” Rob remarked as we all laughed. “But I have to admit, Adam,” he said, looking at me, “that yes, it was a good morning…and afternoon.”
When we went into the bunkroom, we unrolled our sleeping bags. I suggested to the boys that wearing their hats would help control their body heat as there was no heat in the hut. Fortunately, they took my advice, and by morning they were glad they did.
We awoke in the morning to the sound of rain on the roof. After a delicious and plentiful breakfast, we decided not to linger but to head down the mountain at once.
On the porch we shouldered our backpacks and put on our ponchos so that they covered not only us but also our backpacks. The hut croo warned us to be careful of slippery rocks, so we took our time descending the Bridle Path Trail. We only took standing breaks every half hour or so and emerged into our campground well before lunchtime.
The ponchos had helped protect our heads and upper bodies from the rain, but our jeans were soaked, so we crawled into our tent, took our jeans off, and then opened our backpacks, laid out our sleeping bags, and donned shorts.
By early afternoon, the rain had stopped, so we emerged from our tent and ate lunch.
In another hour, the sun was out so we laid our jeans out to dry in the sun and then talked about what to do for the rest of the afternoon. We would be leaving the campground for the Presidential Range early in the morning, but we still had a free afternoon stretching out in front of us.
Donny suggested swimming again. We drove to the lake, removed our shirts, and dove in. When we’d had enough of splashing and swimming, we lay on our towels and let the sun dry us.
Rob had played and swum in the water, but he was silent as he lay on his towel. I looked over at him and thought I saw that his eyes were watery. “What are you thinking about?” I asked.
Turning towards me, he said quietly, “Mom.”
“Are you worried about her because you’re not there? If you are, we can cut the trip short, and I can take you home.”
“It’s not that,” he said. “We have a neighbor, Julie, who will look in on her every day. It’s just more that I’m afraid she’s gonna die soon.”
Having seen her once, I couldn’t disagree with what he was saying.
“She was only 15 when she had me, and she’s barely 30 now, but she sure doesn’t look it.”
I was shocked. Thirty? When I saw her, I had judged she was twice that.
“Who looks after her when you’re in school?” I asked.
“I quit school after fifth grade so I could be with her.”
“How did you quit school? Didn’t the authorities come after you?”
“Nope. I guess they didn’t care. I did pretty well in school. In fifth grade I got all As and Bs, but I knew I had to quit. For one reason, going to school is expensive. You have to have decent school clothes and you have to buy school supplies. Toby was about to start school and I knew I couldn’t raise enough money for both of us.”
Surprised, Donny asked, “Who’s Toby?”
“My little brother.”
“I didn’t know you had a little brother,” I said. “Where was he when we were at your home?”
“Toby doesn’t live with us anymore. When he turned 7, Mom was worried that the same thing would happen to him that happened to me, so she asked Julie to take care of him. Julie has a son about Toby’s age, so it’s been working well this summer. But I’m worried about what will happen to me and Toby if Mom dies.”
I was silent for a while, digesting what he had told me. I thought this was all too much for any 14-year-old to have to deal with. In some ways, Rob seemed young for his age, but in other ways he seemed much too old.
I knew I had to respond in some way, but how? I couldn’t promise him a happy outcome; I was sure there wouldn’t be one. I understood that when his mother died, if they didn’t have any relatives around, Child Protective Services would take both boys and put them in foster homes. They’d be lucky if they were able to stay together.
I and my husband were approved as foster parents in western Massachusetts, and I knew how kids were moved around from one place to another. There were never enough foster homes for them all, so the rest lived in a group home which was not a happy solution. I couldn’t just take Rob and Toby to Massachusetts from New Hampshire to foster them there.
In a way, Rob solved my problem by saying, “We’ll probably wind up in foster homes somewhere.”
Donny looked sad.
“Do you have any relatives you could live with?” I asked.
“No,” he shook his head sadly.
I just nodded, but I also believed it was all the more important for him to have some happy memories before that all happened, and I resolved to make the rest of the trip as happy for him as I could.
We were all rather somber over supper that night and the mood continued until it was time for bed. I decided to stay up a little longer to think. Try as I might, I could just not think of a happy outcome for Rob and Toby. When I crawled into the tent, I saw that Donny and Rob had moved our sleeping bags so that the two of them were not only next to each other but in a silent embrace. I lay to one side smiling before I slept.
In the morning, we rose at our usual time, ate breakfast, and then packed up to depart. Preparing our backpacks, we put in food for lunches and all the spare clothes we had, regardless of whether they were clean or dirty.
Afer the tent was down and everything put in the car, we drove north towards the Presidentials. When we arrived at the well-marked road to the cog railway and the toll road up the mountain, we turned in and went to a parking lot near the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail head. Hoisting our backpacks and locking the car, we headed up the trail.
It was another gorgeous day for a hike, and as we walked, I wondered how long our luck with the weather would hold.
The first mile or so was fairly level. Then we followed the Ammonoosuc River, climbing gradually until we reached a waterfall. At its base was a pool called The Gem Pool.
From there, the real climb began. The footing was not bad, however, and in time we came to the ravine with a clearing and some beautiful views. There we ate a snack and rested before proceeding up the hardest part of the trail paralleling the ravine. At last we arrived at the Lakes of the Clouds AMC Hut, where we sat outside and ate our lunches.
Donning our jackets and hoisting our backpacks, we climbed the last bit, a little over a mile, to the summit. Often, the summit is in clouds, but that day we were treated to gorgeous views of the whole Presidential Range.
Of course, there were hordes of people who had either driven up the toll road or ridden the cog railway. When they looked at us, they asked all the usual questions: Did we walk up? Was it hard? How long did it take?
The boys answered the questions patiently, elaborating when asked to, and, I noticed, making the hike sound harder than it really was.
We went into the building and bought snacks for the next few days as well as cups of coffee. Sitting at a table drinking our coffee, we listened to the chatter of the tourists.
“Have you ever taken either the toll road or the cog railway up the mountain?” Rob asked.
“I did cheat once and take the railway up and back down. It’s an enjoyable ride.”
“Could we ride it up and back when we finish our trip?”
“Let’s see what the weather is by then,” I suggested.
Finishing our coffee, we headed back to the hut. We had reservations there for three nights, as I planned to hike the ridge north and south during the next two days if the weather permitted.
On the way back to the hut, Rob pointed out crosses not far from the path and asked what they were for.
“They mark places where someone died, usually of exposure. Mount Washington has the worst weather in the continental United States, and when the clouds settle in and it’s windy, and misty, and cold, it’s very easy to get disoriented.”
“Wow,” said Donny, “and they were so close to the hut.”
“Yup, and it’s probably where they were headed before they lost the trail in the clouds.”
As we neared the Lakes, Rob asked if we could swim in them. They were really not much more than pools. I suggested he take his boots off and try wading first. He removed his boots and his socks and waded in, exiting again immediately and exclaiming, “Holy shit! That’s damned cold!”
I laughed and asked, “Do you want to go swimming?”
“Naw, I think I’ll wait until we get back to Echo Lake.”
He and Donny laughed, Rob put on his socks and boots, and we hiked the short distance back to the hut.
As always the evening meal was filling and tasty. One of the hut boys told us that the food was driven up the toll road, and the hut croo packed it down from there, which was a little over a mile.
Full and satisfied, we sat talking to other hikers before Rob said he was really tired and thought he’d turn in early.
When he was gone, Donny asked, “Dad, is there anything we can do for him? He’s a good kid and I hate to think of him going back to his home and his way of earning money or being put in foster care. I’ve talked with some of our foster kids, and they tell terrible stories about what happened to them in some placements.”
“I agree,” I said. “I’ve been trying to think about what we could do. We can’t just kidnap him and take him home with us like a stray puppy. The only way I can see to get him out of that situation would be to contact the authorities. But then he’d be furious. He’d never forgive me. That may be what I have to do though. You’re right. He can’t stay where he is.”
As I lay waiting for sleep to come that night, I pondered the question but could come up with no other solutions.
For the next two days, we hiked along the ridge, going north one day, summiting Jefferson, Adams, and Madison before returning to the AMC hut. The next day we went south to Monroe and Franklin, before returning once again. Fortunately, the weather held and there were stunning views of the range as well as to the east and west.
Donny asked if it was possible to walk the whole ridge in one day. “It’s possible,” I said, “and plenty of people have done it. But if I wanted to walk the whole range, I think I’d split it in two and stay at Lakes of the Clouds.”
By the time we returned to the hut on the second day, both boys said that was enough hiking for one trip.
“Well, unless you want to live up here, you’ll have a hike tomorrow, but most of it will be down to the car,” I said.
“We could take the cog railway down,” Rob suggested.
“Nope. Then you wouldn’t have the satisfaction of completing the whole trip,” I replied.
In the morning, after a final filling breakfast, we prepared to set out, but the hut crew suggested that we wait, because there were some clouds right over the summit.
By 10 o’clock, the clouds had cleared, and we had another beautiful day. We again headed north until we came to the Jewell Trail. There we started down. The trail took a while, but once we got below the tree line it was refreshingly cool. We decided to pass up the ride on the cog railway, leaving it for another time.
As we walked, I thought again about Rob and what I should do. I decided the first step was to take him home and see what the situation was.
As we drove south again, both boys fell asleep in the backseat, leaning on each other and breathing regularly. They looked a little angelic, but I knew that was a sham. Neither one of them was an angel.
Arriving in Lincoln, I drove to Rob’s home. When we arrived, we all climbed out of the car. Rob noticed there was a note on the doorframe. He read it aloud. “Your mother’s gone. Come to my place and I’ll explain. Julie.”
“I wonder where she’s gone,” Rob said.
We returned to Julie’s home and Rob knocked on the door. It was opened by Toby, who said, “Rob. Mom’s dead.” Then he burst into tears and fell into Rob’s arms.
Julie came to the door and invited us in. We sat in her living room. It was much nicer than Rob’s but still quite basic.
Rob looked stunned. “When?” he asked.
“Two days ago,” Julie said.
“How?” he asked.
“I’m sorry, Rob, when I found her there was still a hypodermic needle in her arm.”
“I shouldn’t have left,” Rob said. “I could’ve saved her.”
“Rob,” Julie said, “realistically nobody could have saved her. If it hadn’t happened that day, it certainly would’ve soon. She’d lost the will to live, Rob. It was just a matter of time. Frankly, I’m glad I found her and you didn’t have to.”
“So, what happens now?” he asked.
“Child Protective Services have been here once, but they agreed to let Toby stay until you got back.”
“Could we live with you?”
“I’m not an approved foster parent, and honestly, I don’t think I have the wherewithal to raise three boys. You’d all have to sleep in one room, and I’m sure CPS wouldn’t approve.”
“So they’re gonna just take us away and put us with people we don’t even know?”
“I’m afraid so.”
Rob looked at me and Donny. Thoughts were churning in my head. Donny looked at me and asked, “Can’t you do anything, Dad?”
Looking at Rob I asked, “If I could arrange it, would you and Toby be willing to live with us?”
Suddenly, he looked much more hopeful. “Sure,” he said. Toby, who was sitting in the corner listening, nodded his head.
“Okay,” I said, “we have to get in touch with CPS again. Do you have their number, Julie?”
She did. I walked outside so I could talk in private. I made three calls. First, I called my husband and asked him a question, explaining the circumstances. When he understood and agreed to my proposal, I dialed the number for our attorney and asked him to put things in motion. Finally, I called CPS. The phone rang for several rings before a woman answered. I told her where I was and that Rob and Toby were both with me.
She said someone would come to pick them up.
I told her what my husband and I had discussed and then asked a question.
She thought for a moment before saying, “We’ll have to pick them up and care for them while I research the answer to your question. It may take a while.”
I gave her my phone number and my attorney’s before we hung up.
Returning inside, I only said that CPS would come by to pick up the boys and that Donny and I would stay until they were gone.
“So you couldn’t arrange anything?” Rob asked disconsolately.
“I’m working on it, but these things take time.”
“How much time?”
“I’m hoping that it will be decided one way or the other within a week or two.”
“Maybe I’ll just run away.”
“That would be about the worst thing you could do. Besides, how would Toby feel about that?”
“I could take him with me.”
“Rob. Please give me time to work it out. I promise I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything.”
There were tears in his eyes, but he controlled them.
“Do you want anything from your house before you go?”
He shook his head. Then he thought for a moment and asked, “Can I keep the things you bought for me?”
“Absolutely. They’re yours.” He and I went out to the car and unloaded his things.
Julie asked if the boys would like something to eat. When Rob nodded, the two of them went with her into the kitchen while Donny and I sat silently in the living room.
About an hour later, a car pulled up and we all went out. The woman driving it was very pleasant. She told us her name and I introduced the boys because I could see that Rob wasn’t about to. Donny went to Rob and hugged him. It was no little polite hug. It was a full-blown loving one. He said something to Rob before he pulled back.
After putting their belongings into the car trunk, the two boys climbed silently into the back seat, and the car drove off.
“What now?” Donny asked.
“We’ll find a motel and wait for results,” I answered.
We got settled in a room back at the motel where we’d been only a few days earlier. Then we went in search of some sustenance, going to the same little restaurant we’d been to when the adventure first began.
The days passed slowly. Donny and I went to Echo Lake a couple of times. I suggested that we ride the tramway to the top of Cannon Mountain, but Donny said it wouldn’t be any fun without Rob.
Ten days after the boys had been picked up, I received a call from CPS. The lady said that she thought everything would work, but she needed to interview me first. I asked her how the boys were, and she said they were with a good foster couple who had become available only on the day the boys had been collected.
Donny and I drove to the CPS office in Concord. When we got there, we went in and I introduced myself to a woman at the desk. She made a call, and soon another woman emerged from in back, introduced herself, and we went to her office.
“Are you sure your son should be here?” she asked after we all sat.
“Absolutely. He has as much interest in this as I do. He and Rob became very close.”
She asked what the living arrangements would be if I took the two boys. I described the home in some detail. It was a nineteenth century house in Western Massachusetts with enough rooms that each boy could have his own bedroom.
She asked about my experience with boys, and I answered her frankly, telling her about other foster boys we’d cared for.
“Are you the only adult in the house?” she asked.
I knew if there was a problem, this would be it.
“No,” I answered, “my husband will be there as well.”
She looked a little startled, but then said, “Well, frankly, we don’t have a lot of choice, because our foster facilities are crammed and there’s a waiting list. Since according to your attorney you are planning to move from fostering to adoption, I’m inclined to grant your request, although going from one state to another is very unusual, and we couldn’t do it if there were relatives in this state who had visitation rights.”
I nodded while Donny sat looking at me with his mouth open. This was the first he’d heard of the adoption possibility.
“The CPS officials in your area were very enthusiastic about you, telling us that you had often fostered boys. Of course, we did a records search to be sure you had no legal issues, but we found nothing.” She paused and then asked, “When could you take the boys?”
“As soon as possible,” I replied.
“I’ll call the people they’re staying with and see if we can arrange for you to pick them up today.”
She made the call, talked for a few moments, hung up and said, “The boys will be ready in about 20 minutes.” She gave me directions to the home where they were, and we thanked her and left the office.
As we walked to the car, Donny turned to me and gave me a big, strong hug. “Thank you, Dad,” he said.
Hugging him back, I answered, “So he will be like a puppy you found after all. It’s up to you to see that he’s happy.”
“No problem,” he grinned as we climbed into the car.
We drove to the house, and as we pulled up, Rob came flying out the door. He hugged both of us. He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t need to.
We walked to the house and met the foster mother who’d been caring for them. Toby looked a little bewildered, but he picked up his belongings, said goodbye to her, and walked to the car.
Rob thanked her for her help and then he too picked up his things and walked with us to the car.
When we were all in with our seatbelts on, I said, “It’s a little late to start the trip home. How would it be if we found a place to stay for the night?”
Donny and Rob agreed, although Toby didn’t say anything, so I headed north again and found a nice motel which had a restaurant and two available rooms. We carried everything into the rooms. The boys decided that Rob and Donny would share a room. There was an adjoining door, so we left that open while Toby and I took the other room.
After settling in, we went to the restaurant. I had a large steak and salad while the boys opted for hamburgers and French fries.
As we sat eating happily, Rob asked, “So, how did you manage to get them to agree?”
“What you didn’t know,” I answered, “was that I and my husband are approved foster parents back home. The only question was whether or not the department here would allow a transfer to Massachusetts. I solved that one by telling CPS that my husband and I were planning to adopt the two of you.”
“You’re kidding,” said Rob as Toby sat staring at me.
“Nope. We’ve talked about adoption for some time, but the moment never seemed right. Now it does.”
Later in the meal, Donny said, “I’ve got a question. Why, when we left Concord, did you drive north instead of south?”
“Because we have a bit of unfinished business before we leave New Hampshire.”
“What?” he asked.
“You’ll just have to wait and see.”
That didn’t satisfy him, but he knew he wouldn’t get any more out of me.
When we finished eating, we returned to our rooms. The boys were all exhausted. It had been a traumatic week for them. They got ready for bed. Before I turned their light out, I grinned. Rob and Donny were sharing a bed, snuggled up face-to-face and Donny had his arm around Rob. He looked at me and said, “Thanks, Dad. Have I told you I love you?”
“Not today,” I replied, and he giggled a bit.
Toby and I didn’t stay up much longer. He didn’t want to sleep alone, so he snuggled up to me. It wasn’t long before I knew he was asleep.
In the morning I got the boys up early and told them to wear just their shorts with no briefs.
“Ah,” said Donny, “I know what we’re doing.”
“So do I,” Rob chimed in.
“What?” asked Toby.
Rob and Donny answered together, “Wait and see.”
When we reached Lincoln, we stopped to tell Julie what had happened. Then we headed north again.
Right near the campground where we had stayed, I pulled into a parking lot. I went to buy tickets, and after a short wait, we all climbed into the tramcar.
Toby was a little nervous and stuck close to his brother, holding his hand tightly. I noticed that Donny was holding Rob’s other hand. As we rode up the mountain, Rob told Toby about hiking up it, telling him it was the beginning of our trip.
At the summit, we climbed out and looked off into the distance. Rob pointed out where we had hiked along Franconia Ridge, and then pointed north to Mount Washington.
Toby was amazed. “You really climbed all those?” he asked.
“Yup,” said Rob, winking at me and Donny. “Maybe some time you can too.”
When we’d had our fill of mountain gazing, we rode the tramcar down to the base, climbed into the car, and headed north again, arriving soon at Echo Lake.
We all climbed out of the car, removed our shirts, sneakers, and socks and headed for the water. Toby proved to be a good swimmer, so I just relaxed and enjoyed playing in the water with the boys.
A little after noon, we climbed out of the water and I produced the lunches I had bought that morning back at the motel restaurant.
Then it was time to settle once more in the car and head south for home. I noticed that the older boys arranged for Toby to ride in front with me, while they sat in the back.
A few miles down the road, Toby looked back, and then whispered to me, “They’re holding hands.”
“Good,” I replied.
He nodded and said, “Yeah. It is.”
As always, my editors have been a big help and I thank them profusely. Thanks to Mike, too, for maintaining this excellent site.