Subject: Mickey 25 “What do you think?” Drew asked as he put his arm around Mickey’s neck, pulling him close as they scanned the back of the house. All around them was that peculiar smell of the ground during its first thaw after a harsh, frozen winter. It was raw and pungent. Life was coming back. Mickey’s finger found it’s way into a belt loop of Drew’s jeans as he leaned into him. “It’s taken six months, but I think it’s ready,” Mickey responded. “You’ve done a great job. Gosh, I can’t believe how much work you’ve put into this. Who knew that you were both a carpenter and an electrician?” Drew laughed. “thanks for leaving out `plumber’,” he said. They both chuckled at the reference to his unsuccessful attempts at replacing an old, rusty faucet. That experiment resulted in a temporary fountain in the downstairs bathroom. “Lake Patterson,” Mike reminded him, leaning his body into Drew. While Mickey had a white-collar experience day after day, Drew was slowly and painfully transforming himself into a sort of jack-of-all-trades handyman. Mike, Brad’s Architect husband, was a big help, as were books, manuals and YouTube videos where he learned the skills necessary to turn their fixer-upper into a comfortable family home with lights that didn’t flicker and rooms that didn’t have icicles in the winter. While he avoided getting too deep into a kitchen project, not to mention complex plumbing anywhere in the house, he had upgraded the wiring, put in new lighting, restored the wood paneling, painted all the rooms and was now working his way outside to the landscaping around the house. He had even replaced all of the original old door hardware that rattled and squeaked with fancy new chrome handles and hinges that sparkled against the paneled oak doors. It would be a few years before there was money for the new kitchen, not to mention the courage to tackle such a complex project, Drew mused to himself. But with Mike’s help he planned it out so that temporary cosmetic projects that made the kitchen more usable and a bit nicer on the eyes would not need to be torn out when there was finally money for the full renovation. He imagined that his Dad would have approved of this kind of strategic planning. For his part, Mickey would have been happy enough with the new appliances and countertops and a fresh coat of paint. He had seen lots of fancy kitchens when he visited the palaces of his Middlefield friends, but he hardly had any expectations for himself. The long range plan that Drew and Mike had put together would be a dramatic change, way beyond what he could have imagined himself. An island in the kitchen � `we could have one of those!’ he thought to himself, amazed at the possibility. All he really cared about was something that would work for both Drew and for his mom, and her only criteria was that it had to fit more than two people at a time. But picturing his future family eating breakfast together in the middle of the kitchen � wow! Maybe he really had made it in the world. “I’ll build the sandbox over there,” Drew said, nodding toward a spot near the corner of the garage, next to where Mrs. Deringer had already started a vegetable garden. “We can see it from the kitchen. And I want to put a swing bench over there,” he continued, nodding in the other direction, his hand broadly gesturing to the other side of the yard. “it’s got a nice view of the backyard. It will be a great place to just lounge and watch the kids play back here, maybe read a book, whatever. I’ll be cool.” “I like it already,” Mickey replied, kissing him on the cheek. *** From keeping the checkbook to cooking their meals and washing their clothes, the management of the household was handled by Drew. He was the project manager of their lives, which of course extended to responsibility for the renovation. Mickey would `bring home the bacon.’ But the one task that Mickey did want to carve out for himself was the planning of their wedding. As he got older he never thought of himself as being too sentimental. He had long since gotten over any any bitterness or anger about what had happened all those years ago, but it didn’t make him long for old times, either. Yet, even though they both thought that the ceremony was really just for the legal protections, it provided when they would start a family. He now couldn’t help but to want to make it special and memorable. The original ideas was that they could just do it in the large dining room, which was adjacent and open to the living room and made one nice big space. They weren’t going to have a lot of people, so it seemed like that should work. But when he did the inventory of who they really wanted there (immediate family, a few mutual friends from college, Mickey’s friends and mentors from Middlefield, their neighbors, the Glynns, Casey and her new boyfriend, etc.) it didn’t take long for them to realize that it could only be an outdoor wedding. The major practical consideration was the spending limit imposed by Drew. As long as it stayed in budget and made Mickey happy then he was happy, too. Because of the limited resources he really had to carefully think it all through. In the end, he decided that there would be no formal rehearsal or rehearsal dinner, stag party, wedding shower, gift registry, any of that traditional stuff that mostly ends up costing people time and money with what he thought was minimal benefit. At least that’s how Mickey thought of it. Just a short ceremony with friends and some good food to eat. Nate and Casey would be temporarily licensed as marriage ministers and jointly administer the vows. It would be mid-summer, ankara escort with the final headcount looking like about 100 people. Not a lot compared to many contemporary weddings, but an ocean of people as far they were concerned. Where he thought he would get the biggest `bang for their buck’ was in food. `Everyone loves a good meal,’ he thought. So he hunted down the two sisters on the east side who were reputed to be the best caterers in town, at least according to Mickey’s foodie co-workers at the law firm, and told them that he wanted their best, no matter what. For furnishings they would rent tables and chairs from a local church. Music would be from speakers that they borrowed from Bik. Friends and family would help with set up and would take it down at the end. This being Ohio in the summer, they would have to cross their fingers and hope for nice weather – there was no budget for a Plan B, except to cram everyone into the house. In the final weeks before the ceremony there seemed to be a distinct lack of the panic that precedes most weddings, one of the advantages of their radical simplification. It would all be perfect, he thought. Except for one thing � Daisy, Drew’s companion since he was a kid. Ascending the stairs to the second floor bedrooms was becoming for her a long, difficult struggle, and that was without even trying to get onto the bed or chair. Drew had often now resorted to carrying her up the two flights, carefully placing her as close as possible to the bed, always with a bowl of water and small treat within easy reach. Sometimes she wet herself, but to Drew that only meant the he had to give her more attention and take better care of her. One weekend morning she was particularly strained and he found himself again conveying her from the bedroom down to the kitchen. After saving her the stress of walking down the stairs she could usually walk about the house, even get through the doggie passage that he had installed in the back door. But this time she immediately fell on her haunches and couldn’t get up. Drew tried to coax her toward the food bowl, but she could only try to drag herself forward by the front paws. He moved toward her, hoping that she could at least make it half way. But the final inches were covered by him. After he let her lick him as much as she wanted, he tried to tempt her with just the tiniest morsel of food, a piece of wet meat that she would normally salivate over. She tentatively took it from his hand but then let it drop out of her mouth onto the floor. Leaving the bowl in front of her, he stood up and sighed. His face was moist, but Mickey couldn’t tell if it was from the licking or something else. Whatever it was, he didn’t seem in a hurry to dry it off. It was undeniable that Drew couldn’t face what was happening, so Mickey knew that it was up to him to make the tough decisions. It was unbearable to see what was happening to both of them. When Daisy was healthy, they had calmly, rationally talked about how they wouldn’t want her to suffer. But that was in the abstract. When she was truly in misery and clearly wouldn’t improve, Drew was just a blank. There was no way for him to do what needed to be done. Once Drew was right in front of her, his knees slightly touching her outstretched paws, she struggled to lick his face. Only when he pulled the bowl over and placed it directly in front of her did she even look at it and sniff. She still wouldn’t eat, but he did bend over and let her lick his face. “It’s time, babe,” Mickey said softly, reaching down and putting a hand on Drew’s shoulder. “She’s not in a good place anymore.” He blinked several times as his hand went onto Mickey’s, lightly squeezing it. “My mom gave her to me,” he said. “It’s the one thing I still have left of her.” “We’ll make it easy for Daisy, babe. Don’t worry,” he replied. “I know where we need to take her and what needs to be done.” Unbeknownst to Drew, Mickey had already done the research and figured out all of the steps necessary for the sad process to come. Mickey could feel Drew lean back into him, his back now firmly against Mickey’s knee. “Would you…” Drew started, but couldn’t finish the sentence. “Of course,” Mickey replied. *** A week later, Drew was working in the back yard. Anyone looking at him would have thought that he was just a typical homeowner, whiling away his time with a home improvement project. But since they lived in the house and started the renovation, it seemed like Daisy was always only a couple feet away. She didn’t bark, or disturb him or clamor for attention, she was just there. It had only been a couple days and he was beginning to realize how much he missed her silent presence. As he dragged a heavy bag of planting soil toward a freshly dug hole, his shovel still sticking up out of it, he heard Mickey pull into the driveway. Only a couple hours earlier he had left for the office, telling Drew that he had to go in for a meeting with a cranky and demanding client. It was of course unusual to have a Saturday meeting, but he knew how his dad had pestered lawyers at all hours, so it didn’t seem totally strange, except that he was now on the other side of the professional relationship and saw how it impacted the life of the person who had to provide the professional service. Hearing the car pull into the driveway, he knew that Mickey was at least saved from an entire Saturday lost at the office. “Hey,” Drew called without looking up as he heard Mickey open the wooden fence gate, the slight creak becoming one of the unique sounds that was part of this place. ankara olgun escort He had just torn open the heavy plastic bag, smelling the pungent odor of the dark, fertilized soil as it started to pour into the hole. Mickey came and stood behind him as the soil ran out, his hands on Drew’s head. After the bag had emptied, Drew got up and leaned his head into the short sleeve of his t-shirt to wipe his eyes. “What’s up?” he asked. “Well…you know how we’ve promised that we wouldn’t spend money on presents for each other, right?” “Yeah,” Drew replied, hesitating, not knowing where the conversation was going but having a suspicion that something was brewing. “I’m making an exception for myself, because it’s important.” “Oh really,” Drew replied, a half smile on his face. He was still sweating and wiped his eyes again, this time with the other sleeve. “Yes, really. So wait here and I’ll go get it,” he said before kissing Drew on the cheek and heading back out to the car. `…Come on!’ Drew thought he heard, followed by some kind of commotion and again the familiar creak of the gate. Mickey started to come in but stopped halfway through. He was pulling something with a rope. Or…a leash? Then, just barely through the opening, he saw the edge of a paw. And then a snout. Suddenly the head of a dog appeared. But it just stood there, looking in every direction as it diligently sniffed the air. It was a dog. Another Aussie, like Daisy, but this one was black and white, with a little bit of brown. She looked at Drew and stepped back behind the gate. Then, with a little tug from Mickey, the dog came back through and followed, as he led the anxious hound toward Drew. “I’ll make introductions. Drew, this is Charlie. Charlie, this is Drew,” he said, gesturing toward each of them. Charlie didn’t move at first. He stood back, watching Drew anxiously, his body shaking. Drew pulled off the thick, soil-clogged work gloves and reached out his hand. At first, he didn’t move. Then Charlie slowly approached and started sniffing. One paw was hanging in the air, like he was prepared to make a run for it. “He’s a rescue, so might be a little nervous,” Mickey said, lightly stroking Charlie’s back. “I’ve been over there a couple times since Daisy passed, so he’s had a chance to get used to me.” “Oh…wait a sec…let’s see something here…” Drew said as he pulled in his hand and reached into the back pocket of his jeans. “Ah…a leftover… from Daisy,” he said as he offered the treat, a small, star-shaped dog cookie. It was one of the last things that Daisy ate before she completely lost her appetite. Sniffing it, Charlie paused for a moment then gently pulled it from Drew’s hand. It was so quiet that both Drew and Mickey could hear him chewing. When he was done he stared at Drew’s hand. `Daisy did that, too,’ he thought to himself. The hard stare at the source of the last morsel of food. `Is there more where that came from?’ was the question written all over her face, and his, too. As Drew slowly pulled back his hand Charlie tentatively approached. He wanted to imagine that Charlie was curious, trying to get to know him, though the curiosity was probably more directed toward the smell of his fingers. But that was OK. As Charlie got closer, Drew reached out again, lightly stroking his neck, then playing with his floppy ears. Charlie tried to follow his hands, then moved in and started to smell his pants and shirt. After a few more minutes, he was standing next to Drew, his canine body just touching his bare leg as Drew tried to make eye contact while the dog lightly panted. “Am I ready?” Drew said, continuing to look at Charlie but speaking to Mickey. Mickey reached down and scratched the new pet’s haunches as Charlie continued to scrutinize Drew. “Maybe not, babe,” Mickey answered. “But I hope that it will help you, and me, to move on. He’s only 3 years old, so if things go well he’ll be around for a long time.” Off and on, Charlie continued to tremble, and often looked around, like he was trying to make sure that there were no predators or other dangers lurking. But he eventually sat down next to Drew and it seemed like the shaking was starting to subside. It was almost a half hour of stroking and scratching of the anxious pooch before Drew reached again for the shovel. *** “Gosh. You look so handsome!” Drew said as he brushed the shoulders of Mickey’s black suit. It had the trim European cut that Drew thought looked really good on him. He savored the moment, if only because Mickey said that the next time that they should wear their wedding suits was on their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary. He vowed to himself that he would make sure the it would fit in 25 years. Mickey did sort of a half-smile back. Never in a million years did he ever think that someone would say that to him. He was much more likely to get stares or furtive, curious glances. But there it was. The best looking guy on the planet, the universe, the cosmos. And Mickey was going to marry him. Wow. “Hey…” Drew said quietly, reaching back into his back pocket for a handkerchief. Mickey took it and dapped his eyes, his hand slightly shaking. “I didn’t mean to get so…, it’s just…I’m the luckiest guy in the world, you know that, right?” he said, a rare instance of Mickey struggling for words. Drew put his arms around him. Even though they were alone in their bedroom, he spoke in a whisper close to his ear, “No, it’s me… I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” he replied before kissing the scarred cheek. Having those arms around ankara ucuz escort him at that moment…’Could life get any better?’ he thought to himself as he stroked Drew’s broad back, feeling the muscles even through a t-shirt, dress shirt and suit jacket. `Man oh man, he smells so good,’ he thought to himself. `So good.’ Releasing his embrace and taking back the handkerchief, Drew himself wiped the moisture from Mickey’s face. “You OK?” Mickey didn’t speak for a moment. He could only shake his head up and down. He couldn’t help getting stiff when he was close to Drew’s body, but at least he was able to control his usual involuntary thrust into him. “You know…” he said after Drew had dried both sides of his face, “Intellectually, I told myself that this was mostly a legal thing, that we needed protections and all that, especially with kids. But it didn’t mean much more than that, you know, we already had each other and this was just a piece of paper.” He turned and glanced out the window to the tables and chairs below, people milling around in anticipation of the ceremony. Chessie and Brady, along with the toddlers of one of Mickey’s Middlefield classmates, were chasing a stray balloon. Mickey’s mom and Drew’s sister were chatting near the hors d’ouevres table, Charlie standing by next to them, waiting for something to drop. “But now it feels like it does mean something,” he said, as he returned his gaze toward Drew. “I mean, it isn’t just us, we’re proclaiming it to the world. It is a big deal. All of these people are interrupting their lives to participate and come celebrate with us.” “And eat the free food,” Drew replied, bumping foreheads. “Free for them!” Mickey answered, giving a hint of a smile. His cheeks were no longer moist, but his eyes were red. Placing his thumbs above the now slightly bloodshot eyes, Drew gentry traced circles on Mickey’s forehead. “Ahhh…that feels good,” Mickey responded, closing his eyes, his body relaxing to the point where he let himself lean into the big, strong guy next to him. “If we don’t head down soon they are going to start the ceremony without us,” Drew said, continuing his ministrations. Suddenly, they heard a loud banging on the door. “Hey, have you guys changed your mind? We’re got a wedding to perform down there!” Nate yelled through the closed door. “Hop to it! This license is only good for a day!” Mickey’s head tuned quickly toward the door, forcing Drew to break off the message. “Hold your horses!” he yelled back. “We paid good money for that license and it’s going to get used! Don’t worry about it … just make sure that you don’t flub your lines!’ he continued, not one to let Nate get the rhetorical advantage. “You’ve got five minutes, or Midori and I will use Casey to renew OUR vows, and then eat all of your food.” “We’ll be down in four,” Mickey yelled back. “The clock starts now,” Nate said as he gave a sharp rap on the door. The slight creak of the floor indicated the he was indeed going back downstairs. Mickey reached up and moved Drew’s wrists back to the massage position. “Just a minute more, OK?” “Ahhh…” Mickey sighed when it was time to get downstairs. After rubbing his eyes, he looked up at Drew. “You’re OK?” he asked, holding him by the shoulders, not letting Drew move away. He didn’t need to say `…about your Dad not being here.’ “I am…’ it’s the one thing missing, but I can’t do anything about it. Casey is here, though, and that counts for lot. `Someday he’ll realize what a wonderful son he has. And I think it will happen. I don’t know how long it will take, and how it will occur, but I can’t help but think how much he must miss you, the same as how you miss him. And how he will be back in your life…in our lives.’ “I’m always hoping for that, too. But right now I’m really so happy with what I have. All I can do is hope for the best on that. But I’m going enjoy what I have right now in front of me,” he said as he pulled Mickey toward the door. “After you,’ he said, his left hand making a sweeping gesture toward the door as his other one tugged on his ear. *** As she watched them recite their vows, Mrs Deringer could hardly believe where she was. Taking over the former maid’s quarters, she had her own space and independence, but at the same time felt safer being in a house with other people, especially one of her sons. It took the relief of the new house to make her realize how tense she was in the old place. It always felt better when Mickey or Nate was around, but it was usually for so short a time that she couldn’t allow herself to relax before she was on her own again. Of course, she never told them that. But the fact that Mickey and Nate were insisting that she live with one of them gave her the suspicion that she didn’t hide it very well. Mickey was the first to get a place, and a big one at that. She could hardly wait to join him, just hoping that Nate wouldn’t be far away either. She had kept her own job so that she didn’t need to depend on her son and Drew for everything, but she was looking forward to the day when they would have kids. Maybe then she would quit. With Mickey’s feckless father, and his inability to hold down a good job to support his family, she was forced to work full time. But what she really wanted was more time with her kids as they grew up. Maybe this could be her second chance. Because Mickey and Drew had both done so much for her, she really wanted to return the favor. Though she could never do enough monetarily, there was one area where perhaps she could help them. Though Drew’s sister had volunteered to help them conceive, she knew that they might want another option, too. It seemed like it was finally time to see if her niece, a cousin of Mickey, might be able to help. Everyone involved had no shortage of baggage, but she knew that she had to give it a shot, no matter what. Especially as she heard Mickey and Drew each pronounce the words, `I do.’

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