It was quiet for a while as I rejoined the herd on the 126 and we gradually neared the exit for SR150. I thought I’d take a side trip and have a look at my hangar while we were near the airport. Kelly had dozed off again so I didn’t consult him. It’s not like he had plans.
I slid my card and punched in my pin and the gate rolled open; then I pulled forward and waited for it to close behind me. I roused Kelly and told him that if he needed a bathroom break, now was the time. That got him up and moving, and while he answered the call, I checked my hangar. Other than a lot of water that came through the main doors everything was good. Kelly emerged from the toilet so I took my turn. He asked if he could look around and I told him, "Just be careful."
When I rejoined him, he was full of questions, but mostly he had fallen in love with my favorite. My Twin Commander is painted a beautiful Imron metal flake Oceanside blue with white tail surfaces. It’s stunning by anyone’s standards. I popped it open and let him sit in the pilot’s seat. He was very careful not to move any controls, in fact, he never even touched the wheel until I told him it was okay. The grin on that boy’s face was priceless.
"When you’re ready to go up again, you let me know." I offered.
"Wow, really? I would love that, but I’m not ready and my Mom probably wouldn’t let me because Lyle would say no," he sighed in resignation.
"Are you hungry?" I asked, hoping to raise his spirits.
"Yes, I would love some breakfast or anything," he chirped with enthusiasm.
I buttoned up the bird and locked the man door. We hopped in the truck and I gave him a tour of the airport before we left. We found the fuel guy and several others standing around a heart breaking site. The wind had broken the tie downs on a Cherokee 140 and it had flipped over on top of a freshly rebuilt King Air. The Beechcraft looked pretty badly damaged as did the Piper. It looked like several other planes were askew in the transient tie down area.
"Well Louie, someone is not going to be happy," I told the fuel guy.
"They’re already unhappy, they were here earlier. The guy with the 140 was more pissed than the guy in the King Air, go figure."
"Maybe he’ll invest in some better tie downs next time."
"Not likely, his kind never learns."
Kelly and I headed up 10th, hung a left on Railroad and parked behind a little café that catered mostly to locals. I knew about it because I used to patrol this area and it was a great place to get breakfast or lunch. They didn’t serve dinner. It was popular with ranchers and local residents. I caught a whiff as I opened my door and the smell of frying bacon made me ravenous. The place had changed hands but the cook was the same; Woody was a fixture and a real decent guy, and he could cook like nobody’s business.
I picked the café because of the new owners. It was an active duty Navy man and his wife. They often had their son working on weekends and he was as nice a boy as I had ever met. He was tremendously interested when I was looking at my Jeppesen charts one morning the previous month. Little Wade couldn’t wait to tell him we were going flying. I showed Ronny what all the numbers and symbols meant on the charts and he was a quick study. I suggested that he ask his Dad if he’d come up with me and bring him along after his mother said she didn’t have any interest in leaving the ground.
When we walked through the door, I greeted Mary and Woody. Mary told me to take any table that was open. Mary said it was slow that morning because everyone was taking care of storm damage. I asked if her boy was there and she called him out of the kitchen. Even when she called out, "Ronny come here, Mr. McKenna is here,” Kelly didn’t pick up a clue. I just hoped I was right.
Ronny trotted out in his apron and said, "Hi Rob!" He started towards me with the intention of giving me a hug, but when he saw Kelly he stopped and stared.
"Kelly!?" he squealed. The grin on his face was wonderful to see.
Kelly dropped the menu and jumped out of his chair knocking it over. The boys hugged each other and jumped around just short of kissing each other.
"Mom, can I have my breakfast now? Ronny asked.
"Sure, Hon," she said, as she eyed me suspiciously.
"Rob, can you come outside and look at something?” Mary asked.
When we got outside Mary let me have it. "Half of me wants to know why you trotted that boy in here, my baby has just stopped mooning over him and now it’s going to start all over. But the other half is grateful to see him so happy. He’s not yours is he?"
"No, Mary, but I wish he was, he needs a good home. He’s such a wonderful boy and he’s had such a hard life."
"Ronny told me about the crazy woman that chased him off. You’d expect that a kid from a home like that would be a punk, but he seems very nice."
"He’s a great kid, but his Mom is a user and so is her live-in. Kelly keeps hoping his Mom will quit drugs and he can have her back. I’m going to see what I can do to get him into foster care or maybe take him on myself. He’s got a little baggage and most people aren’t willing to foster a gay teen. He’s terrified of going into State care; he thinks he’ll be raped, and I can’t say with any certainty that he’s wrong."
"Well, you know Ronny is gay, don’t you?"
"Actually no, I never even gave it a thought and Jack never mentioned it, but he must have come out to you and Jack."
"Yes, he did. Jack had suspected it, but didn’t want to push him until he was ready. But I was clueless. I managed to absorb the news without melting down, but it was hard to hear. It’s such a hard fight; he’s going to run into resistance and he has to fight that battle himself. I’ll help wherever I can and try to keep him safe, but he’s my baby and I worry for him."
I filled Mary in on the flight and Kelly’s two crashes.
"Christ, that’s a lot for a boy his age to absorb."
"He’s still sort of fragile, but he told me about a friend who moved to Santa Paula named Ronny and I had to try. I hope this doesn’t backfire and hurt your son. I’ll have Kelly for a few nights until they get the roads open so I can take him home, but I’m not feeling good about that. Maybe Ronnie could visit, I have plenty of room."
"Well he has a practice this afternoon, but Jack could bring him up after that and you can bring him back Monday evening since he doesn’t have school. Frankly, we haven’t had a weekend to ourselves in so long I’m not sure how to make use of it. But it would be nice to have some us time. Let me make sure it’s alright with Jack and I’ll let you know before you leave."
I had known Jack for years; I met him at the airport. He was talking to the FBO about renting an aerobat, but the FBO didn’t have any, so I caught up with him on the flight line where he was watching a guy in a Chipmunk doing touch-and-goes.
I introduced myself and he did the same.
"I’m about to take my Citabria up for some fun, if you care to join me. You can show me some tricks you learned at Top Gun."
"How the hell did you know I was at Top Gun?" He asked, just a little perturbed.
"You’re wearing an Annapolis ring, you’ve got CVW-11 stenciled on your bag and it bears the marks of the rituals of graduating Top Gun at the top of the class, um… how long did it take to get the smell of pee out of it?" Then I just grinned at him.
"Take a whiff, it isn’t gone yet. How the hell do you know about that, it’s supposed to be a closely kept secret?
"Alcohol, Commander, just lots and lots of alcohol," I laughed.