Letters from the Underworld Part 4 Rory and the Pea(stalk)

If you recall from much prior letters (pre-XMAS), I'd mentioned a rather handsome little rugrat named Pea, whom I'd met many months ago in the courtyard of Underworld while I was eating lunch with Mary Lou one Saturday afternoon. I normally don't "see" or give the time of day to such young children, as they tend to be scatterbrained, noisy, and uninteresting to me on almost every level.

Our encounters since then have been random and aperiodic, and yet they are marked with unusual bits of conversation where he tells me how he remembers a shared event between us, or asks me if I remember some particular detail of a prior encounter. I think it's his way of intoning the imagined/remembered into some tangible reality, in the way ancient magicians used to believe that verbal chants gave the abstract a solid material form.

By way of reminder, this is the boy whose single mother radiated S-I-N-G-L-E M-O-M from a thousand paces the moment I saw her. To her credit, she didn't regard me as the Harbinger of Paedogeddon, but instead actually expressed her appreciation for my spending time with her son and playing with him.

So this past Friday (last week almost to the day), I'm walking out of the locker room area towards the front desk, and sure enough, Pea is there. He leaves his stash of chocolates to come over to me and nearly throws himself into my arms. He's too well trained or self aware to complete the motion, but its mere attempt was blissfully heartwarming all the same.

He leans against me, and as his right touches my left, he seems to almost melt into me, as if I were a warm pan and he were butter.

He wants to go swimming with me, but it's after 8PM (adult lap-swim time only) and he didn't bring his swimtrunks. Mother says "you should have remember to bring them". He then asks to be carried up onto my shoulders - it's now his favourite position to sit up there, nearly 7 feet in the air at his eye level.

I toss him up onto my shoulders with complete ease, and I usually do it with a bit of a rapid flourish, which never fails to elicit a squeal of delight from him, and I take him on a little tour of the hallways, which have all of these dangling superheroes in various poses. From his elevated perch, he can now reach them - so he's taken with "tagging" them as we walk by.

I hold him by the outside of the legs, which grip the back of my neck - mainly to ensure he doesn't slide off during any of his more elaborate reaches for various things. He'll do very deep bends to the sides, almost to the point where his head comes down to mine, or leans over my head directly, draping his hands down over the front of my shoulders.

As we go by the chocolates on the front desk counter [which is about four feet high], we play a bit of the "you give me one/I give you one" where I hand an unwrapped chocolate up to him, and he does the same for me. He likes the idea of giving me things, which seems a little unusual for someone of his age.

So after a couple of chocolates, I reach up and cup his ears and ask if he's ready to whack Superman a few more times. He tilts his head into my hands as if he wanted to melt into them. It's a curious sensation, really - there is a momentary stillness and gentle bonding as if there is some electro-chemical transfer between us and the energy flying from my hand to his face were also welding them together.

When I release his face, he bounces excitedly and declares he wants to "get" all of the Superman mobiles down the hallway. I half-trot/run up and down the hallway, marking a "run trajectory" and preparing him for the rapid-fire assault upon the paper "Men of Steel" arranged in a roughly straight line down the 16 foot corridor.

We play like this together for a good 20 minutes. Pea climbs down, and up, and down, and up. And finally, when I'm ready to go, he turns to me, grabs my hand and asks if I'll be back next Friday (which is now today) because he wants to go swimming with me this time and that he'll remember to bring his bathing suit. He seems happy with the answer and asks me my name.

As he's talking, Pea leans progressively more and more into my side, threatening to melt again.

Pea is very well made, and a handsome boy. And despite his youth and the simplicity of our interactions, he has a sweet personality which never fails to make me feel a bit better for having spent time with him, despite the foolishness of it all.

When Pea sees me, I am reminded of those dogs who wag their tails in delight upon seeing their beloved master so furiously, that their entire bodies precess with the momentum of the primary motion. His face explodes in a huge smile, he waves (or runs) towards me and lets out a boyish whoop of delight.

I daresay, how can anyone fail to smile at such a thing? All of this from rolling a ping-pong ball back and forth with him at a table, which led to bouncing it across the courtyard, which led to a sort of "hand-ball" version of ping-pong at the ping-pong table, and ended with his getting me to use one of his TMNTs as a "paddle" for it.

At some point, I'll probably give him The Special Gift, the gift I give to all boys of single mothers I come to know since my time in Denver. It's an earnest plea to his mother: allow her little boy to grow up strong and independent as he gets older, and to avoid emasculating him with motherly protectiveness which however well intentioned, can seriously thwart his healthy development into a fully functional man. I do this as an ex-son-of-a-single-mother myself, and I've never been slapped in the face yet.

Post Scriptum:
I saw Antonio this past Wednesday, but the lifeguard had roped me into a longish chat, so I didn't get to play with him. He's as smart-looking as ever, and his "standard" swim trunks are getting tight on him. He's a VERY handsome pre-teen boy in the classically Mexican light-mocha complexion moda. He and one of the men frequently at the Underworld who I dub (Mr Pervert) had repeatedly veered towards me during their roughhousing, with Mr. Pervert falling against my side during one particularly close pass.

I don't think Mr. Pervert is ready for the same sort of roughhousing that Alejandro or Pea enjoy, however.

It's with no small amount of disappointment that I've seen not a sign of Alejandro - it's possible he only comes on the weekends.

Until next time....




Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas Guys!!
Here is a modest selection of Holiday greeters to share. I hope they bring a smile to your face.


Toby Learns the Meaning of Giving

Continuation of  Two Trains for Toby

On the afternoon before the Model Train club meeting, Sam called me to ask me if I was going to be at the meeting. I am sure he wanted to remind me it was to be the initial night of Toby’s membership.

 “Of course I plan to be there.” I told him, “I wouldn’t miss it for anything”

I arrived a few minutes early like I usually do for the monthly meeting. It is held at the basement of the Hobby shop. It appeared that many of the 20 members were already present, and early like myself. Sam greeted me and thanked me for coming, although he does this for everyone that attends the meeting, he shook my hand with an earnest reception.

I sat towards the back of the room. When everyone chosen a seat, there was no one sat by me  What! do I stink or something? I thought to myself.  I took a shower before I came to the meeting. Just then, in walked Toby with his mom and his uncle. They all sat by me.
Toby sat right next to me and introduced me to his uncle and his mom. We greeted each other then took our seats

Toby’s Mom, Helen, said, “I want to thank you Jim for making my son very happy.”
I nodded to her and said

 “It is my pleasure.”

Toby faced his uncle and said
 “ Uncle Mike, this is Jim... he’s the nice man that bought me the train set.”

Mike stuck his hand out and we shook hands. He asked me why I did this for Toby?

 “Just because I wanted to” was all I said.

He looked me in the eye and smiled. Then he said, “That was very thoughtful of you to do such a nice deed.” “He now has everything he ever wanted in his Set-up, you sure did make him one happy boy.”
 “I am very pleased that he likes the trains.” “He is one nice young boy, he reminds me of someone...” I did not finish what I was going to say.

Mike just smiled and did not push me to finish what I was going to say.

Sam called the meeting to order, He opened with an introduction,
 “The first thing I want to say is, thank you all for coming.” “We have a new member that just joined the club.” “Toby come on up.”

Politely he asked, “Sir, can I bring my mom and uncle up with me?”

“Well yes you sure can bring them along with you.”

Sam asked Mom what her name was.
“I am Helen I want to thank you for letting Toby into your club.”

 “It is our pleasure to have him in our club.” Sam beamed.

Then Toby’s uncle said, “I am his uncle Mike, this is a very special night for all of us.”

Sam presented Toby his membership card. Which, Toby proudly accepted, and shook Sam's hand, thanking him. Sam asked Toby to say a little more, “Now, Toby you have to tell us all about your train lay out.”

  He spoke up quite clearly and announced, “The first train set I have is very small, it only has one engine, four cars and a tunnel that my uncle had made for the lay out.” “I always like coming into this store to look at all the trains and to play with Sam's trains in the basement.”
“I always hoped that someday I will have a train lay out just like this one.” “That some day came when I meet Jim.” “You see we met here, and we were just talking bout our trains, and I guess I told him what would make-up my ultimate lay-out, and well.... he made it happen for me.” “It was the best day of my life well almost the best day of my life.”

Sam introduced Helen and asked her if she would like to say something?
She stood and looked towards me, “Jim! we all know why you did this for Toby.” “Sam told us all about how you lost your nephew in a automobile accident.”:And thanks to your kindness, you have made my son a very happy boy.”

Sam looked at me as if he was inviting me up to say something. Then he motioned me to come-up front.

I stood and walked to the front, debating to myself what I should say. I was prepared to tell the whole room, but instead I looked only at Toby with his mom and uncle.

“First let me explain it to you how this all started.” “When Robbie was a little boy we would always go to town and pick a name or two off the Giving Tree.” “We would buy everything that was on that list” “But often, he would also pick out an extra toy for whomever the random kid was.”
I continued my story, “When he was killed in the automobile accident, every year I would go and pick a couple of names on a giving tree and buy everything on those kid’s lists, and a extra toy or two.” “Except this year when I meet your son in the store and he was so polite, then he shook my hand not only once but twice.” “It just reminded me so much of Robbie, and that is when, I decided that he needed the train set.”

Toby said, “You bought more than I showed you.”

All I could say was, “If you’re going to have a train lay-out, you have to have a good one with everything to go along with it.”

 Toby looked to his Mom, and smiled ear to ear. I reckon he knew the Giving Tree had bloomed a handsome gift for him to enjoy.

Helen gave me hug and thanked me and told me how much he appreciated what I had done for her boy. Toby had tears in his eyes and thanked me again for everything. He is a treasured soul, and I am quite proud to tell about him.

Farm Boy


Two Trains for Toby

I have been wanting to add two more trains to my toy train-set lay out. Since it is getting that time of year, I decided it was justified and well deserving to go and buy myself the two trains. The train store is a locally owned Hobby shop. They also host a Toy Train club which I am a member. Like any typical day, I walked into the store and Sam asked if I was going to be adding to my train lay out.

 “Why yes I am.” “I want to buy two more trains.“ “Oh and of course a special car in memory of Robbie.”

It has now been almost 20 years since I lost my Nephew Robbie in an unfortunate car accident. However his memory is restored each year when I celebrate the holidays with the train hobby which he was so fond of. This was a joy and interest we both shared.

I grab a cart and went to the aisle where the engines and cars are. There stood a young boy, I would guess his age to be around fourteen.  He was stocky built and wore a sweat shirt that read “I am a farmer”. He wore a pair of matching sweat pants and work shoes. I noticed he was looking at the same engine that I had been considering for the past few weeks. As I walked closer to him, he turns and causally looked at me and smiled. I selected the same engine off the shelf. I was studying the engine, and he says, 
 “This engine is a very powerful, it is one of the best on the market.”
I didn’t hesitate; I looked at him and stated, “It should be for what it costs.”

I placed the packaged engine in my cart along with a generous selection of cars.
He asked me how big my lay out is.
“I have two trains right now and I am going to be adding two more trains.”
I followed with an inquiry how big was his train set-up.

“Oh well, I have only one train and only have a tunnel.”
 “The track is very small, no buildings or trees just my tunnel.”
 “How rude I am.” He stuck out his hand,  “I am Toby.”

I shook his hand and told him, “ I am Jim.”
He reminded me of Robbie when he stuck out his hand and by the way he talked and how polite he was.

                                                   In the spirit of modelers, I asked what kind of a lay-out did he really want.
He began his calculations of which engines and track he would desire then determined the optimal car count and grading for hills and tunnel lengths.  He began showing me which pieces there in inventory he would like to have for his lay out.
As he wound down his design plans, I told him that would be one good lay out.
I asked him where he has his lay out set-up?

“ I have it in the basement, were my uncle made me a place for the trains.”

I remarked,  “So according to your shirt, are you a farmer?

“Oh yes sir, I guess so... I work for my uncle on his farm.” “He pays me what he can.”
“I have thirty dollars saved up.”

Keep saving, and some day you will be able to buy everything you want.

He smiled and said, “ I sure hope I will.” “My uncle is like a dad to me..... my dad left us when I was a little boy.”

I took a liberty and patted his shoulder then explained, “I raised my nephew when I was on the farm.” Before he could ask me anything about Robbie I changed the subject mentioning the long hours of farm work.

He said his Mom is going to be here soon but he wanted to go and play with Sam's trains in the basement before time to go, but he politely asked me to join him.

I thanked him but said I needed to finish shopping.

He stuck his hand back out, “ It was a pleasure meeting you Jim.”
“I enjoyed talking trains with you Toby.”

He left for the basement to play with the trains.

In an odd turn of events after meeting Toby, well I decided that I could go without my  train sets. I loaded everything he wanted for his lay out in my cart including the engine he wanted.
As I was checking out a lady walked into the store.
 “Excuse me sir, Sam have you seen my son?”

  “Yes  he is in the basement playing with the trains.”
She smiled and casually says,
 “He sure does like trains” as she walked toward the basement.

I payed for everything and loaded everything into a cart. Sam looked at me turning his head slightly.
 “What is it Sam?”

 “You already have all of this stuff, except for that engine.”

 “Well, this is for Toby.” “He reminds me so much of Robbie, so I decided that he needed it all more than I do.” “Besides Robbie would be proud of me for doing this.”

 “Oh yes! one more thing I will pay for a years membership in the club.”

Sam quickly chirped, “Oh no you won't, it’s on me.” Grinning, he summed it up, “He sure will be one happy boy.” “Here, Jim this is for you.” “That special car, just for Robbie.”

I thanked Sam, and told him how much it means to me.

Just then Toby and his mom came up from the basement. I asked Toby if he would like to help me to my car. He grabs the cart and pushed it to my car. As we were walking out of the store Sam smiled at me. Toby asked where to put it all in my car.

I placed my hand on his shoulder and looked him in the eye, ‘Toby, you put it all in your car.... this is for you.”

His mom looked at me. “Why are you doing this?”

 “Lets just say just because I want to.”

Toby had tears in his eyes and gave me a hug.“Thank you Jim, I will take  good care of it.”

 “I know you will Boy.”

His mom gave me a hug. “You just made one boy, a very happy boy.” “Thank you so much.

Toby smiled and kindly added, “Please say Hi to Robbie from me and tell him he has a great uncle.”
 “I will.” Mustering any scrap of remaining composure, I nodded and left for home.

Farm Boy

(To Be Continued)