Dooby Rhymes with Scooby

                                                                                        by Jamie Haze 

 

Part 5



Charlie used two fingers to point to Cory and Dooby. "Let's see, you two,"
his fingers moved to Tom and Christian, "and you two?" He made his accurate
pairings a question, but didn't wait for an answer before he
continued. "There are loads of men, and women too, like you in retail. I
guess I've got some in management and probably even a few in top
management." He appeared to be thinking out loud.

"Have you ever had a problem with their work or a reason to question their
loyalty, I mean those that you know are gay, you can't know about all of
them, or I mean us?" Tom asked quietly.

"What?" Charlie shook himself. "Oh, no, not that I can recall. No, that's
not my concern. I'm concerned about you two having a lover's quarrel and
splitting up. Where would that leave me?"

Cory moved to sit on the edge of Dooby's chair. Christian studied the
flagstones under his feet. Tom shrugged, "Christ Charlie, we haven't been a
couple yet for a full twenty-four hours. So far you have a sleek modern
logo and the basic format for a weekly ad that you could take to any agency
to continue running with. Who knows what the future will bring? I don't see
us breaking up anytime soon or ever, but worse case, if we did, Christian's
the creative part and his ideas wouldn't stop. You'd hire him and do his
thing in house, or set him up to continue under contract and there are
plenty of print shops."

Dooby sat up far enough to look at Charlie over Cory's shoulder, "Say
Gramps, excuse me for interrupting, I know this is serious shit and all,
but couldn't you guys talk while you eat? I thought I heard something about
a steak dinner. We're still going to eat aren't we?" Tom, Christian and
Cory turned to stare daggers at him. Dooby ducked his head down behind
Cory. "I was just asking," he squeaked.

Charlie broke up into a fit of laughter. "Out of the mouths of babes," he
quoted, finished his drink and left them to fix another. "You are
absolutely right of course. Finding out was just a surprise. Okay we'll
play it by ear from here on out. One thing though, if you do have problems,
let me know. I really don't like surprises."

Dooby followed and sputtered, "Just a damn minute here Gramps," he looked
down at himself, "incase you haven't noticed, I am NOT a babe." He shielded
his mouth from the others with his hand, "At least not all the time," he
giggled. "Could Cory and I have a beer? He asked me to ask you."

"I DID NOT!" Cory shouted in Dooby's ear. Dooby flinched; surprised that
Cory followed and was standing behind him. Cory shook his fist under
Dooby's nose. Charlie handed them longnecks. Dooby accepted his, thanked
Charlie, then snatched Cory's towel and ran. Cory looked at himself then at
Charlie. He shrugged, "Chasing him only encourages him. Can I help with
dinner?"

Tom and Christian moved to sit on stools in front of the counter
overlooking the built in grill. Dooby joined them after he took another
swim and Charlie produced a tray of snacks. They talked and joked. Dooby
challenged Tom and Christian to race him in the pool. When they refused, he
mourned their advanced ages, their decrepit flabby bodies and offered them
handicaps. They nodded to each other, excused themselves and carried him to
the pool by his arms.

When Charlie and Cory were alone together Charlie asked; "What would you
like to do when you," he hesitated, "when you get out of school?"

"You were going to say grow up weren't you?" Cory giggled. "It's okay
coming from you Gramps. I guess I've only got another inch or two to go,
but I think tall and that's what counts. My grades are up there so I can
get in and we can afford it. I want to get my MBA from Harvard, and then
talk some big company like yours into hiring me, just entry level to
start. I'll work hard, learn everything about my company, because there's
no substitute for practical experience, and then I'd set my sights on
replacing you as the CEO." He giggled harder at Charlie's surprised
look. "I was just practicing for a job interview in a few years. How'd I
do?"

Charlie grinned, "I'd hire you if you let me resign. I don't like the
thought of being shit canned."

"That would be okay I guess, since you did start the company from
scratch. What kind of severance package were you thinking about?" Cory
asked with an almost straight face.

"Gee, I don't know. Can I work up a proposal and get back to you? I still
have the few years you mentioned don't I?"

Cory started laughing with Charlie, enjoying the game, "Oh sure, as long as
you don't get greedy, remember I'll have the stockholders to think about."

Charlie's laughter died. He looked at Cory strangely, "Of course you know
there are no stockholders, I'm it."

"Sure for now, but you're too big to stay that way. If you don't go public
soon, well you know what will happen, the IRS, inheritance taxes, shit, I
mean stuff like that. They'd eat your heirs for lunch wouldn't they?"

Charlie sighed and nodded, "So my accountants tell me." A smile returned,
"You want a job this summer?" He asked hopefully, nodding his head, willing
Cory to agree.

"I kind of have a job with Tom in his office, doing something with his
'puter."

"I have one of those, and I'm sure mine's bigger. How much is he paying
you? I'll do better."

Cory shrugged, "I don't know, we didn't talk about that."

Charlie laughed and clucked his tongue, "Excuse me, but that's not very
good business for a future CEO just starting out, especially one who's
after my job."

"Come on Gramps, entry level remember? You're safe for a few years." Cory
got serious, "Do you really want me to work for you? You aren't just being
polite are you? What would I do?"

"Well, let's see, if I wasn't serious, I wouldn't have asked, and as you
get to know me better you'll discover I don't often do anything just to be
polite. As to what you'd do for me, Tommy asked about someone to liaison
with Christian, and I want to be kept informed about how things are going,
so you could actually act as our interface. Then I see you're already
capable in the kitchen, I am too. One of my jobs is to cook and eat new
food products we keep getting in from manufacturers, if the stuff is shit I
tell them and we don't carry it on our shelves. I like the title;
Administrative Assistant but it's too grandiose for a school kid. How about
Administrative Intern, no one will look at you twice. You could wander the
entire warehouse and every office and be ignored." Cory could see the
wheels spinning in Charlie's head, "That could be useful."

Later, Charlie looked up at Tommy halfway through dinner, "By the way,
while you were busy drowning your cousin earlier, I head hunted one of your
employees."

Tommy blinked and looked at a suddenly half angelic Cory. He grinned, "Oh
really? Anyone I know?"

"Maybe. Actually I'm saving you from the trouble of fighting off a future
employee take over, so you should thank me. If he works for me, he'll have
further to climb on the corporate ladder before he kicks my ass off the top
rung, even though he already warned me he's gunning for my job."

Dooby started laughing and sent a fist into Cory's shoulder. "Sonofabitch!
Even I know enough about business to know you never fire the guy feeding us
until after dinner! Do I have to teach you everything?"

After the laughter died, Charlie slipped Christian's ad from under his
placemat and flattened it on the tabletop. "After you guys left me this
morning I was doing some serious thinking, and this is what we're gonna
do." He looked up at Christian, "I really like this as it is, but you need
to restore the old logo and type styles." Christian's smile
disappeared. "Let me finish, for now that is. Keep this format and add the
tabbed sheet. Replace a coupon or two with a blank space, just lines, title
it, 'Let Charlie Know', or something like that. I want feedback; encourage
comments, questions and bitches. I want to know how we can do it better
every single week from here on."

Christian nodded, "Sure, good idea, but if you like the logo why not use
it?"

"Oh we will, just not now. It's too fast. I've got six stores opening in
October in time for the holidays. They'll all carry the new signage. In the
meantime, I'll get the sign company cracking on turning out new ones for
all the other stores. We'll switch them over the summer, they'll go up at
night, and be covered with oilcloth. Each week you change the ad so it more
closely resembles this, and I want you to create some mystery like raise
the question; what's happening at Spelling's." Charlie switched his
attention to Tom. "Get us a bunch of billboards in our market area, ask the
same question, then one night in early October we'll change them all to
answer." He leaned back in his chair and tented his fingers. "Start
producing some television ads to run this summer, they'll be
throwaways. You'll need a whole new batch that will start in time for our
really grand re-opening of the whole chain. When the six new stores open,
the oilcloth comes down everywhere." He started to giggle, "Then gentleman
we've got us a new modern look. All the mature units will be remodeled, all
the interior signage will be uniform and reflect the logo type style." He
paused and winked at Cory. "I really liked your idea of taking us public,
so I think we'll schedule the first shares to hit the market at the same
time."

Tom, Christian and Cory stared at Charlie with their mouths hanging open
before they started to nod and laugh. Dooby looked around the table wearing
a puzzled expression and then began laughing with them. "Wow, I'm sure glad
we've got all that settled." He cocked his head at Charlie, "I only have
one more important question Gramps," the others looked at him expectantly,
"and excuse me for asking; you got any dessert hidden around here?"

Charlie roared with laughter, Tom, Christian and Cory shot him all their
middle fingers at the same time. Charlie pointed up at the house, "In the
kitchen," he gasped, "I forgot to bring it down. There's a Black Forest
cake on the counter. Would you?" Dooby took off running before he could
finish asking if Dooby would get it.

After a five-minute wait they heard Dooby's plaintive cry from the sunroom
doorway, "WHERE THE FUCK IS THE KITCHEN?"

"ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DINNING ROOM," Charlie shouted.

"THINK CHOCOLATE!" Cory screamed.

Ten minutes later Dooby placed the big cake in front of Charlie, with a
frown at Cory. "Man when you beaned me this afternoon I think you messed up
my sniffer. I couldn't smell this beauty until I was right on top of it."

Charlie cleared his throat and hoisted an eyebrow in Dooby's direction,
"There seems to be a big piece missing."

Dooby frowned harder at Cory, "I think I'm going to sue you. I'm so messed
up, I wasn't sure it was a chocolate cake. I actually had to taste test
it."

"You mean to be sure you got the right cake? That's understandable I
guess. Think you have room for another piece?" Charlie asked, barely able
to conceal his laughter.

"Oh no Gramps," Dooby patted his flat belly, "I'm full." He tried to ignore
the verbal expressions of extreme disbelief by his cousin and
friends. Charlie nodded, accepting his claim that he didn't want more
cake. "You see Gramps, just as I was about to bring you guys this delicious
cake, I noticed this platter sitting near it that was covered up with a
towel. I was curious, so I peeked. Guess what? There were about a dozen big
brownies on that old platter just sitting there. I could see they were
getting stale. If I hadn't found them when I did, they would have been
inedible in a few minutes. Not many people know this, but brownies, stale
brownies can make you sick so fast. Throwing them out sure would have been
a waste so I saved someone from a lot of trouble, disappointment and I
imagine chocolate puke is gross to clean up."

Charlie half stood up and leaned into Dooby's face. "You ate MY bedtime
snack?" He asked, not quite believing Dooby's admission or his nerve.

Dooby slipped from his chair away from Charlie and backed toward the
pool. "I had to Gramps you're a nice guy, no one wants to see you get
sick. I even rinsed the platter and put it in the dishwasher. That's one of
my jobs at home and I did it without even being asked." He looked around
the table, "You guys are proud of me aren't you?" Charlie started walking
toward him with his arms raised to Dooby's neck level. "I think I need to
burn off a few of those nasty calories. Later guys!" He allowed himself to
fall backward. He hit the pool surface with a loud smack, and started
swimming underwater after he sank.

Charlie turned to the boys sitting at the table laughing at him. He looked
dumbfounded, "Where the fuck does he put all that food? He doesn't look
like he's eaten all day! Do you think he really ate my brownies?"

"If he found them, they're gone." Tom answered shaking his head. Christian
and Cory nodded their agreement and continued their laughter.

Charlie forgave Dooby after a half hour and coaxed him from the pool with
a large slice of cake and an admonition; "I'm a creature of habit and one
of those habits is something I shouldn't eat like those brownies with a
glass of ice cold milk before bed. I forgive you this time because you're a
guest, but you lose guest status the next time you come here and I have a
reputation as being a mean sonofabitch when I'm crossed."

Dooby swallowed before he answered, "Damn Gramps, you own three hundred
bakeries, if one of the old dudes will drive I'll go buy you some more."

Charlie made a face, "No thanks, they ain't the same. I use my mother's
recipe, the bakery kind ain't," he winced, "aren't rich enough and they're
too heavy. If I ate one of those before bed I wouldn't sleep."

Dooby agreed, "Yeah, they do taste like shit. Maybe if you changed the
store recipe you'd sell more."

Charlie disagreed, "They're too rich, they'd cost more. No one would buy
them."

"My mother would. She likes to bake but she doesn't always have time to
keep up with demand," Dooby looked angelic. "I'm her biggest customer."

"My mother sucks in the kitchen," Cory interjected, "and I'll bet she'd buy
them too. I do the shopping since I do most of the cooking at our house,
but I don't buy much from your bakery either because the stuff isn't good
enough. Why don't we do some test marketing? Use your mom's recipe, boost
the ingredients to commercial quantities, bake some, then put them on sale
one week."

Christian flipped the tabbed sheet over, "Yeah Charlie, and put the home
recipe in the ad. I'm going to need loads of them if I put say four a week
back here."

Tom joined the conversation excitedly, "YEAH! Title that Recipes from
'Granny Spelling's Kitchen', and if you want TV ads how about customer
taste tests on camera. Compare home baked or cooked with what we sell. The
customer shouldn't be able to taste a difference and we don't have to
apologize for the higher price if the quality is there. Another idea, how
about a half hour infomercial once a week, say on Thursday mornings timed
with the ads. Each population center has a local public station." He
grinned at Charlie, "AND, you could be the cook."

Charlie balked, "Nope, just hire a chef, and add a pretty girl to keep
feeding sale items for that week into her conversation with him and keep
asking him what he's doing to flow the show along."

"A chef wouldn't work, the whole idea of the show would be to portray
cooking as being easy, so easy anyone could do it. We'll have to find a
typical house, I mean homemaker. Tom giggled, "I almost said housewife, we
definitely do not want to go there."

"How about Dooby's mom? She's pretty, just look at her pretty little boy
sitting there stuffing his face, he looks just like her when his lips
aren't covered with icing and chocolate and she's a great cook too."
Christian giggled when Dooby tried to give him the finger holding his fork
loaded with cake on its way to his mouth.

Charlie's eyes shifted from Dooby to Cory, he grinned, "How about someone
atypical?"

Cory stopped laughing when Christian and Tom both looked at him, "Nope, not
me, no way, I'm too, I'm not tall enough," he amended quickly.

"Yes way," Dooby giggled, "You'd look good on camera, sexy too I might add,
even wearing clothes, you like to cook and you're good at it. Don't I eat
everything you've cooked for us so far?"

"Shit, that's no endorsement, you'd eat dog food if someone served it to
you."

"Maybe, but I won't eat the brownies Gramps sells in his stores, on the
other hand I love Granny Spelling's." Dooby snapped his fingers, "I know
I'll be the cameraman."

Cory grinned evilly, "Fuck you too Dooby, if I have to be on camera you do
too motor mouth. You can be my best buddy, like be your klutzy self, ask
questions like you do normally. We could just talk sports, jock stuff and
crack jokes, clean jokes. If we did a show like this it would work if it
were humorous AND informative."

Charlie leaned back in his chair and watched Cory and Dooby buy into the
idea of the cooking show he imagined that they'd appear to be a comedy team
if they didn't know the cameras were running. While they talked, Dooby
pulled the cake closer and served himself another slice then began eating
again. Charlie was also pleased that all four boys had joined his
team. "Okay, we'll try one next weekend, we can use my test kitchen." He
glanced at Tom and Christian, "Get whatever video equipment we need, but
this can't start until we get used to cranking an ad a week, say sometime
this summer," his eyes moved to Cory and Dooby, "and it never will start
unless you guys just be yourselves. Don't get cute, be teenagers; one likes
to cook and the other likes to eat."

The boys left Charlie with an invitation to breakfast the next morning
after he invited them to tour his new distribution center adjacent to the
Spelling offices, and as well as visit one or two of the closest stores for
a behind the scene look at how a big modern grocery store operated. Tom was
still chewing on Dooby for eating Charlie's brownies when they walked in
the kitchen. "You're just lucky he has a sense of humor, that's all I've
got to say. This deal is going to be worth millions of dollars to us and
you nearly fucked it up big time."

Dooby got out a gallon of milk and started to drink from the jug until Cory
presented him with two glasses, then gave Tom and Christian each a
beer. "Damn Uncle Tommy I said I was sorry. I generally know how much I can
get away with. Charlie, Gramps, loved having us there for dinner. I think
he's kind of lonely, and you saw how his face lit up when I asked about
calling him Gramps. He doesn't have any kids so there's no grandkids to
holler at either." Dooby grinned, "But now he has us, Cory and me. We need
to fuck up occasionally, so he can straighten us out because we're
teenagers. I bet you tonight was the first time in his life that he got to
chase someone and make out like he was mad when he actually had trouble to
keep from laughing." He surrounded Cory's neck with his arm and yawned
dramatically. He looked at Cory's watch, "Hey it's PM and has been for
hours. We should take a long hot shower then maybe see if we can find any
of those infomercials on cable." He began moving Cory with him across the
great room. "You guys want to join us?"

Christian looked at Tom who was grinning hopefully. Christian shook his
head, "Not yet, I feel like drawing or painting something to wind down."

They watched Cory's shorts slide down his legs as he and Dooby
walked. Dooby's followed after two more steps. Dooby giggled, "Damn, faulty
snaps, good thing this didn't happen in public. He reached down and lifted
Cory's cock lovingly, "I better carry this for you so it doesn't pull you
off balance. If you tipped forward you'd bang your forehead and maybe break
this."

Cory stumbled, "If you don't stop that even though it feels so great, the
first round is going to be over for me. That would be score, Cory, one, and
Dooby zilch." Dooby threw his hand in the air as they disappeared in the
hallway leading to their bedroom.

Christian took Tom's hand to lead him to the den. Tom resisted at the door
and tugged him toward their bedroom with a whisper, "We should get cleaned
up first ourselves just in case one of us gets too tired to do it later."

"Good thinking," Christian agreed.

A half hour later they rinsed the soap off their bodies by lying down under
both showerheads on their sides facing each other's cock. Neither suggested
that they sixty-nine then and there, both of them just had to. Neither
moved their heads it wasn't necessary. Both pounded the other's face by
rocking their hips violently. Christian went rigid first and Tom made loud
sucking noises while he increased his tempo until he just stopped moving
and Christian made the same noises.

"Wow!" Christian breathed, "Now I can draw."

"Yeah wow, now I can just watch for a while, but as soon as you get hard
again, all bets are off."

They stopped touching each other in the den long enough for Christian to
search out two sheets of art paper and a pencil. He pushed the stool away,
then just stood in front of the drafting table. His hand holding the pencil
started to move, then stopped briefly when Tom stepped up behind him,
encircling his body loosely and resting his chin comfortably on the teens'
shoulder with the side of his head touching Christian's. When Christian
resumed drawing, Tom's hands began roaming. They both smiled when Tom's
cock rose to fit comfortably between Christian's legs. Christian moved his
pencil faster. Tom stopped teasing when Cory's body began to emerge on
paper in fluid lines. The body gained substance with shaded straining
muscles. The torso bowed backward; the head was twisted back and up, the
face looked hopeful, the mouth laughed. Arms were stretched up and back,
gloved hands held the lacrosse stick by its butt end as the ball he sought
to catch was suspended a mere two inches above the net. A simple line two
feet in scale below the pointed feet served as the playing field.

"Okay?" Christian asked and moved the drawing to the side.

"Perfect, awesome, beautiful, perfect, just like you. Do yours now."

"Later, self-portraits are rough." Christian blushed.

"No, now," Tom urged, and then threatened when Christian's hand paused over
the second sheet. "Do it now or no nooky for you tonight, giving or
getting."

Christian giggled softly, "Persuasive prick aren't you? Never happen
though, you don't have the willpower."

"Come on cooperate now, just lower that little pencil and get at it. As
soon as its finished I'll give you choice all night. How's that for an
offer?"

Christian sighed, "Okay slut since you're paying me with your body, how do
you want me?"

Tom didn't hesitate, "Almost facing, body relaxed, one leg slightly bent,
that foot in front of the other. One arm bent with your fist on your cocked
hip and the other arm dangling with your flat hand on your thigh. Then your
head needs to be up but your eyes should look at the ground like you were
modest."

"Shit, try embarrassed more accurately."

"Yeah, like you were in a room full of people and you were the only one
naked."

"I'll try for you, but first you better get your hand off that or I'll be
getting a big advance payment and this won't ever get finished."

Tom threw his arms out to the side and leaned back, but was careful not to
move his cock from between Christian's legs. "How's this? Is this okay?"

"Shit Tommy," Christian giggled. "You're getting more like your little
cousin everyday. You know what I meant."

Tom winced, "Ouch!" His arms again surrounded Christian's body, "One Dooby
in this family is enough. Now quit stalling and I'll just watch."

Christian reproduced his body on paper and left the face blank at
first. They argued with smiles. Christian offered to add his face if he
could put running shorts on the figure. Tom insisted on nude AND the
life-like embarrassed face he was paying for. Then after Christian allowed
himself to be cajoled, the faces' features were a stranger's. "Please
Christian," Tom begged, "Change him to your face or you'll fuck up the
whole series and yours is the one I definitely don't want fucked up. I want
to be able to look at you when you aren't here," he whined.

Christian sighed and went to work with his eraser, ignoring Tom when he
sucked in his breath, frowning at the devastating result. The new head and
hair were Christian's, then the facial features appeared, but weren't what
Tom asked for. The boy-man's doe eyes on paper were looking directly at Tom
and his closed lips were smiling shyly. "This is what we call artistic
license. This is what I'm feeling just about now. I'm sending a message,
get it?"

Tom took the pencil from Christian's fingers, then turned him. They
kissed. Tom pulled back and smiled his own desire, "Yup, me too," he
mumbled.

The spell was broken when they stumbled into the hall. They could see
flickering shadows from the open master bedroom door, and hear a voice
reminding everyone to call immediately to take advantage of the fantastic
offer in acquiring a rotisserie. They looked at each other and
grinned. Christian shrugged, "They did say they were going to watch
television, they just didn't say where."

Cory was spooned tightly against Dooby on one side of the bed, so far over;
Dooby's little butt hung over the edge precariously. Their heads shared a
corner of a pillow. They were sleeping soundly. The fireplace created half
the flickering shadows and the television picture displayed a feast for
fifty backed by a half dozen of the versatile rotisseries. Tom used the
remote to blacken the screen.

Dooby surfaced without opening his eyes or lifting his head. "Hey, we were
watching that," he complained into the back on Cory's head. He moved his
hips slightly, and then tightened his arms around his little lover without
really waking.

Christian jiggled the bed when he lay down, pulling Tom with him. Both were
ready, done with foreplay. Christian lifted his legs and Tom mounted him
with a minimum of assistance. When he finished, too quickly, he thought,
Tom moved to lie on his back. Christian whispered, "Not yet, I want them
too." He turned his head toward Cory and Dooby. Tom looked over Christian's
chest to see Cory and Dooby smiling back at him.

Tom put his lips against Christian's ear and barely whispered so the boys
couldn't hear him. "And when they're finished, I'm going to have a feast of
my own."

Christian took Tom's hand and rubbed it against his straining cock, "How
about now?" He asked.

Tom giggled and pulled his hand away, "No way I'm saving that for dessert."

Dooby scrambled over Cory's body to replace Tom's eagerly, "I heard that
you dirty old man you, so I guess I better contribute something to the main
course."

Christian blinked when it dawned on him what Tom intended to do, "Oh wow,
am I innocent or what?" He pulled Dooby down with his arms and locked
ankles.

Cory and Tom sat on their heels on each side of the enthusiastic
lovers. Theirs hands went everywhere to heighten the pleasures, the
sensations. Dooby groaned and was manhandled off Christian; Tom pushed and
Cory pulled. Cory grinned his apology for kneeing Dooby a couple of times
in his haste to replace him. Christian welcomed him. Tom guided Cory after
he spread his legs and knelt between them, intending to be ready as soon as
Cory finished.

Cory didn't quite have time to resume breathing before he felt himself
lifted by his legs, then flipped over off Christian into Dooby's waiting
arms. Tom rocked Christian back to his shoulders until his feet touched the
bed's headboard and walked on his knees until they were under Christian's
back. When he released Christian's legs he rested on Tom's inclining thighs
with his crotch so close to Tom's mouth he only had to bend his head.

"Wait Tommy," Christian groaned out, "you better start with dessert unless
you want to chase it."

"Oh wow! I'm next on the bottom," Dooby announced, and looked at Cory
shyly, "Then you can eat me, but only if you want to. Do you?" Cory nodded
with his tongue in Dooby's mouth.

"NOT! Tom's next over here, you two are last." Christian countermanded
through clenched teeth.

Dooby frowned, "Who died and left you in charge?"

Tom pulled away from Christian briefly, "I'm not dead, and it's our
bed. Any questions?"

The four boys woke to the sound of the doorbell in total darkness. They
fell asleep in a crude uncomfortable jumble of arms, pliable torsos and
legs. Cory found himself being smothered by Dooby's body lying diagonally
on his belly with it covering his head and his nose poking Dooby's
resistant belly button. Dooby struggled free first. He pushed away the
comforter that blanketed them all, and giggled silently when he recalled
being chilly and leaving the pile long enough to cover them all. Daylight
greeted them with the cover gone. The digital clock read seven AM.

Cory poked, pinched and kneed his way free of his three taller heavier
friends before the recrimination began. "Who forgot to set the alarm clock
DOOBY?" He charged.

Dooby defended himself, "Fuck you Sprout, I set it." He rolled his eyes
around the room and giggled, "Just not in here. I set ours." He cupped an
ear, "Hear the music?"

"Why'd you bother if you didn't plan to sleep there, asshole?" Tom grumped
as he ran to his closet to find a pair of pants so he could answer the
door. He knew; they all knew that Charlie was waiting outside, probably
impatiently for someone to let him in.

"Me an asshole? This is YOUR fucking room why didn't you set yours? Do I
have to do everything in the house too? I'm not your personal house
servant, I'm the fucking gardener, the pool boy, and," he giggled, "just
one of three sex slaves waiting around for you to decide who's next. This
place is just like home; Dooby do this, Dooby do that."

"HEY WAKE UP IN THERE!" The intercom on the wall ordered metallically.

Cory was first to run from the closet wearing shorts, "Dooby shut up!" He
snapped with a giggle on his way out of the room.

With room to move, Christian rolled to his back, sighed and snuggled a
pillow to his chest. Dooby pounced and started tickling him. Christian
retaliated by pounding him with the pillow. When Dooby covered his head
with his arms, Christian went for his unprotected cock. A second later
Dooby was lying on his back pleading between giggles to be freed. "I've got
the mouth under control Tommy. What do you want to do with him?"

Tom walked from the closet pulling a shirt over his head. "Let it go, give
it a shower and dress it. We'll get the coffee on and breakfast started,
then you come out and entertain Charlie while Cory and I get showered and
dressed." He grinned at Dooby, "It isn't your fault I forgot to set the
alarm. I never needed it until this morning. Last night was wild, I must be
getting old."

Dooby sat up wearing a look of amazement. "Damn Uncle Tommy you must
be. You take all the fun out of life. You apologized and here I was
expecting to argue about the alarm until lunchtime. I didn't even get
around to your advancing senility. Hey speaking of lunch, what are we
having anyway?"

Tom left the room shaking his head and muttering. "It's worried about
eating lunch before breakfast! Just hurry it up okay?" He called back to
them.

Tom found Charlie sitting at the end of the dinning room table staring at
the four small paintings. "Good morning Charlie, I'm sorry we're running a
little late. I forgot to set the alarm."

Charlie waved his hand absently. "No problem, I'm an hour early. I told you
eight o'clock, but I'm excited about this project. If the door was unlocked
I would have started breakfast." He looked up at Tom, "Christian did these?
He's good, very good. But he and Cory are missing."

"He started them last night. Just sketches so far, I'll get them." Tom
placed the drawings above the paintings.

Charlie picked up Cory's by the corners, studied it, and then looked up at
Cory bustling efficiently around the kitchen. "Wow, tough as you guys
say. Will he sell these? Did you pose for these?" Tom shook his
head. Charlie called Cory, "Come here a moment son. I want to compare you
to this."

Cory only heard the word, son. He rested a hand on Charlie's shoulder while
he looked at his likeness, then at Christian's self-portrait. He and Tom
exchanged glances. Tom shrugged imperceptibly and blushed his agreement,
the desire in Christian's eyes was easy to see. Tom looked down again to
see that Charlie's attention had switched to the young hand on his
shoulder. Charlie smiled and swung his eyes back to the drawings, "What do
you think of your likeness," he hesitated, then added, "son?"

Cory leaned down closer to the drawing Charlie held up, then closer as
Charlie moved it further away as if he was getting it in focus. Tom saw
their eyes meet before Cory looked away and answered, "I think it's great,
he did it so I don't, you know, show."

Charlie nodded and chuckled, "I agree, if your, ah, you know showed, the
portrait would appear to be a caricature to the casual viewer; anyone who
didn't know you and hadn't seen you nude. He was also very clever in making
it impossible to judge scale."

Cory nodded, "That was the first thing I noticed Gramps. I look normal." He
looked at the stove and sniffed, "Shit the bacon!"

Charlie watched Cory scoot into the kitchen with his eyebrows up. "Are you
planning to wear those shorts out in public?" He asked incredulously.

Cory looked down at himself and giggled. "Hell no Gramps, these are
Christian's favorite running shorts. We were all in," he stopped in
mid-sentence, "these were handy when the door bell rang, that's all."

They heard Christian and Dooby coming before they appeared. Christian was
complaining; "Goddamnit Dooby, if you don't layoff, you're dead meat."
Dooby was dancing around Christian laughing while he slammed the taller
heavier boy with his shoulder repeatedly, and then dodging out of
Christian's grasp. When they reached the middle of the great room, Dooby
changed tactics and got his foot between Christian's legs to trip him. He
succeeded, except Christian fell on top of him. "Gotcha, you little
asshole!" He ignored Dooby's laughing pleas for mercy and got him in a
headlock, then used a knuckle to administer a severe head nuggie.

"OW! Ouch! I was just practicing a few checks and the trip was just lucky."
Dooby's justification was muffled by Christian's arm around his
neck. "Remember we've got a match Tuesday night."

Christian released him, "Yeah I remember. You need to be saving your checks
for the other guys." He pushed Dooby into his chair then held him there
with both hand on his shoulders. "SIT and STAY until after breakfast," he
ordered before he smiled at Charlie, "Good morning Charlie. Sorry about
this little disturbance. He must have had a stash of cookies or brownies in
the bedroom to get such a sugar rush so early in the morning."

Dooby grinned and eyed Christian's shorts meaningfully as he took his seat
across the table, "Yeah, sweet stuff gets to me."

Charlie reddened with Christian and changed the subject to Christian's
talent. After effusive compliments, which served to maintain the heightened
blood level in Christian's always rosy cheeks, he tried to buy all the
portraits. Christian tossed a thumb at Tom helping Cory in the kitchen,
"I'm doing them for Tommy."

Tom shook his head, "Sorry Charlie, when they're all done I'm hanging them
together over there. I'm going to make a few prints for the guys though, do
you want a set?"

"Sure, of course thank you." Charlie turned to Christian, "Will you sign
and number them?"

Christian shrugged, "Sure, that will add at least a dollar to their value
someday."

Charlie frowned at the disparaging comment, "Never belittle your
talent. I'm not a connoisseur and I'm not a collector, but I do invest, no
that's not right, I speculate on artists I like. I love to go to outdoor
shows, university art department shows, and things like that, I find eager
young artists displaying such beautiful work. If I like something I buy
it. Sometimes it's their first sale. I never quibble about the price;
they're always reasonable because like you they aren't sure their art has
value. I like to think I give the young artist confidence, I can see it in
their eyes. Paint something for me when you have the time and consider it
sold. Now tell me about this match, I'd like to attend."

Dooby burst into an explanation of the Lacrosse game, and then brought out
his stick and a ball to show Charlie. He rubbed the tender spot on his head
and grinned at Cory when he described the safety equipment. Charlie winced
after he learned how Dooby got beaned. Cory apologized for the hundredth
time. Dooby thunked him on the shoulder, "I told you not to worry about
it. Paying attention to business is what practice is all about."

Charlie wielded Dooby's stick through the air experimentally. He looked
quizzically at Dooby, "You mean players actually carry these weapons on the
field and use them against each other? Goddamn, this game is football with
teeth."

Dooby giggled, "Hell no Gramps, except I'm awful clumsy though of course so
are a lot of other guys, so accidents happen. My first stick got bent
somehow in our very first match, that one's titanium so it shouldn't bend,
Tommy bought me that one."

Charlie grinned at Tom, "Under our present system of law, wouldn't that be
something close to aiding and abetting?"

Tom rolled his eyes, "My only excuse is that I was younger then and
although we're cousins, I really didn't know him very well. Maybe I should
just turn myself in before the match so the cops don't have to come looking
for me?"

Charlie insisted that he would drive his car for the tour after he helped
the boys clean up the breakfast dishes. All four boys stood frozen on the
front door stoop when they got a look at Charlie's car. Charlie looked back
at them with his hand on the driver's side door handle when he became aware
that they weren't following him. "Is something wrong?" He asked
suspiciously.

"Ah no Gramps, nothing's wrong," Dooby hedged before he thought of a
plausible explanation. "I know! You own an old car museum, right? And you
get out a different one to drive everyday. That's it isn't it?"

Charlie looked confused, "No this is my only car. I bought it new. They
don't build 'em like this anymore," he said proudly and ran a hand over the
roof.

Dooby grinned and opened his mouth to answer. Cory elbowed him hard and
Christian covered his mouth and whispered, "Don't even think about it."

Dooby nodded and mumbled behind Christian's hand. Satisfied that Dooby got
the message, Christian removed his hand. Dooby dodged out of reach and
giggled, "I wasn't going to say anything!" He protested, and then added,
"Except your car is older than Uncle Tommy!"

Charlie looked from Dooby to Tom, then at his classic Mercury Marquis. He
bent over laughing. "Out of the mouths of babes! You know I bought this to
drive when I went out touring stores unannounced," he snapped his
fingers. "Suddenly there I was in the middle of a store before I was
recognized. I could just hear sphincters snapping closed all over the place
as the word spread around the building." He frowned at his mint condition
ride ruefully, "I think this old girl is why that doesn't work anymore. Now
she's like advance notice. They can see me coming a mile away." He grinned,
"Perhaps we should drive something else this morning to put the fun back in
my tours."

Christian started to climb into the Tahoe's back seat after Cory and Dooby
to allow Charlie to sit in the front with Tom. Cory and Dooby were already
giggling while Cory attempted to keep Dooby's hands out of his
crotch. Charlie pulled Christian back and replaced him by just starting to
sit on the boys' touching thighs. They separated quickly to give him
room. He put his arms around their shoulders. "Isn't this cozy? Now you two
won't embarrass yourselves or me will you?" He asked and chuckled at their
resigned expressions and reluctant nods.

Charlie directed Tom to park away from the store entrance. Then before he
got out of the truck, he pulled a crumpled old wide brimmed hat from his
back pocket and put it on. "My disguise," he explained happily.

Cory and Dooby both frowned. "I bet you wear that hat every time don't you,
kind of like your old car?" Cory snatched the hat away then took off his
cap and settled it on Charlie's head. He tossed the hat into the back of
the truck.

Dooby added his prized sunglasses, "Now that's a disguise Gramps. You look
like a young stud too, just like us." He cocked a hip at Charlie and
grinned.

Charlie laughed, "Modesty isn't one of your strong points is it son?"

Dooby shrugged, "It's like Christian says, we know what we look like, so
when you got it, flaunt it!"

Tom got a buggy so it would look like they were actually shopping until
someone recognized Charlie. Cory leaned into his side and whispered, "Try
and keep up this time okay darling?"

Tom scratched his nose with his middle finger and nodded, "Don't start
bitching already DEAR, or I'll just go sit on the bench now."

Charlie scanned that weeks' ad pinned to a bulletin board. Christian
looked over his shoulder. "Do you want to hear comments as we go?" He asked
in a low voice.

"Absolutely! Isn't this fun?"

Christian motioned to Tom, and asked, "Can an ad be blown up and printed on
high gloss paper in one piece?" He touched the tattered ad on the wall,
"Front, middle and back? Just a small run, at least one for each stores
entrance?" When Tom nodded he continued, "We could frame it behind
glass. It would look slick and be easier to read."

Charlie nodded, "Plan on it as soon as possible, including the frames. Good
Christian, keep 'em coming." He waved everyone close. "Anything you see,
comments, ideas, suggestions, anything, I want to hear it. Okay studs,
let's go shopping."

Halfway into the second isle, Dooby looked back, frowned and called a
huddle, "Hey Gramps how come this store is sold out of so much sale stuff
and lots of other shit too? If I was shopping here I'd be pissed off just
about now and we've got a long way to go."

Charlie's expression was already thunderous and Dooby's comment didn't
help. "I noticed. I keep getting assured that the problem has been
corrected, when it obviously hasn't. This store isn't at fault though as
long as I see that orders have been placed when we get to the office. Come
on guys."

They found a young man stocking shelves working toward them; rather he was
mostly pulling cans and bottles from the back to the front of the shelves
so they looked full. Charlie smiled at the boy and looked back, "Wow,
you've got a long way to go. I would think what you're doing should have
been done at night, unless there was a crowd of shoppers in here before
us." He looked at his watching meaningfully, "And that's hard to imagine on
a Sunday morning before nine o'clock."

Charlie was pleased to see the boy look away evasively, "Yeah, well I don't
think they worked. Our truck maybe got held up and there was nothing to
stock." He looked at Charlie hopefully, "If there's anything on sale that
we're out of, I'll get you a rain check."

Charlie frowned at that, "But that would mean a trip back here for a couple
of cans of stewed tomatoes. I'll just stop up the road, they always match
sale prices."

The stock clerk looked frustrated, "Oh no sir, we wouldn't want you to do
anything that rash." Charlie and the boys noted the imperial 'we'. "If you
live within a few miles of here I could maybe deliver what you want on my
way home."

The offer shocked Charlie into laughter; "You'd do that for a customer? Are
you allowed to? That's way above and beyond the call of duty," Charlie
read the boys name tag, "Kevin."

Kevin grinned and looked around before he answered, "I'm sure delivering is
against company policy which is why I haven't asked, but I've done it for a
regular, a couple of times if they were nice about us not having something
that was on sale. The ones that bitch me out get rain checks." Kevin
misspoke then, "Like it's my fault the truck is always late. If I had
anything to say about it, and believe me, I don't, I'd give you any other
brand of tomatoes for the sale price."

It was Charlie's turn to grin while he returned the cap and sunglasses to
Dooby and Cory and nodded his agreement. "That's exactly what we'll do in
the future." He placed special emphasis on the corporate 'we'. "Do me a
favor Kevin, would you go find the manager on duty and tell him a short old
guy with white hair, named Charlie would like to see him?"

"Sure, does he know you, I mean just from that description?"

Charlie shrugged, "If he looks blank tell him my last name is Spelling."

Kevin's smile disappeared as his face paled, "Shit Mr. Spelling, I didn't
recognize you from your picture down front it's so ancient. I'm sorry I
said whatever I said. Are you going to fire me?"

"Fire you? Shit no, you seem to be as loyal to our store as I am. After you
find the MOD we're going to tour the rest of this store including the back
of the house. I want you to tag along, just keep your mouth shut and
listen. You'll go with us to our next stop and we'll chat along the way."
Kevin nodded silently and started to walk away. "One more thing, what's the
MOD's name?"

"Today it's Mr. Pierson, Richard Pierson," Kevin said over his shoulder
excitedly.

Dooby saw Richard as he rounded the distant end of the isle. He turned
away, nudged Cory and whispered from the side of his mouth, "You won't
believe this, the manager is Uncle Richard Whatshisname!"

Cory looked then turned away to face Charlie, "That guy is my mom's
ex-boyfriend."

Charlie had no time to ask a lot of questions, "Is he an asshole?"

Cory shrugged evasively but Dobby nodded in the affirmative with a grin, an
evil grin. Richard's attention was fixed solely on Charlie. He was sweating
when he offered his hand. "Mr. Spelling! What a surprise, so early on a
Sunday morning. No one mentioned you were coming in today."

Charlie pulled his hand back and wiped it pointedly on his shirt. He
grinned, "Good mornin'. No one knew I was comin' but sure glad I did. This
store looks like shit. Who closed last night? That's the asshole I want to
talk to. Are you sick? Why you sweatin' like a stuck pig? How come I never
seen you before, you a new guy or what's the story?" He paused for a
second, "Well? Pick any question and answer it."

Kevin got behind Dooby and Cory and winced each time Charlie asked a
question or made a comment. Dooby's grin grew. Cory nudged him and shook
his head trying futilely to keep him quiet. "Uncle Richard!" Dooby
laughed. "What a small world. Man you do look sick."

Richard's head snapped to the side. "You two! If you're here to shop, get
on with it, we're talking business." He spied Kevin, "And you, get back to
work. You're wasting time standing around."

Charlie looked surprised, "You know these boys? They're with me and I told
this young man to stay put, so he is workin', but I agree that we don't
need no audience," he spun on his heel. "Come with me Mr. Pierson we'll
just chat in the back room." He looked back and smiled, "You guys drift
around, introduce yourselves to Kevin. Pick his brain, he's got him a good
head on his shoulders." He looked up at Richard walking beside him. "You
lose a collar button sleepin' in that shirt Mr. Pierson?" He asked
jovially, and then laughed, "You know if you use your necktie as a napkin,
you should pick out some darker color. That spaghetti stain clashes with
that yellow tie something awful, but then I ain't the fashion police as you
can see." The doors into the warehouse area blocked Charlie's additional
comments and any answers to his questions.

"Holy shit, remind me not to ever get Gramps pissed off at me." Dooby wiped
his forehead.

Tom giggled, "It sure seemed like you've been trying." He offered his hand
to Kevin, "Hi I'm Tom, this is Christian, Dooby and Cory."

Charlie found all of them working at facing merchandise in the second
isle. Dooby saw him coming. "Hey Gramps! Kevin showed us how to read shelf
labels and we're helping him out."

Charlie nodded and complimented them on what they'd accomplished before he
frowned. "This is a lost cause for today boys. I just got off the phone,
come on, let's go down front to the office." He planted a hand in the
middle of Kevin's back and propelled him forward. "Now Kevin, tell me all
about yourself. As you may have guessed, Mr. Pierson is no longer in our
employ, which leaves us with an open assistant manager position at this
store. Are you interested? You'll be starting as a trainee of course, but
for the rest of this day you'll be going it alone," he giggled and pushed
Kevin into the managers office. "Look around, there's an employee list in
here somewhere, start calling starting with the stock team tell them to get
in here as soon as they can. You'll need an over full crew in about an hour
when your first truck gets here. That will have all your sale goods on
it. The second truck will have all your lows and outs. I want this store
fully inventoried by the end of this business day, then after that you
personally take a scanning gun and do another pull. That will be here
tomorrow morning." He paused for breath and looked up at Kevin's befuddled
expression, "Well?"

"Well what Sir?"

"Weren't you going to tell me about yourself? I assume you want the job."

"Damn Gramps, give the guy a break. You've been talking full time since you
came back, I couldn't even get a word in." After Charlie stopped laughing,
Dooby continued, "I think I should go check out the deli, it's rumored that
they just might be putting too much lettuce in the Italian hoagies, and
it's break time anyway," he danced toward the office door looking hopeful.

Charlie stroked his chin, deep in thought, "I see that could be an
important store issue and if you checked any later in the morning your
inspection would collide with lunch wouldn't it?"

"Exactly Gramps! I just knew you'd understand," Dooby said over his
shoulder.

"Have you got any money to pay for the test? We don't do freebies." Charlie
held out a twenty-dollar bill.

Dooby reappeared as if by magic, accepted the bill, thanked Charlie and
began his speedy exit again. "Scammer!" Christian accused, "I saw your mom
give you fifty bucks."

Dooby stopped and looked offended, "Yes she did SNITCH, but it's a fifty
dollar bill, that's far too much for me to be carrying around. What if I
got mugged? It's home safe and sound," he disappeared again with a giggle.

Charlie explained Dooby and the others presence in more detail then looked
Kevin up and down, "You should lose that apron, store executives don't wear
them, they do wear shirts with neckties, the knot should cover the collar
button during business hours so our customers can tell you apart from the
rest of the team. Of course you're excused from that today. You'll start
working Pierson's schedule starting now."

Kevin took off his apron. He was still wearing a Spelling's monogrammed
pullover shirt and the required kaki trousers, except his were natural
colored jeans, low rise and form fitting. Charlie saw three pairs of eyes
scan Kevin's body then share quick approving glances, all completed in a
couple of seconds.

Kevin took a deep breath, "There's not much to tell about me. I'm a junior
in college here full-time. I've been working in this store as many hours as
I can get to pay the bills. I'm from a little town in Ohio. If I went home
for summer vacation I'd have to give up the apartment I share with a friend
and there aren't any guarantees I could find a summer job if I did go home,
or that we'd be able to find another nice place to live when we got back in
the fall, so it's easier to stay here."

"What's your major?" Tom asked.

"Marketing. Since I started working here I discovered I really like retail,
I like merchandising, you know Sir, like they let me do end caps and store
optional space when I'm working, creative stuff, not just bagging and
cashiering like the rest of the gang. It's interesting and I'm learning."
Kevin burst out laughing, "The store manager likes me I guess, and let me
do my first actual end cap any way I wanted. Cereal was coming up on
sale. Man I used three different kinds, at least twenty cases. I built the
most beautiful tower you ever saw. I had to use a stepladder to finish
it. He never said a word. He just grinned. Then when I was finished, he
told me to make believe I was a customer and take a box, just one from my
display," he giggled and covered his head. "Man what a disaster. That's
what I mean by learning." Charlie laughed with him and admitted he learned
much the same way.

Dooby returned carrying two plastic sacks. He emptied one by handing out
hoagies. The second contained a six-pack of Coke. His eyes roamed Kevin's
body quickly when he offered him a hoagie. He grinned and asked, "What
sport?"

"Huh?"

"I mean you're a jock right? What's your sport?"

Kevin shrugged and grinned, "Family farming since I could walk. I was
driving a tractor since I was three. My dad rigged blocks on the pedals."

Dooby looked amazed, "Man you got a body like that from driving a tractor?"

Kevin dropped his eyes downward over Dooby. He winked and smiled, "DUH!
Nope, I drove until I was big enough to lift and tote, then I was all ass
and elbows as my father says. My older brothers and I shared driving after
that, or rather they shared the tractor mostly since I was the youngest,
but it didn't hurt me any." Kevin looked at his watch. "Excuse me Sir, but
I need to start calling people so they're here when the truck gets here."

Charlie grinned, "Meaning get the hell out of your office so you can get to
work Okay studs let's move out and let the man do his thing." He started to
leave, but turned back, "Oh, we're going over to store fifteen now. It's
mandatory that all store managers stick together. You'll need to call them
and warn them, but please don't make the call until I call you from inside
the store. I want to see how they react to the bad news."

"Yes Sir, will do, but just this once. I'll say I didn't think about it
earlier since I'm brand new, but the next time you visit, you'll just have
to be fast. Like you said we have to stick together. Like Mr. Pierson could
have cut pipe with his asshole when I told him you wanted to see him. He
closed last night didn't he?"

"Yup. Some advise; whenever you end a shift always leave your store in
perfect condition considering traffic, then the next time you start a shift
you'll find it in that same condition. Like you said, store managers hang
together and I'll be around to hang the assholes. I talked to Jack before I
found you," Charlie saw a puzzled look, "He's the guy you work for, the
manager."

"Oh, Mr. Riggs."

"He was getting in his car to come over here, but I warned him off. I told
him I was giving you a field promotion and I thought you could handle it
alone today, and if you did then he could just spend a few days going over
polices and procedures before he turned you loose on your own. Somehow I
know you won't disappoint me. I expect you to take ownership of your
store." He gave Kevin a wink like he'd seen Kevin give Dooby.

Kevin returned Charlie's gesture with a huge smile, "No Sir, I won't!"

The boys walked across the parking lot finishing their sandwiches and
talking among themselves. Charlie caught up to them and walked quietly
behind them. Dooby voiced his opinion, "The wink wasn't suggestive, he was
just telling me he liked what he saw as well as I did, and letting me know
that we were operating on the same channel."

"That's what I thought too," Cory agreed. "He relaxed after Charlie hauled
the asshole away and he was friendly like we were all part of the same
club, but he wasn't coming on to any of us, he just wants to be friends,
you know safety in numbers."

Christian grinned at Dooby, "Yeah he does, when he gave you that DUH for
thinking the tractor gave him that fine body, he was testing you to see how
you'd react. Friends can call friends dense, but DUH is a fighting word
from a stranger."

Tom laughed at Dooby's puzzled frown. "We'll have to invite he and is
roommate over after the pool gets finished. I guess we'll be in and out of
this store a lot since it's the closest one. It will be nice to see someone
we don't have to watch what we say or do around, we can all be
ourselves. That's probably what Kevin's thinking too." Cory and Christian
nodded.

Dooby climbed into the truck first. Cory stepped back to allow Charlie to
get in next, but Charlie laughed and pushed him in to sit next to
Dooby. "We understand each other now don't we?"

"Yes sir, we'll keep our hands to ourselves."

They were pulling into the parking lot at store fifteen. Dooby spoke up for
the first time, "Am I dense? I'm not dense am I really?"

Even Charlie couldn't resist joining the chorus of DUH's. Christian
recovered first, "Everyone could see the wheels turning in your tweedy bird
brain Dooby. Tell us you weren't planning to jump on Tommy's tractor and
run the wheels off it as soon as we got home. You were weren't you?"

Dooby rolled his eyes, "Well, it sort of did cross my mind, but just for a
second," he added quickly.

Charlie reached over and thumped Dooby's knee, "Don't worry about it son,
dense doesn't always mean stupid. In your case maybe gullible is a better
choice of words, but you're smart and young yet, you'll grow out of it, the
truly stupid or dense never do."

Dooby and Cory told Charlie about Uncle Richard's fatal use of the word
little and then adding insult to injury by attaching woman to it. Charlie
nodded, "I'd really like to meet your mother, she's tough and independent,
I like that, she's a rarity."

Dooby looked around Cory and grinned, "She's pretty too Gramps, you should
start dating her. I'll bet you two would get along great."

Charlie, again wearing his disguise, called Kevin from near the check out
lanes so he could see the managers' reaction when Kevin called him. After
the man hung up the wall phone, he stuffed his hands in his pants pockets
and began touring his store. They watched him walk along slowly and stop
frequently to greet shoppers. Charlie was still grinning from when he first
walked in and looked around. He whispered to the boys that they were
looking at an under inventoried store that was perfectly merchandized. He
blocked the manager's progress in the produce department. "Good mornin'
Bert! Nice operation you got here."

Bert grinned down on his employer and shook hands. "Sonofabitch Charlie, I
should have known. You used that new guy to try and set me up didn't you?"

Charlie laughed and nodded, "Yup, but that kid already advised me that this
was a one time deal. From now on, I'm on my own, so you can expect an early
warnin' as usual. You like my new disguise?"

"Yeah you're cool. What the hell are you doin', goin' for a second
childhood? If you are, you best stop in the toiletries isle and buy some
dye for your hair. You stick out like a sore thumb standin' among these
kids. Shit I saw you walk in and recognized you too right away. I can't
make my store look any better without goods Charlie, what gives? You better
roll some heads in that fucked up warehouse or let me at 'em."

Charlie already had his cellphone in his hand. He paused to look up in
Bert's eyes. "You know Bert, you've been with me too long as a manager
maybe you should move along," he grinned suddenly, "straight into that
warehouse as say Vice President of Operations, there's a vacancy there, or
will be as soon as I lay hands on the hotshot that's got the job right
now." He shook his head sadly, "You know I advertised that job in the Wall
Street Journal, and just look at what it got me. I think I was gettin' too
big for my britches. From now on we'll promote from within." He handed his
phone to a dumbfounded Bert, "Here you call 'em, kick some ass. Just don't
be too hard on whoever answers the phone, this ain't their fault most
likely."

"You mean this?" Bert asked as he took the phone. When Charlie grinned and
nodded emphatically, he turned and walked away. "I best do this in the back
room."

Their break for lunch began an hour later when they walked out of
Spelling's. There was an Italian restaurant next door whose exhaust fans
expelled irresistible odors. Dooby's sniffer guided him to the door where
he stood looking hopefully at the others. Tom asked Charlie if they could
make a quick stop at the printing plant while they were eating. He wanted
to pick up some software for Christian to load in his computer. He really
did, but he also wanted to write Christian a check for his first month's
salary on a company check. He planned to begin an ambitious campaign to
convince Christian's father that his son's future lay in commercial art and
advertising as a full partner in Dunn and Patterson, not in becoming an
attorney. The check and over fifteen thousands dollars in computer hardware
delivered that evening to his home was the opening gambit.

Christian rode silently in the back seat during the ride to Charlie's
office and warehouse complex. He sat between Dooby and Cory, their
choice. All three boys stared at the never folded check Christian held
reverently in both hands. Charlie kept twisting himself to look back at
them and Tom watched in the rearview mirror when he could. Both Charlie and
Tom wore pleased smiles.

                                                                                                                                                        

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