Line Between Friend and Finisher of the Tater Tot Casserole

img_0948Knowing the distance between the two destinations shortened the trip between the bus and Dan’s house. Going from the bus to the house the walk seemed like it took forever. In a matter of moments of walking, they saw the sunlight shimmer against its windows. Dan’s lack of concern with being stuck in alkali also cut a considerable amount of distance from their journey.

“We have a car to get us from place to place, but it doesn’t have enough seats for all of us.” Dan explained. “And, I figured the walk would give us some time to get to know each other.” Aware of the suspicious looks the boys poorly hid he said, “When a problem is bigger than you, you have two choices. You either face the reality and grow through it. Or, resist what is clearly in front of you—go the long way around the problem, and risk ending up exactly where you started. I’m here to help you get through the problem to a resolution.”

“How do we know you didn’t do something to make this happen?” Damien asked. “Out of all our families, how did we get to you and not one of our own families?”

Dan, taking the question at face value, said, “Most likely because they don’t live here yet. When did your families homestead this region?” In order to address Mark who Demetrius suspected to be one of his relatives, Dan emphasized the word families.

Except for Brian, the lack of an answer rendered them silent. “I know my grandparents were friends with Caitlin’s grandparents.”

“So your family is on the way.” Dan stopped walking and searched through the grass until he found a vivid green blade the length of this thumb. He plucked it, placed it between his two thumbs and when it was in the position he wanted, Dan held his hands in front of his lips and blew through the grass. The prairie grass around them jostled as though responding to a call from a friend.

With their smiles of wonder, the suspicious air around them dissipated. Pointing towards blades of grass that would achieve similar results, Dan guided the boys on how to weave the grass around their thumbs. He encouraged Demetrius who was first to figure out how to hold it correctly. “Go ahead and try it.”

When Demetrius blew through his whistle, a softer, lower tone struck something in Brian. Watching the grass move in response, Brian felt a little guilty. He spent so much time wishing to get away from the farm he almost missed the magic. Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw two people on the horizon extending behind the bus, but when he turned to get a better look, nobody was there.

Walking side by side to the bus, the boys alternated turns blowing through their newfound instruments. One time Brian thought he heard a soft giggle behind him. Knowing in his head nothing was behind him he continued walking and said nothing.

Damien pulled him aside when they reached the bus. “A little while ago, did you see two people too?”

Brian looked around to make sure the others were out of hearing distance. “Do you think it’s Mrs. Almstead and Alex?”

“I don’t know. I couldn’t get a good enough look. But, I doubt it. When she got off the bus, she was wearing her long red coat. It didn’t look like either of them was wearing red.”

“Something about this is bugging me.

“Is it Dan?”

“No, he tells it like it is. If he wanted to trick us, he’d tell us what we wanted to hear and fix the lie as he went.”

Eugene’s loud laughter interrupted their conversation. Rounding the corner of the bus to find out what was so funny, a red face Nicholas called out to him, “You’ll pay me back.”

Amused by the scene, Damien asked, “What is so funny?”

Through a sly grin, Demetrius began the explanation. “Nicholas gave his breakfast to Eugene and Andrea this morning. What Dan said, like 30 minutes ago just hit him.”

Eugene having finished one lap around the bus passed in front of them.
Peter joined the conversation. “And they were talking about breakfast. Dan thought a tater tot was a baby potato. Gamer boy put two and two together and he realized he may not get sausage tater tot casserole for a long time.”
They stepped back to make room for Nicholas to pass by.

“And that’s when the line between friend and finisher of the delicious breakfast was drawn.”

Seeing Eugene heading in their direction to begin his third lap around the bus, Damien laughed. “Maybe staying here for awhile won’t be so bad after all.”

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