During the narration, the girls looked at their mother from time to time as if she was a ticking time bomb about to go off, but gradually, as Heath seemed calm enough and even pointed out things he wanted his father to be sure to explain, they began to relax. Afterward they asked even more questions than Heath had, but they handled it well, saying he was still their brother all the way as far as they were concerned.
After supper the girls cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher while Heath took out the trash. Things began to go back to normal.
Little Willow went to Meadow and kissed and hugged her,
"I still love you, Momma."
Leave it to Willow to put it out there. Whenever she thought the ice needed breaking, she just stepped on it. Now they could all take a breath and relax.
A few days later Brian had Rocky outdoors in the sunshine letting him splash in the new wading pool. In the late afternoon the kids were up in the playroom, but after supper it was time for Heath's birthday.
Heath was suddenly so much taller! His parents congratulated him and each gave him a squeeze; he was definitely growing up. Then his sisters showed their affection with hugs and Willow asked somewhat worriedly,
"Will you still hang out with us sometimes, Heath?"
He hugged her, chuckling,
"Of course, you little stinker. Don't you know big brothers take care of their little sisters?"
And, of course, he looked more like Lonnie Hammond than ever. Meadow told him he could grow his hair out a bit if he wanted to now that he was a teenager. Brian gave her a look and she shrugged; he really didn't want Heath to aspire to be like him particularly, certainly not to be some sort of miniature of him, but Meadow did. She also wanted Heath to change his hair so he'd look less like Lonnie. How could Heath help wanting to be like the father he'd looked up to for so long? He still aspired to be a musician, but Brian was trying to convince him that he should go to college and be prepared for a career with which to support himself.
"It's hard to make a good living playing in a rock band, believe me, son," he said, "I've only been making really decent money since I became manager of the club--not playing in the band. That's why I was finally able to buy the club from Uncle Dylan. And as for "making it to the big time" that is even harder and the odds are not good."
Heath listened, but he still had his dreams and he continued to practice his music with Brian.
The next day something astonishing happened. Meadow went out to the store and got back later than she'd said she would. With her she brought a dog. Now, the kids had been campaigning for some time to get a pet, but Meadow's answer had always been,
"Please. I have no desire to clean up after an animal as well as you children."
"We'll do it! We'll do everything!" had always been the cry, but on this subject Meadow had been adamant.
Now she strolled in with, not a puppy or kitten, but a fully grown boxer. Brian took a long look at the dog and scratched his head,
"Sweetheart, he's awfully big."
"But they were going to put him down. I just couldn't let them."
"What in the world were you doing at the pound?"
"Oh, I ran into Marsha Brecht at the pharmacy and you know how she's a real animal lover, Brian. Anyway, she told me about the dog and how upset she was that she couldn't take him, but Royal had put his foot down; they already have two dogs, three cats, a hamster and a parrot. So I went by just to see him. Anyway, he's here now. He already has a name that I think is kind of dumb; 'Peanut', so I thought I'd let the kids rename him."
Brian didn't figure it would do much good to point out that while Marsha had all those animals she and Royal had only one little baby. The Ottomas house, meanwhile, had six children in a house they had long outgrown. Brian loved animals so he had no problem with the dog, but to say Meadow had surprised him was an understatement. Heath, Brook and Willow were ecstatic. They decided his new name should have the same amount of syllables so it might be easier on the dog to recognize it. They chose "Elvis". When she heard this Meadow look accusingly at Brian who threw up his hands in surrender and laughed,
"Hey, I had nothing to do with it!"
At first the kids could hardly get to Elvis for Meadow. She insisted first thing on bathing him."To get that 'kennel' smell off him." During the bath she talked to the dog in the same way she talked to Rocky; using endearments and exaggerated praise. This made Willow giggle but Brook shushed her in a whisper,
"Don't make fun; we've waited too long to get a dog!"
But soon it was obvious that if Elvis was to learn to follow commands and have a modicum of manners with strangers they would have to take him to obedience class. Meadow admittedly did not have the patience for the long haul and Heath always had some excuse; this was because he hated being the "bad guy" and enforcing the rules of training and discipline. Brian had the patience and the strength of will; he simply did not have the time between overseeing the final touches on the new house, managing the club and helping Meadow with the packing for their move. Plus, he often helped with the babies and Rocky when he was home.
They learned of a service that would send someone out to train dogs and so they hired her for a day to see how it worked out. She was patient and loving with Elvis, but she knew her stuff, and, best of all she was fast. In only three lessons Elvis learned the commands for come, stay, go play, go inside and go eat. She did tell them if they wanted to have Elvis excel at these commands they needed to take time to learn the lessons the same as the dog and work with him. If they didn't follow the rules she'd laid down for his training it would soon be all for naught. But for now she said she could come again if they needed her.
Not being the "bad guy" seemed to work for Heath because Elvis slept on the floor by his bed every night until they finally gave up and moved the plush dog bed from the living room up to Heath's room.
Now they were down to only a couple more days until they could move to the new house. Meadow had spent a day with Heath getting him appropriate clothes now that he was a teen, but he was not interested in socks, underwear and pajamas; she could get those alone. So she met her sister-in-law, Elaine, at Goth's and after shopping they went out to lunch.
It wouldn't be much longer until Rocky's birthday, although they wouldn't actually celebrate it until after the move. His language abilities had become quite good. When Meadow read to him he always wanted the same book so he could say the words out loud with her from memory. He thought that meant he was "reading".
Heath's old friend, Kirstie Burb, showed up to let him know she'd had her birthday, too, and to say goodbye to him before he moved. Although they would still see each other in school, he'd be living on the outskirts of Pleasantview and she still didn't drive. They went up to the music room and jammed; Kirstie was learning guitar and Heath had become quite proficient on different instruments by now thanks to his father; the piano and keyboard, the guitar and the drums. He'd been studying piano the longest though.
To their parents surprise--considering the built-in pool in their yard--Rocky's new kiddie pool became a favorite of the girls as well. They said they could swim in the big pool, but they could splash and be silly in the little one.
Meadow still doted on Elvis and often was the one who walked him--except when it was late at night because Brian insisted on doing it then. Elvis loved the walks and loved the belly-scratching he got afterward just as much.
Any worries of how Rocky would get along with Elvis were immediately put to rest. Elvis was very protective of him and quite affectionate. Whenever he sloppily "kissed" the toddler, Rocky would chuckle with delight and then hug the dog. Elvis put up with Rocky climbing on him and trying to ride him, as well as frequently using the napping dog to run his matchbox cars over as though he were rugged terrain. Nothing seemed to faze him; Elvis would just lick Rocky all over. It was very cute to see as far as the family was concerned, but they did teach him he had to be gentle with Elvis and not hurt him.
The family was in limbo; waiting to move they packed up as much of their stuff as possible and every day the builder had told them, "soon, soon." If only he would say an exact date. It was as though the family was collectively holding it's breath...
Next blog update: Brian Ottomas Ch. 18 "Old Flames Can't Hold a Candle to You"