We made the trip from the cabin to my house on Wednesday and I was surprised to find my parents home when we arrived.
“Damn, if we knew you boys were returning home this soon we would have taken the next two weeks as vacation time. We just took today off as a personal day, because we both had dental appointments this afternoon. Unfortunately, we have to work next week, but we took off the following two weeks as vacation time, because we hoped you’d be back by then.”
“Don’t worry about it, because we have plenty of things we can do next week as we prepare to head back to campus. We’ll still have plenty of time to spend together while we’re here, including part of your first week of vacation.”
“Can’t you stay for both weeks that we’re on vacation? We would have taken them sooner, but we didn’t think you’d be returning to campus until the last week of August.”
“No, we’ll have to leave before then, because classes start on the 20th.”
“I wish you’d told us that before you left, because that’s more than a week sooner than we expected.”
“I thought I did tell you. It’s approximately the same time we left for college last year.”
“We thought you went back that early last year because you were freshmen and had some special sessions to attend, so now we feel badly that we won’t be here with you next week. We’ll make sure we do plenty of other things with you boys before you leave then.”
“Ok, that sounds good,” I replied, and then the questions started.
“Did something go wrong on your trip? Is that why you’re back so soon?”
“No, Mom, nothing went wrong. We just completed the entire circuit around the various lakes that the outfitter had mapped out for us and ended up returning back to our starting point much sooner than the outfitter had anticipated.”
“How did you finish up earlier than expected?” my dad followed. “Did you cut out a part of the trip?”
“No! One thing that made the trip quicker was that the outfitter had planned for some bad weather days where we would remain at our present campsite until the situation improved. As it turned out, we didn’t need most of that time because the weather was really nice.” I’d used my phone on the ride here to make certain there were no severe storms in that area during the months of June and July
“That was fortunate,” my dad stated.
“Yes it was, because if it rained it usually happened at night and we only encountered one really bad weather day when there was a bad thunderstorm and we decided to stay put for safety. That wasn’t the only thing that made the trip faster, though. It was also because Devin, I, and the other guys all had previous canoeing experience, so we were better at it than the outfitter had been led to believe.”
“I see, so did you have a good time?” my mom asked.
“Yes, we did, but some of the longer portages really wore us out, especially the ones at the beginning of the trip,” Devin answered.
“What’s a portage?”
“That’s when you have to walk over a trail between two different lakes while you’re carrying all of your gear with you. That not only includes your backpack with your clothes, food, tent, and sleeping bag, but you also have to carry the canoe and the paddles as well.”
“So why was it so difficult when you were first starting out?” my dad asked. “You should have been much fresher at the beginning of the trip and better able to handle it.”
“We were, but we weren’t exactly used to that kind of exertion. We built up more stamina as we went along and the backpacks were heavier at the beginning of the trip, because we had more food and snacks in them at the time. However, the backpacks got lighter with every meal we ate, but it wasn’t the only reason the earlier portages seemed more difficult. It turned out that the portages at the start of the trip tended to be longer than those we encountered as we went along, although that wasn’t always the case. The difference was that when we ran into a longer portage later, our backpacks were lighter and we were in better condition by that point, as well as being used to what we had to do, so the portage seemed easier.”
Most of those answers came from some of the previous outings that either Devin or I had been on, as well as looking at maps online that were for similar trips. Therefore, our responses seemed logical and apparently made sense.
“Ah, I see,” my dad replied.
“Did anything exciting happen?” my mom wanted to know.
“Not exactly exciting, but we did have one good scare. One night when we were about to set up our campsite at dusk, we heard what sounded like a gunshot and thought someone must be hunting in the area. In fact, we were afraid he might even be shooting at us, but it turned out to be nothing like that. It was just a beaver smacking its tail on the water as a warning signal to other beavers.”
“What was the beaver warning about?” my mom continued.
“That some crazy humans were in the area and it was warning its young to go back to the lodge and stay there until after we left. It may have thought we were hunters or trappers out to kill them.”
“Ah, that makes sense.”
You may remember that this little tidbit came from our trip to New Mexico and something the shaman had taught us when we were transitioning into beavers. Since all of this information came from one of our previous canoeing trips, things we’d learned from the shaman, or research I’d done on my phone, they weren’t total lies. It just wasn’t something we’d experienced on a hiking and canoeing trip we supposedly just returned from.
“The scenery was also beautiful,” Devin added, “and the lakes were crystal clear. In fact, they were so clear that we were tempted to dip our canteens in the lakes and fill them up, but we thought better and decided against doing it. We waited until we could boil the water first, and then we filled our canteens.”
I’d picked up that information from watching videos of canoeing trips in that part of the country before Devin picked me up to go to the cabin and told him about it.
“It’s probably a good thing too,” my dad responded. “So, how long will you be here with us, before you have to return to college?”
“We’ll be here for 15 days and won’t leave for Fort Collins until August 17th.”
“That’s great, even though your mom and I will have to work during most of that time, but we can still do things with you on the weekend. In fact, one of the guys I work with suggested we could come to his house for a cookout next weekend. He has two sons that are a few years younger than you boys, and I believe one will be a junior (3rd year) in high school this fall, while the other will be a senior (4th year). They also have a pool.”
“Yeah, that sounds good.” The pool will be a definite plus, but it will be even better if the sons are cute.
“Ok, I’ll let my co-worker know that we’re interested in coming to his place for a cookout next weekend. I’ll also tell him you boys are back from your trip and you’ll be coming with us, because when he first asked I told him you two were away on a trip. He’s heard me talk about both of you numerous times and he was hoping you could come there and meet his sons.”
“Well now we can join them and I can’t wait to meet the entire family, as well as enjoying their pool.”
“I’m sure he’ll be pleased.”
“And your mom wants to take you shopping on Saturday so you can get new clothes for school, and Devin we want to buy a few things for you as well. You’ll have a couple of days to rest up first, so you won’t be too tired.”
“We’ll be fine and that sounds like a good idea.”
“And my parents already took me shopping and bought the things I need.”
“I’m sure there must be something else you want, so just look around while we’re shopping and let us know.”
“Would you be willing to buy us something for the house instead?”
“Sure, what do you need?”
“I was thinking we could use a Wi-Fi booster so we’ll be able to connect to the internet from anywhere in the house. The only problem is that it will cost around $80.00.”
“That’s not a problem if it will help you boys with your studies, and you’ll be able to use it for all three years you’re staying at the house.”
“Yeah, we will. And thanks, because this will be a really big help.”
While we were eating supper my dad came up with another idea. “I was thinking we could take you to see a movie later. What do you think of that idea?”
“It sounds good, depending on what we’re going to see.”
“We’ll let you two choose which movie we go to see.”
“Ok, that sounds good to us.”
Devin and I got on my laptop to see what was playing at the local cinema complex, and then we chose which movie we wanted to go to. We would normally select an action flick, but this time we chose a comedy instead, and it was not only hilarious, but it was a very touching story as well. The movie was Champions, starring Woody Harrelson, and it was about a minor league basketball coach who wanted to coach in the NBA. However, after he gets into trouble with the police, he’s ordered by the court to coach a team of intellectually disabled players. He’s initially reluctant to do it, but the team ends up accomplishing far more than anyone expected.
“That was fun,” my mom said as the film ended. “It’s not the usual type of movie you boys want to see, but I really enjoyed it.”
“I did too,” my dad added.
“And Devin and I enjoyed it as well. Thank you for suggesting that we do this.”
When we returned to the house, my parents went to bed because they had to go to work the next two days. When Devin and I went up to my bedroom, we talked about what we were going to do while they were at work, and then we took turns making love to one another before we went to sleep.
Devin and I were home alone during the day, so we went jogging before we had breakfast, and then he worked with me some more on transitioning into birds. Since our property is fairly private, we were able to do this without fear of drawing attention to ourselves. We started off with the Gray Jay again, but this time I was able to fly farther and higher than I had before.
I got a little nervous the higher I flew, because I was afraid something might go terribly wrong. I worried that for some unexplainable reason I might suddenly lose my ability to fly and plummet to the earth, and in the process I’d break a bunch of bones. The scariest part about it was that I didn’t know how I’d ever explain it to my parents, because I certainly didn’t want them to find out what I’d been up to or how it had happened.
Another problem was that I was afraid I’d be attacked by a predator that could also fly, and I realized it wouldn’t turn out well for me if that were to happen. The Gray Jay was the only bird I’ve been able to transition into so far, and it meant I couldn’t very well transition into something larger and more threatening in mid-flight so I could scare off the attacker. Thinking about this concerned me greatly, but fortunately Devin was flying with me and nothing of that nature happened, so I was building more confidence every day.
When we took a break Thursday afternoon, Devin said he believed I was doing well enough as a Gray Jay that I could start learning what it would be like to move on to a larger bird and suggested a crow. He said he would pull up a few videos of crows online after supper so I could watch them, and then he would allow me to do some additional research to find out even more. He said he would then work with me tomorrow on transitioning into a crow for the first time.
I was so excited about the thought of doing this that I decided we should make dinner for my family this evening. We made a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up a few items before we got started. We opened a couple of cans of Dinty Moore stew and added a large can of beef broth to it so we could make Bisquick dumplings to go with it. We also prepared some candied carrots and a large bowl of salad for all of us to share, and we also picked up some ice cream for dessert.
“Thank you for making supper,” my mom said after smelling the aroma of the food. “It’s nice to come home and not have to start working again, but this time to prepare a meal.”
We then sat down to eat and my mom and dad seemed to enjoy what we’d prepared. My dad was especially pleased about the dessert.
“Thank you for buying the ice cream,” he said after he finished eating. “Your mother isn’t big on having dessert with our meals.”
“That’s because I don’t want you getting any fatter!” she teased.
All-in-all, it went very well.
On Friday, Devin and I got up early, jogged, and ate breakfast, and then we hurried outside so I could get started on transitioning into a crow for the very first time. The crow is a much larger bird than the Gray Jay and it requires more strength to get off the ground and stay in the air as well, but it also gave me an opportunity to practice flying higher in a larger body. As a crow, I would also be able to perch in a tree, on utility lines, or on the roof of a building and observe what was going on below without being obvious about what I was doing. That’s because I doubted anyone would ever suspect a crow of spying on them.
I could have done those things as a Gray Jay as well, but I didn’t want to because I was too worried about being attacked by a predator. Even a house cat could have sneaked up behind me and attacked when I was up in a tree, so I decided not to do those types of things until I was a larger bird.
Being a crow was a lot more difficult since it required a great deal more strength, but I was having such a great time doing it that I somehow lost track of the time. Luckily, I happened to spot our SUV coming up the road, so I hurriedly landed, transitioned into myself, and raced into the house naked. I quickly grabbed my clothes that I’d left near the back door and then raced upstairs to my room, with Devin close behind. He was still dressed because he wasn’t flying with me today, since he wanted to concentrate on how I was doing.
“What’s the hell is your rush?” he asked after I closed my bedroom door.
“My parents are home already. Weren’t you watching the time?”
“No, I was watching you.”
“Then we’ve got to be more careful in the future, because I nearly got caught. What would I have told my parents about why I was running around outside with no clothes on?”
“Yeah, that wouldn’t have been good.”
I think both of my parents were disappointed that Devin and I hadn’t prepared supper this time, so my mom had to fix something after she got home from work. I think what my dad missed the most was that there was no dessert. However, while we were eating he made an announcement.
“I talked to Liam Fitzpatrick today and he agreed we could have the cookout at their house a week from tomorrow.”
Devin and I were thrilled, since it meant we’d get to meet his sons and swim in their pool.
After we finished eating, Devin and I cleared the table and did the dishes so my mom could rest, and after we finished we went in to watch TV with my parents. Since my mom wanted to get an early start when we went shopping tomorrow, they went to bed early. We said goodnight to them and they went up to their room, and Devin and I went to my room a short time later.
We took turns making love first, before we performed our nightly ritual and got into bed to go to sleep, and then we both slept soundly until my mom called us down for breakfast in the morning.
“Damn, I didn’t know you meant you wanted to get this early a start on shopping.”
“I’m hoping we can get to some of the stores before the crowds start to arrive,” my mom replied.
“I doubt they’ll have any teenagers with them for another couple of hours at the earliest.”
“That will be fine. The smaller the crowd, the sooner we’ll get done.”
After we filled our bellies, we got dressed and hopped in our SUV to head to the first location.
“Which stores are you taking us to?”
“We’ll be going to several different places, and during that time you’ll be able to select the clothes you want us to buy for you. Devin, this means that if you see anything you’d like us to purchase for you, just let us know. After that, we’ll go to another store so you can choose a sheet and pillowcase set and two new pillows to use at the house where you’ll be staying this year.”
“Ok, it will be great to have new sheets and pillows to put on the bed we’ll be sleeping in.”
“We can do that, but just remember to wash them first.”
Why do we have to wash them if they’re new?” Devin asked.
“Because they’re produced in large mills where it gets quite dusty, and besides picking up some of that dust, the colors will bleed at first and some of the dye can irritate your skin.”
“Ok, that makes sense.”
“And after we have those items, we’ll drive over to Best Buy so you can select that thing you want for the Internet.”
“And if you don’t see what you want at Best Buy, we can always order it online and have it sent to the house in Fort Collins so it will be there when you arrive,” my dad added.
“Ok, that sounds good.”
My parents even let me choose the stores where I wanted to shop for clothes, and my mom had me try on the pants first, to make sure they fit. Before I went into the changing room, though, Devin whispered something to me.
“Remember, they don’t have to fit exactly, because you’ll want to leave a little room in case you have to transition later. You can adjust enough to make them look like they fit when your mom wants to see you in them. ”
One thing I wasn’t going to do was buy them a size or two larger like Devin always did, but maybe that had to do with his smaller size.
After stopping at several different locations, I thought I had everything I needed and told my parents so. They wanted to buy Devin a few things as well, but he merely let them buy him a baseball cap. Now that I had my new clothes, we went to Bed Bath & Beyond to pick out two sheet and pillowcase sets, along with the pillows we wanted. We also opted to go with a flannel sheet set, because of how cold it gets during the winter.”
“Do you know what color sheet set you’re going to get?” my mom asked.
“We’re not buying it for the color – it’s for the warmth,” I replied.
“And any color will do,” Devin added. “You saw the room we’ll be using when you stayed there on Family Weekend last year, and since everything in the room is basically white, except for the furniture, the color doesn’t really make a difference.”
“It certainly will, since the bedspread wasn’t white.”
“Oh, yeah, that’s midnight blue, so maybe a baby blue set would be best.”
“See, I knew you’d be able to figure it out eventually.”
Once we’d made those purchases, we went to have lunch, and then my dad drove over to Best Buy. I let Devin work with my dad to see if he could find the Wi-Fi booster he thought would work best and they looked at several different brands. They even asked one of the store employees some questions about each one, and then Devin finally made his choice. As soon as my dad paid for it, we headed out to the SUV and my dad asked us one final question.
“Can you think of anywhere else you’d like to go or anything more you might need?”
“No, I think you’ve taken care of everything and I want to thank both of you for all of the stuff you bought us.”
“I just wish Devin would have let us buy him some clothes or some personal items,” my mom added.
“I appreciate your offer, but my parents bought me more than enough already. Besides, you bought me the Denver Bronco hat.”
“Yes, but that wasn’t very expensive and I wish you’d let us buy you something else.”
“I did. You bought us the sheet set, pillows, and the Wi-Fi booster too, and I really don’t need anything else.”
“Ok, if you say so, but just let us know if you think of anything.”
Now that we’d finished shopping, we returned home and Devin and I carried it all up to my room. As soon as we’d set everything down, Devin looked at me and spoke.
“I don’t know why your mom is so insistent about buying clothes for me.”
“That’s easy. We’re a couple now and she feels you’re part of the family, so she doesn’t want it to look as if she’s leaving you out or short changing you. It might also be that everything you wear looks big on you.”
“Yeah, I understand that and I appreciate her thoughtfulness, but you know why I can’t let her buy me clothes. I’d hoped that letting her buy me the hat would suffice, but she won’t let it drop. I hope she doesn’t try to buy me clothes for Christmas.”
“Don’t worry. She’ll ask me what you want or need and then I’ll direct her to get you something other than clothes.”
“Good, that will help out a lot.”
The rest of the afternoon we spent time chatting with my parents between washing the new clothes and sheets. In fact, later my dad told us to get ready because he was taking us to a restaurant for supper, and then he made another comment.
“I doubt you boys got to eat any steaks while you were on your trip, so how would you feel about going to the steakhouse tonight?”
“That sounds great, and you’re right. The meals we had while we were away were filling, but they weren’t anything special.”
That was true, because I ate with the shaman most of the time, and even though I didn’t mind the things he prepared for us, it still wasn’t anything special and we had the same things day after day. Even when Gramps and Pops brought out food for us to eat, it was just stuff that we might have had at home, sometimes on a fairly regular basis, so it wasn’t anything special either.
We had a great time at the steakhouse and my dad told us to order whatever we wanted. He said we didn’t have to worry about the price, because this was a special occasion, so we took him at his word and the meal was delicious.
The rest of the evening was fantastic as well, and after my parents went to bed, Devin and I made a decision. We agreed to fix dinner a few more times while we were here, but they’d be simple meals, similar to those that I’d prepared previously. We’d also do the clean up and wash the dishes afterward, which I knew would please my mom immensely.
On Sunday, my parents asked what we wanted to do, so we talked them into taking us to the go-kart track again. Before he agreed, however, my dad made us promise that we wouldn’t bicker over who won this time and we agreed.
We still raced, however, but this time I had a better kart than he did, so I beat him easily. After the race ended, Devin wanted to trade karts with me, so I did, and this time he beat me just as handily. At least we didn’t argue over who won.
When we finished up there, Dad took us out to lunch, and then he asked if we wanted to go see a movie. I used my phone to see what was playing, and then we went to the cinema complex to watch Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, Part One, starring Tom Cruise. It was another typical action flick with plenty of shooting, explosions, and car chases, and this one also had some interesting scenes on a motorcycle and a train.
“This is more what I would expect from you two,” my mom said when it ended.
“But did you enjoy it?”
“Yes, I thought it was quite exciting.”
“I liked it too,” my dad agreed.
After that we went home and had a quiet evening together, and then my parents turned in early because they had to work the next day.
When Devin and I woke up, he had me practice flying as a crow again and I was doing much better. After we had lunch, we ran to the grocery store to pick up a few items for dinner so I could prepare spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, and a large salad for everyone to share. Of course, I also picked up some ice cream to make my dad happy.
“Thank you, the meal was wonderful,” my mom said after we finished eating.
“And I enjoyed the ice cream as well,” my dad quickly added.
On Tuesday, everything I’d done that week seemed to come together for me. In fact, I was doing so much better flying around as a crow that Devin said he was going to have me work on transitioning into a Peregrine Falcon next. After we fixed lunch, he had me watch a bunch of videos about the Peregrine Falcon, and then I did some additional research online. I was impressed by what I discovered, because I learned the Peregrine Falcon is able to reach speeds of more than 200 mph (322 kph) when it is diving toward its prey. That meant it’s indisputably the fastest animal in the sky.
When I finished my research, I had Devin drive me to the grocery store so I could pick up something to fix for supper. I ended up preparing ham slices topped with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries, au gratin potatoes (although I used a box mix for this), and a large salad we all could share. I picked up something for dessert as well, but not ice cream. This time I purchased a cherry cheesecake.
My parents were thrilled with the meal, and my dad thought the cherry cheesecake was a nice way to top it off. I was glad that I’d made both of them happy.
As soon as my parents left for work on Wednesday, Devin started me on transitioning into the Peregrine Falcon, which afforded me a huge advantage. That’s due to the fact that if another predator attacked me when I was a smaller bird, I now had the option of transitioning into the falcon and chasing it away.
Once I’d transitioned into a Peregrine Falcon several times, I attempted to fly around as one as well. This was a new challenge because Devin urged me to fly higher than I’d ever done as one of the other birds. After I got over my trepidation about flying so high above the ground, I found the experience to be exhilarating. I felt totally free soaring around as a predator, because I knew I didn’t have to worry about being attacked by a large number of other predators. However, it didn’t mean there weren’t other predators that might attack me. I still had to worry about eagles, Great Horned Owls, and other Peregrine Falcons, as well as the Gyrfalcons, or arctic falcons, but I doubt I’ll ever see any of those in Colorado.
I did the same thing on Thursday without having any problems, so my confidence was growing. After lunch I found a quick and simple recipe for Chicken Marsala so we made a trip to the grocery store to pick up everything we needed. In addition to the Chicken Marsala, I fixed baked potatoes, and broccoli that I fried in olive oil and sprinkled with parmesan cheese, and for dessert we had cannolis that we’d picked up at the local bakery Once again, my parents were thrilled with the meal.
“You’re turning out to be quite a chef,” my mom stated.
“Nah, I just found an easy recipe in one of your cookbooks and it wasn’t hard to make”
“The cannoli for dessert was a nice touch too, but don’t fix anything for tomorrow night, because I’m taking us all out to eat instead.”
“Ok, that sounds good to me.”
“And me too,” my mom concurred, “because once again I won’t have to cook.”
On Friday, Devin asked me to practice transitioning from the Gray Jay into the Peregrine Falcon while in mid-flight. This was far more difficult than you might imagine, due to the difference in their sizes, as well as the speeds at which they flew. However, I knew it was important to learn, since I had previously wondered about being able to do something like this if I was attacked by another predator, so I gave it a try. After multiple attempts, and a couple of near disasters, I was able to accomplish this task as well, and it gave me a sense of relief knowing that I now had a defense if I were to be attacked while as a Gray Jay.
When we finished, Devin made a comment. “That’s all we’ll have a chance to do while we’re here, but when we get to Fort Collins I’ll work with you on transitioning into a Great Horned Owl. We can do that at night, so it shouldn’t draw a lot of attention from the neighbors, and it might come in handy if we ever have to look for something after dark. As soon as I agreed that would be fine, Devin said I could always watch a few videos about the Great Horned Owl and do my research before then, and I said I would.
We showered and got dressed before my parents arrived home from work, and then my dad took us to a Chinese restaurant to eat. After we finished our meals, we stopped at the grocery store on the way back to the house so we could pick up the things my dad had told his co-worker that he’d bring with him for the cookout. Once we had everything that was needed, we loaded it all into the SUV, and when we reached the house Devin and I put the drinks in the cooler while my dad put the meat in the refrigerator.
After that, we watched TV together for a while, and then we all went to bed while looking forward to the next day.