Jim was cleaning the food truck after serving dinner. Andre was taking left over food to the kitchen where the boys would finish it off for their dinner. As Jim was cleaning, he was thinking, “I can’t believe I’ll be 50 tomorrow.” He looked around the food truck and it looked like he had just brought it home. He was proud that for 32 years he was doing what he loved best, preparing food for satisfied customers.
“Jim, you coming to dinner? If you are, you better hurry as the boys don’t plan on leaving anything for you.”
Jim knew that wasn’t true, his boys always made sure he was looked after. Jim drove the truck into the garage and headed for the kitchen. When he walked in, theboys shouted ‘surprise’. Jim was truly surprised looking around at the people gathered there. His mom and dad, who flew in from Florida, Paul, Donnie, Denny, Jake, Ron, Johnny, Thomas, Tyler, JimJim, Mark, Jude, Andy and of course Andre with his family.
As he sat there and looked around, he felt old. So much history had passed. His mom and dad had sold their home and moved to Florida after his dad resigned. Although he still saw him once a month when he came up for Board meetings.
Looking at Donnie, his first employee, now a successful accountant, still doing my books and still has his office at the Park. Denny, my the second employee and is now married to Donnie, who would have thought two gay men could legally married. They bought Mom and Dad’s place with the understanding when Mom and Dad come north, they could stay with them. Actually Mom and Dad more or less adopted them, at least they treated them as sons, Donnie and Denny call them mom and dad.
Denny is doing well in graphic design and now has his own studio. He still does some work for his old firm but he now has his own clients. I can see his work on TV and on some signs around town. He’s going to update the sign on my food truck, the colors are beginning to fade from exposure to the sun.
As I looked at them, they were happy and I was glad they came to work for me. They still come with us to the fairs. I don’t think they’ll ever go far from me, in a way they are my brothers.
Paul, who still tells everyone that meeting me was the best thing that ever happened. I tell him it’s not true but it’s nice to know when you help someone they are grateful. Paul now has his Phd and is married to another young lady who also has her Phd. Paul’s mother and aunt are now in a nursing home and Paul lives in his Aunt’s home.
Andre, my partner.We have a lot in common starting with his dad who was my teacher as well as his. Andre is married and has two children, his oldest is 14 and works part-time with us. He’d like to work full time during the summer but he's a little young for that. He does accompany us to the fairs, there was no way he would stay home after the first one. When he works with us, he drives the jitney, he still has school, I told him that comes first. His sister is a cutie and I think Andre will have his hands full when she’s a teenager. I know she’d like to work with us but I have been adamant about woman working the food truck, Although she may become the exception, we shall see. This year she’ll be going with us to the fairs.
Jake, I remember he wasn’t going to leave until Dad found out his dad was in jail and his mother was living with his grandmother. He thought he had killed his dad when he defended his mother. Jake got a degree in education and is now teaching school in our district. When his grandmother died, he went and brought his mother to live with him. He took over Donnie and Denny’s apartment. I’ve met his mother and she is a charming woman. It’s hard for me to imagine why anyone would want to hurt her. And Jake is also going to the fair circuit with us.
Johnny is still a loner and still works for me. The sad boy from the bus terminal is now a young man. I think he’s dating but I don’t know the young man. Donnie knows him and said he’s a nice guy. I’m glad for Johnny, he deserves happiness. Johnny has hisbusiness degree from the local college.
Tom, is another son. From an abandon boy to a handsome young man who has the ability to win the friendship of every one who sees his smiles. He never really got over his abandonment, he calls me ‘pop’. And is always by my side. He has his degree in fine arts, I think he’ll always work with us. He has several of his paintings hanging in the local art gallery. I have one in my office, a beautiful sun set.
I smile at Mark, a graduate of my old high school. A case of not being smart enough to receive a scholarship and not having the money to pay his way. Following the other boys, I helped him get his on line degree and now he teaches at the local grade school. Again another friend who enjoys the fairs. Not sure if he will be attending this year, I heard he’s planning on getting engaged.
I saw the shy smile and wave of Jude. Jude was turned out of his home and went to live with his grandparents. When they died he left also. The oldest boy I had working for me at 21. We use him on any catering where alcohol is requested.
Then there is the shy young man who the women love to tease, Tyler. He just turned 21 and is still studying. He has had a hard time, until he came to us. His father threw him out because he wasn’t doing well in school. He was, according to him, a F student and his father felt embarrassed. With the help of my high school, we found out he was dyslexic. Once we found that out, we started him on counseling and then he took off. He proceeds slowly but his grades are right up there. When he looks at me, he smiles. I can’t wait until he starts college and gets a degree. He said he was going to send that to his father. I never heard him talk about his mother, so I don’t know anything about her.
Andy, from lost to found. He was the second boy I found at the bus terminal. He was traveling south, stop at our town, went to get something to eat. Realized his money was in his back pack, went back to get it and it was gone. He was stranded in our city. His mom and dad were in a car accident, he was on his way to live with his grandmother. He called her from the terminal and a man answer who said he was her minister. He informed Andy that his grandmother had a heart attack and is not expected to live. When the boys heard his story, without blinking, they brought him to the food truck.
At last there is my son, Jim who we call Jim Jim. Jim Jim just turned 17 about two weeks ago. He has attached himself to me and calls me dad. When I first met him, Denny brought him to the food truck. “Here is your new employee.”
I looked at him, he had big ears, freckles galoreand his nose was out growing the rest of his face. He was in the throes of puberty. But when he smiled, you had to love the kid. His story was similar to a lot of boys. His father was dead, killed in the service, and his mother was looking for a new husband. She was afraid that Jim would scare any prospects off. Sometimes I am glad I never married when I hear tales about the parents of my boys.
Over the last year many changes have occurred for Jim. His face caught up with his nose and ears, he grew another foot and now stands 5 ft 8 inches tall, about the same as me. His freckles have faded somewhat but what he has looks good on him. He sent a picture to his mom and she wanted him to come home. He told her he was home. I think Jim will be with me for a long time.
Andre supervised dinner and then he went out and brought in the largest cake I have ever seen. He said his father baked it and would be here later with his mom.
I looked around the room, I had tears in my eyes, mom noticed and told me to blow my nose as she handed me some tissues. Looking at the boys, the food truck was more than a culinary experience, for these boys it was a life saver. I thanked the powers to be for the opportunity to findthe best crew and have the best friends that I never could have expected.
We leave Jim and his crew as he enjoys his 50th birthday party. Jim represents for me, what I would like to see in the real world. Maybe one day........