Arctic Fox Book 3: Pursuit of the Dream - Chapter 21

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Cover photo by Jonatan Pie. Downloaded from Unsplash

Marcia is seventeen, and along with Darryl, has moved south in Alaska to attend the Anchorage campus of the Alaska State University. She wants to pursue her dream, but will it pursue her instead?

I want to thank Malady, once again, for his help checking through this story for the many errors I frequently insert, as well as listening to my sometimes completely crazy ideas about the direction of the story and telling me how crazy they are!

Chapter 21

July 4th, 2023

Chatham Farm, Palmer Alaska

7:00 PM

Freshly sprayed down with Off®, Marcia, Darryl, and Sammy sat at a picnic table near the Matanuska River dock. It was a ways from where the body had been found, for which they were glad. They didn’t want Sammy thinking about that either. Whether he understood what he’d seen in the case of his parents death, or the skeletal hand, would have to be determined by a counselor.

Darryl divvied the food to each of them, putting half a sandwich on Sammy’s plate and the other half on Marcia’s. Mage fixed sandwiches like Colonel Bob ate them, so they were packed with enough to keep Dagwood Bumstead® satiated.

Marcia was seated beside Darryl, and she calmly took the chips off her plate and put them on Darryls. Then she took a couple of chips from his plate and ate them.

Why?” he asked simply.

They taste better coming off your plate,” she answered primly. With that, she took her sandwich and placed it on his plate, and slid her plate away.

When Darryl set his sandwich down, she picked it up and took a bite.

He sighed and asked, “Are you going to do that at our wedding reception too?”

Of course.”

He laughed. “Oh, I can’t wait to give you a bite of cake.”

What do you mean?” she asked innocently.

He wasn’t fooled for a minute, however. He’d spent nearly every waking moment with her for three years and could read her quite well. Maybe not as well as she could read him, but the very fact she could read him that well told him that she knew exactly what he was talking about.

I’m pretty sure you know what you’re gonna get,” he clarified.

Just as bad as you’re gonna get?”

He thought about it momentarily, then said, “Truce?”

She snerked and then slapped an imaginary mosquito on his ear. “Mosquito,” she explained.

Right,” he said, rolling his eyes.

Darryl glanced at Sammy’s plate and realized the little boy was done with his chips and halfway through his half sandwich. “Chips?” he asked.

Chips!” Sammy agreed and held his plate up for Darryl to shake some out of the bag.

The chips were Jalapeno-flavored, but Sammy and Marcia had come to like them over the years. “Gonna have to switch to Ghost Pepper chips,” Darryl quipped. “At least they’ll all be mine, then.”

Dream on,” Marcia teased, taking some chips from the plate and inserting them into Darryl’s sandwich before taking a bite.

That’s what I’m afraid of,” he answered.

After eating, they loaded everything into the cooler and enjoyed the cooling evening. Unfortunately, with the cooling temperature came droves of mosquitoes, so before long, they headed back to the house.

They were almost there when a boom came from a little ways off, but it was enough that Sammy visibly shook and started to whimper. Darryl handed the cooler to Marcia and picked the little boy up. “It’s okay, Buddy. Uncle Darryl won’t let anything happen to you.”

Sammy put his arms around Darryl’s neck and held on tight. “Unca Darra protect,” he said into Darryl’s shoulder.

You got it, Bud.”

The speech was a bit younger than Sammy usually used, and Darryl gave Marcia a confused look over the little boy’s snuggled head. Marcia was still holding the cooler and shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. The firework had certainly scared the little boy.

They hurried into the house and set down the cooler. Marcia moved quickly to the stereo. Sammy loved the complexity of classical music. She decided against the 1812 Overture, one of her favorites, and put on a CD of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. All twelve movements kept him listening for a time.

Darryl set Sammy down on the couch where he could best hear the stereo effect, which delighted the boy.

Couldn’t you have chosen some dance music?” Darryl asked Marcia.

I’m not sure Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes would keep him occupied right now,” she told him.

Dirty Dancing. That sounds fun,” Darryl mused.

She smiled impishly at him. “Maybe we should wait until after the 22nd?”

Oh man!” he sighed. “Gotta wait for that too?”

I’m mainly afraid of the jump until I heal up,” she told him.

Yeah,” he said. “Should probably wait for that.”

Before they could continue their flirting, a firework boomed outside. Sammy stood up, moved to the sound system controls, and increased the volume. Marcia walked over to him and hugged him. “It’s okay, Sammy. Darryl and I are both here. Nothings gonna happen to you.”

Burn,” said Sammy. “Bad burn.”

Sometimes,” Darryl said, “but we’re here with you.”

Sammy sat back down, and Darryl and Marcia sat on either side. They spent the rest of the evening listening to classical music.


July 5th 2023

1:00 AM

Chet and Mage finally arrived home to find Darryl sitting on the couch with Sammy on his lap and Marcia leaning on his shoulder, fast asleep. Sammy was sleeping, but as soon as he heard his daddy’s voice, he woke up.

Sure,” Darryl said. “As soon as Daddy arrives, you want to see him.”

How’d he do?” Mage wondered.

Well, we heard some fireworks here, so Marcia put on the Four Seasons, and he calmed down. We sat with him on the floor for a long time.”

Until Marcia fell asleep?” Chet wondered.

Actually, Sammy fell asleep first, and then Marcia did when I moved up here.”

Chet laughed, and the sound woke up his sister.

What?” Marcia demanded, frustrated to be woken up.

Sorry, Sis,” Chet said, but ended up laughing more.

Marcia sat up and glared at him. “You don’t seem very sorry,” she grumped. She stood up and started for the stairs.

Wait a minute!” Darryl exclaimed. “Don’t I get a kiss? I didn’t wake you up!”

She turned around, kissed Darryl like never before, then turned around and took the chair lift upstairs.

Wow!” Darryl enthused.

10:00 AM

Mage called Sonja Winters to schedule a meeting between her and Sammy. After her regular appointments were finished, Sonja agreed to meet with Mage that evening. After successfully scheduling a meeting with Ms. Winters, Mage called to schedule one with Ralph Walker.

The meeting with Walker was prepared for that Friday night at six.

Calling Chet on his mobile, she wondered if he wanted to go with her to meet Sonja.

Sure,” Chet agreed. “I think I should meet her too.”

4:45 PM

Chet came in for an early dinner. He and Mage were taking Sammy to meet Sonja Winters, and they weren’t sure how long it would take.

After they finished eating, he made a phone call to the offices in Fairbanks. Ricci answered.

Hi, Ricci,” Chet said. “How are things up there?”

Fine,” she replied. “I’m doing a bit more of the work now since Carl is expecting.

It took Chet a minute to realize the strangeness of what he’d just heard, but he recovered quickly. “But the baby’s not due till December, right? Not quite halfway there.”

No, but this is our first. We just want to make sure everything works out alright. How’s your little sister?

Well, that’s what I wanted to talk to you all about.”


Marcia came into the office to get something from her desk, and Chet decided to tease her for a moment.

I’m not sure what the deal is… You know young kids. For some reason, they want to move their wedding up a couple of weeks. Some excuse about it being tough to wait any more time.”

She’s in the room, isn’t she?” Ricci asked, giggling.

Could be,” Chet responded.

And if we couldn’t make it in two weeks?

Well, Darryl knows where we keep the ladders, so …”

You brat!” Marcia scolded. “Is that Ricci you’re talking to?”

Who? Me? What are you talking about, Sis?”

Give me that phone!” Marcia demanded, trying unsuccessfully to pull it from Chet’s hand.

I don’t know what she’s going on about,” Chet said, feigning astonishment.

Marcia gave up trying to grab the phone and instead just loudly proclaimed, “Get here soon, Ricci. Chet may not survive much longer if he’s gonna keep this stuff up!”

5:30 PM

Palmer, Alaska: Sonja Winters’ Office

Mage and Chet were seated on a love seat in Sonja’s office while Sammy sat at a kid-sized table, drawing on some paper Ms. Winters had supplied. She, in turn, was sitting in an overstuffed chair facing Sammy’s parents.

I’ve never dealt with such a non-verbal child,” she told his parents, “but I would be willing to.” She looked at the paper he was drawing on. It was a picture of her office, including all of the adults. Beside him were some colored pencils. Not enough for true colors, but he could blend them and come out pretty accurately.

Sonja shook her head in astonishment. “He does this type of drawing all the time?” she asked.

Chet pulled a piece of paper out of a folder he had carried. On it was a picture of the drawing he had made of the accident three years previous.

Sonja gasped. It was incredibly detailed. She looked at Sammy again and asked, “Is he doing this all from one look at things?”

He hasn’t looked up once,” Mage confirmed.

Sonja nodded again and said, “I’m willing to take him on as a client.”

Chet and Mage looked at each other and confessed, “We have a meeting with Ralph Walker on Friday afternoon to see what he thinks.”

Sonja smiled. “I know Ralph. He’s great with kids like Sammy. You couldn’t ask for a better therapist for him.”

One thing concerns me. He’s been working with neuro-divergent kids for about thirty years, but how is he with LGBTQ people?” Mage asked.

Do you have any reason to believe Sammy’s….” her voice trailed off as Chet shook his head.

I’m transgender,” Mage told her.

Oh! I wasn’t aware,” Sonja said. “Stephen tells me most things that happen on the farm,” she confessed. “But I guess he didn’t know about you.”

It’s not something I broadcast,” Mage smiled. “But I don’t want any anti-trans thoughts passed on to Sammy.”

I don’t think Ralph would do that. I don’t see how it would be relevant to what Sammy needs, and Ralph, despite his own feelings on something, would never instill them into a client. He’s extremely professional.”

Your website says you’re LGBTQ-friendly,” Chet said.

Yes. I’m straight, but my brother is gay. When our parents died, I was nineteen, and Stephen was ten. I raised him after that.”

I see,” Chet said. “Stephen has never said anything about his sexual orientation.”

Sonja smiled. “It’s not something he broadcasts.”

Mage laughed. “I understand.”

My brother told me about the picture he drew of the hand,” Sonja said, apparently turning the conversation away from her brother.

Yes,” Chet said. He drew out another piece of paper and handed it to the therapist.

Oh my goodness!” she exclaimed. “This was Gerald Parks?”

Mage nodded. “The man Lisa was supposed to have run off with.”

Stephen was interested in Gerry. I had them over to dinner several times, and I really liked him.”

Oh!” Chet said. He hadn’t heard that Gerald Parks was gay either, but he hadn’t needed to know.

Sonja turned the conversation back to Sammy. “I am willing to take Sammy on,” she reiterated, “But if you want to talk to Ralph, I certainly understand.”

Again, Chet and Mage glanced at each other. Mage gave a slight nod, and Chet told Ms. Winters, “I think we’re satisfied here. Do you have an idea for appointments, or do we need to talk to your receptionist about that?”

Call Randy tomorrow, and he’ll set up a time.”

Mage stood, as did Chet. “Thank you very much,” she told Sonja.

Chet held out his hand and shook the therapists. “We look forward to getting Sammy the help he needs.”

And I look forward to giving it.”

Sammy saw that his parents were getting ready to go, so he stood. He handed the paper to Ms. Winters, and she smiled. It was an incredible picture that showed her office, complete with the items on her desk. Even the photos of her parents and one of Stephen and Gerry were accurate.

Why don’t you give it to your parents?” She suggested.

For you!” Sammy insisted.

Well, thank you, Sammy,” she said and took the paper. “I’ll treasure it.”

Sammy was happy as they left the room.

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