I?m not sure what happened with the last post, but it was entitled the two of them when I posted it. I reposted it hopefully the same problem won?t occur.
The Ten of Them: chapter 15
In our last chapter we discovered Sam was afraid of thunderstorms. Hopefully not as much after we try to calm her down and show there was not much to be afraid of. But I got a feeling every night there’s a strong thunderstorm Sam will be sleeping on my chest, not that I mind.
Mom and Alyssa are stuck waiting on the court to finalize the divorce this upcoming Monday, five more days before they can return. Today I have to assistance a friend’s father and mother continue their way of life, and keep my favorite restaurant open.
The restaurant is a fixture in our little town in it wouldn’t be the same town without it. It may be a symptom to a larger problem. That worries me, I love living near our small town. I would hate for it to become a small ghost town.
When times are good people love to eat out. Young people date when they have the money and dinner out is just a part of the dating process. When times are tight, eating out is usually one of the first things that people cut back on. Restaurants do well when the rest of the community is doing well. When restaurants fail, it’s a sign the greater community is in distress. My economics classes, when into some of these details and causes. The community needs new jobs and new businesses to create them. With more employment the economy of this community strengthens. Some small communities like this even a small number of jobs can have a drastic effect. A few more people employed can be the difference between the community failing or prospering.
A second thunderstorm last night woke Sam and she came awake with a scream. Apparently she wasn’t the only one frightened by the storm. Joan was awake and hearing Sam screaming came in after a quick knock at our door. She was almost as afraid as Sam. Joan too had never experienced a thunderstorm before tonight. She said she spent the last one in the safe room. Joan was on her way there when she heard Sam scream.
Joan and Sam both calm down seen that Kathryn and I were not upset or frightened by the storm. After a while, as we watched the storm both seem to be enjoying Mother Nature’s light show.
Sam, Kathryn, Joan and I counted between lightning and thunder to see how far the storm was away. We even looked it up online, because the difference in speed of light and sound roughly five seconds equals one mile away. Living in the country there’s not a lot of extra noise during the evening, and sound travels very far on a wind. Sometimes you can even hear the thunder up to sixty seconds or more after the flash of lightning that created it. It’s hard to tell because there’s usually more flashes of lightning within that timeframe. I warn Sam and Joan, “If you see lightning and count to ten or less get home or indoors as soon as possible. If you count less than five between lightning and thunder go to the nearest house and stay there and you give Mommy and me a phone call. Or you can stay in a car either way is safe enough for just a thunderstorm.”
Kathryn warns, “Never stand under a tree, even a small one. Remember what happened to the tree at the end of the meadow.”
Sam wide-eyed says, “That was scary.”
Joan has a frightened expression and asks, “What happened to what tree?”
Sam excitedly says, “Daddy snapped his fingers, lightning hit the tree and then the boom in the tree fell down. It was a really big tree too.”
Joan looks at me suspiciously from the end of the couch where she is all wrapped up in a warm blanket. Just on a whim I snap my fingers and the closest bolt of lightning flashes overhead with less than a second from the flash till the thunder. Sam grabs my hand and pulls it to her. Wide-eyed she says, “Daddy don’t do that to anymore trees.”
With a chuckle I say, “Sam that was a coincidence, I really can’t do that. I guess somebody up there has a good sense of humor though. It sure made Joan jump.”
Joan giggles and she says, “By just snapping your fingers you can’t make lightning.” And she snaps her fingers trying to prove a point. Of course I guess someone has a good sense of humor, right as she snapped her fingers a huge flash and loudest thunder yet happens. Joan’s expression nearly had me rolling on the floor I was laughing so hard. Kathryn was too.
Sam still with large eyes says, “Please no more snapping fingers.”
I tell them, “That’s why we stay indoors, or under the roof of a house. The way houses are built, they are not normally struck by lightning.”
Sam says, “I’m happy right where I am at. I feel safe with you and Mommy.”
We were on our couch looking out the doors to the patio watching the lightning through them. Kathryn was in my lap and Sam in hers, with my arms wrapped around all three of my loves. Kathryn being pregnant counts as two, because she’s carrying our baby Amanda. Although I have some time before I get to hold Amanda just about eight months now.
After the storm we go back to our beds, I had to agree to let Joan return if we have any storms.
We awaken a sleepy Sam and Kathryn takes her to the bathroom with her. Sam stretches as she walks to the bathroom following Kathryn. The funny thing is Sam stretching the same way Kathryn is. I don’t even know if Sam realizes that she’s copying Kathryn more every day. I don’t mind I find Kathryn’s little habits endearing. If Sam picks up every single one of them it would not bother me. I wonder if Amanda will do the same, either copying Sam or Kathryn. Sam still plays with her hair which Kathryn doesn’t do, but that’s a habit I don’t care about. Actually I think is charming the way she runs her fingers through her hair then twists a strand around her finger.
As soon as it’s my turn in the bathroom, I take a quick shower, shave and brush my teeth. Dressing in my robe I return to my girls. They’re dressed in cutoff jeans and T-shirts, and I dress in jeans and a T-shirt just perfect for looking around the fallen tree.
As we walk down the walkway to the boat house following the steps down the hillside. Sam gives me a tug and I put her up on my shoulders. Sam loves being on my shoulders, and almost every time we’re outdoors she will try to get me to let her ride as much is possible.
Kathryn even got me to let her ride once. After a hundred feet or so I had the let her down she was getting too turned on by the friction of my neck against her pussy. Although that was an interesting way to get her turned on, I much prefer licking it verses necking it. Fortunately it doesn’t have the same effect on Sam, but when it does I’m sure Sam isn’t going to like having to stop. Amanda probably will like riding on my shoulders as well; Sam will give it up let her little sisters ride their Daddy shoulders. Of course they will be copying Sam doing that.
We cross the meadow on our way to the tree with Sam on my shoulders she’s quickly spots the Mason jar now wash clean by the rain last night. The glass jar full of gold coins reflects the morning sun into Sam’s eyes. With her hand in front of her face Sam asks, “Daddy what is that shiny stuff in the tree roots?”
I look up and carefully remove the Mason jar bring it down for Sam to look at. Sam asks, “Is that gold?”
With a chuckle I say, “It’s really old gold coins. Like from when grandma’s grandpa lived here.”
Sam says, “If they belong to her grandpa that means there hers.”
I say, “Let’s see if we can get them back to her. I bet he meant for them to be hers, because this tree fell over just now. It could have fallen over any time in the last four years, or any time after this. It’s good that it fell over while she’s here.”
Sam still setting on my shoulders giggles as she brushes the dirt away from another jar. Clean of the dirt the gold coin show through reflecting the bright morning light.
I tell Sam, “Let’s leave that one right where it is at so grandma can find it.”
Sam pokes her finger at the base of another jar and more dirt falls away revealing a second jar still in the tree roots. Sam giggles, “That will make it easy for grandma to find that one too.”
Kathryn says, “We better go get her. She wants to leave fairly early this morning.”
While we were walking back I take a good look at the jar. The jar’s lid coated in tar formed an airtight seal. Once buried the tar around the lid kept it from rusting. At the bottom of the jar are gold coins, some silver coins above them, and some bills that I can’t make out the dollar amount from outside the jar. We know of at least two more jars probably exactly like this still in the roots the tree. I wonder what story grandma will have about her grandpa’s money.
Marshall and Misty were in the solarium and I show Marshall the jar. Marshall’s eyes light up seeing the coins he says, “I used to collect coins when I was a kid. I had a few Morgan’s that weren’t really valuable. I learned a lot about coin collecting and grading. Did you know some Morgan’s silver dollars can be as valuable as the double Eagles or even more?”
With a smile I say, “That’s really good to know. I think these belong to grandma, her grandfather once owned this land and probably buried them here a long time ago.”
Walking upstairs we find grandma finishing breakfast for us. Sam runs to her and says, “Great Grandma look what we found. It’s your grandpa’s ball jar treasure.”
Grandma giggles, “The family was looking for that the last fifty years Sam. We would’ve found it by now if it was out there.”
I slipped the jar behind my back; I want to hear the story before we surprise her with the jar. Marshall takes the jar just like I handed off the football to him many times before. Kathryn grins as she blocks grandma’s view. She says, “Tell us the story again about great grandpa’s treasure.”
Sam has a frustrated look not being believed. I hold my hands up and I tell her, “Let’s go wash our hands Sam. We need to get them clean for breakfast. Grandma, can you tell us the story over breakfast?”
Grandma giggles, “Sure, just don’t waste your time looking for the treasure. It’s almost like it doesn’t want to be found.”
Once in the bathroom with the water running I tell Sam, “I know Sam. We’ll get grandma tell us the story first. Then you can hand her the jar. Your uncle Marshall and I hid them from her right now so after the story. We’ll make sure you have the jar and you can give them to your Great Grandma. I want to get my camera to get a picture of her face when you give the jar to her.”
Sam giggles, “I bet she’ll make a funny face.”
With a chuckle I say, “I know she will Sam. I want to make sure you have something of her you can keep. This way you have a story you can tell and show the picture to your grandkids.”
Sam giggles, “I’m still too young to have kids.”
I kiss Sam on her forehead and tell her, “You will not always be Sam. You’ll grow up, and find a nice man to love you. Then one day you will have kids of your own. I will tell them the story of how on a very special day, your Mommy and me found our Princess Sam.”
Sam giggles, “I think I’d like that. But bring the bear skin, and Mommy can tell them the story of how you saved her, and my Aunts from the bear.”
I say, “We always can save that one when you come home for Christmas.”
Sam gets confused look before she asked, “What is Christmas?”
I never thought of it, I have no idea what religion if any her grandmother or parents followed. It’s not that Kathryn and I are very religious. After all we were having sex before we were married. Not something most religions would openly approve. We have always celebrated Christmas although we never followed a religion.
While Sam and I wash her hands I ask, “Sam did your grandmother or parents follow any religion?”
Sam shakes her head no and says, “My grandma said there wasn’t a God, to let her daughter die on the same day her son-in-law did. Mom and Dad were gone a lot and I remember lots of lights and trees during the winter. Grandma never had any. I don’t remember one when Mommy and Daddy were alive.”
With a chuckle I say to my beautiful Sam, “Well this year you’re going to have a Christmas. I’ll explain everything about it. First let’s surprise your Great Grandma.”
Sam giggles, “I like surprises, and I think Great Grandma does too.”
Kathryn comes in and washes her hands quickly and says, “You two better hurry up, grandma might think you’re up to something.”
I explain to Kathryn, “This is going to be Sam’s first Christmas this year. Her grandmother didn’t celebrate them.”
Kathryn looking at Sam says, “Well we’ll just have to make this a very special Christmas for you Sam.”
Sam giggles and says, “I think I’m going to like Christmas.”
We walked back to the kitchen and join everyone else for breakfast sitting in my chair is the jar and Sam sets in Kathryn’s lap today. Michael senior, the Coach is there next to my chair and he leans over and whispers in my ear. “Marshall told me.” He shows me the camera and gives me a wink.
Near the end of breakfast grandma starts her story, “Back when I was a very little girl even younger than you Sam, my grandpa that would be your great, great, great grandpa Sam. It was 1929 and people talking about how bad it was for everyone’s finances. They were tell me banks were closing their doors, they gotten stock with their customers money and then the stock was it worth anything. My grandpa was of rich men but even he lost most of his money. What he had he wasn’t going to put it in a bank, so he told me this riddle. Three by three I hide for thee. Under a young oak tree I hide for thee. Three away and three deep I hide for thee. Those a few more lines but I didn’t memorize them. But he did tell me one time just before he died they’ll stay hidden until the entire family comes home. These to be a house right on this very spot it was a really big house with lots of rooms. But it burned down a long time ago. Nobody died here Sam so don’t worry about it being haunted. But the family lost his fortune, and we been looking for it ever since."
Michael asked, “Mom any of the biscuits left?”
They were a couple left on the pan and she was close to them when she turned I put the jar in front of Sam. When grandma turned around to hand Michael the biscuit she couldn’t help but see the ball Mason jar filled with money sitting in front of Sam. Sam giggles and says, “I guess all the family came home.”
Grandma has her hand over her mouth and tears run down her cheeks seeing the money in the jar. She finally says, “Sam you try to tell me you found it didn’t you. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you. My great-granddaughter I think you’re right the family is finally home.”
Alyssa, Mom and Johnny walk in the door, now that’s a surprise for me. I get up to walk to my Mom and throw her in a hug I really missed her. If it wasn’t for Kathryn and Sam and the classes, I would’ve been in California the day after she left. Mom giggles, “I missed you too son. That’s why we hurried home. We really wanted to surprise you last night. Those thunderstorms delayed our flight and we were really tired so we just waited and left early in the morning from a hotel.”
Grandma asks, “Is that all just the one jar?”
Sam giggles saying, “I don’t think so great grandma. Remember the riddle; three by three I hide for thee. I bet there are two more jars.”
Grandma says, “Let’s go find them, where did you get that one.”
Giggling Sam says, “It was under the tree that Daddy hit with lightning and pushed over.”
That caused some very confused expressions around the table, but Kathryn and Joan just giggle. Joan was hugging her mother and Alyssa asks, “Do you know something that I don’t.”
Kathryn and Joan giggles turns to laughter and MC shakes her head before she asked, “Sam how is this again your Dad snapped his fingers, and the tree got hit with lightning?”
Sam excitedly repeats, “Daddy snapped his fingers, lightning hit the tree and then the boom in the tree fell down. It was a really big tree too.”
Joan says, “He said it was a coincidence last night when he snapped his fingers and a large lightning bolt and loud thunder happened during the second storm.”
MC giggling, “I’m not going to write that. No one would believe it if I did.”
Kathryn giggling says, “You did it too Joan. You snapped your fingers and then the second really big bolt of lightning and really loud thunder was caused by you snapping your fingers.”
Sam says, “Daddy and Joan don’t get the snapped their fingers anymore.”
Now with a laugh I say, “I don’t think I caused that lightning last night Sam. But somebody has a really good sense of humor played a joke on us last night.”
Joan giggles, “JJ, are you saying God is a practical joker?”
Thinking out loud I say, “The Aardvark, platypus and he created us in his image. Sure I imagine he gets bored just like we do. Sam’s expression was really funny last night. When you snapped your fingers your expression was priceless, I wish I had a camera to share that expression you had.”
Kathryn giggles, “We should check the security footage.”
I say, “Well I don’t know that caught her expression, but it probably has enough to prove our story.”
Sam reminds us, “Let’s go get great grandma’s treasure first.”
Sam’s absolutely right. We should go get those last two Mason jars before they disappear. The whole family gets up and I pull Mom and Alyssa after us. We walk down like Kathryn and I had before grandma holds on to my arm and Michael’s. It’s only now that I reminded that she is nearly 90 years old. We cross the meadow slowly nearing the fallen tree. Even from a hundred feet away you can see the glittering gold at the bottom of the two Mason jars still in the tree roots. When we reached the tree Sam points saying, “There’s the other two, with the one we brought you that makes three.”
Johnny asks, “What was the riddle again?”
Grandma repeats, “He told me this riddle. Three by three I hide for thee. Under a young oak tree I hide for thee. Three away and three deep I hide for thee.”
The jars still in the roots are about three foot apart in a triangle. With the tip near the edge of the tree, but ninety years ago this tree would have been a sampling and only a few inches across not nearly three foot that it is now.
Johnny points out, “three by three or 3×3 is nine. Their six more jars here somewhere.”
Michael retrieves the two jars handing them to his mother. I look in the holes left behind by the jars I even dig a little bit toward what would have been the surface but I realize that top jar would have been about three foot deep. So if they’re not above the jars we found they must still be in the whole underwear those jars where before the tree fell. Having everyone stay back I say, “I bet they still in the whole. Let’s see if we can find them without crushing them.”
I step gingerly into the whole. I am looking for any sign of the other jars.
Johnny says, “I bet they were stacked three deep in three columns.”
With a smile I say, “That would fit the riddle. If you use a posthole digger he could bury them very easily.” One thing I’m very good at is spatial puzzles, and I realized there is an arc as the tree fell 90 degrees lifting its roots from the ground. The top three jars went with the tree leaving the rest here in the whole. I start with the one nearest the tree trunk it also should be the one nearest me as I have my back to the roots. I take other clues into consideration the broken roots give me an idea as well. I began digging and only in a few seconds I find the top of the fourth jar. Directly under it is the fifth. I hand them both to Michael. They have more gold and silver with cash in them too. Tracing the triangle out from where I found those two the next four easy to find. I hand them to Michael as well.
We’re pretty well satisfied that we got them all from the clues from the riddle. Smiling I tell Johnny, “Those video games finally paid off.”
Johnny chuckles and says, “It’s funny I usually don’t like the ones that make me solve riddles.”
Michael comments before we leave. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen lightning only run down one side of the tree.”
Grandma says, “I haven’t ever seen lightning do that too. Normally it will spiral down a tree trunk or run down three sides of the tree at the same time. Not take the limbs of one-sided tree like this.”
Sam giggles again, “I guess if Daddy didn’t do it. Then Angel great, great, great grandpa must have.”
Grandma giggles and says, “He was one of the biggest practical jokers in the County for his day.”
We begin walking back and I smile saying, “You’re not going to have any trouble taking the treasure I hope. After all it is yours. We wouldn’t found two thirds of it if it wasn’t for you remembering the riddle.”
Grandma chuckles before she says, “Sam found the first third.”
Sam giggles and slipped her hand into her great grandma’s she says, “Angel great, great, great grandpa knocked the tree down to tell us the family is all here.”
Grandma is silent for a few seconds and then she asks, “Sam what was your grandma’s last name?”
Sam has to think about that I know she’s trying to remember when she says, “Thurgood.”
Mom takes a deep breath in and then she says, “My great-grandmother was a Thurgood too.”
Grandma giggles, “The family really has all come home. My maiden name is Thurgood.”
Kathryn and I look at each other, comprehending we married each other not realizing we are distant cousins. We have no idea how this is going to change our relationship if it will at all.
Misty giggles she puts her head between us then whispers, “Incest is best put your cousin to the test.”
Marshall gives me a punch in the arm to wake me up. He says, “You know that means were cousins too.”
Sam says, “No, you’re my uncle Marshall.”
Marshall gives a chuckle before he says, “It’s more common up here than most people realize. Smaller communities have that problem. Unless you get a girl from college and there’s still no guarantee on that. You’ll find your married your fifth, fourth or maybe even third cousin.”
Misty has a questioning look as she looks at Marshall and he holds up four fingers. With a chuckle I say, “I knew there’s a reason I liked you Misty, you’re probably as closely related to me as Marshall is.”
Kathryn says, “Oh Shit how is this going to affect us adopting Sam.”
Grandma giggles before she says, “After the third cousins you’re not considered to be related. But from what I can gather we’re probably fourth or fifth cousins.”
Kathryn asks, “Should we mention it to Mrs. Clark?”
Alyssa has a quiet smile on her face. She says, “Thank goodness I’m not related to you yet.”
Marshall and I pick up on the yet immediately. With a chuckle I say, “You sure about that, if you go far enough back you’re related to everybody. Genetic show we’re all sons and daughters from only one woman.”
Johnny asks, “Is that true?”
Marshall chuckles says, “If our twelfth grade science teacher can be believed, and that Nova program on human genetics she shown us.”
Johnny asks Marshall “Is that why you’re not prejudiced, that you believe all humans are related?”
Marshall answers bluntly, “Yes, and prejudice is just stupid. Why should I hold something against you that you had no choice in? Did you choose who your parents were going to be? I don’t know of anyone who could answer yes to that, other than maybe Sam.”
Sam giggles and says as she hugs Kathryn, “I think my Angel Mommy and Daddy chose for me. They made sure only Mommy and Daddy found me.” Sam looks around at the concern looks she gets from the family so she continues with the story from what happened to her on the day we found Sam. She takes a deep breath as I pick her up and says, “Let me tell you what happened that day. First we were traveling in the car and we stopped to get gasoline. They were afraid the cops are going to catch them so they didn’t use the interstates. That’s when they heard about the big wedding and how a lot of people were going. Old Mommy wanted to go and see it, Lester didn’t he wanted to keep going. It took a long time for old Mommy to convince Lester to go.”
Sam looks at the boat dock then continues her story. “When we got here the clouds just block out the sun and everybody was looking at the boat dock. I saw the two standing there and I wished they could be my new Mommy and Daddy, that’s when the sun started shining on them. I really don’t know who they were. We were so far away. Lester looked around and said with this crowd we can find a bunch of Johns. I don’t know what he meant by that, but old Mommy didn’t look happy. That’s when she insisted that I stay outside. They hide me way back in the brush where I couldn’t see anything. I couldn’t see the bride and groom anymore.”
Sam takes another deep breath and continues, “Lester had spanked me for running off before, and all I did was go to the bathroom. I needed to use the bathroom bad. I was hungry and thirsty and scared I couldn’t help it I started to cry. It had been so long since they left me. I was hoping Lester forgot about me and left. I was still afraid he was going to come back after me. Daddy, that’s when you call me Princess for the first time, I was scared but happy that Lester wasn’t there. Then Mommy comes in and takes me into her arms. I was so happy I forgot about the bride and groom. That’s when I asked Mommy if I couldn’t find my old Mommy if she would be my new Mommy.”
MC being the curious reporter asks, “So you don’t know who the bride and groom were?”
Sam shrugs her shoulders and says, “No, it doesn’t matter I got my Mommy and Daddy.”
Kathryn asks, “Sam did you really wish for the bride and groom to be your Mommy and Daddy?”
Sam looks down not wanting to meet our gaze and answers, “But that was before I met you. I wouldn’t want anybody to be my Mommy and Daddy but you.” Sam throws her arms around me tightly, and Kathryn hugs us both. When Sam raises her face she sees nothing but smiles from the family and happy tears. Sam asked, “I didn’t do anything wrong did I?”
Kathryn looks into Sam’s eyes and says, “My beautiful little Sam you didn’t do anything wrong. I got to let you know you got your wish. Your Daddy and I were the bride and groom.”
The expression of surprise is unmistakable on Sam’s face. She truly didn’t know that we were the bride and groom she wished to have as her new parents. With tears of joy Sam says, “I really got my wish. I did get to choose my parents.”
Marshall says, “You couldn’t pick any better Sam.”
Sam giggles, “I got the best family in the world. It’s a really big family and I love everyone in it.”
Sam continues to giggle as she hears everyone in the family return, “I love you too Sam.” That makes it the best family in the world for Sam, the love each individual gives her, and she so easily returns. That makes Sam our pride and joy, not just Kathryn and I but the entire family. She reaches for her grandpa Michael and goes to him giving him a kiss on the cheek then proceeding onto each and every member of the family last is her Great Grandma and she kisses both her cheeks.
Grandma finally says, “Sam our beautiful Princess, thank you for finding what had been lost for so long. You found the love that pulls this family together.”
Uncle George appears he’s almost breathless as he looks at Alyssa, the family can tell nothing else in the world matters to him right now. He walks up to her and takes her into his arms for a long passionate kiss. As far as I know that’s the first time they actually kissed. Joan and Johnny stepped closer to Marshall giving their mother room to be with George. When they finally do break the kiss George steps back and goes to his knee reaching into his pocket he withdrawals a ring box. Looking up into Alyssa’s face George asks, “Alyssa my love will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”
Alyssa has the biggest beautiful smile as she giggles, “You only kissed me once...”
Whatever Alyssa was going to say got cut off as George stands and quickly pulls her into a kiss. Joan caresses him on his shoulder after a little while to get George’s attention. When they break their kiss Joan says, “Dad, give Mom a chance to say yes.”
Marshall echoes, “Yeah Dad, give Mom a chance to answer.”
Johnny smiles and says. “You heard my brother and sister Dad. Give Mom a chance to answer.”
Misty has wrapped herself around Marshall’s arm smiles brightly at the two she shakes her head yes encouraging Alyssa to answer.
Alyssa giggles and says, “If my fiancée would let me finish the sentence…” Of course she doesn’t get to finish as George pulls her into a third kiss.
Johnny chuckles, “I finally get a brother to hang out with.” He gives Marshall a hug slapping him on the back.
Joan giggles, “It looks like I get a big brother too.”
When it finally break their third kiss Alyssa holding George arm’s-length says, “Yes I will marry you. Yes my divorce is final and I can.”
George smiles and says, “I missed you so much. I couldn’t wait to ask you.” He finally slips the ring on Alyssa’s finger.
Sam giggles and asks, “Is it going to be Grandpa George or Aunt Alyssa? A girl got to know.”
This seems to confuse the new couple, which only brings laughter from the rest of the family. As we walk back to the kitchen we show and explain about finding the treasure. Even to the fact that we believe us all are distant cousins.
Uncle George chuckles and finally says, “Did you guys happen to know that your great, great, great grandfather was John and his wife was Kathryn?”
Kathryn and I look at each other after all the other surprises today it’s not something that would upset us, but it does cause a shiver to run down both our backs. I decided that is something I need to do some research on. That would be about where the family would have branched off, in to each of the separate families that now come back together.
George finally asked Alyssa, “My love which would you rather be for Sam, aunt or grandma?”
Alyssa answers, “Sam start calling me Aunt Alyssa. I am too young to be a grandma.” She says with a wink, Misty and Marshall giggle in the background, obviously Alyssa has forgotten about Misty’s pregnancy.
Mom gives her a playful smack on her ass before she says, “You’re not that much younger than I am.”
Alyssa giggles saying, “If Sam calls me Aunt Alyssa I’ll still feel younger than you.”
Sam giggles before she says as she throws her into a hug, “I don’t care what I call you as long as you know I love you.”
Happy tears run down Alyssa’s face as she scooping Sam up. Kissing Sam she says, “I love you too my beautiful little Sam.” Sam giggles and hugs Alyssa back.
Michael is concerned with how we going to get the nearly one hundred year old lids off the mason jars. The lids tarred in place by simply immersing them into a pot filled with molten tar. It is proving harder to get it off than it was to put it on. We finally heat knives to nearly wet hot and that cuts the tar rather easily. But it still also liquefies the tar and again sticks to the lid if we don’t remove it quickly enough. It takes nearly an hour to remove all the lids. We do so without breaking a single jar once we found out the jars were worth several hundred dollars apiece.
Kathryn and I get ready for the business in town with Bobby and Mary. I dress in my business suit, and Kathryn dresses and a nice dress very professional looking the two of us. We give a call to Mary. I have her get all the paperwork their last letters from their lien holder, and ensure they have the contact information. We set a time, and I ensure enough money is in the local bank to more than cover our contract. Their mortgage holder happens to be one of the super large banks out-of-state, but fortunately they have a local branch here. We should be able to contact their offices and take care of any business with the local branch manager.
They will be ready in an hour to meet us at their restaurant, Mary informs me that they’ve called again this morning and demanding a payoff within twenty-four hours or they will evict them from their home and restaurant. Mary simply tells them that it will happen this afternoon. She requested a contact number for that purpose. She said the person didn’t know what to say after that. They had actually hung up on her. She called back the number on her caller ID and got the run around for fifteen minutes until she got frustrated and said she needed to speak to a junior vice president, she use my name and had the agent Google it. Five minutes later a junior vice president was talking to her and she got his name, number and promise that he would be there to answer the phone call. Mary apologized for using my name but she was getting the runaround. I chuckled and said, “That’s what I’m here for your silent partner to make things like this go away.”
We have the contracts all set up, for Mary and Bobby and allows a limited partnership between them and JJ Enterprises. I kept the Corporation after sign all the assets other than the name to my favorite Internet Company. They didn’t need it for the tax purposes. Keeping it allowed me to pay the taxes under JJ Enterprises for the sale of assets under the corporate tax table.
Sam will stay with her grandma Maggie and we hear her telling Mom about the lightning again as we come in to say goodbye. I bend over giving Sam a kiss and tell her, “I’ll see you later my big girl. Anything you want from in town.”
Sam thinks, “Could you bring another piece of chocolate cake? That was really good.”
Kathryn giggles, “You may just have to wait on that Sam. We may go back there for dinner very soon.”
Sam giggles, “Okay I can wait.”
After we leave the house Kathryn says, “If we tell Mary Sam wanted a piece of cake she would send the whole cake back with us.”
I copy Sam’s puppy dog face and I quickly glance at Kathryn it only makes her giggle. Kathryn says, “That’s why I told her no, if you had, you would be bringing back two cakes.”
We arrive at the restaurant and meet Bobby and Mary. They have all the paperwork ready for me to look over. I show them the contracts having them read them carefully and ask any questions they need answered. When Bobby asked about the repayment schedule I show him where I get a percentage of the profit. The percentage drops once initial money fully repaid to one percent. Bobby asked, “It’s very low compared to the bank. It doesn’t mention anything about minimum payment. Why is that JJ?”
I point out to Bobby, “This isn’t a lone, and I’m taking no lien on your property. It’s a limited partnership. Where I provide the necessary monies to allow you to maintain your way of life, keep the restaurant and your home. I only receive a percentage from your profit. But that won’t be a problem I’m sure. Once the initial capital as repaid, I only get one percent of your net profit from your business. By maintaining my limited partnership with you if ever you need more capital to stay in business I can provide that under the same arrangement.”
Bobby takes a deep breath then asks, “So if I’m not in profit, there’s no minimum payment or penalty?”
Looking at Bobby I say with a smile, “That would be correct, as long as you keep the quality of the food as good as it is I don’t think that will be a problem. I’m not worried about time schedule on repayment Bobby. I’ll not be hurting for the money anytime in the foreseeable future. If I am I wouldn’t worry about it still. By me only taking a percentage your profit I wouldn’t cause things to get worse when things are tough.”
Bobby chuckles shaking his head, “The banks are going to hate you, if you help anyone else like this.”
With a chuckle I say, “I got a feeling a lot of banks are going to hate me. You are the first but you’re not going to be the last I help like this. I want to keep our little town going, maybe even grow a little bit and never start into a spiral downward.”
Bobby asks, “Are you really serious about helping others?”
I tell him, “The reason I moved to this town, was the people here. If their jobs go away so do the people, as more people leave it’s harder for businesses like yours and others. I had to start somewhere Bobby and I’m glad it’s with you.”
Bobby says seriously, “I don’t know what we would’ve done if we lost the restaurant and our home. I couldn’t see it being a good thing no matter what. I might’ve been able to start over somewhere else but working for someone else. If Mary and I both work two jobs we might’ve been able to keep the roof over the girl’s heads, maybe.”
With a concerned look I say, “I didn’t have a clue it was that bad. You should be able to get a job as a restaurant manager making pretty decent money. Mary is a very good chef she should be making decent money as well.”
Bobby says, “When all this started I looked at getting a second job to help pay the bills. But there’s nothing local other than some customer service positions. I would lose more money working one of those than working in the restaurant.”
We don’t have time to continue this conversation but I asked Bobby if he’s agreeable with the limited partnership with a smile he shakes my hand. Mary gives Kathryn a hug and we had off to the bank to settle their debt. Once we reach the branch, I hand Bobby the cashier’s check for the amount we agreed on plus the twenty-five thousand for the prepaid meals. He smiles and deposited it, and we walk into the branch manager’s office ready to call the junior vice president back and complete their payoff.
Thirty minutes later we are walking out. Bobby and Mary have the receipt for their loans paid in full. Within ten business days they will receive titles for the properties. I shake Bobby’s hand and Mary gives me a hug. They tell me to come by for dinner tonight they’re having a special one just for me and the family.
Returning home Kathryn and I find everyone around the dining table examining the contents of those Mason jars. I have no idea where they found them but Marshall has on white cotton gloves as he gingerly looks at each coin. He uses alcohol and cotton pads to lightly clean each coin. He excitedly pulls me over and shows me some of the gold coins, and a few of the silver. Marshall shows me one of the silver coins, which is a so-called King Morgan. He points to the coin how good a condition is actually in. Then he tells me, one of those sold for 1.7 million in the same condition but with a different mint mark. It’s possible this one could go for as much or even more because of the rarity.
I chuckle before I say, “I guess I could afford something like that. It would be nice to have to give our kids one day.”
Marshall smiles, “With as much money Misty and I have we were thinking the same.”
Grandma pulls me over to the side and says to me. “I know you wanted me to take it all, but that isn’t quite right. It’s too much money not to share. I know you don’t want it. Kathryn you’ve paid off your father’s debts last fall. Marshall and Misty you help make multi-millionaires, if anyone deserves part of this it is you two. George he’s my nephew and I want to share it with him, Michael is my son, Maggie, and Sam is our Princess and help find the treasure. I want you to take a few coins as well and there’s a few of the things I want you to look at, you may know more than anyone else. It looks like stock certificates but we’re not sure about them.”
I shake my head yes and Kathryn and I go and take a look at the stock certificates. The only problem I can think of right off the bat is a lot of companies don’t exist anymore. It has been almost ninety years after all. We look at the stock certificates that are not something you normally get nowadays normally just a portfolio stating your name and the number stock you own. The old days they wrote out to certificate almost like it was currency. What we find nearly sets me on the floor. I’m pretty sure it’s going to double Marshall’s wealth easily. There are twenty-eight shares of AT&T from 1929. With his many times that stock has split since then. Even though at selling less than forty dollars a share currently in a forty-four cent per share dividend, the family will get a large amount of money coming from them. There’s another two groups of shares nineteen in Standard Oil and International Business Machine for twelve shares. After little research I find out that Standard Oil became Exxon. I had no idea International Business Machines is IBM and had been around for that long. If AT&T, Exxon and IBM honor these certificates the families looking at quite a large pot of money from the three of them.
I take photographs of each certificate and begin the research on finding out who to contact in these companies.
An hour later Kathryn and I have contacted AT&T, IBM and Exxon, we have calls into their CFOs considering how much stock each of these certificates actually are, it will need high-level managerial involvement. IBM was one of the first to return our calls. The CFO for IBM informed us he will honor the certificate after verification. It should only take a few months for expert to identify and verify. It may be difficult because it’s the only surviving stock from 1929 for IBM. The CFO informed us once the stock verification is complete the company wishes to keep the original certificates. There are actually three, one for ten shares and two, one share each.
After one hour and a half more the others had contacted us, and will honor the stock certificates once their verified. Standard Oil will probably be the easiest they still have examples of their 1929 stock issue. AT&T has some near that era but none from 1929 itself. AT&T also had shown interest in wanting the certificates for their corporate headquarters as a display.
We come downstairs and pull Uncle George, Grandma, Michael and Helen, Mom over for a private conversation, Alyssa slides into George’s lap and I’m not going to hide anything from her so we continue our conversation. I start by informing them that the companies once they verify the certificates will honor them. All three companies for the stocks are still in business. Only Standard Oil changed its name over the years to Exxon.
Uncle George having experience with the stock market asks, “Do we know how much their worth yet.”
From the level of involvement from all three companies quite a bit. I received calls back from each company CFO if that gives you a clue. Uncle George raises an eyebrow knowing how valuable those persons time truly is. I tell him, “The new guy on a block of the bunch we have, was the IBM the company was only eighteen years old at the time. I believe IBM maybe the most value because it probably split the most during this timeframe. AT&T and Standard Oil were established companies in 1929.”
Grandma asks, “JJ you have any idea on just how much money those pieces of paper are actually worth?”
I take a deep breath before I say, “Any one of them is easily worth more than all the gold and silver combined. All of them are worth anywhere from a few million to close to few billion dollars depending on how many times the stock split in the last eighty-three years.”
Grandma asked, “What exactly do you mean by split, the stock splitting and why does it matter how many times.”
With another deep breath I say, “Grandma, when the stock splits your one share becomes two, or three or as high as six. IBM tends to allow the stock to go very high then split into a large multiple, usually four. If IBM split their stock twenty times over the last eighty-three years which is very probable. Those twelve shares at a minimum are over twelve million shares selling at two hundred dollars plus each. Or two and a half billion plus, that’s only splitting two-for-one, on the average once every four years. I believe it will be much higher than that.” The room was so silent you could hear a pin drop, the six set there looking at me stunned.
Uncle George is the first to recover he turns Alyssa in his lap. He asks her, “How are you going to like having me home all the time?”
Alyssa giggles rubbing his chest she says, “I’m going to keep you so tired you’ll sleep most of the day.”
Uncle George chuckles, “It’s going to be fun.” Alyssa giggles pulling George up their out of the room before anyone else even realizes what’s on their minds.
They are barely out the door when I hear Joan giggling in the hall watching them go past. Joan comes in with Sam and grandma holds out her hands for Sam to come into her arms. Sam slides into grandma’s arms and gives her a kiss on the cheek. Grandma says, “Sam you made the entire family very wealthy with your find.”
Sam looks at Grandma and says, “Daddy says money isn’t everything and he should know he’s a billionaire.”
Grandma giggles and gives Sam a kiss and then says, “Your Daddy has always been wise beyond his years. You would do well to listen to him very closely my beautiful little Sam.”
Sam giggles and says, “I always listen to Daddy and Mommy.”
I tell Sam, “We’re going back to your favorite restaurant for dinner tonight. They asked us to come back for a celebration.”
Sam giggles, “I knew I was going to get more chocolate cake.”
Grandma says, “I think a celebration definitely is in order.”
Giggling Mom says, “I would say so. My God Elisabeth, are you sure you want to share it?”
Grandma says, “What was your great grandma’s name?”
Mom says, “I believe it was Sarah. But she died when I was very young when we go check I got a family Bible that has that in it.”
Mom’s bedroom is only two doors away as she rushes down to her room. Grandma is shaking I slide in beside her and take her hand. Mom comes back with the old worn leather Bible. It’s one of the larger ones where you put your genealogy in the front. She turns to it as she sets down beside grandma. I don’t know why I never did this but I didn’t put anything in the Bible. I didn’t record JJ’s birth or even my marriage. It is more or less just the way my grandma gave it to me. Guessing right here is Sarah Thurgood married James M. Carter and here is my grandma and my Mom pointed to the line under James and Sarah’s. My grandpa and then my father and my mother and here am I.
Grandma shaking so strongly as her hand points to a line above Sarah. Grandma says, “That’s my father beside Sarah’s name. Sarah was my favorite aunt. I never knew what happened to her. This was my father’s Bible. There’s John and Kathryn on the very top one line. What I understood John was an orphan, he put himself through college and become a businessman. That’s why there’s no name above his.”
Mom wraps grandma in a tight hug before she says, “My Mom and Dad died and then I lost John four years after that I thought I was all alone except for JJ.”
Sam had not moved out the way quickly enough, and is now squeezed between Mom and Grandma. She wiggles out from between them she upsets the Bible and it falls to the floor. Sam still stuck but she can breathe now.
Like so many other family Bibles their small scraps of paper and very old photographs held between the pages. Of course most of these are scattered now across the floor.
Grandma and Mom giggling back off to free Sam. Kathryn pulls Sam out from between the two. I start picking up the pieces of paper and old photographs. Looking at one of the old photographs, it is the family photograph from the early 1900s. Not something they did very often back then. Photography in the early 1900s was difficult and requires specialized training in the development of the photographs. Computers changed all that. I have never actually seen this photograph and look at it the thing is there’s a woman that looks a lot like grandma. I show it to her.
New tears streaked down her face as she looks at the photo. Grandma’s shaking hands point to the young girl about two years old in the lap of the oldest looking male in the photo. Grandma says, “That young girl is me and that is my grandpa’s lap I am setting in. This was the last photo that he was ever in. He died a little after he buried his treasure. That was a little more than two years after this photo was taken.”
There is a date in the lower right-hand corner written in pencil nineteen twenty-eight the first day of fall. That date would be September 22, 1928. She points to woman about sixteen that looks a lot like Kara she says, “That would be Sarah right there, JJ that would be your, great, great, grandmother.” Since its Mom side of the family I look at her face closely then back to the photograph. Mom does look a little like Sarah.
Grandma continues explaining who’s in the photo. There are two young men in the photo as well and grandma points to them, “Those are my uncles. One is George he would be Marshall’s, great, great grandfather is twenty years old and marries six months after this photo. The younger of the two is fourteen years old. He’s probably Sam’s, great, great grandfather. When he turns sixteen he left to strike out on his own. The family lost track of him soon after that. When John lost his life trying to protect Kathryn it was a bad time for the family. It was the Great Depression and people actually starved to death in the cities. Out here in the country times were bad enough, but we could grow our own food or hunt and fish. I ate many a catfish from the river right over there.
My mother and father actually died when I was only one-year-old, John and Kathryn had taken me in. Then George did after grandpa and grandma died. I help raise George’s son he had the one. His wife Megan was only able to have one child. Soon after grandpa died Sarah and George had a big fight then Sarah left and we never heard from her again. Becky my younger aunt died during World War II. She was flying aircraft from the manufacturer to England. On her way back her ship torpedoed by a U-boat and sank somewhere off Iceland.
I grew up and married Michael’s father, and move into the white house across from where Michael’s houses today. When grandpa had that house built, this was all farmland around here. We had a large dairy, and he sold the milk and cheese in his own store. A chicken farm for eggs, and the meadow and half of the lake bottom were cornfields. The corn fed the chickens, and the cattle. He had a few cattle butchered throughout the year selling meat from his grocery store. It wasn’t until after he died that we realize he was feeding most of the County on their credit. He invested in the railroad that came through town, and that gave us enough money to keep going. George ran the store until he volunteered for service after Pearl Harbor. With the way rationing was handled it drove our store out of business by the end of the war. When George came back he went to college and became a lawyer. His son followed in his footsteps and his grandson. Apparently John and Kathryn take after John your great, great, great grandfather. He sure picked the right stocks.”
With all the excitement, we overlooked Ms. Clark’s visit. When she rang the doorbell Kara answered it. She knew the house from before, but other than the first night this is the first time she sees the entire family running around in the house. She laughed saying most of my sister-in-law’s playing in the pool. Sam and I went to the family room to speak with her. Ms. Clark asks Sam, “Everyone seems to be in a very good mood Sam did you have anything to do with that?”
Sam with a giggle says, “I was the missing one of the family. And now that I’m back great, great, great grandpa’s treasure got found.”
To say Ms. Clark had a question expression would be an understatement. I see there’s really no way around it, without me Sam sounds crazy, and what four-year-old is crazy, the only repeat the craziness the grown-ups around them have. So I begin to tell Ms. Clark the entire story, about finding the treasure this morning in the roots of the hundred year old oak tree. We go to the dining room and Ms. Clark’s eyes widen as seen all the gold and silver spread out on the dining table.
Ms. Clark has her own story she shares with us. She begins, “Back when my grandfather was a young man he actually worked for John Thurgood. He talked about how good of men he was, how he kept most the county from starving to death during the depression. He said it didn’t matter to him who you were he treated everyone well. It always seemed he had enough to help someone, and everyone he helped truly needed it. Grandpa remark the more John helped the happier the man was. It seemed like money fell out of the sky for him to give away. He handed my grandpa double Eagle one day. Your ancestor said it was a bonus for such good work he had done. This was back in the day when you work an entire month for a dollar in wages. Your great grandpa may only have run the grocery store, but he financed most of Main Street including that old movie theater your Mom is renovating. When that mob from out of town held up his grocery, John and his wife lost their life protecting the children that were in the store. The whole County came to the funeral. His son George carried on for him, until World War II. The Thurgoods have been a major influence in this county for over a hundred years.”
Ms. Clark says, “As for you and Kathryn being fourth cousins I don’t see that as a problem, and Sam is your fourth cousin as well. That isn’t anything to consider in the adoption. Although we just found out Sam has a godfather. He’s Capt. Ron Davis just returned from Afghanistan. He said he would like to meet you. I told him how much Sam loves you and Kathryn. All Ron wants is Sam’s wellbeing. I assured him that was my goal as well.”
I smile before I say, “It looks like were on the same page then.”
Sam asks, “Ms. Clark if you don’t need me I want to go swimming. I haven’t had a chance today.”
Taking the package Ms. Clark is handing me it has the first and second grade materials for homeschooling. Sam will be old enough to attend kindergarten this fall. I don’t see that happening especially since the division of the treasure will make Sam multimillionaire. It would be too dangerous for Sam and anyone around her. I’m not sending her off to a private school that specializes in teaching children of the ultra-rich. If I have to I will hire teachers to instruct Sam here at home.
Showing the books to Sam before she goes I tell her, “Sam I was homeschooled when I was a little older than you. Ms. Clark has brought you the materials so you can start homeschooling too. Mommy and I will teach you Sam, or we can hire a nice teacher to help us.”
Sam asks, “Is it like stuff like reading?”
I tell Sam, “Yes, and a lot more things, like math, science, geography and a lot of subjects.”
Sam asked, “What is science?”
That’s actually a bigger question then Sam realized, it made me think before I say, “Science is the study of how things work. Like light moves faster than sound, we know that because a scientist figured it out for us.”
Sam giggles, “Am I a scientist? Because I figured that one out, because lightning you see it before you hear the boom it makes.”
I answer Sam, “Yes you are, but there are a lot of things to discover yet. We study science, so we don’t have to rediscover everything someone else had done before. It makes the new discoveries easier if you know what someone has done before.”
Sam giggles, “I see Daddy. I don’t know how fast light moves, I know it’s faster than sound.”
Ms. Clark smiling says, “Sam you’re such a smart young lady school isn’t going to be hard for you at all.”
Sam giggles and says, “I like learning new things. Like if you see lightning and hear the thunder less than five seconds later, you need to get inside a house or a car.”
Smiling Ms. Clark says, “That’s a very important safety rule Sam. Who taught you that?”
Sam says, “Mommy and Daddy did last night. Mommy also said never stay under a tree during a thunderstorm.”
Ms. Clark sent Sam off to go swimming after that, she needed to talk about the captain privately. Once we are alone Ms. Clark says, “I don’t know about this Capt. Davis. He’s not someone with a legal claim to Sam. You being Sam’s fourth cousin that would make you and your family Sam’s closest living relatives. Because of fourth cousins it doesn’t really strengthen your case, or hurt it either way. The captain had a bunch of questions. He wanted to know a lot of private information about you. A lot of information I was not at liberty to give him. It may be just concerned that you maybe someone trying to you Sam’s wealth. After all she is a multimillionaire with the life insurance policies that went to her trust fund.”
I tell Ms. Clark, “Just have him Google me. What I’m going to tell you is just between the two of us. Sam is a multi-millionaire maybe even a billionaire, some the treasure we found was old stocks. The companies are still around and worth billions. The stock is going to be divided among the family and Sam is one of the branches that will be getting a large share.”
Ms. Clark asks, “Will you?”
I tell Ms. Clark, “My mother will. I already have more money than I will ever spend. I keep making more of it without trying to. Kathryn and I are over two billion and I thought I was not going to make that much until this December.”
Ms. Clark asks, “Did you just say Sam could have more money than you?”
I say, “I wouldn’t mind, but it will be locked in a trust fund for Sam. Kathryn and I will not need it. It will be there for Sam when she is older. When Sam is grown and leaves to make her life of her own. We’ll do what we’re going to do for all our children and give her a hundred million to start life with.”
Ms. Clark says, “You know you don’t act like the typical rich person I keep hearing about. Until you say something like that I forget you are. The best my parents could do for me was help a little with my college expenses.”
I tell Ms. Clark, “If your parents are like most should really think them. It might have not been a hundred million dollars, but they didn’t have that to give you. They gave you what they could, even if it meant they went without. I’ve been luckier than most people when it comes to money. But I would give it up a hundred times over to not have lost my father.”
A thoughtful Miss Clark says, “Like the story of the two pennies. It’s all relative to what you have. I see your point JJ. I’m really lucky to still have both my parents. I should thank them more often.”
I say, “Sometimes we all neglect to remember how much our loved ones do for us. They only expect us to pass it on to our children. Hopefully we’ll make their grandchildren’s lives better in the process.”
Ms. Clark gives me a hug and says, “After work today I guess I should see about taking my Mom and Dad out to dinner just to think them.”
With a smile I say, “I’m sure that will make them happy.”
Ms. Clark has not seen Sam doing laps before. The last time she was here and saw Sam’s swimming she wore her lifejacket continuously. Now Sam gets out of the pool taking off her lifejacket Sam runs and dives into the pool. Ms. Clark is watching. I have my back to the pool. Ms. Clark’s expression shows her surprise and concern at Sam’s actions.
I chuckle before I say, “It is the first time you seen Sam doing her laps, I had to stop Daniel from diving in after her. I swear Sam must be part mermaid the way the girl can swim. She’s up to around twenty laps now.”
Ms. Clark finally giggles, “I forgot the Coach had been training her. It’s not normal for a four-year-old to be swimming like that, but Sam definitely is not your normal four-year-old.”
Continuing my chuckling I agree, “Sam has no idea what her potential is, and neither do I. We always let her go as quickly as she likes. We’re trying not to push but only encourage Sam to go as fast as she wants. I’m fortunate that I don’t have anything that would hold me back from helping her.”
Ms. Clark shakes her head smiling she says, “By the time that girl is ten years old she probably will have finished high school. Training to swim the English Channel already is that right?”
I shake my head yes, “The Coach is especially goal oriented. He wanted to give Sam a goal more than just learning how to swim. Sam seems to like the idea. Even though we told her if she doesn’t want to it’s not something we would require of her. We did tell her, we would support her if that’s what she desired.”
Ms. Clark gives me a date for her next visit, she says she’ll talk to Capt. Davis and give him our number so he can arrange his visit. I think her and she gives me a smile as she leaves.
That evening we celebrated our good fortune with good friends who actually share the meal with us. It feels odd having the restaurant all to ourselves, but its Bobby’s and Mary’s dinner and their celebration were sharing.
I give a toast to us, “Our fortune is only truly good when it is shared, and may it always be shared with family and friends.”