“So, let's hear it, son – what are the five scenarios in which young Milton Trent helps his brother Melvin Trent and his father Sgt. Trent save the day on the rent? I'm all ears.”
Milton Trent, to the depth of his little boy's heart, felt all the love his father was showing to him as he sat on his father's shoulders during a short hike up into the Blue Ridge, and it gave him confidence to really speak his mind.
“Okay, so, first, we've been through a lot of family getting split up – not as bad as the Ludlows, but still, it's been bad for years.”
Sgt. Trent had to take that all the way in … when your son was nine, and it's been bad for years, you had to really listen.
“Yeah, my military deployments, Mom getting sick twice, Covid-19 in New York – I agree, son. No arguments there.”
“Okay, so, Scenario 1 is, they skip all the way down past the colonels and majors and captains for this job Captain Ludlow says somebody needs to have, all the way down to the best man to take care of anything: you, but they still want to pay you like a sergeant. That's going to leave a gap.”
“That sort of thing can happen – it's called brevet promotion and pay,” Sgt. Trent, “although the gap in rank between sergeant and colonel is a bit too wide for that to happen.”
“Oh, what a relief that is!” Milton said.
“To me too, son,” Sgt. Trent said with a chuckle. “Scenario 1 is scary!”
“Okay, so, Scenario 2 – you or Mom or Melvin are out helping somebody and get sick, and one of you can't bring any money into the house.”
“That's a possibility, son, but the three of us are now working together and putting away a little extra for just such an emergency, and if things got really bad, Pop-Pop would help out.”
“Yes, but, he doesn't even live here and it's not his job. I live here.”
“Yes, but, Milton, you're nine. I'll come back to that, but just know we adults messed up a lot of years and are planning never to mess up again like that.”
“That's good to know, Dad. It really is. If all of you have things taken care of, then the other three scenarios can't even happen.”
“No, they can't. But I understand why you would need to talk about them with me, just in case.”
Milton started to cry, and his father swung him down and embraced him.
“Really bad time in New York, wasn't it?” Sgt. Trent said gently.
“Yeah, Dad, it was. Melvin did all he could, and I wanted to help him so bad, but I had nothing! If you hadn't gotten there in time, I don't know what would have happened to us!”
Sgt. Trent could have said that Pop-Pop, or Thomas Stepforth Sr., Milton's grandfather, had a whole rescue plan in place, but stepped back because he knew Sgt. Trent was coming home.
Sgt. Trent instead said, “Tell me all about it, son,” and let Milton tell him all about it, and cry, and cry, and cry.
When Milton had calmed down, Sgt. Trent cleaned up his little face, and kissed him.
“Well, son, God be praised, I made it, your mother made it, and we all made it.”
“I thank God every time I think about it,” Milton said. “I really do.”
“I believe you, son. I really do.”
Milton was quiet for a little while, soaking up strength from the embrace of his father, and Sgt. Trent let that go on for a while before continuing.
“You do your whole job is to be the only little son I have left right now, right?”
“You think I can get Melvin on my shoulders now?”
“You're nine, Milton. You just turned nine in March, just like Gracie just turned eight in January. You're the only nine-year-old I have left. That's important, and it's also enough for you to do.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, son, I am sure. Now if you want to learn how to make money, I don't have a problem with you doing that, as long as you observe the rule: it must be honest work, because Trent men do not beg, borrow, or steal.”
“Oh, yes, sir!”
“Very good. You are free to talk with Vertran about ways to get started, and Gracie has a thought for you as well, but understand: your main job, and the one I will hold you to, is just all the things that go with being nine, because you are the only nine-year-old son I have left.”
“Okay, Dad, I can do this!”
“Of course you can, Milton – and we adults will be responsible for doing our adult things so that all you have to do is what you ought to be doing.”
“I feel so much better now!”
“Good, son. Good.”