Ringo and the Sunshine Police

By: Nick Wilgus


Thomas, an older gay musician living in a small Southern town, is ready to start a family. He fosters Jeremy, a special needs boy with no arms, and teaches him to play the drums so Jeremy can realize his potential to do anything he wants. Though it takes time, Thomas’s closeted boyfriend Randy steps out of the shadows to be part of what Thomas is working to build. With the advent of marriage equality, it’s a different world in the Deep South—one where the three of them have the chance to be a family.

Yet no one said it would be easy, and they soon learn the foster care system is far from perfect.

Just as Jeremy begins to settle in and thrive, his biological father reappears, demanding custody. Thomas and Randy know the man is unfit to care for Jeremy, but the law says otherwise. It seems they’re the only ones looking out for Jeremy’s best interests, and they face an uphill battle if they want to keep their new family together.







For all the foster moms and dads, harvesting what they didn’t plant, and planting what they may never harvest, and, in the ways that truly matter, making a difference.


And for Sandra, KJ, and Max: Thanks for reading!






PROLOGUE





ON THE morning of Mama’s birthday, he woke early, disentangled himself from her, and crawled out of the bed as quietly as he could.

He was going to surprise her!

Shivering from the early December cold and naked as the day he was born, he went to the bedroom next to hers in the back of the trailer. Using his toes, he picked up a pair of pajama bottoms from the floor and spread them out on the unmade bed. Then he sat on the bed and wriggled his legs into the fabric. He continued to wriggle until he got the pajama bottoms up and over his waist, where they hung loosely.

In the kitchen, he used his foot to scoot the stool over to the fridge, trying to be very quiet. He wasn’t supposed to use the stove by himself, but Mama was being silly. He’d cooked plenty of times while she watched and nothing had ever happened. He wasn’t going to “burn the house down.” Since today was her birthday, and since she’d been feeling bad lately and had been drinking rather too much—he looked at the numerous empty vodka bottles on the counter and frowned—he wanted to make breakfast so she’d have something nice to wake up to.

He opened the freezer with his chin and retrieved sausage links by grasping the package with his teeth. He placed them in a bowl on the counter. Then, very carefully, he grasped an egg in his mouth and placed it in the bowl. He moved the stool closer to the stove. Seated, he reached across the stove with his foot to turn on a gas burner and smiled when the small flame roared to life.

So far, so good.

Getting the oil into the frying pan was harder, but he managed. He unscrewed the cap from the bottle of oil with his toes, lifted the bottle with both feet, and poured a small amount in the pan. Next he put three sausage links into the pan, listened with satisfaction as they sizzled and popped. The smell of sausage filled the kitchen.

He didn’t have money to buy Mama a present, but she would like breakfast. He knew she would. She liked it when he was “sweet,” when he brought her flowers he’d picked from the woods or when he sat with her in the bath or snuggled at night and kissed her bare breasts the way she liked.

Christmas was coming too, and he didn’t want her to be sad over the holidays. He’d asked her if Santa was coming this year, and she said she didn’t think so but they’d make do. He’d told her that was okay, not because it was okay but because he didn’t want her to be upset. And anyway, Santa wasn’t very reliable, and Mama said she’d try to make sure there was something under the tree for him and Santa could just get stuffed. “We don’t need Santa, do we?” she had said. Jeremy had replied they did not. Not because he didn’t want Santa to come, but because it made Mama so sad when he talked about it.

“Santa doesn’t like us very much,” his mama would always say.

He looked at the egg in the bowl. That was the tricky thing. Breaking the egg right. Not spilling it. Then using the spatula to get it out of the pan before it burned.

He picked up the egg with both feet, pivoting his body to swing over to the stove. In his haste, he’d forgotten the bottle of cooking oil sitting next to the stove where he’d left it. When he swung his feet, he knocked over the oil, which flopped on its side and began to empty itself onto the top of the stove.