What’s It About?
This story is my fan fiction based on a subplot in the limited original series “Candy” on the Hulu network.
If you didn’t watch it, here’s all you need to know about this tale: Betty Gore is depressed because her husband Alan has to leave town on extended business trips. Betty convinces Alan to take in a foster child to keep her company, along with Betty’s daughter Christina. When the boy arrives all is well for a short time. Later it was decided the boy wasn’t a good fit for the Gores so he went back to the orphanage. I wanted to know more about this boy, so the following story was created.
Woody is around 2600 words long – A 13-minute read for me as a slow reader. How long for you? – enjoy
Janene watched as a tall gray-haired nurse lowered the bed with her foot. A male newborn, held firmly in an ocean blue swaddle sack was given to the adolescent when she reached out for her firstborn. Remembering a tune that was sung to her, she hummed softly, allowing the baby to latch on to her. “I’m going to name you Raymond,” she said. Her green eyes focused on the child feeding on her undernourished body. With a tightened raised lip, the nurse pumped the bed back up while glaring at Janene.
“Don’t get attached,” she grumbled without a smile. “Responsible parents are on their way to take care of this… situation,” she assured the teen. “And they will name the child themselves,” she claimed, as she left the infirmary. The door to the private room wooshed back and forth, squeaking several times before it became still.
“You are my baby,” she insisted in a weak voice, her breath shallow. His name is Raymond Woodrow McCleary. His friends will call him Woody, and he will be Ray Ray to me. I’ll always be your mother Ray Ray. You hear me?” she cooed in the infant’s ear. Her child continued to nourish as his feet pushed through the protective cloth wrap.
6-year-old Christina Gore helped her mother put up the welcome sign for David Bennett, the 7-year-old foster child they planned to adopt to complete their family unit. At the request of the agency, Betty and Alan Gore put the nickname Woody on the banner instead of David. “I don’t get it,” Alan complained. If the kid will one day be David Gore, why are we calling him Woody?” he quipped.
“Director Benson at the agency said he responds best to Woody. It had something to do with his birth mother,” Betty replied.
“He knew his birth mom?” Alan asked. “I thought he came from a poor family in Wyoming. The birth mom, a teen dropout, was high when she gave birth if I got the story right. David was taken away immediately. So… how would he know her?” he inquired for the second time.
“Christina, check Woody’s room to make sure the bed is made and no toys are on the floor. I heard you playing there earlier. God knows what it looks like now.” Betty chided her daughter.
“Okay mom,” Christina said gleefully, happy to play in her soon-to-be brother’s room once again. Betty moved close to her husband and spoke in a lowered voice.
“A work colleague told a friend of mine that the mom was a victim of abuse, but it was never followed up. The baby fathers family had a history of genetic growth problems so the kid wasn’t expected to live. However, the teen gave birth two months early skinny as a rail, and fought the nurses like a wild animal to get the baby back,” Betty explained, swiping the air as if she had
claws to make the point. Then she was doped up and pinned to a bed until the state took over,” Betty emphasized.
“That’s a horrible story but it doesn’t explain how the kid knows the name Woody,” Alan concluded as he looked down the hallway. He heard giggles, then a mattress squeaking under the weight of a child.
“I know but maybe the agency told him stuff about his mom for some reason. That’s the only explanation I can come up with. When he arrives tomorrow, we’ll work on making Woody feel at home with us. We have plenty of love in this family to make it happen,” Betty promised.
Not A Good Fit
David Bennett who wanted to be called Woody, lasted 23 months with the Gore family before Alan Gore called the director of Perfect Fit Planning, at the insistence of his wife. Agency personnel arrived at the Gore home to take Woody back to the orphanage. The shattered glass table, smashed family TV, and physical fight between Woody and Alan finalized his removal. Christina, now 8, was slightly injured during the scuffle between Woody and her father. She watched as a 10-year-old boy standing at 6 ½ feet, and weighing 150 lbs, was restrained with hand-ties and led to the agency transport van.
“Get off! Let go! Woody demanded as 3 medical staff members playing the role of security guards struggled to get the unusually strong boy inside the padded van. “I wish you dead!” he cursed, staring at Betty. Christina held on to her mother as salty tears burned the cut under her eye she sustained by accident during the last family fight with Woody.
“He wants his other mother,” Betty reminded her family, wiping a tear away. “Well, he can have her,” she scoffed to her daughter and husband. The Gore’s watched as the van left the driveway heading to the throughway.
“He was a bad fit,” Alan asserted with a gesture of wiping his hands clean. “David didn’t want us, so we don’t want him.”
By the time the van arrived at Perfect Fit Planning, Woody’s rage at Betty Gore was forgotten. He desired his hands released so he focused his strength on the hand-ties applied during the trip. He broke the restraints after several twists of his wrist. Jimmy, seeing Woody free through the van’s observation window, filled a syringe with 100 milligrams of ketamine, enough to sedate an adult.
“Ben, Pete, If he attacks, hold him long as you can while I inject some peace into this kid,” Jimmy directed as another male nurse approached pushing a stretcher with anticipation. “On the count of three guys, I’ll open the door,” Jimmy advised the men standing with arms akimbo. On three, Jimmy opened the door swiftly as the men raised their hands, ready to jump. Woody slowly slid out of the seatless padded mobile jail, looking at his captors with contempt. “If you cooperate, I won’t need to use this,” Jimmy warned, waving the needle in a menacing way.
This was Jimmy’s protocol to get a patient to focus on the needle while others prepared restraints during the distraction. “I can walk better without that,” Woody offered as he looked at the window of the orphanage. Several kids he recognized were staring at him like he was a newbie, coming in for the first time.
11-year-old Brandon, the lead bully of the group, stood 5 ft 4 and weighed 95 lbs. “Who’s that kid?” he asked four smaller acolytes observing the new arrival. They looked in bewilderment at Woody’s size. Then they each looked at Brandon while he was distracted.
Woody remembered them. He thought about the time Brandon forced him to strip down to his underwear when he was smaller. The kids played pin the tail on the donkey, making Woody the mule. As he walked freely to the entrance under escort, Woody decided Brandon would be the jackass tonight. He would force the other kids to pin Brandon until sitting down was unpleasant as the game itself.
When David Bennett reached the age of 19, he had accomplished much while in the care of Perfect Fit Planning. Online education gave him a high school diploma and a plan to pursue architecture, a passion he developed as he aged out of Perfect Fit Planning. He had his name legally changed to Raymond Woodrow McCleary, and with the help of an adoption attorney working pro bono, he was able to locate his birth mother living in a nursing home in Wyoming. Director Benson, still working at Perfect Fit, became fond of the only child now a young adult, he couldn’t place with a foster family over the years. Woody 6 foot 3, weighing 230 pounds towered over the gray-haired black man that was close to retirement.
“I like how you took advantage of our learning program early on. Most don’t,” Benson said removing bifocal rims as he wiped a tearing eye. “A few feel sorry for themselves if passed over for adoption, but you didn’t. Now you have a better chance of becoming who you want to be. I’m very proud of you Woody,” Benson professed as he tried to wrap his arms around the muscular man. “You already know we’re having a party for you before you leave so please act surprised,” Benson joked. “It’s a pot luck buffet,” he said. Jimmy brought in home-smoked ham, the same as he made for our Holiday party. Pete made his famous potato salad and Ben brought in spicy Bar-B-Que ribs the way you like. And since I can’t cook, I bought a ton of Chinese food,” he said with a smile. Woody nodded in approval for all the fuss and realized that these people were his family.
The flight from Texas to Wyoming took 3 hours, including time waiting to be cleared for takeoff. His back ached after sitting in a plane seat too small for his frame. “If I had my driver’s license I would have gotten a car rental,” he thought, mentally adding a driver’s license to his bucket list.
Anxiety began to build as a taxi brought him to the nursing home where his mother was staying. He was going to see his birth mother for the first time since he was born.
Woody sat in the waiting area long enough to think about what he would say to his mother for the first time. “Hi ma!” or maybe “Love you mommy!” or “Who is my father?” He thought it best to ask hard questions first since his time talking to her would be limited. She was ill so the visit would have to be short, a doctor whose name he didn’t get informed him. “I’ll have a nurse bring you to her room,” he mumbled while walking away, reading text on a phone.
“Mr. McCleary? Hi, I’m Angela. I’ll take you to see Janene,” beamed a pretty brunette not much older than Woody. His heart raced as the woman with an hourglass figure that was noticeable in spite of her clinical wardrobe lead him to the hospice unit.
“Call me Woody,” Raymond wanted to say but his tongue became tied, refusing to function. Angela smiled at him, then handed him a mask, making sure he put it on correctly.
“The mask will prevent you from making her sicker, so keep it on. Use the call button if you need anything. Don’t stay too long. She needs her rest,” Angela instructed before she left Woody with his mother. Janene lay on the bed with her eyes closed. An oxygen tube kept her lungs from overworking to catch a breath. Her body was thin and frail. She resembled the weak adolescent that gave birth to Woody years ago. He moved closer and held her hand. Speaking quietly, he said the first thing that came to mind.
“Mom, I’m your son Ray Ray,” he said as Janene open her green eyes. She noticed his eyes were identical, which caused her to manage a weak smile. “I’m here for you Mom,” Woody told her, never letting go of her hand.
Over the next few days, Woody spent as much time with his mother as the doctors would allow. He learned she had pancreatic cancer, with the window closing on her life.
“Tell me about Texas,” Janene managed to ask weakly.
At first, he thought she wanted to know about the state, then he realized with a smile she was referring to his life there.
“Well I was adopted right after they took me from you,” Woody said. I lived with Miss Richards, a tall nurse with gray hair. She said I was growing so fast I would be tall like her soon,” he gushed. She told me stuff about you too,” he remembered.
“Stuff about me?” Janene questioned.
“Yes. She knew your mom died and your dad left you on the street. You got pregnant with me but didn’t have a way to support yourself so they took me. But you put up such a big fight they kept you sedated most of the time until I was moved.
“I remember all that,” Janene wheezed out. “How did she know so much about me?”
“I’m not sure but she was the reason I knew the name you wanted for me, the name you gave me. Raymond Woodrow McCleary” he said proudly. “My friends would call me Woody, and you would call me Ray Ray. That’s what Miss Richards told me.”
“I’d love to speak to her. To ask how she knows so much about me!” Janene sluggishly asked.
“Miss Richards passed away,” Woody said sadly. She had a heart attack when I was in school. She never picked me up from kindergarten,” he said tearfully. I was placed in foster care with a nice family. It didn’t work out because I was angry all the time about Miss Richards leaving me. I didn’t understand it wasn’t her fault she died. The rest of my teen life was spent at the orphanage. Because I grew tall nobody wanted to adopt me so I stayed, keeping the other kids in line and taking online classes until I was old enough to find you,” he said with compassion. As Woody continued his story, Janene took her last breath of life.
Life Goes On
As he sat in the hospital waiting room, Woody thought about the lost women in his life that were dear to him. His adopted mom Miss Richards whom he loved, died of a heart attack suddenly. After his return to the orphanage, foster mom Betty Gore was murdered in her own home. Woody shivered, remembering his last words to Betty. People blamed her husband, but a church girlfriend was accused, then acquitted of the crime. Now, after spending a short time with his birth mother Janene McCleary, she too is gone, taken by cancer. He thought he was blessed, but now he felt cursed. Once his mom was laid to rest, he was going back to Texas, to the family he had at the agency. While concentrating on suppressing tears, he felt a warm hand on his shoulder.
“I’m so glad you were able to see her before she passed,” Angela consoled. ”Mr. McCleary, may I call you Raymond?” Not waiting for a response she added “I believe she held on so you could finally see her. Janene was a fighter. I’m happy I got to care for her in her final days,” Angela comforted. Tranquillity overtook Woody as he thought about the nurse’s words. He smiled at her as he gathered the courage to look at her directly. “I’m going to get a cup of coffee. Would you like to have one with me?” he blushed while trying to slow his racing heart.
“Sure, I’d love a cup! I’ve got a few minutes to spare if you don’t mind me talking your ear off. It will be a pleasure to get to know you better Raymond,” she flirted. “Will you be in town for a while?”
“I think I will be,” he decided on the spot. “And you can call me Woody. My friends call me that.”