This is My story for The holiday is for The New Year

The Beginning Of A Brand New Year

By JeanneZ84

A few days had passed since Christmas. Going to the U.C.L.A. Children's Hospital, Milt still could not stop thinking of the Delaney Family.

As a matter of fact when Mark walked in to the main house that morning for breakfast, he found Judge Hardcastle sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee in his hand, but he wasn't drinking it. He was too deep in thought. As a matter of fact, he was so deep in thought that he never even heard McCormick come in the kitchen door.

Mark stood there very quietly for a minute or two and just watched Judge Hardcastle.

When Mark finally realized that Milt was still not noticing he was there, he finally said, "Good morning, Judge. What do you want this morning for breakfast?"

Milt looked up, startled that Mark was there. Hardcastle finally said "Aw, hey kiddo. I didn't hear you come in."

Mark looked at him and repeated himself. "Well, Judge what do you want for breakfast?"

Milt said "Sunnyside-up eggs and toast is fine, McCormick."

Mark hurried up and got the eggs and toast done, and he also made link sausages because he knew the judge liked them.

As they were eating their breakfast, Mark and Milt suddenly heard a knock at the front door.

McCormick said, "I'll get it, Judge."

Mark got up from the kitchen table and walked to answer the door.

When he opened the door, he saw a man and a woman standing there.

Mark smiled and said, "Yes, can I help you?"

The man and woman smiled back, and then the woman spoke up and said, "Yes, we certainly hope you can." She went on to say "We were told that a Milton Hardcastle lived here."

Mark said, "Ah, yes he does. Won't you come in? I'll get him for you."

They came in to the house and Mark invited them to sit down. Then Mark walked in the direction where the judge was still sitting and drinking his morning coffee.

Mark walked in the kitchen and said "Judge, there's a man and woman waiting to talk to you in the living room."

Milt said, "Well who are they, McCormick?"

Mark said, "I don't know, Judge - they came to see you, not me."

The judge looked at him and with a scowl on his face and a bit of a gruff tone, though not loud enough for them to hear, he said "What's the matter with you, McCormick? Have gone mad? You don't just invite someone in without knowing who they are, for crying out loud."

Milt then got up and headed in the living room.

With a smile on his face, he walked over to them and said, "I'm Milt Hardcastle - what can I do for you?"

The man stood up and said, "I'm Phillip, and this is my wife, Joyce. We are the Delaneys."

Milt said, "Oh, you're Emily's parents."

They both nodded their heads and said, "Yes, we are."

Milt invited them to come in the den and talk to him. He even asked McCormick to bring coffee in the den and join them.

Milt and the Delaneys walked in the den and he invited them to sit down.

The Delaney's took a seat. Mark came in with the coffee and some store-bought Christmas cookies, and he offered them some.

The Delaneys thanked Mark.

McCormick then handed them their coffee, and the judge his. He also poured a cup for himself and took a seat.

Milt spoke up and said, "Mr. and Mrs. Delaney, is everything okay with Emily?"

Joyce Delaney said, "Yes everything with Emily just fine."

Phillip spoke up. "Well, Mr. Hardcastle. . ."

The judge interrupted and said, "Please, call me Milt."

Phillip smiled and said, "Okay, Milt. The reason we are here is that it was accidently brought to our attention that an anonymous person took care of Emily's medical bills. We went to Beth Collins, the head nurse on that floor, to see if she knew anything about it. It took a long time, but we finally got it out of her that it was you."

Phillip told Milt that Beth had told them that he had played Santa Claus at the U.C.L.A. Children's Hospital for all the kids, and that Emily had really touched his heart.

Milt sat there for a second longer and scratched at his chin, then suddenly got up and with a slight smile, he said, "Well, I told them I didn't want anyone to find out about it."

Joyce spoke up and said, "Well, Mr. Hardcastle, we aren't angry about it. We actually came here to thank you. It means the world to us. You and your friends really made her day."

Milt said, "Well, you're welcome. You have such a sweet little girl there."

The Delaney's both told him thank you.

The Delaney's went on to say that she was doing excellent, and she was actually home earlier from the U.C.L.A. Hospital sooner than was expected. They also told him that if he wanted to he could come to their house to visit her.

Milt was very delighted about that. He said, "Yes, of course I would love to see her again. What's your address?"

Phillip Delaney said, "Well, here it is." He jotted it down on Hardcastle's note pad.

Milt said, "Yes, we'll be there in a hour or so. Just no Santa suit this time."

The Delaney's laughed and said, "Okay, great. We are gonna go now, and we will be looking forward to seeing you in a few hours."

Milt and Mark shook hands with the Delaney's and walked them to the door and showed them out saying their goodbyes and that they would all see each other soon.

Over an hour or so later, Milt and Mark were in route to the Delaney's to see Emily, since she got home from the hospital.

They finally arrived there and knocked at the door.

Joyce Delaney answered the door after the second knock. "Come in, gentlemen," she said.

Milt and Mark entered the house. As they entered, they saw Phillip Delaney and three little kids watching television.

Phillip got right up off the couch and walked over to Mark and Milt and shook hands with them.

Joyce invited them to sit down and offered them a cup of coffee.

They all were sitting in the living room, talking and getting acquainted.

Suddenly there was another voice. Milt and Mark heard it as well - it was Emily. She was calling for her mom to come and help her. Joyce went right in to assist her daughter.

Within ten minutes, Joyce came back in the room and said, "Emily will be out here in a few minutes or so. By the way, Milt and Mark, she still doesn't know you were coming. We thought it best to keep it a surprise."

Milt and Mark both said, "Thank you - we were hoping you wouldn't say anything to her about it."

Five minutes later they heard a sound from the direction of the hallway where Joyce had just come from helping Emily.

Milt quickly looked up, and he was shocked at first for just a minute at what he was seeing, but a huge smile was on his face when he saw Emily again.

This time Emily was in a wheelchair, wheeling over to them.

Milt said, "Hello, Emily."

Emily smiled up at him as well and said hello. Then she said, "Haven't I seen you before?"

Joyce walked over to her and whispered in her ear, "Yes, honey, you have. He played Santa Claus for all of you kids at the hospital."

Then Joyce walked over to Milt and told him that she just let Emily know he played Santa Claus at the hospital for her and the other kids as well.

Milt looked at Emily and smiled and said, "Well, it's very nice seeing you again Emily."

Emily said, "Nice to see you again, too."

Milt then turned to Mark and said, "Come here, McCormick, and see Emily."

Mark knelt down by her chair and gave her a hug and said, "It's nice seeing you again, Emily."

Milt spoke up and asked Emily, "You remember my helper, Elf Mark, don't you?"

She smiled and said, "Yes I do. Nice to see you again, Mark."

Milt suddenly spoke up again and said, Oh! By the way, Emily, you can call me Milt," and he hugged her.

She gave him a very sweet smile and said, "Thanks, Milt, I would like that very much."

Milt asked Emily how her Christmas was and she said it was very nice. She said, "I got a lot of new clothes and a bottle of perfume and lots of other things."

Milt looked towards her parents and as he did, he found them looking at him and smiling at him and he smiled back.

Emily then said, "Have you met my little sisters and my little brother yet, Milt and Mark?"

They said no they hadn't yet.

Emily took both Milt and Mark by the hand and took them over to her little sisters and little brother and introduced them all to each other.

After that, Phillip said "Emily, dear, would you and your sisters and brother go in and play for a while? We want to talk with Milt and Mark. Okay, honey?"

"Sure, Daddy" she said. "Come on, Bradley, Allison and Katie, let's go play a game."

After the kids left the room Joyce said, "I couldn't help but notice that you were surprised to see Emily in a wheelchair, Milt. I just never thought to mention it."

Milt smiled and said, "Well, when I saw her in the U.C.L.A. Children's Hospital I just saw her sitting up in bed. I was told she wasn't allowed out of bed yet because of the surgery. Will she have to use the wheelchair long? She doesn't look all that comfortable in there."

Phillip and Joyce looked at one another then at Milt and Mark.

Then Joyce said, "Emily has been in a wheelchair since the age of three. She was born with a birth defect called Spina Bifida."

Milt said, "Well, Emily is certainly a very pretty little girl and I enjoy talking to her so much. She is a very bright little girl, I can tell that. The uncomfortable expression on her face has to be from the pain from the surgery and not the wheelchair."

Joyce said, "Yes, she is in a lot of pain from the surgery, but it's so hard keeping her in bed. She likes being on the go.

Milt and Mark both said that they understood that. Milt said, "Yeah, it can't be fun laying all the time."

Milt and Mark continued to stay for another thirty minutes or so after that.

Soon as they finished talking, they told Mr. and Mrs. Delaney that they were going to go after they told the kids goodbye.

Milt and Mark headed through the hallway and found Emily in her room with her sisters and brother putting a puzzle together.

Milt spoke up and said, "Well, Emily, honey, Mark and I are going to go home now."

Emily smiled the brightest smile that lit up her whole face when she saw Milt. Emily then said, "Okay, Milt. Thanks for coming over to see me Milt and Mark. It made my day.

Milt and Mark both gave her and the other kids a hug then they left the room.

When they got back in the living room they said, "Goodbye, Joyce and Phillip, and thanks for inviting us. Would you let Emily know we will be back here soon to see her?"

Joyce said, "Yes, of course I will let her know. Thanks for coming. Bye now." Then she closed the door.

On the ride back to Gulls-Way Milt said, "That is such a sweet little girl. Her family is very nice too. Very good people."

Mark said, "Yeah, I agree judge."

Milt said, "I just wish I knew of more ways to help them out. I bet Phillip is still out of a job."

Mark said, "Yeah, Judge, but what else can we do?"

Milt said, "I don't know yet, McCormick, but I'm gonna come up with something, that's for sure."

Milt quietly drove the rest of the way home. He was deep in thought of what could be done for them.

Milt drove the GMC truck up the drive of Gulls-Way, and they both went in to the main house.

Mark put in a meatloaf for dinner and with that, they had baked potatoes and carrots and applesauce.

While they were waiting for the food to get done, they talked about how the Delaney's needed so much help, and that they were both gonna figure out a way to do it.

After they got done with dinner Milt said, "I'm going in the den to if there is a John Wayne movie on."

Mark said, "Okay, Judge - I'll meet you in there soon as I put the dishes in the sink to soak a while."

Later that night, after "The Searchers" was over, Mark went into the kitchen and did the dishes. Then he told the judge good night and he was heading to the gatehouse.

The judge said, "Good night, kiddo."

Then Mark left to head for the gatehouse.

Milt decided to go to bed so he shut the lights off at the main house and headed upstairs to his bedroom.

He lay in bed just thinking of what could be done to help the Delaney's out.

He had finally fallen asleep only to be woken up an hour later.

Milt had a dream. He sat up in bed looking for a pen and a notepad. He couldn't find one there in his night stand. It suddenly dawned on him he knew where he could find one.

He quickly put on his slippers grabbed his robe and headed down stairs to the den.

Milt turned the lamp desk on and sat behind his desk in his favorite chair and pulled open the top drawer on the left hand side. There he found a pen and a notepad.

He began writing notes down from what he pictured in his dream.

He stayed there at his desk for the longest time just writing ideas down.

The next morning Mark walked in the kitchen door and there was no judge in sight.

Mark looked outside and saw that the GMC truck was right where the judge had always left it.

Mark called out to the judge a few times. When he got no response, he started to head upstairs, but just as he was going to climb the first stair, he glanced over towards the den and noticed the judge's head was laying down on his desk.

Mark froze for bit, then he said to himself, "Come on, McCormick, you have to go and check this out."

Mark's face was so focused on the judge while he was walking in his direction that as he was walking in, he forgot about the steps coming in to the den and he missed the first step and rolled down the rest of the steps hitting his head on the side of the desk.

That got the judge's attention. He sprang up from his chair and was going to grab for a gun in the drawer until he saw Mark sitting up on the floor, with blood running down his face. He fell forehead first in the desk.

Mark sat there looking at Milt with a smile on his face, embarrassed, but very glad to see Milt alive and well.

Milt finally said with a growl in his voice, "McCormick, what the hell are you doing? I thought you just went to bed? Get up out of there now."

The judge helped him up and he got him on the couch and went in the downstairs bathroom and got a warm towel to wipe the blood off of McCormick.

McCormick suddenly said, "Judge, I'm fine and I didn't just leave to go to bed over at the gatehouse." He went on to say, "In case you haven't noticed, Hardcastle, it's morning, not night. For that matter, what are you doing staying up all night in here?"

"Never mind that, wise guy," Milt said. "Just what do you think you are doing anyway, comin' in here falling down the steps and taking a head dive on my desk?"

Mark said, "Well, Judge, when I came in through the kitchen this morning I didn't see you. I called out to you, but you never answered. I decided to go upstairs to see if you were okay up there. I knew you were home because I saw the truck outside in the same place it always is. Anyway, Judge, I was just about to walk up stairs when I saw you with your head lying on the desk. I was walking towards your direction in to the den concentrating on you, and I wasn't watching where I was going. I just fell, that's all."

"What you mean, McCormick, is you thought I was a goner. Isn't that right?"

Mark looked at him and whispered, "Well, yeah, I guess."

"McCormick, we're gonna go to the hospital to get you checked out and see if you need stitches. No arguments either. Come on, let's go now."

After the hospital visit and finding out Mark was okay and that he didn't need any stitches, they left and headed back to Gulls-Way.

On the ride back home Milt told Mark he did go to bed last night and had a dream of how to help the Delaney's and especially Emily. Milt told Mark that he looked for a notepad and pen in his nightstand to make notes and he couldn't find any there so he came back down stairs and went in the den to make notes. Milt said, "I guess I fell asleep there, that's all. Nothing to worry about. So anyway, McCormick, I got to thinkin' that maybe we can put together a benefit to raise money for the Delaney family, and the money will also go towards the Spina Bifida Association."

Mark looked at the judge and said, "Well, Judge, I like the idea. I really do, but where do we get the entertainment for it? I mean, you need some type of singers or musicians to do a benefit to raise money. Do we just get amateurs? That won't do. Who do you know with talent like that, Judge?"

The judge said, "Well, for one, McCormick, the Jazz Masters. We would be glad to perform there. It's a wonderful cause and reason."

McCormick grinned at him and said, "We want to raise money for this, Judge, and I don't think that the Jazz Masters means collecting money. Definitely no talent there, Judge."

Hardcastle looked over at him and said, "Very funny, McCormick."

When they arrived home, they ate an early lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise and mustard, and they had coffee.

After they finished eating, Milt headed in to the den to make a few phone calls to try and set things in motion for New Year's Eve.

Milt had managed to get the rest of the Jazz Masters together to perform at the benefit to raise money for the Delaneys and for the Spina Bifida Association as well.

Milt left the den in search of McCormick, and he found him finally in the back yard doing his chores.

Milt headed outside and yelled, "Hey, McCormick, leave that for now and come in the house. We need to talk."

"Yeah, Judge, I'll be right there."

Mark came in the kitchen door and said, "Yeah, Judge, what do you need?"

Milt looked at Mark and said, "What do I need? What I need, McCormick, is some talent for this benefit."

Mark smirked and said, "Oh, I guess you are now seeing it my way. The Jazz Masters just won't do. Finally, some sense."

Milt glared at him and said with a growl, "McCormick, just pipe down and let me tell ya what I need from you."

Mark put his hands up and said, "I'm sorry, Judge - go on."

Milt said, "Okay, now what I was gonna tell ya is the Jazz Masters will be doing the benefit. We also need other talent. Do you know how to do anything except for fixing cars or stealing them?"

McCormick smiled a sarcastic smile in his direction and said, "Well, no, Judge, I think that about covers my talents. I guess The Jazz Masters will have to be playing "When The Saints go Marching in" all night, I hope you don't get too wiped out."

The judge began to speak and said "Do you know anyone with even a little talent McCormick?"

Mark thought for a minute and said, "Well, yeah - I guess I know a few people. One's better than the other, though."

The judge stood there with his hands folded across his chest and said, "Well, come on, McCormick, we don't have a lot of time to get this thing put together. Who are they?"

"Well, Judge, you aren't gonna like one of them all that well, but he can juggle a little."

In a louder tone Milt said, "Who McCormick? Just tell me, for pete's sake."

"Teddy Hollins, Judge. He can do juggling."

Milt said, "Well, I kinda doubt that, but besides him who else?"

Mark paused for a minute looking at the floor. Then he looked back up at the judge and said, "Well, Judge, you'll have to fly this person out cause they won't have the money to pay for the ticket right now to come out here."

"Never mind that, McCormick, just tell me who it is and are they any good?"

Mark said, "Yeah, she has talent. It's my momma, Judge. She used to sing to me. She has a very pretty voice."

Milt said, "Well, would she wanna do it in front of people?"

"I can call her and ask."

"You do that, kiddo, and if she's willing, I'll make the arrangements to get her out here."

Mark said, "Thanks, Judge. I'll go over to the gatehouse and call her right now. I'll let you know soon."

Then Mark headed out the kitchen door and headed to the gatehouse to call his mother, Donna McCormick. She was now living in Bayonne, New Jersey.

An hour later, Mark walked in the den. The judge was sitting behind his desk.

Mark had a huge smile on his face as he said, "My momma said she'd love to sing at the benefit, Judge. She is also off for the holiday's so she can come out and do it."

Milt said, "That's great, McCormick. I'll make the arrangements to fly her out here now."

"Oh and by the way, my momma said thanks for making arrangements to fly her out for this."

Milt said, "Yeah, yeah," with a wave of his hand dismissing the thanks. Then he said, "McCormick, now will ya get outta here and go finish your chores?"

Mark saluted and said, "Yes sir, your honor, your wish is my command."

Milt said, "I think I'm gonna talk to your momma about her little boy."

Mark said, "Sorry, Judge."

Milt said, Yeah, I thought that would get to you."

Mark walked outside to finish his chores for the next few hours.

When he walked back in to the den he said, "Is it all arranged, Judge?"

"Yeah, McCormick. Now all you need to do is call your momma back and give her the flight information." He handed McCormick the piece of paper with the information on it.

"Okay, Judge, I will go and do it right now, and I also wanna thank you for this judge."

"Okay now, McCormick. Now get on over to the gatehouse and call your momma about her flight."

Mark turned and left the main house, heading for the gatehouse to call Donna McCormick about her flight out to L.A. for the next morning.

That next morning they waited a for Donna McCormick to arrive.

Finally they heard her flight had arrived. Mark and Milt stood there waiting to see her.

Mark said, "There she is, Judge. Hey, Momma!" Mark yelled.

Donna McCormick had the sweetest, loving smile on her face when she saw her son.

Mark ran over to his momma and hugged her tightly and kissed her.

Then Mark and his momma walked over to where the judge was standing.

Donna McCormick said, "Hello, your honor. It's so nice to see you again," and she shook his hand.

Hardcastle said, "You can call me Milt."

Donna smiled and said, "Okay, but you have to call me Donna and not Ms. McCormick."

The judge nodded in agreement and said, "It's a deal - Donna it is."

They were getting ready to leave the airport, and then Milt told Donna and Mark he would treat them both to lunch. Donna let them choose where to eat.

Milt and Mark both decided Burger Man was the best place. In fact Mark said that his momma would like it because they used to eat at a place like that in New Jersey sometimes.

Milt said, "Okay, Mark, grab your momma's luggage, and we'll get it in the truck and head to Burger Man."

Mark stood there looking very nervous for a few long seconds.

Donna looked at her son and said, "What's the matter baby?"

Milt even stopped walking and turned to look at Mark.

He stood there saying nothing at first just looking at Mark.

Milt finally said, "Are you okay there, Mark?"

Mark began getting really nervous now.

Donna said, "Mark, honey what's the matter - do you need to go to the hospital?

Mark looked up at his mother finally and said, "No, Momma, I'm fine. The judge just called me Mark, and he knows it makes me very nervous when he does that."

Donna looked at Milt and said, "What is he talking about?"

Milt looked at Mark and then back at Donna, and then turning back to look at Mark he said in a bit of a gruff tone, "I can't very well call you McCormick for crying out loud, now can I?"

Mark said, "Well, I know my momma's here, but that's still no reason to change."

Milt spoke up and said, "Donna, Mark is whining about over there because I always call him McCormick. When I call him Mark it makes him nervous."

Milt looked over at Mark with a scowl on his face and rolled his eyes and said, "Fine, if that is what you want me to call you, then McCormick it is. Now let's get going."

Donna looked at Milt and smiled. Then she looked at Mark and said, "There you go, Mark, honey - all you have to do is tell him. You know he'll understand."

Mark said, "Yes, Momma, I know."

Donna said, "Come on, honey, Milt is waiting for us."

Mark picked up his momma's luggage and they all left the airport heading to Burger Man. They finally arrived and got a booth to sit at. They all decided to order the same thing to eat - cheeseburgers with the works and fries and large vanilla milkshakes.

They all enjoyed a nice lunch and had a very pleasant conversation. One of the things they had talked about was the up and coming benefit to raise money for the whole Delaney family and the Spina Bifida Association.

Donna told Milt and Mark that she was kind of nervous because she never sang in front of people before. She only used to sing to Mark. She went on to say, "Don't get me wrong - I really want to do this. It's just, well, I guess it's kinda like how Mark feels when you call him Mark, Milt." Then she glanced at Mark.

Mark looked at his momma and smiled and said, "Yeah, I suppose so, Momma."

Milt said, "Well, Donna, I'm sure you will do just fine." Milt cleared his throat and said, "Donna, there is one thing you could do to make you less nervous. You can look straight at. . ." he trailed off before continuing. He then continued and said, "You can look straight at MCCORMICK here," emphasizing the name with a bit of a smile on his face. "How does that sound to you, MCCORMICK?"

"Sounds fine to me, JUDGE," and they all three burst out laughing.

After lunch at Burger Man they left and went back to Gulls-Way.

They walked into the main house and Mark said, "Hey momma, I'm gonna take your luggage to the room you slept in when you were here for Thanksgiving."

Donna said, "That's fine honey."

Milt yelled up the stairs and said, "HEY, McCORMICK! YOU HAVE THE ROOM YOU HAD BEFORE TOO!"

McCormick yelled down and said, "Yeah, JUDGE, I know. Thanks."

Milt rolled his eyes and smiled at Donna and said, "That's some kid you got there."

Donna smiled and said, "Yes, I know. Thank you."

Mark walked down the steps and as he was walking down, he said, "Hey momma, when you're around here there is one other thing you will have to get used to."

Donna said, "What's that, Mark honey?"

Mark looked at Milt with a smirk and continued, "Well, Momma, the judge here is a John Wayne fan. We watch at least one or two movies a night; sometimes more."

Milt replied, "Well now, McCormick, I don't have to have that little talk with your momma about you and your smartass mouth because you sure are showing her now."

Mark just stood there and smiled, not saying a word at first. Then he said to his mother, "Well, what can I say - the judge just brings it out in me. I don't know."

Later for dinner they had pizzas with everything on them and Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips and Ranch Dorito's, along with Red Mountain Dew all around.

They did find a double feature of John Wayne "True Grit" and "The Quiet Man."

The next morning Milt was walking towards the kitchen and he heard very soft singing.

He stopped walking and just stood there in silence listening to Donna McCormick sing. She sounded so happy he couldn't interrupt her so he just stayed right there and continued listening.

Mark started coming down the stairs with a big smile on his face and he started to say, "Hey, good morning, Judge! It's gonna be a beautiful day."

The judge put a finger up to his mouth and said, "Shh, McCormick. Come stand here and listen."

Mark finished coming down the stairs quietly and walked over to the judge and said, "Listen to what, Judge?"

"Just be quiet and listen, McCormick."

They both finally just stood there for the longest time listening to Donna McCormick sing.

Mark had a smile on his face remembering the old song she was singing. It was one she sang to him. It was called "You Are My Sunshine."

Mark then said to the judge, "She used to sing that to me all the time."

Milt smiled and said, "Well, there is a lot of love in that song and she sure loves you. Come on, McCormick, let's get some breakfast."

She heard them coming but still she continued singing.

Milt said, "Hey there, Donna - you didn't have to make breakfast. We could have done it."

Donna said, "Oh no, I had to. It's my job to make sure you both eat well while I'm here at least."

"We slacked off yesterday, but not today."

She said, "You know, the benefit is only a few days away."

Milt said, "Yeah, I have to call the Delaney's and get them to show up at the benefit. I'll do that after breakfast."

After breakfast he went in the den and called them and after a time finally convinced them to come to the benefit.

The rest of that day, in between eating their meals, they continued getting things prepared for the benefit."

They went to the place that was rented out just for the benefit and Donna helped decorate the place with Happy New Year's decorations all over the walls and tables too.

Teddy Hollins helped decorate as well and did a demonstration of his juggling act to show them ahead of time.

Milt clapped and said, "Well, Teddy, you did a great job."

"Thanks, Judge, I appreciate that."

Donna said, "Hey Teddy. It's very nice that you are helping out with this benefit.

Teddy smiled at Donna and said, "Thanks, Ms. McCormick."

The next few days had passed. The Jazz Masters had lots of rehearsals in the den, and Donna was making plans on what she would sing for the benefit to raise the money for the Delaney family and for the Spina Bifida Association as well.

Donna had decided that one of the songs she would sing was "You Are My Sunshine" for sure.

Then Donna McCormick had decided to get her son involved in the benefit.

Donna went through lots of old songs that Mark and her could do together.

She finally found one that she thought would work well for them both.

Donna walked in the den and just saw Milt sitting at his desk. He looked up when he heard her come in and he put his pen down and said, "Is there something you needed, Donna?"

Donna smiled and said, "I was just looking for Mark. I thought I would find him in here."

Milt said, "Oh yeah, come to think of it, I was suppose to tell you that he is outside doing the rest of his chores for today."

Donna said, "Oh, okay Milt. I was just gonna talk to him about something."

Milt got up off the chair from behind his desk and said, "I'll go get him for you," and he headed to the kitchen door to call out for Mark.

Milt opened the door and said, "Hey McCormick! Come inside will ya! Your momma wants you."

"Yeah, okay, Judge, right away." As he came towards Hardcastle he said, "Thanks, Judge, for letting me know."

"Yeah, anytime, McCormick, anytime."

Mark walked in the house and said, "Where is she, Judge?"

Milt pointed in the direction of the den and said, "She's in there, kiddo."

Mark walked in the den and said, "Momma, the judge said you wanted me."

Milt walked back in for a brief moment and said, "Hey, McCormick - I'm gonna leave you two talk alone in here. You both need that time. I will be in the kitchen. Talk as long as you want in here."

Donna said, "Milt, you can stay if you want to. It's not private."

Mark said, "Yeah, Hardcastle, stay in here with us."

Milt said, "Well, I appreciate that from the both of you, but you two just need quiet time to talk one on one. I won't be far," but before he left the den and closed the door, he saw McCormick look up at him and say, "Thanks, Judge."

Milt said, "Yeah, yeah, McCormick," and made a dismissive gesture with his hand. He said, "I'll be in the kitchen." Then he closed the door to the den.

Donna turned to Mark and said, "Honey, I want us to do a song with each other."

Mark said, "Well, Momma, I can't sing."

Donna said, "Have you ever sung before?"

Mark said, "Yeah, I sang like a bird the day I was released from prison."

Donna smacked him on his shoulder and said, "That's not funny and you know it."

Mark smiled and said, "Yeah, Momma, I know. I'm sorry. I'm not too sure about this, though. I've never sung in front of others before."

Donna said, "Well, Mark, neither have I. Why not do it with me?"

Mark was looking down at the floor and suddenly he finally realized how much it meant to her, and he looked back up at her and he finally smiled sweetly and said, "If it means that much to you, Momma, I would love to."

Donna smiled and said, "Thank you, honey."

Mark said, "You're welcome, Momma."

Mark then asked her what the song was that they were going do together.

Donna told him she chose the song "Together Wherever We Go." "I hope that song is okay, Mark."

Mark said, "Yeah, it is. I know most of it, I think."

"That's great, Mark."

It was the evening of The New Year's Benefit and Milt, Mark and his mother were there, putting the finishing touches on things and checking the Sauerkraut and Spear Ribs and the sausage and other foods as well.

Milt was talking to Donna about stories about Mark when he was a little boy, and then Milt heard some young voice say, "Hello Milt."

Milt looked around and saw Emily Delaney there.

Milt knelt down to chat with her a bit then he looked up at Donna and said, "Donna, this young lady here is a good friend of mine. Donna McCormick, this Emily Delaney."

Donna knelt down by Emily and hugged her and said, "I'm very happy to meet you."

Emily said, "Thank you, I'm happy to meet you too."

Then Emily looked up at Milt and said, "Where is that man? You know, your helper Elf."

Donna said, "Helper Elf?"

Milt said, "Yeah, I played Santa for the kids at the U.C.L.A. Children's Hospital. That's where I met Emily while she was a patient there."

Emily spoke up and said, "I had a Spinal Fusion."

Milt smiled at Emily and said, "How are you doing with that Emily? Are you still in a lot of pain?"

Emily said, "Yeah, some of the time, but I brought the medicine with me."

Milt said, "Oh, okay, honey – that's good."

Donna spoke again and said, "Milt, tell me about this helper Elf of yours."

"Well, my helper Elf has curly hair, and is sometime a pain in the butt, and his name is Mark McCormick - but he wants me to stick with calling him McCormick. He's right over there Emily," Milt said, pointing in Mark's direction.

Emily said, "Okay, thanks," and with a smile, she started to wheel over to him but had to stop. Her back was beginning to hurt.

Donna saw Emily just sitting in the middle of the floor and she walked over to her and knelt down and said, "Are you all right, Emily?"

Emily said, "Yes, but my back hurts a bit, and I can't get over there to see Mark."

"Would you like me to wheel you?"

Emily said, "I better stay put right now until the pain leaves."

Donna said, "Okay, honey. I will be right back."

Emily said okay.

Donna walked over to Hardcastle and said, "Milt, where are Emily's parents? She is in a lot of pain."

Milt said, "They were called away unexpectedly. They should be back shortly. Why?"

"Well, Milt, she was wheeling over to see Mark when it her back began hurting and had to stop. I offered to wheel her, but she said she'd better wait for the pain to go away. Milt, would you sit with her til I get Mark to come over to her?"

"Sure I will, Donna. You go get the kid. Tell him if he doesn't come right over, I'll get him by the ear and pull him over."

Donna turned with a confused look and said, "Do you really want me to tell him that?"

Milt smiled at her and said, "No, but if you really want to, it's okay with me."

Donna smiled back at Milt and said, "I'll be right back."

Milt followed right behind Donna so he could be with Emily. He pulled up a chair by Emily and said, "Donna told me you are in pain?"

Emily looked at him and said, "Yes, I am."

Milt asked her where her pills were.

Emily said, "There in the gold purse over on the table. Then she looked straight in front of her and there she saw Mark walking towards her.

He also pulled up a chair and sat down, hugged her and began chatting with her.

Milt saw Donna headed in their direction and asked her if she would go over to that table over there he pointed in the direction of Emily's purse and get Emily's purse for her.

Donna said, "Sure, I'll get her water too. I will be right back."

Milt said, "Thanks, Donna."

As she was walking away she said, "No problem."

Donna came back with a nice bottle of water for Emily and her purse.

Emily asked Donna if she would get her pills out for her.

Donna said, "Sure, honey, anything you need."

An hour later Emily's parents were back and Donna told them Emily had a lot of pain, but that everything was okay now though.

The Delaney's went over to the table where Emily was sitting and sat down with her.

Milt and Mark were very close by.

A few hours later all the fun started.

While Donna was in the ladies room getting prepared to sing, Mark McCormick came out and grabbed the microphone and said "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you all for being with us tonight. We are all here tonight to raise money for two very worthy causes. One is for the Delaney family. You see, Phillip and his wife Joyce have four children and barely have enough money to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table, because Phillip Delaney had lost his job several weeks ago. Their nine-year-old daughter recently had to have back surgery and a bit of a stay in the U.C.L.A. Children's Hospital and their medical bills are sky high. That is a very big reason Judge Hardcastle and all of us of pulled together to have this benefit to raise money. It's very much needed."

"We also are raising money for the Spina Bifida Association, a very worthy cause. We have a few very special people to introduce to you tonight - not just the ones who are going to entertain you, but you will get to meet that very special family here as well."

Mark then did the honors of introducing The Jazz Masters.

Mark said, "Without any further delay, ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce to you the Courthouse Racketeers and the Jazz Masters."

Then Mark laid the microphone down and took a seat.

The Jazz Masters came out first to do some entertaining.

They started to play "When The Saints Go Marching In" and Emily sat there with a huge smile on her face and listened to all of it. She even wrote a note and handed it to Mark and asked for it to be handed to Milt for the Jazz Masters to play it again if they would.

Mark walked back over to Emily and said, "Emily, I just handed the judge the note, and he, along with the other Jazz Masters, said yes, they would love to do it again for you."

Emily smiled up at Mark and thanked him and asked that he thank the Jazz Masters as well.

Mark did as she had asked him to do.

Then Mark went over and picked up the microphone once again and said, "Uh, ladies and gentlemen, because of a request from a young lady over there, the Jazz Masters have agreed to play "When The Saints Go Marching In" once again so please welcome again the Courthouse Racketeers and the Jazz Masters."

Everyone in the audience was very pleased. They all applauded quite loudly.

Then Donna came out to sing and her eyes never left Mark as she did "You Are My Sunshine." The crowd loved her.

Then Teddy come out and did his juggling act. It went very well.

Milt, Mark and Donna were very happy for him.

Then there was a slight intermission.

All the people who were there and gave big donations said that they would give all the information out to their friends and families for them to do the same. Everyone there was handed all the necessary information to keep giving donations and to hand papers out to everyone they know. Everyone got a chance to chat a bit with each other.

Milt asked Mark where the Delaney's were because he wanted to chat with Emily.

Mark said they moved over to the next nearest table so Emily could watch the Jazz Masters perform better and Mark pointed in their direction to show the judge where the Delaney's were.

Milt said, "Okay, McCormick, thanks."

Milt headed over and sat right by Emily and said, "Are you enjoying all of this?"

Emily smiled and said, "Yes Milt, I am."

Milt smiled at her and said, "Hey, I will be right back." He got up from his seat and walked over to Mark and said, "Hey, McCormick, go over to the Delaney's table. I'm gonna go and do something, and Emily might need your help to wheel her chair if her back is still hurting. Can you do that?"

Mark looked at the judge and said, "Yeah, Judge - I can do that."

Mark walked straight over to Emily and sat right there beside her in the chair Hardcastle had just occupied and said, "Hey there, Emily - how are you doing?"

Emily smiled and said, "Hi Mark. I'm doing fine now. No more pain."

Mark said, "That's good to hear."

Milt walked over to the microphone and spoke in it and said, "I hope all of you are enjoying all the entertainment so far."

They all clapped their hands and cheered. After they stopped with the applause Milt continued on.

Milt said, "Thank you. As you all know, part of this benefit is to raise money for the Delaney family. Well, I thought we should take this time to let you all meet this family. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like you to meet Phillip and Joyce Delaney first. Let's give them a round of applause. Phillip and Joyce Delaney, will you please come over here?"

Phillip and Joyce came up and smiled at Milt and said, "Well, we don't know how to thank all of you. This means a lot to us that we have friends like all of you who are so generous to help us out like this."

The crowd applauded.

Joyce said, "We have never wanted to ask anyone for help. Milt here has talked with us and been very kind and helpful to us. He made it possible for most of our medical bills to be paid. Since then we have accumulated lots more. Our Emily had more things that had to be done and the bills are more now then ever. We are so blessed and very lucky to have Milt and Mark as our friends."

Joyce finally broke down and went back over to their table and Phillip followed her.

Milt hollered over to them to make sure she was all right.

They both smiled and nodded yes in response.

Milt smiled back at them; then he turned back to all the people there and he continued on.

Milt Hardcastle cleared his voice and said, "Okay, now I would like to introduce a new friend of mine. She is the daughter of Phillip and Joyce Delaney. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Miss Emily Delaney here tonight."

There was a thunder of applause and Mark McCormick got up from his seat and asked Emily if she wanted any help wheeling over there because of all the pain she had in her back earlier that evenning.

Emily smiled and said, "No, it's okay - I can handle it, but thank you anyway, Mark. The pain has finally quit."

Mark smiled and said, "Well, I bet you are glad about that."

Emily said, "Yes, I am," and then she smiled and took off in her chair to go over to meet Milt.

When she got over there Milt knelt down to her and said, "How are you doing now honey? I told McCormick over there to help you if you needed help wheeling over here because of all your pain earlier."

Emily smiled at Milt and said "Well, he asked me if I needed help because of the pain I did have earlier, but I told him I was fine. The pain is all gone for now, and I could handle it, but I thanked him."

Milt smiled and said, "Okay, Emily, you're the boss."

She smiled up at him.

Milt said, "Well, Emily, I guess I better continue what I am doing here."

Milt stood up and said, "Ladies and gentlemen as I started to say this young lady here is Emily Delaney, daughter of Phillip and Joyce Delaney."

The crowd applauded.

Emily smiled and said, "Hello, everyone, it's nice to see you all here tonight."

Milt continued talking saying, "This little lady is a very special lady. Emily and her parents and her sisters and brother are too. Anyway, Emily here has Spina Bifida. She is a tough little lady and has handled lots of things that have come her way."

Emily whispered over to Milt that she needed to go back over to the table to get a drink.

Milt leaned down to hug and kiss her. She then asked him if the Jazz Masters were performing anymore or if they were doing anything else tonight, and he told her he would see what he could do about it a little later. Then she was off in her wheelchair to go over to her table.

Milt started talking to someone in the back of the room who was telling him it was time to introduce the last of the performers but all he knew is that it was a parent and their kid.

Milt said, "Uh, I understand here from someone back there that there is a parent and their kid coming out to entertain you right now. I'm sorry I have no information on it other than that."

Milt said to someone in the back, "I have to announce names, for crying out loud." He stood there and listened as they told him the names, and he said, "Who'd you say they are?"

Milt then turned back towards the audience with a slight smile and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, let's give a round of applause to a mother and son act Donna and Mark."

They all clapped and cheered as the mother and son came out.

Donna and Mark both wore matching outfits. They were both dressed in black pants, white shirt, and black jacket type suit that was a bit big for them. They wore a bow tie and black shoes as well.

As soon as they came out, they started singing "Together Wherever We Go." The crowd oohed and ahhed and just loved their performance.

After they were done, the judge walked up to them and congratulated them on a wonderful job.

They both smiled and said thanks, and Milt nodded his head in answer to their thanking him.

Everyone sat down for a bit and talked with each other while Milt went over to the rest of his band and asked them about doing another performance for a little lady over there, and he pointed in Emily Delaney's direction.

Then he picked up the microphone and said, "May I have your attention here? Uh, my friend Emily Delaney over there has asked my band and I to perform again. I hope this is fine with everyone."

Everyone clapped and cheered.

Milt went on - he put his hand up to stop the applause for a minute, then he said, "Uh, ladies and gentlemen, wait just a second here."

Milt paused, then went on to say, "Well, I gotta tell ya, we have never had someone want us to keep playing this much - not even close. In fact, McCormick over there always makes smartass comments about it."

Mark was over there smiling, looking over at the judge as he was saying all of this.

"So anyway, the Jazz Masters want to thank Emily Delaney for appreciating America's art form and fine music. Ladies and gentlemen, the only way the Jazz Masters will do this once more is if Emily Delaney comes up and joins us. How about it, Emily?" he said with a smile.

Emily smiled over at him and wheeled over there to join the Jazz Masters.

Everyone enjoyed that performance just as much as the other two times.

Soon it was about twenty minutes before midnight, and the ball would be dropping. It was time everyone got there food and a drink of some kind. It had been already decided there would be no alcohol there at all - they had punch and soda pop for everyone to enjoy plus coffee.

After some nice conversation and all it got to be ten seconds before the ball would drop.

Everyone counted down and watched as the ball dropped, then everyone shouted "Happy New Year!" and raised their glasses in a toast that they were now hopefully in the beginnings of a bright, brand New Year and that things would start looking up for all of them in the new year.