At the elementary and middle schools on Monday, the big talk was the awesome weekend the seventeen boys had. Alex's friends talked the most, since one of them had their father show up unannounced. That in itself was enough to get everyone's attention as well as listening to what went on during the swim and movie and then the sleepover. Eric's friends talked mostly about jumping off the high ledge and how the older teens didn't ignore them and played all the games.
On the political front, the week began with a bang. The two School Board incumbents', over the weekend, prepared their attack ads and 'misinformation campaigns' for their upcoming election victory. At a planned news conference, the two men launched a barrage of mischaracterizations against their opponents, telling the reporters about the lack of education and inability to comprehend the issues. The men called for an immediate investigation into their opponent's campaign contribution funds, saying they received more than the law allowed from one resident.
Of course, the reporters knew Ken Thomas was the one who they referenced without mentioning his name. The men then told everyone in attendance how well they led the School District and how well the schools did on national tests and in comparison to foreign students. It was laid on thick and the election wasn't for another seventy plus days.
Wednesday evening of that same week, the incumbent Hospital District Board members began their attack on the people who were running against them. The rally they held was almost a mirror image of Monday's announcements, but these men went on to reveal the names of local prominent people who supported them and would be campaigning for them, as well.
Over at Three Finger Cove, Friday night, the first of many meetings to come was held. The challengers hadn't figured they would be so scared, so soon, at what they all heard during that week. The two campaigns were separate but equal, in that their campaign managers were proven election savvy and told all of them to 'remain calm' as they had yet to hold their first rally or rebuttal to the very early charges. The six new candidates sat back and for the next four hours a strategy was being compiled that would soon get them out in the public's eye.
The first part of the campaign, to be implemented, would be radio and newspaper ads, then that was followed by the school kids who volunteered to hand deliver pamphlets to every house in the District. Then TV commercials would hit the airwaves closer to Election Day. Lastly, multiple rallies would be scheduled all around the District area so that the people could meet them and ask them questions directly. It was also decided that that Saturday and Sunday would be devoted to the candidates learning the current issues and determining what they were going to focus on. That weekend was going to be a very busy and tiring one for sure.
Saturdays and Sundays are days that Collin loves to sleep in on. He, like practically every other male teenager alive, needs his sleep and makes up for any lost sleep during the week, over the weekend. Noon time was a regular wake up time for Collin and Ryan, wherever he was sleeping. This weekend was no different.
"Damn, it's noon already. Where does the time go, Col?" asked Ryan.
"Ryan, you ask me that every weekend and every weekend I give the same answer. We sleep during it! We're growing teenagers and we need sleep. There are some schools in Texas that have the teenagers go to school after the younger kids do. They say that teenagers are so busy that they need the extra morning hours in order to get a full night's sleep." That time Collin added another reason for their sleeping late over the weekends and Ryan knew it was more ammunition he could use when his mom bugged him about him sleeping so much.
"Okay, I guess we'd better get up before Bro sends up his messenger. I'm gonna pee first then get in the shower. How about you?" said Ryan.
"Yeah, I guess I'll do the same thing. But this bed sure feels so fine." Collin then grabbed his pillow and snuggled up to it and fell fast asleep. Ryan followed his best friend's actions and fell asleep just as fast.
"Woof! … Woof … Woof! … Woof, Woof, Woof!" barked Chief. Then she went over to Collin and licked his face. Then she went over to Ryan and licked his face. Then she barked real loud and long.
"Okay, okay we'll get up, Chief. Leave us alone!" cried Collin.
Then there was heard another voice and it said, "Get 'em up Chief go on, get 'em up!"
Chief then jumped onto the teens' beds and back and forth and she went and barked more and more. It wasn't until both teens were sitting up that she stopped. The boys then looked to see who their 'other' tormentor was. Then they saw Eric standing in the doorway with a great big smile, on his face. Both teens threw their pillows at him and then ran to grab him. Eric laughed as his 'big bros' tickled him all over. Chief barked her happy bark at them as the three 'brothers' wrestled in the hallway.
"Bro said to get up," laughed out Eric as he was tickled mercilessly.
"Get up, did he say?" asked Ryan as he tickled the young lad.
"Yes, yes, Bro said to get … get your lazy butts out … out of bed, nooooowww! … Stop, stop, please stop or … or I'll pee my pants," cried Eric, still laughing.
The much older boys then stopped and sat back against the wall still laughing at what they did to their younger 'bro'. Chief went over to them and licked their faces and then went to Eric and licked his, and then with her tail wagging, she walked to the stairs and walked down.
Saturday was starting off with a bang.
Down in the kitchen, Mr. Ken and Eric were snacking when the two sleepyheads made their appearance. The two already in the kitchen ignored the two newbie's and continued eating their snacks.
"Hey, what's here for us to eat?" growled Collin.
"You guys are on your own," snickered Mr. Ken. "Momma Maria went with Miss Judy to the store and said to tell you your breakfast tacos are in the warming over for you to eat. I think she made them about 9 o'clock this morning. Seeing it is now 1 PM they should be well done."
Eric laughed at what was said and laughed even more when the two teens tried to bite into their tacos. They were so dried out and hard they broke into huge pieces and fell all over the table. Then the older 'brothers' started to laugh and then cleaned up their mess. They wound up eating cereal for lunch because they were too lazy to fix anything more complicated.
"Hey, Bo, why are you over here?" asked Ryan.
"Bo, is it?" asked Eric.
"Yeah, I kinda like that name. It says something to me at least. You were a friend to someone you didn't know and he 'honored' you by giving you a nickname, 'Bo'," said Collin.
"Okay, I understand, but I'd rather not be called that by anyone but you guys. If I have to have a nickname, I want my friends to decide what it would be. You know by something I did or something that happened to me. Aidan is a friend, I suppose, but I don't know him, so I'd rather, you know, let the guys give me a name," said Eric.
"By the way, what did you think about Mr. Ken calling us his 'little brothers'?" asked Bo.
"You know, I never really thought about it," offered Ryan. "We are always calling him Big Bro, or Bro, so it never dawned on me how that would sound. What about you Collin?"
"I guess I am the same about it as you are, Ryan. But I can see the implication by his using that term for us. None of us ARE his 'little brothers' but by his calling us that, he has elevated us … you know into an 'unofficial' family of sorts. I kinda like that, too, seeing that the only real family I have left is my grandmother, that I haven't seen in quite some time," answered Collin. "What about you, Bo?"
"Well, it makes me feel real special, too. You guys know I'm adopted, but Mr. Ken's including me as one of his 'little brothers'' makes it more special, as now there are two people who claim me, one as her 'son' and the other as his 'brother. You know in real life, I am not related to them in any way. I may have been abandoned by my real family, but I NOW have people who want me to be a part of theirs," replied Eric.
Standing there listening were both his 'mom' and 'big brother' and they had great big smiles on their faces for what Eric had just said about them. Mom Judy went to her son and gave him a great big hug and thanked him for how he felt. Mr. Ken went to him and picked him up and hugged him, too. Momma Maria heard and saw all that happened and she had tears in her eyes for all the 'love' she knew was there in that room.
The teens, seeing Maria standing there with a package, went out to the garage to help unload the car. Eric soon followed to help his 'older bros' and move everything into the kitchen.
What's all this stuff for," asked Collin.
Miss Judy answered by saying, "I promised Mr. Ken here a wonderful family dinner for taking Eric on that trip and for treating him as his 'little brother'. And you are invited, too."
"But why are we invited?" asked Collin.
"Because, silly, you two did your part by including Eric and making him feel so welcome and a part of what you two have become, 'brothers''. I know Eric would have loved to have a younger or older brother, but that isn't likely to happen any time soon, but you two … have filled that void for him. The one way I know how to show my appreciation is to cook a great meal for you all, Maria included. Mr. Ken and I may have gotten off to a shaky start, five months ago, but he has never shown anything but a caring attitude and being a 'friend' and I also have him to thank for my new position, I am told," was how Miss Judy replied to the simple but complicated question.
"Hey, I didn't do anything other than what was 'right'," spoke up Mr. Ken. "The boys here are then ones who have become 'brothers' in a sense, and they have taken it upon themselves to give Eric the benefit of that brotherhood by making him their 'little bro'. Age wise, we are all close enough that people would never stop to ask if we weren't real brothers.
"I am the college boy and these two, of course, are the high schoolers and last but not least comes Bo, here, the last of the Mohicans, bringing up the end. Am I lucky to have these boys in my life? You BET I am! They have brought loads of excitement and tons of energy to Three Finger Cove. Their very essence filled these four walls with laughter and zest; otherwise, the Cove would be just another big house on the lake."
Mary Taylor, Ryan's mom, was invited to join them that night and dinner that evening was equivalent to any four-star restaurant. The first course was a wonderful salad served on iced cold plates to keep the makings cool throughout. The second course consisted of prime rib that was to die for. It was perfectly done and literally melted in your mouth. The sides included baked potatoes and all the trimmings of butter and sour cream and bacon bits and cheddar cheese, for toppings. There were two additional side dishes of green beans and asparagus, as many kids don't like one or the other, or both. The final course was an orange creamed sorbet mounded over hot apple pie. A white Zinfandel was served for its sweetness and the boys were allowed some as a treat.
Everyone retreated to the Great Room after dinner and enjoyed each other's company. They relived the reason for that awesome meal with Eric giving his running narrative of the entire trip. None of the 'brothers' stayed for the night. It was only Collin and Chief upstairs sleeping that night.
Three Finger Cove was a beehive of activity that Sunday. The candidates arrived to study their positions and practice taking questions and giving their answers. Ryan came over to practice driving, and so did a few of their classmates. Mr. Ken had his new construction and architect managers over to discuss building plans for the Four Corners area. Life at the Cove was vibrant and high spirited and the warming weather helped with everyone's upbeat mood.
The middle of March was Spring Break week and Mr. Ken and Collin needed to visit the Mall to get new clothes for a surprise trip, for the teenager. Walking through the wide open spaces, window shopping, allowed one to ignore the mass of people also doing the same thing. One lady, though, spotted the young man, and his charge, and immediately walked over to him with her son in tow.
"Ah … Mr. Ken? Sir?" lightly spoke the mother.
Ken tried his best to ignore the woman and didn't notice who the boy was that was with her. Collin didn't respond either seeing how Mr. Ken was acting.
"Mr. Ken?" this time a little louder and asked by a high voice the two shoppers recognized.
Both Mr. Ken and Collin turned around at the same time and recognized Logan standing there with a very lovely lady in her mid-forties.
"Mr. Ken, Collin, I want you to meet my mom, Julie Anderson. Mom, this is Mr. Ken and his 'little brother' Collin," is how Logan introduced his hosts from last weekend's swim party and sleepover.
"It is nice to meet you, Mrs. Anderson. Hello again, Logan," responded Mr. Ken.
"Hi," is all Collin said.
"Julie, please, Mr. Ken. When Logan spotted you, I wanted him to introduce me, so I could personally thank you for what you did for my boy." Hearing his mom say that made him blush as he knew what she was going to say. Mr. Ken and Collin both picked up on that and now wanted to know what it was all about.
"I don't think we did anything unusual, Julie. We often have Collin's and Ryan's and Eric's friends over to swim and a few get to sleep over, too," remarked Mr. Ken.
"Yes, I know. We both attended your Christmas Party and Logan often wished he'd be invited back. He is friends with Eric, but as boys do, they have special friends who get to share things more often than others. … Oh, dear me, I think I made it sound like … ah …."
"I know what you are saying, Julie, and I understand. I was a boy once, too, and I can empathize with what you re saying. I am sure Logan here has real good friends that he hangs with," answered Mr. Ken before Julie made Logan feel bad inside.
"Well, yes he does, but besides his being asked to enjoy the swimming and movie and sleepover, I ah … I wanted to thank you for how you handled his … Logan's discomfort that morning," said Julie Anderson.
Collin looked at his guardian and shrugged his shoulders not thinking through what happened that early morning. Mr. Ken did pick up on it instantly and his eye brows shot up, indicating he knew what she was referring to.
"Ah … Mrs. Anderson, there is no need to …"
"Oh, but, there is, Mr. Ken. You see … Logan only has me and his two older sisters and … so when that thing happened, I was glad he had someone, such as you, there to be able to explain it to him. Logan reluctantly told me what happened a few days later. He came home that Sunday, a very happy eleven year old. It was later in the week that one of his friends' mom mentioned to me that something else happened to him that I wasn't made aware of by him. So, being a mom, I pressed him until he gave me the gist of what happened that morning.
"I truly didn't mean to embarrass him, although I know I did some, but he gave me the general idea of what happened, and how you treated him and talked to him. Mr. Ken, there was no way I could have explained that 'coming of age' event, as I came to believe you did." And tugging on her son, she continued, "I had to thank you personally for what you did. I know you are just out of college, but you treated him as if he was your 'little brother,' too, and now I know why the three lads look to you as their 'big' brother.
"Logan mentioned how Jesse called Collin, here, and Ryan Taylor and Eric Turner, your 'little brothers,' and it would never had dawned on me, about the reference, until my boy told me how you talked to him. You have a real gift, Mr. Ken. Many adults would dismiss younger boys, especially, when they had problems and had no one to turn to.
"I did call Jesse, and he told me about his talk with you and how he was initially led to otherwise believe things about you. I, for sure, am a believer now, too. I also know that you had some dealings with the School Board and Hospital District and plan to help the new candidates in the upcoming election. If there is any way I can help, please let me know."
By then a small crowd of people had gathered around. Ken and Collin weren't aware of the people behind them and when they looked around, there must have been close to twenty people listening to the conversation.
Seeing an opportunity to speak about the May election, Mr. Ken spoke up and said, "Yes, Julie, and the rest of you, there is a way you can help in the elections. If you read anything about the special Board meetings, then you know they have a disdain for anyone NOT of their 'standing'. They have been in those chairs for so long they have forgotten why they are there. That ALL needs to change!
"Two School Board members tried to railroad the meeting so that nothing would ever have been made public. Their published agreement to update the Student Handbook and bring the District up to minimum Federal standards has been slowly relegated to the trash bin. The people I am supporting and endorsing are parents of school age children, and only want what is best for this School District.
"As for the Hospital District members, they, too, have been on there, way too long, and now only seem to have time for high rollers and big money. That hospital is there for all of us, but if you don't meet their standards, then you are treated with contempt and arrogance. New ideas need to be brought to both and the only way to do that is to vote them OUT of office and put in new people who will think 'outside the box'. I want you all to vote this election, and VOTE yourself the change that is much needed in both Boards."
The small group applauded and shook Mr. Ken's hand and then went on about their business. Collin and his Big Bro continued to shop, but the teenager still had no idea where they were going during Spring Break. The only thing Collin knew was that Ryan wasn't coming along.
That week, the first radio ads for the new candidates aired. Immediately, people began to call the toll free numbers pledging money and volunteering their time for the election. The candidates also held small rallies at people's homes to get comfortable with talking to people and to practice answering questions. They also wanted the citizens' input in regards to how they saw each Board and how they believed things needed to change. All-in-all, that was a good week for morale and the campaign's funding.
Collin and Ryan spent most of the week together, as usual. They talked about Ryan's upcoming trip, but neither had any idea where Mr. Ken was taking Collin. All they knew was that Collin needed lots of new clothes, especially a dinner jacket and his tux let out to fit his growing body. Ryan wasn't too keen on where he as going with his mom, but he had promised he'd go with her this year, long before he became friends with Collin, and he knew it would be bad form for him to back out. Besides, if he did, he'd be all alone anyway, as his best friend was going away, too.
Thursday after school, Mr. Ken asked the boys if they wanted to go driving. Never giving up the chance to drive, the two lads got their coats and headed for the Taurus.
"Bro, I thought you didn't want both of us driving together?" asked Ryan.
"I didn't want you driving together when you are practicing out here without me or Mary in the vehicle with you guys. You are still too inexperienced to deal with the amount of distractions another person of your age can give. I am glad that even when you do get your license you won't be able to have anyone your age in the vehicle, and can only have siblings in the back seat. And seeing that neither of you have brothers or sisters, you will be driving alone for about a year," answered Mr. Ken.
Both boys scowled at hearing what the twenty-something man told them. They couldn't do anything about it, but they didn't have to like it.
Ken threw the keys to Ryan first and he got in the driver's seat and tried to put the key in the ignition and it wouldn't fit. Then he looked out and saw that neither Bro nor Big Bro was in the car with him. Getting out, he asked, "What gives?"
Collin laughed and said for him to look at the key fob. Ryan smiled as he recognized the Ford F-150 truck key and walked over to the garage and pressed the open button. They all got into the truck as soon as the garage door was opened. A new driving experience was on-hand for Ryan.
The trio was out for almost two hours, and when they returned, Mary was waiting for them. They all went out for a nice dinner as that would be their last time together until the boys got back from their trips. The conversation around the table touched on topics from Four Corners to the elections to the opening of the new community lake beach to where everyone was going on their trips. Mr. Ken said nothing about his and Collin's pending trip, and couldn't be budged from that position. By eleven PM, everyone was back home and in bed.
Everyone, but Collin, slept a peaceful sleep.