"Woof, woof, woof," barked Chief. It was almost noon the day after the last Holiday Party and she was hungry and she wanted her 'boy' to get up and feed her. "Woof, woof, woof ... woof, woof," she bellowed again in the confines of the bedroom. "Woof!"
"Alright, alright, Chief, what time is it? Oh, yea you haven't learned to talk yet, have ya, you mangy mutt," a still more than sleepy Collin spoke to the dog just before she jumped up on the bed and began to lick his face. "Ok, ok, I'm up, I'm up. Leave me alone!" he yelled at her as he pushed her away and off the bed.
Chief jumped down as Collin lazily got out of bed with his morning flag pole leading the way to the bathroom. Once relieved, Collin put on some clothes, looked over at his still sleeping friend, gave him the finger and walked down to the kitchen to feed Chief.
"Hey, how come you all didn't feed, Chief? She came up and woke me and Ryan up with her barking and jumping on the bed. Us teenagers need our sleep!" an irritated Collin barked out at Ken and Mary.
"Now wait just a minute there, Collin," an equally irritated Mr. Ken told the half asleep teen. "It is almost noon and Chief is YOUR dog and your responsibility around here. I sent her up to get you two out of bed. Now feed Chief and get your friend out of bed and get your showers and be down here in 30 minutes. Are there any questions, young man?"
Collin, with a deep scowl in his face, looked over at Mr. Ken but after hearing the tone in that voice, he decided he didn't want to argue with him right then and there. He was still tired and decided that this wasn't the time. He finished setting out Chief's food and fresh water and went upstairs to get his best friend and himself into the showers.
"Ryan, Ryan, get up," called Collin to his best friend. "Mr. Ken sounds pissed for some reason. He sent Chief up here to get us up and out of bed and said we have 30 minutes to get our showers and be downstairs. Come on, Ryan, get out of bed!"
"No, I want to sleep some more! I'm a growing teenager and I need my rest," replied Ryan from under the covers. "And when did Chief begin to speak?" he asked as he put his head back under the covers.
"Sorry, dude, that ain't gonna work. I tried that when I was just downstairs and Bro sounded pissed we were still in bed. Now get up. Time's a wasting and we need to get our showers," an equally tired 15 year old said towards the still blanket covered body.
Next thing Ryan knew he was on the floor. Collin had pulled him by his leg and unceremoniously dumped him there blanket and all. That got Ryan into a playful mood so he tackled Collin and the two wrestled for a few minutes. Then they heard Chief bark and they looked at the clock and knew they had to really jump through hoops to get showered, dressed and downstairs, pronto.
"Here come the thundering herd, now," Ken said to Mary who was sitting there drinking her coffee. Just then the two teenagers entered the Kitchen Nook. "It is so nice of you two to join us," chided Ken. "It is past noon and if I hadn't sent Chief up to get you both, I bet you'd sleep the day away. Did you forget we have company arriving at 2 o'clock? Today is the day we pay all your friends for their hard work in helping make those two Holiday Parties such a resounding success. Remember, we are also having a small gathering to eat up the remainder of the leftover foods. I bet you both forgot that, didn't you!" a somewhat perturbed Mr. Thomas announced to the lads standing there with their mouths wide open.
The boys stood there not knowing what to say. Their Bro just reminded them of their commitment to their best friends and they had totally forgotten. "We're sorry, Bro," started Collin. "Yea, we did kinda forget and we're sorry! The last two days were rough and we aren't used to that kind of excitement. Will you forgive us?" an amenable Ryan said as he hugged his big Bro.
"Teenagers, sheesh, did you hear that, Mary? They had it rough," laughed Ken at the boys. "We are older than you guys and we managed to get up. There are a few things to do to get ready and we need you two to help," finished Mr. Ken.
At around two o'clock the teenaged boys and girls who helped with the parties began to arrive. Ken and Mary along with Collin and Ryan had put out the remaining foods from the evenings' parties and the guests dove into the awesome leftovers. By half past two everyone was there and Mr. Ken called them all together.
"I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work and dedication into making the last two nights of Holiday Parties such a huge success. I really appreciate how each of you committed yourselves to helping me and Collin. I am fairly new to this community and Collin is even newer and when you heard our call for assistance you all responded. Prior to the announcement of the parties only a few of you knew me through Ryan, and even less knew my 'little bro', Collin here. That in itself says a lot for today's breed of teenagers. Oh, and I think the money you'd earn had something to do with that as well," joked Mr. Ken, as the assembled teenagers laughed at his pun about the money.
"I also want to thank you all for stopping by and helping eat all these leftovers. This is all astonishingly good food, but there is no way he (pointing at Collin) and I can eat all this. I hope you will all take some home with you and let your families enjoy these tremendous foods as well. Now, for the moment you all came back for. I have Cash Money in every envelope so this way you don't have to run to the bank. Please keep in mind some people worked more hours than others and that is why the pay is different. Take Damon and Daniel there, for example. They worked the weekend before many of you were asked if you could help, so they have a few more of these," proclaimed Mr. Thomas as he waved some ten dollar bills in the air.
"I know you will all use this money wisely and maybe for some Holiday gifts for your loved ones. Also, I want you all to know we are having two New Year's Eve parties in about ten days and you all are invited. Collin and Ryan will be hosting a 'Young Teens' New Year's Eve Party for invited teenagers ONLY! I stress the invitation part as I do not want all the teenagers in the county coming to my house (everyone laughed at that). There will also be an Adult's only New Year's Eve Party by invitation only as well. I mention that just in case some of you may want to work that party, too. If you do, please let me know as soon as possible.
"I will be hiring people to do exactly what you all did for me the past two nights. With the exception of Santa's Elves and the man under the platform, I will need hat check people, busboys and girls, servers and gofers to name a few." Then looking in the direction of one boy, Mr. Ken said, "I know it was hot under the Christmas tree platform, Connor, and you will find an extra bonus in your envelop for that job very well done."
"Ok ... I have the pay envelops and as I call your name please come up and get them," spoke the boss as all the teens gathered before him.
"Christy, you were great as Santa's Elf. Santa was impressed, too. Thanks again," said Mr. Thomas
"Damon, thank you, young man," said Mr. Ken
"Connor, thanks again for enduring the heat under the platform. And the false bottom bag was an awesome idea. Thank you for all that hot and sweaty work," a satisfied Mr. Ken said to the boy.
"Daniel, you did well, too. Talk to me later, ok? I have an idea for a job for you this summer. Actually, it can begin right after the first of the New Year, so, if you are interested, make sure you talk to me soon, ok? And, no, it isn't taking Ryan's job either," the smiling man said as he looked over at Ryan.
"Abby, that was another job well done. No hats were lost that I know of," Mr. Ken laughed as he presented her the envelope. "But I don't know what I am going to do with the few leftover hats still hanging in that room – NOT!" and Mr. Ken laughed at his own supposed joke and handed Abby her pay.
"Brittany, another Santa satisfied Elf. You did really good, girl. Santa wants you back next year!" Ken then handed the pretty teen girl her envelope.
"Ellen, Megan, Teddy, Vince and Nicholas, come on over here and get your pay envelops."
All the teens were now paid. Some looked inside their envelope and got a very nice surprise. The others, hearing there was something extra in the envelopes, looked inside theirs then, too. Inside, besides their expected pay, there was a Christmas Bonus as well and each person received an additional one hundred dollars. After seeing all that, extra cash, each and every one of the teens came over to Mr. Thomas and gave him a hug. Even the guys gave the man a hug and they and the girls all said they were ready to do it all over again next year.
By five o'clock that evening, everyone had left, leaving the two adults and the two teens, and Chief of course, alone in the huge house. The four people sat in the Study talking about all the people they met, the fun they had, and of course the presents some people received from Santa. Then big Bro reached into his desk and pulled out two more envelops. He got up and walked over to the boys and presented them each with their own 'pay' envelope. Both boys looked at him with surprise. They didn't ever think of nor ask for any pay when they volunteered to help with the parties. Now they had this, this heavy envelope in their hands and were totally dumbfounded.
"Yes, boys," Ken began, "that is your pay for all the hard work you did to make the Parties such an overwhelming success. Ryan, you in particular jumped right in. You established a method to validate the invitations and called your close friends to help. You then took charge of the delivery and computer validation of the invitations. You coordinated for the elves and stayed on top of your friends to ensure they did what they promised they'd do. You earned every penny in that envelope, young man!"
"But, but ... we never asked for any money, Bro. We did it because ... well, you needed us. We did it because we ... well, we Love you, Bro," and Ryan got up and hugged the man real tight and tried to hold back some tears.
"Mr. Ken, I ... I can't ... I can't accept this," began Collin. "Look at what all you've done for me! The least I could do ... well is to help you when you needed it. You ... you took me in. A total ... stranger all covered in ... in blood. You nursed me and brought me back from death," a now crying youth said. "You ... you even took ... took a bullet for me," the now totally overwhelmed boy cried and just sat there not knowing what to do.
Ken went over to the crying boy and held him tight. The boy leaned into his mentor and continued to cry over the events that brought him to that day. Both Mary and Ryan were now hugging and they too had tears coming down their faces. It took some time for Collin to calm down enough so that Ken could talk to him,
"Collin ... thank you ... for being the young man you are. I did for you what I would have done for anyone. You just happened to be the one on the receiving side this time. Collin, my 'little bro', you have made this house a home with your presence. This house ... well it needed someone to christen it and bring it to life. I am sorry it was you who came to me hurt so badly that first night, but I am also happy and proud that it was YOU who was chosen to liven up this huge home. And, well yes ... maybe I did take a bullet but I didn't do that just for you. I, unfortunately, happened to be at the wrong place when he blindly shot in my direction, but ultimately ... what I did, I did it not just for you ... but for both of us. You all know ... I didn't intend to be shot but ... but unfortunately I was! My utmost intentions were to shoot that ... that man. If he hadn't heard me and blasted me first, I would have blasted him away that day the first chance I got. As things worked out, we ... we, you and I, are both here, now, and alive. You are a very special person to me, Collin Wilkinson," pronounced Mr. Ken and grabbed the boy a bit tighter to him.
"Now, as for the envelope, well, I have yet to even give you an allowance. Matter of fact, I don't think I've given you any money at all, have I? When it came time to work on the parties and whatever was needed, you were there as well. You added to the overall effectiveness and success of the events and as such you deserve to be paid just like that doofus over there (pointing at Ryan). Collin ... you are a part of Three Finger Cove and PLEASE ... don't you ever forget that. As a member of the Cove elite, you have responsibilities, and very soon you will have chores. As a teenager, you will need to have money with you when you are out with your friends. This pay is for you to get started on learning how to manage your money. When you start high school in a few weeks, you will have to learn to budget your money, as well. We'll discuss that when the time comes but for now you and your buddy over there deserve those pay envelopes. I hope you will find them adequate and will put them to good use." That said the three got together and had a group hug.
Counting what remained of that day, there were only four Shopping Days until Christmas and Mr. Thomas hadn't bought many presents yet. He needed to get out to the stores so there would be presents under the tree for Collin come Christmas day. Mary and Ryan both needed to get out shopping as well, so it was decided they would part company. Just as mother and son walked out the front door they each wished Ken and Collin a Merry Christmas and got in one last hug before they left.
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