When Ken woke up the next morning, he propped himself up on an elbow and looked over at the still sleeping teen. As he studied the youngster, he could tell how much the lad had grown in the last four months that the lad had lived with him. He marveled how the once overly skinny boy, who looked more like a thirteen year old when he brought him into the laundry room that stormy night, to one who had now put on weight and filled out his fifteen year old frame and even grown some in height. It also registered to Ken how handsome the lad was and recognizing that, he knew, the boy would be breaking many a girl's heart for a long time to come. Chief then noticed his master was up so she got up and went to him for a few ear scratches before heading downstairs to do her morning thing.
Mr. Ken looked over at the clock, as Chief left, and saw it was after 9 AM. Knowing it was late morning, he decided he needed a cup of coffee before he took a shower and his day began. He sat up, threw the blanket off his body, and stood up all in one motion and it was at that moment that Collin opened his eyes and looked directly at him. The thing though was that Collin wasn't looking directly at him and into his eyes. It looked as if Collin's eyes were focused on a certain part of his anatomy and Ken was sure he was looking to see if the man had morning wood, or not. Mr. Ken decided not to say anything except a hello and to ask how the boy was feeling that morning. The two talked for a few minutes when Ken said he was going to get a cup of coffee and then went over to the young teen and kissed him on his forehead and then left the boy still lying in his bed.
Ken met up with Andy in the Kitchen Nook, after putting on some shorts and a t-shirt. They talked about Collin some and before long the boy was standing there looking still very tired from his ordeal. Both men got up and gave the boy a 'light' hug and then had him seated between them at the table. Momma Maria heard the commotion and went over to look. Seeing it was Collin, she also gave the boy a big 'little' hug. It wasn't too long afterwards that the trio had a big breakfast sitting before them and they heartily ate it all up.
"Bro, what are we going to do today? I still feel a bit tired, but I think that is from the medication the doctor gave me for my pain. I really don't want to sit around here if I don't have to," asked the still slumbering teen.
"Well, Collin, I hadn't thought too much about today other than your Uncle Andy and I were going to talk more about the corporations, and the top people running them. You can sit in with us if you want. What I do know is that I don't want you going back to that school, today. I might even keep you away from there indefinitely until that dumb School Board takes some positive corrective action against those who harassed you and establishes hard and fast rules about that," answered Ken.
Collin just sat there, but both Ken and Andy knew the boy was doing some thinking and when he was ready he would say some more. The three sat there enjoying their food and morning coffee as the sun began to shine more and more light into that portion of the enormous house. Chief was also in the kitchen and posted herself close to Collin in the hopes he would 'accidentally on purpose' drop a few crumbs for her to eat, too.
"Mr. Ken, Uncle Andy ... wha ... what did Judge Adam mean about reading the transcript? Does it have anything to do with what Rodney did to me and why?" asked Collin.
Ken was about to answer but Andy beat him to it. "Collin," spoke his 'Uncle Andy', "I think what the judge wants you to do is read what was said in his court when the boy who struck you was before him. In some cases, it is not unusual for a judge to ask the injured party to consider some extenuating circumstances that were brought before him that may not have been known beforehand. Your judge friend, I think, is asking you to consider this new knowledge before you and the DA get together and throw the book at the boy."
"But why would he want me to do that, Uncle Andy? I mean the boy could have killed me and everything. I didn't do anything to any of them and they continued to go out of their way to harass me day after day," replied Collin.
"Collin, I think the judge wants you to consider all the known facts, before you talk to the DA. Since you were not present at the hearing yesterday, I'd say your friend, the judge, wants you to know something about this young man. You know ... it won't hurt you to read the transcript and ... you may find out something that later you may wish you had known."
Collin sat there a few moments thinking about what he just heard and then looked over at his Big Bro and said, "Bro, what do you think I should do?"
"Well, this is truly your own decision, Collin. On one hand, you were severely injured and should get satisfaction that the perpetrator be punished. On the other hand, you have counsel telling you that the more you know about 'the why' the better off you'll be when the decision of punishment is finally made. Then there is a request from a very good friend who practically pleaded with you to just read something before you make a decision. It is times like these that separate the man from the boy," answered Ken.
"But what should I do? Damn, why do things keep happening to me," uttered Collin and both men could see the boy begin to tear up. Collin didn't cry hard and it was more like frustration tears so Ken just let the boy sit there some so he could think through things again.
The Nook was very quiet for some time and, when Collin hadn't said anything more, Ken got up and went to Collin and indicated to him that he should follow. They left the kitchen and went down to the Great Room and sat together on one of the bigger sofas. From up above, Uncle Andy could tell they were in quiet conversation. He made no attempt to interfere and would not do so unless asked. Even, Chief stayed up on the landing looking down at the two most important men in her life.
After about a half hour, the two talkers came up the stairs and Andy heard them say something to each other and then Ken passed by the Study as he headed to his bedroom. Andy figured they worked out some sort of compromise and they both were headed to get their morning showers. Andy loved that big Study and how it was furnished and the amount of light that came into it. He vowed he was going to remake his into something like that when he got back to his own home next week.
Upstairs, Collin went into his shower and let the warm water cascade down over his head and shoulders. He was enjoying the peacefulness of the moment and rethinking what he and His Big Bro talked about.
Downstairs in his overly large shower/steam room, Ken was doing just about the same thing. He was thinking about how he could take what had happened, two days earlier, off the boys mind. He figured the transcript would get there later in the afternoon and then they'd have all weekend to read through it. He wanted to get the boy out of the house as the boy asked. He just couldn't think of anything. Then it hit him. He'd take Collin over to DMV and get the teen his driver's permit. Yeah, the more he thought about that the more he liked that idea, so he hurried up and finished his shower and made a few quick phone calls.
When Collin came downstairs it was close to 12 noon and so he went looking for his mentor and his uncle. He found them where he looked first as he knew his Big Bro used his Study, for virtually everything, and could be found there 98 percent of the time.
"Hi, Mr. Ken, Uncle Andy, I hope I didn't keep you guys from working on some important things today, after how I acted at breakfast. I want to apologize for the way I acted. ... I'm almost sixteen but at times I find myself ... I find myself acting like I was still thirteen. I'm really sorry," was what the lad said. It was what he decided to do while he was thinking up in the shower.
"Collin, thank you for the apology but I for one do not think you owed us one," spoke Mr. Ken. "You have had way too many things happen to you in such a short time span and I believe you have done a fantastic job of dealing with everything. One of the reasons we are born a baby," Mr. Ken went on to say, "and then take eighteen years to grow up is so we can be learning during all that time. Most people find they are challenged throughout their entire life, but not as often nor as intensely as you have been. Even after you turn the magic eighteen you will be still learning. Many adults will consider you an equal and, if so, will also expect more from you. But for me, we still have two years for you to 'live and learn', as the saying goes, and that is how I am going to look at you."
Collin smiled at his Big Bro with understanding and then looked over at his uncle and got a smile of agreement from him. So feeling things were back in order, Collin went and sat down in one of those famously soft leather chairs that engulfed you and you never want to ever get up again.
The two men talked business and Andy was showing Ken some financial statements when Ken motioned the boy to come on over and look, too. Collin had to scoot himself forward a few times in order to get out of the comfortable chair, but he was soon at the huge desk. Andy then explained the charts and graphs to the other two and before long Maria came to the Study to announce that Lunch was being served.
It was after lunch that Ken sprang his surprise on Collin. Instead of going back to the Study, Ken had the teenager get his coat and head out the front door. When the boy stuck his head out the door, and saw the limo waiting there, he got a huge smile on his face.
"Bro, does this mean what I think it means?"
"Well, what do you think it means?"
"I'm hoping you're gonna take me to get my learner's permit. Am I right? Are you gonna?"
"Yes, my boy, I am going to do just that and we are going in style. We deserve to treat ourselves once in a while and today we are going to do just that," answered Ken at the smiling teen.
The chauffeur had opened the rear door and Collin got in first, followed by Mr. Ken. Uncle Andy begged off saying he wanted to look over a few reports and thus the driver closed the door, got into his seat and drove off, destination the DMV.
When the limo drove into the parking area, just about everyone looked on in astonishment. The driver got out, walked around to the other side, and opened the door for his two occupants. The onlookers saw a man and a teen both get out and proceed inside the DMV. Once inside, Mr. Ken looked around and motioned to Collin to take a number and then they both sat down to wait their turn. As Collin sat there, he could feel the stares of the many people who were also there at the Department of Motor Vehicles. At first it bothered him that people were looking at him, but then he decided that this is what he had to do, so he just looked around trying to act normal, like this was something he did all the time.
Then, just by chance, one of the DMV supervisor's came out into the waiting room to check on something and happened to notice Mr. Thomas sitting there, talking to a teenager, and seemed to be waiting like everyone else. He knew exactly who Mr. Ken was and he was now in a quandary as to whether or not he should take the man to the front of the line, and ahead of all the other people there. Not wanting to make the decision himself, he went to the back office to find the office director.
Out in the waiting room, some of the people also recognized Mr. Ken, as they called him, and walked over to talk to him. In their conversations, some of the people even thanked him for what he did for them and their neighborhoods after the storms, and wanted to personally thank him. Hearing this was all new for Collin. He was learning for the first time what his Big Bro had been doing, while at the same time protecting him and helping him recover from his ordeal.
A large crowd by now had gathered and, with every new person who found out who the man was, they too had a story to tell about how his truthfulness and fairness had greatly affected them and their families. Ken felt overwhelmed by the accolades these every-day people had poured upon him and he tried to tell them he was but one man of many who worked hard to recover the county, after the storm. Of course, they wouldn't hear it as they continued to thank him.
By this time, the Director had come out of her office and saw the large crowd around Mr. Thomas. She quickly went up to help him control the crowd, but when she heard what the people were saying she decided to try something. Going up to Mr. Thomas she held out her hand to shake his and then said, "What do I owe the pleasure of having the famous Mr. Ken Thomas come to my humble workplace?"
Ken was stunned at first that she also knew him, but he recovered quickly as he had learned while he was doing the Storm Recovery and replied, "I brought Collin here to get him his driver's permit today. He'll be sixteen soon and as with any teenager he wants to drive, and now."
The gathered crowd all laughed and Collin's face turned red.
"Ok, since all these people are wanting to show some appreciation to you for what you did for them after the big storm, I think I will personally help you through the process. Is that going to be okay with all of you if I take this man, and his boy, in front of you?" she asked the crowd.
The crowd all voiced a "Yeah, sure, go ahead, and, he deserves this," and with that, Mr. Ken and Collin followed the lady back to the desk and she personally led Collin through the permitting process. After filling out several forms and taking an eye test and a written test, Collin was given a plastic Learner's permit with his picture and other information. She also gave him a Texas Driver's Handbook for him to continue to study before he takes the final written and practical exams to get his Provisional License. Then, they were off and, as they headed back through the waiting room, they shook a few more hands and then got back into the chauffeured limo and off they went.
"So, where do you want to go?" asked Ken.
"I donno," replied Collin. "Surprise me!"
"Ok, I have an idea," replied Ken and then he picked up the telephone to the chauffeur and told him where they wanted to go.
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