Just as she was yelling at Collin and Eric for being in there, Mr. Ken opened the door and after hearing her said, "Boys, you shouldn't be in here. I'm sorry, Mrs. Horner. Collin and I met Aidan back in January and he convinced me we had to come here from Texas to see him. We'll leave you alone to be with your boy."
".. sssTrr knn," came very faintly from the area of the bed. But only Eric heard it
"sssTR knn" came a little louder again and that time Collin looked up at his friend Aidan. Mrs. Horner was crying too much and yelling again to hear it.
"Shush," said Collin. "I heard something like …"
"Yeah, I heard something, too," added Eric, talking over Collin.
"Get OUT! GET OUT I TELL YOU. GET OUT!" yelled Mrs. Horner even louder.
"nooh!" was heard by Collin and Eric.
"Shut UP!" yelled Collin back at the lady. "Aidan is trying to say something," Collin continued.
"No he isn't. You are all trying to make it sound like he is getting better, but my baby is gonna diiiiiie!" After saying that about her only son, the distraught woman sat down and began to cry real hard.
By that time, Mr. Ken, Brent and Ryan had come into the room and they passed right by Mrs. Horner and went to either side of the bed. They tried to listen closely but they didn't hear anything but Mrs. Horner crying.
"Boys, we made enough trouble for the Horner's today. Maybe we can come back later and apologize and they will let you see Aidan again before we have to leave. Come on boys. Let's go!" And, with that said, Mr. Ken went over to Eric to grab his hand and he then too heard, a very faint "sssstrr knn."
Now five people heard a very faint utterance from the badly beaten boy.
"Who are all you?" asked Mr. Horner in a loud overbearing voice.
"Mr. Horner," Brent quickly said, "Aidan said Mr. Ken. That's the name of this man here. It was he and Collin, over there that we all met back in January. Don't you remember … Aidan and us telling you we met that boy who was kidnapped and saved only to be shot at? He and this man … they were here on a vacation to get away from everything and we recognized him and we all became friends. I've been emailing Collin here all this time and so have Doug and Aidan at times. Please Mr. Horner let them stay. I think Aidan is responding to them being here."
"Hog wash is all I have to say. They said his brain was severely damaged and he probably will never come out of that damn coma. Now get out! All of you!" screamed Mr. Horner.
It was absolutely quiet when Mr. Horner stopped yelling. No one wanted to leave. They all began looking back and forth to one another, trying to gauge what they should do.
Just then a struggled "ssssstrrr … kNnn' was then clearly heard by everyone in the room, even though it was very faint in deed.
Mr. Horner got to his son's bed side as fast as his legs could get him there. Eric and Ryan had to move fast themselves in order to get out of the man's way. Brent, when he heard it the second time left the room and went looking for Aidan's doctor.
"Aidan … my son … my son …" and the man broke down in tears.
Some movement was heard at the door and three men in doctor type coats rushed into the room and over to the bed. Everyone stood back and let the men in white check out the boy who supposedly said his first words in four days.
"Who is this Mister Ken?" asked the oldest of the three men.
"I am," answered Mr. Thomas.
"Did the boy say your name? Please, I hope this is not a joke. This boy received a very severe head trauma and … well he is in real bad shape," stated the man.
"Sir, we all just heard the boy say something. Those boys over there (Mr. Ken pointed to Collin and Eric and Brent and Ryan) heard him better as they were standing beside him. I only heard the last thing and so did Mr. Horner there. What was said I can't say for sure but it very well may have been my name. I definitely can say I heard the letter 'N'."
"ssssstR kNnn" came out again and this time, it was heard by everyone there, but especially, this time by all the doctors.
"Sir, he is obviously responding to you for some reason. Please … please come here to him and … and speak to him. Please! Let him hear your voice right next to my boy. Please? Will you do that for me and his mother?" asked a somber but happy Mr. Horner.
Everyone watched Mr. Thomas as he slowly walked to the side of the bed. He picked up the boy's hand and spoke, "Aidan … son … I came … with Collin here to see how you are doing. … We … we need you to wake up so we can … can talk to you … son. Please wake up for us … and your mom and dad. They love you so very much!"
"mmmmm ddddaaaaad … ooov uoo" came from the injured teen and it was all anyone heard as it was apparent the boy had gone back into either his coma or maybe just a very deep sleep.
The doctors asked everyone to leave the room for now, and so they all filed out and congregated in the waiting room. Brent was crying and Collin held the boy tight. Eric was crying and he didn't even know the boy, but what he just heard and saw had him overwhelmed with awe. Mr. and Mrs. Horner were hugging Mr. Ken and thanking him for what he did for their son. As that was all happening, both Clint and Doug came around the corner and saw all the people crying. Thinking that Aidan had passed away they began crying, too.
Brent saw his two other best friends and he went to them and told them that Aidan had spoken. "He called for Mr. Ken, there. He and Collin came this morning to see how Aidan was doing and Aidan must have heard his voice and began calling his name. The doctors are with him now. Guys, this is awesome."
"We … we thought that Aidan had … had died," cried Doug as he pulled Brent to him. "Everyone was crying when we came around the corner an … and we thought the worst had happened."
Just then the older doctor came around the corner and asked Mr. Ken to follow him back to the boy's room. Everyone wondered if the boy had gained consciousness and was asking for the man.
Ten minutes later, the doctor and Mr. Thomas came back to the gathered crowd. The doctor addressed the group. "Mr. and Mrs. Horner, everyone … it appears the boy responds to Mr. Thomas' voice. It looks like he is trying to come out of his coma and this is the … the miracle we have all been waiting for. Who is Collin?" asked the doctor.
"I am, sir," responded Collin.
"That's me, sir," said the ten year old.
"Aidan is … is sort of … well … we're not sure, but … he said something while Mr. Thomas was talking and when I asked about it, Mr. Thomas said he was probably saying your names. If it is ok with you two … will you come into the room as well and say something to him, again?" asked the doctor.
Ten minutes later, Collin and Eric came out of the room with huge smiles on their faces.
"He called me 'lil bro,'" an excited youngster offered up very loudly. "I had told him I was Collin's 'lil bro' when Collin began to cry after talking to the boy. I am so happy," smiled Eric and then, with that said, the young boy broke down in tears. Ryan got to him first and picked him up and hugged him tight and then Mr. Ken and Collin got there, too, and they all had a 'group hug'.
Mister and Mrs. Horner were then taken back into their boy's room. Everyone there in the waiting room still had tears in their eyes, but they were all 'happy' tears as some people call them when something marvelous happens.
A half hour later, as the doctor passed by the waiting room, Mr. Ken went out and talked to him. When he came back in, he said it was time for them to all go out and get something to eat. He invited the three 'California friends' to come along and before they knew it, all seven were headed off towards Belmont Park for lunch and to possibly a ride on the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster.
On the drive over, the teenagers sat together towards the front so they could get better acquainted and share some teenage stories. That gave Mr. Ken the opportunity to sit Eric on his lap and hold him and talk to him about what happened back there in the hospital room.
"Eric, buddy, what do you say you tell me in your own words what you saw and how you feel about what happened back there in Aidan's hospital room," spoke Mr. Ken very soothingly to the young boy.
"Well … ah … Collin talked to his friend and when he finished, he … Collin began to cry. I was standing on the other side of the bed, so … I took the boy's hand and told him who I was and … and told him he needed to … to get better for my Big Bro and Brent. I also told him that Collin had been in the hospital just a few weeks ago and I … that I was afraid I'd lose him, just as he became my 'big bro'. That's when Mrs. Horner came into the room and got real mad and wanted to know what we were doing there. Then I heard the boy say something. It … it sounded like he was calling your name, Mr. Ken. I swear that's what it sounded like. Then you came into the room."
"What about when you and Collin went back? You cried deep and hard after you got back to us in the waiting room. Can you tell me what happened in there?" asked Mr. Ken, wanting to know how badly the boy was affected by everything he'd seen happen that morning.
"The doctor took us back and wanted us to just talk to the boy. We both stood where we were the first time. We tried to say the same things which is why I remembered what I said when you just asked me. Anyway, when I said it the second time, the boy … he squeezed my hand. I didn't know he was going to do that, but the doctor saw that and got a real big smile on his face. He thanked us and when we got back to you all, it was then that I … I" and then Eric began to sob, some. "When I got back (sob) I was thinking (sob, sob) again what it … it would have been like (sob, sniffle) if that had been (sob, sob, sniffle) if that had been Collin there."
It was again, that having that same thought going through his mind that the youngster began to cry again, hard. Seeing that boy, Aidan, laying there as being Collin when he was hospitalized a few weeks ago, because someone attacked him, made it seem all too real to Eric. He was now thinking about how he would have felt if he had seen Collin like that and the thought of him maybe losing one of the most important people in his young life. He had lost his real mom to the attack by his own dad, and seeing what he did today brought it all to a head today for the boy.
The two just sat there together in the limo as it sped towards Belmont Park. The teens hadn't noticed that the younger boy was crying and was being comforted by the man.
Before long, the limo was slowed and they entered the parking area and they all could see the rollercoaster in the distance. The teens immediately got out, but Mr. Ken and Eric stayed in for another minute or so while Eric got himself under control. When the boy got out of the vehicle, he was as happy as he could ever be. As Mr. Ken got out, he told himself he needed to call Judy and let her know what just happened with Eric.
First things first when it comes to growing boys – FOOD! Three of the boys had been to Belmont Park numerous times, so they knew which amusement foods they liked. Collin, having been there only once, wasn't too sure what he wanted. All Ryan and Eric could do was look wide eyed around at the many food stands and amusements, trying to figure out whether they wanted to chow down or ride the rides.
The local boys suggested two places to eat. The first being the Patio Grill for their juicy burgers, giant subs, oven hot pizza and ice cold drinks. They also recommended the Wing Shack for its chicken wings in a wide variety of flavors and other favorites like Corndogs, Chicken Tenders, Fries and Slush Puppies. What was a growing boy to do?
"Hey guys," spoke up Mr. Ken. "My question to you all is, 'How hungry are you and do you want to ride any of the rides?' If you want to ride some rides, then I suggest you don't eat a whole lot of food first, otherwise you might be wearing it or at best lose it. So what say we get ourselves a hot dog and a drink and then get on the rides? That way we'll have something on our stomachs but not so much that we get sick. Then before we go back to the hospital, we can all have a real nice meal. What do you all say to that?"
The older boys got into a heated discussion, but all Eric wanted was what Mr. Ken suggested. He was looking around at all the rides and he really wanted to try some of them out.
"Mr. Ken," said Eric, "all I want is a hot dog and a drink, if that is ok with you? I don't want to get sick when I get on some of those rides."
The older teens heard the wisdom of their younger member and they, too, decided to eat the much lighter fare. Thirty minutes later, they were getting in line for either tickets or Day Ride Passes.
"Hey guys," called Mr. Ken, "what is the better value, buying 30 tickets or the Day Pass?"
"Of course, if you're going to be here all day, the Pass is best," said Doug.
"Well it's 1:30 PM and we want to get back to the hospital to see how Aidan is doing and visiting hours are over at 8 PM. Will we have enough time to enjoy the Pass or are the Tickets usable all year round?" asked Mr. Ken.
"The tickets are good all year, Mr. Ken," offered Brent.
"There aren't many people here for a holiday weekend," said a surprised Clint, "a Pass would let you ride the bigger rides more often."
"Collin? Ryan? Eric? What do you guys think?" asked Mr. Ken.
"Pass for sure, Bro. Yeah, a Pass would be kewl, Bro. I don't think I'll ride all that many rides, so I think the tickets for me," said Eric.
"By the way, have any of you California boys called your parents to let them know I abducted you and brought you here?" teased Mr. Ken.
A collective "No" was heard and three teens all pulled out their cell phones and called home.
"And tell them I will drop you off tonight so they won't have to drive over to the hospital to get you. And, I'll feed you, too!" laughed the not too much older man.
"Mr. Ken, my mom would like to talk to you, please" said Brent.
"Hi, I'm Ken Thomas, we met your son last January when we visited Belmont Park back then. … Okay, Janice, call me Ken, then. … Yes, we met again at the hospital. Collin asked me to fly us out here to visit Aidan, so here we are. … Yes, I have a few quarters to rub together. … Yes, Collin is that boy who was abducted and I saved, the night of the storm. … No, he's okay now. … The boys didn't know we were going to be out here. … I brought three boys. … Oh, yeah, they are like three brothers. …
"We made the decision late last night, because Ryan had to get permission and we weren't sure Eric would be able to come either. … Ryan is Collin's age and Eric is ten. Those two have never been out here before. … Yes, I told all the boys we'd go back to the hospital to check on Aidan and then get something to eat and then I'd drop them off. I hope to have them home by 10 or so, depending on who goes home first, if that is ok with you? … Good! … Brent has his cell, so if you need him home sooner don't be afraid to call. … Bye then."
"She gets a bit long winded, my mom does. I'm her only constant and she worries about me all the time. I bet she calls to check up on me about 7:30. Just wait and see," said Brent as he closed up his cell phone and then smiled. His friends Clint and Doug knew exactly what he was saying and they just shook their heads in agreement.
"Okay, who's ready to have some fun?"
Ken Thomas pulled out his plastic and bought five Day Passes for the teens and two Bonus Packs of tickets for him and Eric. He told the teens where he'd meet them at 5 o'clock and to have fun, and with that, the older boys were off. Eric decided to stay with Mr. Ken, knowing his 'big bros' wanted to do all the big rides with their new friends.
"Okay, Eric, it is just me and you, so where do you want to go first?"
Eric headed in the direction of the Tilt-A-Whirl and the two rode that ride first. Eric then wanted to ride the Krazy Kars but Ken just watched the boy having the time of his life. It was then that Mr. Ken decided to call Judy, Eric's mom.
"Judy, howdy from California!" began Mr. Ken. The two exchanged pleasantries and then Mr. Thomas went on to explain what happened at the hospital and how Eric responded to everything. He explained what the two talked about on the ride over to Belmont Park and Judy was happy that Eric had someone like him that could talk to him and understand her youngster. They were still talking when Eric's ride was over, so he got a chance to say Hi to his mom and tell her what a good time he was having and before anyone knew it Eric had closed the cell phone up and gave it back to Mr. Ken.
The two then made their way to the Carousel and both rode that one. Eric said he was too old for the Thunder Boats and the Crazy Sub so they passed them up. They watched the people ride the Vertical Plunge and Eric saw many kids his size and age riding that, so he decided they should, too. Eric didn't know what to think when they were 30 feet high into the air but when the ride fell real fast to the bottom of the tower he had a frightened look in his eyes at first and then he burst out laughing. He made Mr. Ken get back in line so they could ride it again.
The two passed the older boys as they walked over to the Speedway Bumper Cars where Eric was just tall enough so he could ride and drive his own car. Eric had a blast bumping into Mr. Ken as many times as he could, but he didn't like it when Mr. Ken headed him off a few times and bumped him. When that ride was over Eric talked up a storm about the entire ride and how he kept getting his big 'friend'.
Eric and Mr. Ken walked some more and as they passed Chaos, they heard Ryan call out to them, so they stopped to watch the ride. After watching for a few minutes, Eric decided he didn't want to ride that one since the cars not only went round and round but they spun around and around as well. Eric said he was afraid he'd get sick. After talking to Ryan and Doug when they got off the ride, the two decided to go over and watch Beach Blaster.
Beach Blaster was a 'Big Kids' ride if there ever was one. That ride swung its riders 60 feet out and up into the air at about 120 degrees while it spun the ride around in a circle. Eric spied Collin and Brent and Clint on that one, so he and Mr. Ken stood and watched. Eric knew for sure he wouldn't ever ride that, because it was so violent and it looked scary. The three teens talked to Eric, telling how good the ride was but he wasn't hearing any of that and he walked away so they wouldn't drag him on it.
The next ride the twosome went towards was the Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. Eric watched the coaster train go around the track and he could hear the screams from its riders.
"Mr. Ken, why are the people screaming so much? We didn't hear that much noise on those other big rides, why are the people screaming on this one? It looks like a big train following all the tracks instead of going around in a circle. I can even see kids my age on it and they are laughing, too. So why are the people screaming?" asked Eric.
"Well, Eric, my bet is most of the screams are coming from the girls. And you are right; it looks like a big train that had its track all twisted up into a pretzel, sort of. This is MY favorite type ride."
"You like this kind of ride?" asked Eric as he turned to face Mr. Ken and look into the man's eyes to see how he was going to answer.
"You betcha, my boy! When Collin and I were here in January, we came here just to ride this rollercoaster. We met the California boys here, that day, in line. They kept looking at him because they recognized him from the video footage shown out here about the shootout at Three Finger Cove. They finally asked him about it and we sat down and talked to them, after we rode this ride twice in a row. It is an awesome ride, Eric. The first hill is kind of scary because it looks like you are going straight down but after that the train cars follow the tracks up and down and around and the ride is so smooth. Sometimes you might feel like you are going to fly out of your seat. That's called 'air time' and many coaster enthusiasts will ride rollercoasters just for that thrill."
"Well, it looks real high, but you are inside the car and you have something to hold on don't you? Do you think I would like this ride, Mr. Ken?" asked Eric in all sincerity.
"Eric, I really don't know if you would like this ride or not. If you don't like heights, then you may not like this one, although you did enjoy the Vertical Plunger. The only way you will ever know if you will like roller coasters is to try them. You are only ten, though, and maybe you should wait until you are older but that decision has to be up to you."
The two stood there for about two more runs of the Giant Dipper while Eric watched the riders and was deciding if he wanted to take the chance and ride this 'big boys' ride.
"Mr. Ken, will you ride with me and ah … hold onto me … ah hold onto me real tight?" asked the concerned ten year old boy.
"I would love to do that with you, Eric, my boy! I was hoping the older boys would stop by here so I could ride with them, but seeing that you want to try this, I will be happy to be your seat mate. Let's go get into line."
The two 'seat mates' got into line and before they knew it, they were sitting down in the coaster car seat. Mr. Ken took a middle row car seat for Eric and him. He didn't want the boy's first ride ever to be so scary he would never ride a rollercoaster again for the rest of his life. It was then that the five teenagers saw the two sitting down and they all stopped to watch Eric on the Giant Dipper.
Ken remembered the day he took Collin on that very same ride, but they sat in the very front seat. Collin screamed his head off down the first hill and then up and down the second hill, but by the third hill, Collin was beginning to love the experience. At the end of the ride, Collin was asking to ride it again. Ken was hoping Eric would have the same experience and fun.
The coaster ride began as it entered the tunnel and people began to scream. Eric looked up to Ken and asked him why, but Mr. Ken told him to sit back and enjoy the experience and then he would answer his questions after they got off.
As the coaster car began its ascent Eric looked out over the midway and remarked to himself that it didn't look all that big from up there. He wasn't watching how high he was, nor was he anticipating the first drop. When he heard some of the girls begin to scream, he looked forward only to see the first cars beginning to disappear and soon his car was rolling down the first hill that went into a turn. Eric lost his breath on that first downward motion. He began to catch up with it by the top of the second hill but he lost it again on the way down but this time, with a scream. A s they rose up the next hill and began to turn to go back, Eric began to relax and enjoy the ride. By the time the coaster had turned again, Eric was laughing and truly enjoying himself immensely. At the end of the ride, he looked to Mr. Ken and said, "Let's do that again. That was fun!"
The teens met them at the off ramp and they all seemed to ask Eric at the same time how he liked it. Eric couldn't stop laughing. He tried to explain why he liked it, but he was walking so fast to get back in line the older boys had a difficult time keeping up. They all got in line to ride the Giant Dipper together while they listened to Eric's explanation of his first ever rollercoaster ride..
When it came their turn to ride, the seven of them took up the first two cars of the train, each car having just two seats, holding a maximum of four riders. Mr. Ken insisted he sit with Eric after Collin and Ryan both argued who he would sit with. Eric agreed, as they sat in the second seat, second car two cars forward of where they sat the first time. Mr. Ken warned Eric that he would see and feel a different ride because of where they were seated, but he should scream his head off if he felt scared.
The ride began as always, going through the dark tunnel. Some people still screamed even though nothing happened, other than it was a little dark. On the way up the first hill, Eric again looked around to see if he could spot anything different than what he saw while on the ground. As the cars approached the top Mr. Ken warned Eric to get ready and as the boys in front of him held their arms up high the coaster train began its fast descent down the first hill.
This time the cars seemed to go over the edge faster and quicker than they did the last time, and Eric began to scream. He screamed up the next hill and all the way down to the point where the coaster train began its turn around. It was here, just like the first time, that Eric began to smile and then laugh and begin to enjoy himself. He laughed the rest of the way to the end and gave Mr. Ken a great big hug when they got to the bottom of the off ramp.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you for bringing me here, Mr. Ken. If I never do anything else while we are here, I will always remember this day. … I Love Roller Coasters!" screamed Eric from the top of his lungs while having a great big smile on his face. People around him heard his scream and turned to look at the small boy amongst the much taller and bigger teens. It was then they knew that another convert to wooden roller coasters had been born.
The boys enjoyed a few more rides and it wasn't too long before they began their drive back to Rady Children's Hospital to check up on Aidan. The ride back to Rady Hospital was full of stories, but the best told one was from Eric who told of his new found love for the roller coaster.
The Horner's were waiting for the seven when they returned from their trip to Belmont Park. Jack and Eileen told them of the progress Aidan had made that day and they couldn't thank Mr. Ken and Collin, and Eric, too, enough for what they did for their son. It appeared the teenager was responding to both of them now and they too, could here Aidan's whispered voice of 'mom' and 'dad' and the occasional Mr. Ken.
The Horner's allowed all seven to visit Aidan, two at a time, and talk with the boy. As they went in two at a time, Aidan still only acknowledged Mr. Ken and Eric and then Collin sometimes. When it came Brent's turn to visit his very best friend in the world, Aidan, in hearing the boy's voice, got tears in his eyes. Brent went immediately to his friend and hugged him, and then he, too, had tears in his eyes. Mrs. Horner went to Brent and consoled him as best she could. The two walked out of the room and went to a quiet place alone to talk. When everyone had the chance to visit, they all thanked the Horner’s and wished them well.
"Okay, guys, it's only eight, and I said I would have you all back by ten. And, by the way, I didn't hear your phone ring Brent." Hearing that last statement everyone began to laugh.
"She did call. It was when me and Mrs. Horner were talking that she called. She got the chance to talk to Aidan's mom for a few minutes, then, too. That was why it took so long for me to get back."
"Why did you and Mrs. Horner go and talk alone, Brent?" asked Doug.
"She knows that her son likes me … that he really like me a lot," replied a much embarrassed Brent.
"Oh, so she knows then. I hope there won't be any trouble, Brent," offered Doug.
"No … I don't think there will be. She said Aidan told them that is why he likes to be around me, and wants to study with me. He likes me and is hoping I will like him back. She says that I shouldn't feel pressured by him, and to go slow if that is what we two want. She told me that she and her husband will be happy for us," answered Brent.
"Do you like Aidan, Brent?" asked Clint.
But before Brent could answer, Mr. Ken spoke up and said, "I don't think that is any of our business. You are all friends and, well, maybe you can all talk about it when we aren't here, but for now, can we let that topic drop for tonight? Young ears don't need to hear that type of conversation."
"That means he doesn't want me to hear that two boys like each other," said Eric, who was then placed into a headlock and got a small noogey for his statement.
The local teens directed Mason to drive to an Olive Garden restaurant where all eight, Mason included, ate a very good Italian meal. By 9:30 the limousine was leaving the parking lot and by ten o'clock all three 'California boys' were home and with their parents. Brent's mom, Janice, came out to meet the Texas crowd and she thanked Mr. Ken for treating her son to a wonderful day.
It was well past twelve midnight when the four travelers returned to Los Angles and entered their suite. After some quick late night hugs, all around, and just as quick visits to the en suites, all four were sound asleep in their respective beds.
Comments appreciated at Chowhnd@gmail.com