The two weary travelers arrived back at Three Finger Cove close to 8 PM. Ken and Collin decided to stop for a good dinner before heading home; knowing Momma Maria wouldn't be there. As they entered the door, Chief came bounding at them and almost knocked Collin over she was so excited to have her boy back home. After licking Collin, and playfully nudging her boy for hugs and scratches and back rubs, she then attacked her first master, Mr. Ken, and gave him the same treatment. The three found themselves on the floor in the Foyer having a laughing, good time.
With her tail still wagging furiously back and forth, Chief followed Collin, as he carried his bags up to his room. Ken took his bags to his bedroom and then went to his Study and began checking his e-mail.
A few minutes later, "Bro, bro," yelled Collin, as he came running down the stairs with Chief fast behind.
"Hold on there, Collin, what's the rush?" asked Ken.
"Bro … it's Rodney … he's in the hospital … and it looks serious," explained Collin. "Here, read this."
Ken took the paper from the teen and began to read.
"Bro, do you think … that we could go over there and … and maybe … see him?" asked Collin.
While Collin waited for his answer, it took a moment for Ken to finish reading the full e-mail and then to decipher what it might mean. After thinking it through, he looked to the teen and said, "Collin, it's way past visiting hours. What say we call over there and see if Joanne is working and see if she can give us any more answers? What do you say to that?"
"Okay, Bro … I guess they wouldn't let us in to see him this late, huh?" spoke Collin.
Ken picked up his phone and called the hospital emergency room and asked for Joanne Kirby. When they asked who was calling, he told them and the nurse who answered said she wasn't there and she asked if she could help. Mr. Thomas told her why he was calling and she explained what she knew. Ken's face went white with horror when he heard what happened to the high school senior. He thanked the woman and then hung up.
"What? … "What happened to him, Mr. Ken?" asked a very concerned Collin.
"Why don't you sit down first, Collin, then I'll tell you what she just told me," suggested the older man.
Collin sat down and pulled the chair as close to the desk as he could.
"Collin … Rodney was attacked by person or person's unknown. … It's bad, Collin … it's real bad. He's in a coma … and not expected to come out of it, any time soon. They beat him … with what looked like a blunt instrument … similar to a baseball bat and they hit him. … It appears they hit him to kill him. … He was left for dead when he was found. … He has multiple broken bones … but the worst is the head injury. … Collin … they had to open up his skull to give the swelling someplace to go. We can go over there tomorrow if you want to, but … but, don't be mad if they won't let you see him," finished Mr. Ken.
That night, Collin said a quick prayer that Rodney would get better. The teen didn't sleep very well, even though he was overly tired from the trip. When his alarm went off the next morning he felt as if he had just gone to bed.
"H hello … Mrs. Costa," a tentative Collin lightly called out to the woman sitting on the chair, facing away from the door, and looking out the window.
Collin stood there while the woman slowly turned and then focused on who it was who said, Hello. Recognizing who was standing there, the lady stumbled as she attempted to get up and the teenager ran to help her regain her balance.
"Collin … you … you came … I was so hoping you would," the frail looking lady said, and then burst into tears.
Collin already had her in his arms when he helped her up, so all he did was continue to hold her some and let her cry. The two stood there for a few minutes. Standing in the doorway, watching, were Ken Thomas and Mary and Ryan Taylor looking on. All three of them had tears in their eyes, as well.
"Mrs. Costa," Collin began, "I just found out. … We were gone all week and only got home late last night. … I am so sorry … this happened … to Rodney, Mrs. Costa. Do they have … any idea who did this to him? … He didn't … nobody deserved what they did to him. … I'm only a teenager, Mrs. Costa, but … but, I'll do whatever I can to help … what ever I can. Please … please let me or … or Mr. Ken know, whatever we … we can help you with."
The lady and the teen stood there a bit longer and then Mrs. Costa looked up into Collin's eyes. "Collin … you already helped us more … MORE than you could ever know. We were oh … oh, so afraid when we went to court that day. But you … you gave Rodney the chance he always needed. You BELIEVED in Him, Collin. You gave him a chance at a NEW life. He was so looking forward to graduating and going on to college. And you gave him that … that, push that made him do what the judge told him to do. I'm sure you wouldn't know, but … but, Rodney would come home from school and … and, he'd tell me that you smiled at him, or … or, that you waved at him in the halls.
"He was so … so sorry about what he did to you and … and, knew he deserved whatever punishment they gave him. … Then, you came to the courthouse … and said what you did … and it was like the WHOLE world was taken off his shoulders. He so wanted to go up to tell you … to thank you for what you did FOR him, but … he knew he was supposed to stay away from you and have no contact whatsoever … unless it was required by being at the school. You and your friend there … are the only ones from the school who have come by." Mrs. Costa finished and then sat down and cried hard.
The four visitors sat down and entered into the quiet vigil along with Rodney's mother. They must have been there a half-hour when a nurse came in to check on the woman.
"Nurse … nurse, can you please tell me how Rodney is doing?" asked Collin. "We're his classmates and would like to know what we could possibly do for him. … Is there a way that … well that we could see him?"
"You're Collin, aren't you?" asked the nurse. "I was here when they brought you in that day. And Rodney … he is … is the boy who put you in here, isn't he?"
"Yes, ma'am … I am … and yes, he is," replied Collin.
"If it had been anyone else, who … after what the teenager had done to … but … well, hearing what kind of person you are, Collin … I sort of understand why you're here today!" said the nurse, in a surprised sort of way.
"They say that people who are in coma … can hear the people talking to them. Mrs. Costa over there has been the only person, other than the nurses and doctors, who have said anything to the boy since he was brought in here, last Tuesday. I'll ask the doctors if you can go in for a few minutes. It can't hurt, and … who knows … maybe if he hears someone else's voice, it will … well, it would be good for him."
Mrs. Costa had been listening to their conversation and when they finished, she said, "Oh, please, Collin, if you would. Please go in and talk to him. Let him know you're here." Then looking at the nurse, she said, "Nurse, please tell the doctors that I would like the boys to see Rodney, and let them talk to him. Please ask … for Rodney's sake … and mine."
A few minutes later, a doctor came into the ICU waiting room looking for Collin.
"Collin, I'm Doug Selwyn, one of Rodney's doctors. The nurse said Mrs. Costa asked that you, and your friend, go in and talk to Rodney. I think it is a wonderful idea. Maybe hearing different voices, and especially young people he knows, might get him to fight harder to ... and, well, to want to live. Are you ready to do that, young man, and your friend over there? Do you think he will go with you, too?"
Collin looked at his Big Bro for some sort of assurance and then looked over at Ryan, who was sitting quietly with his mom. Then, he looked back at Doctor Selwyn and shook his head saying 'yes' he would do that. When Collin stood up, so did Ryan and the two followed the doctor out of the room.
A couple of hours later, the four hospital visitors were being seated at a very good restaurant. They arrived separately, so they didn't have an opportunity to share their thoughts and feelings from the hospital.
"Bro … do you think that our talking to Rodney did … well, did any good?" asked a hopeful Collin.
"Collin … to be honest with you, I really do not know. You heard the nurse and then what the doctor said … about people hearing what other people are saying to them when they are in a coma. Maybe that is true and if so … you and Ryan over there going in and saying whatever you did may … may have done what the doctor hoped it would do and … and make Rodney want to live. That's all we, or anyone for that matter, can only hope for."
The waiter heard the seriousness of their conversation so he stood back and waited for the best time to take their drink orders. After a few moments, of quiet at their table, the waiter took their drink orders and hurriedly walked away.
"Bro … you should have seen all the tubes and lines they had hooked up to him," said Ryan. "And all the noise in that room, from the machines beeping and hissing. It would be a wonder if he could even hear us talking to him."
"Bro … is that how I looked when they took me in there?" asked Collin, wondering if he had all those things hooked up to him.
"No, Collin, you were already awake and all they had on you were just some of the more simple monitors for your heart and breathing. They kept you over night as a precaution, in case you had anything go wrong, so they could be right there to correct it," answered Mr. Ken.
The group was in a somber mood until their meals arrived. Having a good meal and better friends to share it with turned them back into the fun loving bunch they were. By the time desert was brought out, they were laughing hard from sharing some of their adventures of the previous week. They all retreated back to Three Finger Cove to relax before it was time to retire for the night. It was there Collin shared his 'greatest' adventure.
"Col, there is NO way that that happened to you! Bro, tell me that didn't happen, please," implored Ryan.
"Ryan, I'm afraid it happened almost the exact same way he explained it. Too bad Jerry isn't here, because he probably could give you a better account. He was the one who was watching from behind, in the restroom," chuckled their Big Bro.
"Ry, you should have seen that man's eyes when Jerry's foot came up through his legs and contacted him in his nu… ah err his privates. He didn't know Jerry was behind him, and I didn't know what or who it was until the guy fell over onto the floor. That’s when I saw it was eleven year old Jerry," added Collin to the discussion. "Matter of fact, Jerry isn't that much bigger than our 'lil bro' Eric."
"Dang, that had to be some kind of cruise. All we ever did was visit old people," lamented Ryan. Then realizing his mom was there he quickly said, "Sorry mom, it was fun listening to them tell stories on you when you were growing up. It's just that … well, there really weren't any kids there my age to hang out with, for those six days, that's all." Then trying to change the subject Ryan asked, "So, tell us about that helicopter flight."
About nine o'clock, Mary said it was time for them to get back home and off to bed. Then sensing what was about to come next, and before Ryan could even ask, she told him that Mr. Ken and Collin both needed a good night’s rest, before getting back into the regular grind, and that he was going home with her.
The talk at school the next day wasn't about everybody's 'spring break', but about Rodney almost being killed. Few people had anything good to say about him and a few even said some dreadful things, like saying he deserved what he got.
Collin went through his morning classes thinking about Rodney, lying there in his hospital bed, all wired up and with things dripping into his body to keep him alive.
"Col … hey, Col … what's up with you, man? You're acting as if you are a hundred miles away," nudged Conner, when he sat down with Collin for lunch.
"Ah ... it's nothing," replied Collin, not looking at his friend.
"It's Rodney, isn't it?" asked Conner.
Collin stopped eating and looked up at his friend then said, "Yeah … I just can't get over how he looks … lying there in the hospital." offered Collin.
"Whoa … you've been over there … to see him? I thought he was supposed to stay away from you?" wondered Conner.
"That's what Judge Adam said. But, he didn't say anything about me not going to see him," chuckled Collin.
By then, a few others had sat down, at the lunch table, and were listening to the short conversation. They didn't want to get involved in it, so they just ate their lunch.
"Are you going over there tonight?" asked Conner.
"I am … if I can talk my 'mom' into driving me. … You know … Rodney didn't deserve what happened to him," said Collin.
"Wait, your 'mom'? Oh, oh yeah, I know who that is … its Ryan's mom isn't it? He said you sometimes call her mom, too. Mr. Ken must be busy tonight, then," said Conner.
"Yeah … but you didn't deserve what happened to you either," someone said to Collin.
"But he didn't try to kill me," Collin countered. "Whoever beat him DID try to kill him, … and, they left him for dead. Did you know that? They … they also beat him with something similar to a baseball bat. They had to open his skull so the swelling had someplace to go. When I saw him last night I … I couldn't believe he was the same guy. He was black and blue all over. … They broke some of his ribs and his eye socket and both arms and one leg. … You know … they told me at the hospital he needs different people talking to him … to stimulate him and to help him to get better. The nurse told me that someone in a coma can hear you but … they just can't respond. … You know we all should try to stop by and see if they will let us talk to him … even if for just a few minutes."
"Why would you want to do that for him? He left you all alone after he hit you didn't he?" were questions thrown out by person or persons unknown.
"Yeah … and so did most of the kids who saw me go down, and not get up. At least one person went and got the nurse. … Rodney needs us. His mom really needs us! She … the only thing she has now is Rodney. Guys … how would you feel if it was you … you know you lying there and … and your mom was falling apart because she could lose you? … Look … all I am saying is you could stop by for a few minutes. Let Rodney know he is not forgotten and most of all … let his mom know we are pulling for her boy, her son, to get better."
When Collin finished his little speech, it was very quiet at the table. But what he didn't know was that, while he was speaking to his friends, other people began to stop by and listen in. Soon their little lunch group had somehow grown to almost triple its size and those who heard Collin speak started spreading the word. By the time the end of lunch bell rang, a good number of the kids in the high school knew the story. By the end of classes, for the day, the word around the high school campus was that Collin wanted the boy, who beat him up, to be treated better than he was and that people should try to visit him and let him know they wanted him to pull through and live.
By the time, Collin and Ryan arrived at the hospital, to see Mrs. Costa and Rodney that night, a large number of kids from the high school were waiting to see and speak to Rodney. When the school kids were told the teen was in a coma, they said they knew that but they insisted they came to help stimulate him, to let him know they wanted him to pull through and live, because his mom needed him.
Mrs. Costa was beside herself seeing so many kids and hearing why they all wanted to visit with her son. When Collin and Ryan appeared, she thanked them for what they had done, for her Rodney.
Knowing that the large a group couldn't all see and talk to Rodney at once, let alone over time, Collin asked the nurses if they could take a few kids in with them, at a time, and let the students talk to Rodney, for just a few minutes.
The doctors didn't like the idea of so many people going in and out of the ICU but when Mrs. Costa went up to them and asked, "Please … for My son!", the doctors relented and Collin and Ryan were allowed to take four people with them at a time.
For the next two hours, over forty, or so, students had the opportunity to see and say a few words to Rodney. After that length of time, the doctors said that they didn't want to overdo the stimulation, and halted the parade into the ICU. Many of the ones, who didn't get to see and speak to Rodney, were disappointed but said they understood and would return tomorrow. The ones who did get to see and say a few words, to the boy, began telling the others how terrible the teenager looked, and asked what they could do to help.
When word got out to the television, radio and newspaper people that a sea of students was at the hospital 'demanding' to see Rodney. They all went into full 'reporting' mode and sent crews over there to cover the story. Students, who got the chance to see Rodney, and speak to him, were being interviewed. A few of them had taken cell phone pictures of the boy lying there and they became the lead-in for the late TV news.
The next morning the newspapers had similar pictures on their front page and the story asked people, who knew anything about that terrible beating, to call the authorities. They also asked all others to do their civic duty and to help somehow find the person or persons who almost killed the teenager.
At the high school, the students couldn't stop talking about how they could help and the ones who did see Rodney were the leaders in rallying the whole high school into creating the "Rally 4 Rodney" campaign in order to help the family pay the mounting medical bills.
That night, the hospital parking lot was overflowing with vehicles. This time, the kids not only wanted to talk to the seriously injured teenager, they also brought with them get well cards and banners signed by hundreds of the high school's students. Some brought flowers and some brought collection boxes to begin asking people to donate to the 'Rally 4 Rodney" fund.
A simple talk about how a boy, who was once a 'bully', and didn't deserve to be beaten almost to death, no matter what he had done had snowballed into a rallying cry for kids all over the county by the end of that second day. Television and radio and the newspapers all carried the story about the teen's beating and his high school classmates rallying to collect money to help pay his medical bills.
On Wednesday, at the high school, the student governing council asked the principal for an Assembly to be held the last period. When the time came to hold the school wide meeting, all the major networks had stepped up to cover it. By that evening, a "Stop Violence Against Students" movement began to form all over the state. Parents and educators and politicians, and in particular legislators, took notice of kids wanting to help and they got on the bandwagon. Money for Rodney Costa began pouring in from all over.
"Collin … Mr. Ken is on the phone for you," called out Mary Taylor from Mr. Ken's Study. It so happened she was staying at Three Finger Cove along with her son, Ryan, while Ken Thomas was up at the Wilkinson Enterprises, Inc. headquarters, for a few days. Some very serious things came to his attention during their Disney Cruise and he needed to get there and take immediate action. He left early that Monday afternoon long before Rodney Costa became a state wide figure.
"Bro, I was wondering when you were going to call! Did you hear about Rodney and what the kids are doing? It is crazy down here right now," an overly excited Collin said to his mentor and guardian.
"And hello to you, too, my 'little brother'," teased Ken.
"Oh, yeah … sorry … hello, Mr. Ken, Bro do you miss me?" a now laughing teen teased right back.
"You know what, Collin? Yes … little brother, I do miss you!" said a very proud Ken Thomas. "I am also missing out on seeing you working a 'miracle' down there. Your Uncle Andy is beside himself, with pride, over what you are accomplishing, and doing, for that young man. He has the company's Public Relations people working out a plan to have your company make a sizable matching contribution to Rodney's Fund."
"Bro … I didn't do anything. It all sort of just happened. One minute I was telling people at school that Rodney didn't deserve what happened to him, and the next thing I know, tons of kids descended on the hospital. Then, somehow, the TV and radio and newspapers heard about it, and it began to happen. I didn't plan any of that; you gotta believe me, Mr. Ken," spoke out a worried Collin.
"Collin … listen … please … I know you didn't plan it but … I know you must have said something about … what happened between you and Rodney. I bet the kids picked up on that and it made them realize that if you couldn't feel bad about what happened to someone, even after what he did to you, then they need to support you and them, too. Does that make any sense, Collin?" finished Ken Thomas.
"Yeah … I guess so. Oh, 'mom' said to let you know she and Ryan are listening over the speaker; just so you know and don't say anything too mushy to me," again teased the teen.
"So, Ryan, tell me how you are seeing all this, as it's going on," asked his Big Bro.
"Well, Bro … as Col said, it has been crazy. This thing has taken on a life of its own, now. The kids, who have seen and talked to Rodney, are the ones who are telling what he looks like and how terrible it has to be not only to him but his mom, as well. They have rallied the school and somehow the news people have spread this far and wide. I never thought anything like this could happen here.
"You should see mom. I haven't seen here beam like this since the New Year's Eve party," laughed Ryan, looking at his mom. "Bro … the kids are looking up to Collin, too. They all know it was Rodney who put him in the hospital and now … here he is turning the other cheek. There is going to be a huge rally at The MALL on Saturday afternoon. There is even talk that the governor will be here. I am so proud of my Best Friend."
"Mr. Ken … you will be back by then, won't you?" asked Collin.
"Yes, Collin, your Uncle Andy and I will be back there late tomorrow night. And what about you guys Birthday Party, scheduled for Saturday night? Do we need to do anything about it because of what is transpiring and all?" inquired Ken.
"Ken," spoke up Mary Taylor, "I don't think we need to do that. I mean … life does go on and … well, these boys have a right to continue doing things they normally would do, no matter what is going on with the collection for Rodney, and all the hype."
"Boys … well, what do you think about that? It's your day. You can only celebrate being sixteen once . It's when you turn 39 you can celebrate it over and over and over," he said to tease Mary.
"Bro … I kinda want to go ahead with it. There are a lot of people looking forward to it besides us and … well, I mean we can't just stop living as 'mom' said. So … I'm for it! What about you, Ry?" asked Collin.
"Yeah … I agree with Col, Bro. He makes a good point and … well I want to just PARTY. I've been looking forward to this for weeks, now. There will probably be some people who will have something to say about it, but the hell with them is what I say," answered Ryan.
"Well, Mister … you better NOT tell them to go to hell … at least not while I'm there. That, my son … WILL BE MY job!" laughed Mary heartedly.
After some more small talk, over the phone, they all said their good byes. At the Cove, the three people and Chief sat back in those, oh so very comfortable, leather chairs and discussed the events of the week, and the upcoming Sixteenth Birthday Party. They all agreed they would attend the rally, on Saturday, and speak, if asked, but also not to let anyone provoke them about the party. If asked, they would say they are 'going on with their lives' and leave it at that.
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