"Wake Up, wake up," yelled Eric, as he shook first one teen then the other. "Come on … Wake UP! Mr. Ken said to get your lazy asks out of bed."
"Lazy asks is it?" a sleepy Collin asked.
"Yeah, I'm not allowed to say the other word so Mr. Ken said to say 'asks'. My mom laughed when she heard him tell me that. Now, come on and get up. It's already nine thirty, and Mr. Ken says we have to leave here by ten thirty in order to be at the water park in time," answered Eric.
Just then Chief came into the room and she began to bark loud, and often, which made both teens cover their ears with their pillows.
"Go away, Chief" yelled Ryan.
"Yeah, what he said, Chief," added Collin.
Both teens lay in their beds for another five minutes after Eric and Chief left the bedroom talking back and forth. They, then, got out of bed, adjusted their deflating flag poles, and headed to the bathroom to take care of nature, and also get their shower. Thirty minutes later, the two teens entered the kitchen and each gave Momma Maria a big hug, as they grabbed a couple of breakfast tacos, on their way to the kitchen table.
Mr. Ken looked at the two teens and then laughed as he said, "Thank you for joining us."
"We'd have been here earlier, but … well you see we had this hyper boy and a loud barking dog come and bother us; otherwise we'd have been here two minutes earlier," smirked Ryan, as he continued to eat his taco.
"Yeah, what he said," also mumbled Collin, while he ate his breakfast tacos.
Then it dawned on the lads their girlfriends were standing in the kitchen as well.
Mary, Judy and Ken, along with the boys' dates, could do nothing but laugh at the teens' antics. Even Chief got into the act by barking up a storm.
"Does everyone have their swim suits and a change of clothes?" quietly asked Mr. Ken.
"We should head down to the Commander in a few minutes, so I can get the motor warmed up before we cast off. Ryan, since you're the Beach Master, you need to get your butt down there and make ready the boat. Any questions, sailor?" the authoritative voice of Mr. Ken bellowed out.
When Ryan heard himself called the Beach Master, he almost choked on his taco. All Collin could do was laugh as his best buddy choked, and coughed.
"Get a move on, sailor," called out Mr. Ken.
Hearing that made Ryan scramble out from behind the kitchen table and with his mouth full he replied, "Aye, aye, Cap'n."
Collin and Eric and Brad, as well as Chief, followed close behind.
Ken Thomas captained his yacht down the lake, towards the new water park. Shelley and Megan hadn't ever been down this way, on a boat before, and they were enjoying the scenery that Collin and Ryan pointed out to them.
Eric was right next to Captain Ken, as he called him, watching the man's every move as he was told, he'd get the chance to steer the Commander, back to 'port'. Brad stood on the other side watching as intently as his friend, Eric.
By eleven o'clock, the Commander approached the almost completed Lakeside Water Safety and Rescue Team Headquarters, and docks. It was here that Mr. Ken was going to dock his yacht for the Grand Opening. A few minutes later, the County Commissioner's and the Lake's Commodore's boats approached the same dock, as well, lay up alongside, and docked, too.
A large crowd had already arrived at the new water park, and awaited the cutting of the ribbon. The parking lot was already quite full, and people began parking along the sides of the road. The few people who tried to park in the Lakeside Water Safety and Rescue Team Headquarters parking lot were told to move their vehicles, or else have them towed. The only vehicles allowed in there were for the police and the rescue volunteers.
While the assembled dignitaries were getting themselves ready, the park began pre-selling admission tickets, so there would be no waiting when the ribbon was cut. The lifeguards, and the rest of the staff, were all located inside the water park, waiting for the crowd to descend on the pristine waters, and water slides.
"Mr. Ken, I had no idea this place would be so… so magnificent," said Mary, as she surveyed the grounds along with him, Judy and the kids.
"Yes, Ken, you made this place a showcase, that's for sure," added Judy. "I love all the colors, but most of all … I LOVE the amenities. I see plenty of restrooms and lots of covered picnic tables and those larger covered areas must be for larger groups."
"Yes, Judy, we made sure there would be lots of places around for people to have a picnic and a place to 'potty' as well, and change into and out of their swimsuits. Those larger pavilions are for rent and have the restrooms strategically located next to them for the renters convenience," explained Mr. Ken.
"Mr. Ken," began Shelley, "how is it the park water is so blue, while the rest of the lake water is so … well, dirty looking?"
"What we did, Shelley, was completely shut off the lake water from the wave and slide pools. We then took the lake water and ran it through special filters and then treated it and then diverted it into the pools. As water is needed, we continue to add it, the same way while, all along, we continue to filter and chlorinate the water," explained Mr. Ken.
"How many people can this place hold, Mr. Ken," asked Megan.
Mister Ken had to think for a few moments before he answered. Then he responded by saying, "I really don't know, Megan. We know how many the wave pool can hold by doing the calculations and we know how many people can be on the slide ramps, but what we don't know is what is the total number of people that can be inside the park and it still be a safe environment.
"Today will be sort of a test to find out. The safety personnel will keep tabs on the picnic areas and open beach area, while the lifeguards will keep tabs on the pools. It will be a balancing act, at first, until they get a feel for the number of people that can be safely inside the park, and not make it unsafe. I hope that explains it, because that is how I remember how they said they'd do it. Only time will tell."
By eleven thirty, a band began playing the appropriate music, indicating the dignitaries should begin gathering on the flatbed stage. Some moans and groans were heard from the crowd when they saw seven people take seats on the makeshift stage. They figured they were in for a lot of long winded speeches. Then, the music stopped and the first speaker got up to the microphone.
The County Recreational Director spoke first, and said very few words of welcome, and then introduced County Commissioner Joseph Barnneby.
"Welcome, ladies and gentlemen … and kids of all ages," began County Commissioner Joseph Barnneby. "I want to thank each and every one of you for attending this Grand Opening of our … NO, make that, YOUR Lakeside Water Park. … This is a momentous day, as we never thought we'd have such an awesome recreational area, anywhere near this wonderful, sitting here in this remote spot. The County Commissioner's had their eye on this piece of property, for quite some time, for something like this, but we could never find the funding for such an auspicious undertaking.
"Today, though, this wonderful water park is made possible because of private funding coupled with this beautiful piece of county land. The match must have been made in heaven … because both parties, who ultimately came together, were interested in making this county the place to live in and raise their families, and what better way than to have this magnificent water park.
"So, with that in mind, I want to introduce you to the man whose money, and I say that sincerely, whose money made this all possible. Please give this man the recognition he so truly deserves. Please welcome the man whom many of you know from his hard work, after the horrific storm of almost a year ago, and who is also a true hero. Please welcome the man who stopped a bullet … that was meant for his young charge. Please give up your applause for the one and only … Mr. Ken Thomas.
When the crowd heard Mr. Ken's name they went ballistic with their applause. The band played a rousing number while the applause continued for more than five minutes.
As Mr. Ken stepped forward, there wasn't a thing the man could do to quell the thunderous applause. He walked along the stage and shook lots of hands, almost as if he was running for public office. The people kept coming up to the trailer stage wanting to shake the man's hand. Mr. Ken took as many hands as he could as he walked along the stage edge. He then figured he'd best get to the microphone.
"Thank you … thank you … thank you all so very much for that rousing and wonderful greeting," offered the man, but the applause kept on and on.
He tried again and soon the people held back their greetings. Before long, Ken Thomas was poised to make his simple speech.
"Thank you, again, for that wonderful greeting. And, thank you, Judge Barnneby, for that humbling introduction. … Way back, while I built Three Finger Cove, the County Commissioner's approached me with a proposition. They told me about this piece of property and … and what they wanted to do with it. They asked me if there was a way we could legally join forces to form a joint venture to construct what you see in front of you today. Well, as you can see … WE DID JUST THAT!
Another thunderous applause was given.
"It took us eighteen months to lay the ground work and hurdle the mountains of legal paperwork. Then, that hundred year storm, followed close on, by a hard cold winter, held us back, but finally, we have us … OUR new Lakeside Water Park." tossed out Mr. Ken, who received a thunderous applause again
"Thank you again for that wonderful applause. … As I mentioned … the county, and I, were able to form an LLC which enabled us to fund this wonderful wave pool, along with the water slides, picnic tables, beach and covered pavilions, as well as everything else you see before you. And most importantly, without a TAX increase.
The crowd had a good chuckle after the 'tax' comment.
"I also want you to know the lake's new Water Safety and Rescue Headquarters will be located right next door here, also as a result of that LLC. Later this summer, we will take possession of that facility and the Water Search & Rescue Volunteers will have their new home, from where to operate and provide you with the BEST Lakeside Fire and Rescue and Dive & Recovery service anywhere, within the great state of Texas."
More thunderous applause was forthcoming, but not as long or as hard as before.
"Now that we have the important people here up on this stage I want to ask County Commissioner, Judge Barnneby and the Recreational Director, Mrs. Janice Southern to come over here and help me cut this ribbon so we can officially open this new water park, for our citizens."
The three dignitaries each took a hold of the red ribbon and each cut through it where they were standing, and then let it fall to the stage. The crowd gave up another cheer and then began moving towards the park entrance. Before long, over a thousand people had entered the water park and another thousand or so were still waiting to get tickets to enter.
Collin and Ryan offered to watch out for the younger boys, so they, and their girlfriends, took Eric and Brad along with them as they headed for the wave pool. This was going to be a first experience for all of them, and that is what they wanted to do first. The first waves were sort of low and further apart, so the six moved further out into the pool. What they didn't know was that as the wave machine got into its rhythm, the waves become higher and closer together. It wasn't long before Eric and Brad were swept away from Collin's and Ryan's hands.
"Hey, where'd he go?" exclaimed a baffled Ryan after the unexpected wave took Brad's hand from his.
"Yeah, Eric's gone, too. We better start looking for two startled youngsters. Let's head in to the shallows and ask the girl's to wait here in case they return," called out Collin.
As the teens made their way toward shore, they could see lots and lots of smaller kids enjoying the breaking waves and were afraid they'd have a difficult time picking out Eric and Brad, from all the rest.
The waves continued to crash at the teens backs knocking them off balance and then all of a sudden they each were hit by a stronger force. Getting up they both saw the problem.
"Hey … why'd you let go of my hand," laughed Eric, as he wrapped his arms and legs around Collin's back.
"Yeah, Ryan, why'd you let me go, too? That wave took us both to the shallow area where the waves crashed us to the bottom. … That was fun! Let's do that again!"
The two young swimmers both laughed at the teens which got them a well-deserved dunking and some tickling.
"You had us scared, you two," spoke Collin, as he tickled Eric some more.
"We couldn't help it Collin," replied Brad. "That wave caught both of us off guard and we were sort of washed back to the shore then, when we got closer in, the wave tumbled us like we were in a washing machine. But it was fun!"
The four boys caught up with the girls and after 15 minutes the waves stopped. That prompted the young lads to point towards the water slides, and they both grabbed their protector's hand and drug them in that direction.
There were six different slides of varying heights with different twists and turns and one that looked like it was totally dark inside.
"Let's go on that … that black one first," pointed Eric.
"Yeah, that looks kewl," added Brad.
The girls looked at the height of the slide, and then at the anticipated looks on the two young boys faces, and they both begged off from trying it saying they wanted to work on their tan, some, and would meet them on the beach.
The four boys got in line and looked at the number of people in front of them and they knew they would be fully dry by the time they took their ride. They talked amongst themselves, at first, but then began talking to the others in front of them, and also behind them. That talking made the time feel like it passed along much faster.
As they continued their journey, up to the top, the younger boys began to look down which brought some reality to how high they were and how far down they would travel inside the black tube.
"Ah, Collin," a somewhat white faced Eric began, "how hhh… high is this … this ride?"
"Hmmm, let's see, we're on the seventh level and we have 2 more to go so I'd say the top there is something like ninety feet. Why'd you ask Eric?" said Collin.
"I ah, ah … I've never been thi … this high before Collin," squeaked out Eric.
"Sure you have, Eric. We flew out to California, and we were at thirty-five thousand feet," explained Collin.
"Well … we may have been but … but, this … sure … is … looking ... a … lot … higher, Collin. Hold my hand, please?" asked the fearful youngster.
"Sure, no problem 'little bro'," answered the teen who not only took the lads hand, but also gave him a quick hug, to reassure the boy he'd be alright.
Ten minutes later, the four had made their way to the top, and were next in line to ride.
"Collin, I'm a bit scared," meekly said Eric.
"Yeah, I am too, now, Ryan," offered Brad. "It didn't look this high from down th … there. … Do … do we have to ride this?"
When the teenagers heard the boys question, they seemed to look at one another with the same thought. 'It took us a good thirty-five minutes waiting in line and walking up all those stairs; there was no way they we're not going to take that ride down to the bottom.' They both then looked at the two boys and replied with a resounding stereo "YES!"
Right then, a four-person raft came off the elevator and the lifeguard indicted for them to get in. The teens each pulled 'their' kid onto an opposite tube-seat and then took a vacant one. The youngsters had little to no time to protest, or resist, as the four-person raft was quickly guided to the large dark opening, and their ride began.
It was pitch black inside the slide and, on top of that, it had curves and dips that threw the rider from side to side while splashing them with water. The two pre-teens held on to their respective guardian's hand and squeezed for their life as they screamed at the top of their lungs.
Then, the raft entered the big funnel part of the ride. It was in there that made them feel as if they were now riding in a toilet bowl, as they went round and round. The ride by then had smoothed out and Eric and Brad were beginning to enjoy the sensation. Just then, as suddenly as they entered the 'toilet bowl', they were ceremoniously shot out into another black tube that again had more twists and turns and dips.
By this time, the four riders were all laughing and totally enjoying the ride. The last turn abruptly brought them to the very end, where they were literally deposited into a great big pool of water, causing their unbalanced weight to dump them off the raft. The four of them all came up laughing and high-fiving each other.
"That was fun! Let's do that again," laughed out Eric.
The boys found the girls lying on some beach towels, and immediately sat down with them.
"Hey, watch it. You're getting us wet," cried out Megan.
"So … we're at a water park. You should expect to get wet," replied Ryan, while at the same time, shaking his head so the excess water would sprinkle the two teen girls.
It wasn't long before Mr. Ken and Mary and Judy caught up with the youngsters. They decided to break up into groups, which would allow the teens to have some time alone, which left Mr. Ken and the ladies to watch out for the younger lads.
Collin and Shelley along with Ryan and Megan headed for the water slides. On their way over, they met some of their high school friends and the larger group walked to what was dubbed The Water Works.
"Hey, you don't mind us tagging along, do you," asked Conner. "You guys are here on dates 'sort of' and we don't want to ruin anything," he continued.
The two couples looked at each other then Megan spoke up and said, "Well, we might be on dates, but you're still all of our friends. And besides, what can we do out here in front of over a thousand onlookers?"
The group laughed at Megan's come back and continued walking to The Water Works.
"Come on, Mr. Ken, we gotta ride everything," an enthusiastic Eric called out. "We've already rided that big black one over there soo's let's do a diff'ernt one."
"Mr. Ken," a shy Brad said to the man who also brought him to the water park with Eric, "do you think we could all try that big green one over there. It looks like it could hold all of us, me and you 'n Eric and his mom 'n Miss Mary."
"What do you say ladies? You game for getting yourselves wet?" teased Mr. Ken.
After a minor discussion, the five got in line in order to head up seven flights of stairs to enjoy the ride. With a minimum of four, five, or six people in every raft the line moved quite fast and before they knew it they were boarding a raft of their own.
"Hold on tight, boys! This is going to be scary since we're all going into a black hole," teased Mr. Ken hoping he could get a rise out of the boys.
"This ain't nuttin' Mr. Ken," piped up Brad. "We rode that black tunnel ride over there and this can't be anything like that one was. This one has openings along the way."
"Oh, I didn't know that," choked out Mr. Ken, as the guard pushed their raft into the large opening making him almost tip out.
The other four laughed as the man had to scramble to get a handhold. Sure enough, about a quarter of the way down they came to a wide open area where they could see up. But before they got their bearings, they were cast into another pitch black section. In there, the twists and turns caused lots of water to splash into the raft causing everyone to get soaking wet, and also laugh out loud. Then came another open air section that passed too quickly immediately thrusting them into another blackened tunnel. Near the end, the trough sent the raft into what felt like a 45 degree angle that caused them to hold on for dear life and they did not notice the two large pipes that dumped cold water all over them before they splashed into the pool below.
"That was fun," called out Brad.
"Let's do that again," added Eric.
The teen group stayed together most of the afternoon and rode many of the water slides a couple of times each. As the day wore on, Collin and Shelley, along with Ryan and Megan decided they had had enough, and, so said goodbye to their friends. The four decided to sit on the beach, and wait for Mr. Ken. They were all tired and ready to go back to the Cove.
"Well lookie who we have here?" snarled William Shappell, one of the bullies from the high school, who tormented Collin.
"Can't get us kicked out of high school, now, can you, you twerp" yelled Raleigh Mitchell who then kicked sand all over the four teenagers.
"Hey … leave us alone!" called out Ryan, as he and Collin stood up to face the bullies. "We've done nothing to you and … and Collin did nothing to you back when he started school, so why don't you two leave us alone?"
"Us? … Leave YOU alone? … Yeah, right! … We're just getting started!" yelled out Raleigh.
By then a small group began to gather wondering what was going to happen.
"Where's your hero now, you candy assed pussy?" angrily spit out Bill Shappell. "Is your big brother gonna come and save you, now … before we BEAT the living shit out of you?"
"Look … we don't want any trouble. We never did anything to you two … and what happened to you, afterwards, was the result of your bullying me," loudly shouted back Collin. "It was you who caused Rodney to take the rap … for what you guys planned for me. Lucky for him … I saw through what you tried to do to him, through his dad … that's why he wasn't sent away, as you all hoped."
"That dumb shit shouldn't have gotten caught. … We told him where he could find you alone so'en he could beat the crap out of you, but did HE listen? Noooo! … Too bad his dad didn't take care of him, either, with that … that gun of his, that night. It should have been his ASS that got KILLED … instead … it was that cop who only got wounded. The lucky shit! But, he got what was coming to him, anyway," laughed Shappell, and he looked over at Raleigh.
"So … you're the ONES responsible for his beating you … YOU sorry ass pieces of shit. You beat him … with a baseball bat that put him in the hospital with a coma and numerous broken bones. It almost killed him," a now pissed off Ryan spouted out, loud and clear.
"Naw … it weren't a baseball bat. Maybe it were a lead pipe or two," laughed Raleigh who was immediately punched in the arm by Bill who told him to keep his mouth quiet.
Things then happened very fast, for Collin and Ryan. The only thing they both did, out of pure instinct, more than anything, was ball up their fists. Then it happened.
"But we don't need a baseball bat, or even a lead pipe, to beat the crap out of you two pussies. All we need is our fists." And, as that last word came out of Bill Shappell's mouth, he landed a blow to Ryan's face and Ryan went down, into a quickly forming pool of blood.