Castle Roland

Three Finger Cove - Robert
Book II

by Chowhound


Chapter 7

Posted: 18 Jun 15

Three Finger Cove – Robert

Copyright © 2012 - 2015
by Chowhound
All rights reserved

Ken Thomas knew from his college studies that when a child's home life got all tangled up or that the routine is upset far beyond what they understand or can handle, the child will probably become very teary, uncooperative and possibly hostile.

For the time being, the man was very happy that Robert only showed his aggravations and frustrations through crying. He looked back at the few times he spent with the lad and remembered how the boy responded to the teasing and joking by joining in the action. He concluded that it probably portended the boy more than likely liked him. And that the integration and/or interactions with his Household Manager probably indicated the source of his discomfort and possible crying, too.

The man looked at the time and saw that is wasn't yet time for Momma Maria to start fixing dinner so he went to her to ask her not to cook dinner so he could take Robert out to cheer him up. She agreed and closed up her kitchen for the weekend and told her employer she would see him Monday morning.

Returning to his Study, he saw that Robert and Chief hadn't moved a muscle. Sitting down in the chair next to the lad, he put his hand on the boys shoulder to get his attention.

"You going to be okay there Robert?" lightly asked the man.

Still looking down and with a sour face, Robert answered, "Yea … I'll be okay. … At least, I hope I will when I leave here in two weeks."

That last statement took Mr. Ken by complete surprise and he needed to find out why the boy thought that way only after being at his place for 2 ½ days.

"Robert … can you look at me? … Please, son," implored Ken Thomas.

After a few moments, Robert slowly lifted his head, wiped the tears away from his cheeks and eyes, and looked up at his foster dad.

Seeing the hurt all over the boy's face, he made an instant decision. "Thank you. What say you and I get away from this place and go out and have some fun? You game for that, son?"

"You're not mad at me?" asked the boy.

"No, whatever made you think something like that?" asked the man.

The boy took a few seconds to form an answer and then said, "It seems like all I ever do, in front of you, is … cry. So, why wouldn't you be mad at me?"

"Robert … come here, please. … Sit on my lap. … Come on!"

Robert hesitated at first but his instinct told him the man had NEVER been mad at him and had NEVER hit him and he was only trying to get him to like living there. So, in those milliseconds it took for his brain to process that, he smiled as he quickly moved to sit on his foster dad's lap.

Mr. Ken pulled the lad into a hug and feeling no resistance he held it for a minute or so before he began to speak.

"Robert, everything that happened in the past 2 ½ days, I'd say, has thoroughly turned your life upside down. You don't know what your future holds, you've lost your routine and/or rhythm and then I put this two week deadline on you to poop or get off the pot."

When Robert heard that last part it made him smile and with that he pulled away from the man and repeated with the smile still on his face "… poop or get off the pot. How corny can you get?"

Mr. Ken saw that smile and heard the lad join in the silliness and he just went with the flow and began tickling the boy.

"Hey, that tickles. NO, don't tickle me too much or I'll pee. No, stop! Please STOP!" yelled the lad, all the time laughing up a storm and not ever trying to jump out of the man's lap.

Mr. Ken didn't tickle him for all that long but when you're the one being tickled it could feel like it was a lifetime and Robert Arthur Harrison was glad when he had stopped.

"Phew, that was something else. I hadn't been tickled like that in a loooong time. Thanks, Mr. Ken."

"Well … you're welcome, I guess. I never had Eric, Collin or Ryan even ever thank me for tickling them. This has to be a first," proclaimed Mr. Ken.

"Say, how about you go to the hall restroom and wash your face and your hands, up to your elbows, and then get your coat and meet me by the front door."

"Okay … but why, if I may ask," slyly asked the lad.

"Well, to tell the truth, I gave Maria the night off and we are now on our own for dinner. But before we eat, I thought we could go over to the go-kart track or miniature golf place and see if they are open and have some fun, just you and me. What do you say to that?" asked Mr. Ken.

"I can't remember the last time anyone took me to either one of them so SURE, let's go!" replied Robert, who then jumped off the man's lap and went to the nearby half-bath to get cleaned up.

Mr. Ken went to his en suite to get himself cleaned up and in a few minutes went to meet the lad at the front door. But before he got there he heard Mildred say to the boy, "I hope you're not going to use that door young man! That door is for the guests of Three Finger Cove, and not for people such as YOU!"

As soon as Mr. Ken came around the corner and Mildred saw him, she immediately said she needed a few minutes of his time. When asked for what purpose, she replied that it was not for prying eyes or ears.

"I'm sorry Ms. Johnston, Robert and I were just leaving for the evening. I hope what you have to tell me can wait until tomorrow, that is if you wish to stop by, or until Monday when you come back in to work?" countered her employer, knowing exactly what she wanted to tell the man.

"No, it can wait. It's not all that important," Mildred said. With that Mr. Ken, and Robert, exited out the front door, smiling as they went.

Foster dad and foster son were driving well off the Cove's property when Robert spoke up and said, "You know what she wanted to talk to you about, don't you?"

"Yes … I'm sure she was going to give me HER convoluted version about what happened upstairs, earlier. I will have to hear her version, Robert, you know that. But, I know that she and both Collin and Ryan have had, what shall I call them, 'disagreements' with her, so I will take what she says with a 'grain of salt'.

The youngster sat there for a few moments before saying, "Yes, I know you will have to listen to her side but … well, can you tell me what a 'grain of salt' means. I've heard lots people say that but I never heard anyone explain what it means. Could you please explain it to me?" sincerely asked the lad.

"Sure, Robert, I'm surprised a bright lad such as you doesn't know what it means. But, before I tell you what it means, when I use it, how about you tell me what YOU think it means," countered Mr. Ken, trying to get the lad to use his brain first before he asking for help.

"Well … when you used it to say, 'I'll will take what she says with a grain of salt', I thought it meant that you'd be doubting what she had to say. Something like, you'll believe part of it but not all of it. … So, how'd I do?" was Robert's reply.

"You did real well, there, Robert. Yes with a 'grain of salt' could mean the person is doubtful, dubious, mistrustful or even suspicious. But, when I use that phrase, I usually mean it 'that I am skeptical'. So, does that help you with your own definition?"

"So, I was right. Awesome! Thanks Mr. Ken and yes, if I ever hear that phrase again I'll try to remember those other words it could mean but … well, at least I know what it DOES mean and I'm not so dumb after all," chuckled the lad, when he said that last part.

"No, Robert, you are far from being dumb. … So, what would you rather do – Go-Karts or miniature golf?" asked foster dad Mr. Ken.

"Can't I do both?" teased the boy, as he smiled as he said it.

"We'll see … we'll see," Mr. Ken teased back.

They pulled into the parking lot for the Go-karts, but the two 18-hole miniature golf courses were just a short walk up a ways. Mr. Ken let Robert choose and he chose to drive the Go-Karts.

The operator of the Go-Karts greeted Mr. Ken and he in turn introduced Robert to the man. It was a January day and the place wasn't too busy so it wasn't long before the two, man and boy, were out on the track racing one another. What Robert didn't know, and the operator knew not to say anything to anyone the man was with, was that Mr. Ken Thomas owned the Go-Kart track, as well as the miniature golf courses, and a few other venues in and around there.

With their first race, Robert gave the 'old' man an attitude about how 'bad' he beat him. That in turn caused the 'old' man to challenge the young boy to another race.

"We'll see who wins this race," said Mr. Ken, i.e., the 'old' man. "You're on 'old' man," teased Robert. But in the end, Mr. Ken did win and he whooped it up as he teased his young charge.

"You want to go two out of three, loser," said 'old' man Thomas while, at the same time, placing his right hand up to his forehead forming an "L" for loser.

"You're ON! And you're the one who's going to be the LOSER," yelled back Robert, with a smile as big as ever.

The operator knew that this was the way Mr. Ken liked to play when he brought one of his 'kids' with him to drive the Go-Karts. The track man got both of the competitors lined up, side-by-side, and then worked the light system to turn Green for the race to start.

The third race ran neck and neck for all ten laps. Sometimes the lad surged ahead and sometimes the 'old' man led. The race went back-and-forth like that all the way to the finish and as the man and boy came to the Finish Line the operator called it a 'Photo Finish'.

"A Photo Finish, a photo finish you've got to be blind," called out Robert, as he ran to the operator to see the Photo that showed who won. Mr. Ken got to the monitor at the same time and the operator ran the Photo Finish in slow motion for them. Robert watched anxiously, just knowing he had won by a large margin, but as the monitor played back the video of the finish it showed he had only won by a wheel.

"I know I won by a larger margin than that, Mr. Ken, I know I did," argued Robert.

"But the video doesn't lie, and besides, who's the better person? The person who loses graciously; or, the person who cries fowl?" asked Mr. Ken, of his young charge.

That question made the lad think for a moment and as he thought about what his new foster dad said, he knew that the man was trying to give him a lesson. And that lesson was 'one should lose graciously as well as win graciously but, in the end, they should still be friends when it is all over'.

"Sorry, Mr. Ken … I know what you were trying to do back there and you're right. I shouldn't rag on a person because I won because … well, it could be me, who is the loser (and Robert did his right hand into an "L" above his head) the next time. I'll try to remember that the next time … if there ever IS a next time," offered Robert.

"I'm glad you realize that your actions can tell a lot about you and that you will be a gracious winner as well as a good-natured loser. Keep in mind that it applies not only to games but business as well as in life. Always try to be gracious whenever you can," replied Mr. Ken. "So … you ready to get beat at miniature golf?"

Robert smiled at the man knowing he was teasing so he replied, "You're going down!"

The two laughed as they walked together to their next 'competitive' event.

The foster dad and foster boy enjoyed two rounds of miniature golf with each winning a. game. When it came time for dinner, Mr. Ken suggested the restaurant that was right there but Robert asked if they could go to Dairy Queen. When asked to explain why he wanted to go there, the lad explained that he hadn't been there 'in years' and said it with a smile. Mr. Ken wondered if he created a 'monster' now that the youngster caught on to the 'game' of joking in fun and that a smile can 'get you anything' from him. "Oh, well" he thought, "It's ONLY money."

The duo each had a Bacon Cheese GrillBurger with fries and a drink. Mr. Ken told them to leave off the onions and pickles while Robert told them to just leave off the onions.

The two of them sat in a booth and they actually had a conversation as compared to their early morning breakfast meal. Ken Thomas got Robert in the conversation by asking the lad to talk a bit more about himself; about the things he liked and disliked; and, what types of vacations he'd had and, if he had the chance, where would he like to go.

Mr. Ken found out that Robert actually liked school and that the lad thought he would do better if he could stop being moved around so much. The boy revealed he wasn't very good in sports, meaning any sport, because he never got the chance to play and get good at them thanks to what his parents made him do. Robert additionally told his new foster dad that he loved it when he went away from the city and visited places like the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam and places like the St. Louis Arch and other neat places.

Robert also let it be known he hated cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts, and most cooked green vegetables. The lad additionally told Mr. Ken he didn't like phony people and people who always talked about how better they were than anybody else, and especially people who pretended to be your friend but are just out to get something from you.

Mr. Ken took that last item as meaning the men he was made to go with promising him stuff but only making sure they got what they wanted from the lad and never delivered on their promises. Then the owner of the Cove thought that it could mean his parents promising him he wouldn't have to do 'it' for too long. Either way, Mr. Ken knew he had to get Doc Doug to be working with the boy and the sooner the better.

Then, when Mr. Ken thought the lad finished telling him things the boy launched into a list of the vacations he'd love to take. First, he'd love a visit to Walt Disney World and second, to Disneyland out in California. Robert then added New York City and a visit to the United Nations building and Statue of Liberty, but what he really wanted to do was take a Disney cruise.

The lad mentioned he knew a few friends who took one and he loved what they had said about all they had done and the many activities and then the final stop at the special island they had. The whole time the lad told his vacation wishes, Mr. Ken could see the youth stare at the wall as IF he was living the things he heard in his mind. Ken Thomas knew he needed to get started on seeing if he could take the boy on a Disney cruise just as he had done for his 'Little Brother' Collin.

Chief went to the kitchen door when she heard the vehicle enter the garage and the garage door closing. There she greeted Robert as if he'd been gone forever. The youth bent over and scratched behind her ears knowing she truly loved that. The clock read almost 9:30 PM when the residents of Three Finger Cove returned from their evening out. Then, while the lad gave Chief some 'lovin', Mr. Ken suggested they go down to the Theater and watch a movie together but Robert begged off saying he was tired from all the things he did that day.

Mr. Ken just ruffled the boy's hair before saying good night to the lad and then sent the lad, and his dog, up to his room. As the man watched the tired lad walk up the stairs, he told the boy that he should think about sleeping in tomorrow morning as it was a Saturday. Then he added that before long he'd be going back to school and that he should enjoy his sleep while he could. Hearing that, the boy stopped on the stairs and turned and smiled back at his foster dad and then continued up to his room.

Mr. Ken retreated to his Study, where he usually could be found, and began to review what he learned that day. What concerned him the most, about that day, turned out to be what he learned from the boys about Mildred Johnston! He couldn't ever remember seeing nor hearing that she could be so surly.

The man sat there thinking through all the things she did for him and knew he was very pleased with her work and work ethic and how she handled the day to day activities of the Cove. What happened between her and his foster son caused him some concern, so he made a written note to remind him to talk to some of the people who knew Mildred and to also watch her a bit closer the next few days. He needed to know if it was Robert who caused the trouble between the two, or was it Millie who is at fault. Either way, he needed to catch it in the bud and stop it before it caused havoc in The Cove.

Upstairs, Robert used his bathroom to get rid of his 'excess water' and wash his face and brush his teeth before going to bed. He returned to his room and got undressed down to his underwear. He then stood there and looked at himself in the large full-length mirror on the back of the door. He liked what he saw and remarked to himself how the new boxer briefs looked and felt on him.

He began to turn a bit right and then left and as he did so he also adjusted himself some which caused 'that special feeling' to stir in his nether regions. He could feel the start of his erection begin so he watched it grow and marveled at how it pushed out the material and make his 'package' look so much larger. He smiled as this was happening but then it became a bit painful as his 'toy' needed more room to expand. So, he reached inside his briefs and straightened out his willy and smiled some more as he 'really' liked what he saw.

He then cupped his sexual equipment in his hand and then gave it a nice squeeze. His smile got bigger and then he turned out the light and lay down on his bed. It wasn't too long before he slipped off his briefs and gave his 'friend' the attention it demanded. He had to use his t-shirt to wipe up the mess he made but didn't mind because it felt so awesome as he hadn't done that since his arrival there. He then fell fast asleep.

Sometime later, Robert woke with a start. In his sleep he had this feeling that someone was just waiting for the right time to lay down with him in his bed. He quickly looked around his bedroom, and even though no light was on, his eyes were dark adapted so he could see the entire room with just the light coming in from outside.

Chief woke at the same time his new 'boy' did and she watched him as he looked around the room. She got up and stretched and went to the lad and sat down before him. Robert reached out and scratched behind her ear a few times and then offered, "It was just a bad dream, girl. But thanks for being here for me."

Chief, for her part, gave a low 'woof' and then licked the lad's face.

He sat there a few more moments and then reached out and grabbed his discarded briefs and slipped them on. He stood up and went to the door and slowly opened it to see if there was anyone outside there waiting to come in and do stuff with him. He was relieved that there was no one there so he hurried to the bathroom to pee.

When he was finished, he slowly looked out the bathroom door and, again seeing no one in the hall, he hurried back to his room. Chief was still there, waiting for his return, and as he lay back down, she set up her protection right next to him. Robert saw what she did so he reached over and scratched her ears again and thanked her for protecting him. He was soon fast asleep.

The night hadn't been too kind to Ken Thomas either. He didn't sleep well that night because of the dark feelings he had about Mildred Johnston. He couldn't shake the idea that there might be more to that woman than he ever thought and the arrival of Robert might possibly have triggered something in her. Then, just as his new charge did, he stood up and went and relieved himself of some 'excess water' and then went back to bed hoping he would sleep well that time.

The master of Three Finger Cove was a creature of habit and it wasn't unusual for him to be up and at 'em at between 8:00 to 8:15 AM each and every morning, and that Saturday tendered no exception. His normal routine was to put on his gym shorts and head for the kitchen and then read his morning paper while Maria made his breakfast. Except, when he got to the kitchen he remembered this weekend was momma Maria's weekend off and he'd have to make not only his own breakfast but that of his new housemate, Robert.

On top of that, with Maria off, Mr. Ken knew he had to retrieve his own paper. He figured he could do that without needing a coat but when he went outside on that cold January morning, without a coat, he knew he made a terrible mistake. It was not only cold but the wind was blowing and added insult to injury, but he braved the weather anyway and was overjoyed when he got back inside to the warmth of the Cove.

On the weekends, Mr. Ken didn't normally watch the clock and was surprised when he noticed it was already close to 10 AM and he hadn't seen his new foster son, or Chief for that matter, downstairs yet. He then remembered he told the lad to sleep in and enjoy it since school started for him beginning Monday so he knew he shouldn't bother him. But then he, too, remembered the lad went upstairs almost twelve hours ago and he figured that he should go up and check on the boy to make sure he wasn't having another one of those bad dreams.

As he reached the top of the stairs, an antsy Chief waited there for him and wanted him to follow her. He immediately knew that did not portend a good sign.

Stopping outside Robert's bedroom door, Mr. Ken did the 'three knock rule' before entering the lad's domain. He saw the pre-teen in the throngs of 'fighting' off whoever was in his dream, so the man tried to wake the boy as gently as he could. After three attempts, each one more aggressive than the first, he decided to grab the lad and pull him towards him while shaking the boy harder than he ever had before.

"Get away, get away … I'm not going to let you touch me like that again, EVER! You HEAR ME! It's not going to happen again, get away, get away," screamed Robert, as he fought off his nemesis in his dreams.

Ken continued to talk to the lad and tried to shake him awake. Then, without warning, the lad came fully awake and screamed "Get away from me!" and anxiously pulled away from Mr. Ken and even tried to hit the man. Mr. Ken had to grab the boy's arms to not only protect himself but to get the lad settled down. During the entire time, Mr. Ken talked lightly to the lad as the boy fought to get away.

"ROBERT," yelled Mr. Ken, as loud as he possibly could in order to get the boy's attention and calm him down. He yelled the lad's name again and that time it seemed to have made a connection with the boy and the lad stopped fighting him. The lad then just fell onto his bed and began to cry hard.

Mr. Ken had never seen Collin with such a reaction to a dream and he had no idea how he was going to stop that one of Robert's. He knew right then and there he needed to get in immediate contact with Doug Jennings and as soon as possible. But his first concern had to be for the welfare of the boy, so he tried everything he knew to get the lad to calm down so he could talk to him and find out what or who he was fighting.

A few minutes of some soothing talk and the rubbing of the boy's shoulders and upper back had finally gotten the boy to calm down, but it appeared the boy had gone back to sleep. Mr. Ken couldn't allow the boy to go back to sleep and maybe reenter his bad dream state again, so he gently shook the youth until the boy came wide awake for good.

After coming awake, Robert looked up and saw Mr. Ken sitting there with Chief by his side. He then noticed a number of scratches on the man's arms and he knew he was the reason for them.

"I … I did tha that to you … didn't I?" asked the pre-teen.

Mr. Ken looked down at his arms and just then noticed the scratches there and replied, "Yes, I guess you did. … You were having a wild dream and when I tried to wake you … well, you fought me with all your strength, which I must say is very high for someone of your age and stature."

"I … I'm sorry, Mr. Ken … I didn't mean it."

"I know, son … but now that you're awake do you remember anything about the dream you were having? I know you were fighting a person and said something to the effect that you were not going to let them touch you again. Does that help bring back who you were fighting?"

"No, sir … I do remember waking up during the night and … and I looked all around the room because, well I thought there was someone in here with me. When I figured there wasn't anyone here, I got out of bed and went to the bathroom and then came back here and fell right back to sleep. I'm really sorry I hurt you like that," finished Robert.

"You didn't do it on purpose, so how could I be mad at you? Let me see what time is it," suggested the man.

Looking around the room, Mr. Ken noticed there was no alarm clock in the room and mentioned it to the lad. He in turn agreed and said he meant to tell him about that.

"Robert, do you feel okay? Do you feel shaky or light headed or is your heart racing? Please let me know if you are not feeling good so I can get the help you need. I'm afraid this has been a very stressful last few days for you and I don't want you getting sick. I just want to help you and do the best I can to make your life better than before you arrived here," counseled Mr. Ken.

"Naw … I mean … NO, sir … I feel alright. I'm just real sorry that you got hurt. I'll get my shower pretty soon and I know that will wash the cobwebs out of me and make me feel fresh and ready to go. Will that be okay with you?" inquired the lad.

"Yes … if indeed it will get you to feeling better. Oh, and by the way, don't fret over what you did to my arms. It's just one of the hazards of being a parent, I mean a foster parent," smiled Mr. Ken, as he said that last part.

Foster parent Ken Thomas got off the boy's bed and walked to the door and then said, "Chief …why don't you come with me. You can go outside and do your thing and then I'll get you something to eat. And speaking of eating, Maria is off this weekend, so you and I are 'roughing it' today and tomorrow. I know it is pretty late in the morning, so what say we go out for brunch? After you get cleaned up, how about meeting me in my Study? Does that sound like a plan to you?" asked Mr. Ken.

"Yes, sir, that sounds real good," answered a now smiling Robert.

Then looking down at the wrinkled up t-shirt on the bedroom floor, Mr. Ken pointed at it and said, "There is a hamper in your bathroom. Make sure that shirt gets in there and please place any other dirty clothes in there while you're at it. Okay?" The man then just smiled and Robert knew he was just being the 'foster parent'.

While taking his shower, Robert was thinking to himself that he knew who he was fighting in his dream, but he knew he couldn't tell Mr. Ken that it was him. He felt bad about not telling the man but he still had this inner feeling that eventually the man would come to his bedroom and do what the other foster dad's had done to him, which was to have male sex with him. He also thought about all he learned about sex during the past 2 ½ years. He knew that it wasn't so much the feelings, he experienced during the act that he hated, but it was what the men did to him and made him do at times that made him hate them for it. He reminded himself that in less than two weeks he would be out of there.

The man and boy said their goodbyes to Chief as they prepared to go out for brunch. They climbed into Mr. Ken's Ford F-150 and they headed out the gated entrance on their way to the restaurant near the Go-Kart track and miniature golf course.

"This is where I wanted to take you last night for dinner but noooh, you wanted DQ," teased Mr. Ken, as they walked into the restaurant entrance.

Robert smiled at the man's silliness as the hostess greeted Mr. Ken and then took them to a far corner table. The youth remembered from the other day how many people knew the man so he figured it was the same there at that place of business as the lady greeted the man by name. The hostess presented the menus to both of them and remarked their server would be there soon.

"Mr. Ken, I never went out to eat all that much so I don't know what I should get. I had a hamburger last night so I don't want one again right now. What are you going to get?" politely asked the lad.

"Well, since we haven't eaten since about 8 o'clock last night and it is now close to twelve noon, I am famished. And, I'll bet so are you. With that in mind, I'm going to get the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and white gravy and corn on the side. I'll probably get a coke, too, while I'm at it," announced Mr. Ken.

"Chicken fried steak, what's that?" honestly asked Robert.

It was then the waitress just stopped by so she took that question and explained what it was to the lad. She also explained the 'specials' of the day and had to explain each of them to the boy so he could know what they were. In the end, they both got the chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes, white gravy, corn and a large coke to wash it all down.

The two sat and had a leisurely brunch. They continued their talk from the night before and they relived the Go-Kart races and their miniature golf games. It was close to one-thirty in the afternoon when they left the restaurant.

"Robert, I don't have anything really planned for the day, but the company who decorates the Cove for the Holidays is supposed to stop by today and tomorrow to finish taking down the rest of the ornaments and whatever else there is left. You never finished your walk around the neighborhood did you? So, my guess is you could do that or watch the guys or play with Chief, or …"

Mr. Ken never got his thought finished when Robert added, "… or go swimming."

"Yes, swimming does sound good but as I told you I don't want anyone swimming without anybody else there in case there is a problem. Okay?"

"Yes, I understand Mr. Ken but …" and Robert stopped in mid-sentence, knowing the man wasn't going to change his mind.

As they entered the Cove's grounds, Mr. Ken remarked, "Good … I see the guys are here taking down the Christmas decorations and I need to talk to them. What say we swim later on, maybe after dinner? I hope you'll forgive me, Robert, for putting it off for now," explained Mr. Ken.

"Yes, I understand. I'll just go and get Chief and we'll walk around the neighborhood. I need to know my way around anyways and it is better for me to do that during the day so I can recognize where I am. But … I'll remind you about swimming later … okay?" smiled Robert.

Mr. Ken ruffled the lad's hair and said he knew what he meant. They both then went in different directions. Robert went inside to get Chief so they could walk around the area and Ken Thomas walked around to the back of the house to talk to Wayne Mitchell, from Central Texas Decorating.

"Good afternoon, Wayne," said Mr. Ken, as he walked up to the working supervisor of Central Texas Decorating.

"Oh, hello Mr. Ken, it's good to see you again. I hope everything went as promised with all the decorations again this year sir," replied Wayne.

"Yes, yes I am so happy I chose your company three years ago to do this for me. You've made my place look so awesome and everyone compliments me on it. So … how are you doing with your studies?"

"I hope to finish up this spring," explained Wayne.

"What was it you were studying, again?" asked Ken Thomas.

"My major is in Human Services with a minor in Child Development. I like both areas but I think I'm going to take follow-on course to get some experience in Social Services. I think I'd like to work with kids but being a man just out of being a kid, myself, I know I need to get some experience and additional schooling. One day I hope to work with Children Protective Services," clarified Wayne.

"Have you met Judy Turner, the Chief of Child Protective Services here?" asked Mr. Ken.

"I know of her and of course I know what happened a few years back when she was appointed into the position. That was what got me interested in working with children, Mr. Ken. I watched and heard on TV what those ladies did at Child Protective Services and how they tried to blame someone and that they weren't involved. Then only a few weeks later it all came out they were involved up to their eyeballs. I thought what they needed were a few more men around. Do you know that those sorts of organizations are normally 95 percent female?

"Anyway, I know it isn't the best paying job in the world but job satisfaction is one thing we were told we should think about when looking to our future. Mr. Ken … I … I was an orphan … when I was growing up and I know how that supposed system worked against us kids. I … ah … also know about your involvement with Collin and … how you worked to make sure he was treated the right way. Of course, I didn't learn about your true involvement until I read some articles about how you protected him the day of the shooting and then he and his friend Ryan after that incident at the water park.

"Mr. Ken … you ARE an inspiration to me and … well, it made me think even harder about wanting to make a difference in orphaned and foster care kids. I … ah … I see another young lad here at the Cove. Is he by chance ah … … I'm sorry Mr. Ken … I'm getting too personal about you and you're involvement with kids," apologized Wayne Mitchell.

"Wayne, you flatter me saying that I am your inspiration for your getting more serious about Child Development. I want you to know that I was 'flying' by the seat of my pants during all that time, but Collin was so needy and the more he and I interacted the easier it became. But, I'll have you know … I did take some college course in Early Childhood Development, myself after he left, to get me better prepared in case I ever had that opportunity again.

"And, yes, Wayne, Robert is my first foster child since Collin left me 18 months ago. He is an interesting lad, by-the-way, and has had the most difficult life these past 2 ½ years. I can't tell you more than that but MY hope is that he will be with me for the duration. His parents are no longer in the picture and I know of no other relatives available to help him. Chief has already taken a shine to him, and he to her. I hope he and I can say the same thing in a week or two," expounded Mr. Ken.

While Ken Thomas and Wayne Mitchell talked, Robert and Chief walked along the streets outside of the Three Finger Cove property. After the cold windy morning, the day turned out to be a mild January Saturday despite how the morning began, brisk and cold. The boy and his dog enjoyed their walk to see what the surrounding neighborhood looked like. They didn't see many kids out playing and the ones he did see were younger than he.

The thing that did impress Robert was the School Bus Stop shelter just up from the Guard Shack of the Cove. The lad noticed it was modern and matched the materials of the guard shack with large windows and a door and could be solar heated if necessary. He also noticed the graffiti artists hadn't tagged it and that if they had there was no evidence of the crime. It was about 4 o'clock in the afternoon when the boy and his dog returned to the Cove.

Unfortunately, Robert didn't have a key to the door and he had to ring the doorbell to be let in. After ringing it for about ten minutes, Robert decided to walk around to the back of the house. There he found his foster dad talking to one of the decoration workers.

"I'm sorry Mr. Ken, but I don't have a way to get into the house. Can I borrow your key?" politely asked the lad.

"Dang, Robert, we do need to get you a key don't we? You'll need to remember to carry it with you just in case I'm not here when you get home from school. So, I not only need to get you an alarm clock but a house key as well. … Let me excuse myself and we'll head up to the house," replied the man.

Since it was late afternoon, Mr. Ken suggested to the lad they go out and buy an alarm clock and get a key made for him. He also suggested that while they were out they could get their dinner.

Robert readily agreed and, after washing up, the two left the Cove to attend to their tasks. They returned to the restaurant where they had brunch and ate their dinner there. Again, Robert noticed that the waitresses and busboys knew his foster dad and treated him with respect. They also seemed to give the man better service than he noticed they gave to the other tables but then he thought it was all an illusion since he was being 'more-aware' of the situation.

By the time the two residents of Three Finger Cove returned home it was going on six-thirty in the evening. They took the alarm clock up to Robert's room and plugged it in and the lad read the instructions and then set the time and the alarm. This particular clock was one that you could set it for week-days only, weekends only, or both or individual days as you needed. The lad set if for Monday through Friday and the time for 6 A.M. He told his foster dad that the bus arrived at 7:10, at the top of the drive, and that should give him adequate time to get cleaned up and dressed and have breakfast before the bus arrived.

Then the boy smiled real big at Mr. Ken and asked, "Is it time for us to go swimming?"

The man laughed and messed up the boy's hair and said for the boy to get one of his swim suits on and to meet him at the top of the stairs leading down to the Great Room.

Ten minutes later, two people walked down the winding Great Room stairs and then headed to the entrance to the indoor swimming pool. Mr. Ken punched in the door code and told Robert what it was so he could use the pool when his friends were over. Then he cautioned him to never use the pool alone nor leave anyone person alone in the water there. Robert knew exactly what the man meant and said so as they walked into the large expanse of the pool area.

Robert's eyes got as big as saucers when he saw the size of the pool area. He couldn't get over the rock formation that had a platform that you could dive or jump off of and a slide that went from the highest point, of the rock formation, down to the water. He also thought the beach entrance was ideal for smaller kids and people who might just want to get their feet wet. He could see a lap lane that went along the deeper side of the pool and under the platform, so he knew that could possibly be a safety hazard at some time or another.

He could also see two lifeguard platforms around the pool and that there was an area that could be set up for water volleyball or other games. He also saw that across the back side of the wall between the ladies and men's changing rooms there were a large number of half-sized and quarter-size lockers with keys on an elastic band that could be used on the ankle or wrist. But Robert got his biggest surprise when Mr. Ken showed him the changing rooms.

"Mr. Ken, these are as big as regular pool changing rooms. Why are they so big?" inquired the lad.

"Well, Robert, the pool can handle a large number of swimmers so I wanted to have a big enough dressing or changing area for people to use. I know when Collin and Ryan had their Winter Swims they had enough kids that they used both sides," explained Mr. Ken.

"You mean that they used the girls' side. What did the girls do, then?" a surprised Robert asked.

"Well, there were no girls invited, just boys of many ages," said Mr. Ken, and then seeing a large question in the lad's eyes he added, "They had boys their age and then there was kids Eric's age and there were kids in between. So, there was probably boys in age from ten to sixteen, I suppose you could say."

"Geeeezzz," was all Robert could say when he heard that. Then he wanted to know if he was ever going to be able to have that big a pool party so he asked, "Mr. Ken … will I be allowed to invite … that many kids to swim here, too, if I stay after two weeks?"

""I don't see why not. You'll be a member of Three Finger Cove and your friends will be most welcome here, but I will have to get to know them before you begin to invite the entire class over," laughed Mr. Ken.

"Come on … let's get in," eagerly announced Robert.

"First things first, Robert," remarked the man.

"What … another rule?" fretted the lad.

"Yes, there has to be rules for safety sake, Robert, and this Rule is for everyone no matter their age. Even Collin and Ryan had to abide by this rule before they could swim," explained Mr. Ken.

"Now, I need to see how well you swim from this side to the other side. If you can make it without any problem then I'll give you my approval to swim here without having to prove yourself each and every time. Keep in mind that it WILL be your responsibility to test each and every one of your friends before they can swim in this pool. NO Exceptions! Well, unless they are some of the lads who have already been tested, like Eric, for one, and a few of his friends who have already swum here. Do you have any questions?" inquired the man.

"Is that all I have to do, is swim from this side to the other? Does it matter what stroke I use? And, what if I don't pass? What happens if I, or my friends, can't do that? Then what?" quizzed the lad.

"All good questions, Robert, and I am happy that you are thinking this through because it tells me that you will be as conscientious as I. Now in answering your questions, if you or your friends can NOT swim across, then you will have to wear a non-swimmers vest. It doesn't matter which stroke you use but you better not be walking on the bottom and faking it. That will get you on my 'cheater's list' and kept from swimming here until I can verify you can swim more than adequately. That's all there is to it. Simple, don't you think?" smiled Mr. Ken.

"Yes, I get it. If you can swim no problem but if not you have to wear one of those vets things hanging over there. If you cheat when you take your test you're not allowed to swim here until YOU test them. Did I get that right?" quizzed the lad.

"Yes, now let's get in the water and let's both swim across so we both know each of us can do it," challenged Mr. Ken.

There was no doubt in either of their minds that they would pass the test. Immediately, after reaching the other side, they both ran to the rocks area to jump off. And that's the way it went for the rest of their evening swim. They jumped and dove off the rock platform. They did cannonballs and sailor dives and whatever else they could think of to get back into the water.

When they tired of swimming, Mr. Ken took Robert to the far side off the changing rooms and showed Robert the large dryer's there for he and his friends to dry their towels or swimsuits as needed. The man also explained the use of the commercial sized washer to clean up Cove towels. Then he showed the lad where the teens usually set up the food serving tables alongside the wide array of windows when they had a picnic there, too.

It was almost nine-thirty at night when the two swimmers came up the steps to the main level. Mr. Ken asked Robert if he wanted to return and go down to the Theater to watch a movie, but, as the previous night, Robert begged off and said his goodnights and went up to his bedroom.

There, in his room, the lad took off his swimsuit and stood again looking at himself in the mirror. He liked what he saw and then put on a pair of his briefs and then went to the bathroom to get ready for bed.

As soon as the lad lay down, even though he had wanted to do what he did the night before, he was too tired and fell fast asleep.

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