The day before the party arrived and both boys were excited. Liam was extremely happy with the steam cabinet that his da had found for him and the steam generator was compact and easy to use. He had already experimented with it using a few pieces of scrap.
Danny was completely blindsided by the appearance of a piano in the family room of his house. He had spent the night at Liam's and Terri had arranged for its delivery while he was away. He showered his mom with kisses and tears of joy. He sat and opened the keyboard, ran the scales and listened to the tone. It was perfect and he was in absolute ecstasy. He turned to his mother and asked what she would like him to play.
"How about the Moonlight Sonata?" Terri suggested.
Danny scooted off his bench and scrambled to his bedroom, he found his folder of piano music and returned to his bench. Placing the sheet music on the rest, he began playing immediately. He found that he was in a state of bliss and let the music reverberate through his own body, which vibrated sympathetically. Terri was awestruck; she hadn't expected such a wonderful performance from her little boy. Considering that he had nothing to practice on for a couple of years it was astounding. Her heart swelled with pride as Danny continued to play.
The new bicycle parked in the shed was icing on the cake. Hanging on the handlebars were helmet, gloves and a reflective vest from Liam. Danny was set to get out and about and he looked forward to a few long rides with Liam and Connor and his mom.
Connor hadn't stopped with the steam cabinet, he had located a genuine Kalamazoo harp guitar and had it inspected and re-strung by Justin Carter, a local luthier.
"You think your son will actually play this thing?" the man inquired.
"I would count on it, he is very deep into guitars and music, He was admiring one of these in a music store in Santa Monica and thought he might try building one when his skills have grown to the point that he feels confident."
"That's impressive, how old is your boy?"
"Liam is turning twelve and this is meant to be a birthday present."
"Well, please bring him by someday so I can show him some of my techniques and special tools. I've been toying with the idea of a guitar builder’s workshop to bring budding guitar builders in and expose them to the process."
"I think he'd truly enjoy that; I've also found a steam cabinet to augment his already well equipped workshop over the garage. He really is quite an accomplished lad for being so young, you should hear him play."
"You say his name is Liam, my granddaughter mentioned an Irish boy at her school that is a really great guitar player; she goes to McAuliffe middle school."
"That would be my lad, he goes busking with a bunch of others up at the big park on Indian Hill, they always draw a crowd. I'll bring him by soon, I'm sure he'll enjoy it."
"That would be great, I think I'll enjoy it too, thanks for bringing this instrument in I've enjoyed working with it."
Connor placed the odd shaped instrument case by the base of the stairs and called for Liam to come down.
"What's up Da, do you need me to help with something?"
"Yes lad, I need you to take a look at this big beast here and tell me what you think." Connor gestured towards the strangely shaped case and Liam's eyes stretched wide open in surprise.
"Oh Da, is that what I think it is?!" cried Liam.
"You won't know until you open it." Connor returned.
Liam popped the latches on the ancient case and found to his delight a 1907 model Gibson Kalamazoo harp guitar looking as if it were fresh from the builder.
"Oh Da, it's wonderful." Liam didn't touch the instrument, instead he lept at his father, hugged as hard as he could and kissed his cheek several times.
"Well let's hear how it sounds, I've just had it restrung and I've more to tell you about that once you've had a bit of time with this beast, do you think you can play it?"
"I think so Da, the guitar bit is no different but I'll have to learn how to use the bass strings on me own."
Liam sat on the bottom stair step and hoisted the guitar to his lap. First, he strummed a G on the six string part and listened to the tone. Then he plucked each of the bass harp strings individually smiling to himself. They reverberated with such lush tone that he was completely overwhelmed. He began playing the Canon in D, and began experimenting with plucking the bass strings in counterpoint, and was pleased with the result.
Connor was very impressed, "I was certain you could play that beast but I wasn't sure how. The man who restrung it is a very good luthier and wants to have you visit and see his workshop. He also mentioned a guitar building workshop for young lads like yourself; I'm betting you know a few that would be interested, eh?"
"Too right that, Da. Tristan would love a chance to take a class like that and Danny seems interested, as well."
"We'll be sure to take him along and Tristan if he can come. You might have to demonstrate your playing skills; I did talk you up just a bit."
That's okay, Da, I love to play and I don't mind showing off for a good cause or an appreciative audience.
"Well, do you want to haul that up to your lair? I can follow you with the case."
"That'd be grand, Da, I'll be trying it out quite a bit but I'll go in me closet to keep from bothering anyone."
As soon as his da went back downstairs, Liam was on the phone with Danny.
"I was just going to call you, Mom bought me a piano and it's wonderful. I know you told her I wanted one so thank you Liam, I love you."
"Well she did ask me what you might like to have and I know how much you love to play, and I love you, too. Me da has gone and bought me a genuine harp guitar, it's a 1907 Gibson Kalamazoo. I think I showed you pics of one online do you remember?" Liam asked.
"Oh yea, that thing with two necks and all those extra strings. Does it sound good?" Danny inquired.
"It's wonderful, you'll have to hear it in person. But you'll have to come here, the thing isn't exactly portable for someone my size," Liam laughed, "It took the two of us to get it upstairs."
"Cool, I can ride over on my new mountain bike. It's so cool, thanks for the helmet and gloves. Oh, and the vest, I promise to wear it whenever I ride."
"That's great Danny; we can go to the park and give it a proper breaking in. Are ya's lookin' forward to the party tomorrow night?"
"Oh yeah, who'd you get for a band? It sounds like there will be a lot of people at this thing."
"I talked to Mr. Sheddler and his band agreed to do the gig. And yeah, all our busking friends and a bunch from school will be there plus all the guys from the company and some Admiral and his kids will be there."
"An Admiral?" What's that about?"
"He's coming out for a tour of the facility and to meet the engineers, especially Bender. Da says he's a nice guy and he's bringing his two youngest lads so they can take in some of the attractions like Universal and Disney. One's our age and the other is a year younger."
"Well like you said, a lad can always use more friends." Danny parroted at Liam.
"You're so bleedin' funny, but yeah it's always nice to make new friends."
"Mom wants to go shopping so I have to go, I love you and thanks for telling her about the piano."
"I love you, too, and I was happy to help her get you something you truly wanted. It means a lot to her that you're happy."
After their call, Liam went downstairs and sat next to his father on the couch in front of the TV where the Finn Harps were thrashing Drogheda two naught.
"I wish Dublin City hadn't gone toes up, I liked watching the hometown lads," Connor lamented.
"I know Da, I've still got me warmups to wear, they almost fit proper now. I wish I had seen them play; it must have been grand."
"They were a great lot but couldn't get the home crowd to come out and buy tickets. I blame the team management, they had tickets priced almost twice what Derry was askin',” Connor groused.
"I've read about that, apparently they thought the Dublin name was worth more than Derry or Cork or Sligo somehow. Just not enough to get boosters to part with their tin I guess."
"Tin? Where did you pick that up?"
"Probably Grampa, he was always sayin' stuff like that or talkin' about spending his tin or brass on a pint of this or somethin' they don't make anymore. He gave me an old cigar tin full of marbles, I still have it up in me desk."
"Bless his soul, he was a kind man and he loved you very much, Lad." Connor was silent after that and Liam leaned against him as the game continued.
Connor's phone rang and he looked at the number calling. "Admiral Powell, how are you doing today?"
"Not so great Connor and call me Jim, the reservations we made got screwed up and they only have a room with one bed, we booked a suite but it got switched somehow. I wanted to ask if you knew of another hotel close to town here."
"Well there's the Ramada on Indian Hill or you could stay at the Chateu Dennehy," Connor chuckled.
"We tried the Ramada and the Holiday Inn, they don't even have connecting rooms and we couldn't get rooms next door to each other."
"Well you are certainly welcome here, we've got tons of room, and the accommodations are quite pleasant, I'd be happy to text you the address."
"If you're sure, it would certainly improve my wife's mood. She worked very hard to plan this trip and she's not happy with the outfit we booked with at the moment."
"Where were your reservations? If you don't mind saying?"
"The Chamford House Suites on Foothill and Cash."
"I wish I'd known, I could have warned you off, they've been going downhill for a while. We stopped booking visitors there because of cock ups like that."
"Well you know we have two of our boys with us," Jim warned.
"As you know Jim, I have one myself and most of the time his best mate is here, as well. I've sent you the address and you can be here in fifteen minutes."
"You're a lifesaver, literally. My wife is ready to strangle this jerk at the counter. I have the address and I'll see you soon. Thanks again, Connor."
"I look forward to meeting your family, oh, and drive safe they have motorcycle cops with radar on Foothill and Indian Hill," Connor warned.
"Thanks for the tip, see you soon."
"Well Lad, we're going to have company, Admiral Powell's hotel cocked things up so I invited them here."
"I heard, I've just been upstairs and opened the windows in the guest rooms. I checked the toilets and baths, everything is ready."
"I think I'll put some spare towels in the lavs and then have a look at the fridge."
"I think we're good there; we laid in extra because Danny and Terri are stayin' as well. I don't see anything changing, I'll check out my old bike and get it ready for the youngest boy to ride; it's in good shape, I just need to check the tires," Liam offered.
"Good thinkin' there Lad, I'll let you see to that and we'll have another look at things."
"Okay Da, I'll be back in soon."
Connor called Terri and brought her up to speed.
"Oh, I wish I could have helped her, that place has really gone to pot. You can barely understand the reservation clerk and the desk people seem to be completely useless. I've stopped using them and removed them from the website. I'm routing everyone to the Carver Inn in San Dimas, it's a bit further but they seem to actually be in the hotel business," Terri explained.
"Sounds like a good choice, good work. Liam asked what we should cook for dinner. He suggested the honey lemon sesame chicken; did you get a chance to try it?"
"Yes and it was great, even a day old. Maybe he'll teach me how to make it and share the recipe."
"Oh, I think he'd be willing, he's quite fond of you and that's a first. He usually doesn't want much to do with grown women."
"Well maybe his friend Cheri has softened his outlook just a bit," Terri suggested.
"You know we'll be sharing a bed this evening; I hope that's not a problem."
"Not at all, I think we're past the point that it would matter. We're a couple at work as well as home so there's no one to surprise," Terri observed.
"Well I look forward to havin' the two of yas' here. I miss you terribly when we're apart."
"Oh Connor, that's such a nice thing to say. I'll see you soon and I love you."
"I love you, too and I think our guests are here."
They disconnected and Connor had noticed a driveway alert on his screen. He walked to the door and called to Liam. "I think they're here lad come give us a hand with the luggage please."
"On me way, Da."
They walked together to greet the admiral and his family.
"Well hello again Connor, thanks again for the heads up, I spotted a radar trap just south of Foothill."
"They're not too vicious, they tend to set the threshold a bit high. They're only after the real speeders. I've had people pass me doing seventy at least," Connor informed him.
"This is my son, Liam; Liam this is Admiral Jim Powell although he's not here in his official capacity."
"Very nice ta meet yas' sir. Me da says you're a good man."
"Very nice to meet you as well, this is Shane, my middle son and this one is Douglas, my youngest. And this is my lovely wife, Amanda."
Amanda smiled and extended her hand and Connor shook it.
Our oldest son is studying for SAT's; he's taking them early because he's going to graduate ahead of his age group. His name is Spencer.
Both boys greeted Liam and Connor with shy waves and a hello.
"Well then, let's get your bags to your respective rooms and get you settled in and you can revive a bit from the ordeal," Connor suggested.
"We can carry our own but Mom has three bags and Dad has two, otherwise we could have rented an Avalon or something instead of this big monster Escalade. Our Ascent is a better car all the way around," Shane explained.
"I'm afraid I don't know what an Ascent is, I'm not really into cars that much, but Da is. You'll like his Vedette, it's a Simca from France."
"Oh that's okay; the Ascent is like a big Subaru Outback. But it's smaller than this big pig here.," Shane said pointing his thumb at the Escalade behind them. I never heard of a Simca but I would like to see it, I just dig cars."
Liam grabbed two medium size suitcases and slung a shoulder bag over his shoulder.
"Whoa, are you good with all that, those are my mom's and she tends to overpack for everything," Shane asked.
"Oh, I'm fine, I have to wrestle some rather heavy instrument cases occasionally and I'm well fit," Liam replied. Just in the front door and up the stairs, you'll be across from my rooms on the right and your parents will be across from Da," Liam instructed.
"Whoa dude, this is lux! It's just for us two? Our rooms together aren't this big! Oh, cool it has a bathroom and look at that shower and it's got a jet tub, too? Oh man I'm stayin' here," Shane declared.
Liam only laughed and delivered the bags he was carrying down the hall.