Heart Strings

Chapter Two

Class work had finished up and Mr. C. had told everyone to chill and wait for the bell. Liam removed the Nerd hat and looked around.

"Was I really supposed to wear this for the whole class or are they just takin’ the piss with me? And what do I do with it now?"

"Oh, just put it on Mr. C’s desk on your way out. And yes, it really is considered an honor. Everybody in this room is really smart and we may catch crap from the average student, but in here it’s cool," Daniel said.

"Okay, I get it, what’s your next class?"

"Pre-Algebra in 117, you?"

"Algebra in 121, C. Collins. Are they decent?"

"I don’t know anybody that takes her class except Cheri, I haven’t heard anything bad though."

"Well, that’s something I suppose. Do they have a map of the campus? I can’t count on somebody else to get me to my class on time."

"Yeah, there is; I don’t know what’s up with Miss Grace, she’s usually on top of this. Did you get your book voucher?"

"No, I was going to ask where I could get the books I need. Um, why Miss Grace?"

"I don’t know, that’s what she’s called. I don’t know why."

"It sounds very Downton Abbey to me. I apologize most sincerely, Miss Grace, I was unaware the footman was shagging the scullery maid. I shall discharge them both immediately."

Daniel literally shrieked with laughter." Freakin’ epic dude, that was perfect."

The bell sounded and Daniel tugged at Liam, still giggling. Liam placed the hat reverently on Mr. C’s desk as instructed. "Thank you sir, I think I’m going to like this class."

"Happy to have you here Liam, see you Wednesday."

"Your next class is four doors down on your right. Let’s hit the office and see Miss Grace. I just hope I can keep from laughing."

They left the classroom only to be joined by Ralph.

"Hey man, that was epic, and then the Godfather reference. Damn man. What planet are you from?"

"Dublin."

"Cool, so you’re like really Irish and this isn’t a goof?"

"He’s genuine, Ralph." Daniel said tersely.

"The girls will be all over him with that accent."

Daniel looked annoyed. "Well I have to get him to the office and get his books straightened out.

"Actually my accent is usually milder, but me Da and Mr. Hanlan were having a jaw this morning and I slid back a bit."

"Cool, they’ll still be after you; maybe you could throw the extras my way."

"Sure Ralph, well we gotta go. I don’t have me books yet."

Liam followed Daniel and ran his questions by Miss Grace who supplied a map and a book voucher with a list of textbooks he would need. She also gave him the forms for his student I.D. badge and yearbook picture paperwork.

"I think we have it all, but let me check one more thing." She tapped at the computer and returned. "You’re scheduled for orientation on Wednesday the twenty-seventh during sixth period which will be Phys Ed for you. And that will be here in the office; just come here and your teacher will be informed."

As they left the office, Liam asked Daniel if he would like a drink.

"Yes, thank you, we can get one at the snack bar."

They walked leisurely through the sea of other students with their drinks.

"So what do you do after school Daniel?"

"Not much, I read and look things up on the computer. I have to stay in once I’m home. It’s kind of a bad neighborhood. Mostly Latino and Asian, almost no black people and a few like us Paddys."

"I’m sorry, is it just you and your Mam then?"

Daniel didn’t respond, he was concentrating more on Liam’s gentle lilt than what he was actually saying.

"Oy boyo, are yas with us here on earth?"

"Um, what? Sorry I got distracted."

"It’s cool man, I’m famous for that. Aw shite; there he goes again, they say when I do it."

Daniel giggled softly. "I guess we better get to our classes, you want to meet up for lunch?"

"Yeah Daniel, I’d like that."

"Okay, right here in an hour and a half."

"See yas then."

Liam watched Daniel glide away and then turned to find his own classroom. He parked himself outside the locked door and waited for it to open.

"Hey, we meet again, well, not again because we weren’t introduced. I’m Cheri, I was in the music room this morning. You guys had to bark it so Daniel didn’t even tell me your name."

"Oh it’s Liam Dennehy."

"Is that accent for realz?"

"Yes I spent me first six years in Dublin. And then Da came and took me home."

“Cool, you’re gonna get so much play here. Look, anybody you want to know about, just ask me okay? I can save you some garbage.”

"Thanks Cheri, it’s nice to meet yas."

"Yas?"

"Sorry, comes with the package."

"Hey, I’m not interested in your package cutie, as a matter of fact, for me you’re the competition."

"Oh, okay, I understand. You fancy birds yerself, eh?"

"If you just asked if I like girls, then yes; how about you, or does Daniel do it for you?"

"Daniel?"

“Oh, c’mon, he’s besotted with you. Didn’t you see his face when you were playing that song together? And I saw you in science, you were breathing him in."

"So you’re the observant type then."

"You could say that, others say nosey and still others say, "Nosey bitch." I just watch people. It gives me characters to write about. I’ve already got a juicy little love story cooking about you and Daniel. Two things though, don’t hurt him. He’s got it rough economically and socially. But if he asks you to call him Danny off campus, you my friend, are in."

"Am I that obvious?"

"Nope, just to me. I study people, it’s my best subject."

"You must get A’s across the board then."

"Thanks, and don’t worry, I’m not the blabby type. I only told you because I liked you right away. I love Daniel as a friend and you were really nice to him. You even got him out of his shell just a bit. Did you notice him getting jealous when Ralph was talking to you?" So like I say, don’t hurt him. You don’t have to fall in love with him but just don’t be mean."

"I wouldn’t, but I suspect you probably know that."

Liam wondered how that had just happened; had he just admitted to a total stranger that he was gay? For some reason he liked Cheri and trusted her not to screw him over. She seemed genuine and not the type to spread gossip. Her concern for Daniel touched his heart.

Their chat was interrupted by the arrival of a woman in jeans and a loose sweater.

"Good morning, you must be Mr. Dennehy."

Liam looked around and said, "No ma’am, that’s me Da, I’m Liam."

"Very well then Liam, I’m Catherine Collins and I teach math, welcome to Algebra."

"Yes Ma’am, thank you, I quite like Algebra and math in general."

"Did someone tell you I was Irish, or are you trying to get into my good graces?"

Liam stared, wondering what to say.

"So you’re a genuine Dubliner then, it’s a grand thing to have a countryman in my class. But it won’t get you any special treatment."

"I would never ask for any Ma’am."

"Lose the Ma’am dear, it’s unorthodox I know, but I prefer my students to call me Catherine or Ms. C."

"Catherine it is then. I’ve not gotten me books yet, but I will get them at the long break for lunch."

"He can share with me Catherine, at least today."

Thank you Cheri, I like your outfit today. Just a little touch of Goth or is it Xena; the studded collar and bracelets look great.

"Thanks Catherine, I try. I’m going for some more ink next summer. Maybe something that shows when I’m dressed."

"And you Liam, any nice artwork?" Catherine asked.

"Liam tugged at his collar, exposing the small harp in dark ink."

"You’re a bit young to be I.R.A. aren’t you?"

"Eh? I’m not! The harp represents Eire ta me."

"I’m just pulling your leg Liam, it’s a nice tattoo."

"I couldn’t be "Sean Finn" they wouldn’t have me, Me Shan was Green, but Pap was Orange. Well actually he was a Heathen Atheist, but as far as the HRC is concerned that’s Orange enough."

"Um, HRC?" Cheri asked.

"Oh, sorry dear, he means the Holy Roman Church." Catherine replied.

"Are you from County Clare, Catherine?"

"Why yes, Liam, how did you guess, like you I came over as a child. My father taught at Trinity but I stayed with an aunt in Killinaboy. You’ve a good ear."

"Voices and accents are like music and I’m a musician, it’s all of a piece."

"So it is, so it is."

Other students began to filter in and most were older than Liam except for one girl who appeared the same age. Liam recognized her from Hart.

"Hey, Tammy, so you ended up here as well?" Liam called out.

"Liam! You’re the first person I’ve seen from Hart. I guess everyone else went to Marshal."

"Yes, I think everyone south of Arrow, except some from Indian Hill to Mills, they ended up at Serrano."

"What a mess that was."

"I know huh, just toss these kids anywhere, let’s make room for the bottom of the barrel." Tammy said.

Liam laughed, he figured she had a right to be angry. Barely a month into a new school year and the district had caved to a bunch of liberal eedjits and Latino activists who wanted a more bi-lingual syllabus; AND a growing Korean population that wanted their kids to learn English quickly as long as they didn’t have to teach them or pay a tutor.

Tammy took her seat, waving at Liam and class soon got underway.

Absolutely nothing unusual happened in either Government or Geography.

French was another chance to shine, it was an advanced class and they were just a tiny bit behind his old class. Liam discovered that his French was considered impressive even if it was being delivered with a slightly Irish accent. He had an advantage in that his neighbors in Dublin were French and he picked up a great deal from them.

Phys Ed wasn’t much; it was the one class Liam was prepared for. A couple of laps around the track and a soccer game, which he pretty much owned, and which got him in good with most of the other boys.

Liam had showered and encouraged Daniel to join him. Nothing untoward happened there except Daniel seemed interested in Liam’s body. Not that Liam wasn’t interested in Daniel, he was just less obvious.

Having dried off, Liam sat on the bench in front of his assigned locker. He put his Gym clothes and shoes in the small bag and clipped it under his book bag. He had just slid his pants on and was reaching for his trousers when a larger boy named Brian sat down and shoved into him.

"Oy boyo, nobody sits that close ta me naked without they buy me dinner first."

"Fuck you pussy, just move."

I don’t think I will," said Liam standing up. "You need a lesson in manners."

"Yeah, who’s gonna teach me, pussy?"

"I’ll be happy to oblige, but it will cost yas,"

"Yeah, what’s it gonna cost me? Some scratches on my knuckles?"

"Teeth and blood, mate."

"Fuck you, I’ll fuckin’ stomp you!" Brian raged, as he began to rise.

Before Brian could react, Liam stuck his left thumb in Brian’s left armpit and hooked his long but very strong fingers around Brian’s collarbone. When done correctly, it is merely excruciating, done incorrectly and bones get broken. Liam was doing it right. He cupped Brian’s elbow with his right hand and pulled it slightly forward; Brian howled in pain.

Your choice mate, do you want to walk out of here dressed or be carried out naked?"

"Shit! Okay man!" Brian screamed. "I’m sorry, okay?"

“Yas had yer warnin, if you come at me again they’ll be no talking, I’ll just cripple yas. Fair enough?”

"Fuck, yeah, I get it man, sorry."

"Right then, let’s shake and get dressed and say no more about it."

"Yeah, man, that sounds cool."

They shook hands and Brian dressed quickly and left, still quite wet. Liam continued putting on his trousers, socks and shoes and then looked over at Daniel who was bug-eyed.

"What are you gawkin’ at?"

"What the fuck did you just do?!"

"What, I just set him straight."

"It’s okay Daniel, he had Brian figured from the first." A lanky ginger boy remarked.

"Sean, do you know this guy?"

"How ya Sean, been a while. I kinda hoped I’d find you here."

"Well it didn’t take you long to mark your territory, but Jaysus, did you have to start with Brian?"

"I doubt he’ll be back for more."

"I just hope he doesn’t take it out on someone without your backbone or skills."

"Na, he was just throwin’ shapes tryin’ to look scary."

"Well, I hope that’s the end of it."

"I fancy it so, I had him pinned the moment he shoved me. If he was a bad’un, he would have sent someone else to have a go, and watched how it turned out."

"Yeah, you’re probably right; it’s not the first bull you’ve put in a box." Sean added.

"You mean he does this on a regular basis?"

"Regular? No; but he’s done it before and he’ll likely do it again. None of the bulls want to run the risk of getting taken by a kid like Liam; it ruins their street creds."

Sean’s phone made a noise like a splat and he read the message. "Me oul dear is out front waitin’. I can’t keep her or I’ll have no ears tomorrow."


"See yas soon Sean. Give me regards to yer Mam and all the other Clearys"

"Um, bye Sean. I didn’t understand that last bit, what did he mean?"

"He said his Mam was out front waitin’. It he didn’t leg it, he would get his ears chewed off."

Liam’s phone hummed and danced on the bench. He read the message and smiled.

"Now me Da’s out front, can I offer you a ride home?"

"It’s kind of far."

"Which way?"

"Toward downtown."

"Cool, we’re headed that way. C’mon let’s ask."

Connor was amenable and in fact offered Daniel a chance to have dinner with them. Daniel replied that he’d have to get his Mom’s approval. He was just dialing when his phone rang with Fur Elise as the ring tone.

"Hi Mom, I was just about to call you. My friend wants to take me with them for dinner. He paused to listen. Liam, she wants to know which restaurant."

"Tell her Andy’s Barbecue on Willow and Ninth. And ask her if she’ll join us." Connor told him.

Daniel did as instructed and hung up the phone with a strange smile on his face. "She said yes, I mean she’ll meet us there," he said and grinned.

"Oh Da, this is Daniel Sullivan, he’s got people in um… Cork wasn’t it."

"Yes, and away from school you can call me Danny."

Liam’s eye’s suddenly got damp, but he faked a sneeze to cover.

"You okay there Boyo, last thing you want is a cold," Connor said.

"Na, I’m fine Da, just a bit of dust."

Connor eyed him suspiciously, but said nothing.

"I hope you lads are hungry, I’m up for celebratin’ tonight."

"What happened Da?" Liam asked excitedly.

"Apple called me today, they approved my design and offered more work. And I got a call from a Junior VP at Tesla Motors, Elon Musk wants a meetin'."

"Well then, you better stop droppin' yer G’s if he’s going to take you serious," Liam told his father.

"And you, if yer goin' along."

"Where?"

L.A. I was thinking Disneyland or Universal, maybe both. It would depend on the timing."

"You’re a fine one to talk, you’ve been dropping G’s and everything else off and on since I met you this morning," Daniel giggled.

"You’ve never fully assimilated and neither have I." Connor told his son.

"Any trouble today?"

"Just a big bull throwin’ shapes tryin’ ta look like somethin’."

"What did you do, should I call the attorney?" Connor smiled.

"Just the old armpit to collarbone pinch, and some straight chat. We parted peacefully, shook hands and all."

"What?! Danny yelled out, "you had him sniveling and wishing his mommy was there to protect him."

"Did he shake me hand, Danny?"

"Well yes, but…"

"And didn’t he and I agree to say no more of it?"

"Yes."

"Then let’s us leave that be the end of it, fair enough?"

"Okay, I guess."

"So you pulled off the pinch eh, how’d it go."

"Fine, except my thumb still smells like a monkey’s bum."

That was all Daniel could handle and he erupted in high-pitched laughter. He was still giggling quietly when they arrived at Andy’s Barbecue.

"Hey, there’s my Mom’s car!" Danny nearly shouted.

He was pointing at an ancient seventies Corolla wagon. It was on a par with the Model "A" Ford for reliability and ease of repair. The door opened and a woman in her early thirties, a very attractive one at that, stepped out and held out her arms for her son who was racing towards her.

"Hi Mom, I’m glad to see you," Daniel told her and squeezed her tight around the waist.

"Hi, Danny boy, did you have a good day?"

"Fantastic, I made a new friend. You have to meet him, he’s really something else; I mean really something other than else."

She kissed his cheek and released her embrace and allowed herself to be towed to a rather odd-looking vintage car.

"How do you do, I’m Theresa Sullivan, Daniel is my son."

"Nice to meet you, I’m Connor Dennehy and this is my son, Liam. Shall we go on in and get them fed?"

Connor held the door as the party entered. They were seated at a table that had a small bench and two regular chairs on the opposite side of the table. The boys took the bench and the adults sat side by side on the chairs.

"Allow me to get this out of the way at the outset. I’m celebrating two very good events and this dinner is on me."

"Well okay, but you and your son will have to join us as well some evening."

Liam leaned over and told Danny that he needed to pee. Danny indicated that he did too. They slid off the bench and Liam led his friend to the restroom.

"Oh man, I almost didn’t make it." Danny said as he tried to bore a hole in the urinal with his stream.

"Me either." Liam said, peeing forcefully himself.

Danny looked to his right and traced the arc of urine to its source.

"Whoa, look at that."

"What, you saw it in Gym in the showers and after."

"It didn’t look like that then."

"Well it gets like that when I need to pee, you should see it in the morning."

"Yeah, I’d like to." Danny said dreamily and very quietly to himself.

"Um, yer still gawkin’ at it Danny."

"Oh sorry, my mind wandered off." Danny said as he tucked in and pulled up his zipper.

While the boys were relieving themselves, Theresa and Connor spoke quietly.

"To be honest, this is the first time we’ve been out to eat in months. My salary hasn’t allowed for a lot of extras. But now I need another job. I served my employer with a suit for illegal labor practices and a number of other things. His response was a check for $100,000.00 and an agreement to pay another Hundred K in five payments of Twenty K each."

"That’s pretty impressive. He must be crooked."

"Oh he is, he’s an ambulance chaser; he pulled off some deal that allowed him to take and pass the bar.

“I don’t get it, he sneaks into the country and gets amnesty and then gets a license to practice law. He deals with other illegals exclusively as an Abogado, supposedly helping them with immigration law. He’s not qualified to do any of that and he skins these poor people coming and going. So when I get that last check, I’ll send all the evidence to the District Attorney and the California Bar Association. The first time he misses a payment, he’s cooked. The cashier’s check is good and I’ve already deposited it. I don’t think he’ll mess with that because his attorney wrote a decent settlement and my attorney agreed that it was valid."

"Jaysus, that’s quite a tale. The guy sounds like a right bastard."

"Well, I’m done with them and the money will allow me to find a better place to live; closer to my Danny Boy’s school, so he can go out after school without risking his life. It's good timing because there's a problem with our building.

“Honestly, except for some pictures and keepsakes, there’s not much in that apartment I’m attached to. I put all that in storage this afternoon. I don’t plan to tell him we’re moving until I get the house I want; it’s a cute little bungalow on Ward Avenue and it’s for rent, or will be. I just need to get a new employer soon. But until I do, Danny and I are staying at the Holiday Inn on Foothill by the Art Center. He doesn’t know yet so please don’t let on."

"I’m impressed Theresa, that’s quite a tale. What exactly do you do?"

"Well, they hired me as a charge accountant, but I wasn’t a C.P.A. They put me to work on their bookkeeping and I ended up doing every damn clerical job they had plus all their I.T. work. I was doing everything but payroll and that was done by Ramone’s wife. She didn’t know I was photocopying my time cards because she would alter them so they wouldn’t have to pay me overtime. That’s why I sued them and they knew they were cooked, hence the agreement. Sorry I get a little worked up when I think about all the time they stole from me and my baby."

"That’s understandable Theresa, if someone came between me and my boy, there would be hell to pay. But here’s the thing, I just placed an ad for a bookkeeper / assistant, meaning an office presence and I need someone with a good head that can schedule meetings and keep me on schedule; and also deal with booking flights, hotels and cars. I have a building on Indian Hill; it’s my office, design space and prototyping facility. I have five other employees. But Rachel does my payroll and tax stuff and keeps me square with the state on labor stuff. Why don’t you come by tomorrow and look the place over; if you like it and your credentials check out, we can talk about salary and benefits."

"Benefits? What are those, I’m unfamiliar with the term."

Connor laughed and that’s when the boys returned."

"So what do they serve here?"

"Really good barbeque Dan, or is it Danny or maybe Daniel?"

"Danny’s fine. Anybody that makes my Mom smile like that can call me Danny."

"So Liam, how do you like McAuliffe eh, fancy meeting yer Uncle Mike there?"

"He hasn’t seen me since I was a baby, Da, it feels weird to call him Uncle."

"I suppose that’s true, it’s just that we were so close as boys he’s more like my brother than a best friend. If you called for Hanlan, you got Dennehy and vice versa."

"Do you mean Mike Hanlan? The teacher at McAuliffe?" Theresa asked.

"You’re the Connor he’s always talking about."

"You know him?"

"Well, I know his wife, we’re close friends."

"How is Sandy anyway?"

Theresa got very quiet. 

"Um, boys, there’s a couple games up front, and I need to talk to Connor privately."

Connor handed Liam a ten-dollar bill and the boys reluctantly went to check out the games.

"I’m sorry to tell you but Sandy passed away several years ago. It was liver cancer. He’s married to my friend Sarah now."

"Oh Jaysus, that’s sad, Sandy was such a sweet person. When I left Dublin, Mike and Sandy were still getting their degrees. I met Mike once at LAX but we only had minutes. I gave him a card but never heard from him until this morning when we met at the school. I gave him my card this morning and suggested we should get a pint together."

"I’m very sorry, Connor."

"No Theresa, it’s okay, I would have asked him this morning, but he had to sheepdog his students."

"Please call me Terri."

"Hmmm? Oh sure, Terri it is."

A waiter arrived to see what they would like to drink; Terri ordered for herself and Danny and Connor for Liam and himself.

"I’ll go collect them and get them ready to order by the time the drinks arrive.

The general consensus was that it was a great meal and a fun night out.

It came time for going and goodbyes were said at length. Terri hugged Liam and then Connor. Connor hugged her and Danny. Liam hugged her and took his time hugging Danny who became a little choked up when Liam told him thanks for making his first day at the new school painless.

As they left the parking lot, Daniel pointed out that they were going the wrong way for home.

"Look, about that honey; I don’t think we’ll be able to go back. There was a problem and I packed everything worth keeping and put some of it in storage. Everything in your desk and under your bed is stored except a couple things I thought you might want. I have all your clothes in a suitcase and garbage bags. We’ll stay at the Holiday Inn near your school for a couple of nights until I figure out where we’ll land."

"What happened?" Daniel asked, did we get kicked out?"

"No Baby, they were digging in the street and managed to damage the underground utilities. No water, gas or electric. Everything in the fridge spoiled. It was a pit anyway. I think we can do better." This was actually the truth and the event was the impetus for Terri to get her son out of that miserable place.

                                                  **

"What do you think of Danny, Da?" Liam asked. He was enjoying the warm October weather and having the top down in the little convertible."

"What matters more son is what you think of him."

"I like him a lot Da, he’s smart and funny and very nice to people."

"Well then, you’ve a lot in common; that describes you as well as him.

"But Da."

"I know son, he’s a wonderful lad, he’s very bright, but he hides it. But then, you’re a wonderful lad yerself, and if you two can be happy, go for it I say."

"Thanks Da, I love you a lot you know."

Connor had a lump in his throat and couldn’t answer, but reached across and patted his son’s chest.