Heart Strings

Chapter Forty-Two

"So much for warming up for the weekend," Maeve grumbled as she watched the rain through the window.

"The weather says it'll clear out midmorning and the clouds look like they're moving fast. I think we'll be okay," Danny chirped.

"Such a cheerful lad, but I'll be running you to school. I've seen enough of the driving here not to trust them to stop in time for lads crossing the street. It seems half the eedjits can't drive without a phone in their hand," Maeve cautioned.

"You'll get no argument from us, this is a good day to skip the walk, do you mind picking up mates if we see them?" Liam requested.

"I think that truck will hold a further five lads beyond you, so just point them out," Maeve directed.

They found Calvin and Brian about to cross through a deep puddle and Danny called out to them before they stepped off the curb. Maeve crept past them so as not to soak them with a plume of water. Danny slid over and Calvin climbed in next to him. Brian was next and Alan walked up just as Brian began to pull the door. Danny hopped into the third row seat and Alan slid in next to Calvin with Brian taking the door seat again. He was longer legged than the others so it made sense. During the rest of the trip, they saw no more of their friends and Maeve pulled into the queue of parents lining up to discharge their cargo.

"Call me if the rain hasn't let up by the time you're free dears, and I'll return for you," Maeve instructed.

Liam gave her a kiss and hopped out, Danny paused to do the same and she pulled away once he was safely on the pavement and walking to the gate with his mates.

The boys didn't dawdle outside the gate but made for the Cafe's wide awning and the promise of hot drinks.

"It's my go, who wants what?" Liam asked.

Amber and Cheri joined them and Liam added their order.

"I'll need help carrying all that," Liam advised.

Calvin hopped up and scampered behind him to the counter.

All the confirmed attendees stopped by and chatted at one point or another and most everyone was excited. They filtered away to prepare for the first class period, leaving Cheri, Danny and Liam still sitting.

"Danny, did you look up the Pottery Class you wanted last night?" Liam probed.

"Yeah, but the new class starts next week and I'd need a parent to sign the form before Thursday night," Danny moped.

"Well, just email Mam and Da and get their approval, Shan will get you signed up no worries. Um, speaking of classes why aren't you taking piano lessons somewhere? Liam inquired.

"But that's expensive, I can't ask them to pay for lessons after all they've just done for me," Danny asserted.

Danny my love, yer not livin' in poverty anymore. Mam and Da want you to grow and be happy doin' it. Piano lessons are the next logical step. You've two pianos and an electronic keyboard to use. I want you to be happy too, I think you already know that but it wanted sayin'. Piano lessons are what you need to become whatever you should be as far as the piano goes. I know how much you love it and I've heard you tinklin' away at Mozart's Sonata #11; you've done right well at it but you'll need help to get it knocked," Liam insisted.

"I don't know Liam, it's hard for me to think that way. We had so little to spend on anything extra for so long, I'm still reluctant to take my allowance when it's handed me."

Cheri leaned in and gave Danny a kiss on the cheek, her eyes were red and teary. "Danny, let's stop by the restrooms before Science. Liam has worked his evil magic on our eyes and we need some cold water to get out the red. Liam, stop making me cry at school or I'm going to pound you."

Liam apologized, "Sorry Cheri, and you Danny, I should have brought this up at home. C'mon, I'll walk yas to the restrooms."

"It's okay Liam, I need reminding sometimes. It's hard to change the way you've thought for years. I guess it wouldn't hurt to ask." Danny grinned at Liam as Cheri slipped into the girls' toilet and he and Liam went into the boys' toilet. A couple of folded paper towels with cold water added later and Danny's eyes were presentable.

"Oh, what's that then?" Liam asked looking at Danny's face.

"What?! Danny asked.

"Let me have a look close up." Liam leaned in and kissed Danny's lips pronouncing him ready for his Science Class.

"Well, you look better. What were you up to in there?" Cheri asked, knowing she'd get no answer.

"Let's get ourselves to class, we wouldn't want to keep Mr. Culver waiting," Liam suggested.

Later Liam and Cheri waited for their Algebra teacher to arrive.

"Mr. Culver didn't want to get into regular subject matter today because of the short class. Did you see the way he got Danny to explain his salt glazed pottery thing. He was great, he went into the chemical composition and what makes the salt mix vaporize and coat the pot. It was so interesting and everybody asked questions, like how he found out about it and the trays he was using for the chemicals. I never heard of vitreous carbon before but Mr. C had. He was impressed. But the bit just before the period ended when he asked everyone to rise and applaud the guest lecturer. Danny was red as a beet but I think he enjoyed it," Liam related

"Liam, you've created a monster!" Cheri chuckled.

"Na, he's just really bright. He grasps things right away that I have to work at," Liam replied.

"You're both freaking smart, maybe not in the same way but you can calculate acoustics and harmonics and I think Danny might have troubles there," Cheri countered.

"Well, that's it then isn't it, we're just smart in different ways. And you, don't try to play down yer brains Cheri, I'm not havin' any of that."

"Okay, okay, I'm a genius, I admit it," Cheri snorted.

Ms. Collins arrived and unlocked the door.

"Hello you two, you're almost always the first two here," Catherine lilted.

"We've only just come from Mr. Culver's class, our Danny was very entertaining, Catherine," Liam offered.

"Oh yes, I heard the good Dr. Culver singing the boy's praises. He said at first the boy wouldn't so much as squeak if you stepped on him but now he's really come out of his shell," Catherine told them.

Cheri grinned at Liam but said nothing.

"He just wanted a bit of time to get his confidence up. After that there was no stopping him, but I'm a bit biased so take that into account," Liam said.

"Duly noted, and I heard about your first day and getting the Nerd Hat and all. You're no slouch yourself," Catherine smiled.

"Not just that, because of Liam there's a sash that goes with it for extraordinary displays of knowledge. Supposedly, it's for lateral or nonlinear thinking. What was it you told him after the first thing?" Cheri prompted.

"Oh, I just swiped a line from The Godfather, leave the super collider, take the cannoli's," Liam filled in.

"That's not just nonlinear it's a damn S curve, Catherine laughed. "You may not know this but referencing popular culture that way to make a point is very advanced."

Liam just smiled as he often did when he had no response to people singing his praises. In truth, it made him just a bit uncomfortable.

At the first break, Danny got a look at his pot fresh from the cooling cycle in the kiln. While it wasn't all that he had hoped for it was obvious that he was on the right track. He took pictures and raced to meet Liam and tell him about it.

With the abbreviated class times, the boys were ready to go. Liam rode up front and Maeve agreed to drop Todd and Darren off as well as Brian, Calvin and Alan. The three smallest boys sat in the third row. Calvin was particularly bubbly and silly and was telling terrible jokes.

It was no longer raining but it still looked threatening. "You boys call if the weather turns bad again, and I'll come pick you up for the practice session," Maeve admonished the first three.

"It's okay ma'am, my mom said she'd take us over," Calvin volunteered.

"And the two of you?" Maeve asked Todd and Darren when they reached Todd's home.

"We'll call if we need a ride but we might just ride our bikes if the weather clears up," Darren put in.

"Just so you have the option boys, I don't want to be takin' you home with pneumonia as a parting gift," she smiled.

"Yes Ma'am, we'll call if we need a ride, thanks," Todd capitulated.

"Sorry Shan, Darren can be a little thick at times, but he's a good mate. Todd's the brains of the outfit though. At least he's more socially adept," Liam informed her.

"Daniel, your mother called, she and your Da gave their blessing for the Pottery Class and the first class is next Tuesday, I know the form said Thursday but apparently that was a typo. I went by and signed you up and they'd like you to bring an example of your work if you have one available," Maeve explained.

"Sure, I can do that, I'll bring my salt glaze project home with me Monday and I've got a couple of pots upstairs that turned out pretty good," Danny grinned.

"It's only to gauge your skill level so they can steer you to the right group," Maeve added.

"Seems reasonable to me," Danny agreed.

"Well Danny, time to check the bathrooms and set up chairs in the music room. Then we can put up a table for the drinks. The actual food will be on the kitchen counter just like last time, okay?" Liam asked.

"Got it," Danny confirmed cheerfully.

Cheri and Amber were the first to arrive and they were bubbly as usual. We listened to all the suggestions you sent us and I love Tell me ma and Galway Girl, my dad said those two sound like horses at the race track," Cheri chittered.

"They kinda do," Danny chuckled.

Amber unpacked her fiddle and checked the tuning. I taught myself the music for Galway Girl, I hope it gets picked when we vote," and with that she launched into the melody.

"Pretty good Amber, how about the intro for Tell me ma, did you get a chance to try that?" Liam asked.

"You bet, and I learned Bally Bay, too; they're all simple tunes really, it's different from playing Saraswati and such but it's fun. I play Bluegrass for fun too, and that got its start from Irish and Scottish fiddle music," Amber informed him. Liam, do you play the Irish pipes?" Amber asked.

"Well, yeah I do but I've never played them at school," Liam admitted.

"That's okay, I'd just really like to hear them in person sometime," Amber intoned.

"I thought I might wait until we have a heavy fog and play them on the athletic pitch. They sound great on a peat moor, the ground does something to the sound and a large grass field has the same effect. I have a couple of laments that sound great at a distance. I played them on a camping trip once and a fella rowed across a lake at night to find out who was playin', he was surprised to find it was me. He wasn't there to complain, he just liked the pipes," Liam explained.

"That's a cool story, you should remember it for when you're being interviewed for a music magazine or podcast," Amber prompted.

Liam laughed but didn't respond to the suggestion. Brian and Calvin's arrival saved him from further discussions of stardom.

"I brought your song bird, I'm just here to listen," Brian grinned.

"We'll see about that, Sean is bringing a set of "bones" for you to try, you might find them easy enough. And if yer interested, I can try you out on a four string banjo, it uses the same tuning as a ukulele. I have one you can keep if you find you like playin', Liam urged.

"I don't know, but I'll give it a try, it would be cool to be able to take part, I've been trying what you suggested, y'know, singing lower? But it's slow going. At least it doesn't make my throat hurt. I've been watching YouTube videos on training your voice to sing in a lower pitch. It seems to be working, but like I said, it's slow," Brian shared.

"That's what I found when I tried at first, but it got easier fairly quickly and I know you're motivated," Liam coached.

"I hope you're right," Brian replied.

Calvin had already hugged Cheri, Amber and Danny and made a bee line for Liam.

Cheri and Liam disengaged and went to the kitchen to set out the food. Liam filled the ice bucket and placed it on the drinks table and made sure that there was plenty of the various soda brands and lots of red party cups.

Danny and Calvin served as greeters, welcoming all those who had decided to attend.

Darren wasn't able to attend, his sister cracked a tooth and had to visit a dentist, leaving Darren to watch his younger brother.

"He could have brought Devon along, he might have enjoyed himself," Danny scolded gently.

"His mom wouldn't go for it, Devon is still getting over a cold," Todd replied.

"Ah well, nothing to be done about mothers, right?" Danny grinned. Todd nodded and headed for the music room.

The practice was lively, Sean was able to teach Brian the rudiments of playing the "bones" with little difficulty. Brian did particularly well on Tell me Ma. Calvin beamed, knowing Brian was part of the music. Cyrus was excellent on Galway Girl and several other songs they tried. The diatonic accordion or melodeon as some called it, was putty in his hands, he beamed the entire time he was playing.

When they were done, trying out the different tunes, they took a vote. The play list filtered out to start with Tell me Ma and end with the Irish Pub Song as performed by the High Kings. Kilkelly was chosen for the middle of the set, although Liam thought a change was in order. He wanted Cyrus to sing the lead and he'd do harmony with Peter. It took some convincing but eventually Cyrus came around. Bally Bay would come right after that, it was one the audience could clap along with, a sure way to reel in people.

They broke for lunch and everyone ate well with plenty of left overs. Danny let the others have first crack at the anisette cookies with the knowledge that Liam had bought a separate dozen just for him.

They played each song on the playlist at least three times and decided they had a pretty good handle on things as a group. The only tough part was getting everyone in synch for the chorus on the Irish Pub Song.

When they were done working, Liam asked Maeve to demonstrate her prowess as a studio musician. She played several riffs and a few longer solos from well-known songs. Everyone there was in awe. The consensus was that Maeve was the coolest granny they knew of.

Liam suggested that they invite anyone who liked two step or line dancing to give it a try during Galway Girl, he knew it was popular with both and it was a fun tune to dance to.

They had chosen six songs and two encores if needed and time permitted. There would be class after the long break so that was a factor. They were all feeling good as parents began arriving to claim their musicians. It had been a great afternoon.

Brian's dad arrived and Brian made sure he hugged Sean, Liam and Danny before collecting Cyrus, Alan and Peter. Calvin just hugged everyone as they left.

Sean and Tristan stayed on a bit and chatted until Sean's brother arrived. Hugs were exchanged and they were down to the six of them counting Todd, Cheri and Amber.

"Todd, put your bike in the rack on the Landcruiser, we're running you home," Maeve directed.

"Yes Ma'am, it got kinda dark. My bike has a light but I'm guessing riding home isn't optional," Todd replied guardedly.

"Very perceptive Todd, and call me Maeve or Shan, I've never liked the sound of ma'am," She directed.

"Okay Shan," Todd grinned.

Cheri's mom arrived and whisked the two girls home. The house was empty save the four of them. Todd's bike was loaded and the group headed to his house to drop him off.

"Cool, Dad's home early, I can't wait to tell him about this cool day," Todd chattered.

"Your audience should be well pleased with the music tomorrow boys. We'll head home soon but I need to stop at the market for a joint of lamb, I want it to thaw slowly unless they have fresh, but Americans don't eat a lot of lamb, do they?" Maeve inquired rhetorically.

Maeve returned to the car grumbling and empty handed.

"Can yas believe that, not so much as a lamb chop in the whole bleedin' place, I never heard of such a thing," She groused.

"There's a proper meat market over on Arrow Route, I can get you the number and the address, they'll have fresh and their meat is great. Da picked up a venison roast there and it was wonderful, but they close at five and it was well past when we left home," Liam explained.

"If you'll get me the number I'll give them a call when they open tomorrow, thank you dear," she said calmly.

With that storm behind them, they went home and snacked, watched TV and cleaned up. Soon enough it was bedtime and Liam had the spare instruments he would need the next day staged by the door.

"Do you think the school would allow me to listen in on your concert tomorrow?" Maeve asked.

"Oh, I should have thought of that, we can ask Uncle Mike when you drop us off in the morning. I bet they'll allow it, and you'll get to meet Ms. Grace again.

Liam had a mission after he had placed his fiddle and mandolin in Ms. Grace's hands. He told Danny he'd meet him at the Caf and headed for the music room.

"Good morning Mr. Levi, I have something to ask you for my mom. She asks if you can make a recommendation for a good piano teacher for Danny, it has to be someone nice. He just doesn't respond to harsh instructors, critical is okay but not cruel," Liam related.

"Certainly Liam, I know several. I just have to check with them and see who can take on a new student. Give me a couple of days and I'll tell you what I find out," he said with encouragement. "How are your parents doing by the way, which country are they in now?" Mr. Levi inquired.

Norway I believe and then over to Austria and Germany, then Belgium and over to Dublin. Mam wants to see where Da grew up," Liam informed him.

"Sounds like a nice trip, I plan to visit Ireland when I retire," Mr. Levi mused.

"You won't be disappointed sir, thank you and please don't mention it to Danny,"

Mr. Levi nodded his compliance and Liam was off to the Caf for a hot drink before Science.