Heart Strings

Chapter Forty-One

Maeve had mentioned that she would be gone early on Wednesday morning, so Liam and Danny saw to their own breakfast of oat porridge and eggs. Liam had asked if Danny wanted bacon but Danny declined and tucked into his oats with gusto. The weather had been iffy all week but today it was cold and windy, although it was supposed to start warming up for the weekend. They wore their Levis, long sleeved tees over their undershirts and heavy coats to cut the wind. Both boys chose to wear boots in case the weather had any surprise showers in mind. They grabbed their gloves and started the walk to school. They met Calvin and Brian on the way but Brian was a bit subdued.

"Somethin' botherin' ya's, Brian?" Liam asked.

"Yeah, a little," Brian grunted.

"Brian baby, just tell him. It will be okay," Calvin pleaded.

Liam looked at Brian, "Voice packed up on ya's didn't it?"

Brian sniffed, "Yeah, my throat hurts when I try and I sound like a moose with a head cold." 

"It's not the end of the world, you'll get through it and you'll have a great voice when yer done with it. But you'll want to keep trying. Like me da showed me; I was trying to sing but it was frustrating, then Da taught me to try a lower register and I found an octave I could sing without crackin'. I really thought I was done singin'. But I was wrong and the doc says that's probably only my first go 'round with the voice changin' business. Who knows what we'll end up soundin' like, but his advice is to continue usin' yer voice until the new one comes in and settles down."

"Man, I hope you're right Liam, I would really be unhappy if I couldn't sing. I don't play an instrument like you and Danny. Calvin can at least strum a guitar but I'm screwed if I can't sing," Brian Lamented.

"Well, you could learn somethin' simple like a penny whistle or a four string banjo, they're a dawdle to pick up and I know you've the talent to make sense of them," Liam reassured.

"You're a solid friend Liam, you and Danny both," Brian uttered.

"You'll still come to the practice with Calvin though, won't you?" Danny invited.

"If you guys want me there, I might be able to help set up or something."

"Good, maybe Sean can teach you "bones", or something. If I can do it I'll bet you can, too," Danny insisted.

"Maybe, I don't know but I'll give it a shot," Brian smiled finally.

Calvin glowed after seeing a smile return to Brian's face.

Chemistry and Algebra flew by for Liam and he met up with Danny for the first break. The boys chatted with Cheri and Amber and Liam reminded Danny that he had his class that evening so Danny would be on his own, save Maeve.

"I've never been alone with Shan before, I wonder what it will be like," Danny mused aloud.

"She'll probably use the time to get to know you better, you should be open with her and if you have any worries, let her hear them and get her view of things. She's always been a great help to me and I know she loves you," Liam counselled.

"It's so hard for me to do that Liam, I've always been shy until you came along. I'll try though, Shan is wonderful and I love her too," Danny concluded.

The warning chime sounded and the boys were off to Pottery and Mechanical Drawing respectively.

This class session was devoted to a personal project and each student was expected to draw something he was interested in.

Liam, given his own interests, was drawing a stylized mandolin type guitar. It was almost a smaller harp guitar in shape without the harp section of strings but including Liam's design for resonant strings that were located in a channel under the neck and main body of the guitar. His hope was that the three strings would add a fuller sound as individual strings were plucked, resulting in sympathetic vibrations and harmonics.

By the end of the class, he had almost finished the fourth view which showed the unique sound vents in the channel, and his tentative design for tuning the harmonic strings without adding tuners to the head.

"Whoa Liam, that's really impressive. Have you done a lot of drawing?" Alan asked.

"No, quite the opposite in fact, I can barely manage a stick figure freehand but doing design stuff is different. Danny can sketch pretty well and we know a lad that is a proper artist when it comes to drawing," Liam admitted.

"I thought this class would be easy because I'm not bad at drawing stuff, y'know people and cars, that sort of junk. This is really tough, it requires straight lines and you can't fudge the lines to make up for your perspective mistakes, Alan lamented.

"Well, that looks nice; what is that, a wagon of some sort?" Liam probed.

"It's a Conestoga wagon like they used in pioneer days. Getting the scale down is killing me, I keep messing up and using the wrong side of the ruler, then I have to redo it," Alan complained.

"Can I give you a tip?" Liam offered.

"Sure, if it helps I'll take anything you got!" Alan chirped.

"See the colored dots on my scale? I've taken six markers and put dots of color on each scale see how 1/25th is blue? Then I use the same marker on the corner tapes of the drawing. Just a reminder which scale I'm drawing in so it's something I don't have to think about and I can concentrate on other stuff," Liam explained.

Alan looked carefully at Liam's drawing and saw blue dots on the tape at each corner.

"Thanks Liam, that's going to save me a lot of time. I spend a lot of time fixing my mistakes."

"Well, you did really well on the wagon, I like the detail of the hub and axle shaft, it really shows how they did things without proper bearings and all," Liam observed.

"Yup, just leather and grease, they had to grease the axles every couple of days and the guy that walked the team would feel the hubs for heat every hour or so. I can't imagine walking from St. Louis to Oregon but those guys basically did it," Alan chattered on.

"No triple A on the prairies, eh?" Liam chuckled.

That made Alan laugh and they continued cleaning up and preparing for their next class. At the same time, Danny was just placing his pot on the rack for the teacher to put in the kiln.

"Very nice work Mr. Sullivan, what's that coating you've applied?" Ms. Van Parr asked.

"That's the pattern for the salt glaze we talked about, it will help the salt adhere to the surface," Danny reminded her.

"It's a good thing you finished early, let's put it and the salt in the small kiln and we'll put whatever else is getting fired tonight in the other. You should really consider taking a class in advanced pottery away from school," his teacher prompted.

"I wondered about that, Liam takes a guitar building class on Wednesdays, maybe I could find a class too."

"Well, you have the talent and a natural eye. I think you would excel in an environment like that," Ms. Van Parr reinforced. "I can recommend one that is quite near, and there are students of all ages attending."

"Thanks Ma'am, I really appreciate that. I'm really anxious to see how this turns out," Danny said while picking up the box of salt he had brought in. He had already mixed in the other chemicals as instructed by a formula he found online. He had even drawn a skull and crossbones and labeled the box poison in large letters.

"If we're right, the salt should adhere to the unglazed portion of the pot, what additives did you use with the salt?" Ms. Van Parr asked.

Iron oxide, calcite and aluminum oxides. Plus the salting area has been prepped with a silicate solution and the calcite should help with the bonding," Danny detailed.

"You'll need to write that out and present it when your pot is graded. I have to admit I'm very interested in how this project turns out myself. You know that usually the salt is introduced when the pot is already hot enough for the glaze to melt? the teacher inquired.

"Yes, but I read about an alternative method, that's why the salt mix is in four narrow trays with thin glass covers over them. When the glass melts at the scored line, it will fall off and the salt will adhere to the pot, at least that's what the article said."

"So you explained earlier. I really hope it works and with an outside class, you could use the traditional method. Where did you get those curved trays?" the teacher pressed.

"I borrowed a lab catalog from my da and he ordered them for me. They're vitreous carbon. You can melt gold or aluminum in them," Danny clarified.

"That's something you need to document, it's part of the pottery process. You might want to repeat it someday, so I hope you kept your proportions for your salt mixture too," his teacher urged.

"Yes Ma'am, it's all in my essay book. I'll type it up and print it for you to review for my grade," Danny offered.

"Excellent," she replied.

Danny watched as the teacher pushed the completed tray over the rollers into the kiln. She closed the door, locked it and turned on the timer.

"I guess we'll know tomorrow, you can stop in at your first break tomorrow and we'll take a look," Ms. Van Parr suggested.

"I will," Danny replied and left his teacher to prepare the tray with her assistant who had just arrived.

"Hey Danny, you look excited," Liam observed.

"He sure does, what have you been up to, Danny?" Cheri solicited.

Danny explained the salt-glazed pot he was trying to create and his discussion with the ceramics teacher.

"She said she'd get a list of after school classes that I could enroll in to get better at pottery and try things I can't do at school."

"That's great Danny, I'm sure Mam and Da will get behind you on that. I hope your project turns out the way you want it to."

"Where do we stand with the practice tomorrow, Liam?" Danny entreated.

"We're all ready, Shan will run us by Morelli's for the meats and such, same as the last big practice. Cheri, Amber, is there anything you'd like especially to go with lunch tomorrow?" Liam asked.

"Just those really good cannoli, I loved those," Cheri put in.

"Oh yeah, those were so good, I think I made a pig of myself with those last time," Amber blushed.

"We still had some left over so there's nothin' ta worry about there," Liam soothed. "We'll get extra anisette cookies this time, I didn't expect they'd be so popular and they are Danny's favorite. How about salads?"

"They have a great macaroni salad there and a three bean salad that's very good," Danny added.

"Sounds good to me, I like either one. Amber?" Cheri deferred.

"I love a good pasta salad, so yeah, it won't go to waste," Amber answered.

"Just goes to waist," Cheri giggled holding her belly.

It took a moment for the others to get the joke but they laughed and carried on with other topics.

Liam and Danny made for the gym as Cheri and Amber walked to their respective art classes.

Liam had really helped many of the other boys bring their soccer skills up to higher league standards and with the beginning of the AYSO soccer season, it was making a difference in play. Liam considered signing up but he already had so much going on in his free time he decided against it. Danny liked the friendly matches at school but decided he didn't like the ill-tempered competition that often seemed to be part of the league soccer experience. He was looking forward to baseball season and Little League instead. After the stop at the deli, he and Liam changed clothes and chatted.

"Does it bother you that we don't enjoy all the same stuff, Liam?"

"No, why should it, we're different people Danny, it follows that we'd have different interests. We have lots in common, too, and that is what makes us a strong couple. Da is into cars and I'm not sure I'll ever be a car guy, except maybe to drive them. I'll learn how they work and how to do basic repairs and stuff but collecting them is Da's thing. Everybody needs something that's theirs and can share with friends. Mam talked about a friend of hers that got divorced even though they did everything as a couple. Turns out it was mostly the stuff she wanted to do and her husband was just going along. She had no interest in his hobbies and took up all his time. But they figured it out after they split and remarried knowing time apart was important. At least that's what Mam said.

"They've been gone almost a week now, I really miss them," Danny squeaked.

Liam wrapped his arms around Danny to comfort him, "They'll be back next Saturday, Love, everything will be back to normal. I just wish Shan would move to America. I know it's never gonna happen but having her here is really grand."

"You wanna go upstairs and help me go through this list of pottery classes online?" Danny asked.

Liam said nothing but seized Danny's hand, leading him up the stairs.

"Thanks for getting us over to the deli Shan, we're all set for our practice tomorrow, will you sit in?" Liam requested.

"I might be tempted, I'll certainly listen and perhaps make a suggestion or two," Maeve replied.

"Thanks Shan, I think you'll like our friends that are coming over, they're all committed to music," Liam put in.

"I've not found any of your friends wanting either in behavior or interest," Maeve praised.

Maeve prepared a quiche and dinner was fairly lively in conversation.

"When do yas want to go guitar shopping, Shan?" Liam inquired.

"I was planning on Saturday, unless you've something planned," Maeve suggested.

"That's good for me, are you ready to run me to my class?"

"Certainly dear, get what you need. Danny, will you come along or stay here?" Maeve asked him.

"Let me get my coat and I'll be right down," Danny disappeared up the stairs as Liam came down with his class project in a case.

The streets were wet and Maeve guided the Land Cruiser carefully. Being from Ireland she was used to driving in bad weather but this was just a typical Dublin spring shower by her standards. She had learned that Californians dealt with rain only seasonally and forgot how to drive in it between storms. Rain was so infrequent that oils and tire dust among other things made the roads extra slick during the first storm after a dry spell. With that mindset, she watched other drivers cautiously, giving some a wide berth. They arrived at the class and dropped Liam off after kisses.

"What sort of ice cream does Liam like, I've a notion to visit that 31 flavors place," she inquired, grinning.

"I can show you, and the B&R is just two blocks further on. It seems funny to get ice cream in this weather but it sounds really good," Danny went along.

"Ah yes, there it is on the right. Oh bleedin' hell, what's this eedjit trying to accomplish," she said as a small black, very loud hatchback shot out from a parking lot nearly striking the truck. Maeve braked and steered appropriately and avoided the driver but a car going the opposite direction was completely caught off guard. There was a very loud crash as the two met, leaving debris scattered over several lanes in each direction.

Danny reached up and pushed a button on the dash camera which announced that the segment had been protected from overwriting.

"I'm pulling in to the ice cream store but sit tight, I want to go tell the policeman what happened," Maeve instructed.

"Be sure to get an email address so we can send them the video, I know how to retrieve it and I can mail it out to anyone who needs it," Danny prompted.

"I will, dear, just wait here," Maeve agreed.

"Be careful crossing, Shan," Danny warned.

The police were already on the scene when Maeve crossed the street, they were directing traffic away from the accident scene down side streets. She gave her name and address and made a statement and informed the officer that she would only be in the country a bit more than a week. The officer gave her one of her cards with her department email printed below her name. The name struck her funny because it was Madigan but the officer was African American. Madigans once occupied three pages of the Dublin phone book. She chuckled her way back to Danny and bade him to join her to choose their flavors and Liam's.

They took the ice cream home and stuck it in the fridge, sat on the couch and watched TV. Maeve pulled Danny in for a snuggle.

"Yer missin' yer mam aren't yas, Danny me dear?"

"Yes, I try not to but we've hardly ever been apart and it makes me sad cos I want to tell her about stuff, but when she's on the phone I forget half the things I wanted to say."

"Well dear, you've her email, write her a letter and tell her what's happening in yer life. I know she'd be keen ta hear from yas."

"Shan, did your accent come back really strong just now?"

"I suppose it did, I was a bit ragged from what that eedjit did with his car. I was pleased to see him sittin' in the back of a police car when we left. He was one of those fools that makes life difficult for the rest of us."

"I kinda like it, I like it when Liam gets tired or stressed and talks that way. I mean I don't like him to get upset but I like it when he talks that way," Danny explained finally.

"I don't think he'll ever outgrow it completely so don't give it a thought. As for me, it doesn't take much to backslide. I'm not terribly concerned about it either. It's me, take it or leave it is my opinion," Maeve assured him.

"Good, I'm glad. You shouldn't have to give up your identity just to make other people happy," Danny proclaimed.

"Yer wise beyond your years, my dear, now why don't you work on that letter and I'll fetch Liam home from his class," Maeve suggested and seized the keys from the hook.

"Did you have a good time, Liam?" Maeve asked after walking inside to see if he was ready.

"Yes, we did a segment on binding and I picked up some new tricks to try at home. Come meet our teacher please?" Liam requested.

"Shan, this is Justin Carter, our instructor and he's a master luthier," Liam explained.

"Justin, this is my Shan, Maeve. She's a professional studio musician," Liam grinned.

"So Connor told me, my playing days are well behind me as is much of my ability to turn out guitars. But I'm trying to bring along a new generation of luthiers. It's phenomenal the skill level that some of these young people possess," Justin effused.

"I'm not surprised at all, Liam is a great example of what the young can accomplish. I may be a bit prejudiced on his account, however," Maeve smiled.

"You just missed Sean and Tristan but you'll see them tomorrow," Liam assured.

"We'll see you next week," Justin announced as he waved at Liam and Maeve."

Maeve ran Liam through the events that occurred after dropping him at his class. "Danny was unsure how to get the chip out of the camera but he said if he had it he could forward it to the police," Maeve informed.

I'll pull it and swap it out as soon as we get home. Da keeps spares in the glove box. You just flip up the cover and then push the edge of the card in, that makes it pop out halfway and you can remove it. In a few days I'll send it to my favorite dash cam channel on YouTube," Liam laughed.

"Be sure and show Danny, in case he ever needs to do it himself. So how did your class go, did your teacher like the work you've done on your project?" Maeve asked.

"He said it was inspired work but he tends to gush a bit, and he suggested an alternative to my idea for tuning the harmonic strings. I was really over thinking it and his solution was simple. I'll draw it out for you and you'll see how simple the answer was," Liam chirped.

"Well, he did say he was amazed by the talent of you and your classmates," Maeve reminded him.

"He's a very nice man, and very patient. He can even get Sean to look at things differently," Liam added.

At home, Danny was shown how to remove the small card from the camera and where Connor kept extra formatted cards.

The boys and Maeve went in and enjoyed their ice cream and Danny forwarded the crash video to the police while Liam showered.