"Oh, hi Liam, just set those down by the bed, my wife will figure out what she needs for tonight and tomorrow. You're a pretty strong young man lugging those bags up here like that," Jim told him.
"Well, I move a lot of my instruments and some are pretty heavy," Liam supplied.
"Instruments? What do you play, son?"
"Guitar mostly and most styles but I also play piano and a few other strummed instruments. I can play the fiddle but not really well."
"That's quite a resume, please tell Douglas about that, he loves to play guitar; perhaps you can give him some tips," Jim suggested.
"Sure, Mr. Powell, or should I call you Admiral? Anyway I like to help other players get a handle on the guitar."
"Thanks, Liam, and just call me Jim. I'm not here in an official capacity and I'm not wearing a uniform and I'm not rank happy," Jim explained.
"Eh, what's rank happy? I don't know the term," Liam inquired.
"Well son, some officers regardless of which service, are so attached to their rank that they wear stars on their pajamas, but I'm a line officer and I came up the hard way. Now I have a surface or land based job although I'm still a submariner at heart and we're a bit more informal. It's nice being an admiral but my whole identity isn't wrapped up in it."
"I think I understand, Jim and thanks for explaining that."
"It was a good question and I was happy to clue you in."
Liam returned to the boy's room to see if they needed anything.
"Where's your brother?" he asked Shane.
"He's in the bathroom peeing, that's him singing while he sits on the toilet."
"He insists on peeing like a girl, he says he can't get all the way empty if he stands. I don't know why he sings. Don't get me wrong, I love him but he does some weird stuff," Shane continued.
"It's not all that weird, I know a couple boys that sing in the lavvy."
"You sound Irish, I mean I know your Dad is but you have an accent too. Am I right?"
"Yes, does it bother you?" Liam answered evenly.
"Oh heck no, I kind of like it, I was just wondering. We had a Commander from the Irish Naval force visit and he brought his son with him. I loved listening to him talk. It didn't hurt that he was hot as hell… oh shit. I um… didn't mean to say that but I guess I did, so yeah, I like guys. Are you cool with that?" Shane asked nervously.
"Absolutely, and so is my boyfriend, you'll meet him later when his mam comes over. If all goes well, he'll be my stepbrother someday," Liam reassured.
"Oh that's so cool, is your dad okay with it?"
"Yes, he's very supportive and I love him for it. And so is Danny's mom."
"I'm glad for you. My dad is cool about it but I have friends whose parents were less than cool," Shane replied.
"I've encountered that too. I find it hard to understand."
The bathroom door opened and Douglas stood there nude from the waist down.
"Doug, jeez we're not at home, I don't think Liam wants to see your massive wiener," Shane chuckled.
"It's not massive, it's just the right size for my age, Daddy said so. And I just wanted some fresh underwear cos mine were all sweaty."
Shane walked over and hugged his little brother. "I'm just kidding Doug, and massive means big, it's a compliment. But Dad is right and it's just fine. Don't let anybody tell you different." Shane kissed his brother's cheek and patted his bare bottom.
"Oh yeah, my undies." Douglas rummaged through his bag, found a fresh pair, and promptly bent over to pull them on. Liam had a full view but just smiled at Shane and turned the other way."
"He reminds me of TJ, Danny's neighbor, he's not a big fan of clothing but he's only four. You'll likely see him tomorrow at the party. I was thinking that while your Da and mine go to look at the facility we can ride our bikes over to the regional and try the new bike trails, they've only just finished them," Liam suggested.
"That sounds great, we've been stuck in cars, planes and hotels for three days, do you have enough bikes?" Shane asked.
"Yes, Danny's bringing his new one and I've got a fairly new one plus a couple for guests and my old bike which I checked out today when I heard you were coming. It should be a good fit for your brother. Oh, we've also got helmets, vests and gloves."
"So you and Danny have the same birthday?"
"No, we're a couple days apart but we're happy to share a party. My birthday was yesterday and Danny's is actually tomorrow."
"Sounds cool, I like a good party," Shane chirped.
"Me too!" Doug interjected.
"Are you going to do your hamster dance, Doug?"
"I'll do it now if you want!"
"Go ahead man; show Liam what you've got."
"Douglas stuck his upper front teeth out over his bottom lip and pulled his arms in at his sides, simulating hamster paws and squatted low and began an animated hoppy little dance."
"I think that'll be the next dance craze if he does it at the party," Liam proclaimed while chuckling.
Shane laughed and hugged his little brother, halting his rodent romp. "He just turned eleven a month ago and I turned twelve a little before that. I don't remember being like that but things change in a year."
"Well I'm glad you're cool with it, and that you really love your brother," Liam offered.
"Thanks man, yeah, he is goofy but I love him."
"Hey, there you are!" Danny's voice sounded from the doorway. "What are you guys doing?"
"Just talking." Liam walked over to Danny, hugged him and then kissed him on the lips.
"Um, Hi, I'm Danny."
"Hi Danny, I'm Douglas but you can call me Doug but not Dougie, please. Oh and this is my big brother Shane."
"Hi Doug, Hi Shane, it's nice to meet you. Mom says your Dad's an Admiral is that true?"
"Yeah he is," replied Shane.
"Do you have to live like military people or do you get to be kids?"
"Oh you mean 'do this, do that, on the double, that sort of stuff?’ No, he's not like that; we get to keep our hair the way we want within reason. And we don't have to drill or do anything military."
"Cool, I've had friends that had to live like that because their dad was a marine or something."
"I know guys like that whose dads are surface navy and they treat their kids like enlisted men," said Shane.
"Um Liam, can you open the garage and help me unload my bike please?"
"Sure, you guys want to see Danny's new bike?"
"Yeah, that sounds cool," Shane answered.
"Me too," Doug added.
"Not till you get some shorts on dude. I don't think Liam's neighbors want to see your Spiderman undies."
"Oh yeah, I'll be right down."
The three boys walked down the stairs and out to Terri's car.
"Oh cool, a Countryman Signature; those are really cool cars! That's your mom's car?"
"Well, it's a company car but Connor asked her what she'd drive given her duties if she was buying it herself and this was what she came up with."
"So your mom works for Liam's dad?"
"Yeah, but people don't really work for Connor, they work with him. Ask any of them, they'll all be there."
"Bender too?" asked Shane.
"Yeah, Rick will be there, you'll like him he's really cool and funny. He can do a lot of voices. I overheard him telling a dirty joke in Mickey Mouse's voice; it was hilarious and I laughed and got caught. But he didn't get mad, he just said, "keep it to yourself kid," in Mickey's voice. I almost peed myself laughing," Danny related.
"He sounds pretty cool. I look forward to your party," Shane nodded. "Do you remember the joke?"
"Yeah, Mickey Mouse was talking to his lawyer and the guy told him he couldn't divorce Minnie just because she was crazy, so Mickey says, "I didn't say she was crazy, I said she was fucking Goofy."
Shane and Liam laughed hysterically. Once they had recovered, Liam made a suggestion.
"That's a nice bike Danny, Terri went all out. Let's get it out of there; have you adjusted it to fit you yet?" Liam asked.
"Not yet, I was hoping you'd help me. We don't have much in the line of tools. Supposedly you can do everything with the tools that came with it but they feel like junk."
"Sure, while Shane checks out Dad's baby, I'll help you get your seat and bars adjusted," Liam suggested.
Liam punched the code for the garage and the door began to raise. "Wheel it in here and we'll check the tire pressure and make the adjustments. He plugged in the small pumpkin shaped compressor and hooked a pressure gauge to the air hose. Once the tires were set they flipped the bike over and Liam invited Danny to sit and then stand on the pedals. The seat would need to be lowered so Liam retrieved the appropriate wrenches from the big red Snap-on toolbox. He dropped the seat an inch and a half and had Danny stand again. With that completed he asked Danny to find a comfortable riding position to see if the handlebars needed adjustment. Only a minor adjustment was needed there so Liam instructed Danny to put on his helmet and other gear and go for a test ride. Danny complied and rode down the quiet street. He was back in ten minutes grinning like a wild man.
"It's perfect, this thing is fantastic. I don't know when I'll need all eighteen speeds but it's nice to have them." Danny crowed. "Do you want to try it?" he asked Liam.
Let's do that tomorrow, it's starting to get dark and I need to show your mam how to make that chicken dish I brought you when I stayed that first time," Liam said judiciously.
"Okay, I'll put it away. You can try it tomorrow too, Shane, it's really cool."
"Is that the bike?" Doug asked.
"Yeah, where did you disappear to?" Shane asked
"Mom wanted to introduce me to Danny's mom and wouldn't let me leave even though they weren't talking to me," Doug lamented.
"I'm sorry bud; I hate it when she does that to me. It's like we're trophies or something. I love her but she makes me crazy sometimes. Hey Doug, check out the cool bike Liam is loaning you tomorrow," Shane directed.
"Oh cool, it's just like yours only my size," Doug exclaimed. "Thanks, Liam"
"No worries Doug, we'll adjust it to suit you in the morning before we take off,” Liam assured.
"Thanks Liam, you're really nice. My dad said you play guitar and piano, is that really true?"
"Sure, so does Danny. He's a great player."
"Yeah, but that's because Liam encourages me and teaches me new stuff. We'll get together later and play for a while," Danny explained.
"I'd like that a lot," Doug said earnestly.
Liam closed up the garage and the four boys filed into the house and toward the kitchen. Liam began prepping ten chicken breasts and then began making the coating. He explained to Terri that the secret was adding a bit of corn syrup to the egg batter coating of cornmeal, honey, lemon zest, spices and sesame seeds. Otherwise, the coating would just flake off when the breasts were turned.
Before long the breasts were in the two ovens and the timer was set for the first half of the baking cycle.
"That looked surprisingly easy to do, if you write down the recipe for the coating I can try it at home," Terri suggested.
"I'll send it to you with me oven fried chicken recipe," Liam returned. Just flip those with the tongs when the buzzer goes off and set it for another twenty-five minutes. The coating should be golden when you pull them out, but I'll probably be here," Liam instructed.
"Okay hon, I'll see you in a bit," Terri replied and began preparing side dishes.
Liam went upstairs to change for dinner and found four people in his room. Danny whom he expected, Doug who he was not surprised by, Shane who was watching Doug and their father who was listening to Danny play a guitar.
"Hi guys, what's going on in here?" Liam asked.
"I was just showing Doug a few things on the guitar. I swiped yours from the stand, I hope that's okay," Danny replied.
"Of course it's okay, you're welcome to anything I have Danny, you know that. I was just surprised to find so many people here. Why don't I drag out a guitar for Doug, and um… does anyone else want to give it a try?”
"I don't know how to play and I really don't have much of a sense of tone, I like to sing if there's enough people to drown me out," Jim reported.
"I'm sort of tone deaf too, I have trouble telling one note from another," admitted Shane.
"Okay then, come with me Doug and we'll get one that fits you." Liam opened his guitar closet and Doug swooned.
"How many guitars do you own? It looks like there's a hundred of them in here," Doug exclaimed.
"Well, not that many and these aren't the only ones I have. But some of them are here to give away to kids who can't afford them."
"That's really cool; Dad says that's what I should do when I outgrow my guitar."
"You could make some kid very happy."
"I bet it will; this place is so cool."
"Let's have you try this one Doug, I think you'll like it."
Liam led Doug to a stool where he could try the guitar out.
"You see what you can accomplish with that and I'll round up me clothes and get changed for dinner. You seem to be suitably attired as does Danny, so I better get meself changed," Liam reasoned.
"I need to straighten up my hair from the helmet so I better get in there and take care of that," Danny declared.
"Shane, I suspect that you and I should change, I'm still wearing the clothes I started the day in and they could use a change and so could yours," Jim instructed.
"Okay Daddy, I'll go get changed for dinner too," Shane agreed.
"It's going to be a busy evening around here I suspect. Doug seems to have taken a liking to you Danny," Liam advised.
"He reminds me of TJ, no filters just straight forward Doug."
"Well he really appreciated having you show him what you were doing."
"It was kind of nice to help another kid out with some skills. I enjoyed it."
"And now you know why I like to do the same, it gives you a good feeling helping people do something they really want to accomplish. Maybe we can teach him the rondo, I think he could impress with that one."