Once the call was over everyone was quiet for a while.
"I can’t believe this is happening, it is so poetically ironic that my Dad would make amends years after his death. He was a drunk, a gambler, and an abusive son of a bitch and he’s the main reason I ended up so far in debt. I’ve been digging my way out of that hole for years. And now the only thing he ever left me worth anything is going to help me achieve that goal." Terri said, her eyes glistening with tears.
Danny got up and hugged his Mom and tried to comfort her. "And Mom, Liam is going to repair a crack in the rental so we can take it back."
"What will you use in class then honey?"
"Mrs. Sullivan, I’ve been repairing and giving away guitars for quite a while and like I told Danny, most of those people were strangers. So why shouldn’t I give one to someone I care about?"
"It’s true Terri; he’s given away well over a hundred guitars over the past three years. I helped him with the repairs at first, but he got so good at it that he didn’t need my help. I’ve been privileged to see a few of the recipients and their reactions are priceless."
"It just seemed like something I could do and it makes people happy, that’s really all there is to it."
"But how can you afford it?"
"Well, I hit yard sales and estate sales and I know several pawnshop owners that know what I do with them. Occasionally I buy a guitar and it turns out to be worth something. That’s how I know Jim, he verified a guitar I bought at a flea market for thirty bucks and it eventually sold for eighty thousand bucks and change. That funded my project and still does plus I put most of it aside for college. I hate Ramen noodles so I’ll need cash to go to college and eat real food. But I’ve found a couple guitars like that. Gibsons, Martins, Guilds and a few other high end brands."
"And the one you gave back. He bought a guitar at a house sale for a lady who couldn’t live alone anymore. Liam bought the guitar but once he cleaned it up, he discovered it was a Banner Gibson. It was a special wartime guitar that Gibson produced, and they are quite rare. The people running the sale didn’t know what it was and Liam couldn’t keep it and square that against his conscience," Connor explained.
"I put her in touch with a collector who paid her what it was really worth and I felt good about that."
"Ya did good boyo," Connor said hugging his son."
"You said you had some big news as well Da, what is it?"
"Well, Terri has agreed to join our company as my coordinator. At least that’s what we came up with for a title. It’s partly clerical but also booking agent and organizing social media and some aspects of our website that need a little non-nerd polish. Duane’s a great lad and the technical is well addressed by the website he built, but it needs a bit more human quality. Investor friendly stuff for the way forward in things like Graphene and Alon and such."
"Oh cool, you work with Graphene?” Danny asked. "I love reading about that."
"Well, you’ll love our lab; we’ll want to set up a tour for you."
"Sure, check with my coordinator and she’ll get you fixed up," Connor grinned.
"Liam, you’ve not told me how things went in music class."
"Oh yeah, I got a little distracted by the whole D-45 discovery. But it went really good. I think I impressed them at least a bit."
"Auugh! That’s so annoying. He blew everybody away. He played so great that a lot of the guys cried. He got Gregg turned around somehow and he’s almost decent now! He got Cheri up to sing and I played while they sang and it was so great; Cheri has such a cool voice and so does Liam. Why does he do that?"
"Do what Danny?" Connor asked.
"He plays stuff off like it’s no big deal when it is."
"I think he’s just not comfortable saying, ‘Hey everybody, look at me, I’m so great.’ You know he says you’re a great guitar player, but you don’t seem too full of yerself."
"Oh, I didn’t think of it that way."
"It’s just his nature lad; you’ll come to love it as I do."
"Yeah, you’re right," Danny sighed. He looked at Liam lovingly. "You know Liam, I never played in front of people where they could hear just me."
"And you were great at it too. I want to hear you sing as well. You need to keep using your voice or it won’t feel right when it stabilizes. Da kept me singing when I started squeakin’ and didn’t want to even talk, let alone sing. He helped me find the range I could still sing and how to make use of it. I hope I can sing as well as him someday."
"Better lad, you’ll outdo me for sure."
"Well lads, Terri and I have some software to learn and then I suspect we’ll go and grab a bite."
"Oh grand, how about the Dancing Snake, that Fujian-style place on Pine?"
"You really liked that place didn’t you; I think you’re a closet farm boy."
"It’s great food and not what people think of when they think of Chinese food."
"Hey Danny, let’s go pick out a guitar for you."
Danny jumped up and followed as Liam walked to the stairs.
Terri watched the two boys climb the stairs, "You know they’re in love don’t you?"
"I had my suspicions, Liam came out to me some time ago, but I’m reasonably certain that he knows I love him and that’s what he was most concerned about."
"You don’t mind?"
"Why should I mind, I only concern myself with turning him into a good man."
"I’d say you’re doing a good job, Connor." Terri placed a hand on his shoulder.
"So are you, Daniel is a nice young man and he has a sweet side that I saw come out when he was with Liam."
"He’s a very sweet boy, but so serious so much of the time. That’s probably my fault. With our financial situation being what it was, my worries became his. He’s very sensitive to the feelings of others. He never asks for more than he needs; most of the time he doesn’t ask at all, he just does without, but that’s over. He comes first no matter what. I’ve been cussing my Dad for years because he’s the reason we got into debt. Who knew the one possession he left me would help get us out."
"Does Danny’s father contribute at all?"
"Oh, Connor, I can’t…." Terri composed herself. "Dan was a wonderful man and we were engaged to be married, but he was killed in traffic two weeks before the date. I named Daniel in his honor."
"Hey what’s going on. Why are you crying?"
"It’s my fault Danny; I asked a question I should have kept to myself."
"No, Connor, it’s fine. It’s actually nice to tell someone. Danny boy, go on back upstairs with Liam and we’ll talk in a bit, okay sweetie?"
Daniel walked back up the stairs looking over his shoulder at his mother.
"He’s very protective of you Terri, as I would imagine you are about him."
"Yes, that’s true. We’ve been all the other one has for quite a while. Mike has been very good with my Danny and gives him honest answers about things he can’t talk to me about. They don’t even let on they know each other at school."
"I can see where that might cause problems for both of them."
Connor and Terri spoke for quite a while and Connor found out what a remarkable person he had hired. He wondered if anything more might come of the chance meeting only one night before.
Terri for her part, wondered much the same. She was impressed by this easy going, but decisive man and his boundless love for his son. "Don’t mess this up Theresa, you need this job, it’s our ticket back to the regular world."
"Man your room is bigger than our whole apartment was!"
"You should see me Da’s room. This house had four bedrooms upstairs and one downstairs. Now we have three rooms upstairs, each with its own bath and walk-in closet. I don’t need a walk in so it became my storage for my guitars, vinyl and 78’s. It has a thick solid door and I can go in there in the middle of the night and pound out a tune on a guitar and Da can’t hear a thing."
"Do you have trouble sleeping?"
"Not usually, but once in a while, like when I have to see me mam and her partner."
"Partner? I never heard it called that before. That’s what she calls her boyfriend?"
"No, it’s her spouse, I may as well tell you. Me mam took off when I was six months old to run off with her long-time girlfriend. She’s a lesbian but she didn’t tell Da. Now she wants to be part of my life again, but I’m not real comfortable with it. I don’t care that she’s gay, but feckin’ hell, she abandoned me. That’s why Dad took me to me Shan; he knew he couldn’t take care of me proper. He was still an Irish citizen then and he said the paperwork was shatterin’, but now he’s American. He’s been the best father anyone could want and I’d do anything for him. He knows I’m gay, I told him. But he’s never mentioned it, but I know he doesn’t care about that sort of thing. One of the guys he started the company with is gay and they’re still mates."
"I never knew my dad; he died before they could get married. Mom said she found out she was pregnant the day after the funeral. Dad’s family was mean and wouldn’t accept that I was his son. Mom gave me her family name and it’s just been me and her and Aunt Mary. But she lives in Vermont and doesn’t have it much better than we do."
Liam pulled him close as they sat on the edge of his bed. Liam leaned in and kissed Danny’s cheek and brushed away a few tears. Danny faced him and they had a long soulful kiss that declared exactly how they felt about each other.
"I think my mom knows I’m gay too. She never asks me about girls at school. But she said something that made me think she knew that Paul and I were close."
"Cool, were you a couple?"
"Not really, we cuddled and stuff but never went any further. I was sad when they moved out. Paul taught me quite a lot of Tagalog."
"Oh yeah, you mentioned that before. I’ve only met one person from the Philippines, he didn’t speak Tagalog to me at all though."
"Paul only spoke it around his mom and dad and when he was teaching me."
"So you wanna see my closet?"
"Sure, let’s go."
Liam pulled a key from his pocket and unlocked the door; revealing a huge closet that was a solid wall of guitars on one side and the far end and the opposite side was racks of LP's and 78 rpm records of mostly blues guitar but also bluegrass and classical. Many of the blues recordings were what were called "Race Records" pressed specifically for the black audience. Some of the labels were downright offensive and racist. That made them ridiculously valuable especially to black collectors
"Holy shit!" Danny exclaimed. How many guitars do you have in here?"
"Probably about thirty, well about eight of these are experimental instruments. Like this one, I built my own Cuatro, it’s got eight strings on top but there are four sympathetic strings in the body. It’s a cool sound and you play and tune it like a mandolin."
"That’s cool, did you start with a child’s guitar?"
"Yeah, and then I grafted on a new head. I actually built two; the steel string version is in the workshop. The hard part was mounting the tuners for the internal strings where they wouldn’t interfere with playing."
Liam reached up and lifted a guitar off the wall. "Try this Buscarino; it has great tone and a good voice. It has a cutaway so you can reach the higher frets. He pointed to a stool and Danny sat down and examined the guitar.
"It’s beautiful, can I play it?"
"Of course, show me something."
Daniel played a piece by Albinoni without a misstep and the guitar complimented his playing style perfectly.
"That was grand Danny, you sounded great. How does she play?"
"Fantastic, the action is so nice and the tone is so bright. There’re no dead spots."
"It fits you too; I mean ergonomically. So let’s call this one a possible. Let’s try this Jacobson, it doesn’t have the cutaway but it is an outstanding instrument but it has to fit you in order to be the right one for you."
Again, Danny played the same tune and again it sounded wonderful, but there was something that wasn’t as bright as the first one, and he mentioned it to Liam.
"Yes, I know. They built it with a slightly thicker top and it mutes some of the high frequency tones a bit. You have a pretty good ear."
"This one is an Otto Rauch, it is a on a par with the Buscarino, but the personality is slightly different."
Danny repeated his test and looked confused.
"It’s only slightly different, but this one seems to have a mellower lower range than the first one."
"Well let’s do this, take them both and see which one you like best."
"Of course, figure out which one you want to be your classroom guitar and the other one you can use at home."
Danny’s eyes filled with tears. "This is so cool I don’t know what to say."
"It’s easy, just say thanks and enjoy them."
Danny carefully placed the guitar in a stand and stood in front of Liam. "You are the nicest person I’ve ever met Liam, and I’m really glad I’m in love with you."
"I love you too, Danny. I really hated leaving my old school and I just hated everybody who made it happen. But now I know that without their bad judgment I might never have met you." Liam leaned in for a kiss and Danny did the same. They stood holding each other and kissing for several minutes.
"Why don’t you kick off yer shoes and have a lie down with me, I usually get in a little kip after school."
The boys shed their shoes and lay on Liam’s bed with Danny’s back to Liam’s chest like spoons in a drawer. They talked over some of the day’s events and gradually grew quiet. They stayed that way with Danny wrapped in Liam’s arms and Danny’s hands folded over Liam’s until Connor came to suggest they go to dinner. They locked Danny’s Martin and his other guitars in the closet and put on their shoes. The boys took a few minutes to comb their hair and get ready and they all headed for the Dancing Snake restaurant.
The food and service were great and everyone was full when they left the restaurant.
"I can’t keep eating like this, I’ll weigh a thousand pounds," Terri joked.
"I’m in the same boat; I’ll have to run a couple extra miles in the morning, assuming I can move at all."
"Well Danny, we’ll need to head back to the hotel so you can get ready for school."
"Okay Mom, um… Liam invited me to stay over tomorrow night. You’ll be at work Friday and we don’t have school."
"If Connor agrees, I’m fine with that."
"It sounds fine, that way they’ll have company. Have you made any plans?"
"I was tinkin’ of havin’ Sean and maybe Cheri come over and play a few things together. Danny and Cheri have an interest in goin’ buskin’ with me Saturday."
"I guess you needed more nap time, if you get any worse they’ll not be able to understand a word you say."
Terri looked at Connor quizzically.
"When he gets really tired, his accent gets heavier so that even I notice it. I’m the same way; it’s the first thing that goes when I’m shattered."
"Is there like a phrase book we can buy that will help when that happens?" Terri laughed again.
"Nah, you’ll get used to us soon enough, it looks as though we’re destined to be friends; at least the lads."
"I can live with that, why don’t you two say your goodbyes and give each other a kiss so we can let Liam get some rest as well as Connor."
Danny did as he was told and right in front of both Connor and his own mother, he kissed Liam’s soft lips once more and joined his Mother at the door.
"Well you said…."
"Yes, yes I did; didn’t I?"
Connor grinned, "There’s that out of the way, way to go Danny." Connor hugged the two of them and Liam came and joined in.
"Um… Mom? Where’s old Rumbles?"
"She’s at the office, I’m getting used to my company car," Terri said, pointing at the purple Mini Cooper Countryman."
"How cool; and you use it for work?"
"Well yes, I’ll need to pick people up at the Airport or their hotel and it has the room I would need for luggage."
"Okay Mom, as long as Old Rumbles is okay."
Danny had a lot of good memories tied up in that old Toyota. He and his mom would take day trips to the beach or mountains and all sorts of places in between. They had been some of the happiest times in his life.