The Cup Bearer
Thursday 7th February, 1995
Sandy and Gomez walked towards their classroom with Gaskin and Co. sharing a private joke just ahead of them. The nerds broke into 'Little Brown Jug' and jiggled their feet in time to their singing, and Sandy noticed the puzzled expression on Gomez's face. Once inside 5B's classroom, Gaskin sang out, "G'morning, Twinkle Toes, suffered from cold feet lately?" Ball and Vetch thought it hilarious but Gomez refused to be provoked. He sat down beside Sandy "What did you think of the show?"
Sandy stared at him, "'Ow did you know we were there?"
"You were easy to spot but I couldn't make out who was with you. So that's what this is all about? What did you think of it?"
"Wouldn't 'ave missed it for the world, mate, it was brilliant. Gaskin thought he was about to reveal a sordid secret about you, and they dragged me along to prove their point."
"If you'd like to see the show again, my mother wants to take the kids to see it on Saturday but Perquita's working late, and the boys are a bit too much for Mum to handle on her own. You and your parents could keep my mother company and keep the boys in line."
Sandy stared down at his arms folded on the desk, "We'll babysit your family if you tell me about the green Volvo." He lifted his eyes to look at Emilio, and he caught the questioning look on his face. "Gaskin and Co. 'ad you watched, isn'it?"
"And I'll bet their imaginations were running riot."
"So was mine and it's not funny. What I want to know is where you get to at night. You're 'ardly ever in these days; is it any wonder Gaskin's got the idea you're a ... you know?"
Gomez gave a rare chuckle. "Don't tell me you're jealous." Sandy blushed and elbowed him in the ribs. Gomez thumped him back. That was the second time Gomez mentioned anyone being jealous of something. He had to know or he'd explode.
"Well?" Sandy urged as Miss Wayne came into the classroom and the buzz of talking died.
"I'll tell you at break time," Gomez hissed and Sandy curbed his impatience till they stepped out into the yard and strolled alone towards the gates.
"When Visick Street was bought, there was enough buy a car as well."
Sandy gaped at him. "The Volvo's yours?"
"My! You do catch on fast. Sometimes it's important for me to get from A to B in the shortest time. I can drive; Tony gave me driving lessons in the States, but I can't drive on British roads yet, can I? The guy who drives the car is a friend of the Grafton brothers, well not really a friend, more of an employee. You know Clooney's Garage and Valeting Service on the way out towards Northwich? That's his place. He looks after the Volvo and acts as my chauffeur and minder. I just ring him up whenever I need him. It's like having a big brother, only he doesn't live at my house; although he comes to visit sometimes and keeps an eye on me for the Graftons. They're my guardians now."
Sandy's memory went into overdrive. "I get it now. There was a dark green Volvo parked round the corner from the Roller Rink. So that's 'ow you changed into the Masked Avenger so fast."
"Guilty as charged. Don owns a couple of vehicles himself including a minibus, so he'll arrange transport for you on Saturday night." Gomez reached into his anorak pocket, pulled out three tickets, and waved them under Sandy's nose.
Sandy blushed. "Sorry Emmie, I should 'ave known you wouldn't..."
"What did you and those nerds think I was, a rent boy?" Gomez's eyes flashed with annoyance. "The rink is so busy, late night private training sessions are the only ones available. Don drives me to the rink for ten thirty and I don't finish till around twelve thirty. I'm trying for the British Championships in November so I have to practice as often as I can and take what sessions are available no matter how late. That doesn't bother me as I have dance class, music lessons, workouts, and Judo and stuff to fill the time between tea and skating. You could say I lead a busy life."
"And the early morning stuff?"
"I go for therapy before school, okay?"
"What kind of therapy?"
"Medical, that's all I'm saying for now. Maybe someday I'll tell you more."
"So that's why you nod off in first period nearly every mornin'? I've lost count of the times I've 'ad to dig you in the ribs, just to keep you out of trouble. Is it the Olympics you're after, then?"
"I thought so, once." Gomez pushed his hands deep into pockets of his anorak. He shivered and turned to walk on, a wistful expression on his face. "I was supposed to go into competition this month, back in Nashville, and possibly go into the Regional heats and maybe Skate America. Now Tony's dead, I don't have the same enthusiasm. In any case I enjoy free dance and find it hard to stick to skating rules. I like to choreograph my own routines; maybe I'll turn pro and try the entertainment circuits. That street dude routine I did to 'That's Life' is one of my own ideas after seeing Sammy Davis Junior's character in Porgy and Bess. There are quite a few good ice shows around, and you can be a line dancer after only one year's skating. I've got three under my belt so I have a good chance of getting into a show as a minor solo skater. I know I'm looking far into the future but I'd like to have my own show some day, and not just for skating either. I hear a piece of music and my head buzzes with ideas. Whenever you find me staring into space, I'm conjuring up dances and stuff. I'm not good at science and stuff like that, but I know I'm a good performer; like you know you're a good musician. And you can tell Gaskin and Co. from me I know who Roy Castle is, and Tommy Steele, and Peter Gordino, and Lionel Blaire. Ask them who Bob Fosse or Gregory Hines is, they probably wouldn't know. I watch old musical films as often as I can. The family objected to my hogging the TV so I bought my own for my bedroom. I've been dancing since I was five and I'd sing and dance all day if I could. Now, are you going to the show on Saturday night or do I trash the tickets?"
In return, Sandy had a surprise for Emilio when he arrived at the Roberts's home the afternoon following the gala. He showed him his cupboard-sized darkroom under the stairs, and smiled proudly as Emilio feasted his eyes on the full colour prints of the show hanging up to dry. Then Sandy marched him upstairs to his bedroom and flung open the door with a flourish. "Welcome to the Sanderson Photographic Studio."
Sandy's spare bed and the wall behind were draped in blue sheeting. A camera and tripod stood facing it with a selection of photofloods and diffusers. "Won't you take your coat off, thir?" Sandy lisped as he closed the door. "Ath you are our very firtht, and thoon to be famous cuthtomer, may I offer thith firtht session abtholutely free?"
"Why not; I've got five shots left on this film and I want to get it finished and processed, so you'll be doing me a favour, isn'it?"
"What do you want me to do?"
"Anything," Sandy took Emilio's coat and hung it on the door. "Sit, stand, dance on the bed, lie down on it, look sexy on it, anythin' you want, but no lyin' on the rug, buck naked and suckin' your thumb; I 'ad enough of that yesterday. The kid peeed all over 'is mother's front room and all over me." He pointed a light metre at Emilio, read it carefully, then moved floods nearer the bed and switched them on, trying various combinations and settings. Finally, he stood behind the camera and peered through the viewfinder.
Emilio felt suddenly self-conscious. "This is so embarrassing."
Sandy straightened up and stared at him, put one hand on his hip and waved the other in the air. "Well, there's tough for you, ithn'it? You'll just 'ave to get uthed to it, you know? Call thith a practith thethion."
Emilio stared at the camera and could not breathe as vague memories fought their way forward. Not wanting to disappoint Sandy, he forced the panic down and took a deep breath. "I never did like having my photo taken."
"Well you'd better start gettin' used to it, buddy, if you want to be a star." Sandy grinned at him; unaware of the panic attack he almost caused, and held the remote ready. "Smile please!"
After Sandy took a few shots, Emilio said, "Brian's wants a new set of publicity shots done for 'High Street'. Maybe I could talk him into giving you the work."
"I'm not that good yet."
"Are you kidding? Those pics downstairs are as good as any I've seen. No one else is going to be doing my pics."
Sandy's eyes widened. "Really?"
"You've got talent."
Monday 18th February, 1995
Emilio knocked on the door of the Beak's study. After a long delay, he heard the Beak tell him to enter. The Beak lounged in his chair, minus his jacket and with a pipe in his mouth. Emilio's nose caught the aroma of Thick Twist, The Beak's favourite tobacco. "Ah, Gomez; come and sit down, I won't keep you long."
A boy from the third year stood by the large bookcase to the right of the desk, leafing through a heavy book. "It's all right, sir, I'll come back in a few minutes."
"There's no need," MacCaffrey indicated the chair in front of the desk. "Jameson's almost finished." He turned to the boy. "Did you find what you were looking for?"
"No, sir," Jameson's mouth drooped with disappointment.
"Well then, why not borrow the book?"
Jameson's face lit up. "Can I, sir? Thanks, I'll look after it."
"I should hope so. That's not one of the school library books. I have more like it at home. Perhaps your parents will allow you to come round one evening and look at what I've got. I don't like bringing my books into the school. They tend to disappear. That was one I loaned a teacher and he returned it this afternoon. I have some very good ones on Botany among my collection."
Jameson's smile faded a little. "Mum and Dad won't mind, sir. Can I come tonight?"
"All right, but don't come on your own. Bring a brother or a friend with you, now off you go or you'll miss your bus."
Jameson left the office, clutching MacCaffrey's treasured book on British Ferns. "Terrible shame!" The Beak took the pipe from his mouth and tapped it upside down on the ashtray to get rid of the spent tobacco and ash. "His parents have three cars, a modern house, a chain of market stalls and not one book to read. That boy doesn't even get a comic unless he buys it himself. He has the embryo mind of a brilliant botanist. Hasn't a clue about History or Languages, except Latin, but you ask him to show you a specimen of a British Fern and he'll bring you ten different samples and give you a half hour lecture on them. That's enthusiasm for you." Halfway through refilling his pipe, he said, "Brian tells me your audition went very well." He clamped the pipe between his teeth again and put a match to it. The rest of his words were punctuated with spells of sucking and puffing while he fought to rekindle the thing. "Brian said he was very impressed… at the different types of music …you include in your program…although I hear you don't like punk or heavy metal." He shook the match out, dropped it into an ashtray, and sat back with a satisfied sigh. "If that's the case I could put a bit of work your way which wouldn't infringe the Young Person's Act. I did explain to Brian, you'd only be allowed to perform for limited periods till you're sixteen. What I have in mind are private bookings, parties and such like and small concerts. They wouldn't clash with Brian's ideas because he isn't interested in doing those kinds of functions any way. If it isn't a gig with a lot of noise it bores him to tears."
"Yes, I know. At the moment, the sound "High Street" makes isn't all noise, for one simple reason - money. Brian has to accommodate a wider range of musical tastes; otherwise he'd be hard pressed to find enough engagements. He turned professional a bit too soon and shot himself in the foot. Just wait till 'High Street' starts climbing the ladder. It won't be a show band for long. Brian will change its style and expect you to change too. I say start looking for bookings of a more sophisticated kind, like nightclub, cabarets, and my daughter's eighteenth birthday party. There is also the MacCaffrey family's Christmas get together at my father's house in Lancashire."
"It sounds nice, having a close family around you."
"We like to think so. We're a big family; there are my parents and my older brother, Paul and his wife, they're Brian's parents. Then there are my younger sister Beverley and her husband Jerry Hine, myself and my wife and our two daughters, not to mention an army of aunts, uncles and cousins and their offspring, need I go on? Bev and Jerry are directors of a record company, It's only a small undertaking at the moment but they're always on the lookout for new talent and it might be worth your while meeting them. The biggest problem will be Brian; he has a horror of family functions. He wouldn't attend at all, if it weren't for my father insisting on his presence for at least Christmas Day, but I think he can be persuaded to play for you if you accept the engagement. If he doesn't agree, I know of one eager young pianist who would jump at the change to play for you. I also know of at least three more talented musicians in this school who'd make a decent backing group for your private gigs." The Beak's teeth clacked noisily against his pipe as he rammed it into his mouth once more. "Did you know –?"
"That Roberts plays like a pro? He's good, but so he should be, he's been playing the piano since he was four. Who are the others you mentioned?"
"Gaskin and his two cronies." The Beak smiled at Emilio's disbelief. "Amazes you doesn't it? Gaskin played base guitar in a rock group, a bit too punk for my tastes. I suppose I suffer from the Generation Syndrome just like anyone else who's past forty. Give me Glenn Miller any day. Anyway, Gaskin and his friends are good and even played at school discos a few times."
"What happened to them?"
"Trouble, as usual. Gaskin's father confiscated his guitar about two years ago and the band broke up. Now, instead of music, he's into mischief. I don't think his father has thrown the offending instrument out. No doubt I could persuade him to restore it to its rightful owner, if Gaskin promises to behave himself. Now Ball and Vetch are different. Their only fault is letting Gaskin lead them into trouble. Vetch played clarinet in the school orchestra, till he got kicked out for messing about. Mozart and Beethoven are not quite his scene. He's more of an Acker Bilk fan than anything else and does a good impression of him too. As for Ball, he plays the drums fairly well."
Emilio felt the man trying to manipulate him in some way. "If I'm to sing as I really want to, I'll need musicians who know what they're doing, older people who have plenty of experience."
MacCaffrey held up his hands in defeat. "All right, I see your point, but you can't just wait for things to happen. You have to make them happen and improvise with the tools at hand. There is another reason why I suggested them. If we gave these lads a break they might leave you alone, they might even be on your side for a change."
Emilio gazed innocently at him. "My side?"
"Come on, Gomez. You know what I'm talking about. The next time they have a go at you, you might not have Sweetnam or Roberts guarding your back, or me tinkering with my car outside the school gates. I don't like bullying of any kind and I'll do anything to stop it. Tell you what, the sixth formers want to resume school discos on Friday fortnights. Normally one of the prefects acts as a DJ but it would be nice if the school had its own band again. What do you think?"
Emilio knew about the sixth form's efforts to raise support for their own school discos and decided things were no different here from schools in the States. A few worthy entertainers began their careers on the school stage, an experience Emilio missed out on, being home tutored most of the time. "If I did this, for the school I mean, what would I get in return?"
MacCaffrey couldn't suppress a smile. "Quite the business, brain aren't you? Help the school and I'll guarantee you have plenty of work for yourself."
"What would we do for instruments?"
MacCaffrey reached into the left-hand top drawer of his desk and tossed a key towards him. "That's the key to the old music storeroom on the top floor, right above this office. Most of the stuff up there is rarely used now we've replaced it with newer instruments. I was about to have Miss Dempsey sort through it all to see what needs to be thrown out or given to local charities. You're welcome to use whatever you find there. There are even a couple of amplifiers the owner of a music shop donated to the school when he left the district. If you advertise for musicians on the main notice board, I'm sure you'll get a good response. It's a pity Miss Dempsey hasn't the push needed to take this on, but she's promised to help as much as she can. Her abilities lie more with the choir and transposing music. I've heard she's having a love affair with your flute playing so why don't you enlist her help while you've got her under your spell?"
After MacCaffrey brought the conversation to an end, Emilio made his way along the deserted corridor, feeling both annoyed at being pushed along so fast by MacCaffrey, but elated at the chance to usurp Gaskin's hold over Ball and Vetch
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