Kaimoana Tales

by Kiwi

Lachlan & Gary

Part 61

Back at the house, they walked into the crowded kitchen. One of Cherie's friends had gone home but the other one was still there. Lachlan's parents had arrived home from work and were sitting at the table.

The old lady looked around and smiled. "Are you going to stay, Gary? Good, good. Move along, Girls. Make some room for him."

Gary sat down behind the table, next to Lachlan's sister and her friend. Lachlan sat at the end opposite his father. Both Mrs's. Mclaughlin, junior and senior, would be on the other side. (Mrs's?)

"Mum? Dad? You know Gary, don't you?"

Mr. McLaughlin grunted and nodded at his paper, but Lachlan's mother smiled and said, "Yes, of course. Hello Gary. Have you got enough room there? Move along a bit more, Girls."

"It's okay, I'm fine thanks. Stay where you are, Girls. Umm, Hey, Everybody."

"Hello. Gran, Cherie and Grace have been telling us about how you made magic music on the old piano. I'd love to hear it. Are you going to play for us, after dinner?"

"Well, I'll try. I get a bit embarrassed."

"I hope you will. It sounds like you've got no reason to be embarrassed, you've got fans here."

"Fans?" Gary blushed. "I don't know about that."

"Of course you have!" The old lady came over with plates for Gary and her son. "As soon as your fan club starts, I'll be joining. Do they still have fan clubs? We've got steak and kidney stew with Yorkshire Pud. And you eat some, Lachlan! You can't live on nothing."

"I eat enough, Gran. Moderation is the key."

"Just don't starve yourself, that's all."

"Leave him alone, Mum." Lachlan's father looked up. "Lachlan's doing all right. Well done, Boy, and thanks for cutting and stacking the wood. I thought I was coming home to a mess and you've already cleaned it up."

"Thanks, Dad. It was good exercise and Gary helped too."

"You did? Thanks, but I'm not paying you."

"This great meal is more than enough payment. It was good to help."

"Yeah? Good to have a friend too."

"It's good. It's really good," Lachlan grinned.

The old lady brought over the rest of the meals and sat down at the table. "Here we are then. Cherie, would you like to say grace?"

"Yeah, okay." Cherie bowed her head and said, "Two, four, six, eight, bog in and don't wait."

"Cherie! I wish that someone would be serious around here for once. Eat up, everybody. Don't let it get cold."

There was not much chance of that. The heaped meals disappeared in no time flat, even Lachlan's. Gary really enjoyed it - good food and good company. It was a long since he'd sat and eaten with a family. He liked the banter around the table.

He'd met the old lady a few times before, she was a sweetie. Lachlan's parents were nowhere near as grumpy as he'd been led to believe. They were okay.

He also liked the way everyone washed their own dishes when they were finished.. They rinsed them in one side of the double sink, washed them in the other and left them in the rack to dry. Very well organized. He and Joel usually only washed dishes when they ran out of clean ones.

When they were finished there, everyone went through to the living room. Gary sat on the couch and the two girls sat on either side of him.

"You live here, Cherie. Where does Grace live??"

She was too shy to answer him, so Cherie did. "Grace is here for a sleep-over. She lives in town. She's Dylan James' sister. Do you know Dylan?"

"Yeah, I know Dylan. He's a nice guy."

Grace blushed. "Dylan is nice. He doesn't play the piano, he's just got a guitar and it's fucking awful."

"Umm, okay," Gary grinned and looked away before he laughed in her face. Mr. McLaughlin looked at him and rolled his eyes.

"I'm having a beer. Would you like one, Gary? Lachlan won't, he only drinks water these days."

"Well... I," Gary looked at Lachlan who grinned and nodded.

"Have a beer if you want one. It doesn't bother me and Dad doesn't offer it to many people."

"In that case, thanks, I'd love a beer. Just one though."

"One is all you're getting. I still owe you for the wood and, besides, it might loosen you up a bit so you'll play for us."

"I'll play something; I'll try to. I freeze-up when I get embarrassed, I'm not used to an audience, but I'll try."

"Thank you, Gary. I'm sure it will be lovely," the younger Mrs. McLaughlin said. "Would it help if everyone went back and sat in the kitchen?"

"No, it's okay, thanks. Stay where you are, I've got to get used to it."

Gary looked at Lachlan who grinned and gave him a 'thumbs-up'. Lachlan lit the gas fire while the others all had a beer, except the girls of course, they had a coke - which would probably keep them awake all night.

Gary finished his beer. He had a 'stubby' - a half-size bottle, 2 medium glasses. He got up and went over to the piano.

Lachlan stood and announced, "Ladies and Gentleman, presenting the greatest pianist ever to play in South Bay."

"Shut up, Lachie." Gary sat down. "Has anyone got any requests?"

"I have," said the old lady. "There's a tune my grandmother used to love. It's really old, but it's a beautiful song. It might be a bit complex for just one instrument, but do you know 'Whispering Hope'? It's an old gospel song in 3 part harmony."

"Yeah, I know Whispering Hope," Gary grinned.

"Oh, good! I've got a copy of the music in the cabinet, I think."

"No need. I don't need the music, I know it well. Whispering Hope was Mrs. Nagurski's favourite, she made all of her students learn it."

He played half a dozen notes, and then stopped and looked around. "Sorry. We'll try it again."

He sat looking at the keys and nodding rapidly, obviously playing the tune in his head. He stopped, held his hands over the keys and flexed his fingers, and then started to play. The tune started quiet and simple and became more and more complex as it built to a climax, and then faded out again.

The final note 'plinked'. Gary's hands dropped to his legs and he sat still and quiet with his head bowed. There wasn't a sound in the room. Absolute silence. The old lady got up and rushed out of the door.

Gary looked around at all of the eyes fixed on him. "Umm, sorry," he mumbled. "Did I do something wrong?"

"Wrong?" said the younger Mrs. McLaughlin. "You did nothing wrong, Gary. I think everyone here is just - well, gobsmacked actually. I would never have believed that any one person could fill a room with music like that. It was beautiful, simply beautiful. Thank you. Thank you so much!"

Mr. McLaughlin said, "Gary, you were born too late. Today's music is all guitars and electronic noises. A hundred years ago, you would've been a super-star. You're a real artist, but, well, can you play us something else - something more modern and simple. A pop song perhaps?"

"Oh, yeah!" Cherie said. "Do you know Lady Gaga's Poker Face? It's our favourite!'

"Well, I think so."

He turned back to the keyboard and started picking out the tune, but was interrupted before he started playing. The older Mrs. McLaughlin came back, grabbed his head and kissed him.

"Thank you, Gary. That was so beautiful, you made me cry. I wish that my grandmother could've heard you, she'd cry too. I want you to have this."

She put a folded, yellowed, piece of material on the keyboard in front of him. He unfolded and opened it. It was a very old and faded sampler with all the words of Whispering Hope picked out in multi-coloured cottons.

"Well, I - thanks, but?" He looked up, a question in his eyes.

"When my grandmother was a girl, she had rheumatic fever and was bed-ridden for months. While she was there, she embroidered that. It used to be framed and under glass and it hung in our old family home for many years.

Now, I think it has a new home. I want you to have it, Gary."

"Me? Oh no. I can't accept this. It's an heirloom and it belongs in your family."

"It's not worth anything much. It's been sitting in my glory-box for years now, along with all of my other old junk. When I die, it will all probably go to the rubbish-dump.

You've made an old woman very happy, Gary and I really want you to take it. Do what you like with it. Keep it, find it another home, throw it away, whatever you decide."

"Well." He looked around the room, looked at Cherie, and then nodded. "Okay, I will. Thank you, Mrs. McLaughlin. This is very special and I think I know exactly what I'm going to do with it."

"Good Boy. Whatever you decide, it's up to you."

"All right." He refolded the sampler and put it up on top of the piano. "Now, we were going to try this."

He started playing again. This time the tune was fast and bright and it flowed effortlessly. The young girls, who knew it well, were singing all of the words. No-one else knew them. He finished and switched straight into Ob La Di, which the adults all knew and which could've been written for the piano.

He played bits of a few other tunes, and then stopped suddenly. He sat looking at the keyboard, a big grin on his face. He looked around the room.

"That was fun!" he said. "Even if no-one else enjoyed it, I did."

"Don't be dumb, Gary," Lachlan replied. "We didn't like that, we loved it, really loved it. Right, Gran?"

"Gary, Gary, Gary," the old lady said. "Don't be modest, Boy, and don't be shy. You are good - very, very good. You have a wonderful talent and thank you."

Lachlan's mum said, "They told us, Gary, that you were something special. I thought, 'Whatever. It's just a piano.' I was wrong, you're bloody amazing. I never knew that a piano could sound so good."

"Criminal," Mr. McLaughlin said. "That's the only word for it. It's criminal to sit on a talent like that and not use it. You've never played in public?"

"No, never," Gary blushed.

"Well, you should. You really should. Olive Braidwood would love to get her hands on you."

"Olive Braidwood?"

"Yes!" the grandmother enthused. "Mrs. Braidwood at the library. She's the driving force behind the Kaimoana Operatic Society. Apparently, Dr. Stevens has written a musical comedy about the 'True Story of Kaimoana.' They're looking for talent and recruiting people to put the show on in the Community Centre. She'd be rapt to get you on board."

"Well... I don't know if I could do that."

"Oh, yes you could!" Lachlan agreed with the others. "Seriously, you so have to do this. You've been looking for something to fill up your days, this could be just what you need. It'd be so good for you and good for the Operatic Society and for the town too. Please, Gary, you have to do it!"

"Well, I don't know," Gary wavered.

"Well I do! Gary, please? For me, for yourself and for the town."

"Umm, okay. Yes. I'll try it, for you."

"Brilliant! Thanks. I'll come too, they're still looking for people to make-up the numbers."

"You'll come too? That'd be good. What do you play, Lachie?"

"Absolutely nothing. Well, I play the guitar, badly, but I can sing."

"You sing? I didn't know that."

"You don't know everything about me, My Friend. Yes, I can sing. I'm nothing great, not like you, but I can sing good enough for the chorus. I used to be in the Society, years ago, when I was a kid. We did Robin Hood, Men in Tights, I was one of them. I was far too young for the role but I had fun."

"Sweetie," his grandmother smiled. "You were adorable! It would be so good if you got involved again. Please say that you'll do it, Gary, for Lachlan."

"Yeah. I've already said that I will, if they want me."

"Oh, they'll want you, there's no doubt about that." Lachlan's mother left the room.

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