Westpoint Tales

by Kiwi

Entangled Tales - 8 - Justin

They all followed Claire into the large living room. At the far end of the room, in his usual place, Peter sat on the floor alongside Jay Kynnersley. They were both wearing headphones and were away in their own little world.

Justin stood looking around at the room - white carpet, white walls, large windows and a ranch-slider glass door behind Peter and Jay. Then his roving glance stopped and went back to the waist-high shelves along the whole length of the longest wall. Comprehension dawned on his face as he realised that the three-high shelves displayed the spine ends of hundreds and hundreds of records - old vinyl albums in their cardboard covers.

He crossed the room and quietly sank to his knees on the carpet before the shelves. He looked along to the left, to the right, and then cocked his head to one side to read the titles on some of the album covers. "Whoah!" Looking up at Claire's smile, he said, "These are all records? I did not know there was so much music in the world. Amazing. Thank you for showing them to me, Claire."

"That's it? Thank you Claire? C'mon Justin you ain't heard nothing yet. These are mostly Mum's records, but some are Dad's. They're both music fanatics and real collectors too, like magpies. There's everything you could think of, in the old stuff anyway. The CD's are over there on the other wall, with the tapes. Pull out anything you like and we'll play some music. We've probably got more tunes here than the local radio's got - more of the old stuff anyway."

Peter stopped his music, they took off the headphones and Claire introduced them to Justin and then to her mother as she came in and relaxed on the couch. They all watched as Justin shuffled along on his knees, head on one side. Occasionally he would stop, carefully slide a record out, inspect the cover and then slide it back into place.

"And you can just listen to any of these any time you want to?"

Mrs. Lewis asked, "Don't you have any records at home, Justin?"

"No, Ma'am, no records of my own. Sometimes my mother did, but I was never allowed to. I just had a transistor radio and my guitar."

"So, you like music?"

"Oh, yes."

Impatient Dee could stand it no longer. "Come on then, Sunshine, choose something and they'll play it for you - anything!"

"There's just so much. So many great songs, a whole world of music."

Peter asked, "Have you got a CD player at the hotel?"

"There is one there. My grandparents bought it, but -"

"All right then. Select any tunes you like, on vinyl, CD, or tape, and I'll burn them for you."

"Burn them? Oh, you mean to copy them?"

"Yeah, burn some CD's, copies, no problem Dude, really. What do you like?"

"Oh, anything. Everything. There is just so much music. Oh, Wow!"

He stopped at an old album and drew it out from the shelf. He turned to Claire and asked, "Could we please listen to this?"

"Of course we can, Justin. Peter, would you?"

Peter took the record from him and inspected the cover. "Hollywood's Greatest Hits - Percy Faith and his Orchestra. Really? Of all the records here you want to listen to this? There's not even any vocals. It's just an instrumental album you know."

"Yes, but I already know the words. Would you please play side one, track four."

"Just that one, okay, of course. Somewhere Over the Rainbow from the Wizard of Oz. Man, that's so old!" He put the record on a turntable and cued the track.

The soaring instrumental music filled the room. Everyone there - Claire and Carl, Lucas and Shelley, Peter and Jay, Dee and Mrs. Lewis all sat and watched Justin as he listened. His head was bowed and blood-red tears ran down his face. The tune finished playing, Peter lifted the needle and stopped the turntable. Justin fished some tissues out of his pocket and wiped his face.

Mrs. Lewis, the teacher and 'music fanatic' broke the silence. "Justin. That song really means something to you, doesn't it?"

"Oh, yes, Ma'am," he replied. Looking up at the ceiling he continued. "The dreams that you dare to dream. Once, when I was a child, little, about 9 years old, my mother and her . . . boyfriend, were out for the night, partying. I was alone in the house, locked in my bedroom. I could see the stars in the sky outside the window and that song was on the radio. I wished upon a star, I wished so hard. I was so alone and hurting and miserable. I wished that I could be somewhere else. Somewhere over the rainbow."

He wiped his bloody eyes again. Peter restarted the record and when the tune began again, Justin sang the words. Quietly at first, then louder as he forgot everything but the song. In a word-perfect, clear voice he sang :

Somewhere, over the Rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I heard of - Once, in a lullaby.
Somewhere, over the rainbow, Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream, really do come true.
Someday I'll wish upon a star, and wake up where the clouds are far, behind me.
Where troubles melt like lemon drops, away above the chimney pots,
That's where you'll find me.
Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.
Birds fly over the rainbow, why, then why, oh why can't I?
If happy little bluebirds fly, beyond the rainbow. Why, oh why, can't I?"

Peter reached over and stopped the record again. Sitting in the suddenly silent room, Justin wiped his eyes, looked around at everyone there, and quietly said, "I think . . . I think that somehow, it happened, finally. This is the land over the rainbow - here - now."

Mrs. Lewis wiped her own eyes "Peter, did you get that on tape? You did record it didn't you?"

"Oh yes I recorded it. It's right here."

Mrs. Lewis said, "Justin, that was beautiful. Thank you. That song must be about 70 years old, it's an old chestnut of a song. I must have heard it a thousand times by a hundred different artists, but I don't think I've ever heard it before - not like that."

Claire agreed, "I will never hear it again without picturing a sad lonely little boy. Heartwrenching, Justin, just beautiful."

The others reacted in much the same way as they had after he'd run back at the square. "Awesome." "Incredi-bloody-ble." "Great." "I hate you, Justin. Why aren't you at school and leading the choir, and the track team?"

Peter said, "Dude, that was really awesome. You're a born singer and we know a rock group that needs a singer - that's us, Jay, Sandie and me. Please say you'll come and sing for us."

"No. Thank you, Peter, but that is not what I want to do."

Peter and Jay were both trying to persuade him to at least try them out, when Mrs. Lewis interrupted. "Shush boys, be quiet for a minute. Justin, I am a music teacher and you have a wonderful voice. Have you had any training for it?"

"No, Ma'am, I just like to sing."

You just like to sing. But where did you learn to sing like that?"

"From my radio, I listen to the radio and copy what I hear."

"You copy what you hear? Yes, I can see that. You did sound a lot like a young Judy Garland singing. Can you do other styles of music too?"

"Yes Ma'am, all styles. But I mostly like ballads, power ballads. I like songs with a message and emotions. Big songs."

"Any particular favourites?"

"Not really. I just like to sing. Usually just in my head but sometimes out loud."

"Well you have a gift. I wish some of my pupils had even a little of your talent. You should use it, share it. Think about Peter and Jay's offer. Singing with a group would be good practice for you, and a lot of fun too."

They hung around a while longer, talking and playing more tunes, but Justin withdrew into his shell and refused to sing anymore. He wouldn't take any albums as he had no turntable to play them, but he did, gratefully, borrow 4CDs and 2 cassette tapes, promising to take good care of them and return them soon. He wouldn't accept them as a gift.

Finally Lucas and Justin left to go for a drive around the town. He made sure to show him the high school in particular. They drove past an old weather-boarded house in Romney Street where Lucas lived with his mother. "Do not tell me. It is not much, but it is yours."

Lucas dropped him off at the hotel in the late afternoon and arranged to return later as they were all going to go to the movies that night.

Kathleen looked up as Justin came into the kitchen, "Hello Son. Did you have a good day then?"

He looked at her and a huge smile spread across his face - the first she had ever seen.

"Yes! Thank you Grandmother, I had a wonderful day. Lucas and his friends are coming back later, we are going to go to the cinema tonight. Is that all right?"

"Yes of course it is, Sweetheart. You go and have a great time."

"I have some music here that Lucas' friend Claire has lent me. May I play them on the stereo in my room?"

"Of course you can. It's your stereo, you play it whenever you like."

"Thank you Ma'am. I shall go and try it now." As he was leaving the room he stopped and looked back. "Grandmother, thank you for today. It was the best."

After he had gone Kathleen grabbed some tissues, wiped her eyes and blew her nose. "Thank you Marcie Sheridan, and God bless you Lucas, you're a miracle worker."

The following day, Monday, it was as if nothing had happened. Justin rose, ate, and then cleaned all day. Nothing was different in his quiet routine until after the evening meal. Instead of reading in the TV lounge, he went straight up to his room. Kathleen, concerned, sent Bob upstairs to check on him. He returned smiling.

"Nothing's wrong. He's just up there playing music on his stereo. That's good isn't it? Normal sort of teenage behaviour."

"Yes, I suppose that's good. It's just that yesterday he came home so happy and today it's been back to normal. Still, if he's playing the stereo - tiny steps for tiny feet eh ?"

"Yes. Rome wasn't built in a day. And, he did call me 'Granddad' this morning."

Next day, Tuesday, for the first time ever, Justin was late for breakfast. When he did come in it was through the wrong door. Instead of coming in the door from the hallway, he came through the back door of the hotel, the outside door. He was dressed in sneakers, black boxer shorts and gray t-shirt, and of course his dark cap and sunglasses. But the first thing that they noticed was that he was also wearing another big smile. That quickly faded as he looked at the clock.

"I am sorry that I am late. I forgot to watch the time."

"That's no problem, Justin. You're not that late, only a couple of minutes. But where have you been?"

"To Britannia Square. I went running, I like to run. I intend to run more often from now on, but I will not be late for breakfast again. Sorry."

"Don't you worry about it, Lad," said Bob. "If you like running, well as long as it's not going to affect your health, you go for it. I used to be a bit of a runner in my day too. We'll have to get you some proper running gear though, can't have you running around the Square in your underwear."

"Thank you, Sir. But that is not necessary, I have these clothes."

Kathleen interrupted, "No Justin, it is necessary. The whole town knows that you're our family. We have to make sure that you have the proper clothes. We don't want people thinking that we can't afford to dress you. After breakfast is out of the way we'll go downtown and kit you out properly. And no arguments."

When the hotel's breakfasts were over and the kitchen cleaned up, Kathleen stopped Justin's cleaning, took him down the street and spent an enjoyable hour buying him running gear.

After lunch he appeared in his new clothes and announced, "I am going to go for a run on the North Beach. Do you know how long it is?"

Connors replied, "Well out to the Ngakawau River, it's probably about 10 to 15 miles, something like that."

Looking at the clock he said, "I should be back by dinnertime then."

"Back by dinnertime?" Kathleen queried. "That's 15 miles there and 15 miles back again. That's a long way. Don't you go overdoing it, Son. I'll drive you out to the beach if you like."

"No, thank you Ma'am. I know the way and a quiet run down through the streets will be a good warm-up."

A good warm-up? You do know how far it is? Hell, even in your Granddad's best days a run from here to the beach and back would be as much as he could do. Never mind the beach as well."

"I went there with Lucas. It is not too far."

"Okay. As long as you know what you're doing. Don't go overdoing it, Justin. If you're not back by 5 o'clock, I'll drive down Derby Street to meet you."

"Thank you, Grandmother. I will be back before then."

Shortly after he had left Bob came out to the kitchen and asked, "Where's Justin off to then?"

Connors replied, "Going for a run on the North Beach. He reckons that he'll run to Ngakawau and back before dinnertime."

"Ngakawau and back! That'll be interesting. I just had a couple of guys from the council in the bar. They were working down at the Square first thing this morning and they said that they saw Justin there. He was running around the track - running like he had a rocket up his arse."

"Don't be crude, Robert."

"Well that's what they said. He's incredibly fast apparently. I'll have to get up early and go down and watch him for myself."

Justin was back by 4.30pm., plenty of time to shower and change clothes before dinner

In the early evening he was sitting reading again when Lucas and Shelley, Carl and Claire arrived at the door. They were welcomed profusely and Kathleen them all for the miracle they wrought last Sunday. "Hey, no problem, Mrs. Reynolds. He's a great kid, and really interesting too."

Justin took them all up to his room and they spent a couple of hours playing music, sitting around talking and enjoying the view down over the main street from his bedroom windows. Kathleen happily provided them with a tray of drinks and snacks for supper. When they left they promised to return again the following afternoon.

Next morning at breakfast, Justin spoke suddenly, "Grandmother, Grandfather, I have been thinking."

"Oh, thinking about what, Justin?"

"I am grateful for everything you have done for me, but now . . ."

"But what? You're not thinking about leaving us are you Son?"

"No Sir, I am not leaving. Where would I go? I. . well . . I appreciate all that you have done . . but now . . I want more. I need your help, and I have no money, and . ."

"Justin, spit it out - don't be shy. Whatever you want it's yours, and don't worry about the money."

"But I do worry. However, I have decided . . . I want to go to school please."

"That's it? You want to go to school? Well of course you can if that's what you want. Hell Boy, We'll buy you the bloody school if that's what it takes."

"Thank you, Sir. That will not be necessary, I just want to go to school - to enroll as a student there. Lucas and the others said that I should, and I would like to go there now, please."

"Darling Boy, if you want to go to school, then you will. Like your granddad said we'd happily buy you the bloody school. We'll go around there this morning and get you enrolled and find out what books and stuff you'll need. Whatever you need, we'll get it today. And I don't want to hear another word about money. We can afford it, Justin. Anything you need."

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