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Finally the opening night of 'Oliver' was here and everyone involved with the show was excited and anxious about how things would go. We could tell the boys were a little nervous when they were having their after school snack the day of opening night. Garth and Glen were having dinner with us on show nights, as it was easier for Susan and John. They were going to join us at the production and had tickets for all the nights.
Garth had told a string of jokes, most of which we had heard before. He became more of a chatter box when he was nervous, as did Jake.
"If you and Garth don't calm down, Glen and Sean are going to eat your shares of the snack," I said.
Jake had told us some very detailed yet garbled tale about what he learned in his Society, Challenge and Change class that day, which was one of his favourite subjects. It was basically an introductory course to some of the major disciplines in the social science area of study, which touched on Sociology, Psychology and Anthropology. Jake was usually very clear when he was relating information of this nature, but when he got a little frazzled his clarity left him.
"Jake, I don't think Abraham Maslow developed the 'the needy triangle theory'. I think it was called his 'hierarchy of needs'," I said, after he had finished his ramblings.
"Yeah, that's what I meant," he said, with a smile as he finally reached for some of the snack.
Dana didn't need to tell them to finish up the snack, as there was nothing left on the plates. Sean was a little tense and was quiet, which is how he reacted to performance stress. Glen was the calmest of all four, as he had a supportive role, helping out with the sound and wasn't under the same stress as the other three.
"You boys need to get your homework done, have dinner, then get ready to go over to the school for the performance tonight," Dana said.
The boys were almost ready to leave the kitchen but Garth just had to tell us one more joke that Mr. Hagen had told him.
"These two kids met each other for the first time and the one kid asked what the other's father did for a living," he said.
He told us that the first kid said his father was an accountant and that the second kid said his father was a lawyer.
"When the second kid said his father was a lawyer the first kid said 'honest' and the second kid said 'No just the regular kind'," he said, accompanied by the usual snickering.
"Oh, don't tell that joke around Mr. Mueller," I said, as we all chuckled. "He's a lawyer, Garth," I added, since he had a puzzled look on his face.
He didn't really understand what the joke meant and because of that he wasn't quite sure why I said he shouldn't tell it around Ray. He knew it was funny, though, because Mr. Hagen had laughed.
"C'mon, Garthy. We'll explain it to you," Glen said, as the boys took off to start their homework.
The opening night audience was going to be a substantial one, as 500 tickets had been sold. If it was as successful as we thought, the last couple of nights would be sellouts. There were six performances in total over the course of three weeks, which took place on Friday and Saturday nights.
The theatre was the auditorium in the high school and had a capacity of 700 people. When the school was built they created a professional theatre, with an excellent stage, lighting and sound. Over the years, as the equipment aged and became obsolete, the theatre group stepped in and upgraded everything. The major beneficiaries of their efforts, besides the theatre group themselves, were the school's theatre arts classes.
The money for the upgrades came out of the meagre profits and government arts grants, of which the Trillium foundation was the major contributor. The Trillium foundation was set up by the Ontario Government to support arts and community groups across the province with funds, some of which came from the proceeds of the government casinos.
We got the boys over to the school two hours early. I had set up everything for the front of the house displays and I went into the theatre as they were doing last minute preparations before the performance. As I was standing at the back of the theatre, the orchestra members and volunteer ushers were making their way through the doors. I was surprised to see Carson come in and he made his way over to me.
"It's good to see you again, Carson. Are you one of the ushers?" I asked.
"I sure am. I wouldn't miss this for anything," he said, with a big smile. "Sean, Jake, Stéphane and Charles told me it's going to be really good."
He told me that he was able to make the Friday night performances, as they didn't interfere with his hockey schedule.
"I've had a chat a couple of times with your hockey coach and he tells me you're fitting in very well with the team. I knew you would, young man," I said, as he gave me a big smile.
He told me that his mother was going to be in the audience that night and she was waiting in the foyer for the box office to open so she could pick up her ticket. I left the theatre and went to talk to Doreen.
"I have to thank you again, Al, for encouraging Carson to try out for the rep team. He was very reluctant and doubted himself, but when he finally made the decision to go to the try outs, it was obvious, even to him, that he had the talent."
"He's been through a lot in a very short period of time and I'm not surprised that his confidence was shaken. I think your steadying influence has had a major impact on him turning himself around."
She told me that they had moved into a townhouse in my old complex, and they were near my old unit, where Mark, Sandy and Charles still lived.
"Mrs. Morgan, Melissa's mother, was finally successful finding where my husband had been hiding his money, which is why we're able to afford our unit. It is certainly an upgrade on where we were living before."
"I'm glad things are working out for you and Carson. How are you managing as a single parent?" I asked.
"Things are working out pretty well. I've been promoted to the assistant head of nursing for the research division at the cancer centre and my work schedule is straight days now. I'm able to spend more time with my son and it makes getting Carson to his games much easier. The other parents on the team are really a good group and we trade off with transportation," she said, with a much more relaxed demeanour than I had seen before from her.
While we were talking in the foyer, Mark Depew's partner, Sandy Chen and Charles came through the front door to the foyer with their instruments under their arms in the cases.
"Ah, it's good to see some more of the string section is early," I said, with a smile. "Rachel is here, as she came with Derek."
"I'm here, but I don't know how good that is," Charles said, with an anxious look.
"You'll be fine, Charles," Sandy said, as she patted him on his back.
Mark, Dana and I were very happy at the dynamic between Sandy and Charles and being in the orchestra together had been a good bonding experience for the two of them. Even though Sandy was only 15 years older than Charles, she was starting to take on a motherly role with him, which he was not objecting to. The relationship had been a bit strained when Mark and Sandy first started to go out together, because of Charles' distrust of women, given his experiences with his mother. Things were now much better, as she had built up a level of trust with Charles.
We were also happy that Rachel had decided to join the orchestra, as initially she said she was too busy and she thought they didn't need her. Jake had convinced her that she was needed, as he said 'You can never have too many violins'. Getting the chance to play next to Sandy, who was a semi-professional musician, was also an incentive.
Garth was not singing the lead in this performance, as the other boy and he were going to alternate and the nights they weren't Oliver, they would be in the chorus.
After Charles and Sandy left to go to the orchestra pit, Doreen and I were still chatting when Dana came into the foyer, with fire in her eyes.
"Where are those two monkeys?" she said, as she came up to us.
I didn't need to ask who the two monkeys were and before I could say something, Garth and Derek appeared in the hallway leading to the foyer with a cookie in one hand and a bottle of water in the other.
"It doesn't look like they have any bananas," I said, trying to lighten things up. Dana was so focussed on getting the two of them to the makeup room, that I was spared the stare of death.
They were oblivious to the trouble they were in and bounded over to us, as if nothing was wrong.
"Boys, where did you go? I looked around and the two of you were gone. We need to get your makeup on and you have to be ready for voice warm-ups very soon," Dana said.
Ralph Hagen always had a series of voice exercises that he had everyone do as a group about thirty minutes before curtain call, to loosen up the vocal chords.
"We got thirsty and we found some cookies and water in that room," Garth said, as he pointed and took a swig from his bottle.
"That's for the cast after the performance, boys," I said.
"Oops," Derek said, as the two of them started to giggle.
As the three of them made their way to the makeup room I heard Dana say, "I swear, I'm going to get seatbelts for a couple of chairs in there, to keep you two boys from wandering away."
The crowd started to come in and I went back to the theatre after I checked that the food concession people were there and getting set up for intermission. I could see that Glen was busy helping out with the sound, as the person who was in charge needed a helper and Glen was keen to learn. He liked anything of a technical nature and Roger Geroux was an excellent teacher as he had been doing the sound for the productions for the last five years. He was in his 50s and he worked in a recording studio in Toronto.
Finally the crowd was seated and we were ready to go. One of the producers came on stage and welcomed everyone then gave a plug for the local businesses that were sponsoring that evening's performance.
"And now ladies, gentlemen and kids, we proudly present 'Oliver'," he said, as the orchestra started with the overture.
The first act moved along fairly smoothly as there weren't too many glitches. It would take a few performances before things were smooth and approaching something reasonably professional. A few people noticed Ronald's brood that he was responsible for and I heard a couple of chuckles when he prominently moved across the stage with them at one point.
"Those kids are following him like they're attached by a rope," I said to Dana, as I chuckled.
"That might be a good idea for Garth and Derek before the show starts. That way they wouldn't get away on me before I had their makeup on," Dana said, with a smile. I wasn't going to ask if she was serious, or just musing.
Near the end of the first act, we noticed that some of the mics weren't on and some cues were being missed, which was a major part of the sound man's function. The singers were trying to project themselves more, as they realized something had happened. I looked back and there seemed to be some commotion and I noticed that the producers were making their way to the sound booth.
"Where did the sound go?" Dana asked.
"I don't know, but something's going on," I said.
We were at the back of the theatre, not in the main seating and I decided to make my way over to see if there was anything I could do. When I got closer, the microphones suddenly came back on and I noticed that Glen was at the sound board and Carson was hovering over someone on the floor.
"Do you know where the defibrillator unit is?" one of the producers asked Carson, as I came in.
The other producer had started CPR on Roger Geroux, who it appeared had taken a heart attack. Carson told them he knew exactly where it was in the gym, which was nearby and he took off. It took him less than a minute and when he arrived with the unit, he started to get it ready.
"I'll take it from here," the producer said.
Carson ignored him and said, "Stand back! I know what I'm doing."
Within moments, Roger's heart was beating on its own and we were all amazed at Carson's ability to take charge.
"You just saved that man's life, Carson. Well done," I said, as I gave him a squeeze.
The adrenalin rush had left Carson's body and he was shaking, but he was also smiling from ear-to-ear. The producer asked him how he knew how to work the equipment.
"I took the Red Cross CPR course after school to learn how to use the AED (Automated External Defibrillator). You never know when you're going to need it at a hockey game," he said, with a smile.
AEDs were now mandatory in public places in Ontario, which included schools and hockey rinks. School gyms were where most school boards placed the units for easy access.
Thank goodness it was the end of the first act and we had to delay the second act, while the ambulance took Roger away. The producers and Erin had a big decision to make, whether to cancel the rest of the performance, but they decided that 'the show must go on'. The bigger problem was that we had no sound person, except Glen.
"I think Colin Latterly is in the audience tonight. He used to do the sound for the productions up until five years ago," Erin said.
They were able to find Colin in the foyer and asked him to take over for the second act. He agreed, reluctantly, as the sound board had been upgraded to a new one and he wasn't familiar with all the cues. Colin was a sound engineer and he knew what a daunting task it was to take over like this.
He came to the booth and started to try and make sense of the information and equipment. After a few minutes, he realized that Glen knew what he was doing and suggested that he continue with his help. Glen was showing an unaccustomed nervousness at the proposed plan and he was very hesitant to agree.
"What if I screw up? I don't really know what I'm doing," he said, with a concerned expression that I hadn't seen since the night he thought his father was dying.
"I'll be right beside you. Relax," Colin said. "We've got ten minutes for you to teach me how the board's set up. From your work at the end of the first act, it's obvious you know the cues."
The calm, cool and collected Glen finally returned and we left the two of them to get ready for the second act.
"Is everything alright? Who's going to do the sound?" Susan asked, when I got back to the theatre.
"The assistant sound engineer, with help," I said, with a big smile.
The production was a typical first night amateur effort, with some missed cues, long pauses between scene changes and other mishaps, but it was entertaining, nonetheless. Sean was very good with his solo part in the song 'Consider Yourself' and Jake was great as the Dodger. Even though this type of singing wasn't of the same rigour as opera, he was able to adapt his voice to the part. He was also a natural actor and pulled off the part very well, as he knew how to move his body which was something he had learned from the summer opera program.
The dancers were good and despite some placement and spacing problems, they managed to enhance the performance. Mandy was one of the better ones, even though she was the youngest of the principal dancers. The orchestra, save for a few wrong notes from certain members at various times, was more than adequate, as was the chorus, complete with Garth. Afterwards, Glen told him that he had to turn down his mic a few times because he was singing too loudly and that he was not blending in.
Garth with his typical sense of humour said, "I was just practicing for the lead tomorrow night."
The man playing Fagin, Berndt Hoegandorf, was excellent and was perfect for the part. He had been in a lot of amateur theatre productions before in the area, with other companies and was a veteran of these types of musical shows. He had a slight rasp or whiskey sound to his voice which fit exactly with the character. He also had worked hard on his diction with Ralph Hagen, which was an important part of the role. His words needed to be especially clear, particularly with the famous line 'You've got to pick a pocket or two ...' which couldn't sound like 'yuh godda picka pocket er two'. Berndt's strength was in his acting ability, which was a key part of the role of Fagin.
The boy who was Oliver, was not as good as he had been. He was a little lethargic and lacked that punch that we had seen from him over the course of the rehearsals. We chalked it up to opening night jitters, even though he had had a considerable amount of experience in theatre productions, even at his tender age of thirteen.
As was the custom after each performance, the cast went into the foyer to mingle with the audience before they had some after-performance treats that Derek and Garth had found beforehand. Dana, Susan, John and Mark went to find the performers and congratulate them but I wanted to touch base with Glen and Colin.
"You two did a wonderful job, under very trying circumstances," I said to the two of them, when I met up with them in the sound booth.
The producers and Erin were also there, congratulating the two of them for coming through with flying colours.
"You must be a musician, Glen," Colin said. "You have a very good ear, which is what you need to be a good sound man."
"Not me. My brother's the musician in the family," Glen said, with a smile.
Colin couldn't make many of the performances so I agreed to help Glen when he wasn't there.
"You won't have to do much," Colin said, as he patted Glen on the back. "I felt like a bystander."
Saturday night's performance was Garth's debut as Oliver. He was even more hyper beforehand, but Dana had figured out Derek and Garth and outfoxed them. She had Sean and Jake usher them to the makeup room after they had put their costumes on.
Garth forgot a couple of lines in the first scene and improvised, as he was too keyed up. He also overacted a little bit, but Jake and Sean quietly made their way to him while the chorus and dancers did a number. We could see them onstage talking to Garth to calm him down and after that he was fine. He delivered a very good performance for his first time in front of such a large audience and we were all very proud of him.
At one point in the second act, Jake's microphone gave out as the battery died. It was during one of the chorus parts and Stéphane grabbed one of the hand-held mics and gave it to him, which was quick thinking. While that was happening, I grabbed a spare battery pack and ran back stage with it. That was about the only useful thing I could do for Glen, as he had things well under control, even though Colin wasn't at this performance.
That night the music critic for the local newspaper was in attendance. His column was to appear the next morning in the paper and we were all anxious to see what he would say.
"The article is in section three, Jake," I said, as Dana and I were reading the paper in the living room after breakfast the next morning and Jake had finally awakened and appeared.
"Should I read it?" he asked.
"I think you'll be pleased," Dana said, with a smile.
Finally Sean shuffled into the room, with his pyjamas still on. He didn't look too wide awake and he plopped down on the couch beside Jake.
"Section three, Charley Bates," Jake said to him.
Jake looked at him with a big smile, as Sean gave him an inquisitive look.
"Cool," he said, as he picked up the paper and started to read.
Both boys had very nice comments about their performances, particularly Jake. The reviewer made note of his voice and that he radiated personality, energy, and vitality. He said that Sean delivered a high quality performance in a limited role. He was also very complimentary about Garth and called him '...a little waif with a lot of talent'.
Susan, John, Glen and Garth were over later that afternoon for dinner and we got a call afterwards from Erin, the director.
"I figured the Websters might be there, because I called their place and got no answer," she said to me, when I answered.
She wanted to talk to Garth and we figured something was up. He took the phone and he was listening intently to what she was saying. After she was finished, she asked to talk to his parents. John took the phone and from the little we could gather, there had been a change of plans.
"The other Oliver has come down with mononucleosis and can't continue," John said. "Garth is going to have to take the rest of the performances."
Erin apparently got the call that afternoon as the other boy's family had to take him to the walk-in clinic that morning. He had been lethargic for a couple of days, but the excitement of the performance had pushed his limits and he was exhausted. That explained why his performance was not up to his previous standards on opening night. There were four performances left and this would be a test of Garth's stamina. We hoped he was up to the challenge.
It was finally the last week of the production and everyone was getting very tired, as this was a big commitment, which demanded a lot of everyone's time. Between the performances and rehearsals, that were still taking place, there wasn't much time for anything else. The boys' hockey had suffered a little, as they had to miss a couple of games, one because of a rehearsal conflict and the other because they were exhausted. We didn't want to take the chance of them getting run down and getting sick, so I had to call up some substitutes from the younger division to fill in.
Despite this, all of the boys were coping fairly well, except Garth. The extra performances and the pressure were taking their toll on him. We got a call from Susan early Friday morning of the second to last performance. She said that Garth was still very tired after he woke up for school and she thought that he should stay home and rest. However, she didn't want to leave him in the loft by himself, even though John and she were down below in the store and kitchen.
"I said she could bring him over here for the day," Dana said. "John can handle things without me."
When he took off his coat, he had his Maple Leaf pyjamas still on and he was clutching Pooh bear. He was also very sleepy and we took him down to the spare room and got him settled into bed.
"Well, that's one of the few times we haven't been regaled with one of Garth's jokes," I said.
"I hope he's not coming down with something," Dana said.
Barney sensed Garth needed some attention and unbeknownst to us, he snuck into the spare room and jumped up on the bed with Garth. After an hour, we quickly became aware of his whereabouts.
"Is that Garth?" I asked, as we heard an anguished scream come from the bedroom, followed by Barney's growl.
When we got to the spare room, Garth was sitting up in bed, rubbing his ankle and Barney was looking at him with his head tilted.
"I rolled over on Barney and he bit me through the covers," Garth said, with a very sleepy look.
We were going to shoo Barney from the bed, which wouldn't have been an easy feat, but Garth said he was alright and he wanted him to stay.
"You be a good dog, or you're going downstairs to your cage," I said to Barney, with my best threatening look.
"Al, you know that's not going to do any good. Barney doesn't listen to us," She said, as she gave Barney a stare.
Barney was unimpressed and by now had hunkered down and was ready to go back to sleep. Garth was too tired and had also plopped back down on his pillow, so we decided to leave them alone and left the room. When we checked in later, Barney had stretched out on the bed beside Garth with his feet up against Garth's back and he had squeezed him to the side of the bed. We hoped that Barney didn't stretch too much more, as Garth would fall on the floor, but we didn't want to disturb the two of them. Garth was much better when he woke up and he was energized and ready to go. He gave a very good performance that night.
Finally, closing night was upon us and the boys took off for the costume room to get ready. Having things happen was becoming commonplace, which was not unusual even in major productions in Toronto, or Broadway. The trick was to make sure the audience didn't notice anything unusual.
"Can you look in Garth's room and see if you can find his Oliver hat," I said, to Susan, as we had to call her from the theatre an hour beforehand.
We couldn't find Garth's hat that he needed in the second act. Susan and John had not left the loft for the theatre, so we called over, as that was the only place we thought the hat could be. We had exhausted every other possibility. Something had happened to it, as it wasn't in the costume room, where it was supposed to be.
"Never mind, I'll make another one," the head costume designer said.
She was an extremely talented seamstress that was now doing contract work for The Stratford Shakespeare Festival, which came from her work with the theatre company. Garth was in a bit of a flap, but he calmed down when we told him another one was being made.
"Chill, Garthy. Everything's ok," Glen said, reassuringly.
While that crisis was being averted, I had a chance to talk to Mark Depew about how the kids from the shelter were coming along. All four of them had done a great job and looked like they were enjoying the experience. They had been accepted by all of the cast members, crew and production staff and were given lots of positive feedback.
"We're making a lot of progress with Vikram's family, now that we've had the opportunity to have more contact with them," he said.
He told me that he had plugged them into some immigrant services that were available, which was helping with the cultural barriers that had caused some of his problems. He also said that because of this, they were more accepting of help and Vikram was getting better nutrition at home and hadn't needed to rely as much on the shelter for food.
"Jenny is also a work in progress. The social worker that's taken her case has discovered that there is some mental illness that is causing some of her problems."
He said that they were getting some psychological help for her, which would take some time to have any effect, but they were encouraged that it was a good start. I was very happy at his news. They were also going to the staff party afterwards and all of them were staying at the shelter that evening, as it would be a late night.
The closing performance was fantastic, as everyone was on a high and performing at their best. Derek sang one of the lines by himself in 'Food Glorious Food' and some nights he sang so fast that no one could understand him. This night he was confident and very clear.
The chorus was great, as were the dancers and Mandy was a standout in two of the numbers. The earlier problems of pitch and wrong notes that had plagued the orchestra had resolved themselves and they delivered a flawless performance. Rachel, Sandy and Charles had added a very classy touch to what would have been just a band without them. Sandy had shown great leadership as she mentored Rachel and Charles and they learned a lot from her experience.
Sean's solo was excellent and the adult leads were great. However, even though Berndt Hoegandorf's performance of Fagin was very professional, there was no doubt that the stars of the show were Jake and Garth.
For all Garth's humour and flightiness, he had a sensitive side that came out when he sang the signature song 'Where is Love'. His depth of understanding of his part came across in his phrasing and acting.
"I hope you have a package of kleenex in your purse, dear," I said to Dana. His solo was in the first half of the first act and already she was reaching into her purse.
Jake was just wonderful as he sang and acted Dodger's part to perfection and he got a very loud response from the audience, as did Garth. Everyone rose to their feet in a standing ovation after the last chord from the orchestra was played.
When we found the boys in the foyer afterwards, Dana had brought red roses and gave one to Sean and Jake. She then gave both of them a kiss on the cheek.
"What?" Sean, asked.
Dana just looked at them with a motherly smile and didn't say a word.
"Are you getting mushy on us, mom?" Jake asked.
"I'm allowed. It's written in the mother's handbook," she said as she had now composed herself. She followed that up with big hugs.
Finally she gave way as Melissa and Rachel wanted to give their congratulations. Dana wasn't finished, as she followed that up with a red rose and big hugs for Garth, which set off his giggling. Glen was lucky, as he was still in the sound booth cleaning things up with the sound board, but I had no doubt that he would get the same presentation of his rose when she found him.
Jake and Sean were taking Dana's RDX to the cast party with the girls and we were driving separately in the LX.
"Here's the keys and drive carefully, boys."
I noticed that Dana directed the keys to Sean, as she was still a little nervous about Jake's driving, even though he had made great strides in the last month.
The boys arrived about fifteen minutes after us at the cast party, but we figured that they needed to 'catch up' on things, since they hadn't been alone for a while.
"You four are just in time," Erin said with a smile, as they came in the door. "We're just going to start the awards. I guess the GPS didn't work, eh."
As was the tradition at the cast parties for the theatre company, the director and the producers presented plaques to the main cast and said a few words about them. They also gave plaques to the heads of the various departments and other key personnel who were very involved in the production.
Glen got a very special plaque, which Erin presented to him.
"We were blessed to have a young man in the production, who has a lot of technical and artistic talent. Glen played as big a part in the production's success as his 'famous' brother."
Glen was touched and broke out in a big smile, especially after Erin gave him a kiss on the cheek.
There were some very kind and gracious comments made about all the performers and in particular, some standouts, such as Mandy and the 'string' section as the music director called Charles, Sandy and Rachel.
Ralph Hagen was usually the one to present the individual plaques to the main singers, since he had a lot of contact with them. Sean was the first one to be recognized and Ralph was very complimentary in his remarks and said that he had an excellent voice and had blossomed as an actor as the production wore on.
"Sean was a treat to work with, because he always wanted to learn and it was very gratifying helping him to harness his considerable talents."
Sean was a little embarrassed, as he didn't really like being in the limelight all that much, but he was smiling when he accepted the plaque and shook Ralph's hand.
Garth was next on his list and Ralph said, "I'd like my little buddy, Garthy, to come up."
Garth bounded from his seat and bounced across the floor to Ralph's side. Ralph told the gathering about how things had not started out smoothly and that they had worked things out. He also related the common bond of telling jokes that they shared and then promptly told a quick joke to Garth.
"I knew we had a keeper when he showed up at the audition with an 'Oliver' hat on his head and an English accent. The fact that he could sing and was very animated was a bonus. This is one very talented little guy, who has the potential to be a star some day."
Garth shook his hand and then decided that he should tell a joke too.
"This guy tells his boss that he needs a raise because there are three companies after him."
He said that the manager then asked the man what companies were after him.
"The electric company, the telephone company, and the gas company," he said, and then broke into his patented giggle.
Derek quickly joined him, as did the rest of us, but not because of the humour in the joke.
The last performer to get his plaque was Jake. Erin did the honours.
"I've worked with Jake for almost three years now and I've enjoyed watching him grow as a performer. I knew he had a wonderful voice, but I didn't know how good an actor he was."
Jake gave Erin a big hug after he received his plaque and then decided to say a few words, something no one else had done. He told everyone how much he enjoyed the experience and that he had learned so much. Jake was never one to pass up an opportunity to speak and Dana and I were very proud of his maturity in doing so.
After the awards presentations, the boys asked if they could drive Rachel and Melissa home. Melissa was staying with Rachel again for the weekend.
"Don't be too late, boys. We'll wait up for you," I said.
This was our way of making sure that they didn't get 'distracted' and lose sense of time. Both Sean and Jake gave us a pained look.
Things were back to the normal routine the next week, which unfortunately meant more conflict with Trudy. When the boys came in after school on Monday, they were all riled up over an incident that had occurred in Jake's accounting class. Darren, the jokester from the boys' hockey team, had been unfairly picked on and when he stood up for himself Trudy tried to kick him out.
Most people who knew Jake understood that he didn't countenance injustice very well. He was also not shy and retiring about expressing his opinion when this happened and he apparently undertook to intervene in the conflict.
"I just told her that I didn't think it was fair what she was doing. Darren wasn't talking back to her," he said. "I didn't make a big deal about it."
Sean started to chuckle and said, "That's not what Charles told me. He said you had her tongue-tied and her face was so red he thought she was going to burst into flames."
Darren had refused to leave and Trudy called the office on the PA to tell them she was sending him to the vice-principal. The office wouldn't respond because they were getting tired of her calling down and while she waited for someone to answer her call, Jake harangued her, then said that he was going to accompany Darren to the office.
"Charles and another girl said they were going to go with us. We wanted the vice principal to hear Darren's side of the story before she got there," Jake said.
"Oh my, Jake. Couldn't you have let Darren fight his own battles," Dana said.
"Wait, it gets better," Sean said, with a big smile.
By now, Jake realized that Dana and I were very concerned at what had happened and that this was a big deal.
"It's Ok, mom and dad. Everything worked out," Jake said, trying to reassure us.
Sean was now chuckling. Trudy became exasperated when she wasn't getting a response from the office and she stomped out of the room in tears. After about 15 minutes, Jake called down to the office and they answered, when they realized it wasn't her calling.
"I told them what happened and asked if we could leave to go to the cafeteria," he said.
Both Dana and I knew this wasn't the end of incident. The next day the boys were in a better mood when they came home. It didn't take long for us to find out why.
"Ms. Rayner is off on stress leave and won't be back this semester," Sean said, as the two of them were smiling.
"Who is taking over?" I asked.
"We don't know. Mr. Barton, the head of the department, is working on it. He took our class today," Sean said.
Something was up, because the two of them were particularly cheerful, when they should have been concerned. Just then the phone rang and I could see on the call display that it was the school calling.
"It's for you, dad," Jake said, before anyone answered it.
"I guess the boys have told you the news, Al," Graham Barton said, after I picked up the phone.
He told me that he had been trying all day to locate an accounting teacher off the spare list to take over for Trudy. He also told me that he was unsuccessful.
"Graham, I get this awful feeling that you're sharing this information with me for a reason," I said.
"I was talking to the boys after class and they knew that I was having trouble finding a replacement and they told me that you had said that you'd like to get back into the classroom,"
He told me that he had her third class covered and that it was only the two accounting classes he wanted me to take. They were in the middle of the school day and I could leave after I was finished, with no other duties to worry about. I didn't commit to him as I wasn't very keen on going back into the regular classroom. My work with the foundation would have to be scaled back and I wasn't looking forward to all the prep work that would have to be done. I was also a little annoyed at my scheming sons.
"When have I ever said that I'd like to go back and teach again?" I said to the boys, after I hung up.
"We remember you saying that," Jake said.
"You wouldn't want us to get a bad education, would you?" Sean asked, as the two of them gave me a big smile.
"What did you tell Graham?" Dana asked, after the boys had gone to their rooms.
"I told him I'd sleep on it."
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