After the Game Revised

Chapter Ninety~Two

Now that Christmas day was over, the traditional time for hockey tournaments was upon us. Fin and Tatania were still staying with us and Sean was very happy at having them around to watch him play. Dana and I were also happy that their visit was an extended one, as we enjoyed the company. We had more than just Sean in common because we had similar interests.

This year the tournament was in the nearby city, which was more convenient. The boys were a little disappointed, as there would be no motel stay as in past years, but for Mark Depew and I, as coaches, this was something we weren't going to miss, given Darren's antics the last couple of years.

The reason we weren't back at the Collingwood tournament was because we were informed in June that it was now defunct. Because of the debacle with the racist comments last year, many of the teams that had attended in the past were reluctant to return. The organizers realized late last spring, when most of the registrations for the Christmas tournaments were finalized, that they didn't have enough teams to host the tournament. I was happy that there was some retribution and that the people responsible for the mess last year were not being rewarded for their behaviour.

This year's tournament featured a number of different divisions and levels and Carson's AAA team was entered, as was Garth's and Melissa's teams.

When we were starting to make arrangements for the tournament in September, Sean thought that it would be a good idea if the Morgans, including Melissa, stayed with us.

"It would be really convenient," he said, with a cheeky smile.

Dana and I weren't sure if he was really serious, but we didn't respond with words and he got the idea what our answer was. Given the latest developments in their relationship, having her stay in the same house would definitely have posed a parental challenge for the Morgans, Dana and me.

Melissa was staying with her team in a hotel downtown and Gary and Suzie were also staying there, which saved them driving in from Toronto and back each day.

Our first game was against the team from the nearby town that we played against in our league. The boys knew most of the kids on the other team and we were pretty close in ability. Our league games were spirited, well-played and for the most part not dirty.

Sean and Jake were having a great time with the fact they had their own vehicle now, but we still had control on when and how it was used.

"Are you boys picking up Rachel?" Dana asked a couple of hours before the first game.

"No. Her mom's bringing her up later for Melissa's game and then we're driving her home after dinner," Jake said.

I thought it odd that Rachel wouldn't be at Jake's game, as she knew most of the other team, since she lived in their town and went to school with them and Rachel rarely missed one of Jake's games. But what was also curious was that Jake wasn't as disappointed as I thought he would be, especially since Melissa would be watching most of their game before she had to get ready for hers. There was just something funny about Jake's reaction, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was.

"Maybe she's got something important to do," Dana said, after the boys went downstairs to get their equipment ready.

The game shouldn't have been too eventful, but that was not to be the case. The first period was a typical tournament game with some good play, but no score. The ice was flooded between the two periods and while we were sitting in the dressing room waiting, Fang slumped backward against the wall and clutched his chest.

Darren was sitting beside him and he called out, "There's something wrong with Fang."

We were a little hesitant at first to respond, since we had been sucked in many times by Darren's antics. However, we could see fairly quickly that this wasn't one of his jokes. When we rushed over, Fang's face was red and he was in some distress. We were able to talk to him and he told us that his heart was racing.

"Maybe it's because of the energy drinks he had before the game," Darren said.

"Drinks?" Mark asked, with a concerned look.

Apparently he had consumed three Red Bulls shortly before the game. He was so anxious to please, that he thought the more 'energy' he had the better he would play and everyone would be happy with him. By now I had got a hold of the St. Johns ambulance people who were working the tournament and they rushed to the dressing room. I texted Dana and told her to have Fang's parents come to the dressing room too.

"He's got arrhythmia and we need to get him to the hospital," the man in charge said.

Mark had already called 911 and the ambulance was being dispatched. After a few minutes, Fang's heart slowed down a bit and he was feeling better, but in the meantime we cleared the boys from the room to give the St. Johns people, Fang and his parents some privacy.

"Is Fang going to be alright?" Sean asked, as we were waiting for the Zamboni to finish.

"I'm sure he'll be fine once the caffeine works through his system," I said.

This was becoming a big problem among teenagers and there were other boys on the team, besides Fang, that were abusing their bodies with those drinks. One can contained double the daily amount of caffeine recommended for teenagers. It was no wonder that Fang was having trouble, having consumed three of them and then participating in a very strenuous activity.

"I think we're going to have to have a serious talk with the boys about nutrition before the next game," I said.

"I think this incident with Fang will reinforce what we have to say to them," Mark added.

The boys were very concerned, but Mark and I managed to calm them down before we started the final period.

The rest of the game was predictable, until the last five minutes. It was tied and after one of the close plays around our goal a scuffle broke out when Jake had made a save and froze the puck. Jake was nose-to-nose with another boy from the other team and the two of them were yelling at each other. It didn't look like anything of a dirty nature had taken place so we were puzzled as to what was going on. We couldn't make out what they were saying, but Sean, Charles and Stéphane quickly moved in as peace makers... or so we thought.

"Did Stéphane just shove the other boy and knock him down?" Mark asked, as we watched in disbelief.

This was so out of character for Stéphane and quickly there was a major altercation involving most of the boys on the ice, including Sean. The other goalie raced down the ice from the other end to join the fray which was going to result in an automatic suspension for him from the next game for leaving his crease during a fight. The boys on the bench were getting very agitated and Mark had to grab a hold of Pieter and I had to hold on to Glen's sweater to keep them from jumping over the boards to join the melee.

Jake wasn't the only one yelling, as Dana and Susan were very vocal behind us, as was Gary Morgan. When things settled down and the penalties were assessed, both Sean and Stéphane were thrown out of the game along with three of the other team's players, including their goalie.

We ended up winning by one goal, as the other team had to put in their backup goalie, who was nowhere near as good as the boy that was thrown out. Jake was assessed a penalty, but wasn't ejected from the game, because Charles had managed to grab a hold of him and pulled him away as he was trying to go after the other boy he was yelling at.

"What in the world was going on boys?" I asked, in the dressing room after the game.

There was silence from all the combatants, but finally Sean spoke up.

"It's over now. Everything's good. It won't happen again," he said, as the rest of the boys agreed.

I wasn't very satisfied with the rather vague explanation and despite my prodding, as well as that of Dénis, Stéphane's father who had now joined us in the dressing room, it was obvious we were not going to be enlightened any further.

"I can't remember the last time Stéphane was involved in something like this on the ice. I'll have to do some fancy talking to see if I can convince the tournament convenors not to suspend our boys," Dénis said, hoping his role as convenor of our league would help the cause.

When we came out into the foyer of the arena after the boys had showered, Fin said rather sternly, "You boys were lucky that you won the game. That was not a very pretty display."

He was usually very supportive of Sean's efforts, but this event was clearly not something he enjoyed watching. He was as much against violence in hockey as I was. Dana also had a go at Jake.

"Giacomo, qual è stato il problema?" Dana asked. (Giacomo, what was the problem?)

"Niente. È finito," Jake replied, very tersely. (Nothing. It's over)

Dana paused and gave him one of her looks. She only spoke Italian to him in certain circumstances and one of those was when she was very unhappy with him. I expected sparks because of the nature of his reply, but she gave him the benefit of the doubt, since he was clearly still upset at the events on the ice.

We were going to the other rink to watch Melissa's game and Gary and Suzie were saving us seats. Both Gary and Suzie had a go at Sean, Stéphane and Jake and the boys got a very consistent message from all of us that their behaviour was not acceptable and neither was their evasive explanations as to the cause.

Shortly after we had arrived, Rachel appeared. Whatever the reason was for Rachel's absence at Jake's game, she looked fine but she wasn't her usual perky self.

"I'm glad you're feeling better and I'm also glad you weren't at Jake's game to see the altercation," I said to her.

"I wasn't sick," she said, as she glanced at Jake.

Her reaction was odd, but we didn't get a chance to pursue things any further because Jake, Sean, Stéphane, Glen and Charles went off by themselves with Rachel and sat in the section next to ours. We could see after a few minutes that they were having quite a discussion and weren't paying as much attention to the game as was normal.

"Do you get the impression that something's going on that we don't know about?" Dana asked.

"I'm sure there is, but we're not being let in on the mystery," I replied.

The game was exciting and very even. It was the home team from our town that was playing Melissa's and both teams had a very good development program. It was showing in the level of play, and Melissa was as usual one of the best players on the ice. However, her team lost the game, which would make it difficult for them to get to the championship final.

We all met in the foyer of the rink afterwards and everyone was congratulating Melissa for a well played game. This was the first time Fin and Tatania had seen her play and they were very impressed.

"My, it's hard to believe that aggressive girl on the ice is the beautiful even-tempered young woman that's your girlfriend," Tatania said to Sean, when Melissa had left with her parents to go back to the hotel.

Sean laughed and said, "She's not always even-tempered."

We were heading off to the Swiss Chalet for dinner and the Morgans were joining us. While we were eating I got a call from Dénis.

"Al, both Sean and Stéphane are suspended for the next game, as were three of the boys on the other team. I had to do some fancy talking, because they were going to suspend all of the combatants for the tournament," he said.

I wasn't surprised, but that would definitely leave us in a hole and make it difficult to get to the championship game. We weren't allowed to call up any other players from our league to fill the vacancies, so we would have to make do with what we had.

"This may be a shorter tournament than we figured," I said to Sean and Jake. They got the message that I wasn't very happy with them.

That evening I got a call from Fang's parents and they had decided that he shouldn't play any more games in the tournament, partly because of the health risk and partly because of their embarrassment, which was a big deal in their culture. I called Mark as soon as I found out.

"Perhaps Sandy could have a talk with them," I said.

Since Sandy, Mark's partner, was of Chinese origin, I was hoping that she could make more inroads than we could. My strategy was successful and we were finally able to change their minds after the doctor gave him a green light to play.

"Fang's mother is very protective and she wasn't going to budge, but his father overruled her," Sandy said, when she called back to tell us the news.

As often happens in times of adversity, the other boys on the team pulled up their level of their play during the next game. Fang got to play more and even though he was not a very good skater he was very aggressive and smart. He knew where to go on the ice to score. He could shoot and was very hard to push out of the way in front of the net despite the fact he wasn't a big boy.

Darren and Glen were our best players during the game and they did a more than adequate job filling in for the absence of Sean and Stéphane. They had set up Fang a couple of times for goals, which came at very opportune times.

Fang was still swearing in Chinese on the bench, but not as loudly so his mother couldn't hear him. He was surprised that we had learned some Chinese swear words, but there were others that we weren't familiar with, which we were sure he was using. One of the players on the other team was of Chinese heritage and he understood what he was saying, which had almost sparked another altercation when Fang made a comment to one of the boy's teammates. We managed to win the game because the team we were playing against wasn't that good and that put us into the championship game.

"I'm glad we had you three boys today," I said to Fang, Darren and Glen in the dressing room afterwards.

"If I'd been on the ice when the fight broke out last game, I wouldn't have been here either," Glen said.

Glen still had some rough edges to him and his comment was a reminder that Mark and I had to make sure we impressed upon the boys before the next game that they had to restrain themselves, because we were going to be playing the same team from our league for the championship. They had managed to win their second game as well.

Later that day, all of us, including the Morgans and Melissa, were in the stands to watch Garth's last game in the tournament. They were playing for the consolation prize, as the competition in their division was fairly stiff. They did well to get to where they were.

Garth had improved over the season, but he definitely had a different mindset, which was not that of a typical hockey player. He was still doing things on the ice that caused his coach, as well as his mother and grandmother, some stress.

"Why did Garth stop at the blueline, when he could've gone around that boy and got a good shot away?" Susan asked John, in an exasperated tone.

"Who knows. I think he was waiting for Derek to catch up?" John said, with a puzzled look on his face.

The coach had his arms in the air and was shaking them vigorously as he yelled across the ice for him to keep skating. At least I thought that was what he was saying, because it was hard to tell with Dana and Susan adding their two cents to the mix. Even though they had toned down their 'cheering' somewhat after Garth's coach pointed out how disruptive they were early in the season, Garth usually gave them some reason during a game to lapse back into old habits.

Sean, Jake and Glen were helping out on the bench and when he came off the ice all three of them descended upon him. I was sure the discussion was an interesting one as the three of them had an animated talk with him. I was also sure that Garth had a perfectly good reason for his action on the ice and that he was communicating it to them.

"I think Garth's coach is happy the boys are there to talk to him so he doesn't have to deal with it," John said, as he chuckled.

"I know Garth isn't fond of his coach, but the man has infinite patience," I added.

We also couldn't figure out why Mandy wasn't playing on Garth's line like she usually did. Sean, Jake and Glen didn't go into the dressing room with the team between periods and they came up into the stands with us until the team came out again for the final period. It was then that we found out why Mandy was with different linemates.

"Don't tell Garth, but Mandy asked for the change," Jake said.

"She was fed up with Garth 'coaching' her all the time on the ice," Glen said, as the boys chuckled.

The last period of his game started and after about five minutes my cell phone rang and when I looked at the call display it was from our home number. This was impossible, because we were all watching the game.

"How can it be our phone at home?" Dana asked.

I answered it and there was no one on the other line, but I could hear a rustling noise and the beep of someone pushing the buttons on the keypad. I said hello a few times very loudly, and the noises didn't stop.

"There must be a thief in the house," I said.

It didn't make sense, though, because the noises were continuing and if it was a thief, they would've heard me saying hello and would've hung up. They also would've tripped the alarm system which automatically set off a very loud siren and a two way voice communication with a central monitoring station. If the person in the home couldn't provide the code that was asked for, the police were automatically called and the line would be tied up.

"How could a burglar get in without tripping the alarm?" Fin asked.

We were all getting very concerned and I had it on speaker phone so we could listen.

"Was that a woof?" Tatania asked, after a minute of listening.

It certainly was a woof followed by a few more.

"There can't be an intruder in the house, because Barney would be barking his head off, not woofing," I said, still puzzled.

"There's no burglar. Barney's chewing the phone like one of his bones," Fin said, as he had figured out what had happened.

He must have bitten into the redial button, which called my number. I couldn't figure out how he got access to it and I expected Dana to be exasperated like she always was when her little friend got into mischief, but she was strangely quiet and was scowling.

"Somehow I think you may know what's happened," I said, to Dana.

"Honestly, you can't leave anything around when that mutt's nearby," she said.

She had been down in the media room earlier in the day and had called my cell phone and she had forgotten to take the phone back to its charging base when she was finished talking. Barney had access to the media room and she had left the phone on the coffee table. Fin and I went back to the house and when we returned Garth's game was almost over.

"Barney won't need a bone to chew tonight, however we'll need a new phone," I said.

Dana didn't react to my statement, because she was focussing on Garth's game, which had become very exciting. The score was tied and the regulation time expired which meant it would go into overtime to declare the winner.

During the first five minutes of overtime, Garth and Derek got a couple of shifts where they almost scored. Mandy's friend Charisse was still on the team and she got a lot of ice time because she was one of the best defencemen. She was a little fireball who was as good as most of the boys on the team. She was an aggressive player and the only way you would know she was a girl was by the ponytail hanging out from the back of her helmet.

There was only a minute left in overtime and we had dominated most of the play. However, two of the boys on the other team broke down the ice and managed to go around Charisse and score. Garth's goalie collapsed face down on the ice and was sobbing.

"Those poor kids. I feel badly for them," Dana said.

"So does Garth," I said, as Garth was the first on the ice and was consoling the two of them.

After they shook hands with the other team at Centre ice they started to file off to the dressing room. When the goalie came through the door to the bench, I saw Jake pull him aside and put his arm around him as he talked to him. After a few moments the boy took his mask off and he looked like he was in better spirits.

"What did you say to the goalie, Jake," I asked, after Sean, Glen and Jake came out of the dressing room to the hallway.

"I just told him what you always tell me, that there were five other players on the ice that couldn't stop the shot before it got to him," he said, as he smiled. "I also told him he played a great game."

I was very proud of my son for doing what any good coach would do in the circumstances. Jake knew that the boy looked up to him and those words would have gone a long way to helping him get over his disappointment.

"Where's Melissa?" Dana asked Sean, as she had disappeared.

Before he could answer, she appeared at the end of the hallway with Mandy and Charisse by her side.

"She went to their dressing room to tell them how good they played," he said.

Garth and Derek had now emerged from the dressing room and Sean put his arm around Derek and told him how well he played. Glen tossled Garth's hair and congratulated him on his efforts, which got a big smile from his little brother.

"I guess kids do grow up eventually," Gary said, referring to how mature the older kids had acted with the younger ones.

The next day, before we went on the ice for the championship game, Mark and I had a big pep talk with the boys before they went to the ice. Carson's team had been eliminated and he wanted to help us on the bench and we were happy to have his help. He also said a few words to the boys and got them fired up. He had certainly come a long way over the last year and was turning out to be a very responsible boy.

"That was a pretty good pep talk, Carson," I said to him, as the boys were warming up on the ice.

"I had a good teacher," he said, as he gave me a smile.

The first period was not a good one for us and despite our pre-game preparation, we came out flat. It was one of the worst periods we had played all season and we were down 2-0, despite some acrobatic saves from Jake. The flood between periods was going to give Mark and me a chance to talk to the boys and correct some of the mistakes we had noted. As we were making our way down the corridor to the dressing room, I could see that Sean was fuming.

"Give us five minutes alone, Dad," he said, as he continued on ahead of me.

From his tone I knew this was not really a request and since he was angry, I decided to back away. I told Mark about our brief 'conversation' as the boys were filing into the dressing room and told him we should wait.

"I don't think we want to be in there for a little while. 'Bulldog' has arrived," I said.

"Hopefully they can get things sorted out. They're old enough now that they don't need us harping at them about what they need to do," he replied.

There was some loud discussion and although we couldn't hear everything that was said, we did hear some very choice language through the door and Jake, Stéphane, Charles, Glen and Carson were the main speakers. The loudest and last voice, however, was from Sean who, as captain, took it upon himself to finish the conversation with some equally colourful words.

"Hmm. I wonder if there's any paint left on those walls in there," Mark said.

The boys stuck to hockey in the last period and there was no repeat of the hostilities from the last game. They managed to tie up the game and then go into overtime. I had a feeling that we were going to win the game, as we had dominated the play ever since the boys had come out of the dressing room after their 'talk'. Sean and Stéphane, in particular, provided the leadership as the two of them picked up their level of play, which the other team had trouble handling.

Shortly after the overtime period started, Sean took a pass from Stéphane and then passed to Darren who went in on the goalie and shot the puck into the bottom corner of the net for the winning goal. With typical flair, Darren celebrated by jumping up and hurling himself at the glass at the end of the rink like some of the NHL players do.

"Where did he go?" Carson asked, as we were celebrating on the bench.

By now the boys on the ice were huddled around the part of the glass that Darren jumped against.

"Oh my, I think the pane of glass gave way and he's on the other side of the boards," I said.

"Ouch!" Mark said, as we watched Darren pick himself up and hop over the boards back to the rink.

Luckily nobody was hurt on the other side because there weren't any seats there. Darren was none the worse for wear and he wasn't one to get embarrassed easily as he took the event in his stride. His parents, however, rushed down to ice level and his mother was frantic. She calmed down when he leaned over the boards to reassure her that he was fine.

While the trophy presentation was being made on the ice, the arena crew was replacing the pane of glass that was knocked out.

"Darren, your parents deserve sainthood," I said, as we were lining up on the ice.

He just looked at me with a big grin on his face, but it was obvious he didn't understand what I meant. Stéphane, Charles, Sean and Jake did, as they burst into laughter.

We had rented a banquet room and Dana and John catered a feast for the team and all the family and the kids' friends. It was a fitting end to what was a great tournament, despite the fact that Melissa, Carson and Garth's team had failed to get to the championship games. All the kids had played hard and all the games were close.

"I'm very proud of you two boys and I'm glad you and the rest of the team stuck to hockey today," I said, as I put my arms around Jake and Sean as we walked in the banquet room.

Rachel was not at Jake's game once again, but she and the family showed up for the banquet. I had a chance to ask my niece what was going on, but she didn't have much more in the way of explanation.

"We're not sure if it's stress about the upcoming exams at school, or just what the problem is," she said.

We had a great get together and everyone hung around until about nine o'clock and then things wrapped up. Fin and Tatania were particularly pleased at the day's events as they were with the whole visit.

"I know we've said it before, but we'd like to tell you again how happy we are that Sean found such a wonderful family. Thank you, Al," Tatania said, as she and Fin were smiling as they looked at Sean and Melissa together.

The boys and Melissa decided to take Rachel home and they left shortly after 8:30.

"If you're going to leave the RDX running while you get 'reacquainted', remember to leave the window open a crack. You don't want to get carbon monoxide poisoning," I said.

Sean and Jake both rolled their eyes.

"This is very strange behaviour with Rachel," I said, to Dana after we got home and were getting ready for bed.

"You don't suppose that Jake and Rachel are breaking up," she said.

"Hmm. I never thought of that."

"You men never do think of those relationship things," she answered, as she gave me a kiss on the cheek.

"It doesn't make sense given the way they were acting at the banquet hall, though. Maybe I should have a talk with him," I said.

Hockey was not the only significant event on the family calendar during the holidays. It was the Saturday before the boys and I were to go back to school for the rest of the first semester and two days beforehand, Garth and Derek had their audition with Bengt Jorgensen for the documentary film about boys and ballet that he was making. Both Derek and Garth were successful and selected to take part with two other boys from other schools.

Garth and Derek had shown a keen interest in ballet and were athletic with the right body type, which helped sway the panel of people making the decision. Their personalities also gave them an edge over some of the other boys. They were filmed as they were interviewed, which was no problem for either of them. Even though Derek was somewhat shy, he lit up when he was in front of the camera as he had done a couple of commercials with Garth and he was getting used to it.

The dancing portion of the audition consisted of one of the instructors showing the boys some simple steps and then they attempted to dance them. Both boys did well, especially when Garth stuck to what he was shown.

"The woman, who was the instructor, was very patient. She had to be, because Garth wanted to add his 'flair' to her steps," John said, with a chuckle.

Dana and I were invited along for the shopping trip where Garth and Derek were going to be filmed getting their ballet clothes. I was very familiar with the store they were going to because this was where my first wife, Lorraine and I, bought Katie and Carol's dance clothing. As Garth and Derek were fitted for their ballet clothing, there was a camera crew present to record the event.

"I think that's too small," Garth said, as he was handed a body suit to try on.

It didn't help when Glen said, "Wait until your hockey buddies see this film."

When Derek and he came out of the dressing room, they were both complaining and pulling at the material, as it was very form fitting. The tights they had to try on weren't much better and they were a little embarrassed wearing them.

Dana didn't add to the situation when she said, "Oh my. Those tights are very revealing."

Bengt and the director were very pleased with the filming, as both Garth and Derek were very animated throughout the session.

"We've got a couple of live wires here," the director said to Bengt when they were getting ready to leave.

"I think we've got our work cut out for us, though," Bengt said, as he motioned towards Garth and smiled.

Ballet Boy JPG


Before we left, the producer gave both boys a T-shirt that said 'boys dance too' on the back. He also gave John and Susan more details of what was to come. The boys would initially be in a class by themselves with one of the dancers, Igor, from Bengt's company. After about five lessons, they would be in a regular ballet class and work on a routine, which would be part of a demonstration at the end of the production.

While the boys were going through the various lessons, they had to film themselves at home for a video diary on their feelings and impressions. Glen volunteered to video Garth and Rachel was going to film Derek.

Afterwards, everyone came back to our place for dinner and Katie, Carol, Marty and Kyle were joining us.

"When are you going to model the new outfits?" Carol asked Derek and Garth after they arrived.

Both boys were very reluctant, but finally they put on the body suit with the tights.

"Ah, two Baryshnikov's," Katie said, as we all chuckled.

While we were getting ready for dinner, the girls decided to take Garth and Derek downstairs and show them some ballet moves.

"How do you know what to show us?" Garth asked.

"I think we learned a few things during our ten years of ballet and jazz lessons," Carol said, as she and Katie smiled.

Things were fairly quiet downstairs for about a half hour, at least as quiet as could be with Garth and Barney involved. However, suddenly, Barney came upstairs barking his head off, followed by Garth, Derek, Carol and Katie.

"Barney didn't care for Baryshnikov's pirouettes, especially when the big pillow landed on him," Katie said, as she and Carol laughed.

During dinner, it felt like we were in Comedy Central. Since Garth had an audience, he also had some one-liners to tell us.

"This lawyer asked this guy in court 'Was that the same nose you broke as a kid?'," he said, as he chuckled.

Before we could stop laughing he added, "And then the lawyer asked 'How long have you been a French Canadian?'."

He thought that was particularly funny, because he paused to laugh.

Then he continued, "There was a sign on this guy's fence outside his home 'Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive'."

"My goodness. A young Robin Williams without the foul language," Tatania said.

"Look it up on the Internet," I said to Garth, because he didn't know who we were talking about.

Garth wasn't the only one telling jokes. Derek decided to tell one that was no doubt from Garth's extensive repertoire.

"There was this ad for an Optometrist," Derek said, as he had a bit of a struggle pronouncing the word. His mother, Janet, helped him with it then he went on.

"It said 'If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to our place'", Derek said, as he chuckled.

Unfortunately, nobody really understood the humour, but we politely laughed. Garth quickly leaned over and whispered in his ear.

"I mean 'If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place'," he added, as Garth and he broke into laughter.

We all laughed at the correction and it was good to see that he was coming out of his shell. In the past, he wouldn't have dared to tell a joke with all these people around and if he had and made the same mistake, he would've clammed up.

Dana thought she'd give Garth and Derek a dose of their own medicine and tell a joke.

"This man, or guy as you'd call him, had a talking centipede for a pet and he had a little white box as a house for it," she said, with a big smile, as she was anticipating Garth and Derek's reaction.

"He asked his pet if he wanted to go for a walk and after he hadn't heard anything from it for 5 minutes he asked again in a louder voice."

They were frowning, but there were glimpses of a smile. I knew the punch line and I was getting ready for their giggles, which would surely come when she was finished.

"Finally a voice came from the box 'I heard you the first time. I'm putting on my shoes'."

We were all laughing, but Garth and Derek were still looking at Dana with a look of anticipation.

Finally Garth asked, "What's a centipede?"

"It's a bug with 100 legs," I said.

The light bulb went on and Garth started into his giggle, which quickly turned into a raucous laugh that got Derek going too.

When they had calmed down, Garth said to Derek, "Wait till Mandy hears this tomorrow."

The next week things got back to the usual busy routine. There was the big January concert of the youth orchestra coming up on the Friday and both Sean and Jake were a little on edge. Sean and Charles had a lead role in one of the pieces and they had been practicing by themselves most of the week after dinner. Charles came over a couple of times and Sean went over to Charles' place, where Sandy was giving them pointers.

Fin and Tatania had left to visit some friends in Windsor Ontario and they were going to head back to Nova Scotia after that, but they changed their plans when they heard about the concert. They decided to come back and stay with us again, as they didn't want to miss the performance of their grandson.

Dana and I were delighted that they were able to join us again as was Sean. He had been practicing on his new vintage violin and was becoming very comfortable with it and this would be the first time he had performed using it. It really was an upgrade in tone from the one we had bought him when he started out.

"Is it alright if I use it tomorrow night?" he asked Fin, after he had finished practicing with Charles.

"It was made to be played and you don't need to ask. It's your violin now," Fin said, as he gave him a squeeze.

Stéphane was also on edge, which was unsual for him. This was his big début performance with the orchestra as a guest soloist and the first piano concerto he had ever done. He was playing the Andante from Mozart's piano concerto #21, which was featured in the movie, 'Elvira Madigan'. He was unsure if he really wanted to pursue a musical career, but he was going to give it a try before he started down that path. He knew it was something that he'd have to work hard at and that it was a competitive field.

All the kids were getting much better and except for Jake, they all had lead roles in the concert. When we arrived at the concert hall, Melissa was there with her parents, as well as Rachel, who was the concertmaster. This was a role she had coveted since she had joined the orchestra and when she was appointed this year, she was thrilled. As well as being the best violinist in the orchestra, she had carried out her organizational duties extremely well.

The first featured piece of the evening was Camille Saint Saen's Cello Concerto No 1 in A minor, which featured Melissa. The conductor was thrilled when Melissa said that she would like to join the orchestra this year. She wanted to spend more time with Sean and the rest of the kids and the practices worked with her hockey schedule. Gary and Suzie were able to make arrangements to get her there and they were happy because she wouldn't have had such a key role in the youth orchestra in Toronto that she played with in the past.

It was an interesting piece of music and as usual, Melissa did it justice, as she did with anything she played. She looked like the famous cellist from the past, Jacqueline Du Pre as she 'attacked' the cello. Her playing was expressive, as was her playing demeanour, which was always very animated. I noticed a few small mistakes from Rachel during the piece, which was uncharacteristic of her playing. She looked a little flustered a couple of times and since Sean was sharing the music stand with her, he was trying to calm her down when they had a break in the music.

"She didn't sleep well last night," Janet said, after they finished the piece.

"I don't think many people would notice the errors," Dana said, to make Janet feel better.

Next on the program were Charles and Sean taking the lead in the Allegro maestoso from Mozart's Sinfonia concertante in E-flat, which had an extensive solo part for violin and viola. This was a crossover between symphony and concerto and was one of the most famous pieces ever written in the genre.

The two boys came to the front of the stage to take their positions. When the orchestra was getting ready we noticed that Sean and Charles started to laugh. Whatever was so funny, it must've loosened them up, because they were great. It was though they were talking to each other with their instruments and except for a couple of youthful mistakes, they were rock solid.

"That violin sounds wonderful," I said to Fin after they had finished. He didn't answer right away.

"I know Sean's great grandfather's up there smiling right now," Fin finally said, as he composed himself.

The last piece on the program was the piano concerto, because they had to roll the nine foot Yamaha concert grand piano to the front of the stage. Stéphane looked very handsome in his tuxedo, as he strolled out to the side of the piano and bowed to the audience. He then shook hands with Rachel and the conductor, which was the usual ritual.

"He didn't have a suit, so we decided to go out and rent a tux," Dénis said, as he chuckled.

His performance was first class for someone his age and the orchestra did a great job accompanying him. The famous Andante was a good piece to choose for his first piano concerto, becuase it wasn't too technically difficult, but it was well known and expressive.

"That was very good, for someone his age. As he gets older, if he sticks with it, he'll become better at his interpretation of the music," Tatania said.

After the performance we were milling around in the foyer talking to the performers. All the kids except Jake and Rachel had made their way out of the dressing room.

"What was so funny before the start of the Sinfonia concertante between you and Charles?" I asked Sean.

He and Charles just laughed and they didn't offer any intelligent explanation. It wasn't important, so we just dropped it. Fin and Tatania were making a big fuss over Sean and he was lapping up the attention.

"I remember hearing your great grandfather play the Sinfonia concertante when I was about your age. He would have been as proud of you as we are," Fin said, as both he and Tatania gave Sean a hug.

I asked Sean where Jake and Rachel were and he said, "They're just talking in the dressing room."

"Is everything alright?" Dana asked.

"I think so," Sean answered.

Finally Rachel and Jake came out and joined us and they seemed as if everything was Ok. On the way out, Sean, Charles, Mark and I were walking together behind the rest of the group.

"You know when we were laughing before we started," Sean said, as both Charles and he started to chuckle again. "Charles farted."

"I thought it was going to be a silent one but I was wrong," Charles added.

"You can dress them up, but they're still teenage boys," I said, as Mark and I chuckled.

When we got home the boys were in their rooms getting ready for bed. I made my way down to Jake's room and he had his door open, so I walked in. I thought it was time I had a talk with him about what was going on with Rachel. We made some small talk and there didn't seem to be anything unusual with his demeanour.

"Is anything going on between you and Rachel," I asked.

His facial expression changed instantly.

"No," he said, rather quickly.

The fact that he didn't say any more than that was a sure indication that something was awry. Jake rarely used sentences with one word in them.

"Your body language is telling me something else," I replied.

There was a pause and finally he said, "It's not what you think. We're working through some stuff and we've got things under control."

Hockey celebration

Ballet Boy

Boys in Ballet

Andante from Mozart's piano concerto #21

This clip is of the seventeen year old Canadian piano prodigy, Jan Lisiecki, who is making his mark on the world concert stages. This is a promotional video from the making of his first CD for Deutsche Grammophon. He is the youngest artist to have been signed to a recording contract by the company.

Jan Lisiecki's website

Mozart's Sinfonia concertante in E flat

Camille Saint Saens Cello Concerto No 1 in A minor, Op 33, featuring Jacqueline Du Pre