After the Game Revised

Chapter Ninety~Seven

The summer turned out to be a good one for the boys, even though the month of July was taken up with summer school. Jake and Sean were not the only ones that took English at summer school, as Glen and Charles decided to join them.

Jake's mark was 95%, which was not surprising given his love of the subject and Sean pulled off a respectable 79%. This was likely much better than either of them would've achieved had they gone the day school route. Glen also went to summer school with them and got a reasonable 78%, as this was not his favourite subject, as well and Charles managed to squeak out an 81%.

It was a little lonely when the boys went visiting; Jake to Italy and Sean to Nova Scotia. We also didn't have Garth or Derek around to entertain us and Glen was very busy teaching at the art school.

We were glad, then, to have the opportunity during the second week in August to take Garth and Derek back to Stratford, because it was their week to perform in 'Fiddler on the Roof'. Jake and Sean were still away and were due back the next week, so we were free to take them up.

We hadn't seen the production since the beginning of July, which was when Derek and Garth started, so we offered to drive the boys up to Stratford and leave them there afterwards with their billet family. Susan and John agreed, sensing that we were in withdrawal not having the boys around. It was quite a ride up to Stratford as both of them entertained us with many stories from backstage and new jokes that they had picked up.

"The guy that plays Perchik likes jokes, too," Garth said, with a big smile.

"Yeah, but some we can't tell you," Derek said, as the two of them giggled.

"But this is a good one," Garth said. "This one guy says to his friend 'It's my wife's birthday today and last week I asked her what she wanted as a present'."

"Oh yeah, I remember this one," Derek said, as the two of them started to chuckle.

"We're waiting," Dana said.

"I know, I know. So, the other guy asks his friend what she asked for," Garth continued.

And, as usual, we knew the punch line was imminent, as the chuckling got louder between the two of them, but was of shorter duration than usual. Derek said that Perchik, which is the way they referred to the actor, helped them with their delivery and he said they shouldn't giggle or laugh so much when they were telling their jokes.

"He said it took away from the ... 'momentum' of the joke," as he paused to remember the word the guy used.

Finally Garth said, "She wanted diamonds, so he got her a deck of playing cards."

I thought it was particularly funny, but Dana was not as amused as I was.

"Don't get any ideas, Al."

Derek also wanted to tell one he thought was really funny. We were getting used to Derek's new found confidence and he was much more at ease talking to us and adults in general.

"I hope this isn't one of the jokes you shouldn't tell us," Dana said, teasing him.

He laughed and then started into it.

"A mom asks her little boy what he learned in Sunday School and he said that he had sung a song about a poor bear that needed to see the eye doctor," he said, pausing but not chuckling.

He continued and said, "He told his mom the name of the song was 'Gladly, the Cross I'd Bear'".

The two of them were now into a full and hearty laugh as was Dana. They thought I didn't get the joke, since I wasn't laughing, so Garth felt he should explain it.

"You know, 'A Cross-eyed Bear'," he said, as he crossed his eyes and made a funny face, which set the two of them off again.

"You better be careful, you wouldn't want your eyes to get stuck like that. We'd have to take you to that eye doctor," I said, as I saw him in the rear view mirror.

We were going to take the boys out for an early lunch, so we dropped into the billet's house and the boys took their things up to their room before we went to the restaurant. We had a chance to talk to the wife and she told us how much the family was enjoying having the boys stay with them.

"They're two of the youngest, but nicest boys we've had stay with us over the years. They're also very animated and we've learned so many new jokes this summer," she said, with a big smile.

"We know. There is never a dull moment around our house when the two of them are over for family functions," Dana said, as the two of us chuckled.

"We've seen the production a few times this summer and Garth and Derek are much better in the roles than the other four boys," she said.

We chose a nice restaurant that we were familiar with and it was a little more upscale than a bistro, but wasn't quite fine dining. We had forgotten what fussy eaters both Derek and Garth were. When they looked at the menu there wasn't much that they cared for, but we asked the waiter if it was possible to make grilled cheese sandwiches for them, which was something we knew they would eat and he told us that wouldn't be a problem.

"Is it real cheese?" Derek asked.

The waiter assured him it was and then Garth asked what type.

"We have lots of choice. Is there a particular type you want?" He replied.

"I want the type that my 'gran' uses," he said, as he looked at Dana.

Dana still found being called 'gran' amusing and she smiled and said, "My grandson likes any type of cheddar that you have."

Garth gave a big smile, as he loved the fact that we were his grandparents and he never passed up an opportunity to let people know that.

The culinary odyssey didn't stop when the meals came to the table. Garth like his grilled cheese with ketchup on the side of the plate so he could dip the sandwich in it and Derek liked relish on top of his as he ate his with a fork and knife. The waiter was very accommodating and brought their condiments in separate little white bowls on saucers. He was smiling when he put them down, as he got a big kick out of the two of them. We insisted on a salad instead of the fries that they wanted and they grumbled a little, but didn't complain too much when it came to the table. We also overruled Cokes and instead ordered milk for the two of them.

"Does your billet family let you away with eating stuff like that?" Dana asked.

"No. They're like you guys and Mom and Dad," Garth said, with a frown

When we dropped them off at the stage door, the stage manager invited us in to see backstage. As we were walking to the makeup area with them, one of the young women who played the part of one of the older daughters was passing by.

She introduced herself and then said, as she put her arms around the two of them, "Here's my two favourite boyfriends."

We were surprised at the fact that Derek and Garth were tongue-tied and a little flustered.

"I think the boys' testosterone is starting to flow," I said, as Dana and I smiled after they left.

Before we left for our seats, we met the director and had a nice short chat about the musical.

"We're all quite fond of the boys and they certainly aren't shy," he said, with a big smile. "They're both a couple of comedians."

The production was excellent and Garth and Derek had a small solo in the second act, but were on the stage in many of the group singing and dance numbers. They were looking a lot more polished than we had ever seen them and they fit in nicely with the rest of the professionals. It was obvious the theatre school they attended on the off days, as well as the professional direction in the musical, was paying big dividends.

"Those boys looked so grown-up," Dana said, after the second curtain call and a standing ovation for the cast at the end. "It's hard to believe those were the same young boys that had lunch with us today."

When we went backstage to get the boys we saw them outside of their dressing room door and the stage manager was talking to them. It looked like he wasn't too pleased. We were within earshot, but we stood a few feet away.

"Boys, that caused a lot of unnecessary work for a bunch of people right before curtain call. Besides, that wasn't a very nice thing to do to Melody. Please don't do anything like that again." he said, sternly.

As we were standing there, two of the actors passed by and gave the boys a big smile. As the stage manager walked away he put his hand to his mouth.

"Was he laughing?" Dana asked.

"I think so and I'm not sure why, because he certainly was very abrupt with them," I said.

"Ok, you two. What was that all about?" Dana asked, as they finally made their way over to us.

They just looked at each other with impish smiles on their faces. Finally, Garth spoke.

"We kinda played a trick on Derek's partner in the play."

"Is that why there was an announcement right before the performance about a stand-in for her?" I asked.

They shook their heads yes and then broke into a full scale laugh and when they finished we found out what they had done. Melody, Derek's partner in the play, was 'snotty', as Garth put it. Her mother was acting in a play at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-lake and the father was acting at Stratford this summer. Melody was full of herself and we were sure there were others that thought so too, which is where Garth got the term 'snotty' from.

"She kept making a big deal about her parents being actors and that she was better than us because she had had more experience," Garth said.

"So, we put a mouse in her shoe and she went crazy when she put it on when she was getting dressed today," Derek said.

"I hope the mouse wasn't real," Dana said, with one of her looks.

"Oh, we wouldn't do that. It was a rubber one," Garth quickly added, with an expression that indicated that they he thought that made it OK.

"I'm very disappointed in you two. You need to go and apologize to Melody," I said.

"Her Dad came and got her and took her home," Derek said.

It was a bit of a frosty ride to the billet's place after we left the theatre, but the boys realized the inappropriateness of their actions and promised to apologize to her at the next performance.

"There are going to be lots of people like Melody in your lives in the future and you need to learn how to deal with them, without putting mice in their shoes. What you did today was certainly not the way to handle it," I said, as we gave them hugs and dropped them off.

They gave us a sheepish smile and then took off to the house.

"I'm surprised the director didn't send them home after a stunt like that," Dana said, as we were driving home.

"I gather that what they did wasn't unpopular with many of the other cast members," I said. "But, I think we got the message through to them."

Sean and Jake got home the next day after we got back from Stratford and they had good visits with their extended families.

"Crowbush was an amazing golf course," Sean said.

"What did you shoot?" I asked.

"I shot an 82, but I lost a couple of balls in water hazards," he said.

I didn't want to tell him what I shot when I played it and he never asked, thank goodness. He was an excellent golfer and still enjoyed the sport, but, because of his trip down East, he missed the club championship, which he probably would've won.

"Grandpa and Grandma are also talking about maybe moving to town. Grandpa is retiring this year," he said.

There was a time when I might have felt threatened by that news, but Fin and Tatania, Dana and I had become good friends. I didn't want to tell him that they had disclosed this news to us last spring during one of our telephone conversations. Both Dana and I thought this would be a good thing for Sean and us, so we had been helping them with some real estate questions. They hadn't made the final decision yet, but we were pretty sure they would make the move here.

Jake had a dose of jet lag and it wasn't until the next day that we got to hear how his visit with his aunt and uncle in Italy turned out. He was at his loquacious best when he had recovered and he used words such as wonderful, marvellous and when he was talking about the soprano's performance in the opera that he saw, he described it as exquisite. Whereas Sean was 'economical' in his communication of his time out east, Jake regaled us for twenty minutes and it seemed as if he hardly took a breath the whole time.

"Well, it feels as if we were all there with you," Dana said, with a smile, as the real meaning of her comment flew over Jake's head.

He went on to tell us that he was thrilled when his uncle took him to see a soccer match of his favourite team, Juventus. 'Madama Butterfly' was the opera that he saw with his aunt and uncle and it was at La Scala, the famous opera house in Milan.

"Era una buona opera?" Dana asked. (Was it a good opera?)

"Naturalmente. Era Puccini," he said, with a big smile. (Of course. It was Puccini.)

"Are your uncle and aunt thinking of coming over to Canada in the near future?" I asked.

"I don't think so," he said. "I'm not sure they can afford it."

We told him they could stay here and we'd take them around, but he didn't think they would take up our offer.

"I can see the wheels turning, Mr. Burger," Dana said, after the boys went off to their rooms. "Are you thinking the same thing I am about Jake?"

"He has a birthday coming up. Perhaps we could make a call over to Italy this week and you can talk to the aunt and uncle. The fall's a nice time of year over here," I said, as we both smiled at each other.

Since it was the end of the summer, the Canadian National Exhibition was running in Toronto. When Dana and I were growing up this was a big deal and there was a midway, with lots of rides and young people used to flock to it. As we got older it was a cool place to go with a date, because there was a lot to do and the food was cheap. Over the years, however, things had changed and it didn't now have the appeal it once did, but it was still a place that young people could go and have a good time. It was like a big fall fair, but better.

The boys and their mates were going to go on the Friday before school started and they invited the girls over for an early breakfast beforehand at our place. This was the day of the big air show at the 'Ex', and the Snowbirds, the Canadian acrobatic air team, was performing. Melissa had come in from Toronto and had stayed at Rachel's place for a couple of days beforehand. Surprisingly, Sean and Jake only saw the girls once during that time. We were getting some things ready for them in the kitchen on the Thursday night, as they were out together at a movie.

"I can't believe that Sean and Melissa weren't together more over the last two days," Dana said.

"Maybe Melissa and Rachel wanted some girl bonding time without their love interests," I said.

We stayed out of the kids' way the next morning as they had things under control for the breakfast, but we observed the preparations from the kitchen table as we had our own breakfast. Glen was also going with them and he came over early before the girls arrived.

Sean had things organized, as he was very good at that sort of thing. He was in charge of the omelets, which he made with asiago cheese, red peppers and onion. Jake made the 'crispy' bacon, as Sean had specified and the lattes, as he was used to the espresso machine because he had one most Saturday and Sunday mornings. Glen prepared the pan-fried potatoes, using a special recipe his father gave him and toast. Sean also followed 'hurricane' Jake around the kitchen, as Sean liked things neat and tidy, which wasn't Jake's strong suit. While they were busy in the kitchen we let the girls in.

"Hello, Mrs. Burger," Sinead, Glen's girlfriend said when she arrived.

"Hello, Sinead. I'm surprised.. I mean I'm pleased to see you again," Dana said.

Sinead had lasted the longest of any girlfriend that Glen had gone out with since we had known him. Despite the shocking pink hair, ankle tattoo of a rose and eyebrow ring, she was a very talented artist and an intelligent girl. They had met in art class at school and had been friends for a couple of years, but this had blossomed into a relationship during the summer.

The breakfast went well and the girls were impressed with the boys' culinary skills. They all packed into the LX, as it could accommodate the six of them. Sean was driving and we weren't too nervous, as he had made the trip into Toronto before a few times and he was a good driver. Jake, thankfully, had conceded that task to Sean.

"Sean and Melissa seemed to be OK," I said, after they had left.

"I agree. I guess I was reading too much into things," Dana replied.

Jake wasn't the only one having a birthday, as Sean and I also had one in September. It was a special one for me and I was now eligible to collect Old Age Pension. We had the birthday celebrations the weekend after Labour Day for the three of us at our house.

"Dear, you certainly don't look 65," Dana said, as she gave me a big kiss and handed me an envelope.

The whole family was there and everyone was smiling as I opened it.

"Now there won't be any excuses for you not playing the piano for us," Carol said.

One of my presents was piano lessons with the brother of one of our friends. This teacher had been a concert pianist for some years, but had to give it up when he developed arthritis. I was completely surprised, but as I thought about it I was a little excited at the prospect of playing again.

"That old saying about teaching old dogs new tricks may be true," I said.

"Now stop it dear. I'm sure this will work out well," Dana said, as she gave me a kiss.

The boys were also happy with their presents. We arranged golf lessons for Sean over the winter with one of the top PGA teaching pros in the area, who had many professional golfers as clients. Jake was also thrilled when he opened the envelope with a card that explained that we had arranged for his aunt and uncle to come over from Italy in the spring to stay with us for a week.

"We thought you might like your present," I said, as he gave Dana and me big hugs.

The next week after the birthdays, since the boys were almost legally adults, as Sean pointed out, they asked if I could arrange to get them a job at one of the Tim Horton's that we owned.

"We should have some job experience," Sean said.

"We have some more time, since we're not in hockey this year," Jake added.

Dana and I weren't particularly pleased with that idea, since they had ample financial resources and we felt that they needed to spend as much time on their schoolwork as possible. This was their final high school year and the marks were important for them getting acceptance into university. They were also still part of the youth orchestra.

"You could do that as a summer job, but we don't think this is such a good idea during the school year," I said.

We should've known better, because Jake then started to rhyme off reasons why we should let them, which then turned into a 'discussion' between Dana and him. Jake was becoming very persuasive and it was difficult to win an argument when he was passionate about something. Dana and I won our share of them, but this one wasn't looking so good.

He had a big smile on his face, as things progressed, as he was sensing a victory. Sean didn't say too much, as he was content to just sit back with me and let the 'discussion' take its course. Both of us knew that Jake would likely win the debate, so I started to plan in my mind the conditions we would impose. We could tell when the 'discussion' was coming to an end, because they ended up talking in Italian, which is what Dana resorted to when she was exasperated or perturbed with him.

"Va bene, ma la scuola viene prima," she said. (Ok, but school comes first)

"Naturalmente," he said, with a big smile. (Of course)

"Ok we'll go along with this, but with some limits," I said.

We came to an agreement where they would work no more than 10 hours per week and I would see if they could get opportunities to learn the business and not just sling coffee all the time.

"I'm not going to ask for special treatment and this will only happen if there are legitimate openings for students still available," I said.

I also stipulated that their employment would have to be at the location closest to town. They also came up with a very mature suggestion, that since they really didn't need the money, they would donate what wages were paid to them to Jake and Sean's place. At the end of the week, the boys and I went over to the Tim's location near us and we met with my partner, John Langdon, who was the owner/operator of that location.

"We have a few openings at the moment for students and I'd be happy to have the boys working for me," John said.

"Dana and I put some conditions on their employment, the main one being that they work no more than ten hours a week," I said.

"That's no problem, Al," he said.

The operations manager, Jerry, had now joined us at John's request. He had been with us for fifteen years and though he was rather gruff, he was a competent manager, I was told. Since I was a non-operating partner I didn't know much about the day-to-day management of the business. John introduced him and the boys went with him to the back to fill out the necessary paperwork so they could start working the next week.

I also brought up the possibility with John, of the boys learning the business. He suggested that he would show Sean the financial side of the operation and that Jake could help the manager, Jerry, with writing an impending report to Tim's head office over an insurance claim a customer had made. We were being sued for spilling coffee and burning the customer, but there was no merit to the claim, as we had the incident on closed circuit video, which showed it wasn't our fault.

"Jerry isn't the most literate guy," John said. "I'm sure Jake can help with the writing, since you say he's quite the English student."

Jake was also very interested in legal matters and I knew that he would be very interested in this given his litigious nature. The law course he took during the last school year was one of his favourite subjects after English.

Hockey season would be upon us soon and Carson had gone to the Kitchener Rangers training camp in early August, but they told him at the end of the first week that they were going to send him to one of their feeder teams. I had gone up to see him one day during the camp with Doreen and Dana and though his skills were excellent, they were not good enough yet to overcome his lack of size and strength. The training during the summer with the Rangers strength coach had helped a great deal, but it was a matter of Carson growing up and out a little more, which we were sure he would do.

The Rangers placed him with the Cougars. They played out of Burlington Ontario, which was about 25 minutes away from town. The Rangers were affiliated with them and the Cougars were in the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League, which was a level of Junior hockey that was just below the major junior A.

The boys, Dana and I went with Doreen to see the last Cougars practice where the coach was to make the final cuts before the season started. Since the Rangers had sent him down to the Cougars, there wasn't much danger of Carson not making the team and certainly not after we watched him perform at the practice.

"What is Carson talking about that he's not sure if the coach is going to give him a lot of ice time this year?" I asked the boys, as we sat in the stands.

"Carson's getting better with his confidence, but he still worries a bit," Sean said.

"He's the best one on the ice. I'm sure that coach would like to have him on every second shift if he could," I said.

When he came out of the dressing room it was obvious from the look on his face that he had good news.

"The coach said he wants me to play defence. He said that he was short at the position and I was the only forward that had enough skill to play the position," he said, with a big smile.

"So I guess that means you made the team," I said, teasing him.

"I guess," he responded, with a big smile and a shrug.

Before we left the rink, his agent, Dan Pelligano, saw us and came over to where we were standing.

"Well done, Carson. You certainly impressed the scouts that were here today," he said.

"What scouts?" he asked.

Dan told us that there were a couple of American university scouts that had come up to take a look at two other boys that were being considered for scholarships for next season.

"I went over to put in a good word, but they had already noticed you," he said, with a big smile.

The American university scouts weren't interested in the Major Junior A teams, since those players were ineligible to play in the American University hockey system. But, there were no such restrictions on the Ontario Provincial Junior A Hockey League. It was a highly regarded league and there were many players that ended up in the US after a year or two in the league. There was going to be an evaluation camp in NY State that would be attended by a number of the American university hockey coaches from the northeastern part of the country in the next week.

"I have an invite for Carson to go down there with those two other boys that they came up to see," he said, as he smiled at Carson.

"Cool! We can go down with you and be your cheering section," Sean said, as Jake and he gave Carson a big smile.

"Maybe we should make it a family affair," Dana added. "I haven't been to the States shopping for a while. I'm sure Doreen and I could find some stores to keep us busy."

I could see that this was going to be a costly trip and not just because of the travel expenses. We went out for a late lunch at Milestones as a celebration.

"Hopefully I play well enough to get a scholarship so I can play hockey and go to University," Carson told us at the restaurant.

"Carson, honey, you can go to university without a scholarship. I have enough money saved to get you through. I do have a good job, you'll remember," Doreen said. "You can still play Junior hockey here in Ontario."

She had made sure Carson's father had paid his fair share in the divorce settlement, after Melissa's mother uncovered where he was hiding his money. Carson had also pulled his marks up and we were sure he would be able to continue in post-secondary education somewhere. Getting a scholarship and playing in the US college system would be a bonus. It was good to see him so positive about his future and moving forward.

The boys were excited to start at Hortons and their first shift was on a Wednesday. They both had a last period spare at school, because, as Grade 12 students, they only had to take three subjects per semester. They left from school, as they took the RDX so they could drive themselves to the 2 p.m. shift. When they came home they were a bit evasive when I asked how things went. I knew from their body language that something was up.

"So, what happened that has you two so reticent?" Dana asked.

Sean wasn't very forthcoming, but true to his nature, Jake filled us in on their concerns. There was an incident involving Vikram, who was working there and being subsidized by Jake and Sean's place.

"Jerry, the manager, is not very accommodating and he was very demeaning to Vikram."

Things mustn't have gone well, because Jake only resorted to using his considerable vocabulary when he was excited or perturbed. I was also concerned that Jake and Jerry may have gotten into an argument.

"I hope there wasn't any confrontation with Jerry," I said.

"Not yet," Sean interjected.

La Scala

The Shaw Festival

The Snowbirds Acrobatic Air Team.

Burlington Cougars Hockey Team

Tim Hortons