“Sempre Dolcissimo Cantabile”
(Always Sweetly Singing)
Author: D. Sanders
---- continued... Go read these posts first
The rest of what I have thus far....
Breakfast was subdued; Tinks normally the first at the table and the last to leave had taken just a few pieces of toast and disappeared back into his rooms.
“I haven’t seen him like this in years.” Mandy sad sadly mindlessly stirring her coffee the sugar long since dissolved in the liquid her attention was lost elsewhere.
“Me either. One step forward and two steps back with him.” Farin commented pushing the remainder of his meal away his appetite gone.
“I think it’s my fault. I think I might have said something to upset him.” Val commented, as his own meal lay untouched before him.
“It’s not your fault. Even the most innocent of comments can trigger a bad memory for us all. Tinks just has more than his fair share of bad ones.”
“So you fill him with other memories to dull the pain of previous ones. What does he like?” Beau asked and Eran shrugged.
“Music. You’ll usually find him with his ears buried in headphones off duty.”
“Good.” Beau said picking up his guitar from a corner. He kicked off a bright melody, and ancient folk hymn that every Pirotaine Child learned practically before he could walk.
Eran nodded, he’d sung this many times with Beau, he hadn’t sung in years but he wasn’t too terribly out of practice. He took the melody in his strong mid range baritone and Beau took the higher counterpoint above with a bright clear tenor. What surprised them was Val, his voice a booming steady bass beneath them. Three-part harmony filled the room and it didn’t take long for Tinks to wander in to listen, his face awash with shock and soon pleasure as he sat cross legged on the floor, leaning against the couch and just closed his eyes to listen.
Tinks loved music, he’d often get lost in it for hours, picking out various harmony parts to hum along to or adding his own harmony line if a solo voice was on the recording. He hadn’t realized he was humming along, he didn’t know the words, but the music was a simple chording hymn which repeated itself after a few stanzas and a soft fourth voice harmony just under Beau’s tenor could be heard, Eran smiled and quickly scribbled the words down and nudged Tinks knee with his toe and handed him the lyrics.
Beau Paused “That’s a unique harmony line you added. You have a great ear Tinks. Let’s start again, don’t be shy, trust your ear, you have remarkable pitch. Eran write down the words to “Jubilant Harvest.” While you’re at it.”
Farin and Mandy settled on the couch with their coffee as the impromptu quartet sat at the table singing in beautiful four-part harmony. Perfectly in-tune and the rich blend of strong male voices singing of Harvest Blessings and Spring Rejoicing was like stepping back into the time these songs had been written.
“I could live here.” Farin sighed tapping his foot as he listened. “This planet is called simplistic and backwards. I think the people just know how to appreciate the simple things in life. It’s in their music.”
“Eran always was simplistic and not prone to excess. It seems it’s in the Pirotaine Blood.” Mandy quipped sipping her coffee and smiling at Tinks who was laughing again without his mask. Real laughter and joy, as Eran and Val wrote out lyrics to all the hymns they knew.
“Eran we are not teaching him THAT!” Beau gasped as he looked over Eran’s shoulders that were shaking with laughter.
Val grinned. “I’m running out of folk songs too Beau. What’s a male chorus without a few bawdy bar songs?”
“They’re vulgar! Especially that one! ERAN MARIUS CALLUM you nasty man.”
“Oh I gotta see now.” Tinks said leaning over Eran’s shoulder and howling. “Come on Beau, teach me please?”
Beau just rolled his eyes and plucked out the melody. “I refuse to sing it, but go on I’m out voted.”
Eran and Val kicked off the first verse which had Mandy’s jaw in the vicinity of her chest and Farin laughing so hard his eyes were watering, “Marvelous Mandy the Madam of Mistrelle” was the most tawdry thing she’d ever heard and then the penny dropped as Eran grinned evilly at Mandy.
“You BASTARD! I’ll give you Marvelous Mandy.”
Tinks ducked the well-flung pillow that rebounded off Eran’s head even as he continued to sing along without missing a beat.
Tinks had joined Farin laughing and howling in hysterics at poor Mandy’s expense.
“I’ll kill you both later. I cook your food!” Mandy playfully threatened, not really offended, but playing the part well.
The spur of the moment sing-a-long ended on that note and After Tinks picked himself up off the floor managed to pick at the leftovers still on the table. “That was fun. I didn’t know you could sing Eran.”
“I can croak a melody. Beau’s the singer not me.”
“You’re not half bad yourself.” Beau said to Tink who shrugged.
“It’s mathematical, just pick a note in the chord and sing it.”
“That’s called a good ear, it is mathematical in a way, but doing it well is an art. I take it you tend to make up harmonies a lot to your disks?” Beau asked as the pair set themselves up at the sink to wash dishes.
“Melodies get boring after you learn the song. You can learn the song a dozen more times adding parts to it.” Tinks said scrubbing at a particularly stubborn bit of crust on a plate.
“Spoken like a closet musician. I think you and I will get along swimmingly my friend. I’ll share my disks if you show me what wonders you have picked up in your travels.”
“DEAL!” Tinks grinned as Val carried over the last of the dishes from the table.
“How long you staying?” He asked and Beau turned to look at Eran.
Eran shrugged. “A month, a year? I don’t know it depends on the work and how long we all decide as a group to stay. Why?”
“I was hoping you’d be here long enough for winter fest. I’m dreadfully short on males for the choir.”
Beau stopped drying a mug. “Festival Choir? You’ve got a choir?” Beau looked possessed.
“Trying to get one together. Been working with Shaman Frieg to try and get one together for it. We’ve tons of women signed up to participate, just a handful of men.”
“What’s Winter Fest?” Tinks asked and Beau turned to Eran who smiled.
“It’s only the best time of year in Pirotaine. Food, Singing, more food, candlelight in every window, pine on every hearth, and twelve days of giving to friends and family, it can break a man to a pauper and he’ll sing as he gives away his last credit. It’s a celebration of life and peace. The first Pilgrims landed on Pirotaine during these twelve days and it’s giving thanks to the Gods for guiding them to this planet of bountiful land.” Beaus asked and Eran thought a moment.
“It’s more of a spiritual holiday really a time of Thanksgiving and time to just be absolutely crazy with those you love. We give presents to everyone, we eat like pigs, and we are charitable to others less fortunate. It makes you feel good and makes other feel better. I think we should stay at least until Festival. I haven’t celebrated it in far too long with you.”
“WONDERFUL! Will you join the choir?” Val asked hopeful.
“You couldn’t keep me away Val. Eran?”
“I guess so. Beau would kick me if I said no. Tinks?”
“That sounds like a lot of fun actually. I’ve never done it though, feel free to kick me out if I suck asteroids.”
“Farin? Mandy?” Val turned to ask and both looked about ready to bolt.
“I cannot sing. But I can cheer from the congregation.” Farin said staking away the now clean plates.
Mandy finished wiping off the table and shook her head. “Like my dear husband, I sing like a dying Fengorian lizard. However, I can cook, that sounds like something I can get into for the season.”
Val looked over the moon. “Fantastic! You saved me from having to go door to door begging. We rehearse at the town hall Fellsenday Evenings every other week until we get closer to the actual festival, then we’ll decide how many more practices we’ll need.”
“It’s still four months away, I think we have time.” Beau grinned and hung his towel on a cupboard doorknob.
“Beau will you direct us? Like you did when I was a kid? That was the best Choir we ever had.”
“How many from that old choir are left?”
“Then alright, it would be strange if too many people recognized me after all.”
“Not even the Shaman is the same. You know Rael; it’s different every time you turn around. No one stays too long before moving on to bigger or smaller.” Val replied sitting back at the table.
“True, Rael itself never changes, but the people do. Speaking of town, we should go get supplies and take you home before people begin to think we kidnapped you.” Beau chuckled and Val laughed.
“Yeah, Farin did want to raid my yards and no rest for the working man they say, thankfully I own my shop and I call the working hours. I’m all yours for the time being. I promised Farin I’d help him overhaul the “Infinity” and I must admit, this is a working holiday for me. I always wanted to get my hands on a baby like that.”
“Then let’s get ready to head out. One hour we leave, I need a shower first.” Eran ordered as he disappeared into the back into his own dwelling to shower. Beau behind him needing to clean up himself, he abhorred being dirty.
Tinks was sitting on the arm of the sofa, undoing the braid in his hair, knotted from sleeping against a rock. “Damn it, one of these days I’ll get up the nerve to chop this off. Fucking knots.”
“Need a hand?” Val asked and Tinks offered him his hair.
“Be my guest if you can get out that knot you’re more than welcome to try.”
“I helped my mother when she couldn’t do it herself anymore. Her hair was fine like yours, breathe on it wrong and it’s knotted. There, you’re free again.” Val said as he let the long, golden brown strands slip through his fingers like silk threads. “You have beautiful hair. I will never sell you a pair of scissors.” Val added and Tinks laughed.
“I know. Mandy and Eran would kill me too. I like it long, I just don’t like knots, no worries I won’t cut it anytime soon.” Tinks said brushing it out with his fingers.
“Pardon me while I go wash it, it needs it. Oh and just so you don’t worry or anything. Last night, it wasn’t you okay? I don’t mind you calling me Cris if you want to, it was other things bugging me none of it was your fault. Thanks for this morning, I’m looking forward to it.” And with that Tinks disappeared to shower.
Val just stood there smiling at the closed door. He was happy something so simple could make Cris smile, he was positively radiant when he smiled. He also much preferred Cris to Tinks too, Tinks was something you called a scamp of a boy. Cris was more befitting to the handsome young man who had just walked through the door beyond.
A young man Val desperately wanted to reach out to, to help, to comfort, and more eventually if the gods were kind. He would take it slow and show Cris the time of his life without pressure.
An hour to the minute Tinks came running out to the rest who were already loaded into the shuttle his hair still wet and loose.
“Why do we always have to wait on you?” Eran asked as Tinks climbed into the shuttle.
“You try washing this hair, it’s a PROCESS.” Tinks replied flopping into the last available seat and tried brushing his hair as Eran lifted off. “HEY rocket man, can you try a steady lift off so we don’t go rolling about back here?” Tinks grumbled almost falling off his seat and trying in vain to braid his still unruly wet hair. Val took his brush.
“Turn around.” He said and Tinks obliged.
“Now remember I’m a BOY here. Don’t style it like I’m yer mom now.” Tinks warned with a grin Val bopped him in the head with the brush.
“Don’t worry and sit still. I can manage a simple braid fool.”
Just a few minutes later Tinks examined the nice tight braid that hung over his shoulder. “Nice job, I can never get it this neat by myself. Thanks.”
Beau who had been watching the seen from where he sat up front next to Eran smiled enjoying the interplay between Tinks and Val.
“Hey is a good thing Enjoe’s not here, you’re in his seat Beau. He gets pissy when someone takes his seat.” Tinks teased and Eran rolled his eyes.
“When isn’t he pissy? Let’s not talk of Mr. Anti-social. Let’s decide on a game plan here.”
“Eran, Farin and Val can go be dirty men in a mechanical candy store. I claim Mandy and Tinks.”
“And do share pray-tell what you plan on doing?” Eran eyed Beau suspiciously.
“Stocking up. So please my dearest I may need to raid your credit purse.”
“Oh HELL NO Beau. Not a hope in hell, I know you when you don’t have a budget.”
“No budget? Oh tell me did my husband go off and get rich on me?”
“Beau, I mean it. We need more than sugar to live off of.”
“You evaded my question.”
“Beau… Yes all right damn it don’t look at me like that. We’re fine for money does that satisfy you oh glutton of gluttons?”
“Of course. Hand over the credits and no one gets whined at.” Beau said holding out his hand and Eran irritably slapped a credit disk in his hand.
“You are absolutely rotten to the core Beau. Mandy I’m begging you, buy me real food!”
“Don’t worry Eran, I’ll baby-sit.” Mandy chuckled from the back as Eran landed the shuttle out front of Val’s salvage yards.
Tinks grinned evilly and hooked his arm through Beau’s “My new best friend. Did you steal my cookies?”
“Absolutely, I’ll buy you more.”
“Rock-on. At last someone I can pig out with who won’t yell at me.”
“Come on Boys. Val point us in the direction of the Food markets?” Mandy asked shouldering a bag and a list of items they needed. Tinks grabbed a collapsible hover pallet-jack to help cart the bounty back to the shuttle on foot.
“Beau should remember, it’s not moved. Four blocks north, three blocks east.”
“Is the Bakery on Fontesque still there?” Beau asked Val who nodded.
“That’s our first stop, I’m already drooling.” Beau said leading the way with a light step and they Left Farin, Eran, and Val to take care of the non-edible supplies.
“You’d better buy me real Peridia coffee beans Beau!”
“Yes! And your Sandril lager and your cigarettes don’t worry!” Beau called back already halfway down the block.
Eran shook his head amused as Val opened up the storefront and the trio stepped inside to go over the list Farin had of upgrades and servicing he wanted to do to the “Infinity.”
Mandy, Tinks and Beau sat around a small table over rich foamy coffee and steamed milk laced with chocolate and peppermint. And licked the remains of puff pastry off sticky fingers.
“That was fabulous what was that called again?” Tinks asked wiping his fingers on a napkin.
“Pirotaine specialty. Mocha with Peppermint and Crème horn pastry, we had a lot of original settlers from Earth ions ago. These creations came with them among other things like our holidays and such. Where are you from Mandy?”
“Aergus. Industrial cesspool. There’s no agriculture left there, the entire planet is one huge city. All food comes from here actually.” Mandy said and Beau nodded.
“I know Pirotaine still supplies 25% of the food to the galaxy. We’re the largest agriculture planets still to this day, Four times bigger than Earth. There are strict laws on building here; most of our land is allocated to farming only. Where are you from Tinks?”
“Mirastor. Like Aergus, it’s a shithole. Gambling centers and Diamond mines and fuck all else.”
“Then let me show you both a little life at a much slower pace. Ever been to an open air market where the produce was picked yesterday?” Both shook their heads. “Then follow me.” Beau said tossing a tip on the table as Mandy and Tinks followed him down the street.
Mandy was in heaven, everything from fruits and vegetables to the meat was fresh and bountiful. The fresh cream and milk from a local dairy was divine and the thought of cooking with real butter for a change had her buying a good gallon of if it in a tub. Beau and Tinks trailed behind her in her buying frenzy. Both men sharing smirks, here Eran had been afraid Beau would go nuts. Between him and Tinks just a few bags of cookies, various bits of candied confections and a cake or two were in the rapidly filling crate on the hover jack.
Beau added a nice large bag of Eran’s favorite coffee beans, he still preferred to grind them himself before brewing, his favorite brand of lager, and his mint laced tobacco cigarettes.
“Mandy I think we have enough for an army for a month. Thankfully it’s just five minutes away by the shuttle if we run out of something, the market never closes.” Beau teased as the crate was filled to bursting.
“True, just one more stop, I want some local cookbooks, I might as well try something new while I’m here.” Mandy said stopping and dashing into the first bookstore she passed, coming out with a few books with pictures on the covers that made Tinks hungry.
“It’s almost lunchtime and we have perishables, I wonder how the others are doing. I hope they saved us room for Mandy’s splurging.” Tinks said as they turned the last corner and the shuttle was in view. Full. “It looks like two trips.”
“Food first, I need to get the dairy products in cooling units. Did you see the cheese I bought? Oh I’m gonna gain a hundred pounds on this R&R. Hallelujah.” Mandy cheered as they reached the shuttle and the others came out from within the shop.
“Good lord woman! What did you buy?” Farin gasped and Mandy grinned.
“Everything. Come on, this stuff is FRESH and won’t last out here in this heat. I love this planet, I love that Market, I am in a cook’s paradise.”
“Then let’s load up and head out. We’re only taking the generator back now. There’s room. Val’s gonna stay with us at camp since it’s just more convenient than him commuting back and forth everyday.” Eran said and Val laughed as he hung up a sign on the door.
TEMORARILY CLOSED VIP CLIENTELE JOB –
CONTACT VALERIAN IN EMERGENCIES ONLY
“I figured if someone needed something desperately, which is unlikely, they can contact me on my communicator frequency number. Hope you don’t mind a bunkmate Cris.”
“Not at all.” Tinks replied cheerfully as he loaded the groceries into the shuttle with Mandy.
Beau looked to Eran, they’d both noticed the name “Cris” and Beau nudged Eran in the ribs.
“Yeah I noticed, I’m not that dense. Come on let’s get back I’m starving.” Eran chuckled climbing into the pilot’s seat.
“I’ll meet you back at camp, I need to swing by my dwelling and grab some necessities myself, I’ll meet you back at the caves.”
“Need a hand?” Tinks asked as he shut the hatch.
“Not really, but the company would be nice.”
“Sweet-talker. We’ll meet you back at camp!” Tink said cheerfully as the shuttle took off and Tinks followed Val down the street.
“I don’t live far, just at the end of the Pier there at the Inn. Just want to grab some clothes and my toothbrush.” Val said as they reached the cheap Inn and climbed the stairs.
“Hey no worries, I’ve a spare two hands man. Oh SWEET! A Hoveby! Does it work?” Tinks asked as he saw the old hover-motorcycle propped in the corner.”
“Absolutely. I take it out in the field occasionally. Want me to bring it? We can ride it back if you wear the back-pack it’ll ride two.”
“Does a Fengorian Lizard eat it’s young? I always wanted to ride on one of these babies.”
Val grinned as he shoved some clothes and his toiletries into a backpack and handed it to Tinks. “Strap that on and I’ll lug this brute downstairs. It may hover but it’s awkward on stairs.”
“Yeah but leave it outside and it’s stolen.”
The pair laughed and Tinks helped lock up Val’s small one room apartment as he trailed Val down the stairs and once outside Val climbed on and Tinks settle himself behind Val and wrapped his arms around Val’s waist. “Hold on tight, this thing’s got a kick on take off. You’ll fall of the end if you’re not careful.”
Tinks squeezed. “I’m ready. HIT IT!”
Tinks was whooping and hollering all down the block and out of town, his braid whipping out behind him as he clung to Val who was laughing himself as they drove out and managed to get to the camp to help unload the generator.
With the second generator installed, there was enough power to cover the load of the additional three units so the auxiliary power they had been taking from the “Infinity” was disconnected and taken off-line. Mandy was in her element, the three kitchen units that had come with the pre-fabrication dwelling had been combined in the main room making a large kitchen area and Mandy had all the cupboards and cooling units full. The rest of the main unit had been turned into living and dining space. The other two units were sleeping quarters. The unit Tinks and Val would share was set up as two private sleeping rooms that shared the bath facility. Farin’s and Mandy’s was just like the original unit of Beau’s a suite for the pair minus the kitchen that the original unit still had in tact. Beau’s unit had not been touched and was in its original fully functional state. Eran and Beau needed the privacy; they still had a lot of catching up to do after all.
Tinks helped Val settle in just as Mandy called them all in for a mid-afternoon lunch feast.
Everyone gathered at the long table with six mismatched chairs, and everyone was elbow to elbow but enjoying the family like atmosphere of good friends, good company, good conversation, and great food.
“Mandy my love, you just get better and better.” Farin groaned feeling positively bloated.
“Good ingredients make ALL the difference.” Mandy added thrilled at having the means to cook like she’d always wanted.
“I am too full and too lethargic right now to do anything other than let my food digest and piss around the rest of the day. WE ARE on R&R leave aren’t we?” Eran asked lighting up a cigarette and flopping onto the couch shoved against the wall in the main living space.
“It’s nice to have no schedule for a change.” Mandy spoke up from where she was wrapping up leftovers with Tinks at the counter.
“A little bit a day, it gets done right and properly and we get a recharge. Just what we need. We’re on the go so much; it’s nice to shift to a lower gear. I’m not getting any younger.” Farin sighed undoing a notch in his belt.
“Last I checked you were forty, that’s hardly old Farin.” Eran replied with a smirk. “I got you beat thrice over and then some.”
“Aye but you have an advantage oh walking fountain of youth.” Mandy retorted as she flopped down beside Eran on the couch.
“I could live here. I envy you and Beau being born here. What a wonderful planet.”
“So live here. You both don’t have to stay on the “Infinity”. Just because I picked you up, you’re not obligated to stay forever you know.” Eran said and Mandy looked shocked, she’d never even considered leaving Eran.
“Don’t look like I said something alien. I know you and Farin always wanted kids, retire while you’re young enough to still have them. You can’t raise kids on a ship.” Eran said and Mandy looked about ready to cry.
“Eran’s right. If you want a family, this is the place to have one.” Beau said pouring another cup of coffee for himself as he sat on a stool by the counter.
“God it would be like severing a limb to leave you and Tinks behind with sour old Enjoe for company. What would Tinks and Enjoe do if they got sick?”
“I’m well versed in medical. I had a lot of time to learn new things over the years. I’m going, they’ll be fine.” Beau said and Mandy looked to Farin.
“You’d need to hire another Engineer, Tinks is good, but he don’t know everything, about engines, he’s electronics.”
“Mind if I pipe in here? If you two plan to stay behind, can I be first in-line for a job application?” Val asked and Eran chuckled.
“Planet bound boy want adventure?”
“Seriously. I always wanted a job as a flight engineer. But I had the shop and Mom I couldn’t leave her to run it alone. I’d gladly turn the shop over to Farin for this once in a lifetime chance.”
“I’ll give him the appraisal. We’ll see how the “Infinity” like him.”
“Fair enough. If Farin thinks you can replace him, the job is yours Val.”
“WOOT!” Tinks hollered hugging Mandy’s shoulders. “I so want a gazillion-million pictures of any rugrats Mandy. You hear me?!”
“Aye Tinks, everyone hears you when you talk loudmouth. I promise. Oh god I’m gonna cry now. Promise you guys will VISIT occasionally.”
“That’s a promise Mandy. But we’re not saying good-bye for months yet. No getting sappy.” Eran demanded standing and heading toward the door. “I do believe There’s A Hoveby out here I’m dying to get my hands on. Val?”
Val just tossed Eran the key-lock control. “Go wild.”
“Don’t break your neck Eran!”
“Like it won’t fix?”
“But it hurts!”
“I’ll be careful Beau. Christ you’re like a mother hen. Go lay an egg worry wart.”
Beau just stuck his tongue out at Eran as everyone filtered outside to take turns riding the sports bike through the field. Even Mandy tore around the field like a madwomen hollering like a banshee.
It was late and all the leftovers from lunch were picked at for dinner as people began to retire in groups for the evening. Farin and Mandy to their room to watch a few classic vid-files they’d been meaning to catch up on. Beau and Eran had long since taken their leave of the others and Eran had only came out wrapped in a sheet to grab his cigarettes and beer before going back into their room again.
Tinks and Val were sitting outside at a small portable card table playing cards and laughing at whatever the other was talking about.
Life was tranquil and both moons shone full and bright over the camp on a muggy summer’s night.