home's the most excellent place
 

Chapter I: It's a New-Born Afternoon
Chapter II: On a Distant Shore
Chapter III: So Very Plain To Read
Chapter IV: Just To Give It a Tune

Chapter V: Love's a Gift That's Made for Givin'

December 24, 1956

Hanukkah had come and gone and Danny understood now what the Diamonds had meant by Hanukkah not being as big a deal to them as Sukkot.  For eight days they had lit candles on a special menorah.  Extra prayers had been said before and after lighting the candles.  There was certainly an air of significance around the week, but not with the same upheaval and festivity as Sukkot.

Now it was Christmas eve, and Danny found himself not really missing the holiday celebrations at all.  It felt rather normal to ignore the decorations in the stores.  After all, it wasn't like he had celebrated Christmas the previous year, either. 

Danny was standing by the window in the room he and Neil shared, as he often did.  He felt most comfortable there, standing sentinel, watching out for Paul or any of the other Cowhands.  He hadn't seen or heard anything from them since that day in the library.  Yet, he could never stop worrying; he was always watching, always waiting.

The knock on the door startled him.  If it had been Neil returning from the store with Mr. Diamond, he wouldn't have bothered to knock.  After all, it was Neil's room.  When the door opened a crack and revealed Mrs. Diamond's blonde, wavy-haired head, Danny relaxed. 

"Hi, Mrs. D."  The smile he gave her was genuine.  "Come on in."

"I didn't want to bother you, dear." Mrs. Diamond opened the door further, but stayed in the hall. 

Danny felt like she was hiding something and his worry returned.  "Is everything okay?"

"Here," she said simply, entering the room.  "For you."  She carried a small plastic tree in a pot.  "I thought you could put it in your room on top of the dresser.  And we can make some ornaments for it, if you like.  I've made some popcorn to string -- I think that's how it's done?"  She headed for the dresser and set the Christmas tree on top of it.

Danny felt an unexpected moisture in his eyes.  "Thank you."  It took two steps to reach her.  "Thank you."  He hugged her as hard as he could. 

Mrs. Diamond returned the embrace.  "Your welcome, son," she whispered. 



January 13, 1957

"Mrs. Armen?" Danny spoke into the phone nervously. 

"Yes.  Who am I speaking with?"

"It's Danny Mangan, ma'am."  He twisted the cord around as he spoke, causing some static on the line.  He quickly let go of the cord.

"Danny?"  The voice sounded pleasantly surprised.  "Are you calling for my husband?  He's not here right now."

"No, um, actually, there was something I was hoping you could help me with," Danny answered. 

"Oh?  I'd be happy to help with whatever it is if I can.  So, what is it then?"  Mrs. Armen sounded curious.

Danny had spent hours looking through different shops in the last week and couldn't believe how many different types of guitars there were as well as the wide variety of prices.  He really wished he could ask his dad for some advice. 

"It's something Neil told me once, and, well, I wondered how much you knew about jazz guitars."  The request sounded strange even to him. 

"Jazz guitars?" Now Mrs. Armen sounded confused.  "What would I know about jazz guitars?"

"Well, Neil told me you really liked jazz and you took him and Harvey to a show once--"

Mrs. Armen interrupted him.  "Yes, I do love jazz.  But I don't know how to play or anything.  Does this have something to do with your father?" 

"No," Danny answered.  "Not my dad.  With Neil."

"Neil?"

Danny tried to start over.  "Neil's birthday is coming up and I've been saving my money from the store.  I want to buy him a guitar."

"Oh.  Oh!  I see.  And knowing that I love jazz, you thought I might be able to help?" Mrs. Armen asked.

"Yes," Danny replied.  "I didn't know who else to ask, and there are just so many choices, and I don't know that much about jazz either, except that I like it."

"Neil likes jazz, too?"  Before Danny could answer, Mrs. Armen kept going.  "I mean, I know that Neil likes jazz.  But I didn't think-- well, does Neil know how to play guitar?"

"He said he played a little at summer camp with some folk singer up there.  And he liked the guitar better than the other instruments he tried."  Danny stared nervously at the wall.  "So, do you think you could help me pick out a guitar for him?"

"That's a pretty expensive gift, isn't it?  Wouldn't you be better off saving your money and just buying Neil that new Gil Melle album?" 

"No!"  Danny almost shouted the rest of his answer, but caught himself in time.  "No, Mrs. Armen," he said less forcefully.  "Neil needs to play."

"He needs to play?  I see."

Danny frowned.  He was back on his own in trying to figure out what kind of guitar to get Neil.

"Danny, can you meet me over near the north end of Prospect Park in Brooklyn?" Mrs. Armen continued.   "There's a music hall on Lafayette Avenue; there must be quite a few stores around there that might be able to help us."

Danny grinned.  He'd misunderstood Mrs. Armen a second ago.  "I know exactly where you're talking about.  I can meet you in front of the Brooklyn Academy of Music." 



January 24, 1957

Danny couldn't help grinning when he saw Neil's face.  Neil eyed the large package suspiciously.  He glanced at Danny, and then he looked at his father, and then at his mother. Then he turned back to his father.

"Is that what I think it is?" Neil asked, incredulous.

"You won't know until you open it." Mr. Diamond said in his usual practical tone, but his eyes were twinkling.

Apparently, Neil didn't need to be told twice.  He ripped off the festive paper quickly, revealing the alligator-skin case.  Danny and Harvey exchanged an amused glance at Neil's expense. 

Carefully, Neil lifted the case to reveal the beautiful Harmony Stella guitar inside.  He seemed almost afraid to pick it up.  "Thank you, Pop.  Thank you, Mameleh."

"Thank Danny, son, and Mrs. Armen," Mr. Diamond answered.  "It was all their idea."

"There's more." Mrs. Diamond pointed to a piece of paper that had been tucked inside the guitar case. 

Neil picked up the paper and read it carefully.  "Lessons?"  Neil got up and let out a loud whoop as he bounded over to his mother and danced her around the room.


chapter VI: think of all the implications