LS Song Challenge, April 2004
Nobody knows, not even you, when I first started walking on wings;
But how long can anyone ever, ever hope to hide
Love that’s locked up inside?
Every story worth spinning must have a beginning…
Once I had a secret love that lived within the heart of me;
All too soon my secret love became impatient to be free.
Just how wonderful you are and why I’m so in love with you.
Now I shout it from the highest hills, even told the golden daffodils:
At last my heart’s an open door, and my secret love’s no secret any more!
Lyrics: Paul Francis Webster Music: Sammy Fain
The dawn had finally
arrived: little fingers of golden light
were touching the daffodil displays and reaching down and out to the freshening
surf of the Pacific. High up on the
grass of the
Soon the little white courtesy wagon would wind its way up the mountain to serve a steady stream of coffee, bagels, muffins, soft drinks, sandwiches, and burritos to observatory staff, construction workers, students, and visitors until public closing at 6 pm. The truck full of construction workers would follow, then everyone else. Greg’s light brown eyes enjoyed the daffodils blooming in great artistic clumps among the dark evergreen. He thought of blond hair and started humming to himself.
The vendor wagon pulled up with a clank and parked for business. Soon those inside had created counters and awnings, with covered plates of food on display. A young man jumped down from the truck in worn tee-shirt and jeans, a well-used backpack slung jaunty on one shoulder, a colorless UCLA windbreaker tied to a strap.
“Thanks for the ride, Jose,” he said flipping his longish blond hair out of his face. “I’ll be around if you need any more help, today.” His blue eyes lit up as Jose tossed him a muffin and a carton of milk.
“You work hard, Richard. Come see me at noon; maybe I have work for you,” said Jose with a smile.
Greg stood up and watched the young man covertly as he climbed the stairs up to the huge entrance doors and pushed. He was fine featured, lightly tanned, and carried his five feet ten inches like a young dancer, all knobby knees and long muscles. Greg thought he looked too thin and tired. When the young man realized it was too early for public entry, he sat on the sunny steps to inhale the muffin. His glance crossed Greg’s, and he smiled and nodded, then blushed when Greg smiled back and began walking towards him.
“Good morning,” Greg said. “It’s early for public access. Are you a student? Here to sign up for the new class in black holes? I know I see you here regularly, but not in any of my classes. I’m Greg Markham, Observatory Director, so I do a bit of everything…”
“Richard Thompson, Sir,” the younger man jumped up to answer. “I’m majoring in Fine and Studio Arts. I’ve been up here doing research into the colors and shapes of space, which I want to use in my semester art project.”
“Maybe you could tell me about it in more detail a little later,” Greg responded. “Drop by my office so we can find a time. I think I could suggest an imaging series that would help.”
As bright blue eyes looked up into warm brown, Richard found himself very aware of his shabby appearance next to the young professor, whose six foot three inches looked strong, toned, and well turned out in the dark blue UCLA running suit. All he could think of to say was “Thanks, Professor Markham, I will.”
Whistling now, Greg turned to get some breakfast from Jose, leaving Richard to wander aimlessly to the side of the observatory where the new education wing was being constructed. Without realizing it, Richard, too, started humming: What was that song? He was sure he knew it, and it sure did fit the glorious early morning view! Glancing at the portable fencing surrounding the site, Richard was thrilled to notice a stray hard hat leaning against the fence. He sidled over to it and very nonchalantly picked it up before proceeding to the front of the grassy area.
Richard did not notice he had Greg’s furtive and fascinated attention. Why would Richard want a hard hat? Greg traded greetings with Jose while they both watched. The truck full of lucky day workers turned into the parking area and pulled up to the construction site. Smitty, the day worker boss, jumped down from the cab to open the padlock to the temporary buildings. Workers climbed down to take advantage of Jose’s early morning preparations. Soon Smitty called his Number Two over to pass out hard hats from the shed. As each man passed through the gate, he picked up a hat, then checked in with Smitty’s clipboard to be sure he was on the list to be paid.
Greg was amused to see Richard, hat already pulled down over his blond hair, slip into the line checking in with Smitty. When Smitty did not find his name, he added Richard to the list and sent him in to a work station. Greg looked at Jose and both men laughed at Richard’s sneaky way of joining the work crew for the day. If he had tried at the hiring place, he would have had to pay fees to the bullies controlling who got to sign for the few day jobs around.
Handing an extra five dollars to Jose, Greg said, “Make sure he has something to eat at noon, O.K.? And let him think it’s from you…” Jose knew Greg meant the young blond.
“O.K., Greg, if you say so… Have a great day!” Jose promised as he whistled Greg’s catchy song while he made burritos.
Pulling out his keys, Greg walked up to the huge doors and let himself into the building. He would probably have just enough time to change and finish his coffee before the board members were due with the architect to look at the construction site. He found himself whistling that song again… what were the words? It was driving him nuts, something about a “secret love.” He thought it was from some movie.
The construction meeting was
not going well. The two advance Board
members, Henry and Mel, had not expected to be clambering over the construction
site in the heavy sunshine of deep spring.
They were not interested in how the work was being done; they wanted to
know how the addition was going to look in the
Greg listened, responded, and approved, but his eyes followed a young jean-clad figure as he loaded debris, joked with the other workers, and tried to answer a question put to him by one of he Board members. Greg could see Richard’s muscles move as he strained to push his wheelbarrow up the incline to the dumpster. Greg started whistling again, words just popping into his head: “Once I had a secret love… that lived within the heart of me…” He really had to get a grip, he had not heard that last question. “Is it all right if I break away now to talk to Smitty about the blueprints,” David was asking.
“Sure, go ahead. Use anything you need to set up for the meeting. Is there any way I can help?” Greg answered. He noticed some of the day workers on break had pulled out a guitar and were gathered around one of the picnic tables singing in Spanish: damned if it didn’t sound like that song running through his head…
“No, just keep the Board guys away until 1 p.m., O.K.? I have a lot of good stuff for them down at our offices, but I didn’t know they wanted that kind of meeting up here,” said a disgusted David. He headed toward Smitty’s trailer whistling Greg’s song. Suddenly the whistling became words floating back to Greg in the clear morning air, “All too soon my secret love became impatient to be freeeee…”
Later, walking into the meeting room with five minutes to spare, Greg was marveling over what had just happened. After an unremarkable sandwich tray lunch sent up from university kitchens over on main campus, Greg had talked the two Board members through a display of one of their more recent sets of distant star images. James kept all of the images organized for the observatory, and Greg had arranged with him to have a selection of unnamed stars available for their visitors to name. They would get a certificate to commemorate the event.
Mel chose a pretty blue star to be named for his daughter, Jenny, and Henry picked a red star to be named for his prize border collie, Ralph. The third slide was a yellow star somewhat like Sol. To Greg it seemed to shimmer with good spirits, casting its golden glow over every heavenly body in the picture field as well as the darkened viewing room. When James started to shuffle it away and turn off the equipment, Greg surprised himself and everyone else by all but shouting, “Wait! I want to name that one. Please call it ‘Richard Thompson’, and James, make sure I get the certificate noting location as well!”
Greg had to laugh. He had been thinking of Richard all week, certainly since this morning out on the hillside! No wonder “Secret Love” had been on his mind all day. What were the words—“Now I shout it from the highest hills, even told the golden daffodils”— it must have been the flowers. Well, he would find him at the end of the meeting and invite him for dinner, maybe give him the star certificate, and who knows…
David had arranged the meeting room so his visuals were sitting on easels in front of the group. All attention was on the three drawings in the center: first, a beautiful but accurate rendition of the main observatory building with the completed Education Wing now balancing the building to the south. Next to that was an aerial view showing all the drama of the park-like setting on the mountaintop overlooking the sea.. The third showed smaller drawings of a classroom, an assembly hall, and an area for studying images from the big telescope.
Greg knew David had just pulled the drawings together, but they were so polished that the presentation seemed well-organized and professional despite the tattered blue prints and hand written facts and figures on the giant easel pad. The Board seemed satisfied, complimented David on the presentation, and promised Greg all the financial support the project would need to finish on time or possibly early.
“That was great, David, you really pulled it off for us,” said Greg as he shut the Conference Room door. “In fact, I’d like to get your artist’s renditions framed for the foyer so everyone knows what we’re doing here, if that’s all right with you?”
David laughed. “Well, you’ll have to consult with the artist for that, and I’m sorry to say that it wasn’t me!”
“What? But I thought you were going to…”
“Well, I was, but Smitty reminded me we had a resident artist on staff for the day. That blond art student, Richard, did it in your office over lunch time using me and the blueprints for reference. He did a much better job than I ever could, and he was glad to be drawing instead of picking up concrete trash on the site. I left him happily eating his lunch on your sofa.” The men were still talking as they pushed into Greg’s office. Both stopped to admire the view. Richard was curled up asleep on Greg’s black leather sofa, the remains of one of Jose’s best burritos on the coffee table.
David took one look at Greg’s face, dumped the folders he was carrying on Greg’s credenza, and smiled knowingly at his friend. “Maybe you should finish that song you’ve got everyone singing,” David said on his way out.
Greg finally moved over to the sofa and touched Richard gently on the shoulder. The young man woke with a start, immediately sitting up when he realized he had been sleeping on Greg’s sofa. Greg could not resist the slightly muddled and sleepy look Richard gave him. Kissing him gently on full soft lips, Greg soon had his arms full of warm sleepy boy, whose blue eyes were full of amazement and delight.
“I thought we could get some dinner together,” Greg said. “It’s quitting time for day workers, and I can leave early… I want to tell you about the song that’s been in my head for some time now…”