19: “These people are ruthless”

Gord’s choir was heading to the Roehampton Choral Voices Competition. It was a pretty big deal. It wasn’t a big deal to anybody else, but it was a big deal to Gord. He’d been rehearsing his choir for months. They’d perfected several Abba hits and he’d even worked it some songs from the past five years. He tricked them into learning “Don’t Take the Money” by Bleachers and “Knocking At the Door” by Arkells. He felt like they had a pretty good chance of making it to the finals. They might not win; there was a gospel choir from the massive Baptist church in the middle of downtown Roehampton that had won every single year for the past seven years. Gord thought their chances of dethroning them were slim to none, but he had high hopes for a respectable third place finish.

Gord didn’t think any of his friends would be remotely interested in coming so he didn’t bother inviting any of them. He was therefore quite surprised to find all of them waiting in the audience at the beginning of the first round of competitions. Gord’s choir was waiting in the audience as well, watching all the other choirs perform before they had to take the stage themselves. In retrospect, that may not have been a very good idea because Tony, Gord’s star baritone, was starting to get nervous. He kept talking about how good the other choirs were and Gord was having a hard time talking him down, mostly because he couldn’t find it in himself to really argue. A lot of the other choirs were very good. Gord was banking a lot on his own choir’s rendition of “Mama Mia” to take them to the finish. It was a lot of faith to put in an Abba hit.

“I can’t believe you guys came,” Gord said, having gotten up from his seat next to his choir to greet his friends.

“I can’t either,” Amare said bitterly. He shot a dark and betraying look in Finch’s direction and Gord’s cold heart grew a little warmer. For his part, Finch ignored both of them. Robin, who was seated between Finch and Gavin, grinned at Gord.

“I wouldn’t have missed this for the world,” he told Gord, who wasn’t stupid enough to think it was coming from a place of kindness and support. “Like eighty per cent of the dudes in this room are wearing toupees. I saw a woman in a royal blue pantsuit, a la Hilary Clinton, flip someone off for knocking over her sheet music because they absolutely did it on purpose. These people are ruthless. Most of these are church choirs. It’s wild.”

He looked positively delighted. Gord looked to Gavin, who didn’t say or do anything. He was wearing sunglasses indoors like a jerk. It occurred to Gord, after he’d been staring at Gavin expectantly for about two minutes, that Gavin was asleep.

“My choir’s on in about thirty minutes,” he told his friends, at least the ones who were awake.

“Can’t wait,” Amare replied with absolutely no enthusiasm whatsoever.

For their first round, Gord’s choir sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”, a standard of theirs, Donna Summer’s “Hot Stuff”, another standard of theirs, and then Arkells’ “Knocking At The Door” for their big finish. When Gord looked over to them at the end of the performance, the judges looked genuinely impressed and Gord was optimistic for their future in the competition. He still didn’t think they had a very good shot at winning, but no other choir was likely to do the same songs as they had.

“This is genuinely one of the weirdest things I have ever experienced,” Robin told Gord when he came to join them after his choir had performed. Robin looked very, very excited about it. He certainly looked more excited than Amare, who was openly texting, and Gavin, who was clearly still asleep. Gord turned to Finch.

“I like him,” Gord told Finch, pointing to Robin.

“Yeah, he’s alright,” Finch shrugged. Gord turned back to Robin.

“Ignore him. You’re the best person he’s ever dated by far.”

“Well, I’ve met that Mason guy with the scarves and the optimism so I believe that,” Robin replied.

By the time Gord’s choir was prepping to perform in the second round of competitions, Myrtle had turned up. She brought with her a winning smile and a carrot cake to share. So many of Gord’s choir members had dentures so it turned out to be more of a kind gesture than an actual dessert to be enjoyed. Myrtle shared most of it with his friends instead, taking a seat on the end of the row next to Finch. Gavin woke up the moment she peeled back the cellophane covering the cake pan, which seemed about right.

For their second performance, Gord had his choir sing “Don’t Take The Money” by Bleachers, Abba’s “Take A Chance”, and “Holy, Holy, Holy”. Again, it was an eclectic selection, but they were some of their best songs. Yet again, when they finished their set, Gord looked to the judges to find that they looked genuinely pleased. Gord was certain they were going to make it to the finals.

“You were so good!” Myrtle cheered when Gord returned to his friends again.

“Phenomenal,” Gavin added, shoving carrot cake in his mouth. Gord wrinkled his nose in repulsion.

In the final round, Gord’s choir sang their very best numbers. They began with “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees, a song Gord had taught them mostly for the irony, but they ended up being very good at performing it. Then they moved on “Second Hand News” by Fleetwood Mac, complete with tambourines. Muriel even had a triangle. And then they finished it off with a marvellous rendition of Boney M’s “Rasputin”.

“Genuinely so fucking weird, man,” Robin told Gord when he came to sit down for a third time. The carrot cake was gone so Gavin was asleep again.

Myrtle held Gord’s hand while the winners were being announced. As predicted, they didn’t win, but they did come in third. They got quite a small gold plastic trophy that Gord would treasure always.

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