Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Tuning Up For Life - FridayFlash

Do you recollect, how we signed you up to play a musical instrument on getting into your prep school ? Without consulting you. More fool us, as we fell hook, line and sinker for the clarion to achievement of the school’s mission statement. Since we misconstrued their rubric, as embodying a compulsory insistence on extra-curricular enlisting in the fine arts. The real cultural accessories of civilisation, rather than Pop Idol and air guitar through a console.

With her passion for opera, I tacitly let your mother pluck which particular box of wind, or strung catgut would best match your constitution. Tacet would have hit the mark more accurately. For you resolved from day one never to attend a single lesson didn’t you? On orientation day, a quick raised arm count and you calculated that only a smattering of your new peers had been suckered by the school’s lettereheaded legerdemain and you were not disposed to join their ranks of speciousness. When quizzed why we never saw you with tommy gun case for the purpose of practice at home, you smartly rejoindered that you hadn’t much taken to the viola, but had swapped over to the cello. Even embroidering that the school deemed it too unwieldy to be transported to and from school on a weekly basis. We took this on trust and vaguely dreamed ahead to solo recitals given in school halls. You, sat on a lone chair among the polished wooden floorboards, spotlighted sawing back and forth.

And what of the school’s attitude? Surely they would pick up on the hiatus in their timetabled regimen. Yet, you’d uncannily trained right in on the institutional inertia. As a new boy, you were afforded time and space to find your feet. You’d turn up when you were ready. When you’d navigated your way over to the music block. When they finally did deign to launch a search party, a Prefect approached you in the playground and you misdirected him effortlessly, pointing him in the direction of that ‘other’ Malcolm Bridges. What a coincidence, two Malcolm Bridges at the same exclusive public school. Who would have thought? Apart from a dim-witted, eleven year old eager-to-please, take everything on trust, nincompoop that is. Head boy material undoubtedly. Where did you conjure such an artifice up from? You’re a natural dissimulator.

Sharp at on the hoof ploys you may be, but I find the inexperienced tend to fall down on the long-game. The follow-through of knock-on effects. Did you honestly imagine you could perpetuate the illusion indefinitely? That someone wouldn’t have caught up to you in the end? Perhaps it was because you were all too aware of the consequences, that you just shut your eyes to having to face them. I wonder who you feared more, your teacher or your parents? Fobbing us off when we inquired what new tunes you had mastered. Is it even possible to render “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” on a cello? That should have clued us in, your complete and utter lack of exposure to any musical sophistication beyond a nursery rhyme. But it didn’t. We wanted to believe almost as much as that Prefect.

Two years was a heck of a period to eke out the shadowplay, I’ll grant. But at the final reckoning, whatever the pique and disappointment of your music teacher, nothing could match my outrage. Nonetheless, in stepped your mother nimbly to whip you away from the immanent conflagration. Swiftly assimilating the lessons to be drawn, she did not linger over the episode any more than you did and a veil was hastily draped over your tenderfoot musical career. Yet I could not let it go. I was like a dog with a bone. Only there’s no marrow left to be had.

For I didn’t just fix on you as the mainspring, but raged at all agents in this extortion. Since I had paid for two years of empty-handed tuition, dutifully appended to each term’s bill. I wasn't entitled to any kind of rebate, since the music master had made himself available to teach you and hadn’t reallocated his time to another student. Well bully for Mr C. Sharp-Practice! I challenged him as to how he had spent the duration. Presumably with his feet up on a desk, since it beggared belief and my wallet, that at no stage had he himself ventured out to track down his errant pupil. The sum total of effort devoted to the reclamation task, was to depute a snot-nosed proxy fetch, with all the wit and charisma of someone commended to display their name and job title on a badge. My eight year old outflanked a boy three years his senior without breaking sweat. A misplaced sense of pride on my part? More a case of having co-opted accomplices in incompetence, whom I was so busy railing at, I pretty much let you off the hook by default. Yet further misdirection. Smart, smart boy. A virtuoso after all.

26 comments:

Carrie said...

As rich as your literature is, I always feel I need a long jog afterwards. Decadent vocabulary. Loved the Cello description among about everything else. Excellent.

Tony Noland said...

Such a clever lad. He'll go far in politics, no doubt.

Sulci Collective said...

No, he turned into an anarchist Tony!

Gracie said...

Lovely, lovely language. That kid will change the world one day.

Excellent story.

Adam Byatt said...

This piece moves with the sophistication of an aria with a deft ostinato keeping the beat underneath. Wonderful language.

Jen Brubacher said...

I took band in school and I have to respect this boy's dedication. I'd have to anyway, since his father's respect is so well described. Nice piece. It sounds like it comes from experience, but I'd believe you if you said you were just this good a writer. :)

mazzz in Leeds said...

Hilarious!
"it beggared belief and my wallet" - fabulous.

I can picture this pompous ass of a father very well, and am guessing the boy must take after his mum or a grandparent...

Absolutely masterful writing

Marisa Birns said...

I salute this young man! While I can understand the parental frustration, the pride alluded to at the end of the piece is not misplaced. They had a musician in their family after all.

The cello? Yes. He knew how to pull the strings! :D

I always have to read your stories about three times. Each is a pleasure.

G.P. Ching said...

Excellent writing. This one went down like a smooth cabernet and just thinking about my kid doing this to me made me long for a real cabernet- even at 9am. You captured some nuances of family life that many miss- the mom picking out the instrument, the pressure the school places on parents, the fact that the dad can't let it rest as easily as the mom in the end. And, I think there was enough here to guess that the father was trying to live vicariously through his boy. Complex piece. Very well written.

Linda said...

Love the way you convey the intricacies of family dynamics without once 'telling'. As always, love the writing and your choice of thick, juicy words. Peace...

ganymeder said...

Ah, we always see what we want to see; don't we? Our children are always virtuosos in our own eyes.

Nicely done.

shannon said...

I have a feeling this boy is going to be fine. :-) Not just a parent thing, but a human thing...closing our eyes to the truth, living in the fantasy for as long as we can and then flailing against the injustice of the truth once we can't ignore it any longer.

Well played!

Olivia Tejeda said...

Ah, a sociopath in the making. The boy certainly is clever, but the adults don't make it difficult for him, involved as they are, in their own busyness. I love reading your writing, and your stories are A+, too! ~ Olivia

Sulci Collective said...

Oh dear Olivia, this is something I actually did as a 7 year old albeit given poetic license here and embroidered a bit. A sociopath in the making...

John McDonnell said...

As a parent of a violin student who refuses to practice, and having also experienced the anguish of paying private school tuition and realizing that even paying through the nose does not guarantee that your child's teachers will be competent or industrious, I have to say that this story was spot on. Good one!

Eric J. Krause said...

He might not have actually played an instrument, but he sure played everyone else like one. Good story!

Cecilia Dominic said...

Loved the balance of the boy's willful deception and the parents' and school's justification because of what they wanted to see and believe. A great portrayal of human nature.

CD

David Masters said...

If only all parents were this understanding...

Laura Eno said...

I see a future law degree. Excellent trail through the jungle of sly deceit.

Sulci Collective said...

It;s funny you should say that laura. My destiny was as a lawyer a la ma father, but my rebellion was to reject that as I had rejected learning to play a classical instrument (violin actually rather than a viola)

Susan Cross said...

Parents so easily fool themselves. I have fallen into this trap although I knew the truth I didn't want to confront it.

One cannot make his child become a musician or an athlete. One can only watch and wait and see what the child chooses.

dijeratic said...

This is such a perfect little snapshot - two years captured in just a few sharp, dense paragraphs that just breeze along - you make it seem easy and that's no small feat. I love the character of the boy, without ever meeting him, I can see him, know exactly what he looks like, how he behaves - and that's a greater accomplishment still. Would be fun to see a series run this way.

dijeratic said...

This is such a perfect little snapshot - two years captured in just a few sharp, dense paragraphs that just breeze along - you make it seem easy and that's no small feat. I love the character of the boy, without ever meeting him, I can see him, know exactly what he looks like, how he behaves - and that's a greater accomplishment still. Would be fun to see a series run this way.

Sulci Collective said...

Funny you say that DJ, this is from a novella I've been struggling with for a couple of years. the boy never speaks throughout (and is revealed why at the end). My dilemma is whether to just keep it to the father and make it about growing up male in two different generations, or have the Mother (who initiates the bedroom siege on the boy) which would make it a tale about family dynamics. I get contrary advice so am a bit undecided which to go for.

ABSOLUTELY*KATE said...

Mr Nash, virtuoso indeed. Is this YOUR opus? Played so in tune none of your sharps went flat and you kept 4/4 time. I know. I tapped along symphonically, as your words did overture.

Go, go, go with the novella ~ this be the stuff of how life plays ... or almost rehearses. Curtain call sir.

~ Absolutely*Kate

Sulci Collective said...

Ha absolutely, thank you Kate.

One opus among many, none in four-four time either.

Thanks for coming by. Appreciated.

Marc