Sunday, June 23, 2013

43. The Prodigy

Blond, curly haired Charles Dawson was three years old when he first started playing the piano. He pulled a box over to the living room upright so he could climb up on the bench. He figured out enough key sounds to pound out the melodies from his favorite TV commercials. He laughed as he realized he could make the music he loved. 
His mother was shocked and then amazed as his musical ability developed at an amazing rate. She enrolled him in a toddler music class and from there he quickly advanced to a professional teacher in the small town where they lived.

Charlie loved music and playing the piano more than anything else. Soon after he started high school, he was at the piano when his mother called, “Charlie, John's at the door. He says he needs you to fill out their baseball team.”

Charlie answered, “Sorry, Mom. But I've got this new piece I promised Mr. Taylor I'd master by my next lesson.”

Charlie's dad frowned when he heard this. “Charlie, it's Saturday morning, you should go out and play with your friends. Get some fresh air. The piano will still be here after the game.”

“But Dad, I'd really rather do this. Mr. Taylor says I might have a chance at becoming a student of Professor Wallowitz.”

Mr. Dawson threw up his hands. “I give up. If that's what you want to do, that's what you want to do.”

Mrs. Dawson said, “You've been talking about this Professor ever since he played at the Christmas concert.”

“Mom, he's world famous and he only takes three new students a year. I want to be one of them.”

His parents sighed, but felt as long as his school grades were OK they couldn't interfere.

At the end of his freshman year in high school, he rushed into the house dropping his book bag on the floor.

“Mom, Dad! Great news! I've got an audition with Prof. Wallowitz.”

Mrs. Dawson said, “Charlie, pick up your books. But that's wonderful, I know how hard you've worked for this opportunity.”

As he picked up his books, he explained. “He's going to be in town this weekend and Mr. Taylor told him about me and he agreed to hear me play. Gosh, I'm so nervous. I've just got to do well.”

Charlie practiced every spare minute he had until time to meet Prof. Wallowitz where he was rehearsing for his concert.

To calm himself, Charlie practiced the deep breathing exercises Mr. Taylor had taught him. Although his teacher had also said that a little nervousness was good, it gave you an edge.

He played the difficult piece he had chosen perfectly. When the final chord died away, he waited expectantly. The professor listened intently, silently nodding his head. Then he said in a causal voice, “Not enough passion.”

Charlie was crushed. He had played his heart out and it wasn't good enough. He never touched a piano again. He was a resilient young man and eventually realized he had other talents. He put the same dedication he once had to the piano, to his new love, the law. He became an excellent trial lawyer and was known for his meticulous preparation.

Although he stopped going to concerts, his firm was sponsoring a charity concert and he felt obligated to go. He hadn't paid attention to the program and was surprised when he saw and heard his former nemesis, Professor Wallowitz. After wards as one of the sponsors, he went backstage to meet the great performer.

He introduced himself and added, “Many years ago I auditioned for you and you said I didn't 'have enough passion. What did you mean?”

The old man laughed and said, “Oh, I say that to everyone.”

Charlie was stunned, “But I gave up the piano because of you. I could have been a great performer.”

The professor shook his head, “Not really. If you were going to be a great musician, you would have done so, no matter what I had said.”
                                             The End

Sunday, June 16, 2013

42. A Scary Walk in the Dark

The summer storm hadn't dumped rain on us yet, but the cracking of thunder was moving closer and lightening flashes were more frequent. It was getting late and we realized we should have left the 'get away' cabin an hour before. There was no electricity or street lights in the Minnesotan woods and once we put out the cabin's kerosene lantern it would be dark.
      Marlene and I were college friends working as counselors at a beautiful but rustic camp on sparkling, clear, and icy cold Blueberry Lake in the pine scented forests. On our time off from herding little girls we had two options, we could get a ride into the nearby town of Ely for a wild day of walking around, shopping for authentic 'Indian' souvenirs, and eating lunch without 100 laughing or screaming children surrounding us or we could spend the day at the quiet cabin, reading or writing or whatever we wanted to do without the children and without electricity.
      Since we were both readers, we opted for the peace of the log cabin, about one mile down the road from the camp grounds. It had been a good day, sitting in comfy, overstuffed arm chairs with a view of the water. In the camp library, I found a battered copy of a Mary Higgins Clark thriller. Marlene brought her own copy of an Agatha Christie mystery. Perhaps not the best choices for a secluded location.
       It was time to go back for our evening duties. We turned off the lantern, startled by the instant darkness. We stumbled down a short path to the main road and turned right towards civilization and safety. But first we had to get there thru a black velvet world.
      “I think we better hold hands so we don't get separated.” Marlene suggested.
       “Yeah,” I agreed. “And if we trip, we can hold each other up.”
       Marlene complained, “I can't believe we didn't bring flashlights. I've never seen darkness like this.”
       “But it should still be light at 8. It's the heavy cloud cover that's making it so dark.”
      We didn't admit it to each other, but the thunder and lightening were scary. I could feel Marlene's hand clench each time one occurred and she probably could feel mine.
       But, really, thank heavens for lightening. It allowed us to keep on track as we forged our way between thick stands of ancient pine trees. If we wandered off the road we stood a good chance of never being found until morning light. The brief flashes of nature's light kept us going in the right direction.
       We walked along listening to the muted sounds around us. No sounds of birds, just the rustling noise of the wind through the pines and the intermittent ominous thunderclaps. We reassured each other that if lightening struck nearby it would go for the tall trees without hitting us.
       I tried to focus on the peace I found in this spectacular location, although I was mainly praying we wouldn't get lost. Gradually, I heard a different sound, it was a louder rustle than the wind and trees made.
      “Marlene, do you hear that?”
      “Hear what?”
      I whispered, “That louder rustle every now and then.”
      “Yeah, I thought it was just a burst of wind.”
      “No, it doesn't sound like wind.”
      “You think it's an animal?” Her voice wavered.
     “I don't know. Are bears around here?”
     “Oooh, I should have paid more attention during the local nature talk.” Marlene moaned.
     “It's probably just a rabbit or squirrel.” I tried to reassure both of us.
     “Shouldn't the weather keep all these animals in their homes or dens or whatever?”
      “You're right. It can't be an animal. They're all staying safe from the coming rain.”
      “But if not animals,” she asked, “what's making that noise?”
     “You don't think it could be a person, do you?” I voiced our worst fear and nightmare.
      She squeezed my hand so hard, I thought my blood circulation would stop. “Oh my God, we've got to walk faster. Feet don't fail me now.” She whispered.
      “But, if it's so dark that we can't see, whoever is out there can't see us either, right?” I reasoned.
      “Well, if we can see the road in a lightening flash, then we can be seen whenever that happens.”
      “Don't be so logical,” I complained. “What should we do?”
       Marlene being logical again, “What can we do except keep on going?”
      We kept on in the direction of camp, although our hearts jumped every time we heard the loud rustle.
      After what seemed a hundred miles, but was only one, we heard voices and slammed doors and other camp sounds. We could see the lights that lined the road along the camp grounds and started running as fast as we could towards safety. We headed over to the dining hall where some of the counselors hung out before putting the campers to bed for the night.
      We were huddled over hot cups of coffee when Mr. Swenson the camp owner, a tall, thin, muscular man ambled in.
      “Well, girls, you did a good job tonight.”
      “We did?” I asked, wondering what he was talking about.
       He replied, “When I saw the weather getting bad, I decided I better go over to the 'getaway' cabin to make sure you'd make it back here all right.”
       Marlene interrupted, “We didn't see you. Did we pass you in the dark on the road?”
      “No, no. I took a short cut thru the woods. I have night vision goggles and can see everything. By the time I got to the cabin, you were walking on the main road. You did good. You held hands so you couldn't get separated. And when you got confused you stopped until another flash of lightening showed you the way. You made it back here without any help from me.”
      “You were in the woods, following us as we walked?” I couldn't believe it.
      “Yah, I wanted to be sure you were safe, but I wanted to build your confidence so I didn't let you know I was watching over you.” His eyes twinkled as he tried not to smile. He needed to keep up his reputation as an unemotional Swede.
      I didn't know whether to hit him for scaring us or hug him for coming after us.
                                                                     The End

Monday, June 3, 2013

41. A Big Purple Bouquet

This story is in honor of the courage and loving heart of a good friend named Stacey.

Stacey was a cute little red-headed girl with freckles sprinkled across her happy face. She loved animals but was especially crazy about cats. She could not sleep unless one of her two cats was on her bed tucked up close and comforting.
       And she loved the color purple. She had begged and begged until her baby pink bedroom was painted a 'good' shade of purple. She had purple pajamas with different types of cats scattered over them. She would have worn purple all the time but her Mom coaxed her into trying different colored clothes with just a touch of purple—a purple pin or purple socks. Yes, Stacey was a character but charming and everyone liked her.
       At this particular time she was very excited because her 5th birthday was coming up. She knew she was a big girl now and would be going to school soon. Her Mom and Dad were having a special birthday celebration for her with all her relatives and neighborhood friends as guests.
       Her Dad asked her, “Well, I hear you've got a special birthday coming soon.”
       Stacey's eyes sparkled and she nodded, “Yes.”
       Dad said, “A special birthday deserves a special present. What do you think you'd like to get?”
       Stacey screwed up her little face and thought and thought. “Purple.”
       Dad laughed. “I can't get you just purple. It has to be something that's colored purple. And what might that be?”
       Again Stacey thought and thought and then carefully said, “Bouquet.”
       “Hmmm, that's a big word. You must have heard it on TV. I'll see what Mom and I can do about getting you a purple bouquet.” He thought, Well that should be easy enough to get.
       And since Stacey's birthday was on June 22, you'd think it would be a great time for blooming flowers but it wasn't. The day before her birthday--Dad being a man had waited until the last minute to fulfill Stacey's wish—not a single purple flower was blooming at any florist shop, garden store, or neighbor's yard. Well, the garden store did have some spindly purple orchids, but he didn't think that's what she meant by a bouquet. She wanted a lot of whatever flower he got.
       He was appalled. He and Stacey's Mom tried to think of what they could do. Perhaps cut pictures of purple flowers out of seed catalogs.
      Mom said, “I don't think that would be much fun for a little girl.”
      Dad asked, “What else does Stacey like that's fun,”
      Mom's face lit up. “I've got the perfect answer. I know she likes these and I think I can get them in purple. We'll just have to touch them up with a magic marker. While you're making her cake, I'll run out and get them.” Dad was the baker in their family
       She told Dad her plan and he said, “It just might work. Worth a try.”
       Stacey was so excited waiting for the guests to come to her party. She had on a frilly, purple party dress and purple ribbons in her hair, never mind that her hair was red and the two colors usually didn't go together. They looked perfect on Stacey.
       Mom said, “Try not to get dirty before the party starts. You look so pretty right now.”
       Dad said, “We thought we'd give you your special birthday gift before the party starts so everyone can enjoy it.”
       Stacey laughed and said, “OK.”
       Mom went in the master bedroom to get the gift they had hidden. Dad set up the camera to take pictures of, hopefully, Stacey's delight when she saw her purple “bouquet”.
      And she was delighted. She smiled, clapped her hands and then went to grab her 'bouquet' of big purple balloons, each with a flower face drawn on it.
                                                                 The End