The following story is about the development of a fully consensual and loving relationship between a man and a pre-adolescent boy. At some point through the story's progression, there will be a graphic display of sexual acts between the man and the boy meant to show the natural progression and development of an intimate and caring relationship. If the topic of man/boy sex offends you, or if this material is illegal in your place or residence, or if you are under legal age, please leave now.
Any similarities between the characters in this story and any persons living and/or dead is purely a coincidence.
This story is protected under the nifty archives license agreement, and the author (me!) releases the right for nifty and nifty alone to post it on the internet. Please do not post this story anywhere else without my consent or knowledge.
I really hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I am enjoying writing it. This is the first chapter of what I plan to be a long short story (120-150 novel-sized pages) about how I believe an intimate relationship between a man and a boy could actually develop. This means that there will not be any sex scenes in the first several paragraphs, nor the first several chapters, unfortunately. So, if you are looking for a quick fix, then click in the story immediately above or below this one, I believe you will find what you are looking for there. If you aren't, and you are patient, I promise you will be well rewarded.
For those of you who do decide to read my story, please let me know what you think by writing to: email@example.com I am always open to comments and/or suggestions on how you think the story could improve as I am constantly striving to write to the best of my potential. If you just want to tell me what you think of it in general, that's fine too.
"Josh. Josh... Josh!"
Josh's slim fingers, which had been flying across the black and white keys of a piano that sounded like an old lady many years past her prime, froze in mid-air when he felt his mother's hand rest lightly on his shoulder. Josh let out a small breath and stared down at the cracked ivory keys. He wasn't sure how long he had been banging at those keys, trying again and again to make Mozart's Fantasy sound like it was supposed to, like he had heard it played over and over on his CD instead of the garbled mess it was sounding like now. With the first two pages memorized, he didn't want to go on until the notes on the page at least sounded something like his recording. It was supposed to begin with an arpeggio, and then roll into a slow waltz type thing, followed by a chromatic roll all the way down to the bottom of the keyboard. It sounded really cool on the CD, and he knew he could get it right, if he just practiced hard enough.
"Honey, it's time for bed. You have been playing for over 2 hours, and it's time to stop." Josh's mother said in a tone that signified finality.
"But mom..." Josh began to say.
"No buts. The only butt I want to see is yours getting into the bathroom to brush your teeth. You've got a big day tomorrow, and I don't want you all red-eyed for your first day of middle school." She waited patiently behind the bench.
Giving the notes on the page a mean stare, Josh slammed the wooden cover down and pushed backwards on the bench, stomping his way through the hallway that led to the bathroom. Brushing past the bathroom door, he grabbed his toothbrush out of the toothbrush holder, quickly squeezing toothpaste onto it before shoving it into his mouth.
Why wouldn't his fingers just do what he told them to? He had played through that first part enough times to make his hands sore, but whenever he tried to speed it up, this fingers just got all jumbled up. It was like a giant tongue twister for his hands. Josh's shoulders dropped and his furious brushing slowed to a mere swirling. It would be so much easer if his old piano teacher was around. She would know what to do to make it sound better. But she left to go back to London when her father got sick, leaving him and all the rest of her students behind.
Josh pulled the toothbrush out of his mouth and spit into the sink several times. He ran the water a little more to wipe his mouth and rinse off the toothbrush and his hands, then gently plopped the toothbrush back into its holder. With only a cursory glance into the mirror, he turned and walked out of the bathroom. He didn't need to be reminded again of his smallness, amongst his other inadequacies, especially with tomorrow being the first day of 6th grade.
Quickly unbuckling his belt and shucking off his shirt, Josh pulled down his shorts and threw them into the closet. Stifling a large yawn, he walked over to his chest of drawers and pulled out a set of red polka-dot pajamas and shrugged into them. He only needed one last thing before he could go to bed, a nice warm glass of milk. Pushing all thoughts about tomorrow out of his head, he ambled back down the hall, through the living room, and into the kitchen.
"Ready for bed hon?" Josh's mom asked from the kitchen table. She was drinking her evening cup of hot tea, leafing through a large stack of papers.
"Yea, I guess so." Josh said with a small shrug, opening the refrigerator, pulling out a gallon of milk from the door.
"So, do you think you will be able to make any new friends tomorrow?"
Josh reached up to the cupboard and pulled out a small mug. "I don't know. I doubt it. No one at the old school wanted to talk to me, so why would anyone at the new one want to?"
"Don't give up on it too quickly. How do you know there won't be someone there who likes the same things you do. Who knows, maybe there will be a cute girl there who likes the piano." She let out a small snicker. "I know if I were a girl, I would love a boy who could play the piano for me."
"Aww mom!!" Josh rolled his eyes, exasperated. "I don't even turn eleven until November. I'm way too young to be dating girls!" His face screwed up as if he was choking on a bitter lemon.
"I don't know about that. When I was your age, I had my eyes on the cutest boy. He had blond hair, just like you, and he was so shy. I knew I would embarrass him if I came up to him and asked him on a date. Then he moved away, and I never saw him again." She sighed dreamily into her cup before taking another drink. "Who knows? If he hadn't moved, I might have married him."
"Mom!" Josh whined, whipping around after he had stood up on his tip-toes to press the start button at the top of the microwave panel. "I don't want to know what you thought about boys when you were my age. Now whenever I see some girl, I'll wonder if she wants to marry me."
Josh's mom tried to keep her face straight for as long as possible, meeting her son's intense blue eyed gaze, but she couldn't help bursting out into laughter. "Well, at least promise me that if a girl comes along, you won't just ignore her, okay?"
When the milk finished warming, he padded over to the table and looped his legs behind the chair. "So, what'cha doing?"
"Oh, nothing much." Josh's mother sighed. "I'm just signing a couple of papers. We have a couple new people moving into the complex, and since I'm an office manager now, I have to sign all the leases."
"Oh" Josh said, looking bored. He raised a hand up to this mouth, stifling another yawn.
"It's time for you to go to bed. Finish up your milk."
Josh nodded his head, drinking up the mug in short order. Getting up to put the cup in the sink, he turned back to his mother one last time before leaving the kitchen. "Goodnight."
"Good night, hon." She didn't look up, her eyes locked on a document.
"Josh?" Josh's mother asked when he was already halfway down the hallway. "Did you want me to tuck you in?"
"No, that's ok."
"Make sure to say your nightly prayers then."
"I will" Josh yelled back down the hall.
Padding down the hall barefoot, Josh stepped into his room, closed the door and let out a deep breath. Now, with this new job, his mom was busier than ever. He knew that she was trying her hardest, and he would do whatever it took to help her. She shouldn't have to worry about her son's social life. She already had enough to deal with. He knew he would be okay. He had gone without friends for this long. Besides, why would he want to hang out with people who called him names anyways? Friends weren't all they were cracked up to be.
With a sigh of resignation, Josh sank down to his knees before his bed, clasping his hands in front of him. "Dear Lord, if you are actually up there, please watch over my mom. I know it's really hard for her, being all alone. I know she misses dad, even though she pretends not to. I hear her crying sometimes, when I'm supposed to be in bed and she doesn't think I'm listening. I don't know why dad left, but I know she wants him back, even though she says she doesn't. And god... I know you probably can't help but, could you... Oh... never mind."
Quickly crossing his heart, Josh sprung to his feet and plunged into his bed, pulling the covers over his head. Lying there with his eyes still open, he hoped that tomorrow held the promise of better things to come.
"...Time to get that booty of yours out of bed and get it into gear, isn't that right Ted?"
"Sure is Bill, and there isn't anything better than getting up to a bit of James Brown, isn't there?"
"That's right, and coming up the next hour, we've got all his classics for you, starting with-"
The *Smack* on the alarm clock was followed by a deep groan. The clock read 7:01am. It was morning already, and Steven McNealy was definitely not ready for it. Instead, he rolled back into bed and pulled the covers up over his head. He probably would have remained right there for a good long time if it hadn't been for Peter, his cat. As if knowing he was awake, the furry feline jumped up on the bed and settled down right on his head.
"Damn it Peter!" Steven swore, pushing the covers, along with his cat, off the bed.
Taking another look at the clock forced Steven into action. Stumbling into the bathroom, he forced himself through his morning ritual. Take a piss, take a shower, shave, brush your teeth, comb your hair, put on your glasses, everything you had to do so you would look presentable to the world. By the time he was into his suit, it was already past 7:40. No time for breakfast. Looking at the mess that was still in his kitchen from last night, it would have taken him far too long to prepare anything.
Before walking out the door, he checked himself to see if he had everything he needed. Wallet, check. Watch, check. Briefcase, check; he had made extra sure that it had everything in it he needed several days ago. Car keys... Steven felt around in his pockets, testing for the weight of his keys. They weren't there.
"Shit." Steven cursed under his breath.
In panic mode now, Steven began franticly pulling the cushions off of his couch, sending poor Peter flying yet again, turning over his lay-z-boy, and rummaging through a slew of papers on the coffee table. When he came to the conclusion that his keys simply could not exist anywhere within his living room, he redirected his search into the office.
With a great deal of luck, Steven found his keys a few moments later, behind the keyboard. They were pushed back behind it in the pull-out drawer. Not wasting another moment, he ran out the living room and through the back hallway out to the garage. Not even pausing to consider which car he should take, he unlocked the doors to his convertible, and threw his briefcase into the back seat. Almost hitting reverse before remembering to open the garage, he backed out the car, and put it into high gear to make up for lost time.
Luckily, the school wasn't too far away, which had been intentional. Once again, his parents had pulled through for him. Deeming it unnecessary for him to drive over an hour to work everyday from the far north side of Salt Lake City, they had purchased a small home for him. It wasn't much, but it was better than what he would have been able to afford on his own. Sometimes he resented it, having to fall back on his parents, but he knew that without them, nothing would have been possible. Something his father always wanted to make crystal clear, just in case he might have forgotten from the last umpteen million times he told him.
Turning the wheel at the last instant, Steven sped though another intersection, narrowly missing the turn. Even if his parents were there to back him up, they couldn't live his life for him. He had to do something; he couldn't just wither away in their house. Though there was no way in hell teaching was going to earn him the kind of money he was accustomed to, it was better than despairing over what was already lost.
With only one turn left to go, Steven rounded the corner and his destination came into view. After driving past a large stone sign with the words "Salt Creek Middle School" inscribed on the front, he slowed his car considerably. There were already kids being dropped off early, and in about 15 minutes, the busses would come. He noticed a group of boys turn their heads toward him, one of them pointing at his car then chattering at his friends. They were probably 7th graders, a blond and a couple brown haired boys looking for new ways to make mischief. Already past them, he couldn't help glimpsing back several times before focusing on where to park his car in the increasingly filling parking lot. Finally, he found a space near the back, by the football field. He pulled into it, shifted the car into neutral, pulled up the parking break, and buried his face in hands that he could barely keep from trembling.
After spending upwards of two minutes taking long, deep breaths and running his fingers through his hair, he cleared his face and opened his eyes. This was it, the moment had finally arrived. There was no avoiding it now, there was no turning back. This is what he had decided, and now, for better or worse, he had to go though with it. His face now perfectly straight, he reached around back and pulled up his briefcase, then opened the door. After making sure the car was locked, he turned toward the school, and straightened himself up.
Steven McNealy entered Salt Creek Middle School with his chin up and his face straight forward, his step unfaltering into his new future.
"Hey, you little twerp, watch where your goin'."
"Sorry." Josh murmured under his breath, trying to put as much distance as he could between himself and the huge 8th grader. Why did all big kids have to be such big jerks? Was it inbred? Large body, small brain? It sure seemed that way sometimes. Of course, it didn't help when almost everyone else in his entire class was bigger than he was.
Pressing on through the crowded middle school hallways, Josh made his way over to his next class. He and his mother had come to the school a couple days ago, so he would know where his classes were because she seemed more worried about her son getting lost rather than getting beaten up. Now, he had to begrudge her the fact that knowing where his classes were before hand was actually helpful. Though he couldn't say he had greatly enjoyed all of his classes so far, at least he had found them easily.
Now, standing in front if his next classroom several minutes before the tardy bell would ring, Josh hoped this class would be more enjoyable. Considering the subject matter, he knew that he would at least find it interesting. Only hesitating a few moments, he walked into the classroom.
Inside, the walls were covered with a dark blue carpeting, the same color as the floor, to muffle the sound of the band, Josh supposed. There were only a few pictures around the room, on opposite sides of the chalkboard, and two in the back. Josh could tell they were all pictures of classical composers, because they were all wearing those silly white wigs that were supposed to make them look noble.
Except for that one guy, Josh thought, identifying one of the men as Beethoven. He doesn't look noble, he looks angry. He's probably still mad at himself for sawing the legs off his piano. Josh smiled inwardly.
In the far corner of the room were the risers, either for the choir or the band, Josh thought. He would probably be up there on those risers after school. Next to the risers was something far more interesting, a piano. And it wasn't just an ordinary upright, it was a baby grand! He could almost feel it calling to him, begging him to play it. He wanted to make that fine instrument sing so badly. He was sure that its voice would sound far more beautiful than the old hag that was sitting in the living room of their small apartment.
On the right side of the risers close to the chalkboard was the teacher's desk. The man sitting there must be the teacher, Josh reasoned. Deciding to seat himself quickly, Josh picked a chair in the front row and pulled out his notebook. On the board was a last name, which he assumed belonged to the teacher, so he quickly wrote it down. The teacher was still busy writing something, but after a few moments he put his pen down and looked around the room. When he saw Josh, he smiled briefly and nodded. It was a curt nod, one that bespoke of respect for the student. Josh squirmed uncomfortably in his seat.
The teacher stood up, and began pacing the front of the room, glancing at a gold watch on his wrist. He was dressed very well; his trimmed brown hair was parted perfectly, matching his dark brown suit and tie. His gold rimmed glasses seemed to add to his dignified look, and the way he walked, with his back straight, left little doubt in Josh's mind that this teacher was going to be strict. If Josh could straighten up any more in his desk, he did.
As the next few minutes trickled by, more students came in and chose seats, most preferring to get as close to the back as possible. The chatter steadily increased as the room filled. While the last few students filtered into their seats, the teacher began writing on the board.
Then the tardy bell rang, and another group of students, boys of course, came darting into the room. When they looked to see if the teacher had noticed, he obliged them with a stare that said `move your butts, or its lunch detention on the first day' in not so many words. Smiles quickly vanishing from their faces, the boys hurried into the few remaining chairs available.
"Alright class, can I have your attention please? Can I have your attention?" It took several more moments, but eventually, the chatter died down, and then the room was silent. "Good morning class." Then the teacher paused, as if waiting for a response.
Hesitantly, the students replied with a "Good morning." Between taking glances left and right, Josh fumbled out his `good morning' as well.
With a curt smile and nod, the teacher turned to face the blackboard. "Now, as the chalk marks on the board suggest, my name is Mr. McNealy, and this is Music Appreciation. Now, before we begin, let me state just one ground rule. Until you show me otherwise, I will extend to you every bit of respect as I would anyone else, adult or otherwise, and in return, I ask you to extend me that same respect. If we both honor this, then I expect we will get along famously, and if not... well, then we might have some problems. So, I ask you all to respect me and your classmates by speaking in turn, and if you have a question, please feel free to raise your hand. Understood?" The teacher looked around the room. There were nods all around.
"Now, some of you might be wondering `What is it about music that I should appreciate?' and the answer is, there are many things about music to appreciate." The teacher continued pacing about the room, accentuating his points with hand gestures. "One fact about music that makes it so interesting is that it has been around for so long. I suppose it all started with a cave man who decided to howl in the night, and then maybe another person joined in, and a third started banging a bone against a cave wall percussively, then BAM!" The teacher clapped his hands, "music was born."
The room remained completely silent.
"Well... okay, maybe that wasn't how music was born." The teacher gave a mock sigh, earning giggles from most of the class. Josh couldn't help forming a smile on his lips.
"But, that story might not be too far removed from the truth. Ideas form in the strangest ways sometimes, just like when the apple fell on Sir Isaac's noggin, probably one of the more painful ideas he ever had!" The teacher said with a smile. Like the rest of the class, Josh couldn't help but burst out in laughter.
"But let's not mix subjects." Mr. McNealy turned back to the board. "Another thing about music one must appreciate is that in this world, there is no truer universal language." The teacher picked up a piece of chalk and drew a symbol on the board. "Okay, who can tell me what this is?"
Josh didn't wait to see if anyone else knew the answer. Immediately his hand shot into the air.
"Oh ho, I'm glad that at least half of you seem to think you know what this is." Mr. McNealy raised his eyes. "You there, the gentleman in the front." He gestured. "May I have the pleasure of your name sir?"
It took Josh a few moments to realize that the teacher was pointing right at him. Quickly, he tried to spit out his name. "Um, it's Josh sir. Josh Chambers."
"Well then Mr. Chambers, what would your guess to this strange looking symbol be?"
"It's a treble clef!" Josh piped.
"Exactly right. With this, and a few more symbols, you can create something anyone can understand. They might not be able to reproduce it themselves, or know what it was by what was written on the page, but they would understand it when they heard it. You see," the teacher's voice got real quiet, as if he was telling them all a secret, "music is the language of emotion. Music in a minor key can make you sad..." Mr. McNealy pulled a remote out of his pocket and pushed a button, causing music to burst out of the speakers in the front of the room, making almost the entire class jump out of their seats. Once he got over his initial shock, Josh immediately recognized the song as Chopin's "Funeral March."
"And music in a major key can make you happy." Immediately, the teacher switched the song over to Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," again causing some students to flinch in their desks. He let it play for a few moments, and then cut it off. "Now, I don't expect you to know the names of those songs now, but by the end of the semester, I expect you to know the titles, composers, and time periods of these songs, and many more." The teacher backed up a little bit. "But don't be intimidated by that. There will be plenty of time to practice. And to make it a little easier, I will be giving each of you a set of CDs, and I would encourage you to listen to them. Heck, surprise your parents by blearing it out on your stereo at top volume, and if they ask you to turn it down, you could always say that you were studying." The teacher stated matter-of-factly.
As Mr. McNealy continued his lecture, Josh, and all of the other students for that matter, continued to listen raptly, laughing at a silly gesture, or at a strange accentuation. He couldn't put his finger on it, but there was something about this teacher that made him so completely different than any other teacher he had before. Something about the way he spoke to the class, and the way he addressed people. While he was always very formal, he did it in a way that was funny, and a way that was... nice. Though he figured he already knew most of the material that would be covered in this class, he had never heard it in the way this teacher presented it. It was like the teacher truly loved it, just the way he did.
When class ended, Josh's head was still spinning. He hadn't even noticed the bell had rung, and was only snapped out of his daze when he saw the other students shuffling out of the room and into the hallways. The teacher had turned toward the board to erase the various markings he had put on it throughout the duration of the class. Josh thought about going up to the teacher and saying something, but he didn't know what to say.
When Josh finally left the room, he left with a feeling of wonderment, unable to put into words the impact the class truly had on him. He knew one thing for sure though, with Mr. McNealy as the music teacher, it was sure going to be an interesting semester.
Steven let his shoulders drop as his last class of the school day filtered out of the room and disappeared into the hallways. Even though the day was not over yet, he still had a few minutes to relax. Though he might not have shown it on the outside, inside he was all twisted up. There had been times during the lectures, especially the 6th grade lecture, where he thought he would miss a beat, and instead of laughter, he would get only dead silence. Times where he thought he would have fled the room if the students had started laughing at him, instead of with him. But somehow he had managed to maintain his composure during each one.
The halls were beginning to clear up, most of the students heading home for the day. Only letting his eyes linger at the door into the hallway for a few more moments, Steven turned and walked behind the risers. Better to get a start on setup now, while he still had some time.
It was when his back was turned towards the door, scooting a large stack of chairs closer to the risers that he heard something hit the floor. Thinking something had dropped off the risers, Steven spun around. What he saw instead made his heart skip a beat, causing his hand to involuntarily grip his chest.
"Mr. Chambers!" Steven said, trying to force air back into his lungs. "You took me by surprise."
For a split second, Josh glanced over his shoulder, as if expecting someone else to be there, and then quickly realized his mistake. "Sorry sir." Josh's cheeks reddened.
"Don't be sorry. It happens to me all the time. Peter, that would be my cat, is quite good at it actually. Especially in the mornings." Steven said, trying to sound matter-of-fact, which earned a smile and a laugh from Josh. "So, kind sir, would you be as gracious enough to assist me?"
This time it was Josh's turn to jump. "Oh! Sorry. Sure." Without another moment's hesitation, Josh rushed behind the risers to where Steven was standing. With no small amount of effort, the boy managed to pull a chair off the stack and place it on the top riser like Steven had been doing.
It wasn't until Josh had managed to heft up his third chair did Steven intervene, ungluing his eyes from the boy in front of him. "No, wait, stop. Let me get on top the risers and you can hand them up to me, okay?"
With Josh's help, both of them were able to set up the chairs, and then the music stands on the risers to accommodate the students that would be coming in at any moment. There were several times Steven almost opened his mouth, wanting to ask Josh where he lived, what kind of music he liked, what other hobbies he had, and if he liked any other subjects, but every time he formed the words on his lips, he immediately cleared them. But when they were done setting everything up, and Josh was standing idly by his instrument case, he needed to say something.
"Do you know where you are supposed to sit, Mr. Chambers?"
"Um... at my last school I think I sat near the back, close to the center. Is that right?" Josh asked cautiously.
"You're playing a French horn?" Josh nodded his head. "Then you're exactly right. Please sit in the third row up, near the center on the right, alright?"
"Alright." Josh said, giving Steven a small smile before beginning the arduous task of hauling his case up to his seat.
It wasn't until he heard the sounds of other students coming into the classroom was he able to rip his gaze away from Josh, who now had his instrument case open and on his lap, his thin, pale little arms tugging at his horn. A large part of him wanted to run up there and help him as he saw the boy's cute little face strain with the effort of removing the tightly packed, heavy instrument from its case. Unfortunately, his time to watch Josh had ran out, and he turned to start addressing the incoming students one at a time, giving each of them a general idea of where to sit. Once all of the kids had found their seats and had succeeded in pulling out their instruments, Steven straightened himself in front of the conductor's stand, and tapped the rim with his baton.
"May I have your attention please?" Steven waited for the students to focus on him before beginning. "Welcome to the Salt Creek Middle School Band. For those of you who haven't met me yet, my name is Mr. McNealy, and I am the one blessed with making all of you fine young gentlemen and women into something more than just a random blowing of horns and a banging of drums." The teacher said with a perfectly straight face, which earned a giggle from Josh. His giggle quickly spread, until every kid had been touched by the laugh.
"Now, before we begin, I would like you all to realize that this will be no picnic. Its one thing for a person to play an instrument alone, but another altogether for a group of people to play together and make it sound like music. It's going to require a lot of practice, and the ability of each and every one of you to read the sheet music. Along with group practice, there will also be a lot of individual practice. Once everything is said and done, I believe you will be quite amazed at the result. There is nothing else in the world like different types of instruments coming together to make music, and for those who truly listen, nothing speaks more powerfully." If all eyes hadn't been focused on Steven before, they were now.
"I would also like to extend to each of you an invitation. As long as you work hard, and try to put forth your best effort to learn your instrument, and learn your part, I will also put forth my best effort to teach you. I am also willing to help each of you individually. If you think you need help, or you want help, please don't be afraid to ask. The better you perform, the better we all perform."
Flipping several pages into the music book on his stand, he asked them all to turn to the appropriate page. When he raised his baton and looked up, he only let his eyes see the components of the band, and nothing else. The French horns, the trumpets, the trombones, the baritones, the tubas, the alto saxes, the tenor saxes, the clarinets, the flutes, the oboes, and the drums. Every instrument had its place, fitting together in what would be beautiful marriage of sound.
When Steven raised his baton, the band collectively brought up their instruments. He used long strokes to start the song, keeping the timing slow. For the first five bars or so, the music stayed together, with its melody and harmony matching pace, but, when the song began to gain momentum, the band rapidly lost its cohesion. Once the playing degraded into chaos, he swiped the baton across his throat. Unfortunately, there were some who were not paying attention to his gestures, and continued to play, despite his efforts to silence them. "Okay, Okay, that's good that's good, that's good ENOUGH!" He shouted above the barrage of misaligned sounds.
That silenced every instrument but one. For a few more notes, a French horn sounded through the remainder of the bar, barely stopping mid-note on the next bar. This, of course, earned the boy playing the horn a long glance from everyone else in the band. When Josh realized that he had been the only one playing through the last bar, he quickly pulled the horn away from his mouth and set it down on his lap. "Sorry." Josh said in a very small voice.
Before anything could get out of hand, Steven banged his baton on his music stand to direct the band's attention his way. "Alright, well... I can see we still need some practice, but that's okay. I didn't expect us to get very far on a cold read, and I commend each of you for your efforts."
As the practice continued, Steven guided the band through the song very slowly, trying his best to keep them all playing at least to the same beat, if not the same notes. Moving forward through the song, he began to get a feel for the varying skill levels of each of the players. Some were able to keep to the beat very well, even though they didn't hit all the correct notes. Some played all the right notes, but they had fallen completely behind. Some played the right notes to the wrong beat. Then there were a few where he had to wonder whether they had received any lessons on the instrument at all. Then there was Josh.
Though he still missed several beats and blew out a few wrong notes, he seemed to have the best `feel' for the song. He played through the song as if he were trying to give each note meaning, like it was more than just another mark on the paper. Without a doubt, Josh Chambers was the only student in the band who understood the meaning of dynamic range. Unfortunately, the boy's horn was very hard to hear over the blaring tuba, and the screeching oboes, and the misplaced booming of the drums. Again Steven signaled the band to silence.
"That was better. Miss Daniels, try not to blow so hard on your clarinet and I think you will like the result far better. Mr. Roy, the same applies to you. Blow gently on the sax, gently. With reed instruments it's about getting that little piece of wood in the mouth piece to reverberate just right to get the correct sound, try to keep the pressure steady. Now the brass instruments, remember to use those lips. Those of you on brass, make the spspspsps sound with me." Steven tightened his lips and made the correct blowing sound. Josh, and the rest of the boys playing brass, followed suit, trying to blow just like the teacher showed them. "Now, put your lips on the mouthpiece and blow just like that. Now, everyone try to play middle A." A single tonal A resounded throughout the room. "Very good, now try to play it until you are out of breath. Remember, breathing is also important."
Steven continued to hold up his baton until just the right point where he knew the students would begin loosing all of their air. Several blew out, but most held on. "Not bad. Alright everyone. For tonight's assignment, I would like you all to simply hold that A for as long as you can. Try to hold it for a full 30 seconds. Remember, the key is to exhale slow and steady." He stated. "Now, where were we?"
To wrap up, Steven took them through a series of exercises in the back of the book moving up and down the scales, just so the students would have a chance to hit every note their instrument was capable of. Some of the kids really had a hard time reaching the higher notes, unable to blow in the instrument correctly to generate the sound, so he led them individually through the exercise, trying his best to describe the best way to blow into the instrument. Time ran out before he had a chance to address all the students, and as he brought the practice to a close, he asked a few students to stay behind. Four students in particular needed to be personally addressed, for their own good, and for the good of the rest of the band, not to mention his own sanity.
"Mrs. Daniels, for tonight, I would like you to work epically hard on those scales, play all the way up it and then back down. Make sure your instrument is making the sound you want it to, and don't give up until it does, ok?"
"Does that mean I did bad Mr. McNealy?" The curly brown haired 7th grade girl with tassels asked in a nasal tone.
"No, you weren't that bad Miss Daniels, you just need to practice like I told you. Make sure to blow evenly. Practice it like I showed you, and you will do just fine." Steven tried his best to assuage the girl's fears and keep his face straight at the same time. She nodded her head, glumly picking up her clarinet case and turning to leave.
The last student Steven addressed almost looked too old to be in high school, let alone middle school. Standing almost a half foot taller than him and as thin as a rail, he was surprised at how much air he could blow into his Baritone. He had completely overpowered every other brass single-handedly. "Mr. Burns, first I have to commend you on what seems like a great set of lungs. You sure held onto those notes, but next time, just remember to count along with us. I want you to go through the first song we played again tonight, and try to blow more softly."
"Yes Sir." The tall young man said in a deep tenor, snapping to attention, almost like he was being spoken to by a drill sergeant.
"At ease soldier."
"Sir?" The boy asked, giving him an odd look.
Steven rolled his eyes and shook his head. "Never mind. You can go home now Mr. Burns."
"Yes sir." The young man said again, and then proceeded to haul his large baritone case out of the room.
At long last, the room was silent, and Steven felt some of his stress physically seep out of him. That was when it happened again. From seemingly out of nowhere, Josh's voice penetrated the silence. "Mr. McNealy? Do you need any help putting away the chairs?"
The sound of Josh's mouse-like voice once again caused Steven to jump as if he had seen one. "Mr. Chambers! You sure are good at that. Sure, I would appreciate any help you could provide very much." Once again, Steven oriented himself on top of the risers, and he began handing the chairs down to Josh. After the last few chairs he could tell that the poor small boy was already tiring. "Hey, you don't have to help me with the stands; I can take care of them."
"Are you sure?" Josh asked tentatively.
"Of course I'm sure. In fact. Tell you what." Steven reached into his back pocket. "Why don't you take this and buy yourself a drink. You deserve it for being such a help today, and such a pleasant student to teach." Before the boy could object, Steven placed two bills in his little hands and wrapped his fingers closed around them. "Now you run along Mr. Chambers, and I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
Josh looked down at his hands with wide eyes. "Th... Thanks sir. But you didn't have to give me money, I woulda helped anyways."
"Don't worry about it. Consider it a token of my appreciation. Have a nice afternoon, and be careful on your way home, okay?" Steven patted the boy on his small shoulders.
"Alright. Thank you, Mr. McNealy." Josh smiled, reaching down for his case. With a final wave before he left the room, the boy was gone.
Now Steven's shoulders really did sag. Before his remaining energy left him, he went around behind his desk and sat. It took him several more long minutes before he truly let himself relax, easing the intense pounding of his heart from the moment Josh had spoken to him. Steven shook his head. Yesterday, he had had no idea what to expect. He knew it was going to be difficult, in more ways than one, but he had no idea it would be like this. Though it might not have been harder technically, musically, or intellectually, it was much harder emotionally. Through the course of the day, he must have experienced every feeling known to man, some of which he had not experienced, and had not allowed himself to experience, in a very long time.
Deciding that the best way to let his stomach settle from the large amount of butterflies flying through it was to play, he straightened up and walked over to the baby grand sitting by the risers. Without pause, pushing aside thoughts of the shooting pain he knew he would feel in his hands afterwards, he pulled the bench out from under the piano and propped up the lid. Then he sat down to play, and poured out all of his pent up feelings into the keys of the piano, letting out his anger, his sadness, and the crazy amount of joy that he was feeling thinking of Josh's smile.
Since Band was an after-school activity, all of the busses had already left, and since his instrument case was too big for his locker, it meant that, like last year, he would have to lug it all the way home after each practice. Though his house was only a few miles away, he still had to cross several busy roads to get there. There's no sense crying over spilled milk, Josh thought to himself, walking out the front entrance of the school.
Continuing his trek down 88th street, often switching his instrument from one hand to the other, Josh's thoughts drifted back to band practice. Even though he thought he had done well, he still didn't like playing the French horn much. He had only started playing it because he wanted to be in the band, and he figured that if they ever went out and marched or played in the field, he wouldn't be able to lug a piano along. So, the beginning of last semester, he picked up the French horn. It had been a lot harder than he thought it was going to be, not because of the notes, but because of how hard it was to blow into it correctly. For most of band last year, he had just tried to stay up with everyone else. Even though he knew he should have, he never practiced at home. The first few times he tried, it only lasted for 10 minutes before he threw up his hands and went back to the piano. There was just no way he was going to play the French horn as well as he played the piano. Besides, you could only play one note at a time on the French horn, while you could play up to 10 notes at a time on the piano, and with both hands, you could be your own accompaniment.
Hitting the `walk' button several times at the intersection between 88th and Dawson, Josh set down his instrument and took several deep breathes, stretching out his shoulders. Again he wondered why he had joined. Maybe it was just too much of a hassle. Then he thought about what Mr. McNealy had said. There is nothing else in the world like different types of instruments coming together to make music, and for those who truly listen, nothing speaks more powerfully. And you really couldn't do that with a piano, at least not to his knowledge. And you can't really play with other people, it's always by yourself, and you can't really share it with other people, except for piano recitals, and no one ever comes to piano recitals except for your parents. At least with the band, a lot of people would hear him.
When the light turned green, Josh let out a groan and hefted his instrument up with both hands, trying to get across the road as quickly as possible, before the flashing hand went away. Once he was on the other side, he readjusted his case, and continued down the sidewalk. Josh's thoughts remained a jumble for the rest of the way home, not knowing what to think anymore, or how to feel. He felt so worn down, so tired of feeling empty. Music was all there was now, it was all he had.
Having finally arrived at the door to their small two bedroom apartment, Josh dug the key out of his shorts pocket and jammed it into the keyhole. Turning the knob and pushing the door inward revealed the inside just the way he expected it, devoid of human life. With his mother's new job, he knew she would be home even later than usual. If they were lucky, they would be eating dinner at 7:30pm, which meant she would be getting home at 6:30pm at the earliest, which meant Josh had at least two hours alone, and three hours when he didn't have band.
Other boys would probably think it was really cool to have the place to themselves for so long, getting to do whatever they wanted, but Josh didn't like it at all. He would rather have his mother around, even if she was always busy with her paperwork. Even though it was only his mother, she would at least be hearing him play. Even if she didn't clap afterwards, or tell him what a good job he had done, at least she had heard it. Now no one would hear it. But in a way that was good, this was the time when he could work on the really hard parts of a song he didn't know very well, or when he was learning the notes for the very first time. He didn't want anyone hearing him when he made lots of mistakes. And even though he knew his mother didn't know the difference, he still wanted her to hear the song how it was supposed to sound, like how it sounded on all those CDs she had bought for him.
Not wasting another precious moment, Josh threw his instrument case on the sofa and raced over to the piano bench, pulling out a thick book labeled `Beethoven's Piano Sonatas', turning it to the first movement of the Pathetique Sonata. Folding the book over so it would stay open on its own, he set it up on the music stand. He began slowly, with the first notes of the introduction he had memorized only a few weeks ago. The notes were big powerful cords that sounded so sad and so angry all at once, building up with a flourish, then finally a chromatic descent to the very bottom of the keyboard. It was right after that, where the first movement actually started that he crashed and burned.
"Crap!" Josh cursed under his breath. No matter how hard he tried, he just couldn't speed up the first eight bars. He had it memorized for the next two pages, but all he could do was play though it slowly. It didn't sound anything at all like what it was supposed to sound, and he was getting very frustrated.
Maybe it would help if I listened to the recording again. Josh thought, hopping off the piano bench. Quickly, he ran into his room, pulling the right CD off his shelf, and shoved it into his stereo. Not wanting to miss a note, he turned it up to max volume as it played through the sequence that he knew so well. When it got to the part he was trying to play, he listened intensely, then backed it up and listened to it again. When he backed it up for the third time, he just decided to let it go and listen to it all the way to the end.
Josh began to imagine himself playing instead of the CD. He was playing in front of a piano on-stage, a big grand piano that was opened up in the direction of the audience. The crowd was listening intently, hinging on every note he played. Collectively they held their breaths as he concluded the first movement. He played through the second movement so well that his mother, who was sitting in the front row, started to cry, but yet he kept playing. When he started the Rondo, the entire crowd sat up on the edges of their seats and listed to him like he was the center of their universe until he rolled his way through to the stunning conclusion. Seconds after he hit the final chord, the audience gave him a standing ovation. Everyone was clapping and hollering. His mother was now crying tears of joy.
Then, from out of the shadows, another familiar face stepped into the light. The figure came out applauding loudly, his claps could be heard above everyone else's, and his shouts of `bravo' penetrated Josh's ears above every other sound in the room. When Josh clearly saw the man that stepped out from behind the shadows, he sucked in his breath. In a flash, the scene of his glory disappeared, leaving him once again back in his small room.
Once his hand was steady enough to use, Josh carefully placed the CD back into its case, closing the tray to the player and powering it down before shifting his weight onto his legs in a strained effort to stand. Sliding the CD back into its proper place on his shelf, next to his other piano CDs, he dragged his feet back out to the living room. For several long moments, Josh's eyes lingered on the old, sun-weathered piano, before letting his hand drop to the lid, closing it over the yellow-stained ivory keys. Pulling himself up into a ball on the couch, Josh threw out an arm to pick up the remote to the TV. Though his eyes never focused on the screen, he madly flipped though the channels, futilely trying to create a drone that would drain out the sight of the man, standing there, just inside the stage lights, who wore the face of his father.