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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

By James Brown


Shaking fingers loiter over cold, hard keys. Bright lights smack a small stage. A bead of sweat drips off a petite nose. Lips set in grim resolve. The steady tick tock of an unseen clock. A hostile audience. Deathly silence. All set the stage for a dubious performance.

“She should have stayed home,” Amos said. “I tell you, she has no talent whatsoever.”
“You say that about everyone. Can’t you come up with something more original?”
“Well la ti da. Look who’s talking.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that you always say she can’t cut it.”
“Well she can’t,” Sue said. “I’ve lost count of how many times she’s quit this month alone.”
“And you have been there every time to remind her, haven’t you?”
“About as often as you remind her she stinks.”
“Hey, will you two be quiet? I think she’s about to start.”

The first notes flitter above the crowd, shrieking as if mortally wounded. Hands cover ears. Teeth clench in anguish.

“What’d I tell you? No talent.”
“I give her two more minutes before she gives up. What do you think Stan?”
“I think her genre is wrong. She should be playing the blues.”
“Pop, blues, classical. It doesn’t matter if she has no talent. She should quit while she’s still ahead.”
“Giver her ninety seconds.”
“Why do you guys always put her down?” Hanna said. She stood up and addressed the group. “It’s not her fault. She tries to practice, but something always interrupts. Doctor visits, soccer practice, housework, her job. What do you expect? You know she does have a life apart from those black and white keys.”
“Then she should go on with her life and forget playing.”
“Another country heard from,” Amos said. “I suppose you have something to add to the conversation Hank?”
“Now that you mention it, I do. What makes her think that anyone is interested in her playing? Look at all the other artists in the world. She’s just a tiny voice among millions.”
“Well, you’re here,” Hanna said.
“That’s because I thought there was going to be some food after the show.”

Tones mellow into recognizable patterns. Fingers settle down and strike the keys with confidence. Toe taps to the music.

“Hey, that’s not bad,” Jessica said. “But I’ve heard a song similar to this. Can’t she play something original?”
“Isn’t that what I just said? What makes her so special?”
“Nothing, because she has no talent.”
“And she quits at the first sign of trouble.”
“Can’t you let up on her,” Pam said. “It’s not easy performing like that. Think of the pressure on her. I know I’d never be able to get up on that stage.”
“And she shouldn’t either,” Aaron said. “Hyenas sound better than that. Her technique is all wrong. See how stiff her back is? Her shoulders are as taut as a bowstring. Look at her hands sitting on the keys. They should be above the keys with the tips of her fingers lightly stroking them. It’s no wonder she can’t play.”
“Hey guys, I was right on the money. Ninety seconds are up and she’s quitting.

Sarah slams her laptop shut and throws it across the room.

“What ever made me think I could be a writer? Anytime I start, a crisis occurs and takes me away from the computer. When I return, I can’t put two words together and have them make any sense. Even if I could, who would read them? I might as well give up and go to work. At least there, I get a paycheck.”

A disgruntled crowd disbands.

“Like I said; no talent.”
“Nothing but a quitter.”
“She should try the blues.”
“Or something original.”
“Some people can’t handle pressure.”
“Hey, I didn’t want to be here in the first place. Let’s see if we can rustle up some food. You guys like Italian?”

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Member Comments
Member Date
Dusti (Bramlage) Zarse02/07/08
Oh,how familiar that sounds!! I liked this, and God has obviously given you talent. Satan works so hard to convince us to give up, but that's only because he's terrified of what will happen when we don't. If only all of us had the faith to follow our dreams, what a world that would be!
Jan Ackerson 02/08/08
This is very creative, but I'm not sure I understand it. Was it a person at the computer all along? Was the "audience" just voices in her head? I really liked this--read it twice--just not sure what to make of it.
Pam Carlson-Hetland02/08/08
I'm with Jan on this one. But half way through, I started to smile. And I recognized my life here. This is a very creative piece. I'm giving you a thumbs up and a pat on the back. Keep writing!
Patty Wysong02/08/08
Boy, can I relate to the constant interruptions of life! I was a little lost, too, but I like the creativity of it. :-)
Lucile McKenzie02/09/08
This is an original idea and well written. Like the others, however, I was confused as to what was going on. I thought at first she was playing the piano and singing. But over-all I think this is clever and only needs a little clarification here and there.
Lyn Churchyard02/09/08
I get the feeling the MC is a writer and she's writing about a pianist who is constantly being put down by people and is always on the verge of giving up.

The MC, as a writer, feels the same way. She lacks confidence in her ability to write and wants to give up. Well she shouldn't!!! The writer DOES have talent. She should continue writing, nurturing the gift God has given her and continue seeking God's guidance for what He wants her to write.

Never believe the lies Satan whispers to you that you can't write. He will do anything to stop you from writing for God's glory.
Jacquelyn Horne02/12/08
Good writing. Not sure about being on topic, but the POV is easy to spot. Keep it up.
Marilyn Schnepp 02/13/08
As I read this - I kept looking for something about "a man is known about the company he keeps." I did, however, find a mess of people arguing at a rehearsal I think...and a writer that quit. Unique and different. Keep writing.