The nondescript teenager scuffed gravel between the railroad ties, school backpack thumping against thin shoulder blades. The handle on his violin case had broken, so it was tucked under his right arm, chaffing his skin into a blistered sore.
It was a familiar three-mile trek--unbeknownst to his parents, he boycotted the school bus. It was a release to escape the harassment of the popular crowd. If it wasn’t disdainful leers or disparaging comments, it was taunting with occasional “accidental” shoves. Inherently natural that they found strength in numbers, it was rarely one bully, egging each other on with their heckling.
“Hi, Carter. Wipe your feet, now, I just washed the floor,” housekeeper Bridie admonished, “have a good day?”
The sullen boy nodded his head briefly, accompanied by the typical shoulder shrug. Moments later, strident, angry screeches emitted from his room as Carter’s bow tried to glide across the knotted and tattered violin strings. Apparently someone had sabotaged the instrument in the music room second hour.
Carter knew he was a nerd. But he had the satisfaction and pride from exemplary grades and knowledge gained—and, his music. He didn’t particularly like being a “loner,” but was inept with social skills. So he busied himself in studying and in playing his grandfather’s old violin, which came as naturally to him as a duck takes to water.
Bridie’s eyes filled with tears that threatened to fall into the cake batter when, an hour later the newly-stringed violin gave out the poignant, sorrowful, hauntingly beautiful music she had grown to love.
“That boy has The Gift, alright! It’s a crying shame his parents are too career-driven to notice,” Bridie thought as she departed for the day.
The woman vowed to bring him up at her widow's group prayer meeting that very evening. Her pastor’s latest sermon about “where two or three are gathered together . . .” played over and over in her mind as constant as the drumbeats of her heart.
Meanwhile, after Carter finished Bridie’s nourishing meal, he tackled his homework and finally went to bed, his parents “no-shows” again. After their late hours and long commutes, he wouldn’t connect with them until the weekend.
The following day, Carter arrived at school earlier than usual, wanting to repair his violin case with the free music room materials. Out of habit, he unobtrusively ducked around a corner where the popular kids would soon be loitering, almost running into a group of college students setting up a display:
“RIDGEMONT HIGH’S FIRST Music Talent Competition. Recruiting musicians for WAVERLY COLLEGE FULL-RIDE SCHOLARSHIP. GRAND PRIZE also includes appearance and training with THE TREEMONT TRIO.”
Carter had admired The Treemont Trio forever! They played various stringed instruments and were highly respected and loved, with widespread fame that seemed to cross generational and gender lines. Before he could think about it, he grabbed an application, rapidly filled it out and gave it to the most approachable-looking scout—a guy skinny enough to get through a rabbit hole who wore thick glasses and mismatched clothing that could be interpreted as funky or nerdy.
Surprisingly, two other classmates Carter recognized from his homeroom had signed up after him, and had approached him about the three of them banding together for emotional support. They weren’t exactly nerds, but neither were they the “in” crowd that he shied away from.
The day of their tryout, the three stood together in front of the daunting judging panel, gathering strength from each other. When it was Carter’s turn, he slowly mounted the stage, removing his thick glasses before commencing. Slowly and deliberately, he brought his grandfather’s old battered violin up under his chin, poising the bow above the strings. Closing his eyes, he began playing an original composition that seemed to encompass all the struggles, the pain, the heartache and ultimately, the joy, of human existence. The crescendo notes rose to the very rafters of the theatre and down to the basest level a human being can know, in turn, telling a story as old as time itself in such a unique and masterful way, that an awed communal hush hung over the room. Ending, Carter’s trembling hands lowered the old violin and, wiping his perspiring brow on his shirt-sleeve, he humbly bowed.
No one who heard the performance had any doubt who would be the winner of the offered scholarship, the standing ovation reverberating up and down the halls of Ridgemont High, impressing nerds and socialites alike.
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