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Recovering Charles Chapter 2 Excerpt

Author : Jason F.

Submitted : 2009-09-28 00:34:05    Word Count : 1516    Popularity:   48

Tags:   fiction, writing, authors, books, Jason Wright, Christmas Jars, The Wednesday Letters

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I was fourteen and certainly not the most popular kid in Mrs. Ingham’s eighth grade music class. Everyone else had no trouble picking an instrument during the first week. We spent two days goofing around on twenty year old trombones, trumpets, clarinets, and whatever else Mrs. Ingham pulled from a closet in the back of the band room.

Wednesday was decision day.

“Can I pick last?” I’d always known I’d go with whatever Chrissy Alves picked. She’d never even looked at me before, but playing the same instrument might finally be the excuse I needed to say hello or punch her in the arm the way other boys did to the girls they liked.

Mrs. Ingham smiled warmly. “I suppose, Luke.”

One by one the other kids announced their choices. Big Spencer chose the bass drum. No surprise there, not with the way he liked beating up on people. Olivia chose the violin because she already owned one and had taken a few private lessons. Our popular eighth grade class president, Matthew, went with the tuba, and Green Beret bound Glen chose the trumpet. His best friend Bryan went for the tambourine on the theory it would give him the greatest opportunity to sleep during class. Caleb only wanted to sing, and quite loudly, but Mrs. Ingham made him pick an instrument anyway.

“But my voice is an instrument,” Caleb argued.

“I know, Caleb, and a finely tuned instrument it is, but chorus doesn’t start until next semester. So choose a musical instrument, please.”

He went for the cymbals and played them with gusto.

The Wages twins picked saxophones. Jay had really wanted to play the bassoon but the school didn’t own one. He settled for the trombone. The new girl from Minnesota picked an orange colored French horn that was already bent.

Then came Chrissy. She sat at the end of the row below me; I was perched alone on the highest riser. I looked at her profile and admired her sparkly purple hairband. I prayed, Please don’t pick the—

“Flute!” she announced proudly.

Mrs. Ingham smiled toward me again. She clearly enjoyed this. “And last but not least, how about you up there at the top? Mr. Millward? The flute for you as well?” She winked. I hated it when teachers winked.

The boys giggled and Spencer practically screamed, “You two will make beautiful music together.”

Now the girls giggled, too. I might have slugged Spencer if he hadn’t already locked me in the custodial closet twice that year.

Mrs. Ingham disappeared into the deep closet and came out with two tarnished silver flutes and two different sized cases. “Here you go, you two.” She surveyed the class, each of us awkwardly handling our instruments and making sounds normally heard in emergency rooms and jungles. “And now we have a band!”

Over the next two weeks we learned fingering and then, finally, scales. After another month of screeching out music that Mrs. Ingham called “beautiful,” we learned a John Philips Sousa song that would have been unrecognizable to Mr. Sousa himself.

“It’s time to practice on your own, students. This is what eighth grade is all about. Responsibility. If we want to be ready for the afternoon concert next month, you’ll have to commit to practicing outside of class.”

I hated practicing the flute at home almost as much as I hated blowing on the thing during class. But the flute kept me four inches closer to Chrissy Alves on the front row. Sometimes when she played, and she’d actually gotten pretty good, I would only pretend to play so I could look at her puckered lips through the corner of my eye. I secretly hoped she’d never been kissed and that I’d be her first, but I was afraid I was too late. The rumors were that she’d gone behind the school’s landscaping shed last year and left the Virgin Lips Club with a boy nicknamed “Funk,” kissing him square on the mouth. For obvious reasons, she denied it. But the silly look on Funk’s tomato face whenever she looked at him gave it away.

“Are you all listening to me?” We packed up our instruments and shoved sheet music we didn’t really understand into our backpacks. “Practice this weekend, please. I expect to be emotionally moved by your progress on Monday.”

I took a deep breath and punched Chrissy in the arm.

“Hi, Chrissy.”

“Hi, Luke.”

“You gonna be practicing this weekend?”

“I guess I better after that speech.” She grinned and pulled grape lip gloss from the pencil pocket of her purple backpack.

Is she going to put that on right in front of me?

Gulp. She did.

“That’s awesome. I like practicing, too. A lot, too.”

“That’s good.” She put the lip gloss away and rubbed her lips together.

“Would you like to, ah, to practice playing the flutes with me?” Flutes?

She studied my face for what felt like hours. By the time she spoke, I was so shaky I needed the boys’ bathroom. I tried not to squirm and almost teared up at the thought of wetting my pants in front of the prettiest girl in the eighth grade.

“Sure, I’ll practice playing the flutes with you.” Her bright eyes could light a fire.
I nodded. Words couldn’t have escaped my cotton mouth even if I’d tried.

“You know where I live?”

I shook my head no. A big fat lie.

“I live across from the Kimbles. On Reservoir Road.”

“Oh, yeah,” I croaked. “Knew that.”

“Come over Sunday after church. We get home at 12:15 or so.”

“Awesome.” I picked up my backpack and casually threw it over one shoulder.

“Don’t forget your flute,” she said.

“Yeah, duh.” I reached back down, grabbed the case, and unzipped my backpack just enough to cram it inside.

“See you Sunday,” she said, walking away.

“Awesome.”

I practiced so much on Saturday that my lips were worn out from holding them in a position that should be reserved for first kisses. My hands ached and my pinkies were so sore I wanted to lop off them off with wire cutters. Dad came in every now and again to encourage me and to offer help. He took my flute and played a few bars.

“Geez, Dad, you play the flute, too?”

“Not really, but I know a little about a lot of instruments.”

“I wish I’d picked something else.” So did my pinkies.

“Don’t say that, son. The flute is beautiful when played well. It’s magical in fact. You’ll get there.”

“You don’t wish I’d picked the sax?”

“Not at all. You have your reasons.” He tapped my shin with his foot.

How does he know this stuff? I thought.

“Don’t worry, Luke. Give it time, you’ll get there.”

“I doubt it.”

Dad handed the flute back to me. “You made a brave choice, son. Stick with it. It will be worth it later.”

Like tomorrow.
Just after noon the next day I threw my freshly polished flute in my backpack and rode my black Huffy to Chrissy’s house. She invited me in and led me to the living room where she’d already set up a folding music stand in front of two dining room chairs. She’d also arranged a TV tray with two glasses of Kool Aid.

“Hope you like grape.”

It could have been diesel fuel and I would have enjoyed it.
We sat side by side and blew our way through scales and then the only song we’d learned. We played it four or five times. Each time we’d start again her knee would inch closer to mine. By the time they touched I could barely breathe, never mind play the flute.

“You quit playing!” she squealed after the final note.

“Sorry.” My heart was racing so fast I was sure she could hear it. “I lost my place.” I pretended to straighten my sheet of paper on the stand we shared.

“You’re funny, Luke Millward.”

“You too.” I turned to look at her and her nose was so close I felt her breath on my face. She was making the face she made just before putting the flute to her gloriously shiny lips. But the flute was still in her lap.

I leaned in and at last forfeited my membership in the VLC. That was the last thing I remember about the first time I practiced the flute with Chrissy Alves.

(Excerpt from Recovering Charles and reprinted with the permission of the author, Jason F. Wright)

(Originally published at GoArticles and reprinted with permission of the author, Jason F. Wright).

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Jason F. Wright is a regular contributor on Fox News and is founder and managing director of the political destination, http://PoliticalDerby.com. Jason is the New York Times Bestselling Author of Christmas Jars and The Wednesday Letters. To Learn more about Jason and his most recent novel, Recovering Charles, visit: http://www.recoveringcharles.com.

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