Monday, May 30, 2016
Starting Sparks: May Edition
Welcome back to Starting Sparks, a monthly writing link-up hosted by Emily @ Ink, Inc. and Ashley G. @ [insert title here]! The idea behind it is to spark your creativity and write on a theme posted at the first of the month by the co-hosts. You can write whatever you like be it a short story, a scene, a poem, a piece of dialogue, or simply an exploration of an idea. This month the selected theme is the following:
The Unexpected Lesson
Today was shaping up to be one of those crazy days - the kind where everything that can go wrong does and with a vengeance - and it began with a phone call. Unfortunately, I picked up on the first ring.
"Jeez! You still have a landline?!"
I recognized the voice right away. "No. Not you. Anyone but you."
"I'm in shock - a landline! In 2016!"
"Nick, first, how did you get this number; second, what do you want; and third, see you at school on Monday. Bye." I started to hang up the receiver, but his tinny yet suddenly serious voice stopped me.
"I need your help. Please."
Nick never asked for help, let alone said the p-word. Nick's the guy I'm assigned to tutor in Lit and Composition. We happened to be in the same class section this semester, and since I have one of the top grades in the class our teacher paired us up. Basically, I'm supposed to help him with the writing assignments and help him review for tests. We meet up two days a week in the library during our free period. And, let me just say that outside of our class and those Tuesday and Thursday sessions, I don't really care to see him any more in the space of one week. I don't move in the same circles as he and his friends. Of course, while I'm working with him during our meet ups he's not half bad (and his grades are getting better), but still an annoying jock, but with his friends he's insufferable.
Now, I know very little about his life outside of school, but honestly, I don't care all that much. I do know that his parents have plenty of money, and they give him whatever his heart desires. I have to work for every little thing I have to my name. I've also been able to figure out that his parent's don't actually spend that much time with him and he's left to his own devices quite a bit. That makes me feel for him...almost.
"What? Everything alright?" The concern was obvious in my voice whether I wanted it to be or not. Those five words made me wonder what's going on - whatever it is could be serious.
"I need to learn how to play the electric guitar."
"Nick, I'm your English tutor, not your band tutor." As far as I knew he didn't play a single instrument, whereas I've been playing multiple instruments since elementary school.
"But you can play the guitar right?"
"Sure." I didn't mention that I've been playing the guitar since I was eight and can actually play acoustic, electric, and bass, on top of the trumpet for the school band.
"Look," Nick said, "I signed up for the talent show to play the electric guitar and it's on Tuesday."
That's two days from now. "...Why? You don't play."
He sighed like he's been wondering the same thing. "I wanted to impress Taylor by playing the guitar in front of the whole school even though I have no clue how to hold a guitar the right way let alone actually play it." He said it very quickly and in one breath.
Everyone at school knew that Taylor... appreciated a boy who could play the guitar. And, that Nick was one of her many admirers. Clearly, this was part of a plan to get into her good graces.
Normally, I wouldn't want to get involved in something this silly when I have much better things to do, especially with a guy like him - someone I really only put up with for class. But, it's only two days, I can give him a quick crash course and teach him a popular yet simple song and enjoy his ridiculous attempt to win Taylor over from the auditorium seats. It might get interesting and knowing him he would take the credit himself and my my name wouldn't come up. My friends wouldn't let me forget it if they knew, but what the heck. I'm feeling generous.
"Sure, but you'll owe me. Deal?"
"Really?" He sounded surprised, like asking me was a last resort and he didn't expect me to actually say yes.
"Really. Before I change my mind, where are we going to practice?" It couldn't be anywhere near where his friends might find out.
"I'm outside." The phone disconnected and and there was a knock on the front door.
I muttered something impolite to myself and went to answer it.
He brought his own guitar with him. Of course he had one. I showed him into the living room and excused myself to grab my own guitar. This is so not how I expected my day to go.
After setting up (at least he knew how to do that), I realized his guitar was badly out of tune. I ended up doing it for him. Try as I might to explain it to him, he couldn't wrap his head around the concept of sharp and flat strings and how to get them in tune.
I'll spare you the rest of the gory details of the subsequent three hours because it just went downhill from there. At least he was being a good sport, even though he got himself into this mess in the first place. No matter how much he worked at it during that amount of time could he work out the three chords. He knew what he was supposed to do and he picked his favorite of the easy three chord songs I mentioned, but his fingers didn't really behave as he expected on the strings. And, the longer we were at it, the more he kept whining about his fingertips hurting. He shut up and got back to it after he saw my callused fingers from years of playing.
Finally, after hours of practice that day and the next with no sign of improvement, the day of the talent show came. Nick couldn't been seen by his friends as a quitter - they didn't even know that I spent that last couple of days giving him a crash course - and he had Taylor on his mind. Before I walked into the auditorium to take my seat, Nick had signed himself up to go onstage first. This is going to be interesting. As I turned to go through, I saw some of his lunkhead friends excitedly talking about how awesome he was going to be - and how he going to "shred". Right. I don't want to see Nick fail, but honestly, I'd like to see him make a spectacle of himself on stage and look far less than his usual effortless cool.
Just after the lunkheads went in, Nick ran around the corner from the doorway down the hall leading backstage.
"Please," The p-word again. "I can't do this - not in front of everyone - not yet."
"Then, why did you sign yourself up to go on first - in ten minutes - to play an instrument you've never picked up before two days ago?"
"You know why." He paused as he watched Taylor stride into the auditorium with her group of followers. "Now will you help me one more time?" He turned and hurried toward the stage door. He held it open for me and gestured for me to follow him.
I heaved a sigh - and followed, against my better judgment. Backstage, he showed me his guitar, amp, and mic. "You're going to sing?" I had no idea until now - that entirely changed the game.
"Yes, and you're going to play - pick a song."
I looked between him and his equipment. "What?"
"Please. You know how much I suck - I'll never be able to play the guitar as well as you do, but I can sing. Just have to hope that no one notices I'm faking when it comes to the guitar."
I'm starting to catch up. "Won't your Taylor notice?"
"No, she knows even less about it than I do. She just likes the idea of hot guys serenading her. Plus some of those other dudes she's been with make it look easy, you make it look easy, that I thought it would be."
"Nick, I make it look easy because I've been playing for nine years. It takes a lot of finger bleeding practice to make it look that easy..." Well, I'm in it this far. "If I say yes, can I choose whatever song I want as long as you know the lyrics? Your friends want to hear you shred." My lips twist ironically on that last word. "You'll owe me double."
"Fine. What song did you have in mind?"
"'Johnny B. Goode', Back to the Future style." I say it immediately - it's so much fun to play and I just rewatched the movie trilogy for the umpteenth time.
"Geek," he mutters. But I can tell he knows the scene just as well as I do - and he confirms it a second later. "Yeah, I can do that." He looks from side to side to make sure know one else is listening. We quickly work out the logistics in the next couple of minutes. Basically, it's a good thing I had my guitar in my locker. Only his mic will be on while my guitar will be secretly plugged into the amp on the stage while I play from behind the curtain. Now it's just a matter of keeping time with one another, but considering both of us know it so well, hopefully it might actually go off without a hitch. The jock gets the popular girl, the lunkheads get to see their friend "shred" onstage, and I take my bows backstage after playing one of my fave songs.
Ah, well. Now, I just have to think of something good to call him in on, and it'll be big and expensive. Just one of those days... Right. I could hear the principal announce Nick's name. Here goes nothing - I just hope he can keep up, and doesn't drop his guitar!