Sunday, November 11, 2012

Singing Lessons - Part II

(Part I)

Of course, I had no idea how much singing lessons might cost. When Jeremy asked, I blurted out "Twenty-Five Dollars a month!", and he seemed satisfied with that. The truth was, I wasn't able to find a voice teacher in our rinky dink town willing to give a lesson for less than seventy-five dollars a month. I bargained with Frau Schmidt, the overstuffed German woman who gave lessons out of the first floor of the bank building. Finally, she agreed to fifty dollars, plus a crusty dinner loaf and a batch of cinnamon rolls from my oven to her table, once a week.

That still left me with twenty-five dollars to raise every month on my own. I earned about fifteen a month, consigning old clothes and toys. Another five from 'laundry tips' - loose change and the occasional dollar bill that Jeremy left in his pants pockets when he threw them into the hamper. The remaining five I'd have to scrape and save and find in couch cushions and on sidewalks. 

I did it, too. For a whole year, I managed to pay Frau Schmidt in greenbacks and baked goods, with Jeremy none the wiser.  As for Rumley, oh my little Rumley! Don't you know, he absolutely blossomed there in Frau Schmidt's studio! He walked taller, he spoke clearer, even his ears seemed less sticky-outy. He found his voice, and it was beautiful

Every year, Frau Schmidt's students perform a recital for their beaming parents. It's held on a Saturday night, and the first floor of the bank building is scrubbed until it shines. They set up rented, white folding chairs, reserving the first two rows for the students; their names written in Frau Schmidt's careful, shaky hand on white tent cards, placed in the seats.  Two silk ficus trees flank the stage, white lights twinkling in their branches. A worn, black piano is at stage right and Frau Schmidt balances her substantial self on a small stool, fingers poised above the keys. She is lovely tonight, wearing red and ermine, a smear of lipstick on her front teeth. 

Jeremy is late. Rumley isn't scheduled to sing until after intermission, but I worry. I've taken a seat in the front row, my purse on the chair beside me. People pass by, and some of them motion to the chair. Taken, I mouth. Frau Schmidt thanks us for coming, someone dims the lights and the performance begins. The chair beside me remains empty. I listened to no fewer than five versions of Tomorrow, three Raindrops on Roses and one Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which was cut short when the singer threw up on her shoes. Spaghetti for dinner, by the looks of it. 

The lights has just dimmed again after intermission when Jeremy slid into the seat beside me. 

"Finally," I whispered through clenched teeth. 

"I'm here, stop bitching," he slurred. He smelled like a distillery. 

"Oh my God, you are drunk!" I could feel the tears welling up in my eyes. How dare he! How dare he show up on our son's big night, drunk as a goddamn skunk!

"Shut up, I'm here," he said and pinched the soft skin on the back of my arm. I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from crying out. Then, our Rumley was on stage. I have to be honest, Rumley is not much to look at. In addition to the ears, his nose is biggish and his skin is bad. His hair, no matter how we cut it, fights his head, twisting and flipping and growing every which way. But tonight, Rumley was just beaming. A person never looks as good as they do when they are truly happy and tonight, Rumley was Cary Grant.

Everyone in the audience saw it, too. A hush fell over the crowd, Frau Schmidt's hands hung in the air, and then she began to play. Rumley opened his mouth and a choir of angels flew out. He sang, he soared, he lifted us up and held us, breathless, in mid air. He danced with his voice and made me the most proud, the most happy, I have ever been in my entire life. When he finished, my face with wet with tears. The crowd clapped wildly, standing and cheering. Even Frau Schmidt was standing, applauding her pupil. 

Everyone loved him. 

Everyone, but stupid Jeremy. Jeremy sat, slumped in his chair, staring at our son. Only when the audience had quieted, when the cheers began to subside, and Rumley started off the stage, did Jeremy speak. He jumped to his feet and stood there wobbling. 

"FAGGOT!", he yelled, and the room went silent. From the stage, Rumley stared at his father. "What are you, some kind of queer? A singing and dancing queer?" My face grew hot and I took hold of Jeremy's arm. "Let go of me, you dumb bitch!" He raised his hand and I cringed, waiting for the blow. Instead, he kept talking. "Singing lessons! You wanted him to take singing lessons! You turned my boy into a fairy! Singing fucking SHOW TUNES, taught by a foreign lesbian!" With this, Frau Schmidt let out a strangled cry. 

"Singing lessons," Jeremy muttered with disgust. He spat in the direction of the stage, and turned to leave. I stood by my chair, numb. Someone had raised the lights and I could feel the eyes of everyone in the room, judging me. None as pointed, none as piercing, none as blaming as my son's, glaring at me from the stage. 

Your fault, they said. It's all your fault

(More to come)


  1. I'm starting to look forward to these.

  2. Oh Kelly, this story is breaking my heart, but I can't wait to read more!

  3. Honestly gave me chills! Loving this story.

  4. Holy crap. You can write, Kelly. I know I knew that already, but holy crap.

    I'm awed.

  5. Oh my dear gracious goodness. I sure hope this has a happy ending...