Page 18 - WTP VOl. VIII #7
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The Instrument (continued from preceding page)
 placed at the mercy of dust and slanting shards of light through cobwebbed windows; I was forced to sit in a ring of instrument players as the teacher moved from one student to the next.
Giving each student a five-minute time slot she lis- tened to the individual player and provided her wise words of instruction; but how she could have heard a single note is beyond me because each and every one of the instrument players in that cramped hall were playing at one and the same time. Can you imagine
a small room in a tiny hall, in a derelict part of town, next to a coal yard, near a fair-green, over-looking
a car dealership, next to a bakery, through a worn wrought iron gate and the sound of twenty instru- ments honking out twenty different tunes all out of synch and with the furious moving fingers and huge piercing bellow sounds of beginners with any instru- ment but especially—especially the instrument allot- ted to each of us, the cruellest of all the instruments.
It is an instrument that does not care for soft caress- es. It is an instrument that wants to be squeezed good and hard and then opened up and squeezed again. Hard as you like. I quickly realized I had no aptitude for it. And no amount of practising made even the slightest difference. I know this because I practised every single night of the bloody week. Every night I was reminded by a snide remark from a sister or eyes above the newspaper to go and practise my playing
in the kitchen. There was no point in fighting it. All I could do was slump out of the room with downcast eyes and drooping shoulders. Good money had been spent on the instrument and on lessons and that there was no earthly way I was going to get out of playing it.
Did I voice my reluctance? I am sure that I did—but at the same time let me explain that I was not the kind of child to throw a tantrum. I was the kind of child who did as he was told to do and did not question
the reason why. My time was spent pleasing others. My time was spent not bringing shame and humili- ation into the house. It was important to do as I was told. Adults knew better than children. Adults had to be obeyed because they knew what children did not know. They had the experience to tell a child what they would and would not like, given time. They played these roles to perfection. I never doubted them for a second. I never tried to dissuade them because this was their wish for me and I did not want to let them down, I did not want to disappoint.
The practising went up several notches in our lino- leum and pine kitchen until a family member entered the room for food or water or simply to go from one
part of the house to another. As soon as they entered the room I would stop playing and stare at them. The mastery of this complex and moody instrument could not happen with someone watching, or worse listening, to what I was doing. It must have been
my pretend dedication and serious demeanour that convinced my family I would become good at playing the instrument. In reality I was self-flagellating to an unusual extent. All I had in my repertoire was one song; Kelly the Boy from Killane that I massacred time and time again. This was what Kelly had died for back in 1798. To be commemorated night after night in a halting, error strewn, manner.
One morning I was woken up from an appalling nightmare by my father. He was dressed in a suit
and tie. It was as if he was going to a wedding. I was forced into my Sunday best. We travelled in silence. The bag of nerves and my stomach ready to uncoil like a snake from inside. I had been warned about this day, but I had had no idea what lay ahead of me. It wasn’t until we got to the school, it wasn’t until we were sitting in a classroom with other parents and their children, the instruments scrapping like dogs, it was only then that the true terror of playing in front of other people began to dawn, that sheer creeping horror, of having to play my pitiful tune for these as- sembled people. I had never even played for my own family and now I was here to play for these strangers. How was this supposed to be achieved. I can’t imag- ine how it was ever decreed to be feasible.
The worst part was the waiting to play. The sheer aw- ful realization that you will be expected to get up
and walk to the centre of the room with your instru- ment to play in front of everyone. The others seemed nervous as they came to the seat but then the sweet- est of music flowed from their instrument with the slightest effort required. It just happened as easily as breathing in and out. A smile on the lips and a foot tapping along with the nods of appreciation in the audience. And then the realization that I was not fit to tie the shoelaces of these people. I was disgrace- fully short of the required standard to be in the same room and each one better than the last. Virtuoso performances. Sweet music played the way it ought to be—with passion and flair by boys and girls who love what they are doing.
Hiding away inside the body of that boy is the shak- ing soul of a coward. A boy quaking in his boots. A boy who would rather be anywhere else in the world. Any other place in the world except in the moment of conception. And just why had he been born anyway if this was the end result? The thought of running away was farcical as was saying simply to his father

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