by Leonard Cohen, from the album Various Positions
Thanks to Walt for helping me with the story, much appreciated!
Chapter 1: Secret Chord
Well I heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do ya?
Well it goes like this
The fourth, the fifth, the minor fall and the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah
He opened the guitar case and placed it on the ground, and carefully lowered his Gibson ES347 into it, it was old and worn but the semi hollow body sounded sweet, the sustain, the feedback, the tone, all combined to make it a sweet guitar. It was given to him by his Uncle Ken, Mom's brother, who played back in the day, and was very good, good enough to be professional, touring with several big acts in the early 70's.
He walked out of the music room and made his way to his locker when he almost ran into Mr. Harris, a Physical Education teacher and the school's Baseball coach, when he turned the corner. He is also an idiot, a mental midget, and a bully to any and all that he comes in contact with. "What the heck are you doing here so late Mr. Cummings?" he bellowed.
Trying to be calm and cool he replied, "Uhm, I was working on my college entry with Mrs. Klinesmitch."
Rubbing his hair, or what was left of it he scowled, "Well, okay. Be careful next time, and watch out going home, it's snowing pretty bad outside."
He nodded his head and continued, quickly, on to his locker where he opened it and got out his winter jacket and put it on, he hated snow and couldn't wait until he went away to college, Southern California, he hoped.
He felt an arm around his shoulder followed by a sweet voice, "Hey there studly."
Without looking he smiled, "Right back at you smoochie."
"You know it's snowing like crazy out there!" she said excitedly.
Groaning he said, "I heard but was hoping it was all bullshit."
"Nope! Big ass flacks."
He turned his head and there she was, Jackie Reed, or as her family calls her Jacqueline, the pint sized tornado. At four foot eleven, and three quarters, never forget the three quarters as she prided herself on being shy of five foot, she was tough and uncompromising. That was due to being the youngest, and the only girl of a family of five. She had to be tough to fend off her brothers. Nobody fucked with Jackie, no one.
But with him she was different. Her rough and tumble edges that everyone saw, were just a facade, shielding herself from the fear she had with opening up. Unknown to everyone was she was molested for several years by her Father after her Mother passed away. She was of mixed emotions on this, she hated her Father for what he did to her, hated her Mother for leaving her, but loved them both for who they were.
It took time for her to open up, and it almost hadn't if he hadn't taken her into his confidence about his own problems with his parents. It started after Uncle Ken gave him the guitar when he turned thirteen. He loved his Uncle Ken and looked up to him, and when he got the guitar he began to play it and after a short time he wanted to take lessons. His Father balked, not for cost of the lessons, but that it would detract him from his studies. It took some time to convince his Father that his studies wouldn't suffer, and a lot of prodding from his Mother, before he was allowed to take lessons.
And he excelled at playing guitar, taking what he was taught and building upon it, learning intricacies of how to play as well as learning how to read music, the various scales, and music theory. And within a short time he went from playing simple beginner songs to moderately complex songs that easily astonished his Mother who had seen this before when her brother Ken started playing. His Father was unimpressed, and his only comment was that it better not interfere with his studies.
Within a year of playing guitar he had surpassed all others in the class and was moved to an advanced class, and as the years went by his skills and abilities continued to increase.
When he was a Freshman in High School he met with the Music department head, Mrs. Klinesmitch, a portly middle aged woman who loved music more than anyone he would ever know, who after talking to him for a few minutes saw his thirst in music. She began to slowly guide him moving from guitar to other instruments, from Rock and Roll to Jazz to classical. For his part he ate it up, delving into each new subject put before him, learning to play the trumpet and French horn, then to reed instruments clarinet and oboe, to stringed instruments such as the violin and cello, and finally the piano.
It didn't happen overnight and it wasn't easy, in fact it was the hardest thing he had ever done. But the part that bothered him the most was he couldn't share his accomplishments with his parents, well mostly is Father, but if he would have told his Mother she would surely tell his Father.
It was at the start of his Senior year that things got, complicated. It was a simple question that Mrs. Klinesmitch asked of him, what his future academic plans. It was no surprise that he would continue his education, his Father had it all planned out, attending Harvard as he had and attaining an MBA or a Law degree, either was suitable.
But when he did not readily answer, Mrs. Klinesmitch asked if he was interested in getting a degree in Music. Since his Father had already decided on him attending Harvard and getting a MBA, he never really thought of Music as a profession. It was as if a light bulb went on in his head. He loved music, all facets of it, and if was something that he was going to do for the rest of his life, it might as while be something he loved.
In the next few days he thought about his future, and for the most part he couldn't come up with a plan that he thought would work out between him and his Father. Finally he brought Jackie in, albeit reluctantly as he was embarrassed that he needed help.
Jackie's suggestions were pretty good, knowing that he wanted a degree in music left only a few questions, such as did he want to go to a big school or small school, live at home or go away, and what climate are you looking for.
Once he looked at along those lines it became very simple, school size didn't matter, going away was preferable, and a warm climate was a must.
Her next suggestion was to look online for colleges with the best music program located in warm states, like California, Florida, Texas, and so on.
That night he searched for just that and found several highly regarded colleges, but only a few were in a warm climate, a must for him. There was one that looked perfect, the University of Southern California which is the home of the Thornton School of Music. It would probably kill his Father, going to school in California, the land of fruits and nuts he would yell. There was a little part of him that was overjoyed with the thought of going to USC, it would probably kill his Father, he could hear him know, There is no way you are going to a school in California, the land of fruits and nuts!
The next night, he had to get his courage up, at dinner he brought up his college desire. And surprise surprise, he had called it correctly. His Father hit the roof, yelling that no son of his would go to college for a Music degree, especially to a college in California, the land of fruits and nuts! His Mother listened to the one sided conversation and tried, unsuccessfully, to get his Father from yelling and to reason with him on his Father's wishes. But all that accomplished was for him to be mad at both of his parents, not just his Father.
The discussion fell into a full blown yelling match, his Father accusing him of throwing his life away, while he countered that it was his life and his choice. The only person not yelling was his Mother who sat idly by waiting for the yelling to stop. Which it did, but only after he left the dining room.
The next morning was uncomfortable, to say the least. He did not acknowledge his Father, just as his Father did not acknowledge him. His Mother just left the room, not wanting to get in between them.
"So, did you talk to your Father last night?"
He snickered, "Yeah. It went as I thought, he screamed and yelled and told me not to have any more involvement in music, and that I am going to Harvard, end of story."
She touched his arm and asked, "And what did you say?"
"I told him that I understood his position and that I would be happy to allow him to run my life for me. That ended the yelling for a little while until I began doing my homework, which I gave to him and said, since you are running my life you might as well do my homework. That got me grounded for the week."
Laughing Jackie replied, "So, did he do it?"
"Nope. And neither did I. When Mr. Granville asked where it was I told him my Father didn't do it, and if there was a problem that he should talk to him. I'm sure that when I get home tonight I'll be grounded for two weeks. Want to get some dinner?"
Rolling his eye he said, "Oh come on, since when do I eat sushi?"
"Well, you better get used to it, I hear it's the bomb in LA" she said with a laugh.
.... There is more of this story ...