Tuesday, Dec. 2, 1986
Nashville blushed when I asked him if him and his band would be part of the school Christmas concert. I thought I’d said something wrong, maybe made him feel bad to have to play with a bunch of kids instead of in a bar or something. Looking back on it, I realize he was simply surprised by the offer.
Nashville was one of those guys who probably exists in every small town.
He had a big heart, good intentions, and was real easy going. Very likeable. But the universe likes to be unnecessarily cruel to good people sometimes, so there was always more struggle to everything than there should’ve been for him.
Heather looked at her dad, breath held and eyes wide.
“Will you do it, Daddy?”
He looked from her to me and back again.
“Is that ok?” he asked. “To play at a school concert? I don’t know if that fruitca… if Ms. Van Fleet will allow that, kids.”
We nodded enthusiastically.
“We’ve already made the inquiry,” Heather said. “She agreed to the terms.”
I never knew how to follow her way of speaking.
“Yeah,” I said, feeling stupid. “She’s very … agreeable to our inquiry.”
“Well shoot,” Nashville said. “That’d be fun, wouldn’t it? I’m supposed to ask the guys before I take on any gigs, but I think this’s sort of different. You tell Ms. Van Fleet we’ll do it.”
Heather jumped and wrapped her arms around Nashville.
“Thank you, Daddy!”
“You’re welcome, darlin’,” he said, giving her a squeeze and kissing her on top of the head.
“You’re the best, Nashville,” I said. “This is gonna be the coolest concert ever. Thanks!”
“Well, we’ll see about that,” he said, “but I’ll see what we can do to add to the coolness of it. And I’m gonna call everyone tonight just to double make sure.”
I thanked Nashville again and high-fived Heather.
“That’s the first one this year,” she said.
“First what?” I asked.
“The first high five.”
“Oh,” I said. “The whole dang year? Well here’s another.”
And I slapped her hand again before turning to run home to share the big news.
Wednesday, Dec. 3, 1986
“What do you mean we can’t do it?! You said if Nashville said him and the Comfort Rockers would play our music, we’d do it,” I said, staring Ms. Van Fleet square in the eyes. “And Heather called me last night and said he talked with the guys and they’d do it. They’ll even play extra Christmas songs! You can’t change your mind now. It’s gonna be the best thing ever!”
Ms. Van Fleet’s empty expression, even in the face of my unbridled enthusiasm, was soul crushing.
“Unfortunately,” she said, “it’s not that simple. If it was, I’d be President and there’d be an autoharp in every home. But ultimately it’s not my decision.”
Confusion ran rampant through my mind.
“What do you mean it’s not your decision? It was your decision yesterday.”
A wave of infallible logic crashed upon my confusion, washing it away.
“Actually,” I said, shaking an accusing finger at my music teacher, “yesterday it was our decision. You were letting us decide what the concert would be like.”
I had her.
“No, dear,” she said. “I was not letting you do that. I was looking for input. But it was still my concert. And like I said before, it’s not that simple. It’s only my concert insofar as it’s allowed to be my concert. And do not shake your finger at me again, young lady.”
Frustration took the stage.
“What do you mean, ‘insofar as it’s allowed to be my concert’?” I asked, my voice raised a bit more than it should have been. “It’s either your concert or it isn’t.”
“No,” Ms. Van Fleet said. “It’s my music class, and it’s my concert, but it all needs approval from Mr. Wodrick. He’s the boss.”
Mr. Wodrick. The principal. Of course.
“Let me talk to him,” I said before I even realized what I was saying. “I can talk him into it. The day’s just begun. He’s in a good mood. Tommy Fanning probably hasn’t tried to set anything on fire yet. I can get him.”
Ms. Van Fleet shook her head.
“Lauren. Please listen. He spent the first 20 minutes of his morning yelling at me for overstepping my bounds. The last thing he needs is to hear from you about it. It won’t change anything.”
“I bet it can,” I said. “He let you have it for 20 minutes. Give me 10, and we’ll have the concert.”
“Ms. Comstock, I don’t know what you think you’re going to do, but I’ve taught long enough to know when a student is convinced of something. The Pledge of Allegiance is in 15 minutes. Be back here by then. Go.”
“I’ll be back in 10.”
To be continued …
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