First Gig

Short Stories Feb 7, 2024

A perfect storm of events had led to this. After years of being re-worked from raw, rough-sawn stone, then being tossed and polished in life’s various tumblers, it was my turn to shine. My turn to be noticed as the gem that my manager said I’d become. This afternoon, I would unleash the beast within me.

 Some said I had it in me.

“He has it in him,” they counselled sagely, and nodding heads murmured assent.

 But there were voices of dissent as well.

“I agree he has the technical skills, but I’m not convinced he lives the music. Does he actually hear the beat, does he share the passion? Can he possibly feel the fire in his belly? Surely he is little more than a hack rhythm player. He can churn out memorised riffs, but is he as one with his instrument? Where is the evidence that he can sense and improvise leads?”

 Fusillades of claim and counter-claim ensued.

“He is untested. Inexperienced.”

Even the backstage crew was divided, rent asunder by politics of which I was blissfully unaware.

 “You’re waiting for him to trip up! You’re willing him to crash and burn!” my manager accused. She had chewed on each of her words, judiciously weighing and measuring each of her two statements. Then, nodding self-approvingly, she stifled an inaudible sob.

 But we’d come too far this afternoon. We’d pushed past the underlying petty politics, well beyond any festering rancour. The first performance had arrived. I felt no fear or apprehension. In fact, I was oblivious to any external pressure. I would soar with the eagles… and I would MAKE PEOPLE HAPPY.

I would be happy, my Mum would be happy, Mrs Wharton the conductor would be happy.

 Our instruments were placed quietly in front of each of us seated cross-legged on the stage. The black curtains parted and we acknowledged our fans with excited waves. We picked up our instruments and the audience clapped along enthusiastically to our Year 1  percussion band’s rendition of ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.’

Before this afternoon, our audience mightn’t have known my name, but Mum says they’ll be talking about me for a long time. It’s rare that the lead triangle player stands up mid-song, screws his eyes tightly shut, gyrates his hips wildly, and goes off into his own headspace with a manic beat and volume recognisable only to himself.

 And I thrash that triangle as if I’m wanting to obliterate it with my small metal striker. Howls of audience laughter and applause spur me onwards to even greater ferocity. ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ grinds to a chaotic end. My classmates are all staring at me, mouths open, and I’m standing at the front of the stage eyeballing the roaring audience. Still clutching the triangle, I raise my arms in victory. I have vanquished that three-sided piece of shiny metal. My grin almost splits the corners of my mouth. In the wings of the stage, Ms Trees, my carer, is giving me two huge thumbs up.

I know what I want to do next but she reads my mind. Mrs Trees’ eyes become round like pizzas and she frantically shakes her head and mouths, “Noooo..  Nooo...” So I demonstrate self-control and I don’t swan dive outwards and crowd surf in that mosh-pit of cheering mums and dads and grandparents.

 Yeah, my first gig! Mum, my manager, said I had it in me. I just had to find it and let it out. We can’t always wait for a hero to show up. Sometimes you have to be your own hero.


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