A Gifted Child

Contributor: Beth J. Whiting

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Stephen was nervous. The competition looked prepared, but he wasn’t sure about himself. He'd practiced at least two hours a day for the past month. He'd like to say his parents forced him to, but he couldn’t lie; he pushed himself into it.
Stephen saw all the other children in the piano competition. They were pretty good. They were dressed at their best as he was. The girls wore glittery blouses or Sunday dresses. The boys dressed in mini tuxedos.
Even though they were children it was still very intense. The judges sat in the front row of the theatre. The remaining expanse of red seats was empty. Stephen could see the judges taking terse notes with disapproving expressions on their faces.
The pianists in this group weren’t amateurs. They were all gifted prodigies. It was regrettable, but each hoped the other one might take a dive. They also worried it would happen to themselves.
Stephen could feel the sweat on his face. He knew he wasn’t the best. They scheduled him last. It was just as well. This was Stephen’s first competition.
The spotlight was followed each piano player to the black Steinway grand piano in center stage. Stephen watched the others play. He had to admit they knew their craft. Only two made obvious mistakes. Though only a few notes fell out of order they knew the damage had been done. Each left early out the back door.
It was an hour and a half until Stephen got his chance. He walked onto the stage. He was average looking. He had brown curly hair, was kind of short for a ten year old, but still all right. His slacks dragged on the floor. He tried to approach the piano with confidence.
But he didn’t sit in the chair. Stephen stood his distance.
Now the judges would see how he played.
Stephen closed his eyes and concentrated on the piano in front of him. He picked a hard piece but one he knew he could master.
He focused his mind on the piano. The white and black keys moved by themselves. Fortunately Stephen chose not to look at the judges. One was annoyed, another shocked, the last one put down his pencil. Technically, Stephen played the piece well. Stephen also played it passionately. He knew that capturing the emotion of the piece was one of the most important things about playing the piano. After releasing the last note Stephen knew he had performed at his absolute best and far better than the rest of the competitors.
Stephen turned to bow and glanced at the judges.
He knew he hadn’t won by the looks on their faces.
Stephen went backstage. Fifteen minutes later the judges came back with their decisions.
A girl who he admitted was excellent won. Stephen didn’t make second or third place. He was disqualified.
“But I played the best of them,” he pouted.
His parents patted him on the back and said, “Maybe you should try and play piano the normal way.”
“Who says I’ll be any good at it? I’ve been practicing for years this way as it is.”
“Well maybe you should go the carnival route,” his father said.
Stephen frowned as he left the building.

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I love to write. I'm 29. I live in Mesa, AZ.
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