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For most of his first year at the School of Arts, Bruno Martelli's father had insisted on driving him to school every morning. It was almost an hour's journey through the worst of the downtown traffic that jammed the avenues around East Fifty-Ninth, but Angelo Martelli was a hard man to argue with. Bruno didn't want to seem ungrateful - after all, getting to school by cab did have a certain kind of style about it, even if the meter wasn't running - but it was a fact that, nine times out of ten, he could have made the journey faster on the subway.

It has taken a while, but Bruno had finally managed to lever himself free of the arrangement without actually causing offence. Or so he'd thought; for a few weeks now, his old man had been giving off the quiet signals of a volcano of hurt getting ready to blow. Oh, Bruno, he told himself, you can't get it right for getting it wrong. He was starting to realise too late that the feedback of pride that his father got from the drive was worth more than the inconvenience to either of them. A simple, direct man, Angelo Martelli had done everything he could to help wind up his son's talent and point him at a target of success. Now it seemed that Bruno was making him into a bystander.

But what could he do? Danny Amatullo had already given him one answer, but it was the same answer that Danny always gave when you cornered him and pressured him into being serious about a real life problem for a while; look inward, analyse it, learn to use it. Bruno shouldn't have been surprised; from Day One since he'd known Danny, Bruno had perceived that the perpetual half-smile and the easygoing, wisecracking manner were only a surface dressing - not a disguise, but the outer shell of a born analyst of human behaviour.

But, all the same.....

The lights changed from DON'T WALK, and the two crowds on the opposite sides of Forty-Second Street surged towards each other like the armies in some Cecil B. DeMille epic. Bruno slid through them like a fish, bumping and being bumped by nobody, his sheet music hugged under his arm for protection. Forty-Second was looking tired and old; at night it could still dazzle a little with its banks of marquee lights and day-bright sidewalks, but it was only the thin magic of the carnival. The great old theatres had been given over to cinemas, and the cinemas had gone steadily downmarket into skin-flicks and splatter-movie double bills.

New York was a fast town, all right, and since Bruno had started attending the School of the Arts on West Forty-Sixth it seemed that he'd begun to live even faster.

But not fast enough today, it seemed; passing down by the side of the old Rialto Theatre, he could see from a display clock in a shop window full of costume jewellery and dollar jokes that he was late. Coco Hernandez would be up there and waiting already, perhaps Leroy Johnson too; Leroy might be . . . well, relaxed in some other areas of his lifestyle, but when it came to punctuality for a dance class or a rehearsal he kept better time than a Rolex

West Forty-Sixth. Bruno was almost running as he turned the corner by the Howard Johnson's, he kept it down. He had to remember that he was a tousle-haired Italian boy in a sweatshirt, tracksuit top, faded Levis and Ked baseball shoes; he didn't want to arrive at the steps of the school with three cops on his heels all convinced that he'd just mugged some music teacher and stolen his scores.

There it was, an unassuming stone frontage just beyond the Leavitt Building. More than a high school, in no way a dream palace, more like a forge where promise was beaten out into capability with a lot of hard work and sweat. Taking the steps in twos, Bruno smiled. For all the complaints that could be heard around the lunch hall in the middle of the day, almost none of the kids in here was actually being driven. The bait was simply held out to them, the avenues of opportunity indicated, the staff ready to guide and support and point out when a second-best effort had gone by unrecognized.

The bait alone was enough. The bait was accomplishment, achievement, success.

And perhaps also fame.
 

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