Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 19

The Festival report in the Daily News made a point of mentioning Troy Phillips by name. Angelo Martelli found it first and hurried up to Bruno's bedroom, throwing the folded paper onto the bed and then opening the drapes to let the morning sun come flooding in. Bruno howled with pain and disappeared under the covers, re-emerging inch by inch as the realisation that he was awake slowly took hold.

It was Saturday, so no school, and it was almost ten. Bruno dressed quickly in T-shirt and jeans, and after rubbing the sleep from his eyes he took the newspaper down to the kitchen. Angelo told everybody that his boy only worked on quarter-power for the first hour of the day; he'd never be able to find the kitchen at all if it wasn't for the scents of coffee and waffles leaving him a trail.

With the Bugs and Roadrunner show playing with muted sound on the kitchen TV, they sat in the breakfast nook and Bruno read the whole piece aloud. His song got a good mention, although the title wasn't given and he wasn't actually named as the composer; the best part of it was given over to an appreciation of Troy's contribution. Bruno read with a mixture of pleasure and apprehension; the apprehension proved to be unfounded, because nothing was said of Troy's involvement with Chase or of his 'special' educational needs. Troy had made it, and on the only terms that counted.

Bruno couldn't help wondering what Coco would think of this. If Troy had never happened along for an audition, it was generally agreed that the lead spot would have been hers. As it was, she'd sung backing and harmonies; she'd handled both with good grace, but nobody had needed to ask if she was really happy.

All the same, the piece gave Bruno a good feeling. After he'd given Angelo back his paper, he said, 'You know what I think I'll do?'

'You're going to go down into the basement and mess around on your synthesizer,' Angelo said without even looking up.

'You got it,' Bruno said, and he dropped two more frozen waffles into the toaster and drew off some more coffee to keep him going.

Bruno went downstairs, switched on the lamps, and warmed up the ARP. There might have been better ways of spending a sunny Saturday afternoon, but Bruno didn't know any. He left the basement door open, knowing that Angelo liked to be able to listen as he messed around the house; when there was heavy work and deep thinking to be done the door would be closed by mutual agreement, but for now Bruno was just 'futzing', as Shorofsky would say, with a few chord sequences. It was like a writer jotting in his notebook, or an artist on his sketchpad; from the free-form wandering, an idea might emerge.

Around mid-afternoon, Angelo put his head around the door.

'Bruno,' he said, 'you got a visitor.'

'A visitor?'

Angelo opened the door all the way, and Doris Schwartz came down the stairs into the basement.

'Hope this isn't an interruption,' she began, but Bruno quickly reassured her.

'No,' he said, 'just . . . just kicking a few ideas around. You know.'

There was an awkward silence, and then Angelo said, 'I'll go make some popcorn.'

Doris said, 'Oh, none for me, Mister Martelli, thank you,' and Bruno started to say the same, but Angelo was already on his way up the stairs and closing the door behind him.

Bruno could see that there was something troubling Doris, but it hardly seemed right to come straight out and ask what it might be. If she wanted him to listen, he'd listen; but if she didn't, and if she got some other comfort just by being here, then that was fine. He thought back to the last time that they'd been like this, here amongst all the equipment on what his father sometimes called the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. Doris had come around then because Bruno had asked her to; he'd got himself tanled up in an awful net of crossed loyalties and unwanted responsibilities when he'd accepted an invitation from Dave Reardon to sit in with the all-staff production team for the staging of his first short musical.

She'd helped him then, and it seemed that she needed help now. Bruno thought that he might have an idea why.

'I got a favour to ask,' Doris said.

'Name it.'

'Can I stay here for tonight?'

'Sure.' There were two spare bedrooms in the Martelli house; no problems, and no cheap rumours. 'You want to talk about it?'

But Doris shook her head. 'No. I just want to say one thing. I hope you know how lucky you are; to have what you have with the guy making popcorn upstairs. I know it's just you and him, but it's family.'

'I know,' Bruno said. He also knew for sure now the root of Doris's trouble. Her brother Marty had been away for four and a half years, but now he was back in town. The tough part was that her father wouldn't have him in their house or even speak to him. Marty's fast disappearance from the city had come about with the arrival of his draft papers through the mail; rather than accept the army's invitation it Indochina, Marty had invited himself across the border into Canada where he'd made his way as a theatre lighting director. Amnesty had taken the price off his head, but it seemed that amnesty stopped at the Schwartz front door.

Bruno dug around through the sheet music on top of his electric piano. He found a particular hand-written score, and slid it across to Doris.

'You ever hear me play this?' He started in on the keyboard.

Doris nodded. It was something that they'd been hearing around the school for weeks now, a Bruno Martelli original, although he'd never officially played it for anyone to hear. They'd get snatches of it coming from an empty auditorium, or through the closed door of one of the practice cubicles.

The door opened again and Angelo came through, a bowl of super-quick popping popcorn under his arm. He came over, and set the bowl down by them.

'Boy,' he said, 'do I ever love that song.'

He sat and listened for a while, until Bruno came to the end. Then he said, 'How 'bout I get us something to drink?'

'Stay where you are, pop,' Bruno said, bouncing up. 'I'll get it.'

He went clattering up the stairs, and Angelo took his place. He looked down at the keyboard. He couldn't have played a note to save his life; he always said that talent had skipped a generation and wound up as a double-dose in his boy.

He said, 'I remember when he wrote that song. Such a fight we were in.'

'The two of you?' Doris said, surprised.

'The worst. Both of us walkin' around not sayin' a word to each other. Silly.'

'What was the fight about?'

'Who remembers? I just remember drinkin' my coffee black for a week 'cause I wouldn't even ask him to pass the creamer. Finally, somebody had to do something. He came down here and wrote that song. Cut right through all the other stuff.'

'But you did something too,' Doris suggested.

'I did?'

'You listened.'

Angelo thought it over for a moment. 'Yeah. I guess I did. It wasn't hard.'

Doris looked at the carpet. Angelo said, 'You okay?'

'If I asked you to give me a hug right now . . . a fatherly hug . . . what would you say?'

'I wouldn't say a thing,' Angelo said, and he wrapped his arms around her. Doris screwed her eyes shut, and hung on tight.

It was going to be all right. But sometimes you just needed a little help to carry on.

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