Main > Series > Chapters > Fame Book 1 > Chapter 3

Bruno had run the song through with Coco four times over, but then they'd had to break at ten-thirty for Coco's voice class. Leroy was already saying that the Festival was in the bag, but Coco wasn't allowing herself to be so confident. Bruno was going to say nothing until his opinion was asked, and at this early stage he wasn't even sure that he had an opinion. The most that he had was a feeling; a feeling that something, somewhere was missing.

But that was crazy. He'd been working on the arrangement until his head buzzed, and until he got some of his perspective back he was probably the last person to be making judgements. Keep your mouth shut, Bruno, and play.

Actually, there was one more thing he had to do; Buffy's Music Store hadn't yet come through with a Ligeti score that he'd had to order, and it was time for a phone call. They'd taken his money happily enough, after all. Digging in his pocket for change, Bruno made for one of the nearby corridor pay phones.

Alongside the phones were some plastic chairs, old office throwouts; sitting on one of these was a kid that Bruno didn't recognise. He was about seventeen, and so neatly turned out that his presence could only mean one thing; he was here for the auditions.

'Got change for a dollar?' Bruno asked, bringing out a couple of crumpled bills and no coins. The kid looked up, momentarily caught off-balance.

'I have two quarters and two dimes and three nickles and I have to keep it,' he said, all of a piece as if he'd been drilled in what he had to say.

Bruno shrugged. 'Okay,' he said. 'I wouldn't want to deprive you. I can make the call later.'

Now the kid looked puzzled, and Bruno suddenly felt just a little bit mean. He remembered his own first day in the school, apprehensive and more bewildered than he'd care to admit even now, sitting with his appointment card and wondering whether the next couple of hours was going to decide the course of his whole life. He said, 'You're auditioning?'

'At eleven.'

'You've got another twenty munutes to wait.'

'Twenty-two,' the kid said without any obvious glance at the corridor clock. 'I have twenty-two minutes.'

Bruno gave him what he hoped was a reassuring smile. 'Nervous?'

The kid swallowed hard, and then nodded. Bruno went on, 'What's your speciality?'

He looked down, fumbled at some sheets on the chair beside him, and then held up the papers for Bruno to see. They were piano parts for songs, much-used and repaired with Scotch tape. A couple were photocopies.

'Ah,' Bruno said encouragingly, 'an afficionado. That's my thing, Music.'

'I sing,' the kid said, and then added, 'and I play the guitar sometimes.'

'I compose,' Bruno said, and he put out his had to shake. 'The name's Bruno Martelli.' 'Very pleased to meet you,' the kid said formally, taking Bruno's hand and giving it one brief shake. 'My name is Troy, Troy Phillips.'

'Well hello, Troy Phillips. Want to take a twenty minute tour?'

'Now I only have nineteen . . .'

'Okay, okay,' Bruno said quickly. 'I'll make it as fast as I can.'

As they did a quick turn around the music rooms and the dance studios, Bruno watched the boy and tried to make some kind of guess on how he was likely to do. I was impossible. Even for seventeen he seemed . . . well, unmarked was the only word that Bruno could think of to describe it, and he was sure that a lot of what he was saying wasn't even being fully understood. Nothing in the books said that a musician had to be a particularly social animal - but it helped, it certainly helped. Especially in a high-pressure community like the School of the Arts.

'Now,' Bruno said as they got close to three-seventeen, the room where Benjamin Shorofsky would be waiting to hear Troy Phillips sing, 'when you audition, keep a low profile.'

'Low profile?' 'Never point out the error of the old guy's ways. Especially if you're not into classical.' Not a good move, Bruno, he thought immediately when he saw the look on Troy's face, and so he did his best to make it up by adding, 'Never mind. He'll like you because you're quiet and polite.'

'Doesn't he like you?'

'Shorofsky?' Bruno said, thinking of the way that Shorofsky had screwed up his face in an expression of exquisite agony when Bruno had played him a short synthesizer work that he called Edvard Münch; A Howling in the Void. 'He's crazy about me. He just has trouble expressing his feelings,' They came level with three-seventeen; just another door to Bruno, but something rather more awesome for Troy, 'Well, break a leg.'

Again, Troy looked blank. 'Why would I do that?'

'You never heard anybody say 'break a leg' before?'

'I don't want to hurt myself. I just want to be in this school.'

'It's old showbiz talk. Means . . . good luck.'

Troy brightened. 'Thank you.'

'Pleasure.' To get the kid over his first hurdle, Bruno knocked on the door and heard Ben Shorofsky call out in reply. Troy opened up, and walked in to the first part of his audition.

Bruno shook his head as he walked away. Strange kid.

Although there were kitchens and a hot-food counter in the school, lunch in the teacher's lounge mostly meant a rearrangement of the furniture and the production of a lot of paper bags. It wasn't exactly five-star cuisine, but then the chipped tables and chairs and the State Education Board regulation decor weren't exactly five-star, either.

Lydia Grant watched Dave Reardon with a kind of awe. She'd pulled a velour top over her leotard and her dark curls were still back in a band after the morning's dance session. There was a hunk of cheese and an apple on the table before her, but they seemed insignificant alongside the young drama teacher's spread; in the space between them he'd lined up a monstrous Hero sandwich, two bowls of veggies, chips, soup, and a drink.

'It's fuel food,' he explained when he saw the look that Lydia was giving him. 'Gives me stamina for Danny Amatullo. He's in love, and it's wearing me out.'

It seemed that Danny had, in his own kind of way, flipped over a pretty, soft-featured blonde in his class named Diana Huddleston. All of his best-tried approaches had got him nowhere, but in the end he'd scored by getting Doris Schwartz to draft his dialogue. Diana was being won over, and the story was gradually getting around the school. When it finally reached Diana, Danny was going to have to watch out.

Lydia moved over to make way for Ben Shorofsky, just arrived and pushing his way through the chairs towards them. She said, 'What wears me out is thinking about these auditions for the music festival.'

'One less thing for the drama department to worry about,' Reardon said. he took a huge bite out of his sandwich and then sat back, gopher-cheecked and smirking.

'Biggest thing will be to come up with a lead singer,' Lydia said.'Rules say we can enter a whole show, but there can only be one lead singer. None of you tell that child, but I think Coco has it wrapped up.'

'Wrapped up?' Shorofsky said as he lowered himself to sit beside Lydia, for once not complaining about the uncivilised height of the chairs or the embarrassing noises that the vinyl padding always made. 'I wouln't say it was wrapped up. Not after eleven this morning, anyway.'

There was one space left in the circle, one body needed to close the customary group; the body was Elizabeth Sherwood's, and she was over at the coffee-maker helping herself.

Lydia said, 'Eleven o'clock? What's the magic about eleven o'clock?'

'Because,' Shorofsky said with a certain pride, 'that's when a new boy auditioned. Sings like a dream.'

Reardon was finally fit to speak again. 'I take it we have a new student?'

'Immediately. His name's Troy Phillips. He's got a wonderful voice, very special.'

Elizabeth was with them. Nobody immediately noticed that she'd left her coffee standing untouched. 'Special is a good word,' she said, and Lydia looked up at Elizabeth. There was something in the way she spoke that Lydia couldn't identify. A trace or irony . . . or even a certain bitterness?

Shorofsky said, 'You know the boy?'

'I know his parents,' Elizabeth said, and she sat. 'Mister Shorofsky, didn't you notice anything . . . peculiar about Troy?'

Shorofsky thought for a moment, and then shook his head. 'He's shy,' he began, but then he couldn't think of anything else to add.

'Did you ask about his background? Where he's gone to school?'

'Come to think of it . . . when I asked him, he simply began to sing again. After that, I guess I forgot to ask.'

Elizabeth looked at the floor for a moment. 'He was afraid you wouldn't accept him if you know the truth.'

Shorofsky leaned foward. 'Nothing he could say would change my mind. In a world of mediocrity, this boy is an exception.'

'I'm afraid you're right,' Elizabeth said, meeting each gaze in turn. 'That boy with the "wonderful voice" already attends a special school . . . with other "special" children.'

'What do you mean,' Shorofsky said cautiously, 'special?'

Elizabeth hesitated for a moment, but there was no hiding it. The truth was going to come out sometime, and then all of the prejudices and the misplaced good intentions were going to be flying back and forth like bees from a busted hive.

'In a less enlightened age,' she said, 'the term was "retarded".'

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