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
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
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?'
'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
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
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
'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,
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
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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