December 10, 2014

He was ready. He was certain he was ready. Or at least, 95% certain. Certain enough, right?

He had rehearsed the piece until his fingers were sore, until every note was familiar, until he could almost see the imaginary grooves his fingers had left in the piano keys. The suit was new, but not uncomfortably new. The sleeves were not too tight. The pant-legs were not too short. The cuffs of his sleeves did not bind too tightly at his wrists. His shoes, while shiny and new, did not pinch his toes. And his fingers were no longer sore.

And it doesn’t matter, he told the queasy feeling in his stomach, that there will be an admissions officer from Julliard in the in audience. He was fine. Better than fine. He was going to be amazing.

He paced back and forth in the small space of the wings to the side of the stage, step after step in his not-too-tight shoes, waiting for the rest of the exhibition to be over. As the oldest student (and, he was told, the most talented, although this was debatable), he was performing last. And alone.

He didn’t allow the music of the other students to filter into his mind, instead, mentally replaying the notes from his own piece over and over again, making sure not to fall out of tempo.

The music in his own head was so loud that he almost didn’t hear when his own name was called. But he did hear. And, unnecessarily straightening his cuffs one more time, he emerged blinking into the dazzling bright, lights of the stage. He walked across the stage and sat down at the piano calmly enough, despite his heart hammering in his rib cage.

This was going to be fine, he told himself. Better than fine. This would be perfect.

With a deep breath, he set his hands down at the keys – and made the mistake of looking up, for just a moment.

There it was, dangling several feet above his head on a thin silk thread. God knew how long the spider had been hanging up there, or why it had decided to come down from the rafters. But he watched for a few moments as it slowly descended.

There was no way it would land on the piano. No way, right?

It had stayed in the rafters throughout the entire competition… Why would it land now? He tried to appeal to his own reasonable nature – it was only a spider. And it wouldn’t land anyway. He would be fine. He would be more than fine. He would be perfect.

With another deep breath, he began to play, fingers flying elegantly across the keys – and it was perfect. Perfect practice does not perfect performance make, but for the first time he could recall, the performance flowed as smoothly as the practice had – for the first few minutes.

He was about halfway through the piece when he saw a small black spot slowly descend from the ceiling in front of him, landing on one of the white keys… and it began to crawl. Instantly, it was as though his hands stopped listening to him, and it was all he could do to bite back a scream. His hands chased the spider across the keys, scoring the piano in a series of unintended rises and falls, until finally, with a superlatively brave flick of his fingers, his small spidery foe was cast off of the piano.

What should he do now? The piece was clearly ruined. But he had never considered himself a quitter. And so it was with a sense of resignation and defeat, that he finished the other half of the piece. He was surprised that his hands didn’t shake, but he supposed that lots of practice was responsible for that. He couldn’t quite make himself meet his parents eyes as he took the requisite bow after the performance. He couldn’t hear the applause over the pounding of the blood in his ears and walked offstage as quickly as possible, the sooner to have his panic attack in private.

He managed to make it into a practice room well offstage before he started to hyperventilate, gasping for air.

That was it.

His whole future.


All he’d ever wanted to do was music.

And now? Now what would he do?

What was left?

His breathing came harder to him. He’d have to be a janitor. He wasn’t sure why janitor – it was just the first thing that came to mind. He didn’t want to be a janitor. It struck him as a particularly un-fun job.



It was in this state that his teacher finally found him.

“What was that?” she asked.

“That …. Was….” He gasped, unable to find words and push them out. “That …. Was…”

“That was amazing,” she said. “I mean, usually, you’re great. But you’re so stiff up there, you know? Like a perfect statue – the playing’s great, but there’s no emotion. And wow – today… where did all that come from?”

She grinned big at him.

“I didn’t know you had the ability to improvise like that,” she said. “It was beautiful. And I normally don’t, you know, encourage improv, but it was really beautiful. And it flowed really well. Congrats, buddy.”

She reached out a hand and ruffled his gelled-and-moussed-into-place hair.

“It was?” he squeaked. “I did?”

“Yeah,” she said. “You did. That was great. Maybe you should consider studying composition and writing some of your own music.”

He managed a smile.

“Thank you,” he said.

“No problem.”

She slung an arm around his shoulders and hauled him up out of the chair.

“Come on,” she said. “Your parents are waiting for you and everyone wants to celebrate.”

His smile got bigger.

Turns out there was something to celebrate after all.

Writing Prompt: confidence piano spider

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