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Lucas Weismann

Another Winter Gone – 15

“No.”

The word wasn’t shouted, but that didn’t make it any less of a command.  Marcus, lean for his age and wearing the blue and white singlet that had been handed down to him by his father paused in the middle of his wind up.  He’d suffered a humiliating and embarrassing defeat at the hands of an Jeffrey Linkletter.  Linkletter.  The guy’s name could be mistranslated as “Apostrophe” for gosh sakes.  But Marcus recognized the tone.  He lowered the head gear he’d been about to throw into the bleachers with what he just knew would be a satisfying bang.

“What do you think you’re doing?” His father asked.

“What d-“

“Who do you think you are?”  Great, first the tone, now parental clichés.

“I only just…”  The frustration was causing pressure to well up behind his eyes with the injustice of the world.  He wanted to say that he was only twelve years old, that Jeffrey was a fish and shouldn’t have been able to beat him and that the ref had been unfair.  He clenched his fists in frustration.

“Unclench your fists.”

“I can’t even be angry now?”  What was Dad’s deal today, God!

“Marcus, you can feel any way you want.  That doesn’t matter in the long run.  What people will remember.  What you will remember about today is how you react.  You lost.  Guess what?  It happens.  Should you have lost by getting rolled through from that headlock as you were pinning him in the first eight seconds of the match?  No.  Of course not.  That’s your move.  You own it.  No one gets out of you.  At least they haven’t for a long time, until today.  Why’d it happen?”

This was what Marcus had been trying to avoid.  Blame.  He hated being blamed for things.

“Because I got too high and put weight in my butt instead of keeping it up and using leverage.”  The words sounded dejected.  Like a kid being forced to recite a bible verse when the minister drops by for a Sunday meal.

“Right.”

“How do you feel?”

“Stupid.  Angry.  Like a loser.”

“Do you like that feeling?”  Marcus pulled a face.

“No.  Of course I hate it.”

“Good.  What are you going to do about it.”

“Well I was going to throw my head gear and feel better about it.”  Marcus said.

“And what would that have helped?”

“Well, I would have felt better.”

“Sure, but what about after the first five seconds.”  Marcus thought about it.  He tossed his head like he was trying to get a bothersome fly to leave him alone.  “I’d have felt stupid.”

“Why?”

“Because I hate when people throw their headgear and stomp and act like little kids about losing, but Dad, I am a little kid.”

“135 lbs isn’t that little Marcus.  And it’s not like there’s a day when you will suddenly feel like you’re old enough to be mature.”

“Yeah, but”

“The only way.  The only way to be more mature- or improve yourself in any way- is to act as if you already have the good quality you want.”

“You mean like, if I want to be honest I have to tell the truth as if I’m already an honest person even if I’m used to ‘stretching’ the truth?”

“For example, yeah.”  Marcus looked a bit sheepish.  When he was younger, he’d been prone to tall tales and prevarication like most kids, but his ability to be funny enough to avoid trouble didn’t develop until much later.  His dad smiled kindly at him.

“Huh.” Marcus thought for a moment, “So basically, you’re saying that if I want to have good sportsmanship I have to start doing it now.”

“Sportsmanship matters a little when you win, but it matters a whole lot more when you lose.  That’s one of the reasons we do sports Mark.  We’re all gonna lose in life at some point or other- maybe a lot.  But it’s how we act when we lose that determines whether we get back up for another try and how much people want to help us when we go for another try.”

“Right, cause anyone can be tough when they win.”

“Right.”

“But only someone really tough can be tough when they lose.”

“Exactly.  You got it.  Now, what are you gonna do now?”

“I’m gonna focus and get ready for my next match so I can pin this guy and come back in the round robin.”

“Right.  You mad?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.  Use it.  Let it build slowly into focus so you can win.  I want you to visualize how the match will go, what you’re gonna do and what he’s gonna do and I want you to get psyched up starting about 15 minutes before you get called.  Start warming up when they call the 112’s okay?”

“Okay dad.”


 

Marcus couldn’t remember whether he’d won the next match or been out of the tournament.  I was fairly certain that they’d gone out for ice cream after the match, just as he would do with his son Jack 20 years later.  He thought about that lesson once in awhile and was glad he’d learned how to get up gracefully when he got knocked down.

There had been knocks much more difficult than losing to Linkletter and it was good he’d inoculated himself against them early in life.  All in all he was glad he didn’t grow up to be the kind of guy who would throw his headgear.

Writing Prompt 3 – Woodwind Instrument

Sara removed the now-wet reed from her mouth and sighted it on the mouthpiece to make sure it was aligned properly.  she slipped the ligature over the tapered tip of the mouthpiece and carefully tightened the screw.  Each adjustment was precise, like someone reassembling a firearm after cleaning.

The was one of her favorite parts of playing.  The meditative aspects of assembling the clarinet helped to clear her mind before the hour that lay ahead.  She worked the mouthpiece onto the neck, feeling it reach the place she knew would be closest to in tune.

The edge of the cork was worn and would need to be replaced in a few months.  It didn’t matter right now.  What mattered now was taking the time to do things properly.

first came the tone exercises, from pianissimo to fortissimo with a B-flat (the lowest in the register), working her way up to the highest note she could play in octaves, then back down in fifths, fourths, and finally in minor thirds.

The sound of the diminished scale was particularly haunting on the clarinet she reflected, though the effect was somewhat ruined by the fact that each note was held for a minimum of 32 beats, in order to train her diaphragm.

Once she finished with these exercises, she started working her fingering exercise.  octaves, fifths, fourths, minor thirds.  Ahh, there’s that sound.  No matter how many times she played it, it somehow resonated.

Each day she practiced a rhythm for 10 minutes.  Today was triplet quarter.  The same pattern as someone pronouncing “cinnamon bun” (ta ta ta taaa).  running her fingers up and down the arpeggios, she let her mind wander and was noticed almost immediately the drop in quality.

Refocusing on the tone, she worked, shifting focus from fingers, to embouchure, to breath and back.

After the exercise was complete, she looked up.  20 minutes had gone by.  Shoot!  I need to practice the new chart.  She pulled it out.  It was Ornithology, by Charlie Parker.

“Why did I agree to do this?” her second thoughts asked.  They were always trying to find a way out of whatever discipline she had committed to.

“Because it’s a great song and will make us better.” her first thoughts said.  Logical as ever, of course.

“Yeah, but why this song?”

“Because of the reason you’re trying to weasel out of this.” she told herself.  “Because it’s hard.”

That silenced Sara’s second thoughts until the frustration had built up in her third play through at 1/8 speed.

“See?  I told you, we’ll never get this.”

“Breathe.” said her third thoughts. This was the part of her that watched the others in her head.  The one that got called in to settle disputes and keep her on track.

“Breathe and let’s get through this.  We can do this.”  Although Sara never thought about it in those terms, the sound of the voice and words it spoke were exactly like her mom would have said if she were there.  Somehow the words and tone always got to her and helped calm things.

“Okay” said her first thoughts, “Now that the interruptions are over, let’s begin again.”

Jolene – Why the original is still better than the remake

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqKAsVMmEWk]

This is a fun exercise, but I think the original shows awareness of the more obvious advantages (things you can tell by looking at someone- e.g. looks) as opposed to things you’d need to know someone to know about (e.g. – intelligence, wit, skill) that Jolene had over the singer or it show Dolly’s insecurities.

Rather than being a showcase of the literal things that a person “should” be looking for in a mate it shows what Dolly was insecure about and in doing so touches us wherever our own insecurities lie.

That’s part of what makes it real and not just a writing exercise.

***

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