E is for Eclectic

“Alright boy. Miles the Hammer said you got chops and dragged me out to your senior concert last month. You were good, but not great. Everything was technically perfect, but no heart. I was unhappy and let the Hammer know.”

James sat and stared. He knew pauses meant people wanted a response, except when they didn’t. He wasn’t sure if Mr. Hartgrove wanted a response or not.

“Nothing to say?”

The word went up at the end, so James recognized it as a question. It was a question he heard a lot. Mom had taught him the proper answer is always, “No sir.” It saved her from having a lot of problems to solve later.

“Alright. Good enough.” The man spilled over the sides of his stool and towered over James even sitting down. “Well, the Hammer said you got heart, you just wanted everything to be right for the concert. Now sometimes I’m going to want everything to be technically correct when we do backup work and I will let you know when that happens. But right now, I’m going to want you to play with your heart. You understand?”

James thought, looking down at his tablet. After several moments, the three bells went off when the music changed. Mr. Hartgrove had not interrupted his thinking, but the bells reminded James he needed to do something. “I need to answer the question.”

“That would be helpful.”

The words were lighter, higher than the previous words Mr. Hartgrove had been saying, which meant an emotional change, but James couldn’t guess at it. He wanted to ask, like he did with Mr. Hammer and Miss Grace, to understand, but he wasn’t sure if he could do that during the interview. Mr. Hammer said to answer questions, not ask them. “You understand.” James repeated. “Oh, you want me to play rainbow.” He looked up quickly then returned his eyes to the screen.

“Play rainbow? What do you mean by that?”

Speaking to the floor, James tried to remember how Mr. Hammer explained things to him. “Notes on the music. Those are rain. Lots of things falling together. Boring since you get stuck in places. But you have to learn to play the notes right, because sometimes you need rain for things to grow. To grow as a musician, you have to learn how to play rain. But once you have learned the rain, the sun can come out and you can add the rainbow. Each person pays a different rainbow, so you can’t do that in concerts. Not concerts with others. Concerts are for rain, but playing by yourself, that is rainbow time.”

“Alright, I get that.” The black man stood. “Let’s go into the studio and have you play a rainbow.” He pressed a few buttons. “I’m going to record it so I can listen it to it later. Let’s go.” Mr. Hartgrove led James to room with padding and even more instruments, including an upright piano.

The large man picked up a guitar and plucked a few notes, checking the tuning. While he did that, James unslung the case on his back, flipped it over from the guitar shape to the violin side and lifted out the smooth wood instrument and his bow. He placed the tablet in standby mode, then into the padding, and closed the case.

“Not much call for violin here, but then I don’t have anyone who can play it well.” Mr. Hartgrove set aside the guitar in his hands. “Alright, let’s hear it.”

Thinking about the uniform man downstairs, James started with some hot jazz he had on his tablet repeat and followed it with a pop song he thought worked better on the fiddle than the electric guitar. Enjoying himself, he set aside the violin and went over to the upright. There he did a Sousa march to test out the sound before seguing into a honkeytonk.


A to Z Short Story List Breakdown

Rainbow Spectrum (A to F)

4/1/2019 – A is for Adapt
4/2/2019 – B is for Bus
4/3/2019 – C is for Courage
4/4/2019 – D is for Duke
4/5/2019 – E is for Eclectic
4/6/2019 – F is for Finish