Episode 18: The Lesson

Dad drove me back from the diner, and Mom was waiting outside to pick me up. Dad lowered my window and beckoned to Mom.

Mom came over, but she didn’t look like she wanted to.

He leaned so she could hear him. “I need to talk to you. I’m going to park.”

Mom looked him in the eyes for a full four seconds before she gave a curt nod. I noticed my mouth was dry.

Okay, Nathan, we’ll take care of this.” Dad pulled his truck away and parked.

#

In our hotel room, he took off his boots and waited for Mom to invite him to take a seat.

You want some tea?” Mom didn’t look like she wanted to make him tea.

Yes, thank you. Nathan, why don’t you go hang out in your room while your mother and I talk.”

Okay.” I went in the room but left the door open a little. Dad came over and closed it, though. I sat on the floor, leaning up against the door, struggling to hear what they were saying.

What’s wrong with Nathan?” Dad said, “He says he’s feeling lethargic.”

He’s been tired. I don’t know, maybe he has a cold.”

He doesn’t have a cold.”

Mom sighed. “And I suppose you know what’s wrong.”

Well, have you asked him about his dreams?”

I suddenly felt like I wasn’t alone in the room. I darted my eyes about but couldn’t see anything.

What dreams?”

He was probably afraid to mention them to you, but, yeah, nightmares. Listen, I think… Look, I’ve been reading about this stuff. Sometimes creatures target kids with artistic skills.”

Reading, eh?”

Dad said something too quiet for me to hear, then: “…get him out of Ottawa.”

Are you kidding? There are eight hundred people who paid $75 to watch him play in a few days. This is the biggest concert he’s ever had, and you want him out of Ottawa?”

How’s his piano been lately?”

Mom said nothing.

Just think about it, okay? I’m going to do some investigation.”

I don’t have to think about it. You’re not well, Guy. And now you’re letting your delusions and hallucinations hold back our son.”

It went on like that for a while. Dad wasn’t getting anywhere. Finally, he came in and hugged me goodbye. When the door closed behind him, Mom hugged me, too. “Okay, buddy, let’s get you to your piano lesson.”

What did Dad want?” I asked when we were in the backseat of the taxi, trying to sound like I hadn’t heard the whole conversation.

Your father has some ideas about the world. Ideas I don’t agree with.”

The monsters, you mean?”

The driver’s eyes darted to me for a moment in the rear-view mirror.

Mom glanced at him and pursed her lips.

Right. Let’s talk about it later.”

#

My piano lesson was awful. My fingers were second guessing themselves, and the notes just didn’t flow. I was years beyond the kind of basic mistakes I was making.

This is what happens when you use your fingers for video games instead of training,” my teacher said, slamming the fall board shut over the keys. My fingers got out of the way just in time.

My throat tightened. This teacher, Mrs. Abromovich, had followed me to Ottawa on this trip just to give me lessons here. I was really letting her down.

Okay, that’s enough for today.” I could see mom was agitated.

On the ride home, I asked Mom what was wrong with me. She just shook her head and held me tight. Her lips pursed again and again, something she did when she was very upset. I held her like I was about to fall off a cliff.

That night, Mom and Dad fought on the phone. She told him that it was his crazy ideas that were making me mess up. When she started yelling and crying, I started hyperventilating. I couldn’t listen anymore, so I pulled out my tablet, put in headphones, and played a game to drown out the world.

But I couldn’t keep my teacher’s voice out of my head, telling me that I was an undisciplined loser for playing video games. But why practice when I can’t play anything right anyway? I felt like the practicing wrong would just make it worse. Wouldn’t it?

Out of the corner of my eye I saw motion. I ran into the closet and slid down the back of the door to the floor, breathing hard. My hands shook, I clutched them to my chest.

This concert is going to be a disaster. I felt like my life was ending. Dad was trying to help, but I knew he couldn’t take me out of Ottawa without Mom’s permission, and Mom wasn’t going to get me out with the biggest concert of my life coming up.

But who else could possibly help me?

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