Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Angela Unaware

Check back here every Wednesday for a few thoughts on the craft. Here are today's:

Wednesday's Writing on Writing...

Several years ago I served on the faculty of a writers conference noted not only for its training, but also for its emphasis on fraternity.

Angela was an outsider, a newcomer drawn by the brochure’s promise of a talent night. Attendees were encouraged to bring musical instruments, puppets, object lessons, a poem, whatever they wanted.

Angela arrived plain, plump, and freshly divorced. Along with her bags was a black guitar case she insisted on carrying herself. She seemed alarmed when Talent Night did not appear in the program.

“We’re flexible here,” she was told. “We see how the week is going, try to determine how many are interested, then we assign a coordinator. Are you volunteering?”


When the big night came, Angela distributed a typed program. She had organized not only the talent but also the sound and the lighting. The finale was a solo by Angela, who would accompany herself on the guitar. She strode to a stool at stage center.

I stifled a laugh when her first chord was off key. Was this a joke, a skit? No. Clearly the guitar was in tune. Her fingering was wrong. Her strum was not authoritative. She winced and tried again. Her fingers trembled, her lips quivered. The introduction to her chorus was long but contained only three simple chords. It became evident she knew only those and had mastered none.

The more she tried, the more panic-stricken she appeared, and when she opened her mouth to sing, we could hardly hear. She was short of breath, off key, and her strumming was worse for the attention given to singing.

We agonized with her when she gave up on the guitar and tried to finish a cappella. She forgot a word and skipped it, then forgot the tune and started over.

It was then that we rallied around this sweet, tortured soul, this woman in pain who had given so much and hoped for so much. First one, then another joined her in the familiar chorus, until we were all singing, not loud but full and deep and warm.

During a pause between phrases, a man called out, “Thank you for this evening, Angela! We love you!” Three hundred stood and applauded.

Angela stood awkwardly, her hands at her sides, the guitar hanging from her neck. She tried to smile through the tears.

We had been to church.


Barbara J. Robinson said...

Reminds me of me sometimes :) beautiful job.

brendalottakamaggiebrendan said...

Very poignant. Thanks!