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Sasha Vassliyevna was nine, and he is an only child. His parents love him, but he was still lonely. Recently, the boy living across the street got a new Labrador and named it Max. Right away, Sasha adored the shining black puppy. Every time Max comes out, Sasha would drop whatever he was doing to go out and pet him. He had often heard dogs yipping, howling, and barking, but to really fondle the soft furs, touch the wet nose and shake the little paws was a completely different and new experience. All the loneliness, sadness, and sometimes dreadfulness were gone. As he understood the joy of having a loyal friend, as time went by, Sasha grew more and more anxious of getting his own dog. A Husky would be his favorite. Eventually, he starts to badger his mom. One day, after school, Sasha decides to bring up the subject again.
“Hello, son. How was school?” his mother asked as he went to the kitchen for some snacks.
“Well, it was fine. My friend, Jacob, said he got a new dog. A German Shepherd, actually. See how many people have dogs now? Why don’t we get one? Wouldn’t it be great?”
But his mother was not an easy person.
“Sasha, I know how much you love dogs. But having one is different… it will cost us both time and money. You know how much a tiny Chihuahua costs? Why don’t you try …um… fish, instead?”
Sasha looked at his mother incredulously: “That’s not the same!”
“I’m sorry. Anyway, who’s going to take care of it?”
Sasha already thought about it: “I will. It will be my responsibility.”
“I’ll think about it.”
Oh man, Sasha thought. Why is mother so stingy? She was never a mom who would give whatever her children want. She was strict. Maybe dad would compromise? Oh, forget it. Last time, when dad bought the PSP without her permission, she almost threw it outside the window. Until now, I haven’t played it very often. He shuddered at the memory.
“Oh, nothing. I’m going to do my homework now.”
His mother smiled and went out to the garden.
She’s not always mean. No, she’s rarely mean to me, Sasha thought as he was walking upstairs. As always, he went straight to his room. But today, he especially noticed his toys and laptop. Except for holiday presents, I got some of that stuff from prizes I won, didn’t I? But till now, none of them had a lot of money for the award. Oh well. Guess I won’t get a chance for now.
He opened his computer to check for e-mails. It was an every-day routine. “Beep!” The in-box icon flashed and beeped as the homepage opened up. When Sasha clicked on the “view” option, his eyes began to shine.
Dear MSM precollege students:
Greetings! We are happy to inform you that there is a new competition in New York for you to check out! Sponsored by the Wang Foundation of Gifted Musicians, the New York International competition for Gifted Pianists will reward talented pianists from anywhere in the world! The prizes and awards are as follows;
8 & Under
Best Contemporary Performance
Special Jury Prize
You are welcomed to participate! For more information, please contact the director of events at NYJCP@organizations.nyc.gov, or call 800-6NY-JCGP! Thank you!
Whoa, this is the chance! Sasha thought.
This new ambition illuminated Sasha. Not only could he win the money, he would also win the honor of a great pianist! But there were great difficulties to be the very best. Actually, he will have to compete with pianists from all over the world. In his age group, he will be one of the youngest. People could be older, more experienced, or just better than Sasha. However, he was not discouraged. In fact, he was more determined to work hard and win. A good advantage of Sasha’s happy and serious personality is that he will be happy to complete any drudgery, as long as he has a chance to succeed.
After he told his parents about the competition, they agreed eagerly. After all, the prizes were indeed desirable.
“This will be your big chance. Of course you may go! Your teacher will be glad too.” His mother said, “It’s going to be your first international competition! Even if you don’t win, it would earn you experience. The competition will be stiff, as you know. But if you win, which you might, you’ll earn a lot of things! Honor. Money, applauses…”
“Mom, I want a dog.” Sasha said clearly.
From the look on his mother’s face, she might be saying yes. But she didn’t answer. Just when Sasha was getting desperate, his father came to save the day.
“Okay, boy. I grant you your wish. Don’t mind your mother. She’ll be happy to get a dog for you if you win your own money, right?”
His mother shot his dad a quick look, then spoke, “Alright then. I know how you feel, son. Let’s put it this way: your money, your dog, your responsibility. Good?”
“Yes. Just what I wanted. Thanks, mom.”
“So, the competition is in two month, right?” His dad asked.
The following two month went by quickly, so Sasha worked three times more than he often had. Usually, after he gets home from school, he only practice piano for two hours. Even on Sundays, when he had plenty of time after going to church, he did not practice more than three hours. Of course, he completed all his works for every day. It’s partially because of gifts in music, and partially because he was efficient.
But now, it won’t work for me anymore, Sasha thought. If I want to be better than everyone else, I have to at least work as much as everyone else. And in addition, my talents will take me higher. That’s how I will win.
As a result of his goals, for everyday in the two months, right after he get home at three, he started to practice for two hours or more. Then, he would rest for an hour to eat and finish his homework. At around six, the practice begins again for two hours. Finally, he could relax and read in the next hour until his parents tell him to go to bed. Because he practices on his grand Steinway and it’s often too loud, his parents had promised the neighbors that their son will not be practicing after nine. Because of that, anytime that Sasha had big projects, he had to finish them after practicing. And that means it might be eleven by the time he finished.
All the while he was practicing, he was not interrupted. Working hard none-stop, he did not think about anything else except for the music. He was so steeped in his new pieces that he could have eaten the score. He was playing a sonata b Beethoven, a nocturne by Chopin, and a contemporary piece by a French composer, Poulenc. They were challenges to Sasha. Even some of the older students at the music school hadn’t got to these pieces yet. Although, no matter what the difficulty was, Sasha reminded himself that he will possibly be getting himself a dog for the every minute he was working.
One day, when he was practicing strenuously, his mom brought a plate of Sasha’s favorite cookie to him.
“Want some desserts?” his mother asked.
“Sure. After I finish this movement…”
"But you should stop playing now, or else our neighbors are going to call the cops.”
“Hey, it’s only seven, right?”
“What? Look at the clock. It’s ten minutes till nine.” His mother told him, “You are working too hard.”
“Well, the only way I could get a doggy in this house is to win that competition, remember? That’s why I’m practicing now. I’ll eat later.”
The mother watched as his son started again. Even though she didn’t say anything, she was proud of his son.
Finally, it was the final round of the competition. Of the 300 people from the first round, there were only twenty people left after several rounds of cruel eliminations. Sasha knew he was ready, or at least he did his best. After he was all dressed up, his mother drove him to Carnegie Hall, the competition site. When they arrived, Sasha signed in and went to the backstage.
They will be playing at the Weill Hall, the smaller one at Carnegie Hall. Every one of the competitors was nervous, including Sasha. The older ones were pacing back and forth. Younger kids were constantly going to the bathroom. Sasha sat and exercised his fingers on the piano in the small and crowded backstage room. People took turns practicing for one last time before going up to perform. Then, the first one was call out, and everyone looked at her anxiously as she walked out. Sasha listened to others play through a PA. Each and every one of them played extraordinarily well, thought Sasha. There were, in fact, very few people that actually made audible mistakes. How am I supposed to beat them?
After a few played, Sasha was told by the director to get ready. He walked out the door, down a corridor, and stopped at the stage door. He took a peek at the huge Steinway grand. He heard the previous boy play as he prayed silently.
“Let see just how good I am. Please let me do my best.” He finished just when the other boy came back through the door. “Good job.” Sasha said. “Thanks. Good luck to you.” The boy replied. Then, the director said to Sasha: “Whenever you are ready.”
Fingers, don’t fail me now, he thought.
Sasha walked to the piano. He bowed, sat down, adjusted his posture, and started playing. It was like any other time he practiced at home. No pressure, no distraction. Amazingly, his fingers moved like robots that are programmed. Everything moved smoothly and fluently throughout his entire performance. When he was finished, he was immediately struck by a wall of applauses. He bowed again and exited the stage.
I did good, Sasha thought. Now, it’s all up to the judges.
When everyone finished playing, there was an interminable twenty minutes pause for the judges to rest and decide who the winners are. When they were done, people were told to be seated. At last, the results are in.
The director announced the winner of each category. But Sasha’s name was not called! Oh no, Sasha though numbly. Then, the director came to the special jury prize, and he paused dramatically, and there was a deafening silence.
“The winner of this biggest honor is…Sasha Vassliyevna!”
"Oh my God, I won!” Sasha thought out loud.
From then, everything was a flash. His mother came to hug and kiss him, people congratulated him, and he took pictures with a lot of people, including the judges. Next, the director announced that the competition has come to an end. After that, Sasha found himself in his parents’ car again.
All the way, his mom congratulated him. When he asked about the dog, she said not to worry, just rest and enjoy the grand victory. Sasha thought about pushing more on the topic, but was too exhausted to argue.
When they got home, Sasha noticed that his smiling father was holding a box. Inside, there was a small puppy. Sasha couldn’t believe his eyes.
“Is…is that for me? When did you buy it?”
“Yes. It’s all yours. When I saw how hard working you were, I have already decided to get you a dog.” His mom said cheerfully.
After he thanked his parents for fifteen times, Sasha took a first close look at his new puppy. It was tiny, with mostly white furs and black over the eyes. Sasha touched the small, wet, and pink nose. It made a tiny yipping sound.
I got myself a Husky, Sasha thought.