The Sherwood High Annual Talent Show Event

October 15, 2017
Jake looked blankly at his reflection in the backstage mirror. He had blond hair, blue eyes, a collared shirt and khaki pants. Behind his silhouette, red velvet curtains stretched into the darkness of the the ceiling overhead. A cavalcade of gasps and clapping pierced through, cutting through the darkness of the backstage.

Jake sighed and closed his eyes. He dropped his hands to his lap and began playing invisible piano keys on his knees.
Jake took himself back to his room from the night before, with a defiant crack creeping right down the wall and police sirens blaring in the distance. A bare mattress with a single dirty blanket sat in the corner of the room. However, Jake was focused on his most prized possession: a broken Yamaha keyboard, where only the left speaker worked and the five leftmost keys did nothing at all. The yellowed piece of music, recovered from a dumpster months ago, was pinned to the wall.

With the speakers turned as quiet as they could be without being silent, Jake gracefully moved his hands over the keys, soft and slow, then quick and fierce. The notes buzzed through the cheap speakers, floating around the room, bumping into the walls and shattered window.
Just as Jake tapped out the finishing notes of the song, there was a harsh pounding on the door. “Jake, shut up that racket, don’t make me tell you again.”

“Sorry, dad,” Jake muttered. He smiled to himself, and silently applauded to himself for his performance. It wouldn’t compare, he thought to himself, to the applause he would be getting the next day.

---

Jake stopped tapping his knees and looked around. Cheers came bursting through the curtains behind him. A boy with a top hat and tuxedo strolled around the corner, grinning ear to ear. Somebody pushed a grand piano out of the darkness and disappeared in front of the curtain.

A voice thundered from the other side. “Aaand next up: Jake Keaton on piano!” The announcement was followed by a small wave of weak claps. Jake took a shaky breath and stumbled around the corner.

Jake didn't dare look out over the crowd. Out of the corner of his eye, it was infinite, a dark chasm made up of faces. His sneakers squeaked on the hardwood floor, and he slowly slid into place at the polished piano. Another deep breath.

Jake held his hands up to the keys, cool and smooth. He knew exactly what to play and how to play it.
Each eye in the crowd was a burning needle in the backs of his hands. The silence weighed down on Jake like it was lead in the air. His hands tensed up and sweat began to build on his forehead. He played the first note. It was sour, and Jake realized that his ring finger was off.

There was an even heavier silence, and Jake started again. This time his entire left hand was off completely. He took a fast, shaky breath, almost a sob, as he started to play one more time. Another disgusting combination of notes.
Someone started laughing.

The giggling spread through the crowd as Jake stared blankly at the keys, gripping the sides of the piano bench so that his fingers were bone white. Each laugh was a gut-wrenching blow to Jake. His vision blurred and he stood up.
Jake began to run backstage as fast as he could, but he tripped and skidded to a halt on his hands and knees. The laughter turned into a wall of sound, crashing into Jake like a massive, judgemental bus.

And in a situation like this, Jake did the only thing he could. He curled up into a ball, and cried.

The chortling grew even louder, to a wail so loud Jake thought his head was going to burst. “Please,” he whispered. “Please, please, please stop.” He waited for something to happen, for lightning to punch through the ceiling and smite him, or for his body to collapse under the sound.

But nothing happened. Jake stopped crying.

Nothing happened.

The laughter was there, tears remained on his face, blood ran down his knees, but that's it. Jake slowly got up from the ground. He stood on the middle of the stage and for the first time looked directly at the crowd of people, their laughter dying down. He wasn't shaking anymore.

The chuckles died down to a silence. They all looked at him, waiting for him to say something. Jake didn't have much to say. He was fine.

“Huh,” Jake remarked. He put his hands in his pockets and sauntered off stage. There was no applause.

Jake was back in his room. Once again, he tapped out the song, quietly still so it didn't spill out under the door and into the hallway. The notes floated out from the speakers and wrapped around him, keeping him warm from the cool breeze slipping through the cracks in his window.

Once he was finished, he again silently applauded to himself, now much louder than any crowd could be.





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