Thomas (not Tom) looked warily at the pitch pipe in his choir conductor’s hands. The other boys in the All-State Boys’ choir came bustling into the room, trilling and warming up their pre-pubescent vocal cords. Thomas shut his eyes and felt his throat swell with anxiety.
He was the star soloist, the best nine-year old in the choir. His mother had flown his grandparents in from Topeka to see his last choir concert and during his featured section of the Hallelujah chorus, Thomas had locked eyes with his grandfather and saw that the man’s eyes were shining. That was power, right there, to be able to bring a retired captain in the Navy Seals, a man who stood trial for killing pirates with a machine gun in the 80’s and beat the charge, to tears with the highest vacillations of his bell-like voice. He had smugly refused to speak to Pop-Pop afterward at the lunch his mother had prepared of cold meats and his favorite cheeses from the Polish deli around the corner. Thomas’s voice was as sharp as a knife, and he wielded his it accordingly.
But this morning — a hideous discovery. As he woke up and sang his morning song, a mix of his favorite scales and basic choral pieces that also served as his younger brother’s alarm clock, a disturbing crack had surfaced during the highest notes. He immediately downed tea with honey, a remedy that had always worked before. In the boy’s room after stickball he tried to cheep out a holiday song and could only produce another croak.
He felt as if the scales (pun intended) had fallen from his eyes as he passed the students in the hallway who had been on the boys’ choir in previous years. Prior to this terrible day, he had always felt superiority when he saw them — they must not have been able to handle the touring schedule, the careful protection of the throat, the inability to go anywhere without a scarf. But now, all he saw when he looked at their bulging crotches and wispy mustaches was his future.
A cracked squeak escaped from his throat as the choir director blew his pitch pipe and pointed at him to hit a high A.