The Mission Part 1

January 6th, 2012 by Wordsman

Simon Park was not much of a park.  It was roughly the length of a football field and surrounded on all sides by five-story apartment complexes.  It had most of the things a park was supposed to have: grass, trees, benches, paths.  Sometimes the benches were even located beneath the trees.  But it was so blatantly artificial that it failed to create the image of nature springing to life and standing against the harsh wilderness of the city; instead it felt more like they had simply painted the concrete green.  It was not a place you would go to take a walk on a weekend afternoon or sit down and read a book in the gentle breeze—it was the place you took your dog to do its business, the extra block you had to walk to get to the subway station.

But people did go there, even if only out of necessity, and so, like all public spaces in the city, it had street performers.  The saxophonist and the guitar player with their open cases.  The infinite number of different kinds of drummers.  The raving lunatic who gets his clothes from the dumpster, his news from The Onion, and thinks that standing on top of things and shouting like he’s in a war zone makes him smarter than you.  All the truly talented artists went to Hayes or Morrison Park, where there were larger crowds and annual festivals (the only holiday regularly celebrated at Simon Park was Day After Monthly Dog Waste Pickup Day).  But they weren’t terrible, either—depending on whether or not you thought the lunatic was funny—and people occasionally tossed them a dollar out of common decency.

Peter was giving these performers a bad name.

He found himself frequently wishing that he had no audience.  On the one hand, this would mean that he would have no way of testing the efficacy of the Song of Mastery and that the entire exercise would be pointless.  On the other hand, he was 80-90% convinced that his performance was pointless anyway, and if no one was around, at least it would be less embarrassing.

Unfortunately, he never got his wish.  The afternoon was growing later, and the thousands of people who lived in the immediate vicinity of the overblown courtyard were emerging from the station in a steady stream.  Approximately half of them passed by where he was standing.  Most ignored him.  Some made a sour face.  A few even flipped him a dollar, though at least one woman seemed to be indicating with her expression that she was paying him to stop.  Not a single person stopped suddenly, turned toward him with a dazed expression, and asked, “What is thy bidding, my Master?”

He kept on playing, perhaps for over an hour.  Most of the time, however, he was not doing it for the old woman; he was doing it for the flute.

For eight years Peter Hamlin had played the flute.  He first picked it up in fifth grade, almost by accident; most of his friends at the time decided to join the band, and flute was the only instrument that the Hamlin family happened to already own.  Despite this whimsical beginning, though, he kept at it, and from middle school to high school there was not a day when that flute case was not in his backpack.   He practiced an hour . . . okay, half an hour a day, took weekly lessons, joined all the various musical extra-curriculars like Marching Band and Orchestra Winds.  He got pretty good at the flute.

But he was never great.  Throughout his musical career, it was clear to Peter that he was above average but not sensational, a distinction that was made all the more clear when his younger sister picked up the trumpet and took to it like it had always been there.  He was in the top band at every level but he was never first chair.  And Peter Hamlin—especially Peter Hamlin the high schooler—had no interest in devoting his energy to an activity where he could not be outstanding.  Music looked good on applications, but he saw no future in it.  So, when he went to college, he dropped the flute and never looked back . . .

. . . until that afternoon when he had stood in his kitchen and struggled to get through “Hot Cross Buns,” a song so easy that you could leave your flute outside on a windy day and it might get played by random chance.  Peter knew that he had never really excelled at the flute.  No one had ever told him—even jokingly—that he should make a career out of it.  But he had been better than this, for god’s sake.

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One Response

  1. Flamingo's heart Says:

    From park to the main character, looks like a very classic way to start a story.

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