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 chords. Thomas felt his swell with anxiety. He shut his eyes and tried to banish the image of the pipe from inside his lids. He was the star soloist, the best 9-year old in the choir. His mother flew in his grandparents from Topeka to see his last choir concert, and during his featured section of the Hallelujah chorus he had locked eyes with his grandfather and saw that he had brought the man to tears. 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. After that day he had felt invincible, and smugly refused to speak to Pop-Pop at the lunch his mother had prepared of cold meats and his favorite cheeses from the Polish deli around the corner. His voice was sharp as a knife, and he wielded his power accordingly. This morning, however, a hideous discovery. As he woke 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 at school after stickball, another croak. He felt as if the scales had fallen from his eyes as he passed 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, and a cracked squeak escaped from his throat as the choir director blew his pitch pipe and pointed at him to hit a high A.
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