Symphony Christmas, 5 of 10

Because I intend to publish the novel from which this excerpt comes, Symphony Christmas will not be placed in Backfile.

The class couldn’t decide whether to be upset at having to wait to read their papers, or happy at the thought of getting music instead of work. The last few students put down their pencils and Neil started the tape. Garfunkle sang with sweet melancholy about Mary, born in a trailer, who shone like a gem in a five-and-dime store. Without the music, the words would have meant little. With the music, it became a lament for loneliness and abandonment that even eleven year olds could understand.

After the last chord had died away, Neil shut off the machine and began to rewind. Laura Diaz said in a small voice, “Mr. McCrae, can we hear it again?” A dozen of the students added their appeals to hers.

“Sure,” Neil agreed. “First let me give you these. I typed up the words and ran them off so you could understand them better.”

This time through about half of the children followed the printed sheets as the music played.

“That was neat!”

“Yeah, but sad.”

“Neat but sad is exactly what I think of it,” Neil agreed. “Does anybody want to hear it one more time?”

They did, and it carried them to the break.


When they came back, Oscar Teixeira accused him of deception by announcing, “Mr. McCrae, this wasn’t a real party and I never did get my candy!”

“You’re right. It wasn’t and you didn’t. This was something I cooked up to teach you something. We will have a real party on the twenty-third, and you will get your share of the candy in about five more minutes.

“Meanwhile, I want you all to think back to how you felt when you got your candy.”

Their faces told him that they remembered, and he could plot who had and hadn’t gotten candy by their smiles and frowns.

“All right, who can tell me why I gave more candy to some than to others?”

“‘Cause you wanted to,”  Tony replied.

Neil ignored him. Finally Sean Kelly said, “You gave lots of candy to the good kids and not much to the ones who aren’t good.”

“How much did you get, Sean?”

Those who sat near him and had seen his single piece of candy, laughed. Sean held up one finger.

“Sean, do you think you are a bad kid?”

“Well, I have been getting in trouble with Duarte.”

“Yes, you have, but that doesn’t make you a bad kid. And that wasn’t why I distributed the candy the way I did. I had another reason in mind.”

Duarte said in sudden disbelief, “You gave the Mexican kids more than you did the white kids!”

“Did I? If I did it was an accident. Or rather, it was because my reason has something to do with how your parents live.”

Suddenly Elanor had a realization  She shouted out, “You gave the poor kids more than you did the rich kids!” Then she raised her hand, because she had forgotten to do so in her excitement at understanding something the “smart” kids had missed.

“Elanor, you are absolutely right.”    continued


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