WEDNESDAY: Bully in the Orchestra

BY SALLY BASMAJIAN

Copyright is held by the author.

CAROL TOSSES her cheerleader hair in disgust. If only she didn’t have to walk home from school with Penny. What a loser dweeb.

Penny hugs a violin case as if it contains the holy viol of the blessed St. Cecilia herself. She never shuts up about her precious instrument and her private lessons. Tuning her out, Carol thinks about the football team, ranking the players from least to most desirable.

Today, Carol also schlepps a violin. It’s school property, assigned to her by Mr. Barry, who has warned her that she’ll lose her lowly second violin status if she doesn’t improve. A lot. Orchestra practice is tomorrow and Carol needs the extra-curricular credit. She intends to practice after dinner tonight, for a change.

Penny blathers on about the prizes she has won at the Music Festival. In the school orchestra, she’s in the first violin section, which is amazing for a grade niner. Next year she might even make first chair. Penny’s colourless eyes become big and round as she contemplates this ultimate honour. Her oily skin glistens.

Carol waits for Penny to pause for breath. Then, she tells Penny that the senior orchestra members are unhappy with the younger recruits and that the older students are going to boycott practice tomorrow in protest. Carol isn’t serious. She knows, though, that this will irk Penny no end. It does shut the brat up for the last few yards of their walk home.

At dinner, the landline phone rings. When nobody makes a move, Carol’s mom rises and, rolling her eyes, leaves the room to answer it.

After, she asks Carol what on earth she has said to Penny. Penny’s mom has accused Carol of bullying and doesn’t she know how much Penny’s violin cost and how much her private lessons are and how many prizes Penny has won? She has said that Carol might be pretty and popular but she is too conceited for her own good.

Carol explains the situation. Her mom isn’t mad and her father chuckles. Carol’s mom agrees that Penny is obnoxious. Poor Penny, Carol’s dad says. So unattractive. She clings to that violin the way a sailor on shore leave clings to a floozy. Pardon my French, he says, but it’s true. And, don’t fret about Penny. She has no other gifts — unlike you, Carol; you’re talented in so many more important ways.

Carol apologizes the next morning and Penny forgives her. They walk to school in peace. At orchestra practice, though, Carol starts a whisper campaign. She drops strategic words into a gossipy cellist’s ear. Soon all the older students have resolved to talk to Mr. Barry about booting out the grade niners. Better yet, nobody intends to speak to Penny ever again.

Carol leaves it up to the others to execute the plan. Her hands are clean and her conscience clear. She looks angelic and Mr. Barry smiles at her, as she glides her bow across the strings of her violin.

25 comments

  1. Mike

    Makes me glad I never raised daughters. If Carol were a boy she’d probably just grab Penny’s violin and smash it. Great story, illustrates well that behind most bullies there’s another bully cheering them on…and often it’s someone at home.

  2. katie fullerton

    Having been a first violin in grade nine in the orchestra I could relate to the cheerleader versus violinist plot! Though in my day there ain’t one cheerleader who could have figured out how to play that fine instrument!

    Great story = outline for a movie?

    k

  3. John L

    Makes me glad to be out of the teenage years. Clear flashback = authentic writing. Nice work, Sally.

  4. Brian Henry

    Good story! I’m so glad I’m a boy. I only had to put up with physical bullying and the crudest of taunts.

    I especially like the glimpse we have of the parents. So true. Horrible children often do have horrible parents — or something seriously screwed up at home.

  5. Lana

    Things have changed since my youth — my mom & dad would have grounded me for being mean if I acted like Carol (bullying meant something physical back in the old days). Sadly reflective of so many youth today. Well done!

  6. Margaret M-M

    Oh the teenage memories that haunt us all! Nasty indeed…written to remind us all about the evil lurking over our shoulders?

  7. Dennis

    Interesting that the villain plays a violin, sorry just looking for some humour in a nasty story. Nice twist at the end where Carol arranges for others to do her dirty work, Machiavelli would be proud. A good read thanks for sharing.

  8. Susan

    Another great story, Sally. As always, Sally offers insight into her characters actions — in this case from Carol’s discussion with her insensitive parents. A reminder of the power of words and the difficulty of dealing with bullying at this level.

  9. Tony Capuano

    I have worked with people like this! In time, karma will catch up to Carol and Penny, and their parents, too.

  10. Ruth

    A very disturbing look into the mind of a budding sociopath; so casually evil, for all her advantages. Really gave me the creeps!

  11. Claudia Ferguson

    This is exactly how mean it was for some in high school. A bully trying to destroy another’s dream. Jealous of a talent they do not possess. So sad. Well written.

  12. Susan A

    This takes sibling rivalry to a whole new level. My big sisters were protectors from the bullies, my kids were always keeping an eye out for each other in those early years. Tough world when family becomes the bully.

  13. charles

    amazing, the machinery of hurtfulness is refined..the violin is like a scalpel is this atmospheric short work..good work

  14. Cindy B

    Yikes. Brings back the misery that was high school for so many. Although in the current climate it would appear that bullying has taken on a new virtual reality. Terrific short story — hits all the poignant emotions in a few short paragraphs!

  15. pauline lachman

    Never rode the Zum while I lived In Brampton but I thought it was a good thing!! Son born in 2000 — just turned teenager in 2015. What have I missed? It is a Sandy story — good one for the holidays,reminding us not to take ourselves too seriously.

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