She was still clapping for the last talent show number. “What is it?”
“I don’t want to go up on the stage,” I said, eying the platform at the front of the tent.
“Come on,” Mom said. “This is a family thing. We’ll all be up there together.”
I shook my head.
“Its your decision,” Mom said, “But I think you should be up there with us.”
The microphone squealed as the MC stepped up to it and announced our family.
Mom picked up her guitar and motioned for everyone to get up. All my brothers and my sister followed her and Dad down the aisle, between the rows of camp chairs and people sitting on picnic blankets. People were cheering and clapping.
I sat frozen in my seat. I was not going to get up there. No way.
From the stage, Mom gave me a smile and motioned for me to come and join them. I clamped my hands on the edge of my chair and shook my head again.
Mom announced the song, something we sang together as a family all the time, and strummed her guitar.
It was just like all the times we’d sung together in the car, only now they were up in front of a whole lot of people, all staring at them, and I was sitting out here all by myself. I kind of wished I’d gone. I wanted to sing along, but not when I was all alone on this empty row of lawn chairs. The feeling grew, and by the time they finished the song, and people started clapping and cheering, I really wanted to have gone up there.
“How did we do?” Mom asked when she came back to her seat.
“I wished I’d gone up to sing with everyone,” I said.
Mom gave me a hug. “Remember that next time.”
Mom burst in the door, waving a sheet of paper over her head. “There’s auditions for a play tomorrow, who wants to be in it?”
“What is it?” One of my brothers reached for the paper and mom handed it over.
“I want to!” my youngest brother said.
“We should all try out,” Mom said. “Maybe we’ll all get in together.”
“Do you want to try out too?” Mom asked me.
“Okay,” I said, remembering how it felt to be the only one watching while everyone else was up on stage.
“You say these lines. Try it,” Mom said.
I read the lines.
“With feeling,” Mom said.
I tried again.
“Fantastic!” Mom said. “Did you hear that?” she asked my older brother. “He’s a natural!”
There were hardly any people in the auditorium, and the stage looked strange with left-over pieces from other plays scattered around. I sat near the back and stared at the fat black stage lights hanging over the stage, waiting while everyone else had a turn at their lines. When the director called my name I shrank down in my seat at first, then slowly, cautiously crept to the front and up the steps.
Something happened when my foot touched the stage floor. I was up high, lights on my face, the seats in the auditorium dim and kind of far away. All the empty seats seemed to be waiting, watching me. My heart pounded, my brain raced. I think I said my lines, like I practiced, but I couldn’t remember afterwards.
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