Age of Discovering

by Rick Beck

Chapter 21

Love Grows

As Glenn held onto my hand, we raced toward his dressing room.

That's when the applause started. It grew louder as Preston played his way to intermission. At first it was Glenn's applause and it grew into an accompaniment to the score. Once more cymbals clashed, the kettle drums thundered, and trumpets trumpeted as I hung Glenn's tuxedo on its hanger as he got into his street clothes.

The music stopped but not the applause. It was loud and continued as Glenn slipped into his shoes and pulled a red baseball cap down low on his forehead.

When he turned to hang the tux where he'd taken it from earlier, I got to see his tee-shirt. It read: I PLAYED IN SEATTLE. No one needed to tell me who arranged that little touch.

The applause died away.

In the end it became a magic show with a disappearing act.

Where had the young violinist gone?

I was one of the few witnesses that had the answer.

The question was left to be asked, "Who is Glenn Denning?"

"Come on," Glenn said. "It's Intermission. We're supposed to be gone."

Glenn hit the door that took us into the night.

I tried to take it all in. This was the big time. I was a kid playing at making music. The Preston Hathaway Show was an entertainment extravaganza.

I'd just watched Glenn stop the show. For five minutes he stood center stage and held the audience spellbound. He'd done what Preston expected him to do, but the audience didn't know what the featured musician would do, until he did it.

Glenn invited me to go with him to Seattle.

He'd given me the experience of a lifetime in more ways than one and I'd never forget it.

Offering up Glenn right before the intermission gave Preston what he wanted. Uninterrupted applause that sent his musicians into a break after over an hour of music Preston picked for his date in Seattle.

The Preston Hathaway Show played music that spanned decades, even centuries, hitting the highlights on what was recognizable music in a fast moving program.

At intermission people could be heard talking excitedly about the young violinist. It's what Preston said they'd be talking about. He was a man who knew what people wanted and he gave it to them in his own inimitable style.

We darted down the hallway to the back door, leaping down the half dozen stairs, rolling into the backseat of the limo's open door.

Leo smiled back at us as we laughed over our escape.

"We ready to split this joint?" Leo asked, like we were embarking on an adventure.

"Ready, my man," Glenn said, closing the solid door.

Glenn turned his smiling face to look at me.

He looked tired but there was a sparkle in his eyes. He had played Seattle and that was behind him now.

No one got in our way or slowed us down. Leo took his time returning to the entrance, and where he turned toward town as we left the auditorium behind.

There was no hurry or need to rush now. Glenn had done what he'd come to do and it was over.

Glenn Denning had disappeared into the pleasant Seattle evening. He sank back into the seat next to me. He sighed and began to relax.

"What did you think," Glenn said, kissing my cheek with a sudden motion.

"Bravo!" Leo said softly, clapping his hands as he stopped at a light. "Bravo! Sir. Might I say you were brilliant. I've rarely heard the violin played so magnificently. Even for Mr. Hathaway, you strike me as quite a find, Glenn."

Leo's voice was different from the friendly tour guide Leo. He was now a music critic and it was obvious he was impressed by what he'd heard. He spoke with an authentic appreciation for Glenn's performance.

"Thank you, Leo. You heard me play?"

"Mr. Hathaway let me in to stand inside the door closest to the orchestra. That way I could hear the first half of the program and still be on duty when you came out. I left as soon as you finished. I was only there to hear you, sir. I don't usually mix business and pleasure. Mr. Hathaway knows how much I enjoy good music. He told me I shouldn't miss hearing your performance. It would be something special."

"Thanks, Leo. I'm just Glenn. I leave the violin playing Glenn, Glenn Denning, behind in the dressing room."

"You'll be sir for a few minutes if you don't mind. I feel you are deserving of my respect. Then I'll just be plain old Leo again. I know when I've heard something out of the ordinary. I respect that and I admire you."

"Thank you, Leo. I appreciate your opinion," Glenn said, kissing my cheek again.

"I can't say I'm surprised. Mr. Hathaway has a gift for recognizing talent. You aren't the first prodigy he's introduced to the music world. It's how he fills auditoriums," Leo said, as we moved on.

"Did you enjoy your birds eye view?" Glenn asked.

"I'm still shaking. I see it's you, Glenn, but it isn't you. What you do when you play is beyond me. My brain has trouble connecting gravel pit Glenn with the violinist. I keep thinking the two can't exist within the same person."

"You ever watch the Indianapolis 500?" Glenn asked.

"No, I've never been a fan of going in circles."

"Gomer Pyle? You know him?"

"Everyone has seen Gomer Pyle," I said.

"You ever heard him sing?"

"I didn't know he could sing," I said.

"I've heard him sing," Leo said. "It's impossible for that sound to come out of that man," Leo said. "But it does."

"He sings Back Home Again in Indiana before the race each year. If it doesn't give you chills, you aren't listening," Glenn said.

"You aren't the person playing the violin. I mean... you are ...but you aren't. it's not you. You're not… it's not…."

"Just think of me as Gomer Pyle," Glenn said with a smirk.

"You're no Gomer Pyle," Leo said.

"Thank you, Leo," Glenn said. "But I was scared shitless when that spotlight hit me. I've never experienced that much fear before. I shook until I started to play."

"When's the last time you played in front of thousands of people?"

"Probably Berlin. I don't know how big that audience was but it was a Christmas pageant. It wasn't the same. My friends and my music teacher were all there and they helped keep my mind off the audience. I played part of the Nutcracker as my solo. Lots of instruments played before me and with me and after my solo. It was nothing like tonight. I was one soloist in the middle of a dozen soloists in Berlin."

"Once you have the experience a few times, it will become like rolling off a log," Leo said.

"Don't give him any ideas, Leo," I said.

"Once I began playing, I was OK, but I didn't know I wasn't going to give out a screeching sound that had the audience putting their fingers in their ears."

"You hid it well," I said. "You had that audience in the palm of your hand. I looked at them. You were mesmerizing, Glenn. They didn't take their eyes off you."

"Makes me glad I didn't pee my pants," he said.

Leo laughed.

"that would have been poor form, sir," Leo said.

I hit Glenn's arm with my open hand.

"Well, I thought I might piss myself for a second or two."

"You'll be the talk of the town in the morning. All the most important music critics come to the shows at the university," Leo said. "They surely didn't miss the Preston Hathaway Show if they are smart."

"Preston told me, 'Don't look into that spotlight. Keep your head down and slowly let them see your eyes. Then you smile. Keeping your eyes focused on the front of the stage and the spot won't blind you."

I smiled and Glenn sat back in the seat, taking a deep breath. He closed his eyes. and said nothing for a long time. He took several deep breaths as we eased down the boulevard, heading toward downtown.

I felt like the trip across country, what Glenn just did, had matured him somewhat."

"I'm fine now," he said without opening his eyes. He took another deep breath.

"I'm Glad that's over," he said. "It gets harder every time. I don't know I can make my living doing this."

"That's not a surprise but this is what you're meant to do, Glenn. Having a great list of options to choose from would simply confuse the fact that you are and always will be a violinist first," I said. "What do you have to learn to stun an audiences the way you did to this one?"

"On one level I know that. That doesn't mean I wasn't as scared as I've ever been," Glenn said, looking at me as he said it.

"Yet you can race your bike up a hill and jump an impossible divide, wrecking on the far side, laughing when I check to see if you're alive," I said. "You could kill yourself doing a stunt like that. What's the worst that can happen while you play the violin?"

"You did that, Glenn?" Leo asked.

"Do you really want me to tell you how crazy I am, Leo?" Glenn asked. "The difference is, I'm not thinking when I'm doing something like that. I just do it."

"Put that talent of yours at risk and you might destroy it. Your future anyway," Leo said.

"I don't plan stunts like that, Leo. It just happens. There I am. There the hill is. Why not jump the divide?"

"I'd advise you not to let it happen again. Take the time to consider your actions, especially if you are putting your career on the line," Leo said. "You can't afford not to think."

"I know I should, Leo. I wish I could."

"You play for hours a day at home. You'll get used to the audience. You've never been the feature in a show before. I'd say that's a pretty big deal. Preston had no doubt about putting you on center stage," I said.

"The man knows what he's doing. That alone tells you he believes in you. He wouldn't have put you out there if you had the slightest chance of choking. Once you do it a few times, your fear of the audience will disappear, Glenn," I said. "You may be a new sensation but Preston has seen it all before."

"You know of Felix Mendelssohn?" Leo asked.

"I studied the violin in Germany. I learned to play his violin sonata."

"He was a prodigy. He wrote that sonata when he was ten. He wrote operas before he reached his teens. He was the conductor of a symphony orchestra at twenty."

"I didn't know that," Glenn said.

"Mendelssohn proves you can do anything you set your mind on doing. He did those things because he didn't know he couldn't," Leo said. "His parents encouraged him and they had him tutored in the music of the day."

"Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?" Glenn said.

"If I might suggest, the only limits on what you can achieve, Glenn, are the ones you set on yourself," Leo said. "Nothing I've heard you say hasn't been said in this car before. Where there is incredible talent, you find doubt."

"Thank you, Leo. It makes sense. I want to believe that is true," Glen said. "I'd like to believe in myself. I'm not quite there yet."

"Allow it to be true. You haven't learned to harness your talent yet. When you do, you'll look forward to playing. Performing in front of an audience, hearing their reaction to your talent, will satisfy you," Leo said. "I pick up a lot of information sitting up here. Mr. Hathaway's finds don't fail."

"I'll pray I won't ruin his record, Leo," Glenn said.

"He has a sixth sense when it comes to talent and those possessing it. I think you're safe."

Glenn leaned back to relax. Leo kept driving toward town. I squeezed Glenn's hand. He squeezed mine.

I smiled.

"You ready to eat?" Glenn asked, seeming to get his second wind. "What are you in the mood for?"

"I'm still shaking. I might throw up if I eat," I said.

"You're a mess, Gordon. You aren't pregnant, are you?"

Leo stifled a laugh.

"No. My stomach isn't settled. I felt like I was out there playing with you," I said. "Give me a few minutes. You did all the work. You get to pick the kind of food we eat."

"That does add a degree of difficulty," Glenn said. "I'm glad I didn't have that thought."

"Do they have an Italian Restaurant in this town, Leo?"

"Only one as far as my wife is concerned," Leo said. "Angelina's has wonderful lasagna. They do pizza, subs, and I like their spaghetti."

"Angelina's, my man! Spare not the horses," Glenn said.

I got the lasagna and it was delicious. I didn't eat in restaurants that often. I enjoyed this one.

Leo refused our offer to buy him dinner. His wife had packed his lunch again. Whatever he had, his wife's opinion of the lasagna was right on.

I didn't know what time it was when we got back to the hotel. Leo had driven us around the city after we spent almost two hours in Angelina's. All I wanted was to get Glenn into my arms and get our arms into bed.

As quick as Glenn closed the door behind us, we embraced and kissed. He put his forehead on mine to look at my face in the dark, but it wasn't completely dark.

We kissed again and in the middle of a very nice kiss, someone cleared his throat.

"Shit!" Glenn said.

Glenn's forehead went back to resting on mine.

"If it's the maid, we can turn our own bed down, thank you. If it's Preston, go away. I'm busy."

"Sorry, we need to talk before I can go away," Preston said. "We'll all sleep in tomorrow morning and your plane leaves earlier than I want to get out of bed. So, here I am. I won't keep you boys but we need to talk, Glenn."

He sat near the table with his stocking feet on a hassock. There was a single lamp on at the far end of the sofa near the sliding glass doors that had been opened.

"I hope you aren't corrupting this young man, Glenn." Preston said firmly.

"Corrupt? Corrupt him? Oh, we're way beyond corruption. Washington passed an equal marriage law yet? You can be my best man."

"I suspected as much," Preston continued. "I'll get out of here as quick as I can. I didn't mean to cramp your style, but we had to talk face to face and tomorrow isn't possible. None of us will get enough sleep tonight. You'll be off to the airport after you get up."

"Preston, how did you get in here?" Glenn asked, holding my hand as we sat on the sofa facing him.

"When I come to town I've got the keys to half the rooms in this hotel. This is usually my room. They don't ask any questions when I ask for a key. Any key. My requests get surprisingly little resistance from businesses where I spend many thousands of dollars each year."

"What do we have to talk about? The gig is done. Too late to cancel me out of the show. I have your money."

"I can always stop payment on a check," Preston revealed.

"I've still got most of the $500 in cash you gave me. It's more than I'm worth," Glenn said, undaunted.

"Yes, well, you haven't seen the Sunday paper's yet. Your value is on the rise. You'll decide you want more money soon. People with pockets full of money will be offering it to you if they only knew who you are."

"You treat me like royalty. You treat me fair. Why would I play for anyone else? I don't play for the money."

Preston reached and picked up a stack of papers from the table beside him. He dropped them with a thump on the table in front of us.

"I took the entertainment section out of one. I bought enough copies so you'd have a few for your family. You don't need to look far. It's the top of the page above the fold. Entertainment section."

"It's just after midnight. How do you have Sunday papers already?"

"It's almost three," Preston said, glancing at his watch. "The Sunday papers hit the stands at two. It's an old habit, waiting for reviews. Gordon, why don't you read it. He should hear what it says. It's the brutal truth from Seattle's most respected music critic."

I picked up the paper folded neatly for easy reading.

"It's you," I said, showing Glenn the picture of him in the spotlight from when he first looked at the audience.

The picture and article covered the top right quarter of the front page of the Seattle Times entertainment section.

"Denning Soars Over Seattle" was the caption on the top of the picture.

"What's it mean," I asked Preston.

"Read. It's self-explanatory."

I started reading the article.

"Tonight the Preston Hathaway Show played Seattle. Mr. Hathaway offers predictably good entertainment for the price and he does it while stretching the boundaries of sight and sound.

"This entertainment critic had seen the last three Preston Hathaway Shows. I passed on this one to take my two daughters and son to the latest teenie bopper film.

"I made this decision to stop the caterwauling about it at my house.

"My Blackberry and phone both sounded off at the same time. I understand how annoying that is for other patrons. I turned them off so I didn't distract my progeny. I do not review such films for a good reason and last night's experience did nothing to change that policy.

"Once at home and safely back in my den, and after a scotch on the rocks to stabilize my dying brain cells.

I then remembered said Blackberry and phone. The topic on nineteen text and phone message was, 'The Preston Hathaway Show.'"

"By the fifth message, I knew I'd screwed the pooch. Predictably good entertainment suddenly turn great, while I was doing my best not to slip into a coma at a local theater.

"A young man, Glenn Denning, of unknown origins stopped the Preston Hathaway show last night, just before intermission. I can show you his picture as he charmed the standing room only audience, giving them something to talk about at intermission.

"I have the picture because one of my photographers was among the standing room only patrons, while this reporter lollygagged at a movie that defied criticism.

"I'd like to tell you about Mr. Denning, but as Sgt. Schultz immortalized, ''I hear nothing. I see nothing.' The sergeant wasn't the music critic for a major metropolitan newspaper. A paper that insists I hear and see everything.

"Being a man who takes his job seriously, I won't tell you about a show I didn't experience. This will be my last mention of the misadventure with my teenage children. For any one who has teenage children, enough has been said.

"It was when I heard my editor's voice, and let's simply say he was displeased my story on Mr. Denning hadn't reached his desk yet. I was forced to call said editor and tell him he could stop waiting. I won't relay what he said."

"I'd like to tell my readers, I'm not likely to miss another Preston Hathaway Show any time soon if I want to keep my job, if I keep my job once the dust settles.

"I did not hear the performance I am telling you about and therefore I can not offer you a personal opinion, but by the number of calls, the positive nature of those calls, I'll assume that the young violinist in the picture knew his stuff.

"I don't know what this sensation is all about but I intend to find out as much as I can for my next article, if there is a next article from this critic.

"I'm told that Preston's show will return to our fair city for a Christmas Eve show. If I were you, Preston, I'd not return without, Glenn Denning, who has Seattle all abuzz tonight, if you know what's good for you, not to mention me. "On a personal note, Preston, if you bring Mr. Denning back for your Christmas Eve show, I won't ever ask you for another thing for as long as I live."

"He's a funny man," I said.

"His column is in newspapers around the country."

I put down the paper in front of Glenn. He looked at the picture. He looked at me.

"That was nice," Glenn said.

"He's a respected critic," Preston said.

"You didn't need to make a special trip to ask me to play at Christmas. I'll play whatever dates you want me."

"It's more complicated than that, Glenn. I know you'll play for me Christmas Eve and New Years Eve in San Francisco. Those dates are firm. I have other dates in mind but final arrangements haven't been concluded, and I can't imagine playing Berlin without you."

"School is all I have. I graduate next month. I'm still a kid tonight but I'll be an adult next week. After that, I can be available when you want me."

"I don't think the sharks can find you with the bogus clues we've left but I want to sign you to another personal service contract for one more year. This time you'll sign it. It simply means no one can talk to you without talking to me first. It's an old tool Hollywood directors used to tie an actor to them. It serves the same purpose for you and me."

"Sounds good. I don't want my parents bothered."

"The Preston Hathaway show spends well over a million dollars a year with the major airlines. The plane tickets are made out to the show. When people show up with that ticket, they barely want to see an I.D. No one is going to hassle you when I'm flying you. The people who might recognize you will be your fans and people who have seen you play. We don't want to discourage their attention."

"I won't worry about fans for a while," Glenn said.

"I'll come to visit when our schedule is firmed up. You can play the dates you think you'll like other than the holiday shows. Next year, you'll tour with the show, if that's what you want to do," Preston said.

"I needed to talk to you before you get out of here. There's a party downtown. We usually have one when we finish a date. Up until dawn and sleep most of tomorrow away. That's why I came up tonight."

"Glad we had this talk," Glenn said. When you're ready, I'll sign the contract."

"I have a lot of musicians with very big egos who are going to revolt if they see what I pay you. That's why the amount on the contract is the same as last year. There's a second sheet you need to sign. That's your signing bonus. You'll like that number, but no one in the show needs to know about the bonus," Preston said.

"After the article tonight, and that picture, You're big business, Glenn. You've become a hot commodity. I've got you for the moment, but it all changed tonight. I needed to talk to you about it before someone tracks you down. It will give you something to think about."

"By the way, you were better than good tonight. You performed like a seasoned professional. I could hardly take my eyes off of you," Preston said. "I'm proud to have you as part of my show."

"Thank you, Preston. I appreciate that," Glenn said.

"I promised your mom I'd call right after the show. She said you wouldn't call. I told her, 'He played brilliantly and the audience loved you. He charmed them in a way I've rarely seen done.' I think that made her cry."

"Yeah, I make my mother cry a lot. They do love their son. One of them anyway. I just don't know which one," Glenn said. "Preston, I do have a date if you hadn't noticed. If there isn't anything else? This guy flew all the way to Seattle to be with me."

"Of course! Let me get into my shoes. My feet always hurt after a show," Preston said. "Gordon, I don't know what you've done to this boy but keep doing it. I've never seen him sit still before."

I laughed.

Preston dropped the contract he'd had on his lap on top of the newspapers.

"This is the contract. Look it over. Show it to your parents. Hold onto it. I'll be by the house when I have all the dates firmed up."

Glenn walked Preston out. Preston stopped at the door and turned to give Glenn a hug.

"You're on the way, Glenn. I'm so happy you're playing for me," Preston said, opening the door and leaving.

Glenn stood in the entryway to let Preston's words sink in.

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