The boy lifted his flute to his mouth, the end of it wavering with a constant tremor. A thin sound wandered out the end of his flute, accompanied by the sound of embarrassed throat clearing by a girl in the percussion section. There was a shuffling of feet and a mute dropped to the floor somewhere in the brass section. The boy looked like a cornered mouse. His terrified eyes lifted to the bandleader, the Hawk. The notes became shaky, the volume faded. Everyone watched, waiting for the Hawk to swoop in for the kill. They didn’t have to wait long.
“Mr. Thibault!” he shouted. He walked across the room and stood over the kid’s music stand.
“Do you suffer from asthma?”
The last quivering note faded, he lowered the flute, and held it protectively across his chest.
“Or bronchitis? Or perhaps you smoke excessively?”
Someone snickered in the back of the room. Thibault dropped his chin to his chest.
“The flute is a wind instrument. What does that mean, Mr. Thibault?” the Hawk continued.
Silence. Thibault hugged his flute. When Cory saw the red blotches bloom above his tightly buttoned collar, she looked away.
“It means you blow into it.”
The Hawk emphasized the last three words with strokes from his baton on the kid’s metal music stand.
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