“Hi there, fellas,” Mr. Shelby said.
“Hello, Mr. Shelby,” I said, looking up from my spot on the floor.
“I’m sorry about what happened out there. It was cruel what those kids did to you. The truth is I feel responsible.”
“Mr. Shelby, no, it’s not your fault. How could you know? It was my decision to play that song, and then to show off with all the blues guitar stuff,” I said.
“Yes, I know, but when you performed it for me last week, I was impressed by your talent and disregarded the affect it might have. That music is not for everyone, certainly not in these parts. You really were terrific out there with your other performance though.”
“Thanks, Mr. Shelby.”
“I’ve got to get back and see what the judges have decided.”
“Let’s get outta here. We did nothing wrong so let’s go sit out there where we belong. I bet you’ll get a prize for your solo performance,” said Lonnie.
“Yeah, buddy, you sure were great,” added Vance.
We sat in the corner seats in the second and third row, and I avoided looking at the people around us.
Mr. Shelby walked on stage and got the audience’s attention. “Ladies and gentleman, our judges have reached their decisions. We’ll begin with third prize. Can we have a drum roll, please?” Coach Wyatt obliged and everyone laugh at his poor attempt. “The third prize goes to… Dixie and Dianna Snow and Percy Shelton!”
The acrobatic trio ran up, and all of them grabbed for the trophy.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get you two more so you won’t have to share this one.” Percy did a cartwheel on the stage before he returned to his seat.
Lonnie whispered, “What a relief that they didn’t win first prize again. This is the third year they do that same routine. You deserve first prize. You got the most cheers.”
“The second prize goes to…Ginny Lewis for her wonderful opera performance,” Mr. Shelby announced.
Coach Wyatt played and extended and terrible drum roll before Mr. Shelby announced, “And the first prize goes to…”
Lonnie patted me on the back and whispered, “It’s gotta be you.”
“Everybody ready?” Mr. Shelby asked the audience. Most of the kids called out, “Yes!”
First prize goes to…Angela Ashton and Mary Lou Coon, the prima ballerinas!” The girls pranced up to the stage and did a pirouette, or whatever it is ballerinas do, for extra applause.
“I don’t believe it. You shouda got a prize,” Lonnie said.
“Mean Aldean probably told them not to give me anything,” I said.
Mr. Shelby thanked everybody for coming and there was a final round of applause.
“Hello, guys.” It was my father standing next to us.
“You ready, son? Your mama and Vernie are waiting for us by the car.”
“Yeah, let’s get outta here.”
I said goodbye to Vance and Lonnie. My dad offered to carry my guitar for me and we walked out the side door to avoid glares from my non-fans.
We settled into the car and were quiet for a few minutes.
My father broke the silence with, “I know I say it for all of us. We’re real proud of you, son, and we’re sorry for what happened.”
“We sure are,” said Uncle Vernie.
“I just can’t believe those kids, and that man… I’m sorry, honey.” Mama looked back at me from the front seat.
“It’s all right, Mama. I guess I was asking for trouble.”
“You know who’s askin’ for trouble? Those punks. I wanna punch them stinkin’…”
“Vern, calm down,” Dad said. “We can’t go down to their level. They’re kids copying their parents’ behavior. Not much we can do about that.”
“Yeah, Vernie, please. I wanna punch those guys out too, but the truth is, I played something white people don’t like. I was just excited to do my own thing and to show off with the guitar. I wasn’t thinking.”
“Honey, you’ll see, all this will boil over. Thank the good Lord, the dreadful episode is done and that no one got hurt,” said Mama.
We had the next day off because of the Easter holiday, so I decided I would try to block out the humiliation until Monday when school resumed.