The next morning while I was having breakfast with my mother, we were both surprised to hear the phone ring so early.
“Maybe they need me to fill in at the hospital today,” said Mama as she got up to answer the call.
“Yes, this is Mrs. Paxton. I am Edward’s mother.” It obviously wasn’t the hospital. “Oh, good morning, Mr. Aldean.”
My heart stopped when I heard her say his name.
“Yes, we were there last night. My husband and I are quite upset about what happened.”
Whatever Mr. Aldean said changed my mother’s demeanor.
“I’m sorry, Mr. Aldean, I think you misunderstood. We are not upset with Edward. Those boys and their families were disrespectful to our son.”
After a long pause, my mother was even more distressed. “I understand, We must respect your decision in this matter.” He said something else, and my mother responded with, “Very well, Mr. Aldean. Edward will return to school on Tuesday, but you can also expect Edward’s father and myself at your office that morning too. Have a good day, Mr. Aldean,” She hung up the phone with a slam.
“What? What do you mean about Tuesday?”
“You’ve been suspended from school for a day. Monday.”
“It seems Mr. Aldean believes your performance last night was mischievous, although the man can’t even say the word correctly.” She rolled her eyes. “He said you were disrespectful to American music because you added the Negro touch with your fancy guitar playing. Those were his words, more or less.”
Head in hands, I said, “I’m real sorry, Mama.”
“Don’t apologize to me, Junior. You’re an excellent student, so it’s your school record I’m concerned about. And how your choice in music got you into trouble.”
“I know, but loving all kinds of music isn’t wrong.”
“No, it isn’t. And I won’t refuse you the thing that makes you most happy, but you still have to follow rules. I mean, there are no rules in regards to music, I guess, but you should’ve known something…”
“Yes, Mama, I shoulda figured. I just got too…”
“It’s call arrogance, Junior. And now you have to face the consequences.”
“And one of those consequences is apologizing to Mr. Aldean, face to face, whether or not you think he’s in the wrong.”
“Yes, Mama. And to Mr. Shelby. He probably got in trouble ’cause of me.”
“Your father and I will meet with Mr. Aldean and try to convince him not to put this suspension on your permanent record seeing how you are a good student, have perfect attendance, and haven’t given them problems before.”
“Thank you, Mama.”
“And…the other consequences are that the judges wanted to award you second prize for your other song and Mr. Aldean told them to give it to someone else. And… ” Oh gosh, another and. “You won’t be allowed to participate in next year’s show.”
Those consequences stung me harder than the embarrassment of a suspension.
“You can go to your lesson with Mr. Johnson tomorrow, but I think it’d be best if you stay close to home so you don’t run into those boys anywhere.”
“Yes, Mama. I don’t feel like doing anything anyway.”
“Call your job. Maybe they need your help today. At least you won’t be sulking around here all day.”
I chose to sulk and feel sorry for myself. I sat in the backyard flipping through some old comic books. I didn’t have the brainpower to read a real book. After lunch, my mother suggested we take the bus to the five and dime, but I said no. Then I moped around the house some more and dozed off for a while on the couch.
At the dinner table, my father addressed the situation with, “Son, we’re upset about what happened to you at the show, but you gotta accept the cost of your actions and the decisions of those in change. It’s one of the toughest things we have to do in life. You’re a good student and a good person and now you have to continue to prove that at school. Are we clear?”
“Yes, Dad, I’ll do my best.”