Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Minor Character

Everyone agreed that the kid was an extraordinary talent. His parents were not the sort of people who would normally choose to nudge a child into the hothouse of celebrity. His elder sister, Kayleigh, had a pretty enough singing voice and most of her teeth, but they had never been pushy with her (she was not discouraged; they attended her performances with the school choir three or four times a year.) The boy was something else, though. He could do Joni Mitchell, Jeanette McDonald, Gaga, Maria Callas, Whitney Houston, Ethel Merman and the falsetto of Prince. If you closed your eyes you couldn't tell the difference. What made him exceptional, however, the accuracy with which he could reproduce female voices, also limited his popularity. There was something unsettling, something uncanny about hearing the world weary timbre of a torch singer rendered by a bony thirteen year old boy. He had been eliminated in the early stages of a TV talent show, the judges using words like 'weird' and 'inhuman' to describe him. The public never caught on.

Secretly, his mother believed it was a gift from God. She had been raised in a kind of charismatic baptist cult and had never really shaken it off. She never spoke to her son about this, even on the warm spring afternoon when she interrupted him, crouched and sweating at the desk in his bedroom, the distinctive monosyllables of internet coitus barking from his laptop. A week later his voice began to break.

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