Kylie Smoot was the best piano player in her class. In her entire school actually. And that was a thing that kept her coming and going even when the school bus ride proved a daily nightmare. She never could figure out why all the kids hated her so much. But they did. Every time she got on the bus all the kids would move into the aisle seats and refuse to let her sit down. Tracker Johnson, the bus driver, would act like he didn’t notice and just bump and weave along the country roads while Kylie bounced off the seats, the metal frames bruising her flesh.
She thought it might be her house. It was a dump. Run down, needing paint, littered with rusted machinery and old parts her father discarded from the Smoot Septic Tank and Cess Pool Rescue Company he owned. Kylie, hoping to class things up a bit, had hung old shower curtains over the front room windows, hiding the bare bulbs and clutter the kids had all ridiculed.
Her grandma had died in that very room. Just the year before. She was the one who had held Kylie on her lap, teaching her all the piano keys and the secret way to close her eyes and listen to the magic paths inside a song that could carry one straight into music.
Seat or no seat, nothing could wreck this day. Tonight was the school talent show. Kylie was playing a solo. And the music for other acts. She’d been lying awake lately, imagining the applause, the approval, the long awaited adoration of her classmates. Especially Monica Green whose daddy was the president of the school board and also the town banker. Monica had beautiful clothes, lived in a big house and she always frowned and stamped her feet when Kylie played the piano. But tonight everything would change. They might even become best friends with Kylie going to a sleepover in that big brick house on the hill.
When she got to school Kylie hurried to the gymnasium for one last practice. Monica met her at the door. “Where you going?” she said.
“To practice my songs for tonight,” Kylie said. “Miss Carthage already approved.”
“Practice on what?” Monica’s eyes reflected the red of her satin dress.
Kylie stared at the stage. The piano was gone.
“Isn’t it so cool?” Monica gushed. “My daddy bought our school a brand new stereo and sound system and all the music for the show.”
“But where’s the piano?” Kylie’s throat felt dry and burning.
“That old thing? Daddy took it to the dump. We don’t need pianos any more. Isn’t that so cool?”