"Did you want me to dust around the mantelpiece too?" said the thin, pale teenager with the unruly hair.
"No, I really want the mantelpiece to stay dirty. And it would fill me with joy for you to accommodate me on that one." answered the crusty, old curmudgeon seated on the black leather recliner.
Now, high school sophomore Lindsey Garrett was only there because the court mandated that he serve 60 hours of community service for his fun but unauthorized ride around the golf course in a doctor's golf cart.
It was officially grand theft since the doctor's very expensive golf clubs were still in the back of the cart as Lindsey drove it around and his fun jaunt quickly turned into a not so fun stay in juvenile hall, then an appearance before a judge that made the snippy old fart he was currently dusting for seem like a sweetheart in comparison.
As for Martin Azzo, he was in the middle of a 2 week staycation when he fell and broke his hip at a drug store. Oddly enough he was there to buy more ibuprofen for his aching back, which always seemed to act up when it was about to rain.
Sure enough the night he laid in a hospital bed in terrible pain from the fall that was the result of overzealous waxing of the pharmacy floor, it was pouring rain.
The next day his surgery went well, or as well as could be expected. The rehab in the noisy, dirty facility they sent him to for 2 weeks was painful, but all his insurance would cover.
Martin looked forlornly at the walker he'd been using since he came home 2 days ago and popped another pain pill. He wasn't at all sure if he was popping it from the pain in his hip or the fact that he was getting a headache watching what passed for "work" by this bag of bones teenager.
Lindsey finally looked up from his constant texting back and forth to see... IT! It was a gleaming brass trombone mounted on a huge oak plaque. He tried to get closer to read the lettering on the small silver plate underneath the trombone but the chime of another text stopped him.
"So what's his name?" Martin said responding to hearing yet another beep from Lindsey's phone.
"Him? Is it that obvious?"
"Don't worry, kid, you're not exactly flitting around my apartment."
"But you noticed."
"Son, I've been able to spot that since I was 9 years old and my confirmed bachelor uncle got drunk at my sister's wedding and ended up dancing the night away in one of the bridesmaid's dresses. It became a combination wedding and coming out party, so to speak. Of course all us kids always knew something was up with Uncle Morty."
"That was brave. Even today... Well, trust me, your Uncle Morty had guts,"
"Yeah, he had guts and according to my bone scan I got osteoporosis. Which is why this hip broke on a linoleum floor falling from a standing position."
"How did you know it was...?"
"From the way you'd text and smile with that far away twinkle in your eye, I knew you weren't texting a fellow science geek about your chemistry homework."
"Does that show too?!"
"Educated guess on the geek part, but the texts you were receiving and sending definitely had romance written all over them. That goo-goo eyed love that only a teenager in high school could possibly feel."
"Don't tell me you actually get jaded as you get older?" he said trying to match Martin's sarcasm.
"I was pretty cynical even when I was 12, but yes, it happens. The more the world craps on you, the more you're apt to be a touch suspicious of it."
"Okay, in my case it's a grope, but I wouldn't lie to you. So do you like him a lot and does he share in your eye twinkle?"
Lindsey had moved over to the wall and read off the engraving on the silver plate under the slide of the trombone.
"To Martin Azzo. The Best in Brass and Double in Class." Lindsey read off the small plate.
"Yeah, they just put it that way cuz it rhymed. I never had any class."
"But you were a musician?"
"Yup. They used to call me the Bodacious Trombone. Now I guess they can call me the Brittle Trombone."
"Did you always love music?"
"Nope. I loved getting laid. And chics dig the guys in the band. Even if it's the trombone player."
"What's wrong with the trombone player?"
"You ever hear any Big Band instrumentals with a nice trombone solo? It's a back up instrument, made to be part of an ensemble. Try to play Moon River on that thing? It sounds like Pop Goes the Weasel."
"Can you teach me?"
The phone beeped again. Lindsay checked it and smiled his dopey in love smile, then displayed the phone to Martin with a wry grin.
"Frederick's a musician. Concert band at school. And they never have enough trombone players, so even if I can just get a little good by the end of the summer. I might be able to make it in when fall semester begins."
"If I teach you, crap-head, you won't just be getting a little good. You'll be getting..."
"I get the feeling Frederick might say you're already that."
"Can I get it down from the wall?"
"Are you kidding? That one is welded to that mounting. Open the closet behind you and grab the one I occasionally play."
Lindsey opened the closet door and there, out of its case, was a gleaming trombone.
"You must use it a lot. You keep it awfully shiny."
"Yup. It's got my spit in it and everything."
"Uh... Your brittle bone stuff isn't contagious is it?"
"You'd better hope not. Pick it up. Put it to your mouth, and see what kind of sound you can make."
Lindsey tried it, and made one of the worst sounding noises he'd ever heard.
"Does it always sound like that?"
"Give it here."
Lindsey passed Martin the trombone. Martin proceeded to issue forth a rousing little riff utilizing the slide like an expert.
"You'll be doing that by next week."
"Are you kidding?"
"Nope. Just depends on how often you come over. Cuz my insurance doesn't pay for a nurse and your city mandated servitude is only for 2 hours every other day to clean up. But if your skinny ass can help me get to the toilet, maybe crack the whip on me about doing my daily physical therapy... Well, you might make it worth my while teaching you."
Martin tossed the trombone back to Lindsey as he fumbled to catch it and not let go of his ever beeping cell phone.
"Try it again," Martin said flatly.
"Uh... I really have to help you poop?"
"No, Dork-a-riffic, you have to help me get on and off the toilet. I can crap on my own. Was potty trained when I was 2."
"Are you this much of a dick when you're teaching?"
"More so, but that's why you're gonna get good, kid. That's why you're gonna get good."
Lindsey looked at the phone then at the trombone.
"What's the matter?"
"I'm just wondering if Frederick's worth it."
"You'd better decide. I feel a turd coming on."
And that day a bond was forged in teenage lust, middle aged need, and musical revelry. For years after Frederick was a bitter sweet memory of a first love and Lindsey gave a moving, tear filled eulogy at Martin's funeral... Lindsey Garrett would still be playing his trombone, Martin's old trombone, in the band that he formed fresh out of college. The name of that band was of course: The Brittle Trombone.