Until my fingers burned and bled

Submitted into Contest #26 in response to: Write about a character who was considered a prodigy when they were young.... view prompt



As a child my mother urged me to play an instrument, wether it be piano, guitar, even the triangle. She didn’t care. 

She said it was because she saw something great in me, but I think it was because as a child she had always wanted to be a musician...but her parents refused to support her dreams, and by the time she was old enough to support them herself; she was too swept up in the current of life to spend hours a day learning and perfecting a tune. 

I was used to her living through me at this point. At times I wondered if that’s all I was to her. An outlet to see her greatest wishes come true. 

I chose the harp...the melodic tunes had always drawn me in, vibrating music making my heart stutter and the hair on my arms stand on end. I understood why the harp was thought to be an angels instrument

I was no angel, but I was often praised for sounding like one. 

I started small, a child’s harp which I quickly grew bored of. Taking lessons and surpassing my peers in strides. It was always so easy to play, plucking my fingers until they burned and bled, leaning into the instrument and feeling the vibrations run across my body. It was a drug to me. I’m not ashamed to say I was addicted. 

The first full song I learned was Mary had a little lamb...and barely a month later I had begun learning Bach’s Toccata and Fugues in D minor, having heard my mother playing it and instantly craving the feeling of its music running through my body as I plucked at its strings. 

18 months later and I performed it. 

I think that’s when my mother began resenting me. 

She never said it out loud, but every time I played she cried...but I don’t think it was because the sounds were beautiful, I think it’s because I had become what she always wanted. I was a musical prodigy. 

I didn’t realize why she cried the first time, and when she refused to take me to my next lesson I was confused. Even more so when she scolded me for practicing-claiming it was too loud, that I should focus on my studies. 

She wanted me to pick up an instrument so badly...and now she wanted no more than to burn the hand that plucked the strings. 

It took a year before I could convince my mother to let me play once more...and a month more before she let me join lessons again. The teacher welcomed me back with open arms-and I welcomed the harp just the same. Pleased to find my arms reached the end of the instrument with ease. 

I can still remember the day I was finally allowed to take my beloved in my arms once more, feel vibrations muse from wood to flesh. I played for hours that day, yearning to feel my fingers ache with worked blisters and burns from my quick plucking. 

Call me a sadist. But that was my favorite part. It was the part that lasted. For weeks, for months. When I played again the next day they only hurt more, bled quicker. Bandages making them sting...I loved it 

I still do, my fingers well worn with aged calluses and worked skin. Not even the most expensive moisturizer softening hard finger tips. 

But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My mother grew distant when I began playing again, and with time the other students caught up to me. 

But I didn’t mind. 

My teacher always said how it was a shame I left for a year...that if I didn’t I may still be bounds ahead of the others. 

But that never mattered to me. 

I was a child prodigy...but that didn’t mean much. I cared more for the feeling of a harps heartbeat as I played it’s strings than a crowds clapping. So I often played alone, rocking to a mantra my fingers created, driving myself into meditation of music. 

I never played shows, or did much with my talent, I only indulged in an addiction. Just as a heroin addict would with a needle, I hid away and played for hours, pulling myself from reality and letting music fill my body. 

As much as I loved the music-my favorite part was still the burning fingertips, even after years of building dense skin, they still hurt after hours of playing. I don’t think I would enjoy playing as much if they didn’t. 

I never spoke to my mom much, I’m sure she still despises the talent I have, even if she was the one who wanted me to discover it. 

But she was right. I did have something special. 

As a child my mother urged me to play an instrument. Later she despised me for doing as she wanted. Maybe that’s why I never show people my music now, I don’t want them to despise me...or maybe I just never shared in my mother’s dream. 

January 30, 2020 18:26

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Wesley Tinney
18:52 Feb 06, 2020

I really enjoyed your story. I liked that you write in the first person. This makes the story more personal I feel. However it is not always easy to do and I admire the way you did so. Also I loved your use of alliteration. It goes well with the musical aspect of the story. I look forward to reading your future submissions.


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Len Mooring
04:00 Feb 06, 2020

I loved it. What a tantalising duo you painted. I was resisting the mother coming in with pruning shears or something. I felt for your harpist, which is the mark of good story telling.


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