What I can't say

Submitted into Contest #101 in response to: Write a story in which the same line recurs three times.... view prompt


Contemporary Teens & Young Adult Sad

"You're wasting your parents money." My music teacher tells me for the 5th time this hour.

There's certain things you can't say to adults. Especially when they're mean to you.

For example: Shut the hell up, You're an idiot, How about get outta my face you *** of a *****, stupid ******* *****.

You shouldn't say that.

That's not nice.

You can think it.

But don't say it.

Usually when my teacher is giving me a hard time, I just sit there and take it, telling myself that 'I'm a Musician and this is what we go through to be the best.'

I mean, compared to August Rush and Beethoven, I have a yellow brick road, red slippers. All I have to do is withstand the wicked witch for an hour every week.

I was 13 then, both my parents were teachers and it was engrained into my mind to respect my elders.

Regardless of how stupid the elders are.

So when he spat more insults my way, I sat there staring at the sheet of music. Not looking for errors but my mind began to wander on effective ways to murder a piano teacher.

I don't think they'll believe that a guitar just jumped off the wall and smashed into his skull.

Frustrated, he swiped my hands off the piano. "Stop playing. Go sit down."

Relieved but disappointed in myself, I got up from the bench and went back to my seat. My hour was up, so I just took out the new book I borrowed from the library and waited for my parents to come get me.

5 years later- No. they did not forget me. This is a flash forward. Plus, my parents know what happened the last time they came for me late. I walked all the way to my aunt's house in the pouring rain.

My jacket was soaked, my bag was soaked, my pants were surprisingly dry.

5 years later, I continued going to the same music school. Of all days, it was my 18th birthday. I had no time to stop. I had school exams, music exams, concerts and rehearsals all at the same time.

No one really liked me to have an easy life.

They say they do with phrases like 'I'm going to work hard so my kids don't go through what I went through' but the moment they see you staring at any kind of technology, it changes to 'When I was your age, I could live without this.'

But It's fine. 'I'm a musician and this is what we go through.' So what? It's just a little more work. That's all.

Make my parents happy for one more year, get a job, move out, freedom.

Let me give you some life advice.

Sit around kiddies.

When you're 18-

Things don't magically get better. You're the same person you were at 17, but you can legally go to jail or prison now. It depends on what you did.

It's like a level up but there's no checkpoints, more frustration, a lot of obstacles. You can lose all your progress with one mistake. Therapy is expensive so you just get a lot of people in your ear giving unwanted advice instead of shutting up and listening.

It's basically the game 'Getting Over it.'

So anyway, I walked stepped inside hell's gate- I mean, my music teacher's house. I looked around, only one person here today. A brown haired girl sitting at her usual seat at the middle of the table. Her name was Penny or something.

I set my bag down and dug around in it to pull out my phone, headset, pencil and music theory book. My hand knocked against a hardened surface that was unfamiliar to me. Pulling the object out, I realize it's a book I hadn't finished.

'To Kill a Mocking Bird."

It's one of the books that every English teacher makes you read. I remember loving to read and smuggling books from the class library. The teacher didn't want kids to carry them home cause they assumed we would never bring it back.

They're were right cause I still have a few Nancy Drew books that aren't mine. I loved Secret Seven, Famous Five, The Hardy Boys, Men and Gods.

However, I couldn't bring myself to get past the cover. It didn't interest me anymore. I guess I just grew out of it.

Grabbing my things, I made myself comfortable by the single chair next to the wall. I had no friends here and I didn't mind it one bit.

5 years and none of them dared hold a conversation with me.

A bunch of teacher's pets.

I guess they thought that if they communicated to me, my horrible piano skills might rub off on them or something. Maybe it's because the teacher told them not to talk to me. Or maybe it was because of my clothes. I liked Black shirts and jeans. I wasn't about to change it. Maybe it was because one time my phone rang blasting Metallica.

I tried not to think too much of it, but I was pretty popular in actual school. I had friends there.

Mid- song, Penny waves to get my attention. She might want to borrow something and never return it.

I look up, raising a brow at her.

She starts, "You're Joe right?"

I answer, "Yeah."

"I'm Crystal from West Wood Uni. Do you want to join the music club? We need a pianist." Where did I get the name Penny from then?

"No thanks." I decline the offer, continuing the homework I did not finish.

"Why not?" She prods on. "I always see you in those concerts. I think you sound great!" She smiles.

Stop patronizing me. No I don't. Why does everyone say that? I always make mistakes in those stupid concerts.

Without looking up, I give her one of those automated replies to every person who wants to book me, "I have my hands full," I can never understand why they want me in the first place.

"Oh ok. I understand." Penny goes back to her work.

Just as our conversation ends, the teacher walks into the room. His eyes land on me first.

"Ah Joe, you're here today." He states. "Let's start on the piano."

Internally, I groan as I pack away my books even my sanity controller aka headphones.


Seated on the hard wooden bench, I start playing a song to which he immediately stops me. For what reason? I do not know.

"Start again."

Good teachers actually show me what I'm doing wrong.

After two more attempts, I can see him getting frustrated as he wipes his brow with his handkerchief.

That's the signal for I'm about to lecture you.

"You didn't practice."

I want to answer that with 'I did.' but then that would communicate to him that I practiced the wrong thing or I'm just so stupid that no amount of practice will fix me.

"I didn't have time." I found myself saying.

"Do you know you're going to fail?" He starts. "You're going to fail. Your exam is Next week and you can't get past the first line? What are you actually doing? You're wasting your parent's money."

Like always, I sit watching the page. 'I'm a musician, this is what they have to go through.' This time, I black out.

Not by falling and making a scene. In my head, I just heard 'Do you know you're going to fail?' and missing all the words in between. Then gaining consciousness by the word 'money.'

This never happened before. For a moment, my brain shut off. I mentally shake it off and try again.

Then I blacked out while playing.

My fingers kept moving, but I felt nauseated while dipping in and out of consciousness again.

My music teacher didn't say a word as I played or I didn't hear him.

It quickly turned into a struggle to stay awake. I felt myself swaying a bit like if I was losing balance.

When I struggle through the piece, I look at my teacher and he says "Ok, that's better."

I'm confused.

And angry.

My eyes start filling with water as he left, not because of a stupid compliment. I was done with compliments years ago. I didn't need it to survive.

What was happening to me?

"Joe?" I heard the teacher calling for my name, "Mr. Parker?"

My eyes were wide open with fright, slouching as I watched the door of the music room wanting to get out so badly. My gaze fixated with wrath on the teacher and angry tears slid out.

"You broke my brain."

That's not what I meant to say. But it made sense to me.

I know my body, it doesn't do that.

But I know why it just shut down.

"Mr. Parker, I don't have time for any-."

"Shut up. I'm paying you. Shut up." I stand to my feet, "You finally broke me. You finally did it. Are you happy now? Cause I don't seem to care about a god- damn thing anymore."

A moment passes, "How is that my fault Mr. Parker?"

How am I going to tell him all the times I've tried to read but I can't cause I had to practice? How can I blame him for losing my interest in hobbies? How can I explain that every time I think of practicing, it makes me want to cut off my hands or stab myself in the ear to make it stop? I'd just sound insane.

He wouldn't understand. I don't really know if any one understands.

Now I'm blacking out like what mentally ill people describe. How they black out and wake up with knives in their hands or wake up in different countries.

Instead of yelling at him, I just grabbed my bag and left.

Walking, but this time it's not raining and I'm not planning on stopping.

July 03, 2021 16:15

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Jude S. Walko
05:53 Jul 22, 2021

This gave me "Whiplash" vibes. I thought the jilted prose style, was a good way to enhance the anxieties of the narrator. It made you feel unsure of what was coming next and always on the edge. A sad and vulnerable piece, but feel likes Joe Parker took control of his own fate at the end.


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Charlie Murphy
18:17 Jul 11, 2021

Great story! I especially liked Joe's voice! Will you write a sequel?


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Keya J.
07:30 Jul 11, 2021

That is just amazing, the way you spill your stories through dialogues, it makes the readers jump into the scene and for a second, shake the truth off and believe it to be real. I love the way you write, your writing style. I also found some weird coincidence. Like the book, you mentioned 'To kill a mocking bird' is actually the topic of this week's prompts. Now, that's a big fate, isn't it? And plus, all the books you mentioned in your story, I've read 'em all (not all of famous five and secret seven cause as you mentioned, I got heck bor...


13:34 Jul 11, 2021

Ah you are a person of culture. Awesome. Thanks so much for the comment. I hope you keep writing as well! Fun fact: I used the book, 'To Kill a Mockingbird' cause I just finished the tv series 'Everybody Loves Raymond' and that's Debra's favourite book.


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John Carpenter
22:10 Jul 10, 2021

As a piano teacher, I know that some teachers are tougher on talented pupils because they expect more of them. The problem is partly that such teachers as described often lack intelligence to understand how much is competing for the attention of the young pupil, and to learn when to push and when to gently support the pupil. Joe was talented, or he would not have been offered bookings. Joe felt that he was not good because his teacher expected more even though Joe is already competent. I have won competitions where the judges still made cri...


01:30 Jul 11, 2021

You have no idea how happy this comment makes me. I'm so glad that you didn't let those stupid comments from judges get you down. And I've never agreed with 'tough teaching'. It was not until I was 16 or 17, going for my last round of exams before college when I finally found teachers who don't intimidate with words or whips. I pray/hope that your students love your classes. I love when people love their jobs and understand that students are people. Live long and prosper my dude.


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Tionge Nakazwe
04:09 Jul 05, 2021

This was really good! Idk if I'm interpreting it right( I usually never am) but I really enjoyed the fact that Joe was mentally stopping himself from succeeding in piano because it wasn't what he wanted to do, but he finally broke.


12:03 Jul 05, 2021

That's a good theory of what happened.


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