Choirboy Figurine

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Object No. 63 of 100

[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by J. Robert Lennon, has ended. Original price: $1.99. Final price: $21.50.]

The day after the day I turned seventeen, three weeks after the recital in which I received the award for distinguished effort in solo violin performance, five months after my older brother was arrested for dealing cocaine and thrown out of college and came home and ever since had been living in his old attic room which he had transformed into his personal domain during the last semester of high school when he had the argument with our father which our mother believed had contributed, however indirectly, to the stroke which killed him some weeks later, I stood on the stair landing gazing out through the tiny hexagonal window overlooking the back yard and saw my mother gardening there, and her bent form among the vegetables moved me, yes, but in an unexpected way — somehow the sight of her vertebrae humped underneath her purple blouse and the thick white bra strap visible through the fabric, even from here, filled me with anger, for the way she had pushed me, the way she had forced me to practice the same pieces over and over again those cold afternoons when I alone was sitting beside the radiator perspiring through my thick sweatshirt, and though my mother was frail already at forty-eight, worn down by the relentless belittlement of my father, I wanted to march down the stairs and tell her she had ruined me, that I hated her, to smash my violin against the cracked and disintegrating cement cherub that stood in the center of her flower garden, which my father had bought her in a happier time, or perhaps a time in which unhappiness was still latent, not yet fully expressed — but instead I reached out to the squat and ugly little end table that stood in the corner of the landing and took into my hand the nearest of her china figurines, all of them together a mystery, for they were cheap and tacky and beneath her deluded sense of herself as the wife of a man of wealth and power, which my father was not, rather he was a second-rate businessman in a third-rate city, and in any event dead now for three years; and when my brother came loping down the stairs from his room, reeking of weed and holding between his chin and extended left hand an imaginary violin, which he limp-wristedly sawed at with the imaginary bow in his right, while emitting a mocking squeak intended to represent my playing at its worst, I turned to him and punched him with all the strength I could muster, shattering both his nose and the choirboy figurine in my hand — and my brother fell back against the stairs gagging on blood, and I felt the shards of choirboy slice through my palm and the muscles of my fingers, which even at that moment I understood would take six months to heal if they ever healed at all, ending my nascent career as a classical performer, and I wish I could say that it was with satisfaction that I regarded my brother lying on the carpeted stairs with his hand over his other hand over his face, and that it was with relief that I regarded my ruined hand as the fingers jerked open, raining blood and choirboy pieces onto the oriental runner, but in fact I felt neither, I felt only the foolishness that accompanies any discharge of rage, and the very beginnings of shame as my mother, as though sensing this disturbance through the hexagonal glass and sixty feet of late spring air, turned her kerchiefed head to squint up at the house where everything she had hoped would make her happy was continuing to fall apart.


J. Robert Lennon is the author of a story collection and six novels, including Castle.

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