He screamed at me, his goggly eyes opened like a frog’s. His voice was funny, it made me want to laugh - but he also looked scary, so I didn't. I stopped singing and stared at him. I wasn't sure if I had to close my mouth or not so I left it half open.
“No! No! No! That was not a mi sharp!”
I thought it would be good to close my mouth now. The man looked at Papa and pointed his tiny finger at me. He was all tiny, only his head was huge, with a funny mustache and the goggly eyes.
“Why did you bring this to me? Are you trying to mock me? You’re wasting my time!”
Papa was all red by now and not looking at me. I didn't know what was going on but I think Papa wanted to be away from the huge room with the piano.
“He was in the church choir” Papa stuttered. “The choir master told us he was very good – he has a very high voice – good technique -”
“Good technique? Good technique?”
He snorted loudly then started laughing in the same squeaky way as my choir master. Only my choir master is much taller and doesn't have a mustache.
“Your choir master” he said (he sounded really funny because he was trying to speak through his nose) “is an imbecile. I don’t know who he is, or what he thinks he knows about music, but this boy – oh, this boy cannot sing!”
I wanted to say that I could sing, because I was angry he said I couldn't sing, which was not true, since I was in the choir that sang every Sunday at the church. But he wasn't looking at me and he scared me so I didn't say anything - but I was mad.
“But I've heard him” Papa protested. “I've heard him many times, and I think he’s really good, too!”
“Oh! You think he’s very good? You do? Really? Well, don’t you mind my opinion, then!” the funny little man said, pointing at a wall covered with papers with things written on them.
Papa looked at them and then at me. I wasn't sure what those papers were and I wanted to ask, but when I opened my mouth, Papa also made the goggly eyes at me and stuck a finger on his lips.
The little man took the letter Papa had brought from the choir master about me, I think, and read it once more with another snort. Then he put it very close to his tiny black eyes.
“Wait a minute. I know who he is!” he suddenly said. “Yes, yes, we had the same teacher, I remember now - hah! He thought he was going to be the best opera singer to ever walk on Earth just because he was a eunuch!”
He pushed his chest up just like a peacock – I saw a peacock at a funfair once – and started walking in front of the wall covered with papers, waving the letter from my choir master.
“Papa” I asked “what’s a yooneck?”
I thought it was a really funny word but they all did the goggly eyes at me. They looked really angry and I understood it was my fault so I started crying, but they became even angrier and Papa sent me off to a corner next to the piano. I sat on the piano stool and tried to wipe my nose without making any noise, and Papa and the man with the mustache kept on shouting.
I hate it when people shout around me and the thing is that since I've started singing, there’s been a lot of shouting with the choir master, and at home, and Mama and Papa fighting all the time about me but I still don’t really understand why and I don’t know why it’s so important I should sing. I mean, I like singing like all the other boys in the choir do, but we don’t have a piano because we’re poor and I don't get to go to all the teachers the other boys go, because we're poor.
So I don’t know why today he brought me to the little man, at first I thought we were going to the doctor because some time ago I got hurt really bad and there was a lot of bleeding but I don’t really remember because before I got hurt Papa gave me a glass of water and it tasted funny then I started sleeping and when I woke up there was all this blood and I was sitting in a basin with water and the water was red so I started crying and Papa told me it was alright.
Then I couldn't walk very well because I got hurt between my legs and Papa said I fell of a horse which is funny because we don’t have a horse but that’s alright, because I don’t really remember anything and maybe I was riding a horse at a funfair. I really like funfairs, they have all those animals and tents and inside the tents they put funny people, or scary people, and you have to give coins to get in. Papa never lets me get in those because he says they are too scary for me. Once there was this tent and on the panel there was a man dressed like a lady and I asked Papa what it was and he said it was man who talked and singed funny like a lady. So I wanted to go and see because my choir master also talks and sings funny like a lady so I thought maybe it was him but Papa didn't want me to.
“Come on, Ezzio.”
I looked at Papa. He was all red and his eyes weren't goggly anymore but they were shining in a funny way. He looked very sad. There was a stain on my Sunday breeches and I thought he had seen it so I pulled on my jacket to hide it. But it was a big stain and it was between my legs and it was getting bigger so I didn't know what to do and started crying again. It really hurt now and I just wanted to go home.
“Papa!” I screamed.
He started and looked really frightened when he saw the stain.
“It hurts!” I cried while he was running to me.
He took me into his arms and he looked at my breeches, then at the little man who suddenly had a face like Mama the day I got hurt.
“You didn't…!” the little man said.
“His choir master told us to…! So his high voice wouldn't break at puberty - he said he had the making of an excellent musico – he said it was his chance to get famous and rich...”
Papa was holding me very close to his chest and it hurt between my legs really bad so I put my arms around his neck and I just cried even more even though I was happy because I knew Papa wasn't angry at me anymore, and neither was the tiny man.
“My poor fellow” I heard the tiny man say (and this time he sounded really nice and sad too) “from what I've heard, this boy has never sung one right note in his life.”
“I don’t understand” Papa said, holding me even closer. “How could the choir master be that wrong…?”
“Why do you think he is a mere choir master after being taught by a teacher as excellent as mine? He has no musical ear. He doesn't understand anything about music. But he wanted to show me he could do a good job, and send me his protégé, and expect me to be grateful for finding him a little virtuoso. ”
I really wanted them to just stop talking because I wanted Papa to take me home and put me in my bed, I felt really tired and it really hurt between my legs and the stain was just huge now and I understood it was blood again and that scared me.
I couldn't see the man anymore and I couldn't see Papa’s face anymore or anything else anymore because I had just shut my eyes really tight and put my forehead against Papa’s chest and my ears were buzzing like that time we went to the forest and there were a lot of flies around our food and Mama got angry. But they kept talking.
“You have to make him sing” Papa was saying “I’ll pay you anything you want, I’ll find the money, but you have to make him sing, please, what will he do like this?”
“You should have thought of that before mutilating your son” the man’s voice said. “I only train the best, and only the best of the best get a career at all. He has no chance. Not one in a million.”
Then Papa started crying too and that scared me so much I just stopped crying and I wiped my eyes and I tried to make Papa stop crying.
“Papa, I can walk, Papa” I said so he would see it didn't hurt me any longer and maybe he wouldn't be sad anymore, even though it really hurt.
“Are you sure, Ezzio?”
He was speaking funny and his voice was all quaky like the choir master’s when he wants me to do the vibrato. I nodded really hard so he wouldn't be sad anymore so he took my arms off his shoulders and put me down on the floor.
It hurt so much when I tried to stand that I screamed really loud. Then the tiny man turned around, raised a tiny finger in the air and said:
“Mi sharp! Now, see? That was your very first right note. Good luck!”
Then he closed the door behind us.