My name is Phil Harmonica. I come from a family of talented musicians that travel far and wide. They play for the amazing, spectacular, one and only acts to ever hit the big top!
Their job is important. My Mom and Dad sit off to the side and watch each performer carefully, but watch the conductor too. His back is turned to the acts so he cannot see what happens when someone tumbles or stumbles or a horse doesn’t trot quite right. The orchestra has to make up some music on the spot to make it seem like they are on cue.
When I was just a baby, I sat in my tub, beside Mom, who played the flute. I listened to quietly and often fell asleep. She played like an angel. Then suddenly the tuba would toot-toot his bass and wake me from my dreams.
As I grew older, i stayed in the back to help performers get prepare for their debut. I’d ruffle feathers, tighten strings, zip zippers and hold the hand of a mischievous monkey. Whenever it was quiet I would pull out the gift my dad gave me – a harmonica.
At first people around me would ask me to put it away. That was fine. Whenever the caravan started moving I would ask to ride with the animals. I would practice and play for hours. They didn’t seem to mind. Well, except for the dogs, they would cover their ears.
Time marched by and we travelled across the land working, playing, packing up and moving on. When I turned eight, the ring master asked if I could play a song for the clown act. “Me?” was all I could say. He said that he had listened to me and I was one of the best harmonica players he had ever heard. He mentioned that I would have some back-up musicians to help me along.
I was dancing with excitement as I ran to tell mom and dad. They smiles oh so gently like they were hiding something. “What? What?” I asked, knowing that they knew a secret. “We will see what tomorrow brings, son.” my dad said to me. “Off to bed, but you need to be at practice for seven o’clock!”
Sleep – how could I sleep? I must have eventually because I remember dreaming. Dreaming of being the conductor, standing in my fancy suit. Bowing to the audience as the fun was about to begin. The tent was filled to capacity. Children and their parents dressed up so prettily and dashing. All eyes were upon me as I turned to meet the orchestra. I raised my hands in anticipation of the ring Masters’ mighty call. “Ladies and gentlemen…”. My hands drop and the drummer begins his soft roll, growing increasingly louder as the Ring Master continues his repertoire. I raise my hands once more, to cue the next instruments to ready and …
“Phil – Phil Harmonica! Wake up, it’s time!”
I stretched and smiled. What a perfect dream. I told mom and dad about it as we ate our meal. They smiled gently.
I took my harmonica out of its special case, wondering what song I would be playing. I could play every one of the performers special songs, but the clowns were always different. Ring Master met me outside the tent. He asked me to watch the act for a bit and see what music played in my head. So I sat on the bench watching them tumble and fall. I didn’t notice that I started to play. “Again!” shouted Ring Master to the clowns in the ring. “He almost has it!”
They repeated the gestures and made me laugh. Suddenly, the spotlight was on me. “We’re just keeping you on track Phil. Don’t worry, don’t be shy. Keep playing!” I heard mom in the background saying that I would be fine. I picked up that tune – the one playing in my head, and played with all my heart!
Soon I heard the other instruments come in on cue. I turned my head to see whoo was there. I played with a smile, my heart was filled with pride. Mom was on the flute, Dad on the trombone and my best other uncles were in on it too! I felt giddy as the clowns fumbled along. Watching every movement they made turned into our song. Once the clock passed two hours, we stopped and took a break. Mom and Dad were beaming. Their son, little Phil Harmonica, was a performer.
No matter where life took me, I always remember that day. Though Mom and Dad are gone, I know they watch over me every time I take the stage. As I bow to the audience, my wand in hand, I remember the miles, the smiles and people who raised me in this company – the amazing, spectacular, one and only acts to ever hit the big top!
And the Ring Master begins.
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