• The next day, Brenton decided to practice his tuba, in those (ridiculously) early, before-school practice hours-he had only been playing the instrument, and though he could hold a relatively loud note for 30 seconds and had memorized the chromatic fingering pattern, he still didn't have much of a range of overtones. He worked down to low F, two octaves below bass cleff, and up to F in the middle of bass cleff.

    A few minutes before class started, he switched to bassoon, which was what he played in the highest level band (he was also an "Assistant Teacher" [the conductor insisted on that title instead of the school-appointed title of Teacher's Assistant because he felt the latter didn't give the helpers as much credit as they deserved-after all, though the school year was but near half over, Brenton had already had to conduct the band on at least 7 different days, give or take a few, for a total of at least 15 hours, found sheet music, helped the children with their instruments, etc.] for the 2nd period Beginning Band, and there he played tuba and tenor saxophone [alternating every day, when the conductor would let him play-he often couldn't, because the children would become dependent on him]). He warmed the instrument and sat upright in his chair, ready for class to begin.

    Band passed by as it usually did-more than half the class time being spent on the usual suspects-the trombones with their tuning (no pun intended), tubas with their volume and tone quality, clarinets with their tuning on throat tones, flutes on how to articulate their runs, oboes on intonation, trumpets on anything a trumpet player can be lectured on, and bassoons on-nothing, as usual.

    Today, Brenton decided he would play tuba, and remind the kids who was boss-they had been showing lower respect for him than usual.

    Core class was quite nice for him, as today was test day, which meant the teacher would play music. As usual, he had his special playlist ready on his iPod, with shuffle on, for the class, full of all the things the other children detested-and all of the things he almost loved, though he wouldn't use that word, because love is an emotion, and that particular thing has been established-Bach, Beethoven, Corelli, and, "god forbid", Dvorak He, of course, finished the test in about two minutes, leaving him 87 minutes to sit and read. Most of the children were stuck in class during lunch to finish the test, though they had been given almost the full 90 minutes to complete it.

    Science was also a test, though the science teacher did not have a speaker system in her room, and adhered more to the school rules, so Brenton was stuck with the constant ringing of his Tinnitus.

    At lunch, Brenton noticed the repercussions of yesterday's activities. Despite his Tinnitus, he had very sensitive hearing, and overheard many a snippet about him "Showing Mikey..." and other things of the like.

    He pretended not to hear them, and ate his lunch as usual, trying to drain out the profanity, perversion, "innocent" rabble, preaching, insults, stuck-up conversation, and-
    "Brenton." he heard a voice say. He knew who it was-1st chair oboe.

    "I'm listening, Kelly," he acknowledged, not looking up from his book, which he read as he ate.

    "Come with me. We need to talk," Kelly said.

    "About matters that cannot be discussed in front of these people?" he asked, curious. It was unusual for anyone to ask him a question they were afraid of asking in front of other people-in fact, most people asked him questions to attempt to insult him, and tried to do so in front of as many people as possible; so a private question might actually be something interesting.

    "Yes." Kelly said.

    Brenton closed his book, noting the page, and left his "luggage" (backpack, lunch, book) at the table-though they would bother him, the children at the table knew him enough not to steal anything from him, as it would result in a great deal of physical harm to themselves. Or worse, as they also trusted him as a "Secret Bank"-he had enough information about almost everyone at that table to make a small fortune off of, if he found someone interested in said information-and there were plenty of said people out there, and he knew who most of them were. Upsetting him could ruin their reputation.

    He followed Kelly to a far-off corner of the school's grass field, where she sat down. He followed suit, asking "So, what is this that is so important that you must ask me in private?"

    Kelly looked at him.
    "I think you're depressed," she stated, concern in her voice.

    "Depressed? Whatever for?" he asked-knowing the games would begin. Oh, how he enjoyed toying with the emotions of these children.

    "Maybe it's because the other kids pick on you. Maybe it's because your brother hates you. Maybe it's because your mother is a t... a ty... a-"
    "A tyrant?" Brenton finished her sentence for her, knowing she wouldn't remember the term.

    "Yeah, a tyrant. I don't know why, but I think you're depressed. Perhaps you think you're a drag on everyone else?"

    Brenton chuckled to himself.
    "Oh, I see, so it's my out-of-control caring for everyone around me that's making me depressed because I don't think I'm better, smarter, stronger, faster, talented, mature, and have better emotional control than all of you? Yes, that must be it," he said. He didn't need an undertone of sarcasm in his voice to make the statement's true meaning apparent-it had been made clear long ago that he didn't care for the feelings of the children at school unless it was logical to do so.

    "You know, maybe it is," Kelly said, adding more concern to her voice.
    She looked him in the eyes, something most children wouldn't dare do.
    "You know, you're an a*****e," she said, but not with harshness.

    "Up yours too."

    Again, no sarcasm was necessary-he wasn't one to say such things unless he meant something else.

    She recoiled from this for a moment, but then some determination in her drove her to continue the conversation, which was now seeming more and more hopeless.

    "You may be an a*****e, but that just makes people realize how bad the bad parts of their life are, including you."

    Brenton was tempted to cut her off with a comment like "Stacking on the compliments," but then thought that it would be funner to play along, so he remained silent.

    "And when people realize how horrible their lives could be, they cherish the good things more."

    They made eye contact again, and Brenton faked an expression of deep thought while Kelly waited for a response.

    "So, let me get this straight-you're saying that by being an insensitive a*****e, I'm spreading joy and happiness?" he looked down a shook his head.
    "There is no way to depress you people without completely emotionally crushing you, is there?" he asked.

    Kelly made eye contact again; Brenton could see that she was trying desperately to hold back tears, and couldn't resist a grin and slight feeling of accomplishment.

    "Insensitive bast-" she tried to slap him, but he caught her hand in midair, gripping her wrist with much more force than necessary.

    "I knew this was going to be boring when you bothered me with that empathetic voice of yours when I was eating, but you've just crossed the line." He gripped tighter, causing Kelly great pain.

    "Don't try to touch me," he said. "You're the only one who will be hurt in the end, assuming you don't tick me off too much."

    Just as she was about to scream in pain, he released his grip, got up, and walked away, leaving her to sob and nurse her wound.