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Excerpt from Chapter One
My name is Ben. I’m 83 years young. Okay, I’m 83 years old. Get over it. Age is merely a number, a fading reflection of our life journey. Like all old people, I have a story to tell you. You see, I’m old enough to understand that such stories blossom from the seeds of reality. And truth. How could it be otherwise? Yet I find myself at a time in my life when I don’t think I know the difference any more. To be fair, most of what I’m about to tell you is, in fact, absolute truth. At least, in my mind it is. What’s left is probably a distorted recollection of memories quickly fading into oblivion. Maybe that’s why I’m telling you this story. Before I forget any of it. Or all of it. At The End, does it really matter? I mean, if I’m telling my story exactly as I remember it, isn’t that enough? I guess you’ll have to decide for yourself.
I’ve been the music teacher at this high school for 62 years, since it opened its doors in 1907. These days, most people see an old and decrepit building, ready for the wrecking ball. Maybe they see me the same way! Funny, but I still see this place as it looked the day it welcomed its first students. And its first and only music teacher. Me. Ben Alexander. No doubt my corridors are peeling, in need of plaster and paint. And some of my plumbing doesn’t work like it used to. Or like I wish it still would. My windows are clouded, too, blurring vision from either side. But we still have a purpose in life, this old and decrepit red brick building and I. Maybe you haven’t yet learned that you should never judge a book by its cover? I know, I’m starting to ramble. Get over it. That’s what old people do.
All around me I see change. Frightening change. For oldsters like me, change is difficult. I see a populace waking up to the realities and ravages of war, inspired by young people like you. I hear about riots at college campuses across the country. Television airs coverage of helmeted, angry police attempting to restore order by clubbing fleeing college students in the streets. In their classrooms. Even in their dorms. I feel the fear and frustration gripping our souls. And I know it’s time for me to hand my baton to a new and younger teacher. But the very thought of leaving this place, my home for 62 years, saddens me deeply. And I’m not just talking about the building. Frankly, I’m tortured by the thought of retiring. What a dirty word! But the time to face my reality has arrived. As I write this story, I’m also composing my letter of resignation. Perhaps 21 years too late for some, but just the right time for me, thank you! And, I’m about to begin the search for my replacement. A task I undertake none too lightly.