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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Jock and the Bookworm - 1. Beginnings

The kid was waiting alone on the bench in the school-bus-stop shelter, his backpack on one side and band instrument case on the other. He was reading a book. Cody recognized him as the boy who'd recently moved into one of the houses across the country road from his parents' dairy farm.

Originally intended as a forty-acre subdivision, the development had failed many years earlier when neither the urbanites fifty miles away nor the residents of the nearby town showed interest in moving there. Beyond four unkempt homes, now low-income housing, and the broken asphalt road leading to the deteriorating driveways, little evidence remained of the original dream.

Pulling out of the farm road onto the paved rural road in an aging pickup truck, Cody pulled to a stop in front of the kid and lowered the passenger side window.

"The bus already went by, buddy. Can I give you a ride? We're probably going to the same place."

The kid took a couple of seconds to respond, replaying his mom's injunction not to ride with strangers. Hell, he wasn't in grade school any more, and this wasn't the evil city he'd been living in.

"Thanks, I'll take you up on that."

The kid grabbed his pack and stuffed the book inside. Picking up the band instrument, he climbed into the front seat. After stashing his belongings between his legs, he closed the door.

"Thanks for the ride. I don't know how I missed the bus."

"It went by about fifteen minutes ago. You're apparently the only student for this stop this year. The driver should have a list, and usually he'd honk his horn and wait a minute or two, but it's the first day of school and he probably overlooked you."

"Thanks for the information, and thanks again for the ride."

Cody smiled at the kid. "Not a problem. This is my first time driving to school. I rode that bus for many years. This year I get to be independent. By the way, I'm Cody."

"I'm Matt. We just moved in a week ago."

"Nice to meet you, Matt. Are you an eighth grader?"

Matt bristled slightly. This was an ongoing misconception. Being one of those kids whose birthday fell in late August, barely meeting the first-grade deadline, he'd been the youngest in his class from day one. Being small for his age didn't help either, and the combination was a continuous irritation.

"No, I'm a freshman this year. I'll be fourteen next week."

Cody caught the defensiveness and hid the surprise that would have compounded the problem.

"August thirty-first?"

"No, August twenty-eighth. But still too close for comfort."

Cody laughed. "Me too. We share a birthday. But I made the cut too, and I'm a senior this year. The end is in sight."

"What will you do then?"

"Probably go to the community college and get an agriculture degree. I plan to stay on the farm."

They rode in silence for a few minutes before Cody asked a question.

"So, you play the clarinet?"

"No, it's an oboe."

"I've never heard of an oboe."

"It's similar in size to the clarinet, except the reed is different, and the sound is completely different. Do a search on YouTube if you'd like to hear the difference."

Cody smiled. "I'll do that. I'm not much of a musician, but now I'm curious."

Matt looked over at Cody. "Do you play an instrument?"

"I play the guitar, but just for fun. I'm not very good, but I like to play western songs, mostly for my own enjoyment."

Matt looked down at his oboe, almost lovingly. "Your own enjoyment comes first. Someday, I'd like to hear you play your guitar."

Cody grinned at Matt. "We'll do that sometime, but you'll probably be disappointed."

During the rest of the ride, Cody learned that Matt was an only child living with a single mother, and that in addition to his interest in music, he liked to read a wide variety of books. Matt learned that the dairy farm had been started by Cody's grandparents, and was now owned by his father. Cody hoped to be the third generation to operate it.

When they arrived at the school complex, Cody pulled into the student parking lot and turned to Matt.

"I'd give you a ride home too, but you'll have to find the bus because I have football practice."

Matt smiled shyly. "No problem. Thanks again for the ride."

"No problem, Matt. Would you like to ride in with me again tomorrow?"

Matt smiled, more broadly this time. "Sure. That would be super."

Cody returned the smile. "Great. I'll see you at the bus stop at seven thirty."


Thus began a year-long pattern, during which the senior jock and the freshman bookworm developed a strong and unusual friendship. They often talked at lunch and between classes, and student awareness of their friendship helped prevent another common problem for Matt - being picked on because of his size and introverted nature. In addition, Matt became acquainted with a cross-section of the student body and began to develop a few social skills.

Matt shared everything with his mom, so she was fully aware of the friendship. She spoke with Cody once or twice, and early on met his parents. She wasn't neglectful, but was definitely hands-off with parenting. With her waitress job, she had enough to do just keeping the roof over their heads and food on the table. Her own social life was sporadic, and carried out at the local night spots. Since it was not unusual for her to spend the night with her boyfriend of the moment, Matt had learned to be self-reliant at an early age.

Noting Matt's lack of transportation and the long and unusual hours his mother was absent, Cody often gave him rides to football games, providing another opportunity for socialization. When wrestling season began, Cody convinced him to turn out.

The coach was delighted to have a wrestler in the 113-pound class. Fortunately, he was still delighted when Matt found himself in the 120-pound class. Matt was growing vertically and putting on muscle. He was enjoying everything about the sport.

Sometimes, wrestling gave him wood, and he hadn't quite figured out why. He noticed it had the same effect on some of his team members, Cody and Skyler in particular, especially when they wrestled each other. Once in a while, Skyler rode home with Cody and Matt, and spent the night with Cody.

When spring came around, Matt wanted to take lifeguard training with Skyler, but he was too young. So he joined Cody on the track team. Cody concentrated on things like shot put, discus, and javelin. Matt did very well with the short-distance running events, well enough that he got as far as the regional meet.

Matt continued to mature. Now he was developing hair in places where the others already had it, and was pleased because it made him less conspicuous. And Cody gently cued him in on the need for deodorant.

The friendship was not without benefit to Cody too. The two would often discuss the books Cody was required to read for his English class - books that Matt invariably had read. Matt would then read Cody's book reports and make suggestions for improvements. In the final analysis, Matt helped Cody pass senior English and therefore graduate with his class, a fact that was not lost on the older boy.


Matt's participation in the school concert band continued in the background. There was the winter concert in December, a community tradition. This year, the band took on the challenging task of performing the full Nutcracker Suite. This was Matt's first performance with the band, and only his mother and the most serious musicians in the audience paid attention to his outstanding performance of the oboe solos.

The young band director, straight out of college and new to the school, took note though. After presenting the challenge to Matt, he added Robert Smith's In a Gentle Rain to the spring program.

The concert was held on a perfect April Saturday evening. This time, in addition to Matt's mom, Cody and his parents showed up to support him.

The first half of the concert consisted of the traditional march music along with band renditions of show tunes. As she stood for the intermission, Matt's mom blew him a kiss and gave him a thumbs-up. He smiled at her and returned the thumbs-up.

As the intermission ended, as if on cue, the sound of raindrops could be heard pattering against the high windows of the gymnasium. The band director smiled and turned to the audience.

"I put in a special order for the accompaniment. It arrived exactly on time."

The audience laughed in appreciation. The band director turned to the musicians and raised his baton. As the music began and the piano intro transitioned to the melancholy instrumental solo, the audience grew completely still, amazed at what they were hearing. The young kid with the oboe drew emotion from his double-reed instrument like nothing ever heard in that room.

As the short four-minute piece came to an end, one could have heard the proverbial pin drop. The band director paused briefly before acknowledging Matt with his extended arm. As Matt got to his feet, the stunned silence ended in applause, and then a standing ovation. Matt shyly tipped his head in acknowledgement, and sat down. As the applause continued, he stood again, as the director gestured to include the pianist and the rest of the band.

In keeping with the spring theme, the concert continued with Copland's Appalachian Spring, a challenge for other young soloists and the whole band, and then ended with another traditional march. As the local paper stated the next week, the high school concert band had never produced a performance like that one, and the editor hoped for several more years of the same as both the director and musicians matured.

The band exited backstage, returning the music and instruments to the band room. Matt quietly slipped out the back door and into the car where his mother waited.

"Great job, Matt!"

Matt smiled at her. "Thanks, Mom. And thanks for making me start this in middle school and for pushing me to practice." He smiled. "I think you won't have to push so much in the future."

She leaned over and gave him a kiss. "It's all been worth it, and will continue to be. You should also send your grandfather an email thanking him again for the instrument. If he hadn't played it and given it to you, there would have been no opportunity in the first place." She laughed. "I know you won't tell him how good you are, so I'll take care of that part."

Cody had something to say on Monday morning.

"Holy shit, Matt! You are a fucking stud with that oboe. I've never heard anything like it. I swear there wasn't a dry eye in the audience."

Matt grinned. "Thanks. Tell that to my mom in exactly those words. She'll love it."

Cody laughed. "I'll do that, but I'll omit the f-word. But you gave me an idea. I'm going to work up something for guitar and oboe. What do you think?"

Matt's eyes lit up. "I think it's a great idea. What do you have in mind?"

Cody smiled slyly. "Let me surprise you."

Copyright © 2023 Backwoods Boy; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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