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Hissi, Come Blow Your Horn!: Part One


by bitsy_dj

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Histopher always knew his son was special. From the moment he was born and first slithered out of his leathery shell there was something special about his only son, Satch. Like most Hissies, Satch was scaly with a pair of leathery wings and two sharp fangs, but his eyes held a certain excitement in anything he saw. Whenever he was happy, the tip of Satch's tail would wag side-to-side, slapping the ground in a rhythmic beat.

      One day, Histopher decided to take Satch to see Jazzmosis in concert. While they sat in the audience, listening to the jazzy notes filling the air, Histopher saw that his son was not just listening to the music, he was hypnotized. Every note that passed through the air put the small red Hissi into a trance, his tail slapping in rhythm. His eyes grew wider as Horris Hornblower the Elephante blew strong, powerful notes from his trunk. It was a day Satch never forgot.

      Ever since that concert, Satch would slither around his swamp home just outside the Haunted Woods pretending he was playing a trumpet. He would use his wings to press the imaginary valves and make trumpet sounds with his lips. Whenever he heard a song, Satch would pick up his "trumpet" and start playing along. This was more than a hint to Histopher that his son wanted to be a musician. One day he and Satch took a trip to the music shop in Neopia Central to find an instrument.

      "Ahh, good day, Gentlemen," greeted Maestro, the Kyrii who ran the store. "Can I help you find something?"

      "Yes, you can," said Histopher as Satch slithered excitedly around the store, observing all the instruments. "My son, Satch, here has developed a taste for music. I was wondering if you had anything like a..."

      "HORN!"

      Maestro and Histopher looked to see Satch with his face pressed up against the glass case containing the item of his dreams: a shiny, silver trumpet. The tiny Hissi's tail beat the floor happily as he looked at his dad with shining eyes. Although Satch was too young to pronounce big words, he knew exactly what he wanted. "Horn, Daddy! Horn!"

      Histopher stroked his chin with his green wing as he observed the instrument. "Hmm... 500 Neopoints. That's awfully expensive, Satch."

      Satch's face immediately dropped. "No horn?"

      "If I may make a suggestion," said Maestro. "I can slide the price as low as 350, plus I'll give lessons for, say, ten Neopoints a week?"

      Histopher looked down at Satch's sparkling yellow eyes that pleaded with him to take the offer. The green Hissi smiled down at his son and patted him on the head. "Very well, Satch. You can have the horn."

      Satch bounced up and down zealously as the deal was made and Maestro carefully took the trumpet out of the case. "Now be careful with it," warned the Kyrii. "The trumpet is a delicate instrument and needs lots of..."

      BLAAAAAAAAAAAT!!!

      Histopher and Maestro winced as Satch played his first "note" upon the silver trumpet. Satch didn't care how off key he was; it was the most beautiful sound in the world.

      "How soon can those lessons start?" shouted Histopher over the trumpet's blaring.

      "Today would be fine!" Maestro shouted back.

     * * *

      Although the first few weeks were tedious on Histopher's hearing (not to mention the other swamp residents), it was obvious that Satch took his trumpet seriously. Every morning after breakfast he would find a quiet area in the swamp where he could practice his scales, warm-up exercises, and any other assignments Maestro gave him. It wasn't long before Satch was finally playing songs. At first they were easy songs containing the same three or four notes, but Satch wouldn't rest until each exercise was done perfectly.

      Satch took that trumpet everywhere with him; through the swamp, to Neoschool, and he'd even fall asleep with it curled under his wings. He also did as Maestro instructed and took very good care of the instrument. He would polish and buff it every night before going to bed and, once a week, soak it in soapy water, cleaning out every nook and cranny. The horn was more than just an instrument to the young Hissi; it was his best friend.

      As the years went by, Satch grew to be a handsome young Hissi and had excelled in trumpet playing. He would improvise jazzy tunes that he would play all over the swamp. The other Neopets who lived there loved hearing Satch play his horn. Some days he would play soft and mellow songs that brought a tear to your eye; other days he would be blaring loud, rambunctious songs that would set any toe tapping. He had learned so quickly as a youth and was practically an expert, but he still attended the weekly lessons at the music shop.

      Histopher was so proud! He had heard stories of how young Neopets would beg their parents to buy them instruments only to have them give up when they complained how difficult it was to play. Not Satch, though. He promised his father and himself that he would master the trumpet and he had done phenomenally.

      One night, when Satch and Histopher were settling down in their Neohome for supper, there was a knock at their door. "Satch, could you go see who that is?" asked Histopher as he started to dish out helpings of roast Tentacle.

      "Yes, Dad." When Satch answered the door, he was surprised to see his music teacher standing on the porch in a raincoat and galoshes. "Maestro! What are you doing out here?"

      "Satch, my boy!" the Kyrii cried happily as he stepped over the threshold. "Just the Hissi I wanted to see! I have some wonderful news that I just had to tell you tonight!"

      "Sounds important," said Histopher, emerging from the dining room. "Would you like to join us for dinner, Maestro? We're having roast Tentacle and Octornapie for dessert."

      Maestro coughed nervously. "Er, no thank you. I just wanted to stop by and tell Satch of the audition this Saturday."

      Satch and Histopher looked at each other curiously. "What audition?" asked Satch.

      Maestro beamed. "Well, a while back I sent a letter and one of Satch's practice tapes to Neotunes studios. They've produced artists like Twisted Roses and Jazzmosis, you know. I just got a call from them today and they're sending one of their agents to audition Satch! If all goes well, then we may be looking at Neopia's next big music star!"

     Satch's eyes twinkled and his tail wagged happily. "Dad, can I do it?" he asked as if he were an infant again. "This could be my big chance! If I make the audition, I could become a big-time trumpet player!"

      Histopher considered this deeply. He was happy to see that his son had a chance of becoming a professional musician after all these years of practicing, but auditions were known to be very critical and there was always a chance he wouldn't make it. This was a common fear among parents: seeing their child lose something they worked so hard to achieve. "I... I don't know, Son," said Histopher uneasily. "You're only seventeen."

      "Seventeen-and-a-half," corrected Satch.

      "Still, you're awfully young. Now, I'm not doubting your talents. You have more skill at the trumpet than anyone I've ever seen. But what if the audition doesn't go well? I don't want you to get devastated and give up on the trumpet."

      Satch almost laughed, amazed that his father would even think of such a thing. "Give up the trumpet? No way! I don't care if I fail a hundred auditions. I love the trumpet way too much to stop playing! But Dad, think about it. When am I ever going to get another chance like this? Please Dad, just let me try out! I've been waiting my whole life for this!"

      Histopher thought about what his son said and knew he meant every word. His boy had grown up and was ready to put his skills to the test. "Very well, Satch. What kind of a father am I to stand in the way of his son's dreams?"

      Satch let out a loud whoop as he hugged his father tightly. Maestro was equally pleased to hear the news as he shook Histopher's wing. "I guarantee you it'll be a cake walk! The auditions start at 10 A.M. this Saturday at the music shop, so make sure you get plenty of rest and practice. Satch, my boy, this will be a day you won't regret!"

     * * *

      Satch slithered back and forth in the hallway outside the practice room. On the other side of that door Maestro was talking to the Neotunes agent about the audition. He held his horn in his sweaty wings as he practiced his fingering over and over, trying to memorize the piece he had prepared.

      "Nervous?"

      Satch turned to see his father standing behind him with his wings folded behind his back, as if he were hiding something.

      Satch nodded. "A little, but I practiced too hard to back out now."

      "That's the spirit! Here, I've got something for you."

      Histopher pulled a circle-shaped box topped with a green bow from behind his back. Satch opened his present to find a grey silk fedora. Satch was speechless. He delicately took the hat out of the box and studied it. It looked just like the one Horris Hornblower wore.

      "That's an authentic Jazzmosis fedora! I bought that for you at the concert I took you to when you were little," said Histopher. "They only had one size, but I kept it for you until you were old enough to wear it. When I took you to that concert, Satch, I knew you'd be a jazz fan for life."

      Satch tried it on and, sure enough, it fit like a glove. He looked at his reflection in a cymbal of a nearby drum set. Although slightly distorted, the Hissi looking back at him looked just like a member of Jazzmosis.

      "Now, Son, I want you to remember," said Histopher, placing his wings upon Satch's shoulders. "Do your very best and if you get nervous, just imagine yourself back at the swamp, playing for nobody but yourself."

      "I won't let you down, Dad," said Satch.

      Histopher grinned broadly. "Satch, you could never do that."

      Maestro opened the door, ushering Satch inside. "We're ready for you now, Satch."

      Satch looked at his father one last time before going inside. Don't be nervous, Satch thought. You can do this. Just be in the swamp...

      Waiting inside the practice room was a white Aisha wearing a red business dress with her blonde hair pinned up in a tight bun. She studied Satch through oval-shaped glasses. She was attractive, but there was a cold demeanor about her.

      "Satch," said Maestro. "This is Miss Malba of Neotunes studios. If she likes your audition, she'll be in charge of your contract and such."

      Satch removed his fedora and held out a wing to the Aisha. "Nice to meet you, Miss Malba."

      Miss Malba's blue eyes went to Satch's wing, then at his face, her expression not changing. "Hm... you're certainly not what I expected, Mr. Satch. Well, go on. Let's see what you've got."

      Satch went to the center of the room and studied his audience. Maestro gave him a confident smile while Miss Malba remained the same. "Start whenever you're ready," said Maestro.

      Satch gave his lips a quick lick and took a deep breath. The sensation going through his body was like the anticipation one feels when they're on a roller coaster. Climbing up the large hill, feeling your pulse quicken and your muscles tighten as you reach the precipice. Then, once the coaster starts to drop, all the tension's gone and you feel a sense of joy and excitement that has no equal. This is exactly what Satch felt when he put the mouthpiece to his lips and blew that first glorious note. Everything else came as naturally as breathing. The room, Miss Malba, and Maestro vanished and all that was left was Satch and his horn. There wasn't a note too high or too low that Satch couldn't hit as he played his best.

      "Mr. Satch? Mr. Satch!"

      Miss Malba's stern voice awoke Satch from his daydream. He looked to find that her face still held the stony glare she had when he first entered the room. "Y-yes, Miss Malba? How was I?"

      Miss Malba sighed as she picked up her purse. "I think I've seen enough for today, thank you."

      Maestro stood up, twiddling his fingers. "So, how did Satch do? Any chance of a record deal?"

      Miss Malba rolled her eyes. "I seriously doubt that'll ever happen, unless Mr. Satch is willing to make a few... changes."

      "Changes?" asked Satch. "What do you mean? Should I play something else? I can play other styles besides jazz. I know this classical piece called 'The Lonely Weewoo' that's really..."

      Miss Malba held up her paw. "That isn't what I meant. Look, kid. I'm not saying you don't sound like a musician, but that's only half of what you need to make it in the music world."

      "What's the other half?"

      "One word: image."

      Satch was confused. "You... don't like my hat?"

      "It's not the hat," said Miss Malba, sighing heavily. "How do I explain this? Satch, tell me. Which would you rather look at? A beautiful air faerie princess or a drooling, disgusting mutant Gnorbu?"

      Satch flicked his tail in thought. "Uh... depends. What are they doing?"

      "Obviously, the correct answer is the faerie!" said Miss Malba, ignoring Satch's statement. "In today's music world, you have to be both pleasing to the ears and eyes. Face it. Hissies have just never been that popular among Neopets. At least, not as musicians."

      It was like she tore out his heart, threw it in a blender, and hit frappe. "But... but I like being a Hissi."

      "And I'm sure it's an intriguing lifestyle," stated Miss Malba, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "But unless you get zapped by the lab ray or buy a morphing potion, I'm afraid you'll be stuck in the smaller venues. Good day, Mr. Satch. Maestro."

      As Miss Malba headed for the exit, Maestro followed her, pleading with her to reconsider. But all the praises he said about Satch and his trumpet playing fell on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Histopher slowly entered the room to find his son, slouched in a chair and fighting back the tears.

      "Dad..." he said softly. "She said... she didn't think I was..."

      Histopher placed a wing on his son's shoulders. "I know, son. I heard. Come on, let's go home."

     * * *

      Miss Malba's words haunted Satch all week. Hissies not being good enough for the music world. What was that supposed to mean? That only cute and cool looking Neopets could be famous? He thought about all the other bands in Neopia: Twisted Roses, 2 Gallon Hatz, Gruundo, even Jazzmosis. They all had popular, impressive Neopets. Not creepy ones like himself.

      Satch sighed heavily as he silently clicked the valves on his trumpet. Ever since the audition, the only sounds that came from the horn were slow and mournful. He looked over at the waters and vegetation of his swamp home. The murky stenches that filled the air, the rotting driftwood floating in the water. Nothing beautiful lived here.

      "Still upset?"

      Satch looked up to see his father slither to join him on the porch. He nodded and went back to his fingerings.

      "Then why don't you play something?" asked Histopher. "Something upbeat! That always puts you in a good mood."

      "Because I don't feel like playing." Satch put the horn and fedora in his father's lap, then slithered back inside and headed for his room. As he plopped down on the bed, he looked at all the trophies, ribbons, and photographs that decorated his shelves. So many accomplishments for his talent. There were various photos of Satch playing his trumpet, posing with his trumpet. One photograph showed him beaming with pride when he was awarded first chair at the Neoschool orchestra. There were awards from talent shows, local music competitions, county fairs. He used to look at the shelves with pride, boosting his confidence. But now they were just things. Even his autographed Jazzmosis poster over his headboard failed to cheer him up.

      A knock came on his door. "Satch? Can I come in?" called his father.

      Satch sighed. He didn't feel like a pep talk, but knew his father wouldn't give up. "The door's open," he said.

      Histopher slithered inside and sat on the bed next to his son, still carrying the fedora and trumpet. "Satch... I know the audition upset you, but you shouldn't let one person's opinion stop you from playing. What about all that talk of never giving up the trumpet, even if you failed a hundred times?"

      "That was different!" grumbled Satch. "I thought that if I failed the audition, it would be because I hit a sour note or something. That, I could handle. I played great in there, but Miss Malba didn't care. All she saw was an ugly Hissi."

      "Ok, first of all, you're not ugly," said Histopher. "Second, she was wrong when she said that Hissies couldn't be musicians. But that's just one person's opinion! I bet there are others out there who would love to hear you play."

      Satch was silent as he slid off his bed and went to the window, gazing once again at the swamp that was his home. "You know, Dad. I love this place. The water, the trees, the mud pools. This swamp will always be my home, but when I went to that audition, I was hoping that if I got a record deal, then I could go to all kinds of places. Tyrannia, Meridell, Mystery Island. Then everyone could hear me play and get that same feeling I get when I listen to Jazzmosis. All I wanted to do was share my gift. But if people don't think Hissies are much to look at, then what chance do I have?"

      Histopher took a long look at his son. He had grown up so much the past few years. He had graduated from Neoschool with high grades and was going to be eighteen in a couple of months. Histopher decided it was finally time. He got off the bed and went to his son's closet. He pulled out Satch's suitcase and placed it on the bed.

      Satch looked at his father curiously. "Um... Dad? What are you doing?"

      "Packing," said Histopher, choosing a few neckties from the dresser.

      "Where are we going?"

      "Well, I'm staying here. You're the one who's leaving."

      Shock covered Satch's face. "You're kicking me out? What'd I do?"

      Histopher chuckled and turned to face his son. "No, of course not! You know you're always welcome here, Satch, but you made a very good point. You're not going to find your dream stuck here in this swamp. I think you're finally old enough to venture out on your own and find someone who appreciates your music. Besides me, that is."

      Satch felt his jaw drop. "But... but Miss Malba said..." he started, but Histopher held up his wing, silencing him.

      "That fancy Slorg can say whatever she wants. If the 'music world' really does feel that way about Hissies, then it's time you prove them wrong! Ever since you first got that horn, Satch, it's like it became a part of you. A part of your soul. You should never let what your are stand in the way of what you can be. Hissi or not, you'll always be a musician at heart."

      Tears of joy welled up in Satch's eyes as he digested his father's words. Histopher had always given him encouragement, but this time was different. He trusted Satch to make the right decisions and believed he could achieve his dream. Satch hugged his father tightly.

      "I won't give up, Dad," he whispered. "I promise."

      "Just never be ashamed of what you are, Satch," said Histopher. "I know you can do it."

To be continued...

 
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