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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

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Karaoke Kid

      Curls and karaoke, the combination for successful fundraisers!

“We’ll be away for a week, Blackie. Keep an eye on things.”

Your boss heads to North Carolina to negotiate a recording contract for his daughter? applauds Screen Three. I am impressed.

“Should be,” I tell Three. “Miss Abigail has a vocal range that spans nearly five full octaves.”

Five? exclaims Five, hearing his name out of context. She could be the next Pavarotti.

“Yes, except that Pavarotti is decidedly male. Very heavy. And deceased.”

Then he is heavy no more, states One.

Too bad nobody chases you for recording contracts, Black, says Two. You certainly have a nice voice.

“Thanks, Two, but you appear to be the only one in the world who believes that. And a ‘nice voice’ doesn’t cut it in the highly competitive music world, anyway. My friend’s daughter has the kind of power that rivals lion roars.”

Your words convey the idea of harshness, Chief, pipes in Four. Folks should know Abby sounds angelic.

Though she trained her voice through opera, adds Three, she has an extremely smooth, soothing style to her high notes. That young woman jumps all over the scale without ever batting an eye.

Back to you, though, interjects Two. We know you sang in plays … people still came again other nights.  

I laugh. “Perhaps they were well-armed with cotton balls to get through my portions of the program.”

Stop, Boss, commands Six. We will not let you kick yourself this way. Are you forgetting what happened the first time you tried karaoke?

“By comparison, the Hindenburg disaster was next-to-nothing.”

I stand in the old gymnasium of an elementary school. The flooring, bright white pine, hasn’t yet had its high shine of protective polyurethane dulled by the steady rhythm of students’ sneakers running in place.

On stage, some weary-looking fellow, apparently a refugee from a hippie colony, speaks too loudly into an inexpensive microphone.

“So let’s have a big hand – c’mon, really encourage them! – as this husband-and-wife team belt out a popular Dionne Warwick song.”

“Wow,” I say to everyone around me, “listen to that couple. They are good!”

People look up toward the singers, politely nod, and return their heads to positions that afford the best bargain shopping at the school’s fundraising rummage sale.

Daughter Leah, a wee third-grader, is otherwise occupied. I am alone.

Unsupervised, whispers Three. This is our time.

Strolling up to the DJ, I place my two dollars in the collection box. “What’ll it be?” he asks, feigning interest while fighting yawns. I tell him my chosen song.

“Come back in 10,” DJ advises. “Got three ahead of you.”

I step back. Two of three “acts” are, simply stated, terrible. The musical version of Spam.

hangmanBut the girl singing just before you, whistles Four. So cute and talented! I would not want to follow that one!

Gulping as my name is called – screens play images of “hangman” – I mount the stage and turn to the DJ. “Other way,” he says. “The words are on the screen behind you.”

Notes erupt from speakers. “All I hear is music.” I miss the first two full lines. “No voices. When does Johnny Rivers kick in?” I ask.

“Johnny’s busy,” snickers DJ. “It’s karaoke. You’re on your own.”

“Can’t pick out the melody,” I protest.

“Then you’ll sound like all the others,” he replies.

“Start again!” I plead. “Not a chance,” he fires back.

Black, commands Six, follow the dissolving words. Man up and bellow!

“With every move he” – too slow! words drop out faster than rookies in marathons – “chance he takes” – nothing leaves my lips in time! – “won’t live to see tomorrow.”

Suddenly, miraculously, wonderfully, Screen Three is in this with all he’s got. Secret aaaaa-gent man! Secret aaaaagent man!

Heads pop up. I blame my discordant notes.

Wrong, Black! encourages Two. Look what they’re doing!

Ferris BlackwellCouples “shopping” moments earlier set aside treasures to twist and shout, looking at Ferris Bueller Blackwell for approval. Slowly, inexorably, one person after another joins the Rivers rhythm, turning the gymnasium into one giant writhing creature, its many legs moving in unison like some high-stepping millipede. Voices laugh, bodies shake and stomping clearly echoes throughout the vast room.

The monochrome screen before me warns of a “musical interlude” –

That means you do not sing, advises One. For a moment, anyway.

– which silences my lungs, leaving my own body unsure of what next to do while all those joyful eyes await my direction.

Dance! urge the six screens. I launch my best-ever “Chubby Checkers.”

The song roars to its finale with me hitting the last word and note perfectly, possibly the only such combo occurring in the entire performance. People clap, hoot, holler. Mouths form “Encore!” over and over again.

I turn to the DJ, who is wide-eyed and slack-jawed. “Never saw that before,” he admits. “You did it. You pulled it off.”

“Thanks!” I exclaim and high-five his extended hand, one he’d stretched to grab another CD, not commend me. “Should I go again?”

He frowns. “Go again? You should probably just go.”

Leah walks into the gymnasium as I stroll the floor toward her, my back experiencing countless hearty slaps. “What was all the shouting, Daddy? Why is everybody cheering?”

“Dad, umm, sang a song,” I answer. “But let’s just – ”

Keep that a secret, laughs Two.

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* * * * *

Miss Abigail Paskvan hits a national favorite out of the park!