Josh Phillips dabbed at the watery goop of his sundae, all hot fudge and vanilla ice cream. He felt like the cherry at its center—once on top of the world, now swimming in a mess of stuff that had once looked appealing.
“Maybe you could send them the YouTube links from your solos last year,” Carrie said. She had taken him out for ice cream, and they sat outside, salvaging those last bits of late summer. Josh met Carrie at a party in July. She came across as smart, sort of sophisticated. She got into schools all over but opted to stay local at Shermantown Community College because they offered her a full scholarship.
Josh sensed a like-soul. He got into a number of schools, just not Grand State. He was committed to staying local—liked his home, liked his family, and, of course, liked his girlfriend at the time, Amanda, who had already committed to SCC. Had he known she would dump him the night after graduation, he might have just gone away to some school with an a cappella group to begin with.
Carrie continued, her tongue coated bright pink from the strawberry frozen yogurt cone she had nearly finished by that point. “Because the videos will show you’re a great singer and you have stage presence. And that’s really important. I’m sure they’d want you on the roster.”
“I’m not a Grand State student,” Josh said. “You should have seen them--they almost laughed me out of the audition. Didn’t even let me get to my solo.”
“Well that’s their loss then. They’d be so much better off with you in the group.” She looked at him with this almost pained expression. She was a year older than him, but short as she was, face full of freckles, she looked a lot younger. Sitting there, she looked like a kid trying to figure out the solution to a grown-up problem. Well-intentioned but she wasn’t going to get anywhere.
“It’s all right.” Josh let the spoon drop. He felt completely disinterested in eating any more. “I’ll take the extra year to get adjusted to college, and work more so I can actually pay tuition if I get into Grand State.”
“When you get into Grand State.”
Josh couldn’t help smiling. As it little practical help as it offered, and as much as what Carrie said only parroted what he had said himself, with the tiniest positive spin, he still appreciated the encouragement. It was so different from his relationship with Amanda, in which he spent two years as the more positive of the two, and it seemed as though she consciously made the worst every situation.
“And when I get into Grand State, The Grand Standers will still be there, and hopefully they won’t remember this year’s fiasco. Or the way a cappella’s blowing up, maybe there will be more groups there by then.”
“Wait a second, Josh, that’s it.” Part of the piece of cone Carrie bit off tumbled from her lips. “You could start your own a cappella group—here at SCC.”
“You really think SCC kids would want to be a part of something like that?”
“Well, not all of them. But you can’t generalize. There are a lot of people like you and me who don’t just want to go to school and go home. They want a sense of community, like they’re a part of something. And like you said, a cappella’s blowing up. Now’s probably the best time to start this.”
In spite of himself, Josh could feel his pulse quicken, and feel his mind start to turn. It would be a lot of work. He would have to talk with someone at the school about starting up a student group, and get space for auditions and rehearsals. He would have to advertise for members and figure out the criteria for who got in. How selective could he really be?
Josh felt excited, and in the same instant, certain he couldn’t do it alone. The faculty director of his high school group was hands off, and Josh pretty much ran the musical end of things—digging out old arrangements, and writing a few of his own, leading rehearsals. But it had been the assistant director who managed so many logistical pieces. He would need someone like that if this idea were to get off the ground.
Josh hadn’t spoken to Amanda since she dumped him, but he knew she was in town, and knew from Facebook that her first day of classes at SCC had gone well. The question remained if Amanda, his old assistant director, would be up for working with him again.
Carrie reached into his sundae and picked the cherry out of the sludge. She popped it into her mouth. She was still chewing when she asked, “What do you think?”