Read an Excerpt from Debra Marquart’s Prizewinning Essay, “When the Band Broke Up”

Forthcoming in AJ XX

When the band broke up, I turned worn circles in the shag carpet of my basement efficiency apartment on Fargo’s north side until the electricity went out, then I bought a newspaper and circled job ads that matched my marketable skills. 

“Receptionist,” I circled. Quick learner. Can answer phones; fast and accurate typist. What else could I put on the application? Sleeps well in moving vehicles; looks good in spandex and leather.

And to think that in high school, I was voted “Most Talented” and “Most Likely to Succeed.” When our choir director, Mr. Mosbrucker, discovered I could sing notes above C6, he gave me the coloratura soprano solos and sent me off to state competitions.

No one other than Mr. Mosbrucker and the judges at state seemed impressed by the clarity of my whistle register or my three and a half octaves. I still had to do the dishes. I still cheered my voice to hoarseness at basketball games and got colds without worry and yelled for the cows to come home from the pasture.

Those rare notes rode around inside my body like cloistered jewels. Some people can make their eyes move independently of one another, some people can bend their thumbs all the way back to their forearms. I can sing fast arpeggios in the highest tessitura of pitches written for the human voice.

No one ever said, “Be careful, dear, you must guard your vocal cords.”

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