"This is child abuse," my daughter Natalie screamed when my wife insisted that she finish her piano practice. As she repeated her allegations, each time a few decibels louder, I rushed over to close the window in order to prevent a charge on my house by any good Samaritans who might be standing outside wondering where the cries for help were coming from.
I thought of her choice of words- "child abuse" - and wondered, what if she's right? Relaxing on my recliner, I drift into a bit of a daydream.
Natalie's teacher observes her and decides to have her checked out by a pediatrician at the local children's hospital - nothing unusual except that the child spends the entire morning doodling treble clefs.
Unbeknownst to my wife and me, a special musical child-abuse team at the emergency department of Sick Kids Hospital studies Natalie carefully, looking for telltale signs such as toe tapping.
In response to increasing incidents of musical abuse, the team has been set up jointly by the Ministries of Health and Cultural Affairs. The handpicked team consists of a doctor, a social worker, and a musicologist.
"Look at her tender fingertips," says the doctor, "I'd say these tips are consistent with the child hitting piano keys three to four hours a day."
They decide to run some tests. The musicologist gets Natalie to say, "La-la-la," ten times, hoping he can pick up a trace of a Mozart sonata. To the untrained ear, the "la-la-la's" would be indistinguishable from regular "la-la-la's", but the musicologist Prof. Illich Zydelshtein, is the best in his field. The other day, the doctor asked him to check out some calluses on the feet of a six-year-old girl. It didn't take him five minutes to conclude beyond reasonable doubt that the kid had been forced to spend four hours a day in front of a mirror practicing Swan Lake.
It seems this month has been a heavy one for Tchaikovsky. Just last week, the professor diagnosed a seven-year-old boy as having suffered an overdose of the 1812 Overture. On a hunch, when police were sent to the child's house to question the parents; they recovered two French horns, a trumpet, and a cannon.
The team completes my daughter's examination and concludes that indeed there has been musical abuse. The social worker swings into action and summons the police special unit, "Nutcracker," to my house.
The cops descend on my home, let by ragged Lieutenant Luciano Poletti, a baritone. Without further ado, they arrest my wife and me, and as evidence they seize our metronome.
They also bring along for the raid Mendelssohn, a German shepherd specially trained to sniff out hidden musical instruments. The dog must be having an off day, as he walks right by our living-room piano.
The police briefly question and then also remove our two other children, including my teenage son, Daniel, who says he'll tell them everything they want to know. He leads them upstairs to his room where, under a set of barbells and a Monopoly game, they locate a clarinet. Lieutenant Poletti puts the clarinet into a plastic bag.
My wife and I are charged with musical abuse of our children. Pending trial, the kids are sent to a foster home where they're guaranteed a music-free environment, the foster parents playing only Rolling Stones tapes.
At our trial, the prosecution claims that parents have no right to impose musical training on children. Reams of classical lesson notebooks are introduced as evidence. The prosecution even introduces a toy rubber cello discovered by Mendelssohn.
My wife decides to exaggerate a bit and tells the court that it was all an accident. The testimony given by Prof. Zydelshtein in response, however, is powerful and damning. He says that my daughter's "la-la-la's" are no accident: "These are la-la-la's in C major. No accident. No way."
We ultimately get convicted and the prosecutor goes for our jugulars and vocal cords. He demands a sentence to the penitentiary. Our lawyer demands more money. We've already given her the money we'd set aside for the children's musical lessons.
We don't want to go to jail. Prison justice for this type of offence is swift. I recently read about a father doing time for musical abuse who was attacked by an inmate with a trombone that he'd carved out of soap."
"No! No!" I cry out. I snap out of my daydream. The house is peaceful except for an awful screeching sound apparently emanating from Daniel's clarinet. I run upstairs to his room, yank his clarinet away and said, " No way. This could be dangerous. Play Monopoly instead."
When I am not fantasizing about Chopin, I practice civil litigation (personal injury primarily) and family law. Please visit my webiste, www.striglaw.com .