The Kitten that Brought Us Together

I work part time at McDonald's, only on the weekends. I also have another part time job with the Music Center just behind the hill of McDonald's. I thought it would be a way for me to make a little extra cash during the week, especially now since school will be starting in just a few days. I work as the stage decorator. This means that when a band comes to perform, I get to come in and help them set everything up, and even give them tips because our stage isn't standard size, so things often need to be rearranged and what not.


I was thrilled when I found out that my all time favorite band was coming to the Music Center to do a show. And honestly, it really surprised me because we're such a small venue for someone as big as Hanson to come here. I figured that they would want to be in the city, rather than in some little suburb. Especially since the Music Center can only hold 1,500 people. The minute that I found out about Hanson, I called my boss to see if I had their concert.

"Noell, just the person I wanted to talk to," she told me as soon as she recognized my voice.

"Really? What about?" I asked, butterflies filling my stomach with each passing second.

"Well, I don't know if you heard or not, but we booked someone big for the weekend of the 15th," she continued.

"Wow! Who?"


That one word made up one entire sentence. That one name made my heart flutter with complete and utter joy.

"And I want you to be there all weekend to make sure that things run smoothly. I know that you're the most reliable stage director/decorator that we have, which is kind or ironic because you're the youngest. Ya know, some people have been working with me for over 10 years yet I can trust you more than I can trust them,"

"Thanks," I said, "the trust feels great."

She went on to tell me more details about Hansons show and when they were arriving and stuff like that. With the information that I found out, I could've told so many people to be here at a certain time, or be there at a certain time and they would "run into" Hanson, but I knew better than that. I could get fired for doing something like that, and with the way that my boss trusts me, I did not want to ruin it. Plus, I wanted to have Hanson all to myself.

The weekend they were scheduled to perform finally rolled around. I had already gotten the chance to talk to their stage director on the phone and we exchanged ideas. He was a little upset that I was so young, but he told me that he had worked with my boss in the past, and if she could trust me with something like this, then he would have to trust me, too. I must admit, talking to a 37-year-old stage director was great, but I had to think of how intimidating it must have been for him to be swapping ideas with a 17-year-old stage director.

I pulled into the staff parking lot of the Music Center and noticed that the truck carrying all of the equipment was already there waiting for me. I checked my watch to see if I was late. Nah, they were just early, which is something that rarely happens. Usually, stage trucks are late, not giving enough time to get things set up properly, which could get to be extremely annoying.

"Noell, right?" Hansons stage director, Gene, shook my hand.

"Yeah, pleased to meet you," I said honestly. "Let me get things unlocked and then your men can start unloading. I want to get started as soon as possible."

He nodded. As soon as the doors were open, several men began unpacking the truck, bringing things into the stage room. There was so much stuff I didn't know where all of it was going to go! Our stage was so small! It wasn't going to hold everything. I pulled Gene aside.

"There's a slight problem," I said. "Our stage isn't standard size. We're going to have to do some major cropping."

Once again, he nodded. "I trust you. It's all you. I'll just sit back and watch."

The confidence I once had sudden disappeared. How was I going to do all of this myself? I didn't let my composure change though because I didn't want him to think that I couldn't handle it. The moving men were waiting for directions from me.

Then I started. And they listened to me. It felt great to know that I had control over them. I stole a few glances at the director and he looked very impressed. I was even impressed with myself. My voice rang with such authority and it felt as though I were flying. It was such a rush. Time slipped by and we were completely finished within a matter of two short hours.

When we done, Gene applauded. I swumg my head around to see him beaming at me.

"That is the first time that I have seen those guys work so hard and efficiently. Maybe I should hire you to finish the rest of this tour with us," he told me, though I knew he was joking, but he had a hint of seriousness in his voice. I smiled. Oh, that would be more like a dream come true.

"Well, my work here is done. Sarah (my boss) should be here by 7:00," I told them, heading towards the door to leave. Since Sarah had worked with him before, she told me that I could leave once the work was done.

"Actually, could you stick around? The guys should be arriving any minute now to do a sound check. Do you know how to work the sound booth? Maybe you could help us out a little with that. I know that this place has an out dated booth and I don't remember how to work it."

"Sure, I could stay if you need me to," I offered, jumping at this chance to meet my favorite band.

"Great. And thanks again for your wonderful work."

Forty-five long minutes passed before Hanson showed up. I could tell that Gene was getting somewhat annoyed at their tardiness, but he smiled widely when they walked in the side enterence, accompanied by their father.

"You're late," Gene stated the obvious.

"Yeah, but whenever we get to the venues on time, you guys are still setting up the stage," Zac said.

Gene's face compromised. "True, very true, but the reason we're done on time today is because we have a little stage-director-prodigy on our hands."

I felt my entire body tense up as Isaac, Taylor, Zac, and Mr. Hanson all turned in my direction. My pulse quickened and my feet turned ice cold. I was a nervous wreck and I hoped that none of them picked that up. I forced a little smile and a wave.

"That's Noell. Sarah told me that she would be wonderful, and I must admit, she did a better job than I would have," Gene said. "She's also going to work the sound booth during the sound check, so let's get started."

Hanson climbed up onto the stage behind their instruments. Zac started playing a little beat on the drums and I noticed that I had been in so much awe that I had forgotten to even turn the sound on. I quickly flipped the switch and the beats of the drum became louder. I saw Gene turn around and smile at me.

Isaac went around and tested all of the guitars. For some reason, I set each guitar volume perfectly and no adjustments were needed there. I didn't know how I knew what setting to put them at, but they were perfect. Taylor pushed a few keys on the keyboards, then looked up at the sound booth. He gave a sign that meant to turn it up a little, then a little more, and on the third try, I hit it right on where it was supposed to be. He gave me the "A-OK" signal with his hand. I smiled.

Next was micropohones. Zac went first with his headset.

"This is great," he said, his voice booming into the empty audiotorium. Then he began singing "where's the love, it's not enough, it makes the world go 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round..." I noticed that their father shot him a look and he immediately stopped.

Taylor began playing This Time Around on the keyboards and he began singing it as well. His voice was so smooth, yet it wasn't loud enough. "It's getting colder in this ditch -- hey Noel, could you turn mine up a little bit?"

"Sure," I said into my microphone, "but my name's Noell."

"Oops, sorry. Hey, this is better. Thanks."

Then reality hit me. The very first thing that I said to Taylor Hanson was "but my name's Noell"! Omigod, what kind of moron am I?! I slapped my hand against my forehead, disgusted with myself.

Isaac's mike was too loud, so I had to adjust his. After about 20 minutes of making sure everything was perfect, we were done with the sound check. I emerged from the hot sound booth and walked down next to Gene.

Zac began fooling around just started playing the drums, making it impossible for Mr. Hanson and Gene to talk.

Taylor hopped off the stage and approached me. "Sorry about getting your name wrong. I feel really stupid about it," he said.

"It's alright. It happens all the time," I said truthfully.

Taylor winced at Zac's playing. He put his hand behind his ear, signaling that he hadn't heard me. "Let's go outside and talk," he shouted.

"I have a better idea," I shouted back, walking backstage and into a locked room. I shut the door behind us and the drum playing was muffled and now I could actually hear myself think. The room had an old dusty piano in it, along with stage props that are used when plays are performed.

"Now what did you say before?" he asked me.

"Oh, nothing really, just that a lot of people don't pronouce my name right. It's not that big of a deal," I said casually, as though it were nothing, even though when people do mispronouce my name wrong, it really makes me furious, but I'm willing to make an exception with Taylor Hanson.

We both heard it. Faint mewing.

"Did you hear that?" Taylor asked me. "It sounded like a kitten." We both heard it again and we stood up to try to find it.

"It sounded like it was coming from over there, behind the piano," I said, pointing to the dark corner. Taylor took my advice and craweled under the piano. A few seconds later, he came back carrying a tiny brown and black striped kitten. It didn't look any older than 6 weeks. Taylor looked so adroable holding the small creature. He handled it with such caution and care; it was so cute.

"I love cats," he told me, sitting back down on the floor beside me. Then he offered me the kitten. I accepted. Our hands touched as he passed the kitten to me. He was so warm.

The kitten mewed and clung to my shirt. I laughed and pulled him off of me, and then held him up to look into his face. Such a cute face.

I couldn't tell you how long we sat there and played with the kitten. Taylor named him Boots because his hind legs has little white feet.

"Ya know, my little cousin has kittens that are this small," I said.

"Really? I'd love to see them sometime," Taylor actually sounded sincere.

"Of course that means that you'd have to come to my house," I told him. He nodded, but it was one of those kind of nods that seem to say 'yeah, right'. "But I do have a picture of them on my digital camera. I could email it to you,"

"Are you in the picture?"

"Yeah, I'm holding both of them. Amber and George," I laughed at the names that my 11-year-old cousin gave them. Taylor laughed, too.

"Amber and George?"

"My cousin is eleven, so..." I trailed off. Taylor nodded, understanding the incomprehensive workings of an eleven year old.

"You'll have to email me that picture then," Taylor said, then gave me a special email address to send it to. It was so easy that I didn't have to write it down; I knew that I would remember it. Then my cell phone rang. I pulled it out from my back pocket and flipped it open.


"Where the heck are you?" my mother asked viciously.

"The Music Center. Why?"

"Did you happen to forget that you have a piano solo tonight at the church service?" she accused me of forgetting.

"I didn't forget, I just didn't remember," I said. She sighed.

"Noell, did you practice at all?"

"No, not really."

"Well, I know there's a piano in the back room of the Music Center. Practice now. Right now. I want to hear the music before you hang up on me," she demanded. I drug out an annoyed sigh and sat behind the piano. I pushed one key.

"There, now I can go. Let me practice. I'll be there on time, don't worry about it," I told her, then hung up. I looked over at Taylor. "It was my mom. She wants me to practice my song that I have to play at church tonight," I explained to him.

"Cool, I didn't know you could play the piano," he said.

"Here's a little secret. I'm not that great, but my mom thinks I'm the best, which is why I have to play tonight. She said that she brags to all of her friends about my playing, and now she wants to show me off. I just don't want to disappoint her."

"Well go on and practice. I won't interrupt," Taylor promised.

"I'll feel embarrassed."

"Why?" he asked. I only gave him a 'look'. "Okay, play."

I took a deep breath and started playing the song that my mother had selected for me. I wasn't actually playing during the service, it was at the very beginning, before the service started. Now that I thought about it, the song sort of sounded like a mixture between This Time Around and A Song To Sing. I felt kind of weird playing in front of Taylor, especially with the song sounding so much like one of his bands songs.

I got lost in the music. During the middle of the song is when it got really hard. With one hand I was playing something that sounded extremely similar to Joy To The World, and the other hand was playing the melody of the original song. I hit a few wrong keys, and winced when I did. Finally, I got to the ending, pushed the pedal on the bottom of the piano and the ehoe of the last note filled the room.

Taylor looked impressed. He clapped for me.

"Boots think that you did a really good job," he told me. I went over and patted Boots on the head.

"Thanks Boots."

"So do I," he said. I looked up at him, into his deep blue eyes. Looking into his eyes almost got me as lost as playing the piano. "Not only are you an awesome stage director and a great sound booth operator, you can play the piano beatifully," he complimented me.

"Thank you," I accepted his compliments. I could feel my cheeks turning red and that's when I realized that Zac's drumming had subsided. We left the old dusty room and walked out on stage.

"Tay, what song were you playing on the piano back there?" Zac asked. "Trying to impress someone??" I almost laughed at Taylor's expression.

"Actually, doof, it was Noell playing the piano," Taylor corrected Zac. Once again, all 4 of the men standing in the room looked mighty inpressed with me. "And look who we found in the room. Everyone, this is Boots."

Zac came up immediately and took Boots out of my arms. "Aww, he's so cute! Hey Dad, can we keep him?? Please???"

I looked at my watch and noticed that I had to get going so that I would make it to church on time.

"Well, it was very nice to meet all of you, but I have to get going. I told my mom that I would be home by now and I don't want to make her upset," I said, making my way to the door. It was one of the hardest things to do; to leave Hanson standing there and to voluntarily walk away.

Taylor followed my outside. "Boots wants to say good-bye," he told me. I reached over and pet him on his small head.

"Bye Boots. Make sure that they take good care of you," I said and then looked at Taylor.

"Don't worry, he's in good hands with us. We'll take care of him," he reassured me. "And don't forget to email me that picture."


That was the last time I saw Hanson, aside from the concert the next night, but I wasn't able to get to talk to them. They didn't stick around backstage after it was over because they had to get moving onto the next city. The next concert was the very next night and they needed to get there and set up. I couldn't imagine having a life like that.

I did send Taylor the picture of Amber, George and me. However, it was a long time before I got a reply from him. I imagine that he hardly has any time to get to check his email.

One day, just when I had given up on Taylor ever writing back to me, I was surprised to see a message in my inbox from Taylor Hanson. I smiled and when I saw that the size of the message was 29K, I knew that he sent me a picture.

How are you doing? Things with me are rather busy, so I'm sorry that it has taken me to long to write back to you. I want to thank you for being our stage director when we were at the Music Center. It was cool to make a new friend. Also, I saw you in the crowd for the show the next night. You should've come backstage, I was hoping that I'd get a chance to see you and talk to you. Boots is happy being the new Hanson tour bus pet. He really enjoys all of the attention. So far, none of the hotels we have stayed at have given us a problem with bringing him inside. I have to go for now, but write back soon and I'll try to check my email soon.
Later - Taylor"

And attached to his email was a picture of Boots.