The Trumpet of the Swan

From Orion Magazine:

Swan WHEN I WAS FIVE and my sister was two, my father started to lose his balance. He stumbled down the sidewalk, tripped up the stairs. Clumsiness became extreme. Newspapers were reporting that children who had radiation to reduce their tonsils were developing thyroid cancer as adults. He went in for a thyroid examination, only to have the doctor note his swaying and order a CT scan of his head instead. It showed a tumor on his brain stem. Surgery removed the growth but left him deaf in one ear, a better outcome than expected. Then my mother reminded him to go back for the thyroid test, and he ended up having an operation for thyroid cancer. By the time he healed from that, I was seven.

During his recovery, he read me The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White—the story of Louis, a trumpeter swan born mute, unable to make the honking cry that marks his species. As a fluffy gray cygnet in Canada, Louis doesn’t mind, but when he migrates to the Red Rock Lakes in Montana, he finds he is unable to woo a mate. In a dramatic scene of broken glass and a fainting salesgirl, his father steals a trumpet from a music store in Billings to give his son a voice. Anxious to pay off the debt, Louis gets a series of gigs playing trumpet at a camp in Ontario, leading the Swan Boat in the Boston Public Garden, and performing jazz in a Philadelphia night club.

More here.