(Here is an un-retouched portrait of the editor-in-chief in younger days: Father-figure, anyone? I know…pathetique.)
Good morning, and happy Fathering Day from the Towers that are A Word with You Press!
Time to post our semi-finalists. If you just dropped in, we are in the belated semi-final stage of our contest: Once Upon a Time. Five entries have been selected based on the prologue that they wrote as their original gambit. The prologue was to be the catalyst to get each of us off Facebook and actually writing the novel that we have spoken about while sitting on the sofa at those quiet dinner parties when some stranger from one of our favorite genders inquires, “and what do you do?”
Those who have made it this far must now submit chapter one, and from the semi-finalist, three finalists will be selected, who will submit chapter two.
We (moi, actually) are behind schedule in all this. I will post two stories a day until we have not only our five contestants posted, but also those of you who care to post your first chapters outside the competition in order to get the feedback, or because you are a true writer and just HAVE to tell your story. So deadlines for the phases originally announced are a bit soft. I want every entrant to have a little hang time before they are displaced by another contestant. We do appreciate well-hung stories.
And here be the first! Chapter one of
The Piano Teacher
by Laura Girardeau
Her name is Beverly. She has hands as soft as cookie dough and golden hair from another time. A time before, when love mattered and gardens bloomed. She has a garden behind her house that births broccoli and bougainvillea with equal ease. When you come into her home through a door that’s always open, she gives you something from the garden, freshly birthed.
I haven’t been alive till now. Every Thursday, my mother and I make the pilgrimage to her house as if going to church. Only Beverly doesn’t care if I wear jeans like my mother and God do. As we drive down the country road to her house, I’m sitting in the back seat pretending to do my theory homework, but instead I’m looking. Looking at the thistles like cathedral spires that line the road and speak of the beauty to come. Instead I’m breathing in the wild weeds. Queen Anne’s Lace, a flower from another time. This flower smells of freedom.
I never do my theory homework. Beverly says my gift is feeling, not theory. My fingers draw difficult patterns across the keys that have never before been tried. It would be easier to do it the way everyone else does, but she says I have the Gift of Feeling. Like Bach and Beethoven, who wrote their stories with notes instead of words, flowers instead of theory.
Maybe they felt like I do when a boy at school who smells of wild weeds holds my hand—Fantasia in C Minor. Or when my father yells at me—a never-ending Pathetique in D. But how could Bach and Beethoven understand, if they’re boys?
“Why weren’t there any lady composers back then?” I ask Beverly, and she looks sad, but always takes the time to answer, even if it’s just to say there are no answers. Whenever I say something, she looks right at me and listens, until I wonder if this really is the world, in the wild weed countryside, and all that on the other side of the thistle spires—sisters, school, pain—isn’t.
Sometimes I go into the room with her for my 45 minutes, the metronome beating like a heart, and we just talk. My mother is outside on the couch and must know I’m not playing, but she just waits. This is my time, the one time she can’t barge in. Because I’m with Beverly, who’s holding my hand to help me reach an octave, but all I can feel is her soft, warm touch and not the keys.
Now my tears are dripping on the keys as I tell her about the boy who smells like wild weeds, and feel the touch on my hands I’ve been missing from my mother. I tell her how it feels to be a Fantasia in C and a Pathetique in D all at once.
And she doesn’t care that I didn’t do my theory today or that I freeze at recitals. To her, my talents are just being myself, playing songs in the key of flowers and asking about lady composers. Beverly’s God understands. Maybe he lives in her garden and in the wild weeds. Maybe He’s a lady composer.
I feel better now that I’ve told Beverly what I’m translating when I play the Pathetique. She tells me if that’s what’s making me play so well, to keep on feeling it.
I still hear her saying it, 20 years later. Beverly’s gone now, but somehow she’s not. I still play every day, even though I can’t afford a piano, only a pen. I’m playing it now as the ink smears my hand, my fingers following the logic of the wildflowers, just for her.