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By Nathan Boese (USA)


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Shadows of flames flicker effortlessly on the wall opposite a fireplace. A forgotten old man is sitting in his favorite tattered old chair, a glass of gin and ice cupped idly in the palm of his hand. Glorious waves of sound reverberate throughout the room as his young apprentice sits at the piano. Suddenly he stands up and walks over to the nearby light-switch, dimming the lights ever so slightly and setting the mood. He sinks back into the plush fabric and takes a drink of the gin. Closing his eyes, he allows the music to enter his body and converse with his soul.


            Yoshimi Kantata floats her long, slender fingers gracefully over the twinkling ivory of the piano as Beethoven’s “Pathétique” adagio melts into the atmosphere. She has spent many a cold night worshipping at the alter of her teacher, hoping for the slightest acknowledgement or praise. As the delicate flesh launches into a beautifully improvised cadenza she glances up from the keyboard, deep eyes seeking out the figure she knows will be there. Perhaps he will finally listen tonight, Yoshimi thinks to herself. I have slaved at my craft for years, playing without pause until my fingers are raw and bloody. I offer precious blood as a sacrifice, the deep crimson staining the icy whiteness of the keys. Many times I have inquired: why do I agonize myself by continuing to play? If my immense pain and suffering go unnoticed, then it is all for naught. Look at him laying there in that ravaged old chair, fourth glass of gin mere moments from crashing to the ground. He has fallen asleep again.


God, what a gift she has, like the sound of a heavenly choir filling my living room and taking my breath away. Does she know that I built this room especially to augment her style? Every square inch of carpet deftly laid, each speaker carefully placed, every jut in the wall strategically formulated, all for the purpose of nurturing her perfect sound. Gloria had been an outstanding player, but she could never hope to match the virtuosity of this young performer. The pounding of skin on wood, bone and marrow on instrument, I have heard the pitiful little moans associated with the formation of blisters as irritated fingers angrily slap against the solid surface. I have seen the blood-soaked board after a performance, registered the intensity with which she has left her entire being, and more, at the instrument. Who does she think cleans the keys, wipes the slate clean for her next masterwork? I wonder if she even realizes how deeply she has touched and influenced me.


            The air in the room becomes as frigid as a cold Siberian night when the piano strikes a chord full of gloom and despair. The teacher appears lost as he sits in his chair, immersed in memories of heartaches past. Images of his former wife waltz in his brain, teasing him with their mocking cries of failure. The cries of music critics are heard, lambasting his latest concert, calling him “the washed-up pianist of the century.” Lastly, a vivid scene of his collegiate years recreates itself in all of its horrifying splendor. He has studied the past ten years to get his Master’s degree, but is having problems with his final recital. Nothing seems to be working right. He misses entrances, flubs cadenzas, and generally plays with the musical interpretation and genius of a fourteen year old child. Amazingly, he passes his exam, but not without a distinct warning from his professor. You will never make it in the professional world, Professor Imosha tells him. Consider yourself very fortunate if you can even find pupils who are willing to study with you rather than an accomplished pianist.


            Tears streaming down her face, Yoshimi finishes a heartbreaking song of love and loss (her last plea to the hibernating man) and stumbles away from the bench. She collapses on the nearby couch and buries her face deep within the cushions. The old man hears the sobbing and is summoned from his reverie like seeds of the first plants of spring thawing after a long, hard winter. Hesitantly, he leaves the comfort of the trustworthy chair and ambles over to the couch. Sitting down, he places his arm gingerly on Emiko’s shoulder, emoting a deep-felt sense of compassion and understanding with only the slightest motor adjustment. Yoshimi looks up into the old, wizened eyes and feels her depression fading.


            An alarm clock rings, and a gray, disheveled being rises out of bed. Rubbing the last fragments of sleep out of his eyes, he stares blankly out of his bedroom window. Somewhere in the distance, the low hum of a radio being switched on is heard, broadcasting an oddly familiar tune. The sounds of a forlorn adagio wash over the man as he prepares for another despairing day.


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