Tuesday’s Tale of Terror October 13, 2015
Sneak peek of GREYLOCK … Opening pages (5-minute read)
Let me have music dying, and I seek no more delight.
“Endymion” John Keats, 1884
1987, Orange Street, Plymouth, Massachusetts
In the rising grey light, Marta lit another candle inside the bedroom of the Cape Cod house. Sunrise blinked at the windowed cliff beyond where the ocean rumbled. “I see the phantom of death near,” she said and placed the candle on the nightstand next to her brother. She turned. “Alexei, be brave, child, go make music for your father. This will soothe him. Hurry.”
Alexei backed away from the bedside. His father’s hard-veined hands no longer twitched on the covers. His mouth hung open in a sad curve releasing gasps against the pillow. Alexei wanted to close the cracked lips. He wanted to crawl into that bed once more and know his father’s kind voice.
“Hurry,” she said.
He obeyed his aunt. Nine years old, he knew to trust Aunt Marta for everything. He dashed to the studio and sat at the Steinway. Was Dad still asleep? Would he hear him playing?
“Play, Ah-lehk-SAY.” Auntie shouted from the bedroom. She sang his name as if to pitch him the first note.
“Auntie? Will he—?”
“He will hear your music. Begin.”
With trembling fingers, Alexei began Tchaikovsky’s Concerto Number One. He stumbled on the opening, failing to create the thundering chords, then stopped and began again. He hadn’t perfected the power of this concerto yet, but he knew his father loved it best. This will soothe him.
Soaring though the allegro movement, Alexei enjoyed the familiar thrill of the music. The splendid harmonies urged him on as his fingers jumped across the keyboard. His father’s voice repeated in his mind.
All the world is music, my Lexie. Go inside the notes.
The allegro movement would thrill his father too and make him open his eyes. What phantom? Auntie was just being Auntie. Tchaikovsky’s concerto would soothe his sick heart. The clear notes would send the phantom away. Dad would wake up smiling and say, Bravo, my boy, bravo.
Music filled the house up to its gables. Resplendent notes played like spheres before Alexei’s eyes. Chasing one after the other. Flashings. Blurs of light. A kaleidoscope.
Can you hear? Dad? I’m playing for you. Just like you play Tchaikovsky.
Vibrations spun over Alexei’s body. Lively sound waves pulsed through his hands, throbbed into his left rib, a pleasant tingling. He inhaled the concerto’s warm tones. He swallowed the bright rhythms, his belly filling. Every chord tasted smoky. Octaves evaporated into aromas of melting candy—razzes and dives and creamy crescendos.
A beat later the music jammed. Choked to a dead stop. What did he do?
Become the music, Lexie. Believe.
He hit the white keys. Nothing. He slammed the black keys. Nothing. What happened? A hammer stick? Again he pressed. Every key resisted. Demanding the piano to obey, Alexei struck the stubborn keys once more. “Come on. I believe!”
The keys held like bricks in mortar.
Why won’t it play? His fingers slid recklessly above the locked keys. “Please.” He fisted up his hands with a hard shake. “Play.”
Air flashed behind him. The concerto rolled forth. Sweeps and crescendos blasted. Glistening sounds broke over his head. He stared at his fists rigid above the piano keys. How was the concerto playing without him?
Rhythms hammered down. Vibrations shook the wood floor and wall paintings, nearly cracking the old plaster. The very air soared with music.
Unable to stand the thundering a second longer, he fled the piano. The concerto followed him to the bricked chimney corner where he crouched. Booming, the double octave passages surrounded him. Eyes squeezed shut, hugging himself, ribs knocking, toes curling, he covered his ears. “What did I do? What’s happening? Dad! Make it stop!”
The concerto halted.
Did something sigh just then? A voice? Sounded just like the bed creaked. He’s awake. He’s up!
Dawn flooded the studio, dusty rays humming with yellow light. “Dad?” A kiss misted against his forehead.
He listened. Silence.
Alexei burst into deep, quiet, sorrowful weeping. He let his hands drop, kitten-limp to his sides and lifted his head.
Footsteps padded the hallway—gentle and slow—like treading upon a path of wool. Auntie Marta appeared at the doorway, half a lit candle in her hand. She blew it out, sat at the piano, covered her face and sobbed.
Alexei watched her a moment, biting his lip, failing to hold his tongue. “Auntie, did he hear my music? Did he hear the concerto?”
She lifted her face. “Oh yes, of course he heard your music. Alexei, don’t you know, child? The ear is the way.
* * *
Chapter Two opens twenty-seven years later in Boston, Massachusetts, 2014. Alexei is 36 years old. After a conversation with his wife Carole Anne, the musician plots her murder.
* * *
Would you like to hear Tchaikovsky’s Concerto?
Pianist: Van Cliburn
Tchaikovsky, Piano Concerto No. 1, B-flat minor
Live Performance in Moscow in 1962.
In the audience is Nikita Khrushchev—don’t miss the Soviet leader’s smiles and applause during Van Cliburn’s bows at the end of the performance.
(30-minute listening experience)
... when the leaves fall
October 15, 2015