Story Time Sunday #59

I had the most delicious playlist of classical music for dessert and created this flash fiction to accompany it, and while I am still hunting through the piece for more ‘darlings to kill,’ I hope you enjoy the improvised crescendo.

Happy Sunday!

Leave the Sick Man to His Dreams

Boreal made music in his sleep. His wife of twenty years was awoken each morning by his E flat exhale and C sharp inhale. A symphony of snores, Muriel called it, and she didn’t dare interrupt his cadence for fear he might lose some masterpiece he had composed in his dreaming mind.

Music was an around-the-clock affair in their home. Boreal practiced loudly to enhance his muscle memory. Three times a day he worked out his fingers on the grand piano’s stair stepper keys. 

After breakfast and a warm-up, Boreal dressed. Muriel blushed to see the flap of his tuxedo hang over the edge of the bench, but Boreal was impossible and refused to get the costume resized. His black hair, now streaked with tufts of white remained equally unruly, often requiring him to to sway his head mid-crescendo to keep from blocking his own line of sight to the keys.

After all, a concert pianist had little time to worry about haircuts or hem lines. And Boreal found his concert attire to be nothing more than a costume, or if he was being honest with himself, a disguise to keep from truly being seen. To him, the fans were nothing more than a growing mob, filling the concert halls in major cities around the globe to gawk and stare.

Somewhere beyond the ruby curtain there was a thunderous applause. The Parlor Grand swallowed the stage whole. Boreal fought off the familiar feeling of suffocation, the keys purple and bruised under the overpowering stage lights.

The Parliamentary Ball would soon begin, and Muriel planted her customary good luck kiss on Boreal’s cheek. Theatrical. Silly. The whole thing, because in his heart of heart, Boreal hated his fans. Loathed them, even. And yes, as Boreal stood, bowed before the dignitaries of this country, then ceremoniously sat on his stool, flexed his hands over the keys, he realized the hypocrisy of his disgust.

Boreal loved making music, but it clashed with his solitary temperament, and even though he went to great lengths to avoid being around his mob of devoted followers, he grew agitated when his plans were thwarted, which is exactly what occurred that rainy evening.

While he had intended to play a portion of  his newest repertoire for precisely one hour and then make a grand exit before the drinks got too strong and the lips of his fans become unlocked, he was surprised to discover new key combinations during his set, and then further surprised when his wife appeared post-concert in a ghostly gray lace dress with a feathered mask on her face, and of course she’d brought along an extra one for him. 

In an instant, Boreal found himself inexplicably drawn into a whirlwind of motion and conversation.

A pearly-skinned woman started in after their first dance.

“Oh sir, how I wish I could play as good as you.”

Boreal’s head swiveled to take her in. Long fingers. It was possible. “Well, practice an hour a day for ten years, my dear lady, and you most certainly can.“

“Boreal, really. Please excuse my husband, he’s a notorious…”

“But of course, you may have to attempt some sort of nail care if you are to pursue a career tickling the ivories.”

“Who..the hell do you think you are? There’s no reason to be rude.”

Boreal’s eyes widened. “What was that? Muriel, did you hear that?”

But Muriel’s arms were crossed against her lace bodice. She was giving him that look, the one that said resume your place on the dance floor this instant and don’t you dare embarrass me again.

So naturally, Boreal made his way to the refreshments.

 Weird. He could have sworn he heard the impudent woman hoot at him.

Oh well, he’d heard worse, he reasoned to himself, pouring some crimson-colored punch into two small glasses and handing one to his wife in the hopes that the drink might act as a sort of peace offering. He would really have to watch his tongue the remainder of the evening.

But then again on the dance floor, he and Muriel were mid-minuet when they were accosted by an overzealous and oversized fan.

“Oh, my lucky stars. I’m so glad I caught up with you.” The man was out of breath and his quick exhalations were opening an aperture between two buttons near his midsection that was most vulgar.

“You were the inspiration for this piece. And, for that reason,” he paused again to breath and Boreal looked to Muriel for assistance but found her enraptured by the emergence of the Prime Minister from a pair of double doors on the far side of the hall. “I’ve brought my own humble work for this occasion. Is there any way you could consider playing it? It’s not like anything that’s come before, I promise you that.”

“I’m sorry, what was that?” Boreal had been unable to take his attention away from the strained button wondering how long he had until it burst.

“Here.” The man thrust music sheets towards Boreal. “It’s called ‘Leave the Sick Man to His Dreams.'”

Of all the impudent things.

“I’d be honored if you would sample it, Boreal. Please, and let me know what you think of it.”

Boreal lifted up his palm. “Stop. This instant. I’m afraid you’ll have to contact my agent. I am not able at this time to take any unsolicited pieces.”

He then leaned in towards the man, mostly to get a better look at that button, but also to make a point. “And well, of course,  it’s not polite to talk of such things during a celebration of this nature. Not polite at all…”

“What? Unbelievable.” Turning to the crowd the man raised his voice. “Who… thinks this is preposterous?” He proceeded to thrust his papers in the air with such force that it did in fact dislodge the gapped button, which shot from the man’s shirt like a bullet and hit Boreal’s beak-like nose. 

“What’s that? What was that?” Boreal impulsively grabbed the man’s tuxedo sleeve. “Repeat what you said, dammit. I demand you repeat it.” 

But the man, much larger than Boreal, pulled away from his grip.

“Wait!” The hole in the dance floor created from this flurry of activity widened.

“Boreal, please.” It was Muriel. Talking under her breath and tugging on his arm in a way that said this embarrassment would not be easily forgotten.

Boreal clasped her hand and resumed his steps, but he now had the sweats. His head swiveled to take in the crowd. Couldn’t they see he was exhausted? Out-of-sorts? These discussions were draining.  When he stepped on Muriel’s toes for the third time, she steered him off the dance floor.

“Boreal, love. Are you sure you’re alright?” She took out his pocket square and wiped his brow. “That last piece you played tonight. It was quite strange. What is it called?” She folded the fabric and put it back in his jacket. “I’ve never heard it before, and now you look so flustered.”

“Of course I’m alright, Muriel. I’m merely suffering from the strain of these social interactions. In fact, I should retire. I’m fatigued.” 

Muriel dropped his hand. “Wait one minute.”

She used her fingers like claws to pinch his chin and look into his masked eyes.   Who, who…took care of you all these years? Looked after you in sickness and health? And to think, you can’t endure one evening of socializing, so that I can have the smallest of pleasures?”

“Muriel!? Did you just hoot at me? Don’t tell me you didn’t.”

Muriel cringed. Her mouth opened. Eyes wider than full moons. All the other guests blurred. Muriel’s face was his whole solar system.

“Muriel!” Boreal fluctuated in front of her in a frenzy. He tried to reach out and grab his wife’s shoulder, but he couldn’t seem to steady himself.

This further agitated Muriel, who swatted at him with both hands. Screaming in a pitch that stopped the musicians, Muriel covered her eyes. But all the other eyes of the ballroom were focused on him.

Boreal retreated to his one safe harbor, his Parlor Grand. Touching down, he could tell something wasn’t right. Perhaps some ignoramus had been messing with the height of his stool as now he couldn’t see all of the natural notes.

Moving to the rim, Boreal concentrated on pressing Middle C, but the key only depressed midway. Looking down, Boreal saw the reason; his fingers were gnarled talons.

© 2022 | K.Hartless

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