Notes of Conversion
Erwinn Metzger climbed out of his car on Central Avenue in Dothington this blustery March afternoon, stared plaintively at the empty rubicund brick high-rise in which he and his deceased mother used to live. Their flat had been situated on the top floor at the end of the hallway, one which had afforded them a picturesque, panoramic view of the once-bustling city.
As a young boy, Erwinn sat on the window seat every night and gazed wistfully at the lights in the distance, envisioning being the headline trumpeter in major clubs in Dothington.
His mother had been extremely supportive, regularly telling him, “Keep practicing and dreaming, and you’ll make it, Son.” He eventually did, and became a world-class trumpeter.
His father had offered no such words of support, for he had substituted fame for family when Erwinn was only six, to pursue his own career as a trumpeter.
Erwinn had never forgiven him for that, and never would.
He dolefully sighed, wiped his damp eyes. “This is so hard coming back here, Mom. I miss you so much.”
He drew a profound breath, stepped off the curb. Vehicles rumbled past him going both ways. The brisk wind blew a food-stained page of a newspaper past his feet. The memories of his mother coursed through his mind like a deluge of kaleidoscopical images, and his eyes again filled with tears.
There was a break in traffic one way, but not the other.
I should step in front of that big truck and end my grief. What’s the point of going on? I have nothing left with you gone.
He took one step. A second. A third.
Thereupon his mother’s cherished, supportive words—and the deafening honking of the truck’s horn—kept him where he was.
“Blind idiot!” bawled the grungy male driver as he passed Erwinn.
Erwinn gathered himself and crossed the street when it was safe.
Entering the office of the defunct Rexall Apartments, Erwinn was surprised to see the former superintendent of the building there. His back was to Erwinn. A large white mug was in his right hand. Scattered about his feet were lamps, boxes of clothes, tools, blenders, toasters, small pieces of furniture.
“Good afternoon, Jake.”
The wiry, bespectacled oldster slowly turned about.
“Hey Erwinn! How are you?!”
Erwinn forced a thin smile, weakly shrugged.
“That bad, huh?”
“Worse,” Erwinn quipped.
“I can’t get her out of my mind,” Erwinn admitted. “I’ve tried everything. But the memories are crushing me.”
“Your mom was one fine lady.”
“Yes she was,” Erwinn sadly mused.
“She worked so hard to raise you, always had a smile on her face, was always so nice to everyone….”
“Like I said, I miss her terribly.”
A thoughtful pause. “I always thought she was a beautiful woman, but I can’t remember what she looks like,” said the super. “I think it’s ’cause her kindness shined through so brightly, and that’s what you saw.”
Erwinn didn’t say anything. He couldn’t. Because he was on the verge of crying.
Regarding him with genuine compassion, Jake said, “I understand your loss, partner. Cora’s been gone some nine years, now, and I ain’t close to forgetting her.”
Erwinn regarded him the same way. “I’m very sorry.”
“What can you do,” said Jake philosophically. Then: “What brings you here today?”
“I heard the old place was getting knocked down, and I wanted to see it one last time—you know, for sentimental reasons. Why are you here?”
“Since I ain’t got no job, I’m going through the empty apartments to see if I can sell what was left behind.”
“Anything of value?”
“I found some jewelry I think is worth something. Are you in the market for anything?”
“As a matter of fact, I’m looking for a vintage seaman’s chest, but I’m sure you don’t have that.”
Jake drained the mug, widely grinned. “You’re not gonna believe this, but I found just what you’re looking for in the basement this morning.”
Erwinn’s eyes lit up.
“The thing is, I was in the basement last night, and it wasn’t there.”
“Maybe you just missed it.”
Jake emphatically shook his head. “It’s under the stairs. And I was rummaging under there for something last night, and I didn’t see it.” He paused. “Maybe someone put it there just for you.”
Jake shrugged. “Don’t know.”
Erwinn looked away in thought.
“Follow me,” said the old man.
In the dank, dimly lit basement, Erwin lovingly regarded the chest.
“Well, is this what you had in mind?” Jake inquired.
“Exactly! How much?” Erwinn excitedly returned.
Three minutes later, Erwinn was driving away with his prized possession.
Inside his capacious flat, Erwinn inspected his treasured purchase. Detecting it contained a false bottom, he quizzically frowned. Tediously removing it, he discovered a tarnished trumpet. He blinked twice—hard!—then thoughtfully examined it. (Following the sudden death of his mother five years ago, he quit playing because of intractable grief.) Upon polishing it, he was stunned to discern that the instrument was fashioned from pure gold. Eagerly putting it to his lips, he began playing his mother’s favorite tune, “Beautiful Dreamer”—and gasped when he perceived YInMn blue notes emanate from the mouth of the trumpet. These seven ethereal objects drifted serenely amongst each other for a brief time, then settled gently, collectively, to the parquet floor, and vanished.
Whereupon Erwinn’s beloved mother magically appeared.
“How…can you be here?” he disbelievingly whispered.
“I never left,” Vera replied.
“Where were you?”
“In the Ether of Torment, waiting for the precise moment to return.”
“But the Ether of Torment is a theoretical place.”
“It’s not,” Vera firmly countered. “When those seven notes touched the floor, only then could I come back.” She pointed to the chest. “I strategically placed that in the basement for you, so you’d buy it, find the hidden trumpet, play “Beautiful Dreamer,” and initiate my return to you.”
Erwinn’s mouth fell open.
Upon recovering from the initial shock, he said, “Why were you in the Ether of Torment? You were a great mom and a quality human being. And it’s hypothesized that only wicked people are there.”
“There are other reasons to end up in that place,” Vera expounded. “In my case, there’s something I need to do before I can move on.” She then asked: “Why did you marry that vile siren, Son?”
Erwinn asked what she meant.
“She killed me,” Vera coldly returned.
Erwinn swallowed. “How?”
“Remember that special treat Dara gave me at the wedding reception, the one she insisted I taste?”
A vague nod.
“It contained peanuts, which, as we both know, I was highly allergic to.”
Erwinn turned pallid.
“It sent me into anaphylactic shock, but it didn’t happen until I’d gone home.”
Erwinn’s eyes brimmed with tears. “Why did Dara murder you?”
“Because she was a sick, twisted, psychotic person…as you later found out.”
“But even someone that sick must have had a reason for wanting to murder you.”
“She was hateful, vindictive, extremely jealous of our relationship,” Vera explicated. “Ironically, after she subjugated you, she quickly got bored and overtly cheated on you. Thankfully, you came to your senses and ended it.”
A deep sigh. “I’m so sorry I married her, Mom. But we divorced a year after our wedding. And I don’t know where she is.”
“I do,” Vera averred.
“She died today, entered the Ether of Torment, and only then could I come back to you.”
Aghast, Erwinn asked, “How long can you stay?”
“The woman you married murdered me,” Vera said, “but before I can move on, I need you to know that you are—” Thereon she vanished, the seven cosmic notes reappeared, and drifted back inside the trumpet.
Some time later, standing where Rexall Apartments had once been, an awestruck Erwinn observed a singular undulating YInMn blue note suspended in the air, emblazoned with the word FORGIVEN.