Drama Fiction Contemporary

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

The graduate student followed the clues and discovered a sound-proofed, hidden room in the university’s library. The room was full of dusty musical instruments, many of them from Africa. There were old recording devices and older books on the shelf. In the following weeks, the graduate student was to become obsessed with the contents in that hidden room. His social life dwindled to nothing. His thesis was inspired by what he had found in that room. He went on to establish M.I.M.I. – the Music In Medicine Institute.

Years later, a lady from M.I.M.I. perused through the dozens of photos delivered to her by the Institute’s Private Detective who was also the Institute’s Head of Security. As she did so, she recalled the unsuccessful pitch she had used to try to recruit the doctor-turned-drummer of the most successful rock band this side of the Sahara.

“Sir, you are the perfect man for the job. There is literally no one else in this part of the world who has all the qualities needed for this position. You understand the power of music and with your background, you definitely have what it takes.”

Click. Him, greeting the guard at the gate of a graveyard then entering the graveyard, looking like the weight of the world is on his shoulders.

“Allow me to give you a brief history of the Institute. I am sure you will change your mind once you know what we are all about. The Institute was founded ten years ago. Our founder has done extensive research on the relationship between health and music. Of course in Africa, the relationship between health and music has been known and acknowledged since time immemorial.”

Click. Him, sitting on a bench. His eyes heavy with unshed tears, looking sad and lonely…yet still looking breathtaking.

“Have you read “The Healing Drum” by Yaya Diallo and Mitchell Hall? Yaya Diallo is a djembe and balafon player from Mali. He got a degree in Chemistry but later rejected his academic training and went back to playing the drum. Sir, there is no reason why you cannot marry your two areas of specialty. This Institute needs you and your expertise.”

Click. Him, hunched over, sobbing, as the rising sun brightened the sky.

Click. Him, walking out of the graveyard, looking like the huge burden he had entered with was off his shoulders. No, not completely off, but significantly lessened.

“We understand that you may have compensation concerns. We know that your current position in the band is very lucrative. You recently bought an island, am I right?”

Click. Him, sitting on the railing of a balcony, in an apartment overlooking an island, his island, a half empty bottle of wine in his hand.

Click. Him, smiling, surrounded by adoring female fans.

Click. Him, on stage, covered in sweat, performing for thousands of excited fans, pounding away on the drum kit, bass drum emblazoned with the logo of the band he had called home for several years.

“We are willing to pay you double of what you currently earn in the band.”

Click. Him, outside a hospital, wheeling in one of the band members on a stretcher.

“Double. Minus all the band drama I read about in the news and social media.”

Click. Him, wheeling the band member in a wheelchair out of the hospital.

“Our board of directors will shield you from any backlash.”

Click. Him, playing chess with the recovering band member.

“Sir. Wasn’t inclusion of the arts in the education and practice of medicine one of the things that you and your…colleague were fighting for? This job would be a great way to honour her memory.”

He had not appreciated her mentioning his colleague. He had refused to – in his own words – “be coerced into any war that I have not yet counted the cost. Or a war that has already cost me everything I hold dear.”

She had tried to intimidate him into submission with her glare, which in the past had reduced some of her subordinates to tears. The drummer had simply glared right back. There had been a stalemate for several seconds. Then, she realized the drummer was not going to back down. She had silently conceded to let him win the first round as she retreated to regroup, ready for round two.

“Sir, I see you need more time to think this over. Call me when you change your mind. Because you will.”

She pressed play on the recording device that she had carried to the meeting with the drummer and keenly listened to his side of the conversation, looking for clues, open doors, weaknesses.

“Miss, I had a nightmare. I was back at the hospital, doing rounds when all of a sudden, my name was called on the Intercom to rush to the reception area. When I got to the reception area, there was a huge swimming pool right in the centre. Above the swimming pool, there was a tight rope and on the other side of the swimming pool was…was…someone that I love. I was walking across the tight rope when suddenly it got cut into two and I fell into the swimming pool. I tried swimming to the top but something or someone was pulling me down. I was pulled down and at the very bottom of the swimming pool was a city in ruins.”

She paid particular attention to the questions he had asked her.

“What’s the name of this institute again? Who funds you guys? If you want me to head this institute, shouldn’t I be aware of something as important as where the funding comes from? And who will shield me from the board of directors?”

She listened to the parts where he was talking about his colleague. She could hear the stress in his voice.

“You leave her out of this. This has nothing to do with her. Mention her one more time and I’m walking out right now.”

She wrote the word “colleague” in her notebook, underlined it twice then listened to the rest of the recording.

“Look. My head, my logic, the rational part of me is screaming for me to take this job. It seems like exactly what I need. The band is going through a lot of challenges right now. I am not getting any younger. Now would be the perfect time to quit while I am ahead.”

She wrote the word “band” in her notebook, circled it with her pen several times then smiled.

The Institute had unlimited time and unlimited resources. The Institute wanted the drummer. The Institute was going to get the drummer. Eventually.

November 10, 2023 21:32

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