Keep Time   

"Dlaczego wciąż robi to samo?"  he said, lapsing into his native Polish in frustration.

           Anna Magdalena answered him in her most calm tone, "Frederic, you know she is practicing for the event with her co-workers. We have been through this before. You must be patient with those who honor us by choosing our pieces." Giving Anna a look of complete exasperation Frederic stalked off knowing, at least for this particular situation, he could only get temporary relief from hearing the ongoing practice.

           Over and over again the current musician in training played the piece, laboring over the fingering, timing and measures 16 and 17. It didn't matter that she had been playing this piece off an on for nearly 15 years! In all of that time she had come close to doing it well only twice but, not once, had she done it perfectly.

           The last time she attempted to make this piece worthy of public hearing her piano teacher nearly tore the page as he circled and recircled the note, trying to get her to remember to play a C not and A. Trying to get her to keep going instead of stopping with uncertainty.

           Frederic did not know why it was his purgatory to be attached to these pseudo pianists after all of the lovely music he had left behind for those of real skill to master, and play.

           For her part, the poor subject of his irritation, Ellie, was also feeling trapped by her choice. Really she was feeling ridiculous for even volunteering to participate in the musical program her co-workers had put together. Who even does that any more? The days of talent shows and informal work get togethers had long been passed over for the more superficial Zoom meetings and video "catch ups."  When the e-mail arrived asking for volunteers with musical skills or other talents to join in a team building exercise, just for fun, she deleted it immediately.

           Days later her good friend and co-worker Sara had called to say she would be willing to read a poem for the get together if Ellie would play a piano piece. Ellie did her best to give Sara all of the reasons why it wouldn't work, not the least of which was the paralyzing stage fright she suffered from for years but Sara was relentless in her encouragement and a week later Ellie signed up for the show.  

           It never felt to Ellie like playing the piano was the gift others thought it was. Piano was a class choice in middle school. Just another music option for seventh graders. She had never had any music training before that, unless a person counted singing to the radio or on the bus with the other students.

            By the time midterm of that year came, her teacher sent home a note telling her parents that Ellie was showing exceptional ability and skill, had played all of the music the teacher had prepared for the year and,  was reading and interpreting music as if she had had previous instruction. In her mother's excitement, she persuaded Ellie's Dad to buy a second hand piano because surely a virtuoso had been discovered.  

           The playing continued, the expectations increased and the only lessons continued to be what the public school piano teacher could come up with during the rest of the year. At the end of the year Ellie was awarded a trophy showing, The Most Accomplished, and had been recommended to the local conservatory for admission. Fortunately, conservatory opted not to take middle school students but offered an audition pending successful completion of high school.

           Upon graduation from highschool, and being a good daughter, Ellie did as she was told, prepared 3 different pieces for audition, passed the audition with shaking hands and a dry mouth then suffered through 3 months of the most rigorous classes in technique, theory and concert preparation.  At the end of the third month, she worked up the courage to tell her parents she was miserable and was allowed to leave conservatory to pursue a career very far from music.

           The playing never stopped though. Left just to Ellie, playing was a comfort, a personal challenge and an enjoyment of the most beautiful classical pieces on earth.

           When she returned to college years later, to pursue a different course of study, out came the piano skills again to fulfill a music requirement and, that is where she was introduced to Chopin's Prelude in E Minor.

           Grateful to her teacher for what seemed to be a reasonably manageable piece of music, Ellie practiced to the point where she found herself getting up in the middle of the night to work on perfecting the fingering and the timing. The other interesting thing about the music, the one she could tell no one, was that, when she played, she could see him. She could, with all clarity, see Chopin sitting at his piano in a house in the woods. He seemed so unhappy. A solitary figure in a room lit by candles playing and playing until Ellie found herself waking up at her own keyboard. It seemed so real!

           Once she found him she never lost him. All it took was for her to start playing the Prelude and he would materialize for her to watch and listen to,  as he played the music beautifully and so obviously from his heart.

           After a while it was too much and it felt invasive. She put the music away thinking that was the end of it but, something had happened to her and now, no matter which composer she played, they came to her from their own time allowing her the gift of hearing how they meant for the piece to be played. Now, she was inviting Mr. Chopin back into her life again and wanted so much to play the music well enough that,  if her were to hear her, he would be proud that she was playing his music.

                                                                       Laurie Evelyn

                                                                       14 October, 2022

October 15, 2022 02:07

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.


21:24 Oct 19, 2022

Interesting perspective to write about. My main thing I would say is that your expository writing (which is almost the entire extent of what you wrote) needs to be stronger in style. I think the prompt given allows for more non-conventional techniques to be employed that you didn't make use of. For example, you told the story from Ellie's perspective but was all done in the third person. And what's more is we as the readers don't know from who's perspective we are peering into her mind and experience. Also your language could be more descrip...


Laurie Rice
12:29 Oct 20, 2022

Thank you for the feedback. I am looking forward to writing more and want to improve with each story.


Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.