UNBEGUN STORY

There was supposed to be a cat in this story, one being chased by a dog. It could have been a fox, I suppose but they are not seen here that much anymore. It might well have been a crow chased by a hawk, that happens around here with fair regularity but writing about the sky is so very difficult from an earthbound perspective. The mind may take flights of fancy, but has focus only when well anchored. Anyway, the dog never got off its leash and the cat seems to have found another bird feeder where the birds are a bit less smart and the squirrels a bit less mean than ours so there was no cat either. I do get that this means little or nothing to you, but is probably because the only chase scenes you like involve cars, and that doesn’t happen around here all that often. Perhaps the dog will tear free of its leash tomorrow, the cat will return and this story will find its conclusion, and then again, perhaps not. You will have to ask the cat, when you see him.

USER INTERFACE

U:        Cope

I:          How?

U:        Relax

I:          Can’t

U:        Why not?

I:          No time

U:        Make time

I:          Takes too long

U:        Better idea?

I:          None!

U:        Tried?

I:          Can’t

U:        Why not?

I:          No time

U:        What then?

I:          No idea

U:        Can’t help

I:          Why not?

U:        Tried

I:          How?

U:        Suggested

I:          That’s all?

U:        Cope

I:          How?

U:        Relax

I:          Can’t

U:        Why not?

I:          No time

The System has suffered a critical failure and will shut down. All unsaved work will be lost.

TIME

He stopped believing in time. It served no purpose for him, other than allowing others to chastise him for being late. He knew he operated under the laws of gravity, it was a burden he accepted, if begrudgingly. He understood his limitations, tested their margins, but allowed that he had finite power over them. But time was something different. Intangible, evanescent, yet omnipresent. It weighed on him, held him in its grasp. But why life should be parsed and and meted out by a third rate star and planets orbiting it was beyond him. The moment he stopped believing in time, the moment he denied its very existence, the clock in the town square stopped speaking to him, and the silence was welcomed. There was no history, no yesterday impinging on now, no tomorrow distracting him. Finally, he could breathe freely. Suddenly certain he was immortal, and life began to deeply matter.

DROWING ON DRY LAND

Cities should abut rivers. The better of them do, and the best still have rivers running through them. That is the nature of a great city, it allows you to look at a river from both of its banks, and still be in the heart of the city. In Europe, this is an expectation,  it is how cities were born, how they grew, outward from their heart and soul.  So no one is surprised when wandering a great city, say Prague, Paris, or Budapest, to find a river carving its way through. Cities abutting oceans can only look outward, the water seeming infinite, as though the part of the city that ought to be on the other side has been washed away. Oceans imprison cities, and carry their dreams off to drown.

PIANO LESSONS

Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher. At 12, my parents gave me a choice of lessons: piano or dance.  I had two left feet.  I chose piano.  It did not move. My mother smiled at my choice.  She knew what my decision would be before she asked.  My mother was like that.

 Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  Each Wednesday at 4 P.M. mother dropped me off in the driveway of the cottage-like house, hidden in the cul-de-sac.   I waited on the ivy covered portico until the prior student left.  I never knocked on Mrs. Schwarting’s door.  No one ever knocked on Mrs. Schwarting’s door. No one ever came in with me.  Piano was something I learned alone.

 Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  Her hair was the gray of a Buffalo winter, a sky promising snow.  Her hair was the blue of a sky bleached by the August sun.  Her hair, she said, was once blonde, like autumn wheat.  Each Wednesday I took off my coat and hung it on the single hook by the door.  One hook, she said, one student.  One year I played a duet with Larry Feldman.  Each March Wednesday Larry’s coat or mine would lie on the floor.  One hook, one coat.

 Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  Her first name was Mrs.  That’s what my mother wrote on the check I always put in the little basket on the top of the piano. Once, my mother forgot her checkbook.  She gave me cash.  When I put it in the basket, Mrs. Schwarting clucked her disapproval, “no bills, only checks. Please to vait on porch until your mother arrives.”  The door closed behind me: “no bills, only checks.”

 Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  She was five foot one.  She would stand behind me, “keep spine straight, zat is how you must play,” her head hovering on my shoulder like a pet bird.  She smelled of lavender, her breath of slivovitz.  She was German.  Her house was German.  Her English was German.  Her piano must have been German.  It loved  Bach, Beethoven and Brahms, tolerated Mozart but despised Satie.  “It is the fingers, she said, the piano cares not.”  The piano cared.

 Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  Czerny was her mentor, she said.  “You vill play each piece at least fife times each day.  Every day, fife times.  You vill write down each day how many times you play each piece.” Each day I sat at the piano in the living room.  Each day I played each piece five times.  One day I lost count, and played one piece a sixth time.  My fingers felt guilty.  I played it badly.  When the sun was out, the only tempo was presto. I always played fortissimo.  Mother listened.  Mother counted.

Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  She would hire a hall for a recital each May.  We would sit in “just so order, not to move, not to speak, just to sit. You vill never look to your hands.  Zay are at ze end of your arms, I am certain.  You vill play slowly.  If you play fastly, you vill play again.”  Mrs. Schwarting was German.  Her house was German, her piano was German.  Her fingers which always tapped my shoulder to set the tempo were German.  I told my mother she was a Nazi.  My mother laughed, “she’s just German.”  I thought,  maybe she was Eichmann’s secret lover.  I thought maybe she was Schumann’s love child.  I never liked Schumann.  Schumann was German.

 My sister took lessons from Mrs. Schwarting.  She thought Mrs. Schwarting’s piano was German.  My sister could reach a full octave easily, I had a span of a seventh.  In my last recital I played Für Elise.  I played it badly.

 Mrs. Schwarting was my piano teacher.  In the lobby of the Osaka Hyatt Hotel there is a piano.  At three in the morning, fresh from a trans-Pacific flight, I wander the lobby.  The desk clerk smiles.  I sit at the piano.  My back is straight.  I play the opening ten measures of Für Elise.  I still cannot reach an octave.  I play it badly.

TALMUD

She asks the Rabbi what God looks like, and he has to admit he doesn’t know. She doesn’t know either, but she’s only three so she isn’t expected to know. She tells the Rabbi that he should find out. The Rabbi doesn’t tell her he is no longer certain where to look for God. She knows that beyond the clouds and behind the stars, at the very edge of the universe, that’s where God must be. Her daddy said there was a restaurant there. She doesn’t ask if it is Chinese or Indian. She thinks God’s favorite food is chickpeas. She is sure God also likes pineapple. She is going to have a baby brother soon. She wonders how soon he will talk and listen to her, because she has so much to teach him. She doesn’t know if God is a boy or a girl. She wanted to ask the Rabbi, but he didn’t know what God looks like. She wants to meet God one day, she thinks. It will probably be in an Indian restaurant. She is sure God likes the buffet. Especially the chickpeas.