“This obituary. For Mike.”
“Mike. Our Mike.”
“Only his name isn’t Mike. It’s Carl. 51. He has a widow and three grown children. Died Thursday.”
“Let me see.”
“That’s him, right?”
“The haircut is him. Heart attack. Son of a bitch.”
“I can’t believe it. When was he here? Tuesday? We had the storm, and I said he should stay over.”
“And I said no pressure. Remember? NSA.”
“No falling in love, Ray.”
“I wasn’t in love with him.”
“A little bit.”
“I liked him. I know the difference between loving you and liking what we did together.”
“A moot point now.”
“Did you think he was married?”
“Attached, anyway. After he left once, I looked out the window and saw him checking his phone, talking wildly. Like he was explaining
“Why didn’t you tell me? I wouldn’t have continued.”
“Of course, you wouldn’t. You liked him, so since I’m not as Presbyterian as you, I didn’t say anything.”
“It said he played in a jazz band. We could have talked about music.”
“Honey, there wasn’t a lot of talking. Now you know he was protecting that other life. He was 51, Ray, and he’d made his straight and
narrow bed and lain in it his whole life.”
“Except for us.”
“And maybe others?”
“Maybe this was a mid-life crisis?”
“Nope. Too practiced. All he ever needed was 20 compartmentalized minutes every two weeks. Cognitive dissonance.”
“The service is on Monday. I feel like going.”
“As what? There can be only one grieving widow.”
“How could this happen to Mike?”
“Carl. He was German, not Italian, and he lived in Revere, not Jamaica Plain. And he was, ironically, an EMT, not a life insurance salesman.
And, by the way, what happened to him will happen to all of us.”
“He always called us. Private name, private number. I believed the story about living with his sick mother.”
“I didn’t really believe it, but chac’un a son gout!”
“I feel crummy.”
“Don’t feel crummy. You don’t know anything about them-Carl and Yvonne, and Jodie and Jess and Jeremy, and the grandchildren, all of
whose names also begin with J. If Yvonne knew-and I bet she did, after 30 years-she was getting what she wanted, too. Maybe she was
known as Isabel NSA.”
“Realist. It sounds like you’re pissed.”
“No, I’m really not pissed. I’m sad for Mike because he’s gone, young, and I’m sad for his family.”
“Well, I am, too. I really am.”
“How about a condolence note?”
“You’d have to fabricate a story about how you knew him, and that’s no different from the stories that have already been told. Let it be.”
“It’s just a shame, that’s all.”
“That it is, Dear, that it is.”
She recalls that poster by the Czech Philharmonic from 1989. The next line read, “…postponed until the times of Freedom. Tickets remain valid until
then!” A final chord, to end forty years of discord… Few places are so intertwined with tones; music and Prague have shaped each other, resonated
with each other in ways audible or tacit.
She’s exhausted after a sightseeing marathon; it’s not a city, it’s an endless museum of acoustics and architecture. Three hundred towers, a
folder says. A leg killer, she thinks, until she stumbles upon this preserve of meditative peace near the city center.
Villa Bertramka is a garden charged with music; a fountain, a stable, a serene summer residence crouching at a foothill, a red-roofed Italian
veranda, and hearsay of magic. Only the visitor list, spanning four centuries, concords with the pulse of a capital: A crowd of music celebrities like
her, from far and near.
She strolls in the quiet of silver firs and majestic maples, and finds Mozart’s table of stone in an overgrown corner of the garden. How did he feel
while working here? She sits down, legs exhausted, ears open; her breath slows down as her pores absorb pure silence. Leafy crowns percolate the
sunshine. Dvorák’s words from a Californian archive come to her mind: “Mozart is sunshine.”
Birds demonstrate good voices, imitating other two-legged stars schooled downtown; voices and instrument vibes have filled this garden for
She gets an intense sensation of tones flowing from a mind onto sheets of music, thoughts materializing with ethereal ease. Suddenly, the crowns
open to let the dazzling sunshine in. Colors shift to lighter. The air feels clear like mountain air. The leaves whisper a soft echo of an adagio from a
Piano Concerto in A; she’s sure it’s K# 488.
She hears a horse from the stable and a woman’s voice in German, from a fountain at the opposite end of the garden; an Austrian dialect…
“Hurry up, Wolfie dear. Don’t miss your very best day! Sheet copyists have been working for us since three AM.”
The piano music ceases.
“The horse cab’s ready. Let’s go.”
She tiptoes closer, past a kitchen garden with vegetables and heavy spades outside a toolshed.
Mozart resembles an old portrait downtown. He kisses his wife and pets her buttock, hotly, despite the hurry.
She snaps a picture with her worn smartphone, before the couple rushes toward the stable. She feels a short blush of paparazzo guilt, as the cab
horses clip-clop away.
The crowns close back, percolating the sunshine. The shed turns into a shadow, and disappears in a haze. Leeks and onions turn into tulips.
Vineyards turn into gardens where tree colors darken. The air gets thick of city smells.
She looks at her snap. It shows nothing but a chaotic whirl of cosmic dust. A streetcar’s ringing outside as she walks through the gate, while a
piano adagio reverberates in her head; she’s sure it’s Mozart, K.488.
Music permeated Mi West's childhood in a family of artists. He now lives in Scandinavia, and his prose has appeared online in TheEEEL, BWG Writers'
Roundtable, PaperTape, Release, and is due out September in The Write Place At the Write Time.
He was among the top three in the Tiferet 2015 Writing Contest, the finalists in Tethered by Letters' 2014 Flash Competition, and the honorable
mentions in the 2012 Lorian Hemingway Competition. He's seeking representation for a completed novel, that shares one of its settings with Concert