Monthly Archives: November 2015

Requiem in A Flat

Twenty minutes before eight o’clock, Peter Carrigan stood in his bedroom inspecting himself in the full-length mirror hanging from the back of his closet door. He looked adequate: the three-piece suit he wore hung a little too loose from his shoulders and his torso. He needed a new suit, but he was pleased enough with his snazzy appearance. It would do for the occasion.

Peter adjusted his bow-tie and checked his watch again. 7:42 p.m. He mustn’t be late — he had a very important date to keep. He combed through his thinning hair once more and reached for the bottle of cologne on his dresser. A cloud of odorous mist cascaded through the air onto him. When he reached absent-mindedly to place it back on the dresser, his hand slipped; the bottle fell onto the floor. Peter flinched, fearing he would have a stain to clean up. But the bottle’s impact was cushioned by a large pile of papers on the floor.

In fact, all of Peter’s bedroom was full of papers. Stacks of papers bound together and hole-punched; single leaflet sheets with scrawls of messy writing overtop of them; mostly, staff-lined paper with music notes scribbled on them, crossed out, and rewritten. Peter’s immaculate appearance now, at 7:47 p.m., served as a contrast to the heaps of paper on the floor. He stood in a clear spot in front of the mirror, his black-and-white figure erect in the backdrop of a mess. Aside from the papers, his bed was neatly made, his clothes were hung straight on hangers in his closet and his violin leaned quietly up against the wall near the door.

At 7:50 p.m. Peter walked out of his bedroom, picking up his violin on the way, and tiptoed down the stairs of his complex. He knew exactly how long it would take him to reach his destination, where he could finally put on a show. The closest tube station was a block south of his flat and he walked there stoically, nodding politely at the people he passed on the way. He walked down the stairs and directly onto the train, which had arrived exactly when he expected it would. He removed the strap of his violin case from his right shoulder and stood serenely near the door with it standing up between his legs. He balanced it against his knees while his hands remained in his coat pockets, fidgeting with what was inside them.

The ride took only a few minutes, and when the doors reopened at his stop, Peter picked up his violin, slung it over his shoulder again and exited the tube car. He weaved his way through the Friday night crowds in the city, up the stairs and back onto the street above ground. He turned left, walked twenty paces and found himself at the building where he would be giving his show. He pulled his left hand out of his pocket and checked his wrist again for the time: 7:57 p.m. Perfect timing.

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Red and yellow leaves
Fall slowly from barren trees,
Revealing winter.

Cold fear, brusque unease,
The quiet disquietude:
That which is to come.

The depths of winter,
Howling wind, blustering snow —
And then: all is still.

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Earl, I’m coming for you. I’ll find you.

Earl woke with a start in his grey and mauve bedroom at the hospital, the moonlight streaming through the window and casting linear shadows on the floor.

Earl, can you hear me?

He could. He sat upright and rubbed his eyes hard, squinting into the dark. The room was silent, save for the buzzing of the air conditioner working overtime in the 85 degree July heat. Yet Earl shivered, his hands and arms exposed from under his warm fleece blankets. He glanced at the clock; it was 3:19 a.m.

Earl. I need you, Earl.

The voice was back again. Earl cocked his head to the left, examining the shadows for some clue who was talking, but the room was empty. He swung his feet down out of his bed gingerly, the aches in his knees coursing up and down his legs as he tried to stand on his own two, arthritic feet. With a struggle, he slowly walked over to his closet door and pulled his bathrobe over his hunched back, contorted downward by gravity as it was by his eight decades of life; each year seemed to pull him closer to the earth, closer to the grave.

I need your help.

The voice sounded familiar, like a person he once knew who was now buried in the depths of his memory; his dementia told him he recognized the voice, but it refused to identify it for him. He knew it was a woman, and probably an older woman judging by the shakiness of its sound. But he didn’t know any older woman — did he?

After carefully tying his tennis shoes and pulling his socks halfway up his legs, Earl opened his creaky bedroom door carefully and peered down the empty hall. The small hospital employed several night staff in case of emergencies, but they were usually down in the opposite end of the Memory Care Wing, oblivious to Earl’s meanderings.

“Where are you?” Earl said out loud, his voice soft and croaky in the early morning hours.

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