Friday, November 5, 2010

EARLY DAY FIVE -- Could This Be Love?

I am lagging behind in NANO words, as usual. And, I cheated today -- I went back to do some editing (she says, cringing), and then, I pushed onward to new terrain. I am nevertheless happy, and hope to accomplish as much as possible in November, so hope you enjoy the latest bunch of words. I will probably post in serial form, the writing that has to do with Anna -- leading up to her recital and its aftermath. After that, wee snips only.
If anyone reading this can offer me the Hungarian for "my darling" that would be super great.
I also am working on my latest essay for LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER. I am exhausted.
The NanoWriMo site is clogged most of the time. Today, I had to re-register -- that makes twice, even though all the info about me on their site is safe and sound in a manner of speaking.
As I face day five, I wonder how the world is doing. Partying, I know is a big part of this exercise. It will be fascinating to see who crosses the finish line and actually lasts to November 30th.

Excerpt THE SCARF DANCE All Rights Reserved Copyright Carol Krenz 2010

On the first day of instruction, the rain, which had begun after her arrival at the Kapellmeister's home, was now gusting sideways in sheets, blurring her view of the narrow elms lining the street below. They looked like spinster aunts, nodding together, desperately clutching the last of the gold leaves covering their limbs. Soon, they’d be naked. “I should hate that myself,” she thought.
A dark Monday morning, a blustery morning most people detested. But not inside the Kapellmeister's music room, for the brazier was blazing with fresh coals and Helga had brought up a heavy tray of coffee, bread, jams, cheese, smoked carp and soft boiled eggs. “Herr Dworkin is always hungry,” she said when Anna looked in horror at the size of the spread. “And if he asks where the honey is, tell him he finished it yesterday.”
“Was he here yesterday?”
Helga cackled. “Yes, Fräulein. Ever since his mother took ill – two years ago, it was – he’s been living here when he’s not on tour. His playing disturbs her.”
“I see…”
Helga looked around the room with a satisfied glance. “Will that be all – do you need anything else?”
“Thank you, I am fine.”
“Oh, I forgot to tell you – Herr Dworkin said if you arrived before he got back from the tobacconist, you were to start playing scales.”
“He said what?”
“Scales, Fräulein.” And Helga hurried off, aware of the insult, looking like she was dodging thrown crockery. Anna knew her eyes were now ablaze with thoughts of murder. Scales indeed!
She helped herself to a cup of coffee and chose to sit on the couch, tucking her legs under her dress like a contented cat.
Was it going to be this way for seven months? Would he treat her like a baby? Would he be forever late? She stirred her cup with growing agitation until she heard the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs, sometimes taking them two at a time by the measure of the syncopation. Step-step-long-step.
When he walked in, he shook his umbrella like a wet dog and smiled at her. She rested her spoon in its saucer. “You’re late,” she said.
“I’m not, actually. You’re early.”
“I won’t play scales.”
“You won’t? Well, that puts an entirely different complexion on things. I thought we were going to study Chopin.”
“I thought so, too.”
“Well, then. How often have you been able to sneak him into your repertoire?”
“Only a little,” she confessed. “I smuggled in some of his music, stuffed it under my mattress and play it in the upstairs nursery, when no one is home.”
He was by now rubbing his hands in front of the brazier. “Would you like to play one of his waltzes for me? How about ‘Valse au petit chien’?”
“The Minute waltz?”
“Exactly. But it really takes two minutes. You play, and I’ll eat and you just pretend I’m not here.”
He busied himself by loading up a plate while she took her seat at the piano and rifled nervously through the sheet music. She rubbed her knuckles, took a deep breath and began. Not even twenty measures in she realized her right hand was refusing to work. She started again, failed completely and finally placed her hands in her lap, her cheeks stinging with humiliation.
“You know what I think?” he asked softly as he readied his knife to strike an egg. “I could be wrong, Anna, but I think maybe you should--”
“Practice my scales?”
“Yes, well, only if you think it’s a good idea.” The top of his egg came off with one neat swipe.
If only she could hate him…just a little.

On Wednesday morning she asked why she had to play the scales while he watched.
“Because I need to see your fingers. Do you notice you’re dragging just a little on the right?”
She crossed her arms immediately and tucked her hands under her armpits. She fought to stay calm. He was the only one to notice this impediment – the only one to comment. Mimi, who had taught her first, didn’t count because she was there when the accident occurred. But the others? Frau Groper, Frau Steiner, not even the Kapellmeister had said a word. She told him about them.
“Ah, well, it’s understandable,” he said modestly. “You play the scales so beautifully, so no one has ever had to look closely at your hands since you were a child. But, I looked, because I want you to execute Chopin to perfection. And for me, Chopin is all about losing the fingers completely, you see?”
“What can I do?”
“Two exercises. First, you will open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as they can go and hold to a count of five, then close it. Repeat this ten times and do it as many times a day as you can stand. It will ache. Then, you must squeeze a ball. A good India rubber. Squeeze as hard as you can and hold it as long as you can. Then, release it. Do this as often as possible. You’ll need plenty of massage. And, Anna… you have two hands, don’t forget the left.”
She caught herself staring at him. She liked his nose, she liked the dimples in his cheeks when he smiled. She was so absorbed with the way he looked – his navy cravat and his gray tweed jacket – she didn’t really hear what he said about the Hungarian Rhapsodies. And anyhow, studying Liszt with the Kapellmeister belonged to Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today was Wednesday. Today, she would think only about Chopin and him.

Two weeks later and still, they were not playing the Nocturnes. Now she was adept at the Minute waltz and still he was not satisfied. He had offered not one word of praise.
“Begin again.”
She leapt into action, her nimble right fingers scrambling across the keys.
He was pacing in front of the piano, maintaining rhythm by striking his fist into his palm “Faster…faster…yes…yes…faster…faster…good…yes…faster…faster--stop! Lunch?”
If only she could hate him…just a little.

The extent to which both these men were willing to go to prepare her was astonishing. At least Mimi thought so. She told Mimi everything – almost everything, and Mimi, who had been her nanny and governess and occasional chaperone was not easily impressed. But, today she was. “And then what happened?”
It was Sunday morning and they were enjoying breakfast in the morning room.
“Well,” said Anna, “I got into the carriage and the Kapellmeister said we were off to have lunch at the Café Romy in the Alexanderplatz. He said it was high time we took refreshments away from the house. Then he teased me and called me [] which means my darling in Hungarian.
“He wasn’t unmannered, was he?”
“Who…Herr Hermann?” Anna laughed. “No, Mimi. He’s especially avuncular in a Saint Nicholas sort of way. He’s a sweet and generous soul.”
“All right, so go on, tell me more.”
“Oh, Mimi, it was wonderful. As soon as we arrived, we heard violins playing sad romantic Gypsy music and we sat at lovely tables with red and green cloths, and white mats and napkins. And the food was delicious. I had a cutlet in sour cream sauce with loads of paprika, he had the goulash, and all we talked about was his trips to Budapest. That and Liszt. And he made me drink Bull’s Blood until I was tipsy.”
Mimi’s auburn eyebrows shot up like pencil-thin question marks.
“It’s red wine. Although, who knows,” Anna giggled. “They say it contains a secret ingredient.”
“You are the adventurous one, that’s a certainty.”
Anna reached for a roll and broke it in half. “The thing is, Mimi, it was a lot of fun, but it was serious, too. The Kapellmeister wanted me to breathe in the ‘love, sweat and passion’ is how he put it, of the Hungarian people. He wanted me to pretend I was yearning for my homeland, for its purple crocuses growing wild, the river Danube; he talked about the Magyars, Tartars, Mongols, the Carpathians – oh, how he talked. And, then he asked me to imagine I was part of the Romany and enslaved, and to think of their suffering. And just when I thought I could see all of it, he flipped me around with the suggestion I be royalty, instead. Can you imagine that?”
“I’m still having trouble imagining Bull’s Blood.”
Anna toyed with the poppy seeds on her plate. “Mimi, I’m serious. He wanted me to smell the soil of one of the oldest countries in Europe. If I can grasp what it means to love the land, to work the land, he says, I’ll understand how to approach the Rhapsodies.”
“Well, mein gott! Anna. If that’s what he wanted, he should have taken you to the Zoologischer Garten so you could milk a cow.”

1 comment:

  1. Love the elms as spinster aunts!
    And oh, I love the back and forth tension between these two. Even the way you describe the hand exercises - reminds me of my aunt doing those, both times she broke her arm.
    Milk a cow! [g]
    Can't wait for the next installment tomorrow.