Friday, November 26, 2010

No, No, NA-NO -- A "new" Broadway Hit!

Friday dawns in a streak of icy roads (not good) and the promise of holiday ambiance (good) for the weekend.

A frantic week, marked by interruptions, apartment intrusions, doctor appointments, and all 'round general madness as the "man" in my life tried to unravel a contract he's working on, to see where and when he's leaving town.
Writing has been in fits and starts -- and so, it is, as far as I am concerned, NO-NO NA-NO. I took down my widget, as there is no point in seeing me move up to ten thousand words. That being said, I am very grateful for the lovely push this gave me -- and I will continue to post that one section in SFD of the book about Anna's journey to her debut recital in Berlin, as soon as I can!

After all, I can't just leave things dangling!

Today I will be writing, baking some shortbread, and plotting activities for next week. With "the Man" (Maybe I should call him Mr. Big -- my shortbread and other goodies do that to him -- ) gone all week, it will be quiet here. Writing and eating and sleeping etc. when I want to sounds good. So does the thought of a movie break.

I was so looking forward to the opening of THE KING'S SPEECH today, but I guess it's not going to happen for a couple of weeks.
I adore Colin Firth and period movies hold a fascination for me.

Speaking of period movies, I am working on an essay for LESSONS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER -- hope to receive more submissions! -- and it deals with teenage angst, feelings of ingratitude, and how my mother made me feel spoiled at a pivotal Dr. Zhivago moment.

Hope my American cousins are having a lovely Thanksgiving weekend!

Before I forget, my play on words has to do with the Broadway show, No, No, Nanette -- it debuted in the 1920s and there was a revival in the '70s.
The most well-known song from the show is "Tea For Two."

And speaking of tea...maybe scones would be a tasty addition to today. I love to make them using white chocolate and dried cranberries.

I have grandiose dreams of baking. That's because I still haven't eaten breakfast!

Friday, November 19, 2010

TURNING CORNERS - Monsters Out From Under The Bed

 So, where have I been? Right here. Trying to work. Lots of distractions- like they're filming right in front of my apartment -- Coppola's production of On The Road - Jack Kerouac. The interior courtyard was packed with spiffy coupes and whitewalls and all kinds of 1940s and '50s automobiles. Totally cool.

And then there was a lengthy "what is that thingum called, actually, and what's the name of the church and shoot, did I spell that right" The thingum was the octagonal domed roof of a famous church in Florence...the landmark you see in all the photos. I needed to know more because that shape is used as the roof for the solarium in the Garber home.

Then there was a tussle with the Hydro electric bill and why the power company decided I owed them a late fee. Two dollars -- and unreasonably so. But, bureaucrats are like that. They want me to write a letter and mail it to complain. Take it to the Supreme Court if necessary, but, no, they "can't override the computer error" because after all, they are...bureaucrats.

I took time out to read all the various posts of my fellow Nanos who will be reaching 50,000 in a matter of hours. Pffft! It was a gift to me , this reading. A good break. I am hoping to maybe squeeze up to 30,000 if I write fast and if no hair balls, hairy men, or hairy situations get in my way.

I spent a lovely hour talking to my mother about Toots Shor -- I caught the documentary on him and was blown away by the nostalgic look at New York in its heyday -- the 1940s and '50s. Toots was quite a guy. It was another world then. Film stars, DiMaggio, politicians, mobsters, heavy belters like Jackie Gleason -- all and sundry rubbing up together at the huge bar. Riveting.

My mother and I also talked about something very near and dear to me -- her famous homemade macaroni and cheese casserole with the toasted bread crumbs and the tomato-kissed cheddar sauce. She gave me the recipe. I got fat just listening, and am planning to make this sucker on the very first day of a heavy snowfall.
All in all, my procrastination period was thoroughly enjoyable. And now, it is back to the book. I am starting to get excited again.

I was thinking to myself that I ought to change my blog title to read NANO I'M NOT, but decided against it.
 I am now ready to burn rubber, I have written a part of the chapter that seemed at times impossible to do, especially because I know what happens next and the reader doesn't, and I had to find a way to allow Anna to glom onto some sense of youthful optimism or hope.

I said I would post my drafts for one section -- the events leading Anna to her debut recital and its immediate aftermath. And, so, here is the next rough-draft installment.

THE SCARF DANCE Copyright Carol Krenz 2010

Monday evenings at home on the Bellevue Strasse were, in Anna’s estimation, as bland and easy to digest as the blanc mange puddings she ate as a child. Papa chaired department meetings at the university until nine and afterward, dined with colleagues. This meant his seat was now occupied by her cat, Tybalt, who regarded Papa with as much wariness and disdain as any Montague. He therefore delighted at every opportunity to curl up on the brocade upholstery where he freely licked his paws and shed inordinate amounts of white hair.
Without Papa to interrupt, Anna usually chattered excitedly to Mama and Mimi; but she was silent now, caught in a daydream.
“Annaleh? You feel all right?”
“Yes, Mama. I’m just tired.”
“You are working too hard, maybe?”
 “No. The hard work begins tomorrow.”
“Well, get a good night’s sleep. Don’t practice too late.”
Rachel Garber pushed her girth away from the table and retired to her room to write her nightly letter to her sister, Sarah.
Mimi lingered over her tea and asked about Liszt. “Is that what you start tomorrow? Has the Kapellmeister narrowed it down, yet?”
“He says he is still deliberating over three of the Rhapsodies.”
“Well, good luck. And listen to your mother. Get some sleep.” Mimi, who was working meticulously on the embroidery repair of monogrammed linens, left for the sewing room.

Alone in the airy green salon on the main floor, Anna sat at the Bechstein grand, closed her eyes and envisioned herself playing Chopin’s Nocturnes. How unfair Papa was – this piano was meant for Chopin. Her fingers caressed the ebony lyre of the music rack and the gleaming lacquer on the fall. Impulsively, she jumped up and laid her cheek on the cool lid, stretching her arms wide to embrace it. If she loved one thing more than anything else, it was this piano.
It had taken both Frau Gruber and Frau Steiner to convince Papa that an upright was insufficient to her talents and requirements. When he had finally relented, and taken the time necessary to ensure the new grand was properly delivered and tuned, she knew he was pleased with his decision and for a time told herself it was because he agreed with her teachers’ assessments.
But when he mentioned the Bechstein in conversations, it was to boast about how his professional achievements had made such luxuries possible. He never praised the young virtuoso who brought this miracle of artisanship to life.
And yet, according to the Kapellmeister, Papa was thrilled for her and wanted her to make her debut. Papa was a complicated puzzle and no matter how many times she tried to arrange his pieces together, they did not fit.

He entered the salon at eleven and was startled to find her waiting for him. “Anna, up so late? What has happened?”
“Nothing, Papa. I just don’t feel sleepy. How was your evening?”
“The same, Anna, the same as always. Arguments about special endowments and how they should be spent.” His tone was flat, his mind, obviously preoccupied. He did not even look at her, he was striding, like a sailor drawn to a siren’s song, towards the glass doors that opened onto the solarium, lush and inviting beneath its octagonal domed roof.
Papa was a handsome figure in black, wrapping a leather apron about his waist, swinging a copper watering can and a hose as he strolled the tiled paths of his exotic garden. Gas light, in stark relief against the night, suffused the flowering trees and plants in a faint phosphorous yellow. Was he actually humming to himself, or was it the hissing of the lamps she heard?

In the dark, lying against the warmth of her pillow, she closed her eyes, pressed her face into it, and recalled the scent of Ariel’s cheeks. His eyes and lips came to her and she kissed them, kissed every inch of his face, sinking deeply into a fantasy. When she could stand no more, she shifted onto her back and stretched her arms toward the ceiling as if to welcome him, to gather him to her bosom. She whispered his name repeatedly until tears trickled into her mouth and ears.
Finally, she reached under her nightgown and allowed her left hand to touch her naked skin. How smooth and taut her belly was, how soft her left breast, how--! Nausea rose in her throat when she neared her right breast, tracing its diminutive outline, her fingers hovering, as if repulsed, before coming to rest on the unnatural whorls of flesh above her nipple. From there, her hand edged upward to the misshapen craters digging into her chest as though it had been scooped out by a blunt instrument. Higher still, she was finally touching the ropey ridge of twisted scar tissue that ran from the top of her shoulder down the length of her withered arm. Its presence was so unnerving, like discovering a mutation wherein human flesh had become a pebbled braided coxcomb.
 More flesh was missing under her armpit.
What the boiling oil had not destroyed, the doctors had, cutting away every trace of gangrene caused by debris that had worked its way into her wounds during the fitful carriage ride home.
Her scalded body was spattered with angry red and purple stains echoing every splash that had doused her, starting at the side of her neck, and finishing just above her wrist. Of particular cruelty, purple streaks shaped like the pointed beaks of carrion birds slashed at her breast and covered her nipple.
She rolled onto her stomach and sobbed into her pillow, trying to muffle her grief.
Passionate love –  gut-wrenching, heart-stopping, intoxicating love was what she longed for, but how would she ever truly know it? She was ugly, so ugly that could not look at herself. Mimi had bathed her since the age of five, and when Mimi was not around, she washed herself hurriedly and in darkness.
God was laughing at her.
Mama said she had a beautiful complexion, Mimi said her long chestnut hair had streaks of sunshine running through it and that her figure was like a young filly’s with a marvelous rump at no extra charge. But Papa had stopped kissing her years ago, and that had to mean something. Oh, yes, God was laughing at her! Papa, who had once adored her, and fussed over her, had completely withdrawn. Maybe this concert would bring his love back. Maybe that was the key to winning his affection once more.
Her piteous sobs continued until she exhausted herself  and found herself drifting in and out of the morning’s hoarfrost and Ariel’s kiss. It seemed so long ago.
Then, she heard a voice. It was Mama’s.
She sat bolt upright and dangled her legs over the bed, listening. A small word whispered at her –  bashert – destiny. Mama’s favourite word.
It was bashert she had gone to Wannsee, bashert she walked into that kitchen with the large pot on the stove, bashert she tiptoed up to touch its blue rooster handle. Yes, bashert she toppled it and was burned and bashert the doctors insisted she play the piano to save her ligaments and muscles.
Mama had said, “not for nothing” to her on more occasions than she could count. Mama even insisted she get over her fear of the kitchen by rolling dough flat and cutting it into cookie shapes for baking. No boiling oil, only the smell of butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Mama had always said “from bad comes good, you’ll see.”
And so, Ariel had come. And maybe he genuinely liked her. Maybe she could learn to trust him and let him love her – if he really wanted to. Maybe. But, what if he did not love her at all? She was not going to try to win him or try to pretend she was beautiful when inside she felt so ugly. No, she would not do it.
 If Ariel truly loved her, he would say so in time. And whatever happened after that – well, it was bashert.

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Embarrassment Of Bitches

I'm in the throes -- a major wrangling with me, myself, and Evil Twin, who really gave me trouble yesterday. I wanted to write well. She wanted me to do the laundry, take a shower, cook. Now, how rude is that? All part of a conspiracy to distract me from what I needed to be doing -- writing!. Frustrated beyond belief, I decked her one, even though violence is not the answer.

Trouble was, I didn't even know the question.

Well, maybe that's not entirely true. I think it was: how can I write this part of the novel when I am all too aware of what is coming on the heels of Anna Garber's debut? Misery, that's what. 

In fact, the pages I am currently trying to lay down are filled with all the wonder and longing of a young woman, holding a terrible secret, who falls in love with a piano virtuoso in his own right, who will help her unlock the romance in Chopin's soul and in her own. Very romantic stuff, very charged, very tumultuous and ultimately, very...well, let's leave it alone for the moment.

So, two days ago, I had to stare down my own unease with the realization that I am writing a lovely section of my novel-- let's say I am a journalist about to "launch" into a wonderful description of life on board the Titanic, about one day into the trip. Skipping happily along the decks, I am ready to dazzle readers with news of the finery of the first-class cabins, the exorbitant menus at the Captain's table, the excitement of being part of White Star history as I describe this maiden voyage -- all the while knowing that in a matter of hours the Titanic is about to hit that iceberg and sink.

It is hard to write about the hopes and dreams of a main character, lead her on, as it were, or perhaps, allow her to lead me, to a climax I don't wish her to experience. It's a bizarre feeling, it takes courage -- and Evil Twin did not want me to face it down.

Yesterday, I decided I had to get on with it, and so I wrote a lot of garbage. I don't mean garden-variety-twice-a-week-pick-up-garbage, I mean, Jeffrey Dahmer-body-parts garbage. Only, mine was left in a Hefty bag on a porch in the sun for days, kind of garbage, not stored in a freezer.

Evil Twin made me write that crap. And, she left a bag of Viau Whippets chocolate marshmallow biscuits on my desk. My thighs, as they say, are now so big, they've gone condo.

Anyhow, not only did I write garbage and eat garbage and think garbage, I also looked at the garbage in my blog posts -- those shi**y first drafts no one is supposed to see? NaNo stuff? Wow. I have a lot of guts, I think. This really is an interesting November.

I am now over my emotional crisis and raring to tackle this section and deal with whatever fallout arises.

A mafia Don in Montreal was murdered yesterday -- the old Don, the grandfather and founder of his dynasty. Figuratively, he now sleeps with the fishes.
Well, if Evil Twin gets in my way later today, guess what? She's gonna wish she were a better swimmer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NANO NINE -- Blood, Sweat and Tears -- Mostly Sweat

It was a very strange way to wake up this morning, especially at five. But, there I was, lying on my left side, coming to consciousness with the strains of Chopin in my ears -- so distinct that I had to get out of bed, walk over to my computer, hit YouTube and track down Arthur Rubinstein's interpretation of Waltz No, 2 in C-sharp minor, Op. 64.

All in all, not a bad way to enjoy a first cup of coffee -- indeed, not a bad way to enjoy anything.

I knew I had to rework the kiss in the last section, I had to work delicately, lay it down as soundly as I could, because it is pivotal and after this scene, a momentum of a different kind builds.
Dipping into the Compuserve Writers Forum at the end of the day was gratifying -- if for no other reason than to be with fellow Nanos who had loads on their minds. There is a strong sense of world-building incubating amongst the members, and all the tea and sympathy one could desire.

I think the most important quality emerging from this November exercise, is the momentum it's established. No matter how much or how little is accomplished in the number of words, the story -- and the determination to tell it, is key.

On that note, I now lay down the musical tracks of my day -- a total of 845 new words.

Snip THE SCARF DANCE Copyright Carol Krenz 2010

“Yes,” he whispered. He wiped away her tears, stroked her cheeks, then leaned closer as if memorizing every freckle on the bridge of her nose, every fleck of gold in her eyes, every eyelash.      Finally, he kissed her, the swell of his lips gently pressing on hers, his breath so warm, she felt the frost melting above them. It was a fleeting kiss – too soon over.
When he straightened up he said, “Come, it’s time we went back.”

He took her basket again, and held her hand as they walked in easy silence. She was thankful for the nip in the air cooling what she knew must be a flame on her cheeks.
When they reached the Kapellmeister’s house, he placed the basket over her arm. “I will say goodbye now.”
“Yes, I’m running late – I’m taking the afternoon train to Weimar.”
“But, why?”
“A previous commitment. I am to give a small concert at the Amalia Library and now it would seem there’s to be an informal party for Liszt as well. He’s been in poor health and refused to celebrate his birthday some weeks ago. So, a group of us will do him honor—”
“Don’t look so worried, Anna. The timing couldn’t be better. I’ll be gone for two weeks during which you will be working very closely with Hermann. If you think I am a taskmaster, wait until he gets hold of you.” He smiled. “I am only half jesting. I know you’ve been studying with him for years, but that was different – now, you are making a debut. He will work you hard – very, very hard, and you will need to practice until you literally have no strength left to lift a fork. I went through the same rigors. In a way, I am glad I won’t have to see you…” his voice trailed off and he glanced down.
“Ya,” he murmured to himself, as if trying to remember something. Then he faced her again. “Anna, when you go upstairs, find Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu. We can communicate to each other in the notes, because I shall play it in Weimar, as well.”
She knew in that instance she was throwing caution to the wind, that she would regret her impulses because they could only lead her nowhere. She tried, but could not stop herself, so she dropped her basket, threw her arms around his neck and buried her face in the warmth of his muffler. “Ariel, Ariel!”
He held her for brief spell, rocking her. But, when he released her, he said, “You know this is maybe a good thing, our break in schedules. It’s good to have distance sometimes. I shall write to let you know when I am returning.”
Already he was sounding regretful, already his tone had changed. She felt foolish and refused to look at him.
His glove nudged her under the chin.
          “Anna,” he whispered, “you have rarely spoken my name in these last weeks. It feels good to hear it, now.”
And then he walked away, presumably in the direction of the Bahnhof but she didn’t wait to watch him disappear. Instead, she raced up the narrow staircase, and hurried to the piano.

An hour later, the Kapellmeister burst into the music room, smoking a cigar, carrying a tray of oysters on the half shell.
She nodded at him but continued playing feverishly, her hands working the keyboard like a concertina, her head nodding, her heart throbbing, her eyes streaming.
He sat at the table and listened as the Fantaisie furled and unfurled in chorded pleats. He smoked the last of his cigar. He sat back in his chair and folded his hands. He leaned forward and studied his oysters. He squeezed lemons over them. He sprinkled capers onto them.
She finally shuddered to a stop, weeping profusely, her chest rising and falling as though a small bird were trying to escape its cage.
“An-nah!” The Kapellmeister erupted, as he reached for a small jar of horseradish. “We have to make one thing clear…” He lifted an oyster to his mouth and held it there, torturing himself. “If you continue to weep like this, you will ruin my piano. Every time I am about to congratulate you on a wonderful performance, I find you in tears. You are entirely too damp.” He swallowed his oyster at last, his eyes lighting up with immense satisfaction. He turned toward her.
“Simply delicious. You must have one.”
She wrinkled her nose. “Herr Kapellmeister, I may weep buckets of salt water, it’s true, but you know that as much as I do not follow all the dietary laws, I never eat shellfish.”
“Quite right, how forgetful of me.”
Desperately, he glanced about the room, scanning the empty nut trays, the empty mint jar, the empty cigarette case, until he seized on the basket of rugelach. He got up and pounced on it.
“Marvellous treats,” he said, peeling away the white linen. “Come here, Anna, you simply have to try the chocolate ones. They’re my favourite.”

end snip

Monday, November 8, 2010


It turned out to be a relatively calm weekend -- the only sounds coming from the apartment were chords, octaves and contrapuntal stylings as I listened over and over again to the Hungarian Rhapsodies by Liszt and Chopin's Nocturnes.

I took notes and I made a list of vignettes I need to cover.
I also ate too much -- I do hope NaNO offers a special post-NaNO diet!
They forgot to mention that if you are on a quest for 50,000 words you might also put on 50,000 pounds and while I may be underachieving on the former, I assure you, I'll place first in the latter.

So, I added about 1,130 words to my counter and am about to write more, it now being mid-morning.
In the meantime, here's the weekend's draft:

THE SCARF DANCE Copyright 2010 Carol Krenz All Rights Reserved

Early Monday brought a hoar frost that coated branches, leaves, petals and shrubs. Berlin was caught in a shimmering diorama – but it was temporary, for the sun was strong and rising fast.
As she circled the corner of the Lennestrasse, Anna noticed Ariel standing in the street by No. 41, a cape and muffler about his shoulders. He had just lit a cigarette when he spotted her.
She waved and hurried toward him.
"Ach, sieh an, Rotkäppchen.” He smiled as he appraised her long hooded cloak and the basket over her arm. “And what goodies are we taking to grandmama?”
“I made some rugelach  last night.”
“You bake?”
“I do. And I made these for you but I didn’t know what flavour you like, so I made apricot, raspberry and chocolate.”
He was peeking under the cloth. “Since when do you bake? And why?”
“When I was a little girl, I started. I liked it so much, I continued.”
“May I?” Without waiting for an answer, he helped himself. “Delicious. What an intriguing girl you are. Let’s take them with us.”
“Where are we going?”
“Are you dressed warmly? I thought we’d stroll over to the Tier.”
He took the basket from her and steered her by the elbow. “Are you sure you’re warm enough?”
They made their way to the Unter den Linden passing workmen in peaked caps who were drinking hard spirits at the sausage stands and reading their morning papers.
As the linden trees were still veiled in sparkling frost, they decided to stop there instead and admire the view. They found a bench and placed the basket between them.
“Funny,” he said, as he lay it down, “I just thought of poor Helga.”
“Oh? What’s wrong with Helga?
“She’s well enough, but do you know there is no dumb waiter on the third floor?
“I hadn’t thought about it.”
“It only goes to the second – the music room was meant for servants quarters. Helga spends all her time carrying trays up from the second floor and down again. It’s mostly my fault. I prefer to practice upstairs and take my meals there, too. Perhaps, I feel closer to the angels.” His eyes twinkled.
“And the Kapellmeister? Don’t you ever eat together in the dining room?”
“Our schedules rarely coincide. When they do, yes, he coaxes me down from my aviary like a partridge from a pear tree.”
They reached into the basket together and she caught a hint of his toilet water, citrus, lavender and mint. Her cheeks burned.
“Chocolate,” he said.
“I beg your—”
“You wondered what my favourite flavour was. Definitely chocolate. And apricot if you have no chocolate.”
“I see.” She brushed non-existent crumbs from her lap.
They sat in silence for a few moments listening to the tittering of birds.
“Anna, I wanted to tell you that you play beautifully. Your intuitive style is a rare gift, and in this case, the challenge of both Liszt and Chopin will be a coup. I think the Kapellmeister is very sly. He is asking you to use your intellect when you approach Liszt and then your emotions for Chopin. So—we work on the externals, yes? The techniques, the pedal, the arpeggios, and we work on the internals. Your confidence, your motivations and your passions. And so, I was wondering if you could tell me…I mean I know nothing about you…what I mean to ask is, have you ever been in love?”
“No,” she laughed. “Have you?”
“Do you mean that mad, crazy love when you think you will die if you can’t be with that person?”
She nodded, feeling her cheeks burn again.
“Yes,” he said.
“I shouldn’t wonder. I mean you are older, and you are a man…”
“She was so beautiful, Anna. She floated, rather then walked, and when she kissed me, I thought I had gone to heaven. I was mad for her, I wanted to possess her, hold her, marry her.”
 “What happened?”
“I’m sure you have heard all those wicked tales about governesses who sneak into young men’s rooms at night?”
“It was your governess?”
“Yes. Her name was Trude. She was twenty-one and I was four. She broke my heart.” He laughed.
“You think you are so clever.” But, she laughed, too. “So, in other words, you have never been in love?”
“No. Never. I’ve come close, though.”
“And you think I need some experience of love for the Chopin, don’t you?”
His expression grew thoughtful. “Yes, Anna, if I am to be honest, yes, I think you do.”
“Well, if I tell you something silly, will you promise not to laugh?”
He nodded.
“When I was a little girl, maybe five or six, I went to the Zoo one day with Mimi and there we saw a magnificent lion and his mate. It was, for me, love at first sight, such was his beauty and the way his proud eyes looked at me. And, then I noticed one of his ears had a tear in it, so I asked Mimi why, and she said he had probably been in a fierce battle and had come out the victor.
“It was a very, very hot day and I remember Mimi was holding a handkerchief to her nose because of the smell. And, so we did not stay long with the lions. And later that night, when I said my prayers, I prayed especially for him.”
She knew Ariel was staring intently at her now, she knew her voice had changed, had gone far away.
“And then what happened?”
“We left the next morning for a hunting lodge because Papa was worried about typhus coming to the city. So, off we went to Wannsee and then, well, it was a long time before I returned to see my lion. How I longed to see him! And do you know…he was gone. His mate recognized me, but he was nowhere to be seen. So, Mimi asked one of the zookeepers about him, Herr Zellner, his name was, and he complained about bad specimens—”
She broke off, unable to speak further. She turned away from him and began to sob. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry—I haven’t thought about him in so long.”
He reached for her shoulder and she felt electric sparks shoot through it. “How awful for you. Such a sad story.”
She turned back to him. “Yes, it really was.” And then she looked into his eyes and saw his compassion and something stirred in her. “Do you think I am ready to play the Nocturnes now?”
“Yes,” he whispered. He wiped away her tears, stroked her cheeks, and kissed 
 her mouth gently, his breath so warm, she felt the frost melting above them.

-end snip-

Saturday, November 6, 2010


Today was spent  researching music -- a divine prospect and one I really don't wish to hurry, while at the same time, I cannot spend my days endlessly wallowing in the one beautiful swath of this novel.

I am savouring the time I do spend with Anna Garber as she prepares for the most significant night of her young life. Which is to say, I am not going to over paint and write excessively, but, I am not going to gloss it over too much, either.
I am mindful of the pacing.

Which brings me to NaNo -- I may not be a NaNo girl, after all, because my goal has changed from Day One. Now, it seems, I want to write as much as I can, and get this book launched -- but not at the expense of my sanity -- the jury is still out on that one. I don't pretend to have sanity most days, anyhow.

Later today, I will be going out to get a flu shot, doing some marketing in Westmount and then coming home. I may not write much then. But, I am raring to go. Now that my brain is properly stuffed with the Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 and all its nuances, I am ready to assist the Kapellmeister in teaching Anna how to attack it!

Tomorrow night we turn back the clocks. I like the idea of extra sleep; I hate the idea of dark days when it's only 4 p.m. and you can't see your hand in front of your face. In fact, I find it very hard making the adjustment, and think it's a really dumb idea, because it just feels so much colder when the sun goes down at this time of year.

Years ago, when I lived here -- before I moved away and subsequently returned --
I wrote a poem about November. A rather hopeful one.

So, for those who hate this time of year, here's a small consoling piece of nostalgia:

November! Colder and bleaker
than all the witches tits
in Macbeth, no more.

Sipping wine, munching Ritz bits
I order November and all cold winds
Exeunt from the drab picture
of an unromantic play!

Looking southward, the river
sparkling, the sweet-sooted
chimney tops puff spirals
of long forgotten days
when cities held magic
of shiny black pavements
splattered in oily, rainbowed
dwindling frosts,
and little children scampered home
in shiny Macs and bright umbrellas
through expectant November streets and November grays,
caught up in an eiderdown
of warm tea, and tales of Pooh,
and the onset of Saint Nicholas Days.

November at Haddon Hall, Montreal 1988

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.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

DAY THREE - When Research Calls

I think it's Day Three -- I wouldn't know because I am still up from working on Day Two.

My word count went up which is a good thing -- but so did my blood pressure. The trouble is, you really do need to do your research before you start your daily writing or else, you'll end up like me. Tired, blotto, hungry, dirty, ditzy, dizzy, and feeling feeble when it comes to the tremendous output of my fellow Forumites, who are taking NaNo to heart and just letting her rrrip!

Well, says I, it's already bad enough when you write without a backward glance, which is what you're supposed to do...but, it's another thing entirely when you realize you can't just use [] to surround doubtful names, places and references you'll correct later. I mean, that's what I still intend to do for such instances, but today, gentle readers, I found myself forcibly thrust inside the many pages of web info fast tracking Frederic Chopin and his photos, his work, his life, because that was something I simply could not fake, and I really needed the information in order to move the narrative along.

And so, members of the jury, I put it out there for you -- a wonderful picture of Chopin and the continuation of the scene that I started November 1.

Hope someone in the universe likes this because when I read it, as tired as I am, it's all swimming together.
It's about 6:30 am, and I am off to bed.

Later, gator. <yawn>

Started November 1, 2010
THE SCARF DANCE Copyright 2010 Carol Krenz All Rights Reserved.
Part Two

          (November 2, 2010)

In the rapid heat of discussion she had entirely forgotten about ‘the man.’ He sounded ominous, like a ghostly figure springing from the pages of a Gothic horror story. She was nervous around strangers. Living inside a glass bowl as she did, removed from most of the comings and goings of everyday life, it was hard to imagine how else to exist, harder still to think she could keep her secret hidden from prying eyes. Even as she considered this, she inadvertently pulled down the lace border of her right sleeve. “Man? Who is he and why do we need him?”
The Kappelmeister sighed pleasurably. “We need him to perform a small miracle on you. He is going to be the key to your success, Anna.”
“But, you said I am to work with you on the Rhapsodies…I don’t understand.”
The Kappelmeister leaned forward in his chair, placing his large hands on his pudgy knees. “Anna…have you always listened to your father? To everything he says?”
What a question out of nowhere. She looked at him quizzically; his keen blue eyes were regarding her intently. “If you mean, Herr Kappelmeister, am I dutiful…then yes. I am as dutiful as I can be, not only to my father, but to my mother, as well.”
“But, do you agree with everything your father says?”
“No…I do not…and sometimes I say as much, which is to no purpose. I am sixteen, whereas he is older and more educated, and he always points this out to me – that he knows best. But sometimes I hear him discussing matters of genetics and other subjects of his research, and I find many of his points of view…how shall I say this…well, astonishing. Sometimes I think his views are too narrow. His opinions about races, and Jews, and all kinds of subjects…please, do not misunderstand me, as I only read what I can when Mimi provides me with books. I admit I am not as informed as I should be – I spend all day practicing – but, well…I think my father says things that cause harm – he often fights with my mother, makes her cry. I think my father has unreasonable distastes but I have yet to understand why, exactly. So, I stay quiet. And I find it hard to stay quiet, but Papa says I am terribly impertinent.”

The Kappelmeister nodded thoughtfully. “You know, Anna, your father is not unique in his views. You will meet many people like him. But, this is of no great importance right now. I gather, however, that you would not be averse to plotting a small mutiny?”
“But—Herr Kappelmeister, why on earth would I do such a thing?” Secretly, the idea excited her. Mutiny? Just who did he imagine they would set on fire?
“Come—take you seat at the piano. Now, close your eyes.”
“Really, what a game, today. The last time I remember such intrigue is when you took me to see The Magic Flute.”
She heard the sound of clicking, heard him rummaging through drawers in the tall walnut secretary at the far end of the room. Next, a shuffling of papers. Finally, the sound of something landing on the music stand.
“Open your eyes.”
“I can’t. I’m afraid.”
“Mutiny, Anna, mutiny.”
She sensed what it was even before she saw it – the face of Chopin, his gaze locking onto hers, as if reaching to her from the grave – a picture she had not seen before. His large circular eyes looked rested, curious, his nose and chin, gently rounded, his mouth curvaceous. A small cry caught in her throat and her hands flew to her neck, as if to hold it back. She could not turn away from him.
“He was twenty-five in that picture, Anna. Intelligent, intense, and not looking ravaged by illness.”
She nodded, still clutching the high collar of her blouse.
“And do you know who painted it? A young woman your age – sixteen, she was. She and he were to be married but it never happened.”
“Why?” she whispered.
“They say her family did not approve of him for many reasons. And thus, she was his first heartbreak.”
Still she did not turn to look at the Kappelmeister. “My father—”
“Yes, he made all that perfectly clear three years ago. No Chopin. Not one drop, not one note. Many High Germans profess a disdain for this young genius, true. They exalt Teutonic epics, the great German composers. We are a most peculiar people. The French are more reasonable when it comes to music—even the Italians and the Swiss. And, when I listened to your father, I noticed how uncomfortable your mother was, so I went back to the house later to speak with her alone. She told me your father had a sister who went to live with her husband in Krakow and was murdered there by Polish peasants. Our poor Chopin is therefore the vessel of all your father’s hatred and mistrust.”
A rap on the door, and Helga entered. “ He’s here, Herr Kappelmeister, and he says he’s ravenous.”
“Ah, at last the prodigal son returns. Ask him to come up, Helga, and refresh our tea.”
Anna was at this moment weeping, she didn’t know why…was it for Chopin or her father or herself? The Kappelmeister gently mopped her face with a handkerchief that smelled faintly of peppermint. “Don’t cry, Anna, you mustn’t cry. Guess who is about to join us?”
“I don’t know,” she blubbered, taking the handkerchief from him. “And, anyhow,” she blew her nose, honking like a meddlesome goose, “he shall see me and think I look like a rabbit severely allergic to clover--.”
“But, I don’t.” came a soft voice from the doorway. “I think you look just fine.”
And when she glanced up she found herself staring at Ariel Dworkin.
“Anna, I want you to say hello to—”
“I know who he is…” she said quickly, without taking her eyes off Dworkin. He was beginning to shift from one foot to the other, and she realized too late that her mouth was wide open. “Forgive me, I have no manners today.”
“That’s all right,” he grinned. “I have no manners on any day of the week.”
“Now that is entirely true, Anna,” The Kappelmeister interjected. “Dworkin, this is Fraulein Garber--”
“Oh—call me Anna, please.”
Dworkin approached the Steinway, fingered the dahlias with a curious expression and asked, “Is there anything around here to eat?”
And after he had polished off a full tea, they discussed the mutiny.
The Kappelmeister said, “The repertoire will be highly rigorous and demanding, Anna, I propose you begin with the Rhapsodies, and finish with Chopin. In this way, your father, who will be sitting on his Louis IV chair, surrounded by the cream of Berlin society – and not just Berlin, mind you – will hardly be in any position to protest. Especially not after you bring the audience to tears, are greeted with thunderous applause and hailed as the next successor to Liszt…I assure you, there will be no reprisals.”
“Herr Kappelmeister, how can you say this? I am afraid you are mistaking my abilities for Herr Dworkin’s--.”
“Call me Ariel, won’t you? Hermann’s right, you know.”
“But—but, I have heard you play. The whole world clamors for you. How can you even think it?”
“Because I know my limitations, whereas you, apparently have none. I am, what is called, a muscular pianist. And I will happily show you what I mean, shall I?”
He rose from the table, a tall, graceful figure, clean-shaven with a pale complexion and thick dark hair parted on the right which hung in loose waves about his face. He had a wide forehead, a square jaw set off by a strong chin, and there was the faintest indentation in its centre. And his brown eyes, she had noticed, were like Chopin’s – round and intense.

He commenced playing Chopin’s Ballade Number One, and immediately she was swept up into his world, flying, falling, rising again over grand octaves and impossibly intricate fingering that flew across the keys, faster and faster, with repeated left-handed undercurrents swelling up presto con fuoco until at last he set her down again with two complete runs up and down the keys signaling not one but two finalities that echoed romantic longing.
She could scarcely breathe. The Kappelmeister was applauding, whereas she was back to gaping, aware that tears were streaming down her cheeks. He didn’t notice them, for he was still intent on what had just transpired, listening to the fading reverberations in the air, still throbbing from his exertion.
The room fell into a thoughtful silence for some minutes until at last the Kappelmeister rose from his seat and walked over to a sideboard to fetch some brandy. They would toast their good fortune, drink to Ariel’s continued success, and then clink their delicate snifters in celebration of Anna’s debut and her forthcoming liberation. The mutiny was on.
As the Kappelmeister helped her into her melton coat, she asked about the Chopin. “What will I play?”
Ariel said, “His Nocturnes. The most romantic music in the world. Difficult, mind you, but we will work here three times a week and then even more.”
She refused his invitation to walk her home, refused a hack, as well, preferring to walk while there was still some light. At least, it was her intention to walk, but as things often happen when one is suddenly caught up in a web of desire, her feet never touched the ground.

-end snip-

Chopin at 25

Monday, November 1, 2010

DAY ONE -- It Hurts!

NaNo started at 12:01 last night and, like a child, I waited for the magic gun to go off, which it did -- the word counter suddenly appeared on the site, I was now live! -- too bad it is so busy, you can hardly access it! And the widget here doesn't seem to know what it's doing, either.
I wrote for an hour before bed, and rose early this morning. I am now past my word goal by one word, but have not completed the scene/chapter I'm in, so I may do more writing later tonight.

That's if I don't topple over first.

When I write, I get so tense, so involved in my world, so focused, it feels like some spring in my neck is going to go off with a mighty sproing! and all my brains will fall out with it.

It's very chilly outside -- overcast, perfect weather for writing and sleeping. Hah!
I managed to do a laundry today. I try to stand up often and walk around for a bit before returning to the screen. I ate a good breakfast, too.
But, the bottom line is, I am aching and exhausted. I will not even think about tomorrow. 

For now, more writing -- buy hey -- word count is currently: 1,693 -- not shabby at all.

Here's what I have done thus far:
Started November 1, 2010
THE SCARF DANCE Copyright 2010 Carol Krenz All Rights Reserved.
Part Two

          Anna Garber popped a roasted chestnut into her mouth and chewed thoughtfully. What to do…what to do – for here was a sublime autumn afternoon in the open-air market of the Potsdamer Platz, brimming with harvest excitement, with aromas and colours that bled one into the other until they overwhelmed her.
          Herr Kroeger’s  pomegranates looked even larger than last year’s; some, he’d cut in half, their whitish membranes bursting juice that stained his straw baskets ruby.
          Fiery squashes, deeply purpled Corinthian grapes and branches of yellow-orange bittersweet lined the stalls. And over there, next to the wine merchant, was the farmer, Karl, from Pankow, who had promised to bring in his dahlias at the height of bloom for her to see. Red, fuchsia, magenta, orange…she closed her eyes fearing she might die from a surfeit of beauty.
          When she opened them again, it was to stare at the sky, crystal blue, the colour of Swiss topaz. A lemon-scented breeze happened by, rasping her lips and cheeks with the caress of an impatient lover, she decided, even though she had never once been kissed.
          Somewhere a clock chimed the quarter hour. She could still make her lesson on time if she hurried. The question as to what to do was suddenly decided when Karl handed her two dahlias and refused payment because she was, in his words, “more beautiful than any flower in the market.” She neither blushed nor stammered because Karl was old enough to be her grandfather. And she thanked her luck because she had no money left in her pockets. Now, as she clutched the blazing dahlias, she knew she could have the best of both worlds – she could bring autumn with her and give it to the Kappelmeister.

          Dashing across the square toward the Lennestrasse, ringing the bell at Number 41, she raced to the third landing in time to fling herself, flushed and breathless, onto the Kapellmeister’s couch just as the clock struck two. His forthcoming entrance into the music room would be theatrical as always and unpredictable since no two were ever alike. He might burst through the door carrying a plate of half-eaten pears rolling over stray toast crumbs, or a cup and saucer listing like a shipwreck. Would there be a large sheaf of music flapping under his arm, a box of Italian chocolates?
His wardrobe was equally surprising wherein his collar tips were seldom pointed up or down simultaneously, and if he wore his burgundy dressing gown, his Paisley ascot was hastily tied and lay flat and deflated at his throat.
Anna took great delight in the consistency of his inconsistencies, something about which he seemed blithely unaware for no one was more startled than he when teacups toppled, pears tumbled or he forgot the day of the week.
He seemed amazed every time he greeted her. “Why, Anna,” he’d enthuse, “how lovely to see you!” as though it had been ages since their last visit, when in fact, hours was more like it – she’d been his student for three years. But his obvious glee and revolving state of perplexity were entirely genuine. As he explained it, “I have only so much room in my head, which is most days stuffed with musical scores and their refusal to quiet down until I have mastered them.”

Today brought surprises of a different kind altogether. Kappelmeister Gustav Hermann strode through the door ten minutes late, wearing a black top coat, breathless from the outdoors, his cream-puff cheeks tinged pink. He nodded at her. “Have you had your tea, yet?”
She was seated at the piano playing Schubert’s Sonata in D, and shook her head over the rolling fortissimo.
“Good,” he said rubbing his hands together, “we’ll have tea. We’ll talk.” He pulled the sash cord by the windows and looked out onto the street as Anna’s fingers thundered on.
“I brought dahlias,” she said. “For you.”
He twirled around and spotted them, aflame in vermillion and fuchsia, lying on the high gleam of ebony wood of the Steinway. “Delightful,” he said. “And I brought you something, too. A box of caramels--and a man, in that order.”
She stopped playing. Helga came in, set down a large tea tray, and whisked the flowers off to a pot of water. “What did you say?”
The Kappelmeister’s eyes exuded excitement and mischief. “You heard me the first time. Now, don’t look so worried, Anna. He isn’t due to arrive for at least half an hour – and we have so much to discuss. Come…come over to the table and eat something.”
She took her seat and poured the tea while he quickly buttered slices of cake. He piled a plate with sandwiches and petit fours and handed it to her. “You eat, I’ll talk.”  Which wasn’t entirely true because he was hungry and swallowed his sandwiches whole. She sipped quietly, a swell of butterflies filling her stomach.
“It would seem we are both to be congratulated,” he said at length. “I have just concluded a deal with the impresario Wolff; you are now looking at the head Kappelmeister of the new Berliner Philharmoniker, for at least one year, maybe longer--”
Anna clapped in delight.
“--and, my dear, that is not all. First, we seem to have launched a successful campaign for Bulow – he is rumored to be considering a permanent position here, as early as ’87, at which time, I will act as his second. Further, I received word this morning that Tchaikovsky accepts my invitation to come – when – we do not know, but it is a huge feather in my cap, as I wrote ceaselessly to him last winter. As such, my fortunes have doubled.”
Anna was thrilled. “Herr Hermann, this is so sudden, so wonderful for you. It couldn’t happen to a better man, a better teacher.” She patted his hand, then, faltered. “I suppose this means no more lessons?”
The Kappelmeister’s eyes twinkled as he emptied his teacup and set it down. “Ach, Anna, mein Anna. How innocent it is. Why must you be so coy?”
“I don’t know what you mean. I am never coy, but now, I am embarrassed. Really, what do you mean?”
He was staring at her, his round pudgy eyes alight with affection, almost wistful. “Anna, my dear. It is quite simple. You do not need lessons. You should be teaching the world. Do you not know this? Does no one ever tell you that you are a musical genius at home?”
She choked on her sandwich as tears stung her eyes. He looked surprised. “Ah, well,” he said quickly, “I suppose no one wants you to suffer a swollen head. Or slack off from practice. Do you think that’s it?”
She nodded. And, she was lying. There was no chance of her ever getting a swelled head.
“Well, like it or not, a prodigy is what you are. An accomplished virtuoso…which brings me to the second piece of news. It is time you made your debut. You will give a recital in exactly seven months. Congratulations are in order, my dear child. It has all been arranged. I won’t have you performing at the hall on the Bernburger Strasse, it is not fit for such an intimate recital. So, Clara Selinger has offered us her salon and then a private party at your home.”
Anna shook her head, put her hands over her ears. “Please, stop, please! You are going too fast. I can’t listen to anymore. It’s too much.”
He rose and walked to the piano where he’d placed the box of caramels. He helped himself, chewing silently. She knew what he was doing… waiting until his temperamental student behaved. “Herr Kappelmeister? You said, ‘offered us’ – who is ‘us’ – you and me?”
Now he was the coy one, for he stared at her like a Cheshire cat, and deliberately popped another caramel into his mouth. He would make her beg, break her resistance.
“Please, won’t you tell me?”
“Will you listen, now?”
She nodded.
“The ‘us’ is your father and me. I saw him this morning to iron out the details. Anna, he is thrilled.”
“Really? Thrilled?” Her heart leapt with excitement.
“Of course, Anna. Why, whatever could you possibly be thinking? Why do you suppose you came here to study with me? Do you think I take on babies? I only have two students. It has always been your father’s dream that you achieve this success, and why? Because he believes in you and your talent.”
This time when she edged toward tears he didn’t try to stop her. She soon dabbed her eyes with her napkin. “Would you like to hear an imitation of my father?” she asked in a mischievous chirp. She puffed out her chest, straightened her shoulders, frowned deeply and intoned, “Plaaay, Anna, plaaay!”
The Kappelmeister smiled briefly. “Then you are willing to perform?”
“And you will do as you are told?”
“I’m quite serious--”
“Yes, I know.”
“Then, you will have a caramel…?”

Moments later, when the dahlias were sitting brightly in a brown jar on the piano, the Kappelmeister spoke of Franz Liszt.
“It’s a recital in two parts,” he explained
“But—he is so complex, so terribly difficult,” she cried.
“Tut-tut-tut-tut. Not only will you play Liszt, you will play his Hungarian Rhapsodies. You will tackle the most complex of the complex as if it were as natural as breathing and you will sit tall and make the keys weep with longing for the Motherland.”
“Which Motherland?”
Any Motherland.”
She chewed her lip. “What if I cannot do it?”
“Anna, listen to me. I will be coaching and rehearsing you. I will not allow a pupil of mine to make a fool of herself, so you must trust me. You will stagger the audience, I assure you.”
“I will do my best, I promise.”
“Good—and now we discuss the second part. And for that, we need the man I told you about.”