<< -- 2 -- Jenna Orkin TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON
'May I help you?' bellowed Mr Eschenbach, for he was hard of hearing. He was about seventy, with suspenders over a short-sleeved shirt and a lopsided bow tie. He reminded Michael of Pinocchio's maker, Geppetto.
'I'd, um, like some information about piano lessons?' said Michael.
'Piano! Sure, we got piano! We got the best teacher in New York, Miss Laudon. She's the best -- ' he searched for a suitable place -- 'anywhere!' He spoke in clichés because English was new to him and the clichés seemed fresh. 'You wait here. She'll be finished, five minutes. Sit over there.'
Michael sat where Mr Eschenbach waved.
'You're a nice boy. I can tell,' Mr Eschenbach went on approvingly while they waited. 'Nice manners ... Don't worry. You came to the right place.' Michael squirmed nervously as he tried not to giggle at the old man's insistence. 'What's the matter, you don't believe me?'
Michael assured Mr Eschenbach he believed him.
'I tell you something,' Mr Eschenbach confided. 'Miss Laudon's not just a great musician and a great teacher ...' -- his eyes widened as though he were describing an apparition -- 'She's a great human being!'
The romantic harmonies from the inner room stopped and a young woman came out. She didn't look the way Michael had imagined, slender and beautiful. She was small and dark and dumpy.
''Bye,' she whispered to Mr Eschenbach as though imparting a secret.
''Bye, sweetie. See you Saturday,' Mr Eschenbach called. 'Wait here,' he told Michael. 'She'll be right out.' And he went to get Miss Laudon.
A minute or so later, Michael heard arguing around the corner at the end of the hall.
'No, no,' a woman complained. 'That's Tuesday, don't you remember? Arnold's Monday."
'Arnold's Monday?' That was Mr Eschenbach's voice. 'What happened to Thursday?'
'Aach. I'll show you later. Where's the new boy?'
A woman in her sixties appeared, walking towards Michael briskly, as though on a mission. She carried herself straight so that Michael didn't realize until she reached him that she only came up to his chin.
If Mr Eschenbach resembled a gatekeeper, Miss Laudon was chateleine of the house. She had an aura of grace which Michael felt as soon as she took his hand in both of hers.
Copyright © 1 September 2005
Jenna Orkin, New York City, USA