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<<<  <<  -- 9 --  K C Devereaux    NOTA BENE


'I wanted you all to know that this young lady, completely on her own initiative, learned a portion of the piece she's about to play that I didn't assign. I just wanted you to know how proud I am of her for taking on this challenge, and how sorry I am for underestimating her. I should have known she's gone beyond excerpts. She's ready for entire pieces. Listen, ladies and gentlemen, to Katie Corcoran.'

The audience clapped. I stared straight ahead. I couldn't lift my eyes from the piano keys. A warm moistness spread up my neck to my ears. I tried to imagine Mr A had never come up the stairs, that I was just sitting down to play with a clean slate. I began. My fingers flew over the keys, which were dry. When I got to the middle part my finger slipped on one of the chords but it could have been mistaken for a grace note. I inverted some chords where it wasn't called for, and failed to when it was. I heard feet scuffing the gym floor and I thought I heard my father's voice: 'She's a trooper', and my mother's 'oh shush'.

Playing Chopin

On the last arpeggio I slowed down, and made it over the place where I usually fumbled, to the final note which rang out until, at the correct moment, I took my hands away and placed them in my lap. The audience clapped and from the back I thought I heard a shout. I stood and faced them, trying to smile but my lips were trembling. My mother was going through her purse and my father scraped his metal chair back, stretching out his long legs and crossing them at the ankle. I hoped they would take me out to dinner with them after the recital but they hadn't said anything and I knew they were going to a dark cocktail lounge where I would look out of place in my peach organdy spring dress.

They would drop me off at home and Grandma's sitter would make me a hamburger while Grandma watched Lawrence Welk behind the curtains of her parlor doors and my brothers watched westerns in the basement. Long after I had gone to bed a slit of light under my door would wake me up and I'd hear Mom, arguing, and Dad trying to be reasonable.

Since I knew this would happen I lingered on stage even though I got no more clapping than anyone else and Camilla was poised on the bottom step. When the applause ceased one set of hands continued. Peering through my glasses to the back I made out Mr Wotyla, alone in the back row. The instant I caught his eye he waved, then he bent at the waist in a bow. I bowed back. I realized he had been the one shouting. 'Nota bene', I whispered.

Copyright © 9 April 2008 K C Devereaux, Michigan USA



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