Writers Project of Ghana

MUSE-ic by Amma Konadu Anarfi

This story was first published online at ammakonadu.wordpress.com.

[~1~]

The concert started on time. The moment the clock struck 7 P.M. the organist hit a note and the auditorium fell silent. The magnificence of the grandiose instrument that had been built into the hall, with its golden pipes scaling the soft brown walls was breathtakingly beautiful. The lights had been put out where the audience sat and the stage was lit up. Dzidzor sat in the first row, taking it all in. She scanned the orchestra, the organist down to the choristers robed in gold-rimmed ivory gowns and relaxed into her seat as the show began.

It was the passion with which Beethoven's Hallelujah from Christ on the Mount of Olives was being played that had Dzidzor opening her eyes to find the origin of the string instrument she could hear so loudly hit the accidentals that were scattered all over the score of the piece. He sat there, to the left of the conductor, his eyes closed, the double bass propped between his legs and his hands poised, one holding the extended length of the large violin, and the other holding the bow. It stood about six feet and she could tell the back had been made from maple, spruce for the top, and ebony for the fingerboard. Her eyes remained fixed on his arms, which were firm, muscular. His face looked struck with heavy emotions as the tempo rose towards the end, and the choir pealed forth while he hit the low pitches that arrested Dzidzor’s attention.

As they brought Handel’s Surely He Was Wounded to a close, something snapped and she started to sweat profusely. She had to step out. It felt as if she was having a panic attack. She got up and walked to the exit. Just when she was about to leave three strings started off Canon on a slow pace and she sighed. One of them was plucking at her strings and again the young man with the double bass joined. She could not move. The memories flooded in and she crouched. It was the first concert she had attended since two Easters ago and as if the stage had turned into a scroll, a poem started to form before her eyes as the dam finally broke. She knew months of dryness had just come to an end, getting back on her feet.

The second she resumed her seat the auditorium burst forth again as the orchestra started the Hallelujah Chorus to end the concert. Dzidzor hummed the alto from beginning to end and as the instruments shook with the encomiums they added to the basic score, an image of her father was projected on the screen behind the stage and the whole room stood up in applause. It had been his creation, the entire team of instrumentalist and vocalists as well as the auditorium. She had grown up with music all around her and had grown so attached to it that her gift of poetry was linked to notes of harmony. She could not do without it. He had started as a young boy who played the double bass; his passion running wild, and it had grown to what lay before her. She thought everything had died with him, but that day had proven her wrong. Seeing his face, with that almost-smile playing on his lips with the glint of mischief in his eyes, the greying beard and balding hair, Dzidzor stood up and joined in applause. Her father was very much alive, and the joy she felt was beyond measure.

"I'm proud of you", she whispered, and the stage lights dimmed as the one in her heart glowed.

[~2~]

He was not more than a little close to five feet tall. Age had him slightly hunched in the back and the pale blue pullover he wore on gray trousers made him look warm and welcoming. He had just stepped out from the back of a black Nissan Pathfinder. He mumbled something to the driver before he got off, with the old leather file in his hands. He winced a little when his feet touched the ground and he shaded his eyes, looking up to the door of the auditorium from down the flight of stairs that led to it. He stood there as if he was contemplating them and then held on to the rail with his left hand. He looked down at his scaly knuckles and smiled slightly. Then he took the first step and his heart fluttered like he was a high school boy who had just sighted his very first crush. He took another step and the excitement heightened. There was something about that particular day that made the journey up the very stairs he had watched being built a different affair. His right hand held on tight to the leather file. A few of the sheets were sticking out and you could see in black ink the carefully staffed semibreves and crotchets and all the rests that lay in between.

When he got to the wide heavy hand-carved oak door he stood before it for a while. Placing his hand on the rings carved into the wood, he recalled the day he saw it in the showroom and knew that was going to be it. He turned the knob and stepped in. The plush carpet filling him with a strange calm. In one corner of the stage was the grand piano, complementing the pipe organ built into the wall on the opposite side. He climbed up on the stage, light flowed in from the stained glass behind it. He sat, placed the file on his lap and exposed the keys. He held both hands out, staring at his finger, wrinkled, shaking, then settled them on the keys, just how he had done the day he started piano lessons some 70 plus years ago. He hit a note and breathed in the sound the resonated from the struck string in the belly of the sleek, black piano. He closed his eyes and felt his wife sitting next to him. He opened his eyes and he was gone 40 or so years back in time. They were in the store room where the piano was being kept till the auditorium was set to receive it. He was playing one of his slower compositions and his wife was humming along. She knew all his pieces and he had always said her presence was always that magic moment he needed to make music happen. That was the night Dzidzor, their only child, was conceived – he carried her onto the piano and made love to her, measuring her rising breath and storing them in his memory, knowing he’d later compose a tune marked by the breath of the woman he loved, wrapped in passion; her dark skin blending with the dark polished wood of the instrument. It was embedded in his memories. And he did compose that tune.

He opened the file and pulled out the score to that tune. He hit the keynote, and started playing. It started slow, then the pace picked up, a soft blend of soprano and alto, with snatches of tenor to colour it. He played till his hands stopped shaking and he felt heat rise to his chest. It constricted and he parted his lips to catch breath. His fingers felt stuck to the board, and he thought he could see Yayra his wife standing next to the pipe organ in her blue silk night dress, smiling at him. But he could also feel Dzidzor's aura (she was probably up praying). She'd miss him, he knew. But he also knew it was time. He stilled his hands on the keys, looked up and around the auditorium. He had worked for it, poured his soul into it. He knew he was going to miss the orchestra and the choir; he was going to miss the vocal coaches, the conductor. He was going to miss being a father to them all but Yayra was still standing there waiting for him. He scanned the entire auditorium again, tears stinging his eyes. Just the day before – Easter Sunday... the room had been heavy with sounds from Worthy is the Lamb through to King of Kings. He smiled, pulled the board over the keys and placed his head gently on his hands, resting on the covered keys.

It was there they found him – his driver swore he could hear music when he entered to find him in that position... cold... gone.

The music in my heart I bore
Long after it was heard no more.

--Wordsworth

[~3~]

The crickets were louder that night or it might have been because the power was out. Yayra had just stepped out of her tiny bathroom holding the very last candle she had left. It had been a long day. She set the candle up on her single-door wardrobe and stood before her full-length mirror, pulling the towel off her. She sighed; stretching out her arms above her head and rising to stand on her toes. She groaned from the pain that shot through her as her muscles stretched. She picked the liniment, sat back at the foot of her bed, directly opposite the mirror, and rubbed a potion into her thighs, wincing, her eyes tearing up. Her week had been a tiring routine of bumpy rides to the market at dawn and back at night, with dusty winds and long hours of waiting and praying someone will be in need of a new set of cookware.  She threw herself back on the bed and willed her body to relax; her breast spread out across her chest, almost touching her chin. Her hands moved up and grabbed them. Rolling her nipple between her fingers, she felt a familiar warmth flood the insides of her thighs and she moaned.  She had been married before, she had been pregnant before. God knew she had birthed a son... had barely weaned him when things changed. The flu that swept through their little town from neighboring ones had been brutal. She closed her eyes and listened to the crickets and the sound of her heavy breathing, allowing one hand to stray further down to her belly... to her warmth. She moaned. Two years! Two years since a man had touched her and she was not even 30 yet.

Then the sound drifted in... it was more soothing than the balm she had greased her naked body with – deep, rich, sensual. The voice rang out in the silent night. Her eyes flew open when the echo made her shudder. It was her new neighbor again. He was singing an unfamiliar solo that hit such low notes she sighed in spite of herself every time he hit them. The vibrations ran through her hair, caressing her face, tickling her heart. It was inviting, irresistible – a healing bass. She slipped on a night dress, ran a comb through her hair, grabbed her shawl and stepped out. She had caught him staring more times than once or twice. She was tired of being alone and his voice seemed as if it was calling on to her. It was a sad tune and she knew what sadness was. She was tired of it. She got to his door, took in a deep breath and knocked. He stopped singing. The door opened. He looked surprised, then pleased.

"Hi," he said.

And she knew she was stepping into a new beginning.

"Hi."

Sing again, with your dear voice revealing
A tone
Of some world far from ours,
Where music and moonlight and feeling
Are one.

--Percy Shelley



Amma Konadu is a graduate of the University of Ghana with a major in English Literature. A literary enthusiast, Amma likes to call herself a developing writer. Amma blogs at ammakonadu.wordpress.com.

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