Page 17 - WTP VOl. VIII #7
P. 17

 tried to explain it to me; how I would be delighted, at some point in the distant future, to entertain revel- lers. That I would be able to bring a party to life by the mellifluous sound of this most treasured, most revered of instruments. What I couldn’t share in was his vision for my future: the imagined foot tapping, the fingers leaping up and down, the smile of satis- faction on faces as the listeners clapped their hands and stomped their feet in time to the sweet, sweet, music. I just couldn’t see it. I couldn’t share his vision of me entertaining other people. With me and this instrument combined into one entity and acting as the centre of attention for delirious partygoers in some imagined shindig. My protests were all in vain because they came after the instrument had been purchased. I would never have had the confidence
or self-assurance to voice these protests as they oc- curred to me. I could only use them, after the fact,
“It was in that first desperate honk of the instrument
that I knew with absolute con- viction that I would never in my lifetime produce a sound of any beauty with it.”
as evidence for my prospective failure; they were a down-payment on his eventual disappointment.
The seller-woman refused to go any lower on the price. Her voice quavered. Get the boy out of it, she said, staring at me without compassion. Father shook his head ruefully and walked away. He was pretend- ing to be angry and done with the whole thing. Did he kick something out of his way? Only my trailing leg.
He shouted over his shoulder for me to hurry on and get back into the van. The atmosphere was rank with loathing. Of course she called him back. I was the only one surprised when she did. What a blessed relief it was to leave that tiny and stuffy front room filled with all the knick-knacks and trappings of the truly pover- ty-stricken country woman. No, she wouldn’t take a personal cheque. It had to be cash in hand or nothing. It had to be a series of rolled-up dirty notes from an unusual side pocket, smoothed out, and handed to her with a barely concealed contempt.
I had to wear it strapped to my chest the way home
in the van because there wasn’t time to take it off.
He was ecstatic at having conned her out of so much money. He was truly delighted with himself. Imagine her wanting more money for the box it came in. He could make a box for it out of plywood. We had to get to the scrap yard for the auction, or we had to cruise the streets looking for skips full of items thrown away by people who didn’t see the value in scrap, or we had to get back to the house to begin construction on an- other contraption that could be sold for cash. On this journey it was made clear to me that the instrument was a serious investment in my future and that any resistance was futile. All I had to do now was devote my full attention to the instrument and forget about everything else, school, sports, friends; mere distrac- tions from the mastery of the instrument.
In the early days of our tempestuous relationship I could never trust that the key I pressed would produce the sound I desired. Indeed it was only after the key had been pressed that a recognisable sound might emerge. I could never remember what button corre- sponded with what note because the instrument was forever changing its mind on what each button meant. In practise this meant that I was forced to squeeze
and wrestle it with both hands into compliance. With enough violence shown, from time to time, on my own with it, an understanding could be arrived at, where some kind of raggedy halting tune emerged, but this would instantly vanish when another person joined us. Then the instrument would revolt and force my fingers to hit all the wrong keys, or rather the right keys from before, but not now. Not anymore. If the instrument wanted to make me look foolish and incompetent in front of other people it could do so at its ease.
After a few weeks of my trying to figure it out all by myself without any help it was deemed necessary to take lessons. I don’t know if they seriously believed I could figure it out on my own or if they were search- ing for the cheapest lessons available in the town. At this stage we will never know. In the middle of our quaint little town was a general-purpose hall. A hall abutting a coal depot. It was covered in black soot from the depot and had a slate roof that leaked. The inside of this building was damp and mouldy. The floor was of old wooden boards that threw-up dust at the slightest provocation. By that I mean any move- ment no matter how small caused a plume of thick dust to rise and catch in the back of the throat and nose. This was where I would learn the basics of in- strument playing. I was dropped off at the hall next to the coal yard and abandoned. Quickly and efficiently
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