Later Instruments Encountered by Serge Koussevitzky by Fortunato Salazar

Serge Koussevitzky played a few notes. The Bösendorfer pushed back. He played a few more notes, with difficulty. This was how they communicated. He played and listened. The piano made a loud noise, outside, where the landscaping doubled as a barricade.

 

*

 

Serge Koussevitzky lay in bed, listening. Sometimes he got out of bed and looked out the window at the barricade. Off to the side, across the street, he could see into the lighted window of the police station. He could hear the traffic from the highway. He heard the sparse traffic on his street. He heard the cars speeding down the hill toward the barricade.

 

*

 

He paused at the Bösendorfer with the feeling that someone was watching him. He was alone in the house….and yet. The paintings on the wall were all of people averting their faces. A man leaned on a shovel in a city park. A woman held a violin at her side. Another woman looked down from a flight of stairs: something had captured her attention. In the house, there were no stairs.

 

*

 

He played a few notes, thinking of how much he wanted to be better than he was.


*

 

That night as he lay in bed listening, he could hear a driver who couldn’t see the house, who was speeding down the hill, cautioned by the flashing yellow light, the car jolted by the warning hillocks, the driver awakened into alertness by the jolting and the yellow laser that was triggered at a certain threshold, the driver who still couldn’t see the house, who saw the barricade and seemed instead to see the road, more of the road, the road continuing without interruption, a safe road amid the warnings, the driver who woke up and watched the road and couldn’t see the house.

 

*

 

Once, at one time, there had only been the house and the piano. Then a speeding car rammed into the picture window, narrowly missing the piano. Serge Koussevitzky picked glass shards out from among the strings. Soon trucks began arriving from the quarry, with oversized landscaping boulders, some boulders nearly as large as the piano, some boulders larger, some nearly as large as the house itself, some larger than the house.

 

*

 

Serge Koussevitzky took a break and called the cat from the doorway. It was evening and the cat liked to stalk birds along the side of the house. He called again and the cat came running from the direction of the police station. It ran fast across the busy street and past his feet and into the house. The cat was known to never cross the street. It never left the yard.

 

*

 

As Serge Koussevitzky waited in the doorway, the cat now in the house, a car raced around the bend, swerved toward the curb on the opposite side of the street, swerved back, jumped the curb, missed the barricade by a fraction of an inch, plowed across the yard, decelerating, slowed by last night’s downpour. Serge Koussevitzky stood there in the doorway as the car came to rest so near to him that he could have touched it if he extended his hand.

 

*

 

In the yard stood Serge Koussevitzky, the driver, and the police officer. The police officer’s name was Sergeant Householder. He asked Serge Koussevitzky to describe what he’d witnessed. They’d been through this before.

 

*

 

Serge Koussevitzky pressed a key with attention to the attack as he’d been taught. As usual, the Bösendorfer pushed back: he felt it in his elbows. Early the next morning, he heard a scraping from outside, from the yard. He looked out the window. The driver’s car was in the driveway. The trunk was open. The driver was standing in a furrow, leaning on a shovel.

 

*

 

Alone in the house with the Bösendorfer, Serge Koussevitzky slept away from the street, nearby an exit. He wanted the piano close, in case he felt like practicing. Often he would awaken in the middle of the night and place a practice mute, fashioned from heavy wool, inside the Bösendorfer’s case, across the strings. He dragged his mattress down the hall. He took hold of one of the Bösendorfer’s legs. He mustered his strength and pulled hard at the leg, moved the Bösendorfer an inch across the carpet. Pulled more, another inch. It was hard work but it felt like play. Soon they were in the room that was farthest from the street and there were no bystanders averting their faces.

 

 

 

Fortunato Salazar‘s recent writing appears or is due soon at Joyland, 3:AM, The Nervous Breakdown, Spork, Swarm, and elsewhere.



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