Tower of Sound
“Don, while you were away on your sabbatical, I had some construction done.”
That was Jess, brightly, on the phone. What construction could she have needed? Her house was modest, but certainly sufficient for her needs. As I was thinking, I was picturing it, set at the intersection, where the street along the ridge of the hill meets the street that comes up on one side of the hill and then goes down the other. She has woods in back, with the land sloping away. Where would she add anything more?
“Come over this afternoon, when you’re off work, and I’ll show you,” she was saying. “I think you’ll be surprised. Come, and stay for dinner.”
Jess knew I wouldn’t turn that down. So, the early Autumn sun was westering, but still bright, when I parked out front. The house looked much as I remembered it, until I entered. The front hallway, now, after entries to left and right, went down a short flight and then opened into brightness.
There were windows all around, on three sides of a floor, on which, resplendent on a one-step dais, stood Jess’s grand piano. My eye was drawn away from it, upward along gleaming glass, where it topped the trees as the land fell away, and it glowed in the late rays of the sinking sun.
“Jess,” I gasped, “this is magnificent! How did you come up with such an idea?”
“Wait ‘til you hear the sound,” she said.
It was worth the wait. To be sure, the sun’s rays were gone. There were small light bulbs, many of them, set in those walls of glass, making a tube of light, while one could still sense the enveloping darkness outside.
‘Now,” I said to Jess, after she had cleared away the remains of a delicious dinner and we were sipping our respective choices of after-dinner beverage, “I’ve seen how beautifully impressive your house addition is to the eye. Please, let me sit in this well-placed chair, near the piano, but not too near, while you choose and play what is just right for this mystical moment of time.”
Jess patted my shoulder, as I took the chair; then she stepped up, to slip onto the waiting piano bench. As she bent her head in thought, the silence of that awesome place, the soft lights and the soaring glass, were almost like a shrine.
Then Jess’s hands came down on the keys. At first, there was a gentle melody, perhaps Chopin, just single, separate tones shimmering in the lovely, late silence of almost twilight. Then, with rousing confidence, came some crashing, full-bodied chords, a passage from Mussorgsky. Never had such music, in such a setting, sounded in my ears.
“Don’t stop. Jess. Don’t let it stop!”
But it had to stop. Nothing, in this life, goes on forever. If it did, we couldn’t stand it; and we wouldn’t know, because we would no longer survive.
Yet the wonderful sound did seem to linger, to reverberate like a heart-beat, a throbbing, longing pulse, finding and holding to the infinite, creative pulse of Life itself. How much this human spirit feels and knows, even without comprehending—far short of comprehending! It is enough!
It was enough then. Jess let her hands leave the keyboard, and she came back to me; so that I could move again, even though I couldn’t speak. There could not—nor should there—be any words; until we had left, in the last dim daylight, that tower of glass and sound.
I have been back since then—quite a few times—but never for such as that first time was.
Author Notes: At age 102, after publishing 5 books, Don Fletcher continues to write flash fiction, short prose pieces and poetry.