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Friday, August 24, 2012

Prose of the Week: Making the Sun Shine, Sue Lange

     She was listening to King Curtis play his creamy version of Harlem Nocturne. Specifically the tail end of the first phrase. Using the remote she played it over and over and tried to identify the notes. Surely the first was an A, but the second was anybody’s guess. Was it an E? When she played A to E it sounded wrong. Perhaps it was an F#. She sang the phrase, held out the note in question, quickly picked up the instrument to match it, trying any combination that sounded right. When she was sure she had it, she put the phrase together with the whole song. But it was always just a little off. Until finally it was dead wrong.
      After a while she couldn’t hear straight and even the A didn’t fit anymore. She gently placed the instrument on the bed and lay down on her back with her head on the pillow. She pressed her eyes closed with her fingertips and massaged the eyeballs. They felt hot and when she opened them, the room was blurry. She blinked until everything cleared.
      Thoughts of the rejection letter from R&R Music drifted into her head as she lay back. It had stated the typical “We are not working with folk musicians at the moment, but thanks for contacting us.” It finished with the perennially annoying, “Good luck with your project.”
      She shifted her weight on the bed and the pain that had been slowly developing over the past two weeks spasmed in her left hip bone. She pushed on the spot to gauge it. Was it getting worse, or better?
      “Maybe,” she thought as she rolled onto her back to watch the rain through half-closed blinds. It darted across the window pane, making little pinging sounds on the glass. The sky beyond was the same amorphous gray it had been for three weeks now, as depressing as a rejection from a management company, as spirit-killing as the attempt to find an elusive note.
      She scratched at her left eyebrow, dispatching a flake of dead skin before standing creakily up. Over at the DVD player, she reached to press the eject button. At the last moment she noticed the stack of sheet music on the floor. Songs like Mr. Sandman and Autumn Leaves were interspersed with collections like “Best of Broadway in the 60s, 70s, and 80s,” and “Django for Woodwinds.” They’d fallen there a week before and she hadn’t bothered tidying them yet. She paused in recollection. A brilliant thought: an old book of jazz standards. Yes.
      She leaned down and sifted through the music until she found what she was looking for: the one with the Nocturne. And then she flipped to the table of contents searching for the song. Once at the correct page, she flattened the book with her hands.
     The room was silent now; the rain had stopped. The sun was slowly returning after weeks of hiatus. It filtered through the half-closed blinds and slowly spread across the paper until finally illuminating the notes: A E C A.

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