My name is Vincent Roberts and I am recounting to you the events that happened several years ago in the summer of 1998. My psychiatrist says that if I write it all down things might begin to make sense – as though I haven’t replayed it in my head hundreds, even thousands of times before. Oh and by the way, in case you are wondering, no, I am not crazy. My test results show that I have no signs of psychosis. I have been recommended several doctors, neurologists and mental health experts over the years and they all conclude I am certifiably in sound mind. No one believes my story – heck I wouldn’t either. Because it defies belief. I wish it were a lie, an elaborate fabrication, but those who know me best know I have no flair for imagination. I am committing my story to paper and I will be as detailed as I can. I invite you to judge for yourself the events that took place that strange summer of 98.
I had recently moved from Boston to the small town of Falmouth, Massachusetts. I have, had, been a classical pianist with the Boston symphony orchestra but an unfortunate repetitive back injury meant I had to take a period of leave to recover properly. This was a short-term arrangement, a sabbatical of sorts. I was annoyed. I had worked ceaselessly for several years and I am not being boastful when I say I had a growing reputation as a celebrated classical pianist. My injury however required time for recovery. Wanting a fresh start following a recent break up with my girlfriend Susan, I decided I needed a change of scenery so I asked around and before I knew it I had accepted a job as a professor at the Falmouth musical conservatoire. So that July I packed up my tiny apartment and headed to the cape, to the picturesque town of Falmouth.
I settled into life in Falmouth quickly. My colleagues were mostly like me, ex orchestral musicians, easy to get on with, the job undemanding. Sure, it wasn’t ground breaking work, I wasn’t teaching musical protegees, but I enjoyed this new pace of life compared to the demands of the orchestra back in the big city. I was beginning to see the appeal of the cape. On my free days I went swimming and surfing, heck I even started composing my own music with ambitions to record an album. A change is as good as a rest so they say. Life was good. That was until a phone call from Susan. We had split up a while back so I was surprised to hear from her. Her mother was sick. Very sick. She needed to see a cancer specialist in Canada but her health insurance wouldn’t cover it. In short Susan needed money and I knew it was serious because she was a proud woman who wouldn’t ask unless absolutely necessary. I wasn’t wealthy by any means but I told her I would do what I could. So when I saw a notice requiring a piano tutor for an eight grade student in the college one day I did not hesitate to apply. What I would give to turn back the clock and not apply for the job.
That evening I called the number on the advert and after a few rings a husky voice answered. It was a strange voice, unlike one I had ever heard before, female, raspy. She sounded old, perhaps retired. I said: ‘Hi my name is Vincent Roberts and I saw your advert for music tuition in the music school. I am a piano professor there and am interested in the position.’ There was a strangely long pause and finally the voice said ‘Mr Roberts, I am so glad you called. My name is Mrs Hale. I require a teacher for my niece – she is nine years old and plays at a level exception for her years.’
We discussed the details. Mrs Hale and her niece lived half an hour away in a house called ‘The Rectory’, on the other side of the cape where I had not been before. I was to come and meet them that Friday after work. Being new to town I didn’t exactly have a thriving social life so I didn’t mind working on the weekend. So off I set for The Rectory. Having lived in the city for so long I didn’t have a car so I resolved to get a bus after work. Packing up my desk around 6, the janitor Karl asked me what I was doing this weekend. He was polite, feigning an interest in me, a newcomer.
‘I got a tutoring job at The Rectory, west side of the cape,’ I replied.
With hindsight Karl’s reaction should have alerted me. His friendly face seemed to suddenly stiffen as though he had seen a ghost.
‘I thought that house was empty after the accident.’
‘What happened?’ I said, my interest piqued. Continue reading
He turns the crank which makes the bellows pump.
Air travels to the pipes. The barrel turns.
The pins and staples lift the wooden keys.
Now music plays, quick, high and flutingly.
You, poor bedraggled fool, are still and listen.
Your yellow head is tilted so, just so.
Your seed-like eyes remain uncurious.
Your little hook-feet clench around your perch.
Then, dutifully, you open your small bill
and churn the tune out, chirpingly, just so.
You sing, as if with feeling, ‘la petite chasse’.
Your feathers quiver with liquid vibrato,
your frail tongue trembling on those top notes,
your heartbeat visible through dirty plumage.
I didn’t begin as a way of letting the bones through
but the further I go the more they rise from the deep
furrows of flesh and I trace their shining lines,
mapping the sunken nuggets of their gold.
I grow an appetite for mouthfuls of air,
a bellyful of water, a head where the cosmos
whirls in its spangly nothing behind my eyes.
The taste on my lips is sweeter than honey or wine.
Kitty Coles’ poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and have been nominated for the Forward Prize, Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Her debut pamphlet, Seal Wife (2017), was joint winner of the Indigo Dreams Pamphlet Prize. Her first collection, Visiting Hours, will be published in 2020 by The High Window. www.kittyrcoles.com
As the faces disappear
the eternal memories begin:
Of crabgrass children
who flower in summer’s heat
and are blown toward tomorrow
by the west wind.
Of spider web girls
who balance threads
waiting for love to stick
Of granite gruffs
who go as they came
and are never missed.
Of blacktop boys
whose headlight eyes and piston hands
never found the exact timing.
Of insecure jesters
who knew all the words
to obscene songs but
never the meaning.
Of the two or three unicorns
thought to be extinct
who reveal their rare magic
to a select few;
share a special mystery
and like all the others
are too soon – gone.
Congratulations to Bindweed contributor, KJ Hannah Greenberg on the publication of her new poetry collection, Rudiments, just launched. Within its collection of 125 pieces are two poems that initially appeared in Bindweed: