Music Remembers

Baseem split the cherry between his fingers. Red juice stained the grooves of his thumb and dripped off the end of his fingernail. He rubbed the pads of his fingers together, mashing the berry into a raw, bloody pulp. When he was finished, he flicked the mangled remains off the side of the deck and held his hand up for me to see.

Ya amar, do you hear it?” he asked.

My flute felt cold between my fingers, and I lowered it to my lap. “Hear? Don’t you mean see?

“No, hear. I have wondered if you can hear it too, the way I can. If when you press your lips to your reed and blow you can hear the colors, or at least imagine them before they erupt like spitting embers from your instrument.” He rotated his wrist in front of his face, studying the red seeping down his palm. “When you played the friscalleto, I heard this precise shade. Cherry red. Like the wine we acquired from Donnalucata. Like the poppies that covered the hills beyond the beach. Like the fire that —”

I turned my head away, and I hated myself for the bitterness that glassed my eyes. “I hear no colors, signore. I am afraid that the visual arts are not my area of expertise.”

“Ah, but music is the highest of all visual arts,” Baseem said, his eyes smiling. “You know better than anyone, Ludovica, that music remembers. Music is memory. And what is memory if not visual?” He crossed the deck towards me, taking heavy, deliberate steps with the heels of his boots. “There is an aching in your compositions. A red. A remembrance. You must hear it.”

Mama’s ribbon. Papà’s steamed crab. Cosima’s rosary beads. Orazio’s blood.

I flooded my face of expression.


An excerpt from a work-in-progress.

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Godspeed and Gunfire

Bang.

“Godspeed and gunfire, my friend,” he says, wiping his wet hands down the front of his shirt. “Or is it…hellfire? Hell, does it matter? There’s no hope for us now, so if the devil smites us so be it.”

He gives you a sideways look, his hooded eyes bright and provoking. “You don’t honestly believe in that crap, do you? In hell? The devil?” His eyebrows lift as he tucks the pistol into his suspenders. “Oh, look at your face. You do. God damn, then this must be awkward. Sorry — gosh damn.

You think of something to say. You can’t. Everything’s still fuzzy.

Shit.” He only now seems to realize the mess on the front of his shirt. “This is a new shirt. Freshly pressed, too. Think this can come out? Always heard cold salt water did the trick. Anyway — I wouldn’t worry about all that eternal damnation stuff if I were you. You know what they say: hell’s a party.”

You don’t know who says that.

He’s rambling now, in that off-center, manic way of his. “Hell’s one hell of a time. It’s where all the fun people are at. And if not, hell is empty and all the devils are here. So it can’t be too bad.” He shakes his leg out, like a dog, and turns away, away from you, away from the mess. “Godspeed and gunfire,” he whispers, moving a hand through his unkempt hair. “Bang, bang, bang.”

You reach after him. He can’t be like this. Not now.

He twists on his heels, and you are suddenly reminded of just how tall he is, how impressive and sharp-edged and outlined by shadows. “What? You’re not going cold on me, are you? Remember, you wanted this too. This isn’t all on me. If I’m going, I’m dragging you down into hell with me. Godspeed my fucking foot. You signed off on that pipe dream the second you came to me, eyes bleary, acting all broken and shit. Oh, help me. God, help me. It needs to end. Make it end. Well, Hallelujah, you got what you wanted. It ended at the end of my pistol, and now all I’ve got is a stained shirt to show for it.”

This isn’t what you wanted. This isn’t what you agreed to. This is ugly and wrong.

His eyeteeth glisten when he smiles. “If you think about it, I’m kind of like your guardian angel. What’s the prayer? Ever this day, be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide. Well, here I am. At your side. To light — ” His suspenders snap against his chest as he extracts his gun. “– and guard –” He lifts the pistol, index finger rubbing the trigger, teasing it. He laughs. “To rule –” The gun is now in front of him, pointing at his own face. “– and guide.”

He turns the pistol directly on you.

“Godspeed and gunfire, my friend. I hear hell’s a party.”

Bang.

© 2016 Stellular Scribe