Calando

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Dennis Wilson, the performance of a lifetime.

Submitted: November 20, 2016

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Submitted: November 20, 2016

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Calando

 

Dennis stood up from his seat, the neck clutched firmly in his hand.

Proudly, he looked all around, his face beaming as wide as he could possibly manage whilst keeping it in one piece.

There was a rapturous applause. It sounded like an entire ocean gushing down a pipe; like the biggest stampede possible. He couldn’t see any of the faces in the crowd – the lights were shining far too brightly for that – but he could easily imagine what they looked like; adoration? Amazement? Idolatry? He was, without a doubt, the greatest thing they’d have seen in their lives.

‘And tonight,’ the voice boomed, the speakers echoing it all around the theatre, ‘for tonight and tonight only… Dennis Wilson!’

It was a name that needed no further introduction. Spurred on by the announcement, the crowd went wild again. Claps, cheers, whistles, everything; it was all for him.

His index finger tapped against the bow, the horsehair quivering and trembling as he did so. Fortunately, even the nearest pair of eyes was too far away to notice this. It wouldn’t do, of course. He wasn’t nervous, he wasn’t worried; he was Dennis Wilson. There weren’t any others like him, none that even came close. The nearest thing humanity had to a God. Art personified.

The orchestra all joined in the applause. None of them – at least, the ones whose names he knew – wanted to. As far as they were concerned, he was an egotistical cretin, someone’s who only talent in the world was making four lengths of cord make a nice sound. They were just as good as he was, or so they thought.

They were wrong. Of course, they were. They were just envious, jealous, covetous, longing and lusting for that glimpse of fame he had over them. He was far better than they could ever be; four decades of non-stop practise and training had ensured that. Wherever possible, he had traded in everything to further his ability. Friends, family, love, they all came second place against the violin.

As he often said proudly in interviews, it was his first violin. The very same one he’d received all those years ago, unwrapped on that Christmas morning. Was that true? In a sense. The strings had been replaced nine months later; the tuning pegs over a period of a year and a half; the back had been scratched by a simpleton stagehand, leading to that being switched for a decent replacement.

Were there any original components to it? If so, he certainly struggled to recall them. But nobody asked that. It was part of the mythos, part of the image he’d constructed around himself as his career and reputation had grown. The line between truth and reality had become blurred, immaterial.

‘Performing, for your pleasure,’ the announcer continued, ‘Mendelssohn’s concerto in E minor!’

The applause broke out again. It didn’t seem like they would ever stop. They were all genuflecting, praying, worshipping before him, all so pitifully aware of just how insignificant they were in comparison to him.

He raised a humble hand, signalling for them to silence themselves. It was something he did every time; he didn’t know why. He liked the applause, cherished it. To him, it was as vital as food, breathing, or water. A part of his life, and no less.

Slowly, drawing it out as long as he sensibly could, he put the string of the bow against the strings, arcing his wrist. The tips of his fingers pressed carefully against the neck, just at the right positions. Deep breath. He’d practised it countless times, and that was just in the last week. Every day, he wouldn’t let himself eat or drink until he’d played it through correctly five times in a row. Ten times if he wanted to sleep. Harsh, maybe, but it worked. You couldn’t cheat your way to the top, he’d told audiences of millions in interviews. No corner-cutting, no shortcuts. It was the hard way, or not at all.

Like a coin spinning in the air before a toss, he waited. Anticipation built and built and built, until it was unbearable. The orchestra all watched him eagerly, waiting for his cue to start. They grew restless, instruments ready and waiting; they wanted to start now. Play, dammit! Not that any of them would dare speak out against him, however. It would mean risking career and literal suicide, if the rumours were to be believed.

He quickly glanced over his shoulder, flashing them a winning smile. Camaraderie, that’s what mattered. They had to think they were on par with him, that there was a rank or chain of command. They were all one and the same, just like him.

Utter rubbish, of course. The honour rest simply in being in the same room as him, let alone playing alongside him. To think they weren’t any worse than him was simply not true. It didn’t do to maintain fantasies, no matter how pleasurable or soothing they might. Real life wouldn’t care what you feel, or think. Only what you do.

The conductor watched him nervously. It was his job to control all the loose elements, weave them together, to keep juggling 32 balls in the air without letting a single one drop once. For if just one were to slip away from his grip, the whole tapestry would unravel apart. His timing had to be bloody perfect.

His arms were suspended in the air, waiting to give the starting command to his legion. Dennis nodded, taking in the sight, and started to play.

He was just late. The conductor cursed at himself, ignoring the fact that even computers would struggle to cope with Dennis Wilson as a soloist.

The orchestra all ignored him, cutting off everything around them that wasn’t the music. Yes, at one point or another, they’d have to listen to him, but not now. Right now, the only thing that mattered to them was that section of music that, no matter how much they rehearsed it, they also seemed to get wrong; or making sure they didn’t mispitch a note, or have their instruments betray them. Anything could go wrong at any time, so better safe than sorry.

To them, their sustained chords, syncopation, notes dominant and mediant, they were just as harmonious, no less melodic than that which came from Dennis. They were performing notes in front of millions. They had their moment in the spotlight just as he did.

The once frenetic crowds became silent. They were in awe, unable to comprehend the fact that they were seeing this. They’d tell all their friends, and families, and everyone they could that they saw this. That they were privy to such a spectacle.

They didn’t clap. They daren’t even so much as breathe, in case it should interrupt the music, or break the spell it was casting over them.

Dennis kept his eyes on the music. Despite all warning, he always kept a stand beside him, always with the music in plain sight. Not that he needed it – the constant repetition of it had carved it into his mind. There wasn’t a single note, dynamic, tempo change, accidental in the entire piece he didn’t know off by heart.

But nonetheless, he kept it with him. Just in case, just on the off chance, that he needed it, that the music would go from his mind and… and…

Don’t think about that. That’s worst case scenario, plan Z, Defcon One. He didn’t need to think about it – it wasn’t going to happen. There wasn’t any way he could fail.

Maestoso. Majestically. That’s how he was playing it – a king, before the glory of his subjects. A leader. Their hero.

Through his music, he could emote a thousand more emotions in a single second than an actor cope hope to do in an entire performance. He was sombre, triumphant, musing, tragic, gleeful, maudlin, all of them. And all without a single word being said.

If a picture paints a thousand words, he often thought, then music must surely paint a million.

For a second, a daring second, Dennis closed his eyes. There was no sight, no spotlight, no crowd, nothing. There was only the feel of the strings on his fingers, the weight of the bow in his hands… and the music. They were alone. It might be vain, but he could still sometimes struggle to believe it was him, that a mere human was capable of creating such majesty.

His hand slipped. The note slipped down a semitone, just hidden amongst the cacophony of the other instruments. Nobody noticed it. They could’ve have. If they did, they’d just deny it, pretend they imagined. Dennis Wilson wouldn’t make such a mistake. He wouldn’t.

Dennis raised the bow again, going to play the next note. His bow dragged across the strings—

Slash. That was it. That was the first one.

He didn’t feel any pain. There was a stinging, of course, but it wasn’t as bad as he’d expected it to be. Not gut-wrenching agony, just a small wince. And that was only the first few times; by now, he didn’t even notice it.

The blood started to trickle down the side of his arm, a drop or two slipping onto the floor. Turning the blade over in his hand, he readied for a second strike.

When was the second wrong note?  There was definitely one… ah yes. Just before the cadenza – a D natural instead of a D sharp. Rudimentary mistake.

As the memory, the stench of failure, came rushing back, he slashed. This was his punishment. He’d failed, and this was what he deserved as a result.

No food tonight. A single glass of tap water, if he was thirsty, but that was it. And no sleep. He’d stay up all night, practicing the offending sections, over and over, until the error was fixed. And even if it was perfect, he had to make sure. Until he was certain that it would be played perfectly, he wasn’t going to give himself any relief.

Slash. Slash. Four wrong notes. In the entire evening, he’d planned four wrong notes. And now, he’d received his punishment for them. They were four wrong notes that shouldn’t have happened, by any measure. How else could he train himself against the mistakes? Harsh, maybe, but it worked.

He placed the blade in the sink awkwardly, turning the tap on. It soaked the blade, letting the crimson ink-stain of the blood blot into the water. Dennis watched it slowly tricked down the drain, a trail of red connected the blade to the darkness. Soon enough, it was spotless.

The tap screwed off, and Dennis set about dressing the gashes. They’d heal, soon enough. All the others had, after all.

Once that was done, he flexed his wrist a few times, testing the bandages. They stung a little, but not enough to distract.

He opened the case, pulling out the violin. It was coming up to half past eleven at night now. That still gave him a good eight to play it through, to smooth out the wrinkles. Plenty of time. Not nearly enough to be to his liking, but he’d have to make do with what he had.

Dennis stood up from his seat, the neck clutched firmly in his hand.


© Copyright 2017 Ben Ramsey. All rights reserved.

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