I Am My Master's Servant

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
A young man falls in love with a piano and developes a hatred for his employer.

Submitted: June 04, 2008

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Submitted: June 04, 2008

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I Am My Master’s Servant

by Stephanie Nickell

 

I regret to inform you, dear trespasser, that I am not Galahad Beorthwald, the miserable phlegm-hacking bigot of a millionaire. I am simply Egmund Blythe. But already I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Shall I start at the beginning?

 

When the helicopter landed on the big concrete H, I gathered my things into my arms and scurried across the Wyoming snow up to the house. A sickly old man with an almost teal complexion and the posture of a jumbo shrimp opened the door before me. It was your basic mansion receiving room with a vaulted ceiling, a magnificent crystal chandelier glittering overhead, and a stair case on each side. I saw straight into the parlor where a grand piano, as voluptuous as a woman and twice as arousing, sat with her lid up. I swear my heart stopped. If it were up to me, I would have been basking in her woody scent already and looking at my reflection in her glassy black varnish. But I had an employer to impress, so I gritted my teeth, swallowed the knot in my throat, and tried to focus.

The man, Galahad, looked me up and down. No doubt he disapproved of my slender lankiness and sunken cheeks—he would later tell me I looked like a “limp noodle” and a “sissy boy”—but I was wearing a suit and tie and had my hair gelled and parted neatly in the center. Two others stood there with him: a hulking blond man (he was an Aryan pearl) in a chef’s coat whose mouth naturally formed a frown making him look bitter, and a chunky woman, a Native American, with tan skin, a wide smile, and a bob hair cut.

Squinting, Galahad said his first words to me in that golden-glazed room: “Can you open a door?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Can you carry a platter of food?”

“Yes.”

“Can you read?”

“Yes.”

He then motioned for me to follow him. I picked up my suitcases and we rode an elevator to the second floor. He showed me to my room, whose only entrance and exit was a door in his room. Branching directly off of his, no one could come or go without his knowledge. I found this odd and even a little disturbing, but all I could think of was her, the pristine musical body downstairs, and of pressing my fingers to her ivory keys. I still salivate at the thought.

He gave me a run-down of the basics: The chef, Mikhail emigrated from Kiev eight years ago for the specific purpose of working for Mr. Beorthwald. Nayeli, the Native, was his nurse and maid. His primary use of me was to bring him food. Once every few months, the three of us were to put our combined knowledge together and order anything he, or we, might need to be flown in. It would be my unofficial duty to make sure he had as little contact with humans as possible.

“I never want to have to read or answer any mail as long as I live. So here is my social security number, my pin number, the combination to my vault, my signature, and birth date. I hear you’re a childless divorced man with nothing to live for,” he said, handing me a manila envelope full of his personal information and waiting for my reply.

Stunned, I only opened my mouth and looked around. It was true. “Umm, I guess…”

“Good,” he grunted. “Now, you’ll live for me. Bring me my lunch in an hour,” he said and he sent me back downstairs to mingle.

I tried. I truly tried not to be sucked into the living room where she sat alone. I explored the hallways and rooms. I tried to preoccupy myself with thoughts of Galahad and his reclusive life. But it was no use. She was calling.

Just a glance, I thought. I walked up to her.

Just a touch. I slid my finger tips over her glossy keys.

Just a note or two. I then asked dorkishly into the silence, “Is this seat taken?” and slipped right down into her lap.

But it was not just a note or two; it was Schubert’s “Klavierstück,” and it was ecstasy. Making pianos sing had always been a passion of mine, but she was different; she played me as well. I belonged to her. In that instant, I named her Dawn after my first music teacher. My eyes had fallen closed in the blissful moment when Blang! A fist slammed down hard on the keys. Be careful with her.

Slapped out of my trance, I looked over to see it was Galahad’s hand. I gulped.

“Mr. Beorthwald,” I said.

And he grinned his yellowed grin. “The piano,” tobacco breath, “is off limits.”

“I’m sorry. I hadn’t…”

“The music, it gives me a head ache.” I was a blubbering slave bracing myself to get a good dozen lashings. I belonged to him. “But you do play well. My lunch, 12:45,” he said and was already off to the elevator.

I nodded. “Yes sir, it won’t happen again.”

My precious doll, I looked down at her forbidden keys, I cannot even touch you. My hand quivered above her. I was close to tears, but I would not let Galahad see me red-nosed, puffy-eyed, and whimpering.

His lunch was a tuna sandwich, something bathed in vinegar, a bushel of rainbow pills, and whatever else, I didn’t care to look; I was thinking of her, my musical beauty.

He had me sit at his bedside while he ate his stinking pickled vegetables with his mouth open, breathing loudly his hot stinking breath and flipping through the channels, insulting every person he saw before quickly changing the channel again:

“Nigger-lover. Dyke. Jew. Lazy bum. Nazi. Spic. Liberal. Idol-worshipper. Hippy. Whore. Spoiled brat. Chink. Faggot. Commie. Fat ass. Liar.” On and on.

Dumbfounded. My eyes were gaping holes in my skull. He didn’t notice. I pictured his insides as a mess of writhing black muck, his fat-clotted heart as a deep, squirming well of worms. Disgusting.

I took his empty plate down to the kitchen where I washed it. I returned to Galahad’s bedroom with Nayeli who was carrying a black leather bag of medical equipment.

While she fiddled with a needle and a bottle of clear liquid, he knocked the television remote, which was lying beside him, onto the floor.

“Would you get that for me?” he asked and exposed his yellowed teeth.

He licked his dry lips while Nayeli’s round rump was presented to him for his staring pleasure as she bent down to pick it up. He extended his arm to stroke her right butt cheek with the knuckle of his pointer finger. He had the touch of a feather. She didn’t seem to notice a thing.

She then injected his nearer arm and leaned over him to take the blood pressure of his farther arm. As she pumped away and studied the twitching needle, he began to caress her large breast in that same secretive way. Still unresponsive, she made a note of the numbers she found, and asked if I would like to have lunch with her and Mikhail.

On the way to the kitchen, we passed Dawn. I must have been staring because she said “Was that you I heard playing earlier? That was Brahms, right?”

“Uhh, no.” I tore my gaze away from my melodious darling as we moved passed her. “Schubert.”

“Oh.”

There was a silence. “I’m not quite sure how to tell you this,” I began. “Mr. Beorthwald…” here I stumbled over my words, “touched your rear and your chest just then.”

She sighed and nodded. “He does that often. It’s really no big deal.”

“What? That’s sexual harassment. You could sue for thousands of dollars.”

“I’m already getting thousands of dollars,” she said.

 

The idea of sleep seemed a dream in itself on that first night. All I could do was toss and turn and stare as if my eye lids were singed off. Dawn; I thought of nothing else.

The old man snored in his bed; snored as if consciously trying to be monstrous. I left my room and stood over him for a moment. Disgusting.

I slithered down the stairs and kneeled before my Dawn, her ivory teeth, placing my elbows of the seat of her bench and clasping my hands under my chin.

The room held all the splendor of an ocean in the dead of night; my words were all octopus ink floating through my lips into the air. “Please, please,” I said, over and over again.

I belonged to her.

I wanted to lay my head on her and sob into her keys and think of Dawn from my boyhood. My lost Dawn, my once tangible Dawn, my beautiful Dawn, singing along with the piano in her living room.

And then my forbidden Dawn, my untouchable Dawn, my beautiful Dawn, only a mirage on the horizon. I lay at her feet until the sun rose.

 

My days were a single running smear; watching Galahad molest his maid, throwing food in his cook’s face, and Dawn was always there, but as far away as ever. And every time I saw her, every night I went down and kneeled before her or touched her looking-glass skin, it drew the thought more deeply in my blood, like a stream carving out a canyon.

Nice try, Poe, but you did not quiet capture it for me. Yes, I think you missed the mark a little. Insanity is insanity. But this, oh, this is so much more. This is anguish, this is reason.

I was reading in my room while Galahad slept on his bed with the TV on, when there came a rapping at his chamber door.

“Egmund,” he shouted. It gave me chills every time. Truly I belonged to him. I went to see what it was.

“Don’t you let them in here,” he said. He could have breathed fire.

Frightened, I opened the door to find Nayeli standing there. “He doesn’t want to see you,” I said.

“Oh,” was all she said and she walked away.

He waved me over to him. When I arrived at his side he grabbed the collar of my shirt, nearly ripping it as he pulled me close to his face. “Don’t you ever, ever let them in here again, you hear me?” he hissed.

I nodded and slunk back into my room. So it was only me. Ah, nevermore.

In me bloomed an idea at this instant. It set my mind’s gears and wheels to turning. All old and cobwebbed and left unused since the divorce, they squeaked and moaned and emerged with a plan. Some say fantasies aren’t for the world outside your mind. They never knew Dawn.

The first step on my way to happiness was to get rid my coworkers. They were lovely people, I know, and I felt bad, I truly did. But they were in the way.

I first told Mikhail. I said to him in the kitchen, “Galahad wanted me to tell you that you are released from your duties. A helicopter’s going to be here for you and Nayeli tomorrow. I’m so sorry.”

He took it better than I had expected, only throwing down a frying pan and storming away.

One more to go.

I then went to Nayeli and told her the same. She bawled into her hands and went to pack.

It wasn’t all lies, I consoled myself, a helicopter will be here tomorrow for them.

 

Visiting Dawn on that night, while everyone slept, the moon light came in blue from the huge windows and glazed everything a nice azure. If I close my eyes, I can still see the living room exactly how it was; my Dawn’s long shadow spilt across the floor, her lid up, and all her glistening musical guts. From one pocket of my coat I pulled a pair of leather gloves. I slipped them over my long knobby fingers, retrieved a pair of pliers from my other pocket, and with them I plucked one of her E strings from its place. It nearly destroyed me; I swear I felt her pain, like someone snapping one of my ribs. I left the pliers on the bench. They looked lonely there. I paused, reconsidered my actions, but decided to go through with things. I belonged to her after all, didn’t I? I wrapped one end of the severed string around my left hand, and the other end around my right as I trudged up the stairs.

His bedroom door came open with a creak. He did not stir. I sat slowly onto his bed and looked into his raisoned face, contorted in sleep. He did not stir. I could have done it. I could have done it just then, but I wanted him to know. I wanted him to see. I leaned over him and whispered “Galahad,” a few times. I can remember vividly the way my solitary voice sounded; the octopus ink again.

Finally, his eyes rolled open, he jolted a little, and he asked “Egmund?”

Oh, the genuine confusion in his voice on that aquatic night; it makes me giddy to this day; almost to tears, it elates me so.

I smiled, I think. I must have.

Then, with all the swiftness I had in my body, all Adrenalin-zapped and electrified, I looped the string around his neck and pulled it as tight as I could. On their filmy surface, his eyes only showed me panic. But the deeper I looked into them, especially as he began to fade, the more I saw love; love that was locked in his black, rotting heart. I felt it swell to the forefront, and when his body finally went limp, I felt it released into the air like a puff of smoke.

Love? Maybe not. Maybe it was merely his soul.

I leaned back up, and closed my eyes with relief.

Dawn and I, we can be together! I wanted to dance around like one of the sick, human boys in Lord of the Flies. But no, I am not so crazy.

  I carried him out of the house, tripping over the murder weapon on my way, and set off towards the horizon. It was spring now, which meant thick grass and tiring steps. When I noticed orange glowing over the distant mountain tops, I stopped walking, and flopped him off my tired shoulder onto the ground for the coyotes to munch.

It was 7:00 am when I returned. Nayeli and Mikhail were just waking up. The helicopter arrived shortly and I helped them with their things. She was quite emotional as we said our goodbyes. He was as stern-faced as ever; a good, hardened little Soviet. I waved to the giant mechanical bird as it lifted into the air and out of my life.

The house was rid of a plague and I could be alone with Dawn. I pressed down, again, for the first time in six months, on the first note of “Klavierstück,” and I kept my finger there, waiting for the vibration in my lungs to fade so I could cry. It was a tense, silent cry, the kind you let exhale from yourself when you’re really not sure what to do. But she was so beautiful, as the rising pink sun came through the windows, and the pink note she sang bouncing up and down my body. And every time I hit the missing E, a little tingle of pleasure skipped up my spine. I belong to her.

I didn’t leave her. Not until the next day when I went into my room. I didn’t notice it at first; it was small and discrete. Along with Dawn’s E string and the pliers sat a short letter. Five words clung to the page:

 

I know what you did.

 

My heart sank. My life with Dawn, smashed to bits. My quiet, gentle, fulfilling life with Dawn was ruined. And now I have to run.

So no, I am not Galahad Beorthwald hiding in here. I am simply the criminal Egmund Blythe, fleeing from the authorities with my Dawn and Galahad’s money.


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