Caesura

Shortly after her husband crashes forward from his piano stool, concluding his Requiem in D minor with a staggered foreheadchord, he is buried beneath a riflemen’s fusillade and the still-warm cartridges are passed among his family. And he will rise to hear his music living on, says the reverend, to tremendous applause. She holds the cartridge to her ear to hear inside it his piano like a conch, but there is only a long and hollow windwhistle over the lamentation of his fans. She thumbs it in her pocket when a man slowly approaches, tapping his mustache with a finger. He was a great man, says the mustache, a generous man. I think he would want it taken care of.She doesn’t understand. He would want his piano in the museum. She nods her head. The piano was a part of her husband, her husband part of her, she couldn’t part with it. But his music was meant for everyone. Yes, she said. The music. But she feels another headache coming on, the dull twang rising to the top of her spine. She rifles through her purse, empties the bottle into her palm and dry swallows. I do think… think of him… don’t you think… Yes, yes, she says, I’m thinking. She looks into his face for the aura signaling a coming migraine but she sees everything, his deep, greasy pores. Fine, she says. Come for it tomorrow. He thanks her and she goes home to pass the night in their bed, still listening in the dark for her husband’s furious, chagrinned notation. In the morning she sees the room as she left it, the piano shrouded beneath the paisley curtains, warm in the light of the naked windows. She does not recognize the room without it: her listening face warped in the slant and polished lid, the fallboard raised like a snarling lip over the bonewhite keys, and her husband, humming along with his fingers up a scale, his quivering Adam’s apple modulating pitch like a slide whistle. A knock on the door draws her out and when she answers is shocked to see her Christrisen husband. No, a jumpsuited man waving his clipboard tapping with a pen the X for her name. She will not sign it. He is incomprehensible, the way he talks with a flopping tongue, and it makes her uncomfortable as when she orders from Wonder Chinese Takeout and the man does not understand her so she sounds out the order again and again, emphasizing each time a different word: General Tso’s General Tso’s General Tso’s Chicken and stares into his thin and parted mustache, staring into the part below his nose where sprouts a small conical mole until he finally draws open the menu and she underlines—this one!—with a sweep of her quivering, unpainted fingernail.

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