Bagatelle In A-Major by Zaqary Fekete

Bagatelle In A-Major

When I was ten my mother drove me to piano lessons every Wednesday. My piano teacher was an elderly lady who lived in a large, Victorian house at the end of the street. By the time the car reached her driveway I felt like I lost control of time. The hour ahead seemed eternal. I dreaded the walk from the car up to her doorway. 

I knocked and she opened it after a moment. Come in then,” she said. 

The inside of her house smelled like mothballs. Her piano was in the back room and the wooden floors creaked as we walked from the front door to the back through rooms that looked like they were never used. The piano was the only item of furniture that was regularly dusted. 

To reach the keys my piano teacher placed two books on the piano stool, and my feet awkwardly dangled below me while I perched. I always began the lesson with scales which were easy enough. I trilled my way through them as she rhythmically thumped her finger against the side of the piano. But I hated the moment when she had me play my homework. She usually assigned me small pieces, trifles really, by Beethoven or Mozart, little works meant to demonstrate progress with finger work. I played through the pieces and then looked up at her. 

Her eyes were down and a telltale finger was always on her eyebrow. “No,” she said. “That’s not quite right, is it?” Her breath was heavy with garlic breath from the sausages she had eaten for breakfast. “Move aside” she said.

I hopped down from the chair. She placed the two books to the side and seated herself. For a moment she closed her eyes. Then, from memory, she played whatever piece I had been attempting. Her eyes remained closed and her mouth drooped open with a quivering lip. I watched her fingers. She pressed the keys as though they were soft as a pillow. 

“The beginning should feel like a struggle,” she said. “The piece might sound ugly.” Her gnarled fingers straightened and grew elegant as she played. “But by the time it is finished, you can hear what the poet intended.” The music hung in the air and the room seemed wrapped in a layer of gloss.

When she finished, her eyes remained closed for a moment. Then she looked up, each time, at a picture on the piano which always faced the wall. I didn’t know who it was. When she looked back at me she was old again.

“Perhaps next week you’ll be ready,” she said. My mother picked me up, and the ride home was colored through by whatever music she had played that day. 

But by the time I was home the feeling had faded and life with its harder edges had returned.

Zary Fekete grew up in Hungary
…has a novelette (In the Beginning) out from ELJ Publications and a debut novella coming out in early 2024 with DarkWinter Lit Press in addition to two short story collections later in 2024.
…enjoys books, podcasts, and many many many films. Twitter and Instagram: @ZaryFekete

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