New York, as usual, left me very happy, very exhausted, and very inspired. And now that I’m back home and settled at my work desk, I am excited to be able to share some of the places we visited that feature in Black Dust. I’ve been sharing them elsewhere on social media (links up there to your right), typing away in my phone at train stations, in restaurants, sitting in parks (when we could, my goodness was it cold last week in New York) and now I can share them here. Over the course of this week I’ll post some photos and excerpts to hopefully bring Black Dust to life for you.
Today, however, I am excited that Alpha Book Club, one of my book tour stops, featured a vignette I wrote. The prompt was to write something in a character’s point of view as a child. I immediately thought of Toby moving to yet another new city. Let’s see how he had learned to adapt by the time he was twelve years old:
Toby pushes the last box into his bedroom with his foot. His arms are tired, his mood is sour, at best, and he’s missing his friend Lawrence’s debut in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the community theater back in Missouri.
He should be used to it; he is in many ways. He and his family have moved around so much that at age twelve, his parents hardly help him get his room set up any more. He knows what to do, he knows where everything goes, and at this point he would just as soon as they not butt in and tell him how important it is to display every single piano medal and trophy he has earned over the years.
His dad’s military citations, if not on his uniform, are prominently displayed in every home they’ve lived in. But Toby’s musical achievements are there to make Mom and Dad proud, not himself. His musical enjoyment comes from learning a new lick, playing with a new melody, connecting with people without needing to get too close; he’ll be gone to the next town before that can happen anyway. Tacoma, Washington won’t be any different.
He takes one more look at his boxed, bland, beige room and and finds his way back to the den. He swears that one day, when the moving stops and he has a home of his own, he will decorate with bright colors—maybe even a teal blue couch, just to watch his dad bristle at how unmanly it is.
He lifts the lid of the piano that the movers had unceremoniously and irreverently dumped in the corner of the room. As expected, it’s painfully out of tune, so far gone it makes his skin itch and his knees tickle with a need to move. To wander.
“I’m gonna go see what’s around, Mom. Be back by dinner!”
He is out the door before she’s finished asking if he had unpacked. Of course he hadn’t. Of course he would—in a day or two. Enough for sheets and a pillow tonight, enough to pretend like he is “home” by the end of the week. As if he even knows what that word meant.
On the drive into the neighborhood, he had seen a small brick building: Jefferson Playhouse. When he gets there on foot, there are three cars in the parking lot; he takes a chance and walks in. A middle-aged woman titters around and cleans up lingering messes from an earlier rehearsal. An overzealous nerdy high school boy follows her like a puppy dog, desperate for attention.
And, stage left, delicately draping a quilted cover over the piano is a man his dad’s age. Nothing like his dad of course. This man is softly handsome, poetic in his movements. His long fingers caress the cover and then the piano with the care of a lover—or what Toby imagines it will be like with a lover. He has only seen such things on television and in the movies.
The man must feel Toby’s presence because he looks up, sighs and grabs a messenger bag from the floor. “The roles are filled. Next auditions are in November.”
“I don’t want to audition, sir. I’d like to—we just moved here and my piano isn’t ready yet. Can I borrow your piano? For just an hour?”
“You any good?”
“Yes, sir. We’ve been in a car for hours and I just—” He flexes and wiggles his fingers.
The man seems to understand. “Hop on up. Let’s see what you’ve got.”
Toby visits Jefferson Playhouse every afternoon before rehearsals until his father agrees to get their own piano tuned. He makes a new friend—Sofia—who plays Agnes in their summer show Meet Me In St. Louis. Toby is satisfied.
Once school starts, he makes new friends, mostly those who stall leaving music class by listening to him play the piano. But they’re not permanent. None of them are, even Sofia. Music is Toby’s companion. And as he sits alone at the piano on stage at Jefferson Playhouse, the tittering director asking him to lock up behind himself, the final chord of the Allegro to Vivaldi’s “Spring” from Four Seasons echoing up into the stage riggings, he smiles.
One day, he’ll stop moving. One day, he’ll meet someone who will still him and teach him the meaning of permanence. Of home.
Please visit Alpha Book Club to see their lovely review and enter to win a $25 Interlude Press Gift Card and an e-book copy of Black Dust.