Sandra blows across the row of ribbons hung above the piano while waiting for her mother. Last fall, after her mother lost her job, Sandra’s parents moved to a less expensive apartment. In their effort to keep up with their old life, her parents moved the black upright piano Sandra plays every day into their bedroom closet because the new apartment was too small to put the piano anywhere else. In the closet her father hung ten years of Sandra’s festival ribbons, awards, and trophies.

Still waiting for her mother, Sandra twists a festival ribbon and watches it unwind, thinking she wants something—a room of her own may be—but she doesn’t know what it is she wants; she just knows that she wants something deep, something exciting, something easy. She wants something that isn’t a piano or this apartment.

At 3:45 her mother settles herself into an armchair at the foot of the bed and begins knitting. Sandra sits down at the piano and begins first with arpeggios, fluent and smooth like water flowing, wrists fluttering like hummingbirds birds up the keys. This is good, thinks Sandra, Good enough for an exercise, but before the last note sounds her mother says, “Again,” without lifting her head from her knitting.

Sandra works through the arpeggios again. Her hands moving faster, articulating each note into a separate entity so a cascading waterfall of sound fills the room three times before Sandra moves onto the Khachaturian. The Khachaturian is a flashy piece, Sandra thinks. It is more dazzling than difficult. A winning piece.

Arms spread and poised before the keys, Sandra looks to her mother. At her nod, Sandra begins slow, too slow for the toccata. Her mother’s tongue clicks disapproval. Sandra closes her eyes. She stops thinking about her hands; she no longer sees the notes in her head. The rhythms carry her forward. For the first time in a long time the notes release her to another place.

This week’s word is deep, adj \ˈdēp\

3:  difficult to penetrate or comprehend : recondite <deep mathematical problems>

You can use no less than 33 words and no more than 333.


14 thoughts on “Upright

    1. With more words, the complexity of the mother would make her a more sympathetic character. I wanted Sandra to be a typical teen searching for something she could not name, but she wants it just the same.

  1. I love the way she goes from discontent to acceptance over the course of the piece. I felt like her turning point was when she articulated the frustration to herself “She wants something that isn’t a piano or this apartment.”

    1. I wanted her turning point to be when she gave into the sublime of the music and transcended the wanting of her teenage self.
      FYI~My inspirations for this were:
      1. Khachaturian Toccata–http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBkz2A1z8xM
      2. The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother–http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Hymn-Tiger-Mother-Chua/dp/1594202842
      I always appreciate your comments jester. Thanks.

  2. Alluding to The Battle Hymn of the Tiger mother in your comments takes your writing beyond the story. How many times have we hear the word, “Again.” Well done.

    1. Natalie~ The responses to The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother astonished me when the book came out last fall. I was thinking of this now stereotyped tiger mother and thinking about the complicated nature of the parent child relationship and thinking about motivations when writing to this prompt.

      I tried to comment on your blog, but blogger will not let me. It doesn’t recognize my Open ID. Anyway I read your piece–sad but hopeful.

    1. I’m curious, what place does piano have in you life now? Do you still play? Twelve years is a long time. You must have been playing Beethoven sonatas and Bach’s English Suites (Challenging!) when you stopped.

  3. Thank you for linking up to this week’s Trifecta Challenge. What a lovely piece. My favorite part is how you included the detail of the closet. This piece puts you right there–the cramped space of adolescence and yearning for something you can’t even put your finger on yet. “Again.” Perfect. Thank you.

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