Excerpt – Where the River Flows – Memories of the Shadow Age

***The story follows the life and development of the main character, introduced in the first chapter (flash forward) as a successful musician, as he grows through major childhood and early life crises. He discovers love and a deep understanding of his unique musical ability. This excerpt is from the book’s second chapter. The full book can be found here***

‘Play the one you played for me earlier!’ David Emerson’s grandmother requested excitedly. It seemed her hands had their own mind as they rose and came together to clap in front of her face. Her fingers interlaced and she touched them to her lips. She had meant a song he wrote himself.

          ‘It isn’t a Christmas song,’ David replied. ‘And it isn’t very good.’ He sat with his hands in his lap on the bench in front of the old upright piano with the chipped yellow keys. His grandparents lived in a small yet comfortable home in Denver, Colorado. It was old but old people lived in old houses and this old house had the musty smell of old wood and old furniture. That smell was almost entirely overshadowed by the warm aroma of burning wood mixed with clove and mulling spices and that smell swelled throughout the house to form a canvas upon which were painted the various scents that defined the holiday for the boy. Sugar cookies and peppermint bark and nutty pecan pie and chocolate fudge and butterscotch. David Emerson did not enjoy peppermint or anything containing peppermint, but it was there and it was part of the holiday experience and he would not fault the peppermint for that. After all, David’s grandfather loved peppermint and David loved his grandfather. On top of everything else, there was the twinkling scent of pine from the fresh wreaths and of the Christmas tree which decorated the room, and the pine aroma brought a sharpness to the nose. The fireplace was burning wood from trees David’s grandfather had cut that were less suited for the main stage. The Christmas tree glowed with multicolored light and was filled with myriad trinkets collected for and created by the generations of children who had grown up in David’s family, the earliest produced by his grandfather’s parents when they were young. Similar mementos were spread throughout the home at the whim of David’s aging grandmother, and that grandmother sat there next to him watching him with expectant eyes, pinched at the corners. Her skin was pale but healthy and she had short, silver, curly hair, the only way David had ever known her. He was seven years old this Christmas and had grown bigger since the last, but to him his grandmother had not changed at all.

          ‘But it was so beautiful,’ she had said. ‘The holiday songs can wait.’ Before she was able to get the last word of the sentence from her mouth, the house was filled with the hollow echo of the Westminster chime, coming from the grandfather clock at the opposite end of the room and giving David a last chance to ponder before he responded. He looked back at the majestic clock with its swaying brass pendulum and it eased his mind. Then he scanned the room. His grandmother was there, seated on a wooden stool next to him. His mother and grandfather reclined to his right on the dusty beige sofa, and his aunt, uncle, and two younger cousins played on the worn and scuffed hardwood floor with a train set near the Christmas tree behind him, all waiting to be entertained. The tree was magnificent. Everyone in the family had worked together to decorate it and it symbolized that unity and togetherness for David and that was important to him, but as he thought about playing his song he felt a hot pulse grow in his chest and a mild queasiness rise in his gut. Behind his cousins, through the small window in the back door, he could see snowflakes quietly and softly fluttering in the darkness and they calmed him if only slightly. The clock struck seven times with the dull tolling strike.

          ‘OK,’ David answered finally while he turned, first to face his grandmother and then the old piano. The brass lamp atop the piano illuminated the keys and the book of Christmas carols set on the instrument’s stand with its fluorescent glow. At his feet David could see the three tarnished brass pedals and he situated his right foot over the rightmost pedal. The hot pulse in his chest jumped. He closed the book of carols, so not to be distracted, and looked at his fingers. The feeling in his stomach tightened.

          Why do they make me play my songs? They aren’t that good and it isn’t the right time.

          Behind him, his cousins sat on the floor giggling about something else. David’s apprehension did not come from his lack of desire to be at the center of attention. It was more deeply rooted than that, and he would not fully realize or understand his apprehension for at least another decade.

          OK…

          David Emerson lined up his left hand with the keys and then his right. He depressed the foot pedal and then he began to play; a low and simple rolling rhythm with his left hand – arpeggios in D, B flat, C, A. Rolling, rolling, rolling. The cracked keys of the old piano had a very distinct action that only keys on old pianos have. Some would bounce back when he lifted his fingers and some would hover in between their terminal raised and lowered positions, shaky and unsure of themselves. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling. Rolling the hot pulse and shaping it. The rolling became more fluid and the hot pulse in David’s chest ebbed and flowed with it. The tightness in his gut loosened and he took a deep breath and smelled the pine and the holiday and then he added a simple melody with his right hand. Hollow, insecure, and broken but full tones filled his grandparents’ home. The old out-of-tune piano seemed to pick up on the atmosphere of the environment around which it aged. The fire crackled along with the soft melodic rhythm as it grew and the individual notes from the piano almost mimicked the tolls of the grandfather clock – sharp strikes followed by an instant dullness and wavering resonation further melted together by the sustain from the pedal. David Emerson raised and then lowered his foot after each iteration of the rolling wave. Rolling, building, crashing with a shallow pause and then rolling, rolling, rolling again. The simple melody danced like the falling snowflakes and the pulsing heat was tempered into a playful feeling of gladness, and they in the room listened and they felt the gladness and they knew it was David’s. Then the simple melody became a cascade and that cascading storm fell between the waves and it grew and then it cascaded again between the waves and then it rested. And then the cascade came again but the tone was lighter and less dark and the storm fell between the waves and the gladness became euphoria and they all felt the euphoria and it tickled their hearts and the hot pulse filled David’s body until he poured it out as a final cascade and started to bring that cascade to rest, and they listened in the room and their skin became gooseflesh and their hairs were on end and then the cascades rested. Rolling, rolling, rolling. David bid farewell to the melodies of the snowflakes and slowed their falling and outside the snowflakes ceased falling and the room went silent as the waves stopped rolling.

          The boy who had just played the piano felt his gut tighten again and he turned to look at his grandmother. She was clapping silently and smiling a bright and youthful smile.

          ‘Thank you, baby,’ Heather said from the sofa. A truncated Westminster chime began before the boy had a chance to speak, signifying a quarter past the hour.

***Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed it and would love for you to offer your feedback by sending me a message or leaving a comment. The full book can be found at the Amazon bookstore by clicking here.***

Published by dbmoore0727

***All views are my own*** I write commentary on current world events as well as short stories and book reviews. My first book, Where the River Flows - Memories of the Shadow Age, can be found on Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited). I attended Arizona State University studying neurochemistry. I've worked professionally as a ghostwriter and managed analytical laboratories in supplements and pharmaceuticals, as well as operated as a consultant and technical writer for academics and companies in the science and engineering fields for over ten years. I've been writing creatively all my life. I hope you enjoy the content -- I want my readers to feel empowered to comment and critique as they feel compelled.

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