Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Writer: Janet Yung

Emily at the Piano

Studying the color wheel, he tried to remember why he was here, but only grew more confused as he concentrated, one color bleeding seamlessly into the next. Somewhere, in the distance, he heard water running and he was overwhelmed by the image of Emily at the piano. A broken water pipe on the second floor had created a waterfall, cascading down the living room wall while Emily pounded on the keyboard, keeping time with her off-tune air.

“Excuse me,” someone said, jostling past him and he mumbled in response, anxious now to escape the big box, stifled by the limitless selection and cloying atmosphere. The paper dropped from his hand as the doors swooshed open, allowing his egress into the heat of the late summer morning.

“Could it be that easy?” he asked, the odor of hot asphalt filling his nostrils and lungs. Pulling out of the parking lot, it was impossible to absorb the images flashing around him, driving the side streets until he reached familiar terrain.

The building was still standing, listing slightly to one side, left to tumble in upon itself. Weeds sprouting in the bare patches where grass had once grown, a tattered curtain blowing slowly against a broken window pane.

Passersby stared at the stranger, parked along the curb, window rolled down, staring at what had once been a home, but he didn’t notice them, focused on the front porch, absorbed by what had happened there before.

“Are you okay?” An older woman stood next to him and he looked up, startled anyone could see him. He nodded, unable to articulate everything that needed to be said. “It’s awfully hot to be sitting out here in a car,” she said and, shaking her head, disappeared down the street as the engine turned over.

At home, he fumbled with the lock and inside the dimly lit front room, stretched on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, willing the waterfall to once again appear. Quiet settled over the space, cool air washing across his outstretched frame, as he closed his eyes, conjuring up the long ago and, half forgotten history, like recreating a rainbow with the garden hose.

Dozing on the carpet, he lost track of time, abandoning the outline for the day, along with simple chores and promises, ignoring the ringing phone, a well meaning someone checking on his progress.

The evening arrived as quietly and unannounced as reality imposing itself upon his life. When nothing more could be remembered, he stretched, and stood. Outside, in the garden, he studied the sky, waiting for the moon to rise, fireflies dotting the landscape -- the serenity he’d been seeking. Extending his arms, he took a deep cleansing breath, and for a moment, could feel the mist of everything that had been lost.

© Janet Yung 2011

Janet Yung lives and writes in St. Louis. Fiction has appeared in “The Shine,” “The Camel Saloon,” and "Fast Forward."


  1. This has the disjointed, fragmented recall of someone either dreaming or suffering from some sort of mental trauma, which I think is what is intended, but also a post-event of some sort - I thought you might be referencing Japan.
    The image of the first paragraph, of Emily at the piano is lovely.

  2. There is something serene about Emily playing the piano in the midst of whatever kind of debacle this is, like the musicians playing on the deck of the Titanic. Superb.

  3. Like Sandra, I thought of Japan, although I do not think that was your intention (?). I was intrigued by the water - the waterfall, garden hose, and the mist - which seemed to parallel the diminishment of memory/pain. Fascinating read, and feels like a fragment of something larger and strong.


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