The Art Site

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Yellow Paper: Part 6

She forgot about Granma, and played the piece the way it should be played.When she turned round, she saw her Granma looking out the window. So she hadn't been paying any attention after all?

'Granma, how did I do?'

Tessa blinked several times and looked at Ava. She looked like she'd just seen something beautiful.

'Ava, you played that so well... it was just how it should be. Almost. Of course, you do keep making little mistakes. You'll have to fix them up.' Ava felt the happiness grow in her. If Granma said it was good that was the highest praise.

Kathy turned into the driveway and stopped just outside the garage. She turned off the ignition and took the key out. Leaning her arms on the steering wheel, she thought back on the day. Most days the work was hard and the hours long, but today things had been worse than usual. The line of people who came up to the customer service desk and complained about some purchase had been longer, and they'd had a hard job keeping up with them all. It wouldn't have mattered if she was being paid a decent wage. That was the problem.

She'd thought she was going to get the managerial position, because she was the obvious next choice after the last manager left. A week ago a new person had come. The supervisor had been pleased with this new person's work, and had given her the job Kathy had wanted.

Kathy gripped the steering wheel. Why? She thought. She'd needed that job. She'd worked hard, hadn't she? She could have done it. If they'd given her the chance, she would have proved it. If she hadn't run away with Paul, she would likely have gone to Uni, done a degree in something, got a decent job. She wouldn't be getting paid pittance for hard work now.

Paul. She remembered the night they'd run away, hopping into his run down car, and getting married. The first house they rented. A small, dark house with an over grown garden. It was beautiful for a long time because he was there. And then he changed. The nights she spent, sitting on the porch outside among the beer bottles he'd left there, waiting for him.

The times he laughed at her when she told him to stay at home with her, not to go out. And then went anyway. How he promised her he'd do things and then never made an effort to do them. And slowly, the house became ugly, the property became ugly. She stopped waiting for him to come home. She started to nag him, said things that made him angry. Then felt better when he was angry, because she was paying him back for hurting her. When he leaned over the piano, the dark hair falling down over his eyes, his fingers moving over the keys. He played with everything he had, perfectly, and with feeling. They told him he could have a career in it, and he wanted the career. He tried, but never hard enough, to pass the examinations. So he gave up, and it was one part time job after another, he never stuck to anything, except the piano. She knew now that he hadn't changed, that he'd always been like that.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Yellow Paper Part 5

When she got home from school the next day, Ava saw her Granma's flash blue jaguar parked in the driveway. It was the epitome of what Granma was like. She still got speeding tickets because she liked going fast, getting places. Walking around the front, she saw her Granma sitting on the old park bench by the garage. She was tapping her hand on the wood arm rest, as though she were getting impatient, waiting. With Granma you didn't wait around for anything. The clothes she wore suited her: she had black boots on, a beret and chunky bracelets. Her hair was out, graying, but still beautiful.

'Hi Granma, come inside.'

'No, it's too nice out here. Come and sit down and we'll talk.'

Her Granma had to do just what she wanted to do. She didn't like being ordered around, even by Ava's simple request. Ava felt slightly annoyed, the way she always did around Granma.


She walked down the broken concrete path to the seat and sat down. The garden bench creaked with the weight of two people. Tessa looked older, there were more lines sketched in her face than Ava remembered. Her eyes had bags under them, she looked tiered and worn out. Ava wondered why. She also wondered what Granma wanted to talk about so much.

'I thought you were going to listen to my playing.'

'Yes, we'll do that, but we should talk first.' Tessa looked a little nervous, and cleared her throat. 'ou've been having a few problems with your mum, isn't that right?'

What's my mum got to do with my playing? Ava asked herself. She answered unwillingly.

'Yeah, but nothing much really. Mum just doesn't understand that I want to do the music for a career. That I have to.'

'Yes....' Tessa looked away, past Ava. 'I think it's your father. You know, he used to play the piano. He's part of the problem.' So that was it, Ava thought. She'd come here to talk about her dad, not to talk about the music.

'But it's not! It's not my dad. Mum's always harping on about money, that I have to get a job that will earn a lot. That's the problem, she doesn't think playing the piano will make any.'

Tessa looked thoughtful.

'And maybe it's you as well, you can't accept that your father is a problem in this situation.'

'Well why should I? Why do people keep telling me that? It's not like my dad's still a problem for us any more. Why should he interfere with my life?'

Tessa struggled for patience.

'Its those memories your mother has of him, that's the problem, Ava.'

She sighed.

'Remember what happened to your mum, how she made a mistake with your dad that ruined her life. He used her in a way that still hurts her... It's no wonder she doesn't want you to play, when she connects that lifestyle with her husband.'

Ava was shocked. She'd never thought about it like that. Still, what was the point in talking about it?

'Are you going to come and listen to my piece?'

Tessa looked slightly suprised about something.

'Yes, I suppose so. Just a minute.'

She grabbed hold of the arm rest on the bench with one hand, with the other she clutched a walking stick. With some effort she got up, and walked toward the front door.

'I didn't know you had a walking stick Granma. Why're you using it?'

'Hurt my leg last year, fell down somewhere and damaged it a bit. I won't have to use this for long.'

Ava ran up the steps ahead of her Granma, found the house key in her bag, and unlocked the door.

She watched as her Granma came up the steps. She leaned one hand on the old hand rail that went up the steps. Tessa was independent, unless she asked for help she didn't want it from anyone.

She sat down on the sofa and turned towards the piano.

'Let's hear it then.'

Ava looked at the sheet of music. It was a familiar sight after having practiced this piece for so long. She lifted her hands and started to play.

The piece didn't really mean anything much. It was all expression, a moment that Debussy had captured, like a Monet painting. When you heard it it trapped you into a kind of false security, just for a couple of minutes, as though there could be no trouble anywhere. That was what Ava liked about it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Yellow Paper: Part 4

I couldn't think of anything to blog about, so I thought I might as well put up part 4 of the story...

Ava thought about Danny, how his big hands and feet were just right for playing the piano. How he listened to you, his whole self concentrated on what you were saying. How he had all this energy that was bottled up inside him. Too much maybe, Ava thought. And what he'd said about her mum... could it be possible that she was trying to help? But if she was, she'd act differently, she'd at least consider Ava's point of view. Could the problem be her dad? Was that why her mum was so against her playing? Her mum never mentioned her dad, and didn't want anyone else to. But that was fair enough, thought Ava. If you'd made a mistake like getting married to her dad, an alcoholic, and then that decision turned sour on you, you wouldn't like to be reminded of it. It was interesting how one bad decision made years ago could affect so many people. Maybe that was what her aunt was trying to tell her. That you can want something, but you should understand what you're trying to get, and not trample other people to get it. Was she trying to tell her that that was what Ava might do? Or was doing? Ava didn't know.

The afternoon sun came through the living room windows as Ava played, the music falling from her fingers. For Ava, playing the piano was as necessary as breathing. It was something that had to be done, an integral part of herself. Pianos attracted her like a magnet.

The thoughts flowed so much easier just by playing, and problems resolved themselves. Playing the piano was escaping some of the hard reality in life for Ava.

Listening to what Clair de Lune meant, hearing the notes that sounded like running water, Ava thought more clearly. It was a shame that her mum didn't want her to play, but it was too late now. She had to make up her own mind about this. After all, it wasn't her mum's life. An idea hit her. Granma would know what to do.

'Hello? Tessa speaking.'

'Hi granma, this is Ava.'

'I thought I'd get a phone call from you.'

How would granma know, Ava asked herself.


'I thought you might be having a bit of trouble with your mum.'

'Well yeah, I guess I am. Mum's dead set against me playing for the competition.'

'You're going to play, though Ava?' Granma's voice sounded alarmed.

'Yes of course. I have to, now. I thought you could come over soon, when you have time. Mum's working tommow, maybe you can come then?'

'What for?'

'I want your opinion on how my piece sounds.'

'Good idea. How's it going anyway?'

'It's all right. The teacher says I need to ease up my little finger more, especially doing those extra trilly bits.'

'He's right. Your fingers are very stiff when you play them.'

Ava laughed. Talk about blunt.

'Thanks, that's nice to know.'

'No, seriously, Ava, you need to work on that before the competition. If you want to win. I'll come over tommorow and help you with it, but I think you just need to do more scales. You have to keep working on them.'


'See you tomorrow then.'

'Thanks granma.'

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Yellow Paper: Part 3

'Cup of tea, Ava?' It was her aunt calling through the door, as though nothing had happened.

Ava knew her aunt was safe middle ground, and besides, a cup of tea was what Ava needed just then. She got up and went to the kitchen. Her aunt was leaning over the bench, staring out the window at the sunset. The kettle was hissing, and the white and blue teapot was sitting on the bench, along with a couple of cups, which meant that her mother wasn't having any. Doris saw Ava standing there. She turned round, took the kettle and poured water into the teapot. She was wearing a faded top that was stretched across her torso, and she pulled at the sleeves as though she wanted to say something, but didn't know what. Ava poured tea for herself, black and strong. She leaned over the bench to watch the sunset fade.

'Where's mum?' Ava asked.

'She went out for a drive. Your mother means well, Ava, and she wants the best for you.'

There wasn't anything you could say to that.

'She always was, well, strong – minded. I remember when we were young, it was always your mum that I and the boys followed. She was a born leader. There would never be any point in having an argument with her, she would win every one, even if you were right and she knew she was wrong.' Doris wrapped her hands around the cup and sipped it thoughtfully.

'Me, I was usually pretty happy to do what she said. You remind me of her, Ava. I suppose some of that stubbornness rubbed off onto you.'

'Maybe.' Ava said, still looking out the window. She was wondering why her aunt was talking to her like this. Auntie Dorie usually kept out of the way of any problems between Ava and her mother.

'In some ways, it's not an admirable trait, but in others... well, strength of mind and purpose, Ava, that's a good thing, if you're after something good. If you're after the wrong thing, you wreck your life.'

Ava made the connection.

'That's what happened to mum, isn't it.'

Her aunt looked startled.

'I wouldn't say she wrecked her life, but yes, she was so wrapped up in her own ideas about your father that she didn't listen to what people said about him, she just went ahead and married him. And in the end... well, you know what happened.'

Ava nodded and drained her cup.

'I'm not saying you'll end up that way, Ava, I'm just warning you: make sure you know what you're going for. The thing in itself might be good, but don't trample other people so that you can get it.'

'I'm not doing that, and I wouldn't, anyway. But thanks for telling me.'

Ava leaned forward and gave her aunt a quick hug.

It was Monday, and Ava was walking home from school, wishing that the holidays had lasted longer.

She heard someone running behind her, and turned to see who it was. It was Danny, her friend from school, and he looked out of breath. His dark hair looked like it had been brushed the wrong way, and his shoe laces were untied.

'What's up?' Ava said, wondering why he was running to meet her like that.

'Should ask you that. Haven't seen you for ages, what have you been doing with yourself?' His chest went in and out, in and out, and his breath came out in short puffs.

'Just the usual... I'm pretty busy at the moment I guess. Did I tell you? The School of Music accepted me in their competition! So I'm doing a lot more practice than usual.'

Danny was surprised.

'Well, I have news for you then. I entered for that competition as well.'

'You're kidding! Did they let you in?'

'Yeah, I got the letter on Saturday.'

'That's fantastic, Danny. But now we're competing against each other.'

Danny grinned and shoved his hands into his trouser pockets.

'May the best man win.'

'But you're far and away the best, Danny.' Ava laughed, and shrugged. 'Well, I'm gonna give it a good go, anyway.'

Danny looked at her. 'What are you going to play?'

'Clair de Lune. I love it, it's like water. It's so... the notes just feel so right.'

'Yeah, I know what you mean. I thought your mum was a bit against your playing. How did you manage to get her to let you do it?

Ava clenched her hands and looked down at the pavement.

'I didn't.'

Danny looked at her. He let out a low whistle.

'Something to do with your dad who played?'

Ava looked up at him angrily.

'What do you know about my father?'

'Hey, take it easy! You told me yourself that your dad played. You also told me your parents

separated. So I thought... I mean, maybe your mum just doesn't like any reminder of your dad.'

He sounded almost pleased with himself, as though he'd thought of something new.

Ava was annoyed, but she knew her anger was lost on Danny.

'No, that's not it. My mum wants me to have a job that makes alot of money. She doesn't think I would make any playing the piano. When she gets an idea like that, she sticks with it, even though it doesn't make sense.'

'She's trying to help you, though.'

'I dunno.Maybe. Anyway, I'm going to play in the competition.'

'Good on ya. See you tomorrow.' Danny stopped at the corner of the street to cross the road. He lived a couple of blocks down from Ava's house.

'See ya.'

Monday, September 03, 2007

Green Jandals

I got out of the car and looked at the building across the road. The convention center looked formidable, and people dressed in expensive suits or dresses were going in there. This was the Small Business Expo and I looked down at my clothes and wondered what I'd been thinking when I put them on. Hoodie, faded jeans, ripped at the bottom. Not to bad, I thought. Sticking out from the jeans, a pair of green jandals, purchased at the Warehouse a long time ago. Not so good. Definitely not good when you're supposed to look like a successful business person... or at least, someone who's starting up a business. I decided to walk in there with my head up. I hoped I'd look a million dollars like that... the kind of: yeah, I earn the cash, but these jandals are comfy look.

As soon as I'd got in there and 'registered' which involved being given a bag with advertising in it, writing your details on a block of paper, and handing your ticket to a guy, I had a bit of a look around. At the start of the long Convention hall they had a stand. It was the Vero stand, whatever that meant. They had a lot of hay scattered around, a couple of cow bells and a cow's skull hung up on some wood. Several buckets full of ice and red bull, and a couple of buckets of gumboots. It looked promising. I was witnessing Nathan try and hit the cow's skull, which he managed, when a lady asked me if I wanted a turn. 'Sure.'
The goal was to hit the cow bells with a gumboot. I raised the gumboot in an under arm, and flung it at the cow bells. It hit them. The lady looked a bit disappointed as she handed me a can of red bull. She probably didn't want to give it away. I didn't really question why these people were doing it, or why we had to bang the cow bells with a gumboot. Or even why the people at the stall were wearing kind of loose shirts, jeans and gumboots.

They didn't tell me either.
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