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"The Missing Note," short story excerpt

Monday 6/27/22

The missing note scudded up to Beethoven’s door, having taken its time, and the right amount of time, in getting there. It saw the town, strayed into a succession of cafes, flitting across tables and climbing walls, and sometimes adding that which had been missing to the language of lovers, or the whisperings of the consolers of the grief-stricken, and the wisdom of selfless friends.

Beethoven opened the door and inhaled the morning air. His coffee had been prepared, but he hadn’t tasted it yet. The world was not quite right on account of the missing note, whatever it was going to be. Sure, the sonata would pass, and there would be praise, but what did the swine know, which felt like an insult to pigs, pigs being smart. They just said whatever the other members of their set did. That wasn’t going to be enough. Didn’t matter at all, no more than the contents of the chamber pot, soon to fertilize the banks of a stream.

Beethoven pulled back the door with greater force than he intended, for he’d been nervous. Not that the note wouldn’t arrive eventually, but he also understood that missing notes are never promised to anyone, not even Beethoven.

“There you are,” he said, looking down at the unquantifiable force of life that had its own travel case and what seemed to be a tiny travel cup of—what was that smell?—ah, yes, freshly made espresso. Missing notes like to be ready to get started.

“Come in, come in,” Beethoven said, trying to tone down his bluster for once, and beckoning the missing note into his composition room. He liked to savor these moments. A friend had long ago told him that this is the fun part.

“You’ve come so far, and you have what you do. Now it’s the going over. And the last completion of the whole. The life.”

The missing note stood upon the sounding board of Beethoven’s piano, and relayed some of the important events of its travels. They drank their coffee, and basked in their boundless union, the particulars of which—like how it had come to be, and why the two of them, exactly?—were always left unsaid, lest anything take an edge off the purity of the moment or the ineluctability of the bond. Because it wasn’t chance—but it also wasn’t chosen.

“Oh, how I have loved you,” Beethoven remarked, being a creature of faith. He never took the knock for granted, but he knew it would be there. Still, when it came and the note told of its tales on these mornings—well, there you go. Better reason than any to be alive.

The note stretched itself, doing some deep knee bends—for it would now be traveling further than ever in the world. The missing note will venture to concert halls where it gives hope to people whose time in this world is running out. People who had entered the room conscious of the sickness in their veins, but are also ameliorated, and feel the life blood of peace as they listen, knowing that in this world, the next, and however many after, they’re well prepared for tomorrow. And you tell me: What is more important than being well-prepared for tomorrow?

The missing note lives on for hundreds of years. Beethoven would say, “Why cap it there?” and that’s fair. Thousands of years. Who knows how many years. A widow mourning the loss of her husband and hating the category of classification to which she now belongs, as well as the phrase, “but he was so young,” will encounter the missing note in the company of his or her fellow notes, all of them having been off at some stage wandering on their own, and she’ll try harder that day, for her young children, and somewhat for herself, too. Maybe not a full start. Definitely not an end, but a help. You don’t need help? Who doesn’t need help?

There will be lovers like those recently parted from in the café, both of whom have been listening, after having been through much together—a tough period—and one of whom will say to the other, “I am crying because I am happy.”

Sometimes the newly born will listen as well, with a speaker outside of their crib, and their brain will respond as brains rarely do at that age, for which studies will be done, but the studies don’t matter much. You can throw them out the window, which is something you cannot do with missing notes, once they have been found. I don’t care if you’re a despot. I don’t care if you’re the devil. You can’t do it, no matter how much you might want to. You lose, because missing notes, and that to which they belong in their timely timelessness, always win.

Beethoven was sad to see the missing note go. They had reached the end of their morning together, the happy commiseration. Well, it was more bittersweet. Something that is bittersweet can possess greater joy than anything, because it is true, and how often do you get to know, feel, and breathe that something is true?

There would be other holes for other missing notes, more cups of coffee, more knocks and satchels at the door, more waiting, more hoping, more questions of “where are you, good sir or madam?” And even doubt. To the heart will be applied the crowbar and the cudgel, insofar as there are versions of these tools which can be brought to bear on the innermost of the innermost.

“People must be reached,” Beethoven thought, “or else we are all of us nothing, not even ourselves.”


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