Pick Your Tune

“Pick a record, any record, any song. Go on.”

“Heavy D and the Boyz.”

“Oh you quite like to play the dumb girl card, don’t you Suzanna?” Professor Glick leaned back in the caned rocking chair positioned crookedly in his living room. He placed one hand on his bulging belly, tight and drum-like under his cheap JC Penny button down. The other he lifted habitually to his white mustache, ends waxed and pointing up, just one inch short of Yosemite Sam.

“Now, young mistress, pick again. You seem to have enjoyed selecting the one option you know an old man would not have.” Glick waved his hand theatrically to the walls behind him.

Suzanna’s eyes circled around the small townhouse. Cinder blocks lined the walls floor-to-ceiling with raw, unfinished boards that formed rudimentary bookshelves. The old man’s house was filled with them. Thousands of records, floor to ceiling. A lifetime of collection. A lifetime of obsessive hobbying. A lifetime to loneliness shrouded in the pride of an austere collection.

“The Water Goblin, Professor. I want to hear the Water Goblin.”

“Ah! She speaks wise words. Dvorak’s least familiar piece for most Americans.” He sat back and smiled broadly, mustache twitching joyously at the corners of his playful mouth. He was pale, and his cheeks flushed red with delight as he hoisted his massive, rotund frame from the chair. His movements were boyish though. Spectacularly light and reminiscent of a youth lost long ago.

“Only the briefest of moments, Suzanna. You doubt I know its precise location?” His eyes twinkled. That had been the game. The challenge. Any record, Professor Glick had it. Any record, Professor Glick knew its precise location, even if it hadn’t been selected for listening since he first placed it amongst his collection on the shelf.

“Only the briefest moments,” he nuzzled into the air spinning first to the left and then to the right, recalling in his mind with photographic precision, no doubt, the day he had come home with the record and soundly placed it on the shelf next to its brethren.

Suzanna watched as Glick moved through the house, running his hands along the shelves like a lover touching a body already claimed by another. First delicately, then curiously, and then giving into the passion that he had tried to banish and the lover tried and failed to protest. His breath quickened as he moved through the room and his cheeks flushed scarlet with excitement.

“Only the briefest of moments, dear Suzanna.”

“No rush, Professor, I’m here all evening. Remember, your party lasts until 10 p.m.”

Glick paused, resting his finger gently on the spine of an old record deformed with age and moisture. With the flick of a practiced finger, he pulled it from its long home, glee in his eyes.

“But, dear girl, you are the only one in a class of 600 that actually came. Why is that?” He now clutched the record to his chest, spun and met her eye.

“I’m not sure professor. I suppose I’m an old woman at heart, an old woman who enjoys the company of old men.” His smiled broadened and Suzanna marveled that in this moment, in her small skirt that inched up her thighs throughout the evening as she walked and her tight T-shirt that moved against her breasts with suggestive clarity, she felt safe. At home. Glick was not interested in that. Glick was interested in her company, not her potential to warm his bed.

“Ah! Excellent response, dear girl. Excellent!” He jumped slightly at the last syllable, perhaps an impossible response to the excitement of youth in his house at last.

“Here is is! Dvorak’s Water Goblin. Do you know what it is about, Suzanna?”

“I actually don’t.” She shifted in her seat uncomfortably. She loved the piece, but felt woefully uneducated when it came to classical music. Her feelings for Dvorak were nothing but gut responses to the Czech complexity and affinity for clarinets as a representative of mischievous women. But she didn’t even know that. Somewhere deep inside her, she knew it was beautiful, and for her, that was enough. It was like wine: snobbery aside, if it tastes good, enjoy it.

“I’m not sure I want to know.”

“Oh, but you must know! It fits you so well.” Glick’s smiled broadened and it seemed that the very corners of his mouth were somehow connected to that great belly that pulled more tightly against the buttons as related to the width of his paternalistic smile.

“You see, Suzanna. A mother tells her girl to stay away from the lake, but the girl doesn’t listen. She is abducted by a water goblin and has his baby. It ends badly. Too sad–the details would ruin our perfectly lovely evening.”

Suzanna sat back and closed her eyes, she could hear Glick move back through the room toward her, his chair and then finally hear his hands on the record player. She heard the lid open and the metallic slip of needle against record. She exhaled deeply and listened as the first notes of the four bar theme with simple three note harmony lit inside her ears. The timpani rang three times like a church bell tolling its warning. Her thoughts went to Glick and the townhouse.

He lived alone. He invited 600 people to his house and a single student showed up. The TAs didn’t come either. It was just her, a single student. The music moved over her and she saw the photograph in her mind’s eye. It was above the fireplace. Small. Square. Back and white and simple. A woman. A boy. She held him on her lap on a great carousel unicorn. It looked as if the unicorn would take flight, as it was in the up of its up-and-down. She smile and the boy, a mere toddler, waved to the camera. Suzanna wondered if they had been the Professor’s. Six hundred invites and only Suzanna had come.

The last notes of the song rang in her ears.

“Ah, Suzanna! Wasn’t that profound? Pick another!”