Let Me Take Your Hands, part 4

Welcome! This blog features short piano pieces I’ve recorded at home. It began as a project for the quarantine, a mental break during these tough times.

This month, I’m switching things up a bit in honor of Short Story Month. Each post, over the next week or so, features an installment of my short story “Let Me Take Your Hands,” originally published in The Woven Tale Press as a prizewinner in WTP’s 2017 literary competition. Find the first installment here and follow the story forward up to the current post.

This is a favorite story of mine. Each installment is be paired with a piece of piano music I’ve recorded.

Make sure to subscribe to the blog if you’d like a regular dose of music, and visit back soon!

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“Let Me Take Your Hands” part 4

In the afternoon, Antonio went to his pottery studio. He could do nothing else until he sat at his wheel, the one place where the world always fell into order.

He couldn’t leave Tess alone in the house, so he took her with him. She still hadn’t eaten anything. She turned her face away from the sandwich Antonio offered – smooth peanut butter with grape jelly, what Consuelo always made – and jerked her arm back when he tried to take her hand to lead her to the car. She followed him outside, though, and folded herself into the passenger’s seat when he opened the door for her. On the short ride from Galena Street to the studio, she sat there with no more life in her than a doll.

Tienes que comer,” he told her while he drove. You have to eat. He didn’t know if she heard or understood. Perhaps this was better than screaming, but right now he would have traded all her silence for one yell, to show that there was a living child in there and her soul hadn’t disappeared along with her mother. And if she opened her mouth, he might have a chance to stuff a bite of sandwich in. That rejected item, wrapped in Saran wrap, sat in his shirt pocket.

He wasn’t a parent. He had no idea what to do for any child, especially this one. He had never asked for, or wanted, this kind of responsibility.

Ms. Tillison’s suggestion banged around inside his head. If he went through with it, if it worked at all, he would have greater responsibility than he had ever imagined. Of course, technically, it would not be real. It would be a legality; but he, and Consuelo, and this girl beside him, would all have to live by it, at least for a while. If it worked.

If it could.

On Colorado Street, Antonio took his usual space in the narrow public parking lot. Tess followed him silently across the street to the studio. She wore yesterday’s long jeans, but didn’t seem to care about the heat beating up from the pavement. Antonio sweated in his own khakis and thought about how he would have to take the girl to Consuelo’s apartment at least for a change of clothes. At the jail, they had given him Consuelo’s keys. He wondered if, once Tess set foot in her home again, he would be able to get her to leave.

He unlocked the studio door and pushed it open. The bells inside clanged against the glass. Consuelo and Tess had seen the showroom before, but they had never come through to his workspace at the back of the shop. Antonio didn’t know what to expect as he led Tess through into the pair of rooms that held his kiln, his wheel, his glazes, and the shelves of finished and unfinished work. What if the strangeness of everything overwhelmed her? What if she turned violent, the way she had with the policeman last night? Might she decide to break things, smash the pots, the weeks’ worth of Antonio’s time and income?

He pointed into the kiln room and told her in Spanish, “Best not to go in there. It’s hot.” Again, he couldn’t tell if the words meant anything, but surely she could feel the heat on her skin through the almost-shut kiln room door. He waved around at the shelves in the workroom, his wheel, the row of glaze buckets, and the glaze samples on the wall. “You can look around in here,” he told Tess. “I’m going to work for a while.”

He drew his apron on, cut a rough pound of wet clay from a fresh block, and sat down at his wheel. If he could spend five minutes, or ten, working, before anything else happened. He didn’t need to finish anything. He only needed that rhythm under his hands, so he might be able to think what to do next.

As he tossed the clay from hand to hand, shaping it into a rough ball, he watched Tess out of the corner of his eye. At first she stood still, in the middle of the room, as empty as a shell. Then, in the same moment that he threw the clay with a solid thump onto the center of the wheel, she seemed to come to life.

She walked over to the glaze buckets. Now she was directly behind Antonio, so he couldn’t see her and work the wheel at the same time. He had to hope she wouldn’t decide, for instance, to tip the buckets over and cover the floor with glaze. When he managed to glance over his shoulder, once he had the wheel spinning at the right speed, he saw her standing on tiptoe, with her hands clasped behind her back, examining the samples on the wall.

He had always liked the sample display himself. It was made up of rows of small square pieces of clay, glazed and fired, showing how pairs of glazes looked individually and combined. Copper red with Tyman’s White. Sand Yellow with cobalt blue. The board made a mosaic of possibilities, all the colors he could create.

Perhaps Tess liked colors. Certainly Antonio didn’t hear any noise from her, no buckets sloshing or pottery crashing to the floor, as he began to shape the clay on his wheel. He gave it a wide angle at the base. It might become a bowl. In spite of the girl’s strange presence, and the endless worry that chewed at him, peace settled on him while he worked.

~story continues in the next blogpost~

Musical pairing: Ludwig van Beethoven, Bagatelle in G Major, Op. 126

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