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.
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“Let Me Take Your Hands” part 6
Tess didn’t answer or nod, but Antonio felt sure he was right. She wanted to try using the potter’s wheel. Perhaps he was riding on the wave of exhaustion, caffeine, and confusion from the morning. Perhaps he and this girl could only reach each other after all thought and striving ran out. He said, “Te lo mostro,” I’ll show you, and then took the Saran-wrapped sandwich out of his pocket. “But first,” he told her in Spanish, “you have to eat some of this.”
Her face changed then. The look of disgust and annoyance, her clear disappointment that he had outsmarted her, was so obvious that Antonio had to swallow a laugh. He unwrapped the sandwich and held it out. “Eat. Then I’ll show you.”
When she took it from him, her fingertips brushed his. If the touch startled her, she didn’t show it. She ate the sandwich in a few bites. She must have been starving. After the gulped a couple of mouthfuls of water at the sink, she went back to the worktable and put her hand on the clay again, waiting.
“Bueno,” Antonio said. He cut a fresh piece of clay, but when he started working it into a sphere, she shook her head and reached out to catch hold of it herself.
“You want to do it?” Antonio asked. “Fine. But it has to be a ball.” He mimed the shape with his hands. “Can you do that?”
Again the look of annoyance. She tossed the clay from hand to hand as he had done, shaping it quickly and capably into a sphere. Antonio found himself thinking again of her neatly tied shoelaces.
When she finished, she went to the wheel and sat down on his stool, waiting to be shown what to do next. Antonio half-wondered if she would be able to throw the clay herself, if she had learned that much by watching him. He threw the clay anyhow, to center it, and showed her how to press the wheel’s front pedal. You want it to go steady, not too fast,” he said.
Almost immediately, she kept the wheel turning at a good speed. When she put her hands on the clay, though, trying to shape it as he had, right away she pushed it off center. In frustration, she pressed the pedal down harder. The wet clay whipped around, throwing slurry in the air. Antonio saw some of it hit Tess’s shirt. Her foot snapped off the pedal and the wheel stopped. She shook her hands off and stared down at the gray drops on her clothes. Her eyes looked wild and lost.
“Hija,” Antonio said. “Está bien.” It’s all right. He found himself thinking about what the doctors told Consuelo. Mind of a toddler. Can’t learn. He realized Tess would have heard those things too. People had said them in front of her as if she didn’t understand.
She was trying again with the wheel now, but it couldn’t work. The clay was far off center, her hands were too wet, the wheel spun out of control. Over its hum, Antonio heard a whine of frustration, a rising, gut-felt sound ready to explode in sobs.
Before he thought, Antonio reached out and caught Tess’s arm. “Déjalo, hija.” Stop.
She jerked her hands off the clay, yanked her arm away, snapped her foot off the pedal again, and rounded on him, all in a single heartbeat. He saw anger, pain, and unbearable sorrow mingled in her face.
In that moment, he knew what he must do. For her and for her mother.
“Te lo mostro,” he told Tess again. I’ll show you. He reached out and repositioned the clay, pushing it to center, smoothing its shape, using a sponge to sop extra water away. Then he said, “Déjame cogerte las manos.” Let me take your hands.
She glared at him. He saw the trapped mustang again, and at the same time, he saw Consuelo, sobbing behind the bulletproof glass at the jail. Yes. He must do this thing now, and then he must do another thing later.
“I’ll show you,” he repeated in Spanish. This time he was certain she understood. “Let me take your hands.”
She didn’t reach them out to him, but when he made to take them – something he never would have dared to try before – she didn’t resist. Her muscles were tense under his fingers as he gently placed her hands on the clay, where they needed to be.
When he told her to spin the wheel again, she did, carefully this time. Guiding her hands, he showed her how to press the clay down in the center, how to make first a thick-bottomed almost-doughnut and then, gradually, the wall of what would become a cylinder. A mug, perhaps, or a vase.
He felt her hands relax under his. Standing over her, he saw her shoulders relax too. He saw her drive her energy into the clay, pressing it now with more confident fingers, channeling thoughts and feelings and the words that she couldn’t speak into its smooth texture. As he watched her work, he spoke aloud, telling her the other thing he now knew he would manage.
“I will bring your mother home.”
~final section of the story appears in the next blogpost~
Musical pairing: J. S. Bach, Sinfonia no. 13 in A minor
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