Behind the Music: Part Two
"No!" Miroslav screamed. Thunder clapped above his head.
"Hold on! Don't let go!" Pouring rain streamed into his eyes as he struggled to
keep sight of his mother, hanging helplessly onto the remains of a bridge.
"Miro!" His mother cried. "Miro, get help! I
can't hold on much longer!"
What had gone wrong on that day? Everything had
seemed so perfect! Miroslav, Poe, and their mother had gone exploring in the
mountains north of the Haunted Woods. They had often gone on such excursions
together, sometimes leaving for days at a time to explore the outdoor world.
Today, they had planned on making one last circle around the mountain before
returning home from a week of exploring. The sky had looked like it might rain,
but that was hardly anything for the Neopets to worry about; they had faired
well through much worse than a little rain.
Little did they know it was this rain that would
change their lives forever.
Just off to the side of their path, as the rain
clouds had begun to gather, Miroslav had found an old rope bridge slung over
the top of a deep ravine, at the bottom of which flowed a fast moving river
laden with rough rapids. POE, ever the adventurer, had insisted they cross it.
"Wait, POE," their mother had said, holding the Peophin back. "I weigh the most
of all of us. I'll go first, then you two can follow." Miroslav hadn't liked
the idea, fearing the rope bridge would give out, but he decided to keep these
thoughts to himself.
However, as soon as his mother crossed, his fears
had been shown to be groundless, and the trio enjoyed thirty minutes of playtime
before the rain began to fall. "We should head back," Miroslav had said. What
might have happened if Miroslav hadn't suggested right then to return?
What if he had waited just a few more minutes or asked just a few moments earlier?
Miroslav would never know.
As they walked back to the bridge, the rain had
begun to pour so hard Miroslav could barely see POE in front of him. Their mother
insisted they both go ahead of her on the bridge, and all had gone well until
. . .
A flash from the sky. A cracking tree. Ropes
breaking. Mother screaming. Fear.
Miroslav and POE had dismounted the bridge just
in time. Miroslav crawled to the edge of where the bridge had been secured to
see his mother holding onto a wooden plank, hanging from the top of the ravine
by barely a shred of rope.
"Miro! I can't hold on!" The urgent voice of
his mother cried out once more.
Miroslav's mind raced wildly. The bridge. POE
The rapids below. How he would get help. He turned to POE, "POE! Get to the
nearest ranger's outpost! Quickly!" He turned back to his mother.
She was gone.
Miroslav jerked up in his chair, breathing heavily.
Loud, upbeat music was blasting forth from a door to his left. Where was he?
How long had he been here? He glanced down and noted his violin case sitting
by his side. His violin . . . suddenly, he remembered everything. He was at
the Rehabilitation Center, the Twisted Roses were out onstage right now, and
he was next in line to perform. "Fell asleep . . ." Miroslav muttered to himself.
He lifted is case and set it on his knees before realizing his hands were shaking
from the nightmare. He clenched his fists, then released them, hoping to relieve
the tension. "Just don't think about it," he told himself. "You'll be fine if
you just don't let your emotions . . ." Nothing was working. His hands kept
trembling as images from the dream kept flashing through his mind. 'Why couldn't
I save her? I'm a Lenny! I can fly!'
'Your wing was hurt, remember? You couldn't
have flown,' that same, small voice inside his head spoke up once again
in a kind, soothing tone. Miroslav touched his face, pressing back the tears
as his emotions overwhelmed him. He took a breath. He let it out. 'Just breathe.
Try not to get emotional.'
A roar erupted from the crowd just outside the
door, and the Twisted Roses band exited the stage, waving to their fans with
big grins on their faces. Miroslav didn't know all that much about the Twisted
Roses, only that they were a hard-rock group. As they passed by, complete in
their black garb and dark make-up, Miroslav wondered whether there was much
wisdom in allowing a classical violinist to play immediately following a hard-core
rock group. A group of rough Neopians used to the blasting drums and screeching
guitars of a skilled band would undoubtedly be loath to sit through the delicate,
intricate music he planned to play on a single, non-amplified instrument.
As soon as the announcer stepped out on the stage,
Miroslav felt his stomach begin to churn. Through the open stage door, he could
see an aged, soot-colored Kacheek address the crowd. Her purple sweater and
wide-rim glasses (which were held in place by a cord attached to both sides
of the glasses) showed her age to be somewhere in the 'ancient' category. The
crowd of youthful Neopians groaned at her appearance onstage, and she scolded
them in a proper, grandmotherly tone, "Now, younglings, quiet down, quiet down.
You should know better by now not to behave like that - yes, you should, Ronald
Howard Jackson! And you, too, Snelly Lippins! All of you should show respect
to me, but, of course, I know you won't. Now, you sit your little fannies down
into your seats and hush, now! Be respectful of our next guest for this afternoon
- even if you have to pretend you're civilized Neopians, at least give
him the illusion you appreciate him spending his time here." The crowd began
chattering and a crumpled piece of paper hit the Kacheek in the arm. The old
Neopet sighed and said in an exasperated tone, "Here's Miroslav Wilson." The
old Kacheek cast him a compassionate glance as she exited on the opposite side
of the stage.
Miroslav felt like his feet were made of lead.
How in Neopia was he supposed to go out there? His suppressed, wrapped up, and
bandaged grief had been slashed open by the dream. He needed time to think,
to reflect, to . . . to get back into his shell. Despite the protest of his
heart, his legs stood and his hand grasped his violin case. Despite the screaming
inside, he remained silent. As he quietly walked across the stage, the Neopet
crowd murmured. The sober, green Lenny stood in stark contrast to the wild and
crazy band that had gone before him. The Neopets sitting before him weren't
exactly the type of people Miroslav thought would enjoy classical music, either.
Most of them had dyed their fur various colors, painted themselves with the
most unflattering make-up colors, and were wearing necklaces and bracelets decorated
with spikes and chains. Miroslav swallowed as he looked out at them, momentarily
forgetting his dream.
"Um . . ." Miroslav fumbled with his violin case.
"Hi." He hoped the crowd didn't notice the trembling in his voice. Finally,
he got the case open and lifted the instrument out.
'Why didn't you get the violin out before
you came out here?' the voice inside questioned mercilessly.
Miroslav didn't have an answer. He had been so
shaken by the dream . . . he looked out at the crowd again. They were beginning
to chatter and fidget. What could he do to regain their attention? He tried
to think of a fitting introduction to the piece he had selected to play, but
nothing came to mind. "This is, of course, a violin . . ." Miroslav tried not
to look at the crowd, but he knew they had to be scorning him. "Even though
it only has four strings, a violin can produce some of the most beautiful sounds
anyone has ever heard."
'This is ridiculous,' the voice said.
'Just start playing.'
Miroslav decided to ignore the voice, which had
now taken on a harsh quality. A thought played on the edges of his mind . .
. "People can feel both energized and grieved by the music that comes from a
violin, yet regardless of how the music makes us feel, it is still beautiful,
and it still affects us." Miroslav swallowed - hard. He knew where this speech
would lead him, and he wasn't sure that he was willing to go there. If he became
too emotional about all this . . . "I guess what I'm trying to say is . . ."
He hesitated again, ". . . is something my mother once told me. She was a violinmaker,
so she tended to speak in violin and music terms whenever she wanted to say
something important. My mother would tell me that life is a lot like music.
There are sad times and happy - good times and bad. We all go through seasons
of contentment and ease in our lives, and then hard times come and we don't
know how to handle it." Miroslav felt that old, familiar burning in his eyes.
Please, not now! He blinked back the burning and continued slowly, "But
all those times, both the good and the bad . . . The times when we're on top
of the world and when we feel like we're at the lowest of the low, all those
times are music in our lives. And, no matter how bad things get or what life
throws at you, something beautiful will come out of it. Everything, eventually,
will work for good, and you'll get through it." The burning was beginning
to turn into tears now. Miroslav half spoke, half choked through the next few
words, "So . . . I want to dedicate this song to the memory of my mother."
With that, Miroslav lifted the violin to his
chin and the bow to the strings. Yet, just before he touched the bow to the
strings, he hesitated. To the young audience, it merely appeared to be artistic
spacing, hardly lasting a second, but a thousand thoughts were running though
Miroslav's mind. After what he had just said, after dedicating what he was going
to play to his mother, how could he play what he had planned to play? He had
used the song to mask his grief; his heart wasn't in it. The song was hollow
. . . it was without meaning. How could he play something meaningless to him
after that speech? But . . . if he chose to play something he felt like
playing . . . something sad and melancholy . . . what if he couldn't finish?
What if he just cried his way off stage? Miroslav swallowed, considering the
possibilities. But, no. He had made his decision. This was for Mother, and so
it would be something Mother would be proud of. Miroslav would play from his
In an instant Miroslav knew what to play. It
was a musical composition he had written himself, just after the events on the
bridge. It wasn't the best composition he had ever made, but it came from the
depths of his soul. As the sad, mournful notes filled the air, Miroslav lost
track of what the crowd was doing. He had no doubt they were fidgeting away
in their seats, barely able to stand what he was playing. But right now, Miroslav
didn't care. His heart was intertwined with the notes, and every movement of
the bow upon the strings and his fingers upon the fingerboard was a movement
of his heart. A few hot, burning tears spilled over Miroslav's eyelids and onto
face as he played, and even more spilled over as he played the last measure
of the song and opened his eyes. Suddenly, a thought struck him - he had
played the last measure! Yes! He had! He finished! He had completed the
piece despite the fact tears were rolling down his face, despite his pain, despite
his grief. He had finished!
Miroslav's eyes slowly made their way toward
the crowd, scared to meet their undoubtedly harsh and mocking gaze. But, to
Miroslav's immense surprise, not one eye was unkind, and no mouth was twisted
into a mocking smirk. Everyone was silent. Here and there, Miroslav could even
see telltale glistening in their eyes and on their cheeks. This moment, seeming
to last forever, actually lasted barely three seconds before the crowd began
to applaud. It wasn't one of those applauds that burst forth from delight after
an outstanding performance, though. It was a much softer kind of applaud, one
borne out of deep thought and contemplation. What Miroslav had said and played
had touched them, and they were still trying to take it in.
Exiting the stage door, Miroslav cast a glance
over his shoulder at the old Kacheek who now reappeared on the stage. Rather
than being met with a rumbling, unruly crowd, she was now met with a silent,
sober audience. Her voice sounded a bit shrill, as if having a quiet reception
was more of a shock to her than the noisy one she had earlier, "Um . . . our
. . . our next guest . . ."
Miroslav didn't listen to the rest of the announcement.
He set his case on a chair and delicately set his violin inside. He smiled.
For the first time since that terrible day, he smiled. Genuinely. Everything
had seemed so hopeless . . . were happier times really ahead? Could it be that
he and POE would get through this tragedy? Could it be that brighter times were
ahead? Miroslav's smile spread into a grin. Yes, he and POE would get through
this, despite the pain and hurt. Light was at the end of the tunnel.