The Meyerowitz Stories (Old and Selected)

Note: I have borrowed characters from the movie The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) You don’t have to watch the movie before reading on but you should know this story is set twenty years before the events in the movie. Movie was set in New York City of 2017 and this is set in Bard College, New York of 1997. It’s about 100 miles away from New York City, New York.

 Chapter 1 : Three Beginnings

It was a Friday evening on the campus of Bard College, New York. The grass around the Quad still had the greenness of summer while the leaves were starting to turn yellowish red. The white oak tree stood tall in the middle of Quad with sparrows on its branches chirping freely. A girl with violet-colored blonde hair was playing banjo. The breeze carried her notes around the Quad. Some were stopped in their tracks mesmerized by her music and some smiled while continuing to walk on.

Fiouna Lake would have liked to stay around the oak tree. She usually preferred to walk slowly and soak in the ambiance around Quad. But not today when she was late for her MU211 class. As she approached the Lincoln building, she could see Professor Cook entering the class on the third floor. Instead of taking the smelly old elevator, she ran up the stairs. She was panting and sweating when she reached her class. The class had acoustic pianos lined up along the walls with one piano in the center. Everyone had circled around the central piano. Professor Cook gave her a cold glance as she joined the group.

While sitting on the central piano’s stool, Prof. Cook said, “Last time, we began playing with our left hand which can be difficult for some of you. We played the left C and I am sure you would have practiced it outside class. Today we are going to play Presley’s Love Me Tender. Now everyone can go to one of the pianos and practice in group of two. I hope everyone has got their sheet music. I would come to you in fifteen minutes.”

The group dispersed and started walking towards their favorite pianos. Fiouna decided to walk towards the piano farthest away from the center although she knew that the particular piano wasn’t the best one. She found an annoyed Danny Meyerowitz who was bending down and pushing the pedals with his hand.

“The damper is rusty. Don’t bother fixing it up.”

“Dammit! That explains why my notes are being sustained for too long. Ah, well…I am stuck now with this.”

“Stuck with the piano and me.”

“Haha, I don’t mind your company as long as you have the sheet music. I forgot mine.”

***

The class was filled up with off-tuned music as everyone tried their best to play the song smoothly. Fiouna had started to get a sense of the key strokes. Danny was helping her with the timing of one of her strokes. Prof. Cook came up to them and asked, “Danny, why don’t you show me how are you playing?” Fiouna stood up gladly and moved behind the professor. Danny gingerly took his place on the stool while both of them were looking at him. Danny did his best to pretend nobody was looking but he could feel Prof. Cook’s gaze on him. He looked at sheet music for a second before he started playing. Unlike last week, he didn’t want to give an opportunity to the professor to say anything about his timing. Professor signaled him to stop within ten seconds. He said, “Danny, you need to practice more” and moved on towards the next piano.

Fiouna put her hand on Danny’s shoulder for a moment without saying anything. Danny sighed and started to play again while pressing the damper harder than necessary.

As Prof. Cook was checking on his students going from one piano to another, he was surprised delightfully by someone playing almost perfectly, even Presley would have been proud. He tried to listen harder amidst the imitational music to find out the direction from which the pristine music was coming.  He finally found the really young looking player; he had not seen this student before.

“Is this your first class, son?” Prof. Cook asked as he approached the player.

“Yes, sir.”, he replied keeping his head down respectfully.

“What’s your name, son?”

“Matthew Meyerowitz, sir.”

“Aha…at least someone has inherited his father’s artistic talents.”

***

It had almost got dark. Most bars along Kelly Road were crowded. Kelly Road was a favorite bar destination for the college students; it was just a fifteen minutes walking distance away from the Bard College campus. These bars were filled up with the thrill of meeting someone new, raucous young laugh, and exciting smoke. The Bog Pub was an exception. They were not many people inside but it was still filled up with warmth of meeting someone you knew before, relaxed old laugh and deep smoke of brooding. Its door opened to let in a black jacket wearing man. He dragged his large black umbrella as he walked towards the bartender. He would occasionally use his umbrella to support himself whenever he felt pain in his left knees. The pain was not sharp enough for a doctor’s visit but frequent enough for him to always carry his umbrella. He  looked around the bar and found some of his friends drinking and listening to each other intently. The week had just finished and there were stories to be exchanged.

Tom, the bartender, was wiping dark mahogany bar with his wet white cloth. He had a phoenix tattoo on his left hand and he was wearing a blue shirt over black jeans with Yankees cap on his head.

“Professor, what would you like to have?”

“Just the usual on the rocks.”

“Alright, give me a second, Professor,”  said Tom and turned away towards his booze cupboard.

“Hey, Harold! Long time no see,” greeted John.

“Hey John! Yeah, sorry. Been busy with the admissions,” replied Harold taking off his black jacket, keeping his umbrella on his side and then shaking hand with John. Harold was in his forties and had grey hair; he was wearing his usual white shirt with dark black formal pants.

“So, how have you been, John?,” asked Harold after settling down in his favorite rightmost stool.

“Not too good. My son was sick last week. Now he is doing better. I heard about your father-in-law’s death. Sorry about that. Harold, how’s your wife doing?”

“Ummm…she is doing alright, John. Thank you. She just came back this afternoon from her brother’s home. I wish I could have accompanied her but you know how beginning of the semester is hectic. Admission process doesn’t give you anytime”

“Hmm…I can imagine she would not be happy with it.”

“Well, anyone would be sad when dealing with father’s death. But as I was saying, spending hours reading pages long admission forms and interviewing unenthusiastic students. So boring! However, I did find time for her. I sculpted my version of Rodin’s Thinking Man when she was away. I am sure she would be delighted to see my sculpture. It’s made with jade. It was not easy to get the finishing right. Ah, here is my drink.”

“A sculpture made with jade is one of my favorites! When would you make something for your bartender friend, Professor?”, asked Tom while handing neat Old Scotch to Harold.

“As soon as my knee stops paining, my friend”, replied Harold while taking the sip.

“Tom, it’s going to be a long wait. I don’t think Harold’s knee is going to stop paining anytime soon.”

“I know, John,” replied Tom rolling his eyes and moved away to serve his other customers.

“John, did you hear about Giuliani signing that goddamn law? It’s crazy in New York City!”

“The one about the domestic partnership? The next thing we know would be faggots making out on the streets.  Everyone is saying when your mayor is a faggot, then it’s not a surprise that your city is going to the dogs.”

“I know, right !? That’s why I say one should never live in big cities like New York City or San Francisco. Imagine, Harold, what if Bard College was in NYC, then would you still have liked to be a Professor in Bard College?”

“Never, John! It’s one thing to go to NYC to showcase your work to the world and another thing to …”

“Excuse me, Professor. Your wife is on the phone,” Tom interjected.

“Tom, can you tell her I am going to reach home soon? Thank you”, Harold replied.

He finished his drink, said goodbye to his friends at the bar, buttoned his black jacket and used his umbrella to support himself upright. As he opened the door to exit the pub, the cold breeze hit his face. He could hear the conversation and smell the cigarette’s smoke; there were people standing on the pavement. A tired Harold Meyerowitz took a deep breath in, checked his pocket for the gift-wrapped heavy sculpture and started walking towards his home. He knew the long night had just begun.

***

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