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Through the summer and fall of 1974 the house rang with Beethoven’s “Appassionata.” That music!

As in a dream she who was the mother of the young pianist moved open-eyed and unseeing. Lovesick she found herself standing outside the closed door of the music room, entranced.

“He will. He will play it. This is his time.”

She who lacked an ear for the subtleties of piano interpretation could not have said if the sonata she heard bore a profound or a merely superficial relationship to the recording by Artur Schnabel she’d heard twenty-five years before in the parlor of the old stone cottage in the cemetery.

Inside the music room her exacting son was forever starting, and stopping. Starting, and stopping. Now the left hand alone, now the right. Now both hands together and back to the beginning and ceasing abruptly and returning again to the beginning in the way of a small anxious child beginning to walk upright, stumbling and flailing for balance. If he had wished, Zack could play the sonata unimpeded: he could play it straight through, striking every note. He had that ability, the mechanical facility of the piano prodigy. But a deeper resonance was required. A deeper desperation.

The desperation beneath, Hazel supposed to be inside the music itself. It was that of the composer, Beethoven. It was the man’s soul into which the young pianist must descend. She listened, wondering if the choice of the sonata had been a mistake. Her son was so young: this was not music for youth. She became excited, almost feverish in listening. Stumbling away exhausted not wanting Zack to know she’d been listening outside the door of the music room for it would annoy and exasperate him, who knew his mother so intimately.

Bad enough I’m trying not to go crazy myself, Mother I don’t intend to be responsible for you going crazy too.

He was restless! At the age of fifteen he’d placed second in the 1972 Montreal Young Pianists Competition, and at the age of sixteen he’d placed first in the 1973 Philadelphia Young Pianists Competition, and now nearing his eighteenth birthday he was preparing for the 1974 San Francisco International Piano Competition.

Hours. Each day at the piano. At the Conservatory, and at home. And into the night hours and through the night in the throes of music rushing through his sleep-locked brain with the terrible power of cascading water over a falls. And this music was not his and must not be impeded, choked-back. A vast tide to the very horizon! It was a tide that encompassed time as well as space: the long-dead as well as the living. To choke back such a force would be to suffocate. At the piano sometimes leaning into the keyboard suddenly desperate for air, oxygen. That piano smell of old ivory, fine wood and wood polish, this was poison. Yet at other times away from the piano knowing he must take a break from the piano for sanity’s sake at such times in even the outdoor air of Delaware Park and in the presence of another (Zack was in love, maybe) a sensation of helplessness came over him, the panic that he would suffocate if he could not complete a passage of music struggling to make its way through him except: his fingers were inadequate without the keyboard and so he must return to the keyboard or he would suffocate.

Trying not to go crazy Mother. Help me!

In fact he blamed her.

Rarely allowed her to touch him, now.

For Zack was in love (maybe). The girl was two years older than he was, in his German language class and a serious musician: a cellist.

Except not so good a cellist as you are a pianist, Zack. Thank God!

It was this girl’s way to speak bluntly. Her way to laugh at the expression on his face. They were not yet intimate, they had not yet touched. She could not console him with a kiss, for the shock she’d caused him. For he was one to whom music is sacred, no more to be laughed at than death is to be laughed at.

You could laugh at death though. From the farther side recalling the grassy canal bank they’d walked along, how on the farther side was the towpath but the nearer side where no one walked except Mommy and him (so little, Mommy had to grip his hand to keep him from stumbling!) was grassy and overgrown.

Laugh at death if you could cross over why the hell not!

She knew. A mother knows.

Beginning to be wary, anxious. Her son was growing apart from her.

It wasn’t the piano, the demands of practice. Hazel was never jealous of the piano!

Thinking when she heard him playing He is in the right place now of all the world. Where he was born to be. Taking comfort knowing he was hers. Rather, it was a reaction against the piano she feared.

Against his own talent, “success.” His own hands she saw him studying sometimes, examining with a clinical and faintly bemused detachment. Mine?

If he injured his hands. If somehow.

He was interested in European history: World War II. He’d taken a course at the university. He was interested in philosophy, religion. There was a feverish tone to his voice, an uneasy tremor. As if the world’s secrets might yield to him, if only he had the key. To Hazel’s dismay Zack began talking of the most preposterous things! One day it was the ancient Indian Upanishads, one day it was the nineteenth-century German philosopher Schopenhauer, one day it was the Hebrew Bible. He began to be argumentative, aggressive. Saying suddenly at the dinner table, as if this were a crucial issue they’d been avoiding: “Of all the religions, wouldn’t the oldest be closest to God? And who is ”God‘? What is “God’? Are we to know this God, or only just one another? Is our place with God or with one another, on earth?” His expression was quizzical, earnest. He was leaning his elbows on the table, hunched forward.

Gallagher tried to talk with his stepson, more or less seriously. “Well, Zack! Glad you asked. My personal feeling is, religion is mankind trying to get a handle on what’s outside ”man.“ Each religion has a different set of answers prescribed by a self-appointed priestly caste and each religion, you can be sure, teaches it’s the ”only‘ religion, sanctified by God.“

“But that doesn’t mean that one of the religions isn’t true. Like if there are twelve answers to an algebra problem eleven might be wrong and one right.”

“But ”God‘ isn’t a provable math problem, Zack. “God’ is just a catchall term we give to our ignorance.”

“Or even, maybe,” Zack said excitedly, “the different ways of human speech are crude and clumsy and are actually pointing toward the same thing, but different languages make them confused. Like, ”God‘ is behind the religions, like the sun you can’t look at directly, you’d go blind, except if there was no sun, see, then you would really be blind, because you couldn’t see a damned thing. Maybe it’s like that?“

To Hazel’s knowledge, Zack had never spoken so passionately about anything before, except music. He was leaning his elbows onto the table clumsily so that the lighted candles wavered, screwing up his face in a way that reminded Hazel horribly of Jacob Schwart.

Her son! In hurt and chagrin Hazel stared at him.

Gallagher said, trying to joke, “Zack, I had no idea! What a budding theologian we have in our midst.”

Zack said, stung, “Don’t condescend to me, ”Dad,“ O.K.? I’m not somebody on your TV show.”

Now Zack was Gallagher’s legally adopted son sometimes he called Gallagher “Dad.” Usually it was playful, affectionate. But sometimes with a twist of adolescent sarcasm, like now.

Gallagher said quickly, “I don’t mean to condescend, Zack. It’s just that discussions like this make people upset without enlightening them. There is a similarity between religions, isn’t there, a kind of skeleton in common, and like human beings, with human skeletons-” Gallagher broke off, seeing Zack’s look of impatience. He said, annoyed, “Believe me, kid, I know. I’ve been there.”

Zack said sullenly, “I’m not a kid. In the sense of being an idiot I’m not a fucking kid.”

Gallagher, smiling hard, determined to charm his stepson into submission, said, “Intelligent people have been quarreling over these questions for thousands of years. When they agree, it’s out of an emotional need to agree, not because there is anything genuine to ”agree‘ about. People crave to believe something, so they believe anything. It’s like starving: you’d eat practically anything, right? It’s been my experience-“

“Look, ”Dad,“ you aren’t me. Neither one of you is me. Got it?”

Zack had never spoken so rudely in the past. His eyes glittered with angry tears. He’d had a strained session with his piano teacher that day, perhaps. His life was complicated now in ways Hazel could not know, for he kept much to himself, she dared not approach him.

Gallagher tried again to reason with Zack, in Gallagher’s affably bantering way that was so effective on television (Gallagher now had a weekly interview show on WBEN-TV Buffalo, a Gallagher Media production) but not so effective with the boy who squirmed with impatience and all but rolled his eyes as Gallagher spoke. Hazel sat forlorn, lost. She understood that Zack was defying her, not Gallagher. He was defying her who had taught him since childhood that religion was for those others, not for them.

Poor Gallagher! He was red-faced and breathless as a middle-aged athlete grown complacent in his skills who has just been outmaneuvered by a young athlete whom he has failed to take seriously.

Zack was saying, “Music isn’t enough! It’s only a part of the brain. I have a whole brain, for Christ’s sake. I want to know about things other people know.” He swallowed hard. He shaved now, the lower half of his face appeared darker than the rest, his short upper lip covered in a fine dark down. Within seconds he was capable of childish petulance, good-natured equanimity, chilling hauteur. He had not once glanced at Hazel during the exchange with Gallagher nor did he look at her now, saying, in a sudden rush of words, “I want to know about Judaism, where it comes from and what it is.”

Judaism: this was a word never before spoken between Hazel and Zack. Nor even the less formal words Jews, Jewish.

Gallagher was saying, “Of course, I can understand that. You want to know all that you can know, within reason. Beginning with the old religions. I was the same way myself…” Gallagher was fumbling now, uncertain. He was vaguely conscious of the strain between Hazel and Zack. As a man of the world with a certain degree of renown he was accustomed to being taken seriously, certainly he was accustomed to being deferred to, yet in his own household he was often at sea. Doggedly he said, “But the piano, Zack! That must come first.”

Zack said hotly, “It comes first. But it doesn’t come second, too. Or third, or fucking last.”

Zack tossed his crumpled napkin down onto his plate. He’d only partly eaten the meal his mother had prepared, as she prepared all household meals, with such care. She felt the sting of that gesture as she felt the sting of the purposefully chosen expletive fucking, she knew it was aimed at her heart. With quavering adolescent dignity Zack pushed his chair back from the table and stalked out of the room. The adults stared after him in astonishment.

Gallagher groped for Hazel’s limp hand, to comfort her.

“Somebody’s been talking to him, d’you think? Somebody at the university.”

Hazel sat still and unmoving in her state of shock as if she’d been slapped.

“It’s the pressure he’s under, with that sonata. It’s too mature for him, possibly. He’s just a kid, and he’s growing. I remember that miserable age, Christ! Sex-sex-sex. I couldn’t keep my mind on the keyboard, let me tell you. It’s nothing personal, darling.”

To spite me. To abandon me. Because he hates me. Why?

She fled from both the son and the stepfather. She could not bear it, such exposure. As if the very vertebrae of her backbone were exposed!

She was not crying when Gallagher came to comfort her. It was rare for Hazel Jones to cry, she detested such weakness.

Gallagher talked to her, tenderly and persuasively. In their bed she lay very still in his arms. He would protect her, he adored his Hazel Jones. He would protect her against her rude adolescent son. Though saying of course Zack didn’t mean it, Zack loved her and would not wish to hurt her, she must know this.

“Yes. I know it.”

“And I love you, Hazel. I would die for you.”

He talked for a long time: it was Gallagher’s way of loving a woman, with both his words and his body. He was not a man like the other, who had little need of words. Between her and that man, the boy’s father, had been a deeper connection. But that was finished now, extinct. No more could she love a man in that way: her sexual, intensely erotic life was over.

She was deeply grateful to this man, who prized her as the other had not. Yet, in his very estimation of her, she understood his weakness.

She did not want to be comforted, really! Almost, she preferred to feel the insult aimed at her heart.

Thinking scornfully In animal life the weakest are quickly disposed of. That’s religion: the only religion.

Yet she’d returned in secret several times to the park where the man in soiled work clothes had approached her and spoken to her.

My name is Gus Schwart.

Do I look like anybody you know?

Of course, she had not seen him again. Her eyes filled with tears of dismay and indignation, that she might have hoped to see him again, who had sprung at her out of nowhere.

How it had pierced her heart, that man’s voice! He had spoken her name, she had not heard in a very long time.

My sister Rebecca, we used to live in Milburn

She’d looked up Schwart in the local telephone directory and called each of the several listings but without success.

In Montreal, and in Toronto, where they’d traveled in recent years, Hazel had also looked up Schwart and made a few futile calls for she had the vague idea that Herschel was somewhere in Canada, hadn’t Herschel spoken of crossing the border into Canada and escaping his pursuers…

“If he’s alive. If any ”Schwarts’ are alive.“

She began to be anxious as she had not been anxious before the earlier competitions reasoning He is young, he has time for now her son was nearly eighteen, rapidly maturing. A taut tense sexual being he was. Impulsive, irritable. Nerves caused his skin to break out, in disfiguring blemishes on his forehead. He would not confide in his parents, that he suffered indigestion, constipation. Yet Hazel knew.

She could not bear it, that her gifted son might yet fail. It would be death to her, if he failed after having come so far.

“The breath of God.”

That roadside caf'e in Apalachin, New York! The hot-skinned child on her lap snug in Mommy’s arms reaching up eagerly to play the broken keyboard of a battered old upright piano. Smoke haze, the pungent smell of beer, drunken shouts and laughter of strangers.

Jesus how’s he do it, kid so little?

She smiled, they’d been happy then.

He was an affably drunken older man acquainted with Chet Gallagher eager to meet Gallagher’s little family.

Introduced himself as “Zack Zacharias.” He’d heard that Gallagher’s stepson was a pianist named “Zacharias,” too.

This was at the Grand Island Yacht Club to which Gallagher took his little family to celebrate, when Zack was informed he’d been selected as one of thirteen finalists in the San Francisco competition.

Gallagher’s philosophy was: “Celebrate when you can, you might never have another chance.”

Weaving in the direction of their riverside table was the affably drunken man with stained white hair in a crew cut, lumpy potato face and merry eyes reddened as if he’d been rubbing them with his knuckles.

He’d come to shake Gallagher’s hand, meet the missus but mostly to address the young Zacharias.

“Coincidence, eh? I like to think coincidences mean something even when likely they don’t. But you’re the real thing, son: a musician. Read about you in the paper. Me, I’m a broke-down ol‘ d.j. Twenty-six friggin’ yeas on WBEN Radio Wonderful broadcasting the best in jazz through the wee night hours”-his voice pitched low into a beautifully modulated if slightly mocking Negro radio voice-“and the lousy sonsabitches are dropping me from the station. No offense, Chet: I know you ain’t to blame, you ain’t your old man friggin‘ Thaddeus. My actual name, son”-stooping over the table now to shake the hand of the cringing boy-“is Alvin Block, Jr. Ain’t got that swing, eh?”

Shaking his hips, wheezing with laughter as the white-jacketed ma^itre d‘ hurried in his direction to lead him away.

(The Grand Island Yacht Club! Gallagher was apologetic, also a bit defensive, on the subject.

As a local celebrity Chet Gallagher had been given an honorary membership to the Grand Island Yacht Club. The damned club had a history-invariably, Gallagher called it a “spotty history”-of discrimination against Jews, Negroes, “ethnic minorities,” and of course women, an all-male all-Caucasian Protestant private club on the Niagara River. Certainly Gallagher scorned such organizations as undemocratic and un-American yet in this case there were good friends of his who belonged, the Yacht Club was an “old venerable tradition” in the Buffalo area dating back to the 1870s, why not accept their hospitality that was so graciously offered, so long as Chet Gallagher wasn’t a dues-paying member.

“And the view of the Niagara River is terrific, especially at sunset. You’ll love it, Hazel.”

Hazel asked if she would be allowed into the Yacht Club dining room.

Gallagher said, “Hazel, of course! You and Zack both, as my guests.”

“Even if I’m a woman? Wouldn’t the members object?”

“Certainly women are welcome at the Yacht Club. Wives, relatives, guests of members. It’s the same as at the Buffalo Athletic Club, you’ve been there.”


“Why what?”

“Why’d women be ”welcome,“ if they aren’t? And Jews, and Ne-groes?” Hazel gave Ne-groes a special inflection.

Gallagher saw she was teasing now, and looked uncomfortable.

“Look, I’m not a dues-paying member. I’ve been there only a few times. I thought it might be a nice place to go for dinner on Sunday, to celebrate Zack’s good news.” Gallagher paused, rubbing his nose vigorously. “We can go somewhere else, Hazel. If you prefer.”

Hazel laughed, Gallagher was looking so abashed.

“Chet, no. I’m not one to ”prefer‘ anything.“)

Sometimes I’m so lonely. Oh Christ so lonely for the life you saved me from but he would have stared at her astonished and disbelieving.

Not you, Hazel! Never.

In Buffalo they lived at 83 Roscommon Circle, within a mile’s radius of the Delaware Conservatory of Music, the Buffalo Historic Society, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. They were invited out often, their names were on privileged mailing lists. Gallagher scorned the bourgeois life yet was bemused by it, he acknowledged. Overnight Hazel Jones had become Mrs. Chet Gallagher, Hazel Gallagher.

As, young, she’d been an able and uncomplaining chambermaid in an “historic” hotel, now in youthful middle age she was the caretaker of a partly restored Victorian house of five bedrooms, three storeys, steeply pitched slate roofs. Originally built in 1887, the house was made of shingle-board, eggshell with deep purple trim. Maintaining the house became crucial to Hazel, a kind of fetish. As her son would be a concert pianist, so Hazel would be the most exacting of housewives. Gallagher, away much of the day, seemed not to notice how Hazel was becoming overly scrupulous about the house for anything Hazel did was a delight to him; and of course Gallagher was hopeless about anything perceived as practical, domestic. By degrees, Hazel also took over the maintenance of their financial records for it was much easier than waiting for Gallagher to assume responsibility. He was yet more hopeless with money, indifferent as only the son of a wealthy man might be indifferent to money.

With the instinct of a pack rat, Hazel kept receipts for the smallest purchases and services. Hazel kept flawless records. Hazel sent by registered mail photocopied materials to Gallagher’s Buffalo accountant on a quarterly basis, for tax purposes. Gallagher whistled in admiration of his wife. “Hazel, you’re terrific. How’d you get so smart?”

“Runs in the family.”

“How so?”

“My father was a high school math teacher.”

Gallagher stared at her, quizzically. “Your father was a high school math teacher?”

Hazel laughed. “No. Just joking.”

“Do you know who your father was, Hazel? You’ve always said you didn’t.”

“I didn’t, and I don’t.” Hazel wiped at her eyes, couldn’t seem to stop laughing. For there was Gallagher, well into his fifties, staring at her gravely in that way of a man so beguiled by love he will believe anything told him by the beloved. Hazel felt she could reach into Gallagher’s rib cage and touch his living heart. “Just teasing, Chet.”

On tiptoes to kiss him. Oh, Gallagher was a tall man even with shoulders slouched. She saw that his new bifocals were smudged, removed them from his face and deftly polished them on her skirt.

Mrs. Chester Gallagher.

Each time she signed her new name it seemed to her that her handwriting was subtly altered.

They traveled a good deal. They saw many people. Some were associated with music, and some were associated with the media. Hazel was introduced to very friendly strangers as Hazel Gallagher: a name faintly comical to her, preposterous.

Yet no one laughed! Not within her hearing.

Gallagher, the most sentimental of men as he was the most scornful of men, would have liked a more formal wedding but saw the logic of a brief civil ceremony in one of the smaller courtrooms of the Erie County Courthouse. “Last thing we want is cameras, right? Attention. If my father found out…” The ten-minute ceremony was performed by a justice of the peace on a rainy Saturday morning in November 1972: the exact tenth anniversary of Gallagher and Hazel meeting in the Piano Bar of the Malin Head Inn. Zack was the sole witness, the bride’s teenaged son in a suit, necktie. Zack looking both embarrassed and pleased.

Gallagher would believe he’d been the one to talk Hazel Jones into marrying him, at last. Joking that Hazel had made an honest man of him.

Ten years!

“Someday, darling, you’ll have to tell me why.”

“Why what?”

“Why you refused to marry me for ten long years.”

“Ten very short years, they were.”

“Long for me! Every morning I expected you to have disappeared. Cleared out. Taken Zack, and left me heartbroken.”

Hazel was startled, at such a remark. Gallagher was only joking of course.

“Maybe I didn’t marry you because I didn’t believe that I was a good enough person to marry you. Maybe that was it.”

Her light enigmatic Hazel Jones laugh. She’d tuned to perfection, like one of Zack’s effortlessly executed cadenzas.

“Good enough to marry me! Hazel, really.”

As Gallagher had arranged to marry Hazel in the Erie County Courthouse, so Gallagher arranged to adopt Zack in the Erie County Courthouse. So proud! So happy! It was the consummation of Gallagher’s adult life.

The adoption was speedily arranged. A meeting with Gallagher’s attorney, and an appointment with a county judge. Legal documents to be drawn up and signed and Zack’s creased and waterstained birth certificate issued as a facsimile in Chemung County, New York, to be photocopied and filed in the Erie County Hall of Records.

Legally, Zack was now Zack Gallagher. But he would retain Zacharias Jones as his professional name.

Zack joked he was the oldest kid adopted in the history of Erie County: fifteen. But, at the signing, he’d turned abruptly away from Gallagher and Hazel not wanting them to see his face.

“Hey, kid. Jesus.”

Gallagher hugged Zack, hard. Kissed the boy wetly on the edge of his mouth. Gallagher, most sentimental of men, didn’t mind anyone seeing him cry.

Like guilty conspirators, mother and son. When they were alone together they burst into laughter, a wild nervous flaming-up laughter that would have shocked Gallagher.

So funny! Whatever it was, that sparked such laughter between them.

Zack had been fascinated by his birth certificate. He didn’t seem to recall ever having seen it before. Hidden away with Hazel Jones’s secret things, a small compact bundle she’d carried with her since the Poor Farm Road.

Zack asked if the birth certificate was legitimate, and Hazel said sharply Yes! It was.

“My name is ”Zacharias August Jones’ and my father’s name is “William Jones‘? Who the hell’s ”William Jones’?“


“”Was’ what?“

“”Was,“ not ”is.“ Mr. Jones is dead now.”

Secrets! In the tight little bundle inside her rib cage in the place where her heart had been. So many secrets, sometimes she couldn’t get her breath.

Thaddeus Gallagher, for instance. His gifts and impassioned love letters to Dearest Hazel Jones!

In fall 1970, soon after Hazel received the first of these, an individual wishing to be designated as an anonymous benefactor gave a sizable sum of money to the Delaware Conservatory of Music earmarked as a scholarship and travel fund for the young pianist Zacharias Jones. Money was required for the numerous international piano competitions in which young pianists performed in hope of winning prizes, public attention, concert bookings and recording deals, and the donation from the anonymous benefactor would allow Zacharias to travel anywhere he wished. Gallagher who intended to manage Zack’s career was keenly aware of these possibilities: “Andr'e Watts was seventeen when Leonard Bernstein conducted him in the Liszt E-flat concerto, on national television. A bombshell.” And of course there was the legendary 1958 Tchaikovsky Competition in which twenty-four-year-old Van Cliburn took away the first prize and returned from Soviet Russia an international celebrity. Gallagher knew! But he was damned suspicious of the anonymous benefactor. When administrators at the Conservatory refused to tell him the benefactor’s identity, Gallagher became suspicious and resentful. To Hazel he complained, “What if it’s him. God damn!”

Naively Hazel asked, “Who is him?”

“My God-damned father, who else! It’s three hundred thousand dollars the ”anonymous benefactor‘ has given the Conservatory, it has to be him. He must have heard Zack play in Vermont.“ Gallagher was looking fierce yet helpless, a man cut off at the knees. His voice pitched to a sudden pleading softness. ”Hazel, I can’t tolerate Thaddeus interfering in my life any more than he has.“

Hazel listened sympathetically. She did not point out to Gallagher It isn’t your life, it’s Zack’s life.

It was a mother’s predatory instinct. Seeing how her son’s skin glowed with sexual heat. His eyes that guiltily eluded her gaze, hot and yearning.

Restless! Too many hours at the piano. Trapped inside a cage of shimmering notes.

He went away from the house, and returned late. Midnight, and later. One night he didn’t return until 4 A.M. (Hazel lay awake, and waiting. Very still not wanting to disturb Gallagher.) Yet another night in September, with only three weeks before the San Francisco Competition, he stayed away until dawn returning at that time stumbling and disheveled, defiant, smelling of beer.

“Zack! Good morning.”

Hazel would not rebuke the boy. She would speak only lightly, without reproach. She knew, if she even touched him he would recoil from her. In sudden fury he might slap at her, strike her with his fists as he’d done as a little boy. Hate you Momma! God damn I hate hate hate you. She must not stare too hungrily at his young unshaven face. Must not accuse him of wishing to ruin their lives any more than she would plead with him or beg or weep for that was never Hazel Jones’s way smiling as she opened the back door for him to enter, allowing him to brush roughly past her beneath the still-burning light breathing harshly through his mouth as if he’d been running and his eyes that were beautiful to her now bloodshot and heavy-lidded and opaque to her gaze and that smell of sweat, a sex-smell, pungent beneath the acrid smell of beer, yet she allowed him to know I love you and my love is stronger than your hatred.

He would sleep through much of the day. Hazel would not disturb him. By late afternoon he would return to the piano renewed, and practice until late evening. And Gallagher, listening in the hallway would shake his head in wonder.

She knew!

(He had to wonder what she’d meant in her playful teasing way Mr. Jones is dead now. If she meant that his father was dead? His long-ago father who had shouted into his face and shaken him like a rag doll and beat him and threw him against the wall yet who had hugged him too, and kissed him wetly on the edge of his mouth leaving a spittle-taste of tobacco behind. Hey: love ya! As his fingers executed the rapidly and vividly descending treble notes in the final ecstatic bars of the Beethoven sonata he had to wonder.)

Strange: that Chet Gallagher was losing interest in his career. Had lost interest in his career. Following the abrupt and shameful ending of the Vietnam War the most protracted and shameful war in American history strange, ironic how bored he’d become almost overnight with public life, politics. Even as his career as Chet Gallagher soared. (The newspaper column, 350 words Gallagher boasted he could type out in his sleep with his left hand, was nationally reprinted and admired. The TV interview program he’d been asked to host in 1973 was steadily gaining an audience. Also in 1973 a collection of prose pieces he’d cobbled together whimsically titled Some Pieces of (My) Mind became an unexpected bestseller in paperback.)

Losing interest in Chet Gallagher in proportion as he was becoming obsessed with Zacharias Jones. For here was a gifted young pianist, a truly gifted young pianist Gallagher had personally discovered up in Malin Head Bay one memorable winter night…

“It happens, he’s my adopted son. My son.”

Gallagher had to concede this was a phenomenon his own father had been denied. For he’d let his father down. He had failed as a classical pianist. Maybe to spite his father he’d failed but in any case he had failed, all that was finished. He played jazz piano only occasionally now, local gigs, fund-raisers and benefits and sometimes on TV, but not serious jazz any longer, Gallagher had become so Caucasian bourgeois, damned boring middle-aged husband and father, and happy. There’s no edge to happy. There’s no jazz-cool to happy. So devoted to his little family he’d even given up smoking.

How strange life was! He would manage the boy’s career for the responsibility lay with Chet Gallagher.

Not to push the boy of course. From the first he’d cautioned the boy’s mother.

“We’ll take it slow. One thing at a time. Must be realistic. Even Andr'e Watts, after his early fantastic success, burned out. And so did Van Cliburn. Temporarily.” Gallagher was not seriously expecting Zack to win a top prize at the San Francisco Competition: for one so young and relatively inexperienced, it was a remarkable honor simply to have qualified. The judges were of various ethnic backgrounds and would not favor a young Caucasian-American male. (Or would they? Zack was playing the “Appassionata.”) Zack would be competing with prize-winning pianists from Russia, China, Japan, Germany who had trained with pianists more distinguished than his teacher at the Delaware Conservatory. To be realistic, Gallagher was planning, plotting: the Tokyo International Piano Competition in May 1975.

Her name was Frieda Bruegger.

She was a student at the Conservatory, a cellist. Beautiful blunt-featured girl with almond-shaped eyes, thick dark bristling hair exploding about her head, a young animated very shapely body. Her voice was a penetrating soprano: “Mrs. Gallagher! Hello.”

Hazel was smiling and fully in control but staring rather vacantly at the girl Zack had brought home, whom he had introduced to her as a friend he was preparing a sonata with, for an upcoming recital at the Conservatory. Hazel was admiring the beautiful gleaming cello in the girl’s hands, she would ask questions about the instrument, but something was wrong, why were the young people looking at her so oddly? She realized she hadn’t replied. Numbly her lips moved, “Hello, Frieda.”

Frieda! The name was so strangely resonant to her, she felt almost faint.

Realizing that she’d seen this girl before, at the music school. She had even seen the girl with Zack though the two had not been alone together. Following a recital, among a group of young musicians.

It’s her. She’s the one. He is sleeping with her. Is he?

So without warning Zack had brought the girl home with him, Hazel wasn’t prepared. She’d expected him to be secretive, circumspect. Yet here the girl stood before Hazel calling her “Mrs. Gallagher.” Really she was a young woman, twenty years old. Beside her Zack was still a boy, though taller than she was by several inches. And awkward in his body, uncertain. In personal relations Zack had not the zestful agility and grace he had at the piano. He was swiping at his nose now, nervously. He would not look at Hazel, not fully. He was excited, defiant. Gallagher had told Hazel it was the most natural thing in the world for a boy Zack’s age to have a girlfriend, in fact girlfriends, you had to assume that kids were sexually active today as they generally had not been in Hazel’s generation, hell it was fine as long as they took precautions and he’d had a talk (how awkward, Hazel could only imagine) with Zack so there was nothing to worry about.

And so Zack had brought home this bluntly beautiful girl with almond-shaped eyes and rather heavy dark unplucked eyebrows and the most astonishing explosive hair: Frieda Bruegger.

Informing Hazel that they would be performing a Faur'e sonata for cello and piano at a Conservatory recital in mid-December. This was the first Hazel had heard of it and did not know how to respond. (What about the “Appassionata”? What about San Francisco, in eight days?) But Hazel’s opinion was not being sought. The matter had been decided.

“It will be my first recital in that series, Mrs. Gallagher. I’m very nervous!”

Wanting Hazel to share in her excitement, the drama of her young life. And Hazel held back from her, resisting.

Yet Hazel remained in the music room longer than she might have expected. Busying herself with small housewifely tasks: straightening the small pillows on the window seat, opening the venetian blinds wide. The young people talked together earnestly about the sonata, looking through their photocopied sheets of music. Hazel saw that the girl stood rather close to Zack. She smiled frequently, her teeth were large and perfectly white, a small charming gap between the two front teeth. Her skin was beautifully smooth, with a faint burnished cast beneath. Her upper lip was covered in the faintest down. She was so animated! Zack held back from her, just perceptibly. Yet he was amused by her. Zack had several times brought other young musicians home to practice with him, he was a favored piano accompanist at the Conservatory. Possibly the girl was only a friend of his, a classmate. Except less experienced musically than Zack and so she would depend upon his judgment, she would defer to him musically. She brandished her beautiful cello as if it were a simulacrum of herself: her beautiful female body.

Hazel was forgetting the girl’s name. She felt a vague fluttery panic, this was happening too quickly.

For a student at the Conservatory, the girl was provocatively dressed: lime green sweater that fitted her ample breasts tightly, metal-studded jeans that fitted her ample buttocks tightly. She had a nervous mannerism of wetting her lips, breathing through her mouth. Yet she did not seem truly ill-at-ease, rather more self-dramatizing, self-displaying. A rich girl, was she? Something in her manner suggested such a background. She was assured of being cherished. Assured of being admired. On her right wrist she wore an expensive-looking watch. Her hands were not extraordinary for a cellist, rather small, stubby. Not so slender as Zack’s hands. Her nails were plain, filed short. Hazel glanced at her own impeccably polished nails, that matched her coral lipstick…Yet the girl was so young, and suffused with life! Hazel stared and stared lost in wonder.

She heard herself ask if the young people would like something to drink? Cola, coffee…

Politely they declined, no.

The terrible thought came to Hazel They are waiting for me to leave them alone.

Yet she heard herself ask, “This sonata, what is it like? Is it-familiar? Something I’ve heard?”

Frieda was the one to answer, bright and enthusiastic as a schoolgirl: “It’s a beautiful sonata, Mrs. Gallagher. But you probably haven’t heard it, Faur'e‘s sonatas aren’t very well known. He was old and sick when he wrote it, in 1921, it’s one of his last compositions but you would never guess! Faur'e was a true poet, a pure musician. In this sonata there’s a surprise, the way the mood shifts, the ”funeral theme’ becomes something you wouldn’t expect, almost ethereal, joyous. Like, if you were an old man, and sick, and soon to die, still you could lift yourself out of your body that is failing you…“ The girl spoke with such sudden intensity, Hazel felt uneasy.

Why is she talking to me like this, does she believe that I am old? Sick?

As it had been Hazel’s custom to place flowers on the Steinway grand piano in the display window at Zimmerman Brothers, so it was Hazel’s practice to place flowers on the piano in the music room. Zack took no notice of course. In the Gallagher household Zack seemed to take notice of very little, only music fully absorbed him. But his friend would notice the flowers. Already she had noticed. She had noticed the polished hardwood floor, the scattered carpets, the brightly colored pillows arranged on the window seat, the tall windows overlooking the vividly green back lawn where in wet weather (it was raining now, a fine porous mist) the air glowed as if undersea. Brought into the house and led through the downstairs by Zack she would certainly have noticed how beautifully furnished the Gallaghers’ house was. She would go away marveling Zack’s mother is so

Hazel stood forlorn, uncertain. She knew she should leave the young musicians to their practice but another time she heard herself ask if they needed anything from the kitchen and another time they politely declined no.

As Hazel left, Frieda called after her, “Mrs. Gallagher, thanks! It was so nice to meet you.”

But you will meet me again won’t you? You will.

Yet Hazel lingered outside the door of the music room, waiting for the practice to begin. The cellist tuned her instrument: Zack would be seated at the piano. Hazel felt a pang of envy, hearing the young musicians begin. The cello was so rich, so vivid: Hazel’s favorite instrument, after the piano. She much preferred the cello to the violin. After a few bars, the music ceased. They would return to the beginning. Zack played, the girl listened. Zack spoke. Another time they began the sonata, and another time ceased. And another time began…Hazel listened, fascinated. For here was beauty she could comprehend: not the thunderous cascading of piano notes that left the listener breathless, not the strongly hammered repetitions, the isolation of the great Beethoven sonata but the more subtle, delicately entwined sounds of two instruments. The cello was predominant, the piano rather muted. Or so Zack chose to play it. Twined together, cello and piano. Hazel listened for some time, deeply moved.

She went away. She had work to do. Elsewhere in the house, her own work. But she could not concentrate, away from the music room. She returned, lingering in the hall. Inside, the young musicians were talking together. A girl’s quick robust laughter. A boy’s low-pitched voice. Was the practice over for the day? It was nearing 6 P.M. And when would they practice again? On the other side of the door, the youthful voices were animated, melodic. Zack’s voice was so warmly entwined with the girl’s, they were so at ease together, as if they spoke together often, laughed together. How strange: Zack had become wary with Hazel, guarded and reticent. She was losing him. She had lost him. It was very recent in her memory, when Zack’s voice had changed: his voice that had been a child’s thin high-pitched voice for so long. Even now sometimes it wavered, cracked. He was not yet a man though no longer a boy. Of course, a boy of seventeen is sexually mature. A girl of Frieda’s type, full-bodied, sensual, would have matured sexually at a much younger age. Hazel had not seen her son naked in a very long time nor did she wish to see him naked but she had occasional glimpses of coarse dark hair sprouting in his armpits, she saw that his forearms and legs were covered in dark hairs. The girl would be less of a stranger to Hazel than Zack: for the girl’s body would be known to her, familiar as her own lost girl’s body.

Frieda must have been answering a question of Zack’s, she was speaking now of her family. Her father was an eye surgeon in Buffalo, he’d been born in that city. Her mother had been born in a small German village near the Czechoslovakian border. As a girl she’d been transported to Dachau with all of her family, relatives, neighbors but later she was reassigned to a labor camp in Czechoslovakia, she’d managed to escape with three other Jewish girls, she’d been a “displaced person” after the liberation and she’d emigrated to Palestine and in 1953 she’d emigrated to the United States, aged twenty-five. The Nazis had exterminated all of her family: there was no one remaining. But she had this belief: “There should be some reason why she survived. She really believes it!” Frieda laughed to show that she understood that her mother’s belief was naive, she wished to dissociate herself from it. Zack said, “But there was, Frieda. So that you can play Faur'e‘s second sonata, and I can accompany you.”

Hazel went away from the music room feeling as if her soul had been annihilated, extinguished.

So lonely!

She could not cry, there was only futility in crying. With no one to witness, a waste of tears.

Made your bed now lie in it.

Made your bed your bed. Now lie in it, you!

The coarse, crude voices of her childhood. The old voices of wisdom.

On the third floor of the house in the sparely furnished attic space that had become Hazel’s private space she hid away like a wounded animal. At this distance she could not hear if the young couple resumed their practice. She could not hear when the girl left. She could not hear if Zack left with her. If he’d called out to her on his way out of the house, she had not heard. If the girl called out to her in that warm penetrating voice Goodbye Mrs. Gallagher! she had not heard.

Never what you’ve told yourself. Never escaped from him. Pa was too smart, and too quick. Pa was too damned strong. Aimed the shotgun at your scrawny girl-chest and pulled the trigger. And that was it. And afterward turning from what lay bleeding and mangled on the bedroom floor like a hunk of butchered meat triumphant his enemies would not subdue and humiliate him another time he reloaded the shotgun that like the console model Motorola radio was one of the astonishing purchases of his American experience awkwardly he turned both barrels on himself and fired and in the aftermath of that terrible blast there was only silence for no witness remained.

Laugh at death. Why not and yet he could not bring himself to laugh.

The earth’s soil was steeped in blood. He knew, before he’d met Frieda Bruegger. He knew of the Nazi death camps, the Final Solution. Seemed already to know what he might spend years learning. Laugh at death was not possible this side of death.

How airy, how ephemeral and trivial music seemed, of all human efforts! Fading into silence even as it’s performed. And you had to work so very hard to perform it, and very likely you would fail in any case.

Revolted by his own vanity. His ridiculous ambition. He would be exposed, on a brightly lighted stage. Like a trained monkey he would perform. Before a panel of “international judges.” He would desecrate music, in the display of his own vanity. As if pianists were racehorses to be pitted against one another, that others might wager on them. There would be a “cash prize” of course.

Six days before they were scheduled to fly to San Francisco he informed the adults who surrounded Zacharias Jones: he wasn’t going.

What a commotion! Through the day the telephone rang, Gallagher was the one to answer.

The young pianist refused to listen to his piano teacher. Refused to listen to other musicians at the Conservatory. Refused to listen even to his stepfather whom he adored who pleaded with him, begged and cajoled and bartered: “This can be your last competition, Zack. If you feel so strongly.”

The young pianist’s mother did not plead with him, however. She knew to keep her distance. Perhaps she was too upset, she avoided speaking with anyone. Oh, the boy knew how to wound his mother! If Hazel had tried to plead with him as Gallagher did, he’d have laughed in her face.

Fuck you. Go play yourself. Think I’m your fucking trained monkey, well I am not.

In this way three days passed. Zack hid away, he was beginning to be ashamed. His decision was coming to seem to him like mere cowardice. The moral revulsion in his soul was coming to seem like mere nerves, stage fright. His face was inflamed. His bowels now spat liquid shit in a scalding cascade. He could not bear his exhausted reflection in any mirror. He could not even speak with Frieda, who had begun by being sympathetic with him but was now not so certain. He had not meant to draw attention to himself. He had meant to remove himself from attention. He had been reading the Hebrew Bible: All is vanity. He had been reading Schopenhauer: Death is a sleep in which individuality is forgotten. He had meant to withdraw himself from the possibility of acclaim and “success” as much as from the possibility of public failure. Now, he was beginning to reconsider his decision. He had tossed something very precious into the dirt, now he must pick it up and wash it off. Maybe it would be better to kill himself after all…

Or he might run away, disappear across the border into Canada.

The Conservatory had not yet notified the organizers of the competition, that Zacharias Jones had decided to drop out. And now he was reconsidering his decision. And there was Gallagher to speak reasonably saying that nobody expected him to win, the honor was in qualifying. “Look, you’ve been playing the Beethoven sonata here for months, so play it out there. What’s the difference, essentially? There is no difference. Except Beethoven composed his music to be heard, right? He kept the ”Appassionata‘ from being published prematurely because he didn’t believe that the world was ready for it yet, but we’re ready for it, kid. So play your heart out. And for Christ’s sake stop moping.“

Taken by surprise, Zack laughed. As usual, Dad was right.

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