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David's Song

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Rain pattered on the outside of the window, and thunder softly rumbled in the distance. The piano rang out through the house, because my friend was playing, and when He played, everything just went dead silent in the house. He came over often. He was always welcome, and He never overstayed his visit. He was quiet, hardly ever spoke, but when He did, it was important. But what He did when He came to my house was He graced the ears of my family, and my ears. And God was I thankful that I could hear. I always felt pity for the deaf, who couldn’t hear beautiful music such as this.

He didn’t play music from any sort of song you’ve heard before. It was minor, melancholy music, but He made it sound gorgeous anyway. It just flowed from His fingers that way. He never wrote any of it down, but God I wish He did, so that I could learn to play some of His pieces. He made them all up, and He shared with no one what inspired Him for these pieces.

He was never one for sharing things, He kept to himself. His story was in His music, but what I didn’t realize for a long time, was that it was a sad story, a pleading story. He just looked so at peace when He was at the piano, that I always thought it to be simply a hobby of His. Something that He just enjoyed doing, not a message He was trying to convey…

I turned away from the window and looked at Him. His thin hands were slowly traversing the entirety of the keyboard, pressing most of the notes in the duration of His song. His songs didn’t follow the rules of any song. They didn’t have a set key to play in; he just played, and did what sounded right. But everything that flew off of his fingers sounded right. It was all amazing.

He stopped playing and looked up at me, light blue eyes glazed over slightly. His eyes always looked like that after He was playing, for I was sure He didn’t actually blink while He played. His pitch black hair fell slightly over His eyes and a small smile quirked at the edge of His lips.

I smiled back at Him. That was the most of a smile that you would ever get out of Him. Smiling was the only thing He did less than talking. He didn’t smile. It was a sad thing that He didn’t smile, because I was convinced that it would light up His eyes, make Him look less… alone.

I was just about to open my mouth and say something when my mother called out, “Boys! Dinner!”

He blinked and looked at me. “Have I been playing that long?” His voice was soft, for He never spoke loudly. He had come to my house at a little after three, and He enjoyed just sitting and playing, so I let Him.

“I didn’t want to interrupt you,” I responded. “Do you wish that I had?”

He paused before shaking His head. “No, no that’s alright, I just didn’t really feel the time go by.”

I nodded. “Let’s go and eat something then. You can play more afterwards if you’d like.”

He just simply nodded. He was very efficient at communicating with just movement and facial expression, rather than actual talking. That was my job. He was awful with words, and good with expression, and ways to show what He felt, while I could express myself freely through word, and not through music or art.

He stood after I did, and we made our way into the smallish dining room that my family always ate in. My father folded up his newspaper and lifted his leg, sticking the newspaper under it, then setting his leg back down, in a manner which he often did. My mother sat at one end of the table, while my father sat at the other end of the table. My sister sat across from me, and I sat next to my friend. Like every other night, my sister had her elbow rested on the table, and her chin in the palm of her hand, admiring my friend, who she quite obviously was attracted to.

My mother passed around the water pitcher, and we all helped ourselves to a glass, my friend avoiding ice, as usual. It seemed to just be a casual night. Everything was going nicely. A bowl of mashed potatoes was going around, and I, as usual scooped up a nice big heaping pile. If you looked at me, you wouldn’t think I ate that much, but I ate more than should be my fill.

He just looked at me and snorted, sort of a laugh, and took a much smaller helping of the food. He was skinny, and never really had much of an appetite, but He still ate what was healthy for Him.

My sister cleared her throat and started talking to him, trying to flirt with him with all of her might, “You play the piano really nicely.” She smiled weakly.

He nodded, and looked at her, His eyes giving her a silent ‘Thank you, Elise.’

She beamed proudly at his expression and ate some of her food promptly afterwards. I chuckled softly at this. She was a couple years younger than us, and he obviously wasn’t interested.

The dinner table was quiet, as it usually was, just all of us sitting there, being a family, all used to one another’s company, and then Him. He was practically family. He was here more than He was at His own home. He never told us why His parents didn’t mind that. We’d actually never met His parents before; we just simply accepted Him in and didn’t ask Him questions we knew He didn’t want to answer.

I started thinking about His music. I thought of His slow music, some of the broken chords that were stretched across the keyboard, how He managed to make pressing a bunch of seemingly random keys sound so beautiful. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes; just letting the memory of the music put me at peace.

It was then that I realized that I had been humming softly. Only loud enough for Him to hear it, but what He heard affected him apparently. He was smiling softly, and staring down at His dinner, playing with some of his food on his fork. I smirked at this, happy that He was smiling for once.

My sister huffed and sunk down in her chair slightly, first off angry that she couldn’t make Him smile, and also wanting to know what I had done to make Him. Her pale gray eyes narrowed slightly, and her blonde hair fell in front of her eyes. Of course, in her anger, she refused to move her hair.

“Elise, sit upright and brush your hair out of your face,” my mother commanded almost sternly. “I won’t have you behaving like that.”

My father cleared his throat, and I held back a groan. When he cleared his throat, it meant that he had something to say, and he was going to keep talking for quite a while. My friend settled into His chair next to me, also aware of my father’s patterns.

“So, you must have taken piano lessons a very long time to master it in such a way that you have, correct?” he didn’t wait for an answer, and kept talking. “Vince, Elise, I hope you realize that you have to put work into whatever you strive to do, just as he has done. Hard work and drive are two factors that could help you be as good at something as he is at piano.”

My mother, of course, agreed, as she usually did. “Yes, how long did you take lessons before you could play like this?”

He paused, blinking and looking down before responding, “I’ve never taken a piano lesson. I can’t read a lick of music.”

My parents’ eyes widened, astonished.

“You’re joking,” my mother sounded more shocked than I was.

“Afraid not,” He replied quietly.

“You have an amazing gift,” my father responded.

He nodded another thanks, and that was all of the talking He did for the night, on that subject at least.

Dinner ended shortly, and He and I found ourselves back at the piano. He pulled me down next to Him on the piano bench, pointing at the keys, and looking at me, expecting me to play something.

“Oh, I don’t know how to play…” I remarked. It was kind of dumb. None of us really knew how to play the piano, but we still owned one. Well, my mother used to play, but now she hadn’t the time…

He shook His head and took my hands, placing them on the keyboard. He moved His fingers slightly, signaling for me to play something.

“I don’t know what any of these keys sound like…” I sighed.

“Just play…” He murmured. “Whatever sounds right.”

I nodded and let my fingers fall on the keys, just playing small things, softly though, so people wouldn’t hear me. After a few minutes I removed my hands from the instrument, feeling stupid for not really knowing how to play. I just looked down at my lap, not really wanting to look Him in the eye.

“Why did you stop playing?” He asked softly.

I looked over to see Him, leaning against the wall, His eyes glazed over as they normally were when He played. “Are you alright?”

“Yes,” He nodded. “Keep playing. If you think you’re bad at it, then you’re not going to get any better if you don’t practice.”

That was the most I’d heard Him say in one sentence in a while. I just nodded and set my fingers back to the keys, playing only small chords that sounded right to me, not at all the extravagant, flowing chords that He played, but I wasn’t trying to imitate Him.

It seemed that only minutes had passed when Elise walked in, glaring at me. “You put him to sleep. Do you know how late it is? He probably needs to get home.”

I looked over at Him, and she was right. He was sleeping soundly, looking peaceful, as He normally did when He played the piano. I reached over and shook His shoulder. “Hey… hey wake up.”

He stirred slightly before opening His eyes. “What time is it?” He sounded exhausted.

“I’m not really sure…” I replied. “But I should get you home.”

“I can walk.” He said quickly.

“Not this late, I can walk with you.” I sighed.

He looked outside and pointed.

“I know it’s raining, I don’t mind getting wet. Come on,” I pulled Him to His feet. “It’s not far from here anyway, is it?”

He shook His head and walked with me to the door. Elise had gone away by then, and we were setting out into the rain.

The rain almost instantly made our hair go flat down on our heads. He joked, “The water doused the flames.”

I chuckled lightly. It was one of the few jokes we had, the color of my hair, being a fiery red. But the water did douse the flames.

We walked, not trying for cover, just walked. We were making it along nicely, me following His each and every turn. Whenever He turned a corner, I turned with Him, making sure to remember when and where to turn so I wouldn’t lose myself going home. He stopped in front of an older, beaten down, one story house. The light was on in the first window, and then the door opened. An angry looking man stood in the door. I guessed, that was His father.

His name was called out, and He looked back at me. “I want you to practice playing for me. Next time you see me, I want you to have a song for me.”

“How am I going to write a song that quickly?” I asked.

“You don’t have to try. You just do it.” He remarked before turning and going into His house. The door slammed, and there was a sharp thud right after the door slammed. I didn’t want to know what it was. I didn’t want to know if He got hurt. I just turned and ran back to my house.

That night, I found myself sitting at the piano, playing out music that just came through me. It was so much worse than what he played, but it was music all the same. I fell asleep on the bench, and was late for school the next day. I awaited fourth period, for that was the only class period in which I actually got to see Him, but He wasn’t there.

I remembered the thud from yesterday, and the anger that His father appeared to have. I shook it off, calling it a coincidence, and went on with my day. He didn’t come to my house that evening, and it was so quiet without Him. There was no music and no rain that day, just absolute silence, and sunshine.

And He wasn’t there the next day. That was really when I started to worry. I still practiced the piano every day and waited for Him to show up again. After a week I went to his house. The front light was on, just like it had been before, and then the door opened. His father stood there, but not with an angry appearance this time.

“You’re that kid that was with Him,” he called out, waving me towards him.

I hesitated, not knowing what had caused Him to disappear, and not knowing if his father was responsible.

“I’m not going to hurt you if that’s what you’re afraid of,” he called out.

I nodded and walked closer to the door, just a few steps away from His father. “What?”

He paused and looked at me. “You were His friend, right?”

“Were? I am His friend,” I snapped.


The man swallowed. “You were His friend because He died.”

I blinked. “No. No he didn’t. You’re lying.”

“He killed himself the day after you brought Him back home.” I could see the tears brimming up over His father’s eyes. “It’s my fault and I know it, but I can’t fix that now.”

I tried to keep myself composed. “Was there a funeral?”

“No…. but He’s buried. Just the local cemetery, nothing fancy…” he gave me a note, just a folded up piece of paper. “That’s His… well you know… His note.”

I took it and nodded, turning, and running back to my house quickly. He was dead. I should have known it before. That sadness that he could reflect into His music was what I now know as a desperate cry for help. I made it home, and locked myself away in that room with the piano. I threw the note on the floor and sat down at the piano, not caring anymore.

All of the doors leading to that room were locked then, making it impossible for anyone to enter that room other than myself. I slammed on the keyboard as hard as I could, out of anger. One of the keys was stuck down when I finished hitting it. I had to go inside the piano and fix the hammer in order for it to come back up.

I ran my hand across the piano and played a few notes, starting to key out that song I had started to make for Him. That song He asked me to make for Him.

That was when I scrambled to the floor, and picked up the note, unfolding it. I’d never actually seen his writing before, but I learned quickly, every curl and twist that was His penmanship.

Hey, Vincent

I know that a note is supposed to be for everyone to read. It’s supposed to be for my family and friends right? Well I really hope my dad gave this to you, because it’s pretty much meant for your eyes only. Is this like in the movies where you are reading this in my voice? I doubt you’ve actually heard my voice enough to be able to do that… Sorry I had to leave you so suddenly. I don’t really have an explanation for it. You were really my only friend. You and your family were the only ones who were kind to me. Thanks for that.

Can I ask that you do one thing for me? Write me that song. Do that for me, and then I want you to record it, put it on a cassette or something. Bury it with me.

I know that’s probably a huge thing to ask…

But can you do that for me? Please?

That’s all I can really ask of you.
Thanks for being my friend.
Farewell
-
David


I blinked, shocked a little bit. I didn’t know what to feel, I didn’t know what I was supposed to feel, when something like this happens. I sat down back at the piano and folded up the paper. I opened the top of the piano and threw it down on the hammers and chords. I stared to press the keys that it sat by, watching the small slip of paper bounce about the keys, until it made a short tune. That tune, I decided, would be the start of His song.

And I didn’t leave that damned bench until I finished that song. I didn’t eat, or sleep, or hardly blink. For two and a half days, I sat at that piano and finished His song.


I finally unlocked the doors to that room, and my family had been waiting. They just looked at me, looking like they were expecting some sort of news. “He’s dead.”

They didn’t look shocked. In fact, it was as if that was the very news they expected to hear.

Back into that room. I sat at that bench and found an old camera. I sat it on the window sill, as it was just beginning to rain outside, and I pressed record. Then I played that song. I played it three times, until I felt that I could stop. I finished recording, and popped out the little cassette that it recorded things onto. This wasn’t a newer camera with the SD card, and the screen. It recorded straight onto cassettes. And so I had that cassette, with his song.

I ran to my room, and dove under the bed I hadn’t slept on in almost three days. The sun was setting by now, and I was looking for a pen, or a marker. I couldn’t find one, and I came back up empty handed. I was about to ransack my room in search of one, when there was a small tap on the door. I turned to see Elise, standing still, with a pen in her outstretched hand. I took it, and thanked her quietly.

I took the pen to the cassette and concentrated on remembering his distinctive scrawl, before imitating it onto the cassette.

David’s Song

I ran out of my house promptly, through the rain, towards the cemetery, that place where I knew he was. I could actually be within his presence again, even if he wasn’t living. I running amongst the graves quicker than I should have been, and scanning all of the surfaces.

There were a few headstones that I couldn’t read. One was completely obscured by a mass of leaves that had fallen from the tree above it. I knelt on the ground beside it and swept the foliage off of it, before tracing the letters with my fingers
D-A-V-I-D
S-T-R-I-C-K-L-E-N-D

That was Him. I knew His name by heart. I heard it every day the teacher called roll in fourth period. I would never hear a teacher call His name again, but at least I knew where He went.

“I wrote you that song, David.” I waved the cassette in the air. “Here it is. I’m going to bury it with you. Like you asked.” I didn’t have a shovel, so I just dug with my hands, straight down, next to the headstone. Once it was a big enough hole, I placed the cassette in and covered it up with dirt, packed it down, and stood.

I wiped my face on my sleeve and made a promise to him then. “Every year, this day, I’m going to bring you another recording. Every year, I’m going to bring you another song.”

I had to go home after that. Lightning was starting to brighten the sky.
But I kept that promise. And every year after that, I buried another song with him. I never wrote them down, but I let him have them. I never dug them up. I didn’t want to. I wanted him to keep them. And I hoped to God that he could somehow hear them. I wanted him to hear them. And I know he wanted to. Or else he wouldn’t have asked for one.

That’s how I learned to play the piano… but I still can’t read music.



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