|suggesting, again, 4 pt, bold. Edited this for you as the piece should be as good as your subject and message!!! Compare it with your version. Mostly, I edited out the repetitive stuff, points you'd already clearly made, and fixed tense issues! Was good o begin with - just needed a bit of, shall we say polish? needed to be 'finished.' :) So I though I'd help you along the way. WANT to be able to use this in this week's 'For Authors' Newsletter!!! ~Fyn (see edited version below)
East Cary Street, in Richmond Virginia, is known for its historical cobblestone strip, its many abandoned warehouses aching for someone to breathe life into them, and the multitude of train trestles that are suspended above the street in a sort of chaotic snake-like dance.
It’s an early Saturday morning as I drive down through this section of town in a sleep-deprived fog from the previous day of work and I am barely aware of my surroundings that have become so familiar to me. I pull up in front of an old, three story, brick warehouse, with its ominous paint-flecked iron shutters that have cracked and peeled from decades of decay and neglect.
As I step out of my car and look around, I realize that I feel eerily isolated, as there is not a single soul to be seen. I will be completely alone this morning, trying to finish up my project for the Virginia Holocaust Museum. As I stand before the entrance, smoking a cigarette, a train passes by on the elevated tracks across the street. Trains pass by this building every ten to fifteen minutes and I feel the quake inside the warehouse each and every time one goes by.
I know this because I spend the majority of my waking hours inside of this dilapidated warehouse that is being restored to house the Virginia Holocaust Museum. I am a volunteer at the museum, and usually my main projects entail researching and writing for the archives.
Just recently though, the Director of the museum, Jay Ipson, awarded me with the project of refinishing a baby grand piano that was salvaged from a nearby synagogue because he trusted that I would put my heart and soul into making sure it was finished on time for the benefit drive to be held there.
Once I saw it, I was almost overwhelmed. Time was short, and I had never refinished such a massive task as this before! The piano was caked with several layers of the most hideous greenish-yellow paint as well as polyurethane. It is the weekend before our September 11th benefit drive in which this piano will be used. I felt immediately distraught.
This was one of the most terrifying projects I had ever been assigned. I shook the feeling and told myself that it was not going to be issue. I started to plan my strategy the moment I was given the task. I knew my weekend would be filled with just trying to strip layers of different paint from the piano before I could begin even trying to restore it. I was going to bring it back to the life. Once again, it would be pure and beautiful. It had to be. It was going to be used as an integral part of the benefit. Once I started, my goal for finishing a day ahead of time was the time frame I had given myself.
After putting out my cigarette I knew I had no time to waste. I unlocked the door to the building and turned off the security alarm.
I stood there in the shadowy, narrow hallway with just a small flashlight to see by. It was deathly quiet. The pungent smell of old wood gripped my senses. Shaking off the initial foreboding reaction, I quickly wove my way through all of the different areas of construction, which were already holding some items that were to be part of the museum, turning downstairs lights on. The piano wass on the second floor, but I could not bear the darkness that had been engulfing the 1st floor.
I head upstairs to tackle the piano. It seemed even larger than when I had looked at it before and I immediately felt less confident. Did I have the ability to finish this gigantic job? I barely knew where to start. I told myself that I could not fail; the stakes were too high. I would not let any of those people who were depending on me down.
I grabbed the paint stripper, my scraper, and the radio out of the tool room and set up for the long day ahead. Happily, the stripper that I had applied the day before was now ready to scrape off. Before I knew it, I had been scraping rhythmically for two hours and my George Jones CD had long stopped playing. My hands were severely aching as I finished a section that I had been working on and I reluctantly put down my tools. I sat back and stared for some time at the piano.
I knew that the piano would not have that beautiful mahogany stain, nor the gloss finish put on it by September the 11th: I only had five more twelve-hours days to get done as much as I possibly could. In fact, I might not even get the piano stripped and sanded down to its natural wood before my time was up. There was no questioning the fact that I was giving my all to this harrowing project, but I was worried that I would not be able to completely refinish piano in the time set. I sat back and sighed, worried and anxious about this fact.
I listened to the hum of only the air conditioner and the sound of the windows vibrating every moment that a train went by. In my immense anxiety, a thought crossed my mind, and I wondered what would have happened to me if I had been Jewish, or any undesirable in a concentration camp, and had been given this task to complete exactly on time by the Nazis.
Would I have been able to finish the piano under these deadly conditions, knowing that it would be life or death? The truth was that I was not sure if I could have completed it or not. There would never be an answer to that insidious question for me. All I knew was that, in the present, I would not be able to complete this in the time frame given.
The thoughts of torture and death consumed me, but I continued to stare at the piano and pondered my fate. An individual presenting an unfinished duty during the Holocaust was inevitably subjected to ghastly torture or immediate death. Which would I be subjected to? The thoughts inundated me and fear like no other found me in the stillness of my surroundings, praying that I could return home. That, unfortunately, was not an option.
I shook my head, stretched, went downstairs, and proceeded outside to the steps leading up to the museum. I sat down on the stairs and lit up a badly needed cigarette. I leaned back against the brick building and surveyed my surroundings. I relished my cigarette and the taste of my Mountain Dew as I watched the trains go by
The Amtrak trains started to catch my attention. As they passed through at a slower speed, I could see make-out shadows of people and unknown objects through the windows. Did they see me? Did they see the sign for the Virginia Holocaust Museum and find it eerily ironic, as I did, that their train had passed slowly by this building? Or did they not even glance over at me or the museum at all while they drank cocktails, read their books, laughed with one another, ate in the dining car, and just enjoyed a vacation with their family? I would bet my life on the fact that they did not notice, and if they did, it would only be to see a grimy, filthy, paint-splattered man sitting in front of a warehouse. I, and the museum, were doubtlessly a mere blur to them, an unmentionable. I imagine that the view of the shimmering canal and its boats on the other side of the track was considerably more pleasant to gaze at.
These disturbing thoughts haunted me for the rest of the day as I toiled away with even more vigor and determination than before. I wanted to stand on the roof of the building and shout to somehow make the whole world notice and remember the Holocaust and other nefarious crimes against humanity. I wanted to open their eyes to this inhumanity that seeps and crawls into our world to rip apart humankind. I wanted to unveil this demon and show those who were not aware the truth, and that there has been no ‘Never Again’!
After ten hours of grueling work, I had the piano’s main surfaces stripped down. The intricate details of it would have to wait until tomorrow. It would be difficult to finish, as I had to be extremely cautious not to dig into the wood in the small crevices. The endeavor would be tedious and take an immense amount of time.
For the rest of the week, I spent at least twelve hours a day trying to get it stripped, sanded, and stained to perfection. On the last day before our event, I had stripped the whole piano and had it thoroughly sanded down to its natural, beige wood. Although the director had told me that I had done an amazing job, I felt like I had failed, and thought again about what would happen to me in Nazi Germany for this failing. Again, it was a disturbing thought that would not let me rest. There was no beautiful mahogany finish on it as was planned. This salvaged piece of history had crushed my hope.
When I arrived at the benefit, I saw it sitting there near the podium and ready for its musical debut. Seeing it in the spotlight, with the lights shining on it, gave me an alternative perspective which surprised me. Yes, I had not completed what everyone at the museum had hoped. Even so, I had breathed life again into this piano, and it shone with its pure, naked truth; with a story behind what was and now is.