by Jay O'Toole
Some rare students take to the piano with ease. The rest of us have labor to understand.
|"Hurry, Carl! Today we need to do a little mountain climbing!" Carl's Mom was always so optimistic and quite vigorous, too, for a woman, who had lived ever since Aslan sang the worlds into being.
"What's the rush, Mom? The surf's up and I was about to ride a big one all the way over to CaSu1's house!"
"There are other days for that, Carl! Today, we are going to pay a visit to your brothers in the mountains of the Treble Clef Range! Be sure to pack your harness, your ropes and at least four dozen carabiners."
"That many? We could climb right out of the atmosphere with all of those!"
"Possibly,...but safety is our first responsibility. Right, son?"
"Right, Mom. Would you mind if I take a minute to at least look at those great waves, while I pack?"
"That should be fine, Carl, but stay on track. We only have so much sunlight, and we need to be hiking within the half hour."
Carl enjoyed life on the tide line for he had regular communication and communion with his brothers in the deep Bass Bleu Ocean. As you may recall their names are CaSu1, CaSu2 & Carl Subaqueous III. The communication lines were always open because as everyone knows water carries sound waves very well.
"You know, Mom is right. The ocean offers one kind of fun, but the mountains offer another. I need to hurry! Today will be great!"
Carl of the Line (for that is his name, which the inhabitants of the ocean and of the mountains sometimes call him in loving mirth,) longed to visit his other brothers in the mountains and beyond and all the more so as he was learning more and more every day about his world.
"I'm ready, Mom, and it only took me ten minutes. Let's go! Climbing the sheer Treble Cliffs has got to be excellent fun!"
"Quite right, Carl! I have just one more bag to fill. We'll be on our way in five minutes! Wait for me by the north door."
"Yes, ma'am! I so excited!"
While he waited Carl thought of the day he was talking with his closest cousins on the beach and the sand dunes. The time passed quickly as he remembered that their joyously playful names were Daisy, Emily, Fred, George, Alvin and Billy. Carl smiled as he remembered the place where all new piano students run and play and spend most of their time in the first few weeks of learning the piano. These cousins live in the right hand version of the C-Major scale. Most people learn the "C scale" (as it is sometimes called) as their very first exercise of joyful repetition.
"Last one on the trail is a flat foot, Carl!" Mom quipped at quite a clip.
No one needed to call him twice. Car-o-Line bolted past his Mom so quickly that for a moment she looked like Cousin It. "Pick up your feet, Your Majesty, before you pronate!"
"Save your strength, Son! The dunes are easy enough to hike, but wisdom and finesse are required, when we start to go vertical."
"Yes, Ma'am. I'm walking, but admit it. You needed me to slow down so you could catch up. Right?"
"Possibly... Here's your cousin, Billy's house. We'll stop next door at his dad's place for a cup of sweet, cold water."
Just past the highest dunes where Billy lives, as Mom predicted, is Carl's nearest brother in the foothills of the Treble Clef, Carl la Feet. C-Fleet (as the locals call him) lives in a part of the mountains that is still low enough to easily see the beach, but it's just high enough to take in a much bigger view of the ocean, while enjoying the first of the cool mountain breezes. C-Fleet enjoys almost as much attention as Car-o-Line because C-Fleet is the upper ending point of that famous C-Scale with Car-o-Line being the lower end.
"That was refreshing, C-Fleet!" Mom thanked her older son, "But now it's time to start to put a little air under our feet."
"Enjoy the climb!" responded C-Fleet. "The view is amazing all along the way. Don't rush! Take time to enjoy the vistas."
"We will do that, C-Fleet! Thanks, again, for the provisions for the ascent! Alright, Carl, set your anchor and thread the first carabiners to lock in our first safety point, Son. From here on out the rest of our steps will be more and more treacherous. Let's keep the climb as secure as we possibly can!"
"Yes, Ma'am!" Carl responded. "Secured and climbing."
The footing was certainly more challenging than it had been on the sand dunes, but not as much as it would be a little further up the climb. With some effort the two reached Carl la View's cottage within the hour. The vast ocean down below was still quite visible, but now it appeared to be the quick finger-painting strokes spread out by a preschooler on a large canvas of newsprint.
"WOW, Mom, C-View sort of lives in the nosebleed section, doesn't he?" Carl quipped. "How does he keep from being out of breath?"
"We each learn to adapt to our daily environs, Carl." Mom assured him. "It's not so surprising that C-V does quite well for himself on these popular ski slopes. He sort of enjoys Christmas year 'round, which is a favorite of at least one writer I know, too."
"Hi, Mom,...Car-o-Line!" Carl la View said cheerily. "What brings you both so high up the slopes this fine day?"
"I thought it was about time that Carl should get a new perspective from high up on the Treble Cliffs," Mom assured him.
"What do you think about that, Car-o-Line?" C-View teasingly asked.
"Show some respect to the name, Old Man," Carl retorted. "You may be my older brother, but I can still take you! I ain't no weakling!"
"Simmer down, Buddy. I was just having some fun!" C-View offered. "Besides I'm glad you both made it all the way to my humble little cottage on the mountain side. I don't get too many visitors all the way up here, especially since most of the newbies stay in the sand dunes and in the shallow waters."
"Okay. I'm good," Carl said. "It's true that I have a lot of visitors year round due to the gentle sea breezes that moderate the temperatures on the line. Come visit me sometime, Bro.! The holiday would do you good."
"I'll keep that in mind, but right now you and Mom should probably forge ahead on the next leg of your journey," C-View reminded them. "It's well past midday and Carl of the Heights is better equipped for putting you up for the night. I've really enjoyed our time together, but you had better make good use of the sun you still have left."
The last octave up the mountain range was challenging, difficult and treacherous, indeed. It seemed that in places the Treble Cliffs were intensely sheer, but there was at least one advantage to this part of the climb. Short little lines marked footholds all over the cliff faces. As each climber stood on a ledger line the next one was close enough to set another anchor point, while securing a new carabiner with its lifeline of rope.
"Well, I don't feel as spry as I once did, Carl," Mom admitted. "I'm starting to struggle for breath. I hope I'm not slowing you down."
"No worries, Mom!" Carl assured her. "There's still plenty of light left. Do you need to stop for a moment and have a meal bar? It will restore some of your strength."
"Great idea, Carl. I would like to do that. You're a good son. I'm so proud of you!" Mom and Carl each had a Clif bar and were soon on their way, again.
As they rounded the last great boulder, named Billy of the View, Mom and Carl inhaled loudly at the sight of the mansion of Carl of the Heights, one of the oldest of Mom's sons and their gracious host for the night.
"WOW! C-Hi must be doing really well for himself, Mom!" Carl exclaimed.
"'Doing well' puts it mildly, Carl," Mom said. "However, like my son in the depths of the sea, Carl Subaqueous III, my last two sons in the highest strata of the atmosphere deserve extra honor, due to the difficulties they must each face...just to exist in the Treble realm. This brother of yours is Charlton Hightower III, who lives on the top of the mountain range. We graciously allow our dearest friends to call him, Carl of the Heights, but that is about as informal as we get with him." The greater the challenge the greater the respect.
"Yes, Ma'am. I meant no unkindness. Sorry," Carl bowed.
"It's fine, Carl!" Mom said. "I'm glad you understand."
"Her Majesty, the Lady of the Clef,...It is my dear mother! Welcome! Welcome!" intoned Charlton Hightower III. "Chester, I bid thee. Find suitable lodgings for my sainted mother and my young brother, Carl of the Line!"
"Carl of the Heights, you are one of my dearest sons," Mom beamed as she spoke. "You do our family proud maintaining such a glorious home in the lofty crags of these out-of-the-way spires!"
"I do no more than is my place and my responsibility, my most honored Mother," Charlton exuded. "To what do I owe the Joy of your visit to my humble abode?"
"As you know your brother here, Carl of the Line, the Middle C of our wonderful world, has yet to truly appreciate fully the homes his brothers have made in the depths and in the heights," Mom said. "On this, the advent of his six thousandth birthday, I thought it best to take a world tour with Car-o-Line that he would see the full realm with his own eyes."
"Well said, Mother! I heartily agree!" Charlton smiled. "Pray thee, Brother! What say you of your trip thus far?"
"This excursion has been the most amazing adventure I have ever experienced in my life!" said Carl. "The depths clothed me like a warm and heavy blanket, while the heights fill my lungs and my soul with the crisp, clean air that literally breathes through my very being! I never knew that my brothers of the C's below and the C's above were such great men, who had forged fascinating lives for themselves in such pristine (and at times rugged) environs. Were I not your brother I would remain as proud of your accomplishments and would remain just as staggered to be in the presence of such greatness!"
"Likewise, I am proud of you, young Carl," said Charlton. "You have learned well, but still there is a bit more to experience tomorrow. O, my goodness, where are my manners? You are both no doubt quite famished! I will have the servants to put the kettle on and set before you a feast for the royalty I know you both to be!"
"Thank you, Charlton! You are an excellent son!" Mom said. "That would be great! After supper we must hie quickly to bed...for the trip tomorrow will be a great thrill and we need our rest!"
"Quite right, Mother! Quite right!" said Charlton. "Dear Genevieve, would you be so kind as to put on a kettle of Earl Grey for my mother and my brother?"
"It would be my honor, my Liege," said Genenvieve.
"Gaston, we'll be needing the pheasant under glass replete with yams, squash, cucumbers and all the greens and herbs you can find in the greenhouse of the rectory," declared Charlton. "Tonight, we prepare a feast for the King, but since he is not here,...the Queen and the Prince are sitting in readiness."
"It shall be done, Sir!" said Gaston. "I will away at once, my Lord!"
The sumptuous meal came in seven courses and lasted for three hours. By the time the intrepid wanderers laid their pates on the crisp bed clothes they were fully exhausted of strength. They each fell instantly into dreamless slumber in a void of nothingness, until the cock crowed at six of the clock.
"Didn't I just pull the covers to my chest, Mom?" asked Carl.
"I should say so, Carl!" Mom said. "The night passes quickly, when one is totally spent!"
"Just five more minutes, Mom!" Carl begged.
"Chop! Chop, My Dear Son!" Mom encouraged. "'Tis time! 'Tis time! We must strap ourselves into the Charlton's grand shuttle for our final leg of this journey!"
"Why a shuttle?" Carl asked. "Can't we climb the rest of the way?"
"When one runs out of rock and dirt upon which to climb," Mom explained, "'tis time to take wing to fly through the air and break its bonds into outer space."
"Where are we going now?" wondered Carl.
"Today, we will visit your brother, Carl in Space, who is the live-in repairman for the Hubble Space Telescope," Mom assured him. "The telescope operates within parameters quite well and quite consistently. Therefore, having little to do on his huge glass in the sky, he makes music...at least as often as some adventurous piano student sends him a request."
"Why is that, Mom?" Carl wondered. "Doesn't he have ideas for music of his own?"
"That is a very good question, Carl," Mom said. "Being the very last key of the highest tones of the Treble Clef is a very lonely job. He often waits around smiling, while hoping that someone will come by to play his pristine pitch, but rare is the musician's digit that ever ventures that far out from your home base of Middle C."
"Bon voyage, Dear Mother!" smiled Charlton. "Your chariot awaits. Salute my 'spacey' brother and thank him that there is no Hubble trouble, but only clear views of 'galaxies, far, far away.'"
"Any word regarding the Millenium Falcon that he now has parked at dock, C3PO?" queried Mom.
"Just...HOW?" asked Charlton.
"Well, I think he's sweet on Rey and Chewbacca seems to like the swing that he has rigged on the outside of the lens," Mom quipped. "Space Carl gets a clean lens and Chewie gets playtime. It's a Win-Win Scenario!"
"Only Space-C could do that!" moaned Charlton. "Will wonders never cease?"
"Alright, Love! Time to strap you in and light off the fuse!" said Charlton. "Any famous last words?"
"LAST words? How dare you!" snorted Mom. "I plan to come back to pester you for time immemorial. You just make sure your little android is greased up and ready to fly!"
"Without doubt, My Dear Lady!" Charlton said with a wry smile. "The countdown is in progress. All systems are go! Enjoy your trip!"
"Will do, Charlton!" said Mom. "Thanks for the lovely view from the heights!"
"You are most welcome, Mother!" said Charlton. "By the way, Car-o-Line, you've been rather quiet this trip. Come back when you have more to say! Do it soon, please, Sir!"
Thumbs up from Carl...
"Welcome, Mum!" said the android captain as Mother Treble Clef and Carl of the Line boarded the spacious shuttle for the relatively short trip to the Hubble abode of her farthest son, Carl in Space. "The name's Originald. I am the distant cousin of Data and his slightly less intelligent brother, B-4. They are the creations of Dr. Noonien Soong. Dr. Soong's fourth cousin is my creator, Dr. Sings WhileHeWorks."
"How fascinating!" said Mother Clef with toothpicks-in-the-eyes mock excitement. "Will there be any entertainment scheduled for our flight this day?"
"Of a sort, Mum." Originald hedged. "We have Kevin Spacey on retainer, but he was unavailable on such short notice. Therefore, I have been programmed to sing as well as he does. Or if you prefer I could do a stand-up comedy routine in the persona of George Jetson's boss, Mr. Cosmo Spacely. What is to your liking, M'Lady?"
"On second thought let me enjoy Clair de Lune, while I look out the window, enjoying the scenery."
"Very good, Mum," said Originald. "I will switch off the conversational subprogram, but if you need anything please ask. I can still respond."
The rest of the trip was like a walking scene from 2001: a Space Odyssey or when the first man "wakes up" in the movie, Passengers. The view was wonderful,...peaceful,...surreal. It seemed but a moment, when the slight jolt of docking at the Hubble Space Telescope jarred Mom out of her reverie.
"Far out, Mom!" shouted Carl in Space. "You made it! I was beginning to think no one would ever come for a visit!"
"We are thrilled to be here, Carl!" Mom responded in kind. "Yes, it took a little time to get here, but I still love you just as much as I do the rest of my sons!"
"So,...how was the trip, Car-o-Line?" Space-C asked. "I'll bet that was the most unusual experience a landlubber like you could ever have!"
"That is more accurate than you may know, Bro.!" Carl said. "I think I left my stomach on that asteroid that passed within a few hundred feet of our shuttle. Is it safe to come out now?"
"No worries, Carl!" chuckled his older brother. "Life on Earth is just as tenuous as it is in space. You just don't see the close calls quite as often."
"Really? So, how do you spend your time all the way out here in space, Big Bro?" Carl wondered. "We hear very little music out of you."
"Sadly so, Little Bro.," agreed Space-C. "I'm usually the first note to go, 'Plunk!' on most pianos because so few pianists ever pay me much mind, but the beauty of what I can see from the Hubble is beyond expression."
"Come! Get your first ever view through the telescope! What do you see!"
"There are little specks of light all over the place, but in the lower right-hand quadrant is a black 'box' that appears to be an inch square."
"You are seeing very well, Carl," bragged his older brother. "However, what you do not see is actually hundreds of galaxies so far out into space that you cannot see them with the naked eye nor with the momentary glance through this high-powered space telescope."
"That can't be, Space-C!"
"I'm afraid so, Carl! What you do not see at present required this telescope months of looking in the same direction just to get it to come into focus."
"How?" exclaimed Carl.
"Li'l Bro, there is more to space than meets the eye. If we take the time to look, then we can see by taking the time..."
Space-C's face started to become wavy like looking through water, while swimming in one of the aquariums at Sea World. His voice was fading, too. "...by taking the time,...by taking the time,...by taking the time..."
In a moment Space-C was gone and Carl of the Line snapped upright in his bed. It was only a dream. "That will teach me to watch the Hollywood version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream just before going to bed. I can understand the words of Bottom now, 'I have seen a most rare vision.'"
Word Count: 3288
by Jay O'Toole
on July 30th, 2017