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Tempo Fiction: Solo

Rivka Streicher

It comes to him there in the chilly dressing room, kicks him in the gut — what happened before he left, hours ago, a concert ago

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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T wo notes. A signal.

Twenty men stand at attention.

A flourish of the conductor’s baton — one note, another — and they lift their instruments.

Behind the curtain, he breathes in the beauty of strings and keys and blasts melding into each other like so many clasped fingers. The first moments always steal his breath away.

Ninety seconds countdown.

I’m not feeling good. I need you. Come home.

He can back away still, fling off the shiny bowtie, leave it to the other men of the night. He looks out onto the stage. Even in the dark he can see the phantom smiles on the musicians’ faces as they prepare to pour themselves into their craft.

He shakes his head.

“Enter Stage.”

The light catches his steps. The hall roars and thunders his name. Twenty musicians, twenty instruments, a conductor from Israel, all there for him. The spotlight is hot, ready. He takes a step into it, his heart lurching — come home. Then he closes his eyes and sings.

Shlomo, Shlomo, Shlomo…

Backstage, he undoes his tie, changes the svelte suit jacket for a sweater, and checks his phone.

Nine missed calls.

Yonatan, the conductor, pokes his head into the dressing room. “Kol hakavod, Reb Shlomo, you hit it tonight”—he bops fist into palm—“like this.”

“Todah for what you did.”

He looks closely at the venerable conductor. Despite the hour, his eyes are full of vigor. Maybe now is a good time to broach the CD collab?

In his hand, the phone flashes.

Text message: Gila.

His finger hovers on “View later.” But nine missed calls?

He sees her wan face. Early pregnancy drains her, and with their three little kids, sleep is a commodity she can little afford. And him being out so much...

It comes to him there in the chilly dressing room, kicks him in the gut — what happened before he left, hours ago, a concert ago.

He throws the conductor an apologetic look and reads.

Gone to hospital with Mom. Kids at Scheinfelds.

The hospital. What?

He speed-dials her phone. Nada. Voice mail.

Tries again. Again.

He grabs his things. Looks back down the hall only once. There is Yonatan, an open bottle of schnapps in his hand, the guys crowding around. He dashes out through a back door and runs to the car.

He tries Gila again. Nothing.

He drives distractedly back to town.

She’d been complaining of pain this afternoon, said she’d even disrupted Dassi’s schedule and put her to sleep so she could go to bed too. And, when he came in from the rehearsal, she still wasn’t feeling well. After a quick supper, she’d said she wasn’t coming to tonight’s concert. He’d thought it a not-so-subtle jab: I don’t like where this is going, where it’s taking you…

He’d cajoled her, feeling ridiculous — What other singer has to beg his wife to come to a concert?

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 584)

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