I only published one thing this year, 2019, but it was a big publication for me. “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” was a novelette (8000 words) published in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the March/April 2019 issue and is eligible for Canadian and American writing awards. It is Fantasy. It’s about the power of music, music mentoring, about the courage to go on after loss, and features jazz-playing fauns. The character is queer and disabled. He stays queer and disabled and alive through the whole story.
Below you’ll find a link to the whole story here online, or you can read an excerpt from it.
*I am a Canadian and American writer, holding dual citizenship.
Thank you for visiting my 2019 year round up page, and I hope you enjoy my story.
Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun
Mr. Dance couldn’t keep his eyes off Eric’s clarinet. From the moment the young football player opened the black case and revealed the instrument, Mr. Dance knew that what he thought had been broken– as his legs were– or lost–as he felt–had instead been hidden for a hundred years.
He dropped his music.
“Where did you get that?” Mr. Dance asked from his motorized wheelchair.
The boy picked up the older man’s sheet music. “The clarinet? Oh, my aunt gave it to me.” He ordered the pages, and placed the music on the man’s lap. “It’s nothing special.”
Oh, but it was. Probably the most powerful magical instrument Mr. Dance had ever held.
“Who,” Mr. Dance asked carefully, “is your aunt?”
They met through the State of Missouri’s Masters/ Apprenticeship Program. Eric and Mr. Dance had been paired because Mr. Dance wanted to teach again, and Eric wanted to escape football in his junior year at college. Mr. Dance had no idea what Eric was bringing into his house where he’d been living for the past, well, maybe for a hundred years, hidden by a horde of vines that covered the front. He was an older man now, and his house was full of things that people had brought to cheer him a long time ago, and packages that still came in the mail that accumulated on the tables, unopened.
It was a storage facility, storing Mr. Dance, and the memories of his better days, and the friends who had finally let him be alone.
But after watching another documentary on famous musicians, a brochure for the Apprenticeship program had found its way from table to table to his chair, and made him remember what LeRoi had told him before he left for good, “You may not ever be able to do magic again, but you can teach someone else to do it.”
Now here sat the most unlikely “apprentice”, Eric Elkridge, a handsome football player who didn’t want to be a football player anymore. He’d said, when asked why he was there, “No one can see the possibilities in me outside of football. I want to make my life music.”
Mr. Dance repeated the question. “Your aunt?”
“Oh, my Aunt Helen from Indiana..” He started putting the clarinet together. “I played band 7th to 9th grade, but eventually, well, I just got into football. But I heard about this program. I wanted to try it again, work under a Master.”
A Master. Eric had no idea who Mr. Dance was. Why would he? The older musician had been out of the music scene since the Accident. But he had been the inspiration for Debussy, and had helped start the Jazz revolution in America.
The boy fit the parts of the clarinet back together. He fumbled with the bell, his big boy hands too rough with it. It made Mr. Dance catch his breath.
“Can I–” his hands reached out. If he could just touch it once, it would remember who its master had been, it would remember who he was, and maybe, he could become that person again. “—hold it?”
“Sure,” Eric passed the clarinet to him.
In his hands, the clarinet had a heaviness he could not account for. It did not glow for him. It felt like a piece of wood. Stiff but not alive. What was wrong? He was sure this was his clarinet.
“It’s a very old clarinet. I’m sorry about that,” Eric said, scratching his red hair. He had a farmer’s boy face, wide, round cheeks, but very kind eyes. “My aunt got it for fifty dollars back when I was in junior high school band. She didn’t have to replace anything though. I mean, if it’s twenty or thirty years old, it sure doesn’t show it.”
“Things can be older than they seem,” Mr. Dance said.
He checked it in the three places he knew it would reveal itself: the E flat key should have a mark, a depression in the metal, like a cut–from the incident at the railroad tracks where it fell from his hands; there would be a chip on the barrel just peeking outside the ligament where he and the men fought over it; and there would be a signature inside the bell. Not his signature. But the signature of the man who stole it from him.
He turned it over, peered into the darkness of the clarinet. There, scrawled a little too elegantly, branded, was the name Billy Sunday, wrapped in darkness. “I put my name on everything I own,” Sunday had said that day. “This isn’t yours anymore. I won it in a fight. A fair fight.” Three men held Mr. Dance down on the floor of the warehouse. “This country will not belong to your kind anymore. I’m going to save their souls–all of them–and there’s nothing you or your friends can ever do again to stop me.” And then they crushed his legs.
Billy Sunday. 1913.
Mr. Dance looked up from the clarinet. He turned it over, tried to smile. The clarinet lay dead in his hand. “It’s very beautiful. I think–” he handed it back to the boy. “I think you’ll get a good sound out of it. So let’s see what you can do, shall we.”
The boy played “Sweet Georgia Brown.”
“The Benny Goodman version,” the boy said before he started playing.
“The only version,” Mr. Dance said, closing his eyes.
The clarinet did not want him. The clarinet did not seem to want Eric either.
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