EVERY MARTIAN NEEDS A BUNNY
The sky was a deep blue, clear, with not a single cloud in it, the wind held to a standstill under a bright sun that made anyone under it squint, and anyone who dared to challenge its authority to shine eye to eye blind. A picture perfect day in Manitoba, visually anyway. As for the other senses, the noon air was a balmy twenty-five below, causing nostrils form dry icicles and any exposed skin to freeze dry, then crack. All together, an inhospitable day to be outdoors for most creatures bearing no fur on their skin. But workable for those whose bodies were covered with a layer of hair.
Such was Bunny, a gray rabbit who frequented the Wilson household’s glass door, not for the shelter from the wind it afforded or the reflective rays of the sun that some how ‘double heated’ the snow outside of it. No, Bunny, came to see Michelle Schmitt-Wilson, the lady of the house who sat down at her piano, the only portion of her model, super clean, well-furnished home that she related to. Or liked. Or valued. Including her reflection in the mirrored glass of the sliding door.
That reflection revealed to Michele, yet again, the body of a 45 year old woman with a thin face, big brown green eyes, and straight blonde hair that had finally re-grown back down to tips of her D-cup breast after one ‘look your age’ makeover and another self-sabotaging bob she had given herself hoping that changing the outside will transform the inside . She looked half her age, now that she had lost a quarter of her weight. A loss of poundage that come off for some good reasons, some logical reasons, and some metaphysical ones. “Eating those scones and veggie samosas instead of pizza pops and donuts is actually paying off,” she said to the reflection. “But those lines around your eyes say that between your ears, you’re getting very old. Or should we say life experienced, meine immer mit mir Freund,” she said, translating ‘my always with me friend’ into the language of the only real friends she ever had.
Michelle opened up the piano bench, pulling out the bound imitation leather volumes of works by Onkle Ludwig, Onkle Wolfgang, and then finally, the legacy of the secret lover that her husband never really knew about. “Claude,” she said while thumbing through five obscure early works of Debussy, and two from his later life. Music that was never played in his lifetime except by himself, put down into print by the struggling Frenchman in the hope that someone would play it. “Yes, I will honor you by giving you my hands, and my heart,” Michele said as she closed the piano bench, sat down, and placed the music on the stand atop the discount Yokamura baby grand piano which she wished one day would become a Steinway. “And we have an audience for you as well,” Michelle said inside her tired cheeks to the ghost of Debussy, who she kept alive so often by playing the twenty better known pieces by the composer by heart, with her heart, then finally recording them on a CD that was too brilliant for the world to understand. They were of course too heartfelt for the world to embrace. And too intense for the world to be awakened by. At least the world of Brandon, Manitoba.
“Mister Bunny,” she said to the rabbit as he wiggled his nose at the glass outside the window while she went into her usual warm up with a Bach Invention from the Goldberg Variations. “Thank you for coming by and giving my life meaning. For listening to what I play. For having an ear that wants to hear, which gives me the Purpose and means to channel something worth hearing,” she said to the hare. First in English, then in perfect Parisian French, which she had learned as a teenager in preparation for going to McGill University, with the Mission of heading to Europe for a career as a music professor and practitioner. A sojourn to the place where Debussy lived and his spirit still lingers. A trip she never took, due to the simplest, and most tragic, reasons— lack of matching funds promised by her parents.
And lack of encouragement from two young men who said they loved her too much for her to leave. One of those men was now her husband, or more accurately, a roommate who paid most of the bills because he was better with money than innovation. The second was a memory, the ‘one that got away because maybe I tried to pull him in too hard’ twenty years ago, who lived on the other side of Brandon. Yet who Michelle never saw or encountered anywhere in her travels throughout the town that mascaraded itself as a city, most pathetically to its own life-long residents.
The memory of that second man stilled Michelle’s fingers, causing her to end the Baroque Invention earlier than expected, but with a bluezy coda that would have pleased Old Johan Sebastian Bach. It gave her a jolt of needed energy, along with a chuckle she shared with herself. She felt applause come from Bunny as he edged closer into the window so he could hear her with not only his ears, but his belly.
“So, it’s just you and me now, again, Mister Bunny,” she said, feeling the liberty to give the big eared furry visitor a gender. “I KNOW you’ll appreciate this more than the brain-dead, lazy and egotistical brats whose parents hire me to make them into musicians. And the officiators at the competitions who have as little imagination as the metronome that’s always tick-ticking in their by-the-numbers heads. And the radio hosts who say that the only way to play Debussy is like a dainty Barbie who won’t dare put any feeling onto the the keys on piano because they may break a nail. No, we both know that Debussy’s warmth only comes after you connect to your inner Fire. Right?”
Bunny wiggled his nose ‘yes’. So did Michelle’s reflection in the mirror, that seemed to be even thinner than the last time she looked at it. Thin because Michelle knew how to use the most effective kind of weight control. “Dedicate yourself to you art, and put the muscle between your ears on hyper-drive and you’ll burn off so many calories that you’ll one day convert your body mass into energy. That conversion of mass into energy was stated as a reachable fact by the Prof who taught the physics class I had to take for that fallback degree in biology. A degree that I never used, that I got Honors in, and that I never wanted to get anyway,” she said to herself as she opened up the Debussy piece, an obscure postumously-published work that Claude probably only played for the Bunny outside of his window in France during his lifetime.
Michelle took in a deep breath of sterile, artificially-humidified Manitoba air, arched her back, flexed her long, Rachmoninoff-sized fingers, and then attacked the keys. Then swayed back and forth as the river she dived into took her for a ride that transported her to that higher and deeper place that kept her Alive. Which made her sweat, even though the room was barley 60 degrees F. Then that mad journey towards the always turbulent ocean of discovery made her smile. Then laugh. Then made the Silence between the notes feel louder than ever. With added harmony that felt like a rabbit purr. With choreography of her most valued audience member with his nibbling mouth, then swaying body. Moving with the music as a percussion section that suggested a new beat, which integrated with her own. A beat that had its own mathematics to it, and breath, which was never constant but always present, and evolving.
Michelle could hear Claude Debussy himself put his arm around her shoulders. Take her muscle-bound wrists into his tender hands. She felt his eyes look into hers from the faded yellow pages bearing his notes on the music which hadn’t been taken out of the Toronto University Library for decades. She, Bunny and Claude were one…until…
“No, I won’t answer that, Claude,” Michelle grunted behind clenched teeth as she heard her cell phone ring. “They’ll leave a message if it’s important, Monsieur Bunny,” she assured herself as she blocked out the annoying technical sound of the devise with louder notes on the piano. “Which I’ll get later,” Michelle promised the responsible part of her brain as the phone continued to ring, then finally turned silent. “It’s probably nothing important anyway,” she said to herself. “It’s not like I’m a doctor on call, or…. maybe I am,” she pondered, considering her ailing father’s condition. And mood swings that took over his mind while he sloshed along with the booze he had been drinking his whole life in a brain floating in more firewater than cerebro-spinal fluid. Fluid that HE put there, and which he insisted on being re-filled by every visitor to his private room at the Nursing Home who he conned, cajoled or ordered to sneak him in a bottle of something from the liquor store. Along with cigarettes he would use when his wife wasn’t around that he claimed would make the emphysema in his lungs go away. The thought of cigarettes and booze stilled Michelle’s fingers, and made her think about her unfulfilled past rather than her stagnant present. “You and Mom both smoked and drank away what was supposed to be my ‘get-the-fuck out of Manitoba McGill UNIVERSITY and not college’ fund,” she yelled at the phone as she resumed her duties playing for Claude and Bunny. “So call someone else who will listen to your lies and say that they’re all true because you’re dying. You’ve been dying for the last four years, as I calculate it, but you don’t seem to do anything except make yourself more miserable, and sick,” she continued behind gritted teeth. “Because you wouldn’t listen to me when I told you the cigarettes are burning your lungs out and the liquor is pickling your, according to the stories mom told me anyway, once bright and maybe brilliant brain.”
The phone stayed silent, allowing Michelle to return to being herself. The clock on the wall ticked away another two minutes of her unrealized potential life away, or as she measured time, another 10 measures of Debussy channeled through her fingers. Then the phone rang. For better or worse, she decided to stop playing and see who it was. The call display showed ‘unknown number’, but the message said “Important! Life or Death!”
“Pardone moi,” Michelle said to the ghost, and Spirit, of Claude Debussy who she visualized sitting on top of the piano in a lotus position zenning into the music she had played. “Entshuldugen, Herr Bunny,” she nodded to the rabbit outside the window, anticipating that her floppy eared friend from a realm far more kind and perhaps more Real than the ‘normal’ world was in a mood for some Bach or Beethoven.
She picked up the phone, anticipating that it was from a payphone. Maybe at the Emergency Room where her father had been admitted for more than one asthma attack due to his burnt out, nicotine-coated lungs.
“Hello,” she said, anticipating the worst.
“Hey, Michelle,” she heard from a cheery caller, with a voice confident as it was comfortable with itself. “Just calling to remind you to put the roast in the oven at three because we have dinner guests coming at six. And put the big one in, because my boss is bringing over his kids. They want piano lessons and I told them that you give the best bargains in town. And this way, you can contribute something of your own to the household expenses.”
There was so much Michelle wanted to say, and needed to say. But, she didn’t. Particularly to a husband who had less appreciation for her music than Donald Trump would have for a private audience with the Dali Llama. Russell was all about money, normality, consistency, security, and of course money. And social prestige. A perfect administrator who shoveled papers across his desk at work, along with praises for the ‘little woman’ at home when he felt accomplished. And insults at her irresponsible Bohemian aspirations when he felt like a loser. ‘Doctor Michelle’ of course endured whatever he threw her way, since he was the one who she had pledged to take care of in sickness and health. What she didn’t realize at the alter two decades earlier was that not Russell would soon come down with the worst sickness of all–Dull out disease. A deadness of soul which is contagious, even to Bohemian Martians such as herself is she was not careful. A condition of lifeless ‘normality’ she contracted periodically when she dared to not practice 2 hours a day on the piano. And if she dared to consider Herr Bunny just a rodent with ears best taken care of with some rat poison. And if she dared to not visualize Claude Debussy sitting atop the piano, who said to her, in the language they shared, “forgive him, he knows not what he is, or the toxin he is spreading to the world. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s but give to God that which is Alive, because God IS Life, not the stoic sterile images on the Church Walls.”
“But why?” Michelle asked Claude with her Mind while her brain let her mouth engage in a more-listening-that-talking conversation with Russel as he complained about his life, and himself, and her. “Why did I, a Martian, get involved with an earthling like Russel?” she asked Claude.
Claude referred her to Bunny, who with his whiskers seemed to say, “without counter-revolutionaries, Revolutionaries would not become better at Revolution. And without being around the walking, and sometimes even dancing, dead, Artists like you would not become more Alive each day. Yes, Comrade? Yes, my dear human, who probably is the only one of your species who really knows who I am, and seek to become.”
Michelle considered the proposition, and it seemed to make sense. As she agreed as well to the ‘logic’ from her courteous hubby, assuring him that dinner would be ready in time, and according to his specifications.