The Eighty-eighth Key (59.1)

88th key cover image

Perhaps. Perhaps not. You decide.

Chapter 59.1

DD and the doc stayed at the place in Davos for a week, and then, after making sure Harry was in capable hands, they returned to San Francisco. Didi and the Colonel stayed at a rented chalet not far away, until Colonel Goodman returned to Israel, that is. After that, Didi moved back into her room in the main house, leaving the two remaining bedrooms for Ida and Lloyd. Harry, of course, remained hospitalized, only now at an orthopedic clinic down the valley, where reports were that he was sleeping twenty hours a day and not at all interested in his physical therapy sessions.

Didi took Lloyd to look at a couple of boarding schools, which only seemed to depress the boy more than he already was, then DD sent word that Todd Bright wanted to come visit and the boy’s spirits picked up a bit, and Todd arrived a few days later, riding up from Zurich on the train. For Didi, anyway, things began to look up a bit after that.

Because more than anything – or so it seemed after his arrival – Todd wanted to spend time with the boy. So Lloyd took him skiing, and Didi spent a whole day with them at the new studio’s construction site – with Todd pouring over plans with the local architect who had sketched out ideas based on Cathy’s original work at the house on the cliffs. Lloyd joined in these brain-storming sessions and that seemed to lift his spirits further, and in the evenings Ida and Todd listened as Lloyd worked through new ideas on a new Bösendorfer in the living room. So, in a way, Lloyd seemed to break free of his own emotional lethargy, though the change itself seemed to be dependent on Todd Bright.

But then one day Todd announced to one and all that it was time to go visit Harry in the hospital, and Didi – looking closely at the boy for any kind of reaction to this unexpected development – thought she saw a shadow cross over his face. ‘He feels betrayed,’ she said to herself. ‘I wonder why?’

+++++

The orthopedic clinic was located atop a small hill between Davos and Klosters, and every patient room had spectacular views of the alps to help enliven their spirits. Some noted that the views were present to lend credibility to the somewhat exorbitant costs of treatment at the facility, but such people can never be pleased, can they? Todd Bright was impressed with the sprawling view from the sun terrace, that much was clear, and when a nurse wheeled Callahan out into the sun Todd seemed to blossom.

Didi and Ida saw it in an instant, though Didi was almost certain that Lloyd was too inexperienced to pick up on the signals Todd was putting out. And Todd was putting on a real performance that morning, as nurses and orderlies and even a few physicians had come out to the sun terrace to see, and perhaps even meet, the most famous grunge rocker in America. Then Todd told the gathered medicos that the real star of the show was actually Harry Callahan, because Harry had helped structure their last album from beginning to end. And of course how could they not recognize Lloyd Callahan, who had played lead guitar on their tour last summer. And the truth of the matter was that everyone at the clinic had heard about Lloyd, and when they realized who he was the youngest nurses seemed to grow more vapidly clinging than either Didi and Ida thought humanly possible.

For his part, Harry sat in his wheelchair under a very heavy blanket, his attentions focused somewhere in the clouds, and Ida couldn’t stand it anymore. She went to Callahan’s chair and pushed him to a far corner; then she pulled up a chair and leaned into him, kind of like a face to face meeting, some of you might even say.

“What the fuck is wrong with you, Harry?” she hissed. “Have you decided to sleep your life away? Is that it? When you have before you the most important task any man can have? To raise a son, to make for the boy a life both can be proud of? You will meet this need by…sleeping? By…staring, at the clouds? Harry? What has happened to you?”

Harry looked at her, his eyes glazed and unfocused. “Morphine,” he managed to say as a wad of spittle formed at the corner of his mouth, before the goo rolled down his chin.

“What? Do you want more morphine?”

Harry shook his head. “No. Too much morphine. Stop them.”

Todd came over and sat with Harry after that. In fact, Todd spend over an hour with Harry, talking incessantly about the new album, hoping Harry would still be able to add a few more contributions before Todd wrapped up production.

“Harry? You look positively stoned!” Todd said at one point, and Harry nodded.

“Morphine,” he managed to say.

“Ooh, isn’t it wonderful? I am so envious!”

Callahan felt like he was trying to walk up a mountain through mud up to his armpits, and he couldn’t understand how anyone could find that wonderful. “How is Lloyd doing,” Harry asked Todd when he found his breath.

“Wonderful, Harry! Just peachy! He’s not quite as accomplished on the piano yet, but in a few years? Who knows…?”

Harry smiled. “I’m glad you think so. But you’ll need to push him, to keep him focused.”

“Okay. What did you have in mind?” Todd asked, his interest brightening.

“The piece we were working on? Have you shown it to him?”

“The Fandango? No, not yet – I was waiting for you. Do you want me to show it to him? Really?”

But then, yes, Harry nodded. “See what he comes up with on his own. Work with him, give him your input after that, then drop by and show me what you two come up with before you show him what I was working on.”

And now, by effectively pushing Todd Bright into the role of intermediary between father and son, Harry had given Todd just the entry he needed…and everyone noticed how happy Todd became after that one brief exchange.

But when Ida came over and tried to speak to Lloyd, she found an entirely different reaction than what she had expected. “What’s wrong, Lloyd?” she asked, because she had seen the dark look in his eyes, a look that had, for a moment, well and truly frightened her. “Did something…?”

But then Lloyd had cut her off with a curt nod as he stood and walked away, yet with a faraway look in his eyes that somehow, to Ida, anyway, seemed alive with barely restrained fury. “Yeah,” the boy added a moment later, after she caught up to him. “It kinda looks like Todd wants to be my mother, doesn’t it? And you know, the funny thing is – I’m not so sure dad would mind if that happened…”

+++++

Bright had toured in Spain several years before and one evening, with no concert scheduled, the group had gone off in search of fun. For Todd Bright, fun meant inspiration, and as he’d heard all about flamenco off the group went – in search of Spanish dancers. Yet flamenco is more like a regional dialect, with different regions in Spain and, to a degree, Portugal, practicing different forms and, at the same time, celebrating different aspects of the confrontation between guitarist and dancer. In many parts of Spain, and yes, Portugal, there is another form, a perhaps even more celebrated form of ‘flamenco’, referred to as a fandango. And this is what Bright found that night…

At their heart, these dances appear to be contest of wills, so yes, in a sense the musical representation of human confrontation, yet Todd Bright found that he was captivated by the dialogue between the guitarist and the dancer, or between the hands of the guitarist and the dancer’s feet. When he learned that he had just seen the performance of a fandango, not what some might argue was the more generic flamenco, he became intrigued. First with the conditions that gave rise to the form, then more and more with the specific structures of the dance.

And at one point that night, while talking with the guitarist, he ran into an interesting anecdote about the fandango that captured his imagination, and he was soon consumed with the idea of writing a song that captured the essence of the tale. In the telling of the tale Todd heard, the clergy in Spain had, several hundreds years ago, first heard about the fandango and had immediately decided to issue a decree that such exhibitions of godlessness were a form of heresy and would henceforth be prohibited. But as sometimes happens – though perhaps not frequently enough – the voice of reason interrupted these sainted proceedings and one of the clerics advised that it was simply unfair to ban such things without first hearing and experiencing the music for themselves. What followed was, for Todd Bright, the start of a quest birthed in a moment of pure reason…

The clerics invited the best fandango dancers and musicians in the region to perform, and in short order the magic of the music captivated everyone in attendance, and so, of course, all talk of banning the music simply vanished without a trace. And while this episode is instructive it is not the equal of, say, rediscovering Aristotle’s lost manuscripts and kicking off the enlightenment, yet, for artists and musicians in ultra-conservative Spain, freeing the fandango of clerical restraint was a sort of watershed moment…

…and it was this moment that fascinated Todd Bright…

Because in the America of the 1990s and early 2000s, there was even then a hidden hand restlessly and relentlessly at work, a re-emergent censoriousness in the evangelical community trying to reassert control over young peoples’ minds all around the country, and through both ecclesiastical as well as political means. And without being too blunt about these things, groups like Bright were nothing less than the antithesis of this power grab by political Christians; yet in the centuries old anecdote of the fandango Todd Bright had found the germ of an idea he just couldn’t shake…

So when he first voiced his desire to work with Harry on a new fandango – an American Fandango, as he called the idea he was working on – he saw Harry’s as the perfect voice to help construct the foundation of this piece. Gershwin had been a heretic, at least for most classically trained musicians in the 1920s, when his works first gained wide appeal, but then again so had Elvis Presley’s gyrating electro-acoustic songs in the 50s. The same impulsive reluctance greeted Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, then it almost engulfed artists as different as Marvin Gaye and Stephen Stills. What Todd wanted to explore was as complex as it was enduring; was this reluctance a simple generational conflict or was something far more destructive at work? Were the inherent romanticism in voices like Gershwin and Presley and Wilson, like the ecclesiastical power structures in 17th century Spain, so threatening to the pillars of the establishment, and that they felt they had no recourse other than to resist change? Given that change is now and has always been inevitable, Todd felt he was onto something.

After listening to Todd lay out these ideas, Harry simply got into the whole thing. Todd had constructed a puzzle with no easy way out, however, and yet Harry saw this puzzle from the inception. How could modern forms of rock, especially something as powerfully dissonant as Seattle Grunge, produce a coherent narrative about what amounted to a cyclical romantic impulse always challenging established forms of expression – and in just a few minutes?

Impossible? Not hardly, or so Todd said. Zeppelin had done as much, he added, with both Kashmir and Stairway, and The Beatles had done so more times than he could count, so really, the only differences involved incorporating the structural elements of the fandango into the grunge-rock soundscape.

For Harry, however, his idea of a solution grew simpler still. 

The fandango employs a beat in 6/8 (classical) or ¾ (modern) time, and employs octosyllabic verse, so those two elements would provide the only constraints Harry would have to deal with, and because Todd wanted to stick with the older time structure that wasn’t going to be an issue Harry would have to deal with. The only question left to be answered was key, and Todd wanted to keep to a major key, even though older forms employed a minor-major format. So…done…again.

And while Harry and Todd had worked on ideas, even getting as far as putting a few down on paper, the next thing Harry knew he was flat on his back in a hospital and it was beginning to feel a little like music was the latest thing about to be yanked from his life. On the crest of that revelation Callahan found the idea of writing music quaintly quixotic and suddenly out of reach, and his descent into the darkest imaginable places began in earnest. 

Now sitting in the sun and looking down the valley towards Klosters he felt a sudden elation. ‘Maybe I can do this,’ he thought as the shock of an alpine breeze ran through his hair. ‘Maybe I can work through my son’s hands, realize what I saw in my mind…’ 

“At least until I can knock out rehab and get back to the piano…” Callahan said.

“What did you say, Harry?” Todd asked.

“I’ve got to get back to my piano.”

“Your piano?” Didi said, clearly concerned now. “Which piano, Harry?”

“Mother’s. The old Bösendorfer, from the house.”

Didi grabbed her notepad and began a new to-do list. “What else do you need, Harry?”

“Why am I in this wheelchair?” Harry asked.

Didi and Todd came close now, and she took his hand. “Harry? Your right leg was in bad shape. Your femur was shattered and the knee wasn’t replaceable, then an infection set in. They took your right leg two days after you…above the knee.”

“Oh,” he said, interrupting her. “That’s strange. Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“We did, Harry.”

“It’s the morphine,” Callahan sighed. “Tell the docs no more. None. I can’t do this if they keep me doped up.”

Lloyd walked up and looked into his father’s eyes, not sure what he was seeing now but oddly reassured. “Dad, you feeling okay?”

And Harry nodded. “I am. And son, I need you, so stop trying to avoid me. Please.”

© 2021 adrian leverkühn | abw | and as always, thanks for stopping by for a look around the memory warehouse…[but wait, there’s more…how about a last word or two on sources: I typically don’t post all a story’s acknowledgments until I’ve finished, if only because I’m not sure how many I’ll need before work is finalized. Yet with current circumstances (i.e., Covid-19 and me generally growing somewhat old) waiting to list said sources might not be the best way to proceed, and this listing will grow over time – until the story is complete. To begin, the ‘primary source’ material in this case – so far, at least – derives from two seminal Hollywood ‘cop’ films: Dirty Harry and Bullitt. The first Harry film was penned by Harry Julian Fink, R.M. Fink, Dean Riesner, John Milius, Terrence Malick, and Jo Heims. Bullitt came primarily from the author of the screenplay for The Thomas Crown Affair, Alan R Trustman, with help from Harry Kleiner, as well Robert L Fish, whose short story Mute Witness formed the basis of Trustman’s brilliant screenplay. Steve McQueen’s grin was never trade-marked, though perhaps it should have been. John Milius (Red Dawn) penned Magnum Force, and the ‘Briggs’/vigilante storyline derives from characters and plot elements originally found in that rich screenplay, as does the Captain McKay character. The Jennifer Spencer/Threlkis crime family storyline was first introduced in Sudden Impact, screenplay by Joseph Stinson, original story by Earl Smith and Charles Pierce. The Samantha Walker television reporter is found in The Dead Pool, screenplay by Steve Sharon, story by Steve Sharon, Durk Pearson, and Sandy Shaw. I have to credit the Jim Parish, M.D., character first seen in the Vietnam segments to John A. Parrish, M.D., author of the most fascinating account of an American physician’s tour of duty in Vietnam – and as found in his autobiographical 12, 20, and 5: A Doctor’s Year in Vietnam, a book worth noting as one of the most stirring accounts of modern warfare I’ve ever read (think Richard Hooker’s M*A*S*H, only featuring a blazing sense of irony conjoined within a searing non-fiction narrative). Denton Cooley, M.D. founded the Texas Heart Institute, as mentioned. Of course, James Clavell’s Shōgun forms a principle backdrop in later chapters. The teahouse and hotel of spires in Ch. 42 is a product of the imagination; so-sorry. The UH-1Y image used from Pt VI on taken by Jodson Graves. The snippets of lyrics from Lucy in the Sky are publicly available as ‘open-sourced.’ Many of the other figures in this story derive from characters developed within the works cited above, but keep in mind that, as always, the rest of this story is in all other respects a work of fiction woven into a pre-existing cinematic-historical fabric. Using the established characters referenced above, as well as the few new characters I’ve managed to come up with here and there, I hoped to create something new – perhaps a running commentary on the times we’ve shared with these fictional characters? And the standard disclaimer also here applies: the central characters in this tale should not be mistaken for persons living or dead. This was, in other words, just a little walk down a road more or less imagined, and nothing more than that should be inferred. I’d be remiss not to mention Clint Eastwood’s Harry Callahan, and Steve McQueen’s Frank Bullitt. Talk about the roles of a lifetime…and what a gift.]

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