The Eighty-eighth Key (59.2)

88th key cover image

A brutally short snippet today, hardly enough for a sip of Coke let alone a cup of tea. But then again, music matters, so…

Chapter 59.2

After their first afternoon together on the clinic’s sun terrace, Todd Bright returned almost daily to visit Harry. And who knows, maybe Callahan was indeed truly clueless, or maybe he was just lonely – because – who wouldn’t be? And because Todd wasn’t just a vestigial remnant of his other life – the life he’d been forced to leave behind in California – Harry must have begun to see and feel that Todd Bright was a kind of life preserver. Tossed to a drowning man clinging to the last of his reserves, Todd was a musician speaking to the same needs Callahan had tried to address his whole life – first with and through his mother and then by playing the piano more and more on his own. And now, as they’d embarked on this peculiar musical journey together, Todd and Harry had formed a rather unique type of bond – that of creative collaborators. 

You just had to speak the language to know what it was that had developed between the two. It wasn’t a romance even if, on some levels, their collaboration was about romance. Their affinity wasn’t sexual, at least not on Callahan’s part, because he’d long known he simply wasn’t wired that way. Yet Didi saw something…an unusual attraction developing between the two…even if Todd was the one smitten.

So when he came to the clinic to visit Callahan, Todd came both as a musician and as a kind of paramour, if one coming at Callahan from an unexpected angle. Nurses and therapists saw it and were ‘sophisticated’ enough to ignore Bright’s surreptitious sidelong glances, yet when Didi was around she sensed trouble. Maybe, like seismic shifts deep within the earth and how clusters of such events foretell a magmatic eruption, she felt she was watching two men with wildly different expectations working towards a single outcome – the composition of a piece of music – yet the inevitable outcome was anything but a foregone conclusion to one of them.

And maybe Callahan felt the first rumblings of that peculiar shift when Todd started being a little more physical when he visited. Little things, really, like a hand on the shoulder, or pushing Callahan’s wheelchair, even when orderlies were standing by to do the chore. Then he showed up in time for physical therapy one morning, watching Callahan’s struggles with even the simplest arm movements, once the shattered arm was removed from cast and traction. And so Todd was there, always there, but now more as a cheerleader, pushing Harry to work harder because so much was at stake now.

Lloyd dropped by from time to time and he had no trouble at all seeing what was going down, and though he did indeed think his father was clueless that didn’t, in his mind anyway, excuse him. In fact, his father’s apparent cluelessness only made him angrier.

Perhaps because Lloyd saw this whole Fandango thing as a means to an end. Todd’s means to Todd’s ends. And then Lloyd simply decided he wasn’t going to be drawn into such a charade.

So when Todd started to talk openly about moving into the house, Ida was gobsmacked – but Lloyd wasn’t…not even a little bit. By that time, after Todd’s open flirtations and what Lloyd perceived as his ruinous influence, the boy had made already up his mind and he knew what needed to be done.

And one morning, while Todd was visiting Harry at the Clinic, he found a copy of his grandmother’s Fourth Piano Concerto and began playing – right through to the bitter end.

© 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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