Palouse by vwl
Six Months Later
Micah and Kat knew the ruse would work, but David was somewhat skeptical as they arrived at the concert hall in Richland, an hour’s drive from Walla Walla.
The hall was empty except for a few workers vacuuming the carpets before the performance and checking the seats one last time. Beyond the doors to the lobby that swung open from time to time, David could see through the windows to the street outside, where cars would drive by every few minutes – nothing like what was going to happen in a short while. It was an hour before the performance, and the outside doors would open soon.
“Are you nervous, Sis?” Micah asked, giving her a jostle.
“Not at all,” she said, “I’m scared spitless.”
The expression caused David to smile. The meaning was the same; only the orifice differed.
“Are you nervous, Bro?”
“I’m scared shitless. No more than usual, though.”
That covered the range, David thought, with bemusement. The butterflies in Micah and Kat were a good sign.
The other musicians began to drift in slowly over the next hour, leaving their coats behind the stage and finding their seats in the backup orchestra sections.
The second item on the program was a concerto for violin, cello and piano. It was billed as Kat’s debut, but also Micah’s in a way: his first public performance as a professional, paid musician since he was a teenager. The pay wasn’t much more than gas money from Walla Walla, but it was income after many years. But it wasn’t the income that brought him to Richland. It was something else.
Micah hadn’t appeared in public except for the Whitman String Quartet’s performances, the final one being two months before, just before graduation, with a small audience at the college. This was a performance in a much larger Richland concert hall
For David, Micah’s transition from college student to professional musician was requiring some adjustment. He had had to suffer the disturbed nights of a mate who was a perfectionist musician. Micah hadn’t slept well. He was up out of the bed and into the living room, playing an invisible violin. Then, he was back in bed, always giving David a kiss – and sometimes a squeeze – and always unintentionally waking David, who really didn’t mind, especially the squeezes. David had not known how driven Micah could be, though he suspected that his early success was due to some inner drive that was reemerging now. He was living with a genius, and the pride that he felt offset most of the inconvenience.
They retreated to the Green Room in Richland to wait for their performance cue. Micah was deep in concentration – into another world. Kat and David were able to exchange small talk as they heard the orchestra warm up.
“Twenty minutes,” the stage manager came by and said. If Micah heard it, there was no indication. David walked over the mirror and straightened his tie. It was all good, he thought to himself. He went over to Micah and straightened Micah’s tie before giving him a warm kiss. Maybe Micah noticed, but David couldn’t tell.
“Fifteen minutes,” the stage manager announced five minutes later.
“Okay, Kat, time to get food poisoning,” David said. Kat rose, opened the door, signaled to the stage manager and said she wasn’t able to perform. The stage manager went berserk. Nothing like this had ever happened to him. He scurried to the Green Room in panic.
“What can we do?” he asked in complete breakdown mode. “I have a thousand people out there.”
“Well,” David said, “Micah’s mother is in the audience, and she knows the piece very well and could play it, I’m sure. Why don’t you announce that there has been a slight delay and request that Betty Kingman come backstage to the Green Room. We can have an answer one way or the other in no time.”
“Okay, I’ll do it.” There was a crossing of fingers.
A few minutes later Betty Kingman arrived backstage.
“You have to stand in for Kat; she just went to the ladies’ room to barf,” David said. “Can you do it?”
“I haven’t practiced that piece in years, except to help Kat,” Betty said, “but if this is the only way to continue the concert, I think I can do it. Just be gentle with me.” Micah, behind Betty, gave David the thumbs-up signal.
David summoned the stage manager. “We have the solution. Kat’s mother will play with us; she knows the piece. Just ask the director to announce the substitution, and we’ll be out there right away.”
They were on stage several minutes later. Betty started a little hesitantly, but by the 20th measure she was fully into the piece, and fingers-memory took over. Micah smiled across to David and nodded his happiness with what was happening. Kat stood in the wings, fully enjoying the performance, as well.
The performance was warmly received, and Betty, David and Micah gathered downstage to accept the applause. Micah started to take David’s hand on one side and his mother’s on the other, not wanting to cause any problem. Betty had other ideas, and she eased herself between her son and prospective son-in-law. No one in the audience noticed what had happened, but Kat, in the wings, did. It worked, she said to herself. It worked.
It was five years later. It was New York City. Traffic was at a standstill on Seventh Avenue as Micah and David watched the taxi meter continue ticking away. They only needed to go four more blocks to 57th Street and Carnegie Hall where they’d been earlier in the day for rehearsals.
“We can walk the rest of the way,” Micah said to the driver, handing him money to pay the fare plus a tip. He grabbed the clothing bag with his tuxedo in it and hopped out of the car, followed closely by David. He had left his Guarneri safely stowed at the concert hall. The two of them crossed through two lanes of stalled cars and their exasperated drivers, finally reaching the sidewalk where they turned north and started to walk in the last of the autumn sun.
They had walked about 100 feet when they heard a young male voice behind them: “Excuse me. Can you tell me how I get to Carnegie Hall?” The voice came from a brown-haired, good-looking boy, probably about 16 years old. Micah and David looked at each other and started to giggle.
“Oh-oh, I set myself up for the oldest musician joke that there is,” the youth said.
“That you did,” Micah said, as he looked at David. “First, you need a lifemate that supports you and pushes you and is happy when you succeed.” He kissed David warmly on the lips. “Practice – practice helps, also,” and they all laughed at the punchline of the joke.
“Why don’t you follow us? That’s where we’re going,” David said. “My name’s David, and this, as you may have guessed, is my lifemate, Micah.” The three of them started to walk up Seventh Avenue.
“I’m Steven Elmore, and this is the first time I’ve ever been to New York. I live on a farm outside of Findlay, Ohio. I just got off the bus an hour ago, and I got off the subway too early.” His eyes moved from David to Micah and back. “Are you, er, together?”
“Yes, we’ve been together for a few years now,” Micah answered.
“Someday, I’d like to be with someone,” Steven said longingly, his eyes bright and serious. “But it’s hard to find someone when you live on a farm.”
“I know. I was raised on a farm in Eastern Washington, but I was lucky enough to see the world, including this part of it,” Micah said as he put his arm around David’s waist.
The light dawned on Steven. “You’re that Micah! Micah Kingman! You’re my idol. I’ve read all about you.” Steven bounced with excitement. “This is awesome. I came here to see you play. Wow! I have only 11 hours to spend in New York before I catch the bus back home and I meet Micah Kingman in person. Wow! You and Jake Cantwell are my idols. Out, proud, role models.
“I can’t believe this – meeting you. You’re the winner of the Queen Elizabeth violin competition in Belgium.
“You played at the White House.
“You’ve played with the New York Philharmonic and the Cleveland Symphony.
“You played with Yo Yo Ma.
“You started your own charity, Yei Rainbow Guardian, to keep track of and watch over foster children with Navajo blood. Then you played a nationally televised special concert at Window Rock on the Navajo reservation to raise money for it.
“You accompanied Bono on his latest CD. You’re amazing.”
“Don’t let all that exuberance go to your head, Micah,” David said, laughing.
They turned onto 57th Street and neared the concert hall. “Steven, I’m curious; why are you coming here so early in the day?” Micah asked. “The concert doesn’t start for several more hours. Most people don’t come here until just before the performance. ”
“I have to buy a ticket, and I thought if I got here early I might find someone who will sell one cheaply.”
Micah and David exchanged looks. Then, Micah said: “We have an extra ticket that you can have. You’ll have to sit with my family and some friends from Seattle, if that’s okay.”
“Hell, I’d sit with the hogs if I had to. Oops! I didn’t mean it that way.” Micah and David started laughing. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” Steven said as David handed him a ticket. “How much do I owe you?” Steven looked at the price on the ticket and blanched.
“Hmm,” David said, putting his finger to his cheek in apparent thought. “You don’t owe us anything for the ticket. It’s a gift. However, you are required to accompany us to dinner after the concert so you can recite all of Micah’s accomplishments again for those who don’t know the list. Otherwise, Micah’s head might deflate.”
A sad look came over Steven’s face. “I…I don’t have any money for anything but maybe a piece of pizza and a Coke.”
“You have the rest of your ticket money. However, your money is no good at our dinner party.”
“You’re way too generous, and I have to catch the bus at midnight, so I have to say no.”
David turned to Micah. “I guess he didn’t hear me. I said he was required to come to dinner with us if he accepted the ticket.”
“Do you think we should ask for the ticket back?” Micah said.
“Okay, okay,” Steven said, joy spreading across his lean face. “But I hope there’s something cheap on the menu.”
“The dinner could end late, and, as I said, your money is not good tonight with us. Isn’t there a bus tomorrow that you can take?” David asked.
Steven looked embarrassed. “I don’t have any place to stay, and even if there was a place, I probably don’t have any money for a room except for some place I shouldn’t stay at. I used all my savings to come here.”
“Hmm,” David said, striking the same finger-on-cheek pose as he had done earlier. “We have a suite at the Waldorf with an extra bedroom, so I think having young Steven here stay there will be added to the price of the ticket. He’s a hard bargainer. What do you think, Micah?”
“I think this young man needs to call home and tell his parents that he will be taking a later bus. That’s what I think.”
An overwhelmed Steven started to cry, tears streaming down his cheeks despite the pure joy in his wide smile. Micah and David moved up to him and put their arms over his shoulder as they walked the last few yards to the stage-door entrance, with Steven between them.
“Everybody’s going to meet us right here after the concert, so either follow my folks and our friends or just come here on your own,” Micah instructed. “I have to get inside to get ready.”
“That was sweet of you, luv,” Micah said after the stage door had closed behind them. “That boy will never forget this day, and I hope he finds a lifemate as wonderful as you are to keep him warm and true for the rest of his life.”
“You know, Micah, I hope he finds someone to support him when he falters and is happy for him when he succeeds.”
“Just like you.”
As the lights dimmed two hours later, the visiting Chicago Symphony opened with Beethoven’s Coriolanus Overture, followed by Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto and a standing ovation for Micah. Sitting on the aisle five rows back were Stan, Kat and Betty, who kept wiping the tears from her eyes as her son performed. Next to them were Marcia Vilas, an awe-struck Steven, Jake, and Robbie. The promise of seats at Carnegie Hall made years earlier was fulfilled. Next to Robbie was Micah’s and David’s final guest of honor, an elderly woman from Phoenix, Arizona, who closed her eyes and remembered a nine-year-old, half-Navajo boy and Poppa M., her late husband, listening to the same concerto on the stereo.
After the concert, Micah and David treated family and friends to a late supper at Windows on the World, where they looked over the lights of Manhattan as they ate, accompanied by a couple of bottles or three or four of Robbie’s and Jake’s favorite Pol Roger Winston Churchill Cuvee champagne.