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The Note

by Chris Cromwell

Chapter 1

Bertrand sat in the middle of the square on a dirty old cardboard wrapped in a colorful profusion of scarves and rags, his head was cocked upward as if to howl at the moon. His guitar lay beside him, his eyes were partially closed and his mouth gaped open. It was early evening on a warm summer night in Amsterdam’s main square; people were out in numbers enjoying the holiday.They purposely gave Bertrand a wide birth; he emitted strange sounds that were more like low screaming than music. Some ventured close enough to drop a few coins on his cardboard just to take a closer look at the angelic, feminine looking man – they tried not to make eye contact.

Bertrand had been a street musician for years now, but his condition was getting worse, he believed he didn’t have long to live. He was once a child prodigy, playing several instruments before the age of five and was the absolute pride of his parents. Back then, he was the toast of the talk show circuit and did command performances for dignitaries. Now all avoided him, and his family had thankfully given up on him.

Sometimes the rush of music came so fast and hard, he couldn’t even scream it out. Other times, it washed over him like a slow running stream. Bertrand hoped some could hear the melody in his song, but from the look of astonishment on their faces, he knew they couldn’t. What saved him was when the rush calmed enough for him to play his guitar - then they understood - then they got it.

Feeling the rush subside, Bertrand picked up his guitar and played a rock-flavoured version of Pachelbel’s Canon...just the way he did in his bedroom as a kid. People stopped in their tracks and turned to see where the light whimsical serenade with a backbeat was coming from. It sounded like multiple instruments as he got into the thick of the allegro, people circled closer to hear and see who was making this extraordinary sound. Coins dropped onto his cardboard in appreciation, and people smiled as he launched into Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

Rock flavored classical was the best in Europe, especially in Amsterdam and Germany. He particularly liked Beethoven. Like many, he believed Beethoven was a Moor with some African blood like him. Bertrand was from New York, born to an African American mother and a Dutch Jewish father. His father was born in Amsterdam; he was spirited away to the U.S. during the war with his parents. Bertrand’s father purposely took his mother back to Holland to have him so he could have dual citizenship. His father loved the Dutch, being thankful that they hid his immediate family away from the Nazis until they made good their escape. The rest of his family and their friends weren’t so lucky, they were transported to Auschwitz. Amsterdam was now Bertran’s refuge.

He could see the notes floating up over the crowd as they spiraled from his guitar. They’d get swept up in the warm summer breeze...and then they’d rain down like a thousand flower petals over the smiling people. The notes would start by flying from his fingers in pastels, leaving tracers in the air like fire flies as he played the flute and violin parts, to his rhythmic thumbing of the base was magic when this happened.

Bertrand could feel the fountain of music starting to surge full force in his head, to the point that the left side of his brain that turned it into art could not keep up. To prevent the onslaught of voices causing the profusion of music, his brain would try to plug holes that allowed them in, petrifying his brain into cement. It was too late on this day, and the cement dam shattered. He had to drop the guitar as his head was cranked sideways, turning it up to the sky at an awkward angle, causing his mouth to gape open again. To the people that were standing around, what came from him now was more like a scream for help than music.

The crowd moved away as quickly as it formed. Some threw money on his cardboard as they left; others just scurried in the other direction before he really cracked up. He was alone again in a city of millions, hoping that someone could understand his song.

Like a soundtrack for a movie the following playlist was picked to help advance and enhance the storyline. It is not necessary to sample all of it but if you are looking for a visual or musical and emotional feel of what the Author is trying to convey try a link or two. I hope it works for you as it did for me.