840 times in s

840 times in succession by

Tired from a nightmare in which ravens had been flapping around my bedhead – the morning after that silly bagatelle – I opened the door and saw the umbrella on my doormat, torn and broken. It was the umbrella I’d made Satie. Canopy of paper, ribs of willow, initials carved on the crook. No note.

     I’d fallen in love with his fingers, six months prior. Long, dreamy, restless. I had entire conversations with them when he was sleeping. I painted them the perfect pigment and he called me his “crazy little sparrow”, letting me suck each digit whilst we ate boiled eggs, drank absinthe.

     When his fingers touched the piano, it was the most mystifying thing you could witness. It was like watching two lovers tiptoe around the idea of Love. I’d sit there and breathe a little. I’d fold white paper into white paper boats or paper birds. I’d often cry, but Satie wouldn’t see.

     We’d race the paper boats in the Jardins du Luxembourg when the weather was splendid and the Russians sang La Marseillaise. Our boats would sail for over an hour until a small child would come along and want to make one his own and Satie would chase him away with whatever umbrella he was carrying that day, opening and closing it, like a starling trying to fly.

     Every note made sense to Satie. “Unlike love,” I once whispered, slotting his fingers through mine. This made him so gloomy he played the black keys all afternoon. When he did speak, he told me to measure every single word I said before saying it.

     So I thought for three and a half days without saying a word. I went out into the streets of Paris and skipped.

     Next time I saw him was in the corridor on rue Cortet. I was coming out of my apartment and he was going into his with his lobster.

      I said, ‘Love is a whim! It comes and goes, Satie!’ and I slipped my key out of the hole. I heard his footsteps behind me, his fingers fall onto the keys. They repeated the same chord sequences over and over.

     The morning after that silly bagatelle, Madame Phillipot, the concièrge, knocked on my door and said she’d peered through the judas at midnight and had seen Satie in his pyjamas open and close his umbrella 840 times (he’d counted), and that lesser forms of crazy could be found in St Anne. I told her that lesser forms of gossip could be found in Pigalle.

     When I shut the door behind me, I realised – oh, the ravens!

 

Erik Satie wrote Vexations after his only love, Susanne Veladon, left him after six months. The tune comes with an accompanying note: “In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, through serious immobility.”

 

 


 

 

Kik Lodge writes flash in France. Her work has featured in The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Sledgehammer Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Bending Genres, Janus Literary and Litro.

@KikLodge

 

 

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“Vintage umbrella illustration” by Free Public Domain Illustrations by rawpixel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

 

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