Jean-Claude Beauvais, a story
Book 001 Prologue Born in New Jersey
Chapter 7.To JCb from Dw
Monsieur Malraux patted Dashiell’s shoulder.
“You have a great talent… a fine future ahead of you.”
Dashiell looked at me.
Monsieur Malraux continued, “Trust me. I know about these things.”
There was a pause. Dashiell asked, “What do you do?”
Monsieur Malraux turned to me.
“What does he mean when he says ‘do?’”
I knew Dashiell meant.
As politely as I could, I translated.
“Dashiell would like to know your position?”
Monsieur Malraux understood, immediately, and said, “I am a novelist, art historian, explorer, Spanish Civil war fighter pilot, World War II resistance leader, and advocate of the arts. The French government currently pays me as the Minister of Cultural Affairs. Like I said, ‘I know about these things.’”
Dashiell simply said, “Wow.”
Minister Malraux turned back to me.
“Monsieur Beauvais, I would like to hang your drawing in the Louvre. I know very little about music, but my wife, the musician in the family, says you are precocious, too.”
I said, “That’s what they say.”
Minister Malraux looked into Dashiell’s eyes.
“A man is… what he achieves.”
He nodded toward Dashiell.
“Your life can be more exciting, than mine…”
“Of course, that’s for you to determine.”
He looked at me and returned his focus to Dashiell.
“May I ask a few of my friends to look at your drawing?”
Dashiell said, “Sure, if it’s okay with Jean-Claude. It is his drawing.”
Aunt Odie and Maurice popped in.
They had already met Monsieur Malraux.
“We were looking for your Grandmamma.”
I said, “She’s not here.”
“Sorry to bother you.”
The door closed.
Monsieur Malraux said, “I must go. My wife will have the foreign legion hunting me like a criminal.”
He left, to avoid the foreign legion.
I was so excited for Dashiell.
“You’re going to be famous all around the world.”
Dashiell said, “I got to pee.”
He went to the toilet.
I sat to play.
Dashiell returned, as I finished a popular tune.
“Dashiell, you don’t have to knock. You can just walk in.”
“I didn’t want to be presumptuous. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. You’re a world-famous celebrity.”
I played a couple nocturnes I knew he liked. He stretched out on the fluffy couch. When I finished, he sat up and clapped.
We closed the outside doors and went in the Grand Ballroom.
Dashiell and I sat with Aunt Odie and Maurice.
“No band?” I asked.
Aunt Odie looked at her wristwatch.
“8:10. They’re supposed to start at 8:00.”
Maurice pushed away from the table.
“I’ll ask Gizzie, if there’s something wrong. Be right back.”
Aunt Gizzie pointed to the curtain.
“Maury. Use the phone behind the curtain.”
While Uncle Maurice talked to Aunt Gizzie, one of the guests came to the table.
“Where’s the band?”
I pointed to Uncle Maurice on the phone.
“There’s a temporary problem. The music will begin shortly.”
Satisfied, she returned to her table.
I turned to my buddy.
“Dashiell, do me a favor?”
“Go in the music room,” I slipped him the key, “and push the service cart with the music on it in here. I’ll play the piano, until the band gets here.”
“Great idea. I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll start playing, while you’re getting the music.”
I leaned to Aunt Odie, “Could you turn on the piano microphone?”
She said, “Bjorn can.”
I looked around for Bjorn. He sat with one of his dancing partners, laughing.
“Could you please turn on the piano microphone?”
“It’s on, Jean-Claude. Tap it,” he said with a tapping finger motion. “It’s warmed up.”
I tapped the piano microphone. The tap echoed in the Grand Ballroom.
I went to my table. Aunt Odie and Uncle Maurice were ‘busy.’
I flagged a Red.
“Please bring a pitcher with iced water, and glass and a napkin, to the piano.”
I went to the piano, sat on the bench, pulled the microphone to me, and struck a chord.
“Welcome to Lake Pennyworth Place’s Grand Ballroom. Tonight, the band has not arrived yet, so I will play some tunes for your dancing pleasure. I promise, no Chopin, Debussy, nor Bach.
Dashiell opened the fat mail envelope, pulled out the sheet music, and set the tunes on the piano.
“The sheet music for the top twenty tunes arrived today in the mail. Tonight, I’ll play them for your dancing pleasure. I hope you enjoy them.”
“One more thing.”
“No tossing eggs or tomatoes at the piano guy.”
I received a gentle laff.
“I’ll start the evening with Bing and Gary Crosby’s tune, “Sam’s Song.”
Next, we’ll hear Tony Bennett’s “Boulevard Of Broken Dreams.”
“Sammy Kaye is selling lots of this song, ‘Harbor Lights.’”
Dashiell arrived with the cart of music.
Behind him, the Red arrived with the water service.
“Thanks Dashiell. Put the top twenty up on the music desk. Turn the pages, as I play them. Then I’ll play it again from memory and you can change the music, while I play.”
“Are you sure?”
“Of course. This’ll be fun.”
I leaned forward to the microphone.
“I heard this on the radio today, and now for your dancing pleasure, here is “‘My Darling, My Darling,’ by Doris Day & Buddy Clark.”
“Here is a string band favorite, ‘I'm Looking Over A Four Leaf Clover.’”
“Nat King Cole sings about this famous painting in the Louvre, in Paris, ‘Mona Lisa.’”
“Doris Day sings this tune, ‘A Bushel and A Peck.’”
“The Delta Rhythm Boys play this on the radio, ‘St Louis Blues.’”
“I’ll take a little break, for a few minutes. I’ll be back in ten minutes, with…”
I looked at the title of the next piece of sheet music.
“The Mills Brothers’ ‘Someday, You'll Want Me to Want You.’”
Everyone applauded. I took a little bow and went to sit with Dashiell, Aunt Odie, Grandpapa, and Grandmamma. “I hope I’m not an embarrassment.”
Grandpapa replied, “Never. By the way, let me ask you a question?”
“Are you having a good time?”
“Oh, yes. Grandpapa. Yes.”
“I am just checking.”
I didn’t know what he meant but I was certain I would find out, when the time came.”
I put a couple pieces of ice in my wine, dropped it down, and sat back and relaxed.
Grandmamma said, “You don’t look nervous.”
“Yes. If I were in front of all these people, I’d be a nervous wreck.”
“For years, you managed the kitchen and you weren’t a nervous wreck in there.”
“Yes, but that is different. I knew what I was doing in the kitchen.”
“You can just figure… when I’m playing the piano… I know what I am doing.”
I nodded at Dashiell.
“When he does his art, he knows what he is doing.”
Grandmamma said, “I guess you’re right. Still, I wouldn’t want to get up in front of all these people and say anything, especially into that microphone.”
“Time for me to liven up the place.”
I stood, walked behind Grandpapa to Grandmamma, bent over, and kissed her forehead. I turned to Dashiell.
We walked to the piano bench.
I leaned into the microphone.
“Some of guests are looking a little weary, so I am going to play a polka, to get everyone in a moving mood.”
Dashiell asked me, “What polka are you going to play?”
I turned to Dashiell and asked, in the microphone, “What did you say?”
I pushed the microphone to him.
“What polka are you going to play?”
I pulled the microphone back to me.
“For you dancing pleasure, here comes a razzmatazz version of ‘The Beer Barrel Polka.”
I played a souped up, high power version of the polka.
“Everyone awake now?”
The crowd responed, “Yes…”
“This will be a change of pace. Here is The Mills Brothers’ ‘Someday, You'll Want Me to Want You.’”
“Next is Gene Autry’s ‘Buttons and Bows.’”
“Here is a fun tune, ‘The Old Piano Roll Blues.’”
“We all love this one. The Mills Brothers’ ’Daddy’s Little Girl.’”
“A neat tune by Danny Kaye, ‘I've Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts.’”
“Louis Armstrong & Ella Fitzgerald sang this sweet song, ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me.’”
“Vaughn Monroe croons this tune, ‘That Lucky Old Sun.’”
This is a catchy tune, and I hope I finger it right. Here goes Les Paul’s ‘Goofus.’”
“We have all heard Perry Como sing ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ on TV.”
“Margaret Whiting & Johnny Mercer make beautiful music, with ‘Baby, It's Cold Outside.’”
“Our last tune of the evening, ‘Good Night Sweetheart’ and ‘Good Night, Irene.’”
“I want to honor President de Gaulle’s Minister of Cultural Affairs, André Malraux. For you, sir, and all the French men and ladies in the Grand Ballroom, here is ‘La Marseillaise.’”
The guests were standing, singing, and clapping to the march.
I finished, and put the keyboard cover down, indicating the end of the program. Dashiell and I rose; I bowed; Dashiell stood, embarrassed; the crowd applauded.
Dashiell and I sat with Aunt Odie, Grandmamma, and Grandpapa. Pierre-Gauthier was at the table with his mom and dad. He waved and I waved back. I looked at Dashiell, “Do you think he would like to see the freight train, tonight?”
Dashiell said, “We’ll know if we ask him.”
We excused ourselves from the table and went to Pierre-Gauthier’s table. “Good evening, Pierre-Gauthier. Shortly the night train” I pointed to the South, “is coming and Dashiell and I like to go watch it. Do you want to come with us?”
He gave his father a questioning look. Minister Malraux nodded his approval.
I told a passing Red, “I need the carriage at the front door.”
Dashiell and I put the music away in my music room and returned to the Grand Ballroom, to retrieve Pierre-Gauthier for some serious train watching.
Madame Lioux, Pierre-Gauthier’s pianist step mom, held her hand out to me.
“Yes. Madame Lioux?”
I expected “Pierre-Gauthier cannot go with us.”
Very deliberately, she asked, “You played the music, never seeing it before?”
“Yes, Madame Lioux. Correct.” Dashiell took the music from the package that arrived in the mail, today. I never had a chance to look at it before. Sorry, if I made mistakes.”
“Your making mistakes is not the what is amazing. You read and played the music. You are most courageous and most unusual.”
“What should I do with a room of people who are looking to dance and the band doesn’t show up? I could entertain the guests. I asked my friend, Dashiell, to bring in the music on the service cart and toss the tunes on the music desk. I played them as he put them on the music desk.”
“You didn’t use the music for the repeat and key change.”
“Yes. I performed the repeat and key changes in my head.”
“What is your name, again?”
“I am Jean-Claude Beauvais, grandson of your host, Monsieur Beauvais.” I did my little bow, which seemed to charm women. She was charmed.
I turned to Pierre-Gauthier.
“Shall we go?”
We said our “Good-Byes,” turned, and exited the door to the Grand Hallway.
As we approached the front door, Daniel opened the front door for us. “Nice evening.” Daniel’s way of asking where are you, guys, going.
I replied, “Nice, indeed. We’re going to watch the doubleheader drag the coal cars at the train station.”
The white carriage and four arrived at a canter and pulled to a stop. Daniel opened the carriage door. We walked into the carriage. Daniel closed the door.
“Bye. Bye. Daniel.”
As the carriage pulled away from the porte-cochère, I said. “You can bet he is in there telling Gizzie where we are going.”
Pierre-Gauthier asked, “Who is Gizzie?”
“She’s my aunt. She runs the switchboard.”
I knew I missed something when Dashiell elbowed me. The second time he elbowed me, I knew I missed something, but Pierre-Gauthier and Dashiell didn’t miss it.
“Okay. Guys! What did I miss.”
Dashiell said, “Pierre-Goat-tee-ay spoke English.”
I said, “He did?”
Pierre-Gauthier said, ”When adults are around, I’m not supposed to speak English. You know, not supposed to.’”
Pierre-Gauthier said, “My father speaks English, but he wants Vincent and I to speak French. Both of them speak English, when they want to.”
I added, “Dashiell and I heard your papa speak English. None from your mama.”
Pierre-Gauthier snapped, “She’s not my mama. She’s my step-mother. My real mama died, in a train accident.”
I added, “100 per cent better than my situation.”
Dashiell knew; Pierre-Gauthier asked, “Better?”
“I have no dad... he died in a trolley accident... no mom... she died of pneumonia… so I play piano.”
Dashiell added, “I have a mama and a papa, but no house and no organ.”
“Pierre-Gauthier pointed to Dashiell crotch, “You have no organ?”
Dashiell answered, “I have ‘that’ organ.”
Dashiell and I laughed.
“A plane crashed, and set fire to the block I lived on. My house burned to the ground and with it, my organ burned, too. A new one is coming tomorrow.”
Pierre-Gauthier said, “They bombed my house in the war. One bomb came right through the roof, through the floors, and into the basement. It didn’t go off. We all got out of the house in the night. They blew the bomb up the next day. If it went off the Nazis dropped it, Vincent and I would be in little boxes.”
After the private tales of woe, the carriage stopped beside the train station. We walked on to the platform and sat on a bench, waiting for the coal train. The 10:20 train passed, while we talked with Daniel at the porte-cochère.
I pointed westward along the tracks, into the darkness.
“It will be coming from the West. You’ll see it, when it turns, down the track. You won’t miss it.”
Dashiell started jumping. “There it is.”
Pierre-Gauthier didn’t understand why we were so excited.
It seemed to take forever. The whistles blew as the locomotives approached the road crossing. The ground began trembling, under foot. The noise increased, the shaking increased. The excitement increased. The fireman waved to us, as the locomotive passed. A long blast of the whistle ensued. We waved as the second locomotive passed. We received a second toot of the whistle and we began counting the passing coal cars; Dashiell in English; Pierre-Gauthier, in French.
The caboose passed; the red lantern vanished on its way to the city.
The carriage took us to the porte-cochère.
Daniel opened the door; we went inside. We said “Goodnight” to Pierre-Gauthier and went to 401.
We talked a while on the balcony. I turned off the chimes and we went to bed.
After we settled in and were comfortable, I whispered, “I guess the thing you and I have to figure out is whether we want to become famous as artists.”
“What do you mean, famous?”
“Famous, you know like Van Gogh and Saint-Saëns?”
“You and me? You’re kidding. What would we be famous for?”
“You are a young Van Gogh. I am a young Saint-Saëns. People who know about these things said so. The question is do we want to reach for the brass ring?”
Dashiell sat up in bed, “You know, Jean-Claude, you’re crazy.”
I snuggled up with my pillow and said, ever so quietly, “Just think about it. We can talk about it tomorrow. Good Night, Dashiell.” I closed my eyes.
I felt the mattress move, again. “You’re impossible, Jean-Claude. How can I sleep … Ugh! How can I sleep thinking about Van Gogh?”
“Just give it a little thought. We’ll talk about it in the morning. I promise to not cut off your ear.”
I opened my eyes. The light was bright. I heard the 8:20 pulling out of the station. I turned over to wake Dashiell. He was not in bed. I went to go in the shower. I saw through the curtains he was sitting on the balcony. I opened the door and joined him.
A grumpy “Good Morning” came back to me.
“What’s the matter?”
He leaned forward, putting his elbows on his knees, “I keep thinking about what you said last night.”
As if I didn’t know what I said last night.
“What did I say last night?”
“You know, about being a famous artist, and all.”
“Have you made up your mind, yet?”
Dashiell started, with a whine, “well I kind of want to, but…”
I interrupted him.
With some whine in my voice, “this isn’t kind of want to.”
I added forcefully, “This is yes, I want to.”
Even more forcefully…
“I am driven to.”
Back to my whiney voice, “Not… oh… well… maybe…”
Without the theatrics…
“You have to want it badly to endure the pain.”
He looked up.
“Artists are driven by their art.”
Still whiney, almost pleadingly, “Can I think about it some more?”
“You have a lifetime to think about it. The Malrauxs could start our careers, today. They’re professionals… respected around the world.”
Saying the name, Malraux, made me even more excited.
“What makes this an even better opportunity is they are both very influential, which is more important than money in the bank.”
Dashiell hung his head in his hands and looked at the balcony floor.
“I wasn’t expecting this.”
“Neither was I. I am a kid who likes to play a piano. You’re a kid who likes to draw. We’ve bumped into each other and not the Malrauxs have arrived.”
“No one expects the Malrauxs to walk into their lives and say, “Hey, why don’t you guys be famous.”
“Things just happen. I guess if you want to take advantage of it, the door is open; and if you don’t, the door will close.”
“We’ll talk tonight. I’m too torn, now.”
“You want to shower first… or me?”
Dashiell put his head back on his hands and gazed out on the golfers, teeing off… in resignation.
As I stepped into the shower, I sensed Dashiell could not see through his doubts.
I stood in the shower, eyes closed, water streaming down my face, wondering if it was my place to talk him through his doubts.
Should I walk him through making the decision? I am very biased. Why doesn’t his papa or mama talk to him?
Should I respect his indecision, for whatever reason, and let it be?
Perhaps, I should ask him.
I ended my discussion with me, as I stood naked, brushing my teeth in the mirror.
My final decision: To let him bring it up and when he did, I would not lead him at all, unless he asked me for help. I promised him in my mind to tell him I wanted him to be with me. ‘Something inside me,’ told me I had to be proper with him, I had to be honest with him. He walked into the bathroom, as I came out.
I noticed he was smiling, which I took to mean “all was well” for the time being.
“Water’s nice and warm.”
I dressed, both sides, anterior, posterior, nails, hair, shoes. I have to redo my hair.
Dashiell and I began dressing alike. Today was plaid shirts and blue trousers, with brown shoes.
I sat in the sitting room. I heard something outside. I looked. A delivery truck at the front door. Someone turned the motor off on the truck. I looked outside again. “Yep. It’s here. I ran in the dressing room.
“Dashiell. Your baby is here.”
“I can’t wait.”
“I am so happy for you.”
We took the stairs two at a time, a forbidden activity, except when Dashiell’s new organ arrived.
We arrived on the ground floor, with our hearts pounding. Jim was in the office doorway, talking to Aunt Gizzie.
“Let’s have breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. You pick some ringside seats and I’ll have breakfast delivered.”
When I returned to the Grand Ballroom, Dashiell sat at a table beside the piano on the dance floor. The papers for the organ and a stack of organ music sat on the table. The delivery had begun.
A Red wheeled in coffee service on a cart.
I passed him on his way to the table.
“Napkins. Make sure there are napkins.”
He turned, ran out, returned with a handful of napkins, and resumed pushing the service cart to Dashiell’s table.
Dashiell drank his orange juice and I worked on my coffee. A Blue pushed a service cart to the table. Off came the domed lids and there was my morning sweet roll. I closed my eyes and thanked Mister Allison for starting my day with a touch of sanity.”
I sliced off a piece of the sweet role and savored it.
“Excellent as always, a touch of sweet, without being too sweet.”
Once the crates were opened, the organ sat there, accompanied by the bench, sitting obtusely a few feet away.
Next to the piano, the pedal board sat with its bottom in the air and its private parts exposed for the world to see.
Grandpapa, holding a cigar, and Father Winifred, holding a couple books, came in laughing. They sat at the table with us, and looked on as the first of the Leslies arrived in its crate and was promptly uncrated.
Grandpapa asked, “What in the world is that?”
Dashiell said, “A Leslie.”
Grandpapa repeated, “Hmmm. A Leslie.”
Grandpapa and Father Winifred watch as the men rolled the another crate across the dance floor and uncrated the other Leslie.
Grandpapa said, “Hmmm. Another Leslie.”
The moving men exited with the crates.
Jim came to the table, introduced himself to Grandpapa and Father Winifred, and asked, “Where do you want it placed?”
Grandpapa looked at me and I looked at Dashiell, who was reading some of the papers. I elbowed him, “Where should they put it?”
He looked at me and said, “What?”
“Where should they put the organ?”
“I don’t know.”
Immediately it was decision time. I hate to make decisions when I don’t know what I am doing.
“Well, Let me take a look.”
I strode knowledgeably to the side of the piano. I pointed to the narrow end of the piano, pointed to the floor past the piano.
“Put the organ there, facing the piano and the two speakers…”
Jim, Grandpapa, Father Winifred, four moving men looked on while I walked and mumbled to myself as if I had great thoughts in my head. All of the time, I wished Dashiell, my expert on organs and Leslie sounders, would stand up and announce the best positions for the Leslies.
I stopped, looked up to Jim and delivered the result of my technical calculations.
“On the sides of the stage.”
“Thank you. Jean-Claude. We’ll have them connected in a few minutes.”
I returned to the table to sip another cup of coffee and perhaps another bit of sweet roll.
A bellboy came in with a note for Grandpapa. He said, “Okay.” Grandpapa opened the note and read it.
Father Winifred asked, “You have to go?”
Grandpapa was getting giddy.
“I’m scheduled for a meeting, and I’m dying to hear the machine.”
Grandpapa looked at the bellhop.
“Ask Gizzie to bring them in here. I don’t want to miss this. Sales people drive me crazy.”
The men moved the Leslie speakers into position beside the stage. Cables, as thick as my wrist, extended to the organ.
Jim slid the naked pedal board into its natural position and he placed the bench on the business end of the instrument.
Jim called to me.
“Jean-Claude. Come. Be the first to play the organ in its new installation.”
“But I don’t play organ. I play piano.”
I extended my arm to Dashiell.
“Dashiell plays organ.”
Dashiell got red with embarrassment.
I patted him on his shoulder.
“Let’s go, Tiger!”
Dashiell did not budge from the table, so I went to try the organ.
Jim explained how to turn on the organ. He pointed out the tiny green lights on the Leslie controls.
He opened the bench. There was a bag of written material about the organ and an owner’s manual and the keys to the keyboard cover.
“No one locks them, but if you would ever want to, here’s the keys. They’re all the same. If you do lock it, and ever lose the keys, call me, and I will send another pair in the mail.”
I motioned to Dashiell.
“Are you going play something for us?”
He shook his head negatively.
I looked to Jim.
“Could you perform a few minutes of music, to let my Grandpapa and Father Winifred know what it should sound like, when it’s played properly?”
He played for about a half hour. I could tell he enjoyed playing. I wanted to show him Veronica and play her for him.
The music flowed effortlessly.
The idea of three keyboards fascinated. All those controls, just the thought of them, numbed my mind.
I could not, for the life of me, understand why Dashiell wasn’t leaping out of his chair, to play this wonderful instrument. Grandpapa called it a machine, but what I heard was more than a machine; it was an electric instrument with wondrous possibilities.
Jim came to the table.
“Here’s the warranty and other papers.”
He looked at me.
“If you would like lessons, Jean-Claude, you get a year of beginner’s Hammond Organ lessons, free with the instrument.”
I spoke right up.
“I’ll take you up on that offer.”
Grandpapa spoke right up, too.
“Say. Do these come in white and gold?”
Jim replied, “Any colors or woods you like.”
“I take another one in White and Gold for here. This machine is going in the basement of the new church, we’re going to build,”
I can deliver it in a week. Special finishes are a special order. Those sound chambers, white and gold, too. That’s a special order, too. They will come from Ohio, I believe. A couple weeks and they’ll be here.
Grandpapa asks, “One more question?”
“When you bring the new machine, could you move this one for us?” I knew where Grandpapa was going with this.
“Where did you have in mind?”
Grandpapa’s eyes rolled to me.
I stood up and said, “I’ll show you. Follow me.”
I opened the door, flipped on the chandeliers, and pranced across my music room to open the outside doors.
“Well, I would suggest…” I said, pointing to the floor next to the piano, “here!”
Jim looked at Veronica.
I said, “She’s my piano.”
“You do play?”
“Sit down for a few minutes. Let me give you a little piano interlude.”
I played Debussy, Saint-Saëns, and “Daddy’s Little Girl.”
“You are really very good.”
“Thank you. I might play organ, someday. The idea of three keyboards fascinates me.”
“The pedals are easy to learn for any style of music. There’s nothing wrong with your feet or legs, is there?”
“No. I have the regular kind, a matched set of left leg and left foot, and right leg and right foot. The shoe store lady said my feet are too big. I told her, ‘They fit my legs very well. Thank you!”
“Big feet are not a problem.”
“Moving the organ in here is fine. You may want to use the regular Leslies. When we make the move, I’ll bring a pair with me, and you can try them for a month or so. The Pro Leslies are very powerful, actually, too powerful for a room this size. A pair of the regular Leslies would be adequate for this room.”
“Let’s go in the Ballroom. I’ll show you some fundamentals to get you started.”
We left my music room.
I stopped Jim in the hallway.
“I really would prefer if it didn’t look like I was getting in the way of Dashiell playing the organ. This is really an organ for him to play at church.”
“I’ll show you both. Then my showing you will not look like I’m showing you. O.K?”
“Great idea. Do it!”
I opened the door to the Grand Ballroom and we headed for the organ console.
Jim stopped, before he sat at the organ bench, and said, “Mister Beauvais. Moving the organ in there will be quite easy. It will fit, beautifully.”
Grandpapa returned a “Thank you,” got up and went to meet with the salesmen, gathered at the other end of the Grand Ballroom.
Jim looked at Dashiell, “If you and,” he feigned looking around for me, “Jean-Claude, and anyone else who might play this organ will gather around, I’ll show you the fundamentals to playing this organ. Could you bring some of that music with you, please. We’ll have something to play.”
For the next hour and a half, Jim explained all the goodies, and what they were used for, what to do, what not to do, and so on. Now I understood the drawbars, presets, Leslies, vibrato, reverberation, and a couple other things. Jim explained the organ music, the bottom staff. “Here is C.” “Toe and heel.” I played the pedals, operated the volume pedal, played with the Leslies and both manuals.
Jim asked, “Any questions?”
I said, “No.”
Dashiell didn’t say anything. He was in full fidget mode.
Jim sat down to write the order for the other organ. Dashiell went to the table to sit. I went to the table to see what was there. The books Father Winifred brought were hymnals from Saint Regis Church. I asked if I could play from one of them. I picked up the books and put them in the piano bench. I put on the music desk and sat at the piano to play some hymns from the book, just to relax myself.
I opened the book and played a couple hymns. I played the hymn and changed the key the second time around. Dashiell looked upset. I had no idea what was bothering him. I played a couple more.
I felt confident to play the organ, now. I went and sat at the console, flipped on the middle preset on both manuals, and played, doubling the bass note from the manual on the pedals. The pedals were not difficult at all. I flipped on the Leslie as I played. I was starting to have a really nice time. Jim came over to me.
“Did I do something wrong?”
“No. Not at all. Something is not quite right. Something doesn’t fit. How come you say you are a piano player, and when you played the music on the piano, you had to look at the music? When you played the organ, you don’t need the music. Something’s wrong.”
“No,” I said. “Nothing’s wrong. It’s…”
Suddenly, Dashiell burst into tears, behind me. I turned and jumped from the organ to console my friend, in tears.
“What is it, Dashiell?” What’s the matter?”
Between whimpers, he said, “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“What do you mean, nothing.”
I hugged him, and wiped his face with a napkin.
“There’s something wrong. Please tell me.”
“I know what you did.”
“What did I do?”
“You looked in the hymnal and then played a hymn on the organ.”
“I can’t do that,” followed by more serious crying, whimpering, tears, and wet napkin wiping.
“I can’t draw a line. I can’t help myself with the music, and you can’t help yourself with the drawing. That’s the way we are.”
Grandpapa came to fix any problems. Father Winifred and he looked on as if they were watching Ernie Kovacs. They apparently were waiting for a commercial.
I patted his shoulder.
“You and I have seen professionals acclaim your work. You draw, effortlessly. You are a prodigy.”
“Now about me. Please listen to me…”
“You are my dearest friend.”
I hugged him closer.
“You have seen professionals acclaim my work. I can play effortlessly. I am a prodigy.”
I squeezed him to evoke an answer.
“It would be silly for me to try to draw like you do. Right?”
He fell apart again. He already had the rest of the conversation in his head.
I wanted to wrap Grandpapa’s jacket, loaded with fresh cigars, around him, to protect him from himself.
Part of me wanted to take Dashiell and go somewhere… somewhere, where we would never draw or play music again. There we could simply be two happy guys like Gregors and Bjorn… like Dashiell and I were, when we sang in church at Christmas time. That was so far away now… so long ago… somewhere over the rainbow.
All I could do was hold him. I had to remain strong now and not cry. I felt my eyes starting. No. I must not cry. I cried. We cried.
Grandpapa said, “Edmund. What do you think of this?”
“Prodigies… They say artists are sensitive. We have a pair of sensitive kids here, Beau, we’re going to have an interesting time raising them.”
Jim asked, “What is happening? Why are they both so upset?”
Grandpapa led with, “Jean-Claude reads a piece of music and he has it committed to memory after the first read. Dashiell, who works very hard to play the organ, saw Jean-Claude read the music at the piano and then play it on the organ from memory… That upset Dashiell. Dashiell’s upset, upset Jean-Claude.”
Edmund slapped Grandpapa on the back, laughing and added, “Beau and I promise you, Jim, this will be more complicated, when you bring the other organ.”
Grandpapa and Edmund nodded in agreement, at Jim.
Jim decided to leave while he was ahead.
“Tell the boys, ‘there are two books of plain staff paper in the bag on the table. Jean-Claude asked for it.’”
“Please turn the organ off, before you leave.”
“They know how to turn it on. Right?”
“Yes. They do. Bye. Bye.” I heard the organ switch and Jim’s footsteps trail off. A far door to the Grand Ballroom opened and closed.
Grandpapa and Edmund took us into the music room and sat us down.
Grandpapa picked up the phone. “Gizzie. Send Odie in here. We have a problem. Hold on…”
Edmund adds, “Call Adele, too.”
Grandpapa adds, “Call Adele, too.”
Dashiell and I sat, scrunched together among the fluffy pillows, sharing salty tears. We were a collective mess, with eyes reddened, noses running, and faces tear glazed and stinging. I whispered to Dashiell, “Let’s shape up before they get here. It may not be too bad.”
Grandpapa put a box of tissues in front of us. We cleaned up some.
“Go across the hall and clean up.”
We went to cleaned up.
I said, “Whatever happens, you must go on with your drawing and I must go on with my music. Otherwise for the rest of our lives, we will always ask ourselves, the ‘what if’ question. You are my best friend and I will never forget you.”
“You’re right,” Dashiell said. “We should use our talents. You are my best friend, too.”
“I will never forget you, either.”
I lowered my voice.
“Do you want to make a pact? A promise to each other? An oath of honor?”
“What did you have in mind?”
“I promise to you to never draw or paint. You promise to me to never play piano or organ. Then we can do our art, and not be in each other’s way.”
“Okay. I, Dashiell Winifred, promise you, Jean-Claude Beauvais, to never play the piano or organ, ever again.”
“I, Jean-Claude Beauvais, promise you, Dashiell Winifred, to never paint or draw, again.”
We shook hands.
Both of us looked and felt better. “Let’s go. Knock’em dead.”
We left the washroom and floated into a meeting of the United Nations, camped out in my music room. When we left, Grandpapa and Father Winifred were there. When we returned, it was standing room only. Grandmamma, Aunt Odie, and Maurice had arrived as well as Mis’ess Winifred.
Dashiell and I were ready for anything.
Grandpapa asked, “What has happened here?”
I looked at Dashiell. His eyes said, “You talk to them.”
“Dashiell” nodding to him, “and I evolved an agreement, to avoid our having hurt feelings, over our art.”
Grandpapa, eyebrows up, the brow furrowed, asked, “Would you please tell us to what you two have agreed?”
Dashiell said, “I will not play piano or organ and Jean-Claude will not draw or paint.”
I added, with my eyebrows up and a smile, “A simple, clean-cut remedy to a touchy situation.”
They first looked at each other and the discussions started. As they buzzed, I quietly asked Dashiell, “You want to draw in here. I mean, with an easel and drawing board, paints, and all?”
“Yeah. Don’t get them angry.”
“Someone famous said, ‘Strike while the iron is hot.’ Here goes.”
Dashiell squeezed my wrist.
“We do have a small request. A minor matter, but it needs attention.”
Grandpapa pulled a cigar from his inside jacket pocket.
When I heard his Yes, I knew Dashiell and I were not in trouble.
We need an area in here, where Dashiell can create art. My desk… you old desk… Grandpapa… it’s not really adequate.
Grandpapa asked, “What do you have in mind?”
Of course, I didn’t have anything in mind and Grandpapa knew this. He was toying with me. I would not disappoint him.
Calmly, like Dashiell and I had had extensive discussions about the matter, I paced off a rectangular area.
“If he can have a raised floor, surrounded by a banister with an opening for entering and exiting. He will also need extra lighting, an easel, drawing board, a pair of filing cabinets for supplies and smocks.”
I looked at Dashiell, “Right?”
I turned to catch the reaction of the gathered group, especially Dashiell’s mama. She caught me, zeroed in on her, specifically. I thought to myself, “Potential trouble.”
The buzzing started, Grandpapa was cutting the cigar, and the phone rang. The room silenced. I picked up the phone, “Hello.”
Aunt Gizzie said, “Misters John Russell, Clement Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, and Minister André Malraux would like to meet Dashiell.”
“I know the last person’s name, Minister Malraux. The others?”
“Art critics from New York.”
“Can they come back and meet him?”
“I’ll have someone escort them.”
“Thanks. Aunt Gizzie.”
I put the telephone down, slowly. I left the desk and sat in the fluffy couch, next to Dashiell.
I whispered to him.
“The timing is perfect. When I get up, you get up. Got it?”
Grandpapa selected a match, from his matchbox. He held the cigar, ready to light it.
No one seemed interested in an inquisition, which I took as a positive sign.
Father Winifred asked the first question. “You two are convinced you have talent. Could you kindly convince us, unconvinced adults?”
Grandpapa struck the match and started puffing on his cigar.
I leaned forward toward Father Winifred.
“From which of us would you like proof, first?”
I had to draw this out until the knock on the door occured.
Dashiell’s frame went instantly into full vibration mode.
The door opened.
“Dashiell. Calm down. It’s all under control. Time to stand up.”
He was shaking so much I pulled him a little to encourage him to stand.
Four men entered the room; the bellhop announced, “May I present Mister John Russell, Mister Clement Greenberg, Mister Harold Rosenberg, and President de Gaulle’s Minister of Cultural Affairs of the French Republic, Monsieur André Malraux.
I looked at Dashiell.
“Let’s go say ‘Hello,’ buddy.”
We went to the four men inside the door. I nodded to the bellhop to leave.
“Hello, Gentlemen. May I present Dashiell Winifred.”
Dashiell did his “Nice to meet you” and shook hands.
“May I present…” I made the presentations around the room.
With the presentations completed, Monsieur Malraux announced the purpose to the visit.
“This young genius,” ruffling Dashiell curly hair, “has made the most intriguing work.”
Minister Malraux turned to me.
“Where is it, Jean-Claude?”
“In the Grand Dining Room.”
“Could someone bring it in here for a proper viewing?”
Minister Malraux made a sweeping gesture toward the other three men at the door.
“These people have come all the way from New York to see this wonderful gem.”
Grandpapa, Grandmamma, Aunt Odie, Maurice, Father and Mis’ess Winifred, Minister Malraux, and the three gentlemen from the city had the room buzzing.
I went to desk phone, arranged the moving of the easel into the music room, and announced over the din, “They are bringing it, now.”
I looked at Dashiell and smiled, trying to calm him.
Two bellhops entered, with the framed drawing and the easel. I directed them to place it by the piano.
The men gathered in front of the easel.
I sat, closed my eyes, and played Claire de lune, ever so quietly. Dashiell sat with me. I felt the warmth of his leg and an occasional little spasm.
I wanted to assure him, things were going to be fine.
The men spouted cascading superlatives regarding Dashiell’s masterpiece. I wanted to open my eyes and take a glance at Dashiell’s mom, but I decided not to take a chance, until… yes… yes… yes… until the show was over.
I smelled Grandpapa’s cigar. I felt better now. Veronica worked on Dashiell’s spasms and Grandpapa’s cigar calmed me. I opened my eyes. The entire room, aside from Dashiell and I, was focused on the banter about the drawing.
I whispered to Dashiell, “There’s the proof for your dad.”
He whispered back, “How did this happen?”
“Sometimes, by accident, things happen in the right order and at the right time.”
Dashiell enjoyed the art talk.
I looked at Grandpapa. He winked and tossed me a broad smile. I knew all was well. The mighty Casey did not strike out.
“This one’s for you, Dashiell.” I played one of the nocturnes, he liked. He heard the opening bar and hugged me.
I no longer felt him shaking, on the bench, next to me.
The love fest between the art critics and the drawing went on for some length. I played Dashiell’s favorite nocturne a key higher to vary the sound, a little. He likes little changes.
I bridged into the next nocturne. As I played, Dashiell nudged me. I turned to him, opening my eyes. He nodded to the other end of the piano.
The man from New York, with the loud plaid jacket stared at me. His and my eyes met.
“You are the one in the drawing?”
I nodded affirmatively, continuing to play the nocturne. I closed my eyes again.
The end of the nocturne was the same single note on which it started. I don’t know why, but I decided to play it backwards, just for fun. I had fun but Dashiell missed the joke… too big a change for him. When I finished at the beginning, I proceeded to play it forward, upside down.
Dashiell nudged me.
“You’re grinning too much. What’s going on?”
“I’m playing it upside down. Getting my jollies!”
Without missing a beat or opening my eyes, I said, “Come in.”
A bellhop announced, “Madame Marie-Madeleine Lioux Malraux.”
I opened my eyes and saw Mister Malraux go quickly to the door to escort his wife, into the room. The buzz continued as did the nocturne. Providing background music for my best friend’s coronation was a fun.
My mood changed to relaxation with a dreamy version of “Seems Like Old Times,” followed by a awesome tune, “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes,” and “You'll Never Walk Alone.”
I stopped playing; Dashiell started vibrating. I played a little Debussy. The shaking lessened... next Saint-Saëns.
Near the end of this piece, I turned to Dashiell and said, “I’m going to stop. We can get up and circulate.
“Stay close. If you get in trouble, grab me. I’ll create a diversion to save you.
“I’m still scared.”
“Commit to nothing. Ask for time to think about everything. You okay, now?”
“I guess as okay… as I’m gonna be.”
“This is not going to be painful. Enjoy yourself. Let’s go.”
He mumbled, “Easy for you to say.”
We rose off the bench to circulate. My butt was grateful to Doctor Shultz about getting a comfortable seat.
The man from the other end of the piano nailed me right away. “You are the famous JCB. If I may ask, what does the JCB stand for?”
“Jean-Claude Beauvais. Sir.”
“I am Harold Rosenberg. How did your friend Dashiell come to draw you?”
“Well, he was sitting at the desk, behind you, and we were going to go swimming. I had just finished playing a pile of new pop music. He asked me to play the nocturnes. He likes Chopin’s Nocturnes. He said, ‘I rather like them.’ So I played them. When I was done, I opened my eyes and he was sitting next to me. He said, ‘Look on your desk.’ The drawing was there.”
“What do you see, when you look at the drawing?”
“A drawing of me.”
“He wrote on the bottom, ‘To JCb, from Dw.’”
“You two are such an odd pair. He has no ear for your music and you have no eye for his drawing.”
Madame Malraux joined our little duet. “Is what they said about you true?”
I laughed. “What preposterous lies are someone spreading about me?”
She continued, “I heard someone say you read a piece of music, at the piano and went and played it on the organ. Is that true?”
“Since you put it that way, with no wiggle room, I will have to admit,” I performed a theatric pause, smiled, cocked my head a little, and added, “guilty as charged.”
“How did you do that?”
Always mystified by this kind of question, I said, “I read the music and play it.”
“All the time?”
“A very long piece, I may read it twice.”
“What was that last classical piece you played?”
“Probably one of the Chopin’s nocturnes. My friend likes them. I have been playing for the past hour. I played whatever happened to drop into my mind at the time. Sometimes for fun, I do things to them.”
“What do you mean, ‘do things to them?’”
“I’ll play them backwards or reverse the hands or invert the music or play it straight upside down. All fun stuff to do.”
“Could you show me?”
“Sure. One nocturne I was playing earlier starts and ends on the same note, which makes it interesting to alter.”
As I started to play the nocturne, she watched my hands from the side of the piano. I closed my eyes after the first ten bars or so, and went into five alterations, bridging with key changes for fun. When I finished, I opened my eyes.
“Astonishing.” She said. “Have you written anything?”
“I never thought about it. Give me a second and I will compose a tune for you.”
I closed my eyes, dropped my hands on Veronica, announced, “Madame Malraux’s tune,” and composed it.
A melody went through my head. I went with it, adding a second melody and twenty-four bars of contrapunctal counterpoint for merriment. On the tail end, I finished with a big razz-ma-tazz ending, and the last two bars, a gentle Bach-like sizzle, for a finale.
I opened my eyes. Madame Malraux was in tears.
“Please, please,” I said to her. “Everywhere I turn today, people are crying.”
Minister Malraux handed her a handkerchief. She blew her nose loudly and said, “Thank you. Jean-Claude. I am happy to have met you.”
“It is my pleasure, to have met you, Madame Malraux.”
“André. André. Come here.”
Minister Malraux turned again to face his wife.
“If you put him in a wig and lawn cravat, you’ll have Wolfgang Amadeus, himself.”
(continued in next Chapter 8 - Index)