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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 10: October 2021
Flash Fiction: 634 words
By Kathleen Thomas

Autumn Arpeggios


It is that hour of early morning when the blue haze of light and shadow merge. Cleo jumps beside me and purrs, stretches across my bed as sunlight enters this room with the small flowers on the wallpaper, a corner chair, lamp, dresser.

I wake at Monsieur’s house, Le Belvédère, though for a moment memory calls me far away, back to the day my husband gave our son his first flute. And so began our life of practice. Fingers curled in place, lips shaped into embouchure, notes, the breaths we shared.

Some mornings their notes hover through the hours as I care for Monsieur. In this house time has become an arpeggio of loss: Monsieur without his mother, I without my child and husband. All the music we hear inside but can no longer express.

From the stillness outside Monsieur’s room, I listen to the creak of floorboards, his footsteps, deep breath, a sigh.

I prepare croissants, juice, tea. The wine glasses from last night’s dinner are still in the sink. I could not wash them before, so distracted was I by Edouard’s plan for Monsieur’s surgery. As his brother, of course Edouard would do anything to end the aphasia. Aphasia. How I hate the word. Why does it sound so like the name of a flower or bird when it is a thief?

But the idea of the surgery Edouard suggested last night, I fear. Far too many risks, very little promise for a cure.

I know the doctors mean well. I remember when my dear son died, so long ago. The promises, the hopes.

“You agree, right?” Edouard asked me as we stood on the porch in night’s darkness. “We should do everything.”

“Of course,” I said. “Everything.”

I hear Monsieur move through the hallway now to his composition room where I have placed his breakfast on the corner of his desk. Will his thoughts today be of the surgery? Or perhaps, a different melody or concerto.

Here is Cleo once again circling my ankles to remind me there’s more work to do. I must go to market. I must feed the roaming cats outside so they will not follow me. Already a slight chill, autumn is near. A flock of birds overhead. Is it not too soon for migration?

When I return home, Monsieur is still in his room. I remind him it is time for his afternoon walk.

He looks at me with a half-smile and furrowed brow, as if in search of some memory or words he cannot express. “Yes, yes,” he says. “It is time.”

He follows me to the kitchen. I hand him his jacket; inside the lapel we keep a note with our address in case he wanders too far. I wish he would not go alone, but I must remember he needs this time for inspiration.

The roaming cats greet him, follow along. I listen to his steps fade from the walkway onto the path into the woods.

Back inside on his desk I find papers with lines, notes he scribbled, then scratched out. Jagged, silent shapes. Ah, dear Monsieur, I pray you know I would do anything to help bring these lines into melodies. But the surgery? I am so afraid for you. It is dangerous. Will be deep into the corners of your mind where your music still lives. What if? No, no. I must not doubt.

Cleo and I must take leave to our room where I will open my dresser drawer, remove the flute I can still hold in my hands. My lips shape. Breathe. Only a few notes. Still there is beauty.

Author’s Note: “Autumn Arpeggios” is a work of fiction inspired by events in the life of composer Maurice Ravel, and in memoriam to his housekeeper Madame Reveleau.

Kathleen Thomas
Issue 10, October 2021

is a nurse and teacher who combines the healing and creative arts in her practice. Her work has appeared in KYSO Flash, MoonPark Review, Apple Valley Review, and The Louisville Review, and is forthcoming in Splash Journal. She has received a Florida Individual Artist Fellowship in Fiction.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Safe Spaces, fiction (climate crisis) in KYSO Flash (Issue 12, Summer 2019)

From A to Z, fiction in MoonPark Review (Issue 6, Winter 2018/2019)

What I Know, fiction, with author’s commentary in Apple Valley Review (Volume 4, Number 2, Fall 2009)

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