ISSUE 5 · FALL 2010
Einstein Plays Guitar
Einstein sits in the corner, playing guitar. No one tells him, Albert, go home. Because he’s Einstein. He looks up and grins.
. . .
Einstein stands on stage, playing the violin. Everyone listens. Albert, head down, eyes closed.
. . .
Einstein plays the saxophone. The girl in the purple dress watches. She’s never heard before. Of Einstein, sure, but this? Albert stands, feet wide apart, blasting.
“It’s his first time,” someone says. A young man, by the bar.
“In here?” says the girl in the purple dress.
“Oh no,” says the young man. “First time with that.” The young man moves so he can see her face.
“He’s . . .” she says.
“Yes, we know,” says the young man. He laughs. “His violin’s much better. But he doesn’t like to stop at that. He’s not so good . . . at being good. Or: just at being good. Tomorrow night it might be . . . Well, who knows?”
“Isn’t he a genius?” says the girl in the purple dress slowly, as if she might be tested.
The young man’s shoulders twitch.
“At some things, sure,” he says, pulling out a cigarette. “At some things. But he hasn’t cracked this, yet.” A yowl from the stage, as Albert hits a high note, far too sharp. The young man sees the girl’s distraction, takes his chance, slides an arm around. “What else?” he says, inhaling.
“Oh,” says the girl. “I don’t know. Is there something? Else?”
“I could tell you,” says the young man, who has learned a part or two about the world.
On stage, Einstein puts the instrument down, gets out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat. A woman in the crowd shouts something. Albert nods his head, smiles, picks up the sax. The girl in the purple dress follows him moving off the stage, then loses sight.
“Was that German?” she says to the young man, watching the way he smokes, like movie stars.
“Ja,” says the young man and laughs and laughs as if this is the best he’s ever given. He laughs so much, the girl in the purple dress inches away. The young man doesn’t see. Or, if he does, he knows another trick for this.
. . .
Einstein plays the piano. The bartender unlocked it for him. Albert found the scales, trilled up, then down. The bartender washed and wiped, trying not to hear. The bartender thought instead about his wife. How she hated what he did, how he smelled of beer, cheap beer, even though he never drank.
A crash from the stage. Albert’s head is on the keys. The bartender can hear him muttering to himself. Why doesn’t he stick with what he knows, wonders the bartender, counting that night’s change reserves.
. . .
The girl in the purple dress has brought a friend. The young man, smoking, watches them across the room. The friend annoys him, something about how she wears just red, bright screaming red. He won’t speak to them, not tonight.
Einstein is warming up. Albert stands on stage, this time with his violin. He slides the bow up and down, down and up. The crowd are not yet listening, not seriously. But every single person knows who he is, why he is and where.
When Albert starts to play, the girl in the purple dress at first hears something scratchy. But then, as she leans back, sips her orange juice, the notes come into her, as if they are a broadcast just for one.
“This is it,” she murmurs, but her friend, bored, is watching a young man smoking by the bar.
On stage, Einstein moves from one melody to another, easy as light slipping between worlds. His mind is quiet. Albert plays on, watched and listened to. Even the bartender stops washing glasses, just to hear it.
Tania Hershman's first book, The White Road and Other Stories (Salt Modern Fiction, 2008), was commended 2009 Orange Award for New Writers and was reviewed by A cappella Zoo. Tania is Grand Prize Winner of the 2009 Binnacle Ultra-Short Contest and European winner of the 2008 Commonwealth Broadcasting Association's Short Story competition. Her stories are published or forthcoming in, among others, Smokelong Quarterly, Elimae, the London Magazine, Riptide, BRAND, Dogzplot, Eyeshot, Electric Velocipede, Nature, and Issue 1 of A cappella Zoo, and a week of her flash fiction was recently broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Tania is currently writer-in-residence in Bristol University's Science Faculty and has just been awarded an Arts Council England grant to work on a collection of biology-inspired short fiction. She blogs about writing at TaniaWrites.