Winner 18 to 35 age category & winner overall – Wadadli Pen Challenge 2016
Author’s comments: “In a crowded musical pawn shop in the wintry Bronx, Jamal stumbles on a piece of his past that takes him back home, to Antigua, and faded memories spring back to life.”
Judge’s comments: “It was a beautifully written piece. It was a very simple story but the vivid descriptions gave the story depth and really kept me interested. I think the author is a good writer and I would be interested in hearing more from them.”
Note: *In keeping with the development goals of Wadadli Pen, all long listed entries are returned to the author with the judge’s note – both positives and negatives – for revision. Congrats to Daryl. Keep working on your craft; keep valuing your voice and your art. – JCH
Here now is Tropical Moonlight Sonata by Daryl George, a youth worker and freelance writer, who was an honourable mention in 2012 and 2014, and who, in 2013 won and placed second in the 18 to 35 age category and second overall:
Jamal’s jaw dropped. The unmistakable dusty, decrepit baby grand piano stood in the corner, silently weeping from the tunnels termites had made through its soft wood. He was shocked to see it here, in a run-down musical pawn shop in the dead of winter in the Bronx- the last time Jamal had played this piano was ten years ago in Antigua as his teacher lay dying.
He pulled out the old, worn bench. He sat down and pumped the pedals carefully. He could feel them straining, groaning, but working. Alive. Eager to be used. The manager, a tall, gaunt man saw Jamal and walked over.
“Sorry sir but this piano is not for sale.”
“I don’t want to buy it – I want to play it.”
The manager chuckled.
“Sorry sir, but this piano is not in playable condition. Perhaps I can interest you in…”
Jamal ignored the manager and lifted the cover. For a split second the cobblestone floors turned into ceramic tiles, and the cold air warmed into the humid tropical heat. The musty air filled with the smell of hundreds of books chock-full of mildewing pages of notes, time signatures, and middle and bass clefs before fading back to the dimly lit pawn shop. He whipped out his tablet.
“Sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you…”
“Can you flip the pages for me?” he pushed his tablet into the unsuspecting manager’s hands which accepted before suddenly realizing their unwitting betrayal.
“Just hold it right there. That’s it.” The manager didn’t bother to disagree this time. Maybe it was just better to play along.
Middle C. The key resisted for an instant before reluctantly murmuring.
And so did his music teacher, her high, shrill yet quiet voice piercing the atmosphere of death that surrounded her. “Play” she had croaked. Her throat was swollen, cracked, an overripe plum gone bad and left to bake in the dry season heat. The cancer had sapped her strength, and just to turn her head seemed to take monumental effort. The piano had been silent since she fell ill, unable to give lessons since the cancer slowly started creeping away with her life force piece by piece.
“What do you want me to play?”
“Moonlight Sonata.” Came the singular reply.
Back at the pawn shop, the manager placed the tablet on the piano, and Jamal began to play. Slowly at first, stumbling through the initial bars. He looked up at the music, and then down to his hands before closing his eyes. The stumbling ceased. The tempo regularized. He remembered. And the pawn shop melted away as Jamal returned to his final music lesson. The melancholy notes of the Moonlight Sonata rang through the gallery, the house, and the garden. The neem trees swayed, leaning in to hear one final performance. The piano, despite bent and broken strings inside, sang like it hadn’t sung in years. And the setting sun slowed for a second before giving way to the shadows that took more than just the light.
Jamal looked up at the antiques dealer. He was crying.
“How did you know?”
“How did I know what?”
“That….never mind” the manager smiled, and for a second he seemed to be somewhere very far away. Jamal gave him a few seconds before asking the question that had been on his mind.
“How did you get the piano?”
A wistful smile flitted over the manager’s face.
“She never told you?”
“Never told me what?”
“I think, sir, that that’s a story for another day”.
For winning the 18 to 35 category and the main prize, Daryl received:
A certificate sponsored by the Best of Books & winner’s name on the Alstyne Allen Memorial Challenge plaque & books (lots of books)
EC$500 – Anonymous
EC$350 – Frank B. Armstrong
Pen set, Glorious by Bernice McFadden,
Equiano’s Epigrams: The Interesting Narrative in Poetry by John Agard – Pam Arthurton of Carib World Travel
Barbuda Express voucher x2
Just Write Writer’s Retreat fellowship – Brenda Lee Browne
Raw Island Products– gift basket of products
Dancing Nude in the Moonlight 10th Anniversary Edition and Other Writings by Joanne C. Hillhouse,Writer’s Digest magazine (courtesy Joanne C. Hillhouse)
Thanks to all partners and patrons for making the Wadadli Pen 2016 Challenge possible. Here at Wadadli Pen, we encourage you to support the businesses and individuals who support the arts.
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