By Mollie Claire
“Today’s piano lessons. Mimi says I can wear my Sunday shoes because Mother didn’t pack ‘nother pair”, Ella stared up at the old man, one hand placed defiantly on each hip. Papaw was waxing his Roadmaster, which was more boat than Buick. She admired her reflection on the exterior. The glint of her gold shoe buckles in the hot Mississippi sun sparkled like Mimi’s earrings. She would be a lady like Mimi one day, Ella thought. Her future tasted like mint juleps and finger sandwiches, audacious sun hats and society gossip.
For now, there were piano lessons. This was Ella’s favorite. She and Ms. Powell were squirreled away in the music room, hunched over the ivory and onyx like they were up to no good. Ella liked to smell the keys before playing, which rattled Mimi’s nerves. Ms. Powell didn’t mind. Her opinion was that while peculiar, the child was a prodigy. When people spoke of Ella’s schooling and talents, surely Ms. Powell would be at the center of their praises.
“Alright, sweet girl”, Mrs. Powell pantomimed the proper starting position. “Let’s try Schumann”. Breath slowed and eyes closed, Ella gave herself permission to sense every vibration from her efforts. Staccatos burst about the room like fireworks. Legato cradled her in its lavender waves. Adagio lifted her back to reality with its gossamer turquoise. Ella opened her eyes to a very pleased Ms. Powell.
Mimi and Papaw weren’t so pleased when Ella relayed, again, how sounds had color and taste. Papaw wasted no time telephoning Ella’s father. “This is the work of the devil!” he whispered angrily into the phone. “I cannot allow this to go on, son”. The word “son” tasted acidic to the grown man on the other end of the phone. He attributed this to indigestion.
Within days, the girl with the colorful mind was informed it was time to consult a doctor. The car-boat sailed the family north, until all that was visible through the glass pressed against Ella’s face was a long driveway flanked by Japanese magnolias. Pulling into the carport, Ella noticed the doctor out front, smoking his pipe. She looked up at Mother, eyes wide. Mother’s gaze was busy boring holes into the back of Daddy’s skull. “Now remember, this will just be a little visit. Think of it as a vacation, or an adventure. The doctor will take very good care of you, and when we see you next, you’ll be right as rain”, Mother explained.
Ella liked rain. Rain was a prism that tasted like lollipops.