Doctor Harold Majolica and the Student

September 4, 2012 at 7:31 pm (Doctor Majolica, Uncategorized) (, , , , , )

My hands can reach a range of 17 semitones on a standard piano keyboard. This makes me an awful teacher, especially for children. Mrs Susumu had hired me to teach her daughter mostly as a charitable favour. We’d known each other for a few years now; I’d nursed the family cat more times than I could remember and her gratitude, along with her respect, somehow remained untarnished after the incident which threatened to revoke my licence.

Mrs Susumu had two children. Jeri the rebel, a bright boy given up long ago to a world of mud, k-nex and plastic pistols; then there was Mimi, a reserved, thoughtful child who was dull even for an eight year old. The pay was generous, and our first lesson a success. Mimi had a reasonable ear for a girl her age and already had some idea how to read treble clef. That opening lesson I reserved totally for gauging the girl’s confidence and understanding of the instrument. She knew a few scales and nursery rhymes. I’d guess that she would have done a little better in that initial lesson had she not been so nervous about me, such a large, bedraggled crow, perched next to her. But Mrs Susumu seemed pleased; she rang the next evening and assured me that Mimi was already excited about next week’s lesson.

Six days later Miss Mimi was running from the study bawling, face covered in hot tears and bubbling snot. She didn’t say what was wrong, she didn’t scream for her mother; she just ran wailing, utterly horrified. I stood in the doorway awkwardly. I wanted to comfort her but this shaggy mass of hands and feathers is the last thing she wants near her right now.

I had been taking her through the F major scale. She knew the notes, but kept trying to play it too fast and stumbled every single time. Half way through a particularly broken attempt I reached out for her wrist, indicating that she should pause. As my bony blue fingers touched her skin for the first time I felt an involuntary twitch. Her fingers left the keys and she looked at me. Blank, brown little eyes. So I showed her the scale once more, being sure to demonstrate how the slower rhythm helps the fingers find the correct keys. Mimi doesn’t listen. Mimi looks down at my spindly hands, dislocating and contracting alarmingly as they find every key in the two octave scale. As her face cracked from lip-nibbling discomfort to open, weeping horror I looked down at my own hands; they were almost translucent, and hideously contorted. Like the mutilated hands of a corpse which, with a sigh, I realised was just what they were. I knotted my fingers as I watched Mimi waddle from the room in tears.

I could hardly believe it, but Mrs Susumu wants me to come back. She suggests that we leave a week or two for her daughter to recover, but she wants to keep me in her employ. I’m flattered, but deeply embarrassed. I tell her no. I don’t think Mimi’s going to want to be in the same room as me again. More than ever I long for my own study in Furrington Wood, but plenty of the animals there would be more scared of me than Mimi was. With good reason too, for the most part – but that’s a story for another time.

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Doctor Harold Majolica and the Gloves

November 22, 2011 at 10:32 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Did you know that women’s tights are often modelled by men? Women think that their legs are slender and appealing. Any transvestite could tell you that. Next time you pick up a pair of 40 denier from M&S, check the box. If the photograph of the model is cut below the hips, chances are that’s a bloke in your stockings. And next time you pick up a pair of silk gloves with a pink taffeta trimming, take a look at the label. If the picture of the hands is cut sharply at the wrists, there’s a small chance that a crow modelling your gloves. That crow is almost certainly me.
They tell me that ladies would love my hands because the fingers and long and delicate and the wrist bone juts appealingly. It embarrasses me, they only became that way because I preserved them in the wrong solution. The jar I put my hands-to-be into was filled with a pickling fluid which gradually ate away at the fat and muscle beneath the skin of the hands I had so painstakingly prepared. By the time I was ready to operate the skin was stretched taught over little more the bones, the webs between the fingers almost an inch lower than they should have been, making them seem long and cumbersome. But they tell me that the ladies would love that.
The photographer’s assistant hands me a pair of silk gloves with a pink taffeta trimming. I pull the gloves on, taking care to cover the scars from the skin graft. Below the wrist I’ve been careful to pluck at least an inch of feathers. The skin beneath is so pale, almost blue; the assistant covers it with powder. And she calls me Doctor, just like they all used to. Of course I still have my doctorate, but since my licence has been revoked the title has become sour. It’s amazing what you can do with good wing dexterity and patience, but I wanted to turn pages and pinch scalpels. No one wants to visit a doctor without hands, not even the snails. Business boomed after I had them grafted, but they were so clumsy and almost numb. I could hardly pick up my stethoscope, but they still came. Most of the woodland creatures had never seen hands before, so they watched me fumble and bungle my way through everything in awe. My days were numbered, but that is a story for another time.

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