Be careful, he told himself. Don’t move too fast. You don’t want to startle her, Cedric thought, padding as slowly and quietly as he could.
The other dogs, Fluffy and Lola, were already there, and seemed to be sinking into a semi-comatose state of relaxation. Now, why they had arrived ahead of him, and without his permission, too, he couldn’t have guessed.
But there was no time to argue about this now. For now, Cedric would have to just enjoy the time that was left before it ran out. Which could happen at any minute since his quarry was highly distractible. Whatever he did, Cedric would have to be very careful not to call attention to himself.
So far, so good. He was in now with the in group, and, though he wasn’t snuggled up with a soft blanket on the bed like Lola, or nestled close to THE MOMMY’s feet like Fluffy, he did find a good spot to lie down on the floor just a bit inside the door of the master suite.
Settling down quietly, he could feel himself begin to relax. This was good. No. Very good. Well, maybe even better than that. He’d have to analyze it later and try to just enjoy the moment.
Feeling what he could only describe as healing tones, Cedric laid his head on the floor and closed his eyes, while at the same time keeping his ears carefully open.
It was a rare treat when THE MOMMY uncovered THE TALL STRING BOX and began moving her hands among the strings. Cedric sometimes called it THE HUGGING STRINGS because THE MOMMY always hugged it affectionately when she sat down to play. The music was sometimes so sweet that Cedric was almost tempted to hug it himself. But he couldn’t. THE MOMMY always kept it carefully barricaded behind a couple of smaller pieces of furniture in the corner of her room when it wasn’t in use.
Cedric wondered why she hadn’t called him over when she started playing today, yet as soon as he started entertaining this thought, he realized that he already knew the answer to that. THE MOMMY would have told Cedric that she was terribly out of practice. That was why the strings weren’t singing very loud. Those soft tones were the reason that he hadn’t heard earlier about this impromptu meeting.
Usually, if THE MOMMY had been serious about practice, she would have uncovered the big wooden triangle, then retrieved a small plastic box and a tool of some sort. This meant trouble, and more often than not, headaches for any dog parked too close.
Starting with the longest string, THE MOMMY would pull the string, listen intently to it, then stare at the box, often sighing. After that she would attach the tool to something at the top of the string before both she and the string groaned. She would then pull the string again, stare at the box, sigh, groan a little, repeat the process, heave a huge sigh of relief, then start the whole miserable business over with the next shortest string. She usually didn’t work her way to the shortest string at the top very fast.
Nope. She took her time. And a miserable time could be had by all! And often was. At times like those, Cedric would glance over at THE MOMMY to see if she was looking his way. If she wasn’t, he’d try to nonchalantly slink down the hall to a more relaxing location until the groans had stopped. But he had to be careful. If he let himself wander too far, then he’d be out of hearing range when the sweet sounds began.
In Cedric’s book, that was always a tragedy. Even though the groans hurt his ears, he tried to stay close enough that he could hear the sweet tones beginning and get to the concert at the very beginning so that he wouldn’t miss anything.
According to his emotions, the groaning process took hours, but when he was honest with himself – and when he remembered to glance carefully at THE DADDY’s alarm clock over on the other side of the bed—he knew that this groaning procedure lasted only 15 or 20 minutes. Sometimes less, but, according to THE MOMMY, “only if the harp is mostly in tune”.
Which it often wasn’t. Changes in the weather and the seasons made both the strings and the wood of the triangle behave in terrible, sometimes unexpected, ways. After leaving it alone for too long, THE MOMMY would have to wrangle with the tool, the small box, and the strings for a long time before she would actually sit down behind it and make something beautiful for everyone to hear. And even then, she would sometimes nervously glance at the clock. Especially if food was heating in the HOT BOX in the other room, or if soft things were spinning around in THE WATER BOX.
One day, when Cedric was staring at her, she tried to explain it to him. “You know, Ceddie,” she began, “The trouble is that my wrench is pretty short. What I need is a wrench with a longer handle which would give me a greater turning radius.” Turning radius?
“Because,” she continued, “The difference between a string that is in tune, and one that is sharp or flat is often only one or two degrees.”
Cedric had heard that the difference in a sick person and a well person on the thermometer was only one or two degrees. Maybe that made sense. If you were talking Farenheit.
And the difference between a learned person and a school drop-out was just one or two degrees, if you were discussing education.
Turned out they were discussing something else completely. “One or two degrees out of 360 degrees,” THE MOMMY went on. “A full circle measures 360 degrees from the starting point to the place where the circumference closes again. When these strings are close to pitch, they need a very small turning radius because the adjustment to bring them up or down to tune is very, very small. And I keep turning the wrench either more or less than I need to. It’s a bit nerve-wracking,” she concluded.
Cedric had almost found himself nodding in agreement. You got that right! he wanted to tell her. Instead, he managed to wrinkle his brows together into what he liked to call THE SYMPATHETIC LOOK. Most girls he knew were very susceptible to this look, THE MOMMY included. She had smiled down at him, leaned over, and kissed him on top of his head. He felt THE SYMPATHETIC LOOK melting into a goofy smile. “You’re a good listener, Ceddie! Thanks!” she said.
All this talk about a turning radius, sharp, flat, wrench stuff was old news now, though. The sweet notes that Cedric loved, though unannounced, had begun. Cedric’s sister-dogs, Fluffy and Lola, having parked themselves closer to the master suite had been the first to hear the music, and, not wanting to interrupt the concert with noise that might have shut it down altogether, had crept quietly in here without telling anyone. He could hardly blame them for that. In fact, on other occasions, he had done the same himself.
He felt his eyes closing even more as a peaceful picture began drawing itself in his mind. He listened to the other dogs and THE MOMMY breathing as different groups of long and short strings began to sound. It was a song he had never heard before, probably one of THE MOMMY’s own. She seemed to be enjoying herself, swaying slowly with and around THE TALL STRING BOX.
Cedric found himself relaxing even more. Keep playing! he wanted to say. But he was too relaxed to do more than just think about it.
Before he knew it, Cedric found himself jerking awake as he watched THE MOMMY carefully covering what she called “the BIG harp” with a soft blanket before moving several other things to hem it into its protected corner. The concert was over, and he had missed most of it.
But so had the other dogs. And now they both appeared to be so happy and relaxed that they would probably be sweet and agreeable for the rest of the evening if he played his cards right.
Cedric had been lucky – “blessed” THE MOMMY would have said – to have heard the concert at all, and he stopped for moment to thank Jesus for the joy of beautiful music. His was a dog’s life, that was true. But it was full of beauty and joy, and he was thankful to have it.
June 13, 2013