When my father was 36, just a year and a half older than I am now, he had open heart surgery to replace a faulty valve. While he was under the knife he had a vision of walking down a white corridor and shaking hands with family members who had gone before, each of whom told him it wasn't his time. My father was, and remains, an atheist.
Unlike many who have had this experience and took it as proof positive in an afterlife, my dad saw a mere trick of the brain, a common enough cliche he'd been aware of before his own experience, and in the end no different than any other dream.
These memories came to light for me yesterday as I read Susan D. Roger's "A Poor Boy's Piano."
Beginning with a man waking up in an alley, we quickly come to learn something about this man named Roger. He's left his wife, children, and while we might understand waking up alone and hungover in an alley as a bad thing, Roger sees it as liberating. Or maybe he's telling himself that. His arm feels swollen and unnatural. Shortly after waking up he meets a young boy with a recorder-- the flute-like instrument, not a tape-recorder.
It is at this point in the story that it seems to take on a religious, or supernatural air. It's accomplished casually enough-- with a bold and strangely appareled child whose music conjures up a bittersweet childhood memory. Roger himself thinks of the child as an apparition.
The ending, I won't give away, but I question how my father would interpret the story. Despite leading the story a certain way, and clearly toying with interpretations, Rogers does not provide answers one way or the other.
I'm also reminded of the alternate ending in Life of Pi. Sure it was more plausible, but the other's more magical.
Loni reviewed this story last week. Great find, Loni!
(Did you write a story for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)