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FICTION MUSIC LOVER / Stephen Minot IT WASN'T ANY one thing," she says with an easy shrug. "It's never just one thing. It was a whole lot of little things pulling me apart—just pulling me to the breaking point, you know?" He nods, not really knowing. Kids are always talking about being torn apart, pulled to the breaking point, and doubtless they mean it, but how can they confess it all so openly? "Well anyway, something just snapped and I ran down to the stables. There was this horse there, Sebastian, who was normally very independent—you know, high strung, wouldn't take the bit and all. Well I just put my head against his neck and cried and he didn't move, just stood there for—oh, it must have been an hour. Just stood there and let me cry." "That's beautiful" Jonathan says. But he wishes he hadn't. Beautiful is overused by all his students. Used for everything. He tries hard not to use student jargon. He is 41 and their language is not appropriate for him. She is 25 or thereabouts, a graduate student of his at the Conservatory. She goes by the name of B. J. They are sitting in the large, old-fashioned kitchen in his rented home. The third person is his son, Robin, who is 16. The three of them are drinking beer. Earlier, in solitude, listening to Vivaldi's Spring, he had a single martini as he always does—he and Vivaldi. But right now because his wife is away and he must arrange a supper and B. J. is here, he is drinking beer. "Did you see Equus?" Jonathan asks. "It's a play in which horses are played by actors." It is as close as he has come to a stable. "I know. I saw it three times. It's just beautiful. Except the ending, of course." "He blinds the horses," Jonathan says to his son. "Gross." "Not really. It's stylized. Played by people, you know. Kind of a dance." "Ballet?" Robin asks. "No, but close. On the edge between drama and dance." "It's fantastic," B. J. says. There's another one, he thinks, fantastic. Everything is beautiful, fantastic or gross. Don't they ever listen to what they're doing to the language? "You'd love it," she says to Robin. "Really." "I'm into dance," he says to B. J. "I'm the only member of the soccer team to go out for dance. It's really something." "Beautiful," she says. "Really," he says. The Missouri Review · 45 Jonathan listens to his son at 16 making courtship sounds with this girl—young woman—of 25. The boy is doing all right. Somehow he has bridged the gap in ages and she is interested. They move on from dance to music. Robin plays the clarinet with real ability and she is a cellist. They have both worked on an obscure Bach piece called the Fugue in D Minor and are astonished at the coincidence, like two children who have on separate occasions found identical fossils. "How on earth?" she asks. "My father transcribed it from the harpsichord score." "Oh!" AU three of them laugh, seeing that it was no coincidence at all since Jonathan has also transcribed it for cello. Why not? He is about to say: you're all my children. But he does not. He does not want to be a father to this girl. He does not want to be her lover either. He is married. His wife, Carlin, is in Dublin visiting her parents, a rare separation. Carlin will be back in a week. He does not plan to be unfaithful. But neither does he want to be a father to this girl. "Play it for us," she says to Jonathan. "You must be sick of it." "Play it for us," Robin says. "The supper. . . ," he says. Supper is two aluminum trays of prepared frozen food. She only dropped by to deliver a late term paper and would not let them put in a third. The whole evening is improvised. Normally he doesn't enjoy improvisations, doesn't take...


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