By Amy Throck*-Smythe
Early in the third year of his more-or-less voluntary celibacy, Vron Kaeli found himself being courted by a much younger man. As flattering as that was, Vron found himself somewhat at a loss as to how to respond.
Two years before, he’d finally broken off with his on-again/off-again married lover and decided a period of celibacy, housekeeping, and clean living was in order. After a year of such virtue, he’d looked around for someone new to devote himself to and been appalled by the available men near his age. They were either players or losers or both; it was most disheartening to a respectable middle-aged queer like Vron, so he retreated back into his workshop to reconsider his celibate state, which was looking better and better to him.
Vron’s workshop was a delightful place full of strange micro-tonal instruments in various stages of commission, the odd keyboard or percussion instrument for repair. A pair of concert grand pianos, long ago abandoned by their cash-strapped owners mid-restoration, still needed their cases refinished, but were otherwise flawlessly tuned and maintained, and acted as a screen for his meager parlor and kitchen. He’d begun a career as a simple piano tuner and repair man, but early on, his musical saw-playing boyfriend had asked him if he could microtune a set of eight saws and mount them in ascending order on a wooden frame. This was easily done and the ensuing, and rather bizarre, concert was a huge and outrageous success. Based on this success, his boyfriend accepted an offer to work in another town and Vron never saw him again. Not that Vron really noticed because he was flooded with orders for saws, percussion instruments, and strangely tuned lute-like instruments. Occasionally, he got orders from Star Trek fans to replicate a Vulcan lyre. And, of course, there were piano tuning and repair jobs, so even though Vron lost his boyfriend, he gained a career he loved.
Never lucky in love, Vron meandered from romance to romance until he discovered the lover to whom he’d finally surrendered his heart was committed to someone else. In addition to feeling devastated, he felt stupid. In a fit of pique one night, Vron wrote in the margin of Fugue No. 19: A Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, “Never trust a man who only lets you call him on his cell phone.”
He kept busy; there was his work and when there wasn’t work, there were brilliant compositions from the gigantic piano repertory to play on one or the other of his inherited grand pianos. He was working his way through Lutoslawski at the moment. Vron was not an inspired musician, but he was a thorough and diligent one. Early in his studies, he had realized this and, also realizing there was a glut of genius pianists competing for the same work, he decided not to add another mediocre one to the pyre. That didn’t keep him from playing and loving the instrument; it did, however, keep him sane, centered, and realistic about his role in music and perhaps in life.