The voice was hollow and cold, circling him from behind as the sky turned dark.
“You, at last.”
The last shred of light sank from the heaviness of the evening clouds on the horizon, barely enough light left for you to tell whether the tide was coming in or going out. The young boy flung his arm defensively slicing the air with his elbow as he spun around.
I could get killed out here and who would know? But why?
The winds howled across the water where the captains on the late night fishing boats were lighting their lamps and heading for the shoreline. Their lights wavered against the shadow of the Marine Parkway Bridge in the water. The evening sky was now a dark smudge of violet fading behind the buildings on the Brooklyn side; and in Breezy Point, the thin string of pale lights from the bungalows echoed the twilight.
A low laugh startled him. He stumbled and fell towards a woman with a pale face. He felt a rushing sound pulling him like a riptide to the ground as he tried to get up.
Who is this crazy woman? What does she want from me?
The sound of the crashing waves swelled in the night air with the terrifying laughter of the woman hovering over the struggling boy.
After that there were no more questions.
As suddenly as they came, the winds were gone, but for the boy on the sand, it no longer mattered. The pale faced woman gazed down at him with expressionless eyes.
When she was gone, a lone seagull flapped down, pecking cautiously at the sand. The beach was desolate. Nothing remained from that furious scene except the still body of the boy and a single set of footprints.
It was late in the morning when Dashiell Loong Rubinstein, named for a famous writer and nicknamed Dash by his older twin siblings, Remy and Rosy,
woke up suddenly in a square of warm summer sunshine and sat up, breathing as if he had been chased up a mountain.
Why do I feel like I got hit by a truck? He squeezed his eyes tightly trying to hold on to the picture in his mind of his dream but it was impossible to keep the images from fading away. After a few moments he swung his legs over the bed and let his head fall into his hands.
It felt so real. So scary. Especially the not knowing.
It was just a dream, he said to himself, running his fingers through his tousled hair nervously. He pulled back the curtains and looked out on the street below.
The Loong Rubinstein house sat nestled in a row of rambling houses nestled between the beach and generations of ruddy faced Irish families; their holiday windows lit by a menorah and their front door graced by a mezuzah. As far as he could see, his block looked like any other in the beach town of Rockaway Park. There wasn’t a single pale faced woman with evil intentions in sight. In the bright morning sun, the idea of such a thing seemed quite ridiculous. He sighed and listened closely to the silence around him. After a few moments, he tossed his pillow aside and slid off his bed, slipping his feet into a pair of sandy flip flops. He pulled on an oversized T shirt his older brother Remy had given him that read NO YOU SHUT UP and went downstairs.
It was almost lunch time but food was the furthest thing from young Dash’s mind as his eyes scanned the musical score of the Bach Prelude and Fugue in E Flat Major that lay open on the piano. He flipped through the another pile of sheet music and pulled out an exercise book with his notes scrawled along side the musical phrases. For many reasons, studying music, especially piano music fascinated him. Here you could retreat into a world of notes written centuries ago by master composers. Yes, you could lose yourself in music but if you pulled apart the structures of sound, the architecture of musical notes that music lives in, the secrets of this universe would be revealed.
Other kids, including his older twin brother and sister, wondered. Why are you taking piano lessons? That is so lame.
Dash ignored them. He was a small boy seated at the piano, his slim hands barely able to play a full chord at the age of twelve but he was keen to listen and understand the logic of many things including the fact that people often overlooked him or addressed him as an afterthought, a shy version of his older siblings with intensely dark eyes and a quick temper. His fascination with music, harmonic theory, strategic silences and his impatience in the presence of annoying people made many consider him, the third child of a sprawling connected family, distinctive if not somewhat disturbing.
Oh, so that’s how the melody ends. So simple and so brilliant! Dash fixed his gaze on the last page of the Bach Fugue and smiled. He was in a cathedral filled space with Johann Sebastian Bach, the great German composer whose piano pieces from Das Wohltempierte Klavier laid bare the mysteries of his soulful Baroque melodies…
“Gimme the remote or I’ll make you eat it!”
Dash lifted his head from the page he was studying and frowned. Remy was stretched out in front of the TV with Big George and Eddy, two of his goofball friends wrestling each other. Well, that’s the end of my piano time, Dash thought. And then he brightened, thinking of his musical discovery. Another fugue, another mystery solved.
Dash’s sharp ears picked up the sounds of things thumping and scraping from other parts of the house interspersed with his mom’s voice issuing orders.
“No no no, the energy flow is all wrong! Maybe we should put more wood on the east side and mirrors on the east – or is the other way around?”
“Now look here, I am perfectly happy with the house the way it is. Who cares if the feng shui is fahrkockt?” Dad barked and let the end of the sofa he was lifting drop to the ground with a heavy thud. “OK, now what’s wrong?”
Oh, everything if you ask me, Dash said to himself grimly. Mom and Dad are going to be mad at each other, Remy and his friends have invaded the house, and the everything is all over the place! Mom is on a big time feng shui kick and, somehow, nobody seems to remember that this is the last week I will ever be twelve years old. Now, it’s possible they are planning something and if so, they are doing a terrific job hiding it.
“How the hell do I know who took the mirror from the center hall? I am not going to make myself crazy over it.” Dad’s voice was getting louder.
Dash frowned. It would be so much easier to just agree with Mom and help her move stuff around than to try to attempt understanding why she needs to move it. So much simpler to say, “Oh that looks super fabulous over there. The feng shui will confuse all negative energy and look, it even matches the loveseat! I love it!” Mom’s version of good feng shui traffic control was the reason the mirrors and plants were stuck in odd places all over the house, “to allow good energy to flow through the house.” He edged his way closer careful not to smack his head in to the row of hanging ferns dangling dangerously low in the hallway.
“Good morning, Mom.”
Mom looked up with annoyance. She was staring at a spot on the wall, frowning. A lock of her dark hair fell across her eyes and she tossed her head muttering to herself in half Chinese, half English. Crazy foreign devils. Useless.
“Rosy Loong Rubinstein, did you take my new mirror off the wall? If you did, I want it back. Now! Do you hear me?” she stormed past him as if he were one of her potted dracenas and stomped up the stairs. Dash heard her rap loudly on Rosy’s door.
Mom folded her arms and tapped her shoe impatiently. Rosy opened her door yawning. She gave her mother a sleepy smile casually shaking her hair over her shoulders.
“Oh, that!” Rosy shuffled back in to her room and dragged out a large framed mirror.
“Hey Mom, do we really need all of these stupid plants?” Rosy shoved the large jade tree by her door aside with her foot. ”You could kill yourself walking into that thing. Oh, Dashie darling, how is my little brother?”
“Fine.” he muttered grumpily. “Please stop squeezing the air out of me.” She still treated him like the baby of the family – which wasn’t all that terrible, except when she pinched his cheek and kissed him in front of his friends. And that new girl in his class.
Rosy smiled sweetly, then gazing downstairs she murmured, ”Oh hellooooo boys,”
Big George, Remy’s friend with a not so secret crush on Rosy, stared jealously at Dash and went red in the face. Eddy’s jaw went slack and his eyes nearly popped out of his face.
Dad drained his coffee cup impatiently and looked at his watch, ”OK, enough with this mirror mishegas. I’m going to start the car - oh great, I just had my keys in my hand! Now where the hell did I put them? And what time are we supposed to pick up Auntie Ming today?”
“The same time we always pick her up for Dash’s piano lesson, dear. Rosy, get in the car.” Mom put down the mirror reluctantly. She handed Dad a set of keys from a large box labeled EXTRA CAR KEYS and pushed him firmly out of the door. “We’ll be back soon, Remy. Keep an eye on Dash and don’t mess up the house.”
“Bye bye, boys.” Rosy turned and blew a movie star kiss over her shoulder smiling as she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror.
“Crap! There’s nothing to watch, nothing to listen to and nothing to eat around here.” Remy yawned and tossed the remote at Eddy who was still staring after Rosy.
Dash walked into the kitchen and pulled down a box of cereal from the shelf. He looked around the room thoughtfully, hesitating slightly before sitting down at the far end of the dining table Mom had set for lunch.
“Hey, we gotta take care of him again?” growled Big George, jerking his head towards Dash. “What do I look like, Mary Poppins?”
Dash shrugged. He kept his eyes on the edge of the table. You compose with the end in mind.
“OK you little punk,” Big George grunted, punching the fat palm of his hand threateningly at Dash, ”if we have to drag you around with us today, you need to get a few things straight.”
Eddy, who was half the size of Big George and twice and dumb, tried grabbing the cereal box. ”Yeah, like getting us stuff to eat.”
Melodies should move and satisfy the ear. Dash whisked the bowl out of Eddy’s reach.
“And second of all,” said Big George moving closer to Dash, ”you better not act like a jerk and make us – me, look stupid.”
Shift to an unexpected key. Now that was one thing Big George needed nobody’s help doing, Dash thought with a grin. “Me, get in your way?”
By this time, the three older boys were hovering suspiciously close to the dining table. Almost time.
“And the last thing,” Remy went on, winking at the others. ”You’re gonna be a teenager very soon, aren’t you? You need to take some birthday punches to feel like one of the boys, you know, a real guy like us…”
“And real guys like -”
But suddenly Remy stopped speaking. In one swift movement, Dash kicked the table into the boys and snapped his end of the table cloth sending dishes and silverware flying. A glass of milk flew up and clocked Big George right in the center of his chubby forehead. The boys stumbled grabbing on to the ends of the table which was a good thing since Dash had rolled under the table and lashed the cloth around their legs during the commotion. He tightened the cloth a big tug and scrambled to his feet.
“DASH!” Remy, Big George and Eddie tumbled to the ground in a big food covered heap, pulling the table on top of them.
“YOU ARE SO DEAD! GET US OUT OF HERE!”
“Love to but someone’s at the door.”
Dash darted down the center hall, just as Big George burst out of the dining room door dragging Remy on one leg and Eddy on the other, his face bright red except for where there was splattered milk. They stared in disbelief as Dash opened the door.
“Oh hi Mom!”
Hey Boo Crew