Horla Flash Fiction (April 2021)






PETRUCCIO Stefani came from a harmonious Old World place where boys wore blue smocks and girls wore pink to school, to a noisy New World place where harmony and rules were harder to find and everyone called him Pete.   

Harmony and rules were harder for Pete to find in this New World place because he was ahead of his new older classmates in school work but English was his second language and he was behind them in social skills. Thus he was obliging to his peers to learn their ways to get by. Yet a small spirit light inside him kept guiding him toward the harmony and rules he still could feel in his bones. His spirit light led him to the arts. Pete wanted to be a poet.

Pete studied literature at college in a New World place best known as a Mecca for senior citizens. But try as he might and fit in with poets as well as he did, it was hard for him to hear the music in his second language. And living in the New World obliged him to find work. His Old World background took him from collegiate short order to tall order restaurant gigs where he made friends, fun, and a living; but he heard no music in the work he did. Now, Pete was no stranger to hard work. He also wanted to marry a worried woman to ease his worried mind. He took a building trade job one summer in his New World hometown as a mason tender with a man from his Old World place. This was challenging work for a gimlet-eyed taskmaster, but it gave him harmony and rules. It was on building sites that Pete began to hear music in the noisy New World.

Physical labor makes it hard to feel involved in art of any kind, even when the music is clear. Pete was sure that the music he felt in his bones must be coming from the buildings going up like marvelous concerts around him as he mixed and carried cement while other workmen employed their skills. The music was not coming from their work, but from the things their work was making. Pete’s insight inspired him to create that music by becoming an architect, a poet of materials.

Architecture school is about harmony and rules. But these were not the harmony and rules of Pete’s Old World home nor those he sought in poetry. He needed to earn a living. He also yearned for melodies he could not hear in an architect’s studio. Pete was a sociable man but he preferred working by himself in places he best could hear the music. His skills increased with the jobs he did; before long he was doing his own contracting work.

Pete liked buying tools for his work. A salesperson or a workman on a building site occasionally suggested a particular model or type of tool for a certain job. Slowly he began to absorb his tools’ harmonies in working with them to acquire their language and grammar: tools taught his hands how to work with them to do jobs they have evolved to do in people’s hands from the earliest times. He also found that while his hands were making things with tools, his mind was free to roam his imagination for ways to make things better. This was when he began to hear his tools make music. Without realizing it at first, Pete was becoming a poet of materials.

One day gently pulling a special plane to feather an edge without thinking, Pete was surprised to hear a long, sensuous note resonate like the beginning of George Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody in Blue.’ His stroke was effortless and the edge was perfect.

Before long, he began to hear the music of each tool in his kit. Next to his worried woman, Pete loved nothing more than hearing the music in his tools as they shaped wood, stone, and other materials. His spirit light had led him to his art. He became a master at playing their music which he sometimes heard as his music, such as the Rolling Stones’ ‘Midnight Rambler’ and ‘Gimme Shelter’ for hammering and crosscut sawing; operatic cadenzas when he pushed or drew his planes; and the sublime ‘Un bel dì vedremo’ of Giacomo Puccini’s opera ‘Madame Butterfly’ as he honed, tuned, and used the chisels that were his special delight.

Clients and general contractors loved Pete’s refinements. But he was disappointed when they misunderstood the need for the eloquent and melodious vocabulary his musical tools taught him, the materials that made the best music, and the time it took to elaborate it. And there was always the cost, the New World’s biggest concern, despite the fact that Pete would forego profit to achieve a result he wanted.

‘Just scooch this over a teeny bit and zip it up with a screw gun,’ they would say. ‘It can’t make that much difference. Or chip a little out around the edges. Less is more, right? No one will see it anyway. And it saves me money.’

These attitudes dimmed Pete’s bright spirit light to a blue pilot.

‘At least I heard the music in my tools and they taught me to master my craft,’ he said. He still spent loving hours at home honing his planes and chisels and did projects for his worried wife, friends, and neighbors, in addition to work with clients who valued his craft. 

Honing chisels in his workshop one afternoon, a new music rose to Pete’s ears. His spirit light brightly illuminated the blueprint of a grand celestial ladder. Piece by piece Pete began to weigh and select materials in his workshop that he shaped and fitted without nail or screw as the new music swelled into the mechanism that would carry him and his worried wife back to the harmonious Old World place he left so many years before.




Peter Geier is a writer based in Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He is an award-winning journalist who has reported for local, national, and international publications. He did A-levels at Bedford School and has an honoUrs degree in Russian language and literature from Pennsylvania State University. He served in the US Army, has travelled extensively, learns languages for fun, and reviews films for moompitchers.blogspot.com He is completing a collection of short stories set in New York.

Title photo credit –  Simon Noh on Unsplash

Horla standard disclaimer – image has no direct connection with the fiction