Jay Stritch is a student of English Literature at Cambridge University and a lover of all modes of storytelling. She has recently published ‘Seven Minutes’ told in the format of memory collections which trace the interweaving, highly eventful lives of a very interesting family. In her free time she enjoys skiing and adrenaline based sports.
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It is said that when you die your brain stays active for seven minutes, in which time you relive your most prominent memories.
‘The Collector’ of these memories has the most interesting story of all to tell. By following the intertwining lives of a group of characters we are taken on a journey through some amazing experiences: loss, love, guilt, failure, success and what defines us as human beings. The very essence of these people emerges from their memories.
But why is Will the one this collection of memories has been given to? What is he supposed to do with them? He already has enough on his plate, now that he’s unemployed with a farm and family to run while his wife is away working. However, he can’t seem to stop obsessing about this mysterious book or put it down and it begins to affect his life in more ways than one…
Five minutes later I’m subtly shifting away from my music teacher whose green skirted behind is plopped on to the other side of the piano stool. Fixated on the offensive article, I pay little attention to the demonstration of how the introduction to ‘Das Albumblatt fur Elise’ should be played, but instead keep my hands locked in my lap. I switch my long brown plait to the shoulder furthest away from Mrs. Kruger, lest ‘it’ should drop. I am woken from my concentration when the unaware Mrs. Kruger instructs me, “Sabina, you must now play that, explaining the notes as you go.”
The anxiety in the overheated music room is palpable and, very tentatively, eyes still locked on the droplet of snot hanging at the end of the mistress’s nose, I try to play. Mrs. Kruger’s nose is like a volcano protruding away from her face; the inside has dried like molten lava, forming a green crust which surrounds the last droplet. It would perhaps have been all right if the mistress had not seemed to insist upon following my hands with her head, making the oncoming threat of rain ever present, and the bobbing motion did not help either. With every new beat I feel that my fingers only narrowly escape the utter foulness of snot from Mrs. Kruger’s nose. With all these thoughts on my mind, it is not long before my fingers trip over themselves and the piano protests offensively inducing Mrs. Kruger’s cries of, “What is the problem? We have been working on the same piece for weeks! Ignorant girl! Do you never concentrate?”
Her voice is riddled with that utter desperation that only someone who has experienced teaching understands. However, she also has a condescending and self-absorbed demeanor that seems to assume that I am either lazy or stupid. I can still not look away from the droplet which is now only a millimeter away from flying the nest. If I told Mrs. Kruger what was wrong perhaps she would sort it out before next week? Blow her nose before she came to class or something? So, for the first time in the four weeks that I have been trying to learn piano, I meet Mrs. Kruger’s eyes. Calmly and quietly, taking a deep breath, I reply, “I’m really sorry but I find it very difficult to concentrate…”
“Why, what’s wrong with you?” Mrs. Kruger interrupts.
A little more boldly I answer, “well, every week that I have a lesson, I come and sit here and you always have a drip at the end of your nose that looks like it’s about to fall off, and I can’t take my eyes of it in case it lands on the piano and touches me!”
I am going to suggest that Mrs. Kruger should blow her nose more frequently but I do not get the opportunity to before her deafening outburst, which includes many repetitions of “I have never been so insulted” and “You spoiled child”. She is in the middle of spitting out the word “unappreciative” and looking like she could either cry or hit something, when the drip finally finds itself another home, flying free and landing on the piano.
“See!” I exclaim, having backed away from the oncoming attack, “I told you it would happen.’”
This apparently (though I’d thought it would help her to see reason) is just too much for Mrs. Kruger who grabs hold of my collar and pushes me out of door with the instruction not to bother coming back to piano lessons as she will refuse to teach me and my parents will be informed that they no longer have to pay for them. I catch one last glimpse of Mrs. Kruger’s flushed face (whether from anger or embarrassment I don’t know) before the door slams in my face. For a moment, staring at the wood inches away from my nose, I feel as if I might cry but instead I sigh, pick up my school bag and walk back towards the dorm.
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