My pager beeps. Must be seven o’clock again. Third time this week.
I stride through the dining room. I brush past the pianist. Her head is bowed, brows knitted, fingers melting into the keyboard. She doesn’t look up.
The first notes of “My Heart Will Go On” fill the room.
If only the Titanic had never hit that iceberg.
I open the double doors to my study. I close them and snuff Celine Dion silent.
I’m in a Queensland sauna. Boxes, shelves and filing cabinets jostle for room. The only spare space belongs to an office chair opposite a PC.
Like Mao’s ballet dancer in a phone booth, I twirl myself and the chair around and sit. I unclip my pager, fish out my Maxibon sized mobile and turn on the PC.
“Hi, I’m returning your page.”
The duty operator yawns, stretches and scratches himself. The computer room aircon roars like a tsunami. In the last moment, before the wave breaks, his voice whispers its last.
“Just a sec.”
Paper crackles through the phone. His voice:rat-a-tat: Caller name, phone number, said she had trouble with a search. My clammy fingers slip on the pen as I scribble it all down.
“She didn’t say.”
Again. I hang up. I login and perform the standard checks. All working.
“I’m Andrew, returning your call.”
“Look, it’s really urgent, I need to do this search tonight, for my credit check tomorrow.”
“I understand,” I say. I click the dummy credit check search and enter his details. Still bankrupt but yet to be extradited.
“Mine worked,” I say, “I’ll wait while you retry yours.”
“It’s not working. I really need this tonight.”
In the mid-Atlantic, the Titanic soundtrack seeps under my door.
“Though my heart is broken,” I snap silently to Celine.
“I’ll try and access their database manually,” I reply.
“They’re not working at the moment,”I continue. The air clings like treacle. I flap my arms: no sweat relief.
Celine re-enters. “Love has finally spoken. My heart will go on,” I riposte.
“Can’t you call them now, get them to reset their line or something?”
“I could email them.” And wait till morning.
My shirt is wet now. I open the double doors. Music and cool enter as one.
“Is that music? Are you in a piano store?”
“My daughter is practicing for an invitation-only concert.”
“You’re calling from home?”
“The piano’s in the dining room next to my study.” She breathes out.
“Look, the credit check, isn’t due till mid tomorrow morning. I could try it early and see.”
“Thanks for your call.”
I open the double doors wider.
“Thanks,” I say, “Your hold music helped calm that customer. ”
My daughter looks up and nods. And starts from the beginning. As do I.
At the end of my performance, I ask, “Do you think I could sing that at your concert?”
The piano lid silently closes.
“Maybe work as Celine Dion’s lyricist?”
She had to laugh at that.