Sliding aside the galley curtain, I entered the business class section glancing at the posted seat numbers. Spotting my number, I saw someone had strapped a cello case into the middle seat. I looked at the stewardess quixotically, shrugged my shoulders, stepped around the case and sank into the Lay-Z-Boy chair. Gazing out the window feeling smug, I congratulated myself for finally purchasing a better ticket.
The planes engines began to whine, revving to a droning throb. A sympathetic vibration made the window shade gently tap until the gyrations further increased and the rattling stopped. A short, baldheaded man then dropped into the aisle chair with a sigh. Catching his breath, he bolted out of his seat to ensure his cello was still secure. Glimpsing shyly at me over the top of his glasses he said a staccato Hell-o then flopped back down.
Wait a sec, I quizzed myself. Isnt that?
I blurted out excitedly, Maestro. I thoroughly enjoyed your performance last night.
The man looked stunned. What did I say? feeling embarrassed.
The Maestro pointed at his cello case. Sorry, he mumbled, Yes. The Duport cello. Hope you dont mind. Wont put her in luggage. I buy a childs ticket and put Miss Cello on it that way I get two meals.
Looking startled, he added giggling, She wont bite.
I could barely contain my excitement sitting beside a 300-year-old million dollar cello and an eminent musician.
Maestro, would Mozart have seen your cello? I asked dumbly.
There was an awkward silence. The Maestro nodded adding, Mozart would have heard and seen her. Napoleon Bonaparte even dented one side with his spurs. I moaned.
Hate take offs. Glad thats over. One time going down the runway there was an explosion. The plane slammed to a stop tipping to one side. Doors flew open. Then Im sliding down the emergency shoot with my cello. Later found out the wheels had blown on one side.
Must have been . . . scary, empathizing with him.
Yes, he smirked as the stewardess brought three dinner plates. I was bruised but the cello was fine!
As we ate, I critiqued his recordings and how I tried copying his style for my own merger playing. He whispered a thanks periodically but I knew he was more content to be left alone. But I just could not help myself take advantage of this miraculous happenstance.
After the plates were collected, I started to ask if he could show me the cello but noticed he had dozed off. Thats when an old Chinese saying came to me: if you touch the hand of someone greater some of their gift will rub off on you. Sneakily, I stroked the case where his hands would have closed and latched the lid. Maybe some of his talent will rub off on me, I hoped.