Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Muted Keys

Muted Keys

Sara Oliver

Year 12

“Our property remained as messy as a toddler's favourite set of trains; scattered on the kitchen floor, disguising the innocence of a fragile imagination. I still think of you when the coffee steam disappears into fading hope. The hope that when I put on my Patagonia coat, I'll stop recalling the ways you almost got us to the peak of the mountain. If only your snow hadn't fallen so heavily into the landscape of time. You would still be here, my Angela, not lost in the illusion of life.”

                A distraught man aligns his shoulders with the spilt blue light that vaguely flickers upon the nape of his neck. His name is Samuel Phinx; the husband of my long-lost sister, Angela Mary. Tonight we acknowledge her death anniversary as we've never done before. After all, tragedies are not often well received. Our eyes meet as he stands behind the panel and acknowledges the Steinway piano in the back corner of the room. For a moment, I could have sworn I felt the presence of a thousand lives flourishing, generations of fingers who touched the tusks of her soul returning to pay homage...

                Samuel named his Grand Piano after her when she died, he said that its shiny red exterior leant him a purpose in life. A sentimental talisman of his choice, reflecting the complexities of their endless passion. He claims that he can feel her trying to reach him through the garden of emotions blossoming from the keys.

                For years, our family have done the best we can to try and get him back on his feet again. But an obsessive, job-less man will need more than one rocket-ship to make his return through a thousand universes back to reality.

                Today, is a rather sour Sunday. Remembering Angela. I pull out the piano stool and set myself down next to Samuel's distant figure. He taps the keys violently and a rush of minor chords sprout from the bass bridge of the piano. I almost see her pure smile in the rim of my wine glass. Salty tears summon years of tasteless moments...embittered by the hope she would come back to us.

                The room silences for a lost man haunted by the apparition of a devastating fate. Her voice wanders free through the depths of his impeccable playing. Every year on the 24th of April, he is at peace...and I am reminded what it felt like to know someone so full of spirit. Her unforgettable heart haunts the gaps between the silence that forever lingers.

                The room remains pacified by the spectre of Angela.

                My wedding ring slips off and spins, a crescendo of possibilities only to be forbidden by the pasty night. I let it be, pieces of me scattered without a purpose.

                A time-bomb of notes...

                “Mrs. Phinx,” my niece calls to me, her clock-like silhouette flustered...


                “You dropped your ring.”