Rewritten excerpt, Batresh sees Denny for the 1st time in 1977, now a young man.
She looked down at the chairs in front of her, recalling vocal techniques she learned from downloads. The memories were not hers, but those of a student working at New York City in the 1980s. Being at 1977 now, she didn’t even stop to think that these memories had not yet been created. She remembered an older woman, a chain smoker, with a rough voice. The student from whom these memories were taken called the teacher, Ms. Bierhoff. The drapes behind them were open. They were on the ground floor of an apartment building. The student was amazed the teacher, her voice damaged from decades smoking, knew so much about singing.
Even with this liability, the singer believed Ruth Bierhoff was the best voice teacher she ever had.
Batresh was brought back to the present by a woman sitting down in front of her. She had short dark hair, wore a black polyester pant suit and no make-up. More people were arriving. To her left were tenors, to her right, altos. Chairs were placed on wooden rectangular boxes, risers made by stage-hands years earlier, scratched and worn by repeated stacking and unstacking. She looked into the auditorium of Powell Symphony Hall. Empty audience chairs covered with red-velour, the carpet, crimson, the walls, cream with gold moldings. The auditorium looked like the inside of a birthday cake.
A thin, elegantly dressed man wearing a pea-coat, sat down next to her. “He is a tenor,” she thought to herself.
He looked around the stage. “Well, here we are, on the stage of Powell Hall,” he said.
She laughed and responded, “I feel famous!”
He laughed in return. “Are you an alto?” he asked.
“According to Mr. Beckham, I am a contralto,” she smiled referring to the conductor. “I always thought I was a mezzo soprano.”
“Let’s see,” he said, gesturing to her face with his left hand, “From your speaking voice, I can tell you would make a great Carmen,” he joked.
A man sat down to his left, “Hi Bob,” he offered.
Batresh saw more singers come to the stage. “This is a big chorus,” she thought to herself. Walking with three other women, hesitant and shy, was a young person of indeterminate gender. He or she had a beautiful face, with long, light brown hair, brushed back. She didn’t see breasts, so she guessed he was a young man.
She realized it was him.
Not having seen him since he was five, she noted he walked with feminine grace, and wore yellow-satin, flared trousers, a gold sequined belt, and a loose white shirt. He was stylish for January, 1977. He carried a green wool coat in his arms, along with a black folder holding sheets of music. She didn’t want to stare, but, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. He looked at her, but didn’t recognize her.
For her, only two weeks had passed, but for him, 14 years. She had gone home to rest, to be with people she loved. Her first mission was harrowing. She had not been ready. Her carelessness could have resulted in the death of the young man walking in front of her. She made friends who helped, Jerry watched over Denny for 14 years.
She took more time to prepare for her second mission. Along with cultural downloads, she was genetically modified. Her hair was no longer blonde, but black and curly. Her skin was darker. She seemed to be of mixed race.
Looking to her left, she saw the thin man sitting next to her was watching the young man approach. Denny took a chair in front of them.
Bob, sitting next to her, placed his right hand on the young man’s shoulder. He turned around. “Are you a tenor?” he asked, trying to determine Denny’s gender.
Denny responded, “Yes, I am.” He blushed at the older man’s attention.
Her neighbor extended his right hand and offered, “I’m Bob Miller, looks like we’re going to be neighbors.”
Batresh noticed from the way he spoke to Denny, the way his eyes lingered on the young man’s skin, the way he looked into his eyes, that Bob was attracted to him.
Denny smiled back and shook his hand. But then, he turned around, looking at the man who stepped onto a low podium in front of them.
While she had been at Sekhem, Batresh received downloads consisting of a decade of voice lessons. She was an accomplished choral singer. Although not a soloist, she could sing and read music. And, she disagreed with Mr. Beckham, the conductor who stood in front of them. She believed she was a mezzo.
Thomas Beckham had experience with famous choruses in the United States. He recently came from working with the famous conductor, Robert Shaw. He was excited about this high-profile project as the first conductor of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus, tonight to be the premier rehearsal. He looked over the chorus with anxiety. He was not a tall man, and spoke softly. Batresh felt his spirit. He was compassionate, empathetic. This would be a good environment for Denny. She looked in front of her at the 19-year-old and smiled to herself.
Mr. Beckham began, “Welcome to the first rehearsal of the St. Louis Symphony Chorus!”
The chorus applauded. Some cheered. Batresh looked back at the singers. There was a mixture of ages and races, pale and brown faces, smiling at their new conductor.
“Open the Prokofiev,” Mr. Beckham offered. “Page five, the penultimate measure.” She looked down in front of her. Denny calmly went through his music.
“Jerry has done a good job,” she thought to herself. She recognized that, even considering his difficult home life, Denny made it further than many would have predicted. He had grown beyond the culture he was born into. Nothing gave away his humble, country origins. Jerry sent her messages about his progress. She knew Denny studied voice since the age of 15, and that he sang in choral groups, in musical theatre, and even in an opera during high school. She also knew that his father had become more abusive but then, suddenly stopped beating him when he turned 16. She suspected Jerry probably had something to do with that.
She looked to her left towards the men, the tenors and basses. She saw, to Denny’s left, a tall man, thickly muscled, handsome. Then, she looked down at the floor sharply.
He was a Tlaloc.
Looking back, she saw he looked at Denny from the corner of his eye.
Chords sounded from the long, concert grand. The conductor lifted a baton into the air. She opened her music.