from The Very Short Stories Series
Translated by Rareş Bunea
from an old German parchment
Leipzig, Germany, January 13th, 1744
Dear Mister Florian Frankfurt,
I have carefully perused your letter and must thank you for your appreciative remarks regarding my work. Your manuscript was though a little spoiled and I found leaves and some breadcrumbs in the envelope. It might have been my mailman, he has this split personality nervous disorder, always chews the corner of my letters, over the sender’s signature. He is deeply convinced that every piece of correspondence addressed to me contains life-threatening messages. He is innocent, poor fella. Therefore, if you could please send me another copy, I shall give it a proper attention.
I must stop here, Ana, my wife, you know her, has just brought me a wondrous willow tea redolent of the old days when I had to write a cantata per week to please the imperial courts. I haven’t had money not even to buy a decent wig. On the sly I was using my uncle’s, when he was out chasing drones off his bee-farm with a broom he invented himself, yes, he was a beekeeper part-time and a passionate tiller of soil. He liked music too. Good old days.
M. Johann Sebastian Bach
Cöthen, Germany, February 3rd, 1744
Dear Maestro Johann Sebastian Bach,
Thank you for your prompt response and consideration. I really don’t know what happened to my manuscript, could have been your mailman, possibly, I will not refute this thought, but I do know it was in perfectly good condition when it left my residence.
You did not mention my foreword to the manuscript nor my intentions to pursue a musical career. With your benevolence, let me concoct a short version of my previous letter.
My name is Florian Frankfurt. I was born in Cöthen, anno domini 1717, on the day when your eminency moved to the city. Inspired by your work, I have decided to create music myself, although I never touched a musical instrument. One day I felt a volcano swirling up from my stomach and it kept grinding me from the inside. A few good bottles of digestive syrups later, I realized it was not indigestion but an organic urge to create.
I have watched you one day, when you were playing the organ in Cöthen, you were playing like a God. Then I said to myself, hey, I want to be like him. Seventeen years later I came up with a fugue, in D minor which I present you, in a second copy, hereby. It is all a creation of my mind without ever having had played the violin. I could have never afforded it.
I kindly ask you, Herr Maestro Johann Sebastian Bach, if you could put a good word for me at the imperial court, I know they like fugues in D minor, they liked yours, so I was thinking maybe they’ll like mine. This could be real boost for my career.
Leipzig, Germany, February 29th, 1744
Dear Mister Florian Frankfurt,
I have received your letter. It was grimed with an undefined ointment. And the manuscript is still missing. I have found some splinters strewn in the envelope, though. Looks like it comes from a broken violin. Very strange. D minor, you say? Interesting. And you don’t play the violin? Do you have one?
M. Johann S. Bach
Cöthen, Germany, March 13th, 1744
Maestro Johann S. Bach,
I do own a tawny glossless violin. Never played it. Indeed it looks a little old, but is in a good condition. I don’t think those splinters come from my violin. Here’s another manuscript. Please send me your feedback as soon as timely possible, upon your convenience. I appreciate it.
Post scriptum: What is wrong with your mailman?!
Leipzig, Germany, March 21st, 1744
Dear Florian Frankfurt,
I appreciate your courage for being valiant but don’t be overly smug. The splinters I found are tawny and glossless. If I were you I’d try to play the instrument before writing music for it.
I must go. It’s my birthday. Ana brought me a delicious stew. My mailman is here. He’s helping me to replace the horseshoes for my sturdy hackney. He’s so nimble; he jumps like a pixy when he carries his load. Yet he scatters dust when he trots. And it’s all over my wig. It’s very disturbing.
Cöthen, Germany, April 13th, 1744
Did you receive the manuscript or not?
Post scriptum: Happy birthday.
Leipzig, Germany, May 2nd, 1744
No. Not even half of a stave.
Post scriptum: Thank you, indeed.
Cöthen, Germany, May 22nd, 1744
I believe you did. And it is an odd coincidence that last weekend, in my chapel, my church; somebody played a fugue in D minor for violin signed by whom? By whom? By Johann Sebastian Bach.
Leipzig, Germany, June 9th, 1744
So what it’s in D minor? You think I can’t write fugues in D minor? Give me a break. What are you mischievously suggesting?
Post scriptum: your letter looks like it was soaked in soot.
Cöthen, Germany, June 17th, 1744
Listen Bach, you might be the Director of Music or whatever, but you’re still an employee and that does not give you the right to cut off chances for the emerging young talents.
Leipzig, Germany, July 23rd, 1744
Heed what you say, you squat! You’re nothing but an unwary urchin who tries to feed himself from the trough of third hand music and then waddles to the maestro and begs him to help to breakthrough the music business. It’s not easy mister. You are following a will-o’-the-wisps latch. I don’t have time for this. My lithe Ana has prepared a delicious pungent green tea. I have a sore throat.
I beckon my sons and before sunset they’ll knock on your door.
Post scriptum: I found thatch stuff in your envelope. Are you trying some witchcraft on me?!
Cöthen, Germany, August 11th, 1744
You toad! I fend off your feeble threats. I won’t grapple with your prodigies. However, on the spur of the moment I might set my dogs at them. With no muzzles.
Post scriptum: I am so so sorry for your sore throat. Oh, by the way, your mailman confessed over three pints of beer that he delivered my manuscript and that you have it. And why is it taking you so long to reply?
Leipzig, Germany, August 19th, 1744
I got better now. The mailman splayed me with a virus when he sneezed. I fired him immediately. He disappeared from the city. I heard he is in Königsberg and works for a guy named Kant, as his personal assistant.
Meanwhile I fixed my wig. It’s new and sound.
J. S. Bach
Cöthen, Germany, August 26th, 1744
M. J.S. Bach,
Our conversations got too ramose and jagged with hasty remarks. We don’t want our reputation as great artists of the eighteen-century to wane. History will judge us. I need you to be the rudder of my destiny. You know the imperial courts. You can put a good word for me.
Leipzig, Germany, September 2nd, 1744
Ana has prepared a lovely beefsteak. I have some Bordeaux wine, a gift from my old friend, Georg Philipp Telemann. Come over, for the weekend and we’ll discuss your fugue. I’ll show you my plow collection. It’s made in France.
Maestro Johann Sebastian Bach