It struck me as odd that, in such a ridiculous, nonsensical world, there should be something as common as a playground. Yet there it was in the school yard, sticking out like a perfectly normal thumb surrounded by sore fingers. Swings, slides, a merry-go-round, a climbing gym and more awaited the eager Note children. For whatever reason, I could not justify its existence in my mind. By this time, however, I had stopped trying to understand any of it. Instead, I just accepted the fact that schools for music Notes must have playgrounds as well as human schools.
Alyson, of course, joined in the fun without a moment’s hesitation. Currently, she was riding the merry-go-round with her new friends. Faster and faster they spun, all giggling and shouting the whole time. I stood beside Maestro on one side of the playground, while Ms. M marched the perimeter with rhythmic footsteps.
“This is your first time in Harmonia, yes?” Maestro asked me.
I could not help but grin. “What gave me away?”
“Oh, just a hunch.” Maestro chuckled. “Very few grown-ups have ever visited us, and they always have the most trouble accepting it all. Our worlds are quite different I understand, and many humans are unaware Harmonia even exists.”
I nodded in agreement, still not entirely convinced myself that it wasn’t just a long, unusually-detailed dream.
Gazing past the playground equipment, I saw a group of Notes playing what I took to be their own version of tag. Only instead of one child being “it,” they would send their flying pet Dots after each other and whoever got tagged by someone else’s Dot was out of the game. The Notes ran all over, shrieking and ducking out of reach of the Dots.
A few minutes later, three Notes walked over to the swing set and started bullying everybody off so they could have the swings to themselves.
“Excuse me,” Maestro sighed. “I need to go teach those three the meaning of sharing.” Then he trotted away.
As I stood there alone, something to my left caught my eye. I turned to look, but nothing was there.
“Okay,” I muttered under my breath as I scanned the area, “I may be in a magic world with talking music Notes and unicorns and metronomes where they travel by staff roads and have pet Dots—but I am not crazy.” I said this with more conviction than I actually felt.
But then I saw it again—the proof of my semi-sanity: The long, black face of a Quarter Rest poked around the corner of the building and looked right at me. The Rest blinked its large eyes in surprise and darted back behind the school house. Apparently, it hadn’t been expecting me to notice. After a quick glance over my shoulder, I walked over to the Rest’s hiding place.
Around the corner, I found not one Rest, but several of them all huddled together and staring mutely at me. I wondered if my appearance was truly that frightening.
Several pairs of eyes blinked, but no response was given.
“How are you? My name is Stephanie,” I tried again, holding out my hand in greeting.
The Rests all jumped back in alarm as if I had just produced a weapon.
“I’m sorry…” I retracted my hand slowly. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
Still no answer. I was starting to feel annoyed. Didn’t their parents teach them how to be polite?
In an attempt to appear less intimidating, I squatted down to their level. “It’s alright,” I said. “You’re not in trouble. I just wanted to meet you.”
The Rests turned to each other and exchanged glances, all without saying a single word. A wild thought suddenly shot into my head:
Maybe they can read each other’s minds! Wait—I watched them closely with a mixture of curiosity and trepidation—Can they read my mind too?
They showed no signs that that was the case. I mentally shook myself and returned to reason. Of course they couldn’t read minds. That was ridiculous.
Still, they did seem to be able to communicate with only looks. It was clear to me that some silent argument was taking place among them. Then a single Rest stepped forward and waved its hands at the others, which seemed to settle the matter. It turned back around and approached me cautiously, as if I was a wild animal not to be startled.
When the Rest was only a couple of feet away, it stared up at me with wide eyes and wrung its hands.
“Hello,” I said again.
The Rest slowly held out its hand to me.
“Oh…” I took the tiny hand in my own and shook it gently. It felt so fragile, I was afraid it would snap clean off if I shook too hard.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said.
The Rest stepped back a few paces and glanced at the others with a look that obviously meant, See? I told you so!
“So,” I tried again, “what are you all doing over here? Don’t you want to play with the others? Or were you just hiding from me?”
The group stared back without answering.
“They don’t speak.”
Spinning around on my heels, I saw Ms. M standing there with her hands on her hips.
I gaped at her in disbelief. “What—all of them?”
Ms. M gave a curt nod. “Of course. How could they? They don’t have mouths.”
Horror-stricken, I looked back at the Quarter Rests and realized she was right. Somehow I had missed it before. Not a single one of them had a mouth.
“But—but,” I stammered, “but why?”
Ms. M studied me stoically. “I thought you were a music teacher.”
I straightened up, offended by her doubt. “I am!”
“Well, then,” she said, “you ought to know that Rests are silent.”
‘Real life?’ I thought to myself. What’s wrong with me? I can’t believe I just referred to this place as ‘real life,’ even in my head.
Coming back to my senses, I noticed Ms. M was still watching me. I had no idea why, seeing as our conversation had clearly come to an end, at least from my point of view.
I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Well, thanks,” but she didn’t take the hint. She just stood there, looking at me.
With a frustrated sigh, I turned back to the Rests. “It was nice meeting you,” I said, then walked back to the playground.
Nothing had changed. The Note children were still playing, and Alyson participated in their games as if she was one of them. Maestro had apparently told the three bullies off already, because the swings were occupied once again and there were no signs of further quarreling.
I became aware of an unwanted presence behind me. Looking over my shoulder, I saw Ms. M stood a few feet away. She gazed back at me with an unreadable expression.
At this point, what little patience I still had was quickly wearing off.
“Can I help you?” I snapped.
Ms. M didn’t even blink at my rude demand. Instead, she furrowed her painted eyebrows and replied, “I require no assistance.”
I glared at her, wondering if she was being difficult on purpose. “I mean, did you want something or are you just following me around for giggles?”
Ms. M crossed her arms and looked as if she was trying to figure me out. One of her wooden fingers tapped incessantly against her arm with an irritating clicking sound.
“I don’t giggle,” she finally replied.
That was the last straw. I threw my arms up in exasperation. “Do you always take things so literally?”
“What do you mean?”
“Ugh!” I groaned and turned my back on her.
Much to my aggravation, Ms. M walked up beside me and watched the playground in silence—except for her constantly tapping finger.
to be continued…