I N T I M A T E   P O R T R A I T S

Ricky Garni


Eduardo Santavilla Extradura's life was changed forever when he discovered the word "pianissimo."

For years he had played Chopin Nocturnes with pleasure and great enthusiasm on his piano, and was quite content to do so except in the summer months when it was simply too hot to be a pleasurable activity.

It was on just such a day that he first encountered the word "pianissimo."

He had just completed making violent love to his wife in the bedroom, and was relaxing with a copy of a biography of Pablo Casals, resting against the propped-up pillows in their luxurious bed as his wife wept softly in the bathroom.

"Pablo had an exquisite control of the instrument, even at a tender age, and was capable of playing the challenging pianissimo in a way that left his master giddy with pride and his audience breathless with joy."

Upon reading this, Eduardo insisted upon purchasing, and then mastering, this intriguing pianissimo. He wasn't precisely certain what it was, but he knew for certain that were he to do so, his skills which were clearly first rate, would be of the transcendent, perhaps even immortal variety.

With this thought, the acquisition of pianissimo became Eduardo's singular obsession. His passion so possessed him that he could barely eat or sleep. His garden was in tatters and his technique began to falter. He began to develop arthritis and he became a father but didn't notice either of these events. This obsession continued to plague, haunt, and destroy him and his family's life until one day when he discovered, by reading the liner notes of a Glenn Gould album of Brahms Ballads, that "pianissimo" was not something that a man could go out and purchase like, say, a piano, but it was, quite simply, a gift of God.

Eduardo didn't know whether to laugh or die. Or cry. And so he wept softly, softly. His life became pale and vapid. He lost all interest in the remains of his garden, his music, the piano, Pablo Casals, and his pillows.

He did, however, continue to make violent love to his wife.



Ross Unimarado wondered what ever happened to Leslie Gore. How he loved her music, but he didn't own a television set, and so he didn't watch the surf movies, but how he remembered them, and how he watched them in the theatre long ago. Sometimes until he felt drunk with Leslie Gore, or hit over the head with a big pipe by Leslie Gore, or falling into a cresting blue Hawaiian wave off a surfboard by Leslie Gore.

He wrote all of these things in his diary and re-read them as he smoked a cigarette. He realized that it sounded like a book title: Hit Over The Head With A Big Pipe, by Leslie Gore, Copyright 1956. He prayed that she wasn't hurt. And he thought even more about the lost Leslie Gore.

At least to him she was the lost Leslie Gore: he figured by now if she wasn't dead she was probably married and so at least her husband didn't considered her lost.

But what if she felt lost inside? Perhaps she felt enormous pressure to get married and was actually homosexual, like Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees who became famous roughly about the same time she did. At least he affects a quality in his voice of homosexuality, even if he is not homosexual. Perhaps he is just trying to seem more artistic in a way that is really outré these days. I don't care if he really did play his own instruments on the t.v. show.

And how he remembered Leslie Gore! It was her gentle composure, her innocence, but mostly her eyes, which had that arctic blue icyness to them. But why did she seem so warm, if her eyes were from the arctic? Was it because it was a sad song and only warm people sing them in a moving way? Maybe all eyes used to be from the arctic, and all arctic eyes had an inherent warmth to them. But since he didn't know any eyes from back in the day of Leslie Gore that appeared arctic then that he still knew today, he couldn't say with certainty that this was true. His mother's eyes were more hazel-like. And his dad wore secretly drank paregoric and wore dresses and died when he was thrown from an outboard and his mother was so angry she tore up all the pictures--so who knows about his eyes? And he really didn't have any friends.

But while Ross considered this, Ross discovered that very day that Leslie Gore wasn't lost, or if she was, she wasn't anymore. He found out when he passed a hardware store and there she was on a television screen talking about the T.A.M.I. show from 1966 and over thirty years ago. "All I could hear was the beat of the bass drum" Leslie Gore said, of the music, as she sang her medley. She was there in her household frock, and she looked quite terrible, albeit with her eyes undiminished, but that was no consolation. What if someone said to you: That is the last chocolate candy bar that you will ever eat? Ross thought to himself outside the hardware store, wishing that he had never seen a television set in his life, and realizing that someone might as well have said that about candy bars to Ross right then, as Ross already had said to himself, because as far as he was concerned, Leslie Gore still alive, looking quite terrible, even with her eyes undiminished, served an icy chill up Ross' spine--the icy chill of a great pleasure going away forever, like that of a chocolate candy bar, or all of the chocolate candy bars in the world, all gone for good. Soon Ross soon felt a decided inability to hear anything from anyone or anything, and least of all the only drum beat that anyone he once loved could have once heard, coming from a place he could never forget, the place where Leslie Gore once dwelled.



Mr. Witherspoon was a depressing, old, smelly, uneducated and rather feeble old man who liked to play checkers with school children who beat him mercilessly.

"Why the hell did you have to do that?" he would say. By that, of course, he meant "why did you have to win?" What child would answer such a question, which was, quite clearly, so rhetorical that even a child recognized it at once. One child who recognized this somewhat faster than the other children who beat Mr. Witherspoon was Ludwig Wittgenstein. yes, THE Ludwig Wittgenstein. One of the children that Mr. Witherspoon played was Ludwig Wittgenstein, the great German philosopher.

"I'll never forget my afternoons in the Pradast�ste playing checkers with Mr. Witherspoon," he would say, "although I cannot rightly say that it ever had any influence on my decision to become a philosopher. He did teach me the word 'hell', though..."

Mr. Witherspoon liked the word 'hell.' He used it all the time, although generally not during his checker games because he tended to concentrate deeply upon each move, although it didn't matter because he was so terribly bad and stupid to boot that there wasn't a chance ("in hell," as Mr. Witherspoon might say) that he would win a game. And so he saved all his "hells" for relaxation time before and after his games.

"Where the hell have you been?" "The weather certainly is like hell today" "I don't know what the hell you are talking about" "You call this hell? I'll show you hell" "Hell, hell, hell" "Oops, hell" "Dear lord please kill me and take me away from this hell" and "Do you remember the time I said 'hell' yesterday?"

One day, years ago, Mr. Witherspoon won a game of checkers decisively. He was wearing a green army jacket over a black tea shirt with a small rectangular pocket over the left breast and faded black dungarees and an eye patch and authentic indian moccasins. He was playing his imaginary friend, Mrs. Witherspoon.

"So there! to hell with you!" he said triumphantly. A fine victory, to be certain.

After the game, Mrs. Witherspoon smiled and made Mr. Witherspoon a cup of apple tea, and shooed away all the smart alecky checker-playing little boys with their clean clothes, or so he claimed. According to Mr. Witherspoon, Mrs. Witherspoon was curvy and sweet to touch and sensitive, and loving, and completely devoted to Mr. Witherspoon and easily as smart as Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Even though he imagined everything in it, it was, without a doubt, a day that Mr. Witherspoon would never forget.

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Swagazine 9
Winter 2001

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