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Puccini’s Nessun Dorma filled the birthing suite. From that moment onward, baby Hagen hated music.
His mother, a world-famous Wagnerian mezzo soprano, his father, an acclaimed conductor, and his two brothers, first violin and double bass, reluctantly had to accept that Hagen had no musical talent. Still, the family soldiered on. As a gesture, they agreed not to talk about music in Hagen’s presence.
As a result, meal times were conducted in silence. Only Hagen enjoyed them.
He didn’t enjoy school, and hated having to admit that he’d been named after a minor character in Wagner’s opera Götterdämmerung: Hagen, the half-brother of Gunther and Gutrune, illegitimately fathered by the dwarf Alberich.
At twenty, Hagen changed his name to Harry Collins, cut all ties with his family and moved interstate. A glorious, music-free life beckoned him.
Harry began work as a seasonal grape picker. Early one morning a fellow worker started humming. Soon most of the pickers burst into song. Harry put his head down and picked faster. He couldn’t even sing. Not a note. Harry sometimes wondered if the strange choice of his name, an illegitimate son fathered by a scheming dwarf, weren’t some kind of musical shorthand, perhaps even a clue to his origins. Was he indeed his parents’ natural offspring? Had he been abandoned on their doorstep and, motivated by the high-flown sentiments enshrined in all those tedious operas, been adopted by them?
That might explain it.
Harry transferred to another vineyard, where the workers were sullen and uncommunicative. Here, he thrived.
Until someone tracked him down and trust an invitation into Harry’s hand. “Karaoke Night. You’ll come?” Harry took the invitation but, when the picker left, ripped it up.
Music had no place in his life.
He moved inland and got a job in the mines, deep underground. Here, he figured, no-one sang.
He was right.
One day, on his way to clocking in, he passed by an old mine shaft entrance and looked down. An odd slab of stone with even odder markings caught his eye. Harry stopped, knelt and examined it. His heart raced. Growing up, he’d seen enough musical notation to last him a lifetime. Somehow, Harry knew this was similar.
Harry quit his job and took the stone with him.
Painstakingly, he researched his next move, finally making an appointment with a specialist in the field. Weeks later, the specialist handed him over to a Professor who was visiting from England. The Professor spent two days studying the stone, after which he requested an interview with Harry.
“It’s 100% alien: stone, markings, the lot. This is incredible!” The Professor’s eyes shone. “How did you do it? Whatever made you identify it?”
Harry didn’t know what to say. Finally, he blurted out, “I come from a musical family. I guess some of it must have rubbed off.”
The Professor nodded. “They’ll be proud of you.”
Yes. Harry’s heart beat faster. He actually wanted to see his family again.
They’d welcome him, too. He knew that.
Even in a family like his, he’d turned out to be talented.
He booked his flight.
Nessun Dorma swelled as he entered the family courtyard.
Brenda Anderson’s fiction has appeared in various places, including Flash Fiction Online and Daily Science Fiction. She lives in Adelaide, South Australia and tweets irregularly @CinnamonShops. (She is actually a big fan of Richard Wagner, particularly The Ring Cycle.)