The Music Lesson by Alec Clayton

As first dates go, this one was outstanding. She had the biggest eyes he had ever seen, and deep dimples. He loved dimples. The meal was enjoyable and not too heavy. He was confident that he came across as witty and sincere.  When he took her home she invited him up for a drink. They sat side-by-side on the couch, she with her feet tucked yoga style. At last he worked up the nerve to kiss her and she responded, if not passionately at least firmly. Deciding not to pussyfoot around, he reached between her legs.

”No,” she said, pulling his hand away.

“No? Not gonna happen?”

“Nope. Sorry. Not gonna happen.”

She didn’t seem upset, just determined in her rejection, and that was all right. At least he knew. That was always the question about a date. Is it going to lead to sex sooner or later, or just friendship or fall flat and die? She untucked her legs and sat forward on the edge of the couch with her knees together.

He said, “Let’s get to know each other better. Music always says a lot about a person, what you like or don’t like and why. So what’s your favorite song?”

She shot him a quizzical look.

He said, “I know. Nobody has just one favorite. But think about it for a moment. If you can think of one song that really, really gets to you, what would it be?”

After a moment she said, “Imagine by John Lennon.

She sang a verse.

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too . . .”

“There you go,” he said. “Wow! That tells me a lot about you. Your thoughts, your beliefs, your heart.”

“You’re right. Yeah it does.”

“We could be soul mates. Really.”

She resettled on the couch, her legs tucked under her again. Her already big eyes opened wider. She even put her hand familiarly if platonically on his leg in a gesture that said we can be good buddies now, buddy.

She said, “You know what else gets to me every time? You’re gonna laugh.” She paused for a moment as if embarrassed, and then said, The Star Spangled Banner.”

He didn’t laugh.

She said, “I’m not nationalistic. I’m not an uber-patriot or anything, but there’s something about that song that’s soul stirring. It gets to me every time.”

He said, “Did you know that it was originally quite different? I saw something on TV about that. As originally written it was played at a faster tempo and more like a march.”

“Yeah, I know. I saw that too.”

“They played a bit of the original, and I didn’t like it.”

“Me neither, but I guess it’s just a matter of what we’re used to.”

They were quiet for a moment, and then she said, “OK, now it’s your turn. What song grips your soul every time you hear it?”

It didn’t take him long to think about it. “Bring Him Home from Les Miz.”

“Whew! Oh God yes. Oh, that . . . that tells me so much . . . That, that’s the song that does it for you. Hey, you know what? You know where I told you not to put your hand? Well why don’t you put it back down there? I think maybe it’s gonna happen after all.”

There was little more to say until . . .  after a while he said, “I love music.”


*Clayton is a self-published novelist and feature writer. His work includes six novels and a book about art with the latest novel is due out this summer. Clayton writes a theater review column for The News Tribune and an art review column for the Weekly Volcano. He resides in Olympia with wife, Gabi. Together they founded and run Mud Flat Press (, a home-based company dedicated to helping other self-published authors prepare manuscripts for publication, including editing, formatting and  cover design.*