"Hey," the small man observed philosophically, " A man's gotta make a living, right? And if the hypocritical bastard turned my stomach, well ... there's a lot worse things than a cheesy boss, trust me. I put up with Cyke and Charlie, too." Logan recalled to me that he'd almost been relieved when the churchman had informed him of the impending musical debut. The whole city had been a buzz with it. More than twelve years had passed since Maestro Beethoven had graced the world with one of his compositions in 1812. Rumors were rife that the Master had lost his touch, that the great composer had been unbalanced, overtaken by some mysterious tragedy. The whole of his native land awaited the coming debut with no small amount of speculation, eager to see the fall of the mighty. Logan remembered without effort some of the more spiteful gossip.
"He mourns his sister-in-law," whispered some. "He was her lover for years, you know! Oh yes, it's true! Years! Cuckolding his own brother, poor Karl! Shame!"
"He's gone mad!" insisted others. "He was never very stable ... "
Logan lay his hands in his lap and turned to face me.
"Hearin' that music for the first time was like bein' born again," he said. "I felt like I'd been washed clean. There was a reason for things again ... it was almost -"
" ... almost as if a world with such beauty in it might be worth living in ... " I finished for him fingers flying, then waited for him to settle into his story again. He smiled his gratitude.
"The Theater-An-Der-Wien's one o' those cultural tombs that great artists get condemned to; it's big and fancy like a grave marker and about as cheery. Ol' Logan sniffed the air once and almost upchucked on the smell of Kulture. I hated the place on sight and I was plenty pissed at my boss about it. Archie and me had seats on the center aisle, though. Great view, I gotta tell ya. If ya like that sort o' thing. Ain't my style." I had to smile at that. The vision of the rustic Logan perched among the splendors of a Royal Court like a hawk among the peacocks was amusing if not edifying.
"There was enough perfume drenched satin and lace floatin' around the place to gag a maggot," he continued. "And that was just the men. They were expecting The Emperor Frederick Wilhelm and the Empress, ya see, so the City Fathers o' Vienna had laid out ton's o' money to spruce the whole city up. Hey, the Symphony was dedicated to him so why not? When the Countess Von Bremen made a pass at me I almost forget about Choir -Boy Archie. Course, that woulda been a lot easier if she hadn't been sixty-five and about the size of the city her hubby lorded it over. I didn't give a damn when Archie got pissed at me cuz the Viscountess zum Hollenzolleran kept sending me Champagne. Damn bubbles still make me sneeze. I drank the crap anyway just to see Archie grind his teeth at me. By the time we were ready, finally, to sit down 'His Grace' was a sorry sight. No big surprise when I ended up sittin' on Archie's left side with the rest o' the rabble." His smile was not pleasant. " I love it when a plan comes together," he quoted as if he expected me to understand the reference. My blank face must have disabused him of that quaint notion.
"That's one of the things I like about you, Maggsie," he said and his face was quite serious. "You're the only guy I know who's got less of a sense o' humor than me." I frowned. I've been told I'm rather good at that. In any case, Wolverine found it expedient to carry on with his tale.
"Back in those days composer's always conducted their own pieces, so when Beethoven came on stage to do that there was some polite applause. Archie whispered to me, 'Now we shall see!' and I shushed him before I knew what I was doin'. I've seen brighter storm clouds than his face right about then but he didn't say anything. There ain't many advantages to havin' a mug like this but it does shut people up when I ain't happy. Orchestra Meister Kliment handed his baton to Beethoven, The Master struck a pose and the music started. Damn that sounds lame, don't it? Ain't never been very good with words. That music thundered, it flowed, it whispered until finally it reached right into the ol' ticker and remolded it like it was clay. 'Fore long I wasn't the only one gapin' like a fish outta water. All around the Hall people sat stock still like they couldn't move, terrified by all that beauty. Anything really beautiful is like that. It always scares the crap right outta people. But I noticed somethin' right away. Beethoven's direction wasn't in time with the music the orchestra was playin'."
I almost decided to leave then. To abandon Logan and his troubling tale in the dust of my pride. I knew the story, of course. I remembered the end and I could find no comfort in it. But perhaps I have let go of too many of my Dreams. Whatever I may feel about Charles, friend or foe, he has never given up on his own Dream. I doubt he ever will. It was Wolverine and not Charles who held me back, though. He grabbed my hand.
"You can't run away yet, bub," he Signed slowly and clearly, lest I should mistake his intent. "I'm just gettin' to the good part." I shrugged off his hand fiercely. But, in spite of myself, I did not leave. I would hear his story to it's inevitable end. I have never been a coward and bravery does not consist of a lack of fear. A fearless man is an ignorant fool who will soon be a *dead* ignorant fool. No, a brave man is one who has mastered his fear. As I have. Logan began to play again.
"Now, I don't know jack about music, Mags, but I *do* know timing. Beethoven's timin' was startin' to drift off. And he was gettin' further and further ahead of his musicians. You ever get that sinkin' feelin' in the pit o' yer stomach when ya *know* somethin' bad is gonna happen and their ain't spit ya can do to stop it? Sure ya have. It didn't take a musical genius to realize that Ol' Ludwig was gonna finish his conducting before the musicians finished his symphony ... And the audience was gonna laugh. Damn but they were gonna enjoy laughing at him! *This* was what most o' them had come to see: failure and humiliation. It made me kinda sick to think about it. But ya know what? Mostly it pissed me off. You know about bein' pissed don't ya, Maggsie? After all that beauty it just wasn't right to have it spoiled by something like this. Right about then I started to hope real hard that no one else would notice. If you had to put a fancy name on it I guess you'd have to say I was prayin' ... Ain't done that in a way long time. Waste o' time and breath, mostly. But then I figure you know that, huh? But, sure enough, good old Archie looked to be completely clueless. 'Why?' I couldn't figure it out, 'What the hell is wrong with him? Is he drunk? Or is he crazy as they say he is?' Then I remembered another one o' the vicious rumors floatin' around Vienna. And I knew it was Gospel. He was deaf. He couldn't hear note one o' the music he was conducting. I pretty much decided to cut and run, then. Wish I could put a fancier, more genteel name to it, but hey, if I ain't anything else I'm an honest man. I didn't want to see this. Too late, though. Archie grabbed hold of me and almost lost his hand for his trouble. He tugged me back down into my chair with a whispered snarl. I was gettin' ready to to relieve him o' *both* his hands when it happened." I could see him draw in a deep breath and I realized then, perhaps for the first time that he was not enjoying this. Whether by reason of my discomfort or for his own personal reasons who may say? Not I. He didn't miss a note of that glorious music, though. Not one.
"Beethoven was done conducting but the orchestra kept playing for a bit. Not long, even if it did seem like forever to me. Long enough, though. Everybody could see and even Archie had it figured out by now. That's what finally did it. That smug, stupid grin o' his. Like he'd know good music if it backtracked him and bit him on the butt. Well, me either but that ain't the point, know what I mean?" I nodded slowly. But I did not smile. I had no desire to goad him to anger. I could see his gnarled hands dutifully pound the keys. He was right. They were not made for music. But for a brief instant I could see the patience and strength of will that had driven them to their seemingly useless task of mastering so foreign a thing as Beethoven's "Ode To Joy" and they were quite beautiful.
"The audience started to buzz like a horde o' mosquitos about then, looking at Beethoven and then checking out their fellow music lovers to see if anybody knew what was goin' on. What had happened? They couldn't figure it out either. For a second I thought I was gonna be sick and, well, if I was gonna embarrass myself like that Archie's shiny clean white Archbishop suit looked like a prime target to me. But I changed my mind and stood up. When I started to clap I was alone. But not for long. In about two seconds everybody was on their feet slappin' their hands together like nobody's business; like their lives depended on it or somthin'. We shook the rafters and made that joint ring. Even Archie at my side, glaring at me like I was the Anti-Christ, was clappin'; and not fer a second understandin' why. But, of course, Beethoven couldn't know that. He couldn' t hear the love for the beauty he'd created pour out of his audience; he had his back to us. He had to know that something bad had happened. He could *see* the musicians were still playing after he'd done his bit, right? Christ! He looked real small standing on that stage, all alone and humiliated. His shoulders slumped and he kinda collapsed in on himself like he wanted to disappear awful bad. For a minute I was afraid the applause was gonna die down and he'd never see it. Then somethin' happened. Somethin' ... beautiful. Almost as beautiful as Beethoven's music. The primera soloist, Damisella Caroline Unger, who was a pretty hot singin' ticket just then, walked slowly to his side then gentle like turned him around so's he could see our joy in his "Ode To Joy" ... His face lit up like one o' them chandeliers hangin' overhead. Just then, I think he was probably the single most beautiful human being I've ever seen. That was when he decided to live again, I'm pretty sure. There was a place for him in the world, after all, deaf as he was. Just like there was a place for me." He looked at me and his hands lifted from the Steinway's keyboard and began to Sign.. Unless I am much mistaken he wanted to be very sure that I understood this next part.
"Slipping away in a big crowd ain't hard. Archie would be looking for me, but I was past caring. I knew that I just had to see him again. He had something to tell me, I sensed it same as I can smell. I almost missed him. He was already on his way out the door, dragging along his nephew, the fickle little bastard. It hadn't crossed my mind until I saw him that I didn't have the vaguest idea how to talk to him. Sign was pretty rough in them days and, a lot like you, Ol' Ludwig stunk at readin' lips. I got pretty frantic, I guess, searching my coat for some scrap o' paper - anything! - to scribble on. I think he understood how important it was to me. He didn't say a word but he handed me a pad of paper and a charcoal stick. I scribbled my message in a frenzy and handed him the paper. Couldn't tell you why, but the answer was real damned important to me. He looked kinda peaceful when he read my question. That's when he told me, 'I'll hear it in Heaven.' He left pretty quickly so he didn't see what happened next."
Logan seemed to have exhausted himself with such a long reminiscence. I gave him the privacy of his own thoughts for long moments, letting the nearness of my body speak my camaraderie for me.. The Canadian began to play again, coaxing beauty from the fine piano before him with determined if unskilled fingers. I held my silence. There was more. I was sure of it. With a last loving note Logan bade farewell to Ludwig Von Beethovan and his Chorale Symphony.
"Later, at the Reception," he grinned, "I got drunk with Crown Prince Rudolf who just *might* be in need o' a bodyguard if he could work things out with Daddy the King ... Archie and I had a big ol' fight. Told him to kiss my rosy red and he fired me. Imagine it, bub! There I was, unemployed, flat broke and I didn't give a damn! I was *free*! Like Ol' Ludwig himself. He died three years later but I remember bein' happy. I ain't never been very religious, Mags, but somehow I figured he was finally gonna hear what he'd created. And I was free."
We regarded one another for long moments before I finally spoke. It is difficult to convey weariness with just your hands. That malaise of spirit echoes in the voice but is often reduced to mere laziness otherwise. But perhaps Logan saw it in my eyes for he did not miss it.
"Why did you come here?" I asked. "Why have you told me this story?" Logan patted his jacket in search of one of his ever present cheroots. My stern look may have dissuaded him.
"Yer a survivor, Mags," he Signed. "It's one o' the things *you* do best. You've lived through everything they could throw at ya, the Krauts, Cortez, Alpha, even Chuck ... and every time you've come back stronger than before, spittin' in their eyes. Ol' Ludwig knew about survival, too, bub. And so do I. You can lick this thing if ya try. Everybody ends up where you are now, sooner or later. If they live long enough. It ain't a hard fight to win. Ya just havta be willin' to pay the price is all."
I looked at his many scars where I had torn the metal from out of his body. Oh yes, Logan knew about the price of things.
I watched his retreating back all the way out of my Sanctuary and I followed his path with my surveillance cameras long after he had left me. Lost in thought, I am not sure how long it was before I contracted Theresa.
"Young woman," I asked via the magic of computer technology, "do you think it might be possible to increase my language lessons to twice a week?"
She has been amazed at the increase in my progress in learning Sign. My gift for languages has not deserted me, it seems. And I have always spoken with my hands have I not? The lip reading is a little harder but still I persevere. Yes, there are yet times when I struggle with the cold grip of despair.
But then I remember Logan's scars and Beethoven's moment of glory.
* German for - "pig dog"