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Crow and Snake

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Professor Fell returned to Oxford after very intense 40 years. Of his 50 years of life the first ten were peaceful only because he couldn't really do what he wanted which was music in all aspects and forms. At home he could listen, play piano, enrage his siblings with his incessant practicing and get admiring gazes from his parents. After his eleventh birthday his father finally gave up trying to interest his youngest son in anything other than music and just went wild. All of a sudden Ezra had three tutors, days worth of studying music, playing music and finally composing music. School hid itself somewhere in his schedule and once a week, usually on Sundays, when Shabbat was over but the weekend was still very much going, Ezra was sat with Gabriel and Michael, who learned to accept their weird, soft brother, and practically did his homework for him. 

Gabriel and Michael were dashing, strict and decidedly dark-haired and brown-eyed, their brother was a soft-spoken, overall soft blond with blue eyes and quiet voice. Gabriel and Michael were twins, always did what they perceived they had to do, and had never been dissuaded by their many failures to understand what had to be done. They were the letter of any law, while Ezra was the spirit. They grew up to become silks and were famous for their knowledge. Nobody actually liked them, but they were respected and sometimes feared. Ezra was universally loved.

By sixteen he was in Oxford, by eighteen he moved to Paris to study composition, and then unexpectedly decided to stay in Paris. To his parents and siblings he said it was about the crepes. Gabriel thought Ezra was getting fat, Michael went to visit her brother, returned full of pride and immediately smacked Gabriel on the head, to the utter delight of their parents.

Ezra founded his first orchestra and abandoned his own music for twenty years. He reasoned he couldn't be as good as Vivaldi or Bach (all of them), so he dedicated all his time to performing the baroque music on period instruments. His orchestra worshipped him, and he apologized each time he had to correct someone. When he received standing ovations he would always look behind to find who was causing all that happiness and elation. He usually dressed in shades of beige and white, with spots of blue and a tartan detail finding its way to all of his outfits. Tartan scarves and bow ties quickly became the answer to the question "what should we give Ezra for his birthday this year". 

Vivaldi, all of the Bachs, Telemann, Couperin, Lully et cetera received most of Ezra's attention, but sometimes he just couldn't help it, he sat down and wrote his own music. He didn't want to ever hear it anywhere but in his head, he didn't consider himself capable of a worthy contribution to the world of music, and actually the whole world was music, an endless symphony, which people would often interrupt with some new atrocity. Looking through the papers, Ezra would grimly walk to any park, usually Jardin des plantes and watch things (plants, children, students, ducks) grow and flourish. 

By forty he was famous, respected and utterly oblivious about it. When he was invited to teach in Oxford, he thought it had been a mistake. Invited for the second time, he was offended that anyone might have considered he'd be able to leave his orchestra. Invited for the third time, he began to ponder. He was 48, last two years had been exhausting and he was sick for months. It took him another two years to accept his failing health, a need for a period of calm work and besides, teaching composition implied he could be… composing more. He did feel like a traitor, but not for long. His orchestra was of course upset, but no one could stay upset about something concerning Ezra. They parted their ways lovingly and actually the musicians were confident that he'd return to them. Ezra was too embarrassed to even think of something like that.

So here he was, back in Oxford, a professor, sitting in a dark small pub called Crow and Snake. The bartender noticed him while serving someone else, and someone else was trying to flirt with the bartender, which Ezra couldn't really blame them for. Or maybe he could. He was considering whether he had done the right thing, again, and he had a drink to choose, and…

"Well, that went down like a lead balloon," said the bartender, now standing in front of Ezra.

"I'm sorry, what?"

"I said that went down like a lead balloon," the bartender nodded towards a young man who was visibly upset.

"You are a slut, Crowley," the man said.

"Yes, you've mentioned it, twice," answered Crowley with a shrug. "See?" And he smiled at Ezra.

However dark the place was, Ezra could see that the man uncannily resembled both a crow and a snake. He was lean, his limbs though graceful and deft seemed to enjoy a life of their own, his flaming red short hair pointed in every possible direction and he had sunglasses on his beak of a nose and wore black. In short, someone had been trying to turn him into either a crow or a snake and gave it up midway to go and grab a beer.

"So, what would you like to drink?"

"Ehm… I don't know… you see, I spent many years in France and… sorry, I'm… just really need someone to talk to, so, anything I can talk to."

"Scotch," concluded Crowley and returned a minute later with a tumbler and a bottle.

"Glen Deveron, my personal favourite, on the house."

"Slut, Crowley," complained the man.

"Alright, sweetling, will you kindly fuck off on your own or should Beelz take care of you?"

A short, black-haired person appeared at Crowley's side as if summoned.

The man went so pale he could illuminate the pub and scurried away.

"Thanks, Beelz, you are a treasure," said Crowley. 

"Don't mention it," they answered but sounded quite menacing.

"Wanna take a break?"

"Yeah," they went away.

"What… what upset him so much?" asked Ezra taking a sip of his drink.

"We went out once, he doesn't like Oscar Wilde and called baroque music boring. I considered either taking him to a concert or beating him to a pulp. I opted for never going out with him again. I don't like dilemmas."

"What can he do at Oxford if he doesn't like Wilde?" Ezra was scandalised.

"You see, that's my point! Cheers," Crowley raised his tumbler. "How do you like it?"

"Strong… I'm not sure."

"Oh, let it flow. It's like… like that aria from "Peter Grimes", the one the porter sings, that kinda goes up and down, I don't actually know the terms."

Ezra gaped. Then gaped some more.

"Sorry… you strike me as someone who might like Britten."

"Adore him."

"Good. If you know the terms, don't share them with me, please. What's your name?"

"Ezra Fell."

"Oh… the… the… composer?"

"Conductor mostly."

"No, no, no, I remember you. You had your premiere here some thirty two years ago, didn't you? Yes, it was you. I came with my mom, she would always drag me to students' concerts. I was… I was twelve, I think."

"And you remember my music?"

"Of course I bloody remember your music, it was wonderful. What was it called… don't remind me… oh stupid me, it was called "Eden". Yes."

"Pompous of me."

"A bit. You were ridiculously young though."

"What… what did you study?"

"The name is Crowley, by the way," the bartender laughed. "I studied botany, got my degree and decided to just keep working here. I began during my second year I guess. The owner left me the place when she died, so I couldn't leave even if I wanted to. Seems unfair."

"I see…"

"Nice meeting you, gotta pretend I'm working. See you around."

He sauntered away and began another chat with another patron.