Rated PG for Evil Grandmothers and Music from the Heart
by Ellen Kushner
I have met very few evil people in my life, but my grandmother is one of them. When my mother died, Omama told my father that she would support him and my brother and me, but only if he gave up all his and my mother’s friends, her family and his work in their studio, to return to Omama’s family compound.
There was no reason for this. She already had other sons and cousins working for her. There had been one more, but my Uncle Great Light had taken his own life right before the Harvest Festival. Maybe she needed father back to make up a propitious number. That’s not what he says. When I asked why we could not visit my weaver grandmother and all the cousins anymore, he sighed, “Omama has never learned to share.”
“She’s so rich she never had to.”
“Wealth is not a disease, Bright Phoenix,” my father said sternly. “You may be rich yourself some day, so I want you to remember that.”
That may be so, but I think being rich can make you selfish. It’s like a cold: you have to fight it off by wrapping up warm and keeping your head covered. I don’t care so much about being rich, but I might like to be famous. I think I have a pretty good shot at it, because since I was five I have played the kchin, and even my brother Great Joy, who is good at games and doesn’t like to lose, knows that I play better than he does. I like to practice. When I kneel before my instrument, and my fingers bend and dance on the strings, I feel as if I know things no one has every known before. It isn’t just pretty sounds, it’s like entering another world. Some of the great kchin players played for years in solitude before letting anyone else hear them, but I don’t mind playing for others. I like their admiration well enough, but even better I like to think that somehow my music has changed them, as it changes me.