Mahler was on his deathbed.
The house had many rooms—some large and drafty with high ceilings; others small, airless, windowless, mere closets, “animal chambers,” some said. There were numerous paintings of the Alps, alpine horns, goatskins, bear rugs, long smoking pipes, cuckoo clocks, hats with feathers and large brims. Yodeling drifted from room to room and the distinct smell of lemons being squeezed. And birds twiddling and chirping. In the living room: a boar’s head—brown, very brown.
Mahler’s house was contiguous with a lake and a park with a concert band. And a mountain. The house had lace curtains and birds perched on the numerous downspouts and gutters of the many-gabled roof. Plus: gargoyles.
Mahler, on his bed, stirred, whispered: “Did the scissors somehow move. . . by themselves?”
Mahler always took four long steps forward, two quick steps to the side and one backward.
He rose up from his bed. “Seat no one after the music begins!’’ He fell back, still breathing. “Seat no one.”
The organ grinder started to play in the park. The birds were singing.
The maid asked the nurse: “What was that he said . . . the scissors?“ The nurse poured lemonade, the sugar was stuck to the bottom. Her hand started to shake, her whole face quivered. The two women embraced, crying.
The cries of women, a man holding a small child, the rumble of thunder behind the mountain, grass sprouting from rocks, the wind blowing flowers in the field, horse hoofs clopping on cobble stones, flickering gas lights, darkness, smells in the air (the whole world! too little and too much! and he did not want to repeat a single thing!), wandering in the rain, mist in the mountains, yearning for the spring sun, streets of the cities, signposts, a lamppost, standing on the corner... a man in a blue coat...