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904 North
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904 North
A tale in verse form about a middle-aged musician/writer down on his luck and recently divorced (again) who moves into a high rise apartment on the ninth floor, which happens to be the same suite a young woman jumped to her death twenty years ago.

A little history about my idea for this tale. I am also a musician, I like to write, and I do live in a place called 904 North building. I was told that several years ago, a young girl jumped to her death from the ninth floor. I have never tried to find out the apartment number and I don't really want to know. After you read the poem you will understand why.
[1,479 words]
Richard Koss
Richard Koss, other titles
[November 2001]
[email protected]t
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904 North
Richard Koss

                          “Get on with your life,”
                          said my second wife.
                          So I looked for a place to stay
                          on this side of town, that wasn’t run down,
                          and not too far away.

                         “Got one on the ninth floor
                         and I’ll soon have one on four,
                         if you wait a week or two.”
                         Now I’m not fond of heights, don’t even like kites,
                         but this place looked spotless and new.

                         So I moved to 904 north
                         and with me brought forth
                         my piano, my stuff, and my Sony.
                         Here I was once again, all alone in my den,
                         an exile from sweet matrimony.

                         I played, I wrote, I drank – alone.
                         Played that is, when I wasn’t stoned.
                         Loved the bite of gin and vermouth
                         and with each swallow, I’d often wallow
                         in the magic memories of my youth.

                         In the middle of a winter night
                         a sound I heard filled me with fright.
                         I heard a rap like – “ let me in.”
                         At my balcony door? Here on the ninth floor?
                         Probably just this lousy gin.

                         I laughed myself to sleep
                         but slumber wouldn’t keep.
                         I woke up in a freezing room.
                         First I’m shivering, then I’m quivering.
                         It felt like I was in a tomb.

                         The balcony door was open wide
                         as if by some invisible tide,
                         letting in the snow and bitter cold.
                         I know I locked that door. Did it just before, or…
                         did I? Damn! I must be getting old.

                         Other nights I heard the rapping,
                         sometimes just a gentle tapping
                         but the door was locked - made sure of that.
                         At first I came to doubt it, then I just forgot about it.
                         That is, until I met old Mr. Schatt.

                         Old man Schatt was eighty plus
                         and he was quite a feisty cuss,
                         that former superintendent here.
                         “Don’t get too close, you’ll get a dose,”
                         as he was apt to bend your ear.

                         But I did, one September night,
                         came in higher than a kite,
                         when he met me at the lobby door.
                         “I can always tell a piano playing fella
                         who lives up on the ninth floor.”

                         “That’s me,” I admitted,
                         now feeling committed.
                         His eyes followed me like a hound.
                         “You in suite 904?” I knew there was more
                         so I quietly sat myself down.

                         “Then you’ve heard of the sin
                         of sweet Jenny Lynn,
                         she lived in 904 you know.”
                         My face went blank and my heart sank
                         as he then began his tale of woe.

                         His story made me numb
                         and it was after midnight some,
                         when he left me in the lobby all alone.
                         Shaken by his tale, I began to feel frail
                         as an eerie chill went through my every bone.

                         I returned to my ninth floor suite
                         and from my balcony, began a retreat
                         as I stood by the fragile railing.
                         It was here Jenny Lynn, so tormented within,
                         that night, put an end to her ailing.

                         The old man said it happened after
                         a storm that shook every rafter
                         during the Winter of seventy-seven.
                         “Like an angel she played and to God I prayed,
                         please don’t keep her from heaven.”

                         A new obsession gripped me tightly
                         as I thought about her nightly
                         in those autumn weeks that followed.
                         I ceased the visits to my retreat.
                         Wouldn’t desecrate it with my feet,
                         for now I felt that ground was hallowed.

                         I longed to know just how and why.
                         How much was truth? How much a lie?
                         But there was no one to tell me more.
                         If her picture and story had some hint of glory,
                         I might at last distinguish truth from lore.

                         The librarian was very kind.
                         I copied all that we could find
                         in hope of discovering the truth.
                         Read it all three times or four, there on my floor
                         with my pitcher of gin and vermouth.

                         The newspaper stories were brief
                         and I felt cheated, as if some thief
                         had robbed me of her legacy.
                         She was just twenty-five, so young and alive,
                         quite pretty, it was plain to see.

                         They wrote of her musical fame
                         but hinted her family name
                         had been cursed by a troubled history.
                         A young protégé, well on her way,
                         who’s death remained a mystery.

                         As the winter months got colder,
                         I felt so tired, much older,
                         distraught, unable to play or write.
                         Now the rapping resumed and I felt consumed,
                         as I fought against each sleepless night.

                         Drinking no longer left me sedated
                         and I now became someone I hated.
                         I tried reading and writing in bed.
                         But each futile attempt to relieve self-contempt,
                         left me mourning her picture instead.

                         Christmas found me quite a lonely man.
                         My life in disarray, I had no plan.
                         Couldn’t even open my mail.
                         Then came a storm in true Winter form,
                         attacking my door with hail.

                         The hail and wind became much stronger
                         and when I couldn’t bear it any longer,
                         I angrily opened my balcony door.
                         No hailing, no snowing, just a strong wind blowing.
                         A wind which knocked me to the floor.

                         I closed the door, the wind was still,
                         and I stood silent as an icy chill
                         remained within the room.
                         The power went out, there was something about.
                         In the dark, I felt a presence loom.

                         To this very day,
                         what happened I’ll say
                         was far beyond my knowing.
                         There on the panel of my digital piano,
                         the tiny red lights were glowing.

                         As if commanded, it obeyed
                         and I listened as it played
                         so sweet and loud and clear.
                         An electrical force, that’s it, of course!
                         The demo tape is what I hear.

                         The demo tape I chose to leave in
                         played Chopin, Liszt, and even
                         the great Rachmaninoff.
                         I remembered each gem, it was not one of them.
                         And outside all the lights were off.

                         It was melodic, yet technical,
                         a rich, haunting spectacle -
                         an orgy of listening pleasure.
                         This was truly a test, for only the best
                         would attempt this challenging treasure.

                         A sonata in C sharp,
                         I thought in the dark,
                         as it played to its conclusion.
                         In silence, content, I then savored the scent
                         of this beautiful, strange intrusion.

                         Then the darkness was gone
                         as the night lamp came on
                         and I saw the city lights returning.
                         As I stood out there in the cold fresh air,
                         a calmness now covered my yearning.

                         Slept well that night at last,
                         but woke up pretty fast
                         to a voice on my answering machine.
                         “Please don’t play after ten, must I ask you again?”
                         It was only my neighbor, Eileen.

                         Now I knew it wasn’t a dream
                         or the inspirational scheme
                         of a lonely man going mad.
                         My newfound refrain, would I hear it again?
                         All at once I felt quite sad.

                         I waited for her to play again -
                         became so eager that now and then
                         I slept on my living room floor.
                         Then one night while napping, I heard the rapping
                         so I got up and opened the door.

                         As it began, I knew she’d repeat
                         those notes, so brilliant, so sweet,
                         with each magnificent chord.
                         With her spirit exploding, at last was unfolding,
                          true genius, no longer ignored.

                         Every night after that,
                         half awake I sat,
                         waiting for her to begin.
                         For her music I prayed, and once more she played
                         just for me, my Jenny Lynn.

                         Before her final vignette,
                         I inserted a blank cassette,
                         In hope of recording my treasure.
                         When I searched for sound, not a thing could be found.
                         No music, not even a measure.

                         That was her final curtain.
                         Of that I’m quite certain,
                         though I’d love to hear her play once more.
                         I’ve never learned why she returned,
                         perhaps it’s me she’s waiting for.

                        See her picture over there?
                        You wouldn’t think she had a care.
                        There’s nothing more that I can say
                         but before you go, I’d like to know
                         that you believe I heard her play.

                         Or am I a man whom you think of
                         as right on the brink of …
                         becoming a hopeless mental case?
                         No matter my friend, all things must end.
                         It’s time for me to leave this place.


                         The small crowd of tenants hovered
                         as the paramedics put the covered,
                         crushed and broken body in the van.
                         Some women sobbed softly, while others
                         continued their chatter, but among the latter,
                         there remained one silent old man.

                         In 904, the phone kept ringing
                         but the answering machine would soon intervene
                         once again, with its final singing.

                         ANSWERING MACHINE MESSAGE:
                         “Sorry I can’t take your call,
                         I know it’s aggravating.
                         Don’t really know when we’ll talk again,
                         ‘cause Jenny Lynn is waiting.”


                         “You know I’m really tired of all these calls.
                         Where in God’s name have you been?
                         You live alone but you’re never home.
                         And just who the hell is Jenny Lynn?”



"904 is a wonderful verse story which lingers in the mind for a long while. The author, for the most part, sticks to an aabcb rhyme pattern that is easy to take. I think it could be tightened in places but it's still a vivid rendering. Only the final stanza could use some work to keep the rhyme scheme consistent. Totally engrossing. Jenny Lind/Jenny Lynn..." -- Paul V. Fornatar, Chicago, Il.
"Hi, I'm an English student, i'm from Guatemala, Central America, i read this story that you published at Storymania.com, i got the chance to read it in a course. I was afraid of reading poetry bacause there is a lot of non common words, but this story i understood almost everything, i liked the mistery that you put int this story, and the rhyme, The other thing is that the story is really short so it gave the chance to read it carefully and enjoyed it. I also read two plus, Charly and Mrs. Miller and Shirley's Angel, thank you for the good job that you have done. Your Truly" -- Luis Felipe Giron.
"Mr Koss: My name is Angel and I am one of your readers and also a student of an English institution in Guatemala city called IGA. I am Spanish citizen and I´m 17, it´s really an honor to send you this e-mail because your writting has really opened my mind to a new way of reading and I gotta be honest it has been fun to read some of your stories since they are exciting and you never expect what´s gonna happen in the end of each story. When I read 904 North wich was the first story I got from you it pleased me and I couldn´t stop thinking what was going on but finaly when I got to the end of the story I thought of it as an unexpected end because I couldn´t imagine that the man who was telling the story actualy killed himself just to be with his dear Jenny Lynn. When I read the epilogue I thought that it was very creative. I must say that you are a great writer and I admire you very much. It has been an honor to have the chance to tell you my opinions about your stories and I hope to get any kind of answer from you Mr koss. Angel Juarez" -- ANGEL JUAREZ, Guatemala, Guatemala, Guatemala.
"Thank you both, Mr. Giron and Mr. Juarez for your kind and flattering remarks. On the contrary, Mr. Juarez, it is I who am honored by your enjoyment from reading my poem. That means more to me than getting paid by a magazine publisher. I sincerely mean that. " -- Richard.


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© 1999 Richard Koss
October 1999

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