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´╗┐Title: John Harper's Insight
Author: Purcell, Dick
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "John Harper's Insight" ***

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John Harper's Insight

By Dick Purcell

Can the mind breach time? Harper was sure
he had caught a news item that would change his
life. Ironically he caught only a part of it....

[Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
Imagination Stories of Science and Fantasy
October 1956
Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


They thought he was insane. And with good reason. Here was a man who'd
spent his life in a machine shop coming down one morning to say in all
apparent sincerity, "I've decided to be a concert pianist."

Jan Grabowski, on the turret lathe grinned and said, "Sure, John.
They'll bring in a grand piano and you can practice between cuts."

"They laughed when I sat down to the piano," someone bellowed and there
was general laughter and the thing was forgotten.

But later, when he told the boss he was quitting, they looked at each
other in amazement. He'd evidently gone mad and that was no laughing
matter because they liked John.

Sam Paine, harassed plant manager still found time to be human. When he
discovered John was serious, he sat down and gave him half an hour,
figuring he could find the quirk and straighten the man out. As they
went to his office, he swiftly classified his employee: John Harper--33
years old--introverted--intelligent over and above his job. Harper
seemed to be without ambition, though and Sam wondered about this but
had never had time to talk with him much.

After the half hour was up, Paine sighed and let him go. Obviously the
concert pianist gag was a coverup for something else--some fancied
wrong--perhaps plain restlessness.

Alone, Paine went back over the conversation, intrigued by John
Harper's strange determination.

"This talk about being a concert pianist is a gag of course, isn't it,
John?"

"No, Mr. Paine."

"But man--you're too old to start a thing like that. You never in your
life studied music did you?"

"No, sir."

"Then let me tell you--first, in a thing like that, you've got to have
talent. Have you got talent?"

"I don't know."

It had seemed ridiculous, seriously pinpointing things that should have
been obvious. "Well let's say you have--just for argument's sake. All
right--talent has to be caught early and nourished--like a seed--get
what I mean? A man can't start at your age and get any place in a game
the experts started in at eight or nine--as children."

"You may be right, Mr. Paine, but maybe that doesn't apply to me. Maybe
it does, of course, but I've got to find out."

Sam Paine gave up. He told John Harper his job would be waiting when
he wanted it again--even gave him an extra week's pay, but that was to
salve his conscience because he felt he should bring in a psychiatrist
at company expense to see what had gone wrong with Harper. Then he
shrugged and put the thing out of his mind. Funny things happen in this
day and age, he thought.

The trouble was he didn't really know John Harper. No one did. A
bachelor, Harper lived alone, thought alone--and suffered alone. He
hated the futility of his life, the work he was doing, the passing of
unfulfilled days and nights. He felt a strong pull of destiny he could
neither explain nor deny; an unreasoning certainty that he, John Harper
was meant for better things; or perhaps a single better thing.

He lived with this certainty while the unfulfilled days and nights
piled up. Until the misery became a pain and possibly demanded some
sort of recognition by its very existence.

At any rate, the morning of the day he quit his job, he had just
awakened to the old familiar dread of the day ahead; a dread almost
akin to a physical sickness. He was sure he did not go back to sleep,
but he clearly saw, on the floor within range of his eyes, a television
set. The picture was bright and clear--a famous newscaster with the
smile known from coast to coast and the rat-tat-tat voice that was his
trademark.

He was beginning his broadcast with the standard opening line: "_And
now, folks--what's been going on in the world? John Harper, the great
concert pianist--the man who brought long-hair music into the home--the
man loved by millions, will--_"

The voice and the image vanished. Then the set faded, and John Harper
lay tense in the bed in his shoddy little room. But a different John
Harper now. In an instant he became a dedicated man knowing he had been
building up to this moment for years.

This was the incident Sam Paine did not know of; nor did anyone except
John Harper himself. He had a little money saved up--a few hundred
dollars--and he went straight to a music school. His difficulty was
that he could not camouflage his ambition--or rather his intent--and
after stating exactly what he proposed to do, he was turned down by
five reputable maestros in a row.

So he gave up seeking instruction and rented a piano. He was
fortunately situated in that his room lay at the back of the resident
hotel where he lived and the walls were as thick as the building was
old and shoddy looking.

He bought some instruction books at a second hand store and went to
work. He practiced, plowing doggedly through the intricacies of the
notes and scales until his money ran out. Then he got a job washing
dishes and practiced all night.

Until he was able to present himself again at a music school where the
maestro was, fortunately, both honest and possessed of a conscience.
His honesty said, send this man away. But John Harper had just enough
pathetic skill and foggy talent that the instructor's conscience
dictated the final policy.

"I will teach you," he said. Adding to himself, _It will be an act of
charity. Nothing more._ He would have been astounded, however, had he
known that four short months before John Harper had not known even the
scale.

John told no one this. He told no one anything. But he applied himself
to the piano with a single-mindedness that made a fanatic seem
changeable as the wind by comparison.

And soon, Professor Heinrich, he of the conscience, was confronted with
something he could not understand. Genius was blooming and functioning
before his eyes.

       *       *       *       *       *

The rest is history. It is told in hushed tones how this sad-faced,
middle-aged man with no background--he was called "The Man From
Nowhere," by certain romantically inclined critics--gave his first
recital in New York City. It was given exactly seven years from the day
he told Sam Paine, "I'm quitting to become a concert pianist."

The television networks found him quickly and he rocketed to fame by
giving classical music an interpretation that made it understood and
loved by millions.

It was said that John Harper gave more musical pleasure to the world in
his brief two-year career than had any other genius in a natural span.

But of course, the seven years had taken their toll. The punishment of
learning would have killed a far younger and stronger man than John
Harper. So, after a tragically brief time at the top of his ladder,
John Harper was the subject of a newscast.

By a famous newscaster with the smile famous from coast-to-coast and a
rat-tat-tat voice that was his trademark.

But not smiling as he finished his first item. "_--be buried tomorrow
in New York City._"



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