Third Person – Now in Past Tense, Then in Present Tense

She clicked a switch and the big electric organ hummed to life. She stuck her tongue out and moistened her lips and the rings on all of her fingers clinked as she positioned her long boney fingers over the keys. With her right foot rocking back and forth on the volume pedal and her left dancing over the bass pedals she took a deep breath and pulled herself up straight as she closed her eyes and began to sway gently.

“I sit right here at my organ, and I can see just fine. The men look so handsome in their black ties and tuxedos, and the women sparkle in their evening gowns all covered in sequins and glass beads. They’re dancing under two huge crystal chandeliers.

“Johnny is standing right over there,” she said, gesturing with her left hand as her right kept tinkling a soft melody and the slow bass notes hummed. “That stupid cowlick is standing up at the back of his head, but its o.k. because only the band can see it. Chick raises his baton and holds it high while the trumpet screams out his high note. Then the baton comes down fast and Chick nods to me to finish the song,” and her right hand tinkled a dissonant jazz riff while her left formed a rich full chord. She let it ring till there was only the hum of the air conditioner in the background.

First Person – Now in the Present Tense, Then in the Past Tense

As I turn on my organ, I can see the past. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and stretch my fingers out. When the music is playing I can see them all just as clear as day. The men looked so handsome in their black ties and tuxedos with the women sparkling in their evening gowns all covered in sequins and glass beads. They twirled one another around under crystal chandeliers.

I looked right over the piano at Johnny standing just there. I could see that stupid cowlick of his standing up at the back of his head, but the audience couldn’t see it, so it was o.k. As the tune came to a close, Chick raised his baton and held it high while the trumpet player screamed out his high note. Then he brought his hand down fast and nodded to me to finish the song like this with a tinkling chromatic run and a rich 13th chord.

Exercise 6 from Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin for the Madison County Writers Guild.