Sloth (Story by Risa Peris)

“I was obliged to work hard. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed just as well.”

No. I’m not getting out of bed. It is early Autumn and the weather has turned crisp in Vermont, which has required me to pull out my luxurious gray blanket and hide under it like a snail.

No. I’m not getting out of bed. The recital went poorly last night. I missed two notes, failed to follow the conductor’s instructions so I began earlier than the other strings, and my bow, as if it were tired and angry, skipped and moved too close to the bridge causing a crunchy sound. It was an otherwise good piece by Vivaldi that I destroyed by carelessness. Or maybe not carelessness. It just wasn’t my day. I used to get those off days a lot as a child learning the violin. I have learned to fight through them, but last night was not my night. At the reception afterward, the conductor refused to make eye contact with me. I had destroyed his efforts.

No. I’m not getting out of bed. “Don’t be a sloth,” mother would say. “It is a deadly sin.” Why deadly I wondered then. I wonder now. It feels good in bed. My phone is shut off. My laptop closed. The world is a blank. A big blank. I’m not even playing music. The world is silent except for the occasional motorcycle revving and a few cars screeching on the street below. My roommate plays the clarinet and she won’t even talk to me. The whole orchestra knew I messed up. My life had folded up like a nondescript origami figure.

I like sloths. I should mention that. Their slow-moving…I hear music in grave. That’s gra-vay. Italian. So slow it’s near death. I’m not even slow. I’ve stopped altogether. I stare at the unmoving metronome. It’s on my bedside table. I reach for it. I set it to grave. The bell finally rings. I move down to moderato. Walking pace. The bells come quicker. I listen. I do not move. I fall asleep. When I awake the metronome has stilled. I look at my phone. I really don’t want to. But there it is. Six missed calls from my mother, two calls from friends, and one from the conductor. I check voicemail. Only one message. It is from my conductor.

You better be working and not crying in your bed. Get to work.

No, today I am a sloth. Tomorrow I will work. I can tell from the light streaming from my window it is late afternoon. I cover my head and then sit up. I see my violin. Glistening like a polished car. One must make mistakes in life in order to not make them again. Yes. I will practice. I will practice until my arm is weary.

All I really know is that if you work you improve and succeed. That’s really all I know. Begone sloth. I set the metronome to vivace. I am up.