Anti-Valentine! Excerpt from CHARLIE P by Richard Kalich


From the chapter “The young harpist”

At age fifty-seven Charlie P fell in love with a twenty year-old Bulgarian harpist entering Juilliard on scholarship. Besides being young and beautiful, she came from a good family, too. Her mother not only taught ethics at the university, but practiced what she preached. Her father discovered the cure for cancer. Her grandfather assassinated both Hitler and Stalin, and what makes these deeds even more remarkable is that he accomplished them before the War. It has been thirty-three years since Charlie P had last been in love. And now this. How lucky could he get. Miracle of miracles. Wonder of wonders. Charlie P never thought it would happen to him again.

On their first meeting, Charlie P wanted to buy the young woman the world. And with an outpouring of generosity that the world has rarely seen, he bought the young woman all of Manhattan as well as the Brooklyn Bridge. And in the wee hours he sneaked off with her to Paris and brought back the Eiffel Tower, too. At the date’s end, for his generosity and kindness, the young woman told him she loved him. But when Charlie P leaned his head forward and pursed his lips, all she gave him was a peck on the cheek. It’s only to be expected, said Charlie P. What else could an old man like myself expect from such a young and beautiful girl. Who comes from a good family, too.



From the chapter “Love is war”

What if the love of his life is not all he made her out to be? What if only for a fleeting second Charlie P opens his eyes and can see?



From the chapter “Do you know the difference…?”

“Do you know the difference between an artist and a businessman?” said Charlie P in one of his many arguments with the young harpist. “I’ll tell you.”

“A businessman is interested in power, lives for power, first and always is power, he’s a power monger. No amount of money or power is enough for him. Only those things tangible and palpable, of flesh and blood reality, those things he can touch, smell, see and hear, interest him. To obtain those things he instrumentalizes and manipulates the world. Accumulation, more and more is his sole aim and credo. His raison d’être and clarion call.”

Charlie P pauses for a deep breath. When he continued his voice had changed noticeably.

“The artist on the other hand pursues truth and meaning, and the making of all things beautiful. He has no use for the tangible and the palpable. The functional and the material. He’s sensitive and delicate and cannot pass a glowing sun or a pale moon or a patch of cloud or a sheet of rain without stopping to gaze in awe and wonder. He lives in the clouds with only the starry constellations spinning in his head.”

“Just as I thought,” said the young harpist. “I know the difference.”

“You do?”

“Yes. And I prefer the businessman.”