Gorsh the Cellist

"Cello Hiki no Goshu"--Gorsh the Cellist--is a children's story written by Kenji Miyazawa.

Gorsh was a young cellist of marginal ability. He played in a local orchestra, and was always aggravating the conductor. One day went very badly for Gorsh. "You're off pitch, you have no expression, and you don't keep time with the other instruments!" the conductor shouted.

Ashamed and angry with himself, Gorsh returned to his little home in the country, unpacked his cello, and practiced and practiced with furious concentration. Late that night, the first of many visitors knocked at his door. It was a large cat, carrying an unripe tomato as a present for Gorsh. He begged to hear a performance. But Gorsh, realizing the cat had stolen the tomato from his own field, angrily ordered the cat to get out. The stubborn feline, however, wouldn't move. In his frustration Gorsh began to play wildly with all his energy and feeling. His fingers flew over the strings, his bow was a blur. The noise was so painful to the cat that it bounced off the walls and staggered about the room in agony. Finally Gorsh relented and opened the door, and the poor cat raced out to freedom.

The next night Gorsh's practice was interrupted by a serious little cuckoo which wanted to learn music. "Play me a scale!" he pleaded. Gorsh laughed, but indulged the bird. "No, no" the cuckoo shook his head. "That's not right! It goes like this: cuckoo! cuckoo!" Gorsh was getting angry at the cuckoo's impertinence. I'm the teacher here! he thought. But the bird was insistent. So Gorsh played "cuckoo! cuckoo!" while the bird sang along, absolutely delighted. After a while, it seemed to Gorsh that the bird, and not he, was hitting the notes more clearly. On and on they went, until Gorsh's hand began to hurt. He stopped and the bird grew sulky, which made Gorsh even angrier. He stamped the floor in irritation. The cuckoo leaped off the table, terrified, and slammed against the window trying to escape. "Just wait a moment, will you?" said Gorsh, who had to kick the window to get it open. The cuckoo took off like a shot into the morning sky.

The following night's visitor was a little badger. "I am learning the side drum, and my father says that because you are a good man you will help me", he said. Gorsh was mystified; there was no drum. The badger produced a piece of sheet music and asked Gorsh to play the simple tune. "All right", Gorsh said, amused. The badger then unslung two sticks from his back, and while Gorsh played, the badger beat time on the cello with his sticks. The little animal was quite good, and Gorsh enjoyed their duet. But the badger wasn't satisified. "Whenever you play this second string", he said," you get behind." Gorsh had to admit it was true. "Must be the cello's fault", he argued. "Let's try it again." And so they played it through one more time, and Gorsh's rhythm improved. When they finished, dawn was breaking. The little badger packed up his gear, said thank you, bowed, and left.

Gorsh was practicing the next night when he heard the faintest rapping on his door. "Come in!" he said tiredly, and a field mouse with a tiny baby mouse tentatively entered the room. "Mr. Gorsh, my child is very ill", said the mother. "If you play for him I know he will get better." "I'm not a doctor!" Gorsh replied, somewhat petulantly. But the mouse explained that animals from all over hid under the floorboards of his house, hoping to be cured by his music. "It's wonderful for the circulation", she said. Seeing their pitiable state, he agreed to play. He gently placed the sick baby mouse into the cello and played a few tunes, as the mother mouse watched anxiously. "Thank you, sir. I'm sure that's quite enough!" she said. Gorsh was surprised to be finished so quickly, but lowered the little mouse to the ground. In a moment he was laughing and running in circles around his mother. "You've cured him!" said the mother mouse. "Thank you, Mr. Gorsh! Thank you!" Gorsh felt so sorry for them he gave them a piece of bread as they disapppeared through a hole in the wall.

Six days later, Gorsh and the orchestra performed their big concert. It was a huge success. The audience rewarded them with thunderous applause, and as the musicians relaxed behind stage the master of ceremonies dashed in. "They want an encore!" he shouted. The conductor looked at Gorsh. "You go, Gorsh." Gorsh couldn't believe his ears. "That's right", the conductor said. "Go on, now." Certain they were just out to make fun of him, Gorsh went out on stage, took his seat, and played a piece with all his might, the same way he had played for the cat. When he finished, he raced from the stage without even looking at those in the audience. But they loved his performance. The conductor couldn't contain his pride. "You've improved so much recently, Gorsh. You were like a green recruit and now you are veteran campaigner!"

Late that night he returned home and took a long drink of water. He thought about his success. He looked at the sky in the direction the cuckoo had gone. "I'm sorry about what happened", he said. "I shouldn't have gotten angry like that."