It was the first day of term at school in Obaba. The new teacher was walking from desk to desk holding the register in her hand “And what’s your name?” she asked when she came to me. “José,” I replied, “but everyone calls me Joseba.” “Very good.” The teacher then addressed the boy sharing my desk, the last member of the class left to ask: “And what’s your name?” The boy replied, imitating my way of speaking. “I’m David, but everyone calls me the accordionist’s son.” Our classmates, boys and girls of eight or nine, greeted his answer with giggles. “So your father’s an accordionist?” David nodded. “I love music,” said the teacher. “One day, we must ask your father to visit the school and gives us a little concert.” She seemed very pleased, as if she’d just received a piece of wonderful news. “David can play the accordion too. He’s an artist,” I said. The teacher looked amazed: “Really?” David elbowed me in the ribs. “It’s true,” I said. “In fact, he’s got his accordion over there by the door. After school, he usually goes and rehearses with his father.” I had difficulty finishing my sentence because David was trying to cover my mouth with his hand. “Oh but it would be lovely to hear some music!” exclaimed the teacher. “Why don’t you play us something? I’d really like that.”
As if her request filled him with sorrow, David slouched reluctantly over to the door to fetch his accordion. Meanwhile, the teacher had placed a chair on the main table in the classroom. “You’d be better up here, where everyone can see you,” she said. Moments later, David was, indeed, up there, sitting on the chair and holding the accordion ready to start playing. Everyone began to clap. “What are you going to play for us?” asked the teacher. “Padam Padam,” I called out, anticipating David’s reply. It was the song my friend knew best, the one he’d practiced most often because it was a compulsory piece that all accordionists had to play in the local competition. David couldn’t help but smile. He enjoyed being the school champion, especially in front of all the girls. “Attention, everyone,” said the teacher, like a master of ceremonies. “We’re going to end our first class with a little music. I’d just like to say that you seem very nice, hardworking children. I’m sure we’re going to get on well and that you’re going to learn a lot. She gestured to David, and the notes of the song–“Padam Padam”–filled the classroom. Beside the blackboard, the leaf on the calendar showed that it was September 1957.
—written by Bernardo Atxaga, translated by Margaret Jull Costa