The Medallion

  • 03 Dec - 09 Dec, 2022
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Fiction

My reflection glittered back at me from the hotel room’s foyer mirror as I checked my appearance one last time before my manager arrived. I smiled at the carefully applied mauve shadow on my lids, which I’d been told set off my violet-blue eyes most attractively. The long, lavender satin dress, sprinkled with tiny beaded sequins. My usually untamable dark-blonde hair had been twisted into a French braid, setting off the shape of my head nicely. And the diamond studs in my ears – the last gift my father had given me – were perfect.

Turning from the mirror I called, “Mom, are you almost ready? The desk clerk just called; Carl’s on his way up.”

“Yes, of course, dear,” she called from the bedroom. I wasn’t sure I was ready for this, but she most definitely was. She’d been praying for this ever since the last time we were in New York.

I looked back to the mirror and frowned. Maggie Hamilton, I scolded my reflection, you know you can do it. I was to play Schubert once again, this time at Carnegie Hall, and my manager, Carl Franklin, was responsible. You look just fine, Maggie, I declared in my mind; you know you can do it; remember, Daddy had faith

in you.

But it wouldn’t be easy. It had been two years since I’d last set foot on a concert stage, here in New York, when I was 18. And it had been here that Adam McCorkindale, music critic for The New York Times, panned my very last professional performance. Of course, it was only my last performance because of him, I thought. But I had gotten over that idea.

If only Daddy were here. The image in the mirror fingered my medallion – the medallion. My adored father had given it to me just before my very first concert when I was only 5, and I had worn it to every performance since. Until that fateful night, I reminded myself.

I had toured the states and then Canada, South America, Australia, and finally Europe before I was 18, each time wearing the medallion. By then I was flying high, an eagle soaring on the breeze of success. Acclaimed throughout the country, adored by fans and other musicians alike, the media liked to call me, “Victory personified.”

The medallion was an essential symbol of my triumph, and I never sat down to play seriously without it. But I had been unable to put my hands on it prior to the concert that night. I’d over-ridden my panic and persuaded myself that I didn’t really need it, that it was I myself and not a ridiculous superstition that played so brilliantly. I went on without it.

Though I thought I had played well, Mr McCorkindale’s column the next morning had devastated me and thrown me completely off balance. He said I was little more than a talented amateur, and that I would never reach the heights of my predecessors. I blamed the medallion, or the loss of it, no matter what logic told me, and insisted that the remainder of the tour be cancelled. Then, I withdrew into silence and despair. No one had been able to talk me into playing again until my father died, six months ago. I never told anyone the reason I wouldn’t play, but the loss of the medallion haunted me.

My father had asked for me as he lay on his bed, dying of cancer but more concerned about me than even himself. I crept into the bedroom, angry at him already for leaving me but unable to express it even to myself, and at the same time filled with loneliness for him. A deep cavern lay ahead of me, sinister and echoing with despair. Without him or my piano, I had nothing.

“Margaret, my darling baby girl,” he said weakly, “my celebrated and accomplished musical prodigy. Before I die, I want you to know that I’ve always loved you and I always will, no matter where I go now, no matter if you never sit down to a piano again. But you belong on the concert stage, my darling, and no idiot critic has the right to take that from you.”

His words were strong and confident, but his voice trembled; I feared every moment might be his last.

“But, Daddy,” I said, “I know it wasn’t Mr McCorkindale who took away my confidence in myself. I’ve never told this to anyone, but when I lost my medallion, I felt I could never play as brilliantly. I couldn’t find it that night but I went on anyway and I knew I’d never be good without it. And I wasn’t. It wasn’t the critic’s fault; he just wrote what he heard.”

“No, darling, I knew how you felt about the medallion, and I always thought that’s why you abandoned the stage. McCorkindale wasn’t at fault, that’s true, but you were perfection as usual – with or without the medallion. It was just a coincidence that you lost it the very same night the critic had a fight with his wife, or something. More than anything, baby, I want you to find your way back to the concert stage. Please, sweetheart, can’t you do it for me?”

I longed to tell him I would, but I couldn’t lie to him. “But Daddy, you know I haven’t played for two years. Even if I had the medallion, I’m not sure I could go back. Maybe I can’t play, ever again.”

“Your reliance on that medallion is just a superstition, darling. It has no magical powers, I promise you. It wasn’t blessed by the Pope. So there’s no reason on earth it could have influenced your playing. It was simply the trust you put in it.”

“Do you really think so, Daddy? I haven’t sat at a piano in two years. I’m not certain I can still play, whether I believed in the medallion’s power or not.”

“But at least you’ll try, won’t you?” He stopped talking to cough weakly, then lay back panting with the effort. After a while, he resumed in the same low tone. “It’s where you belong, you know, and no medallion can make a difference. Did you ever find out what happened to it?”

“No. Someone must have stolen it. But no one knew how much I relied on it. You remember how we looked everywhere – Mama, my manager, even you looked for it that night. None of us ever found it.”

“Well, I’m happy to say that I know what happened to it.” He grinned, though I knew he was in terrible pain, and I threw my arms around his neck to keep him from seeing the tears flooding from my eyes.

“Oh, Daddy, you don’t! Have you known all along?” I couldn’t believe he might have kept this from me, and I was right.

He sat up to reach toward the drawer, grimaced in pain, and then sighed deeply, lay back on his pillow and seemed to go to sleep. But he never again awakened.

The medallion was there, wrapped in tissue in a red velvet bag. The next morning, after the doctor had pronounced my father gone, I wandered aimlessly through the house, recalling all the wonderful conversations I’d had with him, the games we’d played together, the encouragement and pride he always showed me. I thought about the medallion, and how I felt about it.


I found myself wafting from room to room, gazing out the window or perched next to my mother on the sofa, patting her hand as she grieved silently. Finally, I sat down at the piano for the first time in two years.

When I played at my father’s funeral, everyone grew excited again. My old manager had retired but referred me to Carl Franklin, who arranged five concerts for me in L.A., San Francisco and Sacramento. Before the first concert, I decided I wasn’t going to depend on the medallion. Dad had convinced me it was nothing but a silly superstition. I put it away in my room, but played as well as I ever had. No one realised I didn’t have the medallion, and despite my intellectual belief that it wasn’t responsible for my playing, I was happy that I could also trust that belief in my gut. I had never really needed it, and wore it now only because it was beautiful.

Carl had somehow wangled an invitation for me to play three Schubert pieces between sets of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. - Anonymous