Veronica Amelia Silver is the youngest child and only daughter of Robert and Lydia Silver. She is a gifted musician, proficient in multiple instruments, cursed with a crippling case of imposter syndrome.
Pregnant at sixteen, she was torn from the girl she loved and shoved into a loveless marriage with the father of her child. But when a piano fell from the sky and triggered a harrowing journey down memory lane, Vern was presented with a chance to rewrite history.
The story of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is told in The Piano of Death.
Appearance & Personality
In Piano, Vern thinks of herself at 25 as “a tall shapeless mother-of-one” with a “worn-out body.” And though she’s well-known for being hard on herself, this description isn’t entirely inaccurate. She is indeed lanky and often uncomfortable in her own body, but she is an avid walker and is in relatively good shape.
She would’ve turned to running instead, but she’s long been afraid she’ll “look like something straight out of ‘The One Where Phoebe Runs’.”
Veronica has brown hair and brown eyes.
Personality-wise, she is a generally calm and even-tempered person. That said, when pushed past her limits, she can explode with anger just like the rest of her extended family.
She can be overly cautious, afraid of upsetting the status quo, and this often leads to extended periods of depression. But she’s learned, as she’s gotten older, to surround herself with people who will either take risks on her behalf or push her to be more bold herself.
Warning: Here there be spoilers.
Veronica was born in Lowell, Massachusetts on March 28, 1975. Her older brother, Matt, didn’t know what to make of the new baby and often avoided her. But at four and a half years old, his inability to say her name properly led to the girl’s lifelong nickname: Vern.
Though she spent the early years of her life in a house across the driveway from her grandparents’ place in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, Vern’s parents eventually bought a bigger home across town—the house where she’d live until the end of high school.
But the only blessing of that place was that it was big enough to hide from her parents when they were fighting. And given how many fights there were, Veronica spent a lot of time hiding.
The first major turning point in Vern’s life came at the age of 12, on a canoe trip in the wilds of Maine.
Having coaxed her father to bring her on a trip like the ones he was always taking with Matt for Boy Scouts, Veronica went one step further and demanded she be allowed to bring a friend. The friend, Desiree Emerson, was perhaps Vern’s closest confidant in the world. And yet, they still kept secrets from one another—the biggest of which was that they each secretly yearned to be more than friends. At 12, they weren’t yet sure what “more than friends” might mean. But they had a feeling.
A day into the trip, miles and miles from civilization, they hit a stretch of rapids that would change the course of not only their canoe but their lives as well. Desiree fell overboard on that cold day. But, though they’d pull her out of the freezing water almost immediately, Robert Silver feared his daughter’s friend might have hypothermia. And so, as soon as they got ashore and made camp, Robert told Vern to go into the tent, strip both herself and Desiree down, and to curl up together in a sleeping back to keep warm.
Later in life, Desiree would say this was “the safest and best feeling [she’d] ever had, [Vern] pressed up against [her], holding [her].” But it would take years for her Des to be able to make this confession.
Why? Because of Veronica’s brother Matt, that’s why. Because of him, and his own disastrous coming out.
On August 31, 1989, in an event that would come to be known in their family as The Great Schism, Matt Silver came out to his extended family and was disowned by his father as a result. The homophobic reaction of Robert Silver that day would be the reason Vern kept on hiding, for years to come, the truth about herself and her feelings for Desiree.
She would keep on hiding, in fact, until it was too late.
On December 31, 1991, Veronica invited her friends Desiree and Amy over for their annual New Year’s Eve sleepover. They were going to watch Julia Roberts movies, share popcorn, and cry their eyes out over the sappy endings—just as they had done for years now. But then Amy had to go and ruin it by inviting some boys over to crash the party.
Veronica’s parents were out of town, and her brother was living down the Cape with their grandfather, which left meek Vern to fend for herself. But she couldn’t. She didn’t know how.
She didn’t know how to say “No.” And so, she was stuck.
The boys—a Neanderthal, a Letterman, and a Runt—got drunk and sexualized the whole scene. They forced a game of “Spin the Bottle” as excuse to see the girls make out, then the Letterman and the Neanderthal paired off with Desiree and Amy respectively—leaving Veronica alone with the Runt of the litter.
Drunk herself and feeling the weight of peer pressure upon her shoulders—and the longing looks of the Runt upon her body—Veronica decided to let whatever happened happen.
What happened was that they went to bed together, and were each so drunk they forgot to use a condom.
And so, the second most pivotal moment of Veronica Silver’s life came to pass: she got pregnant. And though she tried not to let it slow her down—playing a scorching guitar solo at that year’s talent show while four months pregnant; doing nothing to hide her belly at graduation that June—she was eventually forced to marry the father of her child, and to cast aside all hopes of being with Desiree.
For now, at least.
The autumn of 1992 marked the beginning of Veronica’s adulthood. On September 30, she gave birth to her daughter Tracy. Three days later, on October 3, she married Tracy’s father. And soon after that, the three moved into an apartment at 1325 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston.
While her husband built a dot-com business from the ground up, Veronica worked on her Bachelor’s Degree at Berklee College of Music—a program her father paid for because she’d “done the right thing” and married her baby’s father.
At Berklee, Vern made a name for herself with—as her daughter would later put it—“her ability to take any song you [threw] at her, no matter how peppy or upbeat, to rearrange it for voice and guitar, or voice and piano, and to make it sound like a somber Sarah McLachlan tune.” In 1994, for instance, she made a venomous dirge out of Ini Kamoze’s dancehall hit “Here Comes the Hotstepper.” And years later, she’d take George Michael’s peppy “Freedom ’90” and make a plaintive lament out of it.
Sadly, as Tracy Silver would later write in her essay“The Silver Family Singers,” “for all [Vern’s] success with tongue-in-cheek covers, [she struggled] writing original material. Even when she does force songs out of herself,” Tracy observes, “she promptly deletes them from existence, erasing tapes, wiping out hard drives, swearing to silence those privileged few who have had the opportunity to hear her work.”
Only one recording of an original Veronica Silver song survived the woman’s destructive tendencies. Made on a Fisher-Price tape recorder by a then six-year-old Tracy, the 1999 recording of Vern’s song “Sing, Angel. Sing” is a precious thing that Veronica was never allowed to touch—for fear of what she’d do to it.
A few months after the aforementioned recording was made, the third and final turning point of Veronica’s life would come to pass.
Seven years into a loveless marriage and pining for her soulmate, Veronica’s near constant complaining to her brother reached a fever pitch. Sick of Vern’s bitching and moaning—and also, perhaps, a little sick of seeing her unhappy—Matt Silver coaxed his niece Tracy into slipping a “Make Mommy Happy” potion into Veronica’s evening tea. The resulting mind-fuck of a trip down memory lane resulted in Veronica making a series of profound changes in her life.
Having been confronted with scenes from her life, in what Veronica called “a mash-up of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life,” Veronica divorced her husband, moved herself and her daughter into the family’s ancestral home on Cape Cod, and finally got together with Desiree.
On May 17, 2004, the day same-sex marriage became legal in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Veronica and Desiree were married. Soon thereafter, the couple opened the Old Wharf Theatre in the barn the family had remodeled for the wedding of Veronica’s cousin Michael in 2001.
And though it might not be entirely accurate to say that Vern and Des lived happily ever after—they did fail to get pregnant after several attempts at in vitro fertilization, and their theater business did struggle to turn a profit for years—there have been more good days than bad in the years since their marriage. And that’s all that you can ever ask for anyway, right?
Behind the Scenes
Veronica Silver has appeared in several stage plays by E. Christopher Clark. Without the performances of the actors listed below, Vern wouldn’t be the same character she is today.
In the 1998 Bradford College production of A Lick and a Promise, Veronica was played by Robyn Blanchard.
In the Winter 2012 staged readings of Crossroads (or The Piano of Death), Veronica was played by Bridgette Hayes and Young Vern was played by Rachel Kurnos. These were held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In the June 2012 Players’ Ring production of Crossroads, Veronica was played by Elizabeth Locke and Young Vern was played by Cassandra Heinrich.
In the January 2014 Players’ Ring production of Temptress, Veronica was again played by Liz Locke.
Towards Desiree Emerson
Towards Veronica Silver
Towards The Runt
Towards Veronica Silver
Towards Matt Silver
Towards Veronica Silver
Dr Emily Vair-Turnbull
I just love all the quotes and details about how others see her. They really add something to the article. You've made her feel very real. I also really like how she got her childhood nickname. My wife's cousin is called Veronica too, and her other cousin could not pronounce it so she became Wonky, which I assumed was her real name for a few years. (Apparently the parents replaced what was originally an 'a' with an 'o' in her nickname quite quickly.) I really do need to read your stories one day.
E. Christopher Clark
Oh, I love "Wonky" as a nickname! (the version with the 'a' would also be funny, if only for a story to tell later on in life) I'm so glad you enjoyed this. I've got my third in this series ready to go on Wednesday. Been having fun going back through everything I've written over the course of 20 years to try and come up with a comprehensive summary. It's a lot of work! Gives me a lot of respect for those who write really love wiki entries on fictional characters.