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Latest Stories

July 10, 2019
Romance Stories John L.Yelavich

Saccharine Smiles and Sandpaper Personalities

What is the most powerful force in the universe? Is it atomic fusion, military might, volcanoes, tsunamis or any other natural disaster? No, they are not. None of them can create havoc and paranoia in man any more than love can. Yes, love is the force that is…
July 10, 2019
Crime Stories J.B.Stevens

A Good Man

Jimmy hated feeling the delicate orbital bones splinter, but he didn’t have a choice. He needed to be free. It was unfortunate. Just the wrong place, wrong time. If he was out he could send money to Sarah. That’s what all this was all about, helping his…
July 10, 2019
Fantasy Stories Roger Ley

Turing Test

Mr Riley liked to start his day in the library. It was a short walk from his house and conveniently situated at the top of the main street in the Suffolk market town that he and his wife had retired to. When they’d first arrived, he’d joined the local writing…
July 10, 2019
Romance Stories Patric Quinn

Where or When

The front doorbell sounded its gentle Westminster Chimes and the thumping on the door started before Hazel even put her pen down on the papers she was working on intently. More curious than annoyed, she stopped writing, shrugged and started for the door.…
July 10, 2019
Flash Fiction Sheila Ash

Working Christmas Again

I always draw the short straw to a chorus of ‘Bad luck’. A reiteration of last year and the year before, and the year before that. Throughout the day, my ‘C’est la vie’ chimes on a constant playback loop. My expressionist shrugs repeat themselves as a…
March 18, 2019
Mystery Stories JD Plummer

Pseudonyms

“Gelb wants you to call him.” I looked at Frankie, opened my mouth, began to slowly shake my head. My reply delayed by the image of Gelb, monocle in eye, brow raised, lips tight, grimacing. I cringed at the thought. “I ain’t calling that prick,” I finally…
March 18, 2019
Fantasy Stories Lucia Balbuena

A Different Story

Her breathing was deep and steady when she run through the dense forest holding her grandmother’s kitchen knife in her hand. Her red cape was torn up, also her legs, hands and her face were cut by the tree brunches. Stop you are the victim, said the forest…
March 17, 2019
Crime Stories Wally Smith

Coda

Luigi Andante’s small apartment sat on the fourth floor of a block in the West Bronx at the corner of 18th and Davidson. It was adequate as a living space, but Luigi craved more than this. “A penthouse overlooking Central Park would suit me just fine”, he had…
March 17, 2019
Crime Stories Walter Giersbach

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Loser

Lorraine Vanderzanden had the thankless task being Lindstrom’s police chief. Her husband didn’t appreciate the risks she took. Her brother didn’t thank her for using her degree for something useful instead of helping on the family farm. Heck, she thought,…
March 17, 2019
Mystery Stories Jenny Webster

"Communicate with me, please."

I have been blind for so long, I didn’t even attempt to imagine what it would be like if I could see. I don’t know any different, all I know is darkness, and I base everything that I can experience mostly through sound. You see, I can’t walk either. I’m not…
March 16, 2019
Flash Fiction Michael Fredrick

Secondhand Santa

The late model sedan sputtered, coughed and dutifully careened forward on a cold December evening. Fred hit the gas pedal & ruminated as he always did, wondering again why life had dealt him this hand? Christmas Eve, foraging for returnable bottles to make…
March 16, 2019
General Stories Darrell Case

Trig's Smokin' Wheels

There were a lot of things Trig Nelson could do, many he wanted to do, and more things he couldn’t do. Trig couldn’t run, he’d never climb stairs or hills or mountains. He couldn’t play football or basketball. Being stuck in a wheelchair that would always be…

 

 

Larry felt like a four-year-old trying to read a book. He knew the symbols had been carefully inscribed on the page by a great practitioner, but they might have been sneezed in ink for all he could tell.

He had begun to regret joining his adult music class. Even if he could figure out what the notes meant, how could anybody ever expect to work a contraption like this clarinet? Larry was a hard-headed appliance manager for Shopmart. If a supplier had asked him to stock a product, say a vacuum cleaner, with all those tiny valves and holes, he’d have told him to come back when he understood the meaning of a user-friendly interface.

But he’d joined the music class precisely because the instrument looked so impossible, and because the hard wood and soft metal sheen spoke of something more permanent than the latest 72-inch high definition plasma color TV screen. His father had played that clarinet. Along with some black-and-white family snapshots it was the oldest thing Larry owned.

Larry had another reason for his recent interest in music. Miss Snoith, account executive for TechnoDisplay had been working her company’s booth at a recent trade show in Toronto, half a continent away. Their eyes had met over Power-Pitch 21-inch Tilt-Screen Point of Sale System and there was more in her look than the usual calculating appraisal of his purchasing power.

Somehow Larry, in his attempt to seem more than just another polyester-suited middle-level manager, had mentioned that he played clarinet in a small quartet of serious scholars interested in early music. In fact he’d even composed a few pieces for the group. The ruse had worked. Miss Snoith had accompanied Larry to his room where they practised duets all night long. But he was going to be in a lot of trouble if he didn’t deliver a bravura performance at the next trade show upon a much more complicated instrument. That was three months away.

Right now Larry was having trouble playing the first few notes of an unfinished gavotte, by Spaghetti, an obscure 17th Century Italian composer. He cast his eyes heavenward in an appeal familiar to scoundrels everywhere: what if they find out?

Fortunately the ghost of Spaghetti was listening. In fact he was sitting just across the kitchen table from Larry as he had with countless clarinet players over the past 300 years thanks to a curse by the maestro di cappella. The maestro had commissioned the piece to impress a visiting bishop and had been infuriated when Spaghetti abandoned his career to work for his patron, a baker who required help with his latest creation, a pie-shaped loaf, baked with cheese. The curse of the maestro di cappella, also known as the pizza curse, was to listen to clarinet students mangle his gavotte through the ages until he found one who could not only play it, but finish it.

Larry was trying again and not doing very well. He needs a softer reed, thought Spaghetti.

Larry stopped playing as if he had heard something. He held the clarinet in front of him and inspected the reed. He took it off and turned it over, remembering that the grade of reed was stamped on the inner surface. It was a Van Doren Number 3. Hell, thought Spaghetti, that’s what the pros use. He should start with a 1 1/2, and probably a Rico; they’re softer. Larry rummaged in his clarinet case and pulled out another. He stuck it in his mouth like a sucker for a few minutes the way his instructor taught him. Then he assembled the reed, ligature and mouthpiece and tried a note. Better. Now for the music.

Very slowly, Larry began to work out the sounds. He found he was able to play each note correctly if he took his time but he had no idea what the piece was supposed to sound like. “It sounds like this,” thought Spaghetti, humming the opening bars.

Suddenly Larry seemed to know what to do. Slowly, but keeping Spaghetti’s cadence, he began to play. The composer’s jaw dropped. This guy was getting it! He leaned forward and began to conduct. “Don’t worry about the sixteenth notes, just play the quarters!” he shouted. Larry responded with a series of honks and squeaks that was certainly enthusiastic if not recognizably gavotte-like. Suddenly the marks on the page were making sense. He was even beginning to follow the dynamics, the little instructions in Italian below the staff.

Spaghetti was having a wonderful time. He’d lived vicariously through other clarinet players but this guy actually had talent. Spaghetti played through Larry all night, running through rhondos, minuets, bourees and passapieds.

Larry was thrilled and exhausted. “I can play!” he thought. “This is better than sex!” Wrong on both counts, sighed Spaghetti with the longing of four centuries of abstinence.

They practiced every day. Larry became enchanted with early music, spending hours on the Internet looking for obscure scores and visiting the manuscript section of music stores. Clerks avoided him as he hummed through music, and chatted as if to an educated colleague.

Larry was channeling Spaghetti. At work he switched his regulation Shopmart tie for a silk scarf and carried a lace handkerchief in his hand. He began growing his hair and a pencil mustache, waxing the ends to a curl. He swooped and pirouetted among the high resolution video display units in the appliance aisle, humming counter melodies to the new baroque music he’d installed on the Muzak player.

Larry thought the trade show would never arrive but soon he was on the plane to Toronto, clarinet carefully stored in the overhead compartment, sheet music in his briefcase. His mustache had assumed a concentric spiral and his embroidered vest was fastened by a jewelled brooch that rested elegantly over his lacy scarf. At the convention center Larry studied the map of exhibitors and raced to the TechnoDisplay booth, near the bathtub fixtures. At last, there she was, the lovely Ms Snoith, extolling the virtues of digital in-store signage, particularly the Swivel-headed Belch-Message Point of Sale Mark II, successor to the very model she had been selling when their eyes first met.

“Oh Larry!” she smiled, and his heart fluttered. “I’ve got the most wonderful thing to show you. It’s our new Quantum Hypothesizer. It actually used quantum theory to calculate consumer variations for every situation imaginable in a nanosecond and electronically coach the store clerk with the ideal sales pitch for every situation. It’s right on the cutting edge! In fact the man who invented it used to work for Shopmart. Let me introduce you.”

It was Scruggs, that nerdy retail clerk he’d fired last year for selling pirated games along with the store’s DVDs. But Scruggs had changed. He affected a far-away look behind his thick glasses and had grown a huge, bushy mustache. His hair was a cumulous cloud of unruly curls above a tall, furrowed brow. His faded green sweater sported elbow patches and holes from cigarette burns. Larry knew Scruggs was no physicist, but he sure looked the part.

And after Scruggs showed him the new Hypothesizer, Larry knew what was going on. Scruggs had sold himself to Ms Snoith with the same technique Larry used, only with a different trade. Larry could play a gavotte like a master but he couldn’t do math like Einstein.

Ms Snoith gazed at Scruggs fondly. “Maybe after the show’s over we can talk more about relativity.”

 

 

_________

Somebody Somewhere is a freelance writer and frustrated musician in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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