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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #289
Saturday, 1 a.m.
David Gunn

Saturday, 1 a.m. I wake up on the wrong side of a baby grand piano, the steel strings imprinting circular patterns where they press uncomfortably into my wrists and ankles. The piano lid is closed, and I am unable to push it open. I don't especially enjoy the dark, cramped quarters, but the nycto- and claustro- phobias are nothing compared to the beating my ears are taking from the fiend who is playing Saber Dance on the instrument at several notches above the written fortissimo. The lateness of the performance and the prepared piano-like quality of the realization conspire against the manic musician, however, as several lodgers -- assuming that I am in the same Puyallup, Washington hotel in which I began my evening -- are roused from their slumberings. I can hear them enter the room and berate my tormentor over his choice of performance venues. Finally, he -- or she -- stops, and at once I commence banging on the piano's lid and yelling. My voice doesnt sound at all like me. The words are in French and at a tessitura an octave higher than normal. Instead of saying "Help, help, let me out!" I say "Que des brucelles énormes en métal tombent sur vous du ciel!" Now I hear more voices, questioning ones, followed by a scuffle, then a gunshot, a scream, the flapping of a large winged creature that I'd prefer not to know any details about, several pairs of footfalls rushing away, and then silence. Somewhere off in the distance, a dog barks. I try the piano lid again, and this time I am able to push it open. I sit up and glance about. There is no one in sight. Though the room light is at best crepuscular, I spot the Saber Dance sheet music strewn on the floor. It is bloodstained. A smudged footprint is clearly visible on page 2 of the music, where the xylophone enters in the orchestral version. I estimate it is a size 7 women's stiletto boot worn by a left-handed man with a gibbous-shaped scar on his chin. It feels good to utilize my deductive reasoning, even though it will ultimately prove to be flat-out wrong. From just beyond the open window I can hear that wing-flapping sound returning. Another muffled cry ensues, as does another gunshot, and more hurried footfalls. Now, I decide, would be an excellent time to join the others in the fray, and I struggle to extricate myself from the piano. But my right foot is caught between the low A# string and its collateral hammer. The more I struggle, the more tightly wedged my foot becomes, and the nearer the outside commotion draws. I abruptly realize that all of this activity has diverted me from determining how I wound up inside the piano in the first place, but an inhuman howl followed by a brilliant flash of blue-black light right outside the window again commands my full attention. The sudden burst of light briefly illuminated certain items in the room that I had not hitherto noticed. On the wall is a photograph of famed diva Maria Callas in waffle-soled clogs and magnetic apron holding a $500 bill. Intuitively I know that the picture was taken after she had returned from a whale watching expedition on which she had successfully taught a larder beetle to sing light opera, and that she had won the $500 from a bicycle wheel spokesman for doing so. Beneath the picture is a seedpod-shaped divan piled high with antimacassars featuring Industrial Revolution landscapes. And under the antimacassars lies an anthropoid torso that -- holy body snatcher! -- looks a lot like me! The discovery startles me, and as I shrink back in alarm, my foot conveniently slips free of its snare. Quickly I vault out of the piano, pause to examine the footprint on the sheet music -- make that a crescent-shaped scar (nope, still wrong) -- then dash to the door, slamming it shut behind me. The corridor in which I find myself doesnt look like any hotel hallway Ive ever wandered down filching "Do Not Disturb" doorknob hangers. It is a narrow, five-foot high oval-shaped tunnel cut into rock. Two wooden torches jammed into the wall provide the only light.

Saturday, 2:40 p.m. I reread a summary of the previous evenings events, naturally omitting those that would seem implausible even to the normally credulous-to-a-fault listeners of Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar. When I come to the part about banging on the piano lid from the inside and shouting the French expression that translates as "May huge metal tweezers fall on you from the sky," I realize that this 289th episode is a lot more existential than the "somewhere in the distance a dog barked" metaphor, whose allegorical images must sooner or later hark circuitiously back ... not to Puyallup, but to Kalvos.