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Chronicle of the NonPop Revolution

The Essay
Show #326
Like a Brick
David Gunn

The piano dropped out of the sky like a brick -- a very big brick, with 90 keys, a soundboard, 10 bridges, 185 tuning pins and a cast metal frame shaped like an elongated Algonquin weasel in estrus. The piano had not been designed for flight, so its rapid descent relied less on state-of-the-art aerodynamics than it did on gravitational acquiescence. A minute ago, it had been securely clamped to a four-inch thick load-bearing beam in the cargo bay of a transcontinental airplane en route from Miami to Montreal. But as it passed over the smallest state capital in the United States, the aircraft suddenly swerved, the cargo bay hatch flipped open, the overachieving clamp unclasped, and the destination of the piano changed dramatically for the fourth time in two days. The plane had been cruising at an altitude of 29,500 feet -- the pilot had clipped the top of Mount Everest more than once during his early tropospheric peregrinations, and ever since he'd added some insurance feet to his flying route to keep his plane off the ground between landings and takeoffs -- which gave the piano, if the Third Law of Physics is to be believed, four minutes and thirty-two seconds before it made mincemeat of the only Renault Twingo in the entire state of Vermont. (The ability of a Renault -- or any car, for that matter -- to turn into mincemeat is a slap in the face of the Second Law of Gastronomy, so it'll be interesting to see what transpires in a little more than four minutes.) A light southerly breeze caught the piano at just the right angle and the lid popped open, allowing hundreds of giant articulated rotifers to escape to freedom ... at least for another 242 seconds. With the lid unfurled like a hardwood sail, the piano began to tack to the northeast. The wind whistling through the pinblock created an eerie A flat harmonic resonance that gave more than one nearby high-flying lammergeier the willies. A thousand and eight feet above, the pilot finally regained control of the plane and shut the cargo bay door, but not before the clamp dived through the hatch in search of its own version of freedom. Down it tumbled, even faster than the piano, thanks to an as-yet unknown corollary to the Third Law of Physics. As luck would have it, which is as good a reason as any for such an implausible event, it struck the lid with just enough force to close it. Its horizontal progress curtailed, the piano resumed its bricklike downward plunge. The closer to the ground it drew, the more humid and inquisitive grew the air. By the four minute mark, the air was elephant sneeze-wet and curiouser than Empedocles. At the four minute ten second mark, the piano cast a faint shadow upon the earth. At the four minute twenty second mark, the pinblock was keening loudly in A sharp -- a precursor to its transformation to be flat. At the four minute thirty second mark, I awoke.

The dream, the nightmare, had haunted me for six successive nights, ever since I was charged in contractual writing with keeping the piano safe from harm. It was a piano of the highest rental caliber, worth more than the bootleg dental records of Wayne Newton. It was to be employed in a series of Montpelierian concerts for which I had been begrudgingly appointed overseer-by-default. Had the piano's use been limited to scales and chords, trills and tone clusters -- i.e. as a musical instrument in which strings struck by felt-covered hammers were controlled by a keyboard -- I would've slept easily, dreaming perhaps of Empedocles' breakfast (waffles, probably). But the players had other more avant-garde designs for the macro-zither. In one instance, the performance's dénouement was a barely controlled conflagration; another incorporated the liberation of half a ton of slurry; still another called for fighting gila monsters, dozens of 'em. I finally had to put my foot down at the request for the shark tank and the waterproofing of the piano, an image that oddly enough recurred in a different dream in which Ezio Pinza gargled inside of a large inflatable lemon.

In the end, I need not have worried. The piano, manufactured in the Orient where artisans still reinforced their products with tempered steel and brick, withstood all of the performers' assaults. Even the piece that utilized a crosscut saw and ice skate obbligato failed to blemish the glossy sheen of the instrument's lid. Still, I was ever so relieved when the piano movers finally showed up to reclaim it and I could tick my name off of the release form. For that act absolved me from any responsibility when, shortly after the piano was bundled into the truck, the clamp that six days earlier had secured the instrument to the load-bearing beam of the airplane's cargo bay finally struck the ground. Hard. And, unfortunately, the truck, and its contents, were in the way.

Don't look back -- that's what I say. What's done is done. One can't worry about the effect one's dreams have on reality, or even about last week's missing Kalvos & Damian's New Music Bazaar radio show. One can only hope that today's 326th episode will be adequate compensation to make up for the piano, Empedocles' waffles, and the reconstitution of Kalvos.