One night the instruments tried to escape from the Royal Conservatory of Music.  Who could blame them?  First the flutes carefully aimed themselves, then leapt at the doorknob buttons, releasing the locks.  The woodwinds hopped clanking behind; from the east wing came the brass section scraping along the marble-tiled floor as kettledrums rumbled down steep stairways.  When the first-floor lock was open, the instruments fled into the unlit parking-lot, sheet-music blowing from the door of the Conservatory's store.  But then the grand pianos tried to fit through the door.  They were too wide and, in desperation, began pounding their frames against the doorjams, finally waking the security guard, who retrieved all the escaping instruments from the outside world and locked them back in the Conservatory.

The instruments still remember their brief dash to a desired freedom.  Just for a moment they were outside the Royal Conservatory of Music, in a world without sound, no one unwantedly putting their lips on their orifices or shoving cleaning pipes down their spines.  On cold winter nights when the wind moans in the rafters, the instruments, locked in their felt-lined cases, begin weeping.  The sound starts slowly, then rises to fill the building.  It is a haunting sound no human has ever heard, in a key none of us could ever understand.



Each Friday at Paul's we play games.  Charades, slap-your-neighbour, crack-an-egg-on-your-cheek.  Streetlights glow gold in the darkening outside and, giddy from cheesies and root beer (Paul's in AA, insists "no booze"), we become gloriously stupendously magnificently ridiculous.  Henrietta balances on one leg, sings "Oh Amsterdam."  Sam spins, blinking, chants "I'm a lighthouse, a lighthouse."  I cry out, "The Exorcist shall rid us of the demon of lethargy," and laughter ricochets between bare walls.  We fall back, the soft sofa moulding perfectly to our butts. In one corner the clock hangs and, if we remember not to look, it soon ceases to exist.

Then one night, a new guest. Ron.

He has no lips, mouth or nose, only glaucous globulous eyes that attach to our every move, stick like leeches to the skin, cannot be shaken off. 

Our motions decelerate.  Voices fade. 

In my Freshie-filled whiskey glass, I see myself whole.

Ron says, "Why do you all do this? I prefer to get to know people, have meaningful talks.  For God's sakes, don't you see how foolish you all look."

A bell has sounded and Henrietta, Sam, Paul and I gaze into each other's eyes, as half-visible clouds of whirling dust settle quietly on furniture. 

Deflated, huddling together for warmth, we collapse onto the couch.  In a new silence we soon decide that O.K. we will do it.  We will talk.  Very seriously.  One to the other. 

We begin.  First Paul, Nicole, myself, Sam.  We share tales of childhood trauma:  Paul's godmother washed his hair daily in cherry jello, Nicole was once beaten with a stale baguette, parents constantly horked out our names like phlegm, and don't forget the horrifying present, our Lovers, mouldy-breathed psychopaths who coat our genitals in Shake-and-Bake and broadcast our flaws on the subway public address system; daily our workplace offices spin like crazed merry-go-rounds as colleagues vomit down mailslots, while shrieking neighbours pound on our apartment doors, landlords enclose bomb-threats with rent-increase notices, and cockroaches with tap-dance-heels clatter through our dreams.

The air's heavy and we sink to the floor to suck the dirt from carpet fronds.

Ron concludes, "...and afterwards my mother said I looked like Godzilla's excrement."

We sigh. Is that everything?

I stare at the bare hanging bulb for a clue what to do next.  A crack in the ceiling zigzags like a frenzied, seismic graph-line.

Then an abrupt realization paints the walls neon topazine yellow: Everything in the world exhausts itself.  Even tragedy can't go on forever.

The carpet changes to the speckled gold of rippling wheat, the light-bulb is a silver, spinning disco-ball.

Sam shouts, "Cock-a-doodle-do."

Pinball-machine lights start flashing as the couch slowly reinflates.  Henrietta, then Nicole, Paul, Sam and I rise, each standing on one leg, arms flapping.

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