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Today's Story by St. John Campbell

He plays the trumpet whenever he’s had sex the night before.

Tempo Allegro

I live next door to a musician, and he plays the trumpet whenever he’s had sex the night before.  I don’t know if it’s just a phallic thing or if something about the clarion call of the bright brass springs to mind whenever he’s ecstatic, or if he even knows what he’s broadcasting to the neighborhood.  It might be a game he’s playing with us, it might be an unconscious tell, but that’s the music.

He plays the cello when life turns tragic.  I’ll be in my kitchen making sauce for tonight’s pasta, cutting mushrooms, and the low hum of tragedy will buzz through my window and shake my wind chimes, announcing that someone has it worse off than me.  Usually the cello is followed by the clarinet, both classical and klezmer, and the two instruments interchange … playing a duet out of time … for the next few days.  My guess is that the cello represents his recognition of tragedy, while the clarinet is his attempt to find meaning in it:  every note is a “why?”  “Why?”  “Why did my mother have to die?”  “Why did I have to lose my stomach for alcohol?”  “Why am I growing old?”  His music gets more and more Jewish the longer he plays it:  I don’t think he’s Jewish, but the influence is unmistakable.  I have a theory, about the Jews, that the whole world is secretly holding its breath, hoping that after 5,000 years of suffering they can come up with some really great explanation for it.  I know I am.

Eventually the cello gives way to the clarinet … questioning always trumps sorrow in the long run … and then it’s the drums, or the violin, or the electric guitar.  I haven’t psychoanalyzed his whole symphony yet, I don’t’ know him that well:  he’s just my neighbor.  But I think, if I’m ever lucky enough to have children, if the trumpet is ever triumphant in my life for a while, I will have them taught how to play many instruments.  And whenever they cry out that they don’t understand me, I will compose a song for the clarinet.


St. John Campbell is a pseudonym

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