The Porcelain Tale Suite

By Barry Jay Kaplan

 

I was sitting there staring at my hands, at my desk, my room, the broken glass, the manuscript fragments, the frayed date book, the cracked phone, thinking about reorganization and reincarnation and looking for and not finding a word that began with “a” and meant either reckless despair, inadvertent vanity or wanton jeunesse.

 

Life was full.

 

Later, while listening to the atonal guitar riffs of the late Ramon Curtiz (The Porcelain Tale Suite) and waiting with dwindling patience for some word of the future, I began typing blindly and with not a little fretful arrogance, to the dissonant chord progressions:

 

lakdi englskncvklhjto eixnltk sheaktnelsiueptj ;alkcnlieuywpk rntlalkndlskuto  ienma;lkcu90  ejalgkeuap    lgkjnoeia76cp0  aiej;  alupoa ijapoeiua;lkdjhp oeiaj e;oiuja;o  iej;lseijaf;oie sekjaproie !!! uerpaoiejr; aoeijeoiou…when suddenly…

 

(The steady throbbing music of a generation fills the void with flowers of cobalt blue.  Helicoptering along the beach last summer we accidentally caused the death of a stunt parachutist.  His descent was a wildly spinning web, the end a neat skewering on a water tower’s peak.)

           

…a new voice was heard that gave every indication of belonging to us.  A crystal vibrato trilling like the suicides of a thousand mad canaries.  The sound touched something personal in us, appealed to the nasty little boy in each of us, struck in us the promise of a certain nostalgia de la morta. 

 

She descended to the stage on a throne of pearls, strewing lilacs beneath her.  Our lips grew hot. Her near skeleton supported her dress in modern life gone almost a step too far.  This fleshlessness, recklessness made a definite impression.  We had not been thrilled in weeks.  Our hearts were sad, our bellies growling, our hands ached to clap.

 

We were primed in our prime.

 

(Music does everything:  causes trances, transforms cancer, canonizes saints, sanctifies injustice, justifies passion, passes sane, simplifies trauma, tremolos the deaf, damns the poor, pokes fun, fancies causes.)

 

She alights, the music fills orifices onstage and off.  Audience attention is fevered, tremulous, the amphitheater vibrates with the newest tones.  The singer is buffeted by laser beams, her aorta immense and throbbing. She sidles along the golden thrills of the tenor sax.   We are being driven mad, our bones heating up, vibrating near to bursting.  Already one young man has gone up in flames: a smile, sizzling.

 

She has perambulated to the lip of the stage, offering herself.  We want her alive, we want her for food.  I am ready with my knife while one buddy has the sack and another tools of bondage. 

 

Her lips are pressed together now, a note is forcing itself through, pushing at the flesh of her face, the pale membranous flesh stretching, protesting:  her lips won’t open!  We are transfixed, appalled.  And then…and then… 

 

Her face flies apart like wet tissues, tiny flakes lit deep green, deep blue, raining over our heads.

 

We are wild simply wild wild.  We sway from side to side, our beat religious.  We surge forward. We stand and cheer.  Huzzah!  Brava!  You are ours, you are us.  We define each other.  But as we march en masse stageward, we see that in our wanton jeunesse and inadvertent vanity, we have accidentally blown her shivering bones against the stage wall where they crumble and adhere like stardust to an industrial fixative.

 

Several skulls are depressed in the rush.  A youngster is trod underfoot, we scrape our soles of him.  (I keep a souvenir digit, don’t tell.)

 

We leave the arena mean and ugly, spirits depleted, boot heavy, sore for release.  And there is nothing left for us to do now but continue our search for someone new to love.  In that search, we are relentless.

______

Barry Jay Kaplan’s other stories have appeared in Descant, Bryant Literary Review, Brink, Perigee, and Upstreet. His story “His Wife,” published in The Apple Valley Review, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize this year. He also wrote the book and lyrics for the musical Like Love, which ran in NYC last year.

Published on June 29, 2008 at 10:51 am  Leave a Comment  

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