Strings for Cases

Barret’s got a cracked old plastic keyboard across his lap, rocking, and stroking the keys, silently playing, totally unable to hear the ancient electronic speaker, so he doesn’t even have it turned on. He’s playing it like he can hear every note, rocking his head in concentration.

Dance feels more than sees the precise way Barret is handling the keys, feels the way the notes would sound, could he hear them. On that thing, with those settings, it would sound much like the toy Shoenhut piano Barret loves to use for its strange tinny effects. He asked about it, when Barret was telling him about his layering harmonies, composing.

Roll Over Beethoven, done barrelhouse style.

Dance lifts his chin in the air and he laughs.
“Strings, you need strings,” he tries to say, “vibration. Strings.”

It is not clear anyone hears him. Toy pianos, he recalls, don’t have strings either; they have tines, the hammers strike inside, like a xylophone; he saw the harpist Judy Loman play one once, when she did The Crown of Ariadne.

Dance’s throat feels raw and wholly alien, as if something, someone else had been using him for war-cries, for shouts to knock houses down. The strings of his throat have been abused beyond use, in the same kind of flailing and flapping and whipping of trees that are happening all around the old house where he lies. He can feel the wind currents eddy and crash on the rocks of the hills all around. God, he could fly on a wind of that strength.

He doesn’t want hammers, hammered notes. He feels like he’s been hammered on the inside.

“Strings,” he says again.

And this time Barret’s hands go still.

Dance sees his profile, the half-smile, there’s a terrible gravity in it.

“You’re back,” he says, “you’re awake, the other guys are…Emma’s exhausted, and Drin, man…look, I think you better rest a bit, okay?”

“No,” Dance gets out through his throat. “Case. Open it.” Dance smiles. “All locked in boxes, we gotta open locks…” knowing that Barret must read those words on his lips.

Barret puts the keyboard down, scoots across the blanket on the floor–Dance catches a flash of fringe, orange and scarlet. Leans over him, again with that awful serious half-smile.

Buddha smiles, reclining
Buddha smiles
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