The Further Twisted Adventures of Sam Sonata - Music Detective
The sunset dripped in blood red dissonances through a rhapsody of blue sky as I drove over the tracks and down narrow alleys strewn with broken bottles and rusted and abandoned instruments. I could be home with a glass of cold Chivas and a warm pussycat on my lap, but instead I drive the mean streets of Musictown with my Eddy Arnold tape turned up high. I like to live dangerously. But why do I do these things? Why don't I just stick to the Roscrucians and my philately? Why risk my life for a bucketful of tones in a compellingly crafty arrangement? I know the answer - it's because I get my satisfaction aurally. You see I'm a Music Dick. That's what I am. And I'm on the case of the missing Miss Melody Littlesong.
I passed the XXX audiotape stores where rumpled men in greasy trench coats listen to tapes of faux-lesbian sex parties and banned music through sticky headphones. Out on the street - a woman dressed as a schoolgirl speaks into a tin can through a string to a man in a car whose bumper sways slightly. For $40, a john can get an ear-licking from one of her coworkers - who wave Q-Tips at passing cars.
I snarled in disgust at the sordid squalor and depravity surrounding me. Eddy bursts into a heartrending "Make the World Go Away" and I have to brush back a tear. Tough guys do cry - just over important things like art, music and dames.
Finally amidst the smoke and grime I spot my destination - "The Void" - a Quonset hut erected in the middle of a dead end street of boarded-up buildings under the tracks. I parked my car and walked to the door - Eddy's brave tremolo still ringing in my ears.
"I think maybe you lost your way, buddy," the beefy door man said with a growl.
"Keep your paws in your pockets, punk, or I'll beat you like a roto-tom in a marching band competition."
"Take it easy, man - you a cop?"
"I'll ask the questions. I'm looking for something."
"You've come to the wrong place I think - we ain't got nothing like that."
"That's what I'm looking for."
"Not what - who!"
"Listen you pea-brained imbecile - I'm looking for "Nothing"!"
"Oh - well why didn't you say so? You've come to the right place - she's about to start her set."
Crossing through the dark and dingy cave I found a table in front of the stage and ordered a Scotch.
"We don't serve alcohol," said the gum-snapping pre-teen waitress.
"Well what do you have?"
"Fine - give me a tall glass of your finest tap water - and could you have the bartender add just a dash of arsenic to mix with the E-coli and give it a bit of a pick me up."
I looked around. The place had changed considerably since I had been there before. The girl returned with some tepid water in a moldy, cracked Mason jar.
"Hey what ever happened to the Hootenannies?" I asked, but she just stomped away into the darkness.
The lights dimmed even more and the background music - that sounded like a chainsaw dismembering a litter of puppies -was shut down as the featured performers ascended the stage.
A black man with a ratty natty hair and goatee and wearing nothing but a torn floral bedspread as a poncho began blaring a stream of angry notes from a saxophone seemingly held together by string and duct tape, while a paunchy pale man with stringy gray hair and beady, bloodshot eyes beat a frenetic rhythm on a single bongo drum.
"Free jazz," I thought dismissively as the saxophonist continued his ear-blistering assault on humanity. "Did you ever think that there's a reason it's free - because nobody would buy it!"
They suddenly stopped and the spotlight came on revealing a short, emaciated, albino woman dressed entirely in black, with a shaved head, black lipstick and black sunglasses, and whose teeth seemed to have been filed to a razor point that gave her a piranha-like physiognomy. I knew at once that the woman was the performance artist, "Nothing." The bongo defiler was her partner "Moondoggie." These two were the last people known to have seen Melody.
The woman made a huge arc with her hands and began to wail. Her fellow performers joined in the cacophony that rattled and boomed off the metal walls. The woman held up her hands and the musicians stopped again.
"There is no beauty," she shrieked. "There is no art, there is no pain, there is no love, there is only... nothing."
Picking up a huge serrated bread carving knife, she rolled up her sleeves and began to slice thin slices of skin off her arm and throw them to the eager crowd. One hit me in the face. I'd had enough. I stood up - brandishing the 45 I carry in my pocket. The colorful logo of the ABC-Dunhill label (Three Dog Night's "Never Been to Spain" being my weapon of choice this evening) transfixed the audience and everyone froze in their tracks.
"I don't want any trouble - I only want to talk to you, two," I said, pointing at the bleeding starveling and her chubby paramour.
A few minutes later, backstage, "Moondoggie" sank to his knees and sucked the blood from the tiny woman's pale arm.
"You know this girl?" I snatched the sunglasses off the pixie's evil face and held the photo in front of her angry pink eyes.
"We ain't tellin' you nothin'!" the woman hissed.
"Oh I think you will," I said and held up the Walkman I carry in my shirt pocket. Inside, she could plainly see the title - "Eddy Arnold's Greatest Hits."
"You wouldn't dare!" she gasped.
"Ok. Ok. We know her - or did anyway. She hasn't been around here in a while."
"When did you see her last?"
"It's been a while. My "doggie" here used to be real friendly with her."
"Yeah - so what about it?" The blank eyes looked up - his mouth dripping red. "She was a dumb kid - she didn't even know a triplet from a downbeat. I showed her the ropes - taught her some basic rhythms on the bongos. Next thing you know it's not enough for her - she's moved on to maracas and tambourines and polyrhythms and stuff. Man that's even out of MY league."
"Tambourines?" I gasped and felt the rage simmer in my heart like an unpaid union flautist forced to work for less than scale at a rain soaked backyard Bar Mitzvah. "So you got her hooked on rhythms and now she's onto the harder stuff. You know I ought to break off your arms and beat you like a glockenspiel right now!"
The wasted freak semi-quavered under the table, as the evil imp grabbed my wrist with black painted nails.
"Leave him alone - he's not worth it. But tell me, music dick, why are you wasting your time trying to find this girl anyway? She's so light and airy and full of life - she's all sunshine and lollypops and... "everything." I, on the other hand, am the true depth of the blackness of the whirling vortex of negativity. She is like laughter in the wind through the trees - momentary and pleasing. I am steadfast and unyielding in my nothingness. Why carry your burden of sorrows through this dreary thing called "life" - chasing after this or that girl and experiencing only fleeting glimpses of happiness and joy? I can make you forgot all your pain and suffering and worthless emotions like - "love" - a mere reproductive behavior - a survival skill for multi-celled, walking parasites that infest this sickened swamp of misery and disappointment. Instead, let ME hold you - feel the warmth of my endless, paralyzing cold. For I am the sleep that ends all things, and I am eternal." Her sharp razor teeth glistened in the candlelight. Her fingers reached out for the Nazi dagger on the table. I pushed her away.
"Cold, so cold... shivered the flaccid body under the table, as I turned and walked away.
"You'll be back," the girl cried. "Everyone always comes back at one time or another."
Her laughter struck my spine like an icy violin gliss, as I walked away with a heart as heavy as a "Nessum Dorma." So the girl I'm after is hooked on rhythm eh? Well, I know a few of the Rhythm Kings and their crews, and they're a pretty rough bunch. This is not beginning to look like a very pretty sight. A young innocent girl - lost alone in an unfeeling world somewhere, where gangsters with rap sheets as long as a Wagner opera cycle performed in perpetuity, mock and brawl. Oh Melody, Melody how did this happen? How did you fall from your state of grace? I climbed in my car and squealed off into the dark night of Musictown, searching for my lost Melody.
To Be Continued...
Chapters: One - Two - Four - Five - Six - Seven - Eight - Nine - Ten
Past, present & future
misguided ramblings of the MusiCurmudgeon
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