A Music Story

Below is a short story that I wrote in my college music appreciation course. I had almost forgotten about writing it but recently found it when going through some old files. We were told to write a story that could be about anything, as long as it had some kind of music theme. I tended to push the limits of my assignments and loved doing what I thought would be unexpected, and this is what I came up with. Enjoy!

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The squat, elderly man pushed back his yellowing Venetian blinds with one liver-spotted finger and peered out his grimy window. Those damn kids were still hanging out on their damn driveway playing their damn instruments. He never understood the point of messing around with those things. Having to hear that racket at such close range – in the old man’s opinion – that would be the worst form of torture. He despised music, in any way, shape, or form. Even when he was much younger and that “jazz” crap was so popular, he never liked it. All it did for him was cause a horrible pounding feeling in his head. The man cleared his throat a few times, blew his nose, and began to plot how he could rid himself of his next-door nuisances.

The old man slowly paced back and forth on the worn wooden floor while thinking back to his past and remembering all the previous times when he had been forced to save himself from the agonies of listening to that artificial crap they call “music”.

Until he had recently moved into this suburb, the man had lived his whole life in cities; therefore almost every single day of his life he has been subjected to an obscene amount of noise.

Having to deal with expected sounds like car honks and engines were bad enough, but whenever he heard any form of music – which he thought of only as unnecessary din added to an already noisy world – his anguish increased dramatically.

He had never married. Just the thought of being required to listen to a woman babble on nonsensically to him every day in his own home was enough to send disgusted shivers down his twisted spine.

He remembered the first time he had managed to rid himself of one of his musical obstacles. The feeling he got reminiscing about it was to him what thinking back upon a first kiss or a first date might be to another. It had actually been quite by accident. He was close to 14 years old when it happened… His next-door neighbor, a boy about his age, had received a harmonica as a gift on his birthday. The boy played that blasted harmonica relentlessly each and every day from morning to night. The man had hated that harmonica, but with one simple action it was gone forever. He and the neighbor boy were riding bicycles when the harmonica dropped out of the boy’s pocket. The man had been riding closely behind, and “accidentally” rode over the harmonica, crushing it beyond repair. Oh the wonderful sensation he got when he realized he had destroyed the very object that had caused him so much pain!

From that day on, the man never again let music or any other unnecessary noises get the best of him; he always eventually found a way to rid himself of any infuriating musical items.

When he had finally grown old enough to get a job and move out of his parents’ home, he decided to rent an apartment with two other boys. He had chosen his roommates carefully, making sure that neither of the two were musicians. He had wanted to make his living arrangement as comfortable as possible, at least until he could afford to live by himself.

He thought he had found the perfect pair, but unfortunately his luck turned. One of his roommates had decided he wanted to impress a Hawaiian girl he was interested in by learning to play the ukelele. When he brought it home he was so proud of the horrible high-pitched noise it made. Right away the man had known what had to be done about it. He borrowed a drill from his other roommate and added a few extra holes to the body of the instrument. It was almost too simple. When his first roommate discovered the little mishap, the man blamed it on the other roommate, who was known for drinking a little too much and doing idiotic things. The accused roommate denied it, but the man was very convincing. Of course this lead to them kicking that roommate out of the apartment, but the old man had felt no guilt. He had accomplished his goal and felt nothing but a smug sense of satisfaction.

A few years after that incident, the man was finally able to afford his own place. He tried to make it as devoid of music as humanly possible, but music seemed to follow him wherever he went. The 60’s and 70’s were awful. Those filthy hippy fools were everywhere smoking their pot and playing their guitars. He thought that he wouldn’t make it through those years with his sanity intact, but he managed to amuse himself and make his life more tolerable by stealing their wooden guitars and chucking them into the whatever fire he could find. If he could stand any type of music, it was that satisfying *TWANG* that came from the burning guitars as their nylon strings snapped and melted. Now that was music to his ears.

The 80’s and 90’s were the worst. Not so much for the musical instruments, in that era he didn’t have much trouble with those. It was the mechanical sounds that exploded out of stereos and boom boxes that drove him insane. They were always set at a volume four hundred times as loud as necessary; they actually made him feel sick to his stomach. He would have gladly have chosen to put his ears inches from a jet engine rather than be forced to listen to that crap again. His method of destruction for those hateful objects was usually one swift kick to the speakers of the offending device.

Now it was the year 2002, and still these musical sounds cursed his ears. He had to get rid of it, once and for all. He was getting much too old for this. If he didn’t do something now, one day he might be forced to listen to some kind of new age crap while staring out the window at some rest home. And this time it had to be big so people would know that he meant business. He wanted to create enough fear in their hearts that the thought of music would be as revolting to them as it was to him.

Suddenly the memory of the plastic fireworks he had received as a gift so many 4th of July’s ago flashed through his mind. A wry smile played across his lips as he began to plan what to do.

After gathering up the amount of fireworks he thought was necessary to best get his message across, he sat on his porch in his wooden chair, quietly rocking himself watching… and waiting. He knew from years of living next door to the band leader that these kids took frequent pot breaks. Of course they did, being the new-age hippies that they were. He also knew that they locked themselves in the band leader’s room while they smoked, which would give him at least fifteen minutes to work without worrying about being spotted.

When their break time finally arrived and the group had begun to file into the house, the man walked slowly and unsteadily towards the neighbor’s driveway, one of his wrinkled hands grasping the fireworks, the other a lighter.

As he approached the blasted instruments, the man bent his gnarled form low enough to drop the fireworks between the drum set and an amp, and then attempted to light them. His fingers didn’t work as well as they once did so getting the lighter to ignite alone was a 5-minute chore.

When the fuse was finally burning steadily, the man raised his 82-year-old body and began to walk away as quickly as his legs would allow.

*****

He awoke in the hospital. Something was different, but he could not yet tell what it was. He looked down at his hands and feet.   They were bandaged, but besides that everything seemed to be in one piece. He couldn’t remember how he had gotten to the hospital. A doctor was looking down at him, shaking his head. Why was it so quiet? The doctor seemed to be trying to tell him something, but no words came from his lips. Suddenly, the man realized what was different. His hearing. He couldn’t hear anything. Not the buzz of the machines, not the steady hum of the fluorescent lights. The doctor handed him clipboard with something written on it and the man had to squint his tired, bloodshot eyes to read it. The doctor explained, on paper, that the fireworks had gone off too close to the man and his ears couldn’t take the amount of decibels that resulted from the explosion. The implication of this slowly dawned on the man. For once in his life, it would be completely silent. He would never again have to suffer the pain of unwanted noises. Finally he could be happy. The old man smiled, something that he hadn’t done in years. Then the smile left his lips and the color drained from his face. The band… his neighbor’s band!  He could still hear them playing in his head! Their songs were playing clear as day, repeating endlessly in his brain. No! How was this possible? The man sunk deep into the hospital bed and shut his eyes. He was defeated. And now he knew that the music would never stop.