Underneath Pathetique

Zachary Schomburg

It's unclear how you know a man at his piano will be crashing sometime soon upon your town from above, from the clearest sky in weeks--maybe it's intuition or the new telescope you've been tinkering with. But you do know, and your sense of wit and subtle irony allows you to assume the school of music near the town square to be a likely target-you envision a collapsed roof and perhaps a few flattened young cellists, so you go there and warn them.

At first they seem concerned, then suspicious. You tell them about the roof and the cellists, then they have questions to which you don't have the answers so you begin to answer without hesitation, making shit up and being as specific as possible. You consider your fear of being cornered as they surround you, poking your chest with their bows, and obviously, your anxiety over this fiery meteor of a man playing his piano while you stand dead center in the building you believe to be the target.

They ask who is it? who is this man playing the piano while falling to earth? And remembering specifics cast the least doubt, you quickly create a name, McKinley, and they say the president? and you say yes, of course the president. You go on to tell them he is playing an unusually somber rendition of Tchaikovsky's sixth and final symphony in b-minor as he tears through the thermosphere and they ask if the man isn't Tchaikovsky himself being that it somehow might make more sense but you stick to your story.

Days pass, weeks, months and the whole town turns on you. Leaves fall and curl up, die afraid and humiliated, but grow again and soon you forget your original intuition, or your original sighting-you become ashamed and escape it by letting the lies swallow you whole. In time you forget your own name and bandage your hand like Leon Czolgosz to tempt McKinley from the heavens, perhaps to crash down upon your own body in the name of vengeance, impel you deep into the ground as your head splits a few steel strings and,

by chance, plays a few beautiful chords in sequence that are lifted from the smoldering hole where you and the president embrace each other in death, into the warm vernal breeze smelling of moss and rain and poison sumac-a b sharp, then an e, then maybe another b sharp. Listen. Tell me you hear them floating there above the entire town like church bells. Tell me you hear laughter and the shuffling of feet as the townspeople dance in the street because of these notes, and not in spite of them.

Zachary Schomburg has placed some of his latest stuff in Good Foot, Mid-American Review and Forklift, Ohio. Read some of it online at Tarpaulin Sky, and soon enough, Ducky. He co-edits Octopus and lives with A, M and S.