Brian Henry

The Woman on a Piano
"Have you seen her perform before?" asked Ratigan. The rows were filling with vigorous men and well-fed women, each of them reviewing the postcards they'd purchased in the lobby. "She was quite good in October at the Eureka Pier." Hoban put down his opera glasses. His orange beard stopped at his pasty, drooping face just in time, just before melding with the fabric of his pale salmon shirt. His eyebrows, a shade of rotted tangerine, drooped with a lack of enthusiasm. "I don't go to concerts in the autumn." "She's played in various seasons," observed Ratigan. He'd forgotten to pick up the program postcards, and had to look over the shoulder of the brisk brunette in front of him. She held a card at distance, squinting at caterpillars arranged in the shape of a spoon. "She performed in the summer at the Magic Tunnel, I believe, doing the 'Appliance Songs' of Farragut." "Farragut." Hoban frowned, his brown lips burrowing into his face with the alacrity of fat worms singed by live cigarette ash. "He's an Upholsterer, a Neo-Sequentialist. I thrashed one of his admirers with rubber tubing last year at the Vancouver Piano Thunk." Ratigan glanced at Hoban's lap, where a coil of white tubing lay in wait to demonstrate his potential displeasure at the evening's works. For his part, Ratigan had brought his usual egg beaters, the oversize iron ones he'd bought at the Morrocan bazaar for the express purpose of concert altercations. The Woman on a Piano's vigorous and multi-pronged program was bringing out the more aggressive concertgoers in the Silverfoot District. The audience had already begun practicing for the outbursts that were sure to erupt after the 'Variation on a Gargle' by Tinderby and the 'Czech Ransom Note' by Spolitov III. Two narrow men were slapping each other with large plastic eggplants under the Founder's Balcony, a robust woman in a traditional silver poetry wig was tossing dried sea urchins against a wall and a corpulent, fuzzy-haired concertgoer was buttoning and unbuttoning his jacket to reveal an offensive photorealist portrait of an amputated composer on his T-shirt. "He does indulge in melodic figurations that persistently reoccur at sickeningly frequent intervals," conceded Ratigan. "But his works are not nearly as offensive as Folsom-Sickle's, with their sickening sweet pianissimos and persisting cooing." "Cooing is highly underrated," sniffed Hoban. "I once heard St. Poincard's 'Interregnum in Four Jolts' and was quite impressed with his use of a repeated semi-coo in the third movement. I used my tubing just twice that night." Ratigan took out his yellow memo pad and made three large hash marks with a green crayon. "That is three points added to your reactionary score, Hoban. A fondness for coos is no proud claim for a proponent of Future Music." "That's repulsive coming from you," snorted Hoban. He paused briefly to whip his rubber tubing about and snap it at the face of a matron who'd just given vent to an unacceptably loud sneeze. If she'd unloosed such a sneeze after the concert had actually begun, Hoban would

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Brian Henry
no doubt have whipped her wig right off her shrunken head. "I seem to recall that you're a proud owner of Diego Diego Bautista Ramirez's cross-over album of motivational business ragas." "Please," Ratigan sighed, popping open his can of pre-concert minestrone. "That was a gift from my accountant." Just then, there was an altercation near the stage, as an overexcited Woman On a Piano fan vomited onto the postcards of an elderly matriarch and was vengefully bludgeoned with a bag of basmati rice by her husband. The dispute was soon resolved, as the vomiter was led out with his head wrapped in a plastic bag by a security officer. "What about that time in your car. You were listening to those nostalgic quartets by Baden Hattenburg? The ones quoting barbershop quartet tunes? Did your accountant make a present of that disc as well?" Ratigan was distracted by unmistakable 'woofs' from the front of the theater, indicating that The Woman on a Piano was about to make her entrance. Indeed, her plastic cage was already being wheeled towards her trademark magenta piano, as Horst, her beady-eyed accompanist, strapped on his black helmet and posed near the bench, lifting a victory fist. Ratigan quickly chugged the remainder of his minestrone and tossed the empty can toward the Left Orchestra. "Woman on a Piano!" he yelled with the other enthusiasts. Hoban sat on his hands, letting a small rivulet of disdainful drool collect on his chin. The Woman on a Piano stepped out of her cage. She was dressed in a painfully garish series of ribbons and feathers that wound around her body, ending near her waist, where a burlap sack took over to cover her lower body. Horst lifted her onto the piano with a practiced motion and a grunt and The Woman, with her inimitable Swiss accident, condescended to speak to the house. "I open with the 'Hypodermic Cascade', by Lemon Plaster." This announcement brought a mixed response of woofs and catcalls. Ratigan and Hoban were equally disappointed. "She deviates from the program already!" cried Hoban, slapping a red postcard. "A song with verses," sneered Ratigan. He stealthily removed an ice pick from his pants, ready to jab at any patron nearby who cheered. "But," the Woman on a Piano continued, after the response had died down, "I will sing it simultaneously with the Peruvian national anthem." A unanimous cheer went up. "Now that's the spirit of neo-music," said Hoban.

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Brian Henry
Ratigan agreed. "I hope she does the anthem with the leg gestures." As Horst began pummeling the keys, Ratigan was gratified to see the Woman on a Piano kick off her shoes and perform a vigorous knee lift. Yes, it promised to be a stimulating night at the concert hall.

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