This is Matt's story and I think that it's going to be the first part of a series. Let me know what you think in the comments.
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A Perfect Note
‘She told me don’t wor-ry, about it. She told me don’t wor-ry, no more. We both know we can’t go, without it. She told me you’ll nev-ver, be alo-o-one - WHOOO…’
Matt Smith had just crushed it. He’d hit that high note in the Weeknd song flawlessly and he knew it. He could feel his jaw humming in sync with the music and he imagined the waveform of a perfect note traveling through the air and synching up with the synthesized tunes pumping out of the speakers on either side of the stage. He thought about all of this in the brief moment before the refrain, as he closed his eyes and turned his head away from the microphone…
‘I can’t feel my face when I’m with you - but I looove it. But I looove it…’
‘….Aaallright. Thank you Matt…’
Matt walked off the stage to enthusiastic applause. This was by no means his first rodeo so he knew the difference between sincere and obligatory applause and he knew that the applause that he was getting from the patrons of the Thirsty Ear tonight was the real thing. Damn, he thought as he took his time through a crowd of high-fives. That was by far the best Weeknd cover that he’d done; probably the best karaoke he'd done at Thirsty too. This could even be the best performance of his entire karaoke career.
‘A-AOOW!’ Tom held his hand overhead as Matt made his way out of the crowd.
‘Ah-man,’ Matt sauntered over with his hand up in the air. He slapped hands with Tom and they did a quick grab before letting go.
‘Dude,’ Matt put his freehand in his pocket. ‘I don’t even know what to say,’ he said, as he shook his head and lifted his beer in the air.
‘Dude you killed it!’
‘Thanks man.’ He did a squinty I’m-not-really-stoned-but-I-kinda-look-stoned smile. ‘Yeah, man. I was just, I don’t know. I was just really feelin’ it this time.’
‘Yeah dude,’ Tom said. ‘You were on fi-ya up there!’ He looked down as he operated the phone with his thumb. ‘Grammin’ that shit right now.’
‘Oh shit, no way,’ Matt said as he leaned in to see the video.
‘Hell yeah,’ Tom said as he turned the phone so that he and Matt could see it and hit the play button.
‘--me don’t wor-ry, about it. She told me do--’
‘I got the fuckin’ best part,’ Tom says in a low breath.
‘--oth know we can’t go, without it. She told me you’ll ne--’
‘Here it fuckin’ comes. You ready for this?’
‘--e alo-o-one - WHOO…’
Damn. Matt had been too in the zone when he was on stage to notice the eruption of cheering that exploded from the crowd after he cleared that high note. Fuck it. This was his best performance of all time.
Matt was on a high after such an epic karaoke sesh so he decided to stick around after Tom called it a night. He hung out with some people that he’d just met that were sitting up close to the stage. Instragram was feeling the video. He kept getting alerts on his phone and after awhile he and his new friends made a drinking game of drinking every time he got a like or a comment on his video and chugging whenever he got a new follower. Three hours and forty-two followers later, he could now see that that had been a poor decision.
Matt now found himself stumbling across the soccer field on his way back to his adult-dorm-room, willfully thinking about anything besides throwing up. He tried to remember the names of the kids in his first grade class; tried to remember the title of the last porn he’d watched. He focused on the breeze as it rushed up from the Charles, up Mass Ave and through the trees and thrust itself upon his left side.
‘…Nobody loves, like, the matador. Everyone knew, and everyone prayed…,’ Matt was now singing That Noble Fury lyrics to himself to keep his mind off of the geyser of hate that was bubbling up in his lower intestines. ‘…And everyone sings, what’s the meta-- ‘SHITWHATTHA!’
Seemingly out of nowhere a white bird or an albino bat or something swoops down and flies directly into the side of Matt’s big drunken head. He swats and curses at the creature as he stumbles down to the ground. ‘TH’FUCK IS-- plbplbplbplbplbplb…’ the contents of Matt’s stomach take this opportunity while Matt is distracted to escape through his mouth in a violent pastel arch splattering out onto the astroturf surface of the soccer field.
Matt reaches up to seize the winged demon while simultaneously trying to direct the stream of unprocessed food and alcohol projecting from his face away from his person. He grabs the creature just long enough to determine that it is not a creature at all but, rather, a piece of paper. Without looking, he grips the paper in his hand and proceeds to bend over on all fours on his fists and empty out the remaining contents of his stomach.
Once the stream of bad decisions finally stops flowing from his mouth, Matt lays down and rolls over on his back and looks up at the stars and the lights of the Boston skyline that glow along his periphery. After a few minutes of nothing at all, he unwads the piece of paper in his left hand and holds it out in front of him. It’s one of those flyers with the tassels of contact information cut out of the bottom for people to rip off and take with them. He squints his eyes to read the text through his drunken post-vomit tears.
Then you need to contact J. O’Henry’s Professional Couch Recovery Service. We’re the #1 Couch/Futon/Ottoman Recovery Service in all of New England - let us show you why!
Free in-person consultations
There was far too much going on in Matt’s world for him to ponder all of the questions that this flyer immediately raised. He stood up, brushed himself off and folded the piece of paper in half lengthwise and used it like a napkin to wipe the bits of vomit from around his mouth and from his beard. When he was done he looked down at the soccer field; at the brothy puddle that he’d left on the astroturf. He waded up the flyer and stuffed it in his jacket pocket and started making his way across the soccer field, toward Maseeh; toward home.
Matt managed to make the remaining 446 steps from the soccer field to his room without incident. He got home and immediately opened the fridge. Laura was out of town and he knew for a fact that there was no food in there but he looked anyway. He settled for a possibly-expired cup of parmesan and a bag of stale Whole Foods tortilla chips. He watched an episode of Rick and Morty and stuffed parmesan covered tortilla chips in his face before eventually passing out on the sectional in the living room.
* * * * * * * * *
A perfect e-minor note ripples its way through the Cambridge sky and out into the world.
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Tonight was not a night for star-gazing. The clouds hung low above the monastery at Mount Kōya. Flashes of lightening could occasionally be seen above the cloud-line but there was no rain.
A young monk sits on the floor of a candlelit room with his legs crossed. He is alone, facing a pedestal with a two-pronged metal sculpture atop it. His head is cocked back and he is snoring quite loudly. He is on watch in the tower tonight, high above the others, so he snores away in peace knowing that everyone below is well outside of earshot. Plus they should be busy with evening prayers right now so he should have nothing to worry about. Even with all of the windows open.
A single high-pitched note reverberates across the Japanese skyline, through the clouds above the monastery, and into the room at the top of the tower. The sound zig-zags off the walls of the room all around the catatonic monk before striking the small metal sculpture atop the pedestal. The tuning fork hums to life and begins to sing out a low e-minor note that is drowned out by the monk’s snoring. The ringing from the tuning fork grows in intensity as it begins to vibrate and dance diagonally across the surface of the pedestal.
The monk spasms awake gracelessly and looks around the room. He hears the humming and registers what’s going on just in time to witness the tuning fork quickly making its way off the edge of the pedestal. He leaps forward and catches it just before it hits the ground. The monk stays in this position on the floor and let’s out a slow breath. He then brings himself up to his knees and holds the tuning fork out in from of him to inspect it. He examines the ringing metal arms of the tuning fork and hums an e-minor note. Holding the tuning fork out in front of him, he runs out the room and races down the spiraling steps of the watchtower.
Moments later a bell clangs to life in the western tower of the monastery, disrupting the quit of the evening. The monks abandon their posts and their evening prayers and gather in the courtyard. They all stand there and look up at the watchtower in silence while the bell tolls away in the background.
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Matt was standing out in front of Maseeh drinking a PowerAde and thinking about how he was way too hungover to deal with the events that life had thrust upon him this morning. The first call that he’d made was to the MIT police.
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m aware how absolutely ridiculous this sounds. All I know is that I fell asleep on it last night and I woke up this morning on the floor. That’s it.’ After a bit more of this they finally agreed to send out a squad car.
The officers came up to the dorm room and looked around and took a few notes but Matt could tell that they were probably convinced that all of this was some sort of an elaborate prank that they didn’t really care to be a part of. And he couldn’t blame them either. All Matt knew was that there was now a large L-shaped void in his living room where his sectional couch was last night. Matt also knew that if the MIT police weren’t buying his story then there was very little hope of convincing Laura. He had to get this situation resolved before she got back in town.
It was this combination of confusion, panic, and desperation that motivated him to unwad the vomit-stained paper in his jacket pocket and call the number thereon.
‘Hello?’ They’d picked up on the first ring and Matt jumped right into it. He explained how he’d passed out on the couch last night and how he’d woken up this morning on the floor with the couch nowhere in sight; how the door was still locked and none of the windows were open; how he’d even woken up in the same position that he’d fallen asleep in with the fleece pulled over him and the pillow under his head. He’d blurted all of this into the receiver in one long breath without interruption. And then he waited; half expecting to hear a dial tone.
‘Okay,’ the voice on the other end said. ‘Sounds pretty straight forward. I can meet you out in front of Maseeh in, errr, fifteen minutes? That good?’
‘Uh, ahem,’ Matt pauses to clear his throat. ‘Um, yeah. That works.’
So here he was, sitting on the curb in front of his building drinking a lukewarm PowerAde, awaiting the arrival of the sofa recovery specialist.
He hears a high-pitched whining off to his left and looks up to see a golfcart buzzing down Amherst Street towards Mass Ave. Matt watches the vehicle as it approaches. As it gets closer he can start to make out certain features about the driver. He’s wearing a Hawaiin shirt with a dark blazer and he has something sticking out of his mouth. Matt squints his eyes and sees that it’s a pipe. Without slowing down the driver jerks the wheel and rides up on the sidewalk in a violent motion. Matt holds his arms up to shield himself as the driver slams on the brakes and screeches to a stop only inches away from where he is seated on the curb. The driver jumps out, takes his pipe from his mouth and looks down at Matt.
‘Yep,’ Matt scrambles up to his feet.
‘I’m J. Nice to meet you.’
‘Nice to meet you,’ Matt says as they exchange a handshake.
‘I understand you have a missing couch.’ He puts the pipe back in his mouth and extracts a pen and a small spiral-bound notepad from the breast pocket of his blazer.
‘Yep, that’s correct.’
‘Okay,’ he says, as he flips open his notebook. ‘Let’s get to it. Where’s the last place you saw this sofa?’
‘Uhhh…upstairs, in my living room.’
‘Okay. When was the last time you saw the it?’
‘Last night. I fell asleep on it when I came home from the bar and wh--’
‘Bar? What bar?’
‘The Thirsty Ear.’
‘Okay,’ he flips his notebook closed and tucks his pen back in his pocket. ‘Let’s start there.’ He jogs around to the other side of the golf cart and gets in.
‘Wait. Don’t you want to see the crime scene? Like, where the couch was actually stolen from first?’
‘No,’ he calls out as he reaches down in between his legs and cranks the ignition.
‘Nope. Common mistake. You always; always, uh, start at the scene before the crime scene.’
‘Oh,’ Matt says with a confused look on his face.
‘Come on!’ he waves Matt over from the driver's seat of the golf cart.
‘Alright,’ Matt says as he climbs in. ‘I guess.’
‘Trust me. On a long enough timeline every clue will eventually vanish or get scrubbed away or something. So you only have a finite window of time to find these clues. You were at the Thirsty Ear before you came back to your apartment last night, correct?’
‘Right, so any clues that are there are the closest to vanishing. We gotta get there first.’
‘Yeah,’ Matt does a self-convincing nod, ‘okay.’
‘Good,’ he says. ‘Let’s do it.’
He pushes the pedal down and golfcart creeks and shakes wildly as it flops down off the sidewalk and back onto Amherst Street.
‘Uhhh…’ Matt says with concern in his voice as he looks at the intersection ahead. ‘Can you take this on Mass Ave?’
‘Yep,’ he says, as he blows through a roughly five-second-old red light at the end of Amherst and makes a tire-peeling left turn onto Mass Ave. J did not seem to notice the screeching of tires and passionate horn honking that accompanied his merger with the traffic. Matt reached up and gripped the oh-shit bar tightly and wondered about the Satisfaction Guaranteed policy.
--the end (for now)