Art by Bob Veon

Yes, music takes us into other realms.

     Blunka-blunk! Plunkety plnnk. Tinkle tinkle.
I had to get out of the house or that xylophone would drive me crazy. When Beverly gets going on it she beats on the thing for hours. While she’s in her room playing, I’m unable to concentrate on anything. This morning she was more violent than ever.
     I would have thought the vibrations would be soft, but they carried right through the walls and rattled the windows. The notes clashed with the background music if I watched a movie on television. If I tried to read, her trills sounded like buzz-saws in my ears. If I was in the kitchen, the noises would echo through the water pipes.
Hugga-bugga-huggabugga. Rurururuh,
     I loved my daughter, but I wondered what possessed her to buy that fiendish instrument. The idea seemed harmless enough. “I need something to beat on,” she had said when she first brought the instrument home.
     I had seen no objection. After all, a xylophone had soft musical tones. Certainly it was better than sawing away on a squeaky violin, I had thought at one time.
     Now I was no longer so sure. The mellow tinkling produced by the xylophone had a mind-numbing effect that grew and grew…like that Chinese water torture where you are strapped down and a drop of water hits you on the forehead every few seconds.
     Poor Beverly. Home with daddy, arriving from Europe a week after her no-good husband took off for Singapore without her. If playing that made her forget her troubles, I guess I could put up with it a little longer…or go mad trying.
Tikitikitiki. Whah!  Wheeeeaough!
Surely she would soon think of something else to occupy her time. I worried that it might be more than just a passing fancy. She’s been pounding the thing for a solid week now. The only question was whether my sanity would hold out.
     These thoughts were no help in my present state of mind. Although the thought sickened me, I wondered if I should just go find a tavern. Maybe the lowbrow noises would clear my head. I was beginning to hear the xylophone in my mind even when she wasn’t playing.
My mind did an about face. That had not sounded like the xylophone. It was the doorbell. I shook my head. Who could be coming here at nine o’clock on a Sunday morning? Maybe church people inviting me to a sermon. Considering  the prospect of staying home I might just take them up on it.
     I headed for the door, walking in an automatic rhythm with the beat of the xylophone.
     The door opened and a face appeared. I groaned. Conrad, my obnoxious older brother.
     “Surprise, surprise! What’s for breakfast?”
     Before I could adjust myself to this unwanted intrusion, the door opened wide and his whole tribe waltzed in. Elaine, his pretty wife, a good thirty years his junior, stepped in, followed by one of his daughters from his first marriage. Three children ran in around the adults. The oldest, a girl of nine, turned on the television.
     I sighed. I loved my only brother, of course, but I couldn’t stand him. The way that lumpy mug of his jutted out when he grinned at me always made me feel like I was a spider about to be stepped on. One of his favorite tricks was to gather a family group together and drop in on people unannounced.
     I felt my hand being crunched. “Long time no see, brother!”
     “Where’s Beverly?” Elaine asked.
     Before I had time to inquire what was wrong with her ears, she snapped her fingers and headed toward Beverly’s bedroom. The pounding on the xylophone could be heard plainly, even above the sudden babble of the younger woman trying to keep track of her children. In spite of the distractions, the tones of the fiendish instrument continued to rattle the windows. Was my imagination playing tricks, , or did the sounds seem even louder?
     I felt a tug on my shirt. Looking down I saw Babs, the youngest child.
     “Hey, Uncle Chester, you’re not a very good housekeeper, are you?”
     “Barbara Ann!” her mother said in a shrill voice. “You shouldn’t say things like that. It isn’t nice.”
     The cute little girl’s forehead wrinkled and her face screwed up at the admonition. I doubted she understood what she had done wrong. I felt a hand slam me on the back. “I heard that. Haw haw! Nothing like a child to tell the truth!” Conrad’s booming voice echoed through the whole house.
     Elaine opened the door to Beverly’s bedroom. The sounds of the xylophone came full force into the living room. Conrad’s daughter (I forgot her name) looked around wide-eyed. The two older children looked away from the cartoon show they’d managed to find on the TV.
“What’s that funny noise?” Babs asked.
     I patted her on the head. “That’s your Aunt Beverly playing her xylophone.”
     Babs looked around with her mouth open. “Ooooh!”
     The house suddenly lurched. Elaine, who had not yet entered Beverly’s bedroom, yelped as she almost lost her balance. Several dishes stacked on the kitchen counter rattled as they fell to the floor. I felt thankful that I had cheap unbreakable plates and saucers. We had too many earthquakes in this part of California.
The house jerked back and forth. Shrieking, the two older children ran to their mother, who beckoned them from the doorway leading to the kitchen. Babs clung to me as I planted my feet firmly on the floor and rocked with the movement of the house. I enjoyed earthquakes.
     With a crackle, the television went silent. Although I had no love for the noises of the cartoons, the notion of a power outage had made the whole situation less appealing. My house must be close to the epicenter. Concern crossed my mind for the people in Hanford.
     Instead of subsiding, the house began to teeter and rotate back and forth like a clock pendulum on its side. All this time, to my surprise, the xylophone kept playing. Beverly must be really involved in her playing not to notice an earthquake this big. With the television off, the tones of the instrument echoed through the whole house even louder than before. “Hey!” Conrad shouted. “The house is dancing to the music!”
     Elaine yelled, “Look out the window!”
     The movements had become more gentle, reminding me of my trip to Hawaii on an ocean liner a couple years ago. The tones from the xylophone had become softer, sounding very much like waves splashing against the side of the house. The children ran to look out the window. “Gee. Look at all the water,” Babs said.
     For a moment, as I looked out the window, icy fingers threatened to choke me, then comprehension became a waterfall splashing into my mind. I knew what was happening, but still found all of Beverly’s wild claims hard to believe. For once I could stand there smiling and calm while big brother Conrad showed signs of panic. “I knew we should have moved to Wyoming,” Conrad said. “California finally has fallen into the ocean.” He rushed to where Elaine had slumped to the floor.
     Turning to me, Babs asked, “Why is the water so yellow?”
     Conrad’s daughter had also fainted, and the two older children started screaming. Babs looked out onto what looked like a placid ocean of yellow water. The look of innocent fascination on her face told me that she was too young to comprehend the enormity of what her grandfather had said.
     Gurgling under the floor grabbed my attention away from my visitors. If we were really in deep water, or whatever the yellow liquid was, I had better put a stop to the nonsense before the house sank. With careful steps I hurried to Beverly’s bedroom and paused as I saw her angelic face behind the xylophone. Her forehead was furrowed as she beat on the instrument with determined ferocity. “Bev, stop!” I yelled.
Bongabingabongs. Wawawawawa! Klong!
     Either not hearing me or choosing to ignore me, she continued her playing. The noises echoed in my ears, rattled in my brain. Water was beginning to seep through the floor. Screams from the living room told me the women had recovered and noticed the new problem. I had to take desperate action.
     I rushed toward my sister and grabbed the two mallets from her hands. For the first time in what seemed like years, the xylophone was silent.
     The silence, however, only lasted a few seconds. The comical voices of the cartoon characters from the TV program returned.  The house had become still, and the water, if that’s what it was, had vanished from the floor. I glanced out the window at the wild cucumber vine climbing in the tree in my back yard.
     “Why’d you stop me like that?” Beverly asked.
     “I had to. The whole house was just about to sink in an ocean of yellow water. Anyway, we’ve got company.”
     Beverly screwed up her face. “I guess I got carried away. Who?”
     After I told her who my visitors were she sighed and came forward. Grinning at me, she said, “Maybe you believe me now when I told you about the parallel universe.”
     Giving her a nod as we headed for the living room, I wondered what to tell the others. Conrad lacked anything resembling an imagination.  He would never understand it if I tried to tell him how the vibrations of the xylophone had sent the whole house into a parallel world.  I could hardly believe it myself. I decided to let him believe that California, after falling into the ocean, rose back up by some miraculous upheaval of Mother Earth. I almost laughed at what he would think when the “earthquake” never made the evening news.
     Monday afternoon, when I arrived home after a nice round of golf, I was surprised to see a truck parked in my driveway and Beverly talking with the driver. Had her belongings arrived from Europe? She waved to me as I went into the house. Some semblance of sanity had returned to me since the events of the previous morning. The xylophone had been silent.  Beverly had been afraid to play it since then for fear of sinking the house in that yellow ocean. She explained to me that once the parallel world had been contacted, it would return any time she played the instrument. Beverly entered and gave me the good news.
     “I got rid of it.”
     My elation, however, was short-lived. Behind her the truck driver entered, carrying an armload of boxes.
     “What’s this? Your stuff from Europe?”
    It was her new instruments. Doing my best to quell my panic, I said, “What is it this time?”
     Beverly smiled.
     “I told you, I need something to beat on. I’m getting the works. A snare drum, cymbals, temple blocks, a triangle, tympani, and a bass drum.”