Gramophone People by James R. Gapinski
The man and woman inside the gramophone are very small. The man plays a very small cello. The woman plays a very small violin. When a song calls for vocals, they sing in very small harmony. Their very small songs are projected through a very large horn. Amplified. Big. With their very large sound, they have claimed a very large space. They rule the entire living room from their dwelling inside the gramophone. Meanwhile, I rule the rest of the house with my deep, booming voice. There is momentary peace in this arrangement.
But eventually the man and woman decide that two people ought to have more territory than one. They venture from their gramophone intent on conquering the rest of the house. They walk into the kitchen and inspect the silverware. They strain to lift the heavy forks and spoons, dropping these items on the floor with a loud clank. They jump up and down on overturned mixing bowls, taping out the chorus to a war song I cannot identify. The woman figures out how electricity works, and she rigs the blender to whir all night long. She rewires the microwave, and it beeps a trendy electronica tune.
I buy a CD player and try to combat their songs with my own noise. I blast punk music down the hall. At night, I barricade myself in the bedroom and turn up my white noise machine as high as it goes. I wake to find the stereo gutted, compact discs melted on the stovetop. The man steals floss from my bathroom and sneaks into my bedroom. He lassoes picture frames and knickknacks, producing loud crashing sounds and thuds. The persistent jingle jangle of broken glass resonates like a xylophone. I shout at him until my voice is hoarse, driving him toward my office.
The gramophone people do not give up. They raid a filing cabinet and build a manila folder horn, mimicking the projective power of their gramophone. The man signs a victory song, resonating throughout my office and seeping into my bedroom. The woman short-circuits my white noise machine and joins the man, offering violin accompaniment and the occasional vocal aria.
In their revelry, they have left their home-front unprotected. I spring forward and dash through the house. I slice my feet on the broken picture-frame glass, but I keep hobbling onward. The very small people run after me with very small steps, unable to match my blood-streaked stride.
As I run through the kitchen, I punch the microwave multiple times, hard enough to kill the blaring electronic music. My hand is raw and aching. I don’t slow down. The man and the woman are still climbing over the hallway wreckage—the largest broken knickknack fragments might as well be mountains to the gramophone people.
I hop into the living room and push the gramophone from its mantle. I stomp on it with my bloody feet. I grip the sides with my scraped fingers. I stomp and smash and squeeze until the rigid shape finally bends to my will. I bellow a triumphant, atonal wail. I drag the twisted gramophone toward the very small people and drop it in front of them. They cry and shout, but it might as well be a squeak or whisper. I sidestep the very small people and go into my office. I tear up their paper gramophone for good measure.
I dress my wounds while the man and woman try to reseat their gramophone on the mantle. They sing through the dented, sideways horn; it comes out as a muffled whine.
The very small people pack two very small suitcases and button-up two very small overcoats. They crawl underneath the front door, braving the unkempt lawn.
Feral cats approach and circle their prey, yowling and meowing and hissing. I want to drown out the terrible sounds, but there is no gramophone, and I have no stereo, no microwave, no white noise machine. I try to hum something to myself, but my voice is too strained and raspy. I have no choice but to sit and listen, aching for one more song.
James R. Gapinski is the author of The Last Dinosaurs of Portland (Bottlecap Press, 2021), Fruit Rot (Etchings Press, 2020), Edge of the Known Bus Line (Etchings Press, 2018), and Messiah Tortoise (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2018). Find them online at http://jamesrgapinski.com or on Twitter @jamesrgapinski.