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Columns > Jesse Jarnow - Brain Tuba

Published: 2008/07/22
by Jesse Jarnow

Morgan the Lion, no. 4

BRAIN TUBA: Morgan the Lion, no. 4
Morgan thought about the last Borders gig as he prepared for the next one. He was of two minds about how it had gone. He’d played in the corner cafe, adjacent to the magazine racks, and scanned the covers as he sang. He made eye contact with celebrities, trying to keep himself from over-thinking the music. He thought about everything else, the swirls of information being absorbed by the readers, but still felt his palms growing sweaty and his legs shaking. But his voice had held. That had been the successful part of the performance.
The unsuccessful part was when, for a minute, he tried to let go, to access the power he’d felt occasionally in his living room. His throat had opened up then, his voice suddenly inflating. At Borders, he closed his eyes, and thought of himself on a mountain. He sang the chorus of one of his songs, "Radio Alaska," and went horribly out of tune. The rest of the show had been timid, though the only person there to see him was Ian.
Morgan practiced everyday after he’d set the show up with Wally, the manager of the cafe. The leak in the ceiling had been stopped, though a good chunk of the sky had been ruined. Frequently, while playing, Morgan would find flecks of blue on his palms, like ash from a fire. Morgan liked watching his reflection in the window while he played, hovering spectrally over the apartment complex’s parking lot. And though he could see the reflection better at night, he ended up practicing during the day most of the time, since Valdez generally worked afternoons.
The show was on a Wednesday night. The Monday before, after midnight, he missed a call from Donna, his ex. He saw it in the phone’s log the next morning. She left no message. It’d been six months. Maybe he’d been a misdial. His memory of her was like one of summer in the middle of winter, impossible to convince the body that it actually existed. He practiced the night before, his callouses finally feeling right. He got quieter and quieter, until he couldn’t tell if he was singing out loud.
Ian was at the show, sitting at the same table as last time. He wore red, yellow, and green. Morgan laughed. He tuned up and played, this time beginning with "Radio Alaska," to get it out of the way. He got through the chorus and didn’t over-emote. He played through the next two songs, perhaps playing too fast. Morgan wondered what His first performances were like, probably at parties. He couldn’t reconcile that context with the rows of books in front of him. He could see the parking lot from where he stood, too.
Morgan’s eyes ran over the aisles of the Borders. He looked at the magazines, and again at their readers. He studied the tops of people’s heads as they made their way from section to section, imagined the domes as submerged islands. In one row, he imagined Donna, running her fingers along the spines of vampire novels, trying to remember what she’d already read. Valdez was there, too, in the philosophy section. He saw the woman from the supermarket, he saw his mother, and—eventually—he saw Him. He was sitting in the back of the store, near the children’s books, at a low table, in a low chair. His legs were crossed. He studied a paperback, denim-clad legs crossed, dreads spilling down His back. He smiled, of course.

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