A journal of narrative writing.
Beyond the Hall of Music

Listen to Beyond the Hall of Music read by Stephen Lackaye

There’s a question at hand, and it’s crude, in the garden beyond the Hall of Music, where some bright thing, for the amazement of another, has stripped to a cliche of flesh and moonlight, then raised herself to sit on the cool, black face of a marble sundial. Is this where the story begins, or is it sooner, before they’ve grown tired of moving in whispers through the Hall of Music's cubbied rows, returning wax cylinders to their shelves, punched rolls of paper from player pianos, shellacked reliquaries of breath that couldn’t hold itself, held. It must be here, in the hours handling those old standards, early blues, in the crucible of hushed proximity and full-lit swelter, they’re compelled to stake the draw of body to body against the cloistered voices’ crooning witness, to try if shared desire can resolve their separateness. Is it the question that’s crude, or our need to crush life into metaphor, to see these two as anything more than what they are: young and willing and naturally bored? Steam rises where her skin confronts the marble's cold, and the boy, the boy is afraid he’s gone too far out of his depth, pulled unawares into the path of adolescent expectation, unsure of what comes next beyond the naked obvious. The girl leans back to feel the marble style slot to the base of her spine, shivers and moans for form, hears nothing to convince her in their irrespective songs. And, Listener, we, late in our chairs, at our windows, are afraid. Afraid that we’ve only embellished a nightbird’s trill. We train our ears for one note more from the anxious distance, for uncaptivated voices to fill it with their artless swell, to lift the strains of marriages gone soundless in the dark.