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Love Story, by Barry Grant.
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The Mysteries of His System
The Verses in His Life
A Love Story
by Barry Grant
"Cavafy," Audies voice buzzed the voice coil of the rotary phone that sat on the cherry-shaped cherry-wood night stand on his side of the bed. "Are you there?"
"Im here Audie. How are you?"
"Its a long story Cavafy, and its not over yet."
"In other words, system problems."
"The same. Hows business?"
"How do you do it?"
"By listening carefully through the distractions."
"Why I called, Cavafy. Can you get tickets to THE Show next month? For Prue and me."
"Johnsons, and his mates. Theyll be in Tokyo."
"Hes not an allergist or holy man?"
"Hes Johnson. You like his stuff."
"Of course. Are you going?"
"You know I never go. The noise. And I cant leave the rabbits."
"Yes, of course. Prue and I send our love."
"I love you, Cavafy," Prudence said as she lay stretched across the bed, her head in Audies lap, reading the annual retreat issue of the Women Writing Women newsletter.
"Tell the goddess I bow to her."
"Cavafy says he bows to you."
"You are a silly man."
"Keep listening, Cavafy."
"Keep listening, Audie."
"Well get an entourage." Audie said to Prudence as he returned the handset to its cradle.
"Johnson. His readers think his articles reveal the true nature of systems. He is a sort of holy man, though hes not the mysterious Johnson who spoke at the Antinomian Audiophile Society meeting. Remember, I asked Edith about him? After she tossed down those three mulled scotches, all she would talk about was love.
"Audie, who would think we are Johnson and his mate because our badges say so? It would be easier and no less thrilling to masquerade as ourselves."
"Prue, you know you are most yourself when you pretend to be someone else."
"Oh, Audie." Prudence grinned and pulled Audies brow to her lips.
"Hey, Ill read you some of Johnsons philosophy." Audie brushed his lips across Prudences soft cheek. He gently lifted her head from his lap as he scooted off the bed.
"What was the one with Johnsons position statement?" Audie asked himself as he examined the table of contents of an issue of the magazine that published Johnsons work. He hadnt read the magazine in months, but he continued to seat each new issue successively on the shelves that stood astern his silent system.
"Yes, the cover with Mother Theresa, her head tilted like that dog on record labels. How did the editor get permission to use the picture? Maybe the magazine donated a system to her hospice. Sound Reproduction and the Good, thats it."
"Listen, Prue," Audie said as he resumed his former position, the palm of his free hand resting on Prudences soft cheek, his fingers cupping her chin.
"Judgments of difference imply a standard. Standards imply a hierarchy. A hierarchy, properly constructed, is a ladder to the Good. In the domain of listening, the Good is the perception of the true sound of unamplified instruments, pure, full, timbral and dynamic sound.
Ill skip a bit here. The enemy of listening is also the enemy of morals: relativism, pragmatism, "taste." Reviewers who call themselves "bass freaks" or "soundstaging freaks" are themselves freaks with freakish standards. There is only one sound, entire in itself, and that sound is absolute.
Ill skip more. The true listener continually strives to overcome ego. Only by shedding ego can we truly hear. Without the muffling distortion of ego, we can perceive true differences as they are present to our ears. Recognizing differences is training in virtue, is virtue."
"Poor man," Prudence said, tightening the flesh of her chin across her jaw bone. "All sounds are beautiful. We can enjoy them without philosophy or training. What does that man Cake say, Everything is a delight?"
"Cage. Prue, I know, all things are perfect in themselves. But doesnt ego obscure true perception?"
"No. Love sees through everything. True love is joyous recognition."
"Prue, you are amazing! I love you," Audie said, brushing Prudences soft cheeks with his late day growth.
Audie paused. He sat up. His mouth fell open as if as his mandible had suddenly grown heavy. His breath became shallow and sharp. "Why do you love me?" he asked Prudence swallowing the words as he spoke them.
"You are perfect. . . for me!"
Audie and Prudence continued unpacking the produce they had purchased at Edith. Edith was their friend Ediths newest venture, a companion to her first store, also called Edith, that sold what Edith called Harmonically Correct Furnishings for the Home. Audie and Prudence had bought their bedroom set and other furnishings at Edith. In her new store, Edith (she never used adjectives to describe her stores or herself) sold what she called Star Balanced Fruits and Vegetables.
Audie and Prudence had read Ediths food philosophy paper several times, but, despite their high level of general intelligence and their familiarity with Ediths other endeavors, they could only discern that it had to do with Taoism, organic farming, psychotronics, and cross-breeding of food strains based on the Zodiac. Maybe, Audie once joked to Prudence, philosophical insight comes from consuming the food, just as cannibals (so they believed) acquired strength by eating their enemies body parts.
Ediths Tomatoes were the most profound realization of her hermetic philosophy. Stammel-red tomatoes streaked with mauve and amethystine. Italien Tomatoes whose ochery gold meats glistened under pale, translucent skin. Aggie-sized tomatoes, their fuzzy purpureal skin ticklish as a bees hide. Tomatoes, ferruginous and laky, shaped like human hearts cleaved by a blunt scalpel. Every bite of their flesh, every drop of their viscid juice, revealed a secret essence of aftertastes, foretastes, nuances, and overtones as endlessly complex and surprising as the sounds of Lambs Faraway Wind Organ.
"Audie," Prudence said as she laid a brilliant bed of verdure, ruby, and canary lettuce leaves in a large oslamode bowl. "Do you think we will find Mr. Bell at the show? Do you think he will even be there? He didnt answer any of our letters or calls."
"Prue," Audie said as he plucked a particularly virid leaf from the bowl. "Our only clue is his flyer with an announcement on the back for A Show, which occurs at the same time and city as THE Show. Ive never heard of A Show. We are lucky Cavafy could get us tickets to THE Show. But. . ."
"If we find him, we can help him. Some people who read his message would say he is crazy, but I think he is just unhappy and very lonely."
Audie reached over to the kitchen cork-board and unpinned a half-sheet of pink paper with a thick black photocopy line across the bottom. "He might be having a breakdown. He seems to argue a sort of contextualized psycho-political critique of certain modes of sound reproduction, but its hard to tell what he means."
"Read it again, Audie, please. Maybe we missed something."
"OK, but I dont think so."
Audie read the following:
"Poor man," Prudence said, arranging gorgeous lateritious, aureate, and violaceous slices of fully maturated fubsy tomatoes in a golden section on the bed of motley lettuce (Edith prescribed this arrangement for its "toward effect." Prudence liked the way it looked.) "He is unhappy and confused. He sounds like those men in your magazines who write about dubes."
"Tubes, Prue. We will do our best to find him. And maybe," Audie said, almost holding his breath as he spoke. "While we look, I will find a new system."
"Oh, Audie," Prudence said, throwing her arms around her beloved and pressing his face between her soft breasts. "Wouldnt it be wonderful if we could find Mr. Bell and a new system too?"