Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom – Day 31 of 61

Chapter 6

Lying on my hotel bed, mesmerized by the lazy turns of the ceiling fan, I pondered the possibility that I was nuts.

It wasn’t unheard of, even in the days of the Bitchun Society, and even though there were cures, they weren’t pleasant.

I was once married to a crazy person. We were both about 70, and I was living for nothing but joy. Her name was Zoya, and I called her Zed.

We met in orbit, where I’d gone to experience the famed low-gravity sybarites. Getting staggering drunk is not much fun at one gee, but at ten to the neg eight, it’s a blast. You don’t stagger, you bounce, and when you’re bouncing in a sphere full of other bouncing, happy, boisterous naked people, things get deeply fun.

I was bouncing around inside a clear sphere that was a mile in diameter, filled with smaller spheres in which one could procure bulbs of fruity, deadly concoctions. Musical instruments littered the sphere’s floor, and if you knew how to play, you’d snag one, tether it to you and start playing. Others would pick up their own axes and jam along. The tunes varied from terrific to awful, but they were always energetic.

I had been working on my third symphony on and off, and whenever I thought I had a nice bit nailed, I’d spend some time in the sphere playing it. Sometimes, the strangers who jammed in gave me new and interesting lines of inquiry, and that was good. Even when they didn’t, playing an instrument was a fast track to intriguing an interesting, naked stranger.

Which is how we met. She snagged a piano and pounded out barrelhouse runs in quirky time as I carried the main thread of the movement on a cello. At first it was irritating, but after a short while I came to a dawning comprehension of what she was doing to my music, and it was really good. I’m a sucker for musicians.

We brought the session to a crashing stop, me bowing furiously as spheres of perspiration beaded on my body and floated gracefully into the hydrotropic recyclers, she beating on the 88 like they were the perp who killed her partner.

I collapsed dramatically as the last note crashed through the bubble. The singles, couples and groups stopped in midflight coitus to applaud. She took a bow, untethered herself from the Steinway, and headed for the hatch.

I coiled my legs up and did a fast burn through the sphere, desperate to reach the hatch before she did. I caught her as she was leaving.

“Hey!” I said. “That was great! I’m Julius! How’re you doing?”

She reached out with both hands and squeezed my nose and my unit simultaneously — not hard, you understand, but playfully. “Honk!” she said, and squirmed through the hatch while I gaped at my burgeoning chub-on.

I chased after her. “Wait,” I called as she tumbled through the spoke of the station towards the gravity.

She had a pianist’s body — re-engineered arms and hands that stretched for impossible lengths, and she used them with a spacehand’s grace, vaulting herself forward at speed. I bumbled after her best as I could on my freshman spacelegs, but by the time I reached the half-gee rim of the station, she was gone.

I didn’t find her again until the next movement was done and I went to the bubble to try it out on an oboe. I was just getting warmed up when she passed through the hatch and tied off to the piano.

This time, I clamped the oboe under my arm and bopped over to her before moistening the reed and blowing. I hovered over the piano’s top, looking her in the eye as we jammed. Her mood that day was 4/4 time and I-IV-V progressions, in a feel that swung around from blues to rock to folk, teasing at the edge of my own melodies. She noodled at me, I noodled back at her, and her eyes crinkled charmingly whenever I managed a smidge of tuneful wit.

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