Monday, May 23, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Lon Tupperman cornered her in the hall and
his beady eyes locked her in place. “My son’s got a new
record,” he said. “You have to buy one.”
She had heard about this son many times
of course. Jerry Tupperman was 17 and the way his
father carried on you would think he was the greatest
euphonium player since…well, ever.
“Oh,” Ruth said. “He’s been working on that
record for a while now?”
“It just came out. I’ve got a box of them. Burt
already bought one.”
“I don’t actually have any money on me.”
“That’s okay, you can pay me later. Twenty
bucks. I’ll bring you one.”
“Oh…” she repeated.
“It’s brilliant. I guarantee you’ll like it.”
“I’m sure I will.”
“Money back guarantee.”
Lon smiled. “Okay then.” He eased back a little,
his hands had dropped to his side. That was all he
needed to tell her.
Ruth said, “Thanks Lon,” and made her way
around him. She carried her teacup and a little sealed
bag of green tea, went about twenty more steps down
the hallway to the big water tank planted against
She pressed the red button on the tank and
filled her cup with steamy water. She knew there
was no way out of it. Lon would hound her for the
money. Anyway, she smiled, she had become a sort
of patron to Jerry Tupperman. After all, she had
his first recital, a 45 single. ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’
played like something hurtling out of a subway
tunnel, shrieking at you full force. She had also
been present on two cold Thanksgiving parades
when the boy marched past with his euphonium.
So yes, she supposed there was no way around
purchasing his latest endeavor. She wasn’t even
surprised when she reached her desk to find the
album waiting for her, leaning against the
On the cover a young man rested next to
a merry-go-round. He wore a purple turtleneck
sweater and held a shining euphonium bundled
under his arm. Jerry Tupperman was printed at
the top, followed below by the big yellow lettered
“Oh boy,” Ruth muttered. She set down her
tea cup and sat. She glanced at the clock. Three
more hours to go.
The time went the usual way, typing
cards, adding them to filing cabinets. At 5, she
was done for the day. This part was a bit of a
routine, following her coworkers out of the
building, the sidewalks were wet with spring
rain, city crowds, her shoes clicking on the
cement, going two blocks to the trolley stop.
She kept the awkward sized album tucked
under her raincoat and waited. Pedal cars
went by tossing a fine spray into the air
next to the curb, hitting puddles with a
When the trolley arrived, pulled by two soaking
yaks, Ruth’s coat shined with wet.
She crowded on, down the aisle and grabbed
a post to hold on. She held her other arm over the
record pressing it to her.
The trolley was full of office workers and
merchants going home. Someone with a Victrola
sat in the seat next to Ruth, the horn of it pressed
into her whenever the trolley jolted. She thought
of putting Jerry’s record on and giving it a spin.
The sound of his euphonium would probably
send people fleeing out the door, giving her a
chance to sit. It was a long ride to her stop on
“Cedar Avenue,” the driver’s voice crackled
from the speaker and everyone staggered as the
trolley halted. Like a tide, they all fell back a few
steps as more passengers got on.
Ruth held to a chair that a very old man
occupied. She looked over his frail shoulder to
share the book he was reading. This was one of
her favorites trolley activities. Whenever she
could, she would eavesdrop on someone’s
reading. She put the words together into an
adventure in her mind as if it was all one book.
So far this week she had been a deep-sea diver,
a cook preparing Irish stew, she had been in
a crossword puzzle, and got lost in the cryptic
jumble of the stock market, and now this.
The old man held a paperback mystery up
close to his chin. She was in a dark house
carrying a candle before her when the trolley
came to a sudden lurching stop. Ruth actually
gave a little yelp, she couldn’t help it, she
almost fell. A baby was crying, something
broke on the floor, people all over the trolley
were muttering and making noise.
The very old man turned his turtle-like
neck and asked Ruth, “What’s happened?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “We’ve stopped.”
She couldn’t see why though. She craned around
all the trolley riders. The windows were fogged
up and dotted with rain, there was no way to
know what occurred until the speaker in the
ceiling announced, “Ladies and gentlemen,
we’ve had an accident.” Everyone groaned.
It sounded like the wind in a euphonium.
“What is it?” the old man asked Ruth, cupping his ear.
“An accident. There’s been an accident.”
Amid all the muttering and jostling, Ruth
could feel the cool air from the door that had
just clacked open ahead of her.
A man in a bowler hat, carrying an easel
tipped and shoved past her, steaming for the
door. He prompted several others to abandon
ship as well.
Ruth could see down the aisle, out the
split screen windshield of the trolley. It was
an accident all right. The yaks were feeding
from the bright spray of a crushed flower stand.
She could see the driver out there swatting
the beasts, waving his arms. There was a
woman in a blue apron shouting at him.
“Good Lord,” Ruth muttered.
The driver pulled on the reigns and
tackle, but the yaks were intent on eating
every flower in sight. No blow could sink
through their thick matted hair. More people
were leaving the trolley. Ruth couldn’t blame
them, but she still had a long way to go.
She watched the family with the crying baby,
followed by a boy carrying a fishbowl, all
heading for the doorway. The driver wasn’t
having any luck. The lady in the apron held
a stalk of bent iris. She was crying.
Three seats from her, Ruth saw the
man with the Victrola stand up as if to leave.
“Hold on!” she called to him, having an
idea and hurrying into it before it could fly
Carrying the record player, he turned
the horn towards her.
“I think I know how to get those yaks
moving again.” Ruth tapped the contraption
in his arms. “Can I borrow this?”
Jerry Tupperman was about to receive
his most infamous audience and as a result,
by tomorrow the news would carry and set sail
and within a week his Gurdies recording
would be outselling everything from coast
to coast. It would be played as a foghorn for
ships, a tornado alarm, to clear your home of
pests, or played on trolleys as a cure for yaks.