The Music Man (86)

Milo spun the lid back on the jar of enamel and did a quick insta-dry spell. He also waved his hand in front of the little blue logo and blew on it. This was completely stupid and accomplished nothing, but he just couldn’t help himself. He touched the paint with a cautious finger, first a tap, then a stroke. It didn’t flake or smear.

He had to ask Calliope to teach him about the enamels, and also to borrow some. She was excited to paint stuff with him, even if she was already all done touching up the baby furniture, and she didn’t press him too hard to explain himself. She had been really good at talking with him since before even the chalk pastels, and she was starting to pick up the finer points of what was difficult for him to get across, like ‘why’ answers. Which allowed him to get away with a surprise, in this case.

He didn’t think she was going to be mad at him about it. The old label was practically worn off in the first place. He had to go through a few thrift shops and find something else that said MelodieFare on it so he could design something a lot like it. He copied the blue notes exactly, and he did his best with the white font, CalliopeFair. He was sort of hoping he got it close enough that she wouldn’t notice it for a while and then later she’d see it and like it and come talk to him about it. Anyway, after all he’d done, the record-player really wasn’t a MelodieFare anymore. It ought to have a new name to go with everything else.

Gee, I hope I didn’t void your warranty, there, Calliope, he thought with a faint smile.

He latched up the case and plopped the newspaper frog on top of it. He frowned at the frog. The original idea had been a paper bow, because she gave him a paper flower — for Ann. I also know how to make paper things, Calliope! Here is one! Except a bow was like a present and it was already her record-player. So he did the frog, from the book of paper toys. Because he liked the frog. It knew how to hop if you pressed it down just right. But it didn’t look exactly festive sitting there on top of the record-player. It kind of didn’t make any sense if you didn’t know about the paper bow he didn’t make. Look! A frog! It wasn’t decorative. Sort of blasé and jaded. Gray.

Milo abandoned the record-player and the frog in the basement, found his sewing-box upstairs and snipped off a piece of pink ribbon. He made a bow and applied that to the frog.

Yay, that makes even less sense, thought Milo, who was a great deal more sarcastic than he let on. He sighed. Well, he wasn’t going to not give her the frog, or the record-player. He might as well do both at once.

———

Calliope opened the door and smiled right away. “Hi, Milo!” She waved at him.

Milo thrust the record-player at her in a very suave, graceful, and not at all embarrassingly awkward way that he would be kicking himself about later.

“Wow, a frog!” Calliope said. She took the frog. “Aw, he’s a cute little guy. Oops, look at that.” She turned it upside-down and indicated the hind legs, waggling them in her fingers. “You used scissors! That’s a no-no!”

Milo hunched his shoulders and turned his head aside.

“You’re an iconoclast!” Calliope said proudly. “Oh, hey, my record-player. You done with it?”

Milo nodded.

“Awesome! Hang on, I don’t have enough hands.” She was still busy with the frog. “You wanna come in and explain it to me?” She stepped out of the way.

Milo set the record-player on the bed and delved into his shirt pocket for the card. Calliope mirrored the motion and came out with her reading glasses.

Card Front 86

I put slipspace in the cubbyhole so you can fit more records. It has a turntable and 5 slots. Try not to hit it too hard, but I won't be mad if it breaks. I can fix it

There was blood in the battery, which Milo was somewhat concerned about. Hyacinth didn’t like things that ran on sacrifices, but it was his blood, so he didn’t think she’d mind. However, the blood was sealed up in an old glass mage light and he thought Calliope might get scared if she broke that. There was no way to say, Hey, Calliope, if you drop the record-player and it bleeds, don’t be scared, and make it uncreepy, so he was just going to have to hope it didn’t happen, or if it did she wouldn’t notice.

“CalliopeFair,” Calliope said with a grin. She did have the reading glasses on. “That’s super cute. Is that what you wanted the enamel for?”

Milo nodded. He could feel himself blushing. He pressed both hands to his face and turned away.

“Freehand or a stencil?”

Milo removed both hands from his face, straightened and sighed. One corner of his mouth twitched. If his mouth worked normally, an exasperated smile would have gone there. She was getting better about the stuff he had a hard time with, not perfect. He picked up an invisible paintbrush and painted an invisible flourish.

“It’s really good,” she said, tipping up the case to admire it. “I should make you paint the spaghetti can.” (Probably she was still asking him two things at once because she was so good at figuring out what he was trying to say.) “Wanna try out the record-player part?”

Milo nodded. He was also going to have to get a look at her progress on the spaghetti can later. He felt personally invested in that painting, since she had him pose for it.

“Lemme see here…” She flipped the record-player around to the side with the handle and stuck her hand in the slot with the spare records. “Ooh, that’s nice. They don’t just slide out like they used to. You don’t wanna know how many I broke that way.”

Milo nodded. It had seemed like a stupid feature to him, too. Gravity kept them in when you were carrying it, but you had to put the thing down and open it up and play it at some point. Adding a door would mean more wooden hinges or something like a hinge so he just put some magic that said they wouldn’t fall out. No moving parts. Simple.

“I like the spinny thing!” she said. Her hand had now vanished into the slot and was examining the turntable. It made a faint squeaking sound. (He was going to have to put some more oil in there.) “Now I don’t have to pick one to give to a thrift store every time I want a new song!” Finally, she drew out a handful of records and spread them on the bed like a pack of cards. “Ooh, boy, I haven’t had music in a long time. Lemme think…”

Milo frowned. Hey, we had radio in the basement and drew that one time!

She hadn’t seemed like she wanted to do that again. Maybe she didn’t like the radio? Or the station…?

(Hyacinth didn’t like the station. She was always changing it. So were the kids, but they wanted to listen to the serials.)

She had to be okay with the drawing, they’d done that in other places since then…

Preoccupied with the idea they might’ve been engaging in multiple activities Calliope didn’t actually like, Milo barely had any time to decipher the record label before Calliope switched on the record-player and it started to spin.

Pool…? Pool something… Trying to read it now just made him dizzy.

Calliope paused and grinned before engaging the needle. “This is fun. Now we can talk about what music we like. They don’t ever play this one on the radio. There was this pirate station in Ansalem that used to, but that’s college kids, they don’t care. I guess it’s supposed to be inciting violence or something.”

Pirate music? thought Milo. Like… hornpipes and concertinas? Even Sanaam didn’t listen to that stuff. There can’t be pirates in Ansalem, there’s not even a river…

When Calliope set the needle down, a fuzzy whisper emerged from the speaker. Milo’s frown intensified. No, come on, I’m sure I have everything hooked up right! It shouldn’t be that soft at level five. He leaned in closer and cranked up the volume, trying to discern if there was an issue with the resolution, too.

What’s that? ‘Bodies…?’ ‘Floor…?’

At which point the tiny speaker exploded in a ragged snarl at full resolution on level ten.

Milo’s mouth gaped open like he was screaming. He didn’t even cover his ears. He ran into Calliope’s door and then out of Calliope’s door and all the way upstairs into the closet.

Calliope trailed a few steps after him, but she couldn’t keep up. Behind her, Drowning Pool were informing the whole household that there was ‘nothing wrong with me.’

“What?” she said.

———

Milo did have presence of mind enough to close the door — either that or it was an automatic function, like when the needle reached the end of the groove and popped up. When the brain reaches the end of rationality, the hand closes the door.

He didn’t think that. He wasn’t thinking much of anything. Not words. He clutched the skirt of one of Ann’s dresses and pulled the whole thing over his head. It was a little quieter that way, but he wasn’t much noticing the horrible noises, nor did it occur to him that things might be okay again when they stopped.

(“Huh?” Calliope said. “I dunno. He turned it up.”)

The loud music, the closed door and his history of antisocial behavior were enough to keep the unwanted attention away from him while he collected himself and began to piece coherent thoughts together like one of those big wooden puzzles with the knobs on it for tiny children with no motor skills.

That… Was… Awful.

He drew in a gasp and covered it with both hands. He couldn’t cry, but his eyes were wet and puffy like he’d rubbed his face in a big pile of pollen and cat dander. His glasses were misty and he pushed them up to his forehead. He sniffled and hid it against the dress.

Was it to hurt me? Does she not like the record-player?

Does she not like… me?

He shook his head. Anger blossomed and his hands clenched. Why is there a record specifically for hurting people? Is it a prank?

Ann broke into his thoughts gently, Milo, I don’t think Calliope would prank you and try to hurt you.

Milo clawed the fluffy dress into his lap and flung an irritated gesture. Well, then why was there screaming, Ann?

I’m not sure… Maybe it’s supposed to be music?

Milo crawled out of the closet. He pulled down his glasses and looked for Ann in the mirror. He indicated a negative with the entire upper half of his body. That is not music, Ann!

Well… It was on a record, Milo. Maybe she just got confused. She did have one with sound effects. Birds and toilets flushing and a train. Milo had been using it to test the speaker.

She had to know it was screaming, Ann! She said she liked that one! He turned away from the mirror and paced a few frustrated steps back and forth, folding and unfolding his arms and shaking his head, having an internal argument with reality.

He turned back and put both hands on the dresser. They were trembling and his eyes were haunted. Ann… Is it possible she doesn’t know what music is?

Well, Milo, I don’t know… I don’t think it’s likely. Then again, we are talking about Calliope…

Milo shook his head and straightened urgently. Ann, this is worse than the dinosaur being wrong. We have to do something about this.

Exactly what sort of a thing did you have in mind, Milo?

———

The following day, before work and after, Milo went shopping. This was not something he enjoyed and if it wasn’t men’s clothes or shoes he always sent Ann, but this was an emergency. It wasn’t completely horrible. He didn’t have to ask about records like shoe sizes and coffees, he could just go through the bins and think about the music. He visited three separate stores, two downtown and the one on Sabot Street, all of which sold used items. He bought… pretty much everything that looked good, although there was one record in store number two that gave him pause.

‘Build Me Up, Buttercup,’ by the Foundations. He removed the small black disc from its paper sleeve and examined it. (‘New Direction’ was on the B side. He didn’t know that one.)

This was THE FORBIDDEN SONG. He’d picked it for no other reason than he liked it and it was happy, and had Florian put it on the General’s raincoat before she went up on the roof to be the magic rod. She had to listen to it all night. Over and over and over and over. It was really great. But it did mean, from that point onwards, the song was instant death. He wasn’t even allowed it on the radio. She might hear it from her room and then come downstairs and blow his head off.

It’s a good song, but I can’t have the record. No way. He put it back in the sleeve, but not back into the wooden crate with the others.

Calliope’s record-player didn’t need to plug in anymore. Theoretically, you could take it out of the house. Where there wasn’t any General because she was always up there in her room doing the gods alone knew what with magic.

He closed his eyes and put a contemplative finger between his teeth, like he sometimes chewed on his pencil erasers when he couldn’t work out what to draw next. Let’s see… We could wait until I have a day off, and Ann doesn’t have any shows — then we’d have the whole day! I could carry the record-player… Except probably she’d get bored of records all day… We could go to the natural history museum!

Milo winced and shook his head. They could not go to the natural history museum. Ever. At least not until everyone who worked at the natural history museum died or retired, so forty or fifty years on the inside.

The part where they took turns picking dead animals to draw was good. It was a little hard to see the details because of the ropes and the glass cases, but Calliope was right about it being awesome that they didn’t move. There were some funny ones in there with obvious stitches or stuffing poking out from damage during the siege, and one alpaca that the museum had felt it necessary to label with a card explaining that it had been done three-hundred years ago by a royal taxidermist who hadn’t the slightest idea what an alpaca looked like. (It had lopped ears, rabbit teeth and a drunken yet somehow embarrassed expression. Calliope made an ad for bourbon out of it.) But they could not go back and have fun with the dopey alpaca because the stuffed animal room was right next to the dinosaur room and he’d explained to Calliope about how the dinosaur was wrong.

She thought he was right about it and really smart and she said nice things, that part was okay. But she wanted to tell the museum about it so they could fix it. He snatched his drawing back, made a line of sinq signs with an exclamation point, underlined it and put an arrow pointing to the dinosaur.

“Well, if they paid a lot of money for it, they should go back and fix it so it’s right,” she said. “I had a three-legged table for a while, but it was cheap and I thought it was funny. This is supposed to be science.”

He shook his head and added a bottle of glue to the drawing.

“I don’t think it’s permanent,” Calliope said. She walked a few paces and viewed the dinosaur from the side. “It looks like it’s wires and stuff. It’s not like they put papier mâché over it.”

All the head-shaking and hand-waving in the world was not enough to prevent her from walking up to the Information booth and smoothing his drawing out on the counter as evidence. “Excuse me? Your dinosaur is wrong. You messed up the bones in the tail. It’s supposed to look like this. Did you guys read the directions on it?” She refused to be placated, explicated or patronized. “I don’t think ‘dinosaur experts’ would put together a dinosaur with a broken tail. Milo just makes watches for a job and he saw it. Seriously, did you let the alpaca guy do it?” She demanded to speak to a paleontologist. Loudly. (Maybe not that loudly but it was a big room and it echoed.) A tour group of Iliodarian families with stickers on their chests came over to stare at her. Some of them took pictures. “All your drawings of it are wrong, too,” she said. “I’d give you a discount if you want new ones. Are you sure it’s called a Saurolophus? Because that sounds made-up.” A contingency of five museum personnel, including a paleontologist, expressed the opinion that Milo and Calliope ought to move on on the gem and mineral room. Now. Milo thought the only reason they didn’t threaten the police was nobody liked to see a tiny pregnant lady in handcuffs. “Look, my tax dollars are funding your deformed dinosaur and I think you guys should put in the effort to get it right!” Calliope said.

Later, ostensibly examining a collection of geodes, she admitted, “I just feel sorry for the guy. It’s bad enough he’s been dead seventy-million years, now he has to spend the rest of his life displayed all wonky.” She frowned. “And anyway, you were right about it.”

She had also expressed a desire to label the dinosaur with a card that said it was wrong and asked if he knew any magic that would burn everyone’s fingers if they tried to take the card off, so clearly they could not go back to the natural history museum.

The record was wilting in his hands like a petal on a dying flower.

The zoo! Milo thought, and he stabbed a finger in the air in lieu of a shout. Yes! There weren’t a lot of animals at the zoo, but they could draw the hippo. Also you could feed it cabbages.

We’d have a late breakfast (for Milo, anything past 7AM was late), and get on the bus to the zoo. We can draw the hippo, and we can read the plaques where the animals used to be. Then we can find a bench under a nice tree in front of one of the empty cages and have the record-player. We can set it between us and take turns playing the records. We can buy sandwiches and picnic! Egg salad sandwiches. Or ham and cheese. It won’t even smell funny while we’re eating because it’s only the hippo and we’d be all done with him. We could listen to ‘Build Me Up, Buttercup’ and pick pieces off the sandwiches and feed the birds, and Calliope might say, ‘Wow, I like that song a lot better than screaming.’ Or, ‘I think the leaves are pretty.’ Or, ‘That bird has weird-looking feet. Wanna sketch him?’

Or, ‘Milo, you’re super cute and your hair matches the tree. Can I sketch you?’

Yeah.

He bought the record.

He got home a couple hours before dinner and knocked on Calliope’s door first thing. He had already done a card about it before he got ready for work in the morning, and he handed that to her.

Card Front 86a

The records were in a big paper bag with jute handles and he lifted it to show her.

Calliope pulled down her glasses and peered at him over the lenses. “Like, in the alley in back of the house? Just lying there?”

Milo slumped. No. Like I went to stores and looked through a million dusty boxes and picked out all the good stuff I liked so you would like it and it was really hard. But he didn’t put anything about that in the card and he didn’t have any energy left for trying to mime going to thrift stores. He sighed and blew a piece of hair off of his forehead, then tucked it behind his ear. His braid had come slightly loose after all the shopping and sorting.

“Is it heavy?” she asked him.

He shook his head. He lifted the bag again and pointed past her into the room.

She nodded. “Oh, yeah. Let’s play ’em. I’m curious.”

Milo nodded, too, and he smiled.

Calliope snickered. “Do you like these ones? Did you already go through them?”

Lots more nodding.

“Okay, you pick first.” She paused after setting the record-player on the bed. “Uh… It works okay and you don’t have to turn it up if you don’t want.” Ann had tried to explain that Milo had a bit of an accident with the speaker yesterday. (She did not offer any kind of critique on Calliope’s record. She didn’t feel qualified.)

Milo frowned and leafed through the contents of the paper bag. Oh, gods, I have to pick something to play first. It has to be really, really good… He should have thought of that back when he was buying them. This could take hours.

Milo! Play ‘Love Me Do.’ I did that one on the roof for Hyacinth.

That’s because you wanted to stamp your feet so she’d wake up and listen to you, Ann.

Well, Calliope should wake up and listen, too.

Milo guessed that was true. He pulled out the record and put it on the turntable.

“Oh, the Beatles,” Calliope said. She nodded and grinned as the familiar melody kicked in. “Yeah. It’s funny, Em never plays that one.”

Milo nodded and shrugged. He never heard Mordecai doing ‘Please, Mr. Postman’ or ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand,’ either. It was weird. (He had the Marvellettes doing ‘Mr. Postman’ in there somewhere. He looked for it.)

“Ooh, lemme get paper so you can talk,” Calliope said. She pushed off the edge of her bed and regained her feet. There was a sketchpad on the art table and she offered it. “You want your own or you want to share?”

Couldn’t just ask me one or the other, could you? That’s too easy, thought Milo. He twitched something that was not quite a smirk and also got up off the bed. He didn’t mind sharing, but it would be hard with the record-player between them. He tore off a few sheets for himself and selected a nice soft pencil from the cup on the table. Calliope found him a hardcover book to draw on (it had a guy with all his skin peeled off on the cover and Milo flipped it over so he didn’t have to look at that) and by then the song was over.

“My turn!” Calliope said. She upended the bag on the bed and stirred through the records with both hands. Wow, it didn’t seem like she knew any of these. “The Jamies!” She held up the record. “Are they like the Shaggs?”

Milo shrugged again and shook his head. He’d never heard of those ones.

“I love the Shaggs!” Calliope said, clutching the Jamies in both hands. “I think I still have ‘My Pal Foot Foot.’ Man, if you ever wanna clear out the room at a party,” she confided to him. “It’s magical!”

Milo nodded, somewhat mystified. I mean, I would like there to not be anyone in the room at a party, but is it still a party then?

Calliope played ‘Summertime Summertime.’ “Oh, this is nice,” she said. She sounded inexplicably disappointed.

Milo nodded and swayed back and forth a little to sell it. Yes! Please try enjoying the niceness! Do you somehow not get that music is supposed to be nice? He didn’t want to ask that because he thought it was mean. He picked up the pencil and tried to get across the concept of, Can you have a party without any people? It was going to take awhile. He’d need a lot of people in funny hats. He got to pick the next record and he put on ‘I Know a Place’ with Petula Clark. There were people having a party in that.

Calliope picked ‘The Shoop Shoop Song.’ “Hey, Milo, babe, you have trouble drawing faces?” Calliope asked him. The party people all had smooth spaces under their hats. “I’ve got a book on that.” She drew an oval and divided it with a crossmark. “The eyes and the ears are at the middle. Everyone always sticks ’em up where Cin wears her goggles.”

Milo shook his head. He very gently drew a light scribble mark over where Calliope was sketching eyes.

“No?” she said, blinking. “Religious objection?” She’d heard there was a sect someplace where anything with a face on it was an idol. They made blank dolls and sold them.

Milo shook his head. He clutched the book and the drawing paper against him and turned away.

“Don’t wanna talk about that?”

She didn’t add an ‘or’ to it and make it complicated for him that time. He shook his head.

“Okay.” She ripped the sheet off her pad and crumpled it. “You pick next.”

Milo picked ‘A Lover’s Concerto.’ He sighed.

Calliope pawed through the pile of records with a contemplative expression. There sure was a lot of ‘love’ in there. ‘I Think I Love You.’ ‘Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes).’ ‘People Need Love.’ ‘Silly Love Songs.’ Also a lot of ‘the’ groups with silly names. The Toys, the Lemon Pipers, the Shirelles, the Marvellettes. She didn’t think any of them were going to be like the Shaggs. (Then again, she didn’t think anyone was like the Shaggs.) No kick-ass sounding names like the Sex Pistols or the Cramps, either. It was like a dessert cart. “You really like happy stuff, huh, babe?”

Milo nodded rapidly. He also gave her two thumbs up. Yes! Music is happy! I knew you’d figure it out right away, Calliope!

“Do you ever feel, I dunno, anything else?”

Milo frowned. He nodded, but cautiously. Okay, where are you going with this?

“Don’t you ever listen to music about it?”

Milo broadly shook his head and crossed his hands in front of him.

“How come?”

(She still asked him ‘how come?’ sometimes. Probably because it wasn’t ‘why?’)

He sighed. Well, he did have a pencil and paper. The pencil did not have an eraser for him to chew on, though. He drew a boomerang and then crossed it out. He put a question mark in parentheses next to it. He picked up the paper and showed her with a quizzical expression. Why would I want those feelings to come back?

She shook her head. “It’s not like that. I don’t think so.” She drew a cartoony guy in a pith helmet whacking his way through a field of tall grass with a machete. She indicated the machete with brackets and put a sour musical note at the point. “It’s like you have something to deal with it.”

Milo reached over and drew a quick record by the musical note and put another question mark. Play me a machete? He frowned and shook his head and added a volume knob with the indicator turned to level two. Softly!

“Okay.” She pulled her records out of the cubby and sorted through them. “How about this one?” She showed the label. It was an older one. Maybe Milo might like something a little less challenging. Death on Two Legs — Queen.

Milo gave a gasp. He groped through the pile of records and showed one. Bicycle Race — Queen. (‘Fat Bottomed Girls’ was on the other side. He’d flipped that one against the solid part of the sleeve so you couldn’t read it. He didn’t want Calliope to think he was teasing her. That was not fat, it was a baby.)

“Oh, hey.” Calliope smiled. “I don’t know that one. You know this one?”

He shook his head.

“Cool. Me first.” She turned down the volume before she placed the needle.

Milo winced. This one started soft and then went screamy right away, too. But it wasn’t too loud and he’d been expecting something like that. It was actually… not that unhappy a melody. And not growly or discordant. But the lyrics were awful. “You screw my brain ’til it hurts!” He winced again and hugged the book and the drawing paper against him.

Calliope sang along, rocking back and forth like when Milo was trying to get her to enjoy the Jamies. “Killjoy! Bad guy! Big talkin’! Small fry!”

He nodded weakly. Yes, that certainly is… words.

“Feel good? Are you satisfied? Do you feel like… Suicide! I think you should!”

Milo blinked. The song just told the bad person to go kill themself. That was what the advice columns in the fashion magazines called ‘lashing out in an unhealthy manner.’ But Calliope did not appear at all troubled or dissatisfied with it.

I wish I could’ve said that. He shook his head. That’s a really horrible thing to say.

He frowned. Well, so?

He was clutching the book so hard he was wrinkling the papers.

“Should be made unemployed! Make yourself null and void! Make me feel good! I feel good!” The needle disengaged. Calliope removed the record and put it back in the stack. “You wanna play the bicycle one?”

Milo shook his head. He put down the book and the pencil and the papers. He needed to process this.

“Did you like it?” she said

He lifted a pale hand and waggled it. He did not hate it so much he needed to hide in the closet, but he was experiencing none of Calliope’s grinning joy. He picked up the paper and the book and the pencil and drew a snarling mouth with clenched teeth. He showed her.

She snickered. “Did it make you mad?”

He nodded.

“Did you like that?”

He shook his head. He drew yet another question mark and pointed at her with the eraserless tip of the pencil.

She nodded, still grinning, but then she shook her head and frowned. “No. I dunno. It’s like I can remember a lot of the times I’ve been mad, but I don’t have to feel it the same. It’s like…” She fisted her hand and punched the air. “Yeah!” She smiled. “Did you get any of that?”

Milo shook his head.

Calliope frowned again. She put down her pencil and twined her fingers in her hair. “I think you didn’t like it but you don’t like to say.”

Milo firmly shook his head and crossed his hands in front on him. He put the end of the pencil in his mouth, didn’t feel an eraser and took it out again. He drew an unsharpened pencil with a pristine eraser on top. He put some cartoon sparkles around it just to make it clear.

“It’s new?”

He nodded.

Calliope removed her stack of records carefully from the cubby where she had replaced it and sorted through them again. “I have some happy ones. You want a happy one?”

He nodded. He thought he could handle something like that now, although he was prepared for more screaming.

“‘You Really Got Me,'” Calliope said. She spun the record between her fingertips. “The Kinks,” she added, confusing Milo with the emphasis.

The sound of the guitar was fuzzy, but Milo was quite certain of the speaker’s functionality at this point. He guessed it was supposed to be like that.

Girl, you really got me now, you got me so I don’t know what I’m doin’.” The singing was fuzzy, too, like they recorded it on a microphone with gauze over it. “Girl, you really got me now, you got me so I can’t sleep at night.” Milo turned up the volume so he could better understand the words. This made the music audible from the other side of the door. Hyacinth paused on her way into the kitchen to listen.

Girl, you really got me now, you got me so I don’t know where I’m goin’, yeah! Oh, girl, you really got me now, you got me so I can’t sleep at night…

Milo blinked. He picked up the paper, drew a heart and put little lines shooting out of it like it was glowing. He pointed excitedly. This is a love song!

Calliope laughed and nodded. “Yeah!”

Milo grabbed ‘I Think I Love You’ and showed her that.

“Yeah, okay, that one next,” Calliope said.

———

Music was thumping behind Calliope’s door. Hyacinth, Maggie and Erik were all standing in front of it, leaning forward and not quite pressing their ears up against it. Mordecai peeked out of the kitchen, drying his hands on a towel. “What’s going on?”

‘Ballroom Blitz’ was stopped in the middle with a light scratch and ‘Safety Dance’ was put in its place. They hadn’t been bothered about playing the whole song for quite some time now.

Hyacinth turned and touched a hand to her lips. “Shhh. Milo and Calliope are talking!”

Erik giggled and pressed both hands over his mouth. “What are… they… saying?”

‘Safety Dance’ stopped and was replaced by a sound not unlike gargling with warm saltwater. That’s called throat singing! Calliope’s voice said. I found it in the ‘clearance’ bin with the sound effects! The gargling stopped and something very like yodeling replaced it.

“They are saying neither of them has the slightest idea what music is,” Mordecai said acidly, but he was smiling.

The yodeling stopped and ‘Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes’ replaced it.

“They’re saying they like each other,” Maggie stage-whispered behind a cupped hand.

Erik nodded. “Uh-huh.”

Edison Lighthouse abruptly became the Ramones: “…Do you love me, babe? What do you say? Do you love me, babe? What can I say? Because I wanna be your boyfriend…

Standing in the sunlight laughing, hide behind the rainbow’s wall. Slippin’ and a-slidin’, all along the waterfall with you. My brown-eyed girl. You my brown-eyed girl…

Hey-ho, let’s go!… Hey-ho, let’s go!…

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