At the end of the dinner party for musicians with obscure instruments, the guests took it in turns to wow their fellow eccentrics with presentations and demonstrations.
‘I have a zither!’ said one.
‘A loophonium!’ said another.
‘Ho-hum,’ said Montgomery Ficus, the most eccentric of the eccentrics, to each of these in turn.
‘And I suppose you have something better to offer us,’ said the host, who played the lute.
The guests, who were by now gathered round, gasped in his snatch of the towel from the long object in the gaping suitcase. A shark! While it was strapped down at tail and body, its head whipped left and right, snapping at the air with its rows and rows of white points.
‘It’s alive!’ the boxstroppist shrieked, while the zitherer squeaked, ‘Is this a joke?’
‘It’s no joke, my friends,’ Montgomery Ficus said.
‘You expect us to believe that you are capable of manipulating this creature to produce music?’ said the host.
‘Yes,’ said a proud Montgomery Ficus. ‘This is a piano shark. Listen, and the very fabric of your life will be changed.’
He proceeded to fit a shoulder strap to the writhing beast. Then he wrestled the shark to its opposite side, revealing an inbuilt keyboard. Trapping the head shut with his neck, Montgomery Ficus pressed down on the keys. The tune that emanated from the shark’s open mouth delighted and haunted, at once the sound of immense pain and inexplicable joy.
Montgomery Ficus closed his eyes to the applause. Both he and the creature were spent. When he opened his eyes, it was to swat away the many hands that stretched to touch his instrument.
‘Ergo, it is fake! He’s tricked us!’ said the loophonium player, because loophonium players are like that.
‘Come closer and see if you must,’ said Montgomery Ficus, ‘but don’t blame the shark for what it might do.’
In his address to the jury, the piano shark player said in his own defence, ‘What is a life without danger? If it does not possess an element of risk, it is not worth possessing!’
[Written in response to the feature image by India van Didden, reproduced with permission.
India said she was done and I asked what it was. She replied, ‘A piano shark player.’ — as though that was the only thing it could possibly be. And, when I looked closer, of course it was.]
Addendum of 9 June 2018
Supplementary content added: feature image, and audio (to be played in the background as you read). Let me know what you think!