Academic journal article Chicago Review

The Flute Player's Deposition

Academic journal article Chicago Review

The Flute Player's Deposition

Article excerpt

...suddenly a marvelous sound of music was heard... as if a troop of revellers were leaving the city, shouting and singing as they went.

--Plutarch

A flute player, that's what I was. Gigs at them banquets with Cleo and Tony. But I'd started young, twelve or so. Father a bellows mender, mother'd been an acrobat. She mended clothes. All Greeks. Street life, not so bad, sometimes a bit rough; but then along comes this old dancer, teaches me the flute, and I was off. Bought a double flute of me own the very next year, talent, they said, and our group, one night, some drunks dragged us into a palace. Where we could see, far off, on couches, in the torchlight, the general and his lady.

Well now, yes, we certainly knew his goose was cooked, the general's. We'd heard about him, stuck on Pharos, the Parthia flop still shamin him, and the ship thing soon after. He'd take a walk every noon, people said, round the lighthouse. Watched, frownin, seaward, wretched. Knew Octavius was comin after him. Wasn't sure about the queen anymore. She was all for show, so was he, but he was changin, she was still pretendin, only performin. Then came this gent who was bald, one of those, called philosophers.

He said things had gone too far. The party was over. But it wasn't. Not by any stretch. There were more and more parties. Bit by bit we got rolled into their act. Hired, night after night. And I'll tell you, Tony once, he come up so close you could touch him. Fifty or so, beamin, we was havin a breather in an alcove, up he comes to say thanks for the song, flesh hangin off his cheekbones, eyes sort of filmy, big smile, but you know he had a mouth no bigger than an owl's asshole, for all the fine speeches. Sat beside me, put his huge hand on my knee, he did. But that was all right. This knee, look at it. Anyway, to resume, like they say

After one big night in one of the palaces, up comes baldy again. Lads, he says, the whole parade hangs by a thread, you're the group to snip it. There's a myth about Antony, myth, that's what he said, and it's our ruin. They can't dish that much buffoonery forever, or that many nightingale tongues. What's to be done? Those were his words.

So here's what he told us to do. There's that long street in Alexandria from the palace quarter to the outskirts and a big sewer runs under the street. …

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