I had been appointed interim drummer for the Sex Pistols. I was dreadful. I ruined every show. I refused to play with drumsticks, would only play with brushes. I insisted that this added “complexity” to their sound.
* * * *
John Cage, Jr. had spent his entire life creating the Melanie. He had never done anything else. I described the Melanie to people this way: It was a metal box, about two feet wide, three feet long, and one foot deep. The outside was a dull brushed tin (though that, too, had its secrets), but when you opened the door of the Melanie, you saw a small cluster of coloured plastic triangles arranged into a star on a bright white surface. When you flipped one of the triangles, they would begin to clatter, producing more triangles seemingly from nowhere, erupting and cascading like a thousand Jacob’s Ladders. They grew in every direction, forming an array of three-dimensional geometries in every colour. Mountains grew and disappeared, arising as much as two feet out of the Melanie. All of the shapes could be flipped in order to cause the Melanie to make still more shapes, or return to its original formation. And all of this was only half of the Melanie’s function (so we thought.) For if you rotated the background, the other side of the Melanie contained a massive, intricate diorama full of wooden figurines that lived their own independent lives. But this half was so detailed and endless that it cannot be described.
John Cage, Jr. had intended the Melanie to be the most precious object in the world. It was.
I do not know how the Melanie came into my possession. But most of my time was spent staring at it, showing it off to others, and then guarding it from their jealousy. Eventually, my brother and I decided the Melanie was not safe in the city, and took it to the beach. That was where we discovered the secret of its xylophone.
The metal exterior of the Melanie was divided into hundreds of small sections, and each section was a note on a xylophone. Deceived by the Melanie’s dull appearance, my brother and I had never thought to strike the segments. But when we did, each emitted a note of such perfect beauty that we could hardly breathe. One did not need skill to play the Melanie; every sequence and combination of notes produced a harmonious perfection.
Unable to contain himself now that we knew the full extent of the object’s magic, my brother shot me in the head and ran away with the Melanie.