"Listen to this..."
Marvin was a squatter like me and a bunch of other people. Most times, money was out of our reach. But I got on street teams for new artists, and I was a part-time messenger. I think Marvin got a tiny Social Security check but it just barely covered his food and meds. We lived in the abandoned Avalon Heights Resident Hotel. He was on the second floor, I was on the fourth. He was schooling me on old-timey things. Today was music. I told him I knew about music. I listened to it all the time.
"Three Blind Mice? You know them, right? Them and Kill Trash and FilthNamer rule the music scene, man."
There was a re-surgence of grunge ten years earlier, with two new Brexit bands, Kill Trash and FilthNamer cranking that scheisse up to a new mind-splitting level. People started calling it drang. I pointed to my t-shirt. Right below the picture of a crude oil-drowned cat were the words Kill Trash, The Oil Slick Tour.
If people didn't listen to drang, they were totally into West African Techno-Freestyle. Cosmic First People was killing that genre.
Marvin snorted. "Noise and clatter. Pots and pans. Buzz-sawing and clanging."
He put a small suitcase on the kitchen table. When he opened it, there was a machine inside. He said it was called a 'phonograph' but,
"The common name was record player."
He pointed to different parts and told me what they were, before he slipped a shiny black disk that had a small hole in its middle, from a cardboard cover. He was holding the edges of the disk with his fingertips as if the thing might burn him.
He kept talking to me while getting the 'album' on the 'spindle' of the 'turntable.' I noticed that his voice was different. Not his usual gruff gravel but soft and gentle like there was a baby sleeping in the room. He pointed to his generator on the floor and I plugged the record player in.
"This is a record. An album. That means it is a long musical recording. Sometimes it's one very long song, but most times there are several songs that play in sequence."
I laughed. "Sounds like a guy's name. Al Bum. Anyways, even the quote-unquote latest format...you know...MP3 is on. It's. Way. Out."
I held out my left arm, my hand palm up. In the middle of my palm, the light of my injected device blinked green. I tapped the spot with my middle finger, and Trash's latest song blasted from the speaker pierced in my left ear lobe.
I yelled, "I get to keep this for six months and test it out."
He just gave me an odd look, pushed a button to set the 'turntable' spinning. I tapped my palm twice. Trash went silent. He lifted the 'player arm' to let the 'needle' gently drop. And suddenly, something...I don't know what it was called...shock-pated me to the point my lips wouldn't move to let me talk.
I could see his shoulders were bunched up and I thought maybe he was in pain. He pivoted to face me. I looked up at him from my seat on the only kitchen chair, and nearly flinched. I swear, his face was glowing, soft and blue.
Tears rolled from his eyes, scrubbed clean lines down his dirty cheeks, and mixed with, then disappeared into his beard.
"This..." he whispered, "...is joy. Love. This is life, Nino."
The sound was complex and simple at the same time. A little angry, but not really. Like cayenne pepper. I couldn't help myself and closed my eyes. "What is this?"
"Jazz Nino. Pure. Simple. But not. A piano, drums and a couple horns. That's it."
The sound was touching my skin and the hair on my arms stood up. "Who is playing the piano?"
"Edward Marvin Santiago."
I opened my eyes and smiled.
Marvin smiled back at me.