Eric G. Müller



(In honor of John Cage’s centennial –1912 – 1992)

He climbed up the stairs and said – No more.  Sinking into the sofa he wired himself to his iPod, thumbed for the track 4’33” of silence, shut his eyes and listened.  Within a minute he pulled out the white ear buds and shifted over to the piano, determined to play the entire piece himself – all three movements.

Palpitations punched against unwelcome thoughts during the first 30 seconds. Toward the end of the 2’ 23” middle movement his breathing and pulse steadied and he surfed through a lazuli tunnel.  The illusory peace parted in the last 40 seconds, when graphic images of his flame-turn-femme-fatale sucked him into Charybdis’ gullet, spitting him out in gut-grime rage.

Foiled, he slammed the piano lid shut, jumped up and kicked the stepladder that led to the attic where he hid his past and kept his future caged.  The rickety ladder crashed onto his guitar.  With a yelp he snatched his old Epiphone and sat on the sofa to inspect – just a dent, no cracks.  Relieved, he again set the timer of his iPod stopwatch.

Hugging his guitar he settled into silence, this time playing it as one instead of three movements.  Everybody needs their 4’33” of silence, he thought – a time to reach out into a freed space of nothing.  Halfway through his cell phone erupted with Radiohead’s “Creep” ringtone.  Unable to ignore the techno-nymph he put the six strings back on the stand and silenced his cell, growling at the unwanted caller – the one he’d love to stick in the attic and stuff into a box, together with all the diaries, letters, photos and vinyl albums.

Walking over to the French window, he blew a vapor heart on the glass, and cut a cross through it with his tongue.  The cold of the pane calmed him.  Can’t be that difficult, he thought.  Let’s try drumming.  He set the timer for a third attempt, jammed his djembe between his knees and began.

After seven seconds Merce, his beagle, scratched against the front door, needing to pee in the garden; the squirrel with the split ear started raiding the bird feeder; and after 2’54” he suddenly remembered the appointment he should be at. From nowhere a great line for a poem flashed up which would evaporate if he didn’t write it down immediately; thick raindrops plodded on the deck, and the washing needed to be brought in.

Undeterred he played on, drumming in perfect silence, eyes closed, accepting the moment and its peripheral sounds, letting them go – letting it all go, releasing his remorse and freeing his fears, his need to control.  He forgave her and wrapped her up in his warm hush.  All sounds ceased.  He’d made it through the 4’33”.  Space was transformed and stillness resounded.  It needs practice – daily.  He felt un-caged.

Eric G. Müller is a musician, teacher and writer living in upstate New York.  He has written two novels, Rites of Rock (Adonis Press 2005) and Meet Me at the Met (Plain View Press, 2010), as well as a collection of poetry, Coffee on the Piano for You (Adonis Press, 2008).  Articles, short stories and poetry have appeared in many journals and  

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