Part 1: An Introduction
Imagining Eliza’s bedroom conjures up images of clothing heaps overflowing out of her closet, a layer guarding her feet from the floor. Imaging Eliza’s brain paints something of a similar picture. Of course, to the outside world, Eliza was a plain looking brunette who lived with 2 cats, and from a quiet girl to a disinterested adult, few would consider her at all.
For a large portion of her life, Eliza dreamed of being the best trombone player. “Best” not only conjuring fantasies of worldwide trombone fame and stardom, if, in fact, there is such a thing, but of the satisfaction of hitting a high C without hesitation, of using sexy dirty plunger mutes, and of sending audiences into screaming frenzies with a complex, personalized rendition of JJ Johnson’s solo from “A Night in Tunisia.”
She liked that she was the only musician in her family, and the only female trombonist in her college band. What started as a simple hobby, by the time she turned 25, emerged into a full blown obsession. In university, as she expanded her range by blowing fast cool air into her instrument throughout the day, her relationship with her roommates went from passive post-it notes on the kitchen table to earplugs and screaming. When she was given the solo for not only the fall recital but also the spring, she saw the disintegration of her first relationship, an innocent but intense love with a fellow trombonist.
And so, it was a fair guess, (perhaps cynical, but fair nonetheless) that Eliza was setting herself up for a somewhat successful career as a music teacher of private instruction and even band classes should she decide to seek out the certification. Perhaps, if she really started putting herself out there during local gigs, she could look forward to being the main attraction of a skilled local jazz quintet, playing Wednesday night gigs to drunk basements in the city’s downtown core.
What she actually dedicated a much larger percentage of her adult life doing, if it ever came to be public knowledge, would come as a shock. No, not a single friend or family member ever imagined that she might, in fact, become the preeminent writer of circus themed erotica. Not even she could have predicted that this hobby, no, secret career, would be the very thing to bring a smile to her face after a long day of difficult students and brass covers of the same 10 songs.
Part 2: Eliza’s Guide to Select Trombone Slide Positions for Students (not as she first learned them, but as she came to make sense of them after years of practice):
Slide positions can be visualized by dividing the instrument into 7, each position lying an equal distance from the next.
Starting with the seventh position:
Stretch your arm out as far as you can and rotate your shoulder. Typically considered an annoying stretch, but there’s a satisfying physicality to it. Move with confidence as you throw your arm excruciatingly close to, but not quite into, the abyss. Maintain self-awareness so as not to slip the outer slide right off the instrument, and create the wrong kind of spectacle. Plan ahead as the trombone must be well greased with no dents, or friction will disrupt the movement.
Being most trombonists’ least favorite position that will allow you to find something special in it. Other musicians, during solos and improvisation, will rarely take the time to get all the way out there to the end of the slide. They will prioritize, instead, the highest notes they can manage on the first and second, which they’ve decided is a more impressive feat. For this reason, you will find yourself on the 7th position alone, so you might as well enjoy it.
Finally, if you feel like it, go ahead - dribble the spit-valve into the hair of the flutist. An accident, of course.
The 5th position:
Located somewhere between the bell and the end of the slide. Despite years of classes, this one will give you trouble. Too flat. Too sharp.Your arm stuck in an awkward mid-bend, you will get tired and question why you ever felt inclined to pick up this absurd horn in the first place.
The easiest to find, the missionary position of the trombone. Line your hand up with the edge of the bell, with only the finest hint of space if things are sounding sharp. A useful go-to for improvising on the B flat blues, but try not to get sucked into doing whats easy.
As it is. Leave it there. For once, and only with this one, let go if you want to.
The idea of infinity in the amount of notes and noises that can be made by moving the slide out of its designated positions and into the radical, uncharted territory of “out of tune" notes is also fun. However, if you plan on experimenting with this, prepare for:
“Do you know anything about playing your instrument?” or “Oh yes, the standard notes and key signatures are only one postulation of how we can conceptualize music. Personally, I study air guitar and the air guitar competitions of Finland. There’s an infinity of possibilities with air guitar, as well, but in a more labyrinthine method behind it…” and so on.
I recommend keeping to yourself.
Part 3: How the circus got sexy, or, tromboning turns into boners.
Eliza did not, at first, find a single thing sexy about clowns. Or red and white tents, cotton candy, circus tricks, or swallowing swords. At 32 years old, she had never even been to a circus. So when one came to town, she decided she might as well see what it’s all about. Rickety ferris wheels and rigged games not holding much appeal for her small handful of friends, she did not succeed in convincing anyone to accompany her and decided to go alone.
Once there, she encountered a clown. He stood before her, slightly jarring in appearance with an oversized red mouth, and bold enough to proposition her. It had been 4 months and 17 days since Eliza had had sex, (not that she was keeping track) and the offer piqued her interest. Perhaps it was partially out of boredom and partially out of something she could not put her finger on, but she decided to go along for the ride. He took off his red nose, but left on his wig. It was not particularly sexy, but it also wasn’t bad.
Days later, disheveled red suspenders and smudged face paint still on her mind, Eliza became possessed. With no one around to confess her encounter to, she was forced to write it down, which she did, in 10 hours, sitting at her kitchen table.
And why should this encounter, staring back at her from the computer screen, exist only for her? She posted it online anonymously, well, as anonymously as you can be online. More people read it than had ever shown up to one of her shows. She was approached by the world’s largest erotica manufacturer to be a contributor to their website in the form of a regular series, and starting making it a hefty sum doing so. She took on fewer students, but kept a couple for the sake of it, providing a breather from the intense fantasy world where she spent most of her day.
Part 4: That First Clown.
“I play the trombone so that I have a way to enjoy my time.”
“How do you make money?”
“There are ways to make money, as a teacher and as an artist.”
“Would you like to come with me and travel around the country with the circus?”
“No, i don’t think so”
“We should get married.”
“I think you would like the circus because I can see that you are similar to me. You are very thoughtful and you care about art and you don’t care about money except for having enough to eat and get by. ”
“I don’t want to be your circus wife.”
“I think we would have deep conversations about life, and at the end of the day when all the lights and signs go off I could talk to you about the other clowns who upset me and you could tell me about the new song you made on your trombone and maybe we would have a kid and they would grow up to hate us but we would try to teach them everything we know about being a clown and playing the trombone.”
“I don’t even know you.”
“I think you now know me better than any other person under this striped tent sky.”
“That isn’t saying much.”
“It is saying something.”
Part 5: The Ringmaster Part 7, Comments Section
This story is not as good as Aerial Play, or The Ringmaster parts 2 and 5. It’s the same characters doing the same things. Would it kill you to get a bit more creative?
I am waiting for this to happen to me.. I’d marry that girl right there on that trapeze.
While I like the unicyclist engaging in a ménage à trois on a conceptual level, I don’t think I’m buying into it pleasure-wise. Is he really able to stay on his unicycle? Is that possible? And why would he want to? I’m not sure I understand what this adds to the story.
Reply to SexySally:
Maybe you need a menage to loosen up a bit. I’m volunteering.
Whatever happened to Harry the Clown? He was kinder to Lucy than Jack is, and was better at his job too. She needs to come to her senses and leave that schmuck behind.
Part 6: Eliza’s knowledge of life (not initial impressions, but what she gathered after countless hours practicing in a basement, friendships gone bad, and years of loneliness):
First and foremost, do not hesitate to invite traveling clowns into your bedroom.
Playing music alone to an empty room has its merits.
A pseudonym does not give up ownership.
Red and white circus tents are not private places.
Dreams do not always come true; some dreams are meant to be forgotten.
Do not fear dissonance when improvising but do not seek it out.
Oversized patched overalls can, in fact, be sexy, if they’re worn well and the patches aren’t too colorful.
Shame is a waste of time.
Part 7: Eliza lives a longish dual life.
It was not so much an intentional choice to keep her new life secret, but simply the way things happened. If someone out of the handful of people she trusted one day approached her and asked, “Eliza, do you spend less time with your trombone not because you are disillusioned with your your ability to create beautiful music, but because you have a secret life where you write erotica about clowns and other circus themes?” then there is a good chance that Eliza would have simply said “Yes, that is how I spend my time.” Of course, no one ever did.
This dual life should not be described as going back and forth between the worlds of sex positions and slide positions, but maybe better to say that she lived in all these places at once, in a dishevelled house with two cats, then one. Eventually, after 10 different erotic series and countless students, Eliza, through a slip of the hand, did not quite make it into old age.
Eliza managed to get pretty darn close when, during an orchestra rehearsal, her slide flew all the way off of her instrument and into the back of the flutist's head. The flutist, having dealt with Eliza’s dribbling spit valves and disinterested demeanor for many years, finally lost it. He turned around and returned her outer slide to her with force and violence, until the outer trombone slide was as mangled as he left Eliza, who remained silent and shocked throughout this final encounter.
It is difficult to say how she made sense of it.
Before she died, she would have liked to have played “A Night in Tunisia” one more time. She would have liked to talk to that first clown and asked him about his life. And most of all, she wanted to finish part seventeen of “Mating in the House of Mirrors.”
Her funeral was attended by a small, but dedicated group of people who were sad to see her go, including an old college roommate and an ex-lover (not the one from the circus). If anyone in attendance had accidentally stumbled onto one of her trapeze-swinger sexcapades or clown orgy carnivals, they did not say a word. In Eliza’s final moments above the Earth, there was no mention of the world that she had made herself, even in her final days, most at home. No circus tent, no carnival music, and no popcorn or cotton candy served. Her trombone was placed alongside her body, and she was lowered into the ground.