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Osteo-Orchestra, Nick Gardner

The first kid discovered Debussy blown through the hollowed rib nabbed from the skeleton that rotted in a pile of leaves. And this was just the start, the freckled redhead puffing until a stuck earth clod squealed out and then tooting a flawless Syrinx in A-minor. Of course every parent told their young ones not to put dead things in their mouth, but people often forget. Plus these bodies turned up in everyone’s yard as if they fell from the sun-splurged sky already bleached and clean.

The sky is where they looked first, but nothing flew except occasional clouds. Absolutely nothing fell. The kid had moved on to a Bach étude by that time and they declared it a miracle.

The prodigy tromped through the neighborhood flouting through the rib and was joined by other kids. A filthy-faced blond stuck a humerus through a skull and strung it with sinews to form a violin. A much larger one with a bowl cut innovated a ribcage xylophone with radius and ulna mallets. There were tibia trombones, a tuba with a pelvic mouth. Their parents hummed along, off key, but mostly they marveled. Applauded. Asked for more.

So the kids marched onwards and the parade made its natural move to Souza near the city. The elders uncovered their convertibles and followed, waving from the bucket seat, and once the osteo-orchestra reached the square and arranged themselves in the gazebo, they turned on their brights to spotlight their virtuoso bloodline.

A crowd gathered. The kids paused and made eye contact before they transitioned to Big Band, upbeat, something to swing to. Everyone took off their hats and groped at their hearts for the national anthem. There were impromptu fireworks, sparklers, a city square that boiled with pride.

The mayor waited for the applause to die down before he made his address but the music carried on and drowned him out. It peaked over everything, summited, turned to clouds. The kids and parents and clouds began to cry, and those first teardrops became a downpour which soaked its way into the past.

The swell floated up more bones, moldy, less intent on music. A battle axe femur. A tooth-nubbed club. A cockeyed razor-blade spine. And as the mayor shouted, the crowd mauled with those tools till the music was forgotten and their own bones littered the streets, were, also, over time, subsumed. But there was still the song, asleep in the marrow. There was still a note that hummed through the earth.


Nick Gardner is in his eighth year of recovery from opioids His poetry and fiction has appeared in Ocean State Review, Fictive Dream, Flash Fiction Magazine, Main Street Rag, and other journals. His book of poetry, So Marvelously Far was published in 2019 through Crisis Chronicles Press. He lives in Ohio.

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