The Gloom Tuning Key

The Brass Gloom Tuning Key was owned by the small clown with the large accordion that busked on the corner of Landbayerstrasseand that nameless street with trams in Vienna. The clown was so tiny that only his staring eyes showed above the instrument. He looked like an angel whose wings moved backwards, embracing the air and layering it into his chest while his fingers related the melody of an anonymous transient life. God was in the habit of dropping by on the rooftop of the nearby Chamber of Commerce and listening, his bare feet dangling. I trust you will not ask me why God walks barefoot.

Imagine the picture. At the top are two short arms that gather the flying wings of the accordion into an embrace. At the foot are two heels that rock and twiddle their toes as the sun sets. The entire harmony is broken only by the approach of a lone child: an orphan or a beggar, a crumb of human bread intended to sate the voracious throat of evil. At such times the accordion would go off tune, the melody would twist into a grimace, God’s ears would ring and he would barely escape splitting his head open as he slipped off the rooftop.

Seized with determination, one afternoon God descended to earth, went into a foundry and left it again with a small brass key in his hand. Passing the busking clown, he dropped the key into his hat. Not long after, watching from his high vantage, God saw a small lad approach with a lonesome look. From somewhere deep inside life, the accordion tune began to waver. In a flash, the clown’s hand sank into his pocket, grasped the key, and inserted it between the buttons.

The melody firmed up and wound itself like a soft, fleecy scarf around the lad’s bare neck. A hat, warm clothes, and comfy shoes appeared from somewhere. Accidental courage and unreasonable hope would approach, drawn by the music. The lad would pass, the clown would withdraw the brass key, and God would twiddle his toes in the Vienna sky. Possibly the sky was not at all Viennese, for it was all so long ago. Anyway, you cannot ask me to be certain of things that even you cannot be certain of.

The indubitable fact was that after the brass key was discovered, the bloodshed in Valparaíso ended and folk returned to living cosily together.

The third epidemic began in 1934 by rendering all who had embarked on love games unable to call an end to them and go to work. Two weeks later all curtains, all balconies, and all walls emitted laments, screams, and cries for help. Just two men were spared this agony, being sent in search of the third miracle key. When they finally returned with it, most Valpinos had breathed their last. Survivors had empty eyes that looked as if they had stared meaningfully into the eyes of God.