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The Cracks and Strains!
by Gabe Durham

Truman showed initial interest in the pop songs I played him but was disgusted with their endings. As one faded out, he seized the volume knob to compensate. I feared he'd blown out the speakers when the next song blasted to life. "It was just getting going," he said, "or no, I revise, not even getting going." In my closet I found a record of "Hey Jude." He admitted it showed promise and became excited around six minutes in. "The cracks and strains!" he said, his ears yellowing. "They're gorgeous!" Again he was irate at the fade-out, took it personally. Where Truman comes from, the mark of a good musician is endurance. "A revered artist will use her arms and legs and voice and she will plink and stomp and buzz upright until her legs wobble, then sit and resume until she can no longer maintain rhythm and her arms will go dead and yet she will continue to stomp and buzz, chaired, her voice croaking, until the pain shooting from feet to knees becomes unbearable, whereupon she will rasp and cough until her buzz is a whisper and her whisper a rhythmic sigh and she will collapse to the ground, no longer conscious, and wheeze in and out and only when she wakes, if she wakes, does the song end. Your man Jude is ashamed of his cracks and strains, mistaking them for weakness when they are, in fact, the point." I downloaded an 80-minute piece of house music, standard synth and bass stuff. Truman was smiling 30 minutes in, laughing by 50. "This percussionist is inexhaustible, precise, effortless, as if she could go on forever!" I explained electronica to him as best as I could, and his smile grew sick and perverse, his eyes scanning mine for humor. He asked me to turn off the stereo and when I didn't immediately do it, he used his mind to eject my right pinky finger, which flew out the closed window and into our oak, making a dull thwat sound. Of course he ran down and retrieved it reattached it good as, well, not new, as a new finger is far too small, but good as it was. "I'm so sorry," he said, and I forgave him, no problem, it's culture shock, but he went on, "I'm so sorry," over and over, "I'm so sorry," till he was hoarse and I was irritated. But that irritation wore down as well, and on his fifth hour of apology, I realized he was sorry. He was unconscious, too.

About the author:
Gabe Durham is an MFA at the University of Massachusetts. He has been published at, NO÷ Journal, Crate, and Expressionists. He lives at

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