Bay Area poet, professor and publisher Hugh Behm-Steinberg brings us this sweet serenade of a yarn, in which the protagonist's usurpation of a deity's musical prerogative brings only more delight to the world.

So one day I steal the flute, the one he plays and everyone loves him.

I take it home and show it to my wife, she says, “Are you nuts, what do you want an enchanted flute for? You don’t even know how to play the flute.”

And it was true, when I tried to play I was awful and everyone hated me.

“Go to the shed and practice,” my wife says. “Maybe you’ll learn how to play the bloody thing.”

At this point it was starting to drip. So I go to live in the shed, and all day and all night I practice. When I’m not watching magic flute instruction videos on my cellphone I practice. All the time, for weeks and months, my beard grows down to my stomach.

Later I know I’m getting good when the ants change their formation to listen to me, and the squirrels shyly leave me pieces of fruit.

Finally my wife leads me back into the house, and I play my best for her. She shaves my beard, cuts my hair and makes love to me.

Afterwards she says “I would have done that anyway” and “Oh, by the way, while you’ve been practicing in the shed, He’s been over here, crashing on our couch. He’s been doing light errands around the house and listening to you practice on his flute.”

“Is he still here?” I ask.

“He’s probably in the kitchen eating a grilled Elvis.”

So barefoot, naked even, holding my flute, it’s my house after all, I go downstairs.

And I look at him; he looks at me.

Of course he has another flute, and together we play, and as we play a rightness comes over the world. One that cannot last, but is good while it does.

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Hugh Behm-Steinberg

Hugh Behm-Steinberg

Hugh Behm-Steinberg is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and The Opposite of Work (JackLeg Press). With Matt Davignon he performs as Oa, whose first record will be released in January 2014 on Edgetone records. He teaches writing at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven.

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