Most of the guests had arrived and were getting into buzzy beat of Jen and Phil’s Valentine’s Day Eve party when the dull pounding started.
“What the hell s that?” Jen’s friend Laurie said, raising her eyes to the ceiling.
Jen said, “Oh, that’s old Manny Blue, the guy upstairs. Whenever we have some get together, or put on some music to…”
“Get busy,” Phil jumped into the conversation, laughing.
“Phil! You know what I mean Laurie. Whenever we’re what Manny thinks is loud, he bangs on his floor and we turn our music lower. Sometimes actually hear him saying ‘Turn it down.’ But not tonight. Tonight, we’re here to celebrate Valentine’s Day with our friends and if Manny has a problem, he can damn well come down to the party and tell us. Maybe loosen up the old crank.”
Nevertheless, Phil turned the stereo down just a notch, which none of their friends seemed to notice, and the pounding slowed and then stopped. After that, the party continued until past midnight.
In the morning, as Jen and Phil picked their way through orange juice, leftover pizza and aspirin for breakfast, they heard it. Above their living room they heard a dull thump…thump..thump.
“What the fuh..?” Phil said.
“We’re not playing the stereo and the TV’s off, God knows,” Jen said and rubbed her temples. “What’s his problem?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to go up and settle this with the old bastard once and for all. Shoulda talked about this long ago, if he’d ever come out of his damn apartment.”
Phil climbed the stairs two at a time to the floor above, with Jen slowly following behind him.
When they reached Old Man Blue’s apartment door, they heard the sound of music coming from inside. An electric guitar picked single notes and a quavering voice sang, Without your love, I’m nothing at all. Like an empty hall, it’s a lonely fall…
And then they heard thump…thump…thump and a low moaning and plaintive, “Turn it down, make it stop.”
Phil knocked on the door and said, “Manny” Mr. Blue? It’s Phil Hoover from down in 2B. We gotta talk.”
From inside came the sound of a chorus singing, And the sun don’t shine anymore. And the rains fall down on my door. Then, thump…thump, and “Please turn it down. Please go away.”
“Phil, something’s wrong in there,” Jen said. “Try the door. Try the door.”
Phil turned the knob and found it unlocked. When he opened the door, he saw the back of a sofa, an old stereo like his dad’s beside it, a disc of black vinyl spinning away on its turntable. As they moved into the room, they saw a hand with bloody fingers lift the arm and place it back down onto the record with a scratchy buzz and thup.
Hurrying toward the sofa, they looked over its back and saw the cardboard sleeve that read Northern Lights – Southern Cross, a circle of letters, cards and old photos on the hardwood floor and, in the middle of it all, Manny Blue, kneeling, his forehead bleeding.
For the sixth time since the preceding night, a man named Rick Danko began to sing It makes no difference where I turn. I can’t get over you and the flame still burns. It makes no difference, night or day. The shadow never seems to fade away… Manny Blue, a lonely man who once knew love, lowered his head to the floor one, two, three times. Then he whispered, “Please make it go away.”
A very quickly penned Hesch-style Valentine’s Day story. A poem is on the way…honest.