from The Depression

Mathias Svalina

A boy found an accordion in his grandmother’s attic. Each time he pulled the accordion apart it yelped & spit out disjointed syllables. The boy could tell it was a language, but he did not recognize the language. He carried the accordion to the kitchen where his grandmother was always slicing meat from bones, preparing enormous dishes for the cavernous oven. Grandmother, he said, can you understand this accordion? His grandmother turned toward him, wiped slick sweat from her forehead. No, my boy, she said, that accordion can not be understood. The boy returned to the attic & continued to mess with the accordion, observing how his touching of different parts of the accordion resulted in different yelped syllables, how some sounded like screams & others like giggles. For years he stayed in the attic with the accordion. Then one day he took a crowbar to the accordion, slipped it between the joined pieces of wood & pried them apart. When he reached the center of the accordion a very tiny man, the size of a dollar bill, crawled out, one broken arm hanging ineptly & angular, his tiny face contorted with pain, his mouth emitting a howling string of disjointed syllables. The boy took the crowbar to the man & took him apart until he found the accordion inside the little man, a tiny accordion, no larger than a penny. The boy set the tiny accordion on a dusty desk & watched as it slowly wheezed in & out like a bunny in a laboratory with its split-apart head immobilized in some shiny steel device.

Mathias Svalina is the author of three books, most recently The Explosions from Subito Press. With Alisa Heinzman, Hajara Quinn & Zachary Schomburg he co-edits Octopus Books.

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