I knew this guy once. His name was Reardon. Curt. He could play anything.
I went to Reardon’s funeral and the minister said lots of nice things about him, including what a great musician he was, and how all his friends said there was no instrument he couldn’t play. I knew this was true. He was a great guy, and he could play anything. When the minister asked if anyone wanted to come up and share a few stories, a couple family members and a couple old friends got up and said really nice things about him, and a few of them affirmed how they were amazed that he could pretty much play anything.
Curt was my oldest friend in the world. I’d known him since high school. I was broken hearted when he died. I had considered saying something nice about him at the funeral but, although I’m a pretty good writer, days had gone by since I’d gotten the news and nothing came to me. Everything that occurred to me seemed either too personal or too trivial. But when I heard his cousin marvel about how there was no instrument Curt couldn’t play, a story came to me and I found myself making my way to the pulpit, smiling with recollection.
I told them how, listening to them talk about Reardon’s musical prowess reminded me that Curt could not only play any musical instrument, he could pretty much play anything. Anything.
I told them about how, one afternoon when Curt was living with his father we found ourselves in his kitchen, a couple of high schoolboys with too much time and too few demands on our suburban schedules. I don’t know why, but there was one of those old-time, reel-to-reel home movie projectors on the kitchen table between us, the kind with the high-intensity lightbulb that required venting to prevent overheating. The round vent, on the side of the projector, had metal vanes across it to prevent you from sticking your fingers into the vent’s fan. I told them how Curt had idly reached out and plucked Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star on the vanes.
I could see a smile of recognition on the faces of the congregation, especially among his old bandmates, looking at each other and nodding.
I told them how I’d thought to myself Wow! Curt can play anything, and how I’d said to Curt, “Wow! Reardon, you can play anything!” And I told them how Curt had said “That’s nothing. Watch this.” After stepping briefly into the living room, he returned with a small fireplace bellows, held it near the side of his lips and, by squeezing the bellows and changing the shape of his mouth he’d played the opening sequence to Girl From Ipanema.
People laughed. His band mates howled and high-fived each other. I told them how Curt said everything was an instrument, and how I’d never forgotten that lesson.
I told them how mostly I consider myself a writer, but I keep a fair number of instruments around the house, mostly flutes and some hand drums.
I told them about how last year, my beloved Sandra and I decided to get a swimming pool and, after the initial set up, the tanker truck came to fill it up. It took two trips and, when the second load was going in and the pool was about three-quarters full, I reached over the edge and started banging out a cadence on the side of the pool, the rising water adding to the resonance of the rhythm. I told them that Sandra told me to stop because it was a swimming pool, after all, not a drum; and how I’d responded that everything’s a drum and if she didn’t believe me should could ask Curt, whom she’d only met once and who was (at that time still) living only a few hundred miles away.
And I told them about how, just the day before, as I was preparing to leave for the funeral I was making a little breakfast by toasting an English muffin. I told them how, waiting for the toaster to pop, I was (as usual) tapping a little rhythm on the granite countertop with the butter knife when I heard Sandra’s voice from around the corner saying, “Hey Reardon! Knock it off already, will you?”
People laughed when I told them this. It was a good thing. We all needed a laugh right then.
Few things could make me more proud, I told them, than to be compared to this man, our friend and family, for whom everything was an instrument.