In his dreams the nylon twanged faster and faster, jumping like fleas, until –
Until he woke. The hipster fashion for tiny instruments had not run dry. Instead it had uncovered a sinister network of enthusiasts, meeting once a month in railway huts, disused kiosks. The world’s abandoned places. But why? That was his job, to find out.
Find out and report back, to the Mandolin Society.
He smoothed his cream collar down. The lost-and-found was as good a place as any. Ukelele player? The attendant’s mouth was a stern line. No. Sorry. Not seen one for ages.
But as he was about to re-enter the platform, the man spoke again.
Got an instrument here, sir, if you’d like. Been here for months. No, no-one’s claimed it. Take it if you like. No, don’t be silly. There you are. Nice woodwork. Mind how you go.
Mind how you go. Sage advice from the lost-and-found porter. He minded how he went. As he stumbled over metal tracks he thought about Kamakawiwoʻole, dead from a heart attack. Of course the papers cited obesity and it was a compelling argument. Of course it was. Of course they did.
Elvis played the Uke. That was a clue right there. “Soupy” Campbell. Formby. John Lennon. Jesus, Justin Hawkins? Greta Garbo. The list went on. Could Fozzie Bear be the source? Think smaller. Find the hidden places. Hawaii? Too obvious. An asylum in Italy, a fairground in Pripyat, all covered in radiation. They wouldn’t meet there.
Or would they? In war, all things were possible.
The flight attendant raised an eyebrow. A ukulele? her expression said. His nod confirmed it. The Society. She understood. Have a good flight, she replied in broken English. He would.
October Ukranian winds whipped his coat and for a second, he was tempted. The Society advised against strumming, and rightfully so. He was minding how he went. They could stamp that on his card. Strum the strings – whoever heard of such silliness? Tremolo picking was the way. What would Justin Hawkins say?
Quite a lot, apparently; the radio played I Believe In A Thing Called Love. Damnable irony.
Its home is here, my friend; think about where we are. It’s not the player, it’s the instrument. That was the driver’s input, the damnable lutist. He took the weapon and strummed its strings.
Damnable radiation. The sound they made was quite pleasing.
400 on the nose, excl.