A story for anyone who’s ever thought they might be a furry.
The man with the musical penis sat in the café, a newspaper folded over his lap as he absently stirred a cup of coffee that had long since grown cold. Even a casual observer would have been struck by the weariness evident in the slump of his shoulders.
For he was tired: tired of his organ’s propensity to announce even its faintest stirrings with a note, a whistle or even, if the excitement proved more sustained, a flurry of drums.
Clinks, clanks, whistles, whines, dings and especially dongs: his disobedient manhood had a ringtone for every occasion. And for every occasion he had an excuse:
“I’m so sorry, I forgot to turn off my phone.” or
“I didn’t know you could hear the church from here.” or
“Oh dear – I think I must be hungry.” or
“Isn’t it a bit late in the year for an ice-cream van?”
Medicine had no answers. The white-coats had struggled to maintain their composure, while he had found it hard to attain tumescence before their professionally concerned faces. The result was a few subdued, but nonetheless inexplicable, parps and toots. Declining more intrusive clinical examination, he was referred to the shrinks: but since the problem was manifestly not in his mind, they made little headway in getting to grips with the problem of his root. The noises were real: and so were the problems they caused.
He recalled, with a wince, the time that he had found himself staring thirty degrees south of a client’s face, lost for a few moments in the maze of pale freckles diving into her cleavage, and his nether regions had announced his distraction with a resonant and enduring bong. The formality of the meeting had fractured as everyone around the long conference table had looked at each other in bemusement. He had struggled to maintain his impassive expression; she had been momentarily flustered but moved on quickly; and so the moment had passed. But they lost the client soon after.
Others would have taken to the stage, run away to the circus, lost themselves amid red lights: but that wasn’t his style. Some men are born to freakiness; others have freakiness thrust upon them. But not all carry the burden easily, and the man with the musical penis was, somewhat to his regret, one of life’s shy and retiring types. He wished that he were suave enough to casually acknowledge and even exploit his rare talent; but he simply could not condone the idea of tooting his flute for an audience.
But his affliction’s implications for his daily affairs were as nothing compared to its effects on his affections. It is difficult to win a woman’s trust when you are continually stifling your genitals. Even if she did not realise that the sound was emanating from his groin – which was not, after all, an explanation that leapt naturally to mind – his inability to relax came over as shiftiness, and thence to reluctant pecks on the cheek and unacknowledged answer-phone messages.
But even those failures were perhaps preferable to the rare occasions on which he had managed to persuade a woman to come back to his place. He knew that he should really own up to his peculiar proclivity, hope that she would find it amusing – or even, in his wildest dreams, charming. After all, people rejoiced in all manner of sexual peccadilloes: surely sound-tracking the third act was an entirely forgivable quirk.
In the event, however, he had never plucked up the nerve to confess. Instead, he played music on the stereo, hoping it would drown out his own impromptu sounds of passion. But since he never knew whether to expect a protracted trumpet solo, a pealing glockenspiel or the plaintive tones of an accordion, he had few choices beyond loud, experimental jazz: and since even fewer of his few dates had considered this to be appropriate mood music, things had generally gone downhill from there.
In fact, he had only once succeeded in consummating the relationship, but it had been a miserable occasion. Why she had not noticed earlier he didn’t entirely know – too desperate or drunk to pay attention, he guessed – but his ejaculatory crescendo had rattled the windows and shaken the bed, getting her attention rather more effectively than he had thus far managed. She hadn’t stopped to ask questions, barely even pausing to get dressed. More a matter of fright than disgust, he suspected, but either way the result was that she had taken his virginity and left him nothing but his ringing ears and a damp patch for company.
Since then, he had become increasingly resigned to his fate. He had tried to meet deaf women, but they found his signing incompetent and his eagerness creepy. He had tried to soundproof his pants, but the resulting bulge attracted almost as much unwelcome attention as the bagpiping it ineffectively muffled. He had even, in his desperation, tried to date women he found profoundly unattractive, hoping that he might find someone to love in a sexless way. But testosterone always won out, and his penis always found fresh reasons for fanfare.
So for all that music was supposed to be the food of love, he was starving. His only hope was that the problem would lessen as he grew older and his hornpipe less jaunty. And so it was that he sat at a solitary table outside the Café de La Lune, stirring his cold coffee, wishing for a miracle. But he did not expect one to arrive: and he was astonished when it did.
“Excuse me,” said a voice: female, sweet, familiar. “David? Didn’t you used to be at Branwell Philstein?”
He looked up. It was his client, the one from that excruciating meeting two years ago. She was as pretty as he remembered her being; her top today was less revealing, but he nonetheless blushed deep at the memory. She smiled at him uncertainly.
“Kay,” he blurted. “Goodness, how delightful to see you.”
She smiled again, waited. An eternity passed as the man with the musical penis prayed that his piece would, just this once, hold its peace. And mirabile dictu, it did.
He had to say something more. She seemed to be waiting.
“Would … would you care to join me?”
“Yes, I would,” she said, her shy smile breaking into a broad grin.
She was holding a cup of takeaway coffee, so there were no formalities to be observed, no business during which he could gather his thoughts. The seconds ticked off one by one until the mass of accumulated silence became stifling. Come on, he thought, don’t chicken out now. “So where do you work now?”
“Philip James Associates,” she said off-handedly. Dismissively. Damn, he thought, boring question. You’re blowing this. As usual. But small mercies: at least the rapid dampening of his libido was discouraging his trousers from making themselves heard. The silence loomed large once more.
“David,” she said abruptly. “I hope you don’t think this is forward, but I saw you sitting here and I just had to ask …” she trailed off, blushed, fidgeted in her seat, crossed and re-crossed her legs – and as she did, he heard, ever so sweet and demure, a twinkle of delicate chimes.
He sat bolt upright, breathless with anticipation. And from his lap, there came a sparkling burst of melody, and just this once it felt not strange, or perverse, but like the most natural thing on earth, and he realised that he had answered her unspoken question. And with the gleam in her eyes, the sheen of tears of relief, she answered his. ##
9 thoughts on “The Man With The Musical Penis”
The Man With The Musical Penis is going to be read by a Real Live Actor at the next meeting of the Liars’ League. It’s at 7pm on Tuesday 10 February at the Wheatsheaf pub near Goodge Street tube station in London. Do come along if you can!
Sweet, romantic, funny. And it has smutty puns – hooray!
Thanks, Sarah. Romantic smut is where we’re at.
I normally use this space to explain the genesis of the story above, but this time I’m going to leave it a mystery, beyond saying that it was inspired by a conversation I had at a writing weekend in 2007 and written during that same weekend. It’s since become somewhat notorious among those who’ve read it: amusingly, male readers have tended to describe it as a thinly-veiled allegory, female ones as a romantic fantasy. Vive la différence.
This became the first of my stories to be performed for an audience – by a Real Live Actor, no less – at the Liars’ League event last Tuesday. (Theme: “His and Hers”. I had no choice, really.) Like many brilliant ideas, Liars’ League is based on a very simple insight: in this case, that authors are often the worst possible people to read their own work. Getting actors to perform them instead is an inspired move.
My story was read by Martin Lamb, who did a splendid job of bringing this story to life, wringing every possible laugh out of the material. My objectivity is obviously questionable, but it did seem to go down well with the audience, who’d been nicely primed (and, I daresay, well lubricated) by the time The Man With The Musical Penis made its debut. Thanks to the Liars, to Martin and to the listeners for a great night!
The Liars’ League have put up a recording of my story, The Man With The Musical Penis, as read by the redoubtable Martin Lamb earlier this month. Ideal listening for the office; you can get it here.
I LOVE THIS STORY! It is brilliant! I want to give it to people I know and watch their faces! I want to respond with a witty innuendo but I think you have used them all! Such a crazy idea so beautifully executed: is it a joke or a lovestory or a… Hmm. Reading this I am laughing and crying. I love all the embarrassment and the close attention to physical gesture. I love that freckles can be distracting! Such truth in a story with such an absurd title!
Someone over at Sadly, No linked to your story, and I’m in their debt. Delightful. Purely and simply delightful.
Saw it linked to here: