Conga by Stephen Hastings-King

When I woke my hands were straining against their shape. They were large purple, fashioned from sausage and pain.
I thought perhaps I had fallen. What I did was worse.
A mediocre conga player builds no calluses and never remembers tape.
A mediocre conga player is continually surprised: beneath the skin of the heads is a metal ring; hitting the metal ring affords you control of pitch.
The recognition is electric.
When you are electric a pulse emerges and an inner automaton comes.
It’s arrival is the pulse is giving way to a series of descending pitches and what is underneath them.
Soon everyplace is a pattern made from interlocking patterns each of which unfolds a particular number series.
Together they define a temporary machine comprised of x musicians, which is a something that is always about to fall apart.
When the pulse starts to blossom with lattices of pain, you see them as counter rhythm. When you cannot pick up your beer, you say it’s better to moderate.
And so the evening subdivides
Later I fell asleep with my hands straining against their shape.


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Filed under Stephen Hastings-King

9 responses to “Conga by Stephen Hastings-King

  1. This was just so cool… Love it!

  2. So perfectly focused, and so well done, giving the character his life through the reaction of his hands. Love this: “which is a something that is always about to fall apart.”

  3. I’ve read this several times, trying to catch the rhythm. I figure that’s what i would be doing if i were listening to a mediocre conga player. But the rhythm here is better than mediocre.


  4. Randal Houle

    I love the cause/effect form here. good story for the theme.

  5. Love this, the meter, the framing of ‘my hands straining against their shape’. I always love reading your stories, never quite sure where your words will take me. Peace…

  6. stephen

    thanks very much for the reads and comments. it was difficult to type this piece because my hands were sausages from playing congas the night before. it must have been fun because the rhythms were still in my head as a i wrote it and i can kinda hear traces of them in the sentences, which makes me laugh. glad you like…

  7. I can hear the conga in your words, the rhythm playing inside my head. So cool, the effect, so gloriously strange. Quixotic.

  8. Pingback: Week #29 – The palm of your hand | 52|250 A Year of Flash

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