The Music of Eric Zorne


Albert J. Manachino

Little five year-old Eric Zorne loved to take bubbly baths. His parents encouraged him by stuffing the tub with as many toys as it would comfortably hold. Eric was testing his latest acquisition, an ornate bubble pipe of the reddest plastic.

He held it to his lips and blew through the stem. A pink bubble formed on the bowl and broke free. The pink was a reflection of the bathroom tiles. Eric prodded the runaway with his finger and squealed excitedly as it burst and vanished. Marvin and Sarah Zorne looked on with fond amusement.

"What a shame the bubble didn't make a little ping when it broke," Marvin said. "Think of the extra fun and excitement."

Sarah agreed. "You mean like those cereals that go pop!, crackle! and snap!?"

"Exactly! Only, instead of pop!, snapple!, and crack!, they'd go bim!, bum, bom!"

Eric babbled happily and sang as he dunked his toys and continued to pinch bubbles.

Mrs. Zorne wore a thoughtful expression. "You know, that's a wonderful idea. I'll write to my brother, Jake. He's in charge of product research and development at the Futura Soap Company."

"What for? Jake may know his business as a soap chemist, but it seems to me that musical soap bubbles are a little out of his line."

"That's his job . . . to discover new possibilities for their products. Competition is tough in the soap business. Look at all the companies that failed because they weren't progressive. Jake tells me that Futura will try anything to become number one. And anyway, he can always say 'No'. What do we stand to lose, a postage stamp?"

Marvin offered another objection. "Jake is all wrapped up in his hobby. He won't have the time or interest to spare."

Jake was a Minuteman aficionado. An eccentric genius, he spent every weekend and many evenings captaining a group of Revolutionary War buffs who dressed in Continental regalia and fired muskets at targets in the likeness of King George's redcoats. Through his single-minded perseverance, the company had recently acquired a genuine Revolutionary War canon.

"Now!" he declared, "we'll teach those damned Hessians what war is all about!"

Sarah's brother usually ended his notes with a patriotic quotation.

"Jake may be a bit of a nut but his hobby never interferes with his job," she assured Marvin. That night, Sarah wrote a letter.

The response arrived two weeks later on Futura stationary. An envelope was taped to the outside of a small package. Sarah opened the letter and read:

Hi, Sis,

That was a great idea. I put the gang to work on it right away and Voila!, they came up with Symphony. Heh, heh, heh . . . that's what we're going to market it as. Add half a cup of this powder to Eric's bath water and step back! We think you'll be pleasantly surprised. Let me warn you, these bubbles are a lot tougher. They won't break as easily as the standard ones usually do. Eric is really going to have to jab them.

Don't put anything else in the water. We've tried it out in the lab tub with good results but it's new and you can never tell. A lot of things turn up in the field we never expect.
I regret that I have but one life to give for my Country.
Nathan Hale
Sarah showed her husband the letter. Slightly bewildered, Marvin read it and wondered, "Doesn't he ever sign his own name to anything?"

That night, Eric was called to his bath earlier than usual. The tub foamed with multi-colored bubbles that were not a reflection from the bathroom tiles. Delighted, he squeezed them between his hands, releasing musical notes of varying degrees and intensity.

"The dark bubbles seem to be the bass notes," his mother observed.

Eric squeezed a number of the darkest, releasing a reasonable approximation of the opening strains to Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. Dum! Dum! Duuum!

Before the bath, Marvin had been playing the small house organ he'd presented to his wife on a previous anniversary. He was still holding a book of sheet music.

"Hmmm!" He assumed a thoughtful expression. "Even with only seven notes in the scale, that was pure luck." He pinched several bubbles. "Sarah! Get me some paper and something to write with."

She brought him a notepad and a pencil. He opened the music book to "Merry Widow Waltz" and began to experiment. "Let's see! White corresponds to D in the key of C Major." Marvin broke several more bubbles. He wrote. Eric continued to splash oblivious of his father's preoccupation. There were enough bubbles for all.

Marvin scribbled in the pad, "Pink is 'G'. Orange is 'A'. Blue is 'B'. . ." He continued to write.

Much later, he called Sarah into the bathroom. Eric had long been toweled off and hustled to bed.

"Listen!" The bath water still had not been let out. Marvin pinched a white bubble, then a pink, an orange, a blue, and another pink. Sarah listened with a bemused expression.

"It's the Merry Widow," she said.

Marvin beamed and continued to break the bubbles. She drank in the music with rapt enjoyment . . . music ran in her family. Her father and brother were accomplished musicians though Jake's musical ability ran mostly to fifes and drums. Marvin finished and bowed to an imaginary audience.

Enthusiastically, she applauded. "Bravissimo! Bravissimo! Encore! Encore!"

"You see," he showed her his notes, "white is 'D', Yellow is 'C', green is 'F' . . . it's like playing your organ. By breaking the bubbles in the proper sequence and timing, you can play any composition. And, I do mean any composition. Jake did a wonderful job. About that 'encore' . . . a little Victor Herbert . . .?"

Next day, Marvin remained home with a mild indisposition. He spent hours teaching his son the musical scale. By the time for his evening bath, Eric was fairly competent at reading notes and translating them into color.

Sarah filled the tub and adjusted the water to a comfortable temperature. She added half a cup of Jake's powder. It wasn't necessary for her to stir, it dissolved immediately. Eric paddled the water with both hands. A mountain of bubbles rose.

Marvin threw the window open. "We'll give the neighbors a treat," he said.

Next morning his closest friend complained. "We couldn't hear it too well, Marv, Jan and I had to stand practically under your window. Couldn't you make it a little louder?"

Later, Sarah was to remark, "Shish! There's nothing to stop them from buying their own bubble bath!" Secretly, she was pleased.

"They can't," Mary reminded her. "It isn't on the market yet."

Again she wrote to her brother outlining the problem and again Jake responded with a letter and a package.

Dear Sarah,

No special problem. Delighted the reception has been so good. Always glad to get feed-back from the potential market. I had the boys add a little extra chloraudio to this batch. I'll bet your neighbors won't have to stand under your window to hear this.
Surrender? Gads, Sir! I have just begun to fight!

John Paul Jones

"Did John Paul Jones really say that?" Marvin asked.

"Something like it."

That evening, their neighbors gathered in front of the Zorne house and listened to the lovely strains of Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Ballet. Marvin had improvised a music rack that could be drawn across the tub. Expertly, Eric followed the score and broke bubbles in the proper sequence. Several of the more agile listeners leaped and pirouetted. Mrs. Liebermann split her leotard attempting a grand fete.

Eric's fame spread. The Zornes received a wedding invitation from a couple of very close friends.

Dear Mary and Sarah,

Our daughter, Linda, is getting married in July. We'd love to have little Eric play at the reception. Does he know the Hora? We're going to work things a little different, the reception will come first. The wedding ceremony will be at midnight . . . etc.

Melissa Campbell          

This necessitated still another letter to Jake.

Dear Jake,

We're completely out of Symphony. We've known Melissa and Morris for years. They asked Eric to play for them at a very special occasion on the fourth of next month. Please, Jake, can you send us some more Symphony? (In a hurry.)

Jake beamed when he received the letter. "On the Fourth! How nice! He rubbed his hands together in anticipation and set to work immediately.

Sarah and Marvin received a special delivery package only hours before the reception. A note inside read,
Dear Sis,

This is an even more advanced version of Symphony. The bubbles are programmed, by the thickness of their walls, to break in a certain sequence. Eric won't even have to pinch them. All he has to do is move his arms and pretend to conduct.
Give me liberty or give me death
Patrick Henry          

Sarah frowned as she showed the letter to her husband. "Now there won't be any choice regarding the selections. The guests won't be able to make any requests, they'll have to listen to whatever is programmed into the bubbles."

Marvin shrugged. "I wouldn't worry, Jake has musical know-how. Anyway, it's too late to do anything about it. It's probably a lot of sentimental wedding music."

Sarah, understandably, was concerned. "I have an awful feeling . . . I don't remember whether I told him it was for a wedding or not."

A bathtub had been set up on the bandstand. A famous decorator lavished his skills and imagination on an artistic background of palm trees and ocean. Real palms, in cunningly concealed pots, surrounded the tub on three sides. The floor in front of the tub had been liberally sprinkled with white beach sand and sea shells.

"All we need now is Enzio Pinza," one of the flower girls remarked.

The guests arrived. Sarah Zorne, fingers figuratively crossed, added the contents of the special delivery package to the bath water. Marvin positioned the music stand so that, to the guests, it appeared as if Eric was actually following a score.

Eric took off his bathrobe and stepped into the tub. The guests applauded and showered him with whistles and good natured remarks.

"A strip tease yet," the groom commented.

Eric grinned and sat in the water. He arranged the music to his satisfaction and began to splash.

Bubbles rose ceiling-ward like rockets and exploded in a magnificent panorama of stars. Music blared. Other bubbles flew upward and burst like Roman candles. There was a continuous Pop! Pop! Pop! of cherry bombs exploding in various intensities. Pinwheels whirled in a dizzying display of lights and patterns. Finally, the startled guests were treated to a fiery crescendo as scores of bubbles burst near the ceiling, forming themselves into a glowing replica of the American flag. They stood at attention while the tub rendered a booming "Star Spangled Banner".

Morris Campbell, the father of the bride, remarked out of the corner of his mouth, "This is the first wedding I've ever attended where the fireworks started before the marriage."

Copyright by
Albert J. Manachino

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