All Stories, General Fiction

Syncopated Destiny by Bruce Levine

Charles Warren had been working on his invention for two years, but a key component continued to elude him.     It was simply a machine that played a simple melody, but it wasn’t a traditional music producing machine like a music box or hurdy-gurdy, but rather a giant set of complex elements, more like a huge mechanical sculpture.

Charles was a good inventor who had created a wide variety of successful, practical and extremely useful devices, but this machine was neither useful nor successful and it certainly wasn’t original. There were many similar machines, but Charles hoped that his machine would be entertaining if nothing else.

There were balls that ran along tracks, components that plunged into a pool of water causing the pool to over-flow with water cascading down the container sides like a waterfall. Even the refilling process became part of the action. Other elements moved along and/or up or down conveyor belts with each item triggering one or more additional elements so that there was constant motion on multiple levels and layers causing anyone watching to be drawn in several directions at once in a viewing frenzy.

Of course each time one of the elements or devices passed a given point, an electrical contact or electric-eye or reached fruition for that element, part of the tune played.

It was a simple, poignant and haunting waltz composed by Charles himself which made the problem of the melody skipping a beat causing an anticipation in the steady three beats per measure all the more vexing.

Charles loved the tune and often played it, albeit with one finger, pecking out the notes on the piano keys. The surprising effect of one of these performances was that one of his friends remembered it well enough to figure out how to play it himself on the piano. He then played it for another friend who happened to be a composer and he developed it into an orchestral piece which had recently been premiered with great success.

So now Charles could add composer to his resume.

Charles continued to work on his machine, trying to remove what he called the hiccup, but without success.

On the other hand the orchestral version of his waltz continued to have success after success and attract more and more attention.

As time passed and Charles continued tinkering, without success, he became increasingly frustrated. He got to a point where he seriously considered destroying his machine, but his friends intervened and he relented, saying that he would give it one more year.

What he hadn’t anticipated was a new layer of exposure and another twist in the saga.

At a performance of what was now simply called Waltz a real estate developer happened to be in the audience. As a prominent member of the community he enjoyed the perks of his position. One of those perks happened to be access to going backstage after the performance to talk with the conductor and it was during that conversation that the developer learned the history of the melody he’d just heard.

Two days later Charles received a phone call. A meeting was set for the following day.

Charles was lucky to have a three-car garage with a double height roof that had originally contained a second floor apartment, for a chauffeur, which had long ago been removed. His machine consumed the entire space and the garage itself would have to be dismantled to move the machine in one piece. Moving it had never been one of Charles’ concerns so he hadn’t considered it a problem.

The next day, at the appointed time, the developer arrived. It took seven playings for him to believe that he had seen and heard everything that Charles included in the machine.

The developer then announced that he was building a new shopping mall and he wanted Charles’ machine as the focal point for the atrium. He would send a crew to dismantle the garage, move the machine and build a new garage to Charles’ specifications.

Charles was so stunned that he completely forgot the hiccup that had plagued him for so long.

“All it needs,” the developer said, “is a name.”

“How about Syncopated Destiny?” Charles responded without even thinking.


The two men shook hands.


Bruce Levine

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3 thoughts on “Syncopated Destiny by Bruce Levine”

  1. Hi Bruce,
    Anything that is written and it stays with the reader, the writer is onto a winner.
    And to write a story about something that hasn’t been seen and for that to stay with the reader, then that is up another level!!
    All the very best my friend.


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