All Stories, Fantasy

The Cormorant and the Misophonyx: A Feeble Fable of the Fantasmagorical by Leila Allison


There are three music Spirits. First you have the Tintintinabulator. Tins were classically trained pianists in life who haunt specific keyboards (pianos, organs, harpsichords, etc.) in death. Tins are generally friendly, but being artists they are hypersensitive to criticism and require reassurance full time. Next we have the Chimespeak. Best described as self-taught travelling minstrels/buskers in life, Chimes are nomadic Spirits who wander from here to there and affect anything from the grandest church bells on down to kazoos fashioned from handkerchiefs and combs. Tastes aside, these two Spirits classes are equally talented even though the Tins tend to look down on the “prolish” Chimes, who in turn wonder how a Tin can look down on anything with “its” head so firmly tucked up its own buttocks.

Then there’s the Misophonyx.

To get a handle on this third music Spirit it helps to know that *his name is derived from a half-assed mental disorder called “Misophonia” (“hatred of sound”). Misophonia is just another grunt in that unlimited Legion of mind hoodoos that plague the human race; it’s described as a “negative, out of proportion emotional reaction to an innocuous noise… an incorrect triggering of the fight or flight mechanism.” For instance, like most semi-civilized persons, your author despises the sound of spitting and that of subhumans who chew with their mouths open. But I also become unreasonably angry when I encounter the gloog-gloog of a water cooler, and ready to rumble whenever I hear the tssshht of beer and soda cans (it’s why I drink only from bottles; they open with a pfft I can live with). And don’t get me started on babbling brooks and TV news reporters who enunciate like Valley Girls. I used to think there was something wrong with me. It’s no relief knowing that there is. (*Shoulder that taser, Sexist Language Cop, all Misophonyx identify as dudes.)

The Misophonyx Spirit, however, neither hates sound nor does he intentionally create grating noises. “For mysterious reasons” (aka  “due to incompetence”) the Party Responsible for the Universe (PRU) allows persons and Spirits who have no talent whatsoever at a specific activity to exist under the impression that they do. It’s why we have writers who can’t write, actors who can’t act, painters who can’t paint, sculptures who can’t sculpt and hit men who shoot the wrong people. In a weird and twisted sort of way you could argue that those who can’t serve those who can by giving everyone an example of what not to do. But I think that’s an awfully shitty thing for PRU to do to the people who can’t, so I refuse to buy into it.

Regardless of the murky why of the thing, the Misophonix exists. This feeble fable tells of the Misophonyx who haunts the shoreline of Philo Bay, at Charleston, Washington. In life this guy wanted nothing else but to be an opera singer, even though he couldn’t carry a tune if it were a mortal sin. Yet he remains oblivious to the fact and selectively deaf whenever it’s pointed out to him. Uncharacteristically, both the elitist Tintintinabulator and the wandering Chimespeak encourage their cousin in his afterlife vocation, but both are quick to make excuses when the subject of a collaboration is brought up.

After enduring so much ring-around-the-rosy-ing by your author, she humbly presents the reader a feeble fable in which the will and passion to strive to be something you can not possibly be is good enough. If nothing else, the preceding sentence identifies this as a work of fiction.

The Cormorant and the Misophonyx: A Feeble Fable of the Fantasmagorical

(Author’s note: here all bird types are considered proper nouns, just like “Italian.” They refused to perform in this piece without that caveat. )

Every summer the birds at Charleston’s Philo Bay put on a season of musical theatre. This has been going on since the invention of birds at Philo Bay and no one sees it stopping anytime soon. If a Charelstonian ever listened closely to the seemingly mindless din of the Gulls, Crows, Chickadees, Robins and such that greet the dawn, then that Charelstonian might detect a pattern and a story in the various calls and whistles and shrieks. Although any Charesltonian can smell free beer from half a mile away and see a dollar bill lying on a sidewalk from space, few of them listen too hard, and fewer still are conscious at dawn, which is really too bad because the avians at Philo Bay put on a show that rivals anything trotted on stage at Carnegie Hall.

The producer/composer of this past season’s main attraction was Gordon Cormorant. For months Gordon roosted atop a piling beside the ferry terminal, speed-shooting guano into the water (and often on other Cormorants) below, whilst working on his masterpiece. Gordon’s work of genius was an all stops pulled musical that required the efforts of every handy bird within two miles; it’s called Ghostbeak.

Up until the advent of Gordon Cormorant, all bird musicals were about the same thing: Shitting on People and Their Stuff. But Gordon’s “book” was different. Oh, there was still enough splattering people with guano in it to satisfy the puerile Sea Gulls, but the soul of Gordon’s grand epic told of Avian Heroes who encountered, conquered and tamed the horribly out of tune human Spirit called the Misophonyx.

All the birds along and around Philo Bay had been painfully aware of the Misophonyx for a number of years. He’d join their morning songs and have an effect like the addition of Clorox to a whiskey sour. Nearly all birds are diplomatic and nobody wanted to hurt the Spirit’s feelings, but his discordant noises frightened the hatchlings.

Cormorants aren’t much for singing, but they are keen listeners. One day Gordon steeled himself and carefully listened to the Spirit ruin a chorus sung by a flock of passing Starlings. It seemed that the Misophonyx made all the right noises in all the wrong places. Birds understand chords and notes and keys and such in the natural sense. They are born that way and need no teaching. This is when Gordon hit on the idea that it was useless to fight the ghost’s mis-tones, but it might be possible to fix them with harmonious additions.

All non-human creatures are born capable of communicating with all other non-human creatures and Human Spirits. Strangely, the allegedly most evolved species on Earth cannot or will not do such. Maybe it’s old news, but even though plants can do this sort of thing, only a handful of people (whom most people consider nutjobs) display the tiniest ability in the field. There’s an old saying the Chickadees have for people. Translated from that sweet little trill they sing to you out in the garden, it goes like this: “Too stupid to blush.”

So it came to pass that Gordon located the invisible Misophonyx and offered him the role of a deathtime. Regardless of their invisibility, Misophonyx (as it goes with “Mooses” there’s no such word as “Misophonixes”) are easy to find. All you have to do is trace down the most annoying sound in your vicinity and you’ll stand a good chance of finding one. An empty styrofoam cooler had come in with the tide and it was rubbing against a piling at the foot of the pier. It made a terrible squealing gnashing sound on it’s own, but it was irritatingly enhanced and had somehow become a dusty, grit in the beak arid noise despite all the water.

Gordon Cormorant was an impressive looking individual. Long necked, yet oddly bullet-shaped, he was a sleek waterfowl of impeccable posture and comportment. Moreover, Gordon was coal black save for a patch of white at the top of his head, which the other birds interpreted as the mark of Gordon’s genius, but was in fact a dab of waterproof paint he had acquired somewhere along his life’s journey.

Gordon introduced himself and engaged the Misophonyx in conversation. Although Cormorants don’t make a lot of noise, it doesn’t stop them from writing music and conveying their ideas to others. Gordon got his thoughts across to the Spirit via short little pipings and pantomime. The Misophonix replied through a grotesque cacophony comparable to hearing explosive diarrhea amplified by an echoing commode. Regardless, a deal was struck, and Ghostbeak immediately went into production.  


Ghostbeak Review 

By Mrs. Dorothy Parakeet

(excerpts used in this Feeble Fable with author’s permission.)

(Note: All Bird media is sung. Mrs. P is the current Avian Philo Bay Arts and Entertainment Critic. She lives with humans in a high rise condo at Philo Bay. From her window overlooking the bay she listens to each new performance and observes them through a parting in her cage cover, which is lifted sometime around mid-morning. At that time the performers in new productions hang breathlessly on her review.–LA)

“It has been a long line of thin daybreak entertainments this season, so desolate that I’ve begun to mutter ill tidings to my reflection in the mirror as though it actually is another parakeet, thus risking confirmation of my human’s misguided belief that I think my reflection is a different parakeet. Incidentally, I let them think that, for this is one caged girl who doesn’t need a new man to teach her a sad song. 

“Yes, sadness and despair had lain heavily on my heart. The foul stench created by the ever high-ering pile of failed fowl fantasies had created such an overwhelming miasma of the soul that it seemed nothing could rescue this reviewer from what had become the bleakest season in memory. Remember Car Wash Day? Destination Defecation? Even that reliable old saw Statue Park was given last rites and thrown atop the pile after just two performances. Ah, yes, the good things in life were all dead…the gods had made omelettes of the future…

“Then a hero arrived on the scene and rescued me from my despair. That hero is Gordon Cormorant, author and producer of Ghostbeak–and there aren’t enough huzzahs and hoorays in all Philo Bay to huzzah and hooray his white-spotted talent adequately (although I must confess that when I’d learned that he’d cast the Misophonyx in a prominent role my first thought was to dye myself yellow and volunteer at the coal mines).

“It’s never my object to give away too much of the plot to the day’s newcomers, but suffice to say this reviewer was absolutely shivered to her very last feather by the rousing fanfare of what is said to be a hundred woodpeckers simultaneously drumming as many chimney caps. This was followed by a morose swirl of SeaGulls singing mournfully until they were admonished for their lugubriousness by our ever reliable Murder of Crows Choir.

“In the very short, Cormorant’s play centers on the happy life of a Robin family which is suddenly threatened by a ‘Thinking Storm’ of bad noises that follows them everywhere. Bird teamwork saves the day, and the Thinking Storm is taught how to make a single unwavering note by a hero Cormorant named Norman (the author’s brother). Although this oversimplification in no way adequately describes the action of mighty flocks under Norman’s command, I suspect that Ghostbeak is going to run for a very long time, and it’ll be your own misery not to see it.

“In past reviews I have heaped plenty of well earned scorn on leading lady Rebecca Robin. But her performance in Ghostbeak at long last displayed what she can do when she departs from all the preening and breast puffing that had marred her other performances this season. All of that is forgotten until it happens again…

“Special mention must be made on behalf of the Misophonyx. Although I am a Bird critic, the Spirit had played the role of the antagonist so well that methinks he has a future in the black hat trade. His discordant entrance, which was like a glacier composed of the frozen blood of the damned cracking through the Earth’s crust from Hell, routed every pretty note and chord issued by the various flocks until the unlikely Kingfisher and a dozen or so Starlings under Norman’s leadership sought out the center of his ruinous bleatings, and created a sense-making progression for Norman to resolve with a simple little Cormorant quack/honk.

“Sell the hatchlings, mortgage the nest…do whatever you must, just don’t miss Ghostbeak.”

 A Flourish of Woodpecker Drummers Present the Amoral:

Keep Doing the Same Thing Over and Over Until You Get a Different Result

Leila Allison

Image by christels from Pixabay 

4 thoughts on “The Cormorant and the Misophonyx: A Feeble Fable of the Fantasmagorical by Leila Allison”

  1. Jesus, what a sinister looking thug in the pic. Must’ve been raised by the Birdman of Alcatraz. My compliments.
    Anyway, here’s an example of why you should proof your stuff. Not ten seconds after I’d stated that all “Birds” are proper nouns like “Italian,” I small cased about a half dozen of them. Then thereafter it was fifty/fifty if I’d remember to do it.
    I should just go Hakuna Matata about my little errors, but I am not a Hakuna Matata sort of person.


  2. Hi Leila,
    In a past and happier life we lived in a flat by the harbour and we used to watch the Guillemots, they were very entertaining wee beasties. There was also a cormorant around as well who looked at them with scorn as he dried his wings.
    Thanks for that memory!!
    I continue to be in awe of all these stories.
    A brilliant example of such a simple few words lifting a line from funny to more so is the idea that bird musicals were ‘…all about shitting on people and their stuff.’
    The ‘and their stuff part’ really did make me smile.
    The old fables and fairytales that kids enjoy have one huge skill and that is to tell a totally bogus fact that the kid accepts. You have this same skill, you tell us what happens in this world you have created and we, as readers, ignore and dismiss logic and just go with it.
    All these stories have a quality about them that makes me truly believe that they all could be marketed in some form or another, whether it be books, a fantasy series or a film.
    Sadly, skill and originality and talent have got very little to do with being showcased where luck plays a huge part.
    Superb as usual!!

    (I hope I capitalised all your birds for you – Let me know if I’ve missed any.


  3. When I did music therapy, the biggest challenge was the Misophonyx. Mine called himself “Sonny Period” and he could not sing. His words were interesting, though. Gordon had the right idea, build the musical around the cacophony. It would be tough to have misophonia at Charleston Bay.

    Liked by 1 person

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