Nobody understands pop music. Even the artists, labels, publishers, radio execs, ASCAP, BMI, they don’t know what makes a hit. Or else they’d do it over and over. Duh!
“Here’s another just like it.”
“Nah, don’t like that one.”
“But it’s just like the other one.”
So, when Reinholt Bobsey came along with his piano concertos, who knew they’d be number one smash hits? Who knew?
Reinholt Bobsey, organic farmer, showed up in the valley—long hair, sandals—having bought the Minniti sisters’ farm, to grow ‘genuine food for genuine people’, he said. We couldn’t tell his age, and he didn’t say where he came from. Very suspicious. Either he was a loser and a quitter or a threat to our livelihood. See, we don’t need more farmers here; we need higher prices. The American farmer is in dire straits, and government ain’t doing a damn thing about it. Except raise our taxes.
Reinholt Bobsey imagined himself an alternative, earth-friendly, sustainable vegetable grower. The Mexicans he hired told us that he wanted to transform his entire 120 acres to farmer’s market produce. We were growing for the canning industry and supermarket chains, but we still didn’t like this new-age vegan freak competing with non-traditional methods like French intensive whatever. Outside the Bobsey/Minniti farm there was a sign: “Don’t Bug Me,” that somehow meant he didn’t use pesticides or herbicides. We didn’t get it; it wasn’t funny. Bobsey asked all his neighbors to stop using poisons, including GM particulates, because of wind-born trespassing contamination. Get real, man. We told him to shove it, of course. He took us to court for ruining his organic certification, making his vegetables “unclean.”
The suit was a joke; neither side would settle; the National Grange lawyers lost it. Judge ordered a million-dollar reimbursement, which we didn’t pay, and no further chemical usage, including crop-dusting, within a half mile radius of Bobsey’s place. That meant the ten farmers on his perimeter were up shit creek.
One Sunday afternoon, we drove by his farmhouse and stopped. Reinholt Bobsey was inside playing his black grand piano, his only pastime and his only furniture that we could see. We drove off.
You can’t grow crops without keeping down the critters. It’s been that way forever. We learned that way, and we keep doing it that way. Bobsey uses traps or nets or mantises or some counter-planting flowers the bugs don’t like. I don’t know, that’s just wrong.
We filed an appeal and waited for the court date to come up. This dude was costing us big time. Somebody, I have no idea who, lost his patience and set fire to Reinholt Bobsey’s corn fields and grape trellises. While his farm was burning and the firetrucks were on their way, people say he sat inside the house playing the piano. I say what a friggin’ weird-o!
I would say that, except that a couple months later a piece of solo piano music, no singing or drums, rose to number one on the US pop radio charts—The Farm-Burning Symphony by Reinholt Bobsey. The guy became rich and famous overnight. We hated him more than ever. He didn’t even replant.
Every Saturday, without hardly any produce, he kept sitting at his stand at the farmer’s market, surrounded now by reporters and TV cameras. 60 Minutes … 60 Minutes! It didn’t fit with the style of our community. Even worse, he left the cornfields around his home just sit there burned, swirling black dust. That is the worst sin for a farmer—laziness.
So his long piano piece is all over, in movie scores and TV commercials, and, you know how it is, the natives got restless. It pissed us off. A few good old boys planned to burn down his house. And they did. At night.
Reinholt Bobsey woke up in his flaming house and pushed his piano out the double patio doors into the back yard just in time. People who were at the scene say he sat and played piano as his nice old solid American farmhouse, built by the Minniti sisters’ grandfather in 1927, burned to the ground. The firemen made him push the piano farther back to give them room to douse the ashes, but Bobsey just played and played like a mad devil.
His workers left. Reinholt Bobsey stayed, slept in his car and kept his piano outside under the Modesto Ash tree. A month later, the music world was rocked by a brand new piano concerto: The Burning House Opera by R. Bobsey. It was huge, huge, a multiple Grammy-winner, called, by Rolling Stone Magazine, the ‘most beautiful piece of music ever composed’.
That did it. The farmers went out one night, a bit loaded, to burn the bastard’s piano. But when they got there, chock full of Southern Comfort and gasoline—aw, what the hell … They set his car on fire and watched it burn. Nobody called the cops.
The next month’s number one hit worldwide by R. Bobsey was entitled: Burning Man in Hybrid Car. It went platinum the first day it was released.
E. Martin Pedersen, originally from San Francisco, has lived in eastern Sicily for over 35 years. He teaches English at the local university. His stories have appeared in Grey Sparrow Journal, American Athenaeum, Literary Orphans, Bareback Magazine and others. Martin is a 2011 alum of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.