Green Hills Literary Lantern





The Flying Dutchman

Tag des Gerichtes! Jüngster Tag!

--the Dutchman

--for Jo-Anne



At dusk, a man resembling Mark Zuckerberg marched down the middle of our street shouting violent song lyrics at the top of his lungs. Confined mostly within the interval of an augmented fourth (aka Diabolus in Musica), his attempted melody wobbled in pitch and his voice fell short whenever he reached for an octave. At one point, he stood still and cursed God. He then resumed his stride and sang about a soon-to-be murder victim, on her knees, pleading for mercy.  

“See something, say something,” my wife said.

I phoned the non-emergency police dispatcher.

“It’s not against the law to sing,” said the dispatcher.

“If you heard him, you’d think otherwise.”

“Did he threaten anyone?”

“He threatened God.”

“God can take care of Himself.”

“He ‘sang’ about murdering a woman.”

“Lots of kids like violent songs. It doesn’t mean anything.”

“He’s not a kid. He’s in his twenties. It means something.”

“Okay. Okay. What does he look like?”

“Like I said. He looks like Mark Zuckerberg: tall, thin, little boy’s haircut—”

“What kind of haircut?”

“A butch, I guess. Burgundy tee-shirt and fancy jogging shoes.”

“Is he White? Black? Asian? Hispanic?”


“Which way was he headed?”

“He was headed west on East Street.”

“We’ll keep an eye out.”

The “crooner” did not reappear that evening, but the following week, at dusk, he returned with the exact same tone-deaf performance and blasphemy. This time we didn’t call the police. But we were both unsettled by the young man’s disturbing and repetitive behavior.

“He actually thinks he can sing,” I said.

“He’s dangerous,” said my wife.


“God help the woman who crosses his path.”

We continued the conversation (nature? nurture? or social media?) until the evening news brought the entire world’s strangeness and tragedies and hatred into our livingroom.

It would be one week to the day before another tortured serenade would invade our peace. We were again sitting on our porch, enjoying the quiet sunset, when we heard the now familiar loud and threatening words approaching.

“That does it,” I said. “I’ve had enough.” And against my better judgment (and my wife’s objections) I stood up from my chair and confronted the one-man floating opera: “Hey, you! Caruso! You want to give it a rest!”              

My words had no effect on him; he neither heard nor saw me. It was as if he were trapped in his own hate-driven nightmare—tape-looped and doomed—a contrary Flying Dutchman, seeking vengeance instead of redemption. 

What could I do?






Timothy Reilly had been a professional tubaist (including a stint with the Teatro Regio of Torino, Italy) until around 1980, when a condition called “Embouchure Dystonia” put an end to his music career. He gratefully retired from substitute teaching in 2014. He has published widely, most recently in Zone 3, Fictive Dream, Bluestem, The MacGuffin, and Superstition Review. He has received a Pushcart Prize nomination. Timothy Reilly lives in Southern California with his wife, Jo-Anne Cappeluti: a published poet and scholar.