“What is this?” I asked as I assembled Court Honey’s favourite breakfast of stout and cheese. “It’s my eponymous thirty-sixth album,” replied the old man as the jazz tumbled from the crackledown stereo in the corner of the room. “Come and look at this,” he told me. I had my finger in my eye so I could not see immediately but once I stopped scratching and looked I saw and remembered that it was Thursday morning and so it was time for the eclipse. Some of the scientists here have speculated that the Thursday eclipse has something to do with the condition of our world but to me that always seemed simplistic and wrong-headed.
The old man liked the Thursday eclipse and he liked to watch it whilst he ate his stout and cheese so I hurried through with the tray and set it in front of him. I wasn’t so keen but I watched it anyway whilst listening to Court Honey’s eponymous thirty-sixth album, which he had made a hundred times before and which I had heard a hundred times before and which he had dreamt again and again and which he had made most recently on Tuesday because things do not stay made around here. I think he had made the music to accompany the eclipse and that was why it was important for him to make it every week before it became Thursday.
Court Honey sighed. “I’m going to miss this when I’m gone.”
“When you’re- don’t say that,” I told him. “You know how it is here.”
He shook his head sadly. “When I’m gone.”
“You know how it is here,” I had said. I thought about my words as I washed up after the eclipse and the old man’s breakfast. He had retired to his music room to make another jazz record, another one which I knew I had heard somewhere before. And I was left alone with my looping thoughts and ideas which trouble all of those who live in this place, which is my home and always will be, or so it seems. Here we live the same week over and over and have done for so long that I have lost count and do not know how many years it could add up to, but I have lived all this time as a twenty eight year-old and Court Honey as a ninety-something year-old and nothing shows any sign of changing.
I cannot count back because we retain no solid memories of the past weeks in the loop. They are fuzzier than memories should be, and harder than dreams. And every Monday starts just like the rest, though we have become practised in forming our thoughts again and moving quickly on with our lives.
Just before midday I put together a lunch of stout and cheese and called Court Honey in from his music room.
It was rare for the jazzman to invite me to sit and eat with him but on this occasion he did. I collected together another portion of stout and cheese and pulled up a chair at the table. “I need to tell you,” he began before taking a bite of cheese, and I knew that he was going to tell me something momentous. “I need to tell you before I’m gone.” I didn’t tell him off this time.
“I’ve been working on something, a piece of music.” He drank some stout and seemed to be choosing his next words carefully. I counted the white hairs around his mouth. “It’s designed to be a ship of a kind, a way of travelling into next week.”
Working on anything in this place where a reset button looms every seven days was difficult but Court Honey had managed it. Every Monday morning he had collected together his memories of the previous week’s efforts and slowly, incrementally, over so many built-up weeks he had forged this piece of music. He had started it over from scratch so many times, but each time he knew a little more and got a little further. Over the next hour he tried to explain to me how he had learnt to manipulate time and space in his music and how it was possible for him to trap time and bend space in the gaps between the notes. He believed that with this piece of music he would be able to break through the barrier and finally reach the fabled land of next week. “I don’t want to live forever.”
He had given the piece a whimsical title, ‘The Penultimate Biscuit.’ The construction of ‘The Penultimate Biscuit’ was still ongoing but Court was sure it would be ready by Sunday night.
After lunch I did some tidying and administration whilst Court Honey worked on his science fiction suite in his music room. The work I did was the same and same and same again. It was one of the more dispiriting aspects of living in the loop.
The afternoon concluded with another meal of stout and cheese before I returned home. I spent a relaxing evening at home but I could not say that I enjoyed it. After so many weeks it is difficult to stop a numbness from falling about your shoulders, everything seen before, everything that could turn up.
And the week rumbled on, post-eclipse, same as it ever was. We have taken to splitting the week up into two parts, compartmentalising as humans do. Whilst the rest of the world lives in years and seasons and months, we split our seven precious days in half so that we know exactly where we are. During the first half of the week, before the Thursday eclipse we concentrated our efforts on remembering as much as we could of the week gone before. In the second half of the week, after the Thursday eclipse, we turned our thoughts towards the week ahead, the same one again. We consolidated our knowledge and crammed it all into our minds on a Sunday night so as to give ourselves a better chance of remembering when we found ourselves once more on Monday morning.
That Sunday night was different. Court Honey had been working on ‘The Penultimate Biscuit’ earlier in the afternoon and by the time we sat down to eat stout and cheese at six o’clock it was ready. “Music is a form of time travel,” he told me, but he would not say any more. I insisted to myself that I would remember all this on Monday morning.
When it got dark I made my way home, repeating the facts of the week over and over in my head. I wondered whether Court Honey had told me about ‘The Penultimate Biscuit’ in weeks before and whether I had forgotten in and whether this was all immovable truths bound to happen again.
Like a clock ticking nowhere but round in circles.
At midnight I was still awake, clinging on. I thought hard about what I knew and then I thought about Court Honey climbing into his jazz suite time machine. And then it all reset and when I woke again it was another same and same again Monday morning.
I washed and dressed and set off down the road. It was Monday morning and we were three days away from an eclipse, which did not roll around very often. I stopped at the supermarket to spend Court Honey’s housekeeping money on a supply of stout and cheese for the week ahead and then carried on my way.
I was about quarter of an hour from the old man’s house when I remembered about ‘The Penultimate Biscuit.’ I ran ran ran like I did not normally run on a Monday morning.
It has been five weeks now since Court Honey disappeared, or at least I think it has. I have made a concerted effort to count the weeks since he left in that strange time machine, though I do not suppose that counting them will do any good here, where the passing of time has become an irrelevance in our lives.
For the first few weeks I spent most of my days listening to jazz and eating stout and cheese and doing the occasional tidying. The same administrative tasks I had always had still needed doing. Despite Court Honey’s disappearance this is still an indefinite post.
But in the last few weeks I have begun to spend more and more time in the old man’s music room playing lightly on his piano, trying out his saxophone, exploring the double bass that stands in the corner of the room. I listen to his records carefully, trying to discern clues in the movements, looking for a starting point.
I have some schooling in jazz but I know nothing about time travel. I know it will take a long time, just like it took Court Honey a long time, but I have started now in the same way he did, putting it together piece by piece, starting again when it gets knocked down, working forever towards next week.