Finding a Second Chance in the Fifth Dimension
Few Twilight Zone fans are surprised to see episodes like “Nick of Time” and “Eye of the Beholder” on my personal top 10 list. But “A Passage for Trumpet”? Where did that come from?
Not a typical favorite, to be sure. But the part of my brain that enjoys homicidal dolls and dystopian futures sits right next to a strong sentimental streak. In short, I love the redemptive side of TZ.
Something about seeing some poor individual who thinks his existence is pointless learning that he has worth and value really touches my heart. You can bet a marathon programmed by me would include “The Changing of the Guard”, “Night of the Meek” and “Mr. Denton on Doomsday.”
“A Passage for Trumpet” certainly falls into this category. So I wanted to take a moment to highlight it before World Suicide Prevention Month comes to a close.
If you haven’t seen the story of Joey Crown, the alcoholic trumpet player who tries to kill himself and ends up meeting a certain angel, I urge you to watch it first (perhaps on Hulu or Netflix). Or rewatch it. The combination of Serling’s words and Jack Klugman‘s delivery — along with the usual top-notch production values that suffuse so many TZs — is true poetry.
Two scenes stand out. Near the beginning, Baron, Joey’s former employer, asks him the obvious question: Why? Why throw your life away on a bottle of booze? Joey replies:
Because I’m sad. Because I’m nothing. Because I’ll live and die in a crummy one-roomer with dirty walls and cracked pipes. I’ll never even have a girl. I’ll never be anybody.
Listen, half of me is this horn. I can’t even talk to people, Baron, because … this horn, that’s half my language. But when I’m drunk, Baron … oh, when I’m drunk, boy … I don’t see the dirty walls or the cracked pipes. I don’t know the clock’s going, that the hours are going by. ‘Cause then I’m Gabriel. Oh, I’m … I’m Gabriel with the golden horn.
And when I put it to my lips, it comes out jewels. It comes out a symphony. It comes out the smell of fresh flowers in summer. Comes out beauty. Beauty.
When I’m drunk, Baron. Only when I’m drunk.
He hocks his horn, then, feeling even lower, deliberately steps into the path of an oncoming truck. When he “wakes up,” he finds that no one can hear or see him … until, in the second scene I wanted to spotlight, he meets a man in an alley playing a trumpet beautifully.
He not only hears Joey, but speaks comfortingly to him. In fact, he seems to know all about him. Then he tells Joey that he’s not dead. At least not yet. He’s in “a kind of limbo” between “the real and the shadow” — and he can still choose. What will it be? Joey answers:
Which do I prefer? You know something? I always felt I was getting dealt from the bottom, or maybe — maybe I just forgot how much there was for me. And maybe I forgot about the music that I could make on this horn and how nice it sounded. And going into Charlie’s and talking to people. And maybe going to a movie now and then, huh?
You know, I never won a beauty contest, but, you know, I had friends. I mean, I had good ones. Good ones! Yeah, somewhere along the line I just forgot all the good things. That’s what happened, you know. I just forgot.
We all forget sometimes. Imagine if we could reach out to those who do and remind them of the good things. Help them realize that life, for all of its problems, is worth living.
Joey got a new perspective on life. Maybe we can help others do the same. Know anyone who needs help? Gabriel could be whispering in your ear. Tell that person to call 1-800-273-8255. You just might give someone in this dimension a much-needed second chance.
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Hope to see you in some corner of the fifth dimension soon!