Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Do you have any other stories?

I have lots of things that I've started but so far haven't got around to finishing or even taking further. Here is something which has been left untouched and unfinished on my computer for months.

He had long time-cobbled fingers, curling like question marks from his palms as he hammered the piano keys.

“What do you want to hear?” he asked the audience in the dark. He could never see them out of the spotlight, but they were always respectful.

“Town Over There!” came the predictable reply from a few corners.

“That old tune?” he said, as he always said. “You don’t want to hear that old thing.”

As always, they did.

“Well okay.”

The piano intro started. He felt, as he had done for a long time now the distinct sensation that he wasn’t really playing it, that his hands weren’t his own. But they kept playing and in a few seconds he would start singing and he wouldn’t be in control of that either.

“Town, town over there…” the notes drifting down gently, as one review once said, sounding something like a wet ball rolling slowly downstairs. He’d liked that, it made only slight sense, but he liked it.

“Way off in the yonder…” The yonder hitting a strange falsetto off key but somehow still beautiful, because, as he had again read numerous times from numerous columnists, the perfection of the song was in its imperfection, it was falsetto yet still masculine, strained yet soulful.

The lyric was undoubtedly awful, one of the worst he’d ever written he thought. Yonder such a stupid word to choose unless you want an easy rhyme. And so he’d decided at the last minute all those years ago not to put in the rhyme, just so he couldn’t be accused of it. He’d been twenty four when he wrote it. And he had told the story for many years about how he’d been drunk when he first recorded it into a dictaphone. He hadn’t been but it made a nice story.

“I wish I was there… I hope you dream of me, as I dream of you. You know I need you, dear god I need you.” And here the rhyme came in, that god awful sweet natured crybaby bleedin’ heart ridiculous line. “my trumpet goes rootn-toot-too … tin your he-e-art”, rhyming the you with rootntoo…

…And somehow yet again, so many years on, he managed to stop it being the worst line ever, because it was then that the song built to a sudden climax. The word heart almost yelled but still in control, that rootntoottoo…t again had them smiling and crying at the same time, the mournful way he sang it somehow almost sounding like a trumpet. And all this before the chorus.

He didn’t know that this would be the last word he’d sing. That at the very moment he finished singing the word heart, that his own heart would take it almost as a command and stop dead never to start again. He fell back from his half standing half sitting position onto the piano stool, toppling it backwards so he fell with it. If the heart attack hadn’t killed him already the crack on the back of his head probably would have, Jamie said later over a cup of coffee in the dining room of his Uncle Sylvester.
“Poor Bastard.” Mike said. “Sure could sing.”
“Sure could sleep around.” Jamie said, legend is he’s got 40 children.”

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