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Christmas Concert

Sun-SSS

New Member
I was inspired to post this piece by SillyWabbit’s Anne And Her Stories. It is in no way similar, except that its central character is a kid who likes to tell stories. And to sing, and dance, make drawings and play games. One who says to hell with mopping floors and scrubbing pots. Unlike Wabbit’s Anne, this Wendy (true name Wenjijaalen, age about ten) has never been told she should be ashamed of her pride. She is proud of it. Telling her friend McCarthy about God the Creator, having heard somewhere that In The Beginning Was The Word:
“Musta made that bugger happy like anything when he made me with a word, I bet.”
McCarthy: “You wouldn’t be a bit full of yourself, would you, by any chance?”
Wendy: “Yeah, ’course. Full up like anything, me.”

What follows is a small part of a much longer narrative, so not really a whole story. Does it work as a story, or even as a passage worth reading? I don’t know. You tell me. Positive or negative, I would be pleased to hear.

Genesis of the story: Here we have a thing called The Stolen Generation. You may have heard of The Rabbit-proof Fence (?) It’s a book, and a movie. Haven’t yet read the book. The movie is, hmm …good, but not great.
Anyway, not too long ago, children of indigenous parents were forcibly removed from them to be raised in institutions. The youngest ones were told they were orphans (a quite alien concept in indigenous culture, extended family being what it is). They were educated up to a point and then put to work as farm labourers or domestic servants. How many this happened to is hard to know. Some say 100,000, and call it a form of genocide. The practice started in the 1920s, I think, and continued up until about 1970. Its victims were forced to live their lives wondering who they were. To fully appreciate the tragedy of this, you need to understand the importance of family, roots and ancestry in the consciousness of the indigenous people of this country.

I decided to invert all this, in this fiction. To speculate on a non-indigenous child raised by tribal people. How would such a child react to what we call civilisation, when introduced to that? This invented child of mine finds it an interesting experience, but remains convinced that she will, indeed must, return before too long to her Own Hard Country, and be again with her Own Proper People, who have learned how to be people properly.

I think stories should have a point – should set out to make some point. I may be drawing too long a bow, searching for a point to justify what follows, but I imagine its point to be something like this:Imperfect, superficial, recently acquired understanding may sometimes get to the heart of the matter at hand better than can be got from a lifetime’s study. Or maybe something starting: Out of the mouths of babes…

Sorry to be so long-winded. This was supposed to be just a few lines of introduction. Here is the story.



Christmas Concert

The song continued, grinding out to a motionless, silent assemblage. Shocked into silence, McCarthy suspected. Suffering shell shock.

As it continued, however, some quality other than premeditated offensiveness or mere naive incompetence seemed to emerge from it. No less extreme, no less outrageous but rather becoming increasingly so, somehow something that had not existed before seemed to be growing out of it, filling this improvised little concert hall with its presence. Something which McCarthy may have been among the last to pick up on. Hope had hold of it, and wasn’t letting go: her hand on top of his now gripped with a level of strength he would never have suspected. Hard sharp little nails were biting painfully into his skin. The rest of his skin had goose bumps. All over, people sat staring at the small figure on the stage. They stared transfixed, appearing not even to breathe. The accordion player held his instrument dangling from its strap, sat on his stool as if unable to move.

The voice from the stage strained to reach an octave too high, failed, broke into guttural wails, came back to sing on, broke again, wails and words and howls and yodels becoming indistinguishable one from the other. Control, paid no more than lip service from the start, had been abandoned altogether. But recognisable remnants of the melody were still there, in the voice, mixed now with something much stronger than anything so commonplace as melody.

Unmindful of anything outside of herself and her song the singer mixed words of a language predating English by millennia with those of the composer and others of her own invention, some strange creole; then, reaching and at last sustaining the high notes long striven for, returned to some semblance of the original:

“Da-ha-ha-h-a-a-a-e-e-lheee wa-hawkin cloose doo whe-ee-ee-ee… Whooo…
La-hedd’m beee… ba-hoones wheee…
hoown countrhee-e-e-eeee…”

With that, the song ended. Abruptly.

Silence.

The singer stepped back from the microphone, lowered her guitar to rest its body on the floor by her feet. She lowered it gently, but the sound of its contact with the boards rang out.

Wendy stared out at her audience, still silent, staring back. She said “Hey,” quietly, to test that her voice had come back from singing to talking, then: “All gone finish, no more left.”

She stood too far from it now for her words to be picked up by the microphone, but she had no need of that to be heard. Her audience, friends of hers and strangers alike, continued staring dumbly.

“Closer walk song all finish now,” Wendy pointed out again. She stood waiting for someone to clap. All the other performers had got some clap when they had finished. People at the Easterfield Plaza had always done some clap when she had sung out hard, and she had sung out very hard here tonight. Harder than she had ever sung.

“Mus’ be don’ like too much hard sing I s’pose, these buggers here, eh?” she said to the lone musician with whom she shared the stage.

The two shook hands, like grownup people did in this country. The man’s eyes looked funny. A bit sore looking. He looked like he might have been crying a bit. Or trying too hard not to cry. Some good strong songs could sometimes do that to their hearers, Wendy knew.



How long the silence lasted was impossible for anyone afterwards to tell. Wendy was gone from the stage by the time the whistling and stamping started. Not only from Minotaurs this time, but spreading from them to a majority in almost every row of seats. Barking came from the dog out in the car park, but no one inside could hear that over the din they made themselves. The Minotaur on motorcycle guard duty and the clown, sharing light conversation and cigarette smoke, came to the door to investigate. It sounded from where they heard it as if a riot must have broken out. One rushed towards the building praying such was not the case, the other rather hoping it might be, because when it came right down to it he rather enjoyed the warm thrill of confusion that could come with a bit of violence. By the time they reached the door the noise had subsided somewhat. Stampers now were only able to stamp one foot, standing up as they were, demanding an encore.

They were not going to get one. Not one with music, anyway. A long round of more dignified applause followed Wendy’s refusal on the grounds that she was too tired of singing now, and had no more sing left. She would tell a little bit story instead, though, if they liked, she said. A story about that Good Walk Song. “Sad bugger but,” she warned.

Her voice filled the silent hall without need of amplification. “Hey, that song there ’bout one too much goodfella. Grand Ned Jesus, his name. Come from’s own Hard Country one day, try’n do fix things up all more better.

“Funny way of got made, him, what ev’body reckon. Not ordin’ry way of made, that one. Delicious unconventional bugger like me mus’ be why, eh? Big mob long time way back, I s’pose mus’ be. Might be yonks, like Jimi Hendrix.

“Got bumped off but, poor bugger. Bumped’m off good’n prop’ly for not ’nough listen up to bossy buggers’n doing too much goodfella stuff always, looks like. Sing songs’n give poor sad buggers pat for make’m feel more better, an’ stuff, an’ tell big mob story how’n be people prop’ly, yous dumb shits, not a nightmare.

“Pushbuttons did get too much pissed off’n went’n bashed’m up too much’n did bad bump off to him, is what.

“But, hey! Good Lord! No bones left! Whooo! Come back after for look that fella’s bones, put’m in little while sun prop’ly cos all feel sorry by now I s’pose, hey, bones b’long that Grand Ned Jesus all gone, poof! No more left!

“Gone back proper Hard Country, them bones, I bet, eh? Bones got off their bum’n did walk back their own country come from, is what, an’ said ‘**** yous poor silly fucked-up shits!”

Here Wendy walked across the stage and back to demonstrate how bones might walk, on tip-toe, with her arms held out slightly from her sides, hanging very loose.

“Serve’m right them mean bossy buggers can’t have that Grand Ned Jesus’ bones their own country NO MORE! Gahdammit **** raissake dumb mad ratbag sumvabit — ”

While someone pulled frantically at the ropes to close the curtains Wendy was ushered gently but firmly from the stage. Leaving, she waved goodbye to yet another stunned silence.

“Whooo!” she called in parting.
 

Wabbit

New Member
PHEW! That was wonderful work. And I don't say that because you were nice about my work. I'm an honest person. If I didn't like this, I wouldn't say anything.

Yes, this was really wonderful work. The writing was very powerful as was the story itself.

I was there and one witht he crowd. I was sweating. I was breathless. I was waiting. I was watching. We all were. Watching Wendy on the stage. We all watched and we all felt it and we all went home with something else inside of us that was not there before.

Thank you.
 

Sun-SSS

New Member
Why, thank you, Wabbit.

As long as the piece is coherent and readable, I am satisfied.

What I presented is, of course, is not really a story at all. It has no beginning, no end. It comes in the middle of a longer narrative. By the time a reader reaches it he or she is expected to know the characters, and have some idea of the themes being examined. One of those themes is that, in our quest for understanding, ignorance may even be an advantage, since it helps smooth out complications. Here we have a person who has, until she comes to the notice of authorities, never heard a discouraging word. (And what other ten year old can say that?) She is an incorrigible, indomitable, irrepressible person who cares not in the slightest for authoritarian disapproval. As her story progresses she wins the hearts of everyone who knows her, including those of the authority figures. She does it with no concious effort to please anyone, but just by being herself.

To round things out, below is what follows on from what I posted above, closing that chapter.



Wendy’s version of Jesus’ visitation may have offended a few, but it must have met with some level of approval from at least some of those not deliciously unconventional among its hearers. With no apparent regard for copyright considerations an expurgated edition of it appeared in a Pentecostal publication the following week. The abridged version of what was already short carried little of the impact of the original, however. The grammar was amended by someone not particularly adequate to that task; Grand Ned had disappeared from it, as had Jimi Hendrix. Pushbuttons became “Unbelievers”, bossy buggers “Pharisees”. Reference to bones was replaced by “Body”. Allusion to bones being put for a while in the sun must have been deemed entirely too arcane, was left out altogether. Hard Country was translated by some stretch, or perhaps contraction, of its editor’s imagination as “The Kingdom of Heaven”.

The substitution of people and fellows for buggers may well have preserved from harm some delicate readers’ sensibilities, while those sensible to other things might have found it took some of the flavour away. The storyteller’s final stream of vulgar invective was replaced by something taken direct from scripture: Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord.

“Those fucking dipsticks would take Jack Daniels and water him down till he tastes like tea,” growled one of the Minotaurs, reading the printed version where another had pinned it to the clubhouse wall. He pulled it from the wall and screwed it up.



It would take a bigger effort on time’s part to screw up the echoes of the song he had heard, and get the memory of that out of his head.

In this he was not alone. A number of the witnesses to Wendy’s performance that night found that they lost much of their appreciation of music for some time afterwards. The various kinds of music that had gladdened them, had filled the gaps in their lives with a little bit of enjoyment, were spoiled for them for a while. The music they would hear would rouse little in them save vague feelings of disappointment. Recorded songs and those rendered by pub and club bands would sound thin, washed out, pointless little things, compared with what they had heard in the Port Sally Recreation Centre, the finale to the children’s concert.

It was strange, they agreed when they spoke together. That had hardly been music at all, with no polish or finesse whatsoever. It was childish, inexpert, defective on too many counts to recount. All that could be said for it, really, was that its performer had given it all she had. She had certainly done that, they told each other.

Yet there must be something more. Some previously unmet thing its hearers craved more of, now that they were aware of its existence. It had contained a surfeit of something totally lacking in diligently well made, everyday music, the kind they were used to. It had made music made by practised musicians assisted by teams of technicians sound like some kind of same-old, half-hearted nursery rhymes. Or timid little bits of studiously inoffensive elevator music…
 

Wabbit

New Member
Sun-SSS said:
What I presented is, of course, is not really a story at all. It has no beginning, no end. It comes in the middle of a longer narrative.

Well, I don't think that it's totally important to have a beginning, middle, and an ending. Depends on what you want to achieve :)

Thanks, it was good to read the rest of it! Good stuff, I liked it a lot. Hope you post more of your work!
 
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