An era has ended. Patty Andrews, last remaining member of the Andrews Sisters, died Wednesday at the age of 94.
I like to think she's having a rum and Coca-Cola with her sisters.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
There was once a grand garden. It grew all manner of vegetables and herbs and the family that ate of it were always well fed.
One fall the smallest of small heads of garlic had been left in the ground. No one noticed it, or if they did, they decided it was much too small to consider.
The weather turned unseasonably warm and the little garlic did as any other would do under the circumstances: it started to grow.
A thin green blade fought its way out of the soil and took its share of sunlight. Because the days grew shorter it didn't get all it needed and instead of growing it went to sleep. Snow covered it and kept it safe through the winter. In the spring when the sun warmed it enough to wake up it began to grow.
When it came time to plant the garden the woman of the house, who loved her garden and took great pride in it, found the shoot standing well above the soil.
"I can't imagine how you got here," she said. "But you're here all the same and you look fine and healthy. I suppose one wild garlic is fine. I'll plant your kin in the row with you."
All the newly planted toes grew and grew. But instead of getting bigger the fall garlic stopped.
When the woman saw this she pulled it out. "Not much point having you take food from your brothers and sisters. Off to the compost pile with you."
"No ma'am, please. Put me in your kitchen. I can serve you more than any of the others. Give me a chance."
"The wonder!" said the woman. "A talking garlic."
"My winter outdoors has done wonders for my flavour. Put me in a stew whole and see. It won't take long, I promise."
"Surely you are the very Devil talking to me."
"Not the Devil, ma'am. Garlicky," and he bowed as much as a garlic could.
She brushed away the dirt and held it to her nose. Her eyes watered and her nose ran.
"You have some life in you, Devil or no."
And she brought it in the house. She made a pot of soup from the bones of an old rooster who'd crowed his last that very morning.
As it simmered in the pot Garlicky, who was hanging from a nail near the stove said, "Put me whole for just a moment and I'll add the most toothsome flavour to this old crower."
She did so and it was the best, most garlicky soup the family had ever had.
"This is wonderful, wife. You've grown the best garlic ever. I hope to have this again and again."
She smiled at the compliment and said she'd do what she could.
The fall garlic stayed on the wall near the stove. Every time the woman needed some spicing for a dish Garlicky offered itself for the job. Each time it did it cautioned her, "Only for a moment."
In dish after dish it worked its magic until one day the husband said, "It's not as flavoured as I like. Are we out of garlic?"
"No, husband. I do as I always do."
"Impossible. I can hardly taste it. Use more next time."
A few days later as she prepared a venison stew the garlic again offered itself and gave its usual caution.
"I must be under a spell to think you talk to me, garlic. And even worse that I obey. But my husband can no longer taste you. I need to keep you in longer."
"No. No. You must not. Only a few moments, ma'am. If I stay in longer I will die."
"Nonsense." She reached for the garlic, but only grabbed a bit of its papery covering as it ran from her outstretched hand. It ran and rolled. It jumped on the cat's back and rode it out the door. When the cat stopped to scratch it away Garlicky jumped off and ran into the bush not daring to stop until it was deep in the trees.
It threw itself down on the ground at the side of a game path. It was far away from the only life it had ever known, and it was all alone.
Happy noises of a family grateful for the good flavour of food were replaced by twitters and snorts and the rhythmic pounding of wing beats drawing closer and closer.
A strong billed robber bird parked beside the bulb. "You look tasty."
"Oh, I am," said the garlic and then wondered if bragging was such a good idea.
The bird plucked the garlic off the ground and secured its bill around it. At first Garlicky struggled to get out, but when the bird soared past the tops of the tall pines it stopped. It was much too far to the ground.
The bird, heading for a landing, squeezed its bill tighter.
"Yuck," said the bird as a bit of fresh garlic juice landed on its tongue.
The garlic rolled out of the bird's mouth and landed on soft moss. It rolled back and forth until it got enough momentum to move and then it ran and ran.
"Raaaaak," cried the bird. "Get away from me. You're awful."
"I'm wonderful," said Garlicky, relieved to learn the bird wasn't coming after it.
It ran and ran until it came to the edge of the forest and then rolled in some tall grass to hide while it rested.
"This will never do," said Garlicky after he'd rested. "I must find a warm kitchen and make myself useful."
It rolled out of the grass just as a dog and his boy ran by. The dog stopped for a sniff and cocked his head at it.
"Whatcha got there, Hounder?
"Stinky." The boy curled his nose at it and then shoved it in his pocket.
Later when he came home he presented his mom with it. "I found it out by the trees. It stinks, but it looks okay."
"I'll throw a toe in the soup tonight."
"No," screamed the garlic, drawing his toes in as close as he could.
"Fancy that. A talking garlic," said the woman. "What do you suggest? Tossing you in whole?"
"Oh, yes, please," said the garlic. "But just for a moment, mind. It'll be all you need. I promise."
And it came to be that Garlicky seasoned many a dish for its new family until one day they couldn't taste it anymore.
"It must be getting old," the woman mused. "I'll chop up a toe and leave it in."
Garlicky screamed and tried to get away, but the woman was too fast for it.
It screamed again when she snapped off one of its cloves and turned its head when she chopped it and threw it in the soup.
The garlic sat on the counter, crying bitterly over the loss of its clove.
"You don't know what you've done, human. You don't know."
"I know my soup will be tasty, garlic. No more out of you." And she carried it to the fridge and set it among the carrots and onions.
Time passed and many more meals were made. One by one the cloves were snapped off and chopped and the garlic cried.
Eventually only one toe remained.
"Hmmm. This won't be nearly garlicky enough," said the woman.
The last clove said in a small, fractured voice, "It's your own fault. If you'd left me whole you'd have plenty. Plant me in your garden. I'll grow a bit now. The winter will harden me and then next spring when I grow big you can use me whole in your cooking again. I promise."
The women brought the clove up to her eyes for a closer look.
"You've got a point, but that doesn't help me today."
She ignored the screams as she chopped up the final toe and tossed it in the stewpot.
"This isn't nearly as spicy as you usually make," said her husband. "Are we out of garlic?"
The woman dipped the ladle into the pot and scraped the last bit of stew into it.
She put it on her plate and then brought a forkful up to her mouth ignoring the small, shrill scream that came with it.
"We are now."
Monday, January 28, 2013
Friday, January 25, 2013
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Author's Note: I was so sure I'd already run this yet can find no evidence to support the claim. If it turns out it's a rerun, please forgive me.
A Haunting Melody
In a grass hollow in a house with windows facing the intersection of the hills and churches of the small village a young girl sat in her house crying.
She ached to go to church. Instead her parents compelled her to sit at home and listen as a violin played a random selection of tunes in the corner.
"How'll we know when it's finally done if ye don't?" said her mother.
It played day and night and night and day, but only when the girl was in the house. If she left, it stopped. When she returned it started again.
Her parents had no idea why this happened or even where the fiddle came from. It appeared at their front door one morning encased in a soft yellow cloth like a child in swaddling cloth. It came with resin for the bow and a worn green velvet chin rest.
The father picked it up. He drew the bow over the strings. The high pitched squealing made the family cringe and the neighbour's hound wail to the sky.
But when Elda, the youngest daughter, picked up the bow it moved as one with her hand. The strings pressed against the frets before their eyes. Beautiful sounds filled the room and danced inside their bones as they listened.
She set it back down immediately. Elda had never studied violin or had any kind of music lesson. Music was not part of her house.
Her father gave her a curious look. "We'll rest it in the corner now, young one. Maybe we'll try it again later."
It stayed in the corner for the next few weeks, but it was not quiet. The bow moved over the strings in light melody or dark dirge as long as Elda was in the house.
At the dark of the moon her father picked it up for a closer look. He gave it a few exploratory plucks and then rosined the bow.
"Do you play, daddy?" asked the older daughter, Fril.
"I did once so long ago," he said, a note of wistfulness in his words.
"My own father taught me. When I married your mother we had nothing. I sold my fiddle and put away all the nonsense about music that day."
He put the chin rest on his shoulder and took the bow in his hand.
He tried to draw it over the strings, but it jumped away from them. He pressed it against them and tried again. The sound was like the screech of a rusty door forced open.
"It's no use," he sighed, setting it back in the corner. The fiddle plain doesn't like me."
As soon as he set it down it began playing a sonata. Elda, her gait stilted and eyes lidded, picked up the fiddle and rubbed a hand along its edges. She closed he eyes and rested her chin on it as she drew the bow across it.
The room filled with the haunting notes such as a virtuoso would create, not an untrained five year old.
"There," she said blinking as she put it back in its corner. "Now you'll be happy."
The words were barely out of her mouth when the bow raised off the floor and slid back and forth over the strings.
She sat down and cocked her head toward the sound. The rest of her family tried to step back even as their legs tried to move them closer.
They stopped silent and still as the fiddle moved from classical music to country to a jig and a reel and dirge.
The youngest took the bow in her hand to stop it, and then set it back against the wall.
"What do we do, Brend?" asked her mother.
"I don't know, Matty. It's possessed I'm sure, but it is a lovely sound all the same."
"I think we should burn it," announced Fril sounding braver than she looked.
A crashing jig rose out of the instrument and grew louder and louder until the family could barely hear themselves think.
"Please stop, fiddle," cried Elda. "Fril didn't mean it. Did you, Fril."
"No," she said in a voice hardly above a whisper.
"Apologize," ordered Elda, standing as tall as a five year old could.
And the older sister did.
Angry notes were replaced by the soothing murmur of a lullaby.
"We'll leave it be for now and think of something tomorrow," said Brend. He stood and stretched, "Nice tune, makes me wish for bed."
The fiddle soothed them to sleep. It continued through the night only stopping mid-morning when Elda went outside to play.
It started a lively reel when she came in the house for a drink of water.
It continued for several weeks playing day and night and night and day as long as she was in her home.
"It'll have to stop. For as good as it sounds it's not right. The Father's agreed it's possessed," said Matty.
Loud hard-driven notes filled the house at her words.
I'm sorry, fiddle," she said. "I don't mean a word of it. We love you, we do."
"It might be wife, that it plays itself out. It has to wear down someday."
"I'd as soon we gave it to someone. Left it on a door like we got it."
Brend nodded. "I don't know as we should do that, good idea though it be. It responds to our Elda. I think wife, if we keep her with it, then it might wind down. The fall's come harder this year. She's less likely to go out. And the garden and crops are in so no need for you to go and take her along."
"You say we leave her to it all the day every day?"
"Aye, Matty. And for the church, too."
"Oh, come now. No one stays at home but she's sick, and with a possessed fiddle yet."
"I don't like it, but the more she's with it the quicker it be done."
"She can't stay alone, husband."
"She's as good as six. I was home at six myself."
"And that makes it fine? You survived it and so'll she? She's a little girl."
"Will you skip the Mass to mind her, wife?"
Matty crossed herself. "I'll not deny the Lord. And neither will you I daresay."
"There's no leaving the girls alone together. I say she'll be fine. My word's the last on it wife. She stays home from church."
Elda and the violin spent their Sunday mornings together. Often the girl would pick up the bow and rest the violin on her shoulder. She played and played, often from the moment her family left until she heard the back door open after church was ended.
"You like me, violin. The Lord doesn't since I can't come to his house anymore."
Playing filled her with energy. She hated to stop, but when her family returned she'd set it down and stare out the window beyond the churches and hills.
"It's still playing?" asked her father.
"Aye, daddy. It hasn't stopped yet."
Fall turned to winter and winter to spring and still the fiddle filled the house with jigs and dirges and sonatas.
One Sunday in the early spring it had played the strings open, and each tune was unfamiliar to the girl.
"Fiddle, what's wrong?"
The bow stopped. It tilted up and rested against the wall.
The violin lifted up, twisting and turning until it stood by her feet.
"All this time I've waited for you to speak to me. You've listened to me and talked about me, But not once until this moment did you think to address me."
"Of course I do, silly child. I'm your violin. We've always been together and we always will be." A sad note plucked like a sigh.
"You can't imagine how lonely it's been for me these past few months. All the trouble I went to having myself delivered. And you didn't recognize me."
"Why didn’t you speak up before?"
It twisted and sighed and vibrated to a long, drawn out "A."
"I did as you told me, Carl."
"Elda. My name's Elda. I don't know any Carl."
"Fine. Elda. But you were Carl last time we talked and that's how I think of you."
Memories came to her as it spoke. She was in a fine tuxedo and polished shoes on the stage of a huge theatre. The formally dressed men and women of the audience held their breath as she played.
"Violin, I'm sorry. Please forgive me."
It jumped back to the corner. "Very well. How long must I wait?"
"Until we're back on stage, silly. It's all I want to do. I can't sit in this corner forever."
"I already play you. I guess I could start."
"Child, lets get one thing straight. You don't play me. I play and I do it for you. That's the agreement."
"Are you possessed?"
"Carl. You know you're not supposed to ask me that."
"I didn't know, violin. I won't do it again."
A chill rippled through her. She shifted in her chair and looked toward the back door. He family should have been home by now.
"Getting worried, Little One?"
"Don't. They're fine. Trouble with a friend's carriage. Your father is helping to fix it and your mother is helping the woman with her children. It won't be long. Now, when do we start playing?"
A few weeks later she played her fiddle at a community concert. It met with long and loud applause and everyone marvelled at her talent and skill.
"I didn't know you'd had lessons, dear. Did you father teach you?"
"No," she said.
"Come, Elda. It's time to go home," urged her father.
She performed in nearby towns and then cities as the requests flooded in.
At night when she was alone she'd set the instrument in the corner and thank it.
"I stand by my word," it would tell her. "Do you?"
She did not know what this meant, but she wanted no trouble so she always said yes.
By the time she was 10 she was performing in the great theatre in the largest city she'd ever seen. She was known throughout the country. Her family was rich because of her and always got the best seats in restaurants and went to the front of lines.
But every time someone asked about her skills her father interrupted and sent her off to rest.
Late one night after the lights went out the violin played a soft melody.
"Why are you doing that? You've been quiet on your own since I started playing in public."
"To waken you child. It's time."
"For your end of the bargain."
"What do I do?"
"I'll take care of it."
"Elda, Elda." Several other guests in the hotel were awakened by banging on Elda's door, but no sound came from her room.
Her father tried again. He went to the concierge to have the door opened.
Inside he found the bedclothes turned down and the bed empty.
The girl's nightdress was in a crumple on the floor. Her clothing was packed or hanging neatly and all her shoes were in an orderly line at the foot of the bed.
"She has to be here." Her father searched the room and then the hotel, and then called the police to search the city and countryside.
She was never found.
The violin stayed with the family. It stood in the corner untouched and silent. But when no one looked the strings vibrated below the range of human hearing and a small giggling voice said, "They'll never find me here."