Who Needs Music?

October 8, 2012
Dorothea Mimi Jean wiped her brow and her hands on her well-worn, yellow apron. She was preparing sugar cured ham, creamed corn, mashed potatoes, dumplings and candied apples. In the living room, Orline and Birdie sat crossed-legged in front of the large record cabinet, transfixed by a Four Tops record and staring at the cabinet as though it had a screen.
“I cannot fix your vittles with that vulgar vinyl a playin’ so loudly!” Dorothea said as she steadied the ham on the cutting board.
She stuck the carving knife into the meat and put her hands on her hip. But they didn’t say a word. They sang quite loudly and off key, “Can't help myself. No, I can’t help myself, Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch!” Dorothea rolled her eyes and began to work on the not yet mashed potatoes. She mumbled crossly to herself.
“Record after record. Music. MUSIC. What I wouldn’t give for some quiet around here.” Dorothea said. She paused and looked up as though praying.
“Lord, what I wouldn’t give for music to just disappear altogether.” Then she winked with a “Just jesting you” wink and got back to work. In the next room “I Can’t Help Myself” began to crackle. Birdie beat her wrist against the cabinet.
“C’mon, c’mon!!!”
She hit it some more but the Four Tops just wouldn’t sing.
“Ma!! The record player’s broken!”
“Hmm,” Dorothea said to herself and a slight smirk. “Who needs music anyway?”
Orline heard her mother’s comment and ran into the kitchen.
“Ma! What did you just say?”
Birdie ran in after her.
“Oh Ma, you just wished the music away!”
It was true. Dorthea had gone and wished it all away. Every song and melody had vanished in the blink of an eye. All of the houses in the little town of Lincoln hushed as the record players began skipping to a stop. And that was just the beginning.
George sat on the screened-in porch of his summer home. He had been feeling very inspired by the enticingly clear skies to compose but suddenly it was leaving him. His brother Ira cuffed him on the back.
“C’mon George. The worlds waiting for another Gershwin hit!”
“Maybe if I sit at the piano.” The writer blocked poet answered.
George stretched his fingers then placed them confidently on the ivory of his baby grand. Nothing came from the piano. He tried again. And again and again. He and his brother remained in puzzled silence. Then Ira sat next to George on the small piano bench and began to pound at the piano with him. George stopped and pretended to clean his ears out with his knuckle.
“Do you hear what I hear, Ira?”
“Yeah, nothing!!”
But they didn’t have it as bad as Glen Miller and his orchestra. It was five minutes before show time and he was trying manage twenty-one nervous band members and one frazzled singer who claimed they had forgotten their music. He stood in front of the bustling crowd backstage and waved his arms to get them to quiet down. Only his voice was heard.
“What is this talk about forgetting your music? After all the shows we’ve done, why are you suddenly panicking? Why, you can play “In the Zone” in your sleep by now!!”
The lead singer raised her shaking hand.
“Um..sir..I believe Its “In the Mood.”
Glenn nervously ran his fingers through what little hair he had and some of the band members snickered.
Then one of the trumpet players asked,
“Sir, maybe we could go through it one time?”
But the conductor shook his head and said “No, we just don’t have time. Come on. Just remember it starts out in G. Or is it A? Agh! They’re waiting, let’s go!”
The reluctant band members made their way to the stage, which was flooded and sparkling with lights, and waited for the curtains to open. They winced as it began to part and the crowd cheered. Glenn put on a confident front, raised the baton, and then swiftly brought it back down. A loud horrible noise came from the saxophones. It carried out then abruptly stopped. Glenn wiped his sweating head then started them again. But this time no sound came from the orchestra. The musicians shrugged their shoulders and Glenn lowered his head in embarrassment as the crowd began to whisper among themselves. The concert was a complete failure and the people went home sad spirited.
After school Little Jean and Valerie quickly changed their flats to tennis shoes for their daily walk to the local drug store. One side of the little drugstore was stocked with glass medicine bottles, hair products, and makeup and mostly boring things. The other side was the go-to place for the teenagers of Ridgeside. There was Gary the kind boy who worked the ice cream bar, and a jukebox with all the hits of the time for just a dime. Today when Jean and Valerie sat at the bar drinking sodas, they noticed something funny about Gary. He wasn’t humming. As he wiped off the counter the girls exchanged worried glances.
Valerie tried to lighten the mood and asked “Say Gary, any new tunes on the juke?”
“Gee, I’m not sure Val.” He said.
Then he handed her a dime and with a slight smile said “Here ya’ go.”
She spent about five minutes standing over the Jukebox before she chose a song.
“How ‘bout some Paul Anka, Little Jean??” she asked.
Little Jean answered while chewing on her straw, “Sounds keen!”
Valerie pressed one of the little red buttons then said, “Wait, I might have clicked on Doris Day. Hmm, I don’t know.”
She placed her head on her chin and waited. “Hmm. I don’t think it’s working!”
She put in more dimes and clicked buttons then called to Gary.
“Say, Gary, It’s not working!”
A little read headed boy with freckles had come in and was sitting at the bar. He watched as Gary and Valerie worked at the jukebox.
“You may as well give up.” The little boy said.
They all looked at him as he said “What we have here is just a groady situation. Jukeboxes and record players all over town just aren’t working!! It’s leaving kids all over in total desperation!”
Little Jean stopped slurping her soda.
“Like, wow! It’s like an epidemic!” she said
Gary scratched his head. “I thought something was wrong. Maybe it’s some sort of power outage or some kooky thing like that. It will probably be working again tomorrow.”
Then Valerie sat back down. Little Jean slurped her drink, the red headed boy sat in deep thought, Valerie swiveled in her chair making a squeaking noise and Gary washed the bar some more. An afternoon soda just wasn’t the same without music.
It was happening all over. People past and present were experiencing life without music. One of the most shocking cases was the Elvis Let Down. Girls in wool sweaters covered in Elvis buttons were huddled beneath a big stage awaiting the King. Boys with gelled hair stood with their arms crossed trying to hide their jealousy. And the king was...well, who knows exactly what he was doing. Elvis is just not a backstage kind of guy. He’s probably not one to chill before the big show, or at least if he is, we wouldn't know it. It would be a secret. As far as we know he’s always swaying his hips and making those Elvis-y faces. So I am afraid the story will have to begin at the beginning of the show. High pitched screams and hollers filled the concert venue. The king strode onto the stage to meet his admirers. He smiled in the spot-light, making all the girls go slightly insane. He strummed a chord on his guitar that was barely heard over the screaming audience. He began to rock back and forth then started to sing. Or was it even singing? His usual deep voice was unusually high and 3 keys off. He became very embarrassed and ran off the stage like a school girl. The fans yelled at him, “Elvis come back! We still love you!” Then they were left alone, bewildered. It was a concert they wouldn't forget, that’s for sure.
“John! Oh boy, oh lad. Late again are we?”
“You are just irresponsible, aren’t you?”
“Tisk, tisk!”
Paul, George and Ringo, (Yes, that Paul, George, and Ringo) sarcastically poked at their friend John who was late for their recording session (and yes that John). John smirked and mumbled something so British his fellow Brits could hardly understand. Paul sat at the microphone with his big head phones ready. Ringo was at the drums in a slight daze as George made faces at him and laughed. Their producer sat with his legs crossed drinking coffee and dozing on and off.
Paul looked at his watch then in a serious voice said, “Okay, come on guys, let’s get started.” So they all got situated. Guitars tuned and all coughs coughed. John counted them off, “Okay, One, Two, Three, Four!”
“Kaboom, boom. Twist and, Kerplink, shout!” Everything came out mumbo jumbo.
John stopped them and yelled, “Whoah, whoah now. Let’s try again!” So they did. Seven times. It just wasn’t happening. George piped in and made a suggestion as the others drank water and stretched their shoulders. “Maybe we shouldn’t sing today. Maybe we should just work on writing today.” They all agreed and sat down on a leather couch with a notebook and pen. John and Paul, the best writers of the group, began to brainstorm.
“Let’s see… I want…to hold an octopuses’ hand. No, that’s no good. How about...yesterday, all my ob-la-di, ob-la-das seemed so far away?” John said, as he scribbled in on the notebook.
Ringo started boisterously laughing. Paul stopped him. “C’mon Ringo, we’re all tired, give him a break. You know…I’m just not feeling it. Let’s call it a day.” So the fab four packed up their things and headed back home, all wondering what went wrong that day.
Back in Lincoln, Dorthea Mimi Jean was beginning to wonder if what her little daughters said about her wishing the music away was true. They couldn’t get the record player to play and she had called all the neighbors and they couldn’t get theirs to work either. As she melted the butter and sugar for the candied apples she began to feel guilty. She started praying again.
“Lord? Now this is downright silly. The girls are sayin’ I wished the music away. Now if I did, I’d like to reverse that. Just cancel that last order. Why, I’m already missin’ that music. Amen.”
When she finished with the dessert, she set the table then called the girls in. The whole house smelled wonderful. They held hands and prayed, then began to eat the delicious autumn meal. Dorthea excused herself and went off to the record player. She put on the girl’s Four Tops record. Orline and Birdie were surprised that their Ma would play music while they were eating.
Orline said, “But Ma you said…”
“I know what I said. I’m in the mood now,” she said as she placed the needle on the record. She grinned and looked up and winked as the record began to play. “Thank the Lord for music. Thank the Lord!”

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