So I’ve done this sort of prompt thing a couple of times. Y’know, the whole “shuffle the iPod and write a story based on the song that comes up” thing.
This is the second time I’ve gotten a WWII song.
Hey, I’m not complaining…
The obvious thing would be to write this from the point of view of the main character: the bugle boy himself.
But, c’mon… the obvious thing?
Yeah, let’s mix it up. Different perspective.
Let’s write the story from the bugle’s perspective.
It’ll be cute.
But apparently I can’t write about inanimate objects without making people cry.
So, read and enjoy the tears.
Or be a feels-proof rock and don’t.
Anyway, hope you like it! 😛
The Company Bugle
I wish I had more than two tunes I could play.
I wish I had valves.
And I wish there was someone who could play me. And I mean actually play me.
Not that wishing is a very productive occupation for an army bugle.
I sit sideways on the shelf for most of the day, though, so there’s not too much else for me to do. I sit and I listen to the noises outside. Popping of guns and yelling of men. I watch the sun change angles through the window and I watch the paint slowly begin to fade on the walls.
The clock ticks a beat. It’s a fast beat. I wish I could play along.
Every morning, when it’s cold and both of the clock’s hands are pointed down, a younger man with blond hair that sticks out by his ears comes in and takes me off the shelf.
I’m held in his hands as we go outside together. He waits a few seconds, then brings me to his lips. The same tune he plays every morning blasts out through my bell, loud and clear.
I remember when he first started playing me. It took a bit of practice before he was able to make me sound like anything but a choking duck.
The camp begins to stir and I see little lights blink on through windows like opening eyes. Then I’m taken back inside and set on the shelf.
I sit there until it’s dark and the frogs have struck up their band outside the window.
The young man comes back in, looking grubby. I wonder if he always looks tired too. We go outside to the same spot in the dirt and he plays a slow tune, holding the last note out for a long time and letting it echo away into the night.
Lights that turned on that morning wink off, the young man goes away and I’m left to wishing on my shelf for the rest of the night.
And on go the days.
The clock hands make endless circuits and dust settles on the shelf around my spot.
Then one day, music comes from behind the wall. It sounds crackly and is interrupted by people talking sometimes, but I’ve never heard anything like it.
Fast beats, faster than the clock, are thumped out by big, deep drums. Lots of instruments I’ve never heard play together, jumping over each other to play tunes that make me wish I could move along to them.
And there are sounds of other instruments like me. Lots of them. Their notes flutter all over the place and make loud blaring noises. They change their tempo and their volume and sometimes make a “mwa-mwa” sound instead of just the clear notes.
I want to play like that.
I ache inside, wishing to have those tunes go through me, until I’m sure I’ll bust a pipe.
Still, every morning, and every night, the same boy comes and we play the same two tunes in the same spot.
I wish I could speak to the boy. I wish I could play him the music and show him what we could do together.
But before I can figure out a way, he’s gone.
I’m left on my shelf for days on end before the old man who first brought me here comes in and keeps up the young man’s tradition. The hands are different. They’re wrinkled and strong instead of smooth and shivery. But the tunes are the same.
I look around outside as the old man stays for a longer time than the boy ever did, shouting a few things to various men.
These men are clean and a few are smiley as they say “yes, sir”.
They haven’t been here long.
I’m put back on my shelf and I sit, waiting for evening.
The clock hands both hit the top of the clock and I’m listening to the music again when another man comes walking into the room.
He’s taller than the young man who played me before. His hair is dark and he looks more confident. He seems to be looking for something. Then his gaze rests on me and he smiles.
No one’s smiled at me before.
He takes me off the shelf and runs his hand over my surface and rubs a bit of the dust and tarnish off me with his shirtsleeve.
“Well, you’re a little thing, aren’t you?” He runs his hand over me again and sticks his finger in the mouthpiece. “Doesn’t look like anybody’s done too much with you for a while.”
“Except Taps and Reveille, of course.” He sighs and sets me in his lap. “All anybody can do with a horn around here.”
I enjoy the sound of being talked to. The man’s voice is a pleasant, medium pitch and reminds me of the music from the radio. Except without the crackly noises. Just the nice parts.
He sits there and tips his head. I think he’s listening to the music because his foot starts tapping along with the big drums. It’s one of my favorite songs. I hope he likes it.
Then he picks me up in his warm, steady hands and starts playing along. His tune jumps around to high places that the music isn’t going, but it still works. In fact, the song sounds even better with his tune mixed in.
The man closes his eyes while he’s playing me and moves from side to side occasionally, moving to the music. Just like I wanted to do before.
I love it.
He stops too soon and looks kind of sad. I can’t imagine why.
Sighing again, he puts me gently back on the shelf. “Not quite the same, is it?” I think he’s talking to himself this time, not me. Smiling faintly at me one more time, the man leaves.
For once, I sit on the shelf and wait for evening with excitement. Will he play a different tune this time? Will we play along with the other music again? I listen along to the music in a different way this time, wondering what the man would play along to the song.
But when he comes back, he looks sad. His hands hold me loosely as he pulls me off the shelf. He steps out into the dark night and raises me to his lips. Out comes the same old tune as always.
The tone he plays feels like silk and it’s the only time I’ve actually thought that the song was pretty, but still I feel crushed. Why does it always have to be that one song? Not even an extra note? What’s the use of being played if I’ll never play anything special?
I’m almost angry with the man, but he looks just as disappointed as I am. I’m set back on the shelf and left to wondering.
The next morning, before the clock’s hands are in place for my first tune, I hear noises behind the wall, where the music comes from. There are cautious sounding footsteps, then a voice I know.
“You wanted to see me, sir?” It’s the voice of the man who played me yesterday.
“I did. Sit down, Carter.”
There’s a scootch noise and a few more footsteps, then the older voice continues.
“I gave you the bugle job because I know of your . . . extensive experience with the trumpet.”
“You’ve heard my music, sir?”
A slight cough. “Yes, and you’re quite good. I’d expect getting to play the bugle would lift your spirits somewhat. Make you feel at home.” The tone at the end of his statement is a bit questioning. It’s quiet for a few seconds, then there’s a half-sigh from the man who’s name is Carter.
“I’m very grateful for the bugle, sir. It’s a great instrument.” His voice is quiet.
“But . . .?” Sir’s voice prompts.
Another short silence.
“It’s just . . . that . . . you know, jamming along with other people . . . other instruments . . . is sort of my thing, sir. It just sounds wrong to be playing all the fancy notes and stuff all by myself.”
Carter sounds cautious in saying all this, but I understand what he’s getting at. He wants to have a band. Here. With me. I wait excitedly for Sir’s answer.
It’s quiet again and I can hear a shoe scuffing on the floor. I guess that it’s Carter’s.
“Well, I know a band in the town nearby . . .” Sir says slowly, “They’ve been a bit pressed for gigs lately.” I can hear a smile in his voice.
“You’ll be playing reveille by yourself, Carter. But I think the group might be larger for taps, this evening. A little jazzier music never hurt anyone.”
Carter takes a sharp breath in, “Thank you, sir!”
“It’s no problem. We need some good music around here.” The chair scootch sounds again. “Dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir.” Carter says again. I hear his footsteps walking out of the other room a lot lighter than before.
When he comes in to me, his face is split in a huge grin. He takes me off the shelf and twirls me around his hand as he goes outside.
After a deep breath, the music that comes out is still the morning tune, but it has all the flutter notes and dance beat I always wanted it to have. It takes effort not to burst a pipe from joy.
The lights flicker on like they always do when the tune is done, but they’re accompanied by a noise I’ve always heard on the radio.
And it’s for me.
Well, hope you liked it! We’ll be back next time I take a prompt way too seriously and/or finally crank out another Blank Mastermind part. 😛
What was your favorite part? Do you play any instruments?