Corey gave the guy directions to the public house where the contest was taking place. “Now, listen here,” he said to the city doofus slowly and carefully so he’d have a chance to grasp it, “Mawkegan folk take their karaoke real serious. If you ain’t singin’ to win, then you’d best go home.” The guy laughed, heading toward the front door of the convenience shop. “Laugh all you want, Mister,” Corey called after him, “but we had one guy in here last year – drunk as a skunk and just itchin’ to make fun. They killed him an’ ate him.” The doofus turned in horror, then shook his head and gave Corey the finger in dismissal. Maybe this guy’d be lucky, Corey thought to himself … or maybe just tasty.
The small tribe of bonesingers began, humming gently over the pile that had been discovered in the mound. After awakening, the bones could be spoken to; they could be asked their wishes for reburial. Two hours into the trance, Green Mountain Bear began to laugh uncontrollably, followed by the others with some toe-tapping and finger snapping. He reached into the pile and carefully set a few bones aside. “What’s the matter with those?” the sheriff asked from the sidelines. “Oh, nothing,” Bear replied. “This is Bobbie Talbert, who was murdered and buried by coincidence at the same location as the ancients here. He has been torturing them for 40 years with the worst karaoke ever.” The tribe sang a little Sinatra to honor Bobbie, then returned to their ritual.
Mia came down to the inlet at dusk, knowing that the mermaids were leaving. The few she’d seen out on the rocks recently coughed and sputtered from the mounting pollution; she missed their singsong voices, like crystal chimes stirring in a light breeze. Mia saw dark shadows in the water heading towards the canal and, through it, the greater oceans of the world. Feeling not nearly good enough, she walked out as far as she dared and began to sing. She sang of the wind and the sea and life on the island, of love and laughter and the pain of long farewells. So many heads bobbed in the water that she was afraid to count them. “I just wanted to wish you well!” she called out. “I wanted to tell you that I won’t forget!” And, although Mia lived a very, very long time, she never did.
Responding to a growing demographic, Disney took to the storyboards and produced a zombie princess fairytale. They were (predictably) criticized both for their lack of sensitivity to the families of plague victims and to the living-challenged themselves (for idealizing their look and behavior for the sake of marketing). Just as predictably, however, the film’s theme medley, “Give Me A Smart Boy (A Boy with Brains)” and “Pieces and Parts, You Know the Way to My Heart”, won an Oscar for Best Song.
It was a short leap from the love of string and sealing wax to an obsession with pure gold. And, while sometimes he missed Honah Lee and the innocent fun he’d had with Jackie Paper, Smaug didn’t miss the nickname “Puff”. Gods, that had always been embarrassing.
“Winter is here again, O Lord,” the guy at the bus stop sang softly, “… sent a letter on a long summer day …” The woman in the grey business suit started humming in spite of herself, “… Oh, I can’t take this very much longer …” And everyone joined in under their breath at the chorus, “The wheel in the sky keeps on turnin’ … I don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow …” By the time the 14N arrived, the first guy had vanished into thin air. All of the Old Testament spirits would chuckle; that was Ezekiel for you: drop the wheel earworm and blow.
2am and I was pushing myself to make it through Nebraska before dawn. The road stretched on forever; it was just me and the radio burning miles of flat flat flat nothing. “On a dark, desert highway,” it began, “cool wind in my hair”. “I LOVE this song!” I said to the empty passenger seat and sang as the night pressed in. “Warm smell of colitas … rising up through the air … up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light …” I stopped singing and changed the channel abruptly, getting something painful in a polka. I felt better … safer. Some songs are more like spells; you gotta be careful what you sing in the dark on the open road to Anything that might be listening.
Charlene came up between deep layers of fog to find a small girl sitting on her hospice bed. “Hi,” came the sweet, bright voice, “I’m Mary.” “Um …,” responded Charlene, unsure of how real this all was. “Soon now,” Mary continued, “you really will wake up to the sound of music – to wisdom and answers.” “I’m going then?” she whispered, knowing her question was rhetorical. Mary smiled. “There will be no clouds and no hour of darkness, only the light that shines on you. Until tomorrow, just rest and let it all be.” Charlene smiled, “I love that song, you know.” “I know, right?” Mary nodded as she reached for Charlene’s hand.
John listened with the others, tense, for Adrienne’s arrival at the office every morning – listened closely to what she was humming. Their lives would go well that week if it was anything rock or blues or jazz or country; if, however, she sat down in her office with a Starbuck’s latte and a one-person rendition of “O,Fortuna” from the Carmina Burana, well … “Always know where the closest exit is,” Barbara had told him in a hushed and frightened tone that first day.
“So, Mom, Dad, I’m thinking of dropping out of school and being a musician and a singer. I’d like to front my own indie rock band. I don’t want to make you mad, but I suck at school and I’m good at music; I think I can make it big.” There was a long period of silence. At last, her father spoke: “No necromancy, then?” She sighed with relief. “I’ll do necromancy, too, Dad; I just want to mix it up with the music stuff!” Her mother visibly relaxed. “Oh, good; you had us worried there for a minute,” she said smiling.