The Band Played On… by Gladys Hobson

The Band Played On.

In the sunny Market Square, the silver band of twenty-eight red-faced elderly gentlemen gave a lively rendition of the Floral Dance, oblivious to the movement of shoppers at nearby stalls and tourists snapping photographs in front of them.
Children, bored with standing at stalls while their mothers looked for bargains, drew closer to the band intrigued by the hand movements that produced the jolly sound. One boy did a good impression of the trombonist, another lad puffed his cheeks and laboured at producing a sound from his invisible euphonium. Little girls laughed and tapped their feet. Before long, more children joined in, with watching adults smiling, tapping and clapping to the merry beat.
A weathered elderly gentleman, with long white beard wagging in tune with the music, began singing:
‘We danced to the band with the curious tone
Of the cornet, clarinet and big trombone…’
The Floral Dance, now in full swing, more girls were dancing and swinging each other round and around while others jigged about doing their own thing.
The music came to an end, but the crowd hooped and yelled for more.
The conductor bowed, turned to the band and raised his baton.
The white-headed, bearded gent took off his coat, threw it over the nearest stall and started singing again, his elbows keeping time with the music.
Shoppers left the stalls and gathered round; smiling, laughing and clapping while their children merrily danced or imitated the musicians and singer:
‘Dancing here, prancing there,
Jigging, jogging ev’rywhere…’
Market smells of fruit and vegetables, the scent of flowers, young women’s perfume, old ladies’ talc’, sweat, soap and aftershave, mingling with fresh air breezes; rainbow colours of summer clothing, moving sights and sounds — all swelling up to entrance and befuddle minds and bodies. Not one person immune to the hypnotic beat:
‘Bassoon, flute and euphonium≤…’
Maggie pulled away from the hand holding hers, and ran forward to join the dancing children in the cobbled square. Round and round, arms waving in time with the beat, laughing and singing the words she could easily remember:
‘Dancing here, dancing there…’
The crowd clapped and sang with her. Maggie’s movements became more intricate while retaining the essential simplicity of country dancing. Girls began imitating her and before long the market place became a throbbing beat of music, clapping and dancing feet. Heated musicians played on, mesmerised by what they had created.
‘Each one making the most of his chance
Altogether in the Floral Dance.’
Round and round and roun…
The crowd hushed, the music petered out, children stopped dancing.
The bearded, elderly man ran forward and fell to his knees by the side of the fallen fragile lady. ‘Are you hurt, Maggie?’
She opened her eyes. ‘Lovely, wasn’t it, daddy?’
‘Yes, my darling, you danced beautifully.’
‘I want…’
Maggie’s eyes closed. The elderly man put an arm under her shoulders and held the old lady to his chest, wiping away long strands of grey hair from her wrinkled face. Tears ran down his cheeks.
A large muscular man from the vegetable stall came forward. ‘I’ll carry her into the chemist’s for you, mate.’
The crowd, no longer hushed, parted and made way for the carried woman.
‘I’ve called an ambulance,’ someone told the old man as they entered the chemist’s shop.
The old man nodded his gratitude but his eyes told those present that nothing would bring his wife back to life again. Even through his tears, he smiled. ‘She loved to dance and sing, you know. The dementia didn’t rob her of everything.’
Outside the band began to play, We’ll Gather Lilacs.
‘That’s our tune. We sang it at our wedding reception.’ He drew in a deep breath and said in a determined manner, ‘Could I have a drink of water please?’
He sat on the chair placed beside his wife, now stretched out on a couch at the back of the shop, and hummed to the music of the band. He took the glass of water being passed to him, shook tablets from a small bottle he’d taken from his jacket pocket, and threw them into the back of his mouth, swallowing them down with the liquid. Then he took his wife’s hand and began to sing in a croaking voice:
‘We’ll gather lilacs in the spring again…’
His quivering voice petered out as his body slumped to the floor.

For books by Gladys Hobson (some in pen names) go to:
http://www.magpiesnestpublishing.co.uk where you can read samples of her work.
Also visit http://writingforjoy.blogspot.com for her other blog and
http://www.myspace.com/gladyswrites to both read and hear stories.
Her latest book, ‘Awakening Love’ can be ordered from Amazon and all good bookshops.

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2 Responses to “The Band Played On… by Gladys Hobson”

  1. Payton L. Inkletter Says:

    What a good short story! Gladys Hobson is brilliant with the unexpected turn, as again she has proven with this one. I was hook line and sinker with that ‘little girl’ breaking free of her ‘mother’s’ hand to join the dancing.
    Then, Gladys exquisitely frosts the cake with some lachrymose, making me, a big tough (any tougher and I’d rust) Aussie koala bear, want to shed a tear. Well done again Gladys, and thank you. And by the way, I smelt the fruit and vegetables, and was moving with the rythym of the band, before you helped me get emotional. My walk is next, and I’ll have a jig in my step, and the air will dry the tear!

  2. Payton L. Inkletter Says:

    Oh, and if I knew how to spell ‘rhythm ‘ I’d be dangerous!

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