Tuesday, 10 January 2012

STC - The Day The Music Died

The prompt was "write a story in which someone dies." I'm not particularly happy with my effort at it, but that happens. I did end up learning that I'm afraid. Afraid of "leaving". Afraid of pain. Afraid of unknown. This story ended up being an allegorical peek into the less appealing days of my inner life and I learned a lot (or at least admitted a lot) by writing it. I'm adding a little insider info at the end for those interested. Enjoy!

 Finnely was a surprisingly small little town, full of small houses and small shops. There were likewise, small schools, small cars, small roads, and even small pets. No one owned anything larger than a terrier. There was only one thing in this small little town that was big, and that would be the families. The bodies of the people themselves were accordingly small, but they were large in number. The least numerous family in town were the Shellhourns with a startling family of nine (eleven counting mom and dad, who would have liked more but hadn’t been able to get pregnant again after their youngest, Alice, was born). The vastest family happened to be that of the Mayor, Walt Winskey. At the ripe age thirty-seven, he and his wife Paula had twenty-eight offspring. On a good day, a Winskey family gathering would draw roughly five hundred people. A vein of fertility seemed to run through the Winskey line, but none had been so determined or successful as Walt and Paula in reproduction or profession. As I said, the families in Finnely were large. This is the point where the question of “where in blazes do they all live?” usually comes up. The answer is very simple: In their houses.
 Life in Finnely was very basic. There wasn’t the typical vicious cycle of small town gossip, and for the most part everyone was happy with whatever lot fell to them. People rarely became ill and no one had died of anything save old age in more than a hundred years. The only hint at restlessness was a small rift that was forming in the visiting habits of the townsfolk. No one really noticed this happening, but from my vantage point, we are fortunate enough to take in the whole picture. You see, over the last year the social habits of our dear Finnelyians have become bipolar towards the Shellhourns and the Winskey’s respectively. The first, though abnormally small in number, were extraordinarily kind. There were always more children playing on their street than any other because of Nora Shellhourns propensity toward baking and story telling. Mr. Shellhourn was often seen in the garage surrounded by his children and his peers working over some project or another. There was hardly a person in town who did not bloom a smile when crossing paths with a Shellhourn, but no one really noticed this. Conversely, while the Winskey’s were not unkind, there was no one that would call them charming, and had become somewhat isolated. They took little notice of anything that was happening outside of their surname, sporting a disposition and situation fostering the suggestion of aristocracy in their perspectives. There were more than a few people in town that were playing their best cards to gain acceptance into this exclusive club. No one thought of this as outre’ because no one really noticed.
  A while back, shops started giving discounts to Winskeys, and others would always add some extra produce to the Shellhourns’ order. Then it grew to the point that those same favors applied to people who were aquainted with one or the other family. Now it was so bad that many of the shops labeled themselves Win-shops and Shell-shops to denote their desired, if not required, patronage. The families themselves were starting to notice the separation. The Shellhourns urged strongly against such actions (solidifying the superiority of their goodness in the eyes of their friends) and the Winskeys just wrote it off as an alternate option for the unfortunate percentage of the population that didn’t care enough to be their friends.
  Cornelius Thunderbolt Winskey the 7th was the youngest of seven brothers and nine sisters. He was the great-great-grandfather of Walt and the oldest citizen of Finnley at the age of 97. Cornelius was nearly blind, halfway deaf and as dearly loved as any member of the Shellhourn family. He had outlived all of his siblings and friends, and even some of his children. On an average day, the aged man walked around the small town with his small dog, Chester, and dropped in on all the welcoming shopkeepers (his geniality and his name granted unbiased entrance). No one ever felt like the old man was giving them advice, and he didn’t feel like he was giving it either, but no one would argue that their days were happier and their income fuller after spending time with him. Overall, Cornelius was a very wise and a very popular old man.
  One warm day at the end of June, unbeknownst to Shellhourn or Winskey, an impromptu group of townsfolk gathered in the square. A Shell-shop and a Win-shop owner had gotten into a heated discussion over the price of turnips (and other various produce) and what Mr.Shell. or Mr. Win. would think of said price. Their voices escalated to shouts and crowds gathered on their respective sides. The debate gathered momentum quickly, and soon there were regular intervals of a lone, shouted point for or against, then a mass concurrence. The shop owners were speaking directly for either family now “Mr. Winskey hates Braeburn apples! He’s the MAYOR, and he thinks you shouldn’t keep them stocked!” “Well, Mr. Shellhourn loves Braeburns, and he thinks that this is still a free country!” If I had thought the shouting was at it’s maximum level, I was wrong. In a matter of moments the intervals of individual points had ceases completely and the sound was rising from a clamor to a roar, just like a wave rises before crashing down onto itself. There were fists shaking in the air and small fights breaking out where the seams of either group joined. Those small fights spread like water through a sponge and now the angry yelling was punctuated with cries of fear from mothers separated from children, or too-young boys thrown into the brawl.
  Once the morning broke over the small town of Finnely there were shattered windows and several smashed cars, but it was quiet considering the mob that had ribboned through the streets only hours before. The din had died down, quickly losing steam around midnight. More than once someone muttered the phrase “Not much harm done” in an attempt to grapple with the creeping shame on their way home and as the turnip fighting Shell-shop keeper turned the corner from the town square he did not see the pale, nearly blind, halfway deaf hand laying underneath the only overturned car of the night or the small dog curled sleeping on the pavement beside it.
  That warm day near the end of June was the day the town of Finnely suffered their greatest loss, but no one was sad because no one really noticed.
Note: The title is based off of Don McLean's song American Pie - a song about losing innocence in a way. This story is about that too, in a way, and I meant for Cornelius to represent that bit of me that holds the crazy bits together and helps them get along. Also, Cornelius means "Horn" and that was my obscure way of tying the title into the story.

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