The Bluebottle Boys (Vol. 1) — Chapter 18, Solihull, 31 March 1962: Bethany, Part II [section 2 of 12]

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In another four minutes I approached the Ford.

For some reason, it looked far more wintry than it had last time, almost like Christmas 1960, with the fog rolling in, although there was more snow this time, and much less mud. For a moment, I considered standing on the bridge as I sang “Walking Backwards for Christmas,” but decided it wouldn’t be the same without Stan singing along.

I noticed the log on which I’d sat last time was now on my side of the river, but on the other side of the bridge, towards where we’d gone that Christmas Eve day. I was obliged to dust some snow off it before I sat down.

“Strange situation,” I thought, since there’d been no snowfall in nearly a month, and no snow on the log the  last time I’d sat there.

I sat down, took out the guitar and played the simplified version of Telemann’s “Double Fantasia in A Major” that my guitar teacher had given me the week before he’d had his attack of the vapors and stomped out of my life forever.

I’d made a point of teaching myself how to play it and all  other Baroque works he was going to start me on, just to prove to him – to myself, really – that I could do it without him. I might’ve simplified the music even further than my teacher had, often down to melody and chords – sometimes even half-barred the chords, even used my thumb to barre, now and then – but I’d done it.

Take that, you pretentious prat, I did it without you!

But there was no sign of Bethany. Undaunted, I switched to pieces I could sing, reprising “What If I Never Speed” and “Fine Knacks for Ladies.” There was no reply, except from within the undergrowth where I’d hidden the week before.

I heard a voice that sounded very much like that of the young woman who’d liked my playing the week before whisper, “He sings beautifully, too,” followed at once by a “sshhh” that must’ve come from her companion.

But neither sound nor shadow came from Bethany.

Genuinely disappointed, I thought I might prod her with a pair of simplified Scarlatti sonatas. Only the sound of rushing river replied – I wasn’t even sure if the young adult couple was still in hiding or if they’d moved on.

At my wits end, and ready to give up, I took out a version of “Plaisir d’Amour” with Welsh lyrics that I’d found amongst some old sheet music as I’d cleaned out Gramfer’s original guitar case. My own Welsh had improved under Grammer’s ongoing tutelage, but was still nothing to write home about. But, she’d taught me a handful of basic pronunciation rules, and I’d written out the lyrics phonetically on a sheet of paper.

I began to play and sing, but had only gone as far as completing the first chorus when vapors began to coagulate around a lucent white light. Bethany, dressed this time in her beautiful white gown, began to materialize before me. She remained translucent but fully visible by the time she was 20 meters from me.

She smiled at me, beckoned and went back the way she’d come. I stopped playing and singing, put the guitar back in its case and followed her, taking a moment to look back at the young adult couple, who’d come out from hiding to stare at me in stunned surprise. I waved at them. Then,  there was a flash of light; they vanished before my eyes.

 

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

The Bluebottle Boys (Volume One) and Walking Backward for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall are each now available from Amazon Books. The Bluebottle Boys (Volume Two) is expected to be available late this year. Gilbertine & the Exhange (Volume Two) will be available in early 2020.