“The Stories of Strange Melodies” — a short story by Vivian Li

September 30th, 2019

 

.

.

 

“The Stories of Strange Melodies,” a story by Vivian Li, was a finalist in our recently concluded 51st Short Fiction Contest. It is published with the permission of the author

.

.

.

Image by Bessi from Pixabay

.

The Stories of Strange Melodies

by

Vivian Li

.

___

.

…..The girl lived on the outskirts of town. It was mainly deserted, save for a few wild beasts that roamed the lands. But she lived with the wolves, and couldn`t breathe without feeling their fur across her lips and teeth. She asked them: what would you do if I left? And the wolves shook their grey eyes and stared at her until she cried.

…..One day, when she was walking across the grassland, she came across the sound of a yearning flute. It rang on for miles; coaxing the grass to spring and twirling the vines from their holes. It had the song of a mournful, yearning hunger. It desired to engulf something in its path— it sang to her. But when she approached it, she realized that the ground was sinking beneath her.

…..She glanced around, startled. The golden landscape of rolling hills was transformed into one of rushing, twisting rivers. The flute twittered away above. Now it grew to a swell, a crescendo. She reached for it, but the sun shone in her eyes, until all she could see was a tiny circle of light, burning into her retina. She was a pure trilling note, suspended, in the eye of a hurricane.

…..The flute twirled, into a coaxing, ethereal lullaby. Now she was walking along the green fields she used to live. She walked past the roses, the daffodils, the marigolds with their bowed yellow heads. And she brushed her hands across each of them, her skin feeling like a part of their skin, and she a part of them.

…..Then there was starlight. And she was in the midst of a shower. She touched the first star that fell and whispered, “Please. Let me go home.”

.

***

.

…..The boy set out from his home, hiking over the hills. It was still early, but he was determined to trade in his catch in the village before the sun rose. As he walked with his cane by his side and a pouch slung over his right shoulder, the sun showed its face on the side of the hill. It draped itself over him like a sheet of silk, and in the distance he heard the ring of a familiar clarinet. It sang of the plenty, of the beauty in the world, of the freedom in life. It was a celebration of everything the boy knew, and he stared into the distance for a moment, drinking in the music like a musician caught in the perfection of his performance.

…..Now and then a voice would call from the hills—other farmers, asking him where he was going, but their voices would fade. It was the sound of the clarinet that followed him wherever he went.

…..It followed him from the hills, and into strange boxes with imposing and structured frames. It followed him over the oceans and beyond the present; it carried him forward.

…..It was the momentum he wanted to understand. At one point, he could almost see the figure in the distance, playing on his clarinet. But as he neared the misty shadow, it receded further from him. When his feet ached and he was prepared to retreat, a voice behind him called out and asked the shadow for its name.

…..“Samus,” the shadow shouted back, in a voice all too familiar to him. Samus. The boy. The rascal. The brat. The slave. The mute. The old sheller.

…..Samus, the old man whispered. He blinked, and he was in a dingy room, shelling peas with five hundred other labourers. There were holes in the thatched roofs. His fingers strained to touch the stream of sunlight. But they curled and would not listen to him.

.

***

.

…..The man smiled at his son. The expanse of the world was greater than he’d ever imagined. The tribe was singing their songs, drumming beats and tapping along to the music. His son stood in the midst of them, releasing the long forgotten melody from his oboe.

…..Right now, every note swelled into a perfect shape, and each one felt as soft as sunlight brushing against a hand, or like the moon shedding its tears into the night, crystallizing into a perfect web, catching their hearts in the process.

…..They’d been brought here as English hostages, and at one point the leader had been eyeing them down like prospective sacrifices, but now the men were grinning and bouncing along to the beat. The mountains around them seemed to add onto the majestic symmetry: every man’s breath was a smoky figure towards the tips of its abode, to the peaks of human potential.

…..And the song continued— forever and ever.

…..Before he picked up his oboe, the boy saw a group of men polishing a knife. They kept glancing back at the pair of hostages even now. The grating sound of the knife against stone reverberated in his ears forever.

…..Let the song continue on, and on, and on.

…..Then the sun set, and the men were cold.

…..They tell me that songs will always die,

…..and I suppose it’s true this time.

…..But when light is dark and dark is right,

…..music once again will come alive.

 

.

.

_____

.

.

 

 

Vivian Li is an emerging writer, musician, and inventor who enjoys exploring obscure and intriguing concepts. She also likes to play piano, sing, take nature walks, write poetry/ fiction, read, and learn about how machines work. She is currently studying at the University of Toronto, and has been awarded Gold and Silver Keys from Scholastic Awards for her poetry, and Silver Keys for her fiction. Her creative works are upcoming or have been published in journals or magazines such as .The Window,. ellipsis…literature & art, .Mad Scientist Journal,. and the .UC Review.. Most recently, she has received a certificate of participation from the Humber School for Writer’s Summer Creative Writing Program, a Book Prize for Ted Chamberlin’s Poetry Prize, and Honorable Mentions from Muriel’s Journey Poetry Prize 2019. She can be reached @eliktherain.

.

.

.

Share this:

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

painting of Clifford Brown by Paul Lovering
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Spring/Summer, 2024 Edition...In this, the 17th major collection of jazz poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician, 50 poets from all over the world again demonstrate the ongoing influence the music and its associated culture has on their creative lives.

(featuring the art of Paul Lovering)

Publisher’s Notes

photo by Rhonda Dorsett
On turning 70, and contemplating the future of Jerry Jazz Musician...

The Sunday Poem

photo via RawPixel
"23 Poets remember their father…"

This space on Sunday is generally reserved for a single poet to read one of their works, but this week’s issue -Father’s Day – features 23 poets who weigh in on the complexity of their relationship with their father, revealing love, warmth, regret, sorrow – and in many cases a strong connection to a common love of music.

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Interview

The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Book Excerpt

An excerpt from Emily Jon Tobias’ MONARCH: Stories, and a reflection on our friendship

In Memoriam

photo via Wikimedia Commons
A few words about Willie Mays...Thoughts about the impact Willie Mays had on baseball, and on my life.

Art

photo of Archie Shepp by Giovanni Piesco
The Photographs of Giovanni Piesco: Archie Shepp...photos of the legendary saxophonist (and his rhythm section for the evening), taken at Amsterdam's Bimhuis on May 13, 2001.

Poetry

The cover to Joni Mitchell's 1976 album Hejira [Asylum]; photo by Norman Seeff
“Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada” – a poem (for Joni Mitchell) by Juan Mobili

Click here to read more poetry published in Jerry Jazz Musician

Calling All Poets!

News about a Jerry Jazz Musician printed jazz poetry anthology, and information about submitting your poetry for consideration

Short Fiction

pickpik.com
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Interview

photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”

Playlist

Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.

Feature

Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – Vol. 2: “Fathers in Jazz Fiction”...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this second edition featuring excerpts from his book, Rife writes about four novels/short stories that include stories involving relationships between fathers and children.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

In Memoriam

Hans Bernhard (Schnobby), CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
“Remembering Joe Pass: Versatile Jazz Guitar Virtuoso” – by Kenneth Parsons...On the 30th anniversary of the guitarist Joe Pass’ death, Kenneth Parsons reminds readers of his brilliant career

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #172

photo of Teddy Wilson by William Gottlieb
Teddy Wilson once said this about a fellow jazz pianist:

“That man had the most phenomenal musical gifts I’ve ever heard. He was miraculous. It’s like someone hitting a home run every time he picks up a bat. We became such fast friends that I was allowed to interrupt him anytime he was playing at the house parties in Toledo we used to make every night. When I asked him, he would stop and replay a passage very slowly, showing me the fingering on some of those runs of his. You just couldn’t figure them out by ear at the tempo he played them.”

Who is the pianist he is describing?

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive