The Last sad song

Submitted into Contest #98 in response to: Write a story involving a character who cannot return home.... view prompt

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African American Fantasy

The Last Sad song (a tale for children of a certain disposition)-

This is a story about horrible things happening to children. This tale is likely true for countless children throughout the universe, but we will focus on one particular child, on one particular planet, in one particular galaxy. This tale is about Penelope.

Penelope lived on a planet very much like our own except for the fact that it wasn’t. It had a name which is of no significant importance to our tale but which for the sake of useful uselessness is called Clifford.

Cliffordian children did not enjoy parties, or birthdays, Halloween or Christmases. The very thought of children laughing in enjoyment could have caused blue apoplexy, which is the very worst kind of apoplexy. Happy music was deemed unnecessary and to ensure it stayed that way, blues music was piped loudly through large loudspeakers placed on each street corner with a dose of Swedelfish dirges each second Sunday.

It wasn’’t always so. There was a time when Cliffordians had been happy. Howlingers, Tinglers and Wormers who made up most of the population, lived in harmony; that is until the day some children accidentally broke the Light that lit the world. From that day children were banned from growing up and punished daily for their sins. Penelope for posterity is nine years old. She’s been nine for a long time.

As is the custom, the ban was given a name. It is called The Walter Principle.

It came about when the Howlinger kids were told to come in for tea but they’’d disobeyed and continued to play and Walter Howlinger the Third had thrown a high pass; a very high pass. 

The ball flew upwards and onwards until it broke the Light that lit the world and Clifford was plunged into everlasting darkness.

From that day, children were punished for mass disobedience. The Grand Precedent, who in reality was the Grand President but because the darkening darkness meant the typographer had misspelt his name on the Declaration of Office, had declared children had to submit to daily doses of asafoetida and have their earwax removed painfully to make candles, for that was now the only source of light in the twilight world of Clifford.

Penelope was a Wormer. Wormers were different to Howlingers in the fact that they had one blue eye and one brown eye whereas the Howlingers had one brown eye and one blue eye. The Tinglers had one brown eye, one blue eye and a mole on their left cheek to distinguish themselves from Howlingers but since it was so dark, identity had become a lost cause.

Penelope Wormer lived with parents who treated her with unkindly abuse. Occasionally she asked “Why?” and her parents would stare in disbelief and administer an extra dose of asafoetida for talking out of turn and life would continue.

On the first day of Wintertide things began to change. Penelope and Joshua Howlinger, the neighbour’s kid, were walking to school. It was a long walk as both families had obeyed the Grand Precedent’s Fifth Edict which was to live as far away from schools as was possible. The small ear wax candle they’’d been given at the start of the journey seemed wholly inadequate.

“”Do you feel like dying?”” Joshua said.

“”I guess”,” she answered and thought about it a little more. “”If we did, all of us I mean, they’’d have no one to blame.””

“”They’’d blame Howlingers’.” replied Joshua, “It was my great, great uncle that broke the Light and folks see us differently. We don’t have a Tingler mole and our eyes are brown and blue, not blue and brown. We’’d be blamed, then when all the Howlingers are killed off the Wormers would declare war on the Tinglers for having that darned mole and soon there’’d be no-one left at all.””

Penelope opened her bag and pulled out a mirror. She held it up and in the dying flame of the ear wax candle held it close to their faces.

““Look.”” She pointed to their reflection. ““Now I’’m a Howlinger and you’’re a Wormer.””

Joshua smiled. He felt an inexplicable sensation. Had he known what a sensation was he may have been able to explain what happened next? He kissed Penelope Wormer. It was just a quick peck, on the cheek, short but decidedly sweet.

It changed everything.

The dark became a little less black and the blues had a little more swing. At bedtime although it was difficult, they communicated by throwing paper planes over the garden fence inscribed with words written in cold cabbage ink and sealed with a kiss And with each kiss life became less burdensome. Joshua never really understood what was happening but he liked it all the same.

On the last evening of Wintertide with the temperature gauge on Grandpa Wormers’ barometer showing “Bone Snapping” , Penelope Wormer climbed out of her bedroom window, ran across the yard and out towards the Leafless Forest where she and Joshua had agreed that afternoon to meet before running away. However, an unfortunate misunderstanding at the Howlingers’ household where both Ma and Pa Howlinger had unknowingly and separately doled out a measure of asafoetida to a protesting Joshua had resulted in the poor boy being tied to a toilet seat for the whole evening and therefore unable to escape.

Penelope waited under the branches of a Whenworther tree and listened to the refrain of Billie Whatsaholiday, singing something sad but nice; real nice. She closed her eyes and never once felt cold. She would never go home.

Next day, Cliffordians woke up to a day; a real day with morning and birdsong and light. They swarmed out of their houses, looked around and saw each other as they really were. They hugged their children and went out and bought each and every one a cherry topped sundae. The Grand Precedent announced Christmas would last three weeks then set all precedents aside including himself and ordered as his final edict that the world should listen only to Fifties’ rock’ n roll.

Joshua Howlinger ran as fast as he could to the place where he should have been and found nothing. He called out but she never replied. He fell onto his knees and cried; then slowly, lifted up his eyes towards the sky, where from the centre of a bright ball of light he saw the face of Penelope Wormer smiling down at him and he understood everything.

There would be no more sad songs.

June 18, 2021 08:24

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1 comment

Opal Knight
08:15 Jun 24, 2021

It moved quite fast, but was still easy to follow. Very sweet story, but not lacking the bitter tint I feel the prompt supplies. Good job!


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