Soul music, p.23
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       Soul Music, p.23

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 23


  Ye-es. Whatre you thinking of calling it?

  Er . . . r . . . rat . . . music. . .

  Why rat music? Hammerjug looked puzzled. Couldnt really say, he said. It was just an idea I had in my brain. Gortlick shook his head. Dwarfs were a burrowing race. He knew what they liked. Good musics got to have hole in it, he said. You aint got nothing if you aint got hole.

  Now calm down, calm down, said Dibbler. Its the biggest venue in Ankh-Morpork, thats why. I dont see what the problem is . . .

  The Cavern? screamed Glod. Chrysoprase the troll runs it, thats the problem!

  Dey say hes a godfather in the Breccia, said Cliff. Now now, thats never been proved . . .

  Only cos its very hard to prove things when someones scooped a hole in your head and buried your feet in it!

  Theres no need for this prejudice, just because hes a troll-said Dibbler. Im a troll! So I can be prejudiced against trolls, all right? Hes one mean mutherlode! Dey say when dey found the De Bris gang none of em had any teef-

  What is the Cavern? said Buddy. Troll place, said Cliff. Dey say-

  Itll be great! Why worry? said Dibbler. Its a gambling joint, too![21] But the Guild wont go in there, said Dibbler. Not if they know whats good for them.

  And I know whats good for me, too! shouted Glod. Im good at knowing that! Its good for me not to go into a troll dive!

  They threw axes at you in the Drum, said Dibbler, reasonably. Yes, but only in fun. Its not as if they were aiming.

  Anyway, said Cliff, only trolls and damn silly young humans go there who think it clever to drink in a troll bar. You wont get an audience. Dibbler tapped the side of his nose. You play, he said. Youll get an audience. Thats my job.

  The doors arent big enough for me to go in! snapped Glod. Theyre huge doors, said Dibbler. They aint big enough for me cos if you try to get me in there youll have to drag the street in too, on account of me holding on to it!

  No, be sensible-

  No! screamed Glod. And Im screaming for all three of us! The guitar whined. Buddy swung it around until he could hold it, and played a couple of chords. That seemed to calm it down. I think it . . . er . . . likes the idea, he said. It likes the idea, said Glod, simmering down a little bit. Oh, good. Well, do you know what they do to dwarfs who go into the Cavern? `We do need the money, and its probably not worse than what the Guildll do to us if we play anywhere else, said Buddy. And weve got to play. They stood looking at one another. What you boys should do now, said Dibbler, blowing out a smoke ring, `is find somewhere nice and quiet to spend the day. Have a bit of a rest.

  Damn right, said Cliff. I never expected to carry these rocks around the whole time-

  Dibbler raised a finger. Ah, he said, I thought of that, too. You dont want to waste your talents lugging stuff around, thats what I told myself. I hired you a helper. Very cheap, only a dollar a day, Ill take it straight out of your wages sos you dont have to bother about it. Meet Asphalt.

  Who? said Buddy. S me, said one of the sacks beside Dibbler. The sack opened up a bit and turned out not to be a sack at all, but a . . . a sort of crumbled . . . a kind of mobile heap of. . . Buddy felt his eyes watering. It looked like a troll, except that it was shorter than a dwarf. It wasnt smaller than a dwarf - what Asphalt lacked in height he made up in breadth and, while on the subject, also in smell. How come, said Cliff, hes so short? "Nelephant sat on me, said Asphalt, sulkily. Glod blew his nose. Only sat? Asphalt was already wearing a Band With Rocks In shirt. It was tight across the chest but reached down to the floor. Asphaltll look after you, said Dibbler. There isnt anything he doesnt know about show business. Asphalt gave them a big grin. Youll be OK with me, he said. Ive worked with em all, I have. Been everywhere, done it all.

  We could go to the Fronts, said Cliff. No-one around there when the Universitys on holiday.

  Good. Got things to organize, said Dibbler. See you tonight. The Cavern. Seven oclock. He strode off. You know the funny thing about him? said Glod. What?

  The way he was smoking that sausage. Do you think he knew? Asphalt grabbed Cliffs bag and slung it easily over his shoulder. Lets go, boss, he said. An elephant sat on you? said Buddy, as they crossed the square. Yup. At the circus, said Asphalt. I used to muck em arht.

  Thats how you got like that?

  Nope. Dint get like this til elephants had sat on me tree, fo times, said the small flat troll. Dunno why. Id be cleanin up after em, next minute itd all be dark.

  Id have quit after the first time, me, said Glod. Nah, said Asphalt, with a contented smile. Couldnt do that. Show business is in me soul. Ponder looked down at the thing they had hammered together. I dont understand it either, he said. But . . . it looks as though we can trap it in a string, and it makes the string play the music again. Its like an iconograph for sound. Theyd put the wire inside the box, which resonated beautifully. It played the same dozen bars, over and over again. A box of music, said Ridcully. My word!

  What Id like to try, said Ponder, is getting the musicians to play in front of a lot of strings like this. Perhaps we could trap the music.

  What for? said Ridcully. What on Disc for?

  Well . . . if you could get music in boxes you wouldnt need musicians any more. Ridcully hesitated. There was a lot to be said for the idea. A world without musicians had a certain appeal. They were a scruffy bunch, in his experience. Quite unhygienic.

  He shook his head, reluctantly. `Not this sort of music, he said. `We want to stop it, not make more of it.

  What exactly is wrong with it? said Ponder. `Its . . . well, cant you see? said Ridcully. It makes people act funny. Wear funny clothes. Be rude. Not do what theyre told. I cant do a thing with them. Its not right. Besides . . . remember Mr Hong.

  Its certainly very unusual, said Ponder. Can we get some more? For study purposes? Archchancellor? Ridcully shrugged. We follow the Dean, he said. Good grief, breathed Buddy, in the huge echoing emptiness. No wonder they call it the Cavern. Its huge.

  I feel dwarfed, said Glod. Asphalt ambled to the front of the stage. One two, one two, he said. One. One. One two, one tw--

  Three, said Buddy helpfully. Asphalt stopped and looked embarrassed. Just trying the, you know, just trying the . . . trying out the . . . he muttered. Just trying . . . it.

  Well never fill this, said Buddy. Glod poked in a box by the side of the stage. He said, We might. Look at these. He unrolled a poster. The others clustered around. Days a picture of us, said Cliff. Someone painted a picture of us.

  Looking mean, said Glod. “S a good one of Buddy, said Asphalt. Waving his guitar like that.

  Whys there all that lightning and stuff? said Buddy. I never look that mean even when Im mean, said Glod. ”The New Sounde Dats Goin Arounde“, Cliff read, his forehead wrinkling with the effort. ”The Bande With Rockes“, said Glod. Oh, no. It says were going to be here and everything, moaned Glod. Were dead.

  ”Bee There Orr Bee A Rectangular Thyng", said Cliff. I dont understand that.

  Theres dozens of these rolls in here, said Glod. Theyre posters. You know what that means? Hes been having them stuck up in places. Talking of which, when the Musicians Guild get hold of us-

  Musics free, said Buddy. It has to be free.

  What? said Glod. Not in this dwarfs town!

  Then it should be, said Buddy. People shouldnt have to pay to play music.

  Right! That boys right! Thats just what Ive always said! Isnt that what Ive always said? Thats what Ive said, right enough. Dibbler emerged from the shadows in the wings. There was a troll with him who, Buddy surmised, must have been Chrysoprase. He wasnt particularly big, or even very craggy. In fact he had a smooth and glossy look to him, like a pebble found on a beach. There wasnt a trace of lichen anywhere. And he was wearing clothes. Clothes, other than uniforms or special work clothes, werent normally a troll thing. Mostly they wore a loincloth to keep stuff in, and that was that. But Chrysoprase had a suit on. It looked badly tailored. It
was in fact very well tailored, but even a troll with no clothes on looks fundamentally badly tailored. Chrysoprase had been a very quick learner when he arrived in Ankh-Morpork. He began with an important lesson: hitting people was thuggery. Paying other people to do the hitting on your behalf was good business.

  Id like you lads to meet Chrysoprase, said Dibbler. An old friend of mine. Me and him go way back. That right, Chrys?

  Indeed. Chrysoprase gave Dibbler the warm friendly smile a shark bestows on a haddock with whom it suits it, for now, to swim in the same direction. A certain play of silicon muscles in the corners also suggested that, one day, certain people would regret Chrys. Mr Throat tells me youse boys is the best ting since slicing bread, he said. Youse got everyting youse need? They nodded, mutely. People tended not to speak to Chrysoprase in case they said something that offended him. They wouldnt know it at the time, of course. Theyd know it later, when they were in some dark alley and a voice behind them said: Mr Chrysoprase is really upset. Youse go and rest up in your dressing room, he went on. Youse wants any food or drink, youse only got to say. Hed got diamond rings on his fingers. Cliff couldnt stop staring at them. The dressing room was next to the privies and half full of beer barrels. Glod leaned on the door. I dont need the money, he said. Just let me get out of here with my life, thats all I ask.

  Oo ownt ave oo orry- Cliff began. Youre trying to speak with your mouth shut, Cliff, said Buddy. I said, you dont have to worry, youve got der wrong sort of teeth, said the troll. There was a knock on the door. Cliff slammed his hand back over his mouth. But the knock turned out to belong to Asphalt, who was carrying a tray. There were three types of beer. There were even smoked rat sandwiches with the crusts and tails cut off. And there was a bowl of finest anthracite coke with ash on it. Crunch it up good, moaned Glod, as Cliff took his bowl. It may be the last chance you get-

  Maybe no-onell turn up and we can go home? said Cliff. Buddy ran his fingers over the strings. The others stopped eating as the chords filled up the room. Magic, said Cliff, shaking his head. Dont you boys worry, said Asphalt. If there are any problems, its the other guys wholl get it in the teeth. Buddy stopped playing. What other guys? “S funny thing, said the little troll, suddenly everyones playing music with rocks in it. Mr Dibblers signed up another band for the concert, too. To kind of warm it up. ”S called Insanity, said Asphalt. Where are they? said Cliff. Well, put it like this . . . you know how your dressing room is next to the privy? Crash, behind the Caverns raggedy curtain, tried to tune his guitar. Several things got in the way of this simple procedure. Firstly, Blert had realized what his customers really wanted and, praying forgiveness from his ancestors, had spent more time gluing on bits of glittery stuff than he had on the actual functioning sections of the instrument. To put it another way, hed knocked in a dozen nails and tied the strings to them. But this wasnt too much of a problem, because Crash himself had the musical talent of a blocked nostril. He looked at Jimbo, Noddy and Scum. Jimbo, now the bass player (Blert, giggling hysterically, had used a bigger lump of wood and some fence wire), was holding up his hand hesitantly. What is it, Jimbo?

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