Soul music, p.24
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       Soul Music, p.24

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 24


  One of my guitar strings has broke.

  Well, youve got five more, aint you?

  Yur. But I doesnt know how to play them, like.

  You didnt know how to play six, right? So now youre a bit less ignorant. Scum peered around the curtain. Crash?


  Theres hundreds of people out there. Hundreds! A lot of em have got guitars, too. Theyre sort of waving em in the air! Insanity listened to the roar from the other side of the curtain. Crash did not have too many brain-cells, and they often had to wave to attract one anothers attention, but he had a tiny flicker of doubt that the sound that Insanity had achieved, while a good sound, was the sound that hed heard last night in the Drum. The sound made him want to scream and dance, while the other sound made him . . . well . . . made him want to scream and smash Scums drum-kit over its owners head, quite frankly. Noddy took a peek between the curtains. Hey, theres a bunch of wiz . . . I think theyre wizards, right in the front row, he said. Im . . . pretty sure theyre wizards, but, I mean . . .

  You can tell, stupid, said Crash. Theyve got pointy hats.

  Theres one with . . . pointy hair . . . said Noddy. The rest of Insanity applied eyes to the gap. Looks like . . . a kind of unicorn spike made out of hair. . . Whats that hes got on the back of his robe? said Jimbo. It says BORN TO RUNE, said Crash, who was the fastest reader in the group and didnt need to use his finger at all. The skinny ones wearing a flared robe, said Noddy. He must be old.

  And theyve all got guitars! Do you reckon theyve come to see us?

  Bound to have, said Noddy. Thats a bodacious audience, said Jimbo. Yeah, thats right, bodacious, said Scum. Er. Whats bodacious mean?

  Means . . . means it bodes, said Jimbo. Right. It looks like its boding all right. Crash thrust aside his doubts. Lets get out there, he said, and really show them what Music With Rocks In is about! Asphalt, Cliff and Glod sat in one corner of the dressing room. The roar of the crowd could be heard from here. Whys he not saying anything? Asphalt whispered. Dunno, said Glod. Buddy was staring at nothing, with the guitar cradled in his arms. Occasionally hed slap the casing, very gently, in time with whatever thoughts were sluicing through his head. He goes like that sometimes, said Cliff. Just sits and looks at the air-

  Hey, theyre shouting something out there, said Glod. Listen. The roar had a rhythm to it. Sounds like “Rocks, Rocks, Rocks”, said Cliff. The door burst open and Dibbler half-ran, half-fell in. Youve got to get out there! he shouted. Right now!

  I thought the Insanitary boys-Glod began. Dont even ask, said Dibbler. Come on! Otherwise theyll wreck the place! Asphalt picked up the rocks. OK, he said. No, said Buddy. What dis? said Dibbler. Nerves?

  No. Music should be free. Free as the air and the sky. Glods head spun around. Buddys voice had a faint suggestion of harmonics. Sure, right, thats what I said, said Dibbler. The Guild- Buddy unfolded his legs and stood up. I expect people had to pay to get in here, didnt they? he said. Glod looked at the others. No-one else seemed to have noticed it. But there was a twang on the edge of Buddys words, a sibilance of strings. Oh, that. Of course, said Dibbler. Got to cover expenses. Theres your wages . . . wear and tear on the floor . . . heating and lighting . . . depreciation . . . The roar was louder now. It had a certain footstamping component. Dibbler swallowed. He suddenly had the look of a man prepared to make the supreme sacrifice. I could . . . maybe go up . . . maybe . . . a dollar, he said, each word fighting its way out of the strongroom of his soul. If we go on stage now, I want us to do another performance, said Buddy. Glod glared suspiciously at the guitar. What? No problem. I can soon-Dibbler began. Free.

  Free? The word got past Dibblers teeth before they could snap shut. He rallied magnificently. You dont want paying? Certainly, if- Buddy didnt move. I mean, we dont get paid and people dont have to pay to listen. As many people as possible.



  Wheres the profit in that? An empty beer bottle vibrated off the table and smashed on the floor. A troll appeared in the doorway, or at least part of it did. It wouldnt be able to get into the room without ripping the door-frame out, but it looked as though it wouldnt think twice about doing so. Mr Chrysoprase says, whats happening? it growled. Er- Dibbler began. Mr Chrysoprase dont like being kept waiting.

  I know, it-

  He gets sad if hes kept waiting-

  All right! shouted Dibbler. Free! And thats cutting my own throat. You do know that, dont you? Buddy played a chord. It seemed to leave little lights in the air. Lets go, he said softly. I know this city, Dibbler mumbled, as The Band With Rocks In hurried towards the vibrating stage. Tell people somethings free and youll get thousands of them turning up- Needing to eat, said a voice in his head. It had a twang. Needing to drink. Needing to buy Band With Rocks In shirts . . . Dibblers face, very slowly, rearranged itself into a grin. A free festival, he said. Right! Its our public duty. Music should be free. And sausages in a bun should be a dollar each, mustard extra. Maybe a dollar-fifty. And thats cutting my own throat. In the wings, the noise of the audience was a solid wall of sound. Theres lots of them, said Glod. I never played for that many in my entire life! Asphalt was arranging Cliffs rocks on the stage and getting massive applause and catcalls. Glod glanced up at Buddy. He hadnt let go of the guitar all this time. Dwarfs werent given to

  deep introspection, but Glod was suddenly aware of a desire to be a long way from here, in a cave somewhere. Best of luck, you guys, said a flat little voice behind them. Jimbo was bandaging Crashs arm. Er, thanks, said Cliff. What happened to you?

  They threw something at us, said Crash. What?

  Noddy, I think. What could be seen of Crashs face broke into a huge and terrible smile. We done it, though! he said. We done music with rocks in all right! That bit where Jimbo smashed his guitar, they loved that bit!

  Smashed his guitar?

  Yeah, said Jimbo, with the pride of the artist. On Scum. Buddy had his eyes closed. Cliff thought he could see a very, very faint glow surrounding him, like a thin mist. There were tiny points of light in it. Sometimes, Buddy looked very elvish. Asphalt scurried off the stage. OK, all done, he said. The others looked at Buddy. He was still standing with his eyes shut, as if he was asleep on his feet. Well . . . get on out there, then? said Glod. Yes, said Cliff, well get on out there, will we? Er. Buddy? Buddys eyes snapped open suddenly. Lets rock, he whispered. Cliff had thought that the sound was loud before, but it hit him like a club as they trooped out of the wings. Glod picked up his horn. Cliff sat down and found his hammers. Buddy walked to the centre of the stage and, to Cliffs amazement, just stood there looking down at his feet. The cheering began to subside. And then died away altogether. The huge hall was filled with the hush of hundreds of people holding their breath. Buddys fingers moved. He picked out three simple little chords. And then he looked up. Hello, Ankh-Morpork! Cliff felt the music rise up behind him and rush him forward into a tunnel of fire and sparks and excitement. He brought his hammers down. And it was Music With Rocks In. C. M. O. T. Dibbler stood out in the street so that he didnt have to hear the music. He was smoking a cigar and doing calculations on the back of an overdue bill for stale buns. Lessee . . . OK, have it outside somewhere, so theres no rent . . . maybe ten thousand people, one sausageinna-bun each at a dollar-fifty, no, say a dollar-seventy-five, mustard tenpence extra - ten thousand Band With Rocks In shirts at five dollars each, make that ten dollars . . . add stall rental for other traders, because people who like Music With Rocks In could probably be persuaded to buy anything . . . He was aware of a horse coming along the street. He paid it no attention until a female voice said: How do I get in here?

  No chance. Tickets all sold out, said Dibbler, without turning his head. Even Band With Rocks In posters, people had been offering three dollars just for posters, and Chalky the troll could knock out a hundred a-

  He looked up. The horse, a magnificent white one, watched him incuriously. Dibbler looked around. Whered she g
o? There were a couple of trolls lounging just inside the entrance. Susan ignored them. They ignored her. In the audience, Ponder Stibbons looked both ways and cautiously opened a wooden box. The stretched string inside began to vibrate. This is all wrong! he shouted in Ridcullys ear. This is not according to the laws of sound!

  Maybe theyre not laws! screamed Ridcully. People a foot away couldnt hear him. Maybe theyre just guidelines!

  No! There have to be laws! Ridcully saw the Dean try to climb on the stage in the excitement. Asphalts huge troll feet landed heavily on his fingers. Oh, I say, good shot, said the Archchancellor. A prickling sensation on the back of his neck made him look around. Although the Cavern was crowded, a space seemed to have formed in the floor. People were pressed together but, somehow, this circle was as inviolate as a wall. In the middle of it was the girl hed seen in the Drum. She was walking across the floor, holding her dress daintily. Ridcullys eyes watered. He stepped forward, concentrating. You could do almost anything if you concentrated. Anyone could have stepped into the circle if their senses had been prepared to let them know it was there. Inside the circle the sound was slightly muted. He tapped her on the shoulder. She spun around, startled. Good evening, said Ridcully. He looked her up and down, and then said, Im Mustrum Ridcully, Archchancellor of Unseen University. I cant help wondering who you are.

  Er . . . The girl looked panicky for a moment. Well, technically . . . I suppose Im Death.


  Yes. But not on duty at the moment.

  Very glad to hear that. There was a shriek from the stage as Asphalt threw the Lecturer in Recent Runes into the audience, which applauded. Cant say Ive seen that much of Death, said Ridcully. But in so far as I have, hes tended to be . . . well, he, to start with. And a good deal thinner . . . ?

  Hes my grandfather.

  Ah. Ah. Really? I didnt even know he was-Ridcully stopped. Well, well, well, fancy that. Your grandfather? And youre in the family firm?

  Shut up, you stupid man, said Susan. Dont you dare patronize me. You see him? She pointed to the stage, where Buddy was in mid-riff. Hes going to die soon because . . . because of silliness. And if you cant do anything about it, go away! Ridcully glanced at the stage. When he looked back, Susan had vanished. He made a mighty effort and thought he caught a glimpse of her a little way off, but she knew he was looking for her and he had no chance of finding her now. Asphalt got back into the dressing room first. There is something very sad about an empty dressing room. Its like a discarded pair of underpants, which it resembles in a number of respects. Its seen a lot of activity. It may even have witnessed excitement and a whole gamut of human passions. And now theres nothing much left but a faint smell. The little troll dumped the bag of rocks on the floor and bit the top off a couple of beer bottles. Cliff entered. He got halfway across the floor and then fell over, hitting the boards with every part of his body at once. Glod stepped over him and flopped on to a barrel.

  He looked at the beer bottles. He took off his helmet. He poured the beer into the helmet. Then he let his head flop forward. Buddy entered and sat down in the corner, leaning against the wall. And Dibbler followed. Well, what can I say? What can I say? he said. Dont ask us, said Cliff from his prone position. How should we know?

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