Soul music, p.30
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       Soul Music, p.30

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 30

 

  creaked continuously, partly because of all the machinery and partly because the orang-utan was wrenching both handles, jumping up and down on the Fire pedal, and screaming at the top of his voice. I wouldnt have it in the place, said the barman behind him. But its popular with the customers, you see. ONE CUSTOMER, ANYWAY. Well, its better than the fruit machine, at least. YES? He ate all the fruit. There was a screech of rage from the direction of the machine. The barman sighed. You wouldnt think anyoned make so much fuss over a penny, would you? The ape slammed a dollar coin on the counter and went away with two handfuls of change. One penny in a slot allowed a very large lever to be pulled; miraculously, all the Barbarians rose from the dead and began their wobbly invasion again. He poured his drink into it, said the barman. It may be my imagination, but I think theyre wobbling a bit more now. Death watched the game for a while. It was one of the most depressing things hed ever seen. The things were going to get down to the bottom of the game anyway. Why shoot things at them? Why. . . ? He waved his glass at the assembled drinkers. DYOU. DYOU. THING IS, DYOU KNOW WHAT ITS LIKE, EH, HAVING A MEMORY SO GOOD, RIGHT, SO GOOD YOU EVEN REMEMBER WHAT HASNT HAPPENED YET? THATS ME. OH, YES. RIGHT ENOUGH. AS THOUGH. AS THOUGH. AS THOUGH THERES NO FUTURE . . . ONLY THE PAST THAT HASNT HAPPENED YET. AND. AND. AND. YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS ANYWAY. YOU KNOW WHATS GOING TO HAPPEN AND YOU HAVE TO DO THINGS. He looked around at the faces. People in the Drum were used to alcoholic lectures, but not ones like this. YOU SEE. YOU SHEE. YOU SEE STUFF LOOMING UP LIKE ICEBERG THINGS AHEAD BUT YOU MUSTNT DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT BECAUSE -BECAUSE BECAUSEITSALAW. CANT BREAK THE LAW. SGOTABEALAW. SEE THIS GLASS, RIGHT? SEE IT? S LIKE MEMORY. ONNACOUNTA IF YOU PUT MORE STUFF IN, MORE STUFF FLOWS OUT, RIGHT? S FACT. EVERYONEGOTTA MEMORY LIKE THIS. SWHAT KEEPS HUMANS FROM GOING ISS- ISH- INSH- MAD. CEPT ME. POOROLE ME. I REMEMBER EVERYTHING. AS IF IT HAPPENED ONLY TOMORROW. EVERYTHING. He looked down at his drink. AH, he said, FUNNY HOW THINGS COME BACK TO YOU, ISNT IT? It was the most impressive collapse the bar had ever seen. The tall dark stranger fell backwards slowly, like a tree. There was no cissy sagging of the knees, no cop-out bouncing off a table on the way down. He simply went from vertical to horizontal in one marvellous geometric sweep. Several people applauded as he hit the floor. Then they searched his pockets, or at least made an effort to search his pockets but couldnt find any. And then they threw him into the river. [24] In the giant black study of Death one candle burned, and got no shorter. Susan leafed frantically through the books. Life wasnt simple. She knew that; it was the Knowledge, which went with the job. There was

  the simple life of living things but that was, well . . . simple . . . There were other kinds of life. Cities had life. Anthills and swarms of bees had life, a whole greater than the sum of the parts. Worlds had life. Gods had a life made up of the belief of their believers. The universe danced towards life. Life was a remarkably common commodity. Anything sufficiently complicated seemed to get cut in for some, in the same way that anything massive enough got a generous helping of gravity. The universe had a definite tendency towards awareness. This suggested a certain subtle cruelty woven into the very fabric of space-time. Perhaps even a music could be alive, if it was old enough. Life is a habit. People said: I cant get that darn tune out of my head . . . Not just a beat, but a heartbeat. And anything alive wants to breed. C. M. O. T. Dibbler liked to be up at first light, in case there was an opportunity to sell a worm to the early bird. He had set up a desk in the corner of one of Chalkys workshops. He was, by and large, against the idea of a permanent office. On the positive side it made him easier to find, but on the negative side it made him easier to find. The success of Dibblers commercial strategy hinged on him being able to find customers, not the other way around. Quite a large number of people seemed to have found him this morning. Many of them were holding guitars. Right, he said to Asphalt, whose flat head was just visible over the top of the makeshift desk. All understood? Itll take you two days to get to Pseudopolis and then you report to Mr Klopstock at the Bull Pit. And Ill want receipts for everything.

  Yes, Mr Dibbler.

  Itll be a good idea to get away from the city for a bit.

  Yes, Mr Dibbler.

  Did I already say I wanted receipts for everything?

  Yes, Mr Dibbler, sighed Asphalt. Off you go, then. Dibbler ignored the troll and beckoned to a group of dwarfs whod been hanging around patiently. OK, you lot, come over here. So you want to be Music With Rocks In stars, do you?

  Yes, sir!

  Then listen here to what I say . . . Asphalt looked at the money. It wasnt much to feed four people for several days. Behind him, the interview continued. So what do you call yourselves?

  Er - dwarfs, Mr Dibbler, said the lead dwarf. I “Dwarfs”?

  Yes, sir. ,Why?, Because we are, Mr Dibbler, said the lead dwarf patiently. No, no, no. That wont do. That wont do at all. You gotta have a name with a bit of- Dibbler waved his hands in the air, -with a bit of Music With Rocks In . . . uh . . . in. Not just “Dwarfs”. You gotta be . . . oh, I dont know . . . something more interesting.

  But were certainly dwarfs, said one of the dwarfs. “Were Certainly Dwarfs”, said Dibbler. Yes, that might work. OK. I can book you in at the Bunch of Grapes on Thursday. And into the Free Festival, of course. Since its free you dont get paid, of course.

  Weve written this song, said the head dwarf, hopefully. Good, good, said Dibbler, scribbling on his notepad.

  Its called “Somethings Gotten Into My Beard”.

  Good.

  Dont you want to hear it? Dibbler looked up. Hear it? Id never get anything done if I went around listening to music. Off you go. See you next Wednesday. Next! You all trolls?

  Days right. In this case, Dibbler decided not to argue. Trolls were a lot bigger than dwarfs. All right. But youve got to spell it with a Z. Trollz. Yep, looks good. Mended Drum, Friday. And the Free Festival. Yes?

  Weve done a song-

  Good for you. Next!

  Its us, Mr Dibbler. Dibbler looked at Jimbo, Noddy, Crash and Scum. Youve got a nerve, he said, after last night.

  We got a bit carried away, said Crash. We was wondering if we could have another chance?

  You did say the audience loved us, said Noddy. Loathed you. I said the audience loathed you, said Dibbler. Two of you kept looking at Blert Wheedowns guitar primer!

  Weve changed our name, said Jimbo. We thought, well, Insanity was a bit daft, its not a proper name for a serious band thats pushing back the boundaries of musical expression and is definitely going to be big one day.

  Thursday, nodded Noddy. So now were Suck, said Crash. Dibbler gave them a long, cool look. Bear-baiting, bullharassing, dog-fighting and sheep- worrying were currently banned in Ankh-Morpork, although the Patrician did permit the unrestricted hurling of rotten fruit at anyone suspected of belonging to a street theatre group. There was perhaps an opening. All right, he said. You can play at the Festival. After that . . . well see. After all, he thought, there was a possibility that theyd still be alive. A figure climbed slowly and unsteadily out of the Ankh on to a jetty by the Misbegot Bridge, and stood for a moment as mud dripped off him and formed a puddle under the planks. The bridge was quite high. There were buildings on it, lining it on both sides so that the actual roadway was quite cramped. The bridges were quite popular as building sites, because they had a very convenient sewage system and, of course, a source of fresh water. There was the red eye of afire in the shadows under the bridge. The figure staggered towards the light. The dark shapes around it turned and squinted into the gloom, trying to fathom the nature of the visitor. Its a farm cart, said Glod. I know a farm cart when I see one. Even if it is painted blue. And its all battered.

  Its all you can afford, said Asphalt. Anyway, I put fresh straw in.

  I thought we were going in the stagecoach, said Cliff. Oh, Mr Dibbler says artistes of your calibre shouldnt travel in a common public vehicle, said Asphalt. Besides, he said you wouldnt want the ex
pense.

  What do you think, Buddy? said Glod. Dont mind, said Buddy vaguely. Glod and Cliff shared a glance. I bet if you were to go and see Dibbler and demand something better, youd get it, said Glod hopefully.

  Its got wheels, said Buddy. Itll do. . He climbed aboard and sat down in the straw. Mr Dibblers had some new shirts done, said Asphalt, aware that there was not a lot of jolliness in the air. Its for the tour. Look, it says on the back everywhere youre going, isnt that nice?

  Yes, when the Musicians Guild twist our heads round well be able to see where weve been, said Glod. Asphalt cracked his whip over the horses. They ambled off at a pace that suggested they intended to keep it up all day, and no idiot too soft to really use a whip properly was going to change their minds. Buggrit, buggrit! The grawney man, says I. Buggrit. Hes a yellow gloak, so he is. Ten thousand years! Buggrit. REALLY? Death relaxed. There were half a dozen people around the fire. And they were convivial. A bottle was circling the group. Well, actually it was half a tin, and Death hadnt quite worked out what was in it or in the rather larger tin that was bubbling on the fire of old boots and mud. They hadnt asked him who he was. None of them had names, as far as he could tell. They had . . . labels, like Stalling Ken and Coffin Henry and Foul Ole Ron, which said something about what they were but nothing about what they had been. The tin reached him. He passed it on as tactfully as he could, and lay back peacefully. People without names. People who were as invisible as he was. People for whom Death was always an option. He could stay here awhile. Free music, Mr Clete growled. Free! What sort of idiot makes music for free? At least you put a hat down, get people to drop the odd copper in. Otherwise whats the point? He stared at the paperwork in front of him for so long that Satchelmouth coughed politely. Im thinking, said Mr Clete. That wretched Vetinari. He said its up to Guilds to enforce guild law-

  I heard theyre leaving the city, said Satchelmouth. On tour. Out in the country, I heard. Its not our law out there.

  The country, said Mr Clete. Yes. Dangerous place, the country.

  Right, said Satchelmouth. Theres turnips, for a start. Mr Cletes eye fell on the Guilds account books. It occurred to him, not for the first time, that far too many people put their trust in iron and steel when gold made some of the best possible weapons. Is Mr Downey still head of the Assassins Guild? he said. The other musicians looked suddenly nervous. Assassins? said Herbert Mr Harpsichord Shuffle. I dont think anyones ever called in the Assassins. This is guild business, isnt it? Cant have another guild interfering.

  Thats right, said Satchelmouth. Whatd happen if people knew wed used the Assassins?

  Wed get a lot more members, said Mr Clete in his reasonable voice, and we could probably put the subscriptions up. Hat. Hat. Hat.

  Now hang on a minute, said Satchelmouth. I dont mind us seeing to people who wont join. Thats proper guild behaviour, that is. But Assassins . . . well . . .

  Well what? said Mr Clete. They assassinate people.

  You want free music, do you? said Mr Clete. Well, of course I dont want-

 
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