Soul music, p.36
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       Soul Music, p.36

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
 
Page 36

 

  Hed have been odd. Odder than most. Albert thought for a moment. And hed have drunk a lot, if I know him. He always does.

  This is Ankh-Morpork, you know.

  Dont be cheeky, or Ill get angry.

  You mean youre not angry now?

  Im just impatient. You can try for angry if you like.

  There was . . . someone . . . few days ago. Cant remember exactly what he looked like-

  Ah. Thatd be him.

  Drank me dry, complained about the Barbarian Invaders game, got legless and then . . .

  What?

  Cant recall. We just threw him out.

  Out the back door?

  Yes.

  But thats just river out there.

  Well, most people come round before they sink. SQUEAK, said the Death of Rats. Did he say anything? said Albert, too busy to pay attention. Something about remembering everything, I think. He said . . . he said being drunk didnt make him forget. Kept going on about doorknobs and . . . hairy sunlight.

  Hairy sunlight?

  Something like that. And the pressure on Hibiscuss arm was suddenly released. He waited a second or two and then, very cautiously, turned his head. There was no-one behind him. Very carefully, Hibiscus bent down to look under the tables. Albert stepped out into the dawn and, after some fumbling, produced his box. He opened it and glanced at his lifetimer, then snapped the lid shut. All right, he said. What next? SQUEAK! What? And someone hit him across the head. It wasnt a killing stroke. Timo Laziman of the Thieves Guild knew what happened to thieves who killed people. The Assassins Guild came and talked briefly to them - in fact, all they said was, Goodbye. All hed wanted to do was knock the old man out so that he could rifle his pockets. Hed not expected the sound as the body hit the ground. It was like the tinkle of broken glass, but with unpleasant overtones that carried on echoing in Timos ears long after they should have stopped. Something leapt from the body and whirred into his face. Two skeletal claws grabbed his ears and a bony muzzle jerked forward and hit him hard on the forehead. He screamed and ran for it. The Death of Rats dropped to the ground again and scurried back to Albert. It patted his face, kicked him frantically a few times and then, in desperation, bit him on the nose. Then it grabbed Alberts collar and tried to pull him out of the gutter, but there was a warning tinkle of glass. The eye sockets turned madly towards the Drums closed front door. Ossified whiskers bristled. A moment later Hibiscus opened the door, if only to stop the thunderous knocking. I said were- Something shot between his legs, paused momentarily to bite him on the ankle, and scuttled towards the back door, nose pressed firmly to the floor. It was called Hide Park not because people could, but because a hide was once a measure of land capable of being ploughed by one man with three-and-one-half oxen on a wet Thursday, and the park was exactly this amount of land, and people in Ankh-Morpork stick to tradition and often to other things as well. And it had trees, and grass, and a lake with actual fish in it. And, by one of those twists of civic history, it was a fairly safe place. People seldom got mugged in Hide Park. Muggers like somewhere safe to sunbathe, just like everyone else. It was, as it were, neutral territory. And it was already filling up, even though there was nothing much to see except the workmen still hammering together a large stage by the lake. An area behind it had been walled off with strips of cheap sacking nailed to stakes. Occasionally excited people would try to get in and would be thrown into the lake by Chrysoprases trolls. Among the practising musicians Crash and his group were immediately noticeable, partly because Crash had his shirt off so that Jimbo could paint iodine on the wounds. I thought you were joking, he growled. I did say it was in your bedroom, said Scum. Howm I going to play my guitar like this? said Crash. You cant play your guitar anyway, said Noddy. I mean, look at my hand. Look at it.

  They looked at his hand. Jimbos mum had put a glove on it after treating the wounds; they hadnt been very deep, because even a stupid leopard wont hang around anyone who wants to take its trousers off. A glove, said Crash, in a terrible voice. Whoever heard of a serious musician with a glove? How can I ever play my guitar with a glove on?

  How can you ever play your guitar anyway?

  I dont know why I put up with you three, said Crash. Youre cramping my artistic development. Im thinking of leaving and forming my own band.

  No you wont, said Jimbo, because you wont find anyone even worse than us. Lets face it. Were rubbish. He was voicing a hitherto unspoken yet shared thought. The other musicians around them were, it was true, quite bad. But thats all they were. Some of them had some minor musical talent; as for the rest, they merely couldnt play. They didnt have a drummer who missed the drums and a bass guitarist with the same natural rhythm as a traffic accident. And theyd generally settled on their name. They might be unimaginative names, like A Big Troll and Some Other Trolls, or Dwarfs With Altitude, but at least they knew who they were. How about “Were A Rubbish Band”? said Noddy, sticking his hands in his pockets. We may be rubbish, snarled Crash, but were Music With Rocks In rubbish.

  Well, well, and hows it all going, then? said Dibbler, pushing his way through the sacking. It wont be long now - whatre you doing here?

  Were in the programme, Mr Dibbler, said Crash meekly. How can you be in the programme when I dont know what youre called? said Dibbler, waving a hand irritably at one of the posters. Your name up there, is it?

  Were probably where it says Ande Supporting Bandes, said Noddy. What happened to your hand? said Dibbler. My trousers bit it, said Crash, glowering at Scum. Honest, Mr Dibbler, cant you give us one more chance?

  Well see, said Dibbler, and strode away. He was feeling too cheerful to argue much. The sausages-in-abun were selling very fast, but they were just covering minor expenses. There were ways of making money out of Music With Rocks In that hed never thought of . . . and C. M. O. T. Dibbler thought of money all the time. For example, there were the shirts. They were of cotton so cheap and thin that it was practically invisible in a good light and tended to dissolve in the wash. Hed sold six hundred already! At five dollars each! All he had to do was buy them at ten for a dollar from Klatchian Wholesale Trading and pay Chalky half a dollar each to print them. And Chalky, with un-troll-like initiative, had even printed off his own shirts. They said: ChaIKies, 12 The Scours Thyngs Done. And people were buying them, paying money to advertise Chalkys workshop. Dibbler had never dreamed that the world could work like this. It was like watching sheep shear themselves. Whatever was causing this reversal of the laws of commercial practice he wanted in big lumps. Hed already sold the idea to Plugger the shoemaker in New Cobblers[28] and a hundred shirts had just walked out of the shop, which was more than Pluggers merchandise usually did. People wanted clothes just because they had writing on! He was making money. Thousands of dollars in a day! And a hundred music traps were lined up in front of the stage, ready to capture Buddys voice. If it went on at this rate, in several billion years hed be rich beyond his wildest dreams!

  Long Live Music With Rocks In! There was only one small cloud in this silver lining. The Festival was due to start at noon. Dibbler had planned to put on a lot of the small, bad groups first that is to say, all of them - and finish with The Band. So there was no reason to worry if they werent here right now. But they werent here right now. Dibbler was worried. A tiny dark figure quartered the shores of the Ankh, moving so fast as to be a blur. It zigzagged desperately back and forth, snuffling. People didnt see it. But they saw the rats. Black, brown and grey, they were leaving the godowns and wharfs by the river, running over one anothers backs in a determined attempt to get as far away as possible. A haystack heaved, and gave birth to a Glod. He rolled out on to the ground, and groaned. Fine rain was drifting over the landscape. Then he staggered upright, looked around at the rolling fields, and disappeared behind a hedge for the moment. He trotted back a few seconds later, explored the haystack for a while until he found a part that was lumpier than normal, and kicked it repeatedly with his me
tal-topped boot. Ow!

  C flat, said Glod. Good morning, Cliff. Hello, world! I dont think I can stand life in the fast leyline, you know - the cabbages, the bad beer, all those rats pestering you all the time- Cliff crawled out. I must have had some bad ammonium chloride last night, he said. Is the top of my head still on?

  Yes.

  Pity. They hauled Asphalt out by his boots and brought him round by pounding him repeatedly. Youre our road manager, said Glod. Youre supposed to see no harm comes to us.

  Well, Im doing that, aint I? Asphalt muttered. Im not hitting you, Mr Glod. Wheres Buddy? The three circled the haystack, prodding at bulges which turned out to be damp hay. They found him on a small rise in the ground, not very far away. A few holly bushes grew there, carved into curves by the wind. He was sitting under one, guitar on his knees, rain plastering his hair to his face. He was asleep, and soaking wet. On his lap, the guitar played raindrops. Hes weird, said Asphalt. No, said Glod. Hes wound up by some strange compulsion which leads him through dark pathways.

  Yeah. Weird. The rain was slackening off. Cliff glanced at the sky. Suns high, he said. Oh, no! said Asphalt. How long were you asleep?

  Same as I am awake, said Cliff. Its almost noon. Where did I leave the horses? Has anyone seen the cart? Someone wake him up! A few minutes later they were back on the road. An you know what? said Cliff. We left so quick last night I never did know if she turned up.

  What was her name? said Glod. Dunno, said the troll.

  Oh, thats real love, that is, said Glod. Aint you got any romance in your soul? said Cliff. Eyes crossed in a crowded room? said Glod. No, not really- They were pushed aside as Buddy leaned forward. Shut up, he said. The voice was low and contained no trace whatsoever of humour. We were only joking, said Glod. Dont. Asphalt concentrated on the road, aware of the general lack of amiability. I expect youre looking forward to the Festival, eh? he said, after a while. No-one replied. I expect therell be big crowds, he said. There was silence, except for the clatter of the hoofs and the rattle of the cart. They were in the hills now, where the road wound alongside a gorge. There wasnt even a river down there, except in the wettest season. It was a gloomy area. Asphalt felt that it was getting gloomier. I expect youll really have fun, he said, eventually. Asphalt? said Glod. Yes, Mr Glod?

  Watch the road, will you? The Archchancellor polished his staff as he walked along. It was a particularly good one, six feet long and quite magical. Not that he used magic very much. In his experience, anything that couldnt be disposed of with a couple of whacks from six feet of oak was probably immune to magic as well. Dont you think we should have brought the senior wizards, sir? said Ponder, struggling to keep up. Im afraid that taking them along in their present frame of mind would only make whatever happens- Ridcully sought for a useful phrase, and settled for happen worse. Ive insisted they stay in college.

  How about Drongo and the others? said Ponder hopefully. Would they be any good in the event of a thaumaturgical dimension rip of enormous proportions? said Ridcully. I remember poor old Mr Hong. One minute he was dishing up an order of double cod and mushy peas, the next . . .

 
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