Soul music, p.37
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       Soul Music, p.37

         Part #16 of Discworld series by Terry Pratchett
Page 37


  Kaboom? said Ponder. “Kaboom”? said Ridcully, forcing his way up the crowded street. Not that I heard tell. More like “Aaaaerrrrscream-gristlegristle-gristle-crack” and a shower of fried food. Big Mad Adrian and his friends any good when the chips are down?

  Um. Probably not, Archchancellor.

  Correct. People shout and run about. That never did any good. A pocket full of decent spells and a well-charged staff will get you out of trouble nine times out of ten.

  Nine times out of ten?


  How many times have you had to rely on them, sir?

  Well . . . there was Mr Hong . . . that business with the Thing in the Bursars wardrobe . . . that dragon, you remember . . . Ridcullys lips moved silently as he counted on his fingers. Nine times, so far.

  It worked every time, sir?

  Absolutely! So theres no need to worry. Gangway! Wizard comin through. The city gates were open. Glod leaned forward as the cart rumbled in. Dont go straight to the park, he said. But were late, said Asphalt.

  This wont take long. Go to the Street of Cunning Artificers first.

  Thats right on the other side of the river!

  Its important. Weve got to pick up something. People flocked the streets. This wasnt unusual, except that this time most of them were moving the same way. And you get down in the back of the cart, said Glod to Buddy. We dont want young women trying to rip your clothes off, eh, Buddy . . . ? He turned. Buddy had gone to sleep again. Speaking for myself- Cliff began. Youve only got a loincloth, said Glod. Well, they could grab it, couldnt they? The cart threaded its way through the streets until it turned into Cunning Artificers. It was a street of tiny shops. In this street you could have anything made, repaired, crafted, rebuilt, copied or forged. Furnaces glowed in every doorway; smelters smoked in every backyard. Makers of intricate clockwork eggs worked alongside armourers. Carpenters worked next door to men who carved ivory into tiny shapes so delicate that they used grasshoppers legs, cast in bronze, for saws. At least one in every four craftsmen was making tools to be used by the other three. Shops didnt just abut, they overlapped; if a carpenter had a big table to make he relied on the goodwill of his neighbours to make space, so that hed be working at one end of it while two jewellers and a potter were using the other end as a wench. There were shops where you could drop in to be measured in the morning and pick up a complete suit of chain mail with an extra pair of pants in the afternoon. The cart stopped outside one small shop and Glod leapt down and went inside. Asphalt heard the conversation: Have you done it?

  Here you are, mister. Right as rain.

  Will it play? You know I said where you have to have spent a fortnight wrapped in a bullock hide behind a waterfall before you should touch one of these things.

  Listen, mister, for this kind of money it had me in the shower for five minutes with a chamois leather on me head. Dont tell me thats not good enough for folk music. There was a pleasant sound, which hung in the air for a moment before being lost in the busy din of the street. We said twenty dollars, right?

  No, you said twenty dollars. I said twenty-five dollars.

  Just a minute, then. Glod came out, and nodded at Cliff. All right, he said. Cough up. Cliff growled, but fumbled for a moment somewhere at the back of his mouth. They heard the cunning artificer say, What the hells that?

  A molar. Got to be worth at least-

  Itll do. Glod came out again with a sack, which he tucked under the seat. OK, he said. Head for the park. They went in through one of the back gates. Or, at least, tried to. Two trolls barred their way. They had the glossy marble patina of Chrysoprases basic gang thugs. He didnt have henchmen. Most trolls werent clever enough to hench. Dis is for der bands, one said. Days right, said the other one. We are The Band, said Asphalt. Which one? said the first troll. I got a list here.

  Days right.

  Were The Band With Rocks In, said Glod. Hah, you aint them. Ive seen them. Deres a -guy with this glow round him, and when he plays der guitar it goes- Whauauauaummmmm-eeeee-gngngn. Dats right- The chord curled around the cart. Buddy was standing up, guitar at the ready. Oh, wow, said the first troll. This are amazing! He fumbled in his loincloth and produced a dog-eared piece of paper. You couldnt write your name down, could you? My boy Clay, he wont believe I met-

  Yes, yes, said Buddy wearily. Pass it up.

  Only it not for me, it for my boy Clay- said the troll, jumping from one foot to the other in excitement. How dyou spell it?

  It dont matter, he cant read anyway.

  Listen, said Glod, as the cart trundled into the backstage area, someones already playing. I said we- Dibbler hurried up. What kept you? he said. Youll be on soon! Right after . . . Boyz From The Wood. How did it go? Asphalt, come here. He pulled the small troll into the shadows at the back of the stage. You brought me some money? he said. About three thousand-

  Not so loud! `Im only whispering it, Mr Dibbler. Dibbler looked around carefully. There was no such thing as a whisper in Ankh-Morpork when the sum involved had the word thousand in it somewhere; people could hear you think that kind of money in Ankh-Morpork. You be sure and keep an eye on it, right? Theres going to be more before this days out. Ill give Chrysoprase his seven hundred dollars and the rest is all prof- He caught Asphalts little beady eye and remembered himself. Of course, theres depreciation . . . overheads . . . advertising . . . market research . . . buns . . . mustard . . . basically, Ill be lucky if I break even. Im practically cutting me own throat in this deal.

  Yes, Mr Dibbler. Asphalt peered around the edge of the stage. Whos that playing now, Mr Dibbler? “And you”.

  Sorry, Mr Dibbler?

  Only they write it &U, said Dibbler. He relaxed a little and pulled out a cigar. Dont ask me why. The right kind of name for musicians ought to be something like Blondie and his Merry Troubadours. Are they any good?

  Dont you know, Mr Dibbler?

  Its not what I call music, said Dibbler. When I was a lad we had proper music with real words . . . “Summer is icumen in, lewdly sing cuckoo”, that sort of thing. Asphalt looked at &U again. Well, its got a beat and you can dance to it, he said, but theyre not very good. I mean, people are just watching them. They dont just watch when The Band are playing, Mr Dibbler.

  Youre right, said Dibbler. He looked at the front of the stage. In between the candles was a

  row of music traps. Youd better go and tell them to get ready. I think this lot are running out of ideas.

  Um. Buddy? He looked up from his guitar. Some of the other musicians were tuning theirs, but hed found he never had to. He couldnt, anyway. The pegs didnt move. What is it?

  Um, said Glod. He waved vaguely at Cliff, who grinned sheepishly and produced the sack from behind his back. This is . . . well, we thought . . . that is, all of us, said Glod, that . . . well, we saw it, you see, and I know you said it couldnt be repaired but theres people in this city that can do just about anything so we asked around, and we knew how much it meant to you, and theres this man in the Street of Cunning Artificers and he said he thought he could do it and it cost Cliff another tooth but here you are anyway because youre right, were on top of the music business right enough and its because of you and we know how much this meant to you so its a sort of thank-you present, well, go on then, give it to him. Cliff, whod lowered his arm again as the sentence began to extend, pushed the sack towards the puzzled Buddy. Asphalt poked his head through the sacking. We guys better get on the stage, he said. Come on! Buddy put down the guitar. He opened the sack, and began to pull at the linen wrappings inside. Its been tuned and everything, said Cliff helpfully. The harp gleamed in the sun as the last wrapping came off. They can do amazing things with glue and stuff, said Glod. I mean, I know you said there wasnt anyone left in Llamedos that could repair it. But this is Ankh-Morpork. We can fix nearly everything.

  Please! said Asphalt, as his head reappeared. Mr Dibbler says youve got to come, theyve started to throw thin

  I dont know much about strings, said Glod, but I had a go. Sounds . . . kind of nice.

  I . . . er . . . dont know what to say, said Buddy. The chanting was like a hammer. I . . . won this, said Buddy, in a small, distant world of his own. With a song. Sioni Bod Da, it was. I worked on it allll winter. Allll about . . . home, you know. And going away, see? And trees and things. The judges were . . . very plleased. They said that in fifty years I might realllly understand music. He pulled the harp towards him. Dibbler pushed his way through the rabble of musicians backstage until he found Asphalt. Well? he said. Where are they?

  Theyre just sitting around talking, Mr Dibbler.

  Listen, said Dibbler. You hear the crowd? Its Music With Rocks In they want! If they dont get it . . . theyd just better get it, all right? Letting the anticipation build up is all very well but . . . I want them on stage right now! Buddy stared at his fingers. Then he looked up, whitefaced, at the other bands milling around. You . . . with the guitar . . . he said hoarsely. Me, sir?

  Give it to me! Every nascent group in Ankh-Morpork was in awe of The Band With Rocks In. The guitarist handed his instrument over with the expression of one passing over a holy item to be blessed. Buddy stared at it. It was one of Mr Wheedowns best.

  He struck a chord. The sound sounded like lead would sound if you could make guitar strings out of it. OK, boys, whats the problem? said Dibbler, hurrying towards them. Theres six thousand ears out there waiting to be filled up with music and youre still sitting around? Buddy handed the guitar back to the musician and swung his own instrument around on its strap. He played a few notes that seemed to twinkle in the air. But I can play this, he said. Oh, yes.

  Right, good, now get up there and play it, said Dibbler. Someone else give me a guitar! Musicians fell over themselves to hand them to him. He strummed frantically at a couple. But the notes werent simply flat. Flat would have been an improvement. The Musicians Guild contingent had managed to secure an area close to the stage by the simple expedient of hitting any encroachers very hard. Mr Clete scowled at the stage. I dont understand, he said. Its rubbish. Its all the same. Its just noise. Whats so good about it? Satchelmouth, who had twice had to stop himself tapping his feet, said, We havent had the main band yet. Er. Are you sure you want to-

  Were within our rights, said- Clete. He looked around at the shouting people. Theres a hot dog seller over there. Anyone else fancy a hot dog? Hot dog? The Guild men nodded. Hot dog? Right. Thats three hot d- The audience cheered. It wasnt the way that an audience normally applauds, with it starting at one point and rippling outwards, but all at once, every single mouth opening at the same time. Cliff had knuckled on to the stage. He sat down behind his rocks and looked desperately back towards the wings. Glod trailed on, blinking in the lights. And that seemed to be it. The dwarf turned and said something which was lost in the noise, and then stood looking awkward while the cheers gradually subsided. Buddy came on, staggering slightly as if hed been pushed. Up until then Mr Clete had thought the crowd was yelling. And then he realized that it had been a mere murmur of approval compared to what was happening now. It went on and on while the boy stood there, head bowed. But hes not doing anything, Clete shouted into Satchelmouths ear. Whyre they all cheering him for not doing anything?

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