Chapter 4. Whistling
Lee watched Langley fold his hands, and gaze thoughtfully toward the ceiling.
"Well..." The agent bobbed his shoulders a bit. "Let's call it the difference between an 'act' and a 'happening'. From the last few gigs in December through 'til the opening at Palace, I was really starting to hear this 'rumble' in my circles. People in the biz were saying that the Stags were a happening about to happen. Since then, the money men have shown up for you a few times, and have witnessed a pretty good club act, yeah? They go away humming, but... well, they're just not quite springing the locks on the old billfold yet."
"Eh." Lee deflated. "That includes the big-shot promoter you'd mentioned a few weeks ago? The one who caught part of our first Palace show?"
"Kingston?" Langley chewed his lip for a moment. "Good question, but aye. I haven't heard from him since. That's not necessarily a bad thing — he works in mysterious ways; comes and goes without warning. He did have fine things to say about you that night but, until he pops back into our lives with a big cheque, we'd best not count on him."
"I reckoned as much." Lee's gaze descended toward his feet.
"So, here's my view." Langley leaned foreward across the desk. "I believe in your boys, Lee, and I believe in you. I plan to stick with the Stags from here to Mars but, frankly, I'm near as tired of waiting as you are, right? Let's spark things up again, mate. Do you suppose you could gin up the old energy again? Brixton Academy had a group cancel on them, so there are a few open slots in the spring for the right act to step into. Get your magic back and maybe, just maybe, you could be that act."
Lee raised a skeptical eyebrow, but Langley had already pulled out his rolodex. "There are other hot venues where you can showcase your stuff. I think some big shooters might be persuaded to pop by a show to scope in person. In fact, I may even be able to twist some arms for this Saturday."
"You can? Brill!" Lee nodded vigourously; more upbeat than he felt. "I'll give the boys a bit of a pepper-up and you won't be disappointed. We can still rock the roof, yeah? We're the same pack of cards we were a month ago; just need to juice the amp." He grinned.
"Ace." Langley winked. "I'll make some calls. You're booked at Half-Moon this weekend?"
"Good... good..." Langley jotted down a few notes. "Right, well that's a wrap for this morning, yeah?"
"Aye!" Lee swung up, out of his chair. "Thanks mate. I promise we'll make it worth your sweat!"
"I'm sure you will." Langley grinned. "Oh, but one more thing. Foi-Black left me another message yesterday. I think they may up the offer to Harry."
"Up the offer?" Lee's eyes narrowed slightly.
"Yeah." Langley nodded. "Could be some serious money. They asked me to see if Harry might be willing to drop by their HQ sometime at his convenience and, well, interview them? They're anxious to at least speak with him directly; make their pitch and gauge interest? Lay some options on the table for him to consider?"
"Eh." Lee's brow crooked uncertainly. "Okay, I'll mention it and get back to you."
The low lilting melody was neither a waywird bird, nor a hidden fife. Rather, Harry was whistling as he worked.
He'd been in a pretty good mood recently, and working at the library had certainly not hurt his spirits. He hadn't quite pinned down what it was about the job it was that he so enjoyed. Some people might suggest that the aura itself — all that knowledge and culture — could be an inspiration, though he'd never really been all that bookish. Perhaps he enjoyed the chance to hang out all day around lots of bright, lively people his own age but, well, professional mores usually kept him from socialising much.
Perhaps he felt that the enforced leave from his piano and eight-stave note binders gave his mind a rest from music? Helped refresh his creativity? Perhaps, but to be honest,the library work rarely stopped his mind from revisiting lyrics or melodies he'd been working on. Hence today's whistling.
One very simple, undeniable, reason for liking the library was that it was a quiet place where he could blend into the backdrop. As opposed to all of the non-library hours that he still spent sweating in the limelight, on public display, walking the boards, with stage lamps glaring down on him.
Yes, the Mysti Stags did still keep him hopping. Though, admittedly, life was not quite so wild as it had been.
In retrospect, the intensity of their two-weekend January booking at the Camden Palace had been amazing. Their first night's performance was featured in a brilliant ASFAR review. Kerrang! had published a smart little photo profile on them. Select had (as hoped) given them a thumbs-up as one of London's up-n-comer bands to watch. But then the whirlwind had subsided; life had normalised. The kettle had gotten pretty steamed, but it had never boiled over.
Fortunately, the new normal had a good feel. The Stags were booked just about every Friday and Saturday night (and plenty of Thursdays as well) for the foreseeable future. The performances were spread pretty broadly across the London metro (out as far as Reading and Guildford) and, more than ever before, they had a pick of lively gigs, and could hone pretty exclusively on well respected venues like Barfly, Half-Moon, and so forth.
However, no more big plums like the Camden Palace had landed on their plate. No recording contract or tours had materialised yet either. Clearly the grand opportunities didn't just grow on trees.
After their early successes, Lee had cautioned them that the Stags couldn't expect to hit it big on dedication and talent alone. The band needed luck — a quantity better sought through diligence than from divine decree.
A good agent could often manufacture 'luck', and Langley was a decent one, but Lee was ambitious enough to quit his Sainsbury's job last autumn and go full time helping Langley with lots of 'value added' stuff like demo tapes, poster art, and negotiating customised set and light effects for the shows. It seemed to be paying off, and the band was grateful for Lee's effort and sacrifice.
It had been a while since Harry had really picked Lee's mind on what sort of prospects they were aiming at. Some time ago, the band as a whole had set their sights on performing at the Brixton Academy. Harry was starting to doubt if that was a realistic goal for this year, but maybe Lee could get them a second, longer stint at the Palace? Or maybe a trip up to Liverpool or Manchester to broaden their fan base?
At last practice, Lee had hinted that an announcement might be forthcoming, and that they ought to all try to keep next Thursday evening clear for a possible fete. But everything remained pretty speculative.
And that was okay with Harry. He and the others had enough income to cover the basics, plus a few vices here and there, and they were all living lives they enjoyed. Lee was probably learning a lot more about running a business than he ever would have in college. Dean and Shay worked hard on the music and on the partying. And Harry, well, he had plenty of time to compose and practise... and that's even after putting in a full week's work at the library.
Every thought seemed to begin and end with the library.
Just now, descending from Archives on the fourth floor, he had finally managed to put fingers on the various things he liked most about the place. It was quiet; it was somewhere he could escape from the public eye; it left his mind to daydream new music AND it had become a place for him to ponder the future.
His current task, the pleasant lull-time activity of wandering about to search for stray books that students may have left lying around, afforded him lots of stray neurons to ponder what his life purpose was, and where he might find himself in five years.
Returning to his mind right now was an offer that Dr. Appleblum had made last week. The library director, being a bit skeptical of careers in modern music, had suggested that Harry consider enrolling at the university. She had even volunteered to help him sift through scholarship opportunities.
Harry turned the proposition over in his head. He had performed quite well in his A-levels, but life hadn't moved in that direction. By the time he'd completed secondary school, music had grown to dominate his (and especially Lee's) life so fully that he'd never really even considered university.
That was then. But now, a few years further down the road, he had started to wonder if he mightn't be missing some calling bigger and more gratifying than music? Could there be an important opportunity out there beckoning him? Some special ability, beyond notes and lyrics?
He'd begun to suspect so, but he had no idea what. He felt this itch; an odd hunch that he ought to start watching out for this unknown 'opportunity', but he didn't have the first idea where to look; what clues to listen for.
Finally, that night a few weeks ago on the Camden Stage, he'd felt that somehow perhaps he'd caught the faintest, vaguest glimpse of something. In the midst of the performance, his senses had spiked; his eyes had opened a bit; his ears had pricked up. It had been rather as if something out there had been calling to him.
After meditating on the memory, he found himself believing that music had helped to open the channel, but music was only a part of what he was looking for — as if music contained the adjectives and adverbs of a message, but he was still missing the nouns and verbs.
A growing certainly was building within him that all the life he consciously knew was but a few scraps of some bigger image. After twenty one years, he wondered if he wasn't now, finally, discovering that some greater reality was out there? That all he had to do was to identify a few new scraps; more of the verbs and nouns, and begin assembling them into a composite picture?
Would this then show him who he truly was? What he was meant to be?
Lee, and the bonds of friendship and brotherhood, would always be the anchor piece. Their shared love of music surely extended the framework, but the frame had remained bare and undecorated for the longest time.
Finally, the morning he had written 'Grey Veil', it had been as if another small piece of a great puzzle had snapped into place. Then, the performance that evening had hinted at further connections yet to be identified.
But, what were they?
Through the intervening weeks, at odd moments that came and went without obvious pattern, Harry had experienced flickering glimpses of that same something. Vague hints of enlightenment seemed near but elusive, like a perfect word on the tip of his tongue.
More often than not, these mysterious flickers came to him while he was here, in the library.
And, right now, as he turned the corner and entered one of the quiet corridors of second floor, he became aware, once again, of a glimmer of something odd, exciting... tantalising.
"I want to play, Mummy. I want to play. Now."
"It's not time yet, sweetie. Your lesson will start soon, but we came early today because I thought you might enjoy hearing Miss Lily's other student practice."
"Do I have to?"
"No, you don't have to, but I really think y-"
"Mum, he's a... a boy?! I didn't know boys could play the piano!"
"Shhh sweetheart; he's her son, and has been playing for...
Oh my, he plays rather well.
That's Clair de Lune, Ginny. Do you like it?"
"S'okay, I s'pose...
Mummy, do you think he can also play 'Twinkle-Twinkle'?"
"Errr, well I-"
Ginny's head lolled forward, vapourising her odd dream. Groaning, she blearily blinked away the fatigue. Her eyes gradually focused, and began to recognise the strange black symbols on the page in front of her.
Statistics Problem Set #5 . Due Feb. 8, 2002.
Ginny rubbed her temples, caught between trying to refocus on her studies and more strongly wishing she could just go back to her dream; back to the sweet music that was still half-echoing in her mind; back to a recurring fantasy she had.
It was a fantasy where she was a little girl, and still had a real Mum and Dad.
She rather liked such dreams. They made her feel a bit more whole; as though there was a place in the wold where she truly belonged.
Oddly, though, she had never before dreamed about a piano. Or music.
She wouldn't have minded hearing a bit more of that music.
Just as she wouldn't have minded hearing a bit more from a certain musician. A certain musician, who happened to be another one of those rare boys who could play the piano. And even sing.
Wow, could he sing!
And suddenly Ginny's heart was racing just a little, as it occurred to her that this boy... no, no, this real-life musician... was quite likely in this very building, at this very moment!
Yes, of course Ginny couldn't help having learned a bit about Mr. Jordan's comings and goings.
It was not as if she had been 'looking' for him, but the occasional glimpse had been practically inevitable — a natural by-product of how much time she had to spend here in the library fairly these days. True, some of her quick forays into the building were merely to pester Mione (the girl did need to be pestered, after all), but it seemed there were also many other reasons to be here now: to study, to research, to browse the stacks (in a frighteningly Mione-like way), to check the daily papers... So, yes, because of all of these important reasons Ginny now found herself in the library, on average, twice or thrice a day.
Of course it was a large building so, although she knew he worked there, she would hardly, really expect to see him. Certainly not more than once in a while.
Not more than once a week? Once every few days?
Yet, without having any intention whatsoever of running across the lead singer of the Mysti Stags, she had indeed set eyes on him a few times. More than a few? Well, perhaps it had been often enough that, had the poor fellow felt any reason for paranoia, he might perhaps have begun to fear a possible stalker.
But Ginny was not a stalker, and she had no intention of worrying the young chap. So she made certain that she didn't go out of her way to catch glimpses of him. And when she did happen to catch a glimpse of him, she ensured that it was in the most innocuous, discreet way possible. After all, she wanted to be sure that he didn't feel threatened by the occasional accidental incidental coincidence.
The first such incidental coincidence came couple of weeks ago, when she saw him across a busy foyer.
Oddly enough, she'd almost waved to him, just as she might have waved to a friend.
That was a natural near-mistake to make because, in that setting, Harry Jordan rather looked like a friend. That is to say, he looked friendly; he looked no different from the average person who was simply just 'somebody's friend'.
Most crucially, from across a library foyer, he was not a rock star; he was just a nice young fellow, quietly going about his work.
Ginny knew that many people at work enjoyed having the occasional mate pop by, semi-randomly, to exchange a quick 'hello, how are you, let's meet up later for a pint' chit-chat. That would have been a fine excuse to wave and stroll over but, sadly, she was not his mate because they had never actually been introduced. And, while it remained true that he had written a song for her (sigh!), Ginny was fairly certain that he would have had no occasion to realise that there was any connection between the 'Ginny Smith / Mione's friend / Stags fan' for whom he had composed the song, sight-unseen, versus the girl whose ring he had saved down by the lifts a few weeks ago.
So, Ginny had ultimately chosen to not wave to him across the foyer. Without really intending to, though, she did find herself detouring slightly from her normal route, and had (quite incidentally) walked fairly close by him (say, roughly, nine feet) as he sorted books. In her subsequent (very subtle, furtive, harmless) glance back, she had seen him pause for a moment... as if he'd lost count of something, or perhaps remembered another task he needed to complete. A tiny frown had crossed his face.
He had a nice face.
They were rather green.
Not terribly long after that, she had occasioned to see him sitting in a work room, poring over lists of some sort, making the occasional annotation. He had a coffee cup by him, seemingly long-ignored. She assumed it was cold or empty. She supposed that he looked weary, and she rather felt for him. She thought that someone working so diligently ought to have a friendly person come over and hand him a fresh, hot cup. But, unfortunately he was seated in a room marked 'staff-only', so she decided that she ought not to break rules, as she would hate to cause him any trouble.
She did, however, make note of the nearest coffee machine. Purely for her own reference.
She noticed that some days he appeared chipper, while other days he was quite knackered. She wondered how often he came to work after late night practices? She had heard that dedicated musicians often rehearsed long hours, late into the night. She thought of that old song 'Beth', about a musician who kept wishing practice would end so he could come home to his girlfriend. The more she thought of that song, the more she knew that Harry could do a spectacular job of singing it, and that Harry would hate to have kept a girlfriend waiting all night. If he had a girlfriend.
The 'zine' article she read last week claimed that he did not.
But she didn't really think about such things.
Rather, she thought about the long hours, and how difficult it must be. Especially for a vocalist. Guitarists can replace their strings, and drummers shed their skins, but what about a singer?? She wondered how his throat could stand up to all that practice? Especially in February when half of the students about the library were snuffling or hacking so much of the time?
Ginny felt guilty that he should be risking his wonderful voice in such a germ factory, just because half of the germy students couldn't remember where they'd found half the books they'd pulled off the shelves. It was almost enough to make her want to spontaneously go over and offer him a throat lozenge. Just in case. But hers were of a fairly sharp lemony-ginger type, and she didn't know if he would fancy them. Besides, they might swell his throat up, which would really not do.
So Ginny compensated by ensuring she put back her books in their exact right location. And, she devoted a few quiet moments to projecting supportive, happy thoughts toward him, under the general belief that happy people were healthy people.
Today, Ginny was particular cheered to note that he was both happy and healthy. He was, in fact, whistling.
Fully roused now from her dream, she sat up straight, and leaned back from her carrel, peering out into the corridor as he went past.
She listened to the tune he was making, and tried to parse the meter. This was not a purely idle exercise, because at times over the past several weeks, she had pondered the song fragment he had written for her. She had asked Mione several times whether she recalled the melody that went with the words, but Mione did not seem capable of whistling, singing or (apparently even) humming in tune. So Ginny remained deeply, unrequitedly, curious about what the song actually 'sounded' like.
Ginny sincerely hoped that Harry had been true in saying that he and Lee would arrange it. She thought it could be a very moving and redeeming song. She knew she would truly love it. And not just because it was written for her.
So, she listened intently to Harry's whistled tune, committing it to mind, at the same time as she stared at the loose sheet of lyrics which was now spread flat on the desk, since (by odd convenient chance) she had it with her. As she did most days.
After hearing a full bar of the whistling, she tried to hum along as she read the lyrics.
'... to get him through that night.'
She wondered if that line was a sexual innuendo, since rock musicians often spiced up their songs with such things. But she decided it must not be. It must rather be the act of a friend making the effort to help another friend through tragedy, or depression.
Yes, the low, haunting melody drifting in from the hallway did seem to fit with that interpretation. Just as it fit with the words before her eyes. Words that she suddenly realised she had begun to sing aloud ("... in the pain of irony; in a day of cold returns...").
Popping a hand over her mouth, she stopped.
And so had the whistling.
so, we substitute v.v = (2mg / _AC), where 'm' is the projec_ile m_s_, 'g' is th_ acc_l___
Mione glared at the illegible sentence, and shook her pen. She turned her writing pad over and tried scribbling furiously on the hard back. She scowled and fired the villain into the bin. "Poxy ballpoints! That's the third one today. Third and... Oh dear. Third and last??"
She pried back the pocket of her binder, then dug for a moment around the bottom of her pack. Empty-handed, she growled, then pursed her lips. "Oh? Maybe Ginny can lend me one? She should have free period, right now — hopefully, she's downstairs working on her stats assignment."
Slipping her trainers back on, Mione made her way to the stairwell, then turned onto second floor, heading to the carrels. Stopping at a water fountain, she was half way through a drink, when she thought she heard something... odd.
She rose, listened, and frowned. Around the corner, in an otherwise dead quiet corridor, she heard... music? A low, slow, undulating whistle, accompanied by a soft voice — a reedy, yet pleasant, alto.
A curious look on her face, she walked to the corner... and the sound ceased.
Toward the end of the corridor, she saw a young man, stock still with a bundle of books beneath one arm; his shoulders a bit quirked as if he, too, was puzzled.
The fellow looked rather like... Harry Jordan?
Harry paused. His ears perked up at a sound, and he honed in on final few seconds of faint vocals.
He raised an eyebrow.
Barring incredible coincidence, the only people besides himself who ought to know those words were Lee; that Mione girl, and her friend... Ginny Smith. And nobody besides Lee had ever worked with the actual melody they were arranging for it.
Curious, he took a careful step backwards, since he thought the singing had come back a ways up the-
"Mr. Jordan?" Mione waved.
Harry turned, blinking. "Why, hello Mione. Call me Harry, please." He smiled. "Hey, was that you singing just now? It was really rather..."
"No, not me." She shook her head. "Oh, do you suppose...? I wonder if...?" Her brow quirked, and the slightest smile began to creep onto her face. "Harry, have you ever chanced to meet...?"
Taking a quick breath, Mione held up her 'one-second-please' finger, and cut across the hall to her destination. "Hey, Ginny?"
Half a face (every so slightly rouge in embarrassment) peeked around the wooden privacy-panel of the carrel desk.
"Ginny, might you spare a moment?" Not quite parsing her friend's expression, Mione gave her an encouraging smile. "There's someone here I'd like you to meet."