Stops

[Braille Face writing response no. 3. I challenge you to listen to Cloaks and work out where I got the elements for this story.]

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When they returned from visiting their daughter (oh, the noise of her house, the lego strewn, the little sticky hands, the love, the shouting) his wife was in one of her silent rages. She was in her element wiping noses, inventing games, and dispensing illicit chocolate buttons; but now, back in her own house, she cleaned viciously, she tidied the paper away while he was still reading it. He wished he knew what was making her so unhappy or how he could console her, but he knew better than to say anything. At times like this he went to the church.

It was a deconsecrated church, a sweet old flint-faced building whose parishioners had quietly dwindled away. He had a key, and in return for checking on the place he was allowed to play the organ, once a fine instrument but now riddled with ciphers. He had found the few good stops. He liked to pull all of them out and play something fierce and grand. Here he could do exactly what he liked.

This time, however, as soon as he began there was a startled cawing and fluttering and a jackdaw flew down over his head. He stopped and peered upwards. The bird circled agitatedly and, after a while, returned to somewhere in the larger rack of pipes at the back. He fetched a ladder that lived in the vestry and climbed up to look. It was hard to see, but it looked as though the jackdaw was nesting in one of the pipes. He thought for a while and then returned to the console and chose only high, soft stops. He cautiously played a Christmas carol – ‘Lullay my liking’. The jackdaw did not re-emerge.

Over the next few weeks he went more and more frequently to the church. When the chicks hatched he heard their high cheeping joining him as he played gentle music carefully tailored to their youth: ‘Jesus, friend of little children’; ‘Morning has broken’; ‘Carol of the birds’. He flattered himself that they liked it, and that he was contributing to their cultural education. At home his wife cooked, scrubbed, straightened pictures and dared him to speak to her.

When the jackdaws fledged and flew, leaving the church through a hole in the eaves, he was filled with pride. He wondered fondly where they would go. And then he turned back to the organ console, where for the first time in almost two months he was free to pull out the double diapason. But he found he didn’t want to. He sat in the too-quietness of the church, feeling that it was only right to be too quiet now.

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