short story for children
The hot loft quartet
There was Marcel, Alain, Bobo and I, greatest friends ever. We did everything together! Bobo had an old radio from his Granddad We all had to call him Granddad.
After school we’d go to the little loft and listened to the hottest Jazz Bands from Paris, New York and Chicago. Yes, we had a little corner in his Granddad’s tool shelter and used to climb up on an old squeaky ladder to get there. We heaved up blocks of wood to serve us as table and chairs. On the walls we had newspaper clippings with our Jazz heroes, like Satchmo, Stephan Grappelli, Django Reinhard, Sidney Bechet. The Hot club of Paris was a favourite of ours. We played cards, listened to Jazz and discussed or quarrelled about which was the hottest tune at the moment. Then Alain had an idea: “ Hey, I have it, we make a band ourselves, Bobo on Guitar, Guy on Harmonica, Marcel on Drums and me on trumpet! What do you think about that?” We were discussing it fiercely. “Bobo, are you up there, come down, dinnertime, otherwise your mother will get upset!” we heard Granddad calling up to us. No one had noticed the time going by so quickly; we were too busy even to hear the church bells ringing that usually is reminding us to go home.
“My dad will give me heaps!” Marcel said, “I have to skedaddle home, bye everyone, see you’ll tomorrow.”
“Bye, see you”, Alain said, “not a word to anyone!” “Bye”
And everyone was gone.
My mother had this look on her face, which she gives me when I’m late. I washed my hands and sat down at table. My sister, almost a year younger than I, and my brother, 7 years my junior (that’s why I call him Junior) were already here.
Junior is always keen to talk to me when I’m home. He wanted to know what I was up to with my friends after school. But I heard Alain’s word’s, not a word to anyone, …… and that was that!
So I made something up. “We all had to bring a snail, Alain’s idea, he wanted to have a snail race.” “And who won”, Junior asked eagerly, “Who won, did your snail win?”
To please him I said, yes, and tucked into the pôt-au-feu, yummy soup out of vegetable and beef, my mother made. After dinner I had to do homework, maths this time, easy peasy!
Then tooth brushing and bedtime.
Tonight I was leaping into bed, glad to be left alone to contemplate this exciting prospect of us 4 friends making a band. I will play the harmonica, Marcel on Drums; did Alain say, Bobo on Trumpet; oh, no, Alain wanted to be on the Trumpet, so Bobo must be on the Guitar! I imagined us practising in the little loft.
All of a sudden we weren’t just in the loft, it changed, the loft grew bigger and bigger. We were actually standing on a real stage having lots of people listening to us playing hot Jazz, like the Hot Club of Paris. In the front row there was Stephan Grappelli winking at me. We were so hot!
The audience thought so too with giving us a standing ovation. Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!
‘The success story of the Hot Loft Quartet’ was written on the wide banner behind us.
Suddenly there was Junior with a huge snail on his hand. I asked myself what on earth is he doing here? He was standing there, the other thumb in his mouth and was getting taller and taller and taller. With his squeaky voice he said in front of all the audience: “But you have no instluments!”
As we looked at each other we could see our instrument disappearing in front of our eyes. Alain was standing there not knowing what to do, Bobo had a plank of wood in his hands, Marcel tried to drum on his knees and I, Oh shock, I was humming on Junior’s beloved comb, with a piece of paper over it, pretending it was a harmonica.
I wished I were the snail on my brother’s hand, or an ant or something else but being here, in front an audience who started to laugh at us. What’s worse, we had to run in the middle of the audience to get out of that stage. The people pointed at us and laughed their heads off.
I woke up in a sweat!
Luckily it was time to get up. I washed, quickly got dressed and went to the breakfast table.
That dream came like a blow to our band idea.
It was true, for we had no instruments. A band without instruments, who heard of that!
None of us had any chance to get their instrument, it was all too expensive.
At school I told my friends that I had something awfully important to announce.
“But I will tell you’ll in the loft, after school!”
The hours didn’t seem to be passing as quickly as usual. Finally…
We run as fast as we could to the tool shed were Granddad was working.
“You’ve got it mighty urgent, hang on, only one at the time to got up the ladder. It’s quite old and it might break with all of you climbing up; I don’t want any broken legs! And how about, hello Granddad?” he said to us with his loud, deep voice.
“Hello Granddad” we echoed.
“So, what’s up?”, Alain was impatient.
“Well, it’s that, hmmm” I muttered, “with the band, hmmm”;
“what’s with the band, I think it’s a terrific idea”, Bobo butted it.
“Let him finish”, Marcel said, “what’s with the band?”
“Well, hmmm the instruments, we…. We don’t have any instruments!”
That hit the others like a threepenny cracker.
“Holicorice frog ship” Bobo shouted and banged his fist on the table, “ouch”, that’s true, none of us have any instruments!”
Marcel stated: “And I was that excited about it all, band on tournee an’all, but now that idea’s going down the gurgler. I don’t want to be the laughing stock of everybody, a band with no instruments, oh no thanks”.
There was quiet for some time.
Then Alain asked: “has anybody got a piece of newspaper?” No one had any. Bobo asked his Granddad for a piece of old newspaper.
“What’s it for? I don’t want you lightening any fires up there in my tool shed, understood!” was Granddad’s answer.
“I want to make a paper airplane with ‘THE HOT QUARTET’ on it, signed by all of us, and then we let it fly from up here, bye bye to our great idea!” Alain shouted down.
“That alright then, here…”, Granddad ripped some paper out of a newsmagazine, “here you go”. Granddad handed us the paper up.
Bobo sounded astonished, “But Granddad you have ripped a page out your favorite JAZZ HOT magazine. Granddad had a special place for them, always handling them with great care.
“I have my reasons!” was the cryptic answer.
Perhaps of that, were we keen to know what was on that piece of paper!
A photo of five Afro-Americans and underneath it said, The Mills Brothers, an a Capella band.
“Guy, you read it!” Bobo said and gave me the paper.
It went: “On Thursday, we had the chance to see the astonishing Mills Brothers. What sound they came out with! It was fabulous. They didn’t have any instruments, so everything we heard came from their mouth. They were imitating jazz instruments. Using their vocal cords and their lips and sometimes cupping their hands to make a certain sound quality. Were you blindfolded, you would have sworn it was instruments that you heard. They had us glued to the edge of our seats! Bravo Mills Brothers”.
“Wow, that’s something. They did it with no guitar, no trumpet no drums, no nothing. That’s so totally hot!” Alain said. We all nodded.
We sat there quietly with the article in front of us. Then Bobo stuck the piece of newspaper on the wall, next to our Jazz Heros and turned the radio on. Jazz of course.
Alain was the first one to try out the trumpet sound by cupping his hand over his mouth. It started to sound a bit like a trumpet.
After a while, one after another plucked up the courage to try an instrument. No one dared to look at the each other. Only from time to time we shot a glimpse from our eyes.
“It’s time to go home,” Granddad belted out. Oh yes, we almost forgot the time again and we quickly climbed down the ladder.
“You’ve all got red cheeks and ears!” he grinned, “oh by the way, it didn’t sound too bad at all! Come on Bobo, time to wash our hands, dinnertime. See you all tomorrow then.”
“By Granddad, till tomorrow,” said all of us, and with a “See you Bobo; tomorrow, we do some more, yeah,” we hurried home.
We all knew, that we’d done something really important today and that we’d …
© Corinne Othenin-Girard, Aug. 2006