Rants, raves, fiction, and laughs

Friday, December 10, 2010

Freddy's Bagpipes

“What do you want Santa to Bring you?” asked Hannah.
Frederick had been pouring over catalogues all afternoon. His face was covered in pink splotches, which he’d been instructed not to scratch. He had been home for three days with the chickenpox and the doctor had said it wasn’t likely to clear up before Christmas.

He looked up at his nanny with mournful eyes and sighed. “I don’t care,” he said finally. “I wish he’d make my chickenpox go away.”
“How do you think he’d do that?” asked Hannah, nudging her blonde hair back in place with the back of her hand. She was currently engaged in a bowl of soft cheese, caramelized onions and spices. It was going to be a cheese ball for tonight’s Christmas Party. Fredrick would be confined to his room for the affair. He didn’t mind that so much. He’d be out of the clutches of Seraphine Daniels. Seraphine kept trying to kiss him and play house with him.

“I think Santa could come down the chimney and stand over my bed and ‘poof’ the chickenpox would disappear,” he said finally.

“Santa Claus isn’t a wizard, Freddy. He can’t cure disease. Besides, your chickenpox will be gone in a week or so, and then won’t you be glad to have nice toys to play with?”

“He won’t bring me what I really want,” said Frederick mournfully.
“What's that?” asked Hannah in surprise. The Hummel family was incredibly rich. There were few things a boy could want that they couldn’t buy, except maybe a star on the Hollywood Walk or a space shuttle.

“Bagpipes,” said Freddy.

Hannah was so surprised by this answer that she dropped the bag of (thankfully unopened) pecans. “Bagpipes?” he asked incredulously.
“Uh-huh. I saw a movie with a little boy playing the bagpipes and I thought it was really neat. There’s also that guy in Central Park who plays them when it’s summer?”

Hannah nodded, she remembered the fellow.

“I really want a set of bagpipes.”
“Did you ask your mother?”
“She said it was a stupid thing to ask for and wouldn’t I rather have a transformer or a powerwheels.”
“She didn’t like the idea?” slightly angry over Mrs. Hummel’s use of the word ‘stupid.’
“No. Dad agreed with her. He said I had a perfectly good violin and I should learn to play that before I try any fool bagpipe. They said it was too noisy and expensive and Santa Claus wouldn’t get one for us because I’m not Scottish, I’m French-German-English-American. I didn’t know you had to be Scottish.”

“I don’t see why you’d have to be Scottish,” said Hannah, washing the cheese from her hands. “You don’t have to be Japanese to play a Yamaha piano.”

“Well anyway, I’m not getting one. They said they had the power of veto over lists to Santa.”

“I guess that’s that, then. Sorry Freddy.”
“It’s alright,” sighed Freddy mournfully plodding up the stairs to his room. It was packed full of every toy imaginable and every electronic game system known to man. Yet Hannah knew that Freddy would sit at the window seat, scratching his scabs, and dream of tartan kilts and a droning pentatonic Amazing Grace.

That afternoon as she browsed the bookstore for presents she caught sight of a book in the reduced price stack. It was an enormous coffee-table book full of scenic pictures of Scotland, rolling hills, old castles and a seemingly endless supply of sheep. Sure enough there were beautiful full-color photos of bagpipers, in traditional costume, piping some unheard melody on sheer cliff sides and blustery downs. The book was only $5.99 so Hannah decided to get it for Freddy. He was a sweet little boy, after all and he couldn’t help being the forgotten son of two snobbish socialites. As a pimply-faced girl rang her up and began to gift wrap it, Hannah got a glimpse of the back cover with a red star on the back. On the star were the words “Includes CD! With 28 tracks of traditional bagpipe music!”

Hannah grinned widely. Well, she was going back to Finland next month anyway.


Joanie Rich said...

As someone who adores the bagpipes (and admittedly has a few of those CDs) you might think I'm biased for loving this story. (You'd probably be right!)

But I think the feeling of wanting someone that no one else seems to understand is common, especially for us creative types. I know when I was little everyone thought it was weird that a little girl wanted video games and other boy toys.

"Don't you want a Barbie, sweety?"

"I hate Barbie!" I replied, still wishing for that awesome toy robot. --->

Monica Marier said...

I was inspired by my 5 yo son constantly asking for bagpipes for Christmas. We can't get him a set because of other reasons (they're effing expensive). But I find it funny that he's been fixated on the instrument since we saw "The Three lives of Thomasina."

Adam Byatt said...

Why do pipe bands march?
To get away from the sound.
*ba-doom tish*
I actually love the sounds of pipes and sympathise with little Freddy. I also sympathise with his parents: violin AND bagpipes would be a reason for the padded party room and full length jacket with the extra long arms.
Your 5yo could always start with a practice chanter, but that's tempting fate.
Adam B @revhappiness

John Wiswell said...

"Yet Hannah knew that Freddy would sit at the window seat, scratching his scabs, and dream of tartan kilts and a droning pentatonic Amazing Grace."

One of your best sentences, Monica. The whole thing is out-there. Amusing stick at the end - hope the parents enjoy those authentic foreign tunes.

Steve Green said...

I loved the easy flow to this, the ring of truth and reality to it, and I especially loved the last line. :D

Deanna Schrayer said...

What a wonderful story Monica - sad but hopefull at the same time. I was first reminded of the Christmas of 1976 when I and my two sisters all woke up with chicken pox, yes on Christmas Day.
But we were never rich and gratefully accepted what our parents could afford. Though don't we all have a memory of wanting something we never got?
Very well told story!

Anonymous said...

Love this story! I fancy bagpipes, too, and was always a bit perplexed why everyone else hates them so much. They just don't sound like anything else. And that is beautiful.

Good for Hannah. And yes, that last line made me laugh out loud. I could just see poor Freddy at that window scratching. Delightful from start to finish. :)

Danielle La Paglia said...

I guess I'm the only one who isn't a fan of the pipes, but I understand Freddy's longing for something his parents refuse to buy, not because they can't, but because they won't. I think we've all been misunderstood like that at one point or another.

Anonymous said...

“You don’t have to be Japanese to play a Yamaha piano.”
With reasoning like that, Hannah should be in politics. Wish she'd been there to negotiate my xmas demands!
My partner is scottish and one xmas my brother-in-law piped our arrival at the house. Magical.

julito77 said...

First of all, I really love the fact that the gift request was so unique. That caught me and drew me in. I like the dialogue and the interplay with the characters, that was strong.

The ending was clever, but would you accept a suggestion, if I so may? I think you can make it even more dramatic at the end, since you set up a tense conflict between the narrator and the parents.

Again, I liked the characters and the premise. Nice job.

Harry said...

Lovely Christmas story Monica! Bagpipes are good from a distance, not sure you want them in the next room.

Monica Marier said...

@Adam What's the difference between a bagpiper and a large cheese pizza? A: the Pizza can feed a family of 4 (rimshot). I was once friends w. a bagpipe band named "Off Kilter." They taught me a lot of those jokes.

@Wiswell It's funny to read that again. It's out there, and yet this was based on something very real (My son's desire for bagpipes). I think there's nothing I can come up with that's so weird it hasn't happened in real life.

@Steve Thanks. I was afraid the casual mention that Hannah was from Finland would throw people off. Glad to know it was congruous.

@Deanna I had the Chickenpox one Christmas when I was five. I had wanted a "kid sister doll" and a Barbie "play kitchen. But we lived in communist Poland so I got a handmade ragdoll and a painted wooden kitchen. I was upset.

@Scribbler I love the pipes (though I have a soft spot for the Irish pipes more than the scottish.) Something very ethereal about them. Definitely an OUTdoor instrument, however.

@Julito Glad you liked it. I do listen to suggestions and I agree that it's not a big splashy ending. I had started this out with some dramatic magical Santa Claus ending in mind, but I didn't know how to pull that off and went for a realistic ending instead.

@Harry Thanks. Glad you liked it. : ) Agreed about distance. It makes all the difference. Still don't know if we're going to save up for a set for our boy. We'll give it a few years. See if he still wants 'em.

julito77 said...

Cool, Monica, good to know since I am the same way about writer feedback. Can you send my bagpipes to Boston for me? Thanks!