Write on Edge: Music

This weeks fiction prompt for the Red Writing Hood was Music.  Describing how a piece of music affects our character, in 400 words or fewer (The website says 400 words or less, but every time I read/type/write that, I hear my English major mother screaming “Fewer!  It should be fewer!!!” in my ear.)

I almost didn’t make it with this one, but here it is, anyway:

Kieran stepped from the cool comfort of his mid-sized rental sedan and beads of sweat moistened his brow faster than you could say Celtic festival.  He hated the heat and the sweat was an unwelcome reminder.  Today, though, he ignored the heat, to get a taste of home and revel in his forgotten youth.

As he crossed through the rutted field of dry, matted straw, he absently touched his chest; his rough hand detecting the soft cotton fabric, but his mind’s eye seeing the McFlarity family crest circled in Celtic knot work tattooed on his lily-white flesh beneath.  The closer he got to the festival gate, the louder the strains of stringed instruments became.

Passing through the festival booths and vendors, Kieran followed a direct trek straight to the center stage.  As he drew closer his heart swelled along with the music.  Memories of his youth in the hills of Ireland rushed into his thoughts, bringing a smile to his face as his feet tapped out a private jig, meant solely for his own enjoyment.

Kieran thought of the rolling hills on the edge of his village, Balbriggan.  How he used to run on those hills with his brothers.  And the water front at the edge of the Irish Sea as he watched his father and the men, boarding the fishing boats each day.  Pa had always come home smelling of salt air and salmon, but his mother never seemed to mind; always happy just to have her husband safe and sound back at the family homestead.

As the music grew louder and the cymbals clanged together, Kieran flinched as his memories took a turn.  When the war had finally come to Balbriggan there was barely time for planning.  His parents would take the family away, to find a place of safety in the home of American cousins already living in New York City.

When suddenly the music softened, tears welled up in Kieran’s eyes as images of his last moments in Balbriggan flashed through his mind.  His father, shot in the back, branded a traitor.  His brothers dragged away by the soldiers and made to fight a war they could not understand, only to die pointlessly on the battlefield.  And his poor, sainted mother, savagely  beaten as she held the men at bay long enough for the fishing boat to set sail and carry Kieran away.

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10 thoughts on “Write on Edge: Music

  1. I’ve been waiting for someone to call us out on 400 “or less.” Thanks 😉 Sometimes conventions get the better of linguistics. For shame.

    Honestly, the only criticism I have is this: in the last paragraph, it should be “his brothers dragged…” Otherwise, I love your use of the Celtic festival music as Kieran’s guide through the memories.

  2. Awww! The son of my best friend is named Kieran. I liked this story a lot; however, I didn’t LOVE the first graph. The ending was a surprise to me. It got so bad so fast:O It seems like the start of a book! I bet it’d be a great story!

    • EEEk! Let me clarify, “It got so bad so fast.” I meant it got so scary/sad so fast! A real twist.

      • Ha! I knew what you meant. With only 400 words to work with, You’ve gotta move fast. 🙂

        What didn’t you love about the first paragraph? I actually had paired it down a bit to fit into the world count limit. I guess, I could have eliminated the first paragraph and beefed up the second paragraph to introduce the scene…

  3. I really enjoyed this (I also love Celtic music festivals).

    I reread it a few times and I honestly don’t think you need the first paragraph at all. It is more of “telling” us facts, most of which you proceed to show us in the following paragraphs. Switching it to “He crossed through the rutted field of dry, matted straw, and absently….” – I don’t think you’d lose anything.

    I did not see the memories coming that he had, I expected more happy, but it was a good surprise and I love how the music led him there.

    • I think you’re right. I’ve reread it a couple of times myself and I can see where it’d would have been just as easy to introduce the story starting with the second paragraph.

      This is what we’re here for, right? Thanks for the advice. 🙂

  4. I’m impressed with the way you can so convincingly write about a foreign country, a different heritage, another time and life. This is GOOD. I found myself right in the very place you were describing.

    • You know I was just thinking the other day that when my book gets published (in whatever form) I should write a blog post about my “tools”, the things I used for these kinds of things.

      But I’ll let you in a little secret now… “Google Earth”.

      I used it when I wrote this piece to visualize the village of Balbriggan, but I also used it a lot in writing the book to visualize places, I’d otherwise have to take time to go to (and break my flow of writing.)

      The internet is an amazing place! 🙂

  5. The descriptions of the walk through rutted field to the center stage of memories was great. I walked beside Kieran.
    I agree with the other commenters about the first paragraph. It’s bland compared to the flavor if the rest of the piece.
    The switch in emotion caught me, happy childhood memories framed in loss.

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