Sung to a Harp



Also featuring:


Scene Title Sung to a Harp
Synopsis It is past someone's bedtime.
Date April 7, 2011

In Dreams

Sun touches the western sky, running across the horizon like soft yolk. But it's not really the sunset that the boy is watching, but where he can see the city deeper south, beneath a sky in slow motion.

That and this is the way the house faces. It's getting cooler, but he doesn't move from his gargoyle perch on the lip of the roof, the sliding open window remaining gaping just beyond his skinny shoulder. He is in no way impoverished, but remains coltish in a way that suggests he will probably be so right into his teens and all the way into adulthood. Spindly legs curl up against his body, chin tucked against knee, and his arms wrap loose around both, bare feet against gutter and toes curled inwards. He's dressed against the cool New York air in wool and denim.

His hands are free from having to try and balance himself, as a result of economical posture. They hold, instead, a book, distinctive in its leather covers and the golden cross pressed into the front. Gold rimmed, silk-fine pages ruffle in the wind, using his thumbs to pin them down as he alternates between trying to read the tiny font, and watching the horizon.

He'll know she's there, not by the smell of her perfume or the smoke billowing from the end of the cigarette she holds pinched between her knuckles, but by the warmth of its burning tip close to his ear and the feel of her hand at the back of his head, fingertips trailing fondly through the dark of his hair. He knows also the light weave of the cardigan she wears over her dress, stylish but plain with antiquated buttons and a low neckline that reveals her throat, collarbone and the swell of her breasts beneath the fabric.

The wind would do to her hair what it does to the pages of his book if she didn't wear it pinned back. Sometimes she asks him what it is he's reading, whether he's lifted something from her personal collection or has sought out something for his own growing library, but tonight she's silent and instead lets her touch pose the question for her.

There are no crickets this time of year. If there were, it would be their chorus keeping him company and not the dead leaves rattling in the trees.

The book curls almost to close at that first sign of presence, although he doesn't let it shut completely, digits stuck between pages to keep his space even if. The Holy Bible is a little repetitive, to the eyes of a ten-year-old, even one who might be kindly considered to be bookish. There is a note of red in brunette hair that's dark enough to qualify as black, seeming to do so in the tiny increments of age he is claiming for himself. Faded freckles from brighter summers, and clean hands from when he washed them before dinner.

"Is he asleep?" he asks first, a mumbling whisper, mostly out of the conspirational sharing of two older beings who do not have to go to bed at sundown, smugness without particular conceit. All the while, his posture retracts some, Bible caught between his knees.

"I think so," she says, not without affection, "but sometimes he's so quiet it's difficult to tell." Legs long in comparison to the boy's, though they will not be longer than his forever, fold like a bird's wings, and she comes to sit beside him on the roof, shoulder-to-shoulder. Smoke leaks from her nostrils. She makes an effort not to blow it in his direction, or in a way that allows the wind to steal it up into his nostrils, stinging at esophagus and eyes.

Her free hand holds a small container of orange plastic with a white cap, recently emptied, and a rueful expression plays across the woman's small mouth as she turns it between her fingers. "I hate to ask your mother for anything," needs no explanation, and she offers the container to the boy. I hate to ask your mother for anything, but we need it.

"Who gave you that?" The bible, she means.

"I found it." For some kids, this could be synonymous with stole, but in this case, probably not. Mostly because this one is a little sneakier than that, probably. Relinquishing the book to one hand, he takes the container, looking at the label without actually reading it before shuffling enough to be able to bury the small item into a pocket. No questions asked or really needed. With this thing done, he pries the Bible open again, fussily seeking through the pages with climbing fingers.

He splays a hand against the opposite, shaking his head to get hair out of his eyes. And recites, in the kind of rhythmic way young people do. "'As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He knows how we are formed. He remembers that we are dust.'"

Hesitates, a little, clear eyes scanning the page, before he offers the next words, "'As for man, his days are like grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field.' It says it's a puhsalm." Which is maybe a lot like a psalm.

"Psalm," is the proper pronunciation, and like all her corrections, gentle. "They derived that from the Greek. Songs sung to a harp." A drag from her cigarette brightens the glow that wraps an orange circle around its tip. Embers float gold in the air and drift away, then fade to black, nothing. "Bach used them for several of his cantatas. Es wartet alles auf dich.

"Everything waits for you." She takes a piece of the boy's hair and tucks it behind his ear to smooth it away from his face so he won't have to shake his head again. "Poetry, ma petite hibou. Like you see on the stones but spoken. Is that your favourite?"

The boy mouths 'psalm' and her correct pronunciation, committing it to memory before he lets the fine pages of the book flutter over in the wind. "Maybe," he murmurs, shrugging a little. "Until I find another one. There's a lot of it. But these are okay. The psalms. Do people really sing them?" Sudden cynicism, and his voice is not very loud, giving that stroke of doubt very little to work with by way of communicating itself in his tone. Still, it's there. He would rather not have to sing, especially not half of these words.

"What's your favourite?" he asks, not turning to regard her rather than his found book, with all the expectation in the world that she would have one.

"You don't have to sing them." She lowers her eyes in silent contemplation; the truth is that the boy is more familiar with what's written in the book than she is. It's been years since she opened a bible, and maybe he'll be able to sense some of her discomfort, uncertainty as she taps ash from her cigarette. "I don't have a favourite," she finally admits, "but if I did, you'd find it with the proverbs, not the psalms."

These are kinder words than she would use if he was a few years older, but until then she leaves it at that, no longer fussing with his hair. "I should take you to the cathedral," she says. "A ceiling like the sky and windows made of glass paint. When the light shines through them, the whole world glows. You've never seen so many candles in all your life."

"But you like poetry." Like. Really like poetry. It almost verges on complaint, so he is quick to smile at her, perfectly angelic, before it dims some at her next words, pale eyes going vaguely unfocused wherein he is imagining it as she describes. Cathedrals and churches and priests in skirts. There's a soft exhale, mostly through his nose, that communicates some neutral sentiment to the idea before he peels back the Bible pages again and studies more the minute crawl of the words than what they actually convey.

Flutters them a little as if to locate the 'proverbs' part, but it took him this long to find the psalms. He lets the Bible fall across to Genesis. "I like your books more," he offers.

An arm goes around his shoulders, hand clasped at his side, and she presses a kiss to his temple, more hair in her lips than brushing skin. "I do like poetry," she mutters against the top of his head. "And wool that everyone else thinks is too rough. Rabbit kittens. Flowers that bloom under the snow. You can like a lot of things without having a favourite."

She likes him, too. She makes that clear by hugging him to her, the briefest of embraces and the kind usually reserved for the he who is already asleep. "It's late," she says, "and good little boys should be climbing into bed with their cousins. Will you watch over him for me tonight?"

There's a small huff of laughter at her words and the hug that goes with them, readily tilting into affection, the smokey smell of perfume and cigarettes both very familiar and very different. As is the embrace itself, the shape of her arms, the smallness of her shoulders. His mouth twists at the sentiment of needing to go to bed, reluctantly glancing towards the city across the fields. There are adults in his life that would let him stay up later. But he knows better than to argue.

"Yes," he says, to her request, moving to climb back into the house, a little precarious, as he's being careful not to drop the Bible and let it skid down the tiles to land on wet grass and dry leaves. But wait— "Rabbit kittens?" Those exist?

"It's what you call a baby," she says without rising. Her cigarette is not yet finished and she will stay out here until she's smoked it to completion. Just as there are adults in the boy's life that would let him stay up later, there adults below who would probably rather she did it outdoors if presented with the opportunity, and the opportunity tonight is a jagged skyline twinkling with the first twilight stars and the outline of a pale moon shrouded in purple and gold.

"A swan is a cygnet. A whale is a calf. Deer are fawns and otters are whelps. Rabbits, kittens." Her mouth curves around the filter. "Go to sleep, little one." Even if he's not so little anymore. "Dream sweetly."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License