Our instructor played a long recording (about 7 minutes) of a chain of different sounds. We were to listen to them and compose a story using them in the order given. The sounds began and ended with a heartbeat. This is the narrative I came up with. Comments (constructive criticism, too) welcome.
Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub …
Margaret jolted up in bed, her heart pounding, a scream caught in her throat, the sheets twisted and wet from sweat. She placed a hand over her heart and took a deep breath, trying to relax herself from the terror of her nightmare. In two weeks, she prayed, he’d be home. She knew how much he had wanted to go on this project, but she couldn’t help but worry that he was putting his life in danger just to save some animals. She wanted him home already.
She could hear the rain outside battering the vine climbing outside her window and drumming a rhythm on the eavestroughing above. The wind howled and thunder rumbled in the distance. Shrugging on her fuzzy bathrobe, she tiptoed into the baby’s room. Thankfully, she had woken before the scream, and little Nellie was still sound asleep.
Thirteen thousand kilometers to the east, Frank huddled in the hollow of the cave, trying to protect himself from the pounding rain. He thought of Margaret, who would be asleep now. He hoped she was warm and dreaming sweet dreams. Although he missed her horribly, he was glad he had been chosen to take part in this mission.
The rainstorm stopped as quickly as it had started, and the sound of the deluge was replaced by the sounds of the jungle. The howls of pariah dogs mingled with the chirrups of tree frogs, the chatter of monkeys, the screeches of birds and the raucous laughter of hyenas. The ozone-laden air was fresh and invigorating. He peered out of the natural blind. He knew the injured elephant must be nearby. A wild cat screamed in the distance.
Again Margaret woke up, this time from the wild mewling of cats in heat outside her window. Dawn was almost breaking. The door next door slammed, and the neighbor’s Labrador started barking. At least he had scared off the cats. She checked the clock on the nightstand. She could get another hour of sleep. She turned over and snuggled into the pillow, escaping into a reverie involving Frank.
Frank was startled out of his reverie by the trumpeting of an elephant. Perhaps he had finally located the one in distress that he had been tracking. He stood up, stretching his stiff legs. Yes. He could see the young cow limping through the bush. She had been injured by some poachers but had escaped, and the local tribesmen had reported the incident to the rangers. They had been stalking her for two days now, hoping to find her before she succumbed to her wounds. With luck, they could treat her and release her back to the herd.
Frank saw her limping amongst the forest trees, reaching out her trunk to delicately grab some gingerbread plums from the low bushes. As she munched the fruit, he raised his dart gun and took aim.
“Frank to Central. Frank to Central. I’ve got her. She’s down.”
“Roger! We’re on our way.”
Fifteen minutes later a helicopter was hovering over the prone elephant. Quickly, Frank and the pilot snapped the harness around the elephant, and within minutes, she was being airlifted to the on-site veterinary clinic.
The winch creaked as she was lowered to the ground. Hooks unsnapped with a clink and the helicopter moved out.
“We’ve got to work quickly. Don’t know how long the tranquilizer will keep her out,” noted the chief vet. Together, he and Frank examined the elephant’s swollen leg. “It’s not as bad as I feared. We’ll clean it out, give her some antibiotics, and I hope she’ll be fine.”
Margaret holds Nellie close. “Hush, sweetie, hush,” she whispers. “It’s just a little splinter in your foot. Look! Mommy got it out!”
Margret held up the tweezers with the small bit of wood. Nellie’s cries pierced the air and tears streamed down her chubby cheeks.
“Look, Nellie. I have special band-aids for you. See. They have pretty pictures of animals. Which one would you like?”
Nellie’s screams dissolved into a gentle whimpering as she examined the cartoon-like figures.
“That one. With the purple elephant. And I want to save the splinter to show daddy. When will he be home?”
“Soon, darling. Soon. He’s on his way home already now.” Margaret kissed Nellie on her forehead. “There! Your boo-boo’s all better. Let’s get back to your toy trains, now.”
“Choo choo!” laughed Nellie.
Frank leaned into the soft cushioned backrest of his seat as the train clickety clacked along. The reality of being back in America was hard to digest. The cacophony was overwhelming after the peace of Africa. Even between the airport and the train station, he had managed to pass a mob of angry protestors, ranting and jeering. The sounds of traffic, police sirens and noisy pedestrians were jarring and disturbing after the music of the jungle. He longed to be home already, in the tranquil quiet of his home, his arms wrapped around Margaret and Nellie. He dozed off to the strains of Muzak.
Margaret looked around her. Frank was on his way home, and everything was ready. She had had her hair cut and styled and was wearing her prettiest afternoon frock. Nellie was dressed in a pretty new outfit. The house was spic and span and Frank’s favorite chicken dish was simmering on the stove. Two champagne flutes stood ready and waiting on the table.
Butterflies fluttered rampant in her stomach. She felt like she was on a first date. She sat down at the piano to take her mind off her nervousness. Her fingers rippled over the keys as she focused on the mellifluous rising and falling thirds and sixths of Chopin’s Barcarole. She lost herself in the hushed mystery of its melody.
Frank walked along the sidewalk. As he approached his house, he heard the strains of a piano getting stronger and stronger. With a wave of yearning he pictured Margaret sitting in front of the piano, her fingers flying over the keys. He could picture her forehead furled in concentration over a difficult passage, or her appearance of ecstasy when she gave herself over to the passion and emotion of the composition. He reached the top of the stairs, but waited for the final four sonorous strikes before he tapped softly on the door.
Margaret jumped up and opened the door.
Lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub …
- Distance from Kingston, Ontario to Kenya: 12,000 km and 9 hours. Just saying.
- Nellie the Elephant is a cartoon series created by Terry Ward on behalf of Film Fair in the United Kingdom that ran between 1989 and 1990.