Chapter 26: Come Out and Play

They usually danced on Sundays, but it was a beautiful day and as much as Kanto wanted to listen to the Sex Pistols, he also felt a magnetic pull, beckoning him to go run around in the sunlight. Even though he didn’t want to, he complained enough until Wendy gave in and took him to the park.

“Go play,” Wendy said. “I’m going to work on my song. On my guitar.” And Kanto was left alone. He’d much rather be listening to old records right now, but found himself walking around the perimeter of the park, looking at flowers and rocks and butterflies.

And then he saw her. The woman. Mel? The crazy lady who made everything silent. She was doing something next to a bush of flowers. He knew that he probably shouldn’t, but he decided to risk it.

“Hello!” he said. The woman turned to him. She held a violin that matched her dress and smiled, her eyes like diamonds.

“You’re that woman,” he said. “The woman who made everything quiet.”

“Oh yes,” she said. “You’re the boy who didn’t listen.”

She closed her eyes and began to play. The song was something that touched him deep inside, made him feel tall, as if the sun was pulling his back up straight. It was different from the music that Wendy listened to. It made him feel like everything was right in the world. And was it just him, or were the bluebells a little bit bluer than they’d been before?

“Kanto!” that was Wendy. She was running towards him. Strange. She rarely stopped playing her guitar. He didn’t know what brought her all the way over here, a corner of the park he’d never seen her in before. “I’m sorry,” she said to the woman. “He talks a lot sometimes.”

“I wasn’t bothering her,” Kanto said. “I just wanted to see how she made everything so quiet.”

“No, it’s alright,” Mel said. “I’m Mel.”

“What are you doing out here?” Wendy asked.

“I’m playing a song for the flowers.”

Wendy blinked. Kanto didn’t want her to become angry, and so he looked at her. “It’s okay, Wendy. She’s just a crazy lady.”

“Sorry about the kid,” Wendy said. “He’s still young, he doesn’t know the difference between crazy and gypsy punk.”

“I don’t know what that means,” Mel said. “I’m just here for the flowers.”


“Somebody has to listen to them.”

“No, somebody has to speak for them,” Wendy said. “I figured you were punk, nobody dresses up like that unless they’re a hippie, and that’s okay too.” She turned to Kanto. “Hippies aren’t bad people, Kanto, they just don’t know how to ask for what they want.” Back to Mel. “You know, it’s disgusting what they’re doing. Do you know that there’s a store in Newcrest that only sells swizzle sticks? Most of them are plastic and they won’t even let me in, it’s appalling. But that’s just what it is, isn’t it? They’ll sell you a swizzle stick in the shape of a flower, but rip out the actual flowers to build their swizzle stick stores. London is drowning, and I, I live by the river.”

“I have no idea what you’re saying,” Mel said, but her tone was soothing, as if she was asking to hear more.

“Why do you play songs for the flowers?” Kanto asked.

“Oh, little one,” Mel said. “I can’t tell you yet. You won’t listen.”

“But I am listening.”

“No, you’re hearing,” Mel explained. “There’s a difference.”

Kanto furrowed his brow. “I don’t understand. I can hear everything. I’m listening to everything!”

“I know,” Mel sighed, content. “But if you force something to tell you what you think you want to know, you’ll never listen. You’ll just hear.”

“I’m going to steal that,” Wendy said. “Do you mind if I put that into my zine?”

“One day, little one,” Mel said. “It takes time, that’s all. And practice. It’s like an instrument. You can’t learn it all at once.”

Kanto blinked. Now he didn’t know what to say.

“Well, we’ll let you go,” Wendy said. “I love your aesthetic. Let me know if you’re playing a show anytime soon.”

The woman tilted her head in confusion, and watched as Wendy and Kanto ran away. The boy would listen or he would not. But it seemed like he wasn’t the only one who needed to learn.

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