I had to do something. I tensed my core, pulling it into a painful spasm, and flashed an intense bar of light towards Gerald’s eyes. He exclaimed, grimaced and dropped the head-joint. Yammy gasped thanks as he clattered down on top of me. Gerald was exclaiming in agony, feeling about for goggles. ‘Gerald!’ came a yell from outside.
The man swore and banged the goggles down on the work-bench. ‘Oh darn,’ he said, ‘can’t get a minute’s peace!’
‘What is it?’ he yelled.
‘Gerald!’ shouted the woman’s voice.
‘WHAT?’ he shouted. ‘I’m TRYING to WORK!’
‘Your TEA! You forgot to take your TEA with you,’ she screamed.
Gerald swore and turned the horrible machine off. Grumbling, he shuffled off. I heard what sounded like a front door slam.
Then things happened so fast we didn’t have a clue what was going on. The door to the shed opened with a tiny creak, and a quiet, quiet hand gathered us all up and piled us stealthily back into the sack. Whoever it was picked up the whole sack, making an effort not to clank us. We were moved silently onto the person’s back and he started walking, very fast and very quietly, away from the shed. As soon as we rounded a corner, he started to run. We were jolted painfully about, tangling up keys, wires, tubes. Suddenly we started going extra fast. We heard loud waily scary noises. ‘Oh blimey,’ panted the flute-napper, taking off even faster up the road.
He took a sharp left. We were in agonies, being bashed about on his back. All of a sudden, we were thrown to the ground. Sharp prickles came through the sack. We were on a mass of something horribly spikey. Heavy foot-falls slap-slapped into the distance. The sirens went past. All was quiet. We breathed a sigh of relief. At least we were not going to be melted down.
We lay there, in the prickles for days and days. The sun shone through the tiny holes in the sack’s material. Rain dripped through and soaked us all. I felt my pads swell, and my keys start to stick. One day the wind got up. All the flutes in the sack howled and moaned the trauma of the past weeks. Pixie the piccolo squeaked in sadness as his wood swelled and cracked.
Then there were a couple of calmer, warmer days. We heard the grass being scuffled. Whistling. A dog sniffing around. ‘What you found, Buster?’ said a young voice. ‘Ooh. Yuck. Is it bodies? You ain’t found a body, have you, Buster?’ The kid peeked inside our sack. ‘Oh, phew, not bodies. What is it?’ He pulled out parts of Clarence and Pixie. ‘Oh!.. Clarnets an that. Flutes. You poor things. Someone’s gotta of nicked you from somewhere posh.’
He heaved us onto his back and set off, clanking. After about half an hour of trudging, we heard a bell ring above us as we went through a door. ‘Look, Mister,’ said the boy. ‘Look what I found.’
The flute-mender took us gently out of the sack, piece by piece, exclaiming with sorrow at our state. He set the lad to drying our pads by putting rizla papers in between the pads and the metal and squeezing our keys shut. What a relief to have moisture pulled out of you. The flute-mender turned a little air-heater on, so we would dry out, and laid our poor tarnished bodies on dry cotton, matching up foot-joints with bodies and head-joints. ‘Will you be able to mend them?’ asked the boy.
‘Yes, of course,’ said the flute-mender, ‘and you can help me. All instruments deserve to be saved so they can play again.’
We were so relieved. We lay basking in the warm, dry gusts. The flute-mender picked me up and started to polish my metal. He exclaimed in a low voice: ‘Oh….Pearly…I’ve mended you before! Never thought I’d see you again!’
He showed the boy my engraving and the scratchy line under my name. I tried to glint, but my shine could not get out through its tarnished coating. ‘A silver cloth should do it,’ said the flute-mender. He set to, carefully cleaning around my keys, on my keys, and all of my head-joint. He put an absorbent cloth through me, leaving it there to pull out the rain. By the time he and the boy left for the night, we all felt massively better and could not believe our luck.
The flute-mender worked on us for several weeks, humming. He seemed to be in no hurry, but calmly replaced our wires and pads, working eight hours a day with few breaks. When he finished me, he played a quick two-octave scale. I felt like I was awakening from a long sleep. It was so wonderful to exercise my voice. He put me on one of the little stands around the shop.
Yammy was on a stand near me. I had a chance to ask him about Lucy. What had happened to make Lucy and him be apart? ‘You know the story,’ he replied. ‘You know it already.’
‘I don’t, Yammy. I haven’t got a clue what happened to you. Is Lucy alright?’
‘I mean, you know the story, in the sense that…she…’ he almost choked… ‘she…got a new flute.’
‘Oh,’ I said.
‘A top-range Jupiter. Solid silver body. She was eighteen, going off to the Royal College of Music.’
I felt a rush of delight, that my work had not been in vain, but also pain, that I had not been allowed to help.
Yammy carried on: ‘So, she needed the best…’
‘But…you are, were, the best, Yammy.’
‘No, no…I wasn’t, you see…her mother….she traded me in….for Joopey.’
‘Poor Yammy,’ I sighed.
‘Then the shop sold me to a lady who gave me to her delinquent student son as a present, hoping that music would save his soul. He had no idea what I was worth, pawned me for cash at the first opportunity and that horrible artist man picked me up for next to nothing.’
‘Well, at least we’re not mobiles any more,’ I said.
‘Yes, thanks to you….Pearly, I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘Sorry I was mean. I understand more about life, now.’
The bell tinkled and a chap came in.
‘Oh, Ad, you’ll love my new consignment!’ joked our flute-mender, gesturing around the shop. ‘Forty-five of them, all fallen off the back of a lorry. See what I mean?’
I knew we had not fallen off the back of a lorry, but I thought that it might mean that we had been stolen.
They walked around, talking about all the different instruments. They finally reached me. ‘Yeah, I’ve seen that one before,’ nodded the flute-mender. ‘Came in in a terrible state. Honest, anyone else would have had to do away with her.’
The customer’s face came up close to me. There was an intake of breath and a pause. ‘What?’ I was thinking. ‘What now?’
‘Pearly?’ he said.