Chapter Five (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter Six (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter Seven (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter Eight (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter Nine (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter Ten (#litres_trial_promo)
Chapter Eleven (#litres_trial_promo)
About The Author (#litres_trial_promo)
Other Books By (#litres_trial_promo)
About the Publisher (#litres_trial_promo)
Somewhere a Band Is Playing (#uf9970dbd-227a-5c42-a618-4422f5328221)
Somewhere a Band Is Playing …
for Anne Hardin and Katharine Hepburn, with love
Some stories – be they short stories, novellas, or novels – you may realize, are written as a result of a single, immediate, clear impulse. Others ricochet off various events over a lifetime and come together much later to make a whole.
When I was six years old my father, who had an urge to travel, took our family by train to Tucson, Arizona, for a year, where we lived in a burgeoning environment; for me, it was exhilarating. The town was very small and it was still growing. There’s nothing more exciting than to be part of the evolution of a place. I felt a sense of freedom there and I made many wonderful friends.
A year later, we moved back to Waukegan, Illinois, where I had been born and spent the first years of my life. But we returned to Tucson when I was twelve, and this time I experienced an even greater sense of exhilaration because we lived out on the edge of town and I walked to school every day, through the desert, past all the fantastic varieties of cacti, encountering lizards, spiders and, on occasion, snakes, on my way to seventh grade; that was the year I began to write.
Then, much later, when I lived in Ireland for almost a year, writing the screenplay of Moby Dick for John Huston, I encountered the works of Stephen Leacock, the Canadian humorist. Among them was a charming little book titled Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town.
I was so taken with the book that I tried to get MGM to make a motion picture of it. I typed up a few preliminary pages to show the studio how I envisioned the book as a film. When MGM’s interest failed, I was left with the beginning of a screenplay that had the feeling of a small town. But at the same time I couldn’t help but remember the Tucson I had known and loved when I was six and when I was twelve, and began to write my own screenplay and short story about a town somewhere in the desert.
During those same years I kept encountering Katharine Hepburn, either in person or on the screen, and I was terribly attracted by the fact that she remained so youthful in appearance through the years.
Sometime in 1956, when she was in her late forties, she made the film Summertime. This caused me somehow to put her at the center of a story for which I had no title yet, but Somewhere a Band Is Playing was obviously evolving.
Some thirty years ago I saw a film called The Wind and the Lion, starring Sean Connery and with a fabulous score by Jerry Goldsmith. I was so taken with the score that I sat down, played it, and wrote a long poem based on the enchanting music.
This became another element of Somewhere a Band Is Playing as I progressed through the beginnings of a story which I had not yet fully comprehended, but it seemed as if finally all the elements were coming together: the year I spent in Tucson, age six, the year I spent there when I was twelve, the various encounters with Katharine Hepburn, including her magical appearance in Summertime, and my long poem based on the score of The Wind and the Lion. All of these ran together and inspired me to begin a long prologue to the novella that ultimately followed.
Today, looking back, I realize how fortunate I am to have collected such elements, to have held them ready, and then put them together to make this final product, Somewhere a Band Is Playing. I have been fortunate to have many ‘helpers’ along the way. One of those, in the case of this story, is my dear friend Anne Hardin, who has offered me strong encouragement over the past few years to see this novella published. For that she shares in the dedication of this work.
Of course, I had hoped to finish the novella, over the years, in order to have it ready in time for Katharine Hepburn, no matter how old she got, to play the lead in a theater or film adaptation. Katie waited patiently, but the years passed, she became tired, and finally left this world. I cannot help but feel she deserves the dedication I have placed on this story.
There was a desert prairie filled with wind and sun and sagebrush and a silence that grew sweetly up in wildflowers. There was a rail track laid across this silence and now the rail track shuddered.
Soon a dark train charged out of the east with fire and steam and thundered through the station. On its way it slowed at a platform littered with confetti, the tatters of ancient tickets punched by transient conductors.
The locomotive slowed just enough for one piece of luggage to catapult out, and a young man in a summer dishrag suit to leap after and land running as the train, with a roar, charged on as if the station did not exist, nor the luggage, nor its owner who now stopped his jolting run to stare around as the dust settled around him and, in the distance, the dim outlines of small houses were revealed.
‘Damn,’ he whispered. ‘There is something here, after all.’
More dust blew away, revealing more roofs, spires, and trees.
‘Why?’ he whispered. ‘Why did I come here?’
He answered himself even more quietly, ‘Because.’
In his half-sleep last night he had felt something writing on the insides of his eyelids.
Without opening his eyes he read the words as they scrolled:
Somewhere a band is playing,
Playing the strangest tunes,
Of sunflower seeds and sailors
Who tide with the strangest moons.
Somewhere a drummer simmers
And trembles with times forlorn,
Remembering days of summer
In futures yet unborn.
‘Hold on,’ he heard himself say.
He opened his eyes and the writing stopped.
He half-raised his head from the pillow and then, thinking better of it, lay back down.
With his eyes closed the writing began again on the inside of his lids.