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List of 2008 stories

Plain Song

The road was straight, flat and smooth. The bus was big, cool and quiet. We passengers had been exposed to a remarkable range of vistas in the previous few hours. Hills, forests, gorges, grassland, mountains. Now we were traversing the Mojave Desert. It was not that the place was uninteresting, but the unvaried picture of sand and scrub meant one could close the eyes for a while, or chat quietly and not be afraid of missing the "never to be repeated sight". You could sense the relaxed atmosphere. The excitement level was well down.

In the seat immediately behind the driver, I could see the Tour Director, Bob, leafing through a collection of CDís. It took no great mental effort to deduce he was going to play us some music while we cruised toward the horizon along the unbending, unending highway. Bob was a part-time Director. For most of the year he was a tutor at a university, running courses on biology and environmental studies. This was his summer job. I assumed that as a highly educated man who associated with many intellectuals, his preference would be for classical music. However, he had shown an outstanding ability to deliver information in non-technical language that was a model of clarity and not in the least condescending. He was a good mixer, a good communicator and knew his chargeís characteristics pretty well by now. We were a pretty ordinary bunch. No "arty" types, nor any "loud mouth" types. Just a group of middle class, middle aged, middle income people on a tour. So I guessed his choice of music would most likely be something in the light classical area. Something that most would have heard if not actually able to identify. I tried to predict his choice.

My first thought was Dvořákís New World Symphony. It is a happy piece of music and suited the occasion as far as I was concerned. Then I discarded the notion — The Czechís music was a bit too brusque for the present atmosphere. Ferde Grofé's The Grand Canyon Suite would be more appropriate the day we reached that phenomenon. The next thought was Borodinís In the Steppes of Central Asia. Perfect, thought I. The almost imperceptible opening refrain that introduces the piece, depicting a caravan appearing in the distance. The caravan nears and the music swells, the caravan passes and the music fades. A haunting, undemanding melody. What we got was Willy Nelson.

Now, it is not that I dislike Willy or his music. He has quite a peasant tone and I bet he is glad he never got his adenoids fixed. But I do think Bob could have picked something better, more appropriate. However, Bobís experience proved the wisdom of his selection. Within a couple of minutes you could hear the low murmuring of co-crooners. Oh well, canít beat them. Altogether now,

♫Grab your coat and get your hat, leave your worries on the doorstep
Just direct your feet to the sunny side of the street.♫

F. Brown. ©

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