Snobbits and the Doursville Anthem
Timken lived in the little village of Doursville. He was still young and so lived with his parents—but not so young as to have no thoughts or ideas of his own about things. In fact, his father and mother and brothers and sisters were repeatedly telling him that if he wasn’t careful the Snobbits might one day snatch him away to the Doursville Musical Rehabilitation Center. They went on to say that perhaps it would even be a good idea if they did, as they were becoming more and more alarmed themselves that something was amiss with him. After all, the music that came out of him was so very horrible they could hardly stand it!
Prickles raced up Timken’s spine at the very thought of the Snobbits. They seemed to be everywhere! Why, you could hardly avoid running into at least one of them anytime you went out of the house. And it wasn’t like you could make them out from anyone else just by looking at them. Oh no, it wasn’t that easy! They were all of the plainclothes sort, doing their work undercover. They might come up to you and ask for directions on how to get to one place or another and then, once you told them, get you talking on some other seemingly harmless topic. Before you knew it they’d be asking what you thought about music. And before you knew what was happening they’d flash their official badge and demand that you play the Doursville Anthem for them right then and there. You had no choice but to comply. Play it to their satisfaction and all would be fine. In fact, the Snobbits would applaud and congratulate you and slap you on the back as if you were long lost friends reunited at last. But if you didn’t play the Anthem to their liking, or worse yet played some other tune entirely, you would be taken on the spot and hustled away to the Doursville Musical Rehabilitation Center, or DMRC as most referred to it.
In actuality, Timken had himself only been the subject of a Snobbit interrogation twice. In each instance he had barely managed an acceptable result. Probably due to his youthful age the Snobbits had cut him a break, issuing him an Improvement Required Citation that he had had to show his parents. They, in turn, had needed to sign and return it to the authorities with the promise that they would diligently seek to help Timken improve. They were warned that with a third citation the Snobbits would have no choice but to commit Timken to the DMRC so that more drastic corrective action could be taken.
His parents, terribly embarrassed by his poor performance (for all such infractions were published in the local newspaper) vowed that Timken would not only improve to become a satisfactory performer, he would come to excel beyond his peers! And to this end they arranged for him to have private lessons by a Doursville Grand Master. The lessons were given six days a week with each lesson lasting two hours and followed by another two hours of practice at home directly afterward so that what he had just learned might gain immediate reinforcement.
Unfortunately, today was not his day of rest from what was, for Timken, the torture of his lessons with the Grand Master. It was with a heavy heart and an audible sigh that he grabbed his instrument and headed out the door.
Timken’s First Cornello
It was Spring and the warm sun felt wonderful upon his welcoming skin. Timken would much rather be heading out for a walk in the woods beyond the village than be subject to the varied tortures of the morning’s lesson. It wasn’t that he didn’t like music. It wasn’t that at all. In fact, he loved music! He just didn’t like playing the Anthem—or any of the six hundred and sixty-five other songs that were part of the Authorized Anthem Collection. For anyone aspiring to the status of a Doursville Grand Master the entire Collection had to be learned and played flawlessly without benefit of sheet music. It had to be so ingrained in one’s memory that it became part of your very being. Suffice it to say that Timken had no such designs on the future as that of becoming a Grand Master. In fact, his parents had caught him more than once playing unauthorized music.
Where such music came from, he had no idea. It just came out of him. He didn’t know why. It was altogether different from anything in the Collection. The authorized music seemed rigid and lifeless to him. The variety and combination of tones was strictly limited and changes of mood were forbidden. There were no soft parts and no loud parts. Just a sort of musical monotone that he thought, at times, would drive him mad.
I must take a moment here to give my readers some insight into the musical instrument possessed by everyone in Doursville as it is of the most unusual kind. Although found in different sizes and made of various woods and other materials each instrument, known as a cornello, has certain key elements in common. Each has an oval frame over which run ten strings across a sounding board. The cornello is held tightly to one’s chest and strummed. The different notes that emerge, together with the very timbre of the sound, is achieved by an invisible, yet very real connection between the instrument and the spirit of the player. It is the thoughts and intent of the player that works upon the frame of the instrument to constantly reshape it so that the strings are either lengthened or shortened while being strummed, thus producing the music. It is well known in Doursville that if your thoughts are of the right sort the Anthem will rise out of the instrument bright and clear! And from there one could progress on to master any number of tunes in the Authorized Anthem Collection.
From the very start Timken had fallen short of expectations.
It began with his selection of an instrument. Timken and his parents had gone to pick one out for his eighth birthday, the age at which the young folks in Doursville were expected to begin learning to play. Upon entering the music shop it had looked to Timken that there were a hundred cornellos from which to choose! There were cornellos with metal frames, wood frames and even varied kinds of composites. (These were the most expensive and highly sought after.) There were red and green and brown and pink and blue cornellos. Large. Small. And everything in between. Timken remembered looking up into his parents’ beaming faces, his father gesturing towards the expanse of the shop, inviting him to take it all in.
“Timken,” he’d said, “today is a special day. One of the most memorable of your life. For today you will choose your very own cornello.” His broad smile faded and he became somber. “Choose wisely, son. For your very future hangs on such decisions as the one you will make here today.” And, with an encouraging nudge and the admonition to keep his choice within the financial boundaries they had talked about on the way, his parents had left him to his own wits to explore the shop and choose his first cornello. Like his brothers and sisters before him they’d been confident that he would make a good choice.
It was over an hour before Timken had returned to where his parents stood chatting with the shopkeeper and placed his selection on the counter.
“Why Timken,” Mr. Narrows, the shopkeeper had said, “where did you find this one? I didn’t even know I had one like this in my shop!” He turned the instrument over in his hands as Timken’s parents looked on. The instrument was wholly unremarkable. It had an aging wooden frame that was rather dull looking and a diameter of about nine inches. Mr. Narrows had grabbed a magnifying glass to take a closer look.
“Hmm,” he’d murmured. “It appears to me that the frame is spoiled by some sort of reddish-brown stains. Take a look.” He’d handed the cornello to Timken’s father along with the magnifying glass. His father had made his own examination and agreed that it was a rather shabby sort of cornello and pronounced it too old-fashioned and worn to likely be of much good, let alone hold up for the length of time it should to be of reasonable service to Timken. He’d placed it against his own chest and begun playing the Doursville Anthem. But as it came out well enough, and Timken had been certain that this was the cornello he wanted, his father had relented and paid Mr. Narrows the small price he’d asked and, considering it a bargain, had left with his family for home and the bright future for Timken he’d so fondly imagined would be his.
To the chagrin of the Grand Master, Timken arrived for his lesson ten minutes late. Mr. Molarsis was a stern man at his best moments and having been kept waiting, seemed to have used the time to build up a good head of steam. His face was one big scowl.
“Timken!” he barked, “You must learn that slackness in attending to your lessons is not something I consider a trifle. You are already on thin ice with the Snobbits and your parents have turned to me to put things right. From what I’ve seen so far you’ve no time to waste and must apply yourself with all the diligence you can muster!” He took two steps back and glared at Timken, surveying his pupil to gauge the effect of his admonishment.
“I’m sorry to be late sir,” Timken said softly, fingering his cornello with no small apprehension. He knew what was coming next. It was the Grand Master’s habit to begin each lesson by having him play the Doursville Anthem, each time with the hope that what came out of the cornello would better approximate the tune than the time before. Mr. Molarsis grunted and Timken took it as his cue to proceed. He placed the cornello on his chest and began to play.
It all started out rather well. Although the music sounded awful to Timken with its monotonous droning he pressed on, trying hard to keep his mind from wandering. He was doing well and I think he would have made it all the way to the end, too, if it hadn’t been for the thought fluttering lazily through his mind that, surely, there must be more to music than whatever was entombed in the Doursville Anthem! The very moment this wayward thought passed through his heart and mind it made its presence known through the music coming out of the cornello.
The Grand Master’s face instantly contorted in anger and he loosed an awful bellow that rattled the very windows.
“Timken!!! What is that infernal sound? It certainly isn’t the great Anthem of Doursville! I cannot stand to hear it and I simply won’t have it!” He snatched the instrument from Timken’s grasp. Regaining a measure of his composure, he began to examine it closely.
“Perhaps there is something amiss with this particular cornello,” he muttered after a while. “The wood of the frame is so old and odd looking. I’m not even sure what it is. And those stains! Perhaps the combination of the two account for some of your troubles.” He set the cornello down, and taking another from the smattering of cornellos to be found lying about the studio, handed it to Timken. “Now here’s a cornello in which I have every confidence. Let’s see if it makes a difference.”
Timken took it. It was lighter than his own. Larger too. He could feel the cold of the metal frame through his shirt as he positioned it on his chest. His very heart seemed to instantly recoil, not unlike the snatching back of a child’s hand when snapped at by a dog they thought friendly only to find it to have a nasty temperament. He looked up at the Grand Master into eyes that seemed to match the instrument for coldness.
“Now play!” the Master commanded sharply.
Timken was nearly faint with fear at what might come out of this strange feeling cornello. He closed his eyes and began to play, emptying his mind and concentrating as best he could on nothing at all. He didn’t even think about the notes in the Anthem. He just played in keeping with the emptiness that threatened to engulf him. He heard sounds somewhere in the distance of a cornello playing the Doursville Anthem but didn’t connect it with anything he was doing.
He opened one eye and stole a glance at his teacher. To his astonishment Mr. Molarsis was smiling, his foot tapping lightly in time with the music.
“Good, Timken. Very good!” he exclaimed when Timken finished. “It wasn’t perfect, but it was good. Your parents will be so proud!
“It is just as I suspected,” he announced picking up Timken’s old cornello. “This instrument is deeply flawed, perhaps even by design.” He hesitated before going on. “I have heard stories of some cornellos that were made ages ago—only a very few mind you!—by some crackpot who dared suggest that we were all playing the wrong music. This idiot kept saying that there was another anthem, the real anthem, or so he claimed. The Original Anthem he called it. The mad fool insisted that it had been usurped by the Anthem we now play. It’s all utter nonsense!”
He turned Timken’s cornello over slowly, examining it thoroughly. Reaching for a magnifying glass he studied the wooden frame intently, his face puckering more and more until his eyebrows threatened to join his lips somewhere around his nose. Suddenly, with a single motion, he raised the cornello high over his head and brought it down hard against his lectern, dashing it to pieces.
“Sir, my cornello! You’ve broken it! Why? Why?” Timken was stunned, every fiber of his being at full alert.
The Grand Master, a piece of the frame still in his grasp, dropped it as quickly as if it had been a burning coal, his face smoldering with rage. “I’ve destroyed your cornello, Timken, because of what I saw.”
Timken was bewildered. “What is it you saw, Sir?”
“The unmistakable mark of the crackpot I was telling you about.”
The Woods and Whom Timken Met There
Timken left with the pieces of his shattered cornello inside a sack slung over his shoulder. Instead of returning home he headed for the woods lying at the outskirts of the village. On any other spring day with the sun shining as brightly as the one now overhead he would have been walking along with a glad heart, eager to explore the mysteries of the woodlands for he always found something of interest there. He was fascinated with the countless variety of trees, plants, animals and streams. He’d even stumbled on a cave. It wasn’t much of a cave he had to admit. More like an indentation in a wall of rock that provided just enough shelter from the occasional spring showers to cause it to be one of Timken’s favorite places. He visited the cave nearly every outing and often had his lunch there. He’d munch on a sandwich and catch sight of the occasional squirrel, deer, and turkey that inhabit the woods. Although he hadn’t brought a lunch with him today, not expecting to even be there on a lesson day, he’d stuck an apple in his pocket to eat on his way home. Now, bewildered and sore of heart, he worked his way through the village, into the woods, and in the direction of the cave, wanting nothing more than to be alone and away from anything that had to do with Doursville.
As he neared the cave, he thought he saw wisps of smoke wafting up from under the ledge of the cave’s roof. The moment he arrived at the entrance, he received an unexpected greeting.
“Hello, Timken. You’re just in time for lunch. I’ve been expecting you.”
The salutation came from a man Timken had never seen before. He was older than Timken but younger than Timken’s father. He was cooking meat on a spit over an open fire. He looked right at home and moved with an easy manner that suggested he was at total ease in the outdoors and quite comfortable with the culinary skills it required. He smiled hospitably as he stood and thrust out a weathered hand in Timken’s direction.
“I hope you like rabbit. I’ve got a couple of potatoes too, down in the coals.” He winked as he saw the round bulge in Timken’s pocket. “All we need now is an apple and we’ll have ourselves a pretty tasty meal.”
Timken couldn’t yet get his mouth working but did manage to shake hands. Bewildered and amazed he handed his apple to the man who snapped it cleanly in half and set a piece on each of two plates.
“Name’s Jake,” he said, turning back to lift the potatoes out of the coals and slide the rabbit meat off the spit. The food smelled wonderful to Timken. Jake motioned to a log. “Go ahead, have a seat.” He gathered everything up, and handing Timken one of the two steaming plates, sat down opposite him.
“Who are you? Where’d you come from? What are you doing here? How did you know my name?” Timken was full of questions.
Jake chuckled. “Which question should I answer first?” His mirth was as easy-going as everything else about him. Timken couldn’t help liking him and didn’t feel a bit afraid.
“I tell you what my friend. You just start eating and I’ll do my best to clear away some of the fog.”
Timken found that the morning’s events had left him hungrier than he realized and it didn’t take any more coaxing to get him started. The rabbit and potatoes were scrumptious.
“It’s like this, Timken,” Jake began. “About three weeks ago I was asked to come and given directions to this very cave. I was told that I’d meet a boy here—a young man that is,” he corrected himself, grinning broadly, “by the name of Timken. I take it you’re him?”
“Well, given the request came from somebody very special, someone I hold in the highest regard and consider not only my Master but the Master of all men, I couldn’t very well say no, could I?” He smiled as Timken shook his head. “So here I am! I’m not sure why or what I’m supposed to do next, but as the Master always sends the right person to the right place at the right time I’m sure we’ll figure it out together.” He took a bite of apple. “Why don’t you tell me about yourself and maybe that will get us pointed in the right direction.”
I won’t give you all the details but Timken hit Jake with a lot more questions, only to find Jake’s answers raising even more questions. Timken filled Jake in on the Snobbits, his parents, and the problems he was having getting to the place with the Doursville Anthem where everyone was satisfied. He concluded his tale by telling how the Grand Master had smashed his cornello to beyond what Timken believed to be the possibility of repair. Jake listened intently.
“What happened to the pieces, Timken?” he asked. “Mr. Molarsis didn’t throw them away, did he?” Jake asked with growing chagrin. Without a word Timken grabbed his own sack, turning it upside down, the shattered pieces spilling out onto the ground.
“Do you think it can ever be fixed?” he asked, his eyes searching Jake’s face for any hint of hope.
Jake’s eyes twinkled as he gathered up the pieces. “You know something, Timken?”
“I think we just figured out why I’m here.”
While Timken cleaned up from their meal, Jake set about making repairs to Timken’s cornello, all the while taking the time to explain to Timken that he was a skilled craftsman, known for his ability to repair all manner of things made by the one who had put his mark on Timken’s cornello. In fact, Jake had confided, the Master put his special mark on everything he made. He assured Timken with a wry smile, that he wasn’t anything like the sort of Grand Master Mr. Molarsis claimed to be. “No, Timken,” he said solemnly, “he’s the sort of Master you love to serve. For he himself knows what it is to serve and is always serving.” In response to Timken’s questions Jake would only say that the Master knew everything that went on in Doursville and was well aware of Timken’s dilemma. After all, he’d sent Jake to him, hadn’t he?
Jake had brought along a sack of his own, and in it were all manner of tools and materials he used in making his repairs. Seeing how eager Timken was to be of help, he showed him how to use some adjustable clamps to help nudge the frame back into shape. It wasn’t long before Jake pronounced the instrument as good as new, reverently placing it into Timken’s welcoming hands. “Play,” he invited.
Timken hesitated, wondering what he should play. As he was so used to the Grand Master, his parents, and the Snobbits demanding that he play the Doursville Anthem he decided that it would be the safest thing to play now. Reluctantly, he pressed the cornello against his chest and began to play, the opening notes sounding dreadfully familiar. Jake reached out his hand and placed it on Timken’s own, halting him in mid-strum.
“No, Timken. Not that,” Jake said softly. “Play the real anthem. The Original Anthem.”
“But I don’t know it,” Timken replied.
“Yes you do,” Jake persisted, breaking out into a wide smile. “You’ve been playing your part of it for years.”
For the rest of the afternoon Jake gave Timken lesson after lesson, and Timken learned more about music during those few hours than all the days and years of his life that had come before. Jake explained that the Original Anthem was better known to those who played it as the Master’s Song and was actually meant to be played by thousands upon thousands of musicians, each having their own unique part that, when played together, would create the most wondrous symphony the world had ever known. When Timken asked how that could ever happen Jake had smiled and insisted that, as far-fetched as it all might sound now, it would, indeed, take place one day. Timken could count on it!
Jake talked at length about his Master, explaining to Timken how his music had been stolen and corrupted. Usurped by an imposter a long, long time ago. He said that both the Master and imposter were still alive, although Timken couldn’t imagine how that could be so. But he trusted Jake, who assured him that he would understand better over time because the Master knew him, loved him, and had plans in place to help Timken come to know him. It was the Master who had put Timken’s part of his Song in his heart, and if he had done that, he could be trusted with everything else.
Jake then played a duet with Timken, each playing the part of the Song the Master had given them. Timken was thrilled with the results! Never had he been so moved with the wonder of music and the promise of life so infused with… with life! It was as if he had just really come alive this very day, and all the days before had been a sort of sleepwalking.
At last it came time for Timken to go home.
“You must remember Timken,” Jake said, as they gathered up their things, “that it is important for you to practice your part of the Song every day. The Doursville Anthem is the melody of the impostor. To play it is to deny the truth, and the Master loves all that is true.”
Timken was taken back. “But if I play the Master’s Song, won’t I get into trouble?”
“That you may Timken,” Jake said solemnly. “Playing the Master’s music has gotten many into trouble. Yet, in the end, all who are faithful have found the trouble hardly a bother compared to the joy that was—and is, theirs in the Master’s pleasure.
“You see, Timken, there is a lot of power in the Master’s Song. Power to bring truth, freedom, and life to others who hear it. Some may be angry with you at first but find themselves listening nevertheless, and to their amazement, recognizing that they have a part of the Song inside of them, too. This is all part of the Master’s plan and he invites you to join him. The more you do the closer you will get to him and the better you will know him and love him.
“But I wouldn’t want to mislead you, my friend. Not many will find the joy that you’ve found today. Some will be so angry they will try to find ways to keep you from playing, perhaps even scare you enough that you will never play again. Or they may try to convince you that the Master doesn’t exist, or if he does, that he’s a crazy fool and you’re an idiot to follow him.”
Timken listened quietly, thoughts spinning through his mind. “Will I ever see you again, Jake?” he asked.
Jake’s face was beaming, his smile from ear to ear. “I wouldn’t be surprised. With our Master, surprises are a way of life!” He laughed and gave Timken a great bear of a hug, then headed off and over the hill with a wave of his hand.
How Things Went Back Home
As he went home Timken was deep in thought, the day’s events playing over and over in his mind. He pictured himself in his room playing the Master’s Song and could only see one possible reaction on the part of his family: anger! His father would be furious and his brothers and sisters full of scorn. His mother would quietly shake her head and wonder aloud what she could have done better to protect him from such nonsense. Try as he might he couldn’t conjure up a pleasant outcome and it troubled him, because he loved his family and wanted them to be as happy as he was.
Timken had quite a wrestling within himself on the long walk home. There were times when he thought it might be better to forget all about Jake, the Song, and even the Master. But in the end he couldn’t. No, there was no forgetting! In the end he knew that he loved the Master and wanted the Song to grow inside of him so that he might play it so well the Master could use it to change the hearts of his family—and others, too! The wrestling over, he resolved to practice the Song and play the Master’s music as best he might, whenever, and wherever the opportunity arose.
What Timken found upon reaching home came upon him quite unexpectedly. There in the living room with his parents was a smiling Mr. Molarsis, flanked on either side by two Snobbits. His father rushed to greet him.
“Timken!” he gushed. “We’ve been waiting for you! Where in the world have you been, son?” Not bothering to gain an answer he hurried on. “Mr. Molarsis has told us about your much improved playing of the Doursville Anthem. He was so pleased that he arranged with the authorities to bring these two esteemed Snobbits with him to our home so that we all might hear you play for ourselves. There is even the possibility of revoking the Citation For Improvement this very day! Isn’t it wonderful?”
Timken stood silent.
“No need for modesty, my boy,” interjected Mr. Molarsis, rising to his feet. “I’ve done my best and accomplished the very thing your parents entrusted me to do.” He was bursting with self-importance. He handed Timken the cold, metallic cornello he’d played earlier in the day. “Once your father learned of the impact your misguided instrument had upon you these past years he was eager to procure this fine cornello for your very own.” He took his usual two steps back and gave Timken the same look he did at the beginning of every lesson. The look that seemed to say, All right now, start playing. And this time, get it right!
Hands trembling and heart pounding, Timken placed the unwelcome device on his chest. He was full of fear at the thought of what might happen if he played the Original Anthem instead of the Doursville Anthem. He closed his eyes and began to play.
If you expected me to tell you that Timken gathered up all his courage and played the Master’s Song, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. What Timken played was a respectable rendition of the Doursville Anthem that immediately gained him a Citation of Satisfactory Performance from the Snobbits, hugs from his mother, a slap on the back from his father, grins of acceptance from his siblings, and a solemn handshake and condescending “Well done,” from Mr. Molarsis. His father said that it called for a celebration, setting his mother scurrying about serving refreshments. And for the next half-hour the house was full of delighted people—with one notable exception: Timken. As you might suppose, Timken himself was miserable to the very core.
We would be quite wrong, and even short-sighted, to imagine that we have been any different from Timken at one time or another in our own behavior. Sooner or later, every one of us has found ourselves falling short of what we wished we had done and knows what bitter disappointment in oneself tastes like. So you can imagine Timken’s misery. When the last of the guests had left Timken asked to be excused and headed to his room, saying that he was dreadfully tired from the events of the day.
The moment he reached the safety of his room, Timken loosed the tears that had been hammering at the doors of his eyes since playing the very first note of the Doursville Anthem. He wondered if the Master would ever forgive him. He wondered what he should do next. Worst of all, he wondered if his part of the Song was still inside of him.
Needless to say, Timken didn’t get much sleep and there was a lot of tossing and turning in his bed before the sun peeked out its face and chose to make an appearance. By the time it did, however, Timken had found renewed determination and with it, a deep sense of peace. Certainly, he was still apprehensive. He had no doubt that, were he to play the Master’s Song, his family would take it as a tragic sign of relapse that would lead to—well, he had no idea what it might lead to. He’d just have to wait and see. And trust that all Jake had told him about the Master was true. Timken sure hoped it was. It had to be! His only true happiness came from his music. Everything else was a vast sea of emptiness. A wasteland of immense proportions.
Timken got up and headed to the shower. The warm water felt wonderful. He could hear his mother moving about in the kitchen and smell the welcoming aroma of fresh coffee. He dressed and joined the rest of his family at the breakfast table.
“Good morning Timken,” his father said in a jovial tone. “I bet you slept better last night than you have in some time, eh? Ready and able to join the best of society! Why, I wouldn’t doubt that you’re champing at the bit to get practicing on that flashy new cornello. Beautiful instrument! I blame myself for not having put my foot down when you chose that old piece of junk on your eighth birthday. Not your fault,” he quickly added. “You can’t expect every young lad to pick a winner, now can you?” He slapped Timken good-naturedly on the back. “Anyway, things are back on track and your future brighter than ever.”
Timken forced a smile. On the inside, his stomach was in knots. He finished his breakfast amidst the usual banter of his siblings and excused himself. “I’ll be practicing in my room,” he announced. Might as well get it over with he said to himself.
Anxious, but still determined to hold to the course he’d chosen, Timken went to his room and fingered his old cornello. Just handling its familiar form flooded him with welcoming courage and strength and brought back, with vivid clarity, his time with Jake and the wonder he’d experienced as they played their duet together. He placed the stained cornello tenderly over his heart, and full of hopeful expectation that his part of the Master’s Song still lingered inside, Timken began to play.
It didn’t take long for the music to reassure him that all was well so far as the Song went. Far from having departed it seemed that he played with even greater passion and joy than ever before! The music soared along with his heart, stretching outwards and upwards, as if reaching for the very ears of the Master himself!
It found the ears of his parents as well.
His father burst into the room. “Timken! What in the dickens are you playing?” Taking notice of the cornello he’d chosen to play he exploded with anger, his voice booming and the veins in his neck straining to hold his head on.
“Are you deliberately trying to infuriate me, Timken?” he demanded to know. “Answer me!!!”
“No, father.” Timken’s voice was low but steady.
“Then what is the reason for your playing such a horrid tune? And why aren’t you using your new cornello?”
“To me it isn’t horrible at all, father. To me it sounds lovely. Like the very breath of freedom.”
Timken went on to do his best to explain to his father about the Original Anthem and how the one true Master had written it as a symphony with a part in it for everyone, even his father, and that the Doursville Anthem was actually a counterfeit penned by a jealous usurper. He told him how he had met Jake and how they had played a duet together after Jake had repaired his cornello. He explained to his father that the instrument bore the mark of the Master and told him how Jake had been sent by the Master himself for the very purpose of encouraging Timken on with his music.
I’m afraid that it was all too much for Timken’s father. He assured Timken that if he continued on his rebellious course it would have the most dire of consequences. He would give Timken a single hour to think it over and decide which was of greater importance, the Song of this so-called Master, or the music of his family as embodied in the Doursville Anthem. He would expect Timken to make an appearance in an hour in front of the entire family and perform for them his answer. He pointed to Timken’s first cornello and said he hoped, for Timken’s sake, he would choose more wisely today than he had when he chose ‘that accursed instrument’!
Playing for Family
When the hour was up Timken walked out of his room, wood frame cornello securely in hand, a sight not lost upon his father who, together with his mother, her eyes red-rimmed, sat upon the sofa. His brothers and sisters were scattered about the room, quiet but looking anxious. As he walked by, his sister Tremlyn touched his hand. I doubt if her doing so was noticed by anyone in the room but to Timken, her warm touch was surprisingly full of comforting reassurance. Of all his siblings, Tremlyn had been the most reluctant to tease him of late. Oh, it hadn’t always been so! She had dished out abuse with the best of them when he first began playing his own music. Yet he had often caught her listening outside his door as he practiced. She claimed she was doing him a favor in holding vigil to ensure he didn’t stray from playing only what was authorized. In Timken’s mind the excuse didn’t hold up, for she never interrupted no matter what he played, and never told on him. When he’d asked her why she’d just shrugged, and warned him that he’d better be careful. Her touching his hand at this moment of decision gave him a sense of renewed courage. He didn’t feel so alone.
His father stood and addressed them.
“As you all know, I’ve given Timken time to consider where his allegiance lies. Well, the hour is up and it’s time for his answer and we are here to listen to that answer.” He glanced at Timken’s cornello. “By the look of things, I am not encouraged that he will make the right choice. However, I will not interrupt his playing until he is finished so as to give him every opportunity to change his mind should he start off on the wrong foot. After all, my reputation as a progressive thinking fellow is well known and I would not wish to be thought of as anything to the contrary!”
He turned to Timken and nodded. “You may begin.”
Timken looked around the room and smiled. They were his family and he loved each one of them. He was neither afraid nor angry. On the contrary, he was hopeful. He had been given an amazing opportunity to play without interruption and he wouldn’t squander it. He would play his part of the Master’s Song with all the love his heart held for them. Maybe, just maybe, it would work the same wonder in them that it had in him. He placed the aging instrument lovingly on his chest and began.
As the music of the Master’s Song filled the room it worked upon each member of his family with differing results. His father’s face reddened and his mother’s eyes filled with tears of worry. The faces of his brothers and sisters showed everything from ridicule to disinterest.
With one exception.
Tremlyn stood leaning in a doorway her eyes closed and body gently, and almost imperceptibly, swaying. And if you looked closely and were quick, you could see the glittering rays of morning sunlight reflecting off the tiny tear falling from her eye to the carpet.
Timken’s father was as good as his word. As angry as he was he never interrupted his son’s playing. He didn’t have to. Without warning, the front door flew open and two Snobbits burst into the room followed by an angry neighbor who had been taking his breakfast out on his porch only to find himself assaulted by what he later referred to in the Official Charge as ‘vulgar and obscene music’. The Snobbits were the same two that had witnessed his satisfactory playing of the Doursville Anthem just the day before. They demanded that Timken repeat the performance right then and there. He declined and was forced to forfeit his cornello and found himself being whisked away to the Doursville Musical Rehabilitation Center.
Time does not grant me the luxury of sharing with you all that Timken experienced at the Doursville Musical Rehabilitation Center. To the staff, Timken was one more nutcase requiring concentrated effort to rehabilitate. Several months passed with no indication whatsoever that he would change. In fact, much the opposite. He was given another cornello, complements of the government sponsored Medi-Dour program. One of the newer composite models, and grew ever more accomplished at playing the Master’s Song.
Timken was an absolute favorite amongst the patient population, for everyone who had been committed had something in common: each was guilty of playing unauthorized music. Most didn’t understand themselves what was ‘wrong’ with them—just as Timken hadn’t fully understood until meeting Jake. So Timken spent much of his time explaining how the Master had placed in them a special part of the Original Anthem that they would one day play, together with thousands upon thousands upon thousands of others, in a symphonic performance of boundless proportions.
To give them an inkling of what the future held he would play a duet with them, just as Jake had done with him. The results were magical, even for Timken. No duet was the same! Sometimes, they were able to play in groups of four or five with the music pouring forth from their cornellos such as to bring tears of joy to his eyes. They would play until the staff couldn’t bear it and locked up their instruments for a week. To Timken and his friends it was a small price and they were glad to pay it.
Timken’s parents never came to visit. His mother would sometimes write, pleading with him to get better. To learn how to fit in with the world for the greater good of all, play the Doursville Anthem, and make his father proud. Every now and then one of his brothers or sisters would write. But it always looked to Timken as if they were made to write. But there was never a letter from Tremlyn, and he couldn’t understand why.
Days passed into weeks that became months until at last, snow began to fall as winter was entering her stride. In fact, it was nearing the end of December. The twenty-fourth day of it to be exact.
Now, I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking that I should be referring to it as Christmas Eve. You’re right of course, it was Christmas Eve. But no one in Doursville knew it, because to know about Christmas Eve you must know about Christmas. And to know about Christmas you must know about Jesus and how God the Father wrote his Son into the history of the world so that the world might know God—including everyone living in Doursville. It seems that the inhabitants of Doursville knew all about shopping and running up their credit card bills and wishing each other ‘Happy Holidays’ and such but didn’t know a snip about Jesus.
Anyway, it was during the afternoon of the twenty-fourth of December that a new patient showed up in the DMRC. As was his habit, Timken gave the newcomer time to settle into his room before knocking on his door to introduce himself. He wanted to be sure that the new person was welcomed and knew they had a friend on the inside who cared about them.
Having waited for what he felt to be sufficient time, Timken approached the door and was about to knock when he heard the faint strains of a cornello. The melody was both familiar and different to him at one and the same time, as was the very richness of the tones. Without thinking, he turned the doorknob and stepped into the room.
There to his vast surprise sat his sister, Tremlyn! His old cornello was settled comfortably on her chest and she was looking up at him with a warm smile of welcome. Timken was speechless.
“Why Timken,” she giggled as she set the cornello aside, “I thought you’d know that I’d be coming to join you sooner or later!” She leapt to her feet, throwing herself into his eager arms.
The two talked, hugged, laughed, and hugged some more during the course of the evening. Tremlyn shared how she had rescued his abandoned cornello from the basement where their father had tossed it into a corner, on top of some trash he’d meant to haul away. She’d been unable to resist trying it out and found that, like Timken, in so doing she most often produced music similar to his but still her own. The rest of her story was not unlike what had happened to Timken. She’d been given chances to redeem herself and change her ways. She’d even been issued a Citation For Improvement. Her father had attempted to gain the services of Mr. Molarsis only to be rebuffed, as Mr. Molarsis was convinced of a genetic quirk running through the family and wasn’t about to sully his reputation again.
It was late when the two of them decided to slip down to the solarium and play a duet together. Timken had told Tremlyn all about Jake and the Master. Her eyes had filled with tears of joy. It all made sense! She was eager to get a preview of what the Master’s symphony might hold by each of them playing their part of his Song. Noiselessly, they crept down the staircase and went down the hall to the solarium. The staff had gone to bed hours ago.
Tremlyn insisted that Timken have the honor of playing his own cornello. He didn’t put up much resistance as he longed for the companionship of his old friend. So they traded instruments and readied themselves, their anticipation electric.
From the first note they found their hearts thrilling to the music. They closed their eyes. Their bodies swayed. The Master had given them complementary parts that drew them together in an intimacy with each other, and with the Master, that nearly overwhelmed them. The music was bursting with warmth and joy! As they played on and on they gradually became aware of the presence of a third part. Someone was playing along with them!
They opened their eyes.
There beside them stood Jake, looking much the same to Timken as he did the day they first met at the cave. Timken introduced him to his sister.
“I’m delighted to meet you, Tremlyn,” Jake said, bowing slightly. “I’m even more delighted to hear you playing your part of the Master’s Song so well!”
“What are you doing here, Jake?” Timken asked, incredulous. “Are you a patient as well? When did you get here?”
Jake laughed, a hearty laugh from deep inside, full of merriment. “A torrent of questions as usual, Timken! Which shall I answer first?” His eyes twinkled as he winked at Tremlyn.
They spent the next hour bringing each other up to date on all that had happened in their lives since spring. It was Tremlyn who at length asked Jake, “Who exactly is the Master? Does he have a name? And why is his music in our hearts?”
Jake grinned. “I can see that questions run in your family.” He gave Tremlyn a good-natured poke. “But your question is a good one. A very good one. I’ll tell you all I know as it was told to me. But I warn you, I’ve only a part. There is a great deal to know and it is up to each one of us to search it out.” He grew silent and thoughtful as he reached into his sack and drew out what appeared to be an old piece of paper, discolored and terribly worn around the edges.
“This page is all that remains to me of what my father told me was once a book. A book that told the whole story of the one many call their Master. Here, read it for yourselves.” He handed the page to Timken. With Tremlyn looking on, they read together the faded words.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Jake went on to explain to them all he new about Jesus, the Son referred to in the writing. He told them how Jesus’ Father had sent him as his representative into the world to show the world what God was truly like and to free them all from the one who had usurped the Original Anthem and stolen God’s music from people’s hearts and replaced it with the Doursville Anthem.
Just then a clock in the solarium struck midnight.
“Do you know what today is?” Jake asked, jumping up. Brother and sister shook their heads in unison. “Today is Christmas! The very time for celebrating the birth of Jesus whom God sent to us. Merry Christmas!”
Jake spread his arms wide and gave them the biggest bear hug ever.