Friday, February 3, 2012

Musical Escape

The prompt: We’ve asked you to show us in 400 words or less how your character reacts to a piece of music. Did music advance a story line or flesh out a character–or both?

She was 17 and on the terrifying precipice of transition. The day to day details sometimes hung on her, weighing her down, but she'd always been good at escaping when she needed it. As a little girl she escaped into an imaginary world of towers and princesses and enchanted forests. As she got older she escaped into books. At 17 she still escaped into books but that was impossible in the quiet, longer than permitted drive to school. And escaping into her own mind-stories as she had done as a little girl was also impossible-- those day to day worries kept popping into her fairy tales, turning them into horror tales. Left alone in her car, driving down the highway with only fog hovering above the marshy ground keeping her company, allowed the details to pull her down into the muck. That was no way to start a day of school that she'd rather skip altogether. So it was time to learn another escape.

She'd been raised with music. Her family sang together and she spent years taking piano lessons, but it hadn't developed into an escape until this time of transition. For a two-month stretch she drove her parents' car down that long road to school. Their music was in the multi-disc player, but it was the music she'd grown up with. So the discs stayed. And, as the great poet says, "music arose with its voluptuous swell". She allowed the soothing, calming notes of Allison Krauss swell and wash worries and what-ifs away. And she allowed the upbeat, quirky sounds of Sam Cooke lift her weighed shoulders and propel her out of the dark details that dared to pull her under.

With Krauss and Cooke's tunes reverberating in her heart, she'd arrive at school ready to take on whatever came her way.

Even now, a decade later, she'll pull out those old CDs that somehow made their way into her boxes when she moved out of her parents' house. She'll get pulled into the music and into her parents car, driving through the hovering fog. She doesn't get bogged down with the 17-year-old's worries of changes and transitions that were facing her; instead, she gets surrounded by memories of peace that settled over her on those solitary drives. And being able to now look back and see how it all turned out, she gets pulled into the excitement of transitions.

(I almost didn't post this today... maybe I shouldn't have. It'll probably make my Mama cry. But read the last line, Mom! It turned out great!)


  1. It's true, I think, that we all live with a soundtrack for our lives. Nothing can help bring memories to the surface, or emotions to light than a familiar song.

    I've enjoyed reading the responses to this prompt. I think you can tell quite a bit about where someone comes from by knowing the songs that helped shape their soundtrack.

  2. Why would not have posted it? It's wonderful and so full of emotion and the music that filled her (your) life.

  3. I can't believe you hesitated to post it, this is magical. Beautifully written, beautifully described and beautifully captured. :)

  4. I am pleased you decided to hit the "publish" button with this story.

    The opening line was excellent. You made me want to read on. This is very important in a story.

    I liked the way you use traveling in this writing -- moving down the highway of life, but keeping the memories through music.

    Turning to music during transitions is something I've often done.

    This was a very nice read. Thank you for sharing it:~)

  5. Hi! It's nice to meet you, but I must ask: Why are you describing my life in the first person?!!

    Very evocative and accessible prose! :)

  6. barbara @ de rebusFebruary 3, 2012 at 1:19 PM

    *"first paragraph" that should be read!

  7. Sometimes the experiences of transition give us the strength for the mundane, trying times. It's good to take comfort where you can find it.
    I think a lot of us understand this. Well done.

  8. I almost didn't post it because it's so personal... as many of these write on edge prompts seem to be! And to have something personal out there to be critiqued, well, that's a bit intimidating. That and because it will probably make my mom cry and who wants to make their mom cry?

    Thanks for the kind comments, y'all! I'm glad others 'get' these emotions and understand where I was then and where I was trying to take the piece.

  9. My parents' music is a huge part of my life. Huge. I can remember feeling much the same at that age, only I sank into the storytelling folk music of the early seventies to soothe all those fears and worries.

  10. One of my favorite songs is Allison Kraus' As I Went Down In The River To Pray, from O Brother Where Art Thou?

    Great post--you have a real gift for putting the reader in the middle of the story!



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