Saturday Snippet

I thought I’d finished writing about Rigi and Co. I thought four books was enough. No. A short-story ambushed me during rehearsal last week. Here’s a tiny tidbit. It does contain two spoilers, so I’ll put it below the fold.

What happened to launch a story-attack was a song. The chorus is singing a choral arrangement of “Ashokan Farewell.” I had always thought this was a folk-song, but it was composed by Jay Unger for Ken Burns’s The Civil War. A few years later words were written for it. Ashokan, New York, was a small town that is now under the Ashokan Reservoir and that is near where the composer has a music camp. In the choral version it is pronounced “Ash OH ken.” It certainly has an American folk-music feel to it, with Southern Harmony/Sacred Harp harmonies in many instrumental versions I’ve heard.

We’ve been battling the notes thus far, and last week was the first time I really had enough brain free to follow the lyrics as well as the notes. Alas. My mind’s eye promptly locked onto a couple dancing to the tune. The couple was Aunt Kay and Uncle Eb. And story ensued.

I couldn’t find an adult choir recording. The lyrics really call for mature voices, not young ones, but that’s purely my opinion. Again, spoiler below the fold.


The tune of the next waltz dated as far back as Rigi could guess. And it was one that seemed to be played at every military-sponsored dance Rigi had attended, although admittedly her sampling was not exactly large. Many of the younger couples left the floor, and all of the older pairs moved onto it. Uncle Eb and Aunt Kay, Rigi’s parents, Tomás’s parents, and others all began turning to the slow music.

“I don’t think I’ve ever really understood it before,” Tomás said quietly, so quietly that Rigi almost didn’t hear him. His eyes looked distant and sad, for some reason. When Rigi glanced back to the dancers, she realized that tears had begun running down Aunt Kay’s face, and Uncle Eb had pulled her closer, even though she seemed to be smiling. Her mother too looked as if she were about to weep, and Mrs. Prananda. Then Rigi remembered the words to “Ashokan Farewell,” words she’d only heard once or twice, words about leaving and dancing and parting perhaps forever. She shivered. Tomás pulled her closer, holding her as if he would never, ever let her go.

She’d assumed that Mrs. Prananda and Aunt Kay had been metaphorical when they talked about waiting and being ready to hear bad news. Oh no. How many times had Col. Prananda and his men departed, leaving their wives and families to wait, leaning on memories and hope and faith? Even more for Aunt Kay, even though she’d been at Uncle Eb’s side some of the time, or so Rigi had guessed over the years. Even her mother, who had married Mr. Bernardi while he was still in the Reserves. And now, with the new threat from the stars? Would she and Tomás be parted? Of course they would, that was part of being a military wife, but parted forever? The alien intruders had come close on the Night of Falling Birds, too close, despite what the Navy accomplished.

“No, my lady,” Tomás whispered. “I’m here. I will always be with you,” he touched her chest with his fingertips, “Here.” He caressed her cheek. “And here,” he tapped the side of her head, just below the bridal crown. “Always and ever.” They kissed again, and she rested her head on his shoulder as they watched the dancers circle.

The last notes sounded and Uncle Eb pulled Aunt Kay very close indeed, kissing her. Rigi’s father lifted a tear from her mother’s face, and she glanced away from Col. and Mrs. Prananda, who had forgotten that there were other people in the room. Instead Rigi fanned a little. She heard a murmur in Staré from behind her and Tomás, and when she glanced to the side, a fresh glass of chilled juice had appeared on the small table beside her.

“If I did not know that telepathy does not exist, I would be very worried,” Tomás whispered, lifting his own fresh glass of sparkling wine.

“I shudder to imagine what goes through my younger brother’s mind,” Rigi whispered back.

“Or Kor’s.”

That Rigi could guess, especially when his twin brother was involved. “Some things truly best left mysteries,” she replied.

The glint in her husband’s eye warned Rigi, and she bit the tip of her tongue to forestall the giggles as he said, “Like that sculpture?” She didn’t dare sip her glass, and he winked, making it even worse. Married women did not giggle! He was not helping her.

(C) Alma T. C. Boykin 2017 All Rights Reserved.


6 thoughts on “Saturday Snippet

  1. Huh.
    I did not realize that Ashokan Farewell was modern.
    Thinking it over, I realize I don’t have it in any of my period collections, but I never thought much about it.

    • Jay Unger caught the flavor of old tunes so well, and so many modern-folk groups have done it that everyone just took it to be traditional. I wouldn’t ever have guessed before I saw the sheet music and went to Unger’s web site. He’s got an FAQ about the song. 🙂

      • I stumbled across a recording of Jay Ungar & Molly Mason Family Band performing it as an instrument for a program on an Akron, OH radio station. I can’t decide which way sounds better – though the four-piece rendition by Ungar and company has a certain simplicity to it that appeals.

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