Linda Hutsell-Manning

Novels Plays Poems Stories

WW1 bugle that inspired Jason novel series


          It was the second week he’d come over almost every day to work on his bugle playing at the big stone house.  His mom had barely come home before she was gone again - she was doing more teaching somewhere out of town. Jason was almost glad. His mom would be asking questions if she were home.
            He was catching on quickly and, today, Charlotte joined in on the silver flute.  Gran was at the piano, thumping out grandiose chords while Jason stumbled through The Bugle Call. Charlotte was trilling an extra part, making it up as she went along, something she’d told him she had always been able to do.
          They had almost finished their third run-through of The Bugle Call when a loud,   rat-a-tatting echoed down the front hall stairs into the living room.
          “Keep going,” Gran said, throwing in a few extra chords at the end of the last line. “We’ll go through it one more time.”
          Squid proudly marched through the doorway in perfect time, the drum on the yellow cord around his neck. In spite of the tinny loudness, Jason couldn’t help being impressed by Squid’s dexterity, the rat-a-tat-tats doubling and tripling in time to Gran’s chords. He had obviously done this before.
          At the end of the piece, Squid, of course, kept up his drumming, marching around the couch, la-la-la-ing Jason’s bugle line at the top of his lungs.
           “Time to stop,” was all Gran had to say. Squid plopped to the floor and pulled the drum’s cord off over his head. “It’s almost four,” she went on, “and Jean Barton will be here for her music lesson.” She opened one of the french doors.  “How about a practice, outside?  Like a marching band.”
          “Gran still teaches piano,” Charlotte explained.
           ”A band, a band,” Squid echoed. He grabbed the drum again and hammered away.
          “Oh boy,” Charlotte said. “This should be fun.” She rolled her eyes.
          “Only for forty-five minutes,” Gran added, “and stay off the highway. One of those Lake Ontario fogs is rolling in from the lake. I noticed from the upstairs window a while ago. You won’t be able to see any further than the end of your nose once it hits the highway. She gave Squid’s nose a little poke. “Stay on the path by the fence and come back when you reach the Cobourg town sign.” Squid giggled and ran for the french doors.
          “But we won’t have you on the piano,” Jason protested. “It won’t sound right without the piano.”
          “Try it,” Gran said, literally shoeing the two of them out after him. “Just try it.”
           Charlotte took over the melody line and, with Squid leading, they marched out the spruce-lined lane toward the highway and path.  
          “Hold it,” Charlotte commanded even before they reached the highway.  “Hey, Squid, it won’t be any fun in the fog. Let’s go back up into the loft.”
            “No way,” Squid said, stomping his foot and rat-a-tat-tatting.  “I want to be a band.”
          Charlotte took a deep breath and stared hard at her little brother. Jason could see a standoff looming. He stepped back and waited.
          Charlotte grinned and snapped her fingers. “I know,” she said. “Why don’t we take Jason for a boat ride? You could row.”
          ”No, no, no,” Squid said defiantly, “and I’m going to tell if we don’t be a band.  So there.” He started a drum roll and marched on the spot.
          “Might as well try it to my house and back, then,” Jason suggested. “Forty-five minutes isn’t that long.” He checked his watch. It was three fifty-five. What he intended to do once they got to his house was make an excuse to call it a day. Sibling squabbles he could do without.
          Charlotte rolled her eyes and started to play again, marching on the spot.  “Okay,” she said between notes, and they turned onto a path Jason didn’t even know was there - Squid in front, then Charlotte, with Jason bringing up the rear. 
           Something happened then, something none of them clearly understood, even afterward. The fog Grandma Cannington warned them about started rolling in, a thick, wet cover, eliminating everything but a small section of the path ahead. Jason felt his playing grow stronger and stronger and he added extra notes.

            Cars drove past, their headlights like two yellow spots dilating into solid discs, and disappearing behind. Each time, Squid paused and, in perfect time, twirled a drum stick in the air. Jason moved out in front, lifting his head higher so that his bugle notes poured ahead of him into the fog. Charlotte was following him now, with Squid lagging a bit behind. The sound wrapped around them, pulling them forward, bugle and flute notes growing louder and stronger, driven on by the urging of Squid’s relentless drum.                 They must have marched right past Jason’s house; none of them even noticed.    They were good - they were better than good, professional, like his mom.  He was sure of it.
          Across the highway, the New Lodge Farm sign slid in and out of sight almost as if suspended in air. As they came close to the Workman’s chicken farm where his mom bought eggs, Jason thought he heard sheep bleating. He didn’t know the Workmans had sheep. The fog rolled back, momentarily, and instead of the house, Jason saw someone with a long wooden crook herding a flock of sheep across the road. He blinked and they were gone.  Droplets of water formed in a ring on his bugle and the instrument glimmered almost like a beacon in the fog. Any minute now and they’d see the Cobourg town sign and it would be time to turn back. It was then it occurred to Jason that no cars were passing now, that it seemed very still.
           The path had become a dirt road, a strange road and, as if by some signal, they all stopped, Squid’s drum playing dwindling down to an occasional nervous tap-tap.


          “Where are we?”  Charlotte whispered.
          Jason turned to stare at her.  She was pulling nervously at the ties of a long cloak she was wearing.  Underneath, he glimpsed a roughly woven, ankle length brown skirt. Squid’s T-shirt had grown into an over-sized drab-looking shirt belted at the waist by some frayed rope, his sturdy legs covered by coarse gray stockings. Jason looked down, amazed to see himself dressed like Squid.  All wore rough sandals tied on with ragged strips of leather.
            “Why are we wearing this stuff?” Squid said, looking more than a little puzzled.
          “I... I’m not sure,” Jason replied, “but it’s something pretty weird.”
          “I don’t understand what’s going on,” Charlotte whispered again, looking at Squid and then back at Jason.
           “We’ve transported somewhere,” Jason replied, nervously, “to some other time.” He looked around. “Maybe to some other country.” 
          “These stupid stocking things are itchy,” Squid complained, dropping the drum onto the dusty road. “Who stole my jeans?”
          “Look at your flute, Charlotte.”  Jason said, staring at the instrument in her hand.      Charlotte ran her hand over it and inhaled sharply. “It’s . . .  it’s more like a recorder,” she said in a barely audible voice. “A funny, old-looking recorder. She put the instrument to her lips and produced a series of rich-sounding notes. Her eyes took on a surprised, almost frightened look and she stopped in mid-phrase. “This is bizarre,” she added. “Almost like we slipped through a time warp.”
          “No way,” Squid chimed in. “We didn’t slip, Lottie. No way.”
          “ Well, whatever happened,” Jason said, staring at the horn, “didn’t change the bugle much.” He turned it over in his hand.  
“It’s shinier,” Charlotte said, touching it lightly. “Polished like gold.”
          Jason held the horn at arm’s length. “Maybe it’s just the light or something.”
          Squid shrugged his shoulders and started playing again, a deep, resonating rat-a-tat-tat. He seemed unconcerned that the drum was no longer tin, rough leather strands replacing the yellow cord, its brownness blending in with his drab shirt and stockings.
          Jason put the bugle to his lips, hoping it would sound the same. He began The Bugle Call and the notes ran ahead of him, different notes, better notes. Charlotte took a deep breath and added her harmony to the group.       
          Squid shouted, ”Company march,” and they started off again along the strange new road.
Ahead, in the distance, Jason thought he saw the outline of a castle up high on a hill. A mirage, he thought, either that or he was dreaming.

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