AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Three Word Wednesday and is cross-posted at Alice Audrey's Serialists. Although it is set in the same world as Steal Tomorrow it is part of a new series of stories centered around new characters. The "Extras" section of the sidebar has been updated to reflect this. Be sure to drop by Three Word Wednesday and The Serialists for more fun.
They had been rehearsing for over an hour and it was going badly. Mario pulled the sax away from his lips and shook his head. "I'm sorry, Cee, but this one just isn't going to work."
The boys had never known Cee to speak a word, but Tim correctly interpreted the frustration on her face. "We can't not play 'Jingle Bells.' The kids will be expecting it."
"But it sounds all wrong on a saxophone."
"So? It's festive and familiar, and that's what they need right now."
Mario suspected Tim was right, but the pandemic survivors knew other songs besides "Jingle Bells." Why not entertain them with something that actually sounded good? "I'm sure 'Silent Night,' 'Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire,' and 'Adeste Fidelis' are just as familiar to them, and they're better music, too."
Tim and Cee exchanged a look. The girl gave a little sigh and smoothed the rumpled skirt of the holiday elf costume she had found in a looted costume shop.
"Me and her could do it as a duet, if you don't want to play it."
Mario made a face. "Flute and percussion aren’t enough for 'Jingle Bells.'"
"It works for 'Little Drummer Boy,' and you're letting us play that."
What could Mario do to make them understand? Sure, they were living in filth and chaos. They were hungry, malnourished, and their days were numbered, but that was no reason to make bad music.
"Come on," Tim said. "This is the worst Christmas of everyone's life, not a command performance at Carnegie Hall. Besides, a lot of these kids don’t even have faith in God any more. We need more secular songs in our repertoire.”
“Maybe the religious songs will help restore their belief,” Mario countered. “We’re certainly not going to inspire anyone by playing things that sound bad.”
Tim slammed a stick on his snare drum in annoyance. “I’m telling you, no one cares if 'Jingle Bells' sounds wrong on a saxophone. These kids are starving and they just want to hear their favorite songs."
Mario turned from Tim's pleading to Cee's dark reproachful eyes and a feeling of guilt came over him. Tim was right; things were hard enough without telling hungry children they couldn’t hear a simple tune like "Jingle Bells."
Reluctantly, he reached for his sax and motioned for Tim to pick up his bells. "Fine," he said. "'Jingle Bells' it is."
If you enjoyed this story, check the sidebar, where you'll find the serialized novel, more flash fiction (including prequels), and other fun Steal Tomorrow stuff.