This poem was pyrographed onto cork.
Behind the heavy wood door of Grommerly Barn the floor smells of apple-wax polish. As you step inside there is a large white radiator opposite the door. Inside this special radiator is a secret town called Mollieville. This is where the ‘mollies’ live. Mollies are small, round water molecules. Tonight, I want to tell you the story of one of these mollies. His name is L8.
L8 was very shy. He was so shy that he was afraid to speak because it meant making a noise. If he ever did speak, the other mollies usually laughed at him. L8’s parents didn’t mind about him not speaking. His mum would say: “Oh Elly you’re such a good boy, I wish your brothers and sisters were as quiet as you”. “I wish they were quiet too” L8 whispered. But his mum didn’t hear him because his brothers and sisters were making too much noise. At night they would snore so loudly they sounded like pigs in a farmyard. Some nights they were so loud that L8 couldn’t sleep at all. He’d lie on his bed and think about his most special dream. L8’s special, secret dream was to be a drummer.
This dream came to him in pictures. As he closed his eyes, he would see himself sitting behind a large, shiny black and silver drum kit, beating out very loud rhythms, flinging his arms around and making crowds of people dance and sing and laugh. But the picture would always fade away and L8 would feel sad again. “How can I ever be a drummer if I’m afraid to make noise?” he’d sob very quietly into his pillow.
L8’s parents owned a shoe shop called ‘Fuzzy Feet’ and L8 worked there after school. One afternoon, his mum said she had to pop next door to the post office with a heavy parcel. “Will you be OK Elly while I pop next door?” L8 nodded his head and smiled. He watched his mother close the shop door behind her, parcel in hand. When she was out of sight, he reached down underneath his desk. His hands felt for the soft material and he grabbed and dragged it out. The dusty white cotton bundle in front of him was creased and smudged with black marks, and it made a clacking noise as it landed on his desk. L8 opened the bundle slowly. Inside were two drumsticks that he had been secretly making using the tools in his parents’ shop. He grasped a stick in each hand and held them against the palms of his hands, clasping his fingers around the hard wood. Taking a deep breath, he tapped the desk in front of him with one of the sticks and the sound made him jump. Then another noise made him jump again. It was the others. He quickly scooped up the sticks and material, but he didn’t do it quickly enough. One of the other mollies, L14 saw him.
“What were you doing?” He asked L8.
“Er…n n nothing” L8 stammered.
By this time all of the others had arrived and were curious to know what was going on. They watched as L14 opened up the material and two slim sticks of wood fell out onto the floor.
“What are they supposed to be?” L14 laughed as he spoke.
“Th…they’re dr….drum sticks” L8 said in a whisper. He felt his face burning and he looked down at the floor. The others started sniggering, then they laughed loudly and started pointing at him.
L8 pushed past L14 and ran out of the workshop and into the bathroom. He closed the door of the toilet and sat down on the seat. With his gloved hand he gently stroked his forehead, taking comfort in the soft scrape of the white felt against his skin. He tried to see the image of his black and silver drum kit in his mind, but the image slipped away from him. How could he ever be a drummer if he was too afraid to even speak?
The bathroom door opened, and L8 heard the soft tapping sounds of work-boots. He held his breath and planned to wait until the Mollie left the bathroom before coming out. A tap squealed and water splashed into a sink. L8 heard a cough and a sniffle. Just after the sniffle, all the lights went out for a second and then flickered back on. A screaming siren alarm sounded. The alarm meant that Maxwell Demon, ruler of Mollieville was coming to check on everyone’s work. L8 froze. Outside the bathroom, the other mollies were shrieking and panicking, bumping into each other as they tried to run back to their desks.
Maxwell Demon sat in his large silver chair. He hadn’t left his castle yet. He watched the mollies on his 3 large TV screens. He controlled the cameras of Mollieville with his huge silver spanner-shaped hands. In front of him was a very wide desk full of knobs and slider buttons. He watched the mollies all running back to their desks and he laughed. One of his spanner-hands flicked a green switch and on his TV screen was the bathroom where L8 sat quivering behind the toilet door. “What are you doing there boy!” The force of Maxwell’s voice made L8 flinch, but before he could do anything, he felt himself being sucked out of his seat so fast that he had to close his eyes.
When the movement slowed, he opened his eyes and saw himself being lowered into a dazzling white room with lots of small round silver tables. The room smelled of spearmint chewing gum.
“Speak boy, speak! Why were you not running with the others?”
L8 stumbled forward with the force of the voice and then collided with one of the silver tables and fell to the floor. He turned his head slowly to face the voice and saw Maxwell Demon’s large round pink head and piercing green eyes right in front of him.
“Er, I don’t know.” he whispered.
“Ha, ha, you don’t know!” Maxwell’s laugh sounded more like a growl and L8 started sliding along the floor to get away.
“What’s the matter with you boy?”
“I….I…I’m afraid of you, and I don’t like it when people laugh at me”.
“What! Don’t be ridiculous, laughing is normal, don’t you ever laugh?”
L8 shook his head slowly, “No.”
“Because to be able to laugh you have to be able to make noise. I can’t make noise, I’m too scared”. L8 whispered.
“Too scared to make noise? That’s absurd; everything that’s alive makes noise!”
“You make a lot of noise” L8 thought to himself.
“Would you like to laugh if you weren’t scared to make a noise?” asked Maxwell Demon.
“If I wasn’t scared of making noise, I’d be doing something much more important than laughing” L8 looked briefly but defiantly into Maxwell’s eyes as he said this.
“Oh really, and what’s that?” Maxwell asked with a chuckle.
L8 frowned, unsure of whether he should reveal his dream.
“I would be er…drumming.”
Maxwell raised his eyebrows,
“What’s that? Drumming?”
“Well that’s a hard thing to do without making noise eh? Ha ha ha!” Maxwell found this so funny that the force of his belly-laugh made his chair tilt backwards, and he had to grab hold of the table to stop himself from falling over.
“Yeah, I know I know I know” L8 said quietly to himself.
Maxwell watched L8’s gloomy face.
“You look very sad” Maxwell said.
“I only feel happy when I go to sleep, because I can dream that I am sitting behind a big black and chrome drum kit, slapping my sticks with pride and not worrying at all.”
“Well I don’t know what dreams are, I don’t have them. But I do know about fear. Fear is a ghostmonster”. Maxwell was thinking about the day when his father taught him how to be a strong leader, and how to deal with being too afraid to give orders. He drifted away with his thoughts for few seconds but then became aware of L8 saying something.
“What was that boy?”
“Are you saying there is an invisible monster stopping me from making noise?”
“Yes. And if you want to get rid of it you have to stop running away and look it square in the face.”
L8 frowned, he wasn’t sure he believed what Maxwell was saying.
“Ok I’ll show you what I mean, pretend these are drumsticks” Maxwell pulled two knitting needles out from a large ball of fluffy ice blue wool.
“Now start drumming on that table”.
L8 tilted his head to look at Maxwell’s face, and then dropped his gaze onto the knitting needles and ball of wool. “Maxwell Demon, steely stern ruler of Mollieville knits in his spare time?” he thought but was far too scared to say out loud. He slowly took hold of the knitting needles that Maxwell was offering him.
“Ok boy go on, just take a deep breath and stare straight into that ghostmonster’s bloodshot eyes”.
L8 took a deep breath but his hands felt stiff and cold. He couldn’t think of what to do with the sticks. He wanted to go home.
“Stop running boy! And stop thinking, just move your hands”.
L8 lightly touched the table with the thin grey tip of one of the needles. He couldn’t see the face of any ghostmonster. Maxwell was the only monster he could see.
“I…I can’t do it. Not while you’re staring at me” he partly whispered.
“Ok, I’ll clap a rhythm to help you”. Maxwell began to tap his foot and clap with all four of his hands. He nodded encouragingly at L8. L8 raised his eyebrows, stared at Maxwell and then quickly looked away again. Maxwell’s clapping and tapping had no rhythm to it at all, it sounded like pens randomly falling from a table. L8 felt his body starting to jerk softly. His mouth opened and short groan sounds came from his throat as a warm feeling tingled through his face and stomach.
Maxwell stopped clapping and pointed at him.
“Hey you’re laughing!”
“It feels strange, my legs feel weak.” L8 found he didn’t feel so cold or scared now for some reason. His right foot began tapping the floor and he had an urge to move his hips. He grasped the knitting needles firmly and began tapping out a quick beat with his left hand and a slower beat with his right hand. Maxwell smiled and tried to keep time with the rhythm.
“Hey! You’re doing it now boy, well done you.” As Maxwell said this to L8 he saw an image in his mind, a memory of the day his father had said that to him. It had felt so good to see the pride in his father’s eyes. Perhaps his father would also be proud now to see him helping others.
But then he remembered that his role was to give orders and be the strong, successful leader of Mollieville. He needed to make sure that things ran smoothly in his town. Today’s lunchtime steam-run needed to come to an end and this Mollie in front of him needed to be sent back to work. “Ok boy, now that you’ve had fun playing the drums and learning how to laugh, it’s time to get back to work”. L8 stopped moving immediately, Maxwell’s voice sounded heavy and threatening again. He looked up to say something, but Maxwell was walking away from him.
Maxwell sat down at his large silver desk and inspected the moving images on his 3 Radiator screens. He lightly pinched and moved a black slider button with his right hand, and a distant alarm noise disappeared from the air.
Down in Mollieville town centre in the cafe, the Mollies were able to stop running around when the alarm stopped, and they were on their way home when they began to realise that L8 wasn’t with them. L14 ran back to the café to search. No other Mollies were there except for the café owner; B3 who was busy putting mugs and plates into the dishwasher. L14 checked the café bathroom and was just leaving when something caught his eye. Most of the ceiling was an ice blue colour except for one darker circle above stall number 3. It looked like drops of water were coming from the edges of the black hole. The stall door wouldn’t open so L14 bent down to peer under the door of the stall. It was empty. He sniffed and felt puzzled about the strong spearmint smell in the air. He told the café owner about the hole and the empty stall and then decided to go home. On the grass patch outside his house he could see his Mother (L20; who was also L8’s mother) at the centre of a group of his family and neighbours looking down at the pavement with a deep thought-frown on her face.
L20 said she would call on the Greens’ next door to see if they knew anything. She power-walked along the pavement to their gate. As she opened the Greens’ front gate and took a step onto their crazily-paved pathway, their front door opened and out came one of the younger members, G8. He told her he had been in the café bathroom when the alarm started and had heard the voice of Maxwell Demon. He then told her that he had turned around and had seen L8 being sucked through the ceiling.
L20’s face creased with worry and she rested her hands on the spherical curve of her hips. She was trying to imagine what Maxwell Demon might have done with L8, but her thoughts were being interrupted by shouts coming from behind her. As she turned around, she saw her family, friends and some of the Green family gesturing and pointing towards something at the end of their street. She quickly jogged back to them, her house-keys clacking in her hands.
“Look that’s Maxwell Demon!”
“Shhh! Don’t draw attention to yourself he might shout at you.”
“What’s that big bubble in the air for?”
“Look at that black cloud, there’s a storm coming”.
L20 saw her little son, L8, skipping towards them looking more relaxed and chirpier than she’d ever seen before. She pushed through the group and ran forward to scoop him up into her arms. Everyone cheered.
“You’re back thank goodness!” L20 gushed with relief as she kissed L8’s cheek.
“Are you ok, what did he do to you?”
“He didn’t do anything mum; he was really nice to me”
L20’s eyes narrowed slightly, “Are you sure?”
“Yes. Mum I have something I have to show you right now” L8 wriggled out of her tight hug.
“What do you mean, what is it?” she said, but he was running away from her toward their house.
She wasn’t sure what to do so she hurried after him, and the rest of the group decided to do the same. As L20 reached her gate the front door opened with such force that it shook when it thwacked against the wall. L8 bounced out with a large saucepan and two long wooden spoons held the wrong way around in his hands.
“Ok everybody er…listen up!” L8 said with a self-conscious grin. He sat on the doorstep and placed the large saucepan upside-down between his booted feet. He closed his eyes. In his mind he saw an image of Maxwell’s hilarious attempt at being rhythmical. The jerking in his body started and he felt himself laughing. Then he heard a few sniggers from the crowds.
“What on earth is he doing?”
L8 smiled because this felt funny, then he started slapping out a rhythm onto the saucepan with his wooden spoons. The sniggering and whispering stopped and some Mollies stood open-mouthed. Clapping and stamping sounds erupted from the group and soon everyone was moving and clapping along to the zappy sound of L8’s beats. Everyone seemed to have a happy smile on their face, except L8’s Mum; L20. She glared at the display in front of her. “Maxwell Demon taught my little boy how to be a hooligan?” she thought to herself. Then she looked around the group at everyone’s faces and they all seemed to be completely enjoying themselves. As she turned her head towards L8 he met her gaze and the happiness in his eyes melted her stern look. Her face softened into a gentle smile and she started tentatively clapping, but not quite in time with the rhythm. L8 laughed, and kept drumming.
© DM Bee 2006