Friday, March 9, 2012

Story of the Week: Bone Music

Margaret Flint Suter's "Bone Music" in the November 2011 issue of Underneath the Juniper Tree is a tale of murder and revenge accompanied by some creepy but beautiful illustrations from Crystal Ord. Suter's tale is short, only two pages in the magazine, but she packs in a lot of story. The frist-person narrator is Hollis, a young man who lives with his father and two sisters--Rachael and Eliza--in County Clair, a holler in the woods and mountains. (The setting is never defined precisely but I assume it's the Appalachians.) Hollis and his father make fiddles. Rachael has gone to the city to pursue her dream of becoming a violin virtuoso and Eliza has been missing for months, ever since the day she accompanied Rachael to the train station. Hollis relates that "[o]ur sister Rachael was very different than us. She was dark in looks and personality." Rachael and Eliza both loved Thomas, who chose to return Eliza's affections. Before she leaves, Rachael reminds Hollis of their deal.

"Remember, Hollis, we had a deal. I leave that weak, boring sister of ours and her precious Thomas alone and you help Pa produce me a violin that will set the music world on fire. That was our bargain, don't you even dream of backing out on it." I shook her off, shaking my head incredulously. "I gave my word. You will get exactly what you deserve."

Hollis has no idea at the time how prophetic his response will be.

The action opens when Hollis's dog Digger brings back a rotting piece of bone and flesh to chew on. Hollis makes a grisly discovery. The bone is from Eliza's skull. Digger leads him to a large tree in the bank of a creek where the rest of her remains have come to rest. Eliza's skeletal fingers still grasp a clump of ebony hair--Rachael's hair. Pa dies the day Hollis finds Eliza, but Hollis keeps the news from Rachael. He sets about making Rachael's fiddle, using some very fitting supplies at hand. (If you're familiar with The Red Violin, you'll have some idea of what those bits are.) Hollis presents Rachael with her fiddle, or violin as she calls it, and gets exactly what she deserves.

"Bone Music" is a great example of how much story can be packed into a short narrative. The characters are static but this story isn't about character development. Suter gives us just enough to understand the dominant traits of their personalities and their motivations. Rachael, for instance, is wicked all the way through. Her greed and ambition have consumed her and ultimately destroy her. "Bone Music" is akin to a very satisfying fairy tale.

1 comment: