Once, long ago, upon a violation of a borderline and in a land of little consequence, at a time when all there was to eat was mostly last season’s dwindling stock of pickled cucumbers and red cabbage, plus sometimes, just sometimes a soupçon of stale bread, a small child either stole or rescued a mandolin.

Certainly there was a more than a little confusion as to motive about the child as she dislodged the instrument from the frozen bespectacled corpse of an old man unassumingly curled up upon the softest mattress of new born primroses on the edge of the woodlands. Whatever, the rakish thin girl of jet black matted, greasy locks and overly pink cheeks, ran homeward bound intent upon showing her prize off to her family, such as her ‘family’ was. If the truth be told, her big sister, late of the tribal home, an accomplished self-taught musician who could get a tune out of just about anything from a hacksaw blade to a grand piano was the child’s preferred destination. Besides, her mother would have berated her, assuming the instrument was born of the spoils of theft. Sadly, the patriarch of the house had gone ‘missing’.

You see, all the men and boys in the small town where she lived had been taken away to places unknown by pitiless soldiers or shot by firing squad, their limp bodies dumped into a colossal open grave they themselves had been forced to dig.  All that was left were babes in arms, little ones, mothers and mother’s, mothers.  Remarkably, in the circumstances, all the teenage girls and young women, in the safe hands of the good priest and the local bus driver, had escaped as refugees en-masse to a safer, neutral country upon advanced news reaching them of the intended invasion. That is, save for the girl with the pink cheeks big sister, a grown up version of the smaller one, save for not having overly pink cheeks, the beautiful Aoede.

Aoede, a rebellious, chaotic young lady, had inevitably and in contravention of long since determined parental command regarding matters of urgency, been too busy painting her toenails silver and thus missed her passage to safety upon the rickety, yet serviceable old bus with all the others. It was thus her mother sent Aoede into the densest forest to live rather than have her daughter at risk of a fate worse than death at the hands of the oppressors.  Luckily for her she knew the best, unfathomable to outsiders, nooks and crannies in the woods within which to lose oneself.

Her little sister, a wise one, was well aware of all the secret hiding places amongst the trees and caves. It took little time for her to discover Aoede’s lair. Not that she was being entirely honest, yet when Aoede made idle mention to her sibling that it was her birthday did the child, albeit with invisible reluctance, decide to gift her the mandolin.

For the next five years Aoede remained in her wildwood shelter living off her wits and natures furtive harvests. During this period the rescued mandolin had ensured her sanity remained intact. Indeed, she had composed a mystical masterpiece, a piece she entitled ‘A Requiem for the Disappeared’. A composition regularly performed to the satisfaction of an audience of owls and furry mammals, often at their express request.

Cruel as Old Father Time can be, sometimes he relents, makes to heal rather than wound. It was thus that from the New Lands, across the giant ocean, came an army of good men, so big and powerful that the oppressors, cowards at heart, bullies in deed, fled to the place from whence they came.

He was on a reconnaissance mission checking that the entirety of the enemy had vacated the area when he stumbled quite buy chance into Aoede, sat cross-legged in a clearing, ensconced in her music.   Dumbstruck he, the young soldier smoking a fat Havana, closed his eyes and waited, absorbing every last note of Aoede’s requiem until her perfect performance was over. It was only then that she stood up, only then that she became aware of his presence. Everything was still in the forest when the soldier from the New Lands thought to open his eyes.  To his astonishment, before him not just the dazzling girl holding her mandolin, but also, encircling her as if they were her part of her, her aura perhaps, the pasty ghosts of a multitude of weeping, mournful countrymen. Too soon they dissipated, were gone.  The saddest thing he thought, yet split-second unforeseen death renders the living immune from emotion for an instant, until the time comes when all souls, whether lost or found, shed inevitable heartache, salty tears.

Soldier boy, mesmerized by Aoede, overwhelmed with her plainsong; enthralled beyond measure with both took it upon himself to ensure she was aware she was now in safe hands. Never one backward in coming forward, an endearing trait many of his own kind shared, he took from his rucksack nylon stockings and ‘mild as May’ toasted tobacco cigarettes; offered them to her. Not that she had a need for either she accepted his gift gratefully, smiled her best comme il faut smile and followed on behind to pastures new.

Several decades later in a bedroom encased within the grandest of townhouses in the metropolis that is New York City a now very old widow, originally from a land of little consequence, passed away peacefully in her sleep. At her bedside a rescued mandolin and a photograph album chronicling the loving life and spectacular times she had shared with a cigar smoking American.

62 thoughts on “THE RESCUED MANDOLIN

  1. Great story and well told. Just a quick FYI: There’s an extra “a” in the first sentence of the 2nd paragraph.)

    1. Cheers Fred Rock, Sir. As a dyslexic writer (true) I rely on my wife (so much cleverer than me) to proof read, so with the miscreant ‘a’ I shall have to smack her bum!

    1. I am working on a weird book…with great difficulty. I can only write it on the days a ‘weirdness’ is about me. Some would say that’s most days, yet in reality only Tuesdays have the necessary effect.

      1. He still doesn’t know…ensconced within metal presently he made mention he might start a classical piece on Sunday…my heart sank! Then good fortune smiled, on the news I heard our ‘second’ choice of football team is playing live on TV on Sunday…I rushed up to his private quarters and told him the good news…all is well, for now!

      2. He, even now, has no idea of what I did…his fault actually for putting the bloody violin in an alcove within his self proclaimed attic studio close to the wretched CD’s (about 400 in that particular box). In fairness to you I shall end this thread…you can read my obituary shortly I reckon.

  2. I used this photograph once myself on a pininterest board. She is certainly a beautiful little girl. My take on it was that she must have been paid to pose with a mandolin. It probably fed her family for one day.

    1. Thanks Paul. Got so fed up with people knocking the US these days I thought a small reminder that Europe wouldn’t be Europe today were it not for the cameo American smoking a cigar and the free European girl who played the mandolin.

    1. Thank you. Your kind comment may help remove through fresh inspiration the dreaded block that has afflicted me these last few days…not an original thought in this old head! Back to pen and paper I reckon…I feel a new poem about me…bollocks no ink in the pen! head-butts the wall for a bit to no avail.

      1. So long as you don’t start writing in blood on the wall from the crack in your head, please!
        I’ve no doubts words will come to you. They have no choice, for YOU are the Time Traveler Extraordinaire. 🙂

      2. Just had a splendid morning out and about…back at my desk…nothing…well a bit of par for the course rubbish words. Still, a good mood is about me…to the seashore for me I think this PM.

  3. I am back to your blog again ( baby finally fell asleep). You are so kind making up this story for the little mandolin player. My dad was 21 when he became a POW. Just a few years older than the girl in the picture. He was liberated form the concentration camp by the American troops.

    1. How weird! My own father was just 19 when he was captured and spent the entire war in a POW camp next to the concentration camp that was Krakow. He was slave labour down the coal mine, in shackles etc. yet at the end of the war, he also was liberated by the Yanks…the saddest thing was that before being conscripted he had just signed professional papers for Brentford FC, yet when he returned home to Blighty at just 7 and a bit stone (he stood over 6 foot) his frost bitten feet put an end to any footballing career…rotten old world we live in sometimes!

      1. Weird indeed. My dad was transferred from one camp to another, for some reason – nine altogether. During one of the transfers he jumped in the sea, swam to the coast, but soon was reported by a local. I wonder if our fathers have been in the same camp on some stage, because my dad spent the entire war in the camp too after he was captured from the burning tank, badly wounded. These young men endured the hell on earth.

      2. Stalag V111B was the place…only discovered this written on the back of an old photo not long before the old boy snuffed it (88 years, not too bad). I have researched it a lot and verified that his tales told to me when in the throws of vascular dementia near the end, such as the ankle chains worn down the mines of Silesia etc. were true! Do you know what camp your dad was in…maybe they were chums…somewhere I have a photo of a whole mass of POW’s taken at the camp…Shirl will know where the snap is…she always does!

      3. No Mike, I know almost nothing. My father never spoke with me about the war – I have learned the bits and pieces from my mother and his cousins. His first one was Ninth Fort, a former Soviet gulag camp used by Nazis. He was there just for a month or so. They all were put on a boat and sent across the sea to Stutthof to be transferred to the labor camps. My dad was a good swimmer. He jumped off the boat and swam to the coast. I don’t know the rest of the story, after he was captured again. They tossed him from one camp to another. I wish I knew more, but he wasn’t able to speak about war. He was so traumatized, he would cry even watching a war time movie. Gosh, if I knew more.

      4. Thank you Mike! I will dig into it when I come back to Ireland. There are many documents digitalised and posted online during the last decade. I have already found some documents concerning my grand parents. It is amazing. Your link looks like a great source.

      5. Good…I used to run my own PI business for years until I sold it nearly a decade ago…if only I still had proper registration etc. I could have done all this for you.

      6. Thank you 🙂 It might be that after his failed escape attempt he gave them a different name – a possible reason why they didn’t execute him.

      7. From experience, most ‘new names’ have a link to the original name…more so when the victim is under pressure…may be a middle name as new forename, maybe a mothers maiden name as the new surname, generally the original date of birth, whatever…pressure does funny thing to the brain…my how I would have loved to work on this case when it was still ‘legal’ for me to do so!

      8. Thank you so much, Mike! Hope I will do something about that. You are so right – my father ‘modified’ his original name, and in my genealogic records he goes under two names. I wonder if that was the one he took after being captured. After the war, he went looking for his mother, and KGB found him in 1949 and sent to GULAG.

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