With My Fife And My Drum

With my fife and my drum I wandered in the hills. I tooted my fife and I banged my drum. This was why I was wandering in the hills, for I had been banished from town. My tooting and banging unnerved the good burghers, and the bad burghers too, and I was escorted to the town perimeter and shoved across the line. It was an actual line, painted in whitewash, and regularly repainted wherever it lost integrity through scuffing by bootsoles and the like. I was told plainly, by way of an edict, that I could never again toot my fife or bang my drum within the town, due to the unnervement I caused. I accepted this, and wandered up into the hills.

Toot toot toot! Bang bang bang! Toot toot bang bang toot! Bang! I was as happy as a sandboy, although I am not entirely sure what a sandboy is, unless it be a remarkably happy boy made out of wet impacted sand by some beach-bound Geppetto.

I was happy in the hills until I was attacked by a flock of putti. No one had ever thought to tell me that the sky above the hills was infested by chubby curly-locked cherubs from the Italian Renaissance, some armed with bows and arrows, and all blessed with the power of flight. Whenever I had seen pictures of them, during my lessons, I understood them to be harmless. Mischievous, yes, but in a playful way. It came as a shock to me to discover that they were demented and malevolent, never a good combination. They also seemed to object to my tooting on my fife and my banging on my drum. I took shelter in a recently-vacated bivouac.

You should always take care, in the hills, when occupying a vacant bivouac, to find out if it has been wholly abandoned or if the person who built it is due back shortly. That person might be large and menacing with hairy fists and wild eyes. Many hill dwellers fit that description. I saw dying embers from a fire, and some spat-out gristle from a sausage, neither of which told me whether or not I could expect company. The putti continued to swoop in the sky above, ready to renew their attack if they got the chance. I judged that, if a large hairy hill-person were to return to claim his bivouac, I could frighten him off with tooting and banging. Such ogres are usually averse to a din. But unless the putti flew away, I was trapped. I could only hope their attentions might be distracted by a passing goat or peasant. I wanted to wander, yet here I was stuck in a bivouac. To pass the time, I tooted my fife and banged my drum.

About an hour later, the maker of the bivouac returned. It was not, as I had surmised, a large and ungainly hill-person, but grumpy German film director Horst Gack. The putti swooped upon him as he approached, the armed ones firing golden arrows at him, but he simply shouted at them and waved his fist, as hairy as a hill-person’s fist, and they dispersed, with babyish squeaks. I wondered why I had not thought to use Gack’s simple tactics. But then, the presiding genius of the Cinema of Belligerence had a guttural shout and an aggressive fist-brandishment beyond compare.

He was unconcerned that I was occupying his bivouac. Indeed, as soon as he saw my fife and my drum he questioned me closely about them. He was a very intense man, as you might expect. As he fried sausages over the rekindled fire, he told me that a fife and drum soundtrack would suit the film he was working on, here in this bivouac, a seven-hour black-and-white documentary about hillside goats and ogres. He explained that he had just been out and about shooting raw footage of a goat-versus-ogre wrestling bout. I did some tooting and banging for him, and he seemed pleased, though it was difficult to tell given his grim demeanour. He gave me one of his sausages.

Little did I know, as darkness fell upon the hills, that six months later I would stand on stage accepting an award as runner-up in the Most Belligerent Soundtrack award at a film festival in Ṻlm. Curiously, the trophy itself was a statuette of a putto, curly-locked and chubby and armed with a bow and arrow. I took it home, to my new home, just outside the town perimeter, and I put it on my mantelpiece, and every now and then, as the fancy took me, I smashed it to smithereens with a hammer, and then glued it back together. Now, when I wander in the hills tooting my fife and banging my drum, the putti leave me be. 

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