The Pearl River Excursion (Part 9)

Behind Wayne, on a small, square desk, lay a microphone. A short cable attached the microphone to a cheap laptop computer. On the computer screen a program displayed a row of vertical bars and a few animated control knobs. Brendon stepped forward and examined the screen. He turned and looked at Wayne, then at the rest of the group. “That’s recording software,” he said. 

“Good grief,” gasped Jerry. 

Harry stood beside the desk and stared down in wonder at the microphone. “The king is still making music.” 

“I’m taking the microphone,” blurted Tony, and he pushed through the group and reached his hand toward the desk. 

Harry drew his handgun from the holster on his hip and pressed it against Tony’s face. Tony fell to the floor, his hands covering his head, trying to protect himself. “No, no! Don’t shoot!” 

Everyone backed away. 

“Woah, Harry, take it easy!” said Jerry. 

Harry held one hand up in surrender, while still pointing the gun at Tony. “Sorry,” he said. “I just… I didn’t mean to…” He looked down at Tony. “You can’t have the microphone. It’s mine. Take whatever else you want, but the microphone is mine, okay?” 

Tony glanced up at him, still covering himself. “All right. I won’t touch it. Can you please stop pointing the gun at me?” 

“Harry,” said Jerry, with a friendly nod, “put the gun away.” 

“Hmm?” Harry looked at Jerry, and then at the gun in his own hand. “Oh, yes, of course. Sorry about that.” He holstered his weapon and helped Tony up. “I just… I’m the club president, and I think I should have the microphone. 

“Sure Harry,” said Tony, keeping his eyes lowered. He pushed his way through the group and left the room. 

Harry watched him leave. He screwed his nose up a little and then nodded to himself. “He’ll be all right,” he said. He picked up the microphone and cradled it in his hands. “Just think,” he said. “Elvis Presley himself sang into this very microphone.” 

“This is incredible,” said Gene. “Right there on that computer are new Elvis songs. Songs the world has never heard.” 

“Can we play the recordings?” asked Lyle. 

Brendon drew the little stool from beneath the desk and sat on it. “Yeah, we should be able to.” He moved the cursor about the screen. “I don’t know how polished the recordings are. The sound may be pretty raw.” 

“Who cares?” said Neil. “It’s Elvis.” 

“Here we go,” said Brendon, clicking on a file. “This looks like the most recent recording—Track 31, A New Start.” 

“Sounds like a love song,” said Phil. 

“I knew it,” said Lyle. “Elvis is still a romantic.” 

“Go on then,” said Wayne. “Let’s hear it.” 

Brendon looked at Harry. Harry nodded. Brendon clicked on the play arrow. 

From the laptop’s inadequate speakers came a clunk and a crackle, then the sound of an old man clearing his throat. Silence a moment, and then a soft, raspy voice. It spoke: 

“Hello everyone. This is Aaron McAllister. Thank you for joining me. I hope you and your family are doing well. The weather has been lovely down here in Pearl River this week. Good weather for getting outside and getting your hands dirty. I uh—well, those of you who joined me last week…” 

This isn’t a song,” said Jerry. 

Sounds like an introduction,” said Ewan. “Skip this bit, get to the music.” 

Brendon clicked the recording forward twenty seconds. Aaron McAllister’s voice continued. 

“…rain we had that week, so that was a bit of a disaster, heh-heh. But that’s the wonderful thing about a garden, you can always start over. So, I dug up my tomatoes and snow peas, and I’m going to try… hold on a second… just put my glasses on… that’s better… Yes, that’s it. I have some seeds for wom-bok. Yes, I think that’s how you say it. It’s a lovely plant, a kind of cabbage with ruffled leaves. I haven’t…” 

Fast forward this,” said Harry, losing patience. 

“Yeah okay,” said Brendon. He leaned toward the screen and shook his head. “It’s a long recording. Forty-two minutes. I’ll try near the end.” He clicked again. 

Again, Mr. McAllister spoke. 

“…I found out the secret was to put eggshells in the compost. Now I compost all my eggshells. I live on my own, and I don’t eat a lot of eggs, so I don’t have a lot of eggshells, but my neighbour, Lois, she gives me all her eggshells, and I add them to my compost. I suppose, on an average week, I would put in maybe… let’s see… maybe a dozen eggshells… Yes, I’d say a dozen eggshells. Sometimes more. And what that does…” 

Turn it off,” snapped Harry. He smeared his hand back and forward across his face. 

“What was that?” said Phil. 

“He sure likes eggshells,” said Vince. 

“Try another one,” said Harry. 

“All right,” said Brendon. “Let’s see… Here we go. This one is called Worth the Wait.” He skipped forward in the recording and pressed play. 

The old man’s gentle voice spoke once more: 

“…quite tall by that stage. Most of them were higher than my waist. And that was… what did I say?… Yes, that must have been eleven weeks to reach that stage. Now, I must admit, after that long I was eager to pick the corn, even though most of it was not fully ripe. I did have one large ear that was bigger than the others, and I thought, why not? So, I picked that one and left the others to keep growing. I cooked it that evening, with some peas and a nice piece of fish…” 

Ishani stifled a laugh. 

“What’s so funny?” said Harry, with a glare. 

Ishani shook her head. 

“What is it?” asked Vince. 

“Go on,” said Lyle. 

Ishani sighed. “The old man didn’t record songs.” 

“Yes, we can hear that,” said Harry. He ground his teeth. 

Ishani smiled. “It’s a podcast.” 

“Huh?” said Gene. 

“I think you’re right,” said Brendon. “All these recordings go for at least thirty minutes each. And look at the titles—My Battle with Radishes, Snow Pea Season, To Fertilize or not to Fertilize? Ha! He has a podcast about his vegetable garden. 

It’s cute,” said Ishani. 

“So… there aren’t any new Elvis songs?” asked Neil. 

Harry pinched the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed long, deep breaths. Everyone kept quiet. Suddenly, Harry snarled, raised the microphone high overhead and brought it down onto the laptop keyboard, smashing it over and over until the keys were broken beyond repair. After thirty seconds of furious and focused vandalism, he ceased. His chest rose and fell. He looked on the verge of tears. He dropped his head and sighed. “Everyone back to the bus.” 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: