Bring Him Home


Do you remember the first time you heard a song? The song that each and every time afterwards…

The question…and my answer…

That night I had the TV all to myself. The children were asleep. She was asleep. I wasn’t going to disturb her that night. Just dust out on the couch till morning. I channel surfed until I stopped the remote in mid-note…

Les Miserables : The Dream Cast in Concert was my solace for the night. The best of the best singing their way through perhaps the most touching musical ever.

Except…I only knew of it. I had never heard Les Miserables in full.

Which makes me probably a pretentious Philistine. 

And it was nice, and enjoyable and took my mind off my worries.

Until I heard Bring Him Home.  Even the first words are confronting. To anyone who believes and has been let down in the faith. To anyone who cannot believe. 

As the song melted its way through me, I realised who it was for.  Six weeks beforehand I’d heard the news that a former workmate had died quite tragically. It had happened while I was interstate. It was too late for me to pay my respects to him.

That song went straight through me. I cried for my friend that night.
Everytime I hear that song, I remember him and weep a little less.

Celine Dion’s Lyricist

Music.

My pager beeps. Must be seven o’clock again. Third time this week.

I stride through the dining room. I brush past the pianist. Her head is bowed, brows knitted, fingers melting into the keyboard. She doesn’t look up.

The first notes of “My Heart Will Go On” fill the room.

If only the Titanic had never hit that iceberg.

I open the double doors to my study. I close them and snuff Celine Dion silent.

I’m in a Queensland sauna. Boxes, shelves and filing cabinets jostle for room. The only spare space belongs to an office chair opposite a PC.

Like Mao’s ballet dancer in a phone booth, I twirl myself and the chair around and sit. I unclip my pager, fish out my Maxibon sized mobile and turn on the PC.

“Hi, I’m returning your page.”

The duty operator yawns, stretches and scratches himself. The computer room aircon roars like a tsunami. In the last moment, before the wave breaks, his voice whispers its last.

“Just a sec.”

Paper crackles through the phone. His voice:rat-a-tat: Caller name, phone number, said she had trouble with a search. My clammy fingers slip on the pen as I scribble it all down.

“Which search?”

“She didn’t say.”

Again. I hang up. I login and perform the standard checks. All working.

“I’m Andrew, returning your call.”

“Look, it’s really urgent, I need to do this search tonight, for my credit check tomorrow.”

“I understand,” I say. I click the dummy credit check search and enter his details. Still bankrupt but yet to be extradited.

“Mine worked,” I say, “I’ll wait while you retry yours.”

“It’s not working. I really need this tonight.”
In the mid-Atlantic, the Titanic soundtrack seeps under my door.

“Though my heart is broken,” I snap silently to Celine.

“I’ll try and access their database manually,” I reply.

“They’re not working at the moment,”I continue. The air clings like treacle. I flap my arms: no sweat relief.

Celine re-enters. “Love has finally spoken. My heart will go on,” I riposte.

“Can’t you call them now, get them to reset their line or something?”

“I could email them.” And wait till morning.

My shirt is wet now. I open the double doors. Music and cool enter as one.

“Is that music? Are you in a piano store?”

“My daughter is practicing for an invitation-only concert.”

“You’re calling from home?”

“The piano’s in the dining room next to my study.” She breathes out.

“Look, the credit check, isn’t due till mid tomorrow morning. I could try it early and see.”

“Thanks for your call.”

I open the double doors wider.

“Thanks,” I say, “Your hold music helped calm that customer. ”

My daughter looks up and nods. And starts from the beginning. As do I.

At the end of my performance, I ask, “Do you think I could sing that at your concert?”

The piano lid silently closes.

“Maybe work as Celine Dion’s lyricist?”

She had to laugh at that.

The One to One Concert

You said you could only finger one chord,
I (poet that I am) could only find one word.

You never had an attentive audience before.
Nor me as we listen as one for each other’s encore.

You lift, heft and settle the guitar.
Pluck one note that echoes then journeys afar.

You play chords and melodies I know you never knew.
As I hear our heart’s words and sing them back to you.