Tambourine Girl

The park was peaceful and the day was warm. In an open field, past abandoned barbeques and empty swings, far out on a blanket of wild grass lay a couple. They stared at the sky, welcoming in the sun. They watched colors bleed into each other and smear across the horizon.

Slowly, the creatures of the park praised the new day, too. Larks and bluebirds whistling as they flew from their nests; squirrels sprinting to the tops of oaktrees; branches swaying in the morning air, revealing pink blossoms.

So the sun rose, and with it the heat.

And with the heat, the noise.

The birds and squirrels, busy still, were joined in sound by children. Crying babies, comforting mums, giggling children, fighting siblings. The swings were no longer abandoned, and slowly, too, dads came out too tend to the barbeques. Smells of marinated chicken and greasy hot dogs were tossed around with the breeze.

Running and eating and hugging and playing, the park was the epitome of joy.

The heat raged on, and by just after noon, the bottles of water were emptying out. Children were wining at having sticky sunscreen reapplied, and parents were wining about having to reapply it. What food was left was unwanted—each stomach in the park, even those of the squirrels, was filled to capacity. Bloated parents sat and discussed the politics of the local elementary schools as their children lay sleepy, sweaty bodies in their laps.

Larks still flew by once in a while, and the squirrels were as active as ever. But a hush fell over the park after the sudden rise and drop in excitement. Once again the swings were abandoned, save for one girl who flew back and forth, up and down, legs pumping. Her long hair tossed about messily and her eyes flickered with delight, almost as if reflecting the sun.

The girl was entirely alone and nobody noticed her until suddenly she leapt off of the swing with vigor. Holding up a tambourine and standing up straight, it appeared that the girl was really a woman: A five foot, ten inch tall woman in a long cotton dress. And the tambourine was like an extension of her body. Slowly she began to walk through the park, barefoot and with great passion.

“Pata pata chhhhh.”

“Pata pata chhhh.”

“Bum bum bum pata pata bum chhhh”

the tambourine sizzled, hot and fresh.

“Pata pata chhh”

“Bum pata bum pata bum pata chhhh”

Slowly parents looked up from their conversation to see who was making such a racket.

The woman’s hair twisted and tangled freely in the wind as her hand moved mechanically to the beat.

“Pata bum pata bum patatatatatataatatatatata”

“HAAAA” she yelled.

“HAAAA! HAAAA!”

“JOY!”

“All together we sing HAAAA”

“Different languages”

“bum bum chhhhhhh”

“Different footprints”

“bum bum chhhhhhh”

“Different voices”

“Pata bum”

“Echo the same thing!”

“HAAAAAAA, beautiful world!”

“HAAAAAAA”

She spun and twirled almost deliriously through the field. She perhaps did not realize when parents began to pack up their things and wake their children.

“It’s time to go home, now” one mother announced, “We don’t want to be disturbed by any more of the homeless people.”

“Mommy, what is wrong with her?”

“I don’t think she’s in her right mind, dear.”

The mother sat her children up one by one and packed blankets and cracker boxes into a bag. Eventually she shuffled out of the park followed by the other moms, dads, and children.

“All together we sing! All together we must sing! HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”

“Bum bum bum chhhhh”

As the park emptied out, the woman continued her ritual as if not noticing the change in atmosphere. There was but one young couple sitting on a picnic bench by the swings. They had stopped watching each other and were now staring intently at the woman.

Suddenly she looked towards the empty space the families had left.

“Beautiful world!”

“This is your home!”

“JOY!”

“AHHHHHH”

She spun and spun and spun until uncannily, she stopped without dizziness. She looked straight at the young couple, Tears in her bright eyes.

“Bum patatatata bum bum pata chhhh”

“This is”

“bum pata”

“home”

“bum pata pata”

“sing with us”

The young woman in the couple nodded and smiled. She was intrigued by what this strange woman was doing, but her boyfriend grabbed her arm and led her out of the park just as the heat was dwindling down.

Squirrels and larks still scurried through the space, but the woman knew that they already understood her song.

Tears flowed down her soft cheeks without hesitation.

“Chhhhh pata pata chhhhh pata pata”

She lifted her arms up and stared into the sun.

“HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”

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