The Famous Ghost Monologues, No. 21: Monday Neely and Travis Barber
Barber: That Stevie girl — she don't talk much, and of course you got folks like that in the world. Prewitt, now, Prewitt got plenty to say, he just don't do it out loud.
Neely: Just his way.
Barber: Just his way, that's right, and nobody can say why. Some folks say it's because —
Barber: All right, Neely. About Stevie. When Stevie first come, I notice she got a song. Only one song, and it ain't got words, it's a song for humming and whistling.
Neely: We all got a song like that, a — what you call it again?
Barber: A nothing-to-do song.
Neely: That's right. That's just what it is.
Barber: I got a song like that — I sing it when I got nothing else to do in my head, and I reckon that's how she do it too. It's good to have a song handy, times like that.
Neely: Sure it is.
Barber: But then Stevie's song got in my head and stayed. Instead of my own nothing-to-do song late at night, here I am singing her nothing-to-do song, and next thing you know Jesse caught it too — the two of us sitting around, nothing-to-do singing, sounded like a coupla bees.
Neely: Tired bees.
Barber: I'll get to that. Monday come by with his hands in his pockets, and he wants to know how we got it in our heads to do wrong by "Deep River" this time.
Neely: Now, I ain't put it like that.
Barber: You know you did. "How you two messing with 'Deep River' now, give that song some damn peace."
Neely: I ain't put it like that, Trav.
Barber: Monday got to know everything about singing, and he got to know you know he knows it, too.
Neely: I want to say, this ain't my story.
Barber: So I say, it ain't "Deep River," Professor Neely, sir, since you so smart.
Neely: I remember that part well enough.
Barber: Sure you do. So then of course Monday got to say "hum it for me and I'll guess it."
Neely: To pass the time, Trav, like we always do. Lord.
Barber: And Jesse says, it ain't fair on you, Monday, we don't know the whole song our own selves, but Monday says he'll guess it anyway and we should go on and get humming. So we hummed it, and Jesse's a half step ahead of me at first, and the song got a part where it gets high — what I'm telling you is, we ain't sounding like much of anything.
Neely: Sounded all right.
Barber: You got a funny look to you, though.
Neely: Tell the story, Trav.
Barber: All right. Monday got a funny look to him like he smelled sour milk —
Neely: I'll show you that look, son. Tell the damn story.
Barber: If you wouldn't keep stopping me I'd get done.
Neely: [rolls eyes]
Barber: I thank you. We run out of song, Jesse and me, but then what do you know but Monday has more song — he picked it up from us and kept on to the end, and his voice all full of the story the song tells, heavy with the story is what I mean, but light as a bird in the air.
Neely: [raises eyebrows]
Barber: Too bossy sometimes, but the man can sing, I know that's true.
Neely: And now I thank you, Travis.
Barber: Just saying what's plain. And now you got to tell the story.
Neely: No, keep on.
Barber: You let the last note go and then you say, you got me, then.
Neely: And Jesse says, don't be funny, Monday.
Barber: That's right. "Don't be funny, you know that song like you know this boneyard we live in."
Neely: But I didn't know the name, so it didn't count.
Barber: I thought it counted plenty.
Neely: I couldn't name the song.
Barber: The way you sang it counted plenty.
Neely: Keep on.
Barber: I say about how it sure gets in your head, that song, and then Monday leans forward on his elbows like he got a secret, and he — you tell it now.
Neely: You can't tell it? Ain't much to it.
Barber: You ought to.
Neely: All right. I told them how Stevie used to sing —
Barber: No, no, you skipped a part.
Neely: Trav. If you want me to tell it you got to let me. If you want to tell it —
Barber: I just tell this one part, then you tell it.
Neely: Go on, then.
Barber: Monday asks if we know that cowboy girl. We say, Stevie, sure we know her, it's her song we just sang.
Neely: "Her nothing-to-do song," Jesse said.
Barber: Right. Now you.
Neely: She used to sing it as a child, that's what I told them. I told them she used to come with her grandma, her and her sister with the cut-up knees, to them mossy graves up the rise there, and the grandma put flowers all around and the children ran all over the place.
Barber: And when the little one fell down —
Neely: Trav, who is telling this story?
Barber: Keep on, then.
Neely: The little one ran around crazy all the time, and she'd fall down and hurt herself, and the older one, that's Stevie, the little one would cry and put her head in Stevie's lap and Stevie would sing to her.
Barber: The very same song.
Neely: The very one. And the first time I heard it, those two little girls, the little one resting her head and crying, the other one brushing back the little one's hair and singing that song — it came to live in my head, it did.
Barber: Never did ask her where it came from or the name of it.
Neely: Ain't my business.
Barber: Songs your business, Monday.
Neely: Not all songs.
Barber: [gives Neely a look] All right, then?
Neely: All right.
Barber: My name is Travis Ba–
Neely: We told that part already.
Barber: So we did. All right.
April 9, 2004
Tags: Famous Ghost Monologues