It was the second
week he’d come over almost every day to work on his bugle playing
at the big stone house. His mom had barely come home before she was
gone again - she was doing more teaching somewhere out of town. Jason was
almost glad. His mom would be asking questions if she were home.
catching on quickly and, today, Charlotte joined in on the silver
flute. Gran was at the piano, thumping out grandiose chords while
Jason stumbled through The Bugle Call. Charlotte was trilling an
extra part, making it up as she went along, something she’d told
him she had always been able to do.
They had almost
finished their third run-through of The Bugle Call when a
loud, rat-a-tatting echoed down the front hall stairs into
the living room.
going,” Gran said, throwing in a few extra chords at the end of the
last line. “We’ll go through it one more time.”
marched through the doorway in perfect time, the drum on the yellow cord
around his neck. In spite of the tinny loudness, Jason couldn’t
help being impressed by Squid’s dexterity, the rat-a-tat-tats
doubling and tripling in time to Gran’s chords. He had obviously
done this before.
At the end of the
piece, Squid, of course, kept up his drumming, marching around the couch,
la-la-la-ing Jason’s bugle line at the top of his lungs.
to stop,” was all Gran had to say. Squid plopped to the floor and
pulled the drum’s cord off over his head. “It’s almost
four,” she went on, “and Jean Barton will be here for her
music lesson.” She opened one of the french doors. “How
about a practice, outside? Like a marching band.”
teaches piano,” Charlotte explained.
band, a band,” Squid echoed. He grabbed the drum again and hammered
boy,” Charlotte said. “This should be fun.” She rolled
forty-five minutes,” Gran added, “and stay off the highway.
One of those Lake Ontario fogs is rolling in from the lake. I noticed
from the upstairs window a while ago. You won’t be able to see any
further than the end of your nose once it hits the highway. She gave
Squid’s nose a little poke. “Stay on the path by the fence
and come back when you reach the Cobourg town sign.” Squid giggled
and ran for the french doors.
won’t have you on the piano,” Jason protested. “It
won’t sound right without the piano.”
it,” Gran said, literally shoeing the two of them out after him.
“Just try it.”
took over the melody line and, with Squid leading, they marched out the
spruce-lined lane toward the highway and path.
it,” Charlotte commanded even before they reached the
highway. “Hey, Squid, it won’t be any fun in the fog.
Let’s go back up into the loft.”
way,” Squid said, stomping his foot and rat-a-tat-tatting.
“I want to be a band.”
Charlotte took a
deep breath and stared hard at her little brother. Jason could see a
standoff looming. He stepped back and waited.
and snapped her fingers. “I know,” she said. “Why
don’t we take Jason for a boat ride? You could row.”
no,” Squid said defiantly, “and I’m going to tell if we
don’t be a band. So there.” He started a drum roll and
marched on the spot.
well try it to my house and back, then,” Jason suggested.
“Forty-five minutes isn’t that long.” He checked his
watch. It was three fifty-five. What he intended to do once they got to
his house was make an excuse to call it a day. Sibling squabbles he could
her eyes and started to play again, marching on the spot.
“Okay,” she said between notes, and they turned onto a path
Jason didn’t even know was there - Squid in front, then Charlotte,
with Jason bringing up the rear.
happened then, something none of them clearly understood, even afterward.
The fog Grandma Cannington warned them about started rolling in, a thick,
wet cover, eliminating everything but a small section of the path ahead.
Jason felt his playing grow stronger and stronger and he added extra
past, their headlights like two yellow spots dilating into solid discs,
and disappearing behind. Each time, Squid paused and, in perfect time,
twirled a drum stick in the air. Jason moved out in front, lifting his
head higher so that his bugle notes poured ahead of him into the fog.
Charlotte was following him now, with Squid lagging a bit behind. The
sound wrapped around them, pulling them forward, bugle and flute notes
growing louder and stronger, driven on by the urging of Squid’s
They must have marched right past Jason’s house; none of them even
noticed. They were good - they were better than good,
professional, like his mom. He was sure of it.
highway, the New Lodge Farm sign slid in and out of sight almost as if
suspended in air. As they came close to the Workman’s chicken farm
where his mom bought eggs, Jason thought he heard sheep bleating. He
didn’t know the Workmans had sheep. The fog rolled back,
momentarily, and instead of the house, Jason saw someone with a long
wooden crook herding a flock of sheep across the road. He blinked and
they were gone. Droplets of water formed in a ring on his bugle and
the instrument glimmered almost like a beacon in the fog. Any minute now
and they’d see the Cobourg town sign and it would be time
to turn back. It was then it occurred to Jason that no cars were passing
now, that it seemed very still.
The path had
become a dirt road, a strange road and, as if by some signal, they all
stopped, Squid’s drum playing dwindling down to an occasional
we?” Charlotte whispered.
Jason turned to
stare at her. She was pulling nervously at the ties of a long cloak
she was wearing. Underneath, he glimpsed a roughly woven, ankle
length brown skirt. Squid’s T-shirt had grown into an over-sized
drab-looking shirt belted at the waist by some frayed rope, his sturdy
legs covered by coarse gray stockings. Jason looked down, amazed to see
himself dressed like Squid. All wore rough sandals tied on with
ragged strips of leather.
are we wearing this stuff?” Squid said, looking more than a little
I’m not sure,” Jason replied, “but it’s something
don’t understand what’s going on,” Charlotte whispered
again, looking at Squid and then back at Jason.
“We’ve transported somewhere,” Jason replied,
nervously, “to some other time.” He looked around.
“Maybe to some other country.”
stupid stocking things are itchy,” Squid complained, dropping the
drum onto the dusty road. “Who stole my jeans?”
your flute, Charlotte.” Jason said, staring at the instrument
in her hand. Charlotte ran her hand over it and
inhaled sharply. “It’s . . . it’s more like a
recorder,” she said in a barely audible voice. “A
funny, old-looking recorder. She put the instrument to her lips and
produced a series of rich-sounding notes. Her eyes took on a surprised,
almost frightened look and she stopped in mid-phrase. “This is
bizarre,” she added. “Almost like we slipped through a time
way,” Squid chimed in. “We didn’t slip, Lottie. No
whatever happened,” Jason said, staring at the horn,
“didn’t change the bugle much.” He turned it over in
“It’s shinier,” Charlotte said, touching it lightly.
“Polished like gold.”
Jason held the
horn at arm’s length. “Maybe it’s just the light or
Squid shrugged his
shoulders and started playing again, a deep, resonating rat-a-tat-tat. He
seemed unconcerned that the drum was no longer tin, rough leather strands
replacing the yellow cord, its brownness blending in with his drab shirt
Jason put the
bugle to his lips, hoping it would sound the same. He began The Bugle
Call and the notes ran ahead of him, different notes, better notes.
Charlotte took a deep breath and added her harmony to the
”Company march,” and they started off again along the strange
Ahead, in the distance, Jason thought he saw the
outline of a castle up high on a hill. A mirage, he thought, either that
or he was dreaming.
* * * * * * * * * *