Chapter 19 - A Song of Peace
Grant and Elijah came to an area with benches placed on neatly trimmed grass before a stage. Metal structures erected from the corners standing about fifteen feet tall, at the top they all connected to one another. Lights wrapped in and around the hollow structures, flashing for attention in the outskirts of the fair grounds.
Scanning the three rows of seats, they spotted their parents who were sitting with their uncle. Almost every bench was full of people taking their breaks from walking around the vast festival.
“Hey, if it isn’t Grant and Elijah! Did you come to watch me play?” Mori smiled.
“Sorry Uncle, but we want food!” Elijah immediately responded.
“Ouch, no worries! You’re right though! The food is the most important thing about the fair.” He gave a hearty laugh.
“We’ll get food after Uncle Mori plays okay?” Their mom said.
“How long until that?” Elijah asked.
“He’s next after the man that’s up there now,” their dad answered.
A man with long brown hair sat on the stool on the stage with a guitar. Relaxing music serenaded the passersby into a peaceful trance. The musician closed his eyes, head bobbing side to side as he used both hands to tap on the fretboard, playing it like a piano.
A boy about Grant’s age stood behind him on the stage, was that perhaps his son? The boy watched intently as the strings pressed down in harmonious taps and occasional thumps.
The song was a rendition of a classic Nhajan anthem, everyone who lived here grew up hearing it. This specific cover however, added a new layer of depth to the previous stale and dated fanfare.
Grant was taught that this song was first played to Nhajan citizens when the Nimalstic War finally came to an end. All of this was common knowledge, a time when religions fought over what they believed in, although this war was frowned upon to talk about outside of educational institutions. Grant didn’t even know the reasons why they fought, or who was all involved besides the people who practiced Nimalism. He was just taught that the war did happen, and everyone seemed to become accepting of each other after it ended. Everyone liked to act like the war never happened, and that the song marked the start of the real era of Nhaja.
The song diminished to a quiet hum, and then silence. The man stood up, brushing his hair over his shoulder. The boy looked upon him, starry eyed. The area filled with clapping as the boy proceeded to high five the musician.
“Okay guys, it looks like it’s my turn!” Mori grabbed his violin and headed to the stage. “Wish me luck!”
The man who played guitar and the boy sat on an empty bench next to Grant and Elijah. The boy looked over at Grant with his piercing yellow eyes and smiled. A smile that caught him off guard, one that did not seem genuine. Grant gave a flustered expression, and darted his head the other way.
Mori started playing his relaxing song and Grant sprawled out on the bench with his hands behind his head. How many times had he heard this song now? He focused his gaze around the field of bystanders watching. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it though.
The piece that Mori played wasn’t a rendition of a formal piece. It was his own song he wrote called “Strength Abound,” it was his most famous song, although he usually played it with a band. They frequented local bars and small festivals, they would play for anyone who listened; Grant and Elijah had never got to see them perform, however. A few years ago they even had their song played on the radio, but it only stayed on the station for two weeks.
Grant glanced over at the boy who sat on the other bench, now entranced by Mori’s playing. A smile raised on the guitarist’s face as Mori finished up his song, and a round of applause clashed.
As Mori stood up and bowed to the audience, the guitarist and the boy approached him. They talked to Mori and his expression edged between happiness and annoyance. Exchanging handshakes, they left Mori and headed out onto the bustling pavement pathway.
“All right, how about we go get some food now!” Mori said, approaching Grant and the others.
“Yay! Food!” Elijah said, jumping up and down.
“Here is some money for the food.” Their dad handed the same amount of money to both of them.
Fifteen ramas each, this would seem like a lot anywhere else to eat. But here, everything was so overpriced. Grant wracked his brain, trying to figure out what he could buy and still have enough left over to purchase his large size vanilla cola ice cream.
They breached through the crowd of people scurrying about, and the view opened up with food stands as far as the eyes could see. Corn dogs, ice cream, pizza, cheese curds, all unhealthy perfection. The fair only came once a year, so Grant made sure he ate as much as his parents would be willing to buy.
Happy families sat at the metal tables, seats attached to the base of the structures. Holes drilled into the center of each table as umbrellas stuck upwards towards the orange evening sky. Two lanes of traffic opened on both sides of the clumped up tables, providing a roadway for hungry individuals.
The scents of all the food danced around the warm air, dragging Elijah around like a dog that just caught the scent of another. Grant however, was more reformed. He had figured out what his purchases would be.
“Come on Elijah!” Grant shouted as Elijah tottered around the menu boards of stalls.
Their parents and uncle were walking about ten feet ahead, but they already knew where they were going to sit, so neither parties were worried about losing each other. They sat at the same location every year they came, their special place. Outside of the packed crowds, on the edge of light from the fair illuminations, and darkness from the woods that surrounded.
Elijah settled on an ordinary slice of pizza, although the size was anything but. There was better tasting pizza within Tonim, but Elijah had to feel like he was grown up with that piece five times the size of his small hand.
What a waste, Grant thought to himself. He decided to go with a foot long corn dog. To him, this decision, although appeared to be based on the size as well, was different. They tasted better than anything store-bought. Freshly fried too. And he would have just enough for his precious treats with the remaining money.
After gathering their food and eating while walking, Grant and Elijah made their way to the seats where the twilight shone.