When Billy-o’s Daddy died, by way of a piece of artillery shell which finished the hole his mouth had started, the wind sang with a perfect C through his face until the bombardment stopped and each side picked up their dead and made peace with the mud, once more.
He’d not been the perfect daddy by any measure. Billy-o’s Grandma had heard him call her daughter a perfect c on more than one occasion. Maybe he’d called it her that night she had come home ten minutes too late or maybe Billy-o’s Daddy had thought the time for words was past. Whichever way it had been, the police had given him the choice of prison or war and Billy-o’s Daddy had cleaned his gun and headed out.
That was in the past, and Billy-o’s Grandma barely acknowledged it, let alone dwelt on it. When the news came she had sat Billy-o down and told him his daddy was dead.
“Yer Daddy,” she’d said, chopping onions for soup, “no coming back.”
Billy-o knew what no coming back meant.
“Like ma,” said Billy-o.
“Like ma,” replied Grandma.
Now soup is important but it isn’t everything and Billy-o’s Grandma knew how these things went. She knew her Billy-o wanted a daddy and she knew nothing could bring that fractured man back. So with a sigh and a stir, she went to a cupboard and pulled out a box just four or five inches by one and covered in letters so fine neither a one could read them.
“This was your Daddy’s. He used it to court your ma and he used it to stop your tears.”
Then Grandma went back to the soup on the stove and Billy-o opened the box, took out the harmonica and blew. It was the most awful cacophony and, truth to tell, time didn’t improve it any. But it was a tune Grandma had never heard before and she reckoned she could live with that.