Runner-up in the 1st Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.
I am sorry for Evan. He is a fine tenor. I am sorry too for Bronwen, and little Dai. But we are always sorry. Is it not the way it has always been?
I am readied by Mother, as is proper. Last night, Father, a wet in his eyes there was, a tremor there, he said to me, “Boy, do right, and sing so loud that the angels in His Heaven do bleed.” He slapped me then, his hands coal-black, as is our custom, and he said, “You make bloody sure, you are my son, now and forever, so fine and loud a tenor, so pure, that it is not you at the next time of singing.”
The women do often eye the Adam’s apple of a male voice but when my hair is cut by Widow Pugh, respectful, she does not speak, or catch my eye or wonder at my throat.
There is a fine rain, so fine it seems to sit in the sky. We are walking, all of us, away from the women (they are not allowed) and we go, holding a proper silence for Evan, toward the pit-head.
Precise, nine minutes before noon, we left our terraces (a non-singer beside each of us, umbrella held high to keep us dry) and we are smart, bootcaps black mirrors, trews sharp, jackets nine times pressed, kissed clean of fluff by sisters, cousins, grandmothers (not mothers, for their job is to bathe us and shave us).
This tenor was born ten years after the last mine closed, but our digging was finished twenty before that, in the terrible time of closings, the men left empty, grey as the slate roofs, soft as rain.
The mining that the old men talk about is a mystery to me, as is the shaft they say leads down to tunnels where my father dug; and when the men whisper about the shaft, how it drops a thousand yards, and that there is cold water where it ends, I take this on to me as a thing of faith, for I never want to see the shaft. Never.
We begin with “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” It is in English, but a fine song for all that and the baritones swell and we know that in the village now, the women will be silent in their dark rooms.
At noon the bell sounds, and like a miracle the rain stops. We bow our heads and close our eyes (as is the custom, never broken). I do not see Evan walking slowly past. We were fifty-one, and now we are fifty.
Tomorrow we shall be fifty-one again (a boy from Pontardulais), and in one year exact, briefly, we shall be fifty again.
After, we sing “Jerusalem,” then “Myfanwy,” “Llanfair” and “Ar Hyd Y Nos.” It is very fine singing indeed.
We finish in English so beautiful and offer up to the sky “Softly, As I Leave You,” for Evan.