REMEMBRANCE DAY, 1991
Fancy seeing her again after....what must it be....forty years? No, more, surely? It must have been forty-five years at least since I last saw Maggie. Way back in nineteen-forty-one it was – so it must have been fifty years then.God, where did all the time go? But here she is again, singing her song:
“So you met someone who set you back on your heels,
goody – goody
So you met someone and
now you know how it feels...”
Yes, that was the song she sand that night. I remember it now, I was just nineteen, and on my first leave from the army after finishing basic training. Spruce, in my new uniform, sitting proud in the pictures with my arm around my girl, waiting for the main feature to start. One of the supporting films that night was a collection of variety acts from the music halls. We saw the acrobats coated in golden laquer like bronzed gods, sliding like snakes around each other’s bodies; the clowning juggler’s drunken sprawl across the stage, trhying to retrieve those spinning plates before they smashed into pieces; the spived-up comedian looking like he was tryhing to sell us his jokes at a special price; and then it was Maggie’s turn. ‘Maggie Thornton’ the title said. I’d never heard of her before but, as the music began to play, she bounced onto ther screen in a shinning silver waistcoat and white satin shorts, her bleached blond hair flowing back behind her. She stopped in front of the microphone, nodded to the band-leader behind her who smiled and nodded back without breaiking the rhythmic movement of the baton, and then she sang her song:
“...So you gave her your heart too,
Just as I gave mine to you,
And she broke it in little pieces
Now how do you do-oo...”
Bowling out the words, bobbing her little body to the boom of the bass, swaying to the rhythm of the piano, smiling with satisfaction at being the focus of so many staring eyes – so many leering eyes. And here she is again with that same tormenting song, the same sparkling, teasing clothes, the same exuberant smile. Nothing’s changed.
“...So you lie awake
just singing the blues all night,
So you think that love's a
barrel of dynamite...”
I suppose someone found this old film stock buried under layers of dust in an archive somewhere and decided they would make a good television series. Well, it couldn’t fail really, could it? Afterall, old film costs nothing to make. Just a cosy fire-side set and a smug presenter in a snug armchair, his face filled with the light from the glowing coals, a brandy glass in his hand, reflecting the flickering flames, a smooth voice with sentimental overtones announcing each act in turn and not a trace of shame at the banality of it all. Nostalgia, the cheapest emotion to arouse.
And so Maggie is a star again. Well, a recycled swtar anyway. Who w2ould have thought it back then? Back then when she tapped out thye melody of the song in her silver shoes, her tiny breasts breathinhg lightly under her waistcoat, her slight waist slipping into her shorts, cut tight around her hips, loose and flowing around the tops of her long legs. The instrumental break over, she moves forward again to the microphone:
“...Hurray and hallelujah!
You had it coming to ya,
goody goody for her,
goody goody goody for me...”
My arm tightens around the girl I’m with. I turn to look at her and she smiles back. Then my gaze returns to Maggie.
Fifty years on and nothing’s changed. Just for a few seconds, nothing’s changed. If the siren goes now, I don’t care. I’m not leaving the picture-house until Maggie’s finished her turn. Look at those legs - the smoothest, longest legs I’ve ever seen. Look at her face, look at those eyes – as young as mine yet full of knowledge that I don’t have. I squeeze the shoulders of my girl and want desperately to share in that secret knowledge – that dangerous knowledge. Doesn’t she want to share it too? Share in it with me then. Look into Maggie’s eyes, read it there, and translate it for me. It’s not fair that she whould know and not us.
Ah but I know more than you now Maggie. I know the flightiness of it all. You can’t see that yet, can you? Your flame is still burning bright and you haven’t given a flickering thought to the time when your light will fade. I was buring in those days too.
“...Your love has been denied,
you've been taken for a ride,
and I hope you're satisfied
you rascal you!”
Then with a final flourish of sound her song is finished. She smiles a last flashing smile, bows and bounces off the edge of the screen.
Fifty years on and it’s as if nothing’s changed. Well, almost nothing. You can still make the old feller tingle a bit, Maggie. Not bad after all this time, eh?