Each of the three novels that make up The Prodigal Band Trilogy has at least one seemingly random or even somewhat meaningless event that would, likely at the conclusion of the novel, play a key role in the overall spiritual climax of the novel and the trilogy as a whole. The first snippet post in this topic comes from the first novel in the trilogy, Battle of the Band.
When I incorporated this event that just popped into my head, an event in Chapter Four that is somewhat based on the seemingly endless ‘war’ between British troops in Northern Ireland (aka Ulster) and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) that pretty much concluded in the late 90s (or just went underground so to speak), I figured, before creating the final version of the novel in 1995 for publication in 1996, that it was just some random novel event that would not have broader implications as to the novel’s climax. But what makes up this snippet set does indeed play a key role at the climactic event ending the novel; while suffering a mild heart attack and in a state of physical coma yet spiritually existing in a void where good vs. evil reigns, the prodigal band’s bassist, Keith, is visited by two deceased ‘gang brothers’ who deliver to the bassist a powerful message.
Before I get to the snippets, let’s review what this Northern Ireland conflict was about. It was mostly nationalistic what with Ireland having separated as a Republic in the early 1920s from the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Ireland), but most Americans anyway were ‘told’ that it was mostly a Catholic vs. Protestant issue, which according to events summarized in this Wikipedia post, was not the main cause of the conflict. It wasn’t just Protestants that wanted to stay in the UK and it wasn’t just Catholics that wanted to join Ireland; mostly, it was nationalistic mixed with politics between the Irish Sinn Fein (Provisional IRA) and the Ulster pro-Britain political groups, while Catholics did tend to support the IRA and while Protestants tended to support the UK. The roots of this conflict go back to the early 1600s when mostly Scots from the southern portion of Scotland moved to northern Ireland and were given ‘plantation’ land rights, lands that may have been stolen from the native Irish (and these Scots eventually would make up what became known as the Scots-Irish, many of whom wound up in what would become the USA in the 1600s and 1700s as indentured servants (note: I am part Irish and part Scots-Irish, as well as part German). Oh, and I was once Catholic as well! Still, I didn’t really support one side or the other, for the most part. Starting in the late 1980s, both sides apparently tried to end the conflict, which didn’t end until the late 90s; cease-fires began to happen throughout the mid-90s.
Now, onto the snippets relating to this conflict, which to some extent has some accuracy to them, but inaccuracies as well.
In Battle of the Band Chapter Two, the prodigal band Sound Unltd finally finds the success it sought, having ‘prayed’ to what band leader Jack thought were angels, but were demons instead. Having achieved gold album status in early February, 1989, it was time to get original bassist Keith back into the band as had been promised earlier. Up to their home city of Walltown guitarist Jack and singer Erik went to tell Keith he was being invited back into the band, and the bassist could finally leave his job of riveting for a ship-building company. Before Keith was invited back, however, Jack spoke with Keith’s gang mates and fellow riveters, Charlie, Roddy, and Fred, whom had been ‘sacked’ or fired from their jobs over an incident at the company they took part in against members of a rival gang whom also riveted at the company called Warwicke’s.
A bit later, Jack ran into three ex-gang brothers—Charlie, Roddy, and Fred. After greeting them with the handshake—fingers clasping then knocking fists—Jack asked them, “So, what’s happening?”
“Nothing. Warwicke’s sacked us,” Charlie said.
Fred then told this story. “Remember that grand foray against the Rowsers in 1984? They wanted to pay us back, eh? Three o’ them jumped the three of us off dock twelve, back in January. So they got us into a scuffle down there. Then they got two more.”
Roddy continued. “Then Sookie and Vinny tried to join in when the foreman, a real ex-Rowser, stopped the fight and got us booted out.”
“So, where was Keith?”
“Sick that day,” Charlie said, “He was practicing songs you sent him. He played at the River Rat the night before and that night, too, with the Marauders.”
“And I’ll tell you,” Fred cut in, “Keith’s playing great.”
“Best damned bassist I ever hear,” Roddy said. “He’s ready for you.”
“Better than Mick?”
“Yeh, I think so,” Fred said. “You still want him in the band?”
“Hey, look. We came up here to tell Keith he’s gonna be in soon. We need his raunchy metal and his backing vocals. He’ll get a chance to play with me and Erik tonight at the White Horse Pub. So, what you been doing lately?”
Charlie answered, “Anyway, Jack, we’re headed for Ulster. Fifteenth Regiment.”
“Ulster?” Jack snickered. “Do you blokes really want to get blasted at by the militants?”
“Better than getting screwed by your own.”
Roddy quipped. “Yeh, Jack. We’re as good a load of cannon fodder as any threesome, eh?”
Later, at the pub with Keith fixing to rejoin the band, the bassist gets with the sacked threesome.
Amidst the merriment, Keith spoke with his former gang lieutenant, Charlie. “So, you going to Ulster?”
“Yeh. Me, Roddy, and Fred head to Belfast soon. Have to support me family somehow.” Charlie had a wife and one-year-old son.
“I’m really sorry about that. Shoulda been me that got sacked.”
“Were you really playing bass that day?”
“I had to take the day off because I’d played the night before until 3 a.m. and had to play that night as well. With the Marauders. Needed the practice in front of an audience. Funny being back at The River Rat.”
“I’m gonna miss you, Keith.”
They gang-shook hands.
Keith’s eyes met Charlie’s. “Miss you, brother. Now, don’t you go dying on me, eh?”
“Hey, Keith, brothers never die.”
“You mean brothers who follow the Code never die. You right. I promise that, no matter what I’m doing, even when I rejoin Sound Unltd, I’ll stand by the Code.”
Together Keith and Charlie said, “Or may my soul rot in Hell.”
Unfortunately, Keith did not ‘stand by the Code. Also unfortunately, the ‘dying’ happened in Ulster nearly a year later, as told in Chapter Four:
Night, January 25, 1990, on a street in Belfast
Charlie, Roddy, and Fred, formerly lieutenants for Keith and Tom in their gang and now with the Fifteenth Regiment in Ulster, patrolled a street in a Catholic section known to be lightly infiltrated by the militants. Their tour of duty would be over soon.
“You signing up again, Charlie?” Fred asked.
“You know, this is the easiest job I ever had. All we ever do is walk these streets with a bit of arms, and nothing ever happens. Even the bloody locals ain’t so bad. Not that I ever got flowers from ‘em. But I gotta go back and see me wife and son, eh? Don’t know where the bloody hell I’m gonna find work, though. How about you, Roddy?”
“What? Leave this rose garden where I get paid to do nothing? You know me. This beats honest work any day. All the time I’ve been here, we haven’t heard so much as a peep from the militants.”
Until a fiery blast rang out from the opposite corner.
Fred and Charlie saw the fireball. A blister of shots was sprayed at them. The two readied Maxim machine guns. A shot flew over Fred’s head when he opened fire, getting off six rounds before the militants retreated. Fred, a bit dazed by the quickness and surprised of the altercation, stood ready to fire again until he saw lying next to him the unmoving body of Charlie. Fred tried to lift him up. In doing so, he accidentally flipped Charlie over, causing his friend’s brains to ooze out onto the street. He dropped the body with a hellish shriek, the collapsed onto Roddy’s upper torso, the rest of the man being blown to bits.
A week later, his head was still missing.
At Walltown’s Avenger of the West Wall cemetery
The double funeral was attended by nearly two hundred ex-gang brothers and sisters, as well as Charlie’s and Roddy’s families, and the six.
In one of the many short eulogies, Keith spoke with sadness on his promise to former lieutenant Charlie. “I can’t say goodbye, ‘cos I don’t believe this is goodbye. Your spirit be with me always. I’ll see you again in heaven if The Tooters allow it. I pray they will so you can know how much I love you and know I’ve kept me Oath to the Code. Some say I’ve already abandoned the Code, but I haven’t, Charlie. And I’ll now repeat my promise to you that I will continue to uphold the Code, or I must surely rot in Hell. Later, brother. See you up there. Soon.”
‘Soon’ would actually be six years later. Physically, Keith was lying in a local hospital bed having had a mild heart attack due to taking a pain-killer drug he knew nothing about thinking it was a cocaine-like drug, skuz, he’d been addicted to. Spiritually, he was walking in a void being hounded by good and evil spirits, when he encounters the deceased beings of Charlie and Roddy.
In Keith’s void
“Charlie! Roddy! Where’d you come from?”
“Well, Keith, we came because you broke your promise to me, Keith.”
That promise. Keith suddenly felt pelted with weapons of The Code. Now my soul will rot in Hell.
“You’ve really disappointed us, Keith,” Charlie said. “You said you’d live by The Code when you joined Sound Unltd. But look at your life, Keith. Skuz, skuz, skuz. You betrayed Jarris—even though she nearly killed herself for you—for that Lisa wench! And the way you’ve flaunted yourself and your money. Look at how empty your soul is. You, and the others. How alienated from yourself can you be?”
“Charlie’s right, Keith,” Roddy broke in. “I’d like to call you brother, but you’re no longer one of us. A big star is all you are. A big, nearly dead, star. Can you handle it?”
“You mean, can I answer for what I’ve done?” Even lower Keith hanged his sorry head. “No.” Shrug. “I can’t. I’ve already blown it, haven’t I?” Sigh of sorrow. “I knew that Swami-Corion stuff was a load o’ shit!”
“Yeh,” Charlie said, “and you can’t be condemned alone, eh? Jack, Erik, and Tom have besmirched The Code at least as much as you have.”
Roddy broke in again. “That’s why you’re gonna be given a second chance. Your soul doesn’t have to rot in Hell. And neither do theirs, eh? You can all mend some of your ways, eh, brother Keith? And you can still teach your son The Code. You know, Brent?”
Keith looked amazed at Roddy. A second chance! “Yeh, if I ever get to spend time with the kid.”
“Well, you can’t do that dead, eh?” Roddy smiled.
“No.” Head hanged in thought. A second chance? As much as I’ve screwed The Code? He asked Charlie, “Why you giving—?”
“Because we love you, Keith, and The Tooters—”
“The Tooters!” Whispered aside. “The Tooters? You mean—The Tooters? Are they—?”
“Yeh, Keith,” Roddy said. “They’re the Keepers of The Code.”
Charlie followed. “And because we don’t want your soul—”
“Rotting in Hell.” The bassist’s body wrenched with relief, then with gladness. “Yeh, brothers, I will go back and make it up to you—and Brent.”
“Promise?” Charlie asked with finality.
And Keith would keep the promise this time!
Next week, I will present another ‘random event’ snippet that would certainly influence the outcome, this one from the second trilogy novel, The Prophesied Band.
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The Prodigal Band Trilogy © 2019 by Deborah Lagarde, Battle of the Band © 1996 by Deborah Lagarde, The Prophesied Band © 1998 by Deborah Lagarde and The Prodigal Band © 2018 by Deborah Lagarde. Permission needed to copy any materials off this page.