Another flash fiction story, this one with the theme “budding”.
CLEAR LAKE, IOWA, USA, 3RD FEBRUARY 2019
A great heated tent had been erected in the snow-bound city park, surrounded by metal bleachers packed with onlookers. Inside, standing in tiered rows, were nearly two hundred identically dressed young Caucasian men. All of them had numbers pinned to the lapels of blue or grey teddy boy suits, with sleek, curly black hair and black-rimmed glasses.
Mayor Warren Duke addressed the eccentric crowd from a podium at the front of the tent.
“This day, sixty years ago,” he said, “A tragedy began here that lies heavily on the hearts o’ music lovers everywhere. Itchin’ t’ make a tour date in Minnesota, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and Jiles P. Anderson, the Big Bopper, chartered a plane at Clear Lake, headin’ for Fargo, North Dakota, ‘cos their tour bus had broken down. But bad weather forced the plane down, killin’ everyone aboard. It was known as the Day the Music Died.”
A murmur of saddened assent rippled through the crowd at this.
“But in commemoration o’ those lives lost,” Duke continued, “Today, Clear Lake is proud t’ host the awards ceremony of the Diamond Anniversary International Buddy Holly Lookalike Competition!”
A roar went up from both the spectators and the lookalikes.
“With the help o’ generous corporate sponsors,” Duke beamed, waving with affected nonchalance towards the logos on the banner behind him, “We set up local competitions all over th’world t’ find the fan who can truly capture not only Buddy’s likeness, but his spirit too. These lucky few here were selected locally, an’ from them, we can now choose th’ three overall winners!”
Cheers and applause resounded as Mayor Duke was handed three glittering envelopes.
“Our third place winner is… (He eased a card out of the envelope…) Number 132, Rowan Friend, from Buddy’s own home town; Lubbock, Texas!”
The crowd roared once again as Rowan Friend walked to the podium to claim his trophy, sash and ceremonial cheque from the event’s sponsors. Strangely, he didn’t seem very happy.
“Congratulations, Rowan!” beamed Mayor Duke.
Second place went to number 67, a Belgian named Jean-Michel Trudeau. The grand prize winner, however, was number 111, Hiram Woods from Atlanta. The crowd exulted as the awestruck winners staggered to the podium and received their prizes, yet Rowan Friend stayed silent, looking distinctly nettled.
“Well done, all of ya!” the Mayor laughed, before striding across the podium with his microphone. “Now let’s hear what our winners got to say! Rowan, ah gotta say, you look kinda grumpy. Feelin’ the ol’ Green-Eyed Monster a bit, perhaps?”
“Nah, it ain’t jealousy, Mr. Mayor,” drawled Rowan. “It’s just it ain’t logical me winnin’ third. Yah see, y’all, the music never really died. Rowan Friend is just an assumed name. Ah am Buddy.”
“Aw, now that is winning spirit, y’all!” Mayor Duke roared. “He really does believe he’s Buddy!”
Rowan Friend sniggered softly as laughter and applause burst from the crowd. A twinkle came into his eye as he leant towards the microphone.
Next moment, the crowd gasped in horror as Rowan Friend faded away before their eyes and his sash, trophy and cheque fell to podium floor. As everyone present, including Mayor Duke, glanced around desperately trying to see where he had gone, a chill breeze swirled around the bleachers, bringing with it soft laughter and a familiar, melodious singing voice.
“Oh, that’ll be the day when I die…”