The Hollow Failure of the Musical Cup

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt


Clyde couldn’t believe how difficult the task before him was proving to be.  He thought he’d have his challenge licked in fifteen minutes.  He sat at his desk with a computer monitor glowing on his reddened face.  Drops of beer lay in random specks around the surface.  And there, in the middle, was a blue plastic beer-cup turned upside down.

Try it, you’ll like it!
(Pic from Free Stock Photos)

Once more, Clyde rewound the video.  He cursed the actress for her talent.  She sang along with a lovely voice, though a hint of showbiz boredom appeared to be looking out from her beautiful eyes.  Clearly, she had practiced this feat hundreds of times.  There, poised to entertain in a formal dress, sat the woman.  She took the plastic cup that had been handed to her by the host.  She was obviously taking a moment to focus and prepare.  Soon, clapping along, the woman performed a simple tune complete with acoustic accompaniment from the plastic cup.  Clyde wanted to hate this woman for her skill, but the act was simply too enchanting.  He had to be able to repeat it.

I really wish she wouldn’t go so frickin’ fast, Clyde thought to himself.  She even says that she should be doing it slower.  How am I supposed to keep track of her movements?  Clyde watched as her long and graceful arms moved and swooped around each other.  He felt his fist thud against the desktop.  He couldn’t tell when she was passing the cup in an arc up into the air from hand to hand and when she was actually tapping it.  Slower, woman!  Why can’t you just move slower?

The hard part for Clyde was replicating the rhythm.  He believed that once he could mentally lock-in each tap on the cup, both hand-offs, and the mid-air thumps, then he would be able to sing along with his mini bongo-drum.  The easy part was getting confused, missing a beat entirely, or watching as the cup slid along the surface.  The libations that lubricated the wood were only making Clyde’s failures faster in coming and more disastrous.  The blue cup slipped, fell over, and often times skittered to the edge.  The drunken man started to wonder if the cup wanted to jump to the safety of the beige carpet below where it would no longer be repeatedly beaten or struck.

After an hour, Clyde felt like he might have a handle on the moves.  All he had to do was clap clap, tap tap tap, clap, and then stomp.  That was followed by more clapping, a hand over with a thump…   That was where the confusion set in.  Clyde tapped along as best as he could.  He got the impression that he was close.  His confidence rising, Clyde tried to sing along.

“You, er, I gotta a thicket; er, ticket for the lawn; long way around.  Son of a mother.”  If Clyde’s motor skills had warmed up at all, his hand-eye-song skills were still quite lacking.  He clicked off the screen in irritation.  He clapped and tapped to his own beat.  Soon, a drum solo was in full session.  He slapped his denim jeans, thumped on the cup, and clicked the plastic container against his watch. 

The “music” that came forth was about as majestic as Clyde’s beer-enhanced breath.  He stood up, danced around his living room, and tapped on the cup with his fingernails.  Feeling his oats, and the effects of the alcohol, he belted out his own little tune.  “La la ha!  Ha ha la la!  Boom!  Boom!  Boomity la-ha!”  For his grand finish, Clyde took a deep breath, focused on his stomach muscles, and belched.  The impressive, yet rather disturbing burping sound, echoed across the sparsely decorated room for a solid seventeen seconds. 

Thrusting his hands in the air, Clyde beamed in his victory.  “Take that, you stuck-up actress!”  His bitter retort was met and unanswered by the still-blackened monitor.  Clyde was done trying to repeat someone else’s song.  I’m an original, I’m a dadgum artist, he reasoned as he loosened his belt two notches.  Cups were made or drinking, not playing.  With that, Clyde swooped up his blue plastic cup and made his way back to the kitchen, stumbling more than he chose to acknowledge.  He was determined to find appreciation for his musical genius from the icy-cold companions that waited for him in the fridge.


(If you haven’t seen Pitch Perfect, you must.  You really must.  Also, if you watch the video in slow motion, Dave sounds quite drunk.  Appropriate, no?)  😉

The Send Off

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Send Off

Glancing towards the two bundles by the door, Maggie felt a wave of sadness fight for her attention.  She knew only too well what it would mean when the entryway would be clear of the rucksack and the smaller bag.  Her eyes started to moisten.  She stopped, stood a little taller, and took a deep breath.  Her determination renewed, she walked back to the living room.

There sat Shamus, his eyes looking out over the green expanse that was normally a calming sight.  He turned his attention to his wife and gave a weary smile of appreciation and affection.  Maggie had aged a bit with the birthing of four children.  The daily chores of cooking, cleaning, and chasing around the excitable youngsters had given her little lines in her eyes and more than a few white hairs that gathered into a braided ponytail.  To Shamus though, she was a stunning figure.  When he had met her in Belfast, she had been a teenager; her spirit and dancing feet as lively as her green eyes and red hair.  He even appreciated that she was a good two inches taller than her.  The fire still remained in her eyes.  He had seen it when Patrick had gotten lost for half a day and when he and the children had surprised her with a special birthday meal last year.  There was no lack of affection for his wife.

Maggie felt the same way.  She wished she was a few pounds lighter.  She thought it odd that she should outweigh her husband by a good thirty pounds, but there were a seemingly infinite number of things that took greater precedence.  Looking at Shamus, his shoulders still ready to bear the upcoming challenge, she realized just how much she was going to miss him.  He was always so calm.  When the two of them met she spent half the night wondering if he was having a good time.  Here was this man, yes he was a little on the short side, but he had this strength about him.  His arms had been strengthened through countless hours working in the fields.  It was Maggie’s experience that men who looked like him were brusque and only too happy to talk about themselves.  Shamus was different.  He had spent their first evening together asking questions about her; he took in every new piece of information.  His calm demeanor had caused a bit of concern on her part.  She had wondered if he was having a good time.  That worry had been laid to rest when they started dancing.  His face betrayed his stoic nature.  He hadn’t shown it, but internally he had been having the time of his life.

Shamus’ internal processing of thoughts and emotion were working in high gear.  Maggie was rather sure by the way he was sitting and the quiet way he stood as she walked closer that he was trying to find another solution to not only their problem, but the country’s.  As she slowly stepped into his arms and the two hugged in front of the window, they leaned their heads’ against the others’ and looked out at the world. 

There was nothing “great” about the famine except for the catastrophic effect it had had on everyone.  Maggie’s father, a rich man, had not been wealthy enough to fight off the fever that had killed him.  Their crops had survived the disease better than most, but that still left them with only a third of their crop to work.  They had managed to grow enough food to feed themselves and many of their neighbors.  The family was thankful for that because it meant that they could avoid the groups in the city.  Maggie hadn’t quite subscribed to his explanation, but Shamus had felt that large crowds of sick people in condensed areas would do them in faster than hunger would.  Still, they both knew that no one was safe in this time of tragedy.  Her father’s death had certainly shown them that.

They had tried their best to come up with a solution.  Their most desperate plan was the one that seemed to hold the greatest hope for them.  Shamus had a distant cousin working on the docks of Philadelphia and he had promised he could find work for him.  The pay wasn’t enough to support a family, but it was a start.  Maggie would stay and help her mother who hadn’t been the same since the death of Maggie’s father.  This would give her time to try and sell what was left of their farm and keep the children out of too much mischief.  Shamus would find a job, start saving, and work on finding them a place to live.  They agreed it was their best opportunity.  It also meant spending years apart.

Maggie watched the sun setting over the field and wondered how her husband could stand to leave this place that they loved so much.  She couldn’t imagine living anywhere was, but that was what they were planning to do.  She wondered if there would be vast stretches of green there.  She hoped there would be.  To her, life without grass growing a rustling in the wind and leaving its hue on her clothes and feet was a dreary existence.  She craved the outdoors.  How was she to survive in the city?  Then again, if she stayed where she was her family might not survive at all.  The family was healthy enough for the time being, but her children were still young.  Her protective side was much stronger than her loyalty to her homeland.

ImageThe last rays of sun were dimming to black as Maggie unconsciously started singing a tune she had heard.  It had made its way over from England, one of the few good things to come from that country as far as Maggie and Shamus were concerned.  She had taken an instant liking to Amazing Grace and had been singing it quite often.  She quietly sang her hymn, praying that the small children in the next two rooms would stay asleep. 

As she finished, she felt Shamus hug her tighter.

“Sing that song for me, will you?”  He looked to Maggie with a pleading that was unspoken, but clear as day on his face.

“Everyday”, she softly replied.


(If you’ve never heard the Celtic Woman perform, Send Me a Song, I suggest you check it out.  I think it makes a better song than a video, but decide for yourself.  Regardless, this story owes a pretty large debt to it.  Also, thanks to for the picture.)

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