making a short story long
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Vashti Bunyan - "Diamond Day".

Carlos Sugar had never been as fast as his friends, but oh he loved to run. His father was an Olympic sprinter, a long lean man with a nose like an arrowhead. Carlos would watch him at the track, fast as poured water. And Carlos would imagine himself up there, sneakers white as seashells, pulled across the clay toward a ribbon.

But Carlos was a poor runner, one leg shorter than the other, something slightly off in his knee. He did not limp - but he ran slowly, the machinery of the act just a little crooked. For some children this would be a hard thing to cope with - always picked last at sports, always the easy catch in tag. However Carlos had a good father and a good mother and he had learned to be happy. He knew that he would be an archaeologist when he grew up, like Amanda. That he could hit a baseball clear over third base. That he could touchback anyone who tagged him.

At lunch-hour one day, Sandy and Paulo wanted to go off to the far corner of the field behind the school.

"Why?" said Christina.

"Because then," Paulo said, "we can go past the birches and down the ditch to where the grass is long."

"Why?" said Christina.

"Are you scared?" asked Sandy.

So everyone went running across the field, past where the bigger kids played soccer, past the last row of garbage cans, onward and onward. And Carlos lagged behind, too slow, and by the time his friends had reached the birches they were just specks in the distance. Carlos huffed, the grass whispering as his shoes passed over it. Come on, gestured Sandy, and then Carlos watched them slip away past the trees and out of sight.

Carlos ran for a little while longer but he was very tired and they were still very far away. He looked back towards the school - it was a small pile of beige blocks, two conifers. Carlos couldn't remember having been so far from school before, not during recess. He looked around at the clear field and the wide sky and wondered why the school had left so much room around it - why it hadn't used the space for classes, or fenced the field in and built more schools next door. Then there would be twice as many kids to play with, yelling jokes to each-other over the barrier. Oh well.

Carlos knelt down and rubbed his fingers through a tuft of crabgrass. It prickled. With that prickling a strange sort of feeling came over Carlos. He sat down, feet straight out in front of him. He felt separate, suddenly. He could make out kids back near the school, playing jump-ball or tag, or just talking. And he could see the long row of birches behind him. But he was sitting there feeling prickles in his legs, under his palms, and the sun on his forehead. He was alone in the field and not even a bird.

Carlos was eight years old. He lay down and watched the blue and just didn't move.

Some time later, the bell rang. Carlos rolled onto his side and then stood up. He walked back to the school but he took his time. He felt the sun on his shins and the back of his neck.

The next day Sandy and Paulo again suggested that they all go off past the birches. "You should come," Christina said to Carlos. "It's fun."

Carlos said he would maybe come. He followed them as he had the day before but this time he ran even slower. It was on purpose. And eventually they had receded into the distance and again Carlos was alone in the field, just him, sky and earth, a little boy in the centre of the world. He lay down and watched the clear sky. Everything felt so balanced around him, like he was a spinning, spinning top.

From that day on, every sunny day, Carlos would run out to the middle of the field behind the school and spend his lunch-hour watching the clear, blue sky. When it was raining he would do other things - a wet game of tag or arts and crafts inside. When it was overcast, then too he would go with his friends and play something, or make up stories. But on the days when it was just land and sky - and days like this were still quite common, back then, - Carlos would go into the field.

Towards the end of the school-year, Carlos was lying on his back on the grass when suddenly a cloud appeared. It didn't appear like clouds usually do, blowing wispy with the wind. No - as Carlos stared into the sky a small white cloud just came up out from it, like a drop squeezed out of a cloth. It was not large or ungainly - it was just a round, soft, plain cloud, directly above Carlos' head. He watched it and maybe it watched him but it didn't do anything. It just floated there, high above.

When the bell rang Carlos got up and walked back toward the school. After a while he looked up. The cloud was still there. Not just still in the sky - but still just there, just above his head. Carlos did not really think about this. The cloud was high up and it was probably some sort of optical illusion, like his mother had shown him in her book. He arrived at the door and lined up with the other kids, then went inside.

After school Carlos came out and the cloud was waiting. It was still the only cloud in the sky - this one random puffball, hanging like a chandelier. Carlos squinted at it for a second but then he shrugged and started walking home. When he got home he looked up: it was still there.

The next morning it was again a clear day. When Carlos left the house in the morning he was surprised, but not too surprised, that the little cloud was hovering high in the sky above his house. Like it was waiting for him. Carlos walked to school, bookbag clumping against his back, and he watched the cloud as he went. Yes, it was moving. The cloud was moving. It was moving with him.

Now in the interests of brevity I will not describe to you each of the days and months that followed. What is important is these things: There was Carlos. And there was a cloud. And the cloud followed Carlos. Carlos would still go to the middle of the field; the cloud would bob along above him until he arrived and then it would settle into a comfortable position directly above his head. On cloudy days Carlos' cloud was still there, a little lower and a little softer and a little whiter than the other clouds. On rainy days it sort of glowed.

Carlos told his parents about the cloud on a Sunday afternoon. They looked up at it. "It's definitely a cloud," said Carlos' father. "Yes," said his mother. "You have your own private cloud."

Years passed. Carlos never really went back to his older ways. He did things with Paulo sometimes. In class, he partnered with Sasha for projects. But at recess, at lunch, Carlos would go off with his cloud. As he got older - leaving primary school, going to junior high and then high-school, - he spent very little of his free time with other young people. It's not that he disliked his classmates, but they were just so noisy, so unsettled. Carlos often felt that way too but instead of rolling around in the feeling, fighting or flirting or learning to smoke, he would just go out to an open space and look at the sky, look at his cloud.

At nineteen, Carlos was serene, and proudly so. He liked that he was deliberate, that he was calm. He liked that he noticed things before other people did, that he heard quieter sounds and sensed softer breezes. He was a good person, gentle and friendly, not more than a little weird. His parents were proud of him as they sat in the audience at his recorder recital, him playing light and deep melodies, hair always falling in front of his eyes. He would toss his head to see the sheet-music and then the hair would fall back. His fingers were long.

And deep down, Carlos was also very lonely.

One Saturday, Carlos decided to go for a walk outside of town. He would walk along the main road and down the path by the lake, but then he would turn off and just wander in the low hills, just see where it led him. The light was dry and soft but the sky was clear - almost. Carlos walked, feeling the wind around his arms, and above him followed his small, familiar cloud.

After almost two hours, Carlos was in the middle of a wide valley, everywhere tall stalks of a waxy green-leafed plant. He stretched. The plants were swaying in the breeze like a clumsy sort of sea. Carlos sat down among them and took off his backpack. He rummaged inside for a granola bar and his bottle of water. He ate, he drank. And when he raised his head, the cloud was gone.

Carlos noticed this immediately. The cloud had become so familiar that he took it for granted, yes, but on days like this with low foliage and high skies there was nothing more certain than the cloud above his head - and there it wasn't. It wasn't there. Carlos stood up, startled, heart thumping. He tried to balance himself. How was he feeling? He was feeling hurt, he realised.

Then Carlos noticed that his cloud was still in the sky. It had just drifted a little away. And now it was hovering there, unmoving. Carlos looked at the cloud and looked at the plants in the valley. He looked at his shoes. He tightened his shoelaces. Then he picked up his backpack and went over toward the cloud. As he neared it, it again began to move. Away from him.

Carlos was perplexed. He didn't know what was happening or what he was doing. He had never understood the cloud but he had been able to pretend he had. And now it was moving. Did it want him to leave?

But then the cloud stopped again, hanging still until Carlos got too close and then bobbing away, light as vapour.

So Carlos followed the cloud. It would move, it would still, he would approach, it would move again. And so they moved through the valley and up a summit and down, then across a footbridge and through a wood and up over a rocky knoll. Carlos was getting quite tired but by now the cloud was not lingering for very long - it pressed on, as if trusting Carlos to follow. Carlos followed.

Carlos had just reached the peak of a small hill, dusk coming down slow, when there - directly ahead - he could see another pearly cloud, like his own, round and soft and perfect. Carlos' cloud started to move toward the other cloud and Carlos smiled. "Oh," he said, out loud. "I see," he said to his cloud. He smiled.

To follow his cloud, Carlos had to scamper down a steep incline of gravel and sand. His heels threw up dust and small flakes of mica flashed in the sunset. "We'll need to get home soon," he said. He jumped from a bigger rock down and almost tripped as he landed. He descended, he descended. When he reached the floor of the valley he raised his eyes and he saw his cloud, he saw the destination cloud, and under that second cloud - there was a person.

Carlos walked towards her, but slowly. He didn't know it was a her at first; it was just a person. Someone in white and grey, standing in the dust and reading a book. But as he and his cloud got closer, he made her out more clearly. And then he was within shouting distance. And then within speaking distance. And she looked up.

"Oh," she said. "Sorry, I didn't hear you there."

"Hi," said Carlos. "I'm sorry I didn't want to bother you."

"You're not bothering me," she said. "I was just reading."

And then they both lifted their heads to look at their clouds. The woman seemed surprised to see Carlos'. "Is that yours?" she asked. "Your cloud?"

"Yes," said Carlos.

"I didn't realise other people had clouds."

"Neither did I," said Carlos.

Their clouds were just hanging out, one next to the other, directly above their heads.

"Are they kissing?" said the woman.

"No," said Carlos. "I don't think so. Do clouds kiss?"

She gave him a look.

Carlos blushed.

It was getting dark.

"I should go," said Carlos. "I need to get back to town."

"Okay," said the woman. "I'm going to go pretty soon as well. I just want to uh finish this chapter."

Carlos nodded. It was much too dark for the woman to read, but he nodded. He hefted his backpack and started walking back up the hill. But his cloud wasn't following him. "Cloud," he said. "Come on."

Nothing happened.

Carlos went back down, back towards the woman and his cloud. "Cloud?" he said.

"What is it?" said the woman.

"It's not coming," said Carlos.

"Would you leave it?" asked the woman.

"I don't know," said Carlos.

His cloud started to move. And so did hers. They were moving together, towards the hill, back the way that Carlos had come.

"We should go," said the woman.

Carlos paused. "I suppose," he said.

They followed their clouds, walking side by side.

"Do you think they're trying to tell us something?" said the woman.

To make a long story shorter: They were.

["Diamond Day" is an old song by Vashti Bunyan. It is quite famous lately so maybe you have heard it. But have you really listened to it? Because I hadn't, not till I saw her sing on Sunday. So, now, do. And then buy.]

Posted by Sean at May 4, 2006 3:00 AM

Wow- that's fabulous that you heard her sing, Sean. She makes me think of Josephine Foster sometimes. Really lovely.

Posted by M.tones at May 4, 2006 3:25 AM

The story! the song! There was something about "If You're Feeling Sinister" that I was once trying to describe to someone; about it's shy, awkward, yet unblemished beauty. Unfortunately I couldn't quite communicate it, but your post seems to pinpoint what I might have been trying to get at in better ways.

Posted by Dylan at May 4, 2006 4:29 AM

Lovely song, heard it on an advert recently.

Posted by L. at May 4, 2006 4:33 AM

i am glad you all are going easy on me: too much written too fast on much too little sleep. but--

dylan! i actually almost wrote about "Sinister" instead! (Vashti was in fact part of an all-day belle + seb gig.)

Posted by Sean at May 4, 2006 4:38 AM

wonderful story! i didn't realize i already had this song, you are right, i'm listening now.

Posted by brian at May 4, 2006 6:54 AM

Wonderful post Sean - once again you captivate me with your words. And the song was nice too!

Posted by (Aunty) Debbie at May 4, 2006 7:58 AM

A VERY moving tale...and the song was beautiful !!! You write wonderful !!

Posted by Zaidie Ben at May 4, 2006 9:08 AM

This is the line--the clause--that got me: "and days like this were still quite common, back then". Nails the whole wistful, delicate tone of the story just perfectly. Brilliant! and and and thanks.

Posted by gooblar at May 4, 2006 10:37 AM

my goodness!

Posted by sara at May 4, 2006 8:16 PM


Posted by Tuwa at May 5, 2006 12:40 AM

wonderful tale! thank you.

Posted by Jessica at May 5, 2006 1:54 PM

and I almost cried.

The song is also very nice.

Posted by dave at May 8, 2006 11:47 PM

Post a comment

(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners

our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny