Ozgood sings 'Lorena'

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Unnoticed 12th grader is persuaded to sing Civil War song 'Lorena' in school play and receives standing ovation and sponsorship to Julliard. He is encouraged by the ghost of grandfather, a Civil War veteran.

Submitted: September 10, 2019

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Submitted: September 10, 2019

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Ozgood Sings 'Lorena'........ a short story by Earl and John W. Mathews

 

To the reader:

Please excuse us, dear reader. My grandpa, John Willis, insisted on telling some of this story over my objection. Grandpa was a disabled Confederate Veteran of the Civil War. E.M.

 

Earl usually writes these stories but I butted in because I know the background better than he does. See, I was there in 1864 and he wasn't. J.W.

 

I.

(E.M.)

 

Ozgood Hamlin was not an outstanding student, At the time of this telling he had been promoted to the 12th grade at Randolph County, (Alabama,) High. Mrs. Langford was not particularly happy that he was assigned to her homeroom.

 

Ozgood sat in the back of the room and did not have much to say. He lived with his mother in a trailer park down across the railroad tracks near the city landfill. His father had disappeared years ago. Their sole source of income was the mother's minimum wage job at Big Lots. Consequently, Ozgood often wore poorly- fitting clothes from the charity store. He was shy and did not attempt to make friends.

 

(J.W.)

But Ozgood was more than that, and Earl paints a dismal picture of him. See, he came from good stock. Earl says his father had 'disappeared,' and that may be true, but I knew his grandpa, Leland Hamlin. Leland was my sergeant in the War and he was good as anybody. Leland was older than me (sorry, Earl, make that older than I) and he taught me a lot about living in the Army. Leland knew what the war was all about. He had even been to college. And sing! Lordy mercy, that man had a fine tenor voice. When he sang "Lorena" it would make a grown man cry it was so pretty. I admit it made me cry.

 

(E.M)

As I was saying, Ozgood generally kept his own counsel. His grades were passing and even outstanding in the subject of History. Ozgood was proud that his Grandfather, Leland Hamlin, had fought in the Civil War and survived to marry and raise five children, including his father, Robert, who, as I said, was missing.

 

(J.W.)

You're not telling them about Buttons, Earl. I know you don't believe that a dog could talk, but he figures in this story and they need to hear about it.

 

(E.M)

Yes, Buttons, the talking dog. Ozgood had a little dog he found him one day, nearly starved, rummaging in the city garbage. Ozgood took him home, fed him and bathed him. Ozgood named him 'Buttons.' He built him a nice little dog house. After that they were inseparable.

 

 

(JW)

You haven't told them the best part. Buttons could talk.

 

(EM)

I'm coming to that, John. Ozgood claimed that the dog talked to him. Nobody else heard it so it may have all been in Oz's head. I think...

 

(JW)

They don't care what you think, Earl, get on with the story.

 

II

(EM)

Well one day in assembly, Mrs Heisler, the Drama Coach, announced that they were going to put on a play. If was going to be about the Civil War and kids were invited to try out to be in it. Ozgood was terribly interested since it was about his favorite subject, but he wasn't about to try out for it. He would be humiliated. Besides, Fred Sartin always got the leading roles in school plays. Fred was a Sartin, after all, and the Sartins owned most of the property in Wedowee.

 

Mrs Heisler asked him to come by her office one afternoon.

 

"Ozgood, you should be in this play, it's right down your alley."

"I couldn't do it, Mrs Heisler, I couldn't get up in front of everybody and recite lines."

"I was afraid you'd say that Osgood, so I'd like to offer you something else."

"Something else?"

"Yes. The play is about the Civil War and we want the weapons and the costumes to be historically accurate. Would you be our Technical Director and see that those things are true and valid?"

'I wouldn't have to act on the stage?"

"No, You would work with the shop to build wooden rifles and swords that look authentic. Do you know about those?"

"Oh yes, maam. We'd want the rifles to be M-1863 Sharp Carbines. That's what grandpa's outfit used, and for swords, we ought to give them WP-3 Nashville Plow Works swords. That would be really authentic."

"I'm sure it would, Ozgood, that will be entirely up to you. Will you do it?"

"Oh yes, Mrs. Heisler. That will be awesome."

"Oh and another thing. You would need to work with the Home Economics Department. The girls will be making uniforms. Is that alright?

Ozgood then agreed somewhat reluctantly to consult with the HomEc teacher on uniform details.

 

During the next three weeks Ozgood spent a lot of time in the school shop supervising the construction of Confederate weapons. The boys called him "Major Hamlin."

The Home Economics teacher made the first uniform exactly as instructed by Ozgood. In fact, it was made to fit him, and he blushed when he wore it for the girls and they 'swooned'.

(JW}

Old Leland was watching all that. I tell you he 'bout burst with pride over that boy.

 

 

III

(EM)

One day Ozgood stopped by Mrs. Heisler's office to check something. Fred Sartin was there talking to her.

"I'm sorry, Miz Heisler, I caint sing one bit. I can't carry a tune in a bucket. Can't we just leave that song out?"

"To tell you the truth, Fred, I was surprised to find it in the script. I don't remember it being there, but here it is, even the sheet music."

(JW)

She's right about that. Old Leland slipped it in there last night. Hr knew Fred Sartin couldn't sing and he wanted Ozgood to do it.

(EM)

Osgood, now grown bolder and being an authority on the music of the period, asked:

"What is the song?"

"It's called 'Lorena'"

"Oh yes. "Lorena" was a favorite of the troops on both sides, Rebel and Yankee."

Mrs Heisler sighed. "we could either leave it out or ask Miss McClenney if she has a young man who could - and would - sing it." Mary McClenney was the music teacher.

Ozgood thought about it a long time. He loved that old song but sing it in the play? NO WAY

That afternoon he was feeding Buttons food scraps from the school lunch room. Imagine his astonishment when the dog looked at him and said:

"Oz, you could do it. You could sing that song."

Ozgood leaped back in amazement."Buttons! You can talk?"

"Yes, I can talk, and you can sing. I have it on authority."

"What does that mean - you 'have it on authority?'"

"I was told by somebody who knows you very well."

"Yeah? and who was that?"

"Your Grandpa Leland. He told me."

"Grandpa Leland's been dead over a hundred years!"

"Not as dead as you think. Anyway he said for you to sing 'Lorena' in the play."

Some people say this conversation only took place in OzGood's head, but real or not, this carried a lot of weight with Osgood. He didn't want to disappoint his favorite relative. And he remembered that the girls swooned at him in the uniform.

 

The next day he reported to Miss McClenney in the music room.

"I'd like to try out singing 'Lorena' in the play, Miss Mary"

"Why that's wonderful, Ozgood, nobody else is interested."

Miss Mary found the sheet music and began playing the lead-in.

Osgood took a deep breath and began.

 

After the first verse Miss Mary stopped playing - visibly stunned

"Ozgood, you have an amazing voice! I can't believe it!"

"My grandpa and my daddy were both singers."

"Well you have the talent too, and this will likely be the best part of the play!"
The only coaching Ozgood needed was to sing out with more confidence. This was accomplished with a few rehearsals. Miss Heisler was called in to hear one of the final rehearsals. With tears in her eyes she hugged Ozgood - much to his embarrassment.

 

On the night of the performance..

(J.W.)

Wait. Let me tell this, Earl.

On the night of the performance, something strange happened. The props guy was handing out the wooden rifles the shop had made. Each rifle had the name of the actor written on a card taped to the stock. When he handed Ozgood his he said; "I don't get it, Oz, yours is heavy!"

And indeed it was heavy, and the long barrel was metal, not wood. It was real! This was Leland Hamlin's rifle. Ozgood's name was on the tag, but carved into the stock were the initials "L.H."

That Leon had pulled another one of his tricks, giving Ozgood his own rifle. I tell you, Old Sarge was something else!

 

(EM)

 

By this time Osgood was not surprised at anything his deceased grandfather did. Substituting his rifle for a wooden one was no more amazing than Buttoons talking. Ozgood walked on stage near the end of the play, assumed his assigned position, and looked out at the sea of faces. This was the big moment and he forced himself to remember what he was about. The words and mood of 'Lorena' filled his mind. The song expressed the loneliness of the soldier for his sweetheart.

 

he years creep slowly by, Lorena,
The snow is on the ground again.
The sun's low down the sky, Lorena,
The frost gleams where the flow'rs have been."

 

In his mind Ozgood saw the battlefield strewn with bodies - bodies of young men who would never return to their sweethearts - and he was grieved. This grief was somehow embodied in his singing and his audience felt it.

 

So powerful was his rendition that the audience rose as one at the close. The thunderous applause continued an embarrassingly long time. Poor Fred Sartin waited to deliver his closing speech but it never happened. Finally Mrs Heisler signaled for the curtain to close and the play was over. The curtain opened again for the cast to bow. Then Mrs Heisler put her arm around Ozgood and gestured to the audience 'behold the man!' The applause continued.

 

Down on the first row, rich Mr Sartin said to his wife. "That boy is going to Julliard if I have my way." In Wedowee, Mr. Sartin usually had his way.

 

 

- End -

 

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