Whistling

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
A girl with a problem because she whistles.

Submitted: May 26, 2013

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Submitted: May 26, 2013

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WHISTLING

As usual Ella was walking along the road whistling. An elderly gentleman stepped out of an ancient building and said, “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that it’s a curse for a woman to whistle?”
Ella stopped whistling and stared at the elderly male figure standing before her. Deep down inside her she felt as if the man had tapped into something that was personal. She could never remember when or how she had started whistling. The man stood staring at her as she passed by him. He shook his head in disbelief. Ella only wanted to whistle more.

When Ella was born, her mother Hattie was thrilled to bits. To be the only girl born into a male dominated family made her very special. There was only one thing wrong and that was Ella liked to be doing what her brothers did. Hattie dressed her daughter in pretty dresses that were in delicate colours, and while she was a small child there didn’t seem to be any problems with Ella. The first time there was a hint of trouble in the female part of the family was when Ella wanted to wear a check shirt that belonged to Chris, the brother who preceded her. Finn, who was the head of the family said to Hattie, “It’s just a phase. She’ll grow out of it. At the moment she may feel out of things because she doesn’t know she’s a girl. She’ll learn in time.”

Hattie wasn’t so sure, as Ella only had her three brothers for company: Brian, the first born; Alan, the middle brother; and Chris, who was three when Ella entered the world and their family, which changed things for ever. Finn had been delighted with Ella’s birth after so many boys but her presence in the small house was to cause eruptions. To begin with, the newly arrived princess had to have a bedroom all to herself, which meant bunching the boys together. This simple act at the beginning had little effect on the boys, who got up to more mischief at night sharing the same bedroom, but as time passed and the boys became older their bedroom was far too small for all three. Eventually the family had to move to a bigger house. Then just when it looked as if nothing worse could take place, Ella began to whistle.
Finn was to blame, if that’s the correct thing to say. After all, he should have known better than to whistle so inconsequently. He had the custom of whistling when he was carrying out some job to do with the house, carpentry, or fixing the plumbing. Ella followed her father around with an avid interest in everything he did, and so she learned to whistle. At first it was a sort of puffy sound that came out of her mouth but it was clearly an attempt at whistling. Her brothers then helped her to perfect it. Hattie was annoyed and told them, “Ella’s a girl, and females are not supposed to whistle. You know the stories about women who do so.”
Finn and his sons were not bothered about what Hattie said, and continued to whistle and to show Ella how to.

The nasty little boy was on the point of grabbing Ginny’s rucksack when an ear piercing whistle broke up the moment. The incident had taken place not far from the school where Ella and Ginny were pupils. The nasty boy, who was known as Scarecrow due to his unkempt hair, jumped back and ran off. He had been caught in the act and wasn’t going to hang around to be chastised. Ginny, still looking puzzled, saw Ella and asked her, “Was that you who whistled?”
“Yes, it was. I didn’t like the thought of Scarecrow stealing your rucksack. Do you feel OK?”
“Yes, thank you. I’ve never heard a girl whistle before, where did you learn?”
“I learned from listening to my father and brothers. Does your father whistle?”
“My mother doesn’t like it, so he doesn’t. Thank you Ella, but I have to go home. If I’m late my mother will be angry. See you tomorrow. Bye.” Ginny walked off without saying any more. Ella looked after her and felt a bit let down, after all, she had saved her from having her rucksack stolen. And so Ella walked home in pensive mood.

The matter wasn’t left there. Scarecrow let everyone at school know the next day that Ella could whistle. The boys who could whistle decided to have a bet and see whether Ella could whistle as well as them. When Ella arrived at school, Freddy, the spokesman for the boys, went up to her and declared, “Hello, Ella, Scarecrow says you can whistle. Well, we have decided to have a competition to see whether you can whistle as well as us. How about it?”
Ella stood staring around her, and then, “Aren’t there any other girls who can whistle? I’d prefer it if there were.”
Freddy asked the girls who were present, “Do any of you whistle?”
Nobody said anything, and one of the girls, Milly, stepped forward, “ Whistling is not for girls, it’s a boys’ habit. My mummy told me.”
There were murmurs of agreement among the girls and Ella felt lonelier than ever. Neither Ginny nor Scarecrow made any mention of her preventing the theft of her rucksack the afternoon before.

During the years from her young childhood to adolescence Ella was aware that she had to be careful where and when she whistled. After the incident with Ginny and the rucksack she knew that she could rely on nobody. So she kept her whistling for amusing herself. As she reached late teenage and her mother went out of her way to get Ella to dress more in line of what a young lady should wear, the two females of the family took to going shopping together.
On one of these excursions Hattie stopped in front of the shop window of a well-known ladies dress shop. Ella stood beside her mother and wondered what on earth she was staring at. They entered the shop and a smart looking assistant approached them, “Good afternoon, Madam. How may I help you?”
“Good afternoon. I’d like to take a closer look at the blue dress in the window for my daughter, please.”
“Of course, Madam,” the assistant said, and invited them to follow her to another part of the store. “The dress you refer to is right here, as you can see, and we have a large selection of dresses for young ladies.” With a sweep of her hand the assistant indicated rack upon rack of dresses.
Then came a moment that Hattie would never forget, Ella whistled. “Mummy, what lovely clothes!”
The shop assistant’s reaction was to be expected, “Did your daughter whistle or was it my imagination?”
“No, it wasn’t your imagination. She whistles. Horrible, isn’t it?” Hattie replied.
“I’m not sure you are in the right shop for her. This is for young ladies and your daughter is not exactly in that category.”
Hattie felt humiliated by this remark, and said, “It’s all right. I understand. Come on, Ella, we’re going home.”
Hattie more or less dragged her daughter out of the shop and they went home in silence. Ella knew she had done wrong, but the whistling had been spontaneous, not planned. But that would have made no difference, her mother had been offended by it and that was that.
Finn was not amused by Hattie’s telling of the whistling in the shop. He said to Ella, “You are an embarrassment to your mother and me with this whistling. You’ll have to get to grips with it. Do you understand because if you don’t I’ll send you to a psychologist.”

Ella was rather upset on hearing this piece of devastating news. She rushed up to her room and sat down in her armchair. Why had everything changed? When she was a small girl her father had laughed at her whistling, and her brothers, too, and now she was treated like a leper in her own home. An outcast! What was she to do? She made up her mind to do something about it. For a long time the promise she made to herself regarding the whistling was kept, but then it surfaced again in a bitter sweet moment.
Ella’s friends invited her to parties and going out. Her new friends knew nothing about the whistling and she never told them about her problem. Bit by bit she was convinced that she had overcome the desire to whistle, until one day at a dance she saw a boy that she fancied and the whistle broke out. “Wow! What a smashing boy! Where is he from?” The whistle she emitted was long and loud. There was total silence and then all heads were turned in her direction. Then there was a loud burst of laughter and the boy said, “Did you hear that girl whistle? She must be a witch. Only they whistle.”
Ella rushed out of the dance hall as quickly as she could, her face burning with shame. How could she have betrayed herself ? She was afraid to go home so early, so she went to a small café that was open all hours. Inside, she sat down and ordered a coffee and a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Fortunately there was nobody she recognised in the café and she felt more relaxed as she ate. Ella wasn’t worried about her friends, as they were probably unaware of what had happened. When she thought it was time for her to arrive home without causing suspicion, Ella paid the bill and left the café.
On arriving home her parents asked, “Have a nice time?”
Ella replied, “Yes, I did. Goodnight.”

Life went on in the daily routine and Ella getting more and more frustrated at her own impotence with the whistling. Her brothers whistled just as their father did when they were working on their motor bikes or tuning their cars. They whistled when in the shower or the bath and when they were off to see a girl friend. Ella became more of a recluse but refused to give up whistling. She felt isolated and alone until she met the man of her dreams.
Maurice was a sailor, not an ordinary one, he was employed on a submarine. Ella met him in a coastal pub when away from home one weekend. She knew that this was the man she wanted, but what she didn’t know, was that whistling was bad luck to seamen. They spent a lot of time together that first weekend and she was desperate to make sure not to whistle even though the unexpected urge might come upon her at any time.
Ella’s parents welcomed the idea of their only daughter having a boyfriend but shared Ella’s fear of her suddenly whistling. They searched in books and asked doctors how her whistling could be cured. There was no satisfactory suggestion. Magic was even suggested, but where do you find it? They were becoming anxious by the minute about the whistling. Hattie got to blaming Finn and the boys. All of this was counter productive, as a feasible solution was not found.

Maurice was writing emails and phoning when he could and his arrival back in port was getting closer and closer, and Ella was still whistling. Her parents were afraid that if Ella didn’t hook Maurice, whom they considered a good catch, she might never get another chance.
Maurice came on leave and left saying he’d be back in the summer. Ella with all the willpower in the world had managed not to make even the tiniest sound of whistling while he was with her.
After he and the submarine had gone, she went back home and  wondered what the next big event in her life would be. Imagine getting married in the church and bursting into whistling in front of everyone. It was too painful.

Ella went out into the garden, it was late in the afternoon and she wanted to cut some flowers for the bronze bowl in the hall. She sat down on the garden seat, and started to doze. When she was half-asleep she heard a small owl in a tree. She opened her mouth to call it, but after being bottled up for so long, the whistle came forth. The owl flew down and sat on the arm of the garden seat, and as she prepared her lips to whistle again, the owl opened his beak and swallowed her whistle. Then the owl flew off, and sat in his old place in the tree and began whistling. He had been having a bad time finding a mate and now it would be easier with a decent whistle to attract one with.

Ella woke up and saw that it was getting dark, she took the cut flowers and walked back into the house. Her mother was preparing dinner when Ella began arranging the flowers in the bowl. They both heard the owl whistling, “That sounds rather like your whistle, doesn’t it?” Hattie commented to Ella.
Ella said, “I don’t think so, listen to my whistle.” Ella pursed her lips together and did as she had been doing ever since she was a small child. No sound sallied forth from her mouth. She tried again and again and still no whistle. “Mummy, I’ve lost my whistle. What am I going to do?”
Hattie was happy because her daughter was pure again now that the curse of the whistle had gone.
“Be happy,” Hattie told her daughter.

 


© Copyright 2019 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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