I thought it would be a fun challenge to write a short story only in dialogue. It was! This is a very short time travel story featuring fifth-grade friends Joey (female) and Eli, the main characters from my book Time Jump Coins. Joey’s speech is in plain text, Eli’s is in italics, and the third character’s words are underlined.
Not So Silent Night
Joey! You’ve gotta come over here!
Eli, you’re supposed to identify yourself and say, “May I please speak to…”
Sorry. This is Eli, and…
All right, all right, I know. What’s up?
Remember how Hal was cleaning out his shop Saturday and he gave you that broken music box?
Yeah, apparently he thinks all girls like ballerinas, even ballerinas with missing arms. UGH.
Well, he gave me some Christmas. Piano. Music.
Um, you have noticed you’re Jewish and you can’t play piano, right?
Just come over! I have to show you something.
Mom! I’m going to Eli’s for awhile. I’ll be back before dinner!
Will you relax! Just let me take my coat off!
Joey, what do you notice about this sheet music?
Yeah, Hal said that’s why he couldn’t sell it. What else?
It says, “Stille Nacht/Silent Night”. The lyrics are written in English and some other language. I’m more of a We Wish You a Merry Christmas girl myself.
It’s German. And?
And it smells like Hal’s Coins and Collectibles. He really should use air freshener or something.
Look at the picture at the top of the paper. What do you see?
It’s a drawing of a church in a town square, snow all around, dude on the steps of the church in old-timey clothes. Quaint scene. Fascinating. Can we play a video game now?
Okay, Eli. Will you stop waving your hands around? Let me see it again… Well, something about the scene is actually kind of beautiful. Hey. It…it looks like the snow is moving, like the snow is snowing, but that’s impossible…
So you see it, too! I was afraid to look at the snowing snow. I thought I was going crazy.
Eli, I think it’s more magic, like the time jump coins!
Why would we find magic stuff twice?
Who knows? Because we won’t waste it?
Where do you think the guy and the church are?
No idea. Sit next to me and let’s look at it together Let’s just stare at it awhile.
Joey! The dude is moving!
You’re right! You don’t have to whisper, though. He’s pacing on the steps of the church. He’s clutching something that might be his hat in his hands.
You’re whispering, too. Joey, do you feel cold?
Super cold… OMG, OMG, OMG! Whoa, Eli, where do you think we are?
We’re in that town square, from the picture on the sheet music. It feels like it’s late afternoon here, too.
We must have time travelled again! And I think we’re speaking German. The words are bouncing around in my mouth and in the back in my throat different than English words.
And I’m understanding German. So are you. Cool. I just said “cool” in German, without thinking about it! Cool. Well, that means we’re in a country where they speak German.
Wow. Hey, that was German again, wasn’t it?
Yes. We’re totally bilingual! Good thing we’re dressed for this cold weather.
Yeah, they really did a lot with wool in the old days.
Hey, there’s that guy we saw in the picture.
Let’s go meet him.
All right. I guess he looks pretty harmless.
Well, well who might you two be? You look to be about ten and you, ten and a half.
Hey that’s pretty good. You could work in a carnival.
Certainly. My name is Franz Gruber. I’m the schoolmaster in Arnsdorf. That’s why I could guess your ages so accurately.
Oh. I’m Joey, and this is Eli. Um, we’re just a teensy bit lost. Can you tell us where we are?
Why, Oberndorf bei Salzburg, children.
And that would be in the country of…?
Austria, of course. But it’s only been Austria for three years. Until 1815, this was Bavaria. But I’ve no time for history lessons and jokes.
Sorry. You seem a little upset.
In point of fact I am quite upset. In addition to being a teacher, I am also the organist at this church. Father Mohr, the priest, gave me the lyrics for this song, and I’ve got to come up with a tune for tomorrow’s Christmas service. He wrote the words two years ago, so he told me, but he waited until just yesterday to assign it to me.
For tomorrow’s service?
Yes. Tonight is Christmas Eve, is it not? In addition to the time constraint, the church organ is broken. I have to come up with a tune that will sound good with only guitar and voices. A guitar in a church! Isn’t that ridiculous?
Well, a guitar might not be that awful. What have you got so far?
Let’s go in the chapel and get out of this cold and I shall sing it for you… You may sit in this pew. Ahem. “Silent night, holy night, all are sleeping, alone and awake…” Why does young Eli have that look on his face?
Well, maybe because that tune sounds so sad. The night is supposed to be calm, but also happy, right?
Ah, indeed, I see your point. How about if I increase the tempo , singing it a little faster? “Silent night, holy night. All are sleeping, alone and awake.”
More cheerful , definitely. Go on.
“Only the intimate holy pair, lovely boy with curly hair…”Now, do you two care to tell me what is so funny?
Nothing! It’s just the curly hair, maybe not what we were expecting is all. So sorry.
“Sleep in heavenly peace! Sleep in heavenly peace.”
“Silent night, holy night. Where on this day all power of fatherly love poured forth and like a brother lovingly embraced Jesus the peoples of the world…”
Wait, is the song saying baby Jesus is going to grow up to embrace the peoples of the world or vice-versa?
How am I to know? Father Mohr didn’t put in any commas. You may interpret it as you like. But the words are done. It’s the music on which we need to concentrate.
Yeah, Eli—music. Focus.
I just feel the tune is lacking a bit.
Can you take it from the top again?
I know, right? Those expressions are confusing. She means start from the beginning.
Why not just say that, then? Very well, “Silent night, holy night, all are sleeping alone and awake…”
It’s just about perfect, right Eli?
But maybe instead of making the words “silent” and” holy” only two syllables you could stretch them out a little.
What a coincidence—that’s just what I was thinking! Like “si-i-lent night, ho-oh-ly night….”
Let me try that. “Si-i-lent night, ho-oh-ly night.”Oh, I do prefer that! Thank you children! You really think it’s going to be good enough for the congregation tomorrow?
Oh, we’re sure of it, right Eli? Merry Christmas, Mr. Gruber.
Frohe Weihnachten–Merry Christmas, Joey and Eli. It was wonderful to meet you. You two better hurry home before you’re late for dinner.
It’s still snowing out here, but I’m warm.
Me too, super warm…
We’re back in your bedroom. That was an easy return trip, time travel-wise.
Yeah. Hey, Joey, before you go home for dinner, do you want to watch me light a candle on the menorah?
That would be great, Eli.