“What time is it?” whispers Robin over his left shoulder to Simon. The sound of foot steps on the gravel the only prominent sound, cutting into the deafening quietness of a gloomy afternoon. Occasionally, a quiet sob escapes from the front.
Simon gently tugs into his breast pocket and produces a small chain watch on his palm. Looking at it, he replied, “It’s just 2 pm”. Robin and Simon, both 10 years, have been marching along with the crowd for almost 20 mins now.
“What is that?” asks Robin quietly, indicating to a small pipe like silver metal sticking out from the pocket, as sound of slow momentous footsteps continue.
Simon re-adjusts it quickly and puts it back inside his pocket. “It’s just a whistle” he answers.
“Hmm, how far do you think before we reach Gilly’s Moor?” whispers Robin.
Silence fills the air. Simon, his head bent, slowly raises his eye brows and turns his head to meet Robin’s glance, “Not sure. I think about a couple of miles” replies Simon frowning.
Somewhere someone steps on dry leaves. The houses on the side of the path look sad and dull today. Close by, a child is crying somewhere. Curious onlookers gather in front of their wooden gates to watch the procession of the silent crowd. A man puts on a black coat and steps out of his house; as, his wife carrying a baby follows him till the gate. He quietly dissolves with the crowd walking down the gravel path.
“Is that Vinny, in the front there?” asks Robin tilting his head towards Simon. Simon lifts his head, following Robin’s gaze, trying to see between gaps.
“Where did the idiot get that piece of hat from? It’s ugly”, chuckles Robin. Simon caught a glimpse of a short boy with a black hat.
“Shush,” comes a warning from behind. Both the boys went quiet.
“Hey where did you get that watch from by the way?” whispers Robin to Simon again. Simon unwilling to cause any further disturbance replies quickly, “My uncle gave me.”
Robin with a wicked satisfied smile inquires again, “Your uncle from the city?”. Simon nods.
“May I see it”, asks Robin. Simon brought his hand to his breast and instead replies, “You can’t. It’s attached to my coat.”
Robin gave Simon one disappointed look and stomps the ground with a thud. Simon looking embarrassed pulls out the whistle instead and hands it over to Robin.
“Here, this is a special kind of whistle” whispers Simon, boastfully. Robin snatches the whistle from Simon, “How special..?” he asks and blows into it.
Nothing happens. No sound came from the whistle: just whist. Robin blew, and blew the whistle. Simon looked at him quietly, thinking that would keep him occupied for a while. Simon smiled silently, as the silent march proceeded. Some where a dog barks.
Robin blew the whistle again, his jaws hurt a little now. A low whistle escapes from his mouth instead. Mr. Miller, their school headmaster and a well-respected senior citizen of the town, stares back at him.
“Your whistle is broken. It can’t generate sound. It’s useless,” said Robin bitterly, blowing the whistle again.
Simon giggles uncontrollably. Robin looks at him irritated. The woman behind, grunts again.
“That’s a dog whistle. Only dogs can hear it”, explains Simon with a chuckle.
The barking of the dogs grew louder. Suddenly, there seem to be dogs everywhere. There were dogs barking on the side-walk. Excited dogs wagging their tails begin to follow the procession, as few jumps into the crowd. Soon, shouts and shrieks disrupts the motion of the procession.
“Where have all these dogs come from?” asks someone. “Keep quiet, Rusty”, commands another to their dog.
The silent procession of town folks, family members, teachers and students is now turning into a show. Few of the dogs decides to run around the procession party. People became frantic as they starts bumping into excited dogs. The solemnity of the procession has taken a new turn.
Mr. Miller couldn’t stand it anymore. “The whistle, Mr. Robin”, he demands. Robin wanting no further part hands over the whistle to Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller blew the whistle like a professional dog trainer. The animals drift to the sound of the whistle, like a piper mesmerizing the rats. The barking turns to low howls. The excited animals obediently adheres to one side of the path.
Finally the funeral procession of Mr. Franklin Dane, the Town Founder, could resume. But, Simon never saw the light of his special whistle again; while, Robin plants a bunch of flowers on the grave of Mr. Dane, mostly out of guilt. And, also, because Mr Miller was watching over them.