Read an Excerpt
The Drummer Boy
By Ted Dekker, Dan Thornberg, Koechel Peterson
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2006 Ted Dekker
All rights reserved.
Once upon a time not so very far in the future, there lived a boy named Daniel. If Daniel was not the most famous boy who ever lived, he was certainly the bravest.
But Daniel wasn't always so brave. In fact, after the day he fell off his roof and broke both arms, he became one of the most cautious boys in the neighborhood.
His mother insisted that any child who'd fallen so far and been hurt so badly would certainly be as timid as Daniel. It was his good sense that made him careful.
Daniel was grateful for Mother's love, but no amount of motherly love helped him on the city streets, where all the other ten–year–olds were busy dodging honking cars and playing war behind large trash bins in the alleyways. He joined them on occasion. But he never liked the way they looked at his stiff white arms, his wrists frozen in place.
Daniel preferred to play Magnetix with his younger sister, Chelise, or better yet, watch his father playing the drums with the City Circus Orchestra.
The City Circus Orchestra. Now that was the real ticket. Daniel's one wish was to play the drums like Father played them, beating on the big bass, flipping his wrists on the snare, and thumbing the tall tom–toms. The mere idea of making such sounds in perfect rhythm kept him dreaming late into the night. But everyone knows that drummers need good wrists, and Daniel's wrists were as stiff as candy canes.
Daniel's impossible dream became a real hope one day, December 18 to be precise, seven days before the Holiday.
Daniel sat cross-legged behind the balcony railing on the second floor of the Circus auditorium, watching the orchestra play their theme song as the audience filed out that chilly day. Elephants had stomped and tumblers had tumbled and the show was over. The lights would soon go out, and Father would pack away his drum until tomorrow when the show would start all over again.
Daniel watched Father proudly. He waved his right arm absentmindedly, mimicking the drumming motion. His arm moved well enough, but his wrist was useless. He'd beaten on a drum a thousand times and was always awkward.
A sound came out of the shadows. "Psst, boy." Mr. Pablo, the prop man, stood in the door that led into the upper hallway. Daniel liked the strange old man, but they didn't often speak.
"Come here, Danny boy." The thin, gray–haired man, who was a friend of his father, motioned to him. "Come, I have something to show you."
Daniel thought twice, then followed Mr. Pablo along the dim hall. The man ruffled Daniel's hair and smiled as they walked. "It's okay, boy. I think you'll like this."
He opened a door marked Props: Keep Out.
"I can't help noticing how much you like drums," Mr. Pablo said.
Daniel peered into the forbidden room. A shaft of sunshine spotlighted piles of colored balancing balls, juggling pins, nets, trapezes, and mats.
"Isn't that right?" Mr. Pablo said.
"Yes, sir. I do like drums."
"That's what I thought. Come in." The man peered back down the hall to make sure they weren't spotted. "Keep your voice down."
He closed the door and walked to a large trunk in one corner. He bent to one knee, unlatched the lock, and opened the lid. Books and loose papers covered the bottom of the trunk, but Daniel caught his breath at the sight of a small, round drum on top.
"You like it?" Mr. Pablo asked, standing up.
"It's a drum. It's ... it's beautiful!"
"Go on, pick it up."
Daniel lifted the small drum gingerly and held it in his stiff arms. The yellowed skin was smooth and taut. He'd seen pictures of drums like this, but he'd never actually touched one.
"It's not only beautiful," Mr. Pablo said, "it's special. Turn it over."
Daniel did so carefully. "Little Drummer Boy," he read aloud. "That's me?"
The prop man chuckled. "No, no, but I suppose it could be."
"Who was it?"
Mr. Pablo glanced at the door. "If I tell you about this drum, it could be dangerous."
Daniel didn't care for danger, but he had to know. "Please tell me."
The man nodded and light sparkled in his eyes. "Have you ever heard of Christmas?"
"Christmas? What's Christmas?"
"Shh, shh." The man hushed Daniel with yet another glance at the door. "That's what the Holiday used to be called. But that name has been forbidden since before you were born."
"Christmas," Daniel whispered, casting a look at the door himself. "What's it mean?"
"Well, that's the secret, my boy. The Holiday wasn't always a time just for giving and getting presents. It once marked the birthday of a king named Jesus Christ." Mr. Pablo spoke the name so softly that Daniel could barely hear it.
They stood in silence. "He was a king?" Daniel finally asked.
"Yes. And this drum was played for that very king by a boy known only as the Little Drummer Boy. People all over the world used to sing songs of Christmas and decorate their homes with scenes of King Jesus' birth and give gifts to celebrate his birthday."
Daniel looked at the drum with new respect and awe.
"Do you want the drum?" Mr. Pablo asked.
"Me? I can have it?"
The man smiled. "Consider it my Christmas gift to you."
"Really. It's yours."CHAPTER 2
Daniel could hardly believe his good fortune. He was so delighted with his new drum that he rushed home, practically forgetting the story about the king.
"Mother, look!" he cried, rushing to the kitchen where the family was gathered for dinner. "Look at my drum."
Mother smiled wide. "Wow, such a beautiful drum. That's yours?"
Daniel told them about Mr. Pablo's gift to him.
"What a good idea," Father said. "I always liked Pablo. What a kind man. He said you could keep it?"
"Yes, he gave it to me. I think I could learn to play a drum this small, don't you think, Father?" Daniel set it down on the counter and awkwardly thumped the surface.
Father chuckled and graced them all with a perfectly executed roll on the old drum. "That's how you'll do it one day with enough practice, boy. It's a perfect gift."
"A perfect gift!" Chelise said. "My perfect gift would be a pony. Am I going to get a pony for the Holiday?"
"What, you think I own the whole City?" Father joked.
"Don't worry, Chelise, you can play my drum when I'm not," Daniel said.
They sat and ate Mother's meat loaf.
"Mr. Pablo said the drum was played for a king named Jesus Christ who was born on the Holiday. He said the Holiday used to be called Christmas."
Daniel's words silenced the clinking of his parents' forks. Father blinked and stared at Daniel.
"What are you saying? You can't say that, do you hear me? It's against the law."
"But at our table," Mother said. "Surely it won't do any harm ..."
"I don't care. You will not utter such things at my table."
Daniel felt like he might cry. "But I ..."
"But nothing, boy. We are employees of the City, and unless the Mayor himself moves heaven and earth to change the law, I will not allow those words to be spoken in my house."
"Who's Jesus Christ?" Chelise asked.
"Silence!" Father thundered.
Nothing else was said of the matter.
Daniel went to his room early, eager to spend time with his new drum. He examined it closely under the light, awed by the smooth hide and the soft leather strap and the pretty blue trim. What kind of boy had first owned this wonderful drum?
Daniel set the drum on his dresser across the room and watched it, imagining what it would be like to play it the next day. He soon fell asleep and dreamed.
Play for him, Daniel. Go on, play your drum for him.
He dreamed that he was standing over a cradle that held the baby king named Jesus. What a wonderful dream! He struck the drum, pa rum pum pum pum.
Sing for him, Daniel, the baby's mother said.
So he did. He played and he sang and the baby smiled.
Daniel awoke suddenly. He opened his eyes and stared into the dim light. He couldn't see the drum on the dresser because something—his pillow or one of his stuffed animals—sat right in front of his nose, blocking ...
Daniel gasped and bolted up in bed. It was the drum! He glanced at the dresser. No drum. No drum there, because the drum was here, on his bed, right in front of him!
How was that possible? It wasn't!
He scrambled out of bed, turned on his light, and stared at the drum. Slowly he lifted it and examined it more closely.
It was then, while holding the instrument up to the bright light, that he saw the shadow of something inside the drum. He turned the drum every which way trying to figure out what it was.
Finally, too curious to ignore the mystery, he carefully untied the leather string that held the rims tight. It was hard going with his stiff wrists, but ten minutes later he lifted the skin.
Inside, a very old sheaf of papers had been taped to the wood. Daniel pried the papers loose, set the drum aside, and studied the black handwriting, his heart now hammering with the discovery.
The first page looked like a poem or song.
Little Drummer Boy
Come, they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A newborn King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.
Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That's fit to give a King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Shall I play for You, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?
Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum,
Me and my drum.
Daniel's hand began to tremble. A poor boy with a drum, just like in his dream! His eyes dropped to the bottom where someone had written something in blue ink:
I promise to keep the drum safe, Father, as you asked on your dying bed. It will one day again be played for the king.
Daniel swallowed. He was meant to find this drum. He turned to the second page. A story, it looked like. The Birth and Life of Jesus Christ.
Daniel read quickly. He read about the wise men who gave gifts to the baby king. He read about shepherds and about Mary and Joseph and about the temple. He read about the amazing things Jesus did when he grew up.
The more he read, the faster his little heart began to beat. This king named Jesus Christ had done many, many wonderful things. And perhaps the most wonderful thing he'd done, Daniel thought, rubbing his own stiff limbs, was to straighten the withered hand of a crippled man.
Tears welled in Daniel's eyes. Could there be such a king? Yes, there had to be! And maybe he'd been chosen to play the drum for the king. He'd dreamed about the song, and then the drum had floated across the room and landed by his head. It was impossible, but it had really happened.
And Holiday was really Christmas, the time of year when the whole world worshiped the king named Jesus and gave gifts to celebrate his birthday.
Daniel read the story again, walking as he read. Why hadn't Father or Mother told him about this king? Because it was unlawful. But why?
Father's anger drummed through his mind. Unless the Mayor himself moves heaven and earth to change what is law ...
By the time Daniel hid the papers under his mattress, tied the skin tight, and turned off his light, he had made a decision. He was a cautious boy, but he could do what the Little Drummer Boy had done.
A shiver of fear slid through Daniel's bones. Could he really do it? Could such a small boy really play for the king?CHAPTER 3
Father had gone to the circus to play and Mother was baking a cake for the Holiday when Daniel came downstairs the next morning, his drum hanging from his neck.
"Where are you going?" little Chelise asked.
"Out," he said.
Chelise ran to Mother and proclaimed that Daniel was up to something. But Mother ignored her, and a thankful Daniel slipped out the back door unnoticed.
He pulled his jacket tight around his shoulders and headed for the subway station. The City was gray on this December morning. Fresh snow hadn't fallen for a week, and the piles on sidewalks were dirty. Six days until the big Holiday, when everyone would exchange gifts to celebrate the world's prosperity. The City was in a mad rush to show just how prosperous it really was.
Daniel rode the train in silence, just a boy with a drum, headed nowhere as far as the other passengers were concerned. But he had a mission. A mission that seemed silly and crazy and even dangerous now that he was headed downtown.
He'd memorized the words to the "Little Drummer Boy" song and the rhythm for the pa–rum–pum–pum–pum part that he'd heard in his dream. He mumbled the words under his breath as the train rolled toward the City center. They gave him some comfort, but not much. Maybe he really was just a foolish boy with dangerous dreams.
The moment Daniel stepped off the train and stared at the towering City Hall building, he knew that he was just that. Nothing but a silly boy who should turn right around and head back home.
But he didn't. He lowered his head and climbed the broad steps. The Mayor worked here. Daniel entered City Hall and stopped, unsure where to find him.
"Can I help you, young boy?" a man in a gray uniform asked.
"I'm looking for the Mayor," Daniel said.
"The Mayor, eh? He's in the council meeting. It's a public meeting. No reason you can't go in." He pointed the way. "Up the stairs, down that hall, last door on the right. And I suggest you stay in the balcony. They won't permit any foolishness."
"Thank you, sir," Daniel said. He hugged his drum tight under his arm and headed to the stairs.
For the most part, city council meetings were scary. A hundred men and women dressed in stuffy, dark clothes filled the chairs on the main floor. The Mayor sat behind a long wooden table at the front with six men on either side.
The chairman banged a gavel, and council members shouted. They were doing what all good lawmakers did to determine important things.
Daniel held his drum with both hands and watched it all from the balcony with other City dwellers. News cameras filmed the meeting.
Slowly the hours ticked by, and slowly Daniel became more and more certain that he'd made a mistake in coming. This wasn't the place for a young boy with a drum.
But then he thought about the drum, floating to his bed, calling to him in his dream. Play for him, Daniel. Go on, play for him.
He stared at the drum. If only he could really play this drum the way Father could! There was nothing he wanted more.
Daniel tried to bend his wrists, but they were fixed. He ran his hand over the skin of the drum, feeling the texture. And then he whispered quietly so no one could hear him.
"I will play for you. If you are the king and if the Little Drummer Boy once played for you on this drum, then I will play it for you again. I promise I will. And I'll drum for you like no one else, you'll see. You really will. I ..."
The chairman was banging his gavel. "Then if there are no further petitions for business, we will close the session."
Daniel's heart bolted in his chest. The meeting was over!
"I motion we adjourn this meeting," someone said.
"I second that motion," another said. The room rumbled with talk.
Daniel leapt to his feet without thinking. "Wait!"
The chairman looked up to the balcony. "What was that?"
A hundred people turned Daniel's way. "I ... I have something," he said.
For a moment no one spoke.
"Is that allowed?" someone asked. "He's a child."
"What is it?" the chairman asked.
"I have a petition," Daniel said, repeating words that he'd heard all day long.
"Well, then move yourself down here so that you don't have to yell," the chairman said. "Hurry now."
Daniel walked timidly down the stairs and then headed up the long aisle, past the chairs toward the front, trying to ignore all the stares. He stopped ten feet from the long table. Only half the members were even looking at him. The Mayor was listening to someone speaking in his ear.
"Speak up, boy," the chairman said.
Daniel cleared his throat, but his voice squeaked when he spoke. "I would like to play my drum for Baby Jesus," he said.
Silence gripped the room. The Mayor now stared directly at Daniel, whose knees began to shake. The television cameras focused on him and whirred loudly.
Excerpted from The Drummer Boy by Ted Dekker, Dan Thornberg, Koechel Peterson. Copyright © 2006 Ted Dekker. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.