That Old Violin – Chapter Four

The townsfolk thought that surely, the music from that old violin would be silenced forever.  How could anyone possibly beseech mournful, melancholy diapasons from only one string?

One year later, a drifter wandered onto the unlikely, mostly untraveled path to Melody.  The secret of that old violin had been carefully guarded by the townsfolk, and they were suspicious when this unfamiliar, never-before-seen stranger, seemed to appear out of nowhere.

He had thick, wild wisps of unkempt silver hair and hooded lids that partially covered almost unreadable, yet strangely imploring eyes.  His thick black brows hung low and were in stark contrast to that shock of Argentine tresses.

His clothing suggested that he might be a wretched beggar, who had somehow lost his way while traveling through the trials and tribulations of what we call life.  He wore tall leather boots with soles held in place with pieces of cloth, most likely torn from a discarded shirt.  An over sized belt hung loosely around his waist and from every punch hole in the leather hung a key, causing a soft tintinnabulation when he walked.

Giving every sign of being unapproachable, the townsfolk kept their distance and watched the outsider circumambulate the streets, as if looking for something he had no hope of finding.

Could he be a guardian?  Could he be one of the custodians, picked by the angel the townsfolk believed left that old violin in the town of Melody?

He had no visible affliction, as had Amos, Rufus and Old Sooty Sam.  This visitor’s only suffering appeared to be loneliness and a lack of purpose.  If he was a custodian, could that old violin cure the curse of solitude and abrogate his seemingly aimless existence?

Their unspoken questions were answered when the traveler found himself standing on the corner of Fifth and Main.  The townsfolk watched as he looked at that old violin as though it was a long, lost friend.

Gasps could be heard when he picked up that old violin and began to play. Just as before, the mystifying, inexplicable, what had to be unnatural sounds, brought the town to a halt.

But how?  How could those penetrating, perplexing, esoteric sounds be coming from that old violin, when it had only one string?  With their ever-abiding faith, the townsfolk accepted the unknown, and relished in the heart-moving, overpowering, ever-breathtaking refrains the stranger brought forth from that old violin.

One year later, the curious transient disappeared.  That old violin was found on the corner of Fifth and Main, with four strings hanging loose and four feathers resting beside it.

 

The End.

 

“But Grandma,” Polly said, with disappointment in her voice.  “What happened next?”

Grandma smiled and said, “this story has a moral, little one.”

“What moral?” asked Polly.

Grandma looked at Polly and said, “Sometimes the things or the people we think have the least value, are the most truly beautiful.”

 

Konets

 

 

 

 

 

 

That Old Violin – Chapter Three

Once again, the town of Melody mourned the loss of another custodian and the beautiful music elicited from that old violin.

It was doubtful they thought, that another guardian could beguile any music from that old violin, given that only two strings remained.  But hope, being the last emotion to die, was alive and well in the town of Melody and their faith in miracles was unshakable.

They anxiously awaited the next custodian and prayed for the return of the captivating, transcendent sounds from that old violin.

One year later, their prayers were answered in the form of yet another forgotten soul, known only as Old Sooty Sam.  He had been a chimney sweep in his earlier days and was always covered in a fine layer of soot, from his worn and wrinkled face, to his baggy trousers held up by a rope, to his blackened boots that left tell-tale footprints everywhere he went.

Old wood-burning fireplaces had given way to more modern gas logs, and his services finally dwindled to all but unnecessary.  He had been cast aside and stood frozen in time, abandoned by trend-setting inventions.

After years of breathing the soot and dust from those old chimneys, Old Sooty Sam developed lung disease.  He could barely walk three feet without having to stop and catch his breath.  That may have been the reason, like Amos and Rufus, that Old Sooty Sam was a man of few, if any, words.

He spent his days wandering around town looking at chimneys, as if tying to will them to once again, spew forth clouds of smoke that would leave their fuliginous residue behind.

One day, at noon, he wandered over to the corner of Fifth and Main, picked up that old violin and began to play.

With only two strings, Old Sooty Sam charmed irresistible, seductive music from that old violin.  Once again, the town of Melody was mesmerized and brought to a halt.  The enduring question was “how,” but was never asked aloud, for fear of breaking the magical spell of that old violin.

The more Old Sooty Sam played, the clearer his lungs became and the easier it was for him to breathe.  Day after day, the town listened to the breathtakingly intoxicating sounds that he was, in an unworldly way, able to lure from the remaining strings of that old violin.

Old Sooty Sam disappeared one day and that old violin was found on the corner of Fifth and Main, with three strings hanging loose and three feathers resting beside it.

 

To be continued______________________

That Old Violin – Chapter Two

The town mourned the loss of Amos and the beautiful music from that old violin, but they agreed that where ever Amos went, he was surely in a better place.

Six months later, another custodian appeared and the haunting music was heard once again in the small town of Melody.  A virtual recluse named Rufus wandered into town.  He hobbled to the corner of Fifth and Main, picked up that old violin and began to play.

Rufus lived in a little shack on top of the hill.  Like the legend of that old violin, he had been around for as long as anyone could remember.  He kept to himself mostly, only occasionally making the trip into town to buy a jar of moonshine from the local sheriff, who made it in his own basement.

Rufus had a bad limp that made walking difficult.  At a tender age, he broke his leg and it hadn’t healed right.  After being embarrassed as a boy and then as a young man, he retreated to his little shack, living a life of anonymity and loneliness.

Unlike Amos, Rufus had large, calloused hands that made you believe he could snap your wrist if you had weak bones.  His clothes were tattered and disheveled, as if they had been slept in and had that familiar musty smell of old people and old things.  His hat was pulled tightly below his brow and what may once have been a full beard was now scruffy, silvery stubble.

He had heavy, sunken eyes that showed more than just a hint of sadness, and like Amos, never spoke. The most anyone could expect, or would get from Rufus was a nod of recognition that they were actually there as he passed by.

Just as Amos had before him, every day at noon Rufus brought the town to a stop as they listened to the ethereal tunes from that old violin.  The music teacher at the local high school declared, “In my thirty-eight years of teaching, I have never heard anything so beautiful,” and then began to cry.

Some wondered how Rufus was able to entice the same soul-stirring music with only three strings, but the town honored what they believed was a gift from an angel and never questioned anything about that old violin, or the custodian who played that hauntingly beautiful music.

Day after day, Rufus played the seductive, almost paralyzing music on that old violin, and day after day his gait improved until he walked with the vigor of a youthful man in his prime.

Some believed that the angel actually lived inside that old violin, and as a way of doing penance, used the hands of the custodian to elicit the music they had chosen over a place beside God.  In return, the custodian’s brokenness was healed.

After a year, just like Amos, Rufus disappeared and that old violin was found on the corner of Fifth and Main, with two strings hanging loose and two feathers resting beside it.

 

 

To be continued__________________________

That Old Violin – Chapter One

There was something magical about that old violin.  Some people said it was brought to Earth by a fallen angel who gave up eternity and a golden trumpet, just to listen to the music that echoed from the worn and tattered strings.

In the small town of Melody, the folks passed down the tale of that old violin to next generations, but zealously guarded its secret from the prying eyes of outside curiosity seekers.

No one really knew exactly when the tale began, but for as long as anyone could remember, there had been carefully chosen custodians, some say, granted by the very angel who brought that old violin to the town.

The first caretaker was a man named Amos, who never spoke.  He was one of the old-timers who had been born and raised in Melody.  No one ever knew his last name but they did know that he had never learned to read or write and had never been able to hold a steady job.  He settled for a wandering lifestyle, albeit within the confines of the town.

Amos had some age on him and it showed.  His steel-blue eyes were cloudy, like the sky before a summer squall.  His small, delicate hands were showing the crippling signs of arthritis and his craggy, weathered face bore the wrinkles of many years of homelessness and some said, hopelessness. He was a tall man and the years had taken their toll.  When he meandered around, it was with stooped shoulders and it looked as if each step he took was excruciatingly painful.

Every day, Amos walked to the middle of town.  It may have been for the warmth of the sun but many folks thought that maybe he came because it made him feel a little less alone.  Word had it that one day, he sauntered to his usual spot at the corner of Fifth and Main and found that old violin. He picked it up and began to coax the most hauntingly beautiful music anyone had ever heard.  It was the kind of music that left no doubt in anyone’s mind that there had to be a higher being.

The heart-piercing timbre of that old violin seemed to have healing powers.  The more Amos played, the straighter his fingers became and his eyes began to clear.  He stood tall and proud as he and that old violin serenaded the townsfolk.

Soon, anyone with an ailment wondered if they listened to the music and their faith was strong enough, would they, like Amos, be miraculously cured?  Even the doubters, having heard the music would say, “Oh, my. How can you hear something that beautiful and not be forever changed?”

Every day at noon, Amos picked up that old violin and began to play.  The owners and patrons of the near-by stores walked out onto the sidewalk to stand and listen to the soul-stirring arias.  Some of them wept.  Others stood in stunned silence as if waiting for the Heavens to open up and welcome them home.

Amos could play that old violin like it was a Stradivarius.  The townsfolk believed that they had been given a gift and it was not for them to question any means of that old violin, nor did they ever question Amos.

The next spring, Amos vanished and the music ended.  That old violin was found lying on the corner of Fifth and Main, with one string hanging loose and a lone feather resting beside it.

 

To be continued_____________________

 

 

 

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Nine

Martha said, “no, it doesn’t matter but it’s a very sad story.”

“Go on then,” I said.

Martha began.  “Mr. Brooks was the last owner of the property and he had designs on making it a beautiful, show-stopping home, complete with gardens that would be rivaled by none.”

She said, “they say that Mr. Brooks had all the modern amenities installed in the house…well at least modern for that day and age.  Then he started on the grounds.  He planted every conceivable flower known to man and people would stop by and just marvel at the beauty.”

“He carved out a plot for vegetables and worked all day, tilling and planting and tilling and planting.”  Martha looked at Betty and queried, “didn’t he have a little boy or something?”

Betty said, “no, he had a little girl.  I heard they used to walk around and Mr. Brooks would tell her the names of all the flowers in the yard, and show her the seeds for the vegetables he was going to plant.”

Martha and Betty had long since excluded me from the conversation.  I watched and listened as they told each other the story.  I didn’t really mind.

Betty looked at Martha and laughed as she said, “did you hear about the time old man Brooks started shooting and the sheriff had to go out and tell him to stop?”  Martha said, “no.  I didn’t hear that.”

I finally interrupted their little gab-fest and asked Betty what she was talking about.  I think she was a little embarrassed and apologized for having more or less cut me out of the conversation.

She said, “well Mr. Brooks was having a time with raccoons.  They tore up his flower beds and ate his vegetables…just made a mess of everything he had worked so hard to do.  He couldn’t run them off, so he decided to stay up one night and shoot them.  Well, that didn’t set too well with the sheriff, so he went out and warned Mr. Brooks that if he did it again, he would be arrested for disturbing the peace.”

“What happened then?”  I asked.  Martha looked at Betty and then at me and said, “well, Mr. Brooks bought some traps.  Not those cage things you see now where you can catch and release.  He bought bear traps.  He didn’t have it in mind to save the little critters.  He wanted them dead.  So, he set all the traps and just waited.  Now, this,” she said, “is the heart-breaking part.”

I steadied myself as I thought, “I know where this is going.”

Betty said, “one day, his little girl went out to pick some flowers and stepped in one of the bear traps.  She was so far from the house, that no one could hear her scream.  Her poor little foot was cut clean off.  I heard that she lay in that flower bed and bled to death.”

That explained the little foot in the shoe.  It was indeed a heart-breaking story and I felt even more guilty for having stolen that little shoe, but why was it buried in the little building?

Betty continued to tell the story.  “As you can imagine, Mr. Brooks was beside himself with guilt and grief.  They came to get the little girl but he wouldn’t let them have the shoe.  They say he used to walk around with it and wouldn’t let anyone touch it.”

“The strain was too much and his wife eventually left him.  He stayed in the house and turned into a recluse.  The gardens turned to weeds and the house started deteriorating around him but he didn’t seem to care.  They say he went to jail two or three times.”

“For what?” I asked.  Betty said, “well, he sort of went insane.  He started stealing shoes.  Back then, people would leave their shoes in front of the door.  It was some sort of superstition or something, I think.  Anyway, Mr. Brooks would go take one of the shoes, take it home and bury it somewhere.”

I knew where he had buried them, but I wasn’t telling.

“Anyway, he would get arrested and spend three or four nights in jail and then get out and do it again.  It was another superstition.  I think they say if you bury a shoe…just one shoe…it’s good luck.  I’ve also heard that if you bury a shoe from a loved one who has gone away, they will return.”

I was fascinated…and also so very sad.  I was also glad that I had returned the shoes.  If I had somehow interrupted Mr. Brooks’ good luck, maybe it would come back now.

I didn’t dare tell them what I had done, nor did I dare tell them that I had been in possession of the little girls’ shoe.  I told them that I thought allowing him to revisit the property he once owned was a nice thing for the city to do.

I said, “He seemed to be sane when I met him.  And he told me that the place was rumored to be haunted by a little girl with a crutch, but I figured he just didn’t want me to come around there.  Bless his heart.  I guess he got better though because, like I said, he seemed to be sane when I talked to him, although he did tell me not to come back around there.”

They looked at each other and again, looked at me.  Martha chuckled and said, “I guess you could say he got better and I guess you could say he seems to be sane now…but he’s been dead for years.”

I was stunned.  “What do you mean?  I just talked to him yesterday.”

Martha laughed and said, “you talked to his spirit.  He put a shotgun in mouth and blew his head off.  Sorry if that sounds crass, but that’s what he did.  Don’t feel bad.  Like I said, you aren’t the first person who has met the ‘caretaker’, and you won’t be the last.”

 

Kaniec

 

 

 

 

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Eight

I sat up all night, one eye on the television and the other on the little shoe, periodically interrupted by those little slices of death most people call sleep.

As soon as dawn broke, I was chomping at the bit to return the little shoe to its former grave and hoping that I hadn’t somehow been cursed for life.  As I was getting dressed, I wondered aloud if I should return all the shoes.  I was starting to think plundering those shoes was tantamount to robbing a cemetery.

I had lost all sense of good reason and as my daddy would say, “it served me right…stealing shoes.”  I decided to return all thirty-eight shoes back to their original resting place and never, ever do anything like that again.

I packed them all up and drove to the house,  I was brazen this time.  I didn’t park down the street like a milksop.  I parked right in front of the house.  I got my bag of shoes out and headed toward the little building, hoping that Mr. Stranger wasn’t checking up on the house, or worse, looking for me.

As I opened the door to the little building, it didn’t moan like it had before.  It was almost like the little building was welcoming the return of its former inhabitants.

I put the shoes back, one by one and said the name I had given to the person I had imagined might have worn them.  The Wingtip belonged to a sophisticate named Earl Winchester.  The Redwing belonged to a big strapping logger named Cletus Brooks.  The Mary Jane belonged to a happy little girl named Sally.  The Saddle Oxford belonged to a spry young girl named Calliope, who loved to dance, and the shoe with the newspaper clipping, in my mind, belonged to Lord Grey.

The little shoe with the foot, belonged to a little girl with long blonde curls and bright blue eyes, named Fancy.  Hers was the last one to take back its place in the little building.

I had been so completely engrossed in returning the shoes, I wasn’t the least bit afraid of being confronted by Mr. Stranger, or the police.  I just had a sense of peace and somehow knew that I was doing the right thing.

After returning all the shoes, I decided to stop by City Hall and ask about the old place,  Mr. Stranger said the owners had died and the property belonged to the city.  I wanted to know a bit about it, since I had essentially robbed the little building and gotten away scot-free.  Well, I had robbed it and returned what I had taken and gotten away scot-free.

If I had been caught, I was fully prepared to make a deal.  First I’d say, “I didn’t do it.”  If that didn’t work, I’d say, “If I did do it, I didn’t mean to do it,” and if that didn’t work, I’d say, “If you’ll let me go, I’ll never do it again.”  But it hadn’t come to that, so everything was okay.

I found City Hall, parked and went inside.  Two women were sitting at desks, piled with papers and legal-looking folders.  They were snacking on cookies and talking about their children’s soccer games.

After an annoyed “harrumph” from me, one of them finally looked up and said “can I help you?”  I started explaining the reason for my visit and told her that I would like some information about the property.  I said “I met the caretaker and he…”

Before I finished my sentence, the woman laughed, looked at her co-worker and said, “you met the caretaker?”  I said a reluctant “yes.”  She looked at me and said, “there is no caretaker.  You must be talking about Mr. Boone.”

I told her that he didn’t exactly introduce himself but okay, I had met him.  I wasn’t forthcoming about how I had met him.  They both started laughing and it was annoying me to the point that I was getting ready to call on my evil twin.

The one at the first desk said, “I’m Martha and this is Betty.  You’ll have to forgive us, but this happens now and then.”

“What happens?”  I asked.  Martha said, “someone comes in and says they met the caretaker.  Let me give you a little background on the place.  That is what you want, right?”  I nodded yes.

She said, “well, I’ll give it to you in a nutshell.”  Then she looked at me and said, “are you tender-hearted?”

I was a little puzzled by her question but finally managed to say, “does that matter?”

 

To be continued_______________________

 

 

If Those Shoes Could Talk – Chapter Seven

I sat down and stared at the little foot, or should I say what was left of the little foot.  It was almost petrified or mummified…I wasn’t sure what the correct word was.  I just knew that it was some kind of “fied,” and I knew that I was absolutely horrified.

I also now knew that the discoloration on the shoe wasn’t dye, well at least not dye as in color.  Apparently the little girl lost her foot and her blood had “colored” her shoe.

I shivered as the strangers’ words came floating back like a cool breeze. “You know, there’s a rumor that this little building is haunted.”

I believed it.  And the little girl with a crutch who was trying to get in…well, I’d say hearing that would crank your tractor.  Maybe she knew that her foot, or her shoe, or her foot in her shoe was in that little building and she wanted it back.

The next question was; what was I going to do?  Should I keep the little foot in the shoe, or should I return it?  Would I wake up in the middle of the night and find the little girl and her crutch standing at my back door, trying to get in to get her foot, um…her shoe, um…her foot in her shoe? Was I even going to be able to sleep tonight?

I had already been more or less warned by Mr. Stranger and I had more or less given my word that I wouldn’t return but somehow, I thought taking that little shoe back would be the right thing to do.  How I was going to do it was the question.

Where the hell is that evil twin?  I’m sure she would have a plan.

Maybe I would go at night.  It would be pitch black and that way, no one would see me.  I would don dark clothes and I’d be completely invisible, except of course for the huge spotlight I would need to negotiate my surroundings.  I may as well call the police and tell them where I was going and when I was going to be there.  I could even carry a sign that read, “Stupid Brilliance At Work.”  (Thanks evil twin.)

The only choice I could see was to go in the full light of day and should Mr. Stranger catch me, I would explain exactly why I was there and more importantly, why I broke my word.  I think he would understand.  If he didn’t, there would be plenty of places he could bury my body.  Maybe he could just throw me into the little building with the rest of the shoes. Then, five millions years from now, some other nosy person might pry the door open, find me and say, “man, that woman must have really loved her some shoes!”

I snapped back into reality but I had a creepy feeling.  I wondered if I should leave the shoe outside for the night.  What if there was some sort of ghostly attachment to the little shoe and I let it loose in my house?  Then again, if I put it outside, what if some animal found the shoe and ran off with it to feed their young the bones?

That was it.  I knew for sure that I was going to end up in the nervous hospital.  That would be my punishment for theftery…or theivery…or stealery…or what ever the hell it was.  I should have been locked up before it came to this.  What was I thinking?  Obviously I wasn’t thinking.  I was curious, or bored, or stupid, or maybe all three.

As I sat there talking to myself, I wondered.  Is this how people go insane? Or is this how criminals go insane?

Oh!  The humanity!

 

To be continued__________________________