At the beginning of this year I started writing this story. I thought I had finished it as a super short flash fiction, and then had done nothing with it. I wasn't too thrilled about it-- it wasn't bad, it just wasn't very good either. A couple weeks ago as I was sifting through my short stories I found it again. For some reason this time it just felt incomplete, so I started adding to it. Slowly the ideas began to form. When I finished it, I sat back and was satisfied. It may not be a wonderful story, but at least it was finished.
So today I thought I'd share it with you. :)
Notes of Hope
I guess most might not think it was really terrible, what I was doing, but I felt uneasy. It seemed wrong to be lounging against the corner of the store as dusk was falling. No home to go to, no job to come from. Back before we came to America, we worked long hours on the farm...in the Old Country. In Russia. I smiled. It was good to remember. When the days were clear, we would toss the hay. I closed my eyes. I could almost see the gold sifting gently through the air.
I shook my head, my eyes still closed, my brow wrinkling.
It was different in America. Here in the city, we immigrants formed tight-knit circles, trying to be American but still different and dirty and desperate. And I had no job. It seems strange not to work during the day, when you have all your life. It seemed wrong.
My friend told me, it's not wrong when you just can't find a job. But I thought something was not right if in the land of opportunity I could not get work anywhere. I had looked all morning. Walking the dirty streets, hoping somehow God would give me a job. He hadn't yet.
I opened my eyes, my stomach rumbling. When you do not eat since the early hours of the morning, you begin to think only of food. You wish for Mama’s bread for supper. With cabbage.
An old man across the street began playing a violin. It was a battered thing, but its notes were pure. If a November dusk changed itself into music, it would sound like that. Wistful, fading, heartbreaking. But wait. As I slouch deeper into my coat I can catch it-- it's still there, buried deep in the music. It comes out louder now. Not too loud, but stronger. Not powerful, but still venturing forth.
Notes of hope. They watered the starving little seeds of dreams I had, sprung into my eyes in the form of tears. They swirled around me, beckoning me to keep on, pulling me up on my feet again.
I crossed the street to stand in front of the man. He too had tears as he played, trickling down from eyes shut tight, down across his ruddy cheeks. I fished in my pocket, feeling that solitary coin’s weight between my thumb and finger. Slowly the notes drifted away into the air, bringing a strange sort of city-silence in its place. The old man’s eyes opened and our gazes met. I stretched my hand forward, the coin golden in the lamplight. He gave a half smile and shook his head, shuffling away.
“Thank you for your music!” I called after him. “Thank you!”
He turned around and lifted a hand as he hovered at the side of the road. “My last job, tonight.” His eyes sparkled. “That was the last time.”
“No, you must play more!” I took a few hasty steps after him. “Please.”
He laughed then, a deep, gentle laugh as he moved into the street.
The driver didn’t see him. The omnibus swung to the side and knocked the violinist over. I sprang forward, the words tumbling from my mouth not English anymore, but Russian. “No, no!” The old violinist struck his head on the lampost as he fell. His hat tumbled off. The omnibus tipped as the driver tried to righten it. They pulled off a little ahead, the driver stopping the horses. He came running back to where the old man fell.
“Does he need a doctor? I’m so sorry!”
The old violinist opened his eyes, struggling, as if the lids of them were heavy. He searched my face and smiled. “My last song.” he whispered, pointing a trembling finger upwards. “Down here--but not up there.” He pressed the violin to me. “For you.” I tried to push it back, but he settled back with a sigh and closed his eyes.
The driver clamped rough, awkward hands on the violinist’s wrist. He fumbled for a minute, his fingers starting to shake. Then his eyes leaped in terror. “He’s gone!” he stared at me, his face blanching. “I never meant to.”
“I know.” My voice was broken. Together we carried the old man to the omnibus, and an hour later, we carried him to his grave in the poor’s cemetery.
When I walked back that night, I saw his hat. It still lay on the ground where it had been knocked off. I stood studying at it for a few minutes, then bent and picked it up and put it on. Walking to where I had first seen the old man I lifted the violin to my chin like he had. I stretched the bow across it, just above the strings. No sound came from it, but I closed my eyes. I could hear the music again.
Spinning around me, like a November’s evening. Wistful, deep. Notes of….hope.
Hope you all have a lovely day!