Aphelion Issue 275, Volume 26
August 2022
 
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The White Violin

by C. L. Kimmel


In the midst of the bustling crowd, Richard Merriweather, Esq. scrutinized his vintage letterpress ticket:

Let the White Violin reveal worlds beloved and forgotten

One time only, on the house!

"Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats," a deep, disembodied voice boomed, reverberating off the barren walls of the Paradiso Music Hall. "The show shall begin momentarily."

Hearing the chatter die around him, Richard made his way to the nearest vacant seat.

"Excuse me -- Excuse me, sir..."

"Yes?" Richard replied irritably, addressing the young blonde woman beside him. One of those lonely, desperate old maids with too much money and no social skills, he reckoned.

"Oh, well," the woman laughed uncomfortably, smoothing her exquisite forest-green opera dress, "I didn't mean to bother you, but...I was just wondering...How did you come across your ticket?"

Richard shrugged. "Found it on the sidewalk, downtown. Looked interesting." He paused. Then: "You?"

She jiggled her head slightly. "Same," she said -- then laughed again.

Richard turned his attention towards the vacant stage --

"Have you...heard of -- "

"No."

The woman nodded and, resigned, turned her attention to the stage as, little by little, the concert hall dimmed into darkness.

"Ladies and gentlemen," the deep, disembodied voice began, cutting through the shadows, "it is my distinct pleasure to announce the one and only White Violin!"

In the dark, the audience held its breath, waiting...

Shyly, a white violin peeked out from behind the black curtain.

The crowd laughed.

The White Violin began hobbling out onto the stage.

The crowd gasped.

The Violin bowed; turned, and was promptly joined by its bow. Pleased, the White Violin and its bow leapt into the air and, gently, the bow settled upon one of the four strings...

As the music swelled in beauty and intensity, Richard found himself hurtling through space and time, back, back into an abandoned era...

####

Children...three children, running through a dusty barley field, laughing...

"Run! Dick, hurry, hurry, run!" a little girl in a tattered cotton dress screamed, darting past him.

"Dick, come on, the Tree Witch is right behind you! Run!" a little boy in ill-fitting overalls hollered, nearly out of breath as he dashed after his sister.

Following the children's lead, Richard turned around...

Dick, the oldest and slowest of the three siblings, stumbled out into the open from behind an old fig tree.

Well, look at me, Richard thought, smirking slightly as he watched his winded childhood self stagger forward. Little Dick Merriweather: an awkward, nine-year-old boy with an overactive imagination, strange...

"Don't wait for me!" Dick wheezed in his child's voice, oblivious to Richard's presence. "I'm done for."

"No! No, Dick, we're coming back for you!"

Strange, Richard thought with sobering expression while the three laughing siblings tumbled towards a quaint country cottage; Strange, but happy...

In the Music Hall, the White Violin altered its tune ever so slightly, and, in a flurry of notes that cascaded like a shower of autumn leaves, Summer fell into Fall...

Transfixed by a memory, Richard looked through the cottage window at his family's Thanksgiving dinner.

Ah, the food! The autumn colors! The warmth of a well-heated room...

"Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful meal," Dick intoned, his eyes closed in prayer as Richard, a stranger in his own past, took in the comforting aromas of roasted turkey and buttered mashed potatoes. "Thank you for this food, and for watching over this family...thank you for protecting us and keeping us together. Amen."

"Amen."

"That was a beautiful prayer, Dick," Richard heard his father -- not yet a cancer victim -- say, turning to his mother with a nod of thanks --

And his mother! Her blushing, broad smile caressed his heart, momentarily fending off the cold, bitter night...

Again, the White Violin altered its tune, and, in a series of rich chords, Fall froze into Winter...

"Thanks, Mom!" Dick exclaimed as he galloped cap, galoshes and all into the kitchen.

"Oh, no you don't," Mom chastised, halting Dick and his siblings in their tracks. "No boots in the house!"

Hastily sloughing off their galoshes, the children bounded to the table, where steaming mugs of hot cocoa and a mother's love were waiting for them...

Outside, amidst the falling snow, Richard gazed at the chattering children -- and, in that moment, he knew that Richard Merriweather, Esq., was an old man, broken and utterly alone...

He turned away from the window.

With each step away from his childhood home and into the white wilderness, Richard began to understand just how much he didn't want to wake up from this musical mirage; how much he didn't want to go back to his dreary, respectable Manhattan life...

"You don't have to go back."

Dick was sitting cross-legged in the snow.

"No one loves you, where you come from," the child continued. "No one loves me."

Hot tears welled in Richard's eyes; he hastily wiped them away.

Dick stood and extended his tiny, mittened hand.

"Stay," he pleaded. He sniffed; wiped away a tear. "I don't want to be old and alone."

Nodding, Richard took his hand, and together they wandered off into the winter wonderland.

####
"Hello?"

Silently, the White Violin stared into the audience.

"Why...Hello? Why did the music stop?"

The music stop, music stop, stop, stop reverberated sadly into the shadows.

Shakily, the blonde woman sitting beside the man who once was Richard Merriweather, Esq. stood. "Can anyone hear me?"

The audience remained still.

A stifled sob escaped her throat.

"I can't see," she whimpered. "It's dark...I can't see."

The White Violin hobbled forward.

"I want to go home."

As the woman in the exquisite, forest-green opera dress cried, the White Violin began to play.

####
The next morning, a young couple came across the Paradiso Music Hall.

The Hall was completely deserted, frozen but for the faint sound of a violin -- so faint, in fact, that one might reasonably mistake it for a melody leftover from some beloved, forgotten world.

THE END


© 2008 C. L. Kimmel

Bio: A UC Berkeley English Literature alum, C. L. Kimmel has been published in Ron Morgan's artistic floral guide "A Glass Act," as well as in US Today, Hispanic Enterprise and Fresno Magazine. "As a child, I was exposed to the classic sci-fi/fantasy tales of Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin and J.R.R. Tolkien and have been in love with the genre ever since!"

E-mail: C. L. Kimmel

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