Category Archives: Writing

D. A. Ratliff: Night Strings

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.



Night Strings

By D. A. Ratliff

I couldn’t feel the ship.

Unnerving sensation for a captain.

I had walked too many decks for too long not to miss the ever-so-slight vibration from the stardrive. It wasn’t there. Not for five months and twenty-seven days. Not that I was counting.

Every night as I walked the deserted corridors of the ESA Lassiter, an Astro-class cruiser, from bow to stern, the events of that day, six months before played in my head.

I had just walked onto the bridge, received the latest communications from the Comm officer, and then asked Commander Renaldi for a report on the status of our guests. We were transporting one hundred colonists from an established Earth colony on Elan III to Starbase 9 where they would meet up with transport for passage to a new settlement. The trip was to take nine days at maximum hyperspeed, and we were three days out.

“Captain, our guests have settled in nicely. They have set up their schedules for meals and showers, not much we have to do.”

“I wish all of our guests were as….”

The Alert claxon sounded as the bridge plunged into red light.

My science officer stared at his view screen. “Captain, quantum filaments just appeared on sensors. There are several, and we aren’t going to miss them.”

“How long?” 

“Seven minutes, ma’am.”

“Shields up.” I turned to the Comm officer. “Ship wide, please.” He nodded, and I spoke to the crew and passengers.

“This is the Captain. All hands to battle stations. Brace for impact. At least one quantum filament is on course to strike the ship in seven minutes.”

Renaldi spoke before I had a chance. “The passengers.”

“Get down there.”

One stream struck us, a glancing blow, but enough to knock out all electrical systems, and with the stardrive disabled, we were many lightyears from help. The Lassiter was dead in space.

The next hours were frantic as the crew struggled to bring the emergency backup systems online. First, repair crews worked to stabilize life support, then restore power to the galley and freezers, med bay, and communications. It was twenty-three hours after the collision when Renaldi and I stood outside the hangar bay doors. Time to tell our passengers what we were facing.

Renaldi introduced me. “Captain, this is Reggie Donovan, governor of the colonists. Reggie, Captain Miriam Jacobs.”

I glanced around the room at the anxious families. There was no easy way to tell them what was facing us.

“Mr. Donovan, I want to thank you and the others for your invaluable assistance in helping clear debris and tend to the wounded. I believe you understand what happened to us. As you know, we managed to bring the emergency life-support system online and are still working on full life support. The rest of our systems remain inoperable.”

“I can’t understand how something so large and dangerous could sneak up without notice.”

“Quantum filaments can be hundreds of meters long but virtually have no mass. Almost undetectable until they are on top of a ship because of high energy particles and subspace distortions.” I took a breath. “Other than life support, we have a couple of serious problems. We find ourselves in an empty section of space. If we could bring our impulse engines online, the nearest M-class planet is seven months away. We have no communications. The high energy particles fried the array and repairing it will take time. As we are in empty space, and too far from Starbase 9 or the colony we just left, their sensors will not pick up the filaments, and without the drive activated, they will have difficulty finding us.”

“Like the old Earth saying, needle in a haystack, Captain?”

“Yes.” I glanced at Renaldi before I went on. “So, there is one other issue. We were to take on provisions on Starbase 9. Even without all of you here, the ship’s Steward and the quartermaster have informed me that we are going to run out of food in six months. We will need to sit down with you and decide how we are going to ration food.”

“Captain, we have provisions with us, staples like flour, salt, sugar, dried meats, and fruits. Where we are going is more primitive than the colony we left. Our goal is to establish an agricultural trade outpost in that section of the galaxy. What we have is yours to add to the food supply.”

“Thank you. Mr. Donovan, the one thing I will not allow is for your children to go hungry. We will adjust accordingly.”

I stood outside the hangar bay on this night several months later, listening to the soft whimpering of some of the children and the cries of our newest “crew member,” a baby born three weeks ago to one of the colonists. Out of the small viewport, the faint Vesari Nebula glowed blue with another kind of newborn, stars. I stood there, waiting for the first soft notes that rocked us to sleep at night—the music of a violin.

As the sound of stringed music began to drift through the intercom, peace swept over me. I shouldn’t be peaceful for we had little time left. My chief engineer and his team managed to get the distress beacon activated, but with low power, the signal’s range was minimal. Yet, standing in the dark corridor with only a few emergency lights activated, I allowed myself to feel hope as Yeoman Ki Mikato played her violin.

Mikato was a botanist assigned to hydroponics. I had met her when she first came on board in one of my Greet the Crew receptions. Touring the new hydroponics garden set up in an empty storage hangar a month after our ordeal began, I was impressed by her enthusiasm and knowledge. Her expertise would provide much needed fresh food grown from the colonists’ seeds. Still, it wasn’t going to be enough.

When she requested to see me the following day, I was surprised, but several crewmembers over the first few weeks had stopped me to chat. I was not only a figure of authority to them but a mother in many ways when they needed comforting.

Mikato entered my ready room, carrying a strangely shaped case. “Captain, ma’am. I am sorry to bother you, but I…” She paused, looking uncomfortable. “I would like to offer the crew some comfort. When I was very young, my grandmother did this for our colony. We were on Magora.”

My heart skipped a beat. A vile race of humanoids enslaved the Earth colonists on Magora for two years, forcing them to turn over valuable minerals mined there. A wary captain of a supply ship had felt something was wrong, although the colonists insisted all was well, and he notified the Earth Space Alliance. When the ESA arrived, a battle ensued, and many colonists died at the hands of the alien humanoids.

“I’m sorry, Yeoman. I’ve read of what happened there. The bravery of the colonists who fought alongside the ESA when they arrived is legendary.”

“I joined the ESA because of that day. I remember a kind man in uniform who protected my grandmother and me until he could get us out of harm’s way.” She placed the case on my desk. “If I may, Captain. This is my grandmother’s violin. She would play at night to calm the children, but my mother always said that it calmed everyone.”

Mikato opened the black leather case, revealing a beautiful object nestled in wine-colored velvet. The case itself worn, the velvet frayed, but the instrument was pristine. The polished wood body was gleaming in the downlights above my desk.

“Yeoman, I have seen violins before but rarely outside of a museum. This is lovely.”

“Yes, ma’am. With computers able to make the sounds of all instruments, the real ones are difficult to find. My grandmother taught me to play, and I would like to play for the crew as she did every night for us. It brought us hope in the face of what we were dealing with on Magora.”

Her voice broke slightly, and I couldn’t speak for a moment, overcome by the heartfelt need of my crewman to bring joy to us.

“I think your gesture is wonderful, and I think that the crew will love having you play.”

“With internal communications restored, I would like to play at ten o’clock in the night, as everyone settles for bed. Perhaps it will help everyone sleep better.”

“Perfect.”

From that night until now, I stood in the passageway listening to her. Mikato played music she said was from Earth’s Old Masters. I had grown so fond of the music of one composer, Beethoven, that I had the Comm officer record it for me, and I played it often. The music was soothing, powerful, and gave us hope. I leaned against the bulkhead as she finished the piece from the observation deck where many of the crew went to listen each night. I preferred to listen with our guests, now our friends, as the music lulled them to sleep. Only when quiet overtook them, did I leave.

The following morning brought the news I was dreading. Our rations were meager, as were medicines and supplies in general. Hydroponics was providing some food, but it would not be enough. The Steward had done all he could to stretch our food supply. Unless ESA found us soon, our fate was clear.

Dinner for us was rarely a big affair, but I asked my senior staff to join me. The cook had made bread from the meager flour supply, and we had tomatoes from hydroponics—a feast of sorts for us. No one spoke for a bit as we savored a slice of bread and a tomato. My chief engineer had begged off. He remained diligently working to restore the external communications array, and I noticed Commander Renaldi had not arrived. I was about to ask where he was when the door to the Captain’s dining room slid open.

Renaldi was flush, still partially dressed in an excursion suit. “Captain, he did it. We have Comm.”

Rushing onto the bridge, I was pleased to see the communications officer already hailing the Starbase. We waited what felt like an eternity hearing nothing but static until a faint voice crackled in the air. I motioned for the Comm to go ship-wide.

“Lassiter, this is Starbase 9. Good to hear from you. We have your coordinates. Help is on the way.”

The excited voices of my crew and new friends began to pour through the Comm. However, our voices began to quiet as another sound replaced our cheers. The sounds of violin strings in the night. There was no better way to celebrate our rescue than the music that had seen us through.

~~oOo~~

The next day, a Halkan Republic ship that had been on routine patrol arrived with food and medical supplies. The following day an ESC Starcruiser arrived with a full repair team and more supplies. They offered to take our passengers on board, but Reggie Donovan refused. They were coming to Starbase 9 on the Lassiter as planned.

The ESA Hyperion began towing the Lassiter to the Starbase while repairs were underway. Their captain invited my crew and guests to dinner and a movie aboard his ship. I suggested another form of entertainment for part of the evening. As we enjoyed dessert, Yeoman Ki Mikato played her violin for all. I gazed about the room, pleased my crew was beaming with gratitude as they listened to her play.

I knew I would never captain another ship unless Ki Mikato were on the crew. We had faced death, and she had given us joy. For me, there will always be strings in the night.

*******************

Author’s Note:

I wrote this with thanks to the Star Trek franchise for borrowing the quantum filament. It appeared in an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and described, as I did in the story, from an article on sabrizain.org. There is a real counterpart in astrophysics, called a plasma filament, which is basically an electric current in space plasma such as occurs in Earth’s Aurora.

Resources:

 http://www.sabrizain.org/startrek/Astrometrics/Quantum_Filament.html

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Please visit D. A. on her blog: https://thecoastalquill.wordpress.com/

Paula Shablo: Let Down Your Hair

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Let Down Your Hair

By Paula Shablo

Laurel stood in front of the mirror, staring. Who was this woman?

The image stared back at her, unrecognizable. Shiny bald head, blackened eyes, swollen lips and an earlobe hanging in two shredded halves, the diamond stud torn away.

Her hand relaxed and the razor dropped to the floor with a sharp “clack!”

In a purely reflexive motion, she removed the remaining earring and dropped it into the sink, where it disappeared into masses of thick blond hair.

Her hands raised to touch the newly bald pate, tentatively at first, and then firmly stroking. So smooth! She took a deep breath, then another, and on the last exhale, exclaimed, “He’s gonna kill me!”

He’d come close enough, already. Laurel leaned closer to the mirror and lifted her puffy eyelids enough to more thoroughly examine her eyes. Damn him! The sclera of the left one was dotted with petechiae, which meant her whole eye would soon be red with blood.

“Ugh!” Laurel grimaced. “That’s going to take weeks to clear up.”

This was not her first rodeo.

He generally avoided her face—too many questions if things ended with a trip to the emergency room. But it had happened a few times.

This was the worst, though. Both eyes were blackened and swollen, the left impossible to open without using her fingers. Her neck was screaming out: “Whiplash!” The throb each time she tried to turn her head was excruciating.

It was all about the hair.

Twelve years ago, she had come home with a cute cut, shoulder-length and fashionable. Gilbert had thrown a fit the likes of which she had never even dreamed. “A Godly woman never shears her crown of glory! Never! How dare you cut your hair!”

He’d pushed her around, and even hit her a few times before that day. This was the first time he’d blackened an eye, though.

He’d also broken her arm. First trip to the emergency room and Laurel lied through her teeth about taking a bad fall.

Her hair had been growing since then. Twelve long years, and if that’s not a lot of hair—well, Laurel didn’t know what was.

It was Gilbert’s pride. “My wife has such beautiful hair!” He bragged about it—the length, the softness, the strength of it. During times of calm, he would sit next to her and stroke it, and sometimes he’d spend an hour brushing it for her.

It was also his weapon. He’d grab great fistfuls of it to yank her toward him. He’d shake her by the hair. He’d wind it around her neck and choke her.

If she tried to run, he would grab an end of it and reel her in like a fish. Oddly enough, whenever this happened, Laurel would hear the crackling voice of a witch croaking, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair.”

Laurel didn’t believe Gilbert would be able to climb a tower using her hair, but it certainly worked fine for him to reel her in and begin the shake, rattle and roll.

Let him try that now, Laurel thought, considering the piles of hair in the sink and on the floor.

Stupid fairy tales. Her trailing masses of hair certainly hadn’t gained her a prince or a happy ending.

She turned her head and winced at the pain in her neck. She went to the locked door and pressed her ear against it, praying that it wouldn’t suddenly be slammed into her head from the other side. 

Nothing. The house was silent.

He was still gone. If not, he’d most likely be pounding on the door right now, demanding her exit so he could go to town on her some more.

Carefully, she cracked the door open and looked out. Then she slipped through it and darted into the kitchen for garbage bags.

In the bathroom, she stuffed pile after pile of hair into two bags and tied them shut. All the while, one hand or the other would dart up to push back hair that was no longer there, and she would marvel anew at the smoothness of her scalp.

Her mind was screaming at her:

Oh, God, oh, God, if I’m still here when he gets back, I’m dead.

I should donate this hair.

Are you crazy? Get a move on!

She ran outside and threw the bags of hair into the trunk of her car. Back in the house, she raced to the closet and pulled down the one thing she could never bear to leave behind. It would ride on the front seat with her.

At the back of the closet was a small suitcase, already pre-packed. She had planned for an escape—someday. She had always been too scared to go, but now she was much more frightened to stay. She tucked her battered old purse under her arm, and took her life with her out the door and into the car. She didn’t bother to lock the door behind her. Nothing inside ever mattered much, and it meant nothing to her at all now.

Please, God, don’t let him come home now!

The car started, and although it ran a little ragged, as always, it didn’t let her down. She was off!

“Now what?” Laurel asked the stranger in the rearview mirror.

There was hardly any traffic. People were hiding away in their homes. She supposed the enforced isolation and the loss of his job had contributed to Gilbert’s extreme outburst today, but that hardly mattered now. What did was wondering if there was any safe place she could go.

She gassed the car—self-service with a credit card. She waved at the lone person she could see inside the convenience store and didn’t bother going inside. Her good eye was swelling more, and it was getting difficult to see. She drove around, looking for a hotel that didn’t have its “No Vacancy” sign unlit.

Finally, she admitted to herself that there was only one place to go. Thank goodness she still had the key.

The place was closed—had been for weeks now. But the power was still on, and the dressing rooms had showers. She’d been there only yesterday, the lone player on an empty stage.

She used her key card to access the underground parking lot and parked in the darkest corner. She used the elevator and went up to the backstage area, and then to her personal dressing room.

Gilbert had never been here. Her job was unimportant to him; music wasn’t his thing unless it was the wailing of a country singer, bemoaning his sorry drunken state and the loss of his girl.

How in hell had she landed with him in the first place?

She had maintained her own bank account, all unknown to him, and simply deposited some of her earnings into their joint account. He had no idea about the savings she had socked away. He thought her “little income” was what resulted from choosing such a trivial career, and it served her right if she needed to ask him for money now and then.

She did ask, although she didn’t need it. It made him feel like a big man, and that in turn kept him in a calmer state. She’d “come up short” for a utility or phone bill and ask him for an extra fifty dollars near the end of the month. He’d fuss about it, and tell her she should really look for a “real job.” Then he’d hand over some crumpled bills and stroke her hair and remind them both that a real man took care of his woman.

She saved the smaller bills until she had enough to exchange them for one-hundred-dollar bills, and then she stashed them in the lining of her old purse. She had plenty of cash to get by on for a while if she couldn’t use her bank card.

There was nothing but formal wear in her dressing room. Clean underclothing, too, but no jeans or sweats. Those were things she had in her little escape bag.

She went to the showers and doffed the clothing she’d escaped in. They were covered with hair and blood. She threw them away, vowing to get out to a dumpster as soon as possible.

With no hair to wash, her shower was quick and easy. She let hot water run over her aching neck for several minutes longer than she probably should have. Then she closed her eyes and rinsed her aching face and eyes with cold water.

It was eerie in the empty building, but she felt so free walking naked back to her dressing room that it hardly mattered to her. She went to the rack and selected a stunning sapphire blue gown.

She walked barefoot to the stage, which was dimly lit by only a few footlights. She sat, the case in her lap. She unlatched it and opened it.

The violin. It pulled her by the heartstrings, that instrument! She lifted it reverently, and carefully cradled it as she set the case aside.

It lay in her lap as she rosined the bow. When she lifted it to tuck it under her chin, she still paused to push away hair that no longer existed. It made her giggle.

When was the last time I giggled?

Her eyes were so swollen now she could barely see, but she didn’t need sheet music. She didn’t need the other orchestra members; the music was all in her head as she began to coax out the notes from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Her bald head gleamed in the low light. Tears flowed down her cheeks, pink with blood on the left side of her face. As she played, she wondered idly if she was injured enough to go to the emergency room, and concluded that she probably was. Every note was painful; her head, her eyes and her neck throbbed and sobbed, but she couldn’t stop playing.

Let down your hair. Let down your hair. That voice was Gilbert’s now, and still, it was witch-like.

Ha! What hair, you son-of-a-bitch?

The bow paused in air, as Spring took a breath before Summer began. Lauren giggled again.

Yes, she was hurt. Damn it.

She played on, the bow moving faster.

The hospitals were full of sick people. The emergency rooms were overwhelmed.

The violin was magic. The music had healing powers.

Lauren played on.

“This is how you do it, Gilbert,” she whispered. “This is how you let your hair down.”

The stage was filled with music. She heard every note, although no one else was there. She relished every strain.

The neck of her gown was wet with her tears, and she briefly considered the stains. How much blood was there?

If she died here, how long would it take for someone to find her?

Autumn.

Stop it, stupid.

“You be quiet,” Lauren growled. “I will finish this piece.”

She didn’t have a cell phone. How crazy is that, she thought. Everyone has a cell phone these days.

It would have been one more thing, though. Even the house phone was a problem. “Who was that?” Gilbert demanded every time she took a call. It didn’t matter who it was; for Gilbert, it was always some new lover, some friend who didn’t like him, someone who wanted all her attention, when it belonged only to him.

People she worked with had them. She saw them texting and calling and scrolling social media sites. She could just imagine having one. Gilbert would have been taking it from her constantly, checking her calls and messages. It wasn’t worth the trouble it would have caused.

It sure would have come in handy now, though. She could at least call a nurse hotline and ask if this pain might be life threatening.

We have a concussion. I know it.

“Hush now,” Lauren sighed. “Winter is here.”

Winter is going to kill you.

“Gilbert did it. Gilbert killed me.”

Lauren played on. She could no longer see.

Finally, she reached the end. Four seasons had passed, and it hadn’t been an hour, but it felt like a year had truly gone by. Music could transport a person that way.

She practically lived here, but it was still difficult making her way back to the dressing room after carefully replacing the violin in its case. She was blind.

This is bad.

You don’t say. 

There was a landline phone in the dressing room. It took her awhile to locate it. It was live. Lauren burst into tears of relief and dialed 911.

Three tries, but she succeeded only to be put on hold.

Let down your hair. Let down your hair.

“Shut up, you wicked old witch of a Gilbert! There is no hair.”

How will anyone climb up to rescue you?

“Shut up!”

“911. What is your emergency?”

Oh, thank God! Lauren gave her location. “I can’t see,” she said. “But I will try to get to the door to let someone in.”

She took the violin. It was magic, after all. She found the front doors and managed to unlock one before passing out.

When she woke up, she was on the bathroom floor, lying on a blanket of her own hair. Gilbert was banging on the door, demanding to be let in.

The violin was in its case in the top of her closet. Useless.

With her final burst of strength, Lauren lifted her hand to touch her bald head.

Her hair was attached and matted with blood.

Let down your hair. Let down your hair.

“Go to hell, Gilbert….”

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Please visit Paula on her blog: https://paulashablo.wordpress.com/

Lisa Criss Griffin: Surviving The Challenge

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Surviving The Challenge

by Lisa Criss Griffin

Drew climbed into the luxurious charter bus and found a comfortable window seat. She stowed her violin safely before she slipped into her chosen chair. She was blissfully unaware that the next sixteen hours would be pivotal in how she would choose to play music for the remainder of her lifetime. 

Dawn had barely broken. Drew stifled a yawn as she watched the purple clouds on the horizon lighten to a honey pink while her fellow Youth Symphony members trickled aboard the bus. She was only a high school sophomore. Almost all the other players of this year’s phenomenal Youth Symphony were juniors and seniors, with only a couple of token sophomores sprinkled in due to their talent. Their orchestra was one of the best the city had ever produced, and they were hoping to win the regional competition this year. Today’s charter bus would take them to that very competition in an adjacent state.

Drew already learned the value of self-confidence during her first year in the high school orchestra. She had been randomly placed in the back of the first violin section of her school’s orchestra at the beginning of the school year since she was new. She was in the process of challenging players for their seat positions within the section, and was steadily moving forward. The last violinist she had challenged was her current stand partner, Erik. 

The challenge involved a blind audition so the judge would not be able to identify either of the violinists during the contest. They both played the same piece of orchestra music for the judge. Drew knew she had prevailed as soon as she finished playing. So did her stand partner. He was a senior, and it was an understatement to say he didn’t take losing his seat to a sophomore well. He challenged her several times later in the year, but never regained his chair from Drew. The remaining four violinists in front of her in the first violin section were all seniors and more advanced, so she was delighted to retain the fifth chair.

Drew had also auditioned and secured a coveted chair in the first violin section in the citywide Youth Symphony, much to the dismay and consternation of some of the older players. Her audition for the Youth Symphony had gone extremely well, and she was placed in the seventh chair, first violin section. This had caused quite a stir among the older violinists, and she had to earn their respect by playing well. She did play very well and was grudgingly acknowledged by the other players.

Except for Erik, her stand partner from high school. His audition had placed him several chairs behind her in the Youth Symphony. She could feel his eyes burning holes of resentment into her back during rehearsals. She had always been respectful towards Erik, but he never accepted that she was the better musician. 

Drew was quite hurt by Erik’s attitude at first. Eventually she put up an impersonal but polite emotional wall between the two of them. Her apparent indifference to his frustration only seemed to infuriate him further. She would be terribly glad when he graduated. She got along well with everyone else, so she chose not to dwell on his unhappiness.

“Is this seat taken?”

The husky masculine voice startled Drew out of her reverie. She looked up into the face of the Concertmaster of the Youth Symphony. He was a senior, an enormously talented violinist and totally gorgeous. Drew had hidden her silent crush on him over the past year, along with most of the other girls in the orchestra.

“Uh, why…no,” Drew stammered in disbelief.

Joe was enormously popular with everybody in the orchestra, and she could not believe he had chosen to sit with her. He had two violin cases with him. She supposed he brought a backup violin with him as a precaution. Joe was playing the incredibly beautiful violin solo that was woven throughout their competition piece, Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov. He played it as well as any professional violinist she had ever heard, and Drew was blown away by his talent every time they rehearsed the music.

Joe slid into the seat next to her after stowing his violin cases on the floor between them. He released a sigh as he sank back into the comfortable seat cushions. He turned and looked directly at Drew.

“So, my name is Joe. And you are…?”

“Drew…my name is Drew.”

“You play first violin with us, don’t you?” 

Drew nodded, shocked he was aware of her existence.

“You look awfully young. Are you a sophomore?”

“Yes.” 

Drew felt her cheeks grow warm and was instantly humiliated; she was blushing. 

“Well, it is going to be a long trip. Tell me a little about yourself, Drew.” 

“I…uh…go to North High…”

“Oh yes, I have several friends from North. Your high school orchestra is one of the best in the city.”

“I like it,” Drew said hesitantly.

“How long have you been playing the violin?”

“Since I was five,” she replied.

“Five? You were only five? Well, that explains some things.”

“What do you mean? What things?” Drew asked, almost afraid to hear his answer.

“I hear you are really talented…I mean super talented.”

Joe smiled at the incredulous look on her face. 

“Thank you,” Drew whispered. “You are an amazing violinist…”

Drew hoped she kept the depth of her hero worship out of her voice as she replied. She could not believe he was even aware she was alive, much less cognizant of anything about her. She returned his smile and relaxed a little. He seemed really nice, and so far this trip had exceeded any expectation she had harbored.

They chatted lightheartedly over the next few hours, discovering they had several interests in common. Drew found herself growing quite comfortable in Joe’s presence, even though he was older. 

The group stopped for lunch and everyone had just reboarded the charter bus. Joe leaned down as the bus returned to the highway and pulled one of his violin cases onto his lap.

“Hey Drew, you want to help me have some fun?” 

“Sure.”

Joe opened his violin case, pulled something out and slid it under his jacket. He returned the case to the floor. 

“Let me have your Coke.”

Drew handed Joe her partially consumed soft drink, unsure what he wanted it for. He poured something into her Coke bottle from the flask under his jacket. He handed it back to her with a wink.

“What is this?” she asked.

Joe laughed and smiled into her eyes.

“Just a little something to help us relax and enjoy our trip, Drew. You’ll like it. Trust me.”

Joe took a swig out of the flask under his jacket and looked back at Drew with a grin. She was staring at the Coke bottle, torn between saying no and being uncool, and being accepted as one of the cool kids by somebody she had idolized all year. 

She smiled back at Joe and took a sip. Gawd, it was AWFUL stuff! It burned going down her throat and she stifled a gag. Tears stung her eyes as she sucked in a cleansing breath. Joe took another drink. 

“Come on Drew, bottoms up, girl!”

Joe took another swig as he encouraged her to take another sip. She did, and a small warm glow began to spread through her body. They continued their easy banter as the bus rolled down the highway. Drew finally put her Coke down. She felt a little dizzy, and kind of sleepy. Joe had been talking nonstop about nothing in particular, and that suited her just fine. He finished his flask and put it back in the extra violin case. 

Joe leaned over and looked into her light blue eyes.

“You know, Drew, you are an awfully pretty girl,” he slurred slightly. “And you are so nice, a lot nicer than I thought you would be. I like you. I like you a lot.”

“I like you too, Joe. But I feel kind of dizzy.”

Joe chuckled as he slipped his arm around her shoulders.

“Yes, I suspect you do.”

“No, really Joe. I hope I don’t get sick.”

Joe removed his arm quickly.

“Well hell, Drew. Don’t do that. Geez!”

Drew laid the side of her flushed face against the cool window of the bus. She sighed in relief. It felt like heaven.

“Look, I’m sorry, Drew. I really do like you. And I think I owe you an apology.”

“What? I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

Drew moved her face to a cooler section of the window, the buzzing in her ears increasing.

Joe sighed and reached for her hand. His hand was larger than hers, and warmer. He captured her hand between both of his.

“Look at me, Drew.”

She turned her head, thankful for the cool window against the back of her head. Joe’s soft brown eyes were full of genuine remorse.

“I want to apologize to you. I feel like such a jerk. If I had known you before this trip, I never would have agreed to do this.” 

“Do what, Joe?”

“Oh…hell! You probably know that Erik is a friend of mine. And it is no secret that he is really pissed that you successfully challenged him for his orchestra chair.”

“So?” Drew replied.

“Well, I am so embarrassed I agreed to do this. The plan was to get you drunk so you couldn’t play this afternoon. I hope I was not successful. You obviously don’t drink. I always drink, and I didn’t know you. I am so very sorry. And I am rethinking my friendship with Erik for setting you up like this. I hope you will forgive me, Drew. Damn girl, you are pretty, talented and so…damn nice. I am very, very sorry.”

Drew groaned and turned away, determined not to cry. She was sure everybody on the bus knew what Joe and Erik had done, and were watching to see how she would react. She leaned her face back onto the cool window. She didn’t deserve this. She had earned her spot, just like everyone else. Drew pulled her blue sweater closer around her shoulders and leaned into the side of the bus. She closed her eyes to shut out the humiliation. The motion of the bus and the sound of the tires on the asphalt were oddly comforting. Before she knew it, she fell asleep.

Drew’s eyes fluttered open as she came to. She was surprisingly warm and comfortable. She slowly became aware that she was securely snuggled up against Joe’s chest, his arm over her shoulders, cradling her protectively. Joe was also asleep. She gently lifted his arm and slid back over into her seat. She felt much better, and was grateful there didn’t seem to be any lasting effects from the spiked Coke.

The bus slowed and turned into the parking lot of their concert venue. Drew looked over at Joe, her heart still hurt from his betrayal. She was a forgiving soul though, and he had seemed genuinely remorseful. She hoped he would be able to play well today. No matter what had happened between them, she looked forward to hearing him play that solo. Drew put her hand on Joe’s arm and shook it gently.

“Joe. Hey Joe. We are here. Wake up, Joe.”

Joe opened his eyes and spent a moment focusing on her face. He rubbed his hands through his thick, dark hair and then stretched. The charter bus came to a gentle stop. The musicians began gathering their carry-on items in preparation to disembark the bus.

Joe reached out and caressed the side of Drew’s face gently with a tender touch of his hand.

“Play beautifully, Drew. I hope you will forgive me.”

Joe leaned forward and brushed his soft lips across her face in a tender apology. She could taste the liquor on his mouth as he kissed her gently in front of everybody on the bus. He pulled away and gazed into her eyes, the sincerity of his apology reflected in the depths of his sad brown eyes. Drew smiled at Joe and met his gaze bravely.

“Play beautifully, Joe. I love listening to you play. I always have.”

The bus began to empty. Joe picked up his violin cases and made his way down the aisle. Drew grabbed her violin case, but waited until the line thinned out before she left the bus. She changed into her concert outfit along with the older girls backstage. There was just enough time to get dressed and tune up their instruments before they were to be onstage. She was grateful there wasn’t really time for anyone to ask her about that kiss. Her lips were still tingling from the gentle pressure of Joe’s lips. She would never be able to forget the look in his eyes afterwards.

Drew took her seat onstage along with her fellow musicians. She was sitting in the outside chair of the fourth stand, and had a clear view of the audience. There was a table of judges, and several other groups of high-school musicians who were to take the stage after they were done playing. She loved every note of Scheherazade, and couldn’t wait to lose herself in the beauty of the music.

A hush came over the crowd as Joe walked across the stage towards the podium. Drew was completely surprised as he lightly touched her shoulder while passing by her chair. The caress took her breath away. He took his seat after tuning the orchestra. Their conductor raised his baton and with a decisive downbeat, the orchestra began to play Scheherazade.

The performance was instantly magical, as if an exotic genie had been let out of his lamp and cast a musical spell over them all. Drew felt herself swept up in the emotion of the piece as the lower strings and brass rumbled the walls of the venue. Vibrations from the powerful orchestration shook every cell in Drew’s body as she played her heart out. It was an incredible emotional high, and everyone on the stage felt it.

Drew heard Joe playing his beautiful solo part. His violin sang…the haunting, melodic voice of his instrument cascading across Drew’s heartstrings in a tone she had never quite heard before. It was as if he was speaking musically just to her, calling out to her heart to forgive him. The melodic voice of her violin joined the others, answering the solo violin’s passionate plea with a chorus of rich harmony. 

The Scheherazade took on a life of its own as they continued to play. The lush music spoke eloquently in a universal language about love and love lost, in a way everybody listening could feel and understand. Raw emotion filled the concert hall, pulsating and twining around the hearts of the audience and drawing them further into the musical magic. The solo violin finished weaving the end of the intricate melodic story as the Scheherazade drew to a close. Drew faded her last note into a faint whisper, her body quivering imperceptibly from the intensity of the beauty of the music. 

It was then that Drew came to a decision. She loved playing in an orchestra almost more than anything else. But she would not be part of the nefariously destructive ego competitions that plagued orchestras. She didn’t need to play that game, and she sure wasn’t going to be a part of it in the future. 

Perhaps it meant playing in a different type of group, style or setting in the future. She would have to see. But nothing was worth losing the indescribable joy she always experienced while playing music. Absolutely nothing.

Copyright © 2020 Lisa Criss Griffin
All rights reserved

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Please visit Lisa on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/authorlisacrissgriffin/

Marian Wood: Evie and the ‘Violin folk’

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Evie and the ‘Violin folk’

By Marian Wood 

Violin music

The haunting music played as I sat huddled up in a corner of my bedroom. The sad mourning sound of Evie and her violin. Once part of a popular folk band, she no longer left her house. The sound was beautiful, yet sad.

Two months ago, a gig had ended in tragedy. As her partner George finished singing, his body appeared to convulse as he fell into the audience. The crowd had caught him before realising that he was unconscious. Later a forensics report on his bottle of water showed that he had been drugged. An overdose of Tylenol had ended in liver failure and his death.

The police had not found his killer. The band hadn’t played together since, and Evie now played the same tune over and over. For her that violin was cathartic, but for me its sound just went through my head. I couldn’t ask her to stop because it was her only therapy.

Visitors

Hearing a bang on the door, I stirred. I didn’t want to move but I needed to know who it was. Pushing myself up I heard another knock, louder this time.

Answering the door, there was a tall stranger, my heart jumped, what now?

“Hello, Jane Mills?”

“Yes, that’s me.”

“I’m Detective Inspector Moss and this is PC Ward.”

I looked at the woman, trying to place whether this visit was good or bad.

“Okay, err, come in.”

Showing them to my lounge I wasn’t sure whether to offer them drinks or just sit down. Feeling awkward, I gestured towards the settee as I sank into my armchair.

“Are we okay to call you Jane?” asked the woman.

“Yes, what’s this about?” I could still hear Evie sadly playing.

“We have had reports of a group of lads watching these houses. We are wondering if you have noticed them.” I thought for a moment.

“To be honest, I haven’t thought about it. I try and go out when I can. Evie won’t stop playing the violin, over and over.”

“She does sound very sad.” I nodded at PC Ward.

“Are these men connected to George’s death?”

“We suspect they could be. If you see anything, please phone the station.”

Getting up DI Moss passed me his business card.

“I will phone if I see anything. Is Evie in danger?”

“We don’t know, but she’s not answering her door.”

I nodded thinking how occupied she was with the violin. Too sad for visitors.

A day later

Sitting drinking my morning coffee, I was watching the scene out of my window. I now saw a group of men sitting on the wall across the road like the three wise monkeys. If the police hadn’t brought them to my attention then I wouldn’t have thought about it. I thought of Evie. I could still hear her screeching violin.

Watching them jeering, I picked up the phone. Dialling the number on yesterday’s business card, I wondered how soon someone might come. I then had the urge to try and talk to Evie again. What was the story? And why had George been killed?

Ten minutes later I heard two cars outside. The men started to run with the police chasing after them. Through all the excitement, the violin music continued.

A little later I watched the men bundled into the cars and I took the opportunity to check on Evie. Shutting the door behind me, I felt pain in my stomach, what was I going to say to her? Ringing her bell there was no answer, maybe she couldn’t hear me.

Deciding to check around the back I walked through her tall metal black gate. The first thing I noticed was the line of pots with just brown dead stems. I then realised for the last two weeks I have heard the violin constantly. She had spent so long mourning she had neglected her garden completely. Evie loved her garden, so though she was hurting, letting her plants die didn’t make sense.

Around the back

Feeling sick now, I reached her back door. Finding it locked I had a bad feeling, something was wrong. I regretted not checking on her sooner. Would I be in trouble if I threw a brick through the window? Pulling my phone out, I once more dialled the police. The operator advised they would be with me shortly.

Looking through her windows, I spotted her violin sitting alone on the settee. The sad music was still playing. It made sense now to have been playing on repeat. I couldn’t see any signs of Evie, but her dark blue coat was lying over the armchair. The weather was overcast and dull, there’s no way she would have gone out without it.

Hearing the police arrive I felt relief. Walking around the front I watched them force open the front door. As they ran in an officer held me back and I could hear the music clearer. It wasn’t long till a policewoman came out announcing they had found a young woman’s body.

I felt like I had been punched. Why had I not gone around the back sooner? Why had I assumed the music was Evie? She played the violin beautifully and I knew she was mourning George. It looked like whoever killed George had now killed Evie.

“Oh my God, err officer, err are all those in the band at risk here? Is someone out to kill them all?”

A memory struck me, a headline a week ago of a local car accident. I hadn’t read the article but had recognised the face of Mark Dunn. Another violinist of the violin folk. Why were they being killed one by one?

A few weeks later

I sat again drinking my coffee and reading the ‘Highton Gazette’. Turning the page Evie’s smiling face jumped out at me. George, Mark and the only surviving band member, Wilma, stood next to her. I could feel the pain in my chest as the story opened up in front of me.

The gang had been involved in a murder which George had witnessed. George had then threatened one of the gang members after a conflict in the pub. This had then led to them killing the band. Wilma was lucky that they were caught before they had come for her.

I will never listen to violin music in the same way. The violin folk had been a highly respected band until meeting the gang of thugs, leading to their final demise. A sad ending for such talented musicians.

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Please visit Marian on her blog:https://justmuddlingthroughlife.co.uk/ 

Calliope Njo: A Lesson Learned

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

A Lesson Learned

By Calliope Njo

“No. No. No,” Mr. Scabbard yelled each time he reacted. His eyes and the top of his head turned red, which contrasted with his white hair and beard. “You read that script as if it was solely a piece of paper. Put heart into your character. You have expectations, desires, and other emotions, so express them as you see fit.”

The man talked with his hands so much, surprised nothing got knocked over or that he didn’t hit anyone.

“Mr. Scabbard, I did.” What was his problem? I did put feeling into the character. It’s not as if I didn’t put any effort into it.

“Everyone, leave for the night. It’s eight o’clock. Remember to practice your role as if that person existed. Not merely as this script reads. This is a play full of meaning and feeling, for God’s sake. These are not mathematical equations, so stop treating them as such.”

Everybody filed out the door as I almost did when I realized my keys were missing. A short jog back on stage and they shined under the light. They somehow managed to lie next to a violin.

A musical instrument of some sort made a noise four times. “OK, this is not The Bells Tolls. It’s the Lover’s Bell. This one doesn’t have music.” It repeated, and I ignored it. A thorough search back and forth, up and down, nobody around to do anything.

I stood on stage and looked out toward the empty chairs. Row upon row of seats to be filled with people who paid to watch me perform. All those pairs of eyes on me.

I memorized and practiced my dialogue, but Mr. Scabbard kept yelling at me to put more soul into it. Damn it all to hell. The old man needed to retire.

What a fool I was to think this would work. This little company created some of the biggest stars and he was responsible for it. Maybe I should quit and admit everybody was right while I was wrong.

Somewhere a violin played. It couldn’t be. Instruments were inanimate objects and needed us humans to get them to make noise. Despair, empathy, or desire didn’t exist within them. They didn’t have a soul. How could it?

I watched it and right before my eyes it floated in midair and played. I wished I knew the tune. So beautiful, the notes conjured images of couples in old gowns dancing around the room.

I felt a hand grab mine. I opened my eyes, and he smiled at me. Taller than me with ebony hair. His closed eyes didn’t allow me to see them. He bowed to me, and I bowed to him. We danced with everybody else, as clumsy as it was.

A constant pulse went through me when we moved around the room. It became a part of my thoughts, so much so, I thought in the same rhythm it played.

From corner to corner and back again, we stepped and twirled around. My legs had a mind of their own. It didn’t matter if I thought it was time for a break or not; they kept going, as if they wanted to prove me wrong.

What was going on? I controlled my intentions and feelings. Not some musical instrument. “Stop!”

It didn’t. The instruments kept playing, and everyone continued dancing. A look around while we danced, and it wasn’t the stage. It was someplace else with an enormous area and a humongous chandelier overhead. Candles floated high up. So while nobody bumped them they made for a sight to behold.

Wake up, you idiot. This was no time to dream. “I said wake up.”

Nothing again. “Listen, let me go. There’s someplace I have to be.”

“Shh,” the man said. “Words heard in silence. The heart beats loudly in its own rhythm. Only the two can meet when all is well.”

What? What did that mean? “I have to leave. Now if you would let me leave.” I struggled to wiggle my hand out of his grasp, but it wouldn’t loosen. He put his head on my shoulder, and we continued dancing.

An attempt to steer him toward the door failed as couple after couple blocked the way. What was this? Why was this happening?

“Will somebody please call 9-1-1?”

Not that I expected anybody to, but I had to try something. Somehow, we danced our way back to the middle of the room. There had to be a way to get out of here. Forget about through the roof; without anything to climb on, the ceiling was a lengthy way up.

One door in and out, and no luck the first time I tried. No windows, and I didn’t think anyone would help me to clamber through them. Nothing around to break them with, anyway.

“You continue to search,” he said. “All efforts have failed. Instead, listen to the sound. It vibrates through you. There will be your answer.”

I wished he offered me his name so I could tell him off. All this talk about listening and feeling. I’ve been doing that and not—wait. Granted, the music had a weird beat to it, almost like the heart, but that didn’t have to do with anything. Did it?

OK, fine. I gave up. No clock in the room either, yet one chimed eleven times from somewhere. A deep breath inhale… and I let it all out because that didn’t help.

In math, a problem is presented, and through a series of steps the answer is found. I should’ve stuck with becoming a teacher instead of acting. Math was much more logical and there was an answer. Most times.

Kept dancing and kept dancing, around and around. “Stop. I had enough.” Of course, nobody listened. 

“You seek an answer. Yet, the answer is there. You fail to feel. You fail to listen.”

“What are you talking about? You are making no sense whatsoever.”

“Darling Stephanie, do you not hear?”

“Yes. I hear you rattling on about nonsense.”

He laughed. The bastard laughed at my misery. “The one thing you never learned to listen to is giving you the conclusion you seek, my dear. Without that, the triad within you cannot exist.”

“You see. More nonsense.”

He stopped moving. I took that as my opportunity to wiggle out from him but it didn’t do any good.

“Knowledge and logic is in the mind. Understanding and suffering is in the heart. Processing is in the liver. That is the triad within everyone.” He continued to dance.

It sounded like something that philosophical studies would teach. I growled and grunted as I followed him around. Continuing around the room gave me a chance to think about that.

Knowledge is in the mind. Feeling is in the heart. The beat to the music resembled the heart beat. “Of course. Unless I stopped to feel the music, I wouldn’t hear it. I would follow along without hearing the music. Ha.” I laughed at myself as I stopped to listen.

He had been out of pace since this started and I didn’t notice. He opened his eyes and showed dark, empty pools of nothing. I stopped our progress and started again in beat with the music. Even if I screamed, nothing would happen.

The surroundings faded, and I was back on stage with that script in my hand.

I didn’t memorize the lines. I learned them as I became the character. Her thoughts and feelings became clear the more I spoke. A character was much more than a name. A character could become as real as we wanted them to be. Her in my case. We made them real with feelings.

I spent the next two days in the heart and mind of my character until the night of our opening. When I got stuck, all I had to do was picture that violin and it would all come back. Standing ovations the three nights of our performance. The critics even loved it.

The closing night, a violin sat in the open. “Thank you. You taught me a lot. You also reminded me of something very simple. For that, I thank you.”

Mr. Scabbard walked on stage towards me and bowed. “You see, all you had to do was listen with your heart and not your head.” He laughed as he disappeared.

The violin remained on that chair. The bow moved enough to make noise but not enough to produce music. Then it too disappeared.

There had to be a story about this theater, but I ran out of there too quickly to find out. Maybe another time, because at that moment all I wanted to do was go to the local bar and get drunk. It wouldn’t solve anything, but it gave me a ready answer to what happened.

The End

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Please visit Calliope on her blog: https://calliopenjosstories.home.blog/

Kenneth Lawson: Passing

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Passing

By Kenneth Lawson

It was there in the closet. 

Where it had been for years.

But now, it seemed surreal. 

The old violin case sat on a high shelf, tucked away many years. Music once played on the instrument inside flooded his mind. It had been years since he had heard the last musician to play this violin, his grandfather, the legendary violinist Raymond J. Reynolds.

His mind wandered back over the decades, flooded with the distant memories and family lore that he had heard since he was barely more than a baby. His grandfather learned to play the violin as a child, and by the time he was a teenager, he was playing sets with a wide variety of musicians and styles. Over the years, he had worked with musicians from Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, to many others. He was often a featured violinist with symphony orchestras, and in the later years of his career, headlining concerts. 

Grandpa’s breakthrough had been when he had taken a classic Miles Davis tune and arranged it for the violin. He remembered the night his grandpa premiered the piece. He was standing backstage watching. The concert was over, grandpa had taken his final bows, and the stage went dark.

Then a spotlight came on. His grandfather stood at center stage, accompanied not by the orchestra but by a pianist, bass, saxophonist, and drummer. He started playing. The audience gasped as they recognized the piece. From that moment on, “The other Miles” became his moniker. A new phase in his career began that night. He recorded several hit records of his original compositions and arrangements.

But that was another lifetime ago. In the last few years, arthritis and old age began to take their toll on him. It had been years since grandpa had played the violin as his fingers were too gnarled and stiff to play. He continued to teach and lecture and compose, but even with computer programs to play the notes for him, it wasn’t the same as hearing the notes coming from his own hands.

Grandpa spent the last few years in a nursing home requiring around-the-clock care. His mind was slowly leaving without him, but somewhere in the depths of it, the music always found its way out. He had insisted when he went into the home, on bringing a turntable and small speakers with him. His record collection was vast, so he kept his favorite records with him. When we visited, we would bring a new record or two for him to enjoy. The staff was wonderful, since he couldn’t handle the records or the turntable any longer, always taking special care when they played them for him. His nurses often repeated his favorite mantra, “The only music worth listening to was on vinyl.” 

He opened the case and lifted the violin from its velvet resting place. The feel of the instrument in his hands seemed natural, and it was as he had played in his younger days. But he knew he was never as good as his grandfather, and he never would be. He could play the notes and make the noise, but he couldn’t make the music. His sister, on the other hand, could make the music. She had played with their grandpa in her younger years. There were tapes and videos of them playing, but she had retired from playing many years ago.

The violin itself looked almost new. Except for the small amount of dust that had managed to creep inside the case over the years. He knew it would need new strings and be re-tuned.

And Now.

And Now? 

Hell, he didn’t know. 

His grandfather had passed quietly in the night, a favorite record playing softly in the background as he drifted off to sleep.

The minster called him not long after his grandfather passed and asked that he bring the violin to display at the funeral next to the casket. His sister had requested it. He replaced the violin in its case and took it to the funeral home.

~~~

Four days later, he sat in the front pew, Linda, and her family next to him, as the room began to fill. His grandpa was widely known and respected in music, as well as in business and life. He had expected a large turnout. His grandpa had told him before his mind deserted him completely. When you live to almost 100 years old, you meet a few people along the way.

The late Raymond J. Reynolds lay in the open casket in front of the church, dressed in his finest tuxedo. An outfit most had seen him in one time or another in one of his concerts.

He had expected to see the violin on display next to the casket. It wasn’t there. He was about to ask Linda when the minister took his place behind the pulpit.

The minister began the service with a prayer, then began to talk about his grandfather’s life. As he listened to the minister tell about his years as a struggling musician, his rise to popularity and influence on future generations of musicians of all varieties, he forgot about the violin.

 As the service was winding down, the minister paused as if he was stalling for time. Finally, he spoke.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special tribute to Mr. Reynolds. Ms. Linda Reynolds, Raymond’s granddaughter, would like to play a piece on her grandfather’s violin to honor him with his violin.”

He realized that Linda had left the pew a few minutes before, crying. He thought she had gone to compose herself, but now he knew why. She walked onto the stage with their grandfather’s violin.

It had been years since she had played, yet she stood in front of several hundred people wearing her best black evening gown and playing his violin. She played their grandfather’s most famous pieces and some of his favorites and played as well as he had. There was not a dry eye in the place when the minister said final prayers and dismissed the service. 

He met her in the back of the church after everyone had left. She handed him the violin. “Thank you for dropping this off here. It was easier. The minister offered to take it to the restorer for me. They were kind enough to replace the strings and get it ready very quickly for me. I wanted to surprise you.”

He handed her the violin. “No, you keep it. You deserve this far more than I do. All I ask is that you keep playing the music.” He couldn’t say more.

A thousand other thoughts crowded his mind as he tried to explain to himself why he could never play as Linda could. She had inherited his talent and would carry their grandfather’s legacy forward.

He would always have the music.

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Please visit Kenneth on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/kennethLawson/ and on his website: http://kennethlawson.weebly.com/

Jenny Booker: Family Heirloom

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Family Heirloom

By Jenny Booker

As he sat in his favourite chair sipping his tea, I saw a man growing older before me.

“Did you enjoy the concert?” Dad said, breaking my worries.

Concert, what concert? The last concert was a year ago? I thought.

“Oh it was lovely, Dad, what did you think of it?” I asked.

“Oh it was ok, I guess. I think I played well but the accordion behind me couldn’t keep in time to the tune,” he mumbled.

“Do you remember the first one I played at? Lovely bunch of people but no one could play to standard, so annoying.”

“Hm,” I replied.

“My hands ache now from playing and the shoulder pain is now getting too much,” he said sadly.

“I remember when you first got your violin, Dad — and since then you have done so well with it. Will you go back to it every now and then or take up the guitar again?” I asked.

“Maybe,” he said, putting his cup down shakily.

“How is your practise going?”

“On and off really, Dad — I need more time, to be honest. It’s hard when you’re tired all the time.” I sighed, thinking of my only practise session I had this morning for the next few weeks.

“How about a practise now — me and you?”

“Really? That would be so lovely. I’ve wanted to play alongside you from day one!” I beamed at the unexpected turn of the afternoon.

“Yes, but you weren’t ready at the time. However, it’s been a year since you got it so let’s see, and I might not be playing for much longer.”

Grabbing my violin case from the car while he got his out of his room, I then started to set up excitedly, but also a bit nervously as I only played either to myself or to my teacher.

Not long later we started, and the sounds of the classics only filled the air. After a while my fingers were sore, and there were a few little comments from him about posture and intonation. But a smile from him said it all while the other residents were clapping.

“You need an upgrade, you have outgrown that one,” he said, smiling.

“True, but they are so expensive,” I replied, looking down at mine.

“Here, have this one instead,” he said, with his very old violin in his hand.

“No, Dad, I can’t take that from you — you will need it next week for your group?! It’s your baby.”

“I’ll take my guitar — it’s time.”

My fingers glided down the polished wood trying to see the instrument, but tears were clouding my sight.

…………….

“Happy birthday, sweetheart,” I said while watching my daughter tear through the wrapping paper.

“Is this what I think it is, mummy?” she asks, shocked.

“Yes — I know you love your piano but thought a new instrument would be great.”

“It is, thanks so much,” she said, leaping towards me and giving me a hug. I could smell the shampoo from her shower earlier and missed those times where I assisted her.

As quick as she hugged, she was back to the present — her very own violin.

“Now we could practise together!” she beamed.

My heart leaped but was also a touch sad at the same time.

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Please visit Jenny on her blog: https://itsjennythewren.wordpress.com/

C. W. Harper: What a Difference a Day Can Make

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

What a Difference a Day Can Make 

By C. W. Harper

The summer of 1862 had been hot and dry. Hugh could feel the heat radiating from the dry earth beneath him as he lay atop the small hill overlooking the military encampment. The tents and campfires seemed to go on forever in the darkness. He had snuck out, against his momma’s wishes. She thought he was asleep in his loft room in the barn, his room since he had turned twelve and his two-year-old brother moved out of his parents’ room and in with Levi and Abner. 

Hugh focused his attention back to the camp as a lone fiddler began a lively rendition of Turkey in the Straw and several men started a lively jig that resembled a poorly executed square dance. Hugh smiled and stopped himself from laughing. He didn’t want to get caught and taken back to his momma in shame. He watched until he had trouble keeping his eyes open. He then crept back to his bed never realizing a sentry had watched him the entire time and had followed him home to ensure he was not an underage enemy spy. 

A rooster crowing and a simultaneous cannon blast awakened Hugh. He made his way to the house, where the rest of the family were just getting up, and ate a quick meal of leftover biscuits and ham. He washed it all down with coffee and then started his daily chores. As he continued his daily routine, he was startled now and again by a volley of gunfire or a cannon shot. 

After the midday meal, Hugh snuck away to see what he could see. The smell reached him before he was close enough to see the carnage. It smelled like the farm on hog killing day times ten. The stench of blood and shit made him gag but he couldn’t stop himself from going on. When he could see, he regretted it; the dead littered the field and he could hear the moans of dying men and horses. Some were missing limbs and others had been decapitated. Hugh retched and vomited until he had nothing left in him. He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up into the dirty, bloody, sweaty face of a soldier. “Go home, boy. You don’t need to be here.” 

Hugh somberly finished his daily chores and, close to sunset, went back to the hilltop overlooking the camp. A lone bugler played taps to signal the end of the day; the mournful notes traveling to Hugh’s ears and then lingering even after the soldier had put down his instrument. Just as Hugh was getting up to go back to his bed, the fiddler from the previous night started playing Amazing Grace. The haunting melody touched Hugh to his core and, when the song was finished, he got up to go to his safe bed and family, wiping tears from his face, as did the sentry who silently saw him home. As he walked, the heavens opened and shed much-needed tears on the thirsty land. 

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Selvan Muruvan: HEARTSTRINGS

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

HEARTSTRINGS 

By Selvan Muruvan

Even when she had just come out of the girls’ soccer game on that dreary day, the grey sky promising some unforeseen dread in it’s lumpy, moist blanket of clouds — Sabrina still looked deeply enchanting.

The reluctant drops, sporadic and lukewarm, rained on her rosebud cheeks, bruised with adrenaline and fatigue. The absent sunlight seeped through her azure eyes, turquoise-blue and mesmerising. Smudges of mud stood out on those cream-toned thighs and clung to her stubborn, perfect hair. I just stood there rooted, hypnotised by the overwhelming beauty. Stealing glimpses of her crimson lips and how the trainer shorts and baggy jersey further enhanced her immaculate form. 

I thought that she would at least look at me, the way I looked at her. Yes, we had a music lesson date, but even for just a moment, wouldn’t she even meet my eyes? All she could gawk at was the violin case that I just dropped to the ground, its yawning maw gaping in mockery. It was then that I knew, if it wasn’t for the music, she wouldn’t care for my affections. 

My heart waxed cold and hard, like the wood of this plaything. Polished to perfection, with unrequited love and varnished to a high poisonous gloss. My desperate yearning seemed to swim in the unfeeling mahogany instrument and plunged into every melody I strung for her. The sickly notes now swell menacingly in the ether. 

I swear, I will never play for her again, until I can stroke the naked chords with my heartstrings. She can keep the violin. It is embossed in the initial of her name, anyway… S, for Sabrina. I can’t look at it again. I won’t have it! 

It was then that I ran. Faster than the gathering storm’s hasty approach. Haunting, disjointed crescendo of ballads falling on my un-melodious head. 

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Rico Lamoureux: Uncle Charles

Welcome to Write the Story! Each month Writers Unite! will offer a writing prompt for writers to create a story from and share with everyone. WU! wants to help our members and followers to generate more traffic to their platforms.  Please check out the authors’ blogs, websites, Facebook pages and show them support. We would love to hear your thoughts about the stories and appreciate your support! 

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Please note: the images used as prompts are free-use images and do not require attribution.

Uncle Charles

By Rico Lamoureux

“It’s due to go up for auction in two months, but we would be willing to accept an outright option at twenty million.”

Exquisite violin, image for the short story, ‘Uncle Charles’, written by The Flash Fiction Ponder.

From its beautiful contour to its fine detail, the first word to come to mind; exquisite. A true work of master craftsmanship. But Peter, a distinguished older gentleman, hadn’t travelled over a thousand miles for a Stradivarius.

“Exquisite,” Peter replied, “but I’m actually here for another violin you recently came in possession of. I called earlier.”

Slightly perplexed, the dealer of luxury goods glanced at his record book. “Ah, yes, Mr. Lundstrom. One moment, please, I’ll have a look in the back.”

With the utmost of care the Strad was closed up tight and taken away, a couple of minutes later the dealer returning with a tone of distaste. “I’m afraid there’s been a mistake, Mr. Lundstrom. This… fiddle, is the only other piece we have at the moment. My sincerest apologies. Sometimes, very rarely, mind you, we unintentionally acquire a less-than-stellar item. Perhaps­—”

Peter reached out. “Please, may I?”

This time it was he who displayed such a gentle touch, the poor man’s violin about a hundred and fifty years younger than the Strad yet appearing more weathered. He turned the instrument over and read with a nostalgic whisper the name carved into its back. “Ingalls.”

“Is that the name of the crafter,” the dealer asked. “I’ve never heard of him.”

With such reverence Peter turned the violin back over and just stared. At its body, its neck, its strings. “Crafter of violins, no. Crafter of the man standing before you, yes.”

Beginning to notice the sentimental value Peter was starting to display, the dealer’s salesman nature began to show. “I’m sure we can come to a fair price, Mr. Lundstrom.”

“Indeed, we already have,” Peter replied as he took his eyes off the violin long enough to show he was not one to haggle with. “A grand. Already confirmed over the phone.”

The dealer looked back at his record book, spotted the $1k written within the margins.

“Of course, Mr Lundstrom. May I ask, what makes this piece so special?”

Peter looked to the box the violin called home, lightly running his fingertips over it and the old pillow inside used for cushioning before picking up the bow and softly placing it on the strings of its counterpart.

With closed eyes Peter began to play a few notes, the level of emotion across his face not dared interrupted by the dealer.

He opened his eyes and again affixed them down upon the treasure in his hands.

“This violin, this fiddle, belonged to Charles Ingalls, a man of integrity beyond reproach.

“When I was a mere boy, my father sent me to a rural town known as Walnut Grove for a summer, to get, in his words, ‘a sense of values’. My uncle owned a store out there, so I stayed with him for a few days, but for some reason I can’t recall, more than likely having to do with my mischievous behavior, I was sent to work on his friend Charles’ farm.

Peter Lundstrom from the Little House on the Prairie episode ‘The Stranger’, image for the short story ‘Uncle Charles’, written by The Flash Fiction Ponder.

“Mind you, for a privileged preppy this was no day at the park, calluses and blisters, working from sunup to sundown, it was a world I wasn’t used to. But before long I was shown something else I wasn’t used to; love.

Charles Ingalls playing fiddle, image for the short story ‘Uncle Charles’, written by The Flash Fiction Ponder.

“Although he wasn’t kin, Charles Ingalls, who I started calling Uncle Charles, was more of an uncle, a father, an anything I ever had before this time. And it was in that little house on that prairie where he and his family taught me the value of hard work, true character, love.

The Ingalls Family from Little House on the Prairie, for the short story ‘Uncle Charles’, written by The Flash Fiction Ponder.

“They didn’t have much. In fact at times they hardly had anything at all, Uncle Charles pouring out through this fiddle their hardships which seemed insurmountable, the level of perseverance shown unimaginable, all endured with an eternal optimistic spirit, ending each evening’s gathering with uplifting melodies that would propel one to a hope of a better tomorrow.

“This has within it the soul of The Ingalls Family, my dear boy. Sure it lacks the perfected detail which can be found in one of your Stradivarius’, but this is precisely what makes it special, being an actual embodiment of the human condition.

“I’ll take it.”

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