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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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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/ 

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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Please visit Chester on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/C-W-Harper-Author-101485477895994/

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.”

All Rights Reserved.

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Please visit Rico on his blog: https://theflashfictionponder.com/

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields: REQUIEM IN C-SHARP MINOR

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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REQUIEM IN C-SHARP MINOR 

By Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

“Tonight, we play Hungarian Dance Number 5.” Shifra Mendleson poised her bow over her violin and winked at her great grandson. “You’re ready to join me?” 

Twelve-year-old Aaron wrinkled his nose and tucked his violin under his chin. “I don’t know it very well.” 

“Then you must practice.” 

“I don’t want to be a concert violinist like you, Savta. I’d rather play soccer.” 

Shifra shrugged. “Eh. Soccer. Shmoccer. Your violin could save your life, you know.” 

He stared at his grandmother. Had she lost her mind? She was, after all, past ninety. Her faded brown eyes twinkled. 

She set her instrument on her lap and stroked its pockmarked neck. “My dear old friend. You are mature enough, Aaron I think, for me to tell you my story.” 

“I already know about the camps and the Nazis, Savta. It’s Israel. We learned about the Holocaust in school.” 

“Your great-grandparents lived it. So, I’m gonna tell you what the history book don’t tell you. What your parents and teachers don’t tell you.”

Glad for a reprieve from painful practice, Aaron laid his violin in his lap. 

Savta’s gaze went past him, to some far-off place as it often did. 

“I ran all the way home from school. I couldn’t wait to tell Mama Karl Schmidt, the banker’s son, had invited me to his twelfth birthday party. Karl came from one of the wealthiest families in Heidelberg. They lived in a fine mansion not too far from our modest bungalow.

“Mama met me at the door with a hug and a kiss. ‘Go change into your play clothes, Shifra.’

“I stamped my foot. ‘Are you listening, Mama?’

“‘Yes. Yes. You’re invited to the Schmidt house. Hang up your dress. I don’t want to find it on the floor like yesterday.’

“‘All right, Mama.’ I chattered excitedly. ‘There will be pastries and chocolates.’ I hugged my books. ‘Karl says I’m the prettiest girl in class, even if I am a Jew.’

“Mama frowned. ‘How bighearted of him.’

“‘Are you angry with me, Mama?’

“She caressed my cheek. ‘No, of course not.’ 

“I breathed in the scents of fresh-baked bread and chicken soup emanating from her clothes. My mouth watered in anticipation of our evening meal. Mama made the best soup in Heidelberg. Probably in the whole world. ‘What time will Papa be home?’ I asked.

“‘Not until 6:30, he has a tutoring job.’

“Oy. My disappointed stomach growled and I whined. ‘That’s two whole hours.’ 

“‘Good, you can tell time. Nu? Ample time for you to practice.’ 

“I groaned.”

“See?” Aaron chuckled. “You didn’t like to practice either.” 

Tilting her head, Savta sighed. “It’s part of being a child, I suppose. Anyway, I drug my heels to my room. I hated it when Papa was late. He taught music at University. He’d taken on extra students to help pay my brother’s medical bills.”

“Was he sick?” 

“Born healthy and strong, my big brother Aaron was at the top of his medical class. One day, on his way home from school, a gang of vigilantes attacked him screaming, ‘Jüden! Dirty Jüden’ He spent weeks in hospital but never recovered.”

Shifra’s grandson shifted positions in his chair. “I’m named after Uncle Aaron, right Savta?” 

“A good Yiddisher kopf on your shoulders.” She poked his forehead with a gentle finger. “It used to make me angry when he teased me and called me das brag. The brat. Now I would give anything to hear him say it again.”

“Did you practice then?’” 

“Of course. Make no mistake. I was a good girl. Of course, I kvetched and complained. ‘What if I’m not good enough to be a concert violinist?’ I asked.

“Mama gave me a potch en tukhus. ‘You have a gift,’ she said. ‘Mark my words. Some day people will come from miles around to hear you play.’ 

“Rolling my eyes, I went to my room. After I changed out of my school uniform, I took my violin from its case. This very violin you see before you today. It was in better condition then.

“‘Hello, Aaron. It’s me.’ I said and plucked the strings. ‘Das Brag. What would you like to hear?’”

“What did he say?” 

“Say?” Savta shut her eyes. “He just sat in his wheelchair and stared out the window like I wasn’t even there. His gnarled hands lay in his lap like herrings on a plate. I kissed his cheek and whispered. ‘That’s my favorite one, too.’”

“But he didn’t say anything.” 

“Who’s telling this story, you or me?”

“Was it really Uncle Aaron’s favorite music?”

“Like I should lie? I always hoped if I played it well enough, it would bring him out of his fog. Alas it never did.

“Now, where was I? Oh yes. I am playing Hungarian Dance Number Five. For all my protesting, I loved to play it. Once I started, the music would transport me to distant lands. So caught up on the wings of the notes I never heard my Papa—your great-great-grandfather—come in.

“He applauded and cried, ‘Brava!’ 

“I jumped this high into the air.” Savta held her hand over her head. “Then I leaped into my father’s arms. ‘You’re home early.’

“He laughed and the sound of it was like a—a cleansing rain in the springtime. ‘My darling virtuoso,’ he said. ‘It’s almost 7:30.’

Burying my face in his shoulder I clung to his neck. ‘What did you bring me?’ Such a spoiled brat I was. 

“‘I brought you me.’ He set me on my feet. ‘Let’s see what Mama’s made to delight us for supper.’ 

“That night as he spread schmaltz on his bread, Papa looked from Mama to me, to Aaron’s empty eyes. ‘The university fired me today.’” 

“Mama clapped her hand over her heart. ‘Why?’ 

“‘Why do you think? I fear it won’t be long before—’ He raised his face to the ceiling.

“Never had I seen such fear in my father’s eyes. ‘Before what, Papa?’

“The telephone rang before he could answer me. I leaped up and rushed to answer it. 

“‘Hallo. Shifra?’ My heart thumped. It was Karl. He said, ‘I’m so sorry. Mother says you cannot come to my party.’

“Soon after that, I said goodbye to my classmates I’d known since we were babies. The authorities said I was no longer welcome in their school. Things got worse and worse for us Jews. 

“Three years later, the unthinkable happened. 

“Someone banged on our door. ‘Jüden! Open! Schnell!’ 

“Papa’s hands shook as he turned the knob. How frail he’d grown. He opened the door. There stood Karl, decked out in a Wehrmacht uniform.

“Putting his finger to his lips, he looked over his left and then his right shoulder. ‘Gather what belongings you can and come with me. Please there’s no time to explain. I beg you to trust me.’ 

“Trust him? The boy who shunned me and broke my heart? He stands before me in the devil’s raiment and has the audacity to ask us to trust him? 

“Papa squeezed my arm. ‘What choice do we have? Come, Shifra. Time to meet our fate.’

“Clutching my violin in its case, I steeled myself as my parents and I marched ahead of my ex-boyfriend turned Nazi. He held us at gunpoint and barked orders. My pulse thudded against my temples in dread as we made our way through the crowded street. 

Those who refused to comply were gunned down on the spot. I saw it with my own eyes. A soldier shot a baby in his mother’s arms, then shot her for crying. They plucked out the beards of old men. A man in a wheelchair plummeted to his death from a two-story window. A part of me rejoiced that Aaron had passed away peacefully in his sleep the night before. 

“To our shock, Karl guided our path away from the trains to his father’s mansion. Herr Schmidt met us at the door. ‘Wilkommen.’ He embraced Papa. ‘Oscar, forgive me. I never dreamt it would come to this.’ 

“He led us to a hidden apartment at the back of his house. ‘It’s cramped but safe.’

“For a time, life was good in our three-room hideaway. Mama insisted I practice my violin for an hour every day. Papa would join me with his clarinet. Karl came to visit when he could. 

“‘You shouldn’t be so chummy with that boy,’ Mama would say. ‘He’s a Nazi and you are…’ She pointed to the yellow star on my sweater. 

“Two years passed. We celebrated New Year’s Eve 1942 with the Schmidts in our quarters. Papa and I played ‘Auld Lange Syne’ and ‘Havah Nagila.’ We laughed and danced. Herr Schmidt assured us, there was so much celebration in the town no one would hear us.

“After everyone had gone to bed, Karl woke me. Sitting on my bed, he bent to kiss me. He slipped a ring on my finger. ‘My dearest. I’ve gotten orders to go to the Russian front. Promise you will wait for me.’ How could I refuse?” 

Aaron pointed to the oval-shaped diamond on her hand. “Is that the ring, Savta?” 

“Yes.” She flourished her hand so the gem sparkled in the lamplight. “He had a good eye for jewelry, didn’t he?” 

“Did you get married?” 

Savta wagged her head. “A month later, Frau Schmidt barged into our living room, a telegram clutched in her fist. She waved it under my nose. ‘My son is dead! You’ll pay for this, you Jüden whore.’”

“How was it your fault, Savta?” 

“Grief makes people say horrible things. Do horrible things. Anyway, I had little time to mourn my beloved Karl. The next few days are a blur in my addled memory, yet so clear it’s like it happened yesterday. Herr Schmidt committed suicide. Blew his brains out in his office right before the SS stormed our safe haven. 

“Papa, whose health had declined, couldn’t fight them off although he tried and was rewarded for his efforts with, not one, but three bullets. So much blood. The soldiers herded Mama and me to the trains. 

“Amid stench and tears, Mama and I were greeted at Auschwitz by more uniforms. Our clothes ripped from us, our heads shaved and our arms tattooed. You can imagine my surprise when I was allowed to keep my violin.”

“Why?”

“Because, of all things, those sadistic animals loved music.” Savta tucked her violin under her chin and played a lullaby. “Can you imagine? They gathered all the musicians in the camp and forced us to form an orchestra.” 

Aaron recognized the song, for his grandmother had played it for him many times. A sweet smile spread her lips and tears oozed from under her closed eyelids. Her white hair glowed under the lamp. 

“I met your great-grandfather in that vermin-infested place. He played the cello, you know.” 

“I don’t remember Saba Yosef.” 

“Of course not. He died before you were born. Your brother Yosi is named for him. We survived hell together. We married a few months after the liberation—with Karl’s ring.”

“Didn’t it bother Saba that another man gave it to you? How come the guards didn’t confiscate it?” 

“Oy, so many questions. We had no money for jewelry. Saba said the ring was a survivor like us. A gift from God by way of Karl.” Savta stopped playing and pointed to the violin’s f-holes. “No one ever thought to search inside.” She lifted the battered instrument and played a few more notes.

“So, you see, Aaron, my humble fiddle saved my life and Mama’s prophecy came true. People came from miles around to hear my music. It was the last thing they heard on their way to the gas chambers.”

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Please visit Rochelle on her blog: https://rochellewisoff.com/

Caroline Giammanco: Violence

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.

Violence

By Caroline Giammanco

Howling wind and the wail of sirens blew past the alley. Somewhere an emergency, perhaps a car accident or a domestic dispute, drew the police and ambulance into the darkness of a late November night. No one arrived in that alley to help Joe Langston as he bled his last drops of blood onto the dampened asphalt. His final moments ended with the siren, the wind, the dripping rain, and the coldness that enveloped his body. Then there was nothing but silence for Joe Langston.

No one would have believed that his love of music, his devotion to his craft, his discovery of true love, the power of pure ego, and the sickening sweetness of revenge would bring such a promising talent to such a lonely death, but it did.

Four months ago, the world was at his fingertips. The fingers that brought audiences to their feet performance after performance now lay silent. Soon they would stiffen as rigor mortis set in. As the last of his blood flowed from his body, so was lost the music that once flowed from Joe Langston’s virtuoso fingers. Four months ago, Joe sang a different tune than the pleas for mercy he cried as his killer drove the knife one more time into him. 

* * *

A soft coastal breeze blew through Rachelle Hyatt’s hair, and she breathed the refreshing air of pure happiness that lies in the hearts of those truly in love. The balcony of the beach house created the perfect vantage point to enjoy the Atlantic shore. Rachelle glanced over her shoulder and a slight blush swept across her cheeks. Even after all this time, the view she was most enthralled by was that of her lover, still dozing in her bed. 

He’s the sexiest man I’ve ever met. How did I get so lucky?


Good luck wasn’t something Rachelle was accustomed to. Growing up in an alcoholic family, her place in the pecking order was at the bottom of the heap. Both of her sisters married early and fled as soon as they could, and her brother, Rory, picked up the abusive gauntlet and terrified her until she, too, could make her escape.

“You’ve got all these pie-in-the-sky ideas about happiness, but Rachelle, you’re never going to be happy.”

“Rory, why do you say these things to me?”

As he backhanded her, he laughed. “You just wait and see. You go try to be happy—to act like you’re better than the rest of us. You’ll come crawling back here begging me to take you in.”

“No, I won’t! I’ll be happy and I’ll never see you again.”

Pure rage flickered in Rory’s eyes. He gently stroked her hair and said, “No, little sister. I’ll be here waiting for you when you have nothing left out there.”

Her mother and father were no better. Both preferred smoking and drinking to feeding children or worrying about who was on the other end of their violent outbursts. Sometimes it was each other. More times than not, it was Rachelle. She was an easy target. The youngest and most vulnerable of the lot, she was easy pickings for people who looked for someone to brutalize.

Rachelle knew she had to get away. She’d simply disappear as a human being if she didn’t leave the clutches of her dysfunctional family. 

Escape came in the form of Sean Hayworth, a successful stock trader from New York City who had an eye for beauty and power. For a time, Rachelle’s beauty disguised Sean’s true passion: power. The abuse began in small doses. A cutting comment. Forgetting the plans they’d made. They came slowly, but with increasing frequency.

“You’re not wearing that, are you? You’ll look like a whore at the cocktail party.” 

“Please don’t say anything at dinner. Just smile and look pretty. It’s the only thing you’re good for.”

Crushed, Rachelle slowly gave into him controlling her every move. Rachelle believed him. After all, it was the same narrative she’d heard her entire life. 

At least he doesn’t beat me. I know he loves me because he doesn’t beat me like my family did. I’m okay.

Abuse almost always escalates, and Sean’s brutality grew like a California wildfire. In time, Rachelle’s makeup hid the bruises and her dazzling smile covered a broken heart. It ended in dramatic fashion when police drug Sean from the hospital in handcuffs. He’d beaten Rachelle badly enough to put her in intensive care. 

“Please don’t arrest him. Please.” 

Fear that he’d kill her the next time overrode any hopes that he’d be punished or that she would be free. 

“It’s out of our hands, ma’am,” the officer told her. “The hospital notified us of the domestic abuse. They had to report it, and we had to arrest him.”

“But what’s going to happen to Sean?” Rachelle could barely speak through a broken jaw. 

“That’s up to the prosecuting attorney. Right now you don’t need to worry, though. He won’t be able to hurt you.”

Right now.

Those words brought no comfort to Rachelle. The bliss brought by the morphine slipped her into a deep sleep, but when she awoke she was fitful. A million thoughts buzzed through her mind. None of them were good.

What is Sean going to do to me now?

Where will I live? I can’t go back to the house if he’s there, and he’ll be able to bail out in no time.

I’ve gone from living in a beautiful house (even though it’s a violent one) to ending up in a homeless shelter.

It hurt to cry, and it hurt not to cry. Rachelle was certain her life was over. She had no reason to believe she’d catch a break.

The last time I thought I’d caught a break was when I met Sean. I caught a break all right—a broken jaw.

For once, however, Sean Hayworth came up against a force unimpressed by his wealth and swagger. Prosecutor Jason Reese was no stranger to affluence. His family was old money, and they were seldom amused by upstarts like Hayworth. Reese enjoyed his power as prosecuting attorney, and he relished in petitioning the court to deny bail to Sean Hayworth. A Class A Domestic Assault charge was no lightweight matter. It meant hard time in prison, and Jason Reese was confident that before-and-after photos of Rachelle would convince a jury that Sean Hayworth deserved time in a maximum-security prison. The trick was finding a judge who wouldn’t bend to Hayworth’s financial pull. Hayworth contributed to several campaigns and boasted of having politicians and judges in his back pocket.

The trick Jason Reese sought came in the form of Judge Wilson Bruffet. At seventy years of age with decades on the bench, Bruffet had witnessed countless cases of brutality. He’d had enough. Furthermore, he lacked ambition to run for office again, making him immune to Sean Hayworth’s financial charms.

At the arraignment, Judge Bruffet was clear. “Bail is denied and the case will be placed on the docket for a hearing. Mr. Hayworth, the charges against you are serious, and it is my order that you not be released from jail until your trial has been adjudicated.”

The smirk disappeared from Sean Hayworth’s face, replaced by rage. He began to speak. “Your Honor—”

“Young man, don’t say anything that could be considered unfavorable for you at this time. Listen to your attorney. You’ve hired an expensive one, so I suggest you take his advice.”

In a rare event, justice prevailed in the case between a wealthy defendant and a no-name victim. Judge Bruffet sentenced Sean Hayworth to ten years in prison. Jurors visibly recoiled from the photos Jason Reese passed to each of them. The damage done to Rachelle was immense, and many of the jurors had daughters close to Rachelle’s age. Careful jury selection helped Prosecutor Reese get the results he sought.

Rachelle sat stoically throughout the proceedings. A small whimper escaped her when the verdict was read. Sean gave her a menacing grin.

“This isn’t over, Buttercup,” he hissed as the bailiff walked him past Rachelle. “I’ll get out, and when I do, you’re history.”

Her knees buckled and she barely caught herself.

For several years, Rachelle lived a solitary existence, constantly looking over her shoulder even though she knew Sean was locked away.

If I’m going to have a life, I’m going to have to create it for myself.

Breaking the Hyatt family pattern, she enrolled in the local university. With no one’s footsteps to follow, she was unsure what to major in.

Her college advisor told her, “Try a little bit of a lot of fields. You’ll find something you enjoy. Is there anything you’ve always liked?”

Since childhood, music was her coping mechanism. She sang in the church choir from the age of nine, but learning how to play an instrument was her goal. At twelve she worked odd jobs for neighbors to buy a beaten up violin from the local pawn shop.

“That’s about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard anyone spend money on!” her father bellowed.

Undeterred, she practiced the violin every night after she did her chores. She saved her pennies and bought books of music. She watched tutorials online to learn how to play. She knew her family would never pay for lessons. When she entered high school, her orchestra teacher, Mrs. Nesbitt, saw her potential and begged Rachelle to pursue her talents. Fleeing her family and marrying Sean halted those dreams.

“I love music, but I know I’m not a good enough musician to perform at the college level.”

“Well,” her advisor said, “then take some music classes for fun.”

Rachelle slowly picked up college credits while she worked to support herself as a medical transcriptionist. It paid decently and gave her the flexibility she needed to attend school. Her life changed one day when, in her Music Appreciation II class, a group of performers from the Philharmonic Orchestra gave presentations. One of those was a charming violinist by the name of Joseph Langston.

His quick smile, keen sense of humor, and good looks drew her eyes to him. When he played the violin, Rachelle’s world stopped. It was as though she was drawn into the music itself. Joe Langston couldn’t keep his eyes off Rachelle as he played either. Love at first sight was real.

Their courtship developed quickly. Joe could hardly believe that someone as beautiful and caring as Rachelle even noticed him. Much like Rachelle, his childhood was traumatic. Passed from one foster home to another from the age of four to eighteen, he didn’t know what it meant to be loved. Rachelle loved him completely. Never athletic, Joe used music to escape his unhappiness. Little did anyone know he would one day become one of the best in his field.

Rachelle stepped back into the bedroom from the beach house balcony and kissed Joe gently on the lips. 

“Good morning, honey. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching you sleep, you should come downstairs for breakfast.”

Sleepily, Joe rolled over. “I’ll be down in a few minutes. I’m taking a shower, and then I’ll meet you in the kitchen.”

Fifteen minutes later, as Joe stepped out of the shower, he heard Rachelle scream below. Throwing on his robe, he raced downstairs. 

Joe found her crumpled on the floor near the refrigerator, holding her cell phone in her hand. Sobbing and shaking, she handed it to Joe. “It’s a text message.”

“Ms. Hyatt, this is Jason Reese. I wanted to let you know Sean Hayworth had his parole hearing yesterday. They granted it to him. He will be released in four months. Please contact my office if you have any questions.”

This began the worst four months either Rachelle or Joe had known since they’d met three years before. Every knock on the door, every slamming car door, caused them to jump in panic.

On the day of Sean’s release, Joe hesitated leaving Rachelle.

“I don’t have to go to work today. I’ll stay with you. I’ll tell them I need to take a personal leave.”

“You can’t take off work forever, Joe. Besides, Jason Reese said he’d have a patrol car circle past here a couple of times an hour. I’ll be fine. You go.”

Unwilling to leave, Rachelle gave him his coat and pushed him out the door into the November chill. 

“Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”

***

That night, as Joe Langston walked through the light freezing rain towards his car, a black Mercedes pulled beside him. The personalized license plate read, “Hywrth.” Joe quickened his pace, but his Toyota was still a block away. The opening and slamming of the car door caused him to bolt. 

He was not fast enough. A figure struck him from behind, dragging him into the alleyway. 

***

The Mercedes sped away as the driver, breathing heavily from exertion and exhilaration, laughed out loud. Rubbing his fingers together, like someone playing a tiny violin, he rejoiced in the slickness of the blood. 

Nudging his companion, he said, “What do you know, Sean? Looks like the cops will be looking for you. Too bad they won’t find you. But I appreciate the use of your car.”

The open eyes of the slumping dead man in the passenger seat stared into the distance.

“I’ll have you dumped down in the river with this car before you’re too stiff, Buddy.”

Looking in the rearview mirror, Rory Hyatt’s eyes filled with satisfaction. Once he rid himself of his pesky cargo, he’d use his own truck to swing by Rachelle’s house. 

She should be asleep by now. She never could stay up past ten o’clock. You’ll see, Rachelle. Your dreams of happiness really are gone. Welcome back to the family.

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Please visit Caroline on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100009880805237

Writers Unite! Workshop: Song Lyrics

Writers Unite! Workshop

Song Lyrics

A note. A chord. A word. A phrase. A song transports us instantly to the moment we first heard it and often floods us with emotions that the memory invokes, joy, fun, passion, sadness, heartbreak. Music is life.

While melody and rhythm affect us, lyrics speak for us when we cannot speak for ourselves. As writing is an art form, writing lyrics is a specialized version of writing poetry.

Our Attraction to Music

Studies have shown that when listening to favorite music, dopamine, the chemical released when doing other pleasurable activities such as eating or sex, is released in various parts of the brain associated with the anticipation of pleasure and deep emotional responses.  If the tonal qualities of a piece of music evoke this reaction, adding words that have meaning to the listener will deepen the connection to the song and the emotional bond formed.

“Music affects deep emotional centers in the brain. A single sound tone is not really pleasurable in itself; but if these sounds are organized over time in some sort of arrangement, it’s amazingly powerful.”    

              — Valorie Salimpoor, neuroscientist McGill University

Lyricist vs. Songwriter

The difference between a lyricist and a songwriter is quite simple. Lyricists write the words to a song. A songwriter writes both words and music.


 “Lyricists are articulate and detail-oriented, with a keen eye for observing the world around them and the discipline to translate their observations and insights into the formal language of song.”  

                                                                                    — Berklee College of Music

Qualifications for a Lyricist

Formal education is not a requirement to be a lyricist. However, a degree in creative writing with an emphasis on poetry offers advantages in a competitive field. Focusing on an art or history education is also a plus as these subjects provide a strong overview of life. Courses on lyric writing are often part of the curriculum in college and university music departments.

While it is not necessary to play an instrument to write lyrics, it is a valuable skill to have. Understanding the importance of meter in music is as essential as it is when writing poetry, so familiarity with an instrument is helpful.

Writing Song Lyrics

Berklee School of Music offers five tips on how to start writing lyrics:

  • Record your thoughts:  in addition to formal education, journaling daily thoughts and emotions is a valuable way to accumulate ideas and underlying emotions for use when writing lyrics. Take the five senses into consideration, taste, smell, touch, sight, sound, as well as movement, as suggested by the article. These descriptors bring the listener to the exact emotion or visual that you need them to have to engage in your lyrics. Use the “small moment” of a particular sense, such as the waft of perfume or touch of a hand, to capture emotion.
  • Read the words, forget the music: Read lyrics written by others and not to the recorded song.By concentrating on the words and not the music, you will gain a better sense of the simplicity and structure of good lyrics. Pay attention to the hook the lyricist has used and the repetitive chorus that ties the song together. Consider the message you want to convey and use the “small moment” mentioned above to make your point.
  • Speak Naturally: Write as you speak in the language that you speak naturally. Don’t force a word or a rhyme, or you will lose the meaning. Berklee uses the word authentic to describe the language you use, and that word is powerful. As with writing a story, the words must be real to connect to your audience. Don’t forget to change tense as you do not have to always write in past tense but can also write in present and future tense to tell your story.
  • The K.I.S.S. Principle:  Keep it simple, stupid is a wise adage. Write in five to six lines of verse and create repetition in the chorus. Longer lyrics can become confusing and obscure the message.
  • Collaborate:  Reach out to lyricists and learn from them. Collaborate on writing lyrics, especially with lyricists who are also musicians writing their songs.

Other tips from sterostickman.com:

  • First Impressions:  The opening lines of a song matter. Use them to hook the listener and keep them listening until the chorus and the message of the song.

Short Sentences: “I lied / He cried / We were both / Terrified”

Specific Storytelling: “The laugh lines around her eyes / Told a story of loving compromise / But the clothes she always wore / End up screwed up on the floor”

Instructions: “Everybody, clap your hands / Get those feet moving, too / We’re about to get wild / No telling what we’re gonna do”

  • Experiment building on lines. Write a line, repeat it with another word, until you get to the meaning you wish to convey. This technique will keep your listener waiting for the next word.

“I really want you
I really want you to
I really want you to go
I really want you to go further

  • Become a techie. If you run into issues with selecting words or rhyming, a website like http://www.rhymezone.com can help by making suggestions for rhymes, near rhymes, and synonyms. Rhyming is certainly acceptable but remember not to rely on it when writing lyrics. However, as long as the lyrics are authentic, it can work.
  • Time Management. Working under deadlines and being able to manage time is essential for both the project and the content. Commercial compositionsare time-sensitive, airtime on radio stations, for instance, is crucial for the artist’s and publisher’s success. Being cognizant of how to manage writing a song that conveys a message in an acceptable time frame is necessary.

Career Expectations

At one time, professional lyricists were in high demand, but as more musicians are penning their lyrics that need has dwindled. That is not to say that this is not a viable profession. There are still opportunities as top-line songwriters within the recording industry if you have some musical ability and can write a catchy tune. Music publishers also hire staff writers, and a small percentage of dedicated lyricists work independently, promoting lyrics to music producers. Music producers recording rappers also hire staff writers to write lyrics for their artists.

There are also opportunities within the musical theater world to write lyrics with musical theater composers and book writers to produce musicals and adaptations. Opera companies need librettists who collaborate with a composer or work as playwrights creating the plot, characters, and structure of the opera.

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If you are interested in a career as a lyricist or are currently writing lyrics or songwriting and want to learn more, please check out this link. Berklee College of Music offers a free online handbook on lyric writing, which includes material from some of their courses.

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Author’s Note:  I am not a musician or a songwriter or lyricist. This workshop concerns the basics of writing lyrics. A considerable amount of the information included came from the Berklee College of Music website. Berklee is world-renowned for the exceptional training provided to music students.

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Resources:
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_we_love_music
https://www.berklee.edu/careers/roles/lyricist
https://online.berklee.edu/takenote/5-steps-to-start-writing-lyrics
https://stereostickman.com/how-to-write-song-lyrics
https://learn.org/articles/How_Can_I_Become_a_Lyricist.html

Please note: the images used are free-use images and do not require attribution. Voice sheet music is from https://www.music-for-music-teachers.com/, a free-use sheet music site.