I hope you all enjoy the short story, The Violin Boy, which the author succinctly describes as a story about "a man, a boy and an event." Personally, I think that's all we need. The author, Gavin MacFayden, has published short fiction in various publications and his non-fiction has appeared in newspapers in Canada and the U.S. He is currently finishing a YA novel about 9/11. Here's The Violin Boy.
The Violin Boy
By Gavin MacFadyen
A bubble of solitude surrounded him.
He could not have been described as serene but he was removed from the swirling life around him. He stood four feet tall in the middle of the plaza and he played his violin. He was no more than ten years old.
He always wore the same black pants and white shirt with bow tie - not the usual dress of a child to be sure. But, on him it looked appropriate - as though he shouldn’t be wearing anything else. He had long blond hair and an elfin face; he was not girlish, as boys of that age sometimes are.
The face disturbed William Cornett. It was not a face that a young boy should make. His face was frozen in a concentration which gave the appearance of pain. It was, however, not a concentration born of unfamiliarity with the instrument.
It was the expression one made leaping across a precipice, unsure of reaching the other side. It was a face that obsessed William Cornett from the first instant he saw it. It came into his dreams; it appeared before him at work.
It was the face of the Violin Boy of the plaza.
William Cornett was twenty-six years old and walked the plaza as a way to fend off loneliness and boredom. The pedestrian promenade was a welcome relief from the confining smallness of his office above. He sought out its life and lights; he sought out its smells. The chatter of people was a welcome punctuation to his strolls.
He wanted to speak to the boy - he felt compelled to speak to the boy - but had never saw him stop playing his violin long enough to make an opening possible. The boy played and played and seemingly never tired.
"Will, where are we going? Will, stop!" Kate planted both feet in front of the restaurant. Cornett stopped when he felt the jerk of her arm on his.
"I want to show you something," Will said. They were only a short walk away from the plaza.
"We’ll be late," Kate said gesturing to the door.
Will nodded and walked inside. Throughout the meal, he could only look at his watch and wonder if it would be too late once the after-dinner drinks were over.
But it was not. The plaza still teemed with life. Street performers abounded and Will could recognize them at a glance. He held Kate’s hand and rushed past the Russian acrobats. The Violin Boy perched and played in his usual spot - his lips and eyes scrunched together as though he were about to cry.
"What?" Kate asked. "This?" she said gesturing to the boy. "It’s a kid playing a violin. Big deal."
"Just look at him," Will whispered. "I’ve never seen anyone around him. No parents, no adult at all. It’s always just him."
Kate was unimpressed.
He took her home and they made love. He thought of the beauty of the Violin Boy and her inability to recognize it. Whether from disappointment or alcohol, he cried as their bodies moved together. Kate thought Will was crying because she was beautiful.
He let her think that.
Will continued to descend from his office to where the boy played the violin. It was better without Kate. He would not involve her again.
These trips were necessary for William Cornett. He had become an architect because he wanted to create lasting beauty. Watching the Violin Boy was to witness a beauty created without effort. He had no deep appreciation for music nor did he especially marvel at the boy’s skill. His own musical knowledge was too unsophisticated to allow him to make any judgment. William Cornett simply reveled in the boy’s existence.
Much of this was provoked by the mystery which attached to the Violin Boy himself. He had never seen a sign of a familial group. The hours the boy kept bore no relation to a schoolday schedule. He had never heard the boy speak. Had he done so, he suspected he may have heard a foreign tongue that could have connected him to the Russian acrobats - a new life in a new land being paid for with each pass of the bow across strings.
He never succumbed to the urge to linger long enough to see the boy finish playing. He liked the idea of him frozen in eternity - existing only in this place and in this time.
On this day in particular, William Cornett felt the need for beauty and continuity. He and Kate had fought the night before and he left her apartment while she slept.
Only in the infancy of his architectural career, he felt confronted by his own mortality. It came with a realization that the buildings he helped design would be here long after he was gone. Their very permanence had become a rebuke. He feared he was incapable of creating anything truly beautiful.
The telephone rang simultaneously with his entrance into the office.
Will looked down at the blinking light. The private line. It could only be Kate. He picked up the phone.
"Hello," a neutral voice - non-committal.
"Baby," she said. "I’m sorry."
A long pause. Social skill demanded that he now join her in an apology and then the world would turn again.
"I’m sorry, too."
He hung up the phone.
He stared down at the plans spread across his desk. Had he lived in another era he might have built cathedrals or castles. As a student, he had imagined himself a modern-day Christopher Wren. Instead, his task on this project was to place the bathrooms in close proximity to the elevator.
The morning sun streaming through his window was all the encouragement he needed to sneak down to the plaza below before work began.
Will Cornett sat on a fountain ledge to watch the Violin Boy from a distance. He wondered why others weren’t stopping to look.
Will wanted to apologize even if the boy was oblivious to their indifference.
The right arm moved sometimes swiftly, sometimes slowly, but always with purpose and form. The violin and the boy seemed to exist for the sole purpose of being joined. Will would scarcely have found one of any interest without the other.
It was as if neither existed unless they were brought together.
Passers-by would toss change into the violin case but moved quickly away without so much as a glance.
Can no one stop and see this boy? To William Cornett, it was ugliness that people would not stop and see the Violin Boy.
Will was looking at the hair of the Violin Boy.
He was looking at the golden hair on the Violin Boy.
He was looking at the golden hair on the Violin Boy as the plane hit the building above.
The Violin Boy screamed.
Man and boy screamed together.
There would be another