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Historical Fiction

Carlos stood in the sun of that Parisian street corner wreathed in music.  The notes that sprang from his violin were the purest magic he could conjure.  The strangers that walked past paid him little heed. A few would glance at him.  Fewer still would drop a sou or two into the open case at his feet. The war had caused all the purse strings to be tightened.  Very few of the music loving Parisians would part with money so frivolously. But on he played despite the pitiful remuneration he received.   

Life had not always been thus.  Carlos had come from a tiny hamlet in the Spanish side of the Pyrennes.  His grandfather had played the violin. In fact it was that very instrument that Carlos cradled in his arms now.  And it was his grandfather who had taught him to play. Carlos was found to be a child prodigy. His ear for the music was remarkable.  However, it was the way the passion of music was transmitted through him to his audience that set him apart.

Although his grandfather loved music, his father had thought it was a waste of time.  For Carlos’ father music did not milk the cows or tend the sheep in his highland pastures.  Carlos’ father was not a cruel man, but he made sure to argue and fight with his wife's father over the amount of time Carlos could spend practicing the violin.  Time Carlos’ father felt should be used in more practical endeavors.

One day, they were summoned from the barn by the sorrowful wail of a daughter who had found her father dead.  Grandfather sat in his usual place near the fire. His hands were growing cold as he stared into nowhere with eyes that saw nothing.  After the funeral Carlos had inherited his grandfather's violin. Shortly thereafter Carlos had left home to make his own way.     

Given a choice Carlos would have prefered to play Mozart or Beethoven.  These had been his grandfather's favorites. For hours he would sit at his knee and listen to the German masters lovingly performed.  But Carlos decided it was best to stick with those few French composers he knew. All things German were eschewed in Paris.

This mistrust even extended to those who spoke French with an accent.  His was particularly bad. This was one of the reasons he had such a difficult time finding work.  Most of the concert halls in town had not even listened to him play as soon as they heard his choppy French.  But the other reason he found no work was his refusal to debase his art by playing in a cancan band or in one of the many bars to be found around town.

Upon his arrival in Paris this rejection did not bother him.  He could play on a street corner or on one of the many bridges and make more than enough money to eat his fill and sleep in a hotel.  This was in the months before the war. But in August the papers all exclaimed that the war long expected had begun. The energy of the people of Paris was electric.  All seemed to rush headlong into this doom. Carlos could play the La Marseillaise and he would draw patriotic crowds willing to part with coins.

These heady days were only found in a few weeks of August.  Soon the realization of war set in. The newspapers began to tell a different story.  The reports of the numbers of casualties began to grow. Then they ballooned with astonishing speed.  It seemed everyone knew of someone who had been killed or wounded. All the while a simple fact remained.  The Germans still held French ground. 

It was only a few months ago that the German guns could be heard in Paris.  But since then the front had been pushed back out of earshot. This did not mean that the effects of the war were any lessened.  As the German army pushed near, the government had left. Then the military governor had begun the transport of civilians out of the city.  Finally those with money to do so left Paris. But since he had no money, or any other place to go, Carlos had stayed.

On this day in spring Carlos thought himself lucky to find a bit of sun that pierced the clouds to bring a false warmth to this particular street corner.  Carlos played with his heart and cold hands for the passersby. But very few did more than glance his way. A few looked skyward at the strange shape dancing in and out of the clouds.  Fewer still knew that this shape was an airship. And none knew to be frightened at its appearance.

The bombs that fell where the first of their kind.  In fact they were not bombs at all but artillery shells.  This was a new kind of warfare. Primitive in design and clumsily employed, nevertheless the effect was achieved.  As they fell, rushing down to destroy a population’s fragile sense of security, Carlos played on. In his world only the music mattered.  His world of music was just that, his. But the outside world has a harsh habit of crashing into our personal world. With the sun on his face and Vivaldi in his ears the physical world invaded his world of music.  

In the aftermath of the attack a city cleaned up the rubble and patched the crater in the street.  The wounded were carried off to the hospitals to have wounds tended. One body was pulled from the rubble and carted to the hospital morgue.  But to the authorities this young man could not be identified. No family came forward to claim him. His clothes made them think he must have been a provincial in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Not enough of Grandfather’s violin survived to identify it as such. And in an effort to minimise the public unease and rob the Germans of a propaganda victory the news of the fatality was suppressed.

So on the 28st of March 1915, a week after the first use of airships in warfare, Carlos was buried in a paupers grave outside Paris.



January 30, 2020 18:21

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2 comments

10:29 Feb 03, 2020

Very touching.very vivid.very poignant..and yet very simplicitically profound. Reading your story caused an uneasy sadness to surface .

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Wesley Tinney
17:17 Feb 03, 2020

Thank you mam. I am very glad that you felt emotion when reading my simple words.

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