It was late when Arthur sprung from his chair, screaming with panic. He threw the book on the floor, and groped behind the dirty mattress in a frenzied panic before pulling a rectangular case out from the nest of blankets. Inside, the immaculately clean violin greeted Arthur, and his face, frozen in horror only moments before, broke into a childlike semblance of joy. Carefully, he picked the instrument up and held it in his arm, chin to the chinrest, and plucked the G string intently, listening, while reaching for the horse-hair bow still concealed in the case. He dragged the bow deliberately across the neck, heavy enough to be off-putting, but delicate enough so that Arthur could clearly hear each note. He fiddled with the pegs and repeated the delicate process, before sawing the bow back and forth, slowly at first, but growing in a crescendo as the notes became less garbled and more deliberate. His arm arced high, before driving across the neck with a fury of passion, throwing notes that reverberated across the small room, and began to be heard outside. In the building next door, Mrs. Washington sat in her living room, with the window open to allow the cool air to circulate through the cramped apartment. While her grandson slept on the small cot in the corner, she closed her eyes and heard Arthur’s frantic notes reaching their apex, before falling into a soft movement and ending abruptly.
The sun reached its zenith before Arthur woke from the dirty mattress, still clutching the violin case between his hands, the violin still safely tucked inside. He blinked slowly against the dimly lighted room, the bars of sunlight filtering in through cracks in the boards that covered the windows in his bedroom. He cautiously walked toward the bathroom, making no notice of the streak of grey that shot up the ruined stairs, as the cat paused and hissed. Arthur entered the mildew-strewn shower, slipping momentarily on the living film that covered the bottom. Fiddling with the knobs, he stopped as the rusty water sprayed haphazardly down on him before it cleared slightly, looking pinkish in the light of the bare 60 watt bulb hanging from the poorly painted ceiling.
There was one window in the entire house that had not been boarded up and still held the original panes of glass in it. Arthur trudged through a room strewn with newspapers, circumventing a pile of broken glass under the hastily boarded window. A rock lay in the rubble, evidence of juvenile delinquency, but without any retribution or care on the individual living inside the decrepit house. He paid it no attention, opening a door toward the back and revealing a small staircase leading up into the higher levels. It creaked heavily as he ascended the steps, but held together. At the top, Arthur pulled a hatch, and a ladder swung down, leading to a well-concealed attic. Inside, was a sanctuary; Arthur sat on a stool facing the last intact window, staring at the world below him. The entire time, he never let go of the violin case.
Arthur looked out the window at the noisy city, clutching his violin case in his arms. He began whispering in a panicked tone, muttering barely audible above the ambient noise of cars driving along the street and the lonely, desperate people walking down the street. “Ugly,” he said, his voice rising in his throat, guttural; “too loud.” He opened the case still cradled in his arms, and withdrew the instrument and drew the bow in a slow, mournful arc across it. He began playing slow but intense, as the sound emanated out the window and down onto the street. A little boy stopped and looked toward the house, curious as to what he was hearing.
The dirge finished, and Arthur replaced the violin in its case. He stood up from the stool, pausing in front of a bookshelf. Instead of books, it was filled with photo albums. He stared intently, reading the fading spines that read “Summer” or “Happy Memories.” He pulled one, it’s cracking, brown leather not bearing any words on it. He tucked it under his arm, and descended the ladder. Outside, a bird landed on the windowsill and began to sing quietly, echoing the notes that just ended. When the hatch slammed shut, it startled and flew off.