The sun began to sink low in the sky and Arthur still sat in the bedroom browsing through the cracked leather photo album. He sat in silence, making no real sound except his slow, rhythmic breathing as he carefully looked at picture after picture. His gaze hovered over each old photograph for a few minutes, occasionally running his fingers across each photograph. He set the album gingerly on a chair, and reached for his instrument. Sad, yet beautiful, the notes echoed through the room. Outside, Mrs. Washington walked down the street, and heard the music. She smiled and began walking up the steps to the house, reaching her hand out towards the worn, brass doorknob. She hesitated and then stopped completely. Her aged face frowned, the wrinkles on her dark skin becoming more pronounced as she heard the music clearly from the house. She heard the sobs in between the violin music, and turned back down the steps towards the sidewalk, giving the house one last forlorn glance before walking further down the street. Inside the house, Arthur stopped playing, taking the rosin and rubbing it aggressively across the bow, before setting in on top of the photo album. Underneath it, a yellowed photograph showed the same boy with the hawkish nose and the short chin, holding up a birthday cake with a wide grin. A tight, loopy handwriting in the corner of the photograph read “Arthur, age 10.” Outside, the wind began to pick up erratically, and a light rain began to fall.
It was after midnight when the loud droning of the alarms began to sound around the city. The light rain had given way to a torrent, the sky roared and flashed as the wind began to howl through the buildings. Inside the tenement buildings, the panicked residents began to hole up in the bathrooms and basements, listening to half-used radios as weather reports poured in. “Tornado,” was what the robotic, buzzing voice said. The residents stayed quiet, families huddled together. The undesired criminals braved the adverse weather, foolishly seeking material wealth in the treacherous weather. The storm ripped its way through the city, towards the tenements of the back corner.
Arthur woke to the house heaving and shaking in the wind. He tried desperately to turn on a light, but there was no power. The distinct lack of light caused him to fumble in the dark, searching for any source of light. He crashed through the hallway, causing the feral cat to yowl and run out of its hiding place in a discarded cardboard box. He stumbled into the kitchen, and grabbed the box of matches left sitting on the counter from his meager dinner. He struck one, holding it aloft, looking for something to light with it, before finding an old candle on top of the refrigerator. He lit it, and began to run back towards the bedroom. The house shook violently in the heavy wind; boards creaked and shingles began to fly off the roof in droves. Arthur grabbed the violin case and took off towards the back of the house. He stopped, staring at the door in front of him; the only thing separating him from the outside, the splintered, old wood with the same brass doorknob as in the front door but lacking the wear. Arthur began breathing heavier than he already was: the frantic gasp of breath left him dizzy and disoriented, faintly hearing the roar of the wind as it tore through the upstairs. The ancient wood, ill kept, began to splinter at the relentless onslaught. It started in his sanctuary, as the last unbroken pane of glass buckled inward and left shards of glass streaming through the small room. The sound of splintering wood echoed through the house, followed by the crash of debris. Outside, the roof buckled and tore off the rest of the house. It crashed against the neighboring building, raining a torrent of debris down on the side alleyway. Arthur stood, paralyzed, staring at the door, as the entire house fell down on top of him.
Mrs. Washington stood with her grandson staring at the remains of the large house. The police had strung caution tape across the lot, yet minimal removal had occurred. There were no intact items left, merely the pile of debris; anything of value had been removed by the residents of the tenements. Mrs. Washington bent over and pulled a faded scrap of a photograph from in front of her. She studied it before tossing it away realizing that the image was impossible to see. Her Grandson bent under the tape, and started stirring a pile of dust with his hand: “Grandma, what happened to the man that lived here?”
Mrs. Washington sighed, surveying the debris-strewn lot, before calmly stating, “I don’t know, baby.”
“I heard him play his music. I liked it.”
The elderly woman sat on the remains of a wooden box, her face creasing intensely as tears grew in the corner of her eyes. She hastily wiped them away before turning to the boy, still playing in the dust: “Me too. The music was so beautiful.”
“How come he didn’t come outside? I didn’t meet him.”
“He was scared. You see, his parents died when he was young, and he was too scared to go outside. He just sat in his house and played his music.”
“His parents died? Like Mommy and Daddy, Grandma?”
“Yeah, baby. Just like them.”
“I wish I woulda met him. There’s nothing scary out here.” The boy looked back at Mrs. Washington, and she motioned him back to the building next door. As he dropped the pile of dust back on the ground, he examined the small, rectangular object half-buried in it. It was the rosin. He hastily put the treasure in his pocket before hurrying back to where his grandmother was waiting for him.
That night, anyone who could avoid the usually cacophony of noise from the city, more erratic and deafening that usual due to the extra commotion from the massive storm, would not hear the usual violin music slowly drifting through. There was no distinct, mournful music. Mrs. Washington sat next to her window, and with a distinct sense of yearning, looked out over the city as her grandson slept in the cot next to her. She didn’t notice the shadows moving strangely along the wall of the alley below her. A dumpster sat, slightly removed from the back wall of the alley. The streetlight showed a man’s shadow cast across the concrete wall of the building. Arthur sat behind the dumpster, battered and covered in dried blood and dirt of decades of home neglect. He cradled his head in his arms, humming quietly. He raised the tone, louder, yet unheard, masked by the noise of the city around him. Abruptly, he raised his arms, aloft, and struck an imaginary bow across an imaginary violin.