📅 Published on July 25, 2022


Written by Dirk Stevens
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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The Fool

Stepping off the gravel path onto the grass, I stop to let my eyes take in the trees draped in vines all around me. Pedro, my youngest grandchild, takes my hand and helps me hobble over to a small stone bench, almost hidden under the low hanging bows of a cedar tree growing beside a little brook at the edge of the clearing.

I’m not as fast as I once was, but today I move even slower. I want to savor this moment, every step, every leaf, every bird that sings joyously in the distance. I want to etch it all, every detail into my memory and carry it with me always.

But time is cruel. We reach the bench too quickly. Pedro takes my elbow to steady me when I move to sit, but I still groan and flop the last few inches. “Oof, don’t ever get old, Pedro. I make it look fun, but it is not so easy as you think.”

“Mama…” His dark eyes twinkle. Just like his father’s. “Are you certain you don’t want me to stay with you?”

I shake my head. Some things I could never explain, even if I wanted to. Not to him, especially. Oh, he’s a good boy, very good to bring me here, halfway across the world with no explanation. But he would never understand this. Never. And I don’t have the words to try. All his life I have guided him, taught him, but this lesson he must learn on his own. “You go get some of that American food that makes you fat. Take your time, but be back before supper, huh?”

But Pedro doesn’t leave. Instead, he sticks both his hands in his back pockets and stares down at his feet. “Mama, I don’t like to leave you here alone. Not here. Not in this garden of the dead.”

A smile tickles my cheek. That’s my Pedro. Such a kind boy. So caring. “My precious Niño…” I reach out my hand and pat his smooth cheek, like I did when he was little. “Don’t worry about me.”  I nod at the path. “Go, take Marina and little Paco, and do as I say.”

Pedro covers my hand with his and kisses my palm. “Yes, Mama.” It takes him a long time to pull away. Even longer to slump down the path to the place where it vanishes behind the curtain of vines, where he stops to look back at me. “I’ll be back in one hour.”

“Two,” I shout, and hold up my fingers for him to see. “If you come back in one, I swear by Santos-”

“Don’t swear here!” He cuts me off, waving his hand at the closest headstone. “We’re in a cemetery.”

My lips push together without me wanting them to. “Don’t you dare lecture me, Pedro Vi-”

“Aye, Mama, calm down.” He laughs. “Anything you want, just no hurricanes today, yeah?” He shakes his head, and makes a show of checking his watch. “In two hours, I’ll be here.” With that, he disappears behind the vines, so quickly I do not even get the chance to argue.

“Two hours…” I take a deep breath, press my palm against the cool, flat surface of the bench, and gaze out across the tops of the headstones. Early morning mist hangs heavy between the trees, broken only by the soft rays of sunshine peeking in through holes in their canopies. Heaven on Earth.

I close my eyes and drink in the dampness of the air on my skin, the scent of cedar all around me, the soft, soothing babble of the brook at my back. It took me a life time to finally come to this place, to pay the debt I owe, but I could not have imagined a better resting place for a man, a fool, like him.

My thoughts drift back to that day we met so long ago. My chin shakes as the memory takes hold, but I don’t even bother trying to fight the tears when they come. He deserves my tears, and so much more.

I was young, too young, to remember when we moved to Ukraine, but I do know why. Papa said that when the Russians left, Ukraine was the new America, the land of opportunity. He hoped that the new excitement over their independence meant a new frontier, a way for him to make his fortune, to give Mama and me a better life than the one we had in Mexico. And so, we left, and set out to chase Papa’s dream…not the tiny flat I remember from those days, back when I was a little Niña.

A little bird lands on the branch over my head, drawing me back to the present. He chirps a shrill, happy tune, flaps his bright blue wings, and hops sideways to peek at me around his perch.

He’s too bright to be real, more like the little birds Mama used to hang on the tree at Christmas. I sigh. Oh, that those happy times could have lasted forever, the years before the Russians invaded, and that last Christmas especially.

Mamma sat in her pink stuffed chair and played old hymns on Grandmama’s “magic” flute. Silent Night, Good King Wensceslaus, The First Noel.

“Magic,” I sniff. I was already too old to believe in such things, but in her hands it seemed like magic. I would sit cross-legged at her feet, elbows on knees, chin in my hands, mesmerized. The lights on the tree danced with the music, the snow outside fell slower, and the warmth of her music spread through my chest. It was magical. Even the smoke rising from Papa’s pipe took on a peaceful, lazy air.

The bird tips his head as though studying me, and so I do the same. “Hello, little one. Have you come to give me company?” He flits to another branch further away. But even half hidden among the branches, his bright blue almost glows. Almost as bright as the procession of the Three Kings we watched on television that year. The year the bombs fell.

I shake my head. It is such a silly thing. Even all these years later, I still remember every detail… The taste of shattered concrete, it’s grit in my teeth, the look on Papa’s face when he shoved my arms through the straps on my school pack and told me to run for the door…the way his voice shook when he told me that everything would be okay. I can still see Mama’s head turn in slow motion when she looked to the window. The fear that flashed across her eyes, the way they widened. And the blinding white flash that ended in utter darkness.

I do not know how long it lasted. What is time to the dead? How does one measure the passing of eternity? And that is what I remember. Darkness without time, silence without waking.

And then, pin pricks of light. The distant rumble of moving rocks, and a woman’s voice called from somewhere far away. “A girl! She’s alive!”

The darkness swirled, and the pricks of light widened, and two blue eyes blinked behind a shield of clear plastic. “Don’t worry, you’re safe now.” Her voice cracked.

And the pain. Yes, I remember the pain very well. It rippled down my spine like liquid fire when she slid her arms underneath my body.  It stabbed deep in my chest when I coughed, burned my throat when I screamed. “Mama and Papa!”

And the terrible pain only silence can bring. When they did not answer.

The woman lifted my body from the rubble and turned to hand me to another, a man in another bright orange coat like hers. My head flopped to the side, and that is when I saw her, Mama, her arms and legs flung across the rubble in strange angles. Her head broken opened like an egg beside a pan, leaking out onto the cushion of her chair.

A whimper leaked from my mouth, and I turned away. It was not real. A terrible nightmare. If I could only wake, everything would be okay. But then I saw him. Papa. Not beside Mamma, but above me. Hanging from the ceiling by a steel rod poking out of his chest. His mouth open. His eyes staring at me, through me, thick blood dangling from his lips like stalactites in a cave.

A broken screech flew from my lips, small at first, than earsplitting as my mind began to understand what my eyes were seeing.

“Idiot,” The woman screamed, and snatched me away from the man. “Don’t look,” She whispered softly in my ear as she held me close, trying to cover my face with her chest. “Close your eyes.”

Something inside me broke. I clawed at the woman’s mask like a wild animal, screaming, crying. “Mama! Papa!” More hands grabbed me, but I kept fighting. I couldn’t leave them. Not there. Not like that.

“It’s okay. You’re safe. Everything will be fine.”

Lies. Mama and Papa were dead. I was young then, but not a fool. Nothing would ever be “okay” again. I wanted to die there, with them. I screamed, I begged, I bit, punched, clawed and kicked. But it did not matter what I did or what I said. Inch by inch, the woman and her people were pulling me away. I could slow them down, perhaps, but I was not strong enough to fight them off.

And that’s when I saw it, Mama’s flute, laying in there the dust, in the broken rubble of my home. I could not leave it there. I had to take it, just this small piece to have with me always.

I wriggled an arm free of their grasp, grabbed the woman’s hair behind her ear, and pulled her face to mine. “The Flute. Give me Mama’s flute, and I won’t fight anymore. Please,” I pleaded through the sobs. “I promise.”

The woman pried my hand from her hair, her eyes followed mine to the flute, and she nodded.

My bird friend drops down to an old weathered gravestone, bounces to the stone behind, and pecks at its rounded top. His every movement, so carefree, even among the dead, I can’t look away.

He tips his head like he wants me to follow, then hops back to the stone behind with a string of loud chirps.

“Alright, Niño. I’m coming.” My knees ache as I struggle to my feet, but I’m not so frail as my grandson thinks. I walk fine on my own. Even so, after only a few steps, my knee complains, and I lean against the headstone to wait for it to grow quiet once more.

I glance over at my friend sitting there, on the next headstone, watching me in silence.

“We can’t all be birds,” I smirk, happy my grandson is not here to see me talking to this little one. “And flitting about is not for old ladies, I think.”

Flapping his wings, he chirps a soothing, long string of notes he hasn’t sung before. Not since I’ve been here, anyway. But it is a strange melody. One I know well, but have not heard in a very long time. One that holds my heart, and always has.

Without meaning to, my hand drops to my leg, my fingers feeling for the flute inside my dress pocket. “Now, where did you hear that song I wonder…” I bend over, studying his bright plumage, blue with brown wings near his shoulders that fade back to blue near the tips. I don’t know what kind of bird he is, we don’t have his like back home, but something in the way he moves, the way he watches me, something in the eye, seems just as familiar as his song.

I don’t remember much color in the days after Mama and Papa died. No details. Mostly I remember the Doctors, prodding and poking me all over like a pincushion. And the questions. Endless questions, never asked by same person, but always the same. “What is your name? Where are you from? Do you have family?”

“Yes,” My voice squeaked every time. Papa was from Spain. I remembered he had a sister there, “In Barcelona. Diana Villagran Muñoz, and her husband Fernando.”  But I only knew her from photographs. They did not speak much, not even when we returned to Europe.

“Good, good,” They would say as they wrote this down. All of them, as if it was scripted. “Do you know how to contact them? Phone number, email, address?”

I would shake my head and stare at my shoes, until they cleared their throat and said, “Don’t worry, we’ll find them.” The first time I believed them. But after the fourth, not really. I would tug at the straps on my backpack and follow the nudge on my shoulder that guided me out of the room.

I lost count how many times this played out. Then I was loaded onto a bus with many other children, and then a train headed to Prague. To safety, they said. A herd of children moved here and there, all together in a bunch. Like sheep. All with the same sad eyes, all with the plodding steps of people with broken souls. I remember only hollow faces, not individuals, not names. We did not look at one another. We did not speak. We did not want to see the pain in another’s eyes, or hear their stories… stories we knew we all shared.

In Prague, our shepherd, a younger woman with tired eyes who did not tell us her name, herded us from the train. She lined us up on the platform beside the train, with me at the back. After checking her list to make certain we were all there, she turned to the crowd pressing in against the barricade and sighed. “All of you hold hands, and do not let go until I say.”

Swallowing, I reached out for the boy ahead of me. He only met my eyes for a moment before snatching my hand and looking away. The woman glanced back at her line of sheep, warned us once more not to let go, and pulled us into the mass of people filling the station.

If I live to be a thousand, I will never forget the feel of that place, the coldness. No color at all, anywhere. Mothers, children, old men, some with bandages, some on crutches, but all with the same hollow eyes. All with their shoulders bent low, shuffling this way and that as if carrying some terrible unseen weight. All shades of grey.

Our shepherd pulled us through the crowd, past a gate, to a brick wall, where she stopped, pushed herself to her tiptoes, and stared out into the crowd. “Damn it.” She lowered herself back on her heels, shaking her head. “Idiot. I told him the west gate.” Turning herself to us, she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth as if thinking hard, then her eyes narrowed angrily. “You, sit here, backs against the wall, and do not move until I get back.”

She was leaving us. A knot stuck in my throat as my fingers probed the holes in Mama’s flute, but I sat down on the floor as I was told. Our shepherd waited until we were all seated, then turned and vanished into the crowd of people. To find the man in charge of the orphanage, I thought. My head drooped. They would not even look for my family.  It did not matter. Mama and Papa were dead. And I wanted to die. To join them, wherever it was the dead go.

“That is a nice flute,” a man’s voice said to me.

I glanced up at him, and pulled Mama’s flute tighter against my chest. He spoke in Russian, but the words sounded strange in his mouth. And his clothes too looked out of place, a bright blue shirt with buttons, a brown vest, and pants.  I swallowed, my hands started sweating. Whoever this man was, he was certainly not Russian.

“May I see it?” He asked.

My eyes narrowed, but there was something in his voice that was different than the other grownups. Something kinder, gentler.

For a moment I considered, then I shook my head. He did not know what it was I held in my hands.  Mama’s heart. Her soul. The only part of her I still had. My eyes burned, my vision blurred, and my chin trembled, but I did not look away.

His eyes softened then, and his lips curled on the edges into a sad sort of smile. “I understand. It is a magic flute.”

I still don’t know why, whether it was the color of his clothes, the tone of his voice, or the way his kind eyes twinkled, but I glanced down at Mama’s flute, and my fingers relaxed. “It’s not magic. Magic is not real.”

“Oh, but it is.” He squatted down in front of me. “Magic is very real.” He reached into his jacket pocket. “Here, I will show you.” He pulled out a roll of money, and made a show of counting off five hundred Euros. “How about I give you this to hold? That way, you can be sure I will give you back your flute.”

I looked into his eyes, one bluish, the other more green, and then down at Mama’s flute. I wanted…needed to believe in magic, in something, in anything.  I would have given anything to make the color come back, to make the pain go away. For Mama and Papa to live again. Shaking, I held out my empty hand. “You promise you will give it back?”

He nodded, and laid the money in my palm. Only then did I hold out Mama’s flute. He took it gently, ran its length down the center of his palm, and flipped it over, resting a finger in each of the six holes. “This, has very strong magic,” he sighed, closing his eyes. “Love, sacrifice, and memory.” His eyes cracked open. “Watch carefully, and you will see it.” He stood up, put his lips to the end, and started to play. Quietly. Slowly.

At first, nothing happened. But then, those closest to him began to stare. His song grew louder, faster. The high notes bounced like rabbits in the field, and as more people turned to watch, his feet jumped too, in time with the notes.  Soon the entire train station was watching him.

“Stop that noise,” a hunched old woman in a headscarf with sad eyes, Shouted.

But the man, flinging his knees and elbows this way and that, danced right up to her, and with a quick high pitched whistle, waggled his eyebrows, and kissed her cheek.

Her face went scarlet. “Fool,” she laughed, shooing him away. Everyone laughed.

He jumped back. His song grew even happier, his feet kicking wildly as people moved to give him space.

I laughed at the spectacle he had become… the man in silly clothes, dancing like a drunkard for all to see. With Mama’s flute whistling like a flock of sparrows in the spring.

But then I noticed the red of a dress here, the bright yellow of a hat there. Color had returned. Life to pale faces, light pricked into darkened eyes. All from watching him. And on he danced, he jumped on the backs of benches, spun on the turnstiles, until all the station was clapping in time with his song. Laughing. Everyone laughing.

A lone whining note sent tingles down my arms. My eyes jerked from the fool, to another, older, man stepping out of the crowd with a violin tucked under his neck. The fool leapt from the top of the barricade to stand beside him. And oh, the music!

They played together as if they were brothers. The air itself smelled sweeter, the wounds of the injured did not seem to hurt so badly. They whistled and stomped in time with the music, forgetting to be sad and in pain… and so did I. I don’t remember exactly when it happened. One moment I was sitting on the floor, and the next there I was, on my feet, spinning, laughing, dancing, drunk on joy and happiness. And all from Mama’s flute.

A young woman pushed out of the crowd, beside the man with the violin,  lifted the hem of her skirt to show her feet, and began to dance. Her feet moved so fast I did not notice Mama’s flute had gone quiet. Not until a tug on my shoulder pulled my attention away from them, to the fool at my elbow.

“You see?” He held out Mama’s flute to me as if it was a wizard’s wand. “It has magic to mend broken spirits, to make old men young again. Magic enough to change the world.”

My eyes traced the familiar lines of the flute as I stood there, listening to the fiddler play, the clapping, and the laughter. Mama’s flute hadn’t changed, of course. There was no glow shining out of the holes, no sparkles. It did not tingle when I stretched out my hand and pulled it from his fingers. But I could see it now, the magic it held. I saw it in the same way one sees the wind by watching the trees. In the people all around me. I could hear it in their voices, their laughter. I could feel its warmth burning in my own heart. And it was that warmth that heated my palm when I took it from his hand, and closed my eyes. It was that warmth that burned this memory forever into my mind.

I knew then what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be like him, this fool. I wanted to play magical notes and chase away the darkness.  “Teach me,” I gasped and opened my eyes. “Teach me this magic.”

My words were only a breath. For a moment I wasn’t sure he heard me over the noise, but then his left eyebrow raised. “Are you certain, Little one? Once you know a thing, it cannot be unknown. And there is a cost. Always, there is a cost.”

It did not matter. I would give anything to be able to do this, to turn misery into laughter. “Teach me,” I begged. “Please.”

“I do not have the time,” He said. Tears stung my eyes, and my shoulders grew heavy.  But, he did not look away. “However, I will give you a start.”

“People see with their hearts, and act out what is inside them. Darkness and light.” He bent down, bracing his hands on his knees. “People do not see what is right before their eyes, or all their hearts set into motion. But, magic is not rare. It is everywhere. In everything. You can see it in the beauty of a sunrise, smell it in the scent of baking bread, feel it in the air before a storm and the softness of a baby’s cheek. Magic lives in anything that grabs the soul and changes the heart, and so music is but one path of many.” A smile tugged at the corner of his mouth as he reached out to tap his finger against my chest. “This is what your mother taught you when you were very young, though you didn’t know it.”

I did not understand. “Mamma did not know magic.”

He stared at me for a moment then, eyes twinkling. “Do not forget this day, little one, the day you became aware.” He glanced over his back, at the people cheering the violinist and girl dancing to his music. “But for now, know you are a warrior, and from now on darkness will be your enemy. Always. Until the day you lay down your sword. It is a long battle, and never forget, the greatest weapon of all is love. Death has silence, but love has a song all its own, its own magic. And silence ends when there is music. Don’t ever be afraid to play the fool, Dear One.”

A loud whistle, drew my eyes to the dancing girl, just as the old woman he had kissed, lifted the hem of her dress and joined the dance. I could not help but laugh at her smile, the way it pushed all her wrinkles back like a curtain, and when I turned back to the man, he was gone.

And there I was.

Mama’s flute in one hand, five hundred Euros in the other…Along with a ticket stub tucked in between. That, I do not think he knew was there, with his name printed on it. Cameron H. Smith.

Shaking off the memory, I slip the flute out of its pocket, press the end to my lips, and my little bird friend tips his head. I do not know how many lives Cameron changed that day, with his song.  But I never forgot the tune that chased away the darkness so long ago. The song that still flows from my heart, the song my bird friend sang a moment ago. The song I start to play now…The Fools Jig, as I learned years later, when I learned more of the magic of music, living with my Aunt and Uncle in Barcelona.

My bird friend flaps his wings as I play the first measure, but then he opens his beak and joins me. Not the same tune he sung before, and not the notes I’m playing now. He sings notes he should not… cannot know. The harmony.

The sound of it chases all the feeling from my fingers. I fumble the next few notes.

He jumps closer, inches from my face, tipping his head this way and that as if he’s trying decide what is wrong. One eye blue, the other green.

My heart stops. The flute slips from my lips. “No.” I shake my head. It can’t be. I am an old woman. I’m losing my mind, seeing things that are not real.

After a few deep breaths my hands still. I touch the flute to my mouth, and continue to play, but my breathing won’t steady. I can’t hold the notes.

My friend flits back a row, to a smaller headstone, and pecks at its top. But it is not the bird that puts lightning in my veins. Not this time. It’s the name etched into the stone. Cameron Smith.

Clutching the flute to my chest, I stumble forward and trace my finger along each line. I was very young that day in Prague. It took many years before I was able to find out where he lived. Many more I spent living my own life. I finished college, became a member of the Philharmonic Orchestra in Vienna. I fell in love, married, and raised a family. There were wars, pandemics, food shortages, riots and all manner of tragedy and darkness. But, never did I forget that day. Never did I forget him, the fool Cameron, and what he said to me about the darkness, the silence. Always did I meet it with my sword, my flute, in hand. Always did I strike at it with my music. In hospitals, in parks, concert halls, and on street corners. Anywhere the darkness lurked. Anywhere I found people with broken hearts.

And always the darkness fled before the light.

Hard men in prison cried bitter tears when I played. Anguished scowls of despair turned to smiles, shouts of anger changed to laughter. And while I could not defeat the evil behind it all, I stood my ground and fought every battle well.

Just as I learned Cameron had. Pressure builds behind my nose, and tears sting my eyes, blurring his name on the stone. I know he never married, that he had no children. His name will not be remembered, but what he did that day will never die. Prague will remember him. Always. “They made a festival in your honor, the day of the Fool…” I mean to say more, but my voice won’t come. I fall to my knees in the grass covering his body, tears streaming down my cheeks, unable to breathe. I should have come to him when he was alive. I should have written him, told him how much he changed the world. How he changed me. Now, it is too late. Years too late.

A soft chirp pulls my gaze to my friend, watching from the top of the stone.

I take a deep shuddering breath, and wipe my nose on my sleeve. “How do you thank a dead man, Niño? One who has given so much, and taken nothing in return?”

He taps the stone three times, almost like a conductor, and chirps a new song, one I have never heard before… A peaceful melody. Long, slow, and beautiful.  He hangs on the low notes in a lingering bravado, freezing the blood in my veins, and then he slips into high pitches that send tingles up my arms.

Without thinking, I press Mama’s flute to my mouth and mimic his song. We play in unison. Me, Mama’s flute, filling the air with magic. My head spins, all full of cotton. And he, with his body low, looking very much like a patient tutor. For two rounds we do this, and then his voice breaks away from my playing. He drops tone and rises again, not with me anymore, but in harmony, perfect harmony.

The hair on the back of my neck prickles. The sound soaks beneath my skin, deep and soothing. Magical. It’s only then my ears open to the sounds all around me, the frogs croaking in the pond like cellos, the chime like a trickle of the stream on the stones, the crickets and wind, all join together in symphony.

It’s the most beautiful music I have ever heard. I don’t ever want it to stop. I want to stay here, forever. In peace. Surrounded by this music. By this magical melody.

My fingers cool, their warmth floating away with the music. My hands miss the next note as my hands fall, my head slumps back against the stone behind me, and the flute slips from my grip. But the music doesn’t stop. I hear it louder now, more clearly. Oh the music. That beautiful music.

I close my eyes, and just listen to the music of  the frogs, the birds, the trees…the earth itself. I think about every song I played, how it changed people. How it made old men young, sad women smile. And I know what Cameron said to me all those years ago was right. Magic is everywhere. In everything. Always.

And now that I am not playing, I can feel it, its warmth all around me, in the mist, the breeze. And something else, hiding behind the music. I tip my head back, probing the sounds with my ears. And I hear them, whispering from the shadows between the notes…Mama, Papa, and my husband, all singing silently in the magic behind the music, behind everything.

Cameron’s voice whispers from my memory, “The greatest magic of all is love. Love has its own song, and silence dies when there is music. Do not ever be afraid to play the fool.”

Forcing my eyes to open, I glance down at Mama’s flute lying beside me in the grass. My sword against the darkness.  I understand now, what he meant when he told me not to be afraid to play the fool. And I have. All this time I thought I stood alone, but they have been there all along, all of them, singing to me, loving me. Guiding me. It’s so obvious now, I can’t believe I did not hear them sooner.

“Mama?” Pedro’s voice calls, but it’s like listening to dream when you’re half awake. “Where are you?”

I glance up at my little bird, but I see him now, Cameron, standing behind the stone. His outline waves like a tattered flag in the wind, but he’s there, leaned down on the top of his headstone, resting his chin on his folded hands, exactly where the bird was, smiling at me. “Well done,” He chuckles. “Well done indeed.” He glances down at Mama’s flute then back at me. “But it is time to lay down your sword. Let another take it up.”

“Who?” I ask.

But even before the words leave my lips Pedro’s panicked voice calls, “Mama, where are you?”

My mouth falls open. Pedro, he means Pedro. “Please no.” I cannot leave. Not yet. Not like this. I cannot do that to my grandson. I will not. “Here,” I shout with all my strength, but my voice comes as only a whisper. He won’t hear me. I need to get up.

Bracing myself for the familiar pain, I pull my knees to chest, jump to my feet, and freeze. There is no pain, no difficulty at all. I move like when I was young. “No,” I gasp, and lift my hands, but these hands I have not seen since I was twenty.  And not even then, I think. There are no hard callouses from years of practice, no scars or blemishes on the backs of my hands and forearms. Only perfect, smooth skin. “No,” I shout.

My hands fall to my sides, I catch a glimpse of the old woman I was slumped in a pile at my feet and a lead ball forms in my throat. “I will not do this to him,” I scream, shaking as I meet Cameron’s stare. “Put me back!”

His mouth twists into a sad looking smirk. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I don’t have that power. I am only a fellow servant with-”

“Mama!” Pedro shrieks as he rounds the stone, cutting Cameron off. “Mama, wake up.” His face ties into a knot. He falls to his knees beside my body. “Mama…” He cradles my wizened face between his hands, but my head rolls back against the stone, limp. He catches it, and holds my forehead to his, but his chin trembles. Tears fill his eyes. And a low deep moan stumbles from his lips.

My chest aches. He’s my baby. My eyes burn. I throw my arms around him, to comfort him. But my hug passes through him. I try again. And again. Screaming. Crying… Dying, all over again.

Pulling my hair, I kneel beside him, listening to him trying to fight the sobs ripping at his heart and mine. My grandson. My precious Niño. He is hurting terribly, and I cannot so much as hold him.

This is hell. It has to be. To watch those you love suffer, and not able to help.

But then, over the sound of my screams, the ache in my chest, Cameron sings. Not with words, not even with sounds, with love, with spirit.

My tears stop. It’s a slow, sad song I know well. A wordless groan I remember feeling long ago as a little Niña in church. And just like that, I am back in the Prague, watching the darkness flee before his light.

Pedro’s sobs slow. He tips my head forward, kisses my forehead, and closes my eyes with his thumbs. “Goodbye, Mama,” he gasps and shifts back on his haunches. “I love…” His voice trails off as he wipes his nose on his sleeve, but then his eyes flit to the flute lying in the grass beside my body.  He stares at it for a moment, shaking his head before he picks it up. “You and your music…” He flops back against Cameron’s stone, sniffs and presses the end to his lips. “Then I will play a goodbye song, to chase away the darkness.”

Rating: 10.00/10. From 1 vote.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Dirk Stevens
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

🔔 More stories from author: Dirk Stevens

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Author's Notes: N/A

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