Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Part II: The Music of the Soul

 Here is the second section of The Music of the Soul.  Click (read more) for full article...

The boys flash quick, confused looks at each other and then John takes charge.  “Come on guys, there’s nothing here for us.”  He starts to walk away assuming his brothers will follow.  Henry stays focused on the old man and says, “What do you think we need?”

John turns with a frustrated sigh and rejoins his brothers.  Everything suddenly stops.  No music, no screams from the rides; no background sounds at all.  Time slows to a crawl and the neon lights on the booth quit their ceaseless blinking.  The solemn man leans a little closer and then with a mysterious wink of his eye puts his hands under the counter and brings out a velvet bag.  As the boys inhale with anticipation, he unties the bag and pulls out a box of exquisite beauty.  Henry’s mouth hangs open as he scans the lid.  Carved into the surface is an intertwining design of mythical creatures, laughing elves, and triumphant knights atop their magnificent steeds.  He reaches for the box with an unbridled urgency, but the man snatches it away.  Michael speaks up in defense of his little brother, “Hey, what kind of game are you playing here?”

The man lifts an eyebrow and stares at Michael.  “I assure you this is not a game, but at the same time it is the ultimate game – the game of life.  If you buy this box you will be responsible for any outcome that might follow.  It is a box designed specifically for your needs.  If you choose to purchase the box, I ask only one thing.  Once it is opened, you must use great self-control and moderate your use. There will be a great temptation to overdo.”   John takes charge and says, “This sounds like some kind of scam.  How much is the box and what does it do?”

The man repeating his earlier remark says, “I only sell what people need, and I only need what people can give.  The box fills a need that needs filling.”

Henry, who has been standing quietly for a few minutes, suddenly speaks up and says, “Let’s pool our money and see if we have enough.”

John says, “Why do you want this box?  We’re not even sure it does anything.”

Ignoring his brother, Henry offers the ten dollars remaining between them.  The man nods in agreement and gently slides the box into the velvet bag.  John and Michael grudgingly give in and pass their few remaining dollars across the counter.   Michael says, “This better be good.  I still wanted to ride the Ninja Warrior and now my money is all gone.”

Henry, ecstatic beyond words, simply smiles and says, “I have a feeling you won’t be disappointed.” 

The old man speaks one last time.  With a warm smile playing on his lips he says, “Remember that love and laughter are the music of the soul.”  As soon as he speaks, the sounds of the fair start up again with their normal cacophony of music and noise and the man slowly returns to his stool at the back of the booth. 

Michael says, “What just happened?”  Before anyone can answer, John looks at the time on his cell phone and realizes they’re almost late for their rendezvous with their folks.  As they head off through the crowd, Henry glances back to take one more look at the booth and is astonished to find no trace.  He rubs his eyes and looks again but still cannot find the psychedelic sign.  Risking the wrath of his brothers, he runs to catch up with them and grabs on tight to the velvet bag with the treasured box. 

Tony and Tina show the boys the antique clock they bought in the white elephant barn.  The boys begin talking at once describing the rides and John’s dunking of the clown.  Henry holds up the velvet bag and is met with an odd smile from his father.  Tony asks, “What kind of purchase have you made son?”

Henry hesitates as his brothers look on, then replies, “It’s a box with really cool designs on it.  I think it might be magic.”

 Tony, with a wry laugh, says, “It sounds like you might have been tricked by a con artist.  You should know better than to fall for that kind of nonsense”

Henry hangs his head in dejection and looks away as the family discusses their lunch choices.  The fair is renowned for their spicy tacos so they head off to find their food and a shady picnic table.

 There is no more discussion of the box and the topic changes to tasks for the upcoming week.  Henry feels the stress beginning to rise and starts doodling on his napkin.  He tries to imitate the designs from the booth’s neon sign but knows he will never be able to duplicate the visual wonder he experienced earlier.
By 2:00 p.m., they’ve finished lunch and start walking toward the 4H barn to view the animals.  They witness a sheep shearing exhibition, a cow-milking demonstration and the boys get to ride horses around the equestrian barn.  As the heat of the afternoon starts sapping their energy, Tony says it’s time to head home.  With no complaints, they all follow dutifully behind their folks and climb into the van for the ride home.

It’s a quiet ride with only the hushed sound of their parents talking in the front seat.  Tony and Tina think the boys are asleep, but Henry hears his dad say, “I do worry about the boy, Tina.  He gets these ideas in his head and spends good money on a ridiculous magic box.  He needs to quit spending so much time reading those fantasy books and more time doing practical things."

Henry hears all this and silently sheds a few tears.  He pulls the box a little closer and prays for a little magic.

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