The Music Box

Lucy followed her shadow up to Tom’s door. The dark silhouette rose up and met her hand when she knocked.

Tom’s new wife Jessica answered. “Lucy, hi.”

“Can I speak with Tom, please?”

“Of course. Come in. We were just about to sit down to dinner.”

“I don’t want to impose, I just had a question.”

“I’ll get him.”

Lucy took a seat in the living room. She brushed some lint from her blouse and tried to pat down the kinks in her hair.

Tom came in. He must have just changed to his blue jeans and was buttoning up his shirt. “Lucy?”

“Tom, can I pick your brain for just a minute?”

“No problem. What do you need?”

“You remember when you bought the music box with the robins on top? It was a birthday present for Bethany.”

Tom considered a moment. “It must have been destroyed in the fire.”

“I’m sure that it was. Do you remember where you got it?”

“I bought it in a gift shop on Larchmere. I don’t remember the name.”

Lucy frowned. “Where on Larchmere?”

“I could take you there.”

“Could you?”

Tom looked at the clock. “I’m guessing they close at seven. We still have time.”

“You were about to have dinner.”

“Jessica will be okay with it, let me talk to her.” He got up and went to the kitchen.

He had his coat when he returned. “I’ll drive, ok?”

It had been a long time since Lucy had occupied the passenger seat of Tom’s car. She watched the houses of the tree-lined street pass by.

“Why are you suddenly interested in that music box, Lu?”

“There’s a melody I’ve been obsessed with for months. Humming it. Hearing it in my head. Dah dah duh, dah-dah, dah-dah. I get only so far and then I don’t know the rest. It’s an itch I can’t scratch. I suddenly realized it was the tune from the music box. And then I thought, if I could hear the entire song again, I would know how it ends. Then I could rid myself of it.”

“You want to hear the song so you can forget the song?”

“Sounds crazy, I know.”

“No it doesn’t. But it might not work out that way. Ok, here’s the shop on the right.”

‘Riches Gift Shop’ was painted on the storefront glass. They parked on the street and walked past a rack of used books to the door. A hanging bell jingled when they entered, prompting the grey-haired shopkeeper behind the cash register to look up.

“May I help you?”

Tom described the music box he’d bought there four years earlier.

“I don’t think we carry that line any more,” said the shopkeeper. He guided them over to the section, wound up one of the ornamented boxes and opened it. A lullaby chimed.

Lucy reached out and snapped the box closed. The shop fell silent. She glanced over the shelves. Ceramic gnomes and cherubs stared up at her. There were no robins anywhere.

“The box we’re looking for played different music,” said Lucy. “It was a slow, drifting composition.”

“I remember the model,” said the shopkeeper. “The tune was Gymnopedie No. 1 by Erik Satie.”

“Can you write down that name for me?” she asked.

“Actually I think we have it on CD. Do you want me to check?”

“We’d appreciate it,” said Tom.

The shopkeeper located it in the classical bin. “It’s a popular number for music boxes because the notes already sound like pins plucking the tines of a tuning comb. Of course the orchestrated version is a lot more nuanced. Do you want to hear it?”

“Thank you, yes,” said Lucy.

The shopkeeper removed the disk from the case. Delicately holding it by the edges, he carried it over to the player and inserted it. He pressed start and turned to his customers.

The first few notes. More quiet than silence, more peaceful than a running brook, more haunting than the glow of the morning sun.

“That’s the song,” said Lucy.

“Thanks,” said Tom to the shopkeeper. “We’ll take it.”

When they were in the car again, Tom said, “Ok, Lucy, where am I taking you?”

“I took the bus to your house. Could you drop me back home?”

Lucy stared down at the CD while Tom maneuvered the car out on the roadway.

“Thanks for everything, Tom. This means a lot to me.”

“I remember, we played that song at bedtime every night,” said Tom. “It worked like a charm.”

At her apartment Lucy got out and waved goodbye. She climbed the stairs to her door and let herself in. She crossed the dark cluttered room and sat down at the CD player. She pushed the disk in, lay back on the couch and closed her eyes. The notes wandered across the room like tiny golden pilgrims.

Silken hair. Chubby pink cheeks. Hazel-blue eyes gazing out at the world with gravity and wonder.

“Oh Bethany!” cried Lucy. She curled up in the dark and remembered.

 

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