Scars from the past years.
A plane bounces as it lands.
Heat waves in new life.
Discordant tones and ripples of melodies slipped through Stephanie's ears as her bow sawed against the strings of her violin, and her hand turned the pegs back and forth trying to tune. A trumpeter blasted over everyone else, and a cymbal crashed. Her strings balanced; her pegs slipped. Five hours in a plane from Boston to Albuquerque had warped her violin and loosened the strings.
Perspiration moistened her white blouse as she scrambled to get her violin to work while watching the other orchestra members. Middle-aged men in beer t-shirts they had probably bought in college slid their trombones toward old women slumped over cellos, wearing long skirts with turquoise belts. Younger women like her were in shorts and tank tops, tattoos flirting from their shoulders as they danced their bows on the strings of violas. Stephanie put her tuned violin down and fingered her yin-yang pendant with a shaking hand, reaching out to the Tao: the Water Way. She felt like her spirit was in a dry riverbed.
Her stand partner murmured with the players in front of them until a fit of coughing overtook her. She sounded worse than a smoker, but finally caught her breath and turned to greet Stephanie. Crow’s feet crinkled as she smiled almost maternally, as if Stephanie were her daughter: it was the first enchantment Stephanie saw in New Mexico.
The welcome vanished as the concertmaster stood and the oboe player sounded the tuning A for everyone. Stephanie's strings unrolled again, and people in front of her and next to her stared. Sweat dripped off her cheek and disappeared into the wood of her violin as the conductor stepped up to the podium. Her bow whispered across the strings in a final attempt to tune until the conductor tapped his stand. Everyone stopped. The conductor shrunk into himself and gave a tiny upbeat and downbeat for the subtle entrance of the orchestra. Her violin exploded in the desert air: snap, sproing, pop. The remains dangled in her hand looking like a marionette limp and tangled.
~* * *~
Outside in the after heat of the sun before the stars twinkled, Stephanie hung her head over her desiccated violin. She sat on a cement platform where garish flamenco dancers held up their statue arms forever. The arid air even dried up her tear ducts. She turned the wood and strings around and around in her hands, looking for any hope of saving it.
Pulling a splinter off the back of the violin, she started to prick a yin-yang into her wrist. Droplets of blood reflected the moonlight before spattering on the cement. Another trumpet blared as the auditorium doors opened and closed. A white business card with a Zia symbol and the address for an instrument repair shop fell into her case. Looking up, she saw the smile of her stand partner before the woman walked back to rehearsal, coughing the whole way. Why couldn't her own mother ever smile at her like that? Stephanie wrapped her polishing rag around her wrist and picked up the card. Her thumb rubbed the Zia symbol as her other hand reached for her pendant. Maybe the Water Way was only in a drought.
Stephanie Minagawa travels to Albuquerque as a last resort for her music career, only to have her violin split apart in the arid air. When she takes it to a repair shop on the pueblo, she enters a world of spirits and yearning. Her body is taken over by the ghost of the craftsman’s dead wife, and she must decide between the quiet death she’s longed for, or claiming a new life of music and love.
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