Rania Kyrkintanou was born and lives in Athens. She studied French literature and Special Education at the University of Athens. She is a teacher of Greek as a foreign language and a writer.
THE CRYING GUITAR A short story
Rania Kyrkintanou, The Crying Guitar ISBN: 978-618-5040-94-9 September 2014 Original title: Η κιθάρα που έκλαιγε
Kevin Green, Vanessa Green
Anastasios Vogiatzidis firstname.lastname@example.org
Page layout, cover design:
Iraklis Lampadariou www.lampadariou.eu
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he guitar desperately glanced around her and began to cry in A minor. She kept crying and crying with all her might playing melancholy chords, but nobody was listening. She was thrown away in a dumpster on top of plastic bags with leftovers and other useless things. But what business had a guitar in the dumpster? Long story. She came out of the factory a few days ago. She was an ordinary guitar that was neither too loud nor too soft. However, she was different: a small dent in her wood made some notes sound unpleasant, jarring, and dissonant. As soon as she was taken out of the factory, she was labeled as “defective”, and the workers debated whether or not to destroy her. Finally, she was loaded onto a truck and was sent to a music store. She was displayed in the guitar department and, instead of a price tag, she was labeled “OFFER”. When evening comes, all the musical instruments in the world which are locked away in stores, in houses or in music schools start chatting. The same thing happened then. When the employees turned off the lights, locked the doors, and left the store, the guitars began to chat. ‘I was bought this morning by a very famous composer, and tomorrow I will be delivered to his house’, said a beautiful but cocky guitar in a loud and bright voice. ‘He will compose songs that will be played in the biggest concert halls of the world’, she said proudly and strutted her fretboard. ‘Lucky you’, said another. ‘I am more likely to be bought by a man who wants to force his son to learn the guitar. I will be tortured for a couple of months, my strings will be broken, and I’ll end up in the attic’. ‘I don’t care who will get me’, said our own guitar. ‘As long as I will be bought soon. I really want to play music!’ The other guitars looked at her for a few seconds and then burst into laughter. ‘So you think you can play music? Who do you think you are?’ asked a guitar mockingly. ‘Even if you have the chance to be bought
without being tested, the people who will buy you will soon have you replaced by another guitar’. The guitar felt very distressed. She realized that her sound wasn’t beautiful the moment she let out her first note. It was a snapping, quiet sound, out of tune and lacking harmony. What would she do if she was to be bought by someone who would not want to keep her? Or, even worse, if no one bought her? Would she remain forever in the shop to watch the other guitars leaving? Are there any other guitars like her that no one wants to buy? And if there are, what becomes of them? Where do they go? The next day the guitar sat in the corner and silently observed the customers who merely browsed the merchandise and left. There was also a man wearing a tired and sleepy expression who was holding by the hand a little boy who shared his resemblance. The little boy was looking around and was rambling on in a loud high-pitched voice. He was touching the guitars, grabbing their strings, and knocking on their wood. ‘This is the one I want, this is the one I want!’ he was shouting. Then another one was catching his attention. ‘No, this is the one I want! It’s more beautiful!’ he was shouting. Then he saw a third one and started screaming and pulling the man from the sleeve. ‘Daddy, Daddy, this is the one I want! This one! This one! It’s amazing!’ ‘I hope he doesn’t choose me’, thought the guitar. The boy looked at eight guitars before he made up his mind. ‘This is the one I want! It's the best!’ he shouted with all his might. His dad asked the price in a tired voice; but when he heard the number, he rolled his eyes. ‘Forget about it’, he said to the little boy. ‘Come on, Dad, you promised me! For my birthday!’ said the little kid, but his dad was determined. The boy yelled for a while and then
wrinkled his face and started screaming with sobs. ‘You promised me!’ he shrieked without a single tear in his eyes. ‘Ok, ok’, said the man giving up. ‘We’ll buy it’. The employee took the guitar down silently and took it to the checkout. The other guitars sighed with relief. ‘Don’t you like a Game Boy better?’ they heard the man asking the little boy when they were leaving. The next customer who came was a young man who seemed to be in a hurry. ‘I want a guitar as cheap as possible. I need to take it to a new music school that has just opened’, he said with a sigh. ‘These ones here are very economical’, said the employee, but the young man interrupted him. ‘I want this one’, he said, pointing to our guitar. The guitar bounced. ‘He’ll get me!’ she thought happily. ‘He’ll buy me and take me to the music school! I’ll hang out with the other instruments, the children will learn to play music with me and they’ll take exams and will do concerts! And maybe one day a child will play music everywhere in the world when they grow up, thanks to me! Oh, I'm so happy!’ she thought joyfully, and left the shop full of hopes and dreams. ‘Peter, where are you? I’ve been waiting for you all day!’ the guitar heard a strident voice saying when the young man entered the music school. ‘Here I am, Ms. Zizi, I brought the guitar’, said the young man. ‘At last’, replied Ms. Zizi eagerly. ‘Take it out of its case and leave it here until I decide where I shall put it’. Peter took the guitar out of its case and left it next to a piano. The guitar looked around her. She was in a big room with an old piano with many carvings. Ms. Zizi was neither too old nor too young. She was thin,
with hair the color of stained oak. Her tall neck, in combination with her small head and crooked nose, made her look like a bird. ‘So this is the owner of the music school,’ thought the guitar. ‘Since she owns a music school she should be a very important person!’ By the evening the empty hall was full of instruments. There was a serious and imposing double bass, a nervous and restless violin, and a derisive and cheeky bouzouki. In another room was one more piano, displaying, on its top, a metronome and a marble head. Ms. Zizi was pacing up and down, tapping her heels nervously while shaking her birdlooking head. She was quarreling, shouting, screaming, and making suggestions as to where things ought to be put, while Peter, silent and sullen, was following her. Hours later, when she finished the things she had to do, she turned off the lights and left slamming loudly the door behind her. The instruments began to chat. ‘I hope people will use us at this music school’, said the double bass in his deep bass voice. ‘A friend of mine had stayed for months in a music school without playing music, and eventually the owners took him back to the store. I wouldn’t like this to happen to me too. A double bass must play music, otherwise he’s useless. Maybe one day we’ll play the Trout Quintet together, what do you think?’ he asked the piano turning towards her. The piano looked at him snobbishly. ‘I only play what Ms. Zenovia asks me to’, she said. ‘Is this ma’am called Zenovia?’ asked the bouzouki mockingly. ‘Indeed’, replied the piano. ‘And she’s not a ma’am, she’s a mademoiselle. Calling her ma’am, how disrespectful that is!’ she said angrily. ‘Ok, chill out, it’s not the end of the world!’ said the bouzouki mockingly. ‘How do you know all this? Have you been here long? Which store did they buy you from?’ asked the violin rapidly in her melodious voice. ‘I do not come from a store’, said the piano contemptuously. ‘I belong to the family of Ms. Zenovia for years. Like her mother and her
grandmother before her, she was taught how to play the piano with me. And for your information Chopin's piano is my third cousin!’ she said pompously. Upon hearing the word “Chopin”, all the instruments were silent and looked at each other. ‘Wow! I don’t believe it, really?’ asked the bouzouki mockingly. The piano threw him a look of anger, but did not deign to reply. The violin was trying to choke her laughter, the double bass was looking elsewhere pretending not to have listened, and the guitar seemed to not understand what was happening. ‘Why is this piano such a bragger? Who is Chopin’s piano?’ she thought, but didn’t make any questions. She didn’t want to start a conversation with that boastful piano. ‘If you want, we can play music together’, said the violin to the double bass. ‘We’ll make a nice duet, don’t you think?’ ‘It will be my pleasure’, the double bass answered politely and stretched his fingerboard. ‘Fine, then I'll play with the little missy here who doesn’t say much’, said the bouzouki looking at the guitar. All the instruments turned and looked at her. ‘From what shop do you come ? What do you like to play? Are you new? When did you get here?’ asked the violin rapidly. ‘I came this morning’, replied the guitar in her slow voice. ‘I don’t know what the shop is called. I was bought by the young man called Peter here. He brought me here. I really want to play music, even if it’s only for a few days or hours’. The other instruments looked at her and then looked at each other without saying anything. ‘Sorry to tell you this, girlie, but your voice is as much use as a handbrake on a canoe’, said the bouzouki. ‘You will never play the Concerto of Aranjuez’, said the double bass pitifully.
‘I truly wonder why Ms. Zenovia brought such an instrument to the music school!’ said the piano looking at the guitar with horror. ‘You shouldn’t talk, because your position is in the museum!’ said the violin angrily. ‘And it doesn’t matter if she won’t play the Concerto of Aranjuez, she will be able to play other pieces!’ she said to the double bass. The piano became angry and started shouting that she’d rather be in a museum than in the music school with a bunch of ignoble and common instruments who had no idea of music nor of good manners. The bouzouki began to shout too, and in a few minutes the fight had begun. The violin was yelling with all her strings, the piano forgot her good manners and started thrashing her keys with all her might, the bouzouki was making up improvised melodies which made the piano even more upset, and the double bass was shouting “be quiet” in his bass voice. The guitar was slumped in the corner and was listening silently. She did not speak again that night or the following. In the corner she stayed, with her strings tight and not uttering a word. ‘I’ll never play music’, she was thinking. ‘It seems that people's ears are very sensitive and cannot tolerate sounds like my voice’. She remained silent while the other instruments talked, argued, and laughed. The music school was being tidied up and soon the day of the inauguration came. Ms. Zizi said she was going to inspect the instruments to make sure that everything was in order. Apart from the instruments, she had also brought a book case and loaded it with small paintings, pots and figurines. She also furnished the room with some desks and a blackboard. At the entrance she put a large desk and a leather cherrycolored chair in the shape of a big pear. On the wall behind the desk, she hung a large painting of her grandmother’s portrait in a bronze carved frame. On the adjacent wall, she scattered a bunch of other documents in frames, such as her high school diploma and a French certificate, so everyone would know how great and competent she was.
The piano, contemptuous and proud, was standing ready to amaze everyone, with an expression that all the kings of the world would envy. Opposite the piano, stood the serious double bass. Next to it, the violin was rotating her pegs nervously. A little bit further stood the bouzouki, which for the first time seemed to have lost his derisive expression and was seemingly lost in his thoughts. Next to him was the guitar. Ms. Zizi never liked this instrument, its sound was irritating her. If she had the chance she would have never brought it to her music school, but most parents wanted their children to learn how to play the guitar! She took it in her hands and played loudly. When she was little she had a few lessons and knew a piece. Now, what was the tune? Like this. But what was that sound? She stretched her long neck, shook her crooked nose, and began shouting with all her force. ‘Peter! Come over here, please! How dare you bring this miserable instrument into my music school? How could you do this to me? I would become one of the greatest sopranos in the world and, if I wasn’t afraid of airplanes, I would go to Germany to study singing!’ she shouted in high pitches as the veins of her neck stretched. ‘Take this thing away from me at once and get me a guitar. Is that clear?’ Peter took the guitar and went off silently. What would he do now? He took the guitar to the music store and tried to exchange the guitar, but he was told that this was impossible, because the guitar was a final sale. Finally, he managed to get a new one with a small discount, but did not know what to do with the old one. Luckily, a junk dealer who was passing by gave the solution to the problem. At first, the man refused firmly to take the guitar, but eventually Peter, after a long talk, convinced him. So the guitar ended up on the junk dealer’s truck bed, along with a stove full of old dried grease, a chair with a torn mat and three legs, a refrigerator with broken shelves, and an ajar door that was opening and closing when the truck was braking.
The guitar sat speechless in the truck bed without looking at anybody, while the others stared at the guitar with curiosity. ‘Hi’, said the stove after a while. ‘Why did they give you to the junk dealer? You look brand new, you are so shiny and beautiful!’ The guitar turned and looked at her. She looked tired, but had a gentle and calm expression that she liked. ‘Thank you’, she answered quietly. ‘What is a junk dealer?’ she asked right away. ‘The junk dealer is the man who got you’, replied the chair. ‘He roams the neighborhoods with his little truck, turns and picks up the old things from people’s houses. ‘We're all rusty’, said the stove. I used to work nonstop for almost thirty years, until one day I made a loud clicking sound and was never turned on again. My burners had seen loads of stuff for all these years: sauces, soups, and all sorts of greens and vegetables were boiling on them! And my stove was set at three hundred and fifty degrees, especially on Sundays and holidays, when all the family was getting together. The craftsman who came to fix me said it would cost them less to get a new stove. Thus, I was given to the junk dealer’. ‘I used to live in a living room for many years’, said the chair. Loads of people used to sit on me and were chatting, laughing, crying, telling their secrets, quarreling, eating, drinking, playing cards, and listening to music... Until one day, a huge man sat on me. I was already so old that my mat tore and my leg broke. Nobody bothered to tinker with me. I was just given to the junk dealer the very next day’. ‘As for me’, said the refrigerator, ‘ever since I can remember I chilled food. Vegetables, milk, beer, meat, and loads of other things. From time to time I was full of ice but people were cleaning me. Now, I’m constantly full of ice and nobody cleans me. People used to complain that
I’m useless and that they’re keeping me for nothing. This morning they got a new refrigerator and I was given to the junk dealer. ‘And what will he do with you?’ asked the guitar. ‘Will he keep you at his place?’ ‘No’, said the stove. ‘He’ll try to fix both me and the refrigerator. If he can fix us, he will sell us. Otherwise, he’ll sell our components as replacements’. ‘Oh!’ said the guitar with horror. ‘That’s terrible!’ The stove looked at her with her four burners. ‘Not really’, she said. ‘This is the destiny of every stove and every refrigerator in the world’, said the refrigerator. ‘We’ve lived our life’, said the chair smiling. ‘Why did he give you away to the junk dealer?’ asked the stove again. The guitar sighed. ‘It’s a long story’, she said. ‘My dream is to play music, but there’s a dent in my wood that gives me a bad sound and nobody wants to hear me. I was in a music school, but as soon as people touched my strings to check my sound, they got rid of me in a hurry. I only played one chord. Fortunately, they didn’t throw me in the dumpster, but gave me to the junk dealer instead. I guess there will be someone who wants me, won’t there?’ she asked in agony. ‘Yes, for sure’, said the fridge. ‘Maybe a poor musician who cannot afford a new guitar’. ‘Or someone who collects musical instruments’, added the chair. The truck had entered into a neighborhood full of children playing on the roadside and barking dogs, turned to a dirt road and stopped. The junk dealer got off, he unloaded the guitar, the stove, the chair and the refrigerator and took them inside a house. The guitar was looking around her enchanted. There were such
beautiful things there! A real treasure! It was as if all these things poured from the open doors of an old house. Besides herself and her friends, there was also a ripped suitcase with worn leather, a leaky heater, a broken tennis racket, a torn baby pram without wheels, a bike frame, pans, coffee pots, pots, loads of books in leather cover and others with smeary pages and a torn cover, a small iron bed, a pair of shoes without laces that belonged to a splay footed child and two paintings: one of a snowy house in the woods and the other one of a shepherdess that was playing flute sitting beside a fountain while around her some sheep were grazing. The following days the junk dealer was carrying things, was rubbing, polishing, painting, cutting and sticking. He cleaned the refrigerator and fixed its door, he rubbed with some pots and pans, stuck the leg of the chair and fixed its matting and on Sunday he loaded everything on his truck, he took the guitar and he went off to the marketplace. It was still very early in the morning and the street was empty. However, after a while a bunch of junk dealers arrived with their trucks from different places and started arraying their stuff on their stalls. The road was filled with all kinds of objects and trifles, the hucksters were blaring their merchandise with a booming voice and the people were passing by and were looking at the things. Most of them were just throwing a glance and were leaving. Some people just skimmed a book, asked the price, and either purchased it or left. It was the first time that the guitar saw so many people and things gathered in one place. Some of the objects were old, useless, and ugly, but some were beautiful and shiny, each unique with its own story. Most people went by without stopping. The guitar began to despair. â€˜Nobody will take meâ€™, she was thinking sadly. After a while, a
lady with thick glasses that made her eyes look as big as an owl stopped by and asked the price of the chair. The junk dealer said ‘twenty’. ‘No way, it’s too expensive’, the lady responded, and was about to leave. ‘Eighteen’, the junk dealer negotiated. The lady considered the offer for a moment. ‘Ten’, she said, in a tone that suggested that she would not take no for an answer. The junk dealer rolled his eyes. ‘I cannot give it to you for free, lady!’ he said angrily, and the lady turned her back and was about to leave again. ‘Ok, ok, fifteen’, said the junk dealer, and he sighed shaking his head. The lady did not say anything, she pulled out of a plastic wallet some coins, took the chair, and left. A bit later, a girl stopped in front of the junk dealer’s stand. At first, she almost passed by without stopping, but then turned back. With a barely audible voice, she asked the guitar’s price. She blushed upon hearing the cost. ‘I don’t have so much money’, she timidly replied. ‘How much do you have?’ asked the junk dealer impatiently. The girl said a number. The junk dealer pretended to consider the offer, and then he sighed and said impatiently: ‘Ok, ok’, he mumbled, and gave the guitar to the girl. ‘Someone bought me! I don’t believe it!’ thought the guitar. ‘I’m so happy!’ The girl returned home holding her new instrument in her hands and got straight to work. She was a student from a distant city and decided to spend her time learning the guitar, not because she liked music or because she had a particular talent, but because she had nothing else to do. She was told about a teacher who was giving private guitar
lessons at a fairly low price, and decided to try lessons. She borrowed music books from a girl she knew who played at a more advanced level. Because she did not have enough money to purchase her own guitar, she practiced for a month with her teacher’s guitar. Now she felt tremendously lucky to have found a guitar for such a good price. And it looked brand new! With lifeless and weak fingers, she played her assigned exercises slowly, monotonously, and without rhythm, as if she was afraid that someone would scold her if she played loudly. The monotonous music made the small room even smaller and lonelier. She played the doleful exercises until her hands could not practice any longer and went to sleep. The next afternoon, the girl went to her classroom and started playing the exercises. The teacher tall, moody, and with a unibrow, frowning as he listened to the girl play. He was growling, twirling in his chair, and lifting his unibrow towards one side, and then towards the other. ‘You are out of tune!’ he yelled, as he jumped. The girl blushed and stopped at once. But what had she done? The teacher was looking furious. ‘Where'd you get that instrument?’ he asked in a loud voice. ‘Uh… I got it from a friend of mine’, mumbled the girl while her whole face blushed. ‘Can’t you hear, my girl, that the sound is not good?’ asked the teacher angrily. He took the guitar in his hands, turned it to the other side, and looked at it carefully for a few minutes. ‘It has a dent!’ he shouted. ‘But...’ tried to say the girl, but the teacher interrupted her angrily. ‘If you want to learn to play the guitar, you'll get another one. Go now and do not come to the class with this thing’, he said sharply, putting an end to the debate.
The guitar had sunk into misery. Why she was so unlucky? What would the girl make of her? The girl was also lost in her own thoughts. Now she had to make savings on the money she was getting from her folks for at least six months in order to buy another guitar. And all this was the guitar’s fault, and she did not want to see it anymore! At the corner of the street, there was a dumpster. She approached it, dropped the guitar inside, closed the lid, and left. Thus, the guitar’s fate was to leave the music shop and to be abandoned in the dumpster, all alone amongst plastic bags full of trash. ‘Is this what people think of me?’ she thought. ‘That I am like the garbage that is inside these bags? Nobody wants me, nobody.’ Her sorrow was so deep that she began crying and howling uncontrollably. People brought more garbage and threw it on her. Because no one looked inside the trash bin, nobody knew that there was a weeping guitar. Soon the garbage had become so numerous that the dumpster could no longer be closed and the lid was open. Buried beneath the plastic bags, the guitar cried in A minor without caring if anyone listened. A couple of blocks away lived a musical instrument collector. He wasn’t looking for handmade or rare instruments, but for timeworn and damaged instruments that people didn’t want any longer. He was a foreigner living in a foreign city doing various jobs. He didn’t want to interact with people. He was never speaking to others unless they were first speaking to him and he never asked questions. Sometimes many days passed without him saying a single word, without even greeting a man. One would say that nothing interested him, that all the days were empty and were flowing one after the other with no changes, no discussions, no fuss, no colors, and no smells. Yet, the days were not always so. Many years ago when he used to live in his native country, he was a musician. He used to play the cello and the violin. When he grew up, he managed to find work in an orchestra. At
this time, his life was full of music, melodies, and sounds. He wouldn’t let a single day pass without holding in his hands an instrument. Things changed though, hard times came and people were forced to flee to other countries to find jobs in order to move on with their lives. The orchestra closed down and the musicians left elsewhere to seek a better life. This is how the instrument collector came to live alone on the top floor of a tiny gray apartment complex with just one room that opened to a terrace which had a view throughout the city. For many years, this strange man lived alone in silence, until not long ago music suddenly came again into his life. It was afternoon and he was going back home from work when his eye fell upon an object that was thrown on the pavement. He approached and took it. A flute! But how could that be? Who threw a flute on the street? He looked around to see if anyone was watching, he shoved the flute inside his jacket and ran to his house, while his heart was beating so hard he thought it would break. A flute! It was a low-grade children’s flute, but he didn’t mind at all. He cleaned it carefully and played it for hours as he hadn’t done in years. Since then, every Sunday he would roam all the neighborhoods of the city and would look for musical instruments that people didn’t want anymore. He would look into the trash in the streets, on the sidewalks, at the squares, and would ask people in the junk shops and the stores. Outside a store he found an old accordion with torn bellows, and a harmonica in a garbage bag. In a junk shop he found a scratched violin with a missing string, and in another junk shop he found a xylophone. He took all these instruments home, and cleaned and repaired them with great care. He felt that he was not alone anymore, and that he had his own things that wanted to speak to him in their language, and share their stories. One evening he had just come home from work and was about to play the violin. He could hear people arguing in an apartment, a radio,
and car horns from the street. Nothing was odd nor different than usual. Yet something had changed today, there was something different about the sounds of the city. From afar, he heard a sound calling him beseechingly, a sound that was weak and monotonous, but very plaintive, like a childâ€™s crying. He put down the violin and opened the balcony door. Now he could hear the sound clearly. An A minor! A guitar! He ran quickly to find her. He went on the street and started running towards the sound. He arrived at the dumpster and started to search the bags. He didnâ€™t mind the garbage or the passersby who were looking at him interrogatively. He had to find the guitar. There she is! A brand new guitar! Why was she thrown in the trash? He fumbled her in the dark and felt her wounded wood. He cuddled it with affection and went back home. He pulled out of a small suitcase every single tool he had and worked for hours, until the damage was almost completely restored. The darkness was deep and the city was slowly getting ready to sleep. The lights went out one after the other, the horns stopped, and televisions were turned off. The collector was sitting in his terrace overlooking the city and was playing the guitar. Nonstop, he played tunes that he hadnâ€™t played for years, and whatever else that came out of him at that time. And the wind took the voice of the guitar away, beyond the houses and the people, above the city, higher than the earth, and brought it in the sky to sing her song to the stars, who were watching the world from above.
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The strongest desire a guitar can have is to play music. However, this is not so easy for a defective guitar. She starts her adventure in a musical instrument store, she goes for a while at the conservatory, she meets a damaged stove, an old refrigerator and other strange objects, and finally she ends up in a dumpster. Everything shows that she has the same destiny as the garbage. Or not?