Busker Near a Bustling Patio on Prince Arthur in Montréal

by | Apr 9, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Eight

A thin ebony man wraps long limbs around a sleek maple body and holds her firmly from behind. One hand fondles the strings wound tautly at her neck and the other caresses the frets along her ribs and she exhales a resonant moan from the depths of her burgeoning belly. His body bows as he eases the bow—slowly draws a longing wail that pinches the conversation on the patio where manicured fingers flutter to hearts, to throats.

On the patio across the cobblestone street, one diner clasps her pearls and presses a linen napkin to the corner of her eye as her husband plucks an exoskeleton from the shrimp clenched between his teeth. She wonders how she wound up with a man so immune to the bouquet of sound budding on the cellist’s strings. Even the waiter—bottle of pinot noir hovering inches from the wineglasses he’s forgotten to fill—stands mesmerized.

The cellist sways—eyes squeezed shut, fingertips feathering strings—and the cello moans—her wails coiling and climbing higher and higher. Tears spring into the woman’s eyes, and she pictures their daughter Chloé, ringlets bouncing plié after plié, dégagé after dégagé, practicing at the barre. Her husband insists the girl focus on her math scores, so she is spending this sunny afternoon at the tutor’s. Chloé would love how the cellist tilts towards the crowd, how the delicate notes bloom and drift on the breeze.

The woman’s husband frowns at his empty glass. He wipes scampi sauce from his chin and notes a lull in the room. All eyes are diverted to the black man and his gigantic violin. He calls, “Garçon!” and motions to his wineglass, but the waiter only hears the final crescendo. An explosion of silence falls like confetti, and the patrons on the patio rise to applaud. The woman claps and claps until her palms burn. Tonight, she will encourage Chloé to keep practicing, tell her the hours invested will pay off in the end. Still seated, her husband snaps his fingers and barks, “Garçon!

The waiter snaps from his trance and apologizes for the delay, but her husband’s face remains sour even after his glass is filled. She tucks a twenty under her plate, knowing her husband won’t leave a tip, and watches him clamp another shrimp between his teeth.

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