Thursday, July 25, 2013

Flash Fiction by Bob Brill

Silence in the Woods

Brother Joseph sat quietly on a fallen log listening to the sound of the brook. He raised his bamboo flute to his lips, took a breath and set himself to blow. Just then he heard a violent snapping of twigs, and a boy, perhaps ten years old, came crashing out of the brush. He spied Brother Joseph and, veering from his course, ran up to him crying, "Help. Help me." He collapsed at Brother Joseph's feet, gasping for breath, "Man broke into house. Got my folks at gunpoint. Says he's gonna kill 'em. I got away. Need help."

"Did you call 911?"

"Got a phone?"

"No. Up at the abbey. Come with me. I'll show you the way."  Brother Joseph set down his flute, picked up his crutches, climbed to his feet, hobbled slowly up the trail.

"Can't you go any faster?" cried the boy.

"You go on ahead. It's just a hundred yards up this trail. Take the right hand fork. Big wooden building."

The boy said nothing, just dashed away, quickly disappearing from sight. Brother Joseph took a few more steps, then stopped. He'll b
e in good hands now, he thought. Nothing more I can do. He returned to his log. Sat down. Picked up his flute. His heart was pounding hard. He listened to the song of the brook as it coursed over the stones. He brought the flute to his lips. Someone was coming up the path with slow measured steps. A bolt of fear shot through Brother Joseph when he thought it might be the gunman.  His friend, the postman, emerged into the clearing with a sack of mail.

"Hi ho, Brother Joseph," he called. "A beautiful fine day it is to be carrying a sack full of bills to the abbey. Here is your Smithsonian Magazine."

"Oh, look at this," said Brother Joseph, taking the magazine.  "What is this strange bird on the cover? It's a hoatzin, whatever that is." He opened the magazine, searching for the cover article. His eyes fell on a photograph of a gigantic robot arm, so delicate, said the caption, that it could juggle three eggs without breaking them. Quickly he closed the magazine. "Please, my friend, take this up to the abbey. I'll look at it later."

"Busy?"  asked the postman.

"Busy trying to quiet my busy mind. Why, just now ... never mind.  I'll tell you later."

"I see how it is with you, my friend. I'll be on my way."

After the postman left, Brother Joseph tried to settle down, but he kept thinking about the boy. What was happening up at the
abbey? What about the boy's parents? An armed psychopath less than a mile away. Why hadn't he gone to a neighbor for help?  Probably one of those lone houses at the edge of the woods. The woods would be safest. Good instinct to run for cover in the woods. A robot juggling eggs. What for? Who would want to?

He couldn't silence the voices in his head. Then he realized that by trying to calm himself enough to play his flute he was doing it backward. The trick, he knew from long experience, was just to play the flute until the babbling voices stopped. He raised the flute to his lips and blew a note. A long wavering note that came from his busy mind, then a quick string of notes, still connected to his thoughts. As he played he again became aware of the brook singing among the stones and he answered the watery song with his own song, the notes now coming from deep within him, flowing harmoniously with the stream. He was focused now. The world narrowed to the water music mingling with the fluty wind music, no room for thoughts, no other being but here now.

Once more silence in the woods, except for the song of a bamboo flute, a running brook, a distant gunshot.

Bob Brill is a retired computer programmer and digital artist. He is now devoting his energies to writing fiction and poetry. His novellas, short stories and more than 100 poems have appeared in more than two dozen online magazines, print journals, and anthologies.

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