AUTHOR'S NOTE: This flash fiction piece was written for Three Word Wednesday and is cross-posted at Alice Audrey's Serialists. Although it is set in the same world as Steal Tomorrow it is part of a new series of stories centered around new characters. The "Extras" section of the sidebar has been updated to reflect this. Be sure to drop by Three Word Wednesday and The Serialists for more fun.
Mario pushed his way into the hushed apartment. It was looted like the others but perhaps something useful had been overlooked. Earlier in the morning he had stumbled upon a stash of Clif bars and electrolyte tablets in a former athlete's home. The man's apparent interest in good health had been no match for the pandemic virus that wiped out the adults and left young people like seventeen year-old Mario scrambling for survival.
He stood a moment in the hushed and musty living room. It had been awhile since other young people had gone through, taking what they could. Everything, even the overturned chairs, was coated in a fine filter of dust. It was the pictures that drew Mario's attention, though - framed posters from important jazz festivals. He walked the perimeter of the room, examining them. Some were signed originals. How he would've liked to have gone to New Orleans, Montreux, or Chicago to see the masters! His parents never had the money for such a pilgrimage, but he would’ve gladly hitchhiked if only they would’ve let him. Now all the greats were gone, their bones mingling with those of bankers and garbage collectors in the common pits.
It occurred to him that a home like this must have a good collection of jazz CDs, and with any luck maybe some batteries as well. Mario was looking for a CD organizer when his gaze fell on something more precious than shiny plastic discs and the batteries he would need to play them.
Reverently, he approached the saxophone, still gleaming on the faded rug where it had fallen. Had it been damaged? He picked it up and examined it. The rods appeared unbent and the keys were tight. Markings identified it as a Yanagisawa Professional, and Mario sighed with pleasure. What wouldn't he have given to own one of these babies before the pandemic?
A search of the other rooms turned up a box of reeds, but they were so dry they would require a good soaking before Mario could make use of them. He wet one in a few drips from his bottle of precious drinking water, then cleaned the saxophone and did a thorough examination of the key pads before polishing the lacquer of the bell until it shone.
Finally the reed was soft enough to affix to the mouthpiece. He drank a bit of water to wet his lips, mustered up his courage and blew a hesitant note. Scowling, he let go of the mouthpiece and glared as if the reed and not his ability were at fault. What had he expected, though? It had been months since he abandoned the suburban neighborhood of his childhood, leaving his old student Yamaha sax behind. It had been even longer since he last played, because who could make music while teachers, parents and friends were dying all around?
Things were different now, though. Life was much harder than before, but Mario and others like him had adjusted. The children who couldn't cope with the new reality were in graves or strung out on the city's remaining drugs and alcohol.
Mario was a survivor and he would get his old skills back. He would turn pain and loss into music. He would express, too, the small transcendent joys of simply being alive. He licked his reed and blew a long E flat. It wouldn't take long to be the musician he once was. He took a shuddering breath, closed his eyes, and began playing.
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