This short story first appeared at Espresso Fiction in 2006
Opal chanced upon the violin the day she went searching in the attic for her husband Stan’s gun. The attic was awash in clutter. She waded through it all, stubbing her toe on the Christmas tree stand and knocking over a stack of boxes. And in the end, no gun in sight. She sighed and picked up the violin case instead.
She’d inherited the violin—a Stradivarius, a real Stradivarius, according to the stained, yellowing label inside—six months earlier, after Aunt Julia had died. Stan had gleefully speculated about its worth, so she’d taken it to a local violin shop, a dusty little basement store that doubled as a shoe repair. The room was dim and quiet, the smell of leather, polish and varnish unfamiliar but not unpleasant. The violin-maker, or luthier, as his business card read, was a tiny, bent man with the hint of a foreign accent. He appraised the violin, scratching notes on a pad of paper before picking up the violin again and turning it this way and that. Fifteen minutes later, he gave her the news. Made in Europe, yes, but the “Antonius Stradivarius, Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 1719” label affixed inside did not mean, as she and Stan been hoping, that Aunt Julia had left her a Stradivarius.
“Just a copy,” he told her. “This label, it means nothing. Not a forgery, so to speak. Makers did this often, back then, imitating a famous luthier’s style. This looks German, made around 1890. Some flaws in the design, excessive wear here, but a worthy little fiddle, nonetheless.” He made a few more adjustments, tuned it, and returned it to her.
By the time Opal returned home, Stan was already back from work. He was stretched out on the couch, reading the paper, but sat up expectantly when he saw her. His oxford button-down shirt looked as fresh and unwrinkled as when he’d left the house ten hours earlier. She marveled, as always, that time never seemed to touch him. His hair was still dark and thick, the classic angles of his jaw still well-defined with no hint of a jowl. He looked the same as he had on their wedding day, twenty-five years earlier. “What a catch,” her friends had all whispered. Little did they know the catching had been the easiest part.
“So, how much?” he asked her when he saw her carrying the violin case. He stood and rubbed his hands together just like they did in cartoons. All that was missing were the dollar signs in his eyes, now lit up and fixed on her. She savored the moment of being important, of having information he was dying to learn. “Six figures?” he asked when she didn’t reply.
She shook her head.
“Damn. Eighty thousand? No?”
“It’s a copy. But not a bad one.” A note of defensiveness crept up.
“So, what, then? Fifty thousand? Twenty?” His voice grew more terse with each shake of her head. “Well then what, for chrissakes?”
“Two thousand dollars?!” He stared at her, his expression now angry, accusing, as if she’d been part of a plot with Aunt Julia to trick him, to deny him of something due to him. “A lousy two thousand dollars—that was your big inheritance?”
A hard knot of anxiety worked its way up her back and into her shoulders. “I didn’t plan it this way, you know.”
He glared at her, his mouth working as if trying to form the best words. Then he drove his fist into the top cushion of the chintz sofa. He took a deep breath, straightened the pillow and walked over to the violin case, which she’d set on the adjacent Queen Anne chair. He gave the chair a swift kick that sent the violin in its case sliding down. It thumped on the gleaming oak floor, causing the violin inside to ring in protest.
“Stop it!” She swooped down to pick it up. “It’s not the violin’s fault.”
“Sorry,” he said over his shoulder as he walked away. “Not as if I’m damaging some fine antique though.” He shook his head as he leafed through the day’s mail on the side table. “Two thousand bucks. Your Aunt Julia was always a flake. Figures she’d tell you she was leaving you an inheritance and instead give you a tired piece of junk.”
She ignored him and went into the kitchen to make dinner. Later that evening, she tried to play the violin, but the screeches produced were horrific. She could hear Stan snickering in the adjacent room. Deciding she didn’t need one more thing beating her down, she stuck the violin back in its case and left it in the den for days, weeks, until Stan tired of tripping over it and shoved it in the attic.
Now, months later, here was the violin. No gun, just the violin. Clearly this was not her day. Sighing, she abandoned her gun search and left the attic with the violin.
[To continue, and/or read the story in its entirety, go to http://www.terezrose.com/Fiction/Entries/2006/060000_The%20Inheritance.html ]