Gregory advanced on Peter until he was right in front of him. Peter closed his eyes for a second, but didn’t move, not from bravery, but out of mind-numbing fear. “What is this? Are you smuggling valuables to England to sell?” Gregory accused.
Peter shook his head. “No, it’s my violin.”
Hans sank back down in his seat. He bent down and glanced quickly at the baby and rocked the basket with his foot. The baby fluttered her eyelids and went back to sleep. Hans let out a heavy sigh.
Gregory threw the violin case at Peter. “Open it. Quickly! Schnell! Schnell!”
Peter opened the case and showed Gregory the violin. Gregory examined it. “This must be very valuable. You could sell it for a large sum of money in England, couldn’t you?”
“No. It’s old and very out of tune.”
“What do you plan to do with it then?” Gregory asked.
Peter shrugged. “Play it.”
“Play it? You?” Gregory sneered, cocking his head back. “You are a tiny bit of a boy. You are nothing. This is yours?”
Gregory shoved the violin at him. “Then play it.”
“I haven’t played in a long time,” Peter said, thinking it was a trick.
“I said play it!” Gregory ordered.
Peter, hesitatingly, tucked the instrument under his chin. He clumsily dropped the bow. It clattered to the floor. He picked it up and took a breath. All eyes were on him. Not a sound was heard in the train car. Marla watched from the front of the car, her brow sweating, her hands shaking.
Peter moved the bow, and the violin strings howled like a wolf. He looked around. Becca’s face was red, and Peter realized she was holding her breath. He gripped his bow and made it dance slowly on the violin, playing the song that reminded him of Becca. He played “Schmetterling,” a song about a butterfly, but instead of the normal lively flitting of notes, he played it slowly, like a funeral march. Becca released her breath.
The flawless notes from the tiny minstrel reverberated in the train car. When the swaying music of the distorted children’s song ended, some of the children’s faces were streaked with tears from the memories of the homes they had left, but no sound was heard.
Gregory looked around, his faced pinched with anger. “It’s out of tune! Better get it fixed! Sit down. You will never be a good musician.”
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