A Room Full of Instruments
The auroral ray of light reflected off the brass symbols. Day crept into the shop, sneaking behind Mr. Sangito. His feet automatically to their familiar path and led him to the back room. The rows of flutes, recorders, and clarinets whistled a hello. All was as it should be. He softly smiled.
Mr. Sangito thought for a moment, and then reached for a flute. He slowly brought it to the front of the shop. He returned, and brought another, and another, until there were ten silver flutes on display. He then fetched one for himself and flipped the “Closed” sign in the front of the shop to “Open.”
The music shop was not a popular shop. It didn’t sell toys, or chocolate, or books. It was always like this, but especially during the holiday months. How could music benefit a Neopet? Overpriced junk, he was always told. Mr. Sangito forced a smile. Not today, he thought. Today, he had a plan.
He had advertised all over Neopia. He was in the holiday spirit, and today, he had decided, he was going to have a flute sale. All day long, he would restock only flutes. All with a 2,000 Neopoint discount. It was brilliant, and it was simple.
Mr. Sangito felt the softness of the flute in his Yurble hands. It was perfect. Surely Neopia could see that.
He waited. He waited. Why hadn’t he sold a flute yet? He just had to give it time.
He waited. He waited. What if no one knew about the sale? Impossible, he had advertised so well.
His eyelids were heavy.
- - -
Cam peered into the store. The sign said it was open, and he was sure he had heard about a sale. His owner was waiting, his sister was off at a different store but Cam didn’t move.
It took him several seconds to realize that hidden within the shadows was an old shadow Yurble, sleeping on the front display. A silver flute rested in his paws. The store owner, Cam knew immediately, though he wasn’t sure how.
He then shifted his attention to the ten flutes on display. Each one was identical. He instinctively reached for a flute and touched it ever so lightly. The silver was cold on his paw.
His eyes wandered beyond the front display into the back storage. Brass smiled back at him. Cam slowly moved towards the back room.
The Yurble suddenly awoke, and Cam jumped back in response.
- - -
It took Mr. Sangito a few seconds to realize that he had a customer. The nervous red Kyrii looked confused. He quickly rubbed his eyes and tried to flash a smile.
“Can I help you?” he asked. The Kyrii twiddled its thumbs. Mr. Sangito waited.
“I’m not sure,” it finally replied. “Um, what’s your name?”
Mr. Sangito sighed. He was trying to make a sale, not small talk. “Mr. Sangito.” He paused for a moment, and then reluctantly, he asked, “What’s yours?”
There was silence for a moment, and Mr. Sangito realized that it was going to be a difficult sale. He took a deep breath. “Cam the Kyrii,” he said, forcing a smile.
Cam shook his head. “Don’t say that. It’s stupid.”
“Right.” The silence hung. Mr. Sangito looked down. He was getting frustrated, but he wasn’t going to lose the only customer he’d had all day. “Would you like to buy something?”
Cam shrugged. “What do you have?”
“Flutes,” Mr. Sangito replied instantly. He gestured to the front display of flutes and the sign proclaiming “Flute Sale.” The Kyrii just nodded nonchalantly.
“I can’t play the flute,” he replied. Mr. Sangito’s face fell. The kid was just wasting his time. “Are you selling anything else?”
Mr. Sangito folded his arms. “Not today. Just flutes, today. What can you play?”
Mr. Sangito’s head hurt. Was the Kyrii trying to ruin his afternoon? “Then I can’t really do anything for you, now, can I?” he asked politely.
Cam shrugged, again. “Well, maybe there is something you could do.”
“I don’t know if you’d understand.”
Mr. Sangito’s lip curled. He thought of how many times he’d said that. It hadn’t been said to him in years. “Humor me,” he said, stiff-faced.
The Kyrii paced for a moment. “Can you play the flute?”
“Yes,” Mr. Sangito said. “I can play all the instruments in the shop.”
Cam shook his head. “No... would you play the flute? Like, right now?” The Kyrii looked embarrassed. Mr. Sangito was surprised.
Mr. Sangito placed his paw on his chin for a moment. “Why?”
“I’ve never heard a flute played before.”
“Why should I?” Mr. Sangito asked, though he felt like he was asking, “What’s in it for me?” The Yurble picked up a flute, though, as he waited for a response.
“Maybe I’d buy one, then.”
Mr. Sangito looked curiously at Cam. He brought the flute up to his lips and prepared to play. Suddenly, he heard a voice calling. Cam looked over his shoulder.
- - -
Cam heard his sister’s shrill voice calling his name. He turned around, and sighed. The Yurble dropped the flute from his lips.
“I have to go,” he said, weakly. “Quiet, Kiera. I’m coming.”
He left, Mr. Sangito’s eyes followed curiously.
- - -
Mr. Sangito picked up the last flute on display and flipped the sign to “Closed.” The day had been undeniably disappointing. Not a single flute sold, despite his greatest efforts. Barely any customers, and that was counting the hyper Elephante shopkeeper from the pharmacy who came to visit on her break. And that Kyrii boy.
The Kyrii boy who wanted him to play the flute...
Mr. Sangito walked it to his backroom and looked at all the instruments. He grasp the flute tighter, and somehow, the silver reached his lips and he began to play.
He played in the privacy of the backroom until it was too dark for him to see.
- - -
Cam was back at the shop early in the morning. No instruments were out, and the sign still said “Closed.” Kiera stood by his side, twirling her fingers through her blue fur.
“I’m leaving,” she announced. “There’s nothing here, Cam.”
“No, honest,” he said, grabbing his sister’s paw. “There were beautiful flutes. You’d love them.” Cam looked around. Maybe the old Yurble was just sleeping again.
Kiera rolled her eyes. “I thought you wanted to go to the concert hall,” she muttered impatiently. “Its going to be sold out if you don’t hurry.”
Cam wrinkled his nose. “Fine, go. I’m staying here.” He looked into the back room, half expected to find the Yurble shopkeeper asleep again. But the sign said “Closed”...
He picked up the sign and flipped it around. Then, he slowly began to walk to the backroom. It was dark and empty, except for all the instruments. But the instruments themselves seemed to be alive. Light from nowhere was reflecting. The room was bright. He seemed out of place. He felt so out of place.
Though he couldn’t play any of the instruments, Cam felt himself drawn to the gorgeous piano. He carefully sat down at the piano, and began to play random keys.
It sounded awful. He stopped.
- - -
Hubert’s Hotdogs never qualified as a healthy breakfast, but Mr. Sangito didn’t care. It wasn’t even a good hotdog – it was a Burnt Hot Dog – but he was hungry and he was late. Not that it mattered, he reminded himself.
When he arrived at his shop, he didn’t even notice that the sign said “Open”. He took his time eating his breakfast before he slowly walked into the back room.
Mr. Sangito slowly surveyed the room, and was startled, but not very surprised to see a red Kyrii asleep at a piano bench.
- - -
It took Cam a couple seconds to realize where he was and who was looking at him. When he did, though, he instantly stood up straight. The shadow Yurble examined him skeptically.
“You were late!” Cam said, quickly. “I wanted to show my sister the flutes, but then she left, and I came looking for you, I guess. And then I fell asleep, I guess.”
Mr. Sangito was laughing. “You guess.”
“I guess – I mean, yes.” Cam looked at the keys of the piano. They offered no sympathy. “I’ll be getting out, right now,” he stammered. He felt his cheeks redden to match his fur.
Mr. Sangito only laughed. He seemed to do that a lot. Cam slowed his stride.
“I’d ask why you’re at the piano, in particular, but seeing as you can’t play any instrument, I don’t think there would have been a more suitable place to sleep, really.” The Yurble’s eyes were wide and animated. Cam finally smiled.
“Will you play the flute for me?” he asked again as he gained confidence. “I seriously will buy one; you just have to play it.”
Mr. Sangito again brought the flute to his lips. He paused for a moment, as if he was waiting for Cam to be called away again, but nothing happened this time. He began to play, very softly and shyly at first, but soon began to play as he had alone the night before.
Cam closed his eye. He’d heard Kiera play the flute, and he’d thought she was pretty good, but she couldn’t compare with Mr. Sangito’s fluid melodies and flawless notes. He began to absentmindedly tap his foot as he closed his eyes and listened.
- - -
The Kyrii boy was curious, Mr. Sangito noticed, as he played and the boy listened in awe. After finishing a sweet song of his own invention, Mr. Sangito lowered the flute. The boy blinked furiously, as if coming out of a trace. Mr. Sangito chuckled.
“Do you really want to buy the flute? It doesn’t play itself, you know,” he asked kindly.
The Kyrii was already digging for some Neopoints. “Is there still the discount sale from yesterday?” he asked desperately, trying to find more money.
“Of course,” Mr. Sangito lied. He looked in admiration at the flute for a moment, and then held out a paw. The Kyrii dropped several Neopoints into it and eagerly collected the instrument. He face was lit with a bright smile.
“It’s all mine?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the fine silver flute.
“It’s all yours, Cam,” Mr. Sangito replied.
- - -
The moments from their last meeting played in Cam’s mind. The flute felt heavy and slippery in his sweaty hands all the way home. Mr. Sangito’s sweet music rang in his ears. He felt rather guilty, looking at the flute, knowing he could never play it as beautifully.
Kiera looked at him when he got home. She was wearing a Yes Boy Ice-Cream jacket. “You missed one pretty cool concert. I thought you were looking forward to it.” She looked at him skeptically as he hid the flute behind his back and walked away.
Vaguely, Cam remembered that he had, in fact, been looking forward to the concert, and that somehow, he no longer cared.
- - -
Mr. Sangito sat in the back room. The sign said “Closed”, though it made no difference. No one ever came to the store, except for that Kyrii boy. Cam. And he’d already come by, so there was no use in false hope.
His paws rested on a very pricy piano. He really did love to play, he realized. He had convinced himself long ago that selling instruments was the best way to be around them, but that wasn’t really the case, now was it? Just the day before, he had played the flute for the first time in so long.
As he began to play without giving it any thought, he remembered all the other musical dreams he had had. Stocking the music shop had always been his number one, but that hadn’t turned out quite as he had hoped? What was number two? He thought, he thought.
He struck a wrong note.
- - -
Cam’s appearance at the music shop was becoming frequent. His boyish face lit whenever Mr. Sangito was in early or decided to play a new instrument. And by now, he had a secret instrument collection in his closet, consisting of two flutes, brass cymbals, and drum sticks.
“It’s all yours, Cam,” Mr. Sangito had told him every time, as he eagerly purchased the new instruments.
The two had found their niche in the back room.
“Do you like the job?” Cam asked, as Mr. Sangito walked through the rows of instruments, trying to pick an interesting one for the day. Hearing the question, the Yurble stopped for a moment, and then quickly began walking.
“It has its perks,” Mr. Sangito said. “Not very good pay, though.”
“Oh,” Cam said, a bit of disappointment in his voice. “How about this?” he asked, lifting a hand-crafted violin next to him. Mr. Sangito stared at it blankly for several seconds before taking it into his paws. He carefully examined it from every angle.
“Oh, my,” he said, and he uttered a gasp.
“How about it?” Cam repeated.
- - -
The violin! How had he forgotten this violin, from so very long ago. His violin, his private violin! Mr. Sangito felt it. Smooth and perfect except for that one patch, the place where he had dropped it on the first day he’d had it!
Oh, what memories!
What memories of his parents telling him how well he’d do, how he could travel Neopia playing his violin. How his music could make a difference.
What memories of playing it Christmas morning, every morning, and having his family squeal with approval. “Brilliant,” they said.
What memories of strolling into Neopia one morning, and playing and playing. And being met with disapproval. “Stop that awful noise,” they had said. “Stop it. Take the kid away.”
What memories. What lies.
- - -
“Mr. Sangito, sir? Are you alright?”
The Yurble nodded and Cam tilted his head. Mr. Sangito grabbed the bow of the violin. He prepared to play, though he looked more nervous that Cam had ever seen him. He paused several times. He stalled.
He finally began to play, and Cam jumped. It wasn’t the sweet, dulcet tones he had heard before. It was rough and it was dark. It wasn’t even pleasant. Mr. Sangito dropped the bow.
Cam felt quite embarrassed. “Um, how many Neopoints, sir?” he asked, hastily trying to change the subject. Mr. Sangito turned away.
“Cam, go home.”
Cam turned and walked. His feet sped. He was gone.
- - -
Mr. Sangito waited until the Kyrii was out of sight and ear shot. He picked up the bow. He began to play. The Yurble cringed.
It sounded awful. He stopped.
- - -
Cam woke early. He couldn’t sleep. The minute it was light, he jumped up from bed, ran out of his Neohome, and hurried all the way to the Neopian Plaza. After the disappointment the day before, he was anxious and quite nervous.
The Plaza was quiet, but he could smell fresh pizza from Pizzaroo and saw a small crowd of Neopians rushing to the Second-Hand Shoppe.
When he reached the music store, he heard no sign of Mr. Sangito. He was probably sleeping, Cam realized. As he got closer to the store, he shivered. He casually looked at the sign, as he had every other time. He blinked and looked at the sign once more. It said “Open.”
There were no instruments in the front, and the back room was open. Cam rushed into the instrument room, expecting to see the old Yurble at the piano or playing with a guitar. Or anything.
But the back room only held the instruments. Now running, Cam bolted down the rows of instruments, and found nothing out of the ordinary. He slowed and hung his head as he reached the last row. He turned the corner, and Mr. Sangito was nowhere to be found.
But in the middle of the floor was the violin. It was the same violin from yesterday, Cam was certain. He instantly picked it up. It was smooth yet rough, just like the day before.
Before he knew what he was doing, Cam picked up the bow and began to play. It was like the first time he had heard Mr. Sangito play the flute – except this time, it was all Cam. He had no idea how his paws knew how to move, but it sounded beautiful.
He played in the privacy of the backroom for several long moments, before finally stopping. Mr. Sangito was nowhere to behind, so he felt empty... but also very full.
He felt the violin once more. It was beautiful, smooth, and soft. And there, there was the rough spot. And there – there! – was something he hasn’t noticed before. A note taped to the back of the violin. Gently placing the violin on the ground, Cam grabbed the note and brought it to his eyes.
“It’s all yours, Cam,” the Kyrii read. He looked at the violin. He spun around, looking for Mr. Sangito, but then his eyes took in the entire room. And then he understood.
- - -
“Only the finest quality instruments for the finest musicians in Neopia!” the red Kyrii said. The young blue Cybunny looked up curiously at the violin in his hand. His bold green eyes flashed back at her. She smiled gently. “Can I help you?” the Kyrii asked kindly.
The Cybunny blushed. Lightly grinning, she asked, “Can you play the violin?”