The Lonely Tuba

by Benjamin Hollon

The rain fell slowly, lazily, forming a misty haze of precipitation that transformed the sky and earth into a grayness that blurred together at the horizon.

An occasional patch of nutrient-starved grass spotted the murky brown soil. The monotony was broken only by a dirt road, muddy in the rain and devoid of traffic.

By the side of the road, rain dripping down its sides, a lonely, forsaken tuba sat in a puddle. It rang faintly as raindrops pattered against it, washing away the grime until it glowed faintly in the dim light.

Countless dents covered the tuba. Each told the story of a past owner who had cared for it with love and affection and, as time passed, forgotten it.

On the edge of the bell was a dent that caught a few drops of rain. It had been made by an owner who fell asleep with it on her lap.

Another dent kept sacred the memory of the time its owner had been told that her sister had cancer. Careless in her grief and concern, the owner had knocked the tuba over.

Yet another time, the tuba had watched sadly as its owner caught pneumonia and waited patiently, only to be sold to someone else.

But through it all, the tuba never complained, never resented its fate, never mourned its harsh treatment. It had merely waited, full of understanding. It was always there for its owners, trying to be a comfort in the few ways it could.

And now it sat there, by the side of the road, neglected and forgotten by all its past owners. Amidst the busy and uncaring world, it seemed caught in a bubble of time, nothing around it changing. The rain kept falling, and the tuba kept waiting, the pattering of the rain striking its side continually asking, “Waiting for what? Waiting for what?”

Then the bubble burst and time resumed. In the distance, walking down the dirt road, came a young boy, his feet bare. He held a tattered, red umbrella over his head and was whistling “Yankee Doodle.”

When he came to the tuba, he stopped. He stared at it for a moment, his eyes growing wide. The boy walked around the tuba slowly, appraising it like a potter examining his pupil’s work. His mouth moved as he counted the dents. A smile gradually spread across his face and brought the hazy world around him into sharp clarity.

He set his umbrella down, heedless of the raindrops that now fell on his uncovered head, and picked up the tuba reverently. It was heavy, but not too heavy. He held his breath as he shifted its weight.

Carrying the tuba and listening to the music of the rain caressing its metal sides, the boy began his long walk home. He began to whistle again, keeping time to the falling of the rain.

Finally, the boy reached his home, a small shack with a light shining in the window. He set the tuba down carefully and opened the door. Then, turning the tuba sideways so it could pass through, he carried it into the house.

Outside, all that could be heard was the rain. The earth and sky were colorless and calm. Then, quietly at first but growing stronger, the tuba’s mellow and rich tones came floating out into the evening air, a splash of bright yellow paint on the gray canvas.

More writing from Benjamin Hollon