Every morning, as she awoke in her small rooms tucked under the eaves of the rickety old house, she pushed open the window by her bed to see which way the wind blew. Today, it was a strong, southerly breeze – perfect for sea shanties down on the waterfront.

She was waif-like, thin with dark hair always in what her mother would have called a pixie cut. She only spent her earnings on the necessities, except for her hair. She always wanted it short, with wisps over the ears, and a strong pointed shape at the nape of her neck. She hoped to discover someone she could pay in barter rather than coin to do the monthly cut.

She carefully examined her scant wardrobe hung on wooden pegs she had screwed into the wall. The sleeveless chiffony-promish gown in colours of the sea would do nicely. She found it at the Sally Ann* and bargained it down to $2; same with the tarnished, dented piece of silver wear that cleaned up to be a christening cup for John Wentworth Stuart, born 1879. It was a wonderful receptacle for whatever money folks thought her playing worth.

She promised not to play her instrument in the house, so she lovingly took her fiddle out of it’s case, and did a quick and quiet test of it’s tuning. Sea shanties hummed through her head, well know and obscure ones. But where to play. The space by the Sea Farers’ Museum would be full of acrobats, chain-saw jugglers and the like. Folks eating their lobster roll at the outdoor market would be serenaded by several singers and players. Same with the wharves the tour boats, under sail, steam, or diesel set off to explore the harbour.

She would go to one of the farthest remaining piers after the re-gentrification of the waterfront, and the installation of a miles long boardwalk. The southerly breeze would carry her tunes back towards the crowds of tourists. Gavin joked that her fiddle must be magic for the way it drew crowds out of thin air. She blushed; Gavin was someone she cared too much about.

She creaked down the steps, many of the denizens of the house already out on the streets, earning money in various ways from pan-handling to contortionism. Some times she did get more lucrative gigs, playing one of the local pubs or private party, alone or with members of a lose cadre of street musicians that haunted the waterfront. The times they informally got together for a kitchen party meant drinking and playing long into the night. Gavin was one such musician, a pleasure on the guitar.

She stationed her self, the wind tugging at her dress, billowing it out like waves at sea. The cup was ready for contributions, and she put bow to fiddle.

No one suspected that she was once a much sought after violinist, playing with the most prestigious orchestras under the direction of famous conductors. Her long hair swaying as she concentrated on bow and strings. Dressed in designer gowns, with diamond earrings. Later she would drape more bling, and greet fans and devotees.

Then one morning, she got up, packed a few personal items into a satchel, and left, with her Stradivarius under her arm. Left that life behind: no note, no explanation. She didn’t know if they tried to find her; she really didn’t care. She couldn’t give them any reason more than each day, in her tiny garret home, she woke with a smile on her lips, something she never did in her glitzy Manhattan penthouse.

*Folks in parts of Canada call the Salvation Army, the Sally Ann.

I did know a classically trained violinist who became a street musician playing Celtic and fiddle music. As I had no musical talents, my street performer/musician friends bought me a kazoo so I could toot along during our kitchen parties.

I knew and shared a house with jugglers and mimes and all manner of “buskers” as the street performers were called. There were, and still are, busker festivals where acts from all around the world converge on the waterfront and selection locations all around the older part of the city.

For mlmm’s Tale Weaver  181: street performers

 

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