The first they knew of the procession was a far-off, throbbing note, low and hesitant: a tuba, maybe; maybe a sousaphone. Maybe just a large truck honking its displeasure at the traffic--but no one thought that for an instant. They knew what it was. If their ears didn’t recognize it, their bones knew, and their hearts began to break.
Then came the first note of the trumpet.
Most of the cafe patrons abandoned their cooling drinks and crowded out onto the patio, where they strained and stared toward the farthest point down the street they could pin with their eyes. A few remained indoors, subsiding at their tables into gentle hopelessness. And the barista stood perplexed behind the counter, hands idle and eyes searching. “What--”
“Ssh.” The busser put the black tub of dirty coffee mugs down on the counter as carefully as she could. Then she leaned heavily against the countertop. She hung her head. Her shoulders begin to shake.
The trumpets came into view, row upon row of them moving inexorably up the street. The barista could see them now, and how the faces of the trumpeters, pale as morning and dark as night and every color in between, were bathed in sunlight reflected off each brass bell. Row upon row of them, and then at last the trombones, their slides moving in perfect unison. It took much longer than it takes to read about it, there were so many of them, and they passed so slowly, less a march than a disciplined trudge, each step as heavy as a funeral.
That’s what it was, the barista realized. A funeral. He wondered how he knew. Then a sob from one of the front tables caught his ear--the businessman huddled there weakly against the window glass--and he wondered how it had taken him so long to figure it out. “Who died?” he asked as tactfully as he could. The busser drew a ragged breath but did not use it to answer him.
This has been an excerpt from the Friday Fictionette for June 26, 2015. Subscribers can download the full-length fictionette (1103 words) from Patreon in PDF
format depending on their pledge tier.
Cover art by Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little, who played the flute in high school band and sometimes remembers how it goes.