'The old violin' by Cath Barton

I’d always been told that it was a very old, very precious instrument. I’d been told that my grandmother had played it in Vienna. That I was lucky to have it. That I was really, really lucky to have it.

I hated that violin. It sat in its case, wrapped up in an old yellow silk headscarf, and mocked me. I swear that it talked at night. The wind carried the voice of the old violin to me even when I wasn’t at home. It was a rebuke from the past for the things I would fail to achieve in the future.

If I had practised. If I had tried.

“Just tried for your grandmother.”

“Why should I?” I had said as a child. “She was a witch.”

My mother had never forgiven me for that. She had worshipped Grandmama. Who had been so brave. And so beautiful. So very beautiful.

I couldn’t see what was beautiful about her. The picture that my mother kept was grey. Grey with age. I hated her. I hated everything and everyone old. I was never going to grow old and I didn’t want the violin mocking me.

So I smashed it. I opened up the case, shook the instrument out of its protecting scarf and flung it across the room. It didn’t make a loud noise. It didn’t make the kind of splintering noise I expected. It was more like a series of little sighs. Like a very old cat which no longer has any strength in its back legs or energy to do more than crawl from one sleeping position to another. That violin had, I realised with a shudder, been alive. And I hadn’t just smashed it. I had killed it, just as if I had killed an old cat.

A kind of terror descended on me and I saw my grandmother standing in the corner of my room. She started walking towards me. She was asking for the violin. The violin which I had killed.

Grandmama was going to get me, so I fled. I fled into a part of my mind where I cannot fail. I am content now. My mother has not forgiven me but it doesn’t matter. I am happy here. I have a cat which visits me. Except she is getting old. And today she started sighing, just like the violin did. So I put my hands round her throat and I squeezed. Squeezed until it was over. All over.


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