The Rope Walk

The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown

Book: The Rope Walk by Carrie Brown Read Free Book Online
Authors: Carrie Brown
tired dishevelment of her blankets—all these things conspired to make her both weary and ill at ease, as if she needed to keep exhausted watch against whatever surprises this place, this silent night that had descended on her after no day at all with the sudden, final weight of a coffin lid, might throw up into her path.
    Now, a little of that same menace, the sense that things were not as they should be, that they had been altered insidiously in nearly imperceptible ways, crept into the room, despite the brightness of the morning. She got out of bed and stood on the floorboards. They were already warm under her feet from the sun, a comforting corrective against everything that felt so strange and chilling. But what had happened to Theo?
    She found him on the porch downstairs. He was sitting on the floor in the shade with his back against the clapboard wall of the house. He glanced up when she opened the porch door, but he didn't say anything. He only raised one slow hand in greeting, and then his dreamy gaze returned to the lawn, his chin resting on his arms crossed over his knees. He wore the same striped T-shirt he had worn to bed the night before.
    Alice sat down near him. The night before, with its confused comings and goings, the infectious misery and fear of the crying boy carried into her bedroom at some late, disturbed hour, Alice's awareness of Helen's peril, whatever it was—these events reached through the warmth of the morning sunlight with the disconcerting tread of a bad dream remembered. Yet, as she sat quietly beside Theo listening to Wally play, Alice thought that the music, like the morning itself, was brimming with light and warmth and playfulness. Wally had taught her to listen to music with her eyes closed, to see the pictures it made in her mind: water tumbling over rocks in the river, bumblebees going up and down like sentriesin the orchard, armies massing on the horizon, a ship turning slowly in the wind. Sometimes it seemed to her that music didn't so much make pictures as it expressed what it was possible to feel, things you had felt but had not known how to shape into the idea of what they were. And music could explain not only what you
might feel; Alice sensed that it could also make you feel what other people felt, people you didn't even know, or people who had lived a long time ago, like the women who stood on the white stoops of the windmills in Holland in the gold-framed painting that hung in Archie's study. Music, Alice thought, could make her feel what those women had felt, standing there holding on to their white hats, with fleecy clouds in the pure blue sky above them and the watery green axis of the fields stretching away into the endless distance. Music could even show you what
felt, trees or the wind or the ocean as it touched the shore.
    Usually Alice thought the cello sounded sad. The instrument itself suited Wally, she felt, whose face looked like the mask of tragedy, with deep dark eyes and a sober, downturned mouth. But this morning the cello had a happy, almost teasing sound. Alice watched a pair of robins, their breasts high and inflated, hop over the lawn in front of Theo. They almost seemed to be moving in time to the music … in waltz time, Alice realized. How funny. She sighed and stretched out her legs and flexed her toes in the sunlight.
    When Wally stopped playing, Theo straightened his back as if he'd been sitting still in one position for a long time. The night before, when he'd stood in front of Alice extending to her his lucky stone, his face had been creased and worried, like something folded up in a pocket for a long time. Sleep—or maybe it was Wally's music, Alice thought—had transformed him. He looked rested, puckish, and playful, his hair standing up in tufts like the golden grass in the field.
    The sun felt hot across Alice's legs. It was hard to believe that the world had been covered in ice the afternoon before.
    “That's a violin,

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