The violin factory Flash fiction

Flash fiction

The factory was quiet, but our fingers were busy. It was delicate, painstaking work and we always kept our voices low. I told my parents to do the same.

“Sorry,” said my mom. She always vaulted into gaps in conversation, afraid of what silence might drag out of her. “This is where you live?”

“That’s right,” I said. “We have bunks upstairs.” The rooms were simple, but warm – nothing like the gleaming steel of the factory floor. After a long day most of us would just read until we slept, sometimes turning pages together in happy synchronicity.

My father wore a sour expression, the same one since he arrived for the tour. I’d pulled him away from his happy retirement reading books about World War II. When he finished each one, he’d snap it shut like a gunshot. I could still hear it. “They feed you here, too?”

“The portions are bigger than you’d think,” I said. He didn’t laugh.

I handed my dad a jeweler’s loupe and, once he had it to his eye, I unwrapped a small, dark cloth from a nearby workbench. I held it out and he stared into its folds. He said, “Is there meant to be something in here?”

Sometimes it was hard to tell. Making the violins required steady faith as much as steady hands, and I was grateful for proof when it arrived. Like at night, lying in bed, when I’d realize I had breathed in too deeply that day. Every exhalation in the dark an F sharp.

“Why’d you want us to come?” asked my dad.

“Don’t be like that,” said my mom. “She wants us to see where she works.”

“Well, we’ve seen it,” said my dad. Some of my coworkers glanced up in sympathy. There were three dozen of us, all in the same jumpsuits, all the same kind of people. We loved small things. Model trains, doll’s houses. More than one of us admitted to hand-painting faces on grains of rice.

Anything smaller than we felt, growing up.