The worn out man tenderly picked up the old violin. He slowly raised it to his chin. With soiled hands he lovingly laid the bow across the strings. His heart leapt as he remembered the sweet songs that emitted from his beloved instrument. He thought of holidays long past. In his mind he pictured his children dancing around the living- room as he played. Hymns, old favorites, children’s songs, whatever he played the children always begged, “another one pa, please.”
He thought of his loving wife Grace and the way she looked at him when he played for her. A gentle smile came to his face as he reminisced. Suddenly he jumped up from the milk crate he’d been sitting on and brutally threw the violin and bow against the brick wall behind him. With teardrops obstructing his view he ran wildly down the dark alley. Many eyes gazed on him from under blankets and out of indiscriminately built cardboard huts lining the path.
“It’s just old Virgil” an aged voice uttered. Silence once again settled on the area like a dense fog on a lake.
Around the fire barrel the next morning talk quickly focused on Virgil. “What’s with that old man anyway?” a newcomer named Little Luke asked. “He got touched by a masters hand,” came an answer from the rear of the crowd.
“ Make way for Preacher,” someone said, as the man stepped forward. “ You mean God,” Ike asked, “like in that song about the old violin?”
“ No!” said Preacher, “ that was The Touch of the Masters Hand. What I said was the touch of a master’s hand. I’m talking about the master deceiver, the old devil himself. Satan practiced his craft on Virgil and suckered him in, that’s how he ended up in this alley living with us.”
“ What are you talking about Preacher?” asked Luke.
“Virgil was a popular man around town back then,” said Preacher. “He owned the gas station down on State and Main. He had a beautiful house on Rose Street, picket fence, a hound dog, and all. He had the sweetest wife, Grace, and three gorgeous kids, two boys and a girl. He was a deacon at the Baptist Church, and when he played that violin, on Sunday, you could hear the Amen’s all the way down at the soda shop.”
“So what happened? Luke asked, looking confused.
“Well Luke, that’s when the father of all lies began his work of art with old Virgil. He met her the first time in church one Sunday morning. She’d just moved to town. After her husband was killed in Nam she couldn’t live in her hometown any longer. Too many old memories, she said. Told him she’d be working at Sam’s Sandwich shop as a waitress. That was right across from Virgil’s station and he often had lunch there. He said, he would probably see her again.”
“The old deceiver must have laughed himself silly as he watched, the deacon, stumble over the lies he hurled in front of him. Old Virgil fell, hook, line, and sinker into the master’s snare. To make a long story short, Grace finally left him. She packed up the kids and the dog and went back to Cincinnati to live with her folks. He eventually lost the house and the business. The only friends he had left were the bottle and that old violin.” Head hung low, the Preacher said, “that’s when Virgil came to The Alley. He’s been here ever since. He always kept that violin wrapped up in a blanket and stuffed in a plastic bag. He guarded it like it was gold. I never heard tell of him taking it out, till last night that is.”
“Luke,” said Preacher, “like I told ya before, what happened to Virgil was, the touch of a masters hand. The master of temptation, the master of deceit, the master counterfeiter.”
“ How can a man know when this master counterfeiter is messing with him, Preacher,” Luke asked.