A Flute Player's Story

By Rachel Halpin

Romance

Flute Players and Medda

As soon as Spot and Tajo left, I dragged Castel out to find his sister. We headed out through the streets of Manhattan after stopping to buy a few papers to sell. Jack had told me Spot said Castel was louder than a rooster in the morning and talked more than a magpie, and I could soon see what he meant. He chattered non-stop in Spanish all morning and the only way to shut him up was shove food into his open mouth. Unfortunately, the food didn't last long enough and I wasn't sure knocking him out was a good idea. By mid-afternoon I had heard more than I cared to about his sister and was starting to lose what little patience I had left.

"Do you ever stop talking?" I finally snapped in Italian. I felt bad right away, since I was the only person he knew that he could talk to, but he just laughed.

"Just at meals or when Lenmana is talking. Papa says my mouth will get me in trouble one day but Mama says I'll just talk myself out of it when that happens." He kept chattering about his sister, saying she wanted to be a flute player at a theatre owned by a lady whose name he couldn't remember.

"What theatre?"

"Can't remember. All I remember is that some lady owns it and has real bands play there." I thought hard about it before remembering only one place around here was starting to let real bands play.

"Medda's!" I yelled happily. Medda's theatre was one of the places in Manhattan I loved most, besides Sheepshead Races and the lodging house. "Let's go!" I grabbed his arm and took off at a run, Castel yelling up a storm the whole time.

When we reached Medda's, there was a jazz band on stage that was just finishing. I sat Castel down and told him to stay as I went backstage. The band was walking off-stage just then and I grabbed the flute player, Maggie. Maggie was Tajo's sister that lived in Manhattan with their two younger siblings and supported them by playing her flute. Tajo helped out by selling papes, but Maggie made most of the money for them. She also talked as much as Castel, if not more.

"Racetrack!" she cried when she saw me. That was all it took to get her started. She gave me a quick hug before pulling back to talk. "When did you come in? Did you see me play? I finally got a solo! Oh my goodness, it was such fun! Well, it was a lot of hard work, that's what it was. But it was such a thrill to finally play in front of a crowd. Oh, my heart is just pumping so fast-"

"Magpie!" I cut her off fast-like, hoping to stop the torrent of words so I could explain the situation to her. "Ise need a favor. Ise got a boy-"

"Well why didn'tja just say so? Now where is he?" She didn't stop talking as I pulled her over to Castel. "Well aren't you just the cutest thing? Racetrack, isn't he just the cutest thing? You should have told me you brought him. My solo could have been so much better if I had known. I understand you need some help. What seems to be the problem, sweetie?"

Castel had looked up as we approached. He seemed quite taken with Maggie-who really was rather pretty, what with her Spanish features and long curly hair hanging down her back. Halfway through her speech though, he looked at me in confusion before looking back at her. He did this several more times and it was so comical I started laughing.

"Really Racetrack, where are your manners? The poor boy has no idea what's going on and here you are just laughing at him. Don't mind him dear, I'm working on teaching him manners. I haven't gotten very far, as you can tell, but I'll keep working on him."

"Magpie," I choked out. "He speaks Spanish."

She didn't hear me and just kept talking. "You seem well-mannered enough though. I suppose you come from higher society than Race. Never mind that though. You never told me what the problem is. Are you looking to join a band?"

I managed to control myself enough to hunt down some food. I could only find some leftover liquorice whips, but they were Maggie's favorite and they would quiet her down for several minutes. Running back to the table, I managed to stuff one in her mouth just as she opened it to speak. She immediately began chewing and I took the opportunity to tell her what she needed to know.

"This is Castel, but we's call him Rooster. He don't speak English, only Spanish. He got separated from his sister last night and thinks she came to 'Hattan. She plays flute like you and Rooster thinks she might have come here to get a job. Anybody come in lately lookin for a job?"

Maggie swallowed her food and shook her head. "I haven't heard of anyone, but let me check with Medda. Maybe I'll bring…What did you say his name was?"

"Castel. His name's Castel but we call him Rooster. Well, not us, but Brooklyn does so that's what we're callin him."

"Belonging to a castle," Maggie murmured to herself. "He certainly looks as if he belongs in one. I'll bring Castel with me and ask around." She grabbed his arm and dragged him off, now talking a mile a minute in Spanish. I watched them go; amused at the pair and wondering who I should feel sorrier for. A tap on my shoulder made me spin around to see Medda.

"Medda!" I gave her a quick hug before pulling back. "Magpie just went looking for you."

Medda smiled. "I hope it wasn't about a raise. That girl has been talking my ear off for a whole month about getting a raise. She can talk the ears off a piece of corn."

I nodded in agreement. "Right now she's with a boy talking his ear off. He's lookin for his sister." I filled Medda in on Castel's situation as she shook her head sympathy sympathetically.

"What does she look like?"I stopped short at the question. Castel had talked so much about her, but somehow I had missed his description of her. I must have been tuning him out at the time. I shrugged, feeling bad that I hadn't been paying more attention. "I'm not sure I caught a description. I think he said her name was Lenmana? Or Catchin?" Medda laughed at my attempts to pronounce the names. "Something not in a speak-able language."

"I will talk to Maggie after and see what I can find out."A small figure clutching something in her hands poked her head from behind Medda and caught my eye. She smiled and looked at me with curiosity in her dark eyes. I tilted my head to the side and she mimicked my movement, her long black hair falling over her shoulder almost to the ground. I tilted my head the other side to see if she would copy me. She did, still smiling. I made a face and she copied me right away. I stuck out my tongue. Again she copied me, this time making her own face as she did so. It was the funniest face I had seen in a long time and I burst out laughing. She let out a quiet giggle as Medda asked me to help her.

"I don't know anything about her except that she doesn't speak English. I think she might be looking for a job as a flute player, but she didn't understand when I asked her to play. One of the stage hands tried writing in Spanish for her, but she hardly looked at the page before answering. Can you help?"

I sighed, hoping I wouldn't spend the rest of my life as a translator for people. Looking at her, I started with the basics. "Hola. Como estas?"

"Bueno. Y tu?"

"Bueno. Cuál es tu nombre?"

"Allegra."

"Racetrack." I studied her, trying to figure out who she reminded me of. She studied me back, shifting her flute case from hand to hand. Finally I shook it off and asked her what she wanted. She told me in rapid Spanish that she ran away from home and was hoping to get a job playing flute. I translated for Medda as quickly as she spoke.

"Ask her if she can play something for me." I repeated the question for Medda and Allegra quickly pulled out her flute and set it up. She played a few notes to warm up before launching into a fast-paced song that almost had me dancing. Medda nodded her head the whole time and as soon as the girl was finished, offered her a job. Allegra looked so excited her whole face lit up until Medda pulled out some papers for her to sign.

"Qué hay de malo?" I asked her.

"What do I need the papers for? I have the job, do I not?"

"The papers are so you get paid."

She took the papers and very briefly glanced at them before dropping them on the desk. "I can't read English. Can't you just explain it to me and be done with it?"

I looked at Medda, who nodded. I grabbed the papers and we slowly read over them. It took a long time because she kept stopping me to ask questions. Medda stayed for a while before telling us to just leave the papers on her desk when we finished. When we finally finished, she grabbed a pencil and scribbled something on the bottom of the page that nobody could read.

"Welcome to Medda's," I told her, holding out my hand. She stared at it for a minute before shaking it. We stared at each other, still holding hands. Maggie's voice coming towards the door made us jump apart. Allegra ducked behind Medda's desk and didn't reappear.

"I can't seem to find Medda anywhere. Have you seen her, Race?" Maggie entered the room with Castel in tow. "Maybe she left for the night. Too bad. Come back manana. Maybe your sister got lost and she'll turn up then."

Castel and I thanked her as we left. Castel was strangely silent on the way back. I didn't mind the quiet, as my mind was still stuck on Allegra. I slept soundly that night, dreaming of her until Castel woke us up with a loud cry the next morning.

Hola. Como estas?-Hi (Or Hello). How are you?

Bueno. Y tu?-Good. And you?

Bueno. Cuál es tu nombre?-Good. What's your name?

Qué hay de malo?-What's wrong?

Lo siento.-I'm sorry.

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