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Guitar Gifts, part IX

A short story in small installments.

The next day, as Gifflet was crossing the boulevard on his way to the Plaza of Statues, a lady in front of him was struck by a taxi, which sped away without stopping. The sound was sickening, and the woman crumpled to the ground. Gifflet raced to her side, crying out to he knew not whom, “Call an ambulance!” There was blood. He knelt, not knowing what to do, and the woman seized his hand with a grip that made his fingers throb.


“Don’t talk, don’t talk,” he said. “The ambulance is on its way.” He hoped this was true, and he glanced around. People were gathering, and several were on their phones. Surely, they were calling for help. The woman’s clasp tightened. Her eyes were open wide with fright. The only thing Gifflet could think of was the lullaby that always soothed Arrietty when she was afraid at night, so he sang.

You are loved

Beyond all loves,

You are a miracle of miracles . . .

He was conscious, in a way he never was when busking, of how his voice squawked, but the woman relaxed a little. Her eyes locked onto his and her hand eased its pressure enough for his fingers to stop tingling. He tried to ignore the jostling around them and the susurration of many voices whispering urgently. He sang until the ambulance screamed up and paramedics surrounded them; but the woman wouldn’t release him.

“It’s okay,” he said to her, “you can let go now. They’re going to take care of you.” And at last, she let his hand drop.

Gifflet stood up, his legs trembling, and he watched them wheel her away.

“Look, a rainbow!” he heard someone say.

“Where?” said someone else.

“There? It’s so faint . . . is it . . . ?”

The paramedics slammed the back doors of the vehicle shut, one and then the other, and there was nothing more to watch; but Gifflet still saw the woman’s terrified face clearly before him. The ambulance shrieked away.

Gifflet felt a clap on his shoulder. A tall fellow in a suit was standing next to him.

“Man, that was amazing,” he said. “You kept her calm until the paramedics got here. That was incredible.”

“Well, I . . .” Gifflet didn’t know what to say.

“That’s a gift, man, not many people could do that.” The stranger crossed the road then, and Gifflet stood there, bemused, forgetting to cross, forgetting where he’d been going.

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