Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Music Box of Manhattan

Just like last week, Chuck has us looking at another 10 titles. I chose the above one as it looked plain weird to me. 


Dad found it at a garage sale and thought I’d like it for my collection. It was very old, had lost its key to unlock it and badly needed a polish. I needed to take it into the city to get it open by my usual locksmith who helped me with these things.
“Thanks, Dad, I appreciate this. But it’s so old.” I took it from him carefully, “Did they say where they got it?”
“No.” he sighed, “Just that it came from Manhattan.”

A few days later, I was in the city at the locksmith who usually helped me with these things. He picked up the box carefully frowning, “Girl, this thing is older than any you’ve brought to me.”
“I know. Dad told me it was from Manhattan.”
His eyes lit up, “Where?” he put it on the counter and pulled out a book from a shelf behind him, flipped through the pages and then found a picture of it on one page, “Here you go.” He pointed at it, turning the book towards me, “The Music Box of Manhattan. It’ll start playing when you’re in Manhattan, opening up a tear in time.”
I read the blurb about this box and cast a wary look at it, wondering exactly what I had gotten myself into with it, “Okay, it’s locked for a good reason.”
He nodded, “Yeah. And you better take it back to the garage sale place your Dad bought it from.”
“Good idea. I don’t want my money back, I just don’t want this.” I looked at the ornately-carved box, now not wanting to touch it, but knowing I had to.
“Hey, so long you don’t open it, you’ll be fine.” He smiled, “Here, I’ll put it into a bag for you and you won’t have to handle it too much.” He pulled out one of his paper bags and slotted it in carefully and passed it across the counter to me on its bottom, “There you go.”
“Thanks, Chris.” I took up the handles after photographing the page with my phone.

The drive didn’t take long; as the house where Dad got the music box was on the way home. I pulled up outside the place, and looked at with a broken heart: it had been sold just the other day and the place looked vacant, “Dammit.” I got out of the car anyway and walked up to the place to see if anyone was there – the estate agent, new people looking at where they’d put their furniture… a homeless person hoping to spend the night. But there wasn’t anyone and the place was locked up tight, so I walked back to the car and leaned against the door not knowing what to do.
“Hey there.” A voice said to my left. I looked up to find a neighbour, “Yeah, they moved out pretty darned quick after the garage sale.” The man had hedge pruners in his hand, “But I found out where they went.” He dug out of his pocket a piece of paper and handed it to me, smiling, “I had to return something I bought too.”
I looked at the address: it was in Manhattan. I looked up at him, “But this is impossible, I have a music box from Manhattan, why would they get rid of it if they’re moving there?”
He shrugged, “You better get yourself there and find out.”
I got back into my car and started to drive. As I jumped onto the highway, the box began to play. It didn’t play ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ like some music boxes do, or a waltz, it played a 1920’s rag-time song. It was mesmerising; so much so that by the time I parked the car outside the antiquities store named ‘As Time Goes By’ the sun has well and truly set and the box was playing loudly in the seat next to me – hardly muffled by the bag it was in. I picked it up as I got out, paid the meter and then approached the store. As I walked to the front door, the damned box stopped playing in mid-string of something.
A man who looked older than time looked up from his just-as-old book, “Well, hello there, how can I help you?”
I put the bag on the counter, “My Dad bought this at a garage sale the other day and it’s locked. But on the way here it started playing.”
He smiled as he pulled it out of the bag. But what he pulled out wasn’t old and dusty and had a key in its lock. This music box was brand new! Stepping back, I pulled out my phone and read the page I had photographed; it didn’t say anything about what would happen if it turned out the box could renew itself.
“What’s that?” the man asked.
“A phone.” I stupidly answered, then realised as I looked over at his telephone that it was a rotary phone – one I had never seen in my parents’ house before – and I quickly pocketed my mobile, “What year is this?”
“Does it really matter?” he smiled touching the box, “You brought the music box of Manhattan home to its rightful owner.”
“How? I didn’t do anything but come here.” Wherever here is. “And how do I get home?”
“Home?” he smirked, “You must know Chris, the locksmith.”
“Yeah, how did you know that?”
“Well, he knows me very well. He drove to your town and never came back, and so this has me wondering exactly where is the tear…”
“In time… you drove through it; just like he did.”
“You never answered my question.”
“That’s because you don’t want to know. You are stuck here until another music box shows up, just like this one.”
“Well, who are you?”
“I’m Chris’ father, and this is 1956.”
“I’m from 2016.”
“Well, don’t we have a lot to talk about?” he patted the music box and it started to play again. Panic welled in my gut as I turned to the door, opened it to find it had begun to rain. I looked at my Ford to find I had parked a 1950’s Pontiac. Why hadn’t I noticed how old the car was? How could I not notice the people who had dodged around me were dressed so differently? A cop walked slowly up to me, perusing my jeans, sneakers and Nirvana t-shirt, stopped and asked me a question. Before I could answer, the door of the antiques store opened and the old man pulled me inside, “You really are from that time.”
“What happened to my car?”
“Well, it changes when it gets through the tear… but you don’t notice it until you get outside here.” He sighed, “I have to contact Chris and let him know. But you both can’t be here… you have to be there and he here.” He pulled out another music box – one that was far older than any other on the shelves, one he hid from customers – and opened it after turning the key on the bottom. It played a lovely little tune.

The music box on the top shelf began to play behind Chris. He turned from his late night work and looked up at it as it plinked and played in the semi-darkness of the room.