Debt

3 min


The day’s jamming session ended on a merry note. It was Mason’s lead and he pulled it off fairer than how he thought he would. An entire month of clampdown had rendered his voice dormant. No shows, no concerts. Once his routine was then a farfetched adventure. The most he could do was emulate his friend in Milan: comfort himself in the balcony, against the plush of a bean bag and sing his soul out. And the next balcony tuned in. Then the next. In minutes, the drowsy houses that laced the avenue eagerly buzzed in melody. 

Mason, content with his comeback, strode forward to the kitchen, still humming the notes of ‘Don’t stop believing’. After loading a mug with a spoonful of coffee, he kneeled down to grab the bottle of milk from the last deck of the refrigerator. “No milk in the house?” he retarded. Like all other eatables, milk too had to slip down the graph and deceit him. Clutching the aqua green mask lying on the table, he left without delay. 

An hour of trudging through desolate streets and stores under watchful eyes, wasn’t enough to secure him a can of milk. Clueless, he approached his neighbour for help, “Hello Mr Smith, I need a favour.”

“Young man! How can I help you?” a muffled voice answered. Probably it was the mask.

“Do you have a spare can of milk? All the stores have run out of it.”

“Only one dear”, the sorry in his voice was blatant. Mason caught the hint.

“No issues, thanks.”

“But this might help you!” 

The man turned aside and released a square piece of paper from beneath a coaster. A note; feebly printed and precise.

“FOR SUPPLY OF FRESH COWMILK AND DAIRY ITEMS, CONTACT US ON THE NUMBER BELOW” 

“Found this in the letterbox today morn. Let me know if this works”, he advised Mason. 

Was it that easy to find food when the whole country was starving? Unsure of its honesty, he decided to drop his dose of caffeine. 

The next morning was rather decisive. Mason picked up the note that he had so profusely ignored last evening and mustered the courage to order two cans of milk. “Make it fast please”, he added before disconnecting the call. He couldn’t afford to skip his morning coffee.

He was deep into strumming the strings of his abandoned guitar when a ‘ting’ of the doorbell shook him out of sphere. He rushed to the door with his wallet to unlatch it. 

“Mr Mason Williams?” 

A girl, barely ten, enquired. Her face, partially revealed by a mask similar to Mason’s, bore a juvenile glow. 

“Yeah”

“Two small cans of milk for you, sir”, she assured as she extended them to him with bare hands. 

“Keep it there”, Mason pointed at the threshold.  A brush of palms could invoke death. She obeyed. Bending low to rest the cans, she took a stealthy glance into the inner quarter of the house. Seated under a giant painting on the perpendicular wall, was an archaic, black piano. 

“A piano!” she exclaimed. 

Taken aback by her behaviour, Mason recoiled, “Excuse me?”

“You don’t have to pay me, sir. Can you sing me a song instead?”

“What?”

“Just a song for me to record in this.” 

She scooped out a rusty recorder from her pocket in haste. 

“What’s this?” he asked without touching it. 

“Its….it was…a gift from my dad. Please sing me a song.”

“No, I’d like to pay. How much?” Mason insisted though the idea of getting along without losing his notes, tickled him. 

“Just a song, sir”, she kept begging. 

“Fine”, he gave in. Tracing back to his room with his cans and the recorder, wrapped in a fresh cloth, he took a seat. He breathed deep and recorded a piece from his fondest album while the girl eagerly peeped in. 

“Here, take it”, he placed the recorder on the threshold. He had enclosed it in a pouch to avoid dirtying. 

“Thank you, sir. Please buy again”, her cheeks raised in thrill. She waved goodbye and cycled her way down the lane. 

The purity of the milk served, startled Mason. He couldn’t help but redial. 

“The stores nearby, never serve us with this quality. Where do you get this from?” Mason queried as he collected his cans of milk from her gloved hands. 

“We own a cow and we also supply fresh cottage cheese and cream.”

“How much?”

“Sir, you may sing a song if you wish to.” 

This time, he didn’t hesitate. Heading straight to the piano, he added to his list of records. He never urged for an answer to what profit a tiny girl could make with his songs. Did she ask others to sing too? Why would someone sell for nothing? Questions like these never bothered Mason. It was music that she craved and that, he could definitely repay. 

It was cottage cheese for the next day. Then came cream. For days it persisted. One song a day for anything Mason needed till one fateful day, when all of it broke apart. 

“What song today?” he cheered up. 

“None sir”, she replied, forcefully supressing a cough.

“Why?”

“Sorry, we can’t supply items to you anymore.” 

Passing the recorder to Mason, she sighed, “The need is over.”

“My brother, Mark”, she resumed, “is no more.”

Mason stepped back. 

“He was hospitalised for two weeks. There were no symptoms; only suspicion. You never know when and how it comes. This bloody virus! We couldn’t meet him for once. The only way we could connect was through that device in your hand. It wasn’t a gift; I stole it. He only enjoyed music and kept responding well, whenever they played your songs. Thank you!” 

She left. 

It was almost time for Mason to lead the session. Like always, he breathed deep. Among everything so uncertain, he found his certainty: ‘HEAL OUR LAND’ was the song for the day. 

***

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