The Music Box

The cashier handed Lukas two one-dollar bills, one quarter, and three pennies. He slipped the money into his pocket without looking at her. He then grabbed the plastic bag on the counter and quickly left the store.

Outside the shop’s entrance, Lukas reached in for the music box and let the plastic bag float onto the sidewalk. He spent the next few minutes studying his new toy. It was small and silver, half the size of his palm. It had a rectangular base, a cylinder with grooves on it, and a knob bent in two right angles that- when spun- would pull up thin strips of elevated keys that were attached by two nonparallel bolts.

Lukas smiled and cranked the knob. The cylinder turned, and the grooves hit the keys, playing the song You Are My Sunshine. His smile broadened as the music played, so he cranked the knob faster and faster. But the noise became overwhelming, so he slowed his hand to a steady pace and walked down the street in tempo.

Normally, Lukas would count every step, street corner, and turn he took. From the store to his apartment it was 324 steps: two streets straight, left, one long block straight, cross the street, left, 25 more steps. But this time, he simply kept his feet moving forward and his hand moving in circles, stopping only when he would feel a foot drop from the curb onto the street. Without glancing from his music box or halting the movement of his hand, he would lift his foot back onto the sidewalk. If people were moving around him, he would walk on. If cars were moving in front of him, he would wait.

He walked and cranked the knob until he felt the street beneath him curve. He didn’t like streets that curved, so he turned to where the road was straight. He walked straight until he hit a brick building. This made his smile go away. He turned and looked up from his music box. It was dark outside and the street lights were on.

He disliked being in a place where he didn’t know the exact count of steps he was from his house. His phone was in his pocket, silenced so the ring wouldn’t make him shake. But he couldn’t use it to call his mother as that would make the music stop.

He kept turning his hand and thought. He left his apartment at 4:57 PM. On September 22, 2020 in New York City, sunset was at 6:52 PM. That meant he was many steps away from his home.

He started to rock his body back and forth, so he looked down at the music box to calm himself and began walking. 

He will walk straight again until the curve and then he will turn back.

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