Father Ricardo entered the miserable abode humbly, as befitted his mission. While he did not quite know what to expect when he went in, he was pleased to see the place was tidy and well organized, although not exactly clean.
“Tea, Father?” asked Pablo dutifully.
The young fellow’s eyes regarded him nervously from over the bushy black beard and under the long, unkempt hair.
“I would be delighted,” beamed Father Ricardo.
Pablo gave a quick grin and turning, bolted for what was presumably the kitchen.
“Have a seat, Father!” Pablo blurted, his head popping back into the room from around the corner for a moment.
“Thank you,” said Father Ricardo, wondering how long all this might take.
He wished he knew what it was all about.
It seemed as if Pablo had a serious problem. It was something that he could not talk about in the confessional. Father Ricardo was aware that there were more human concerns than sin and damnation. Maybe Pablo was in trouble, or was shy about asking for help with a job application form.
As the Father recalled, he saw Pablo once or twice at the evening classes for adults, but hadn’t thought to inquire what he was studying. Many of the barrio folk were illiterate. Pablo may very well have been trying to learn to read…it was the only way out of here for unskilled people. He preached that message from his pulpit. The father was delighted to see Pablo take advantage of whatever the church could offer in the way of education.
The silence was oppressive. Father Ricardo noted a fresh breeze wafting in from the rear of the dwelling. With a glance, he saw the front door was properly closed. Small as the place was, he wondered at the lack of noise, but perhaps Pablo went to fill the water-jug or borrow a tea bag…Father Ricardo felt heartsick, something he had once described as ‘a kind of dread and a kind of grief.’
The father was hopeful he could help Pablo with whatever the problem was. God knew that was why he was here. Most likely some simple little problem, although daunting enough to barrio folk. The father had a lawyer friend if it really came down to it, and was known to perform a hasty marriage upon occasion.
There was a faint noise coming from the corner opposite the kitchen door. It was the strangest thing…Pablo’s battered guitar…thin, metallic noises emanated from it. The sounds diminished, and then rose again, still barely discernable…grinning fondly, the father recalled that Pablo could really make that thing sing.
“Huh!” thought Father Ricardo.
Where was Pablo? The father rose and stepped across the room to the far corner from where he sat and had a quick look. Pablo was not in the kitchen. There was a pot of water on the stove, which wasn’t lit. A small pile of kindling attested to no lack of fuel. So where did he go?
Father Ricardo’s initial impatience fell quickly, as it had only been a couple of minutes after all.
He returned to the one and only good chair in the room, although it had seen better days.
In all honesty, the father should be grateful to rest for a while. If only he had the nerve to just fall asleep in Pablo’s chair for half an hour! He realized that guilt or his conscience would not allow that to happen.
“It’s too bad, really,” he muttered.
The noise from the guitar was not exactly annoying, but it was certainly very odd.
Father Ricardo held his breath for a moment, almost cursing as people’s voices, loud and obnoxious, passed by outside the thin and ill-fitting front door.
It was the music of the spheres, or something, he thought inconsequentially. What a sad and mournful tune. It was like a million lost souls, calling on the night breeze, yet caught and interpreted by the strings…stretched taut like a man’s life, with the fates measuring out the thread.
Perhaps it had something to do with the breeze, or some unheard vibrations from the rail lines nearby. Maybe there was a locomotive idling in the yard, and the vibrations were coming up through the ground. It was a dirt floor, and the guitar was perched on a wooden box in the corner.
Still, he couldn’t really account for it, and in the enforced confinement caused by Pablo’s mysterious disappearance, he didn’t have much else to focus on. On impulse, he got up again, and went over and picked up the guitar, thinking that maybe just to move it would stop the weird sounds.
To his surprise, the ethereal music seemed to get louder, and even stranger, the guitar was wet.
Instinctively the father looked up, but the roof, which was really just corrugated galvanized metal sheets, seemed sound enough.
He heard a faint noise, and then Pablo was right there holding two pasteboard cups from the grille just up the street.
Father Ricardo’s jaw dropped at the look of sheer relief on Pablo’s face, his words almost meaningless.
“So you heard it then,” said Pablo.
Father Ricardo held that weeping guitar as if it was the most amazing thing he had ever touched. The two men stood there transfixed, together, listening to the rising, swelling music of the weeping guitar with a kind of fear, and hope, and horror, and sick fascination.
Two hot tears washed down the father’s cheeks, his thoughts raced here and there and everywhere, and he couldn’t think of one single God-damned thing to say.
Here's a nice song by Matt Mays.
The Christian Children's Fund.