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AMERICAN STORIES - The Stradivarius - Part One

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The Stradivarius by Richard Thorman
The Stradivarius by Richard Thorman

Now, the Special English program "American Stories". Our story today is called "The Stradivarius". It was written by Richard Thorman. Our story is in two parts. Here is Larry West with the first part of The Stradivarius.

Thirty years ago, there were many places like Mince Mills in the southern United States. People said there was no way to find them except by accident. But it was no accident that brought Jesse McCord to Mince Mills. When Boon Elliot saw the car stop in front of his house, he did not move. People always came to see him when their cars needed to be fixed. They knew that Boon Elliot could repair anything with wheels on it. A stranger got out of his car slowly.

"Are you Boon Elliot, the musician?" Boon was very pleased to be called a musician instead of a car mechanic. He nodded his head, "Yes!" The stranger smiled and closed his car door.

He had blond hair, small blue eyes and a narrow face with a long chin. He wore a thin mustache across his upper lip. Boon thought he must be about 50 years old. Boon walked over to him. The stranger shook Boon's hand. "I'm Jesse McCord," he said, "I have something I want to show you." He opened his car door and pulled out a violin case.

"Can we get out of the sun?" he asked. Boon led the way to the porch. Boon's wife Molly brought them ice tea in tall glasses. McCord drank his tea slowly. Then he wiped his mouth with his fingers.

"Does the name Antonio Stradivarius mean anything to you?" he asked. "Are you saying that you have a fiddle made by Stradivarius in that case?"

"I am not saying what I have." McCord said. Boon Elliot leaned forward in his chair. "Mister, if you have a Stradivarius violin, I wanna see it." McCord opened the case and lifted up a violin made of golden red wood. The sunlight slid over the violin like a warm wave.

"Here, take it!" McCord said. Boon tried to reach for the violin but his hands would not move. Boon had always thought he would find a Stradivarius in a museum someday. He never dreamed that he would see one in his own home. McCord turned the violin so that Boon could read the writing on the back of it.

"See that?" he asked, "Antonio Stradivarius, Cremona, Italian." He read. As Boon leaned forward to read the words himself, McCord placed the violin in his hands. "Go ahead," he said, "play something!" Boon put the violin under his chin and picked up the bow. He began to play the Tennessee waltz. The violin sounded so good he began to play faster. Nothing in his life had ever felt so wonderful. Then Boon played "I'm thinking of my blue eyes” for Molly. He finished with a religious song "Amazing grace". As he played the song, McCord and Molly sang the words.

When Boon finished playing, McCord shook his head, "Too bad I have to sell this fiddle!" he said, "But I have a sick child at home and I need the money." Boon put the violin back in its case. "How much do you want for it?" he asked. "Well," McCord said, "I need 1,500 dollars to pay the doctor and the hospital."

Boon had expected the violin to cost much more than that. "Maybe I will buy it myself," he said, "can you lower the price?" McCord shook his head, "No, no I, I need 1,500 dollars for my child." Boon thought for a minute, "Alright," he said, "I will buy it, but I can't give you the money until I go to the bank tomorrow." He handed the violin to McCord. "No," McCord said, "keep it, friend, it's yours." They shook hands and Molly invited McCord to stay for dinner.

After dinner, McCord left and Molly began washing the dishes. She was very angry. "How could you spend so much money without talking to me about it? Besides, you already have a violin." Molly banged the pots she was washing as she talked. "I don't believe that story about a sick baby." she said. "I don't either," Boon said, "In fact, I don't even think McCord is married. But I could not argue about that violin." Boon put his arms around Molly and held her close, she turned and rested her head on his chest. "I never should have married a musician!" she sighed. "There's still some coffee left," she said, "and I save you a piece of pie."

The next morning, McCord came to the house early. Then the two men went into town to the bank. Boon had no trouble borrowing the money to buy the violin. He promised Mr. Austen, the banker, that he would work at Sam Bokerrites Garage to pay off the bank loan. After he got the money, Boon gave it to McCord who sucked it in his pocket. Boon walked across the street to Bokerrites Garage.

It took Boon 5 years to pay the bank the money he had borrowed to buy the Stradivarius. Then, Boon had more time to play his violin. He played at dances and funerals; he played in churches and schools. Boon remembered those years as the best in his life. He called them his golden time. He could tell Molly felt good too. She was very loving and he felt very close to her. Whenever Boon picked up his Stradivarius, he felt as if God's spirit had touched his soul. Then Molly became sick and the golden time ended.

Boon took her to the hospital where the doctors operated on her. For a while Molly felt better but she had lost a lot of weight and was very weak. Boon went back to work at Bokerrites Garage to pay Molly's doctors and hospital. But the money he got from working in the garage was not enough. So he returned to Mr. Austen at the bank, and borrowed several thousand dollars. Even that was not enough. In the end, there was just one thing left for him to do. The idea was so awful that he put off doing it for as long as he could. Finally, one day he took the Stradivarius from its case for the last time. He held it in his arms as if it were a baby, but he was too sad to play it. Then he put the violin in his truck and drove to the city.

The first music store he went to was not interested in the violin. The second store offered him 50 dollars for it. The last store offered him 75 dollars. Boon expected to get at least 10,000 dollars for his violin, after all it was a Stradivarius! It was clear they did not know how valuable it was. Finally, he went to the biggest music store in the city.

"I have to sell my fiddle," he told the manager. The manager opened the case and picked up the violin. "Did you get this fiddle from a man named McCord?" he asked. "How did you know that?" The manager put the violin back in its case. "Every year we see 5 or 6 of these imitation Stradivarius violins." He said, "They all come from this man McCord. This violin of yours when new was worth about 200 dollars. I can only give you about a hundred dollars for although."

Boon could feel his face become hot. "Thank you very much, sir." he said. He picked up the violin and left the store. McCord had lied and cheated him, he had taken in Boon's 1,500 dollars and given him an imitation Stradivarius. Boon decided that he would look for McCord and punish him. "Yes," he promised himself, he would find McCord even if it took him the rest of his life.

You have just heard part one of the story "The Stradivarius". It was written by Richard Thorman and adapted for Special English by Dorner Disecters. It was published in 1990 by Louisiana State University Press in the book "Hardly Working". Your storyteller was Larry West. Listen next week at the same time for the final part of "The Stradivarius". This is Shirley Griffith.

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