"Come here," he said, motioning to Francis with one of his
"Sir, may I ask you a question?"
"Why do these people do this?" asked Francis.
"Carry umbrellas? Because it's crowded here and they are trying to mark out their own space--a space in which they can be themselves."
"And you?"asked Francis, for the man did not have even a newspaper to cover his head.
"I don't need one," he said.
"Because I'm a genius--they own all the space in the world--genius is waterproof."
And so they strode together to his house on the hill.
"Well, what do you do for a living?"
"I make violins. And for forty years I have cherished a singular hope: to make a violin--a living violin--made of several creatures bound together. They would be the humming and it would be the voices of thousands of bees swarming the air--drenching the space with a golden sound--the voices of thousands and thousands of bees--a deafening hum pollinating the air--and I've been watching you...and I've been watching you..and I would be so honored if you would be the fiddlehead of this violin."
Francis was taken aback. The tea was cold. The door was slightly ajar.
"You would be quite famous and possibly even rich--" added the violinmaker, blocking the doorway. "And only you can do it for only you are a fiddlehead."
"I'm sorry," said Francis firmly, "but I don't think I want to be part of your project."
"Think of what you owe to the world--" said the violinmaker.
"You've never done anything for anyone other than yourself," cried the violinmaker."You are wasting your talents--wasting what is only yours to give--"
"No--" said Francis and pushing aside the violinmaker's lumpy mass, quickly strode out the exit. Behind him, he heard the wail of a hundred tiny voices, a sound like the mewling of newborn cats.
What was that? Despite his fear, Francis crept quietly to the back of the house and put his ear to the door. Inside he heard a sucking sound and then the sound of boards being pried up. Francis looked through the window quickly. "Hush, children, I feed you soon. I feed you soon."
Millions of white grubs were swarming out of the hole in the floor over the body of a child. The Genius was pouring a sticky sauce over the belly and pricking each of its fingers to see if it was well done. The grubs began to create a humming noise that grew louder and higher until their voices melded into one voice: it sounded like a tuning fork being struck again and again. The Genius lifted up his eyes and smiled at Francis. Francis fled.