I wrote this flash fiction piece a while ago after a Sunday watching a jazz club in action. There was a trumpet player there, with well worn Doc Martens that were open at the laces and spilling out onto the stage. It got me imagining a busker with shoes that sang while he played, and ‘The Trumpeter’ is the result of it.
He had shoes that sang. Or more accurately boots. That reached up past his ankles to hug his shins. Once black, they had scuffs of grey with bright yellow laces that wound up the middle in sinews. His pinstriped trousers were torn at the hems, the perfect circles of a moth attack. But there were no moths in his home, it was the walking. He had a sickness when it came to walking. An urgency in his feet that demanded use.
The only time walking stopped was when he played. Fine notes of brass that bent to the will of his lips and fingers. Each midday he arrived to busk, stood on a patch of ruby cobbles, removed his top hat and raised the trumpet’s neck to his mouth. Each breath coaxed notes out, wisps that curled around crotchets and minims in a pull. Once free they surrounded him in a mass, a swarm of beats and half-beats.
While he blew his feet twitched, toes curled in a wriggle. With each stroke the boots sang, in a voice so deep it belonged to the ocean floor. The melody poured out, a cascade that made the tiny hairs in people’s ears sway. Anyone who stopped to listen let the sounds fill their bones; drown their marrow in the unlikely symphony. Coins were thrown into his hat, a pile three heads high that spilled lava-like over the rim onto cobbles.
When night threatened the sky they stopped. His lungs flat and worn while the boots had burst through the laces, unfurling their tongues over his feet. With the coins in his pocket, he put on his hat and faced west, the cool air a balm for the weariness. Then he walked, the trumpet alight with strokes from the setting sun, his boots caught in the hum of a growl.