No Violins

‘Violins. Violins. It’s the only thing that will make you see sense.’ OK, I may have heard the lyrics to an old Mott the Hoople song a tad off. Take it away this Sunday, guest columnist Paul Curran.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran

Your Barrista — Paul Curran

A Few of the Missing and Murdered First Nations Women.

Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, warm, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is cloudy and a high just over 60 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger to warm up. We can relax with a cuppa while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie free!

Yum! Yum!

This week I’d like to write another chapter in our “Front Porch” series. I hope you enjoy it.

Ruth staggered up the sidewalk and plopped down on the stairs with her shoulder touching mine. A cloud of alcohol fumes settled over us. Her head seemed loose on her neck, bobbing back and forth with no rhythm. Ruth was a regular in the neighborhood – she visited one of the other tenants in my building. Today she was wearing a blue windbreaker, a blue T-shirt with some message written on it, black knee-length shorts and unlaced high-top black sneakers. Her broad face and caramel colored skin announced her First Nations heritage.

A soft mumbling rolled from Ruth’s lips, at first unintelligible and then softly resolving into: “They didn’t deserve it. The little ones. All gone now. No violins. No violins. So sad.”

Then she looked up and said “He isn’t home.” Then louder: “HE ISN’T HOME”

I didn’t comment: usually it’s better to allow drunks to just have their say. But then she turned to me and said: “Have you seen him?”

I had to reply: “I’m sorry I wouldn’t even know him if I did. There was one guy with an orange top and long black hair that left a few minutes ago.”

“Did he have black pants?”
“I didn’t notice I was looking up.”
“Oh, he has black pants. Did he have black pants?”
“I didn’t notice.”

At this point a male about 40 and dressed in a clean white T-shirt drove up on a bicycle and stopped at the street sign in front of the building: “Good afternoon – beautiful day isn’t it?” And indeed it was gorgeous. “Would either of you like to buy a loaf of bread and a package of chicken for two dollars?” He looked at me.

I responded: “Sorry I don’t have any money.”

Ruth replied: “I’ll buy it.”
“Let’s see your money.”

Before I continue, would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet?

Used as a Wallet

Ruth seldom had money but this afternoon she pulled out a cigarette pack and opened it displaying some twenties and fives. She must have dealt with this individual before as she offered a five and said she would get the change another time – I got the feeling it would be in trade as well. He locked his bike to the sign, went into the building next door and returned with a with a plastic bag containing a loaf of Wonder bread, a 175 gram blister pack of sliced chicken and a Twinkie. He showed Ruth each item and said the Twinkie was a treat for her. She took the bag, got up and went into the front entrance of the building. The entry is small and has only the mailboxes and a panel of buzzers for the apartments.

Apartment Intercoms
If We Were Having Coffee

While Ruth buzzed her friend, I had to ask Twinkie guy: “Why would you sell food for such a low cost? Where does it come from?”

He responded with a lie: “I share an apartment and we buy food in bulk and sometimes have too much. When we do I just sell it – I need the two dollars.”

Translation: He was given food not money for food and so when he wanted money for smokes or drugs or alcohol, he had only food to sell.
Twinkie said: “It sure is great to see how happy that food made her (referring to Ruth) – it takes so little.”

As Twinkie left, Ruth came back out and sat down on the floor in a corner of the porch – a smart move – and proclaimed: “He’s not home.” It is not permitted for anyone but me to sit on the steps. I am permitted because I am handicapped and as long as I am waiting for my ride I can sit. She knew I was leaving and if she wanted to wait she had to sit where she could not be seen from the street – which is in the corner of the porch. She held the bag in her hand and looking at me asked: “Can you give this food to him? He is my friend”

I confessed: “I don’t know anyone in the building.”

Rows of Brick Houses
If We Were Having Coffee

Ruth: “He told me that if I had anything for him to give it to you cause he trusts you. And he never has enough food so I bought this for him. He is my friend but he abuses me sometimes.”
“Sorry I don’t know him and I am leaving soon and won’t be back until late. How does he abuse you? ”

Ruth pulled out a full pack of cigarettes and asked if I wanted one. Then she gave me two – surprisingly, as she usually was the one asking not offering. As if reading my mind she commented: “I got some money today. All I did was buy a Mickey [a 375 ml Canadian sized bottle of alcohol = about 12 ounces] to make the voices go away, walk through the park and come here.”

Mickey of Whiskey

I pushed: “How does he abuse you? “

“He doesn’t really abuse me – I shouldn’t have said that. Just a few bruises here on my arms. That’s not really abuse.”

“That is abuse you know.”

“Yeah, but he is my friend and I brought him some food because he never has any.”

“You said that you hear voices – what do they say.”

I expected Ruth to balk at this question but she was very forthcoming:
“They are all different voices. The words change with the seasons. Words are so special and everything has to be taken into account to get the words right – the voices, the season, the weather – so many things. And when the words are just perfect, it is so beautiful.” Here she paused, then continued:
“Sometimes it is the voices of my sisters that I hear.”

The last sentence was said very quietly and with great reverence – apart from the other sentences.

Inquiring, I asked if she had sisters and where they were.

She replied: “Yes I have sisters but I can’t tell where they are – it is not allowed. I could get in a lot of trouble if I told you.”

At this point my ride arrived and I said my goodbyes and departed, leaving Ruth sitting on the floor in the corner of the porch waiting for her friend – the man who abused her – and trying not to hear the voices. No Violins.

That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.

[Cover My Eyes and Blush]

71 thoughts on “No Violins

  1. Hi Paul, yeah see… it’s these real and day to day stories that resonate most, I think. I’m glad too that you’re doing more of them. Thank you too, for adding another voice to the plight of women and especially those from my culture. We’re still very much the bottom row on the societal levels. So damned sad to see how that’s demonstrated every day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the read Robyn. I was describing an experience – the fact that Ruth happened to be First Nations certainly informed her story but I have to say that I see women and men of many colors and creeds and ages who are in the same spot. It is hard to see in this land of plenty.

      Thanks so much for dropping by for a visit.Please come again. 🙂


  2. Hi NBC! great to have you visit. I am honored. I agree stopping abuse and violence are critical – many agree that the mark of a “civilized” country is how well it treats its homeless and vulnerable and disfranchised. By that measure we have a ways to go yet to be civilized. I am pleased that you enjoyed the coffee and sweets – and the post. 😀 Thank you.


  3. Hi Paul, great post – it’s so sad and so true! Yes, stop the abuse and no violence! ヘ( ゚益゚)ノ┌┛Σ(ノ´ω`)ノ. BTW, I really enjoyed the cuppa and the sweets. And Ellie’s an angel! Cheers, NBC ฅ(≚ᄌ≚)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Very thought provoking, Paul . . . everyone has something to say & share, and much information can be learned from the most casual of conversations, albeit odd and scattered. So kind of you to engage with her, many wouldn’t have, which is so sad. The comment about not be able to sit outside on the steps struck me as strange, though . . .
    Hope you & the Syracuse gang have a great week!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Sadie for coming by to visit. It is a pleasure to have you read and comment. The stairs problem is a result of the fact that both students and those on fixed income live in the same buildings. The indigents tend to scare away the students who are used to home with 800 count sheets and breakfast on the table and order enforced by Mom and Dad. We indigents can be a pretty scruffy and scary crew, especially of you have to run the gauntlet of the stairs to get in.. 😀

      Super to have you drop in Sadie – please come by again. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Phil! Great to see you out here on the porch. I am delighted that you had the time to drop by for a visit. Please join us in the conversation. It is true that homelessness and violence seems to ignore race and skin color. Thank you for the compliment and comment. Come see us again if you have the time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I find these incredibly moving… and love your writing style. I spent a lot of time on the streets when I was in my young crazy days… I could never begin to tell all the stories… but maybe I should write a book someday… and thanks…

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You just about knocked me out of my chair with that Mott quote. I know that album very, very well from my youth. I love how Mick Ralphs bends that first note in the guitar solo. That’s a nice earworm to have. Thx.

    Where did you lift that photo of brownstones? Because, I’m not kidding, I’m pretty sure that’s from my old neighborhood in Brooklyn when I first moved to NYC.

    He was an entrepreneur. You’ve got to admire that.

    I hate abuse stories. Especially ones as well-written as this. I always imagine the women in my life in the speaking roles.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Mark! Thanks so much for dropping by. I am honored. that Mott quote was Mark B’s actually when he introduced the piece. I am not familiar with it. it is possible that Ruth knew the tune – very hard to tell as she was criss-crossing very many thoughts sometimes within a sentence.

      The brownstone picture is indeed from New York – good eye Mark. It was the best approximation I could find of the block that I live on.

      Abuse lives in the cracks in our society and when we ignore it,it grows. it cannot stand the light of inquiry.

      Thank you so much for the visit and I am pleased that you enjoyed the story Mark.


  7. Thank you very much Jenni. It is a pleasure to have you visit And thank you for the great compliment – I am pleased that you enjoyed the piece. You are right- there are so many who have given up hope/ Their stories are seldom heard. i am honored that you dropped by for a read. Please come again.


  8. Oh Paul once again you paint such a picture with the words you write – you can see her, head bobbing to voices no one else hears and so desperate for friendship that she would buy food for one who hurt her just so he’d talk/spend time with her. The world is so full of those that have gotten lost in the little crack and crevices we’ve created by disinterest and distaste for the broken. Wonderful piece. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is a great story touching upon so many issues. The saddest bit is that a person cares for her abuser and condones his actions so easily. I wish there was more awareness. I read in the comments that this is a true story, and that you spoke to this woman. I found it incredibly kind of you. As wonderful a writer as you are, you are a wonderful person too!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Hi,
    Read. Thinking. Wrote a long comment… copy pasted and keeping it to ponder a while. (along with my other 200 and something drafts. 😉 )
    Good write Paul. Thanks for the invite to read here again. 🙂
    Trust all is well with you.
    AND – thanks to Mark for his hospitality.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi ya Belinda! Awesome to have you visit -i am honored. I trust all is well at home- hubby,kids, birds, etc. Thanks for the compliment. It is an unusual post – i have had a few who disliked it and many that liked it. It is sad and many will found it so. I think I’ll lighten up some for the next one. mark has been wonderful with his hospitality – i am grateful Thanks again Belinda – please come again.


      • You are welcome Paul – 🙂
        Many aspects that come to the surface and onto the table on this one, but on the surface, as we just sit and look on it… really, it is an encounter with a person in a world so few understand or even acknowledge exists. I thank you for sharing that. 🙂
        Yup – all going along as however planned – not that I am terribly aware of what the plans are (though mildly and vaguely) but trusting that it is how it is. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for a glimpse into this woman’s story — it’s a brief one, but deep, I think. And like Barb, I don’t’ think you’re going to be losing readers with these vignettes. In fact, your ability to show the heart of a person I wouldn’t normally happen up helps me understand a little bit more.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your kind comment Elyse. It is a pleasure to have you drop by for a read. Indeed there are many who it is very hard to get close to. Because I live here they are not defensive and I can get a glimpse of what is inside. Thanks for the visit Elyse, please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. WOW, powerful writing, Paul. I thought at first that you had gone into fiction.
    Life certainly isn’t a bed of roses for many people and I think you’ve done really well at highlighting that in a sensutive way.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. You know that the subject of abuse holds a personal place in my heart, so this poignent story reverberated deeply. Thank you for sharing your heart in this, for those who who in so many cases can’t share it themselves. Kudos and well done, my friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for the read and compliment Ned. High praise coming from a professional writer like yourself. I am honored. Abuse should never be tolerated and should be brought into the light. I’m pleased that you liked the post. Thanks for the visit and please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks so much for dropping by Willow. Indeed what you say is true – the story does help us to see how much we have and how grateful we should be for what we have. Thanks for the visit and comment Willow – please drop by again if you have a chance.


  15. The fact of the lady’s heritage is merely incidental to the story. What I find sad is that she accepts abuse so readily. As you know, I recently wrote a post about my ex – whom I left when it became apparent he was an abuser. What I find sad is that so many women don’t have families or friends they can run to when they need help. I was very fortunate that I was not in that same situation.

    (Ahem, for anyone who hasn’t read that post: )

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much for dropping by for a read CM, I am honored. Yes abuse is unacceptable in any form. That was a good post you linked- thank you. It was even sadder that she had so few friends that she accepted abuse in trade for friendship. Thanks for the visit CM. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Paul, I am always blessed by your writing, and happy to share your posts. You have a unique gift of being able to see people through the eyes of God. And I agree with you; it truly is a shame to see we still ignore the plight of Native peoples, our First Nations women who deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed Susan in terms of prejudices it is almost as if we are prejudiced against First Nation women in a special way that is different than the other prejudices. I feel so bad for them. Thank you so very much for dropping by and commenting. I am honored.


  17. Some people’s moments are pretty difficult to look at. Thank you for sharing Paul. There is so much going on around us in little, unknown, and not looked for experiences. Things that many of us can’t relate to. And yet, this existence is what they have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed Colleen, indeed. No doubt you are very good at that Colleen, given your occupation. There are stories all around, some in the quietest places and porch corners. But you know that is how the world is layered – it has always been that rich. Have you ever read “Walden”by Henry David Thoreau? It is an oldie (1854) but a goodie. There is one part chapter where Thoreau captures a red ant and black ant under a jar and describes their interaction in such a way that the reader is enthralled and can’t put it down.

      Thanks again for the visit Colleen and I am honored that you enjoyed the post.


      • No, I have never read “Walden”. I think I’ll look for it tonight Paul. I have got to start reading more. Used to be I didn’t go 12 hours without my nose in a book. Damn computer. 😉 But yes, these moments, of other’s existence are often etched in my thoughts.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for the chance to guest post Mark. I was hoping that the non-judgmental presentation would evoke an emotional response to the plight of some of these people. So many are so sad.


    • Thanks so much for dropping by Barb. Yeah, it’s sad but it is real. I’ll make sure that I write something more upbeat next week before i lose all my readers – don’t give up on me yet! I appreciate your patience and dedication. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually, don’t change on my account. I’m truly impressed by the nonjudgemental way you present these people as individuals and not some generic version of “a problem”.


      • I was hoping that the style would help readers see past the alcohol and joblessness to the person underneath. I don’t know though how popular that is – perhaps people have seen too much negative already.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Gatorette. I too am hoping my next neighborhood is a bit more normal. Ha! I’ll try to do a post next week that you can comment on. Would you like a cuppa or sweet? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Paul feel free to write any post you wish on any topic you wish; there are many who can relate or wish to comment. I stay clear away from controversial posts. My blogs never discuss anything religious, political, and never any profanity, it is a happy place to visit always. I do not like negativity and do not live in that state of mind. At the same time I do live in the real world and realize these type of things occur anywhere. Since we have company visiting and I am in the midst of baking breakfast foods I’ll past on the cuppa. I hope you have a good week. Gatorette.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Prior – it is a pleasure to have you visit. I apologize for the late reply but I just received your comment – word press strikes again. Ruth is a complex person – I just wrote her words. Thank you very much for the compliment. Please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks so much Mark for the opportunity to guest post here today. I hope you and your readers enjoy the post – it is rather harsh and controversial but is a real conversation with a real person living that life. I hope this weekend finds you and your readers in good health and prosperity.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Think I need something stronger than Assam after that one. Where to start? Yes to abuse. Of course it is. And, women accept it. Grateful for the friendship. Looking after the abuser. So sad.

    As is, buying a bimboloaf, prepacked chicken and getting a sweetie as a treat. Sad that someone is selling those for more essential items.

    But, at least the houses look nice. Can’t sit on the steps?!!!!! People regularly sit on the steps to our block. Probably because it’s cleaned weekly (by my partner) and more often if there is any mess. What a world we live in. I can totally see why people need alcohol and cigarettes to survive.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Hi RSITM! How are you today. Thanks so much for the visit and read. That conversation was real – names changed – and it is unusual for Ruth and I to be alone on the porch. There’s usually a few people around. This time I had a chance to ask a few questions without interruption. Some of her thoughts were rather profound, even in her inebriated state. We have had a long running issue with First Nations women disappearing and turning up murdered. There have been hundreds and no charges have ever been laid. There was an inquiry but it was inconclusive – and still the murders continue. Most have been on a single highway in Northern Alberta – hence the very real whisky reference to Alberta.

      I found the conversation thought provoking and thought I would share it with our readers today. Thanks again for dropping by roughseasinthemed. Please come agaon.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I have started to look forward to your interesting posts, so yes, I will come by again. As for the main issue, one they are women, two they aren’t white, and at a guess, three they probably aren’t rich. Triple whammy 😦

        Liked by 2 people

      • Exactly roughseasinthemed. Being not only not white but First Nations is even more of a burden. We have struggled as a country with our treatment of our Aboriginal or First Nations people. Our history is terrible and we still struggle.


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