The bright and calm waters of the beach breathed tranquility into Olivia. The morning breeze caressed her feathers lightly. It was finally her day off, and no one could ruin her fun!
With her “owl vision”, she looked left, right, backwards, up, down, backwards again just in case. “Yep,” she thought to herself, “I have the beach all to myself!”.
Sprinting towards the water, without a care in the world, she jumped in the calm waves and rose up from the water, refreshed. She didn’t even take out her long thin poncho, which was now soaked to the brim. “Well…”, she thought, “now I have an excuse to make another one!”.
Relaxing by the calm waves, she suddenly remembered, “The breakfast! I’ve gotta get back home!”. Isa, her younger sister, made a delicious kind of pancake she could never bring herself to miss. In fact, none of her 3 siblings understood why she woke up so early on day offs, but they were the ones missing out on an empty beach.
However, as she spotted a broken canoe by the sand, she realized she might not be the only one at the beach.
Rushing to the site, Olivia halted her steps and curiously examined the wreckage at a distance. “Is… is anyone there?” she asked hesitantly. “If so, are you alive?” she continued, aware that it was a stupid question.
Olivia had never seen a shipwrecking before. In fact, she had never seen a boat before. There were no docks in town. “Why was this boat here?”, she worried.
As a piece of wood was moving, Olivia took a step back, but as the figure slowly began crawling out of the shadows, she sprinted to the rescue. “Hey! Are you alright-”.
Olivia stopped for a moment as she saw the figure in front of her.
“Ah, hello, am I in Paz…” said Antonio, who froze in shock as he heard his own voice, only different, thinner…
“Oh my gosh, a little lamb!” shouted Olivia, kneeling before Antonio. “Are you hurt little one?” she asked him, holding him by the shoulders, as the confused Antonio shook it and took a step back.
“Agh, stand back! I’m not a lamb, I’m a ram! I’m a traveler from far away!” he said with an unconvincing, squeaky voice. Stumbling on his short legs, he rushed to the woods to get away from Olivia.
“Hey wait!” shouted Olivia, running after the small Antonio. “Let me help you! What’s your name? Where are your parents?”.
“My parents?!” Antonio’s face turned red, “How old do you think I am, weird, giant owl?”.
“I’m just trying to help you…” said Olivia, calmly, “And I am not a ‘weird giant owl’. I’m as small as Isa, and she’s still 13! But if I said something wrong to you, I’m sorry.”
Antonio stopped his steps for a few seconds…
He sighed and threw his body down by the sand, disoriented. “My name is Antonio,” he began, “I’m 20, I’m from Ribeira, and I am a Schöneshaf.”
“A Chone-what?” asked Olivia.
“I was taking a boat to Paz island and now I’m… small?”, speaking his thoughts out loud was Antonio’s way of making sense of things.
Olivia sat down by his side, thoughtful. “Well, you arrived after all then.”, concluded Olivia.
“Arrived where?” Antonio looked back at her.
“Paz island” she replied, with a smile. “Welcome, ‘faraway traveler’!” she said, trying to play along.
“So…” Olivia tried to understand his conversation, “you came here to grow wings?”
“Yes”, Antonio said as they walked up the shore, towards the trail through the forest, “Paz was where birds learned how to fly, right?”.
“Not that I would know…” said Olivia, with a sad tone to her voice. “But my teacher knows a lot about a lot of things, so he must know something…”.
“Yes, and your name, little guy?”
Antonio hissed “Don’t call me little guy! My name is Antonio…”
“Antonio!” said Olivia, with a sprinkle of amusement. “Can I call you Tom?”
“What?” Antonio looked back at her.
“It’s short for Antonio. Tom!”, she smiled.
Antonio turned his sight back to the trail. “No.”
“What about Nio?”
“Also no… Just call me-”
“Tony? Anty? Toto?”
Antonio stopped, closed his eyes and sighed. “Tom is the least worst of these…”
“Here we are!” Olivia shouted excitedly, as the trail came to an end.
A long line of charming old buildings, of many different tones of red, yellow, blue, pink, and more, stretched alongside a narrow stone brick road. “This is my town,” introduced Olivia, “Baleias”.
As they walked, few people were out and about the streets. These few were dressed in humble ponchos, walked in a slow step and greeted each other with friendly smiles.
“It’s pretty,” commented Antonio, paying it no mind. Olivia, on the other hand, was picking up a hasty pace and speech. “So this is downtown! It's short and narrow, Baleias isn’t that big. Going right there is the music school over there. To the left lies the mangroves (they’re scary!). Oh! There’s also the new library-”
“Thank you Olivia” interrupted the impatient Antonio, “but where can I speak to that ‘teacher that knows a lot’?”
“Oh, right.” she quickly recalibrated, “I don’t know if Mr. Ananias is at school this early, but we can try that. Follow me!” she said, heading to the right, strolling through the waking town.
Olivia’s stomach grumbled. “Well, I’m missing the pancakes…” she thought.
Antonio and Olivia were now standing in front of a wide, tall blue house, with baroque details and scars on the walls that denounced its age.
“It’s here, the music school,” said Olivia, “Mr. Ananias teaches us all sorts of stuff here,” she smiled to Antonio “so if, by any means, you’d like to be admitted-”.
“Let’s talk to him already” said Antonio, rushing inside.
Olivia looked down for a moment, and thought of the story she had just heard from Antonio. “I wonder who’s been messing with this poor kid head…” thought Olivia before heading after the lamb.
“Olivia!” said a slow, hoarse voice from the end of the corridor, “It’s your day off! What are you doing here so early, girl?”.
“Mr. Ananias,” said Olivia, after hugging him, “I didn’t come here to study, I wanted to speak to you.”
Ananias, a short capybara wearing his usual square glasses and white suit, peeped the short figure behind Olivia and smiled. “Now,” he said, “have you come to admit this little fella in our school?” he laughed.
Antonio stared back at him, with dead eyes.
“This is Tom, short for Antonio,” said Olivia “and no, we aren’t admitting him today. He’s actually not from around...”
The old man widened his eyes. “Not from around?” he asked curiously, “Well, where are you from then, little guy?”
Antonio kept staring at him with the same dead face, but he replied, “Out of the island. Originally from Ribeira, very far away.”
“Very far away…” Ananias repeated, then kept silent and looked away for a moment. “Very odd, I don’t know any places outside the island…”, he whispered to himself, “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from outside.”
Ananias broke the silence with a sudden burst of laughter. “The boy’s got some imagination. That’s great, right Olivia?”
The owl gave him a nervous smile. “Oh boy…” she whispered to herself.
“I want to grow wings,” said Antonio, boldly. “I want to fly.” He stood his ground, as both stopped to stare at him.
The silence stood, echoing Antonio’s determined stance, for a few more moments.
“Very well” Ananias broke the silence, “I know just what you’re seeking, young guy.” He stood by the tall white door at the end of the corridor and opened it slowly.
From inside, the voices of 10 children could be heard. Not only their voices: all of them were playing their instruments. They were lizards, frogs, doves, wolves, a vulture, and their instruments were as diversified: clarinets were played with bongos, drums were played with saxophones, a recluse wolf played the violin at the corner.
But at a closer look, Antonio noticed something unusual happening in that music room.
And so, his jaw dropped.
A small leaf, laid on a table, turned enormous in the blink of an eye, as one dove practiced chords on her ukelele with a bongo playing frog beating along.
A clarinetist, at a distance, tried to give shape to the floating water from a glass, just through a simple 3-note melody.
Pencils, notebooks and bags slowly flew around in circles as 3 children, sat in a circle, focused on their music with their eyes closed.
Antonio stared deeply, squinting his eyes. “Is this a mirror trick?” he thought.
“When 2 or more musicians come together,” explained Ananias, “a great power is harnessed from the music they play together.”
“Mushiku sheposhi…”, remembered Antonio.
“These are just demonstrations, these students are still learning after all.” continued Ananias, “But soon, they’ll form great Bands.”
Staring even more at those flying pencils, he began to process all of that…
Music can make objects fly…
“I want to learn music” said Antonio, impulsively.
Ananias smiled, “I’m glad you’re excited, child!” he responded, “But tell me, do you already play an instrument?”
“Yes, I play the-” Antonio stopped, with widened eyes. He ran towards the exit. “My guitar!” he shouted, as Olivia and Ananias looked back, confused.
Antonio rapidly rummaged through the wreckage of the boat, sweating and breathing heavily. “Where is it, where is it??” he thought, “I can’t lose Herbert’s gift…”
Finally, Antonio picked up a round box from under all that debris. He had found his guitar, but…
“It’s broken! No!” he shouted.
The neck was in half, and the strings, all ripped apart. Antonio kneeled down in a very dramatic manner.
“Hey Tom,” said Olivia, walking towards him, “why did you run-”
“It’s over, Olivia!”, he wept, “Herbert’s guitar is broken, it’s all over!”
“Oh,” she said, awkwardly, “let me take a look.” She kneeled close, and examined the body and neck of the instrument. “Well, it’s not something Manoela couldn’t fix.”
“Manoela?” asked Antonio, lifting his head.
“The town’s luthier, she fixes instruments like these.” Olivia explained. “I’m pretty sure she can make your guitar even better than before!”
Antonio forgot his dramatic stance and got up, “I hope she’s trustworthy, ‘cause I swear…”. He took the broken guitar with him back to town.
“Tomorrow morning, it’ll be good as new honey!” said Manoela, after they left Antonio’s guitar for repair. Olivia paid her fifty cocoa beans, the local currency, and they both headed outside.
Both were shivering from hunger.
“Tom, shall we eat at my house?” asked Olivia, kindly, even though Antonio seemed absent.
“I’m fine” he said, briefly.
She sighed, taking him by his arm, “Come on, you have to eat, stubborn kid”
“Stop! You can’t force me to eat!” shouted Antonio, struggling to get out of her grip. “Let me go!”
And so, Antonio struggled up the hill, towards Olivia’s house.