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Children's Stories
by Margo Fallis
A Gift From the Heart

Author's Note:  I went to a school here in Atlanta that is for refugees. They had asked me to write a story about the gypsies, or Roma, as they are called now. Apparently there is a lot of cruel treatment by the Bosnians towards the gypsies or Roma. So I wrote this and went and told it at the school to all the different classes. In it, I try to show that there is good in them and stop this horrid treatment of others because they are of a different race....

The leaves on the trees jiggled as a cool breeze blew down the mountainside. A fire crackled and popped, sending tiny, glowing, pieces of wood into air.

Tem sat on a rock staring into the fire; his large, brown eyes sparkled as the flames were reflected in them. His bare feet were caked with mud and tapped softly to the beat of the fiddle music.

As his grandfather played, the rest of his family danced around the fire, laughing merrily. Bright yellow, orange, and green dresses whipped the air as the women and young girls skipped about between the men. Tem smiled. He thought his sisters looked sweet, dancing around the caravan.

They were all having a grand time; everyone but Tem. He sighed and brushed his cocoa-brown hair to the side with his hand.

Then he stood up and wandered into the forest. The smell of ciorba de perisoara (a soup with meatballs) that was bubbling away in a huge, black pot seemed to follow him, trying to lure him back to the singing and dancing. Tem ignored the temptation and kept on walking.

As he climbed over fallen trees and sharp stones, Tem could hear the echoes of wolves in the distance. The howling sent a chill up his legs. The only other noise he could hear was the snapping of small twigs as they crunched under his feet. The dark sky sparkled with a million stars.

Tem heard a noise and stopped to listen. When he heard it again, it sounded like someone moaning in pain. Tem ran towards the noise. He wasnít afraid even though he didnít know if it was a man or a wild animal. He came to a clearing and saw a person lying among the wildflowers. The full moon was shining down on him. Tem saw that it was an old man. It looked as though heíd been bitten by a wolf or a bear. He ran to help him. "Are you all right?" he asked, raising the manís head.

The old man coughed. "My arms and legs. The wolves. Attacked. Help me," he cried and then passed out. The man was bleeding heavily from many bites. Tem tore strips from his shirt and tied them around the wounds. He used the rest of his shirt as a pillow for the manís head. He didnít dare move him, or leave him, for fear the wolves would come back and finish him off.

He could hear the wolves howling again. He stayed with the man all night, wiping his forehead and comforting him as he dozed off and on.

When the sun came up in the morning the old man opened his eyes. "Who are you?" he asked.

Tem woke up and rubbed his face. "Iím Tem. Iím from the Roma camp, over the hill. I found you last night. You were attacked by wolves."

"Ah, boy. I am Roma too. I was on my way to another camp to play my violin when three vicious, gray wolves came. I am lucky to be alive. My name is Garridan." The old man attempted a smile and held Temís hand. "Where is my violin?" he asked, raising his head to look around.

"Violin? I didnít see one," Tem answered. He stood up and walked around in the grass and flowers, looking for it. "Here it is." He carried to Garridan, admiring it. "Itís beautiful." Tem saw that it had four strings, just like his papaís.

"Itís much heavier than papaís too. Your violin is made of a different type of wood."

"It belonged to my grandfather, and his grandfather before him. Itís priceless, and her music, ahÖ.there is none more beautiful," Garridan sighed. He took the violin from the boy and held it as though it was the most precious thing in the world.

"I think you should come to our camp. My mama and papa will be waking up soon. When they find me gone, they will worry.

Theyíll take care of your wounds. Come," Tem said, urging the man to stand up.

Tem could tell that the man was in pain, but he managed to get to his feet. He put Garridanís arm around his shoulder and they slowly walked back to camp.

"Where were you? We were worried sick about you," his papa said, as the two approached the wagon. "Youíve been hurt," Papa said, helping Garridan to lie down. "Mama, get a blanket. Hurry." He took the violin from his hand and laid it next to him.

"He was attacked by wolves, Papa. I tied my shirt around the bites to stop the bleeding," Tem explained.

"You did well, Tem," Papa smiled. He took off his necklace and put it around Garridanís neck. "This quartz will help you feel better." The old man reached up and held it in his fist. "Weíll take care of those bites, but you will be staying with us for a while," Papa said.

Mama came back with the blanket and a few hard-boiled eggs. "Eat these for strength," she said, handing them to Garridan and wrapping the blanket around him. "I suppose youíre hungry too, Tem? You missed the meal last night. Come and Iíll fix you some fruit and cheese."

Garridan rested as the camp came to life. Everyone seemed to be busy with morning chores. A few hours later, tired and weary from working, Tem sat down on the ground near Garridan. He smiled at the boy.

"Will you play for me?" Tem pleaded. "My grandfather plays the violin. I would like to hear you though. Your violin is very beautiful."

Garridan looked at the boy. "Help me sit up and hand me my violin." Tem did as asked. Soon Garridan began to play. The music was soft and sweet. When heíd finished, he saw the look in Temís eyes. "Can you play, Tem?" he asked.

"No. But I would like to. Grandfather doesnít have time to teach me. Neither does Papa," he frowned.

Garridan offered, "Iíll teach you. It looks like Iím going to be here for a while. After all, you saved my life. Itís the least I can do."

Tem jumped up. He was excited. "You will? You will teach me to play? Iím ready to learn right now."

"Sit down again, boy. Be patient."

Every morning Garridan and Tem practiced the violin. He taught Tem the correct way to hold it, how to move the bow over the strings and how to listen for the correct tune. Tem was a good student and learned very quickly.

Time passed slowly as Garridanís wounds healed. He enjoyed his time with Tem. The boy did everything just as he was taught.

One bright, sunny morning, as the birds chirped in the pine trees, Garridan knew that it was time for him to leave. "Tem, youíve got a special gift. My father told me once that the music that comes out of a violin has more to do with the soul of the person playing it, than the type of wood it is made of." Garridan patted Tem on his knee. "Iíll be leaving tomorrow. I must return to my own family."

Tem felt a tear trickle down his cheek. "Donít go, please."

"I must, but first I want to hear you play. Play for me, Tem.

Let me hear you play with all you feel in your heart," Garridan asked.

He gave the violin to the boy. Tem tenderly stroked the instrument with his fingers and then began to move the bow over the strings. The air filled with vibrant music, strong and emotional, coming right from his heart.

Papa and Mama were gathering firewood. "That must be Garridan. He plays so beautifully," Mama said. They walked back to their wagon. When Papa saw who was playing, he dropped his armful of wood. He stood silently and proudly, listening to his son play. Mama began to cry. "Itís Tem," she whispered.

Several of the others wandered back when they heard the music. All were stunned to see it was not Garridan playing, but Tem. Tem finished and stood still, recovering from the joyful feeling in his heart.

"Bravo, Tem!" shouted Papa. He clapped his hands and then wrapped his arm around his sonís shoulders.

Grandfather walked towards him and picked him up by the elbows. "My grandson! You have the gift. How did you learn to play like this?" he asked.

"Garridan taught me," Tem answered.

"The boy was easy to teach. It is in his heart," Garridan replied, pounding his chest.

After dancing and a farewell meal of Sarmi (stuffed cabbage leaves), Garridan left. As he walked into the woods, he turned to wave goodbye. "We will meet again someday," he called Tem.

Tem ached inside. He would miss the old man. Feeling sad and lonely, he slowly walked to his wagon and climbed inside. There, lying on a blanket, was Garridanís violin. A note lay next to it. Tem picked it up and read it. ĎTem, this is a gift for you in payment for the great gift youíve given me - watching you grow and become one with the violin. Remember your heart and share your soul through music, every time you play this violin. Your friend forever, Garridan.í

Tem grew up to be the best violin player of all the Roma. He spent the rest of his life sharing his love for music with others. Until his dying day, whenever he heard the wolves howling, his heart remembered his teacher and friend, Garridan.

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