A Sound Investment  -  By Pete Day


Ken Stanton looked across the road at the musical instrument shop that had just appeared. He crossed the busy street, dodging cars and buses, until he stood at the window gazing inside.

In the single-fronted window was a solitary piano and a double bass, but what caught Ken's eye lay at the back of the shop. It was a small collection of saxophones and clarinets, with a notice in front which he couldn't quite read through the glass.

He tried to think what shop had been there before, but couldn't remember.  Turning quickly, he entered the shop, nodding to a stocky little man of about his own age, with rather an odd looking face, who was sitting behind a small counter.  He went straight to the back of the shop to the saxes.  The sign attached to them read 'A Sound Investment'.

"Interested, are you sir?"  The stocky little man was at his side.  Casually, Ken noted there was a slight speech impediment in the voice.

"Well, yes.  I see that your sign says these are a sound investment, but they look expensive to me for what they are.   I mean, they've all been used, haven't they? I'd say used quite a bit by the look of them."

The little man coughed.,  "You are quite right sir, they have all been used, but it's who has used them that makes them such a good investment.  You see, they've all belonged at one time or another to a well known musician.  I have a complete history of all of them.  Do you play yourself?"

One in particular, a Selmer Tenor Sax, had caught Ken's eye.  Intricately decorated, with a number of large dents surrounding the bell, it looked well used.  He nodded as he reached forward and picked it up.

"Yes, I play in a local jazz band.  You may have heard of the 'Rhythmic Five'.

The little man nodded appreciatively.  "Ah!  I don't go out these days, but I have heard your band on the local radio. That's a particularly fine instrument  -  it was once owned by Alvon Curtis, the famous one himself ...   Why don't you try it?"

Ken put the instrument to his lips and began to play, softly at first, then a little louder.  From the first note he knew that this instrument was something special.  He simply had to have it.  Reluctantly he replaced the instrument back on its stand.

"You want a lot for it,"  he said,  "but it does have a beautiful sound, and it's in pretty good ,mechanical order."

The little man nodded.  "True, it will last you many years, and with its history it is bound to keep its value.  I could drop the price a little, seeing as it's you."

Ken left the music shop, carrying the saxophone in a case that was even more battered than the contents.  He had obtained a good discount on the deal and had been given various invoices, notes and a few pieces of music that had belonged to the once famous Alvon Curtis,  plus one with Alvon's actual signature.  "Thatís got to be worth something in itself,"  he thought.

Later that evening Ken showed off his new acquisition to the other members of the band, all of whom agreed it was a 'good buy', especially if the paperwork and Alvon Curtis's signature were genuine.

It was an instrument that could have been made for Ken, easy to play and with a smooth, rich tone ideally suited to Ken's style of playing.  Ken became moderately famous locally and played many gigs with his band.

The years passed by so quickly and, almost unnoticed, Ken grew old, bald, and perhaps inevitably overweight.  He had not played now for over two years.  He decided to sell many of his possessions, including his beloved saxophone, in order to move into a small apartment.

Shortly after he'd placed the ad, there came a knock on the door.  An old, nervous looking man stood on the doorstep.   There was something vaguely familiar about him.

"I've come about the saxophone, Mr Stanton.  Perhaps you remember me?"

Ken thought.  "Aren't you the chap I bought it from?"

"That's right.  Now I'd like to buy it back from you," he said,  "Not to sell again, you understand, but because I really didn't want to sell it all those years ago, only I was desperately hard up at the time and things were very difficult for me.  I owed a lot of money to various people and they were nearly all pushing me for it.  I didn't like to tell you that I was hoping I'd be able to buy it back but, when I heard you on the radio, you sounded so good that I decided I would rather listen to you playing it.  You were really very good."

He sighed ruefully.  "I've been to nearly all your gigs, you know."

Later, his visitor stood on the doorstep clutching the saxophone.  "I know you haven't made any profit from this instrument, but tell me, do you think it was a sound investment after all?"

Ken smiled.  "Oh yes, over the years it's given me more pleasure than I could possibly have imagined."

Ken held out his hand.  "By the way," he added,  "I donít even know your name."

"My name?  Oh, it's John Edmunds. Long ago I had a car accident in which my mouth was damaged and I could no longer play ...   I couldn't even work for a long while.  It's amazing how many of one's friends vanish when one is in trouble.  You may have heard of me by my stage name, Alvon Curtis."

                                                                                The End