An IN THE AIR Excerpt: “The Harmonica” by Rohit Sawant

Ray wrapped the gift paper around the little box. Should he log onto the store’s website and check again? Maybe it was out for delivery.

But it was only wishful thinking. He sighed and let his fingers mechanically spider over the box, pulling the paper taut, yanking bits of tape, enclosing it in its brightly striped shroud.


He smiled humorlessly. Anyone else would’ve thought the notion bizarre, but he found it rather fitting. It really did feel like shrouding the harmonica, his harmonica, instead of gift wrapping. Gifts you give away; but this, he was giving up. Saying goodbye.

He bought it on a whim three months ago, during a slump after the divorce. He had never owned an instrument, except for a guitar he played mediocrely back in high school, a hand-me-down from his brother.

An ad popped up in his browser one afternoon. Ray detested the phrase “love at first sight,” but that was precisely what happened when he laid eyes on the harmonica in the image. An invisible hand pressed down on his and swung the cursor over to it.

The store made a prompt delivery; it arrived the next day as if the harp had been just as eager. Ray spent the next two hours blowing out random notes. Although it lacked any coherent musical pattern, it still sounded pleasing. Strum a guitar, paw piano keys, it was bound to give rise to discord unless you knew what you were doing. But the harmonica was probably the only instrument that was so agreeable from the get-go, even when you had zero skills.

Along with the harmonica had come a folded-up leaflet, which had instructions on playing the C major scale. He’d forgotten how to read music, but a diagram of the harmonica had arrows pointing up and down along the holes. He blew and drew in accordingly. It irked him that he couldn’t get a resonant draw on the second hole, but he soldiered on. The day he finally got it, he played it when he awoke in the middle of the night, to ensure he could still summon whatever changes he made with the inside of his mouth and the way it caressed the air.

When he wasn’t busy designing posters, he spent a great chunk of his time breathing through his harmonica. He tried playing “Moonriver” by ear, and stumbling through the opening verse, grew ecstatic with every correct note he hit—moved to tears when he pulled the harp away.

He relearned to read music. Took lessons online. Having the harmonica in his life added an extra dimension to it, opening the doorway to a vibrant refuge.

And now, he was giving it away.

48416177_2008938705839504_8094266344947580928_nRohit Sawant’s fiction is forthcoming in The Twisted Book of Shadows and has appeared in Weirdbook, CultureCult Magazine and can be found inTranscendent, Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of H.G. Wells and other anthologies. He lives in Mumbai, India. Enjoys sketching, films, and his favorite Batman is Kevin Conroy. You can find him at


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