A million troubles, that is all the world’s worth. Set in its revolving loop, it swirls an elliptical hurly-burly of debilitating woe. What is this human to do? The boy of a nobody and man of no means, I am careening through the bumpers and flippers of existence. There is no defense I could raise against such a foregone conclusion. My life, as it is now, is meaningless to such a hunk of space rock. The only moving and shaking to be done is my calf as it balances itself on the lowest rung of the bar stool.
“Hey, Chris!” With my hand raised like an elementary school student, I wave the bartender down for a moment. A stern, set-faced man strides to my end of the bar and props his hands up on the bar. “What’s a drink for a man down on his luck?”
Scratching his stubble, he contemplates while watching a patrol officer yell down a soccer mom using the turn lane as a parking spot. “Probably whiskey,” he lifted his forehead in honest resolution. “That’s my drink of choice when the wife starts screaming about one thing or another.”
“All right, pour me a glass.” I’ve never been one for hard liquor, but after funeral, a fallout, and a fight with the repo man, I’m willing to try just about anything at this point.
A tumbler with oaken-brown fluid slid toward my hand. This was like the Wild West, right? An unfortunate cowboy drinking up liquid comfort. It felt comforting, warm and simple. The alcohol was still swaying from side to side, a maternal-like motion. It burns my nose before I even drink. My next resolution is to stick with beer.
Chris laughs and wipes up the sputter all over the counter. My embarrassment adds a feather to the Mariner’s necklace. Life-in-death. That’s what this was: a walking nightmare.
With a shout, a fist fight erupts in the other corner of the bar. Two patrons are fed up with their misfortunes and take it out on each other. Profanity and alcohol are thrown in all directions before the stolid arms of order chuck them into the street like a wrapper or peel. No one would consider them otherwise.
This is too much. There is no enjoyment here from my last sound decision of the day. Crumpled presidents slide across the bar top and I head for a walk in the afternoon. Going home would be the end of me. My exercise is a testament to life and existence. I would let the Earth know I live and breathe as flesh and blood for their own eyes to discover.
Wooden feet on concrete clap out a melody for the tone deaf. People careening into disaster weave a chaos-laden path around me: road rage, pugilism, dereliction… the subjects of a raw life on public display. What good was there to be found roasting in the sweat of a cement convection?
On the stoop of a project house sits a weathered musician. Time has bleached his hair cotton white while his skin hold the marks of age as if it were keeping score. Hacking out 12-bar blues, his head blocks out the rest of the street. Barring other people’s problems, his steady strums create a reply. That was his answer to the madness around him, an old man pushing back the insanity by creating beauty. The tune lingers long enough for the sane to catch.
A new home is found for my last dollar in the guitar case of the old man, and I sit listening to the rest of his resistance. His enchantment with his craft made for little acknowledgement of my presence, but that is of no consequence. My admiration for the old man and his guitar would only describe a small portion of my attitude. He was troubled; we all are, but he avoided the destruction. Creation in misery is a pacifist protest against human nature.
As the sun makes a silhouette of his figure, I resolve to be that man and his guitar. I need to find my guitar, whatever that may be. There are too many troubles in this world for me to shoulder. I, like him, won’t admit those problems into my life. I, too, shall play ceaselessly into the impending night.
© 2014 by Corvidae in the Fields, all rights reserved
Sometimes a guitar is the hardest thing in the world to find.
And if they give up, they’ll never find it.
You’ll find your guitar!
Then I can rule the night as El Kabong!
It has to be acoustic then?
How else will I get that wonderful sound as I lay it squarely upon people’s heads?
That’s assault with a stringed weapon!
I tend to think that of Jimmy Buffet.
Oh, snap! I mean oh, kabong! Well-played.
It’s always ruling the night; why doesn’t anyone want to rule the late afternoon-to-early evening?
Because that’s dinner time. I don’t fight crime on an empty stomach.
This is beautiful, poignant, sad but hopeful. I think this is one of my favourites from you so far. I’ve been broken many times myself… hit absolute rock bottom… and it’s during those times that I find the most raw and beautiful statements from my subconscious. I do hope that you find your metaphorical guitar (though I think it’s already in your possession; you just need the right context to use it) AND a taste for whisky. A good Scotch is one of my absolute favourite things… if you find a good quality one, the ‘burn’ is just a warming sense of comfort. Definitely the drink for one in need of a warm embrace.
Thank you, Laura! I think the piece is less about me and just my thoughts in general. It was a Reddit prompt I wrote for someone this morning.
I’ve had a taste for whiskey for some 14 years now. I needed to make the character get whiskey face. That’s all. I usually drink a good bourbon like Bulleit.
Ah, I’m never quite sure whether you’re talking about yourself or in the mind of a character! Good to know you’re a whisky buddy. My favourite is Laphroaig Triple Wood (I’m a Scotch girl!)
I think that’s the ambiguity fiction authors run into when addressing an audience. It’s all good. I like a good scotch myself. My favorite thus far is the Balvenie. The 12 is usually a bit pricey. So, I buy it on special occasions.
So cool, Nate. I think my camera is my guitar.
Thanks, Roger! I would absolutely agree. 🙂
Mine too, I am just addicted to selfies. Didn’t the APA say that selfies are a sign on mental instability and narcisism? Luckily it turned out to be a hoax:) But maybe it’s the truth though.
As with most actions, I believe it’s not what is being done rather how it is being done. There are some people who take selfies that are flat out narcissists. It can be seen in the face, but that takes a bit of experience to recognize. Then there are others that are excited to use a camera. It depends on the person.
Wow! That’s right on the edge of Noir, isn’t it? Maybe a couple steps past. Oddly dark, yet optimistic at once. Really well done. I read it in the voice of Max Payne, and I was transported.
I seem to go to a Noir-style story first. I’m not entirely sure why, but that’s like a default presentation.
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