Friday, January 6, 2017

The Hummingbird

John moved a couple of boxes out of the way and reached in behind the clothes and pulled the battered guitar case out of the closet. He took a minute to read the stickers haphazardly stuck to the surface, the slogans and names of bars long closed, music stores, tattoo parlors and bands from the past. He ran his hands over the battered surface, the vinyl ripped and torn and beautiful in its own way. This case paid its dues, protecting the valuable cargo it carried. He opened the case and took a moment to look at the guitar lying inside. A Gibson Hummingbird, introduced to the world in 1960, Gibson’s first square shouldered dreadnaught. She was a beauty, scars and all. He lifted her out of the case and strummed the strings. The guitar seemed to come to life, waking from her slumber like a princess from a fairytale. He tuned the strings and strummed an E chord, listening to the notes vibrate and hum inside the box, his ear against the mahogany, a lump in his throat, his fingertips resting on the bronze wound strings. The old familiar guitar, covered in a layer of patina from the smoke of a thousand cigarettes and the stains of a drunken man seemed to whisper to him. "You can't go back—but this place ain't so bad. Just let me get warm and I can tell you the story all over again." He closed his eyes and began to play, his fingers stiff at first but he could feel the notes beginning to find their way. He could feel the life begin again.

He played on. The story of love and betrayal, life and death. All of the wrongs and rights, the ups and downs, the lonely nights and hungover mornings rushing back to meet him. A cinematic, fantastic dream of hope and delusion and drive. A song of lost hope, lost love, lost money, and lost faith. He could hear the choirs of angels, and the screams of the demons. All of it was there in the music. The music, the life he lived, the life he left behind, and the pieces he wanted to keep alive.

He opened his eyes and looked at the walls of the room. He spoke to the silence. “Man, I missed you.” The guitar, still vibrating against his chest confirming and affirming the motion and the words.

“Come on girl, to quote a Lynyrd Skynyrd song, I think it’s time for me to move along, I do believe.”

He put the old guitar back in her case and kissed his fingers and placed the kiss on the guitar and closed the case. He stood, his knees popping, lifting the case and turning to leave the room. We’ve been gone too long. Way too long. He walked through the bedroom door, leaving the light on. He grabbed his keys hanging by the door and strolled into the future.

“They call me the breeze. I keep rolling down the road. I ain’t got me nobody, I don’t carry me no load.”

©Tony Whitford 1/6/2017

The lyrics from, I Ain’t The One, where written by Ronnie Van Zant

The lyrics from, Call Me The Breeze belong to John J. Cale

Credit where credit is due. And boy is it due.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017


Just one more word, that’s all he wanted, one word to finish the story. The perfect word. He sat staring at the cursor blinking at the bottom of the page. The story was told. Every other word in place. The last sentence incomplete. He read it again.
Adrianna felt the world would…
Would what?
Would what?
Nothing. Silence. Both good words, but not the right words. First of all they wouldn’t make sense. Second of all in the context of the story they were meaningless. He knew the obvious word would be or should be know.
Adrianna felt the world would know.
He wanted something better though. Something with meaning and style. Pizzazz. The sentence felt more like a question with the word know at the end.
Adrianna felt the world would know? You can’t end the story with a question, can you? He glanced at the email icon on the task bar. The number one superimposed over an envelope.
I have mail.
He clicked the icon, opening Outlook. Ughhh. A letter from his mom.

I’ve been trying to call you. Is your phone on?
(Yes mom my phone is on. I’m ignoring you.)
I just wanted to tell you that your father has a doctor appointment tomorrow. I think he’s nervous about it. He’s been particularly grouchy today. He nearly took my head off when I told him to take his medicine. You know if I don’t tell him to take it he forgets and then his blood pressure goes sky high.
(His blood pressure is sky high because you make him crazy, mom. Just like everybody else in your life because you don’t know when to shut up.)
He tried to cut the grass today but the lawnmower wouldn’t start. I could hear him yelling at it from the bathroom. It’s Tuesday and you know I go to the beauty parlor on Tuesday. Dorothy is coming to pick me up today. She’s using her son’s car. Do you know her son, James? I think you’ve met. Didn’t you play baseball with him? He’s a chiropractor. I don’t trust chiropractors; I’m afraid something will pop out and not pop back in. So I was getting ready and I could actually hear him from the upstairs bathroom yelling at the lawnmower. When I looked out of the window he was kicking the lawnmower and shouting at it. Maureen, you know Maureen our next door neighbor. Her cat has been sneaking over and pooping in the flowerbed. At least I think it’s her cat. The poor thing. I think she forgets to feed it. Anyway. Your father was standing in the middle of the yard kicking the lawnmower, shouting at the top of his lungs. It was so embarrassing. Do you think I should feed the cat? Have you been looking for a job? Please answer your phone.
I love you,

(God mom, you truly are batshit crazy aren’t you?)
He could picture the scene. His father, sweating, face red, his white tank top stuck to his back, back hair dripping, a wrench in one hand and beer in the other. Maureen clenching her robe tight to her chest, a look of shock on her face. The scrawny cat hiding behind her tree trunk legs.
He started laughing. It started as a small chuckle, a grin spreading across his face. And then it became a genuine laugh. Starting at the bottom of his feet and rolling through his body, shaking his insides. He sat back in his chair and howled with laughter, tears rolling down his cheeks, his knees banging the bottom of his desk.
The laughter rolled away like a summer storm. One minute here and gone the next. He wiped his face. The last vestige of laughter bubbling away to a simmer. He stretched his face, trying to make the goofy grin go away.
He closed Outlook and looked the page in front of him, cursor still blinking. He clapped his hands together, the sound of the slap refocusing his thoughts. Okay. Let’s get back to work. He giggled again and shook his head. His dad was a classic. A left over from a dying breed. He could hear one of the ridiculous sayings his father would inadvertently blurt out. A man from a different era, back when the ships were made of wood and the men were made of steel. Something like that anyway. He brought his thoughts back to the story.
Let’s see where were we?
Adrianna felt the world would…

©Tony Whitford 1/1/2017