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.

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