Wednesday, February 16, 2011


This week's prompt was a picture of a guitar. The possibilities are endless basing a story on a photo, and this little slice of life is what revealed itself to me. Please enjoy.


I don’t know why we do that. We look back, we second guess, we ‘what if’… I’m no different. I remember when it all began.

Walking home from school, I made sure I went by there, hoping that nobody had bought it. I had never seen anything so wonderful in my whole 13 years of living. As I got closer, I mumbled a prayer that it would still be there in the window, all shiny and golden and new. When I got within a few yards, I broke into a dead run. I had to know. My prayers had been answered. This time. It was there. Waiting for me. The guitar.

The first time I saw it, I knew I had to have it. It isn’t like I was some musical genius or anything. Hell, I probably couldn’t even keep a tune with a pair of spoons. But, I knew I had to have that guitar. It was to be my destiny--my ticket out. It was $45.00, so it was also unattainable.

It was at that very moment, on that warm Friday April afternoon, that my choice was made. Jake’s Emporium was the end of my journey and that day was my last in Woodreyville. Pop would have to find something besides me to use as a punching bag, and Mom would have to find someone else to clean her up and put her to bed after she finished her bottle. I knew that guitar needed me and I think maybe I needed it too.

Some boys at school talked about a movie they had seen about some guy who spent the night in a building so he could take something out of an office. His plan worked, so I figured mine would too. I went into Jake’s and slowly made my way to the storeroom. I looked behind me, but no one had noticed me. It used to bother me that folks never knew I was around until they needed something. This time I was glad I was invisible.

I worked my way behind a stack of boxes and waited. I knew Mr. Harcourt would be closing early because it was Friday and he hated getting to the buffet late after a lot of folks had picked through all the food in the line and made a big mess out of it all. When the place went dark and I heard the latch on the front door snap, I made my move. I went to the front, took the guitar, and went out the back door. I have to admit I took the candy bars Mr. Harcourt kept behind the counter for his low sugar attacks, but I needed them to get by and I was sure he could get more. I left him a note on some paper I found at the front. I told him I took the candy bars and the guitar, but someday I would pay him back. I meant it too. Come to think of it, I believe I forgot to sign my name.

Once I got going, I kept going. I did odd jobs when I could and stole when I couldn’t. I was sorry when I took things that belonged to other folks, but that guitar and me, we had to get somewhere and we had to be something. Funny what seems important sometimes. Food, shelter, good health? For me back then, it was just a simple day-to-day thing, and that was enough. Worries aren’t so big at that age either. You get or you don’t. Nothing else matters.

It’s been ten years since that April afternoon, and while I’m still waiting for my first Grammy nomination, I manage to work enough to keep from getting hungry. I met three fellows during my travels and we call ourselves a band. Georgie plays the drums, Tommy plays his bass, I play what they call lead guitar, and Sammie stands up front and does the singing. He’s really good and sort of pretty and the girls like him a whole lot. I’ve changed guitars and the strings on them lots of times over the years, but that first one--the one--is always with me. I bought a nice case for it to keep it from getting scratched up and I made sure I told everybody I know that when my time comes, I want it right next to me in the ground. That shiny gold friend saved my life and I want it with me all the way to the Pearly Gates.

Now that I’m making a little bit of money, I figured it was time to pay back. Our latest gig put us just a few miles from my home town so I headed to Jake’s first. I was told Mr. Harcourt passed not long after I had left and the Emporium was now one of those rent-a-movie places. I decided to send $45.00 worth of flowers to his grave, and then maybe that might square it. Mom and Pop were still at the house, and they let me in and showed me around to try to sell me the place. They told me they used to have a boy, but he wasn’t around anymore so they didn’t need all that extra room. I told them I’d let them know. I didn’t see the need to tell them who I really was either.

We played that bar and did well. Everyone said we should be recording our music and maybe we’ll look into doing that sometime. That old guitar and me are on our way to Ohio to play an arena. Sometimes I still think about Mom and Pop, living in that run-down shack just outside of town and I try to convince myself they came looking for me that evening I didn’t come home for supper. Funny what seems important sometimes.


  1. Yeah, life is funny that way. Everybody's got stories. Some of 'em coincide. Take us places we been before. Places where we learned things. This one took me to a particular place. Thanks Joyce.

  2. Makes me regret everything I ever pinched! A well told tale all around.


  3. Joyce every week you bring in conflict and ambiguity to your stories with all the natural ease of someone who has truly observed life. You embroider them like a quilt with the finest stitching, this is brilliant, is it easier to regret something you have done or something you haven't done, you set that question to us.

  4. Both you and Doc rocked me to my core. Great stories full of humanity.

  5. Joyce - what a lovely few minutes I've had reading this story! You draw out the commonplace and make it so special - and convey so much more by what you don't say (like the reference to the punch bag and cleaning up after Mom).

    As Richard commented, you have a natural talent for using the small observations of life that pass many of us by! Well done!

  6. Joyce...sorry for the lateness. I thought I commented already! Must not have saved it.


    The matter-of-fact tone adds a chill to this person's story. The narrator's thick skin is fascinating and moves the pain from the startliing to mundane. The common place nature of his suffering tells a lot. As usual, a fine story.

  7. Thanks for joining my club of writers about dysfunctional families. (Or did I join yours?) Enjoyed your story.


  8. Ah, dysfunctional families. Memories. Ha! It was really only later in life that I realized my family, though definitely loony-toons central, was nowhere near as bad as some. Funny how you always think your's is the worst. There should be a place where all of us can go to post our dysfunctional favorites.

    Good story, Joyce. I like the mundaneness of it. The narrator's matter-of-fact way, matter-of-fact solutions to his day to day problems. Don't think he's a very self-aware fellow, but that's why he can live the way he does.

    I forgot about the flash fiction friday thing, but I'll try and remember for next week. I want to get in on this...I think. It's scary. But what the hell. ;)

  9. What a great story Joyce... This part here: "They told me they used to have a boy, but he wasn’t around anymore so they didn’t need all that extra room. I told them I’d let them know. I didn’t see the need to tell them who I really was either.
    " -- that really broke my heart. His parents didn't even recognize him! And then when he wonders if they looked for him...

    Wonderfully written Joyce!

  10. AJ, Thanks. I hope the place this took you to brought pleasant memories. Hopefully, we learn from all our pit stops along the way.

  11. Doc, Glad you liked it. Kind of brings the conscience to the forefront? lol

  12. Richard, Thank you as always. I try to leave the judgements and the decisions on right or wrong to the reader.

  13. Beach, So glad you enjoyed it. Every now and then, I try to touch the heart.

  14. Sue, Thanks much. It's the little things sometimes that can make all the difference in a person's life.

  15. Flannery, Thank you. It's sad, but for some, empty is normal.

  16. Coaster, Looks like we're both in THAT club. Glad you enjoyed my little tale.

  17. Yvette, That's his view of a normal life since it's all he's ever had. Maybe that is the only way he can get from day to day.

    Really looking forward to seeing more of your work.

  18. Ingrid, Thanks so much. I guess hope springs eternal. Sure hope he gets that Grammy someday!