THURSDAY: Chasing the Blues


Copyright is held by the author.

SONNY BOUGHT himself a guitar when he was 17 with money he’d worked hard for all summer. He taught himself a few chords, played a few bars repetitiously, but never really got the hang of it before he got too hung up on life’s responsibilities to family and work.

The guitar just stood in the corner of the bedroom, like a shrine to something beyond his grasp. When I’m retired, I may have time to teach myself to play, Sonny humoured himself as he dusted down the neck, placing the guitar strap over his shoulder, before striking a chord. Though it was out of tune, he didn’t have time to recall how to tune it and placed it back on the stand.

There it stood for another year or so before he picked it up again. He strummed the strings clumsily, but it was still out of tune. He went down to the basement to search through the storage boxes for the tuner, which he found amongst some old photo albums and sports trophies. He then passed the afternoon sorting through faded memories, reliving former glories. He picked up a photo of himself that transported him back to when he was sixteen years old, having just won the baseball came by catching out one of the top players. Going further back to when he was ten, down by the brook proudly holding his first ever catch. He smiled as he was reminded of his favourite yellow and white stripy t-shirt that was hardly ever off his back that whole year. He found the wedding album and nodded in acknowledgment to how beautiful Holly looked that day, a little under twenty years ago, her head titled, with her wide smile saturated by the sun glare across the top right corner of the photo. Passed the wedding photos he came to the baby photos of his son, Brandon, cradled across his arm. He pulled the photo out from the cellophane sleeve and another photo from behind it dropped face down onto the floor. He picked it up and saw that it was a picture of him with his guitar, not long after he had bought it. From the image on the photo, it looked as if he could have been playing it, as if he had been playing it for years. He carefully placed the photo back where he found it and then closed the box, before striding back up the stairs to the house.

“Why you still holding onto this guitar?” asked Holly, “You never play it.”

“I intend to, one day.”

“One day! Until then it’s just gathering dust.”

“I just need the time.”

Holly threw her arms around his shoulders and kissed him.

“Does it still even work?”

Sonny smiled, “Of course it still works. It just needs a little attention, that’s all. I’ve had it since I was seventeen.”

Holly scuffed his hair, “Still the sentimentalist,” she said, shaking her head and smiling back at him.

“Aint that why you love me?” asked Sonny, sliding his finger down her nose.

Sonny imagined the strains and groans of the guitar serenading his view, as he looked out through the window, watching the clouds condense into deeper shades of conflagration upon the horizon, admiring the trees in silhouette while the birds swam through the air. Dusk was his favourite time of day, like autumn was his favourite time of year. How many more autumns have I got left, he thought. I’ve had 50. Feels like forever. Hopefully I’ll have another 50, but that doesn’t feel like many at all. Sonny sighed, better just concentrate on the evenings, he consoled himself. Just live in the moment. I wish I was retired already, but man, I’m tired of wishing my life away, wishing the day was done, longing for the weekend to come round. How much of our lives do we spend wishing it away?

Sonny was changing a light bulb in the bedroom when Brandon came in. From where he was standing on the stool Brandon looked like he was still a child, but when Sonny stepped down to the floor, he saw that he was all grown up. Seventeen! he pondered, where does the time go? He’d grown up too fast, he was already an adult.

“Pa,” he said, “Why aint I ever seen you play this guitar?’

Sonny looked wistfully at his son, “I’ve never had the chance.”

“Why not?”

“I guess life just got in the way,” Sonny smiled.

Brandon picked it up and twirled it a little with his hands, then strummed his finger down the strings. “Is it difficult?”

Sonny shook his head, “It just needs time, an’ a lot of practice.”

“I’m just not musically minded,” said Brandon contemplatively. “Besides, I never get why you keep playing that sad music. Are you sad?”

Sonny never looked sad, he always smiled like it suited him.

“It’s not sad music. It’s only sad to outsiders who think it’s music you listen to when your down, but to someone who has the blues inside of them, whether they can play or not, the blues is uplifting, it has you soaring, not drowning.”

“Then, I suppose I just don’t get the blues.”

“What do you get then?”

“I guess I get things that have purpose.”

“And what’s your purpose going to be?” asked Sonny, intriguingly.

Brandon looked out through the window towards the clouds “To be a pilot.”

Sonny strolled over to Brandon, placed his hands on his shoulders and squeezed them playfully. “You go be a pilot.”

Brandon never got to be a pilot; his eyesight saw to that. Instead, he became a doctor. Sonny worked hard, putting in all the hours he could get to get him through medical school. And once Brandon became a doctor, he was always proud to tell everyone about all the lives he’d saved.

One Sunday Sonny was in the bar swaying to the sound of the slide guitar, that was wafting from the stage like the scent of warm apple pie on a long summer afternoon. Marv came in, just like he always does, at around five.

“Hey Sonny.”

“Hey Marv. How’s it going?”

“Oh, you know, still going.” Marv stalled; his usual expression clouded over, “Dolly’s going,” he blurted.

Sonny stopped short his sip of bourbon and looked at Marv.

“Yeah. She’s leaving me.”

“What you talkin’ about, Marv. You and Dolly?”

Marv threw his drink down his throat, “You know I’ve never been able to hold a marriage. What’s your secret. You and Holly have been together forever?”

Sonny listened to the guitar as he thought for an answer. “I guess I’m just happy with what I got.”

Marv took a long draught of his beer before wiping his sleeve across his mouth, “You’re a lucky guy, she’s a good woman your Holly.”

“Yep, she is. I guess Dolly wasn’t then, huh.”

“No, she was. That’s just the problem. I just wish I was more like you, Sonny. You know what you want, and you stick with it. Me! I only know what I want when I can no longer have it.”

“Can you no longer have Dolly?”

Marv shook his head and bore down into his empty glass, “I couldn’t keep her Sonny. I don’t know what’s a matter with me. I guess I just never stay happy for too long,” he slapped his hand on Sonny’s shoulder, “You know what I mean?”

Sonny nodded.

Marv frowned at himself, then looked at Sonny who was watching the guitarist on stage.

“Maybe, you could have a talk with her.”

Sonny looked sharp.


“Yeah,” Marv leaned in, “You’ve always been good at getting people to change their mind.”

Sonny watched Marv taking a long draught of his beer with raised eyebrow.

“If it weren’t for you, Sonny, this town would be steeple high beneath water.”

“That wasn’t down to me,” said Sonny taking a long draught himself.

“Sure, it was, Sonny. You got them to reconsider on this place becoming a reservoir.”

“I don’t know about that.”

Sonny tried to shun the subject by watching the guitarist sliding the bottle neck down the strings. His thoughts turned to a train running along its tracks, taking him back to that day at the town hall meeting, the conversations playing out like lost radio waves caught in the web of time. “You don’t need to worry about your homes. You’ll all be relocated to better homes.” The councillor’s words echoed through him. “This is our home,” protested Sonny, “There is no better homes than what we got. What you’re offering are new houses, not better homes. You’re talking about separating a community. Like coming in and breaking up a family and saying you’re all going to live apart. You can’t just tear families apart. Some folks have spent their entire lives here. This place is all they know. They’re too far down the line to be moved on. Moving them on will be like a death sentence to them.” The words faded away with the music as his eyes were drawn back upon the stage.

“You always wanted to play guitar, didn’t you?”

Sonny smiled, “I did.”

“So why didn’t ya?”

Sonny shrugged, “I guess I was just too happy.”

Sonny reached retirement, but only because his body grew too tired to carry on working. By the time he’d caught up with life, life had caught up with him. Each time he picked up the guitar his body felt taught, like the strings railing up the neck. He picked a few notes, but they didn’t sound blue, only grey. He stopped silent as he heard the engines of an aeroplane soaring above the house. He watched the plane sail into the distance and disappear into the clouds as he smiled that wistful smile. He looked away towards the guitar and thought of Brandon, how he had saved Marv from himself. Then he nodded that nod of his before picking up the guitar. He strummed a chord, then plucked at the strings. He could feel himself playing, really playing, like he’d never played before, the slide gliding across the strings producing glistening sounds, like mist hovering over a bayou, until his arms were too tired to hold it any longer.

“Why you still holding onto this guitar?” Holly’s words echoed faintly. “You never play it.”

Sonny placed the guitar back in its stand. He just wanted to play the blues, to chase the blues away. Man, that boy sure couldn’t play.


Image of Anthony Ward

Anthony tends to fidget with his thoughts in the hope of laying them to rest. He has managed to lay them in a number of establishments, including Shot Glass Journal, Jerry Jazz Musician and Highland Park Poetry.

1 comment
  1. Nice. My guitar has been sitting in the cupboard for a while. Maybe it’s time to take it out.

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