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Good Rhythm

Love isn't Always in Tune with Life

By S. A. CrawfordPublished 2 years ago 8 min read

People tell me often that I should trade up: that you're old, worn, past it,

“For two hundred quid, you could have twenty times better,” Gary said once, in his best big brother voice with a roll of his hooded eyes, “I'll lend you the money if you want? Or give it you, for your birthday, if you're skint.” He meant well, really, but he doesn't understand that you're perfect for me.

Seventeen years old, I was, when we first teamed up and since then you've been there for me. Twenty-two years, nine girlfriends, countless one-nighters, six new coats of paint, three major repairs, and one child have slid by, along with countless changes of strings... and you're still here. In sickness you've comforted me, in health you entertained me; when I was rich you helped me relax and when I was poor you fed me.Guess I owe the Tanglewood guitar company a favour or two for bringing you into the world. I love you, my friend, I do and now that it's all ending I'm more worried about what's going to happen to you than anything else. Laura has her mum and little Daniel, though God knows I can't believe she's made me a grandfather so young, Gary has Susie and his litter, but you only have me. Laura says she wants to give you to Daniel when he grows up... the idea is nice, but will he take care of you? Will he keep you clean and in tune? When I'm gone will he love you like I have? Or will he throw you in a cupboard and let you get dusty, rusty, useless?

I don't suppose I'll be able to stop him when the time comes,

“Cancer,” the doctor had said last year; slowly, as if expecting me to burst into tears or brim with denial while he kindly told me this was not a death sentence, “Of the throat, I'm sorry Mr Thom.”

Of the throat, old friend. No more gigs for us, no more bright, hot lights or singing and our future looks distinctly devoid of sex, drugs and Rock 'n' Roll; chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and Easy Listening were the choices, and when he gave them to me I told him, calmly for once, to stick it. He argued for a few months. He told me that the treatments were my only choices if I wanted to live. But I don’t want to be an old, scarred mute who's sick with radiation and bald as a boiled egg. Maybe some people would be happy with that but I can’t be and, anyway, the time for choices has passed. It's certain now, my dude. I always thought I'd outlive you, though, after all you're only made of wood. And it's not nice to think that but I can't say it's not fair: if I'd been more invested in clean living when we were younger then I probably wouldn't have to worry about who's going to take care of you now. I'd probably have a full house and a successful career too but that's not the way it is; all my other loves have left me. All of it’s my own fault, too. Still you were my first love so it's only fitting that you should be my last.

We had some good times, though, you and I. We played everywhere: from Glasgow as buskers to Munich as the main event. You, me and the motley band. Every night an adventure, every strum at your strings was magic, every break and chip of your form a wound. Through the wildness of youth to the disappointment of adulthood and on to the horror of addiction you were my weapon of choice for all engagements. I sold practically everything to keep playing and living that life. Everything but you and the shoes on my feet. Plus, you're much quieter than most of the roommates I've had... and you don't eat my cheese. Eventually I plucked up the courage I'd been missing and sent them, Laura and Gary, letters a few weeks ago. Telling them what's happening was harder than I thought it would be, and it took longer than it should since my voice has shrunk, now, even when it flows through a pen. They've not answered, but I'm not angry: I should have loved them more, with more eagerness I guess. But they know now, so they'll keep an eye on me and an ear to the ground. And I'll live as it pleases me to do because I have you.

And yet, there’s a rapping at our door. It's my little girl, my other love, and Gary. They stand on our doorstep looking nervous, eyeing my swollen neck with grim eyes, until I invite them in and set about the kitchen making tea. Suddenly I'm hiding all my medication: I'm ashamed of the way I live and the empty, cold house with its bare walls and scattered magazines. The smattering of plectrums, spare strings and sheet music don't add the character I previously thought; they just make a mess. I wait for their protests about my treatment: I explained it all in the letters but people are dense and stubborn, so I anticipate resistance. Gary sniffs, holds his chipped mug close and I think that this is it; the start of the argument,

“Still got that old thing, I see.” He nods at you with a strange, squint grin, surprising me, “We were hoping you would.” A small rattling package is pushed across the scratched wooden table and another, larger one deposited at my feet. A new set of strings and some polish for you, a bottle of whisky for me and a hug from my baby girl. My first living love. She's upset but holding it in because, honestly, for all my failings I'm sturdy and I'd reckon that she never thought to see the day she'd be rid of me completely. She fusses and tuts, makes food and plans about how to brighten the house, scold me for letting it get so cold in here. Then she looks at you and smiles,

“You've had that guitar since I was really little... have you never wanted a new one?” She gives me a lopsided grin as I shake my head and croak a negative,

“He won’t part with it!” Gary laughs, “That old guitars' had its neck broken twice and he's paid hand over fist to have it repaired.” He wrinkled his nose as if he was going to sneeze and snorted, “You know he's had it since he was seventeen?”

“No.” She raises her brows as she adds up the years in her head and comes to the realisation that you’re older than her,

“Well he has… he's never had a love bigger than that guitar; most boys went clubbing with their girlfriends, your dad practically lived in Tommy Daleys guitar shop.”

It's true: we spent more time in there than at home. They keep talking, laughing and questioning while I croak and ribbit at the right times until my throat gets too sore and I slump back into the sofa. The light from outside becomes dull and the room heats up now that the boiler has kicked in; for the first time in months, I'm quite comfortable, content to just be. Then Laura lifts you and plucks at your shining strings with ineffectual fingers before holding you out to me,

“You play, Dad and I'll sing.” She says it so simply - as if it's nothing at all but I tear up; my two constant loves singing at once. I know we'll have to talk about what's happening soon, but I can't ruin this. There’s been too few moments like this, but you know that. So, I shimmy forward in my seat and take you from her shaking hands,

“What song?” I grind out, pulling you close under my arm; an old, broken frog whose heart has been filled again. She stops and thinks, oblivious to my wonderment; her mother told me once that she sings better than either of us ever did. She chews her lip and wrinkles her nose,

“What's that song you used to sing when I was really little? The Guns 'n' Roses one?” I pluck at your strings and smile; old or new you still fit me well,

“Civil war?”

“Nope.” She scratches her chin, “It was slow, sounded like a lullaby.”

“Patience?” I ask with a wince, swallow my pain, she shakes her head again and I see Gary suppress a laugh: he, like me, is probably wondering if she knows just how many songs Guns 'n' Roses produced in their prolific, profane career. I make one last attempt, though not with much hope,

“Don't cry?” I'd sing that to her mother, not Laura, but her face lit up; she laughed and nodded her red curls bouncing a little,

“That's it!”

So, I play, we play, and she sings. Her mother was right: she's got a rare voice and good rhythm, and, for a minute, I think that maybe she'd have been a good musician. Like me. There's more of me in her than I ever realised and that’s a rare and wonderful thing that soothes the soul and worries the mind. What if she makes my mistakes? What if she gives it all up; the house, the children, the glittering career? Throws it away for the music? One thing doesn’t worry me anymore, though; I know you’ll be alright. She’ll take care of you.

Short Story

About the Creator

S. A. Crawford

Writer, reader, life-long student - being brave and finally taking the plunge by publishing some articles and fiction pieces.

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