Guitarman, Travis Nagy, Slide Guitar

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The Guitarman

by Travis Nagy

Guitarman picked up an empty beer bottle. The guy on the crate saw it and pouted...Naw, don't play none of that strange soundin' shit, man, just..."

"...I can still see him, plain as day, on the end of that old faded flower-print couch with the stuffing popping out of the arms, a half-eaten plate of supper at his feet, a black acoustic in his lap.  A couple of old men were sitting around him-one on a milk crate, the other on the far end of that beat up couch. The guy on the crate looked like he was falling in and out of sleep. The other one was just nodding his head, spooning the occasional bit of greens off his plate and looking around the backyard. He spotted me and patted his hand down on the empty space between him and the guitar man.

Guitarman stopped tinkling notes out. The man on the crate popped his eyes wide open and crossed his arms, like he was expecting more. "Hey y'all, have a listen..." Guitarman picked up an empty beer bottle. The guy on the crate saw it and pouted. "Naw, don't play none of that strange soundin' shit, man, just..." He ran that bottle up and down the neck, and well, I never heard a sound like that before.  The man next to me on the couch spooned his last clump of collards up and just watched. The guy on the crate shook his shoulders and pouted, like he just got a swallow of something bitter.  Guitarman ran a few more slides and finished up with a big toothy grin.

"Aiight, cuz," The guy on the crate wasn't impressed. "...I know you ain't held one in while, but no more of that gypsy junk. Play somethin' wit'some jump." Guitarman laughed and set the bottle down. "OK. My man gonna help me with it." He nudged me with his elbow and winked. "Clap it out, boy." He slapped the belly of the guitar and got me started keeping time. A few muffled chords, and then he went to town, starting up top. He slid his hand down towards the belly and shot his pointer finger out over the strings. The guy on the crate took a deep breath and started belting out what I'm pretty sure was "Hallelujah, I Love Her So."

 "...She's my baby an, I love her so..." Guitarman came in with his own voice, and to watch him sing and strum at the same time, that's when I got it. I never felt music in my shoulders before that. I didn't know it, but it was my turn next. Guitarman started the line and expected me to finish it. "...She fix me coffee ...." He choked the chord and looked at me, eyes wide-open.

After about three seconds of dread silence, all three of them busted into laughter. The man on the couch just patted me on the head and shagged my hair around. Guitarman gave me a wink, smiled and started playing again. That was the first time I ever heard it. I was eleven years old, and Ican't tell you what it was like, unless you know what it is yourself. The closest thing I ever felt next to it was maybe something in church, and I''ve not known a thing like it since. It's one of those feelings that goes right inside. Nothing and no one touches you, but you feel something grab a hold of your insides and jiggle 'em around.

I declare, I haven't been able to shake it out of my shoulders yet. I thank God for that, but I wish I would have known enough to thank Guitarman that day. I never saw him again..."

By Travis Nagy

Fountain Inn, SC

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