By: W. Jude Aher




            Where the moon is waxing close to full in sight, it is the only light carrying through the uncurtained windows.  A room is empty but for a high unpolished wooden stool, and a few tightly packed cardboard boxes, standing nameless against a wall.  The room is soft in its living between shadow and light.  And for a moment, such almost held sound.  Cold walls are white during an afternoon Sun’s fall.  But hard shadow tainted in its morning’s call.  A door stands closed around a knob of glass and brass, a movement of crystal without light.

He sits on the stool in jeans torn and unoticed.  His eyes are red within and somewhat glazed for the side of out.  But what others were there to notice.  A child in another room turning in its crib, waking almost.  But as if suddenly, realizing an awareness of its own advanced age of one and one half years, maybe it's time to sleep through the whole night.  A woman wrapped too warmly in quilts, filled with feathers wasn't noticing the small loss of heat in a body missing from its place.

He holds a guitar on the lap of a leg raised high, with picking fingers at rest atop the bow of its warm body.  A song almost intrudes upon his muse, if a drift such as his might so be called, and never by him.  A song from a beginning time when a guitar was really little more then a box with six notes tied to six equally simple strings of steel and nylon.  But it remains a song of too much distance to return on a night such as this.  His moments though very far adrift are too well embedded in reality.  A reality in which a past passed, dares not to return.

Who would notice that the light casts no shadow upon his face from, the rises and crevices there upon, as the rest of his body is called to truth by the natural laws of shadow and light.  Maybe in the full of a moon’s light, even reality is allowed its momentary lapses.  And the man himself, of course never notices movements such as these.

There is no real sadness in his eyes, though if he were an oil painting, done sitting in such a room, it would call forth the memory of an old Blues song done quietly on Piano and Bass.  His eyes stare, almost as if concentrating on restringing a Harpsichord or even a Harp, knowing that the tuner was of another person, of another responsibility.  They are but caught in the visual drift of the nights scene, out in moonlight and an open field.

 the house rests on the topmost rise of a hill, giving from the back due to its treeless nature, man created and only near by, an open view of that slow to fall valley. The valley was once farmland and now lives dreamingly within a legal worded hold. Lying still, and awaiting a rezoning law which is too near to passing.  That houses may grow, thus allowing the return to this side of the hill, of trees.  The trees are to be relocated from their watch against the wind, from their military like rows, to an indiscriminate freedom to alight themselves under no natural master, but to the folly of an urban plan.  And trees know that there is no threat to their freedom from such as those.

His eyes just stroll as a walking man far out into the valley, only occasionally looking into this shadow or that, for what lost rock or even sound.

Is it but just a song he looks for in those in-between moments.  Or simply himself passing along.

An hour passes in that clockless room, unoticed by this man with his guitar held soundlessness, until, so are the quirks of nature, a cloud passes high above the valley’s wind walls.  It passes across the rooms light losing his walking in a shadow’s dark.  A moment quick and unexpected jars his eyes back to the room.  This causes him to blink and to remember the guitar, somewhat at rest upon his one raised leg.

              Long strong fingers, maybe just a hair too thick from a painter’s point of view, picked out a slow blues riff, while his free foot tapped a cold and naked rhythm onto the floor.  He noticed the cold, as he always seemed to notice many things, while playing his guitar.  Thinking of his cold feet he turned down his head, his slight build losing nothing to shadow, while gaining very little.  He had played this tune so often during the past twenty  years that his eyes gave no heed to his finger’s movements.  His longing was for sound and music alone.  But the cold drew them down, though wasn't strong enough to carry them all the way.  They were caught by the movements of his right hands' fingers, and then, to the ancient guitar beneath.  The wood was dull and almost worn through above the strings, while the illusion of a dove became simply cracked paint on the guard below. And the rhythm remained slow.

            He could almost feel the years of living etched into the hollow of that guitar.  Dust met his fingers as they drifted down the frets, enough dust that he noticed the barely registered sound on effect.  What the hell.  He played rarely anymore, but still he played. It seemed that the old songs were played on request, only.  His wife a classical flutist, essentially so, rarely had heard of those old folk songs of stage and revolution, of love and all the rest, and so never put in the request.  Songs and guitar included.  And his classical piano playing left a world to be considered.

He thought for a moment of her, playing naked and unseen in their small bathroom, its warmth due to its size.  He thought lovingly.

It was the music this time that intruded upon his moments, music of another age - of a life still wandering ever so deep in his soul - wandering as real but as vast of distance as the reaches of Mt, McKinley and its northern face.

His hair was longer back when, maybe more noticeable, his head was less bald.

A smile comes to lips on the thought of his last adventure two years ago, just before his marriage.  His bicycle pacing a g rage of life and death in speed, running with a friend on a long road down the Colorado Rockies.  Funny, he had always been too sane, maybe, to go quite that far, to the edge on his journeys, at least to his minds eye. Could he feel the silent approach of, no not walls, but of responsibility?  Forty-five miles an hour rounding the curves of Arlo’s “Motorcycle Song”.  But with enough beer and needing a bathroom...

Too many pianos tuned within a deadline this week, and all last Saturday night greeting Halloween and it’s parade  from the Washington Square Arch, Walkie-Talkie in hand.  No wonder he was still awake this late into the night.

The shadow of his guitar reappeared on the floor before him.  And her eyes, were they deep within, No, that is but a child’s memory, with no where left to begin. Was his guitar playing mind games or was his mind.

A Bootleg tape played on a bootlegged memory across his mind, with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor playing the circle game , Playing on a cold winter’s evening to an audience slightly stoned on grass in the shadow of a New York City Apartment.  Her hair was too short and the lines of her face to hard and taking.  Was it her eyes that always caught him almost longing for something more or less?, then friendship.  Or was it his highly repressed teenage hormones.  Always just for a moment in-between the before and after of friendship.  She sat across the room from him that night - close to him, but closer still to her girlfriend, another smile deep inside.  Should he care to remember the plays of Love and Hate, of give and give, especially on this night while his cold feet grow colder.

It was Spring, not just as a seasonal exchange, but as a taste of pain in the air. Those days reach most people who live in Northern climates each to their own play.  He watched his younger brother, Marie and Maggie drop a tab of Acid (LSD) each, while he and Patty abstained.  He had a folk concert tonight at the church, and didn't trust his playing enough yet, to take anything.  Besides the day was in Sunshine and warmth, as well as?  Patty had her nephew along.  They were off to Central Park .  What refuge of nature for New York City’s not quite poor.

His guitar was strapped in Black imitation leather to his back, as it always was at that point in his life.  Maybe it was a teenager’s place to hide, or to grow. Maybe it was simply that he loved music more then what?  He wasn't worrying much about it at the time, like a shirt, it went with him.

The Subway was crowded that Saturday morning, which was to be expected.  He watched his brother singing silence to himself while watching the loading and the unloading of a group of Catholic Nuns, as the train moved along. He always expected his brother to behave a little stranger then he did.  Maybe it was his hair, waist length and raging out like a permanent done from a wall socket.  Funny, he could never figure out why his brother was along and why he wasn't.  It was just that sometimes he was there and sometimes he wasn't.  His brother kept asking, if, they were really being invaded by eternal tribes of

Catholic Nuns or if it was the Acid.  And of course, as it was in most cases, it wasn't the Acid.  Patty held her pulling nephew close to her train centered pole near to his brother, while talking to him as she could between the noise and the fog that seemed adrift in his hair.

Maggie and Marie sat, they had a lucky moment as two Nuns left the train on the first stop reached after they boarded the train, sat below, it seemed, his six feet two inch strap hanging form.

He caught Marie looking up, her eyes just for a moment needing him there close to her, and (Big Brother) caught himself wanting something more.  And for the first time he sort of wished that his game was a little less German and a little more Irish.  Kirk could play his guitar, but will he ever be able to compose a song.

He wonders between the clashing of metal wheels, how often adults seem not to notice teenagers.  How sometimes it's so easy in reverse, not to notice adults, their wars maybe not but themselves, easily.  Though, his brother is one of those exceptions to any so called rule.  Too many seem to notice him, while he continually barely notices them. Strange world he thought, as he stood there in the rhythm of the train wondering whether he should have also dropped some Acid.

Was it the same evening, with both day and concert behind him, or but another all too similar.

Marie sat on the worn brown or grey rug.  Her black and short hair rested nearby windless, cut for easy care and in an eternal rebellion to her father’s Italian Blood, straight as her hair or so called.  She watches a lamp called shadow carried in its own stillness, while the light from a Street‑lamp fights its lines through dirt caked blinds and window behind.  Even before the pipe of Hashish is passed her way, she had little urge to move. Acid, sweet LSD, her daytime memories were dulled to a tired body’s rhythm while the beat of Kirk’s fingers played “Summertime” in slow Folk‑Blues fashion.  He sat near to her, more brother then friend or lover.  And she didn't say a word when his eyes roamed towards her in a look of something more ‑ for where else could she go, to find this close stranger’s love, in the streets so near, so far away?  Still sixteen and no where to run.

She let the pipe pass untouched during its third pass, as she wasn't ready yet to fall asleep.  She did have to return home before 1:00 AM, or so her father hoped.  Or so her father demanded.

She came to watch Kirk’s brother sitting cross legged and rocking to the motion of the Blues he was playing.  Patty sat at his feet while he stroked her Strawberry Blond Hair. If she just stared at them long enough, their hair seemed to mesh as if fallen from a lone creature.  His hair fell down, and at a point past his shoulders, to hers as hers then reached out and further down to the floor.  How easy it seems for him to be here or there. But Marie thought, No, he couldn't really care for Patty.  He was still with her, and through the entire day, but it was just as likely that he would suddenly turn and kiss her, just to wander out the door, and alone.  Marie liked watching his freedom, like that of his hair. But she would never trust him and those deep hard blue eyes, and all his endless Poetry written for no one.  And never noticed on how broken was his soul.  But the smoke carried Marie just a quickly away from Kirks' brother.  Her eyes found Maggie across the room sitting straight‑backed on a couch.  Their eyes met to a message of silence.  The easy silence that two friends might hold, held and then she turned back to listening as Kirk played on.  Yes, Kirk sang to her, maybe to her alone ‑ and she wanted him to play on, wanting no clock to catch her attention.  She was safe in her drift, in her unquestioned Sweet Coal Eyed Blues.  Kirk would play for her, maybe even loves her a bit.  He was two years older, and she was but Sixteen.  She knew the honor in his eyes - yes, frozen in its warmth, if it would stay that way letting the day just carry on - longer - just a little longer.

He watched Marie, a little too intently for a moment, and then Maggie as they made Patty ready to go.  She swayed a little as she rose from his brother’s lap.  How easily the girls seemed to dance to him.  Him, in all his hair and his cold distant eyes.  As the girls made ready to go, his brother just remained, not even offering to walk them home.  Kirk wondered if Patty’s slightly uncontrolled state bothered him, as he showed no sign either way, no sign or maybe just a little?  Kirk rose to leave with the girls, still half watching his brother as he relit the pipe, which was still in motion from its earlier movement.  Kirk’s guitar was packed and waiting.

Marie turned towards him from the door, not quite opened yet; "You don't need to walk me home, Kirk."

And Kirk left with them anyway, almost running into Marie at the door as she stopped and turned toward his brother.  His brother was staring right at her.  "Don't worry, I'll see that Patty gets home alright."

He just sat there smiling at her. And Kirk knew that there was no smoke or Acid in that smile ‑ it was the shrug of a stranger’s shoulders he had seen in him many times before.  Kirk noticed his brother grabbing paper and pen from his bag on the floor besides the chair, as he then quickly closed the door, hurrying to catch up still again, with the girls.

Marie came out of her hall seconds after Kirk left her off there.  She stood in a Street‑lamp and tree shadow, watching Kirk’s long stride and slight bounce, just to turn around the block’s far corner. (Almost thought he was going to try to kiss me, tonight)  And she thought of her father, and didn't want to go back inside to his apartment, No not yet. Waiting a few more minutes to be sure Kirk was gone - Marie then paced herself slowly down her front stoop, step by step.  She thought of the needle down in Brooklyn awaiting her arm. (If only they knew)  And thought little more of either Kirk or her father, as she pushed open that cast Iron gate.  In its silence, so strong, and still it held nothing in, and nothing out.

Standing in the Shadow of his bedroom, watching a bundle of blankets that is his wife sleeping, he never even thought of how easily he could have lost it all.  No! not him, as he was an older brother or so his Birth Certificate said.

Maggie called him on the phone. "Marie never came over tonight; her father has just called and is looking for her.  I said that she is meeting me here at my house.  But still, he wants her to call; ‑ He knows that she has been sneaking out at night. Kirk we have to find her before she gets home."  And Kirk listened to Maggie and thought, but just for a moment ‑ maybe it's Maggie I should like.  But the thought just wandered away, as they both verbally prepared to find Marie before her father did.  He looked at his watch to see how much time was left before his gig tonight.  "Not enough time", "Maggie I'll have to call Mike and cancel for tonight, and then I'll meet you at your door.”

Down the hall, moonlight played free on a guitar case.  Winter is for free ‑ but music, where has the music gone. Where are the days and nights of playing with Maggie and Marie, the sweet harmony.  The cold beds and the sleeping alone.  His wife stirred as he thought to enter into the warmth of their bed.  But down the hall, and yet does he really hear anymore?, moonlight plays for free on a guitar case.

Long after leaving Maggie at home, Kirk kept walking.  He knew that he was worrying a little too much for Marie.  He knew that she must have other friends, but still believed that she would have told him, she always did.

He reached her block at about 12:30 that night. Looking down the block he saw that her bedroom light wasn't on, yet, but yes the fifth house from the left was her fathers.  New York City and how much of it looked the same deep into the night, switch a few signs and what would be right.  In night shadow, or morning rain.  But no, she couldn't be home yet. He sat down on the front step of that corner store, long since closed for the night, watching all the sleeping apartments.  He sat down to wait. And the hours passed along.

Two in the morning, and Kirk was almost ready to leave that corner quiet store.  He thought of the job that had been so hard to get ‑ good money too!  Someone stumbled almost drunkenly around the corner tripping on Kirk’s long legs which had been stretched out into the sidewalk.  She fell to her knees just across from him.  Funny how he just watched all this for a moment, noticing that the person was Marie, and still not getting up. "Shit, Marie."  But said quietly.  But before he could get up to help her, someone else rounded the corner.  He was short, but very skinny.  Kirk would have run him down if he tried to rise at that moment.  And so, he just held for a second more.  "Marie, where are you, Fuck, what are you doing on the ground."  This man, and Kirk notices sunglasses ‑ which seemed dam silly for a person to be wearing at two in the morning. "Come on Marie get up, where's your house?"

Held up, Marie stood on the corner for a moment.  She then turned away from the man holding her up, to the store.  Kirk stood up in the shadows.  Marie looked somewhere near to him in the ever deep pools of shadow which were, deeper there in her eyes, and then just as quickly turned back to the man holding her.  Saying nothing, they both sort of stumbled further down the block.  His hand moving up her skirt - in what absent regard for who as he helped her toward her father’s apartment.

And where stood Kirk watching this play ‑ late that night.  A teenager or a man, though those New York City streets had never seemed to care which.  Taking a step towards the two, really towards Marie, he began to think of her father’s reaction when his foot landed on something hard, there where Marie had fallen just moments ago.  (Great, drunk and losing her purse or whatever, would she never grow up.)  And what wish did ever yet drift below that thought once again.

Kirk lifted his foot, reaching down, while Marie thought she felt a hand, cold and moving through the crease of her butt. Marie thought of her father, sitting at home alone, asleep in chair or bed?, and wiggled her butt just enough for that hand to feel.  What silence her father wouldn't see.

Kirk watched Marie being held and kissed.  He watched her being held up by the hard Iron fence that is the front wall of her father’s apartment.  He had forgotten about her father, as he watched for a moment another’s hand in motion, in distance.  He stared blankly for a moment at his open hand, almost not seeing what was held within.  Looking one more time down the block to see Marie pull herself up her father’s steps, now alone, he wondered where the man had gone.

And Kirk turned away from the Store Front Shadows, turned and walked around the corner.  And an empty syringe fell in it’s plastic silence, to concrete and nothing more.

Nothing broke that night, and though Kirk still played while Maggie, Marie and Patty sang in harmony, he began to have less to say.  Walking home alone, just for a moment, he came to wonder how difficult it would be to build a guitar rather then play one.  From where the thought come he could never guess.

Lying next to his wife, still again, feeling her accumulated warmth flow to his body, he but smiled at such a simple pleasure.  Hearing his baby cry and its silence just as quickly, he thought that it was time for sleep.  He had a piano to tune at eight that morning. He couldn't be late, it was for a friend.  He'd make little money, but what the hell.  He'd make up for the loss in his work at the college.

What more would a man ask for - not a thought or maybe, while down the hall in another room, how

 empty, moonlight plays for free on a guitar case.



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