Guitar Pickup

A vignette from the 70 hours collection

© 2016 Wayne Slater-Lunsford

The pickup that stopped in front of me was painted in turquoise house paint, showing brush marks and rust bleeding through, but the engine sounded smooth and strong. The miniature man who jumped from the passenger seat to the roadside had flames in his eyes, to match his tousled strawberry-blonde hair, and he shouted across the 15 feet between us “How much you wan’ fo’ dat guitar?” As he strode up to me, we were eye-to-eye, though I remained sitting on my back pack. His shabby, dusty clothes hung loose on a strong frame. I smelled some too-sweet wine on his breath.

I said, “It’s not for sale.”

He shouted over the whirr-buzz of the cicadas in the trees, “Everytang fo’ sale, hippie!  How much you wan?”

“I make my living off this guitar, and it is NOT for sale!”

“Ain’t nobody make a livin’ off a guitar, onless you Johnny cash or Pete Fountain.”

“Well, I do, and besides, Pete Fountain plays clarinet, not guitar!”

“Tooshay, so I’ll l give you twennyfi dolla fo’ the guitar.” (opening a fat wallet and fingering bills)

The hulking driver watched intently from behind the wheel of the turquoise wreck, but did not move.

“Mister, this guitar is not for sale!”

His burning eyes settled on mine, and the wheels whirred, and the cicadas whirred too.

“Well, then I gotta fight ya fo’ it.”

“Man, that ain’t right! You a thief?”

“No, HELL no!,” the eyes flared, then narrowed, and I swear that burning hair stood up on end, and his lip quivered. “If you win, you get de truck.  BOOdrow! (over his shoulder) Fetch dat pink slip from out de box!”

“Mister, I ain’t gonna fight you.  All I want is a ride.”

“No choice! (reaching for the guitar) now, han’ it ovah!”

When his fingers reached the guitar’s neck, close to my own, I grabbed that hand and yanked hard, standing up. The tiny, wiry man stumbled several steps past me, arms flailing and hot head bobbing, into ankle-deep swamp water. Then he stood looking away into the swamp, waving like a cattail in the wind, long enough for me to wonder if I could get my precious guitar into its case before he came back at me again, perhaps with a weapon. He slowly turned a beaming grin toward me, and yelled, “BOOdrow! Git down from dis hippie’s truck, an’ leave de pink slip onna seat! (staggering up from the water, nodding at me) We walkin’ now!”

BOOdrow didn’t stir.

“Man, I am tryin’ to tell you I don’ want no damn pickup truck! All I want is a ride!”

“Well, you can give yosef a ride, now, Hippie (the sandy eyebrows lifted) an’ mebbe me an’ BOOdrow, too?”

I began putting my guitar into its case, muttering, “I just want a ride however far you goin’ up this road.  I do NOT want a truck!”

The cicadas whirred louder as he contemplated the concept. His gait was steady and solid as he led me to the truck and held the passenger door for me, bowing low. I tossed my guitar and backpack into the bed, and took the middle seat.  BOOdrow eased the purring Dodge up the two-lane, and the breeze was kind to our foreheads.

“You shore now? Dis a damn good truck.”

“Yes sir, I am.  I don’t have money for gas to get me to Denver.”

“Well, can you swang a hammer and yank a saw? Me an’ BOOdrow just finished building a house, an’ got paid.  We gonna lay out tomorrow, an’ start another house Monday.”

“I am a carpenter and cabinet maker, and I can even do some sheet metal, But I gotta meet my girl friend in Denver.”

“No you don’t! You can marry my sister.  She cooks as good as she looks, an’ that is mighty fine!  You can stay wit’ us until we build you a house.”

“No, I mean it – I’m going to Denver, no way else.”

We bantered happily up the two-lane until BOOdrow took a right turn onto a narrow road that burrowed eastward, into the Cypress and moss.

“Well, this is my stop.”

“No; dis’ a shortcut!” He and BOOdrow exchanged mischievous grins.

“This road goes East, and I know damned sure Denver is North and West of here!  Let me down and on my way!”

“No; jus’ pause a little – you gotta eat! You taste my sister’s cookin’, you gonna think again about Denver.”

“Now, damnit, first you grab my guitar, and now you gonna kidnap me?”

I turned the ignition off and threw the key out the window, right past HotHead’s nose.

His grin broadened and he jumped out as the truck shushed to a stop. I jumped out too, and he said I had to help him find the keys.  I didn’t mind.  As we walked back to the keys he kept on about the fishing and the Crawdaddys and the Fay-Doh-Doh dance parties there, and I saw the keys first, and snatched them up quick.  He chuckled and followed me back to the truck.

“You fas’ on de uptake, Hippie. You could do good in dis parish.”

I gave him the keys at the door, and went to haul my stuff from the truck bed, but just as I got my pack onto my shoulders, BOOdrow gunned the engine and threw the old heap into gear. I didn’t have hold of my guitar yet, so I jumped into the bed along with it.  HotHead craned his little neck to look back, and burst out laughing to see me with my face against the window.  He hollered, and BOOdrow pulled over, and then HotHead smilingly helped me and my guitar down from the truck.

“Damn, you fast, Hippie! Sure you don’ wanna meet my sister? Can’t blame a man for makin’ one last try, can you?”

“Hell, maybe not… (fighting a grin) but you best get outta here quick, before I think on it too much.”

They disappeared into the moss, and I dug out a can of vegetable soup, opened it and ate it cold, and it was pretty damned good.

A guitar floating in the swamp

I was afraid this would happen.

Existential Moment

Black Hole

Black Hole

2014 WayneSL

That existential moment
when finite and infinite
eternity and now
can, will, might
and probably not
swirl and swell
and do not come to rest
yet we persist…

Hard-on Her-shelf

scream

to be read aloud- not for the eyes alone

WayneSL 1988

She’s
clearly stated,
lamb-innate-dead,
full-did, stay-pulled,
mute-ill-aided.
Her
over-raided
hair is plated,
care-full color
punk-chew-ate-id;
thin, sharp loins
suck-singly sated.
Tho’
she in her-nest
met-hid-dated,
won-tied meat-who
fill her jaded
cave-urn up, she
weak-need hated,
met-dick-ate-head,
then be-rate-dead.
In
steel and glass her
heart/womb crated.
Now
from her four-tress
priss-on fires the
flaming bolts of
quenched desires
and suffers more than
lone-lie-nest

Turns Left

MoonTree

WayneSL  1990

 (to be read aloud- not for the eyes alone)

A tear of joy
a tear of heart
the tares of life
when leavers part
the part you knead
your needs depart
a life of leaves
and branches.

The branches fork
spread from a crotch
the dogwood bark
but bark peels off
peals of the thunder
nervous cough
the coffin creaks
and listens.

The creeks a flood
the flowers float
too light to fall
two lightnings bolt
lithe wood is rent
the rent comes due
the dew comes.

To do, to die
the die is cast
cast out the doubt
decide at last
the side of right
the right to wrong
the left won.

Heritage

Ecstasy and anguish are sides of a circle.
The palace of love is built next to the charnel house.
I weep to be released yet linger without chain or rope
Bound by my own heart and loins
to a helical ladder
spinning and slipping past me
the rungs a blur and the ends beyond sight.
Eternally falling along this endless steam train track.

OceaNight

WayneSL Nov. 2012

I dreamed I lay naked
.     on the floor of the star-lit ocean.
some creatures above me
.     floated by asleep
.          while others hid trembling
.                behind coral fans…
and I lay clothed only
in deep, thick darkness.

and though the shark rolled by
.      in deliberate
.          Sinuous
.               Certitude
the greater fear
.      the intolerable unknown
.          the inexorable absolute and Final Dread
was me.

Witness Statement

WayneSL 20120824

It was too loud, too deep for the usual firecracker.

Not a black cat or a ladyfinger, maybe an M-80… or a pistol.

I looked across the street, past the intersection
and 60 paces down the cross street

and I think I saw the slim young black man
vault over the waist-high wall
at the front of the house.

He turned back toward the landing he had just left and
raising his arm high,

his hand pointing back down into the space between the wall and the house
he weaved and bobbed, like a gardener manically hosing down a garden—on fire.

I motion with my right hand
because that’s my gun hand.

The shouting was in a resonant baritone, very loud, punctuated by repeated reports from the gun, words I cannot recall but all amazed and pleading and again

And again and it may have been only half a dozen shots, but it seemed like 20.. like 50.. like it was never going to stop, but

Whether from lack of ammunition or the satisfaction of a job complete

the white-shirted black-shorted dancer coiled and whirled and sprinted off and I looked at my friend

And she looked at me,

And I pulled out my cell ‘phone.