Joseph E Bird

Let's talk about reading, writing and the arts.


May 2015

You Gotta Move, he sang.

This is the way it was meant to be played.

Parker Millsap.

He’s coming to play at the levee in Charleston on June 20th.

First Lesson

He sat in the break room, feet up on the table, guitar across his lap, and played the same riff over and over.  It was a tricky combination of finger-picking and a shuffle strum that would take him a while to learn.  He could make it easier: slow the rhythm, alter the chord progression, or change the tune altogether.  It was his own composition, after all.

He played it three more times, each time, a little faster and a little smoother.  There was no rush.  It wasn’t on his playlist for that evening; most of those songs he could play in his sleep.   But he knew when it was ready, when he was ready, it would be worth all the work.

The speaker on the wall of the break room crackled.

Customer needs assistance in electrical.

“That’s you, Chet,” Doyle said from his chair on the other side of the room.

He stopped playing and looked at Doyle.  “Chet?”

“You’re too young,” Doyle said. “Chet Atkins.  He was the guitar player when I was a kid.”

“They had guitars on the Mayflower?”

“Let me see that thing.”

Trevor dropped his feet to the floor and walked across the room to Doyle.

“Can you play?”


Doyle held the guitar and ran his left hand up and down the neck, his fingers buzzing on the strings while his palm slid along the varnished maple.  With his right thumb, he strummed the strings, muted by his left hand.  He lifted his fingers and strummed again.  Even though he played no chord and there was no tune and no music whatsoever, Doyle couldn’t help but smile.

“I can teach you.”

Doyle looked up and down the guitar, admiring the curves and shine and worn strings and that distinctive aroma that all musical instruments possess.  Then the smile disappeared.  “I’m too old.”  He held the guitar by the neck and pushed it back to Trevor.

“You’re never too old.” Trevor put the guitar back on Doyle’s lap and arranged his arms and hands in the proper position.

“What are you doing?”

Trevor twisted Doyle’s left hand so that his fingers hovered over the fret board.

“Take this finger and put it here.”  He positioned his ring finger on the second fret of the fourth string.  Doyle’s fingers were thin and bony.  Had they been more plump, Trevor’s experiment might have failed, a realization that came upon him a bit too late.  He placed his middle finger on the second fret of the fifth string, and his index finger on the first fret of the third string.

Customer needs assistance in electrical.

“Now press,” he said.

“You better go,” Doyle said.

“See how your fingers are flat against the strings?”

Doyle nodded.

“Straighten them up.  More vertical.”

“It hurts.”

“Yeah.”  Trevor moved Doyle’s fingers slightly, making sure they weren’t touching any other strings.  “Now hold that.”  He stepped back.

Doyle looked hard at his fingers, willing them to stay in position.

“Now strum.”

He did.  Doyle played his first chord.  He strummed again.  And again.

“Got to go,” Trevor said.

Doyle strummed again.

“That’s an E chord, by the way.  You wouldn’t believe how many songs start out with that chord.”  He wasn’t sure if Doyle had heard him. He plucked the srings one by one.  His first arpeggio.

copyright 2015, joseph e bird

The preceding is the opening of my current unnamed work in progress.  It will likely change as the writing progresses and the inevitable editing occurs. More to follow.

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