Grim's Guitars

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

A personal story very dear to me.

There they laid still, like an open casket:

3 beautiful guitars positioned in the corner of the upstairs bedroom next to an old tube Crate amplifier.

“Here, try this one, just be careful with the strap – it keeps falling off,” he handed an off-toned, orange Gibson Corvus to me, “it looks like a giant can-opener, doesn’t it?”

I chuckled in acknowledgement.

This reverberating sound was deep and elongated like the depths of rushing water drowning in the ears. It acquired a smooth bass and intonation even with small chips and patina throughout the body. It played like it had a broken heart; it played like it lived a thousand lives in a single minute, boy, it played like its afternoon was spent drinking in a lonely bar behind a jukebox. Well, it played. Period.

“When Arlie had it, there was ‘bout an inch thick of cigarette smoke on that guitar – it took forever to clean it.”

Grandpa let me get a feel for the strings of this small, V-cut beauty and eventually I handed it back to him – remembering to never forget the richness of those chords.

“Now, that guitar your other granddad made, that’s a real sound, I’ll tell ya.”

He gently placed the Gibson in the stand and reached for the guitar that someday I’ll claim as my own: The ‘C/S Custom.’

“You can’t buy a guitar that sounds like that,” he forked over this music-making machine and let me gaze at the pearl inlays, the impeccable wood design and hand-crafted artistry.

“The bridge was off a little when your other granddad made it, so I fixed it, but that sound, I’ll tell ya, that sound,” was all he could express.

And my god, was it a sound.

If Gabriel heard this heavenly piece, he’d throw away his rusty trumpet in the back of the dumpster and let the homeless piss on it.

There is no other harmonious instrument that sounds quite like this guitar. A real, genuine C/S Custom. Craig and Steve Custom. Craig, my uncle who resides in Texas and now has a family to take care of, and Steve, my grandfather, who never played guitar a day in his life yet made such breathtaking designs. He had no reason to create guitars other than he said it was an interesting idea. So, he tried it.

And he made 12. I’m the lucky granddaughter who owns two of his early prototypes, and I have another grandfather who owns the electrifying, magnetic beast that was resting in my hands.

It played like it felt the sorrow and raw destruction of a wounded battlefield. It played like the gods above would remain silent out of respect for its unparalleled vibration. It played as though it could slash a hole in the fabric of the universe.

It played dirty and mean but sentimental and warm – just like the man who built it.

Alas, my grandfather had one more guitar he wanted to talk about: his twelve-string acoustic.

“Yeah, I remember when I bought that guitar, oh, probably back in the 70s. And y’know, I sold it a long time ago, and I couldn’t remember who I had sold it to. But one day, your grandma and I went to church, and Harold Jennings had cancer real bad. So, I came down to help him out for a few months before he passed, and he asked me one day, he says, ‘Hey, uh, you want that guitar back you gave me?’”

My grandpa laughed and paused for a moment, “I says, uh, I says, ‘what guitar are you talking about?’ and he says, ‘oh, that old twelve-string you sold me.’ So, I took it back from him and that was the last gift I got from him before he died.”

This Harmony acoustic was soft and gentle like the breeze of a Spring evening. It played with such blooming innocence that no one could ignore its angelic strings. It played like the voice of a mother that calms her baby in a pacifying lullaby. It played like its soul was meant to haunt you - like it was meant to be your last prayer in the middle of a burning building.

It was nearing the end of our guitar chit-chat and the evening was winding down and I was ready to get home. But before I walked out of the bedroom with my grandfather’s guitars, he stopped and reflected for a brief second or two.

“You know, all of these guitars are from dead men. That one is from my dead brother, Arlie,” he pointed to the Gibson, “that’s from Harold who died a long time ago,” he nodded to the acoustic Harmony, “and now your other granddad’s dying of cancer.”

There was a long pause that neither of us said a word.

 “Maybe it’s a sign that I’m next,” was all he blurted out.

And we backed slowly out of that room; the guitars tucked back in their quiet tombs, but the weight of their wooden, stiff bodies still loomed heavy on the shoulders. I listened to their souls when I played the strings, and I promised them that I’d keep their sounds safe for eternity.

I promised to remember their echoes in the last chord they'll ever strum.

I am the reaper of guitars.

Submitted: January 18, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Kylee Carrier. All rights reserved.

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Bert Broomberg

Great story. Being a guitar nut myself, I liked it a lot.

Sat, January 18th, 2020 4:04pm

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