I was running really late for the bus. I knew it would be gone but I ran anyway; my guitar bashing against my leg in the process. The trees were a blur and my steps left a long cloud of dust behind me. I have never been late to a gig before and I refuse to start now.
Jumping over small ditches and crawling over a few large rocks, my legs were killing me from the strain. At last I reached my destination and panicked when I could not find my crew. When I heard from behind “BLAISE; WHAT THE FUCK MAN C-MON WERE GUNNA BE LATE, SHIT!” Oh thank god they didn’t leave without me. I stood there on the spot yelling back “SHIT DUDE IM REAL SORRY AYE, I COULDN’T FIND MY CAPO AND STILL CANT FIND IT!” he replied a bit more angrily now “DUDE TELL ME ABOUT IT IN THE GODDAMN BUS C-MON!” I ran just as fast as I ran through the bushy tracks towards the bus.
The tires screeched and we were off. “Oscar” I said leaning over to my friend “Dude I’m so sorry aye, I didn’t realize the time.”He replied,“Man you said that for the past three weeks, always lookin for your capo or your picks; dude get more organized.” I kept silent for about twenty minutes until we were almost there. “Bro, I really miss jamming in front of crowds my own age, since I came here all I’ve got as an audience are the fellas in my block and these oldies.” He just gave me a grunt and said “Quit ya complaining would ya, it’s better than no one at all.” I suppose he was right.
The bus came to a stop and we got off on the corner of the village. “Blaise Bro”, “YOU READY TO ROCK LIKE FUCK?” I assumed this was a joke, I don’t think we would be rocking as hard as his tone suggested. In fact, the majority of these people were over 80, I don’t think rock is exactly what they wanted to listen to. With my axe in my hand and Oscar making strange vocal sounds to warm up his voice we walked up the narrow pebbled path and made our way to the front door.
“K dude, have you been practicing the songs I gave you?” I asked, “Kinda yea, I did sorta.” Always his same reply, he might as well of said, “No fuckin way, there shit songs”
I knew this was exactly what he was thinking so I just typed in the code for the door and said, “I know there shitty songs but these people want that kind of shit and we gotta deliver.” The door made the usual buzzing sound and opened itself up.
We stepped inside the building to be greeted by the usual old and musty smell. As we walked towards the recption desk I looked down towards the floor, it was so clean and shiny I really could see my own reflection. “ Good you’re here, just in time to, we were about to start word games with them” a woman greeted us, Oscar knew her fairly well but I have never worked out her name. She always wore the same orange turtleneck sweater and green patchy skinnys. “Word games!” I thought, “Fuck me! I ran all the way throughthat bush trackand bruised my legs from my goddamn guitar beating across them!” Oscar couldn’t care less, probably because he had no clue what he was originally supposed to be singing. I managed to keep quite and smile. Oscar and I followed her into the elevator, she pressed level 3, there was a slight rumbling and a quick jump and then up we went.
I saw the same crowd as I saw every week but also like every other week, there were one or two less. As we entered there were a few weak claps and coughs. Sorry to disappoint my eager audience but today we were hear to play word games. The woman in the turtleneck sweater introduced us. "Blaise brought his guitar today but it is missing several strings." “WHAT THE FUCK!” I thought “THEY WANNA HEAR SOME MUSIC!" No way would I say that to her however, one more bad report and i'll be in really deep shit. So bottling in my anger and newly risen hatred I smiled and agreed.
An old man lying in a chair yelled out, “ You two, please come over here for a sec.” Of course Oscar and I walked over, fuck the word games for a minute or so this old fella wanted to be heard. “Do you two have brothers?” he croaked “Yes sir I have one brother” replied Oscar. Oscar can be the rudest prick sometimes but he is also one of the greatest actors I’ve met of his age, he can pull off any act and today it was the singing gentleman. “What about you kiddo?” “Yes sir I have two brothers and one sister” I replied, fortunately I did not have to act. I have a great respect for the elderly and love to here their stories. “Hmmmm; Two men came in here a few days ago” he whispered “One was standing on a ladder with his head in that manhole over there, do you see it?” his old and worn finger slowly shook its way to point to the ceiling but there was no manhole. I knew Oscar would of said that he could not but when I looked into this mans eyes, he was certain there was a manhole in the ceiling. Before he could speak I quickly replied, “Yea of course, It’s quite a large manhole” Oscar smirked “Grow the fuck up” I thought. “The other” He continued “was at the bottom handing him tools.” He left it at that and said no more until the man next to him gave him a nudge.
This man I have seen and spoken to a bit, his name is Derrick; when he speaks his words were very drawn out and husky, it was almost impossible to hear him talk. I had taken a great liking to him from the moment I met him. His old age has made his mind simple and dumb but I liked him so much because I looked at him and his heart was a beautiful and soft as the pillow he lay on. He always wore the same silly old snow skiing helmet the staff made him wear, they said it was to protect his head but I knew they just wanted to take the piss out of him. “Heeeee Gooooooch Geeetaaarrr.” Derrick Whispered to the older man sitting down next to him. The old man spoke again, and from this I could tell he was a bit simple as well. “Things have changed since the war; back then the Jews would be in that hole.” Oscar burst out laughing and walked over to play his word games.
“I fought in the army but I loved the Jews” He spoke, I saw his beautiful and aged blue eyes slowly become wet. I pulled up a chair from behind me and sat in front of this old man and Derrick. Derrick was listening really closely and occasionally started to clap as if a play he loved so much had finished for the night.
“My brethren all turned on me because they thought I turned on them” I was ready for another war story, I could see it coming. “Do you have any brothers?” He asked me again, so I suppose now I wouldn’t get the rest of that story. I gave my same reply again. “Derrick told me you have a guitar here.” He made a long pause after this and I realized he wanted a reply. “Yes sir I do." I said“Is it your or your brothers” he pointed to Oscar playing his stupid word games, I could see his crowd were incredibly disappointed but still racked their brains for answers to questions like “What name for a boy starts with J?” and “What is your favorite color?" I turned back to him “Sorry sir but he is not my brother”I said with a tone of pride in my voice.The man replied “In the eyes of god he his.” Derrick tried to speak again “Blaaaaaaisee asssss gooooo aaaahhh geeeetaaarrr.”
The old man asked, “Are you here to play me some tunes?” I replied, “Well yea I was originally, but my strings are broken.” I lied, and it killed me inside. Like I said, I love the elderly and to lie to them just eats me away. The man leaned forward very slowly, he looked like it hurt “I know they lied, I can see it in your eyes. You remind me of my brother.” I will admit I was creeped out now, this man new I was eager to play them some music. Derrick coughed and I looked at him. Strange as it was, I seemed to always be able to see past his age and start clearly at an incredibly attractive young man. His blue eyes stared into mine and he tried to speak again “Aaaaaaarrrrrrrr weeeeeeeeee feeeeeenndds?” This was so shocking to me but I replied, “Derrick, of course we are, we are great friends.” This was the truth as well, the whole truth. Yes I only saw him once or twice a week but if I could I would make it far more often. He put out his hand as if reaching for an apple from a tree and left it afloat in midair.
I knew what he wanted me to do and I was more than happy to. I took hold of his hand with mine and squeezed; not hard, but just to let him feel a little bit of kindness and love before he moved on to heaven; were he could see his wife again and kiss her and hold her and love her. He looked at me through his thin glasses and whispered “Freeeeend.” He smiled and let go, a single tear dropped from his eyes and his helmet fell in front of his forehead. I knew he hated that thing, he was forever trying to take it off but his nurse would always tie it on harder. I looked at him at said “I’m sorry Derrick” and set his headwear on straight. He gave a slight nodand fell silent.
The other old man asked, “Will you please play me some tunes next time?” “I pray there will be a next time,” I thought to myself, I was beginning to really like this man as well. “I will bring my guitar” is all I said, this is true, I will bring my guitar but I do not know if I will be allowed to play it. “Derrick likes you a lot” he said and I looked over at the old man with his blue skiing helmet and thin glasses, he was just sitting there smiling at me and mouthing words I could not here. I looked back at the old man and heard footsteps behind me.
A young, fairly pretty, slightly chubby and very short Indian woman walked passed me and stopped at the old man. She spoke with a bored and an “I’m way to good for this job” tone in her voice. “ARE YOU READY FOR YOUR LUNCH?” she yelled at the old man. I know this man was strange and old but I also knew he was not deaf. He winced slightly and replied “Depends on what you got.” I couldn’t help but smile at this; he was old and weak but could still pull off a smartarse comment. Now I knew I really like both him and Derrick. “CRACKERS AND CHEESE WITH WARM MILK” she yelled again. “Can I have a steak?” he asked. If I was not afraid of getting in shit I would of burst out laughing at this. “NO YOU CANNOT HAVE A STEAK, YOU CAN HAVE CRACKERS AND CHEESE OR GO HUNGRY” she yelled again “What the fuck?” I thought, “He’s not a fuckin school boy, he has fought in wars and probably killed many men.” I remained silent until she stuffed his face with cheese and crackers and walked out. “My brother always thought she was a cutie” the man said once she was out of hearing shot, Derrick clapped his hands in agreement. Now that she was gone I could laugh, which I very well did.
Oscar poked his head from around the corner to check out what was so funny but got bored quickly and went back to scrabble. A few minutes past and the old man and Derrick were talking heavily about wars and woman and the food they were given at Green Pine Retirement Village and I was watching and listening closely until the woman in the orange turtleneck sweater and patchy green skinnys walked in with Oscar, “It’s time for you two to leave now, I’ll see you both next week.” That was it, she hurried us out of the room, I made a quick glance back and saw both of the men with their heads watching us leave like a pair of dogs watching their puppies being sold. We were going back down the elevator when I could not stand it any longer. As soon as I got out I ran back up the stairs until I reached level 3. I ran past the Indian woman and reached the room I wanted. The old man and Derrick were in the same spots as I had left them. I walked over to the old man and said “It has been my greatest pleasure to meet you.” He replied “Please bring your guitar next week.” “I promise you I will.” I said. The woman and Oscar were standing at the door now, watching me. Derrick looked up at me through his thin spectacles, I reached out my hand with my fingers splayed apart just as before and he put his hand through mine. “Freend?" he asked and i replied, "Freinds."
© Copyright 2016 Blaise Parnell. All rights reserved.
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