Sherman Smith, Silencing the Blues Man
Silencing the Blues Man
Publisher: Elementa (August 28, 2016)
Paperback: 262 pp.
ISBN: 9176372480; 978-9176372487
I’ll Be Seeing You
Oscar crept into the grotto just as the clock chimed three fifteen in the morning. It was odd, even at this hour, to find this level of silence in this music hall that Earl crier built. Earl was no longer here, and one could taste his absence in the very air.
It took some time for Oscar to acknowledge that his old friend was gone. They had had a special bond that only two blind men who could not stand the sight of each other could understand.
Oscar reached Earl’s piano, without a word or sound he sat there listening for a stirring in the silence. perhaps
the tap - tap-tap of Earl’s cane. After awhile he slowly lifted the silk mask from his head leaving his horribly disfigured face naked. He wanted no disguise to say what he had come to say for at this moment he once again became Brooks Weingarten III who at one time had raged against his disputable disability and loss of almost everything worth living for. In one momentous second, after a Nazis mom had struck his favorite pub in London, he became a man without a face, who would never see how hideous he had become. He had no room for people who - god damn them all - went about their dismal normal lives. He rejected all sympathy leaving himself truly alone in the dark as he wished for his own exit from what was no longer a good earth.
At the veteran’s hospital Brooks found solace with cheap booze and card games with his new friends Mr. Dark, Mr. Apathy, Anger, Fear, and least but not last his old pal Mr. Tedium.
“Damn your hide, you miserable son-of-a-bitch, when you first tapped your way into my life I wished you more harm than words can express. I was arrogant and you took that from me. I was angry to the depth of my soul, until your music began to lift me from my morass. You told me that I couldn’t sing...” Brook’s chuckle moved with meaningful warmth throughout his darkness. “And you were right. You were always right.”
Brooks shook his head before raising it high as he had found that window to heaven where he knew his old nemesis to be. His eyes were so damaged that tears
would never flow - on the outside - on the inside he felt a loneliness for the one person who understood his darkness.
His fingers found the piano keys and began to play as he recited the words as the poet he had become: “I’ll be seeing you in all the foamier places... that this heart of mine embraces... all day and through.” He continued to play as he spoke to a different ghost. “Miss Billy Holiday,
I apologize to you for abusing this lovely song. Have you met my good friend Mr. Earl Crier yet? Well, you ought to.”
With those words he once again said good-bye to his former self - Brooks - as he found his silken mask where he had placed it on the piano top and drew it back over his head.
“Earl you told the world that poets can’t sing, and then you made me a poet. So here is a poem by Dylan Thomas as I wish you God’s speed, and a gig in heaven with a beautiful song bird who knows her way around the blues.
‘Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning
they do not go gentle into that good night.’
Human hands touched his shoulder as Mollie straightened his mask. He reached his hand up to touch hers, grateful for the company, no longer needing that private moment.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright ‘Their frail deeds might have danced...’
Mollie had followed him when Oscar had made his early morning sojourn to the music hall that madeup the basement of the Honeysuckle Rose Hotel. As had Stella, Earl’s wife, who was just beginning to feel the magnitude of her husband’s passing.
‘Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way...’
Suddenly Oscar stopped.
Stella sat up, her eyes searching the darkened ceiling above. There was a distant sound, a gentle wind that carried with it a memory...
“That’s Stella by Starlight...”
Stella knew her husband’s voice, the way his fingers moved across the piano keys. There was a woman’s voice mixed with his.
“Earl? Billy Holiday? Could it be?” Asked Mollie” Her voice a reverent whisper at the mystery of it all.
They listened, weeping joyful tears, until the music faded into a warm wishful memory, the rustling of autumn leaves.
Oscar spoke the last words: “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
His hands were off the keys when four notes echoed across the music hall. The last four notes of Stella By Starlight followed by the disappearing sound of a blind man’s cane tapping across the floor.
Copyright © 2016 by Sherman Smith