The other day as I was walking home along the river, there was a young man playing guitar under a bridge not too far from the library. I didn’t recognize what he was playing but it was good. It made me miss those street performers that I used to encounter in other cities. Miss them less for any specific interaction than for the way that they were part of the city, made the sidewalks bustle with their tunes. This week, Lindsey Clepper, writes about one of these musicians and her intuitive abilities. The interaction here goes further but still carries the same tone.
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The Busker by Lindsey Clepper
Marcie had been walking up and down the Milwaukee Riverwalk for about two hours. The river was slow-moving, lapping up against the walkways with soft splashes. It reflected the bright spring sunshine right into her eyes, making her shut her eyes and look inward. She was set to start college in the fall, but didn’t feel ready. In dark moods, she would hold onto her guitar, hoping that it would have the answers.
She resisted the idea of carrying it on her, blending into the city with all the other novice musicians that populated the corners of Beertown like pigeons. But why did she need to do something like that? After that consideration, she left it on the bed, resting its neck on her pillow.
The bright, unamped sound of an acoustic guitar drifted from a nearby area. She began to follow the sound. She continued down the walkway, stopping at a bridge. It led to some of the bars on the other side of the river. While crossing it, the song became significantly louder, closer than she thought. Now she could hear it better. It was “Faith” by George Michael. There was no vocal accompaniment.
She added her own, what little she knew. When she reached the end of the bridge, the crowds were thicker. Some were threading into bars in twos. Outside a restaurant, with its tables for the smokers, was a middle-aged woman with an acoustic guitar about half the size of her body. Her case was open, already filled with an assortment of bills and coins. Marcie recognized some of the more colorful bills as Canadian.
The woman was wearing a knee-length skirt, a pheasant blouse, and a long scarf tied around her wavy hair. Marcie dug into her jean skirt pocket for some bills and threw them in. Three bucks and some loose change. The woman stopped and looked up at her new guest. “Keep that money for yourself.”
The woman threaded her pick between the strings on guitar’s neck. She hacked out a cough and cleared her throat. “You need to keep that money. I know a musician when I see one.”
“How did you know?”
“I just do.” The woman took out a cigarette from behind her ear and lit it, taking some puffs. She reached into the case and pulled out the money Marcie threw in, handing it back to her. “I appreciate your charity, dear, but you need it. That can buy beer, or whatever your poison is.”
It was Diet Cherry Pepsi. Marcie pocketed the money. “Thanks, ma’am.”
Marcie walked away, smiling to herself. In celebration of this boost of confidence, she decided to head back home to her guitar and try to learn a song. Before crossing the bridge, she turned to look at the woman and exchange a grin, but the busker was back to playing “Faith.” She found the song. That was the easy part.
Lyle Rosdahl, a writer living in San Antonio, edits the flash fiction blog & best of in print for the Current. He created, facilitates and participates in Postcard Fiction Collaborative, a monthly flash fiction response to a photo. You can see more of his work, including photos, paintings and writing, at lylerosdahl.com.
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