International Writers Magazine: Dreamscapes Life Stories:
Boys and Fret Boards
soon as I saw the acoustic guitar I knew it was going to be your
birthday present. Stopping my daily auto-pilot walk through the
cluster of village shops to the train station bursting full of commuters
all crammed like sheep in a pen, I moved in closer for an inspection.
It was placed in the charity shop window by the edge of the display
of tatty bedside tables and a mannequin in a faded twin set with
imitation pearls. The guitar was there like an after thought.
the walnut guitar were scuff marks and faded stickers of unrecognisable
bands. Probably the last owner knew the names and their meanings. Some
had already been half picked with a fingernail or the side of a knife,
and had left behind a stubble of stickiness. Three fraying strings sagged
across neck. The nylon strands were splitting like the ends of unmanageable
hair. One more pluck with a plectrum and they could snap. But the shell
of the guitar seemed perfect from this side of the glass. It had a smooth,
flat waisted body and a round hollow sound hole. Even the neck wasnt
warped. Obviously the owner had taken care not to leave their precious
by a radiator to let it get damp. The price tag dangled like a leaf
from a branch. For ten pounds you could unwrap a present that would
need attention and nurturing to bring it back to its full glory
a project for the weekends. Not just another throw away gift. The basics
were there for you to turn this rejected guitar into a beauty.
Church bells started chiming for eight oclock and pulled me back
to reality. Around me the village was starting to revive from its slumber:
a pack of four boys in scruffy school uniform huddled outside the corner
shop with sweets and cigarettes; the postman strolled along with this
pushbike and bugling satchel.
"Im coming back for you," I said and put my hand against
the cold glass.
Dashing across the road, I took one more look over my shoulder as I
reached the other side. The machine heads glistened in the morning sun.
Thoughts of the guitar kept fizzing up during the day and popping with
possibility. A meeting on simmering quarterly figures faded into the
background like lift music. On your birthday it would be the last present
for you to open. I would save it until everyone had gone home and it
was just you and me surrounded by beer bottles and crisp crumbs on the
carpet. The shape of the guitar would already be recognisable under
the wrapping paper but you would still eagerly shred away the layers
like a toddler who stilled believed in Christmas. And then you would
see the guitar. A blossoming smile and then you would give me a muscle
hug until my back cracked.
"Jess, whats your report on this weeks stats?"
said a distance voice like background vocals on a track.
The notes would wobble on those three strings but youd get working
on her straight away. It wouldnt be another present to be slung
into the corner. You would scrub with soapy water, trying to peel back
the stickiness and turn her into a splendour.
"Jess?" My boss said, louder. His booming voice jogged the
daydream just like needles on a record player skidded across LPs.
"Its all ship shape," I said, sounding like a two dimensional
Across my notes for the meeting were doodles of quavers, crotchets and
minims. The writing underneath was a backdrop.
"Thats great, you can chair the conference call with the
Americans after work."
The pen dragged across the page and tore a hole. I needed to be handing
over my crispy ten pound note to the dotty old lady at the charity shop,
not talking to Americans about disappointing sales figures.
"Maybe we should wait and prepare a presentation so that were
not fumbling around with bits of paper," I said, holding my pen
so tight that it could snap.
A unison of nodding heads. The boss ran his fingers through his beard
and sat back in his seat.
"Alright, twenty-four hours."
All I wanted was to leave the office on time or even sneak out through
the side exit with the deliveries. Nobody ever needed me after three.
Back at my fortress cubicle, I shut down the computer, made a neat pile
of paperwork and added a to do list to a pile of papers.
That to do list had given that dull pile of paperwork more
glamour. The ten pound note for the guitar stood upright, leaning against
the monitor. The phone was for business or emergencies and this was
a crisis. The only other present I had for you at that moment was a
pair of socks.
"Hello, Cancer Research Bryson branch. Can I help?" A soothing
old womans voice said.
"Yes, I would like you to reserve the guitar thats in your
"No, I cant, sorry dear," she said.
Sinking further down into my revolving chair and dragging the phone
nearer, I whispered, "I am on my way."
Peering over the top of the cubicle like a meerkat, everyone was heads
down and in computer comas. I snuck out from the confines of my battery-farm
cubicle and took the ten pound note with me.
Rushing off the train, I was first up the thick concrete stairs and
left the other commuters trailing behind. The guitar was still in the
window but was now propped against a naked mannequin. The shop smelt
old and musty with undertones of furniture polish. A woman in pearls,
twin set cardigan and a blue rinse stood behind the counter. She was
reading the customary Mills and Boons that every charity shop becomes
overrun with until they have to put a sign up, begging for no more.
The shop was busy and I had to join a queue of four boys in front of
me. All were dressed in school uniform but looked like they had been
through a battlefield on their journey home. Track marks ran up their
trousers, shirts were untucked, grey and one boy had a huge ink stain
across the back. There were mumblings about cider, cigarettes and heading
to the car park.
One of the boys asked the woman for something but I didnt hear.
His friends were laughed about a message on a phone. The woman shuffled
across to the window. She manoeuvred the mannequin further towards the
battered bedside table and pulled out the guitar. Dread tingled through
my body. She shuffled back and handed the guitar to the boy with a shaven
head. Another, more mop-haired boy handed over two ripped five pound
"Ill buy that off you," I said as the boys walked off
and left the woman as the till.
The shaven head boy glanced back.
"Twenty pounds?" I said, waving two crispy, virgin notes at
The three other boys looked at him, one nodded and another put out this
hand. But the shaven head boy slapped his hand away.
"It belongs to me."
The door slammed. Through the window I watched them high-five each other.
The boy turned back, glared at me and shook the guitar above his head
as if a boxer waving around his new champion belt.
"I really wanted that guitar," I said
"Could you not have something else?"
I shook my head and moved away from the counter and allowed her to get
on with her racy romance book.
Heading back home with nothing, I went the long way home across the
village. The four boys were huddled by the train stations car
park wall. The shaven head boy was thudding an acoustic guitar against
the brick wall. Shards of wood flew in all directions as the guitar
broke up with each clunk. The boys cackled like plotting witches. An
elderly man walked past and shook his head. The boy smashed the guitar
harder and roared at the man. I tried to walk faster but I could not
help but stare at the remains on the pavement.
"Thats rock n roll," the boy shouted.
The boy stood on the wall with just the guitar neck and three dangling
strings left. Liquid jumped out of the bottle of cider as he swung his
arms around. His friends stood back and laughed. It felt like the boy
was smashing the guitar against my chest.
Patient November 2008
Jessica has recently completed an MA in professional writing at
London Met University. She is the winner of the Worldskills UK Creative
Writing competition 2008 and has several flash fiction stories published
on Six Sentences and poems pubished in anthologies.She is currently
working on several short stories and trying to write a novel. Her blog
all rights reserved - all comments are the writers' own responsibility
- no liability accepted by hackwriters.com or affiliates.