[I wrote this short story several years ago, but only recently submitted it to Graphos. It was in the Fall 09 (last semester's) issue.]
My guitar sat in the corner of my already crowded room, untouched, for the first week after I got it. It was a birthday present from my mom, who thought I would want my dad’s first guitar as some sort of memento thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong—it was a beauty: an acoustic with cherry wood finish worn smooth from use, ivory inlays, and brand new strings. But it wasn’t an iPod (what I really wanted), and even more importantly, I wasn’t a musician (what my mother really wanted).
When I announced two years ago that I would be dropping band class in order to pursue a more suitable hobby (painting), my mother’s only comfort was that she wouldn’t have to pretend to enjoy my saxophone playing anymore. I inherited none of Dad’s musical genes, to Mom’s disappointment, and all of his bad hair genes, to my disappointment. I also inherited his name, Terrence Baxter Glenn (again to my disappointment), but usually stuck to Baxter, for obvious reasons.
“Why don’t you play something Terrence?” Mom asked when she first gave it to me.
“Well, I don’t want to break it, or…”
“Oh, come on, just a bit. Please? For me?”
“Okay, fine. Just don’t hate me. Here goes.”
I picked up the guitar, took a deep breath, and probably killed any small animals in the vicinity by strumming. It was that bad.
“Well, we can’t all be Jimi Hendrix,” Mom said, swallowing hard and not meeting my gaze, “maybe we’ll get you some lessons.”
But we both knew that wouldn’t be happening anytime soon, not with Mom’s paycheck from Merriam’s Supper Club, where she played hostess, waitress, and bus girl. (Don’t be confused by the name. Merriam’s was no more a “club” than I was a musician, and Merriam himself was a recovering narcotic whose burgers just so happened to be adequate, if not at least filling.)
Instead, I used the guitar as a sort of ultramodern art deco statement in my room. As in, it sat in its stand right next to my easel and held my Dodgers baseball cap. That is, until yesterday, when Dinkman came over.
Dinkman is my best friend, by default. Both plagued with embarrassing names (Dinkman is his last name. His first is even more repulsive, and he would kill my hypothetical firstborn if I even hinted at it.) and a less-than-stellar reputation with the ladies, we immediately bonded upon meeting each other in the second grade. If there is a difference between Dinkman and myself, it’s that Dinkman is a better liar. He can, and does, fool himself into thinking he’s great at anything—cooking, sports, brain surgery—no matter how dreadful the outcome of his overconfident actions, whereas I accept myself for the pathetic artist that I am. So when he picked up my guitar yesterday, even I wanted to give him a wedgie.
“Dinkman, what are you doing?”
“Well, I’m about to melt your face off, if you have to know.”
“You look ridiculous. You aren’t a guitar player anymore than I am. See the name carved into the back of the fret board?” Dinkman looked, nodded. “T. Glenn. That’s my dad, the only person who should play that guitar. As a matter of public safety.”
“Whatever, Bax,” Dinkman said. Then, taking a deep breath, he played the opening chords of “Champagne Supernova.” It sounded a bit strange, but only because it was Dinkman, strumming away. He didn’t look like any guitar player I had ever known, with his two-inches-too-short khakis and ketchup-stained polo, sitting on my bed, head bent over the guitar, tongue out in determination. But he was playing as if he’d been taught by Noel Gallagher himself.
“Um…do you want to explain what just happened?” I asked once he had finished.
“That. That just happened,” Dinkman replied.
“No, Dinkman. You don’t play guitar. That could not have just happened.”
“I know, right? I’m amazing.”
Of course, I had to try. I was sure I was going to be horrible, and sure enough, Dinkman actually cringed.
“You’re doing it all wrong, man.” This from the guy who falls up the stairs.
“What do I do? I just want to play some chords. Anything to prove that I’m worthy of owning this thing.”
“Just…hear it in your head. And play it.”
“You have got to be kidding. Who are you, Ghandi for the aspiring guitar player? Maybe I just need to warm up,” I strummed tentatively, but nothing. Dinkman smiled.
“Not so easy for the starving artist I guess,” he said. “Want to go to my house and play Halo?”
“What? Are you kidding? You played the guitar. Maybe you could teach me. We should start a band or something,” I said, ideas for band names already forming.
“Bax, let’s be serious here for just a minute. Do you know the percentage of musicians who actually make it to the big time?”
“Probably the same percentage of girls interested in us, which is to say not a big enough percentage to even mention.”
“Yes. Wait, what? Speak for yourself, Bax, I’ve got tons of girls interested in me. Now let’s go play video games and drink Mountain Dew in my basement.”
That kid is going to do great things some day.