It happened on a New York City street, and there was nothing Meggs could do to stop it. A force more powerful than life pushed it into being, despite her will. Her fingers gathered a life of their own, strumming shamelessly on her guitar until her fingers bled. Her voice lifted over the sound of traffic, lilting sweetly as she sang along with her guitar. Someone offered her an empty milk crate and she accepted it graciously, placing one foot on it for balance. A small crowd gathered around to listen, and she closed her eyes tight, lest fear grabbed hold of her and she stopped playing.
Julliard accepted Meggs into their music program and she had gone willingly, gratefully, but she never managed to graduate. She could not do the presentations required of her. She had barely managed the audition, which was only set up because her mother was a single parent, the widow of a prisoner of war. Meggs grew up hearing stories of the musical talent her father possessed. Her grandmother claimed when he sang it was as if angels had come to earth and chased all the evil spirits away. Meggs, on the other hand, had such stage fright she could not even perform for her family. Her mother was the only one privy to her music.
Meggs mother, Sarah, listened gladly, though the music was bittersweet. Meggs found the book her father used to play from and when she played from it, it never failed to bring tears to her mother’s eyes. Meggs had more talent than her father did, but she could never tell her that. She feared it would make Meggs stop playing altogether. After all, she started playing for the sole reason that she wanted to feel closer to her father. Taken from this earth too soon, Meggs had few memories of him. Sarah wanted her daughter to know the man her father was. He was a brave musician who died a hero; his death was almost poetic in its occurrence.
When Meggs found her father’s unfinished song, Sarah’s heart skipped a beat. Most of Meggs talent was still untapped, and Sarah hoped that Meggs would not finish it. There was something soothing about the unfinished work– something that allowed her to feel like he was still there, and would be back soon. Meggs played the soft opening chords quietly, repeatedly, until they became smooth. She progressed on to the more complicated parts, soft cries of pain as the strings sliced the fat of her fingers. When she came to the end, she strummed a few more chords before going back to the beginning again. This time her voice joined the guitar, humming at first, then words began flowing from her lips. Meggs stopped abruptly when she saw her mother standing in the doorway, tears streaming from her face.
“Mom!” Meggs started. Her face turned a soft shade of rosebud pink as she realized her mom listened when she played. “What’s wrong?”
“This song…” her mother said. Sarah’s voice came out as more of a whimper than spoken.
Meggs shrugged her shoulders. “It isn’t finished.”
“I know,” her mom said softly. “You were finishing it.”
Meggs eyebrows furrowed in confusion. Her lips closed tightly. “I wasn’t finishing anything.”
“You were singing, yet there are no words, and the chords you strummed were new.” Sarah insisted.
“Oh…that,” Meggs blushed again. “No, I wasn’t finishing the song. I was just messing around.”
Sarah walked over to Meggs and took the guitar from her arms. They sat down on Meggs bed together. Sarah folded Meggs hands into her own and gripped them tightly. Her eyes searched the pale pink quilt that covered the bed as if it had the answers she was seeking. No words hid among the tiny roses that alternated with the solid pink. No answers peeked out from behind the tiny white dots some of the squares held. Sarah sighed, releasing a few more tears as she looked into Meggs’ eyes.
“Meggs, your father began this song when he found out about you, only weeks old in my belly. Called to war when I was six months pregnant, when he returned home the first time, you were already almost two. He set his music aside to delight in you and be a father. He kept talking about finishing the song, but never got back to it before they called him to war again when you were four. He never returned from that war. He never finished that song. Hearing you play it…” Sarah paused long enough to take a deep breath and exhale slowly. Another tear drifted down her face. She cleared her throat. “Hearing you play it, Meggs, is bittersweet. I want to hear it, and I don’t want it to end. At the same time, I want to hear the end, but I don’t want it finished, though I know it needs an ending.”
Deeper confusion clouded Meggs face. “No, mom. I’ll put it away so it doesn’t hurt you anymore.” Tears trickled down her own face as she met her mother’s eyes. What she saw there, deep within the brown flecks, shocked her. “You…you want me to play?”
Sarah smiled between tears. “I do, love. More than ever. I want you to finish the song, even though you don’t believe you can. I know you can. Finish it.”
Sarah released Meggs’ hands and stood up. She crossed the room and let her words follow her out the door. “Finish it!”
It happened on a New York City street and Meggs’ mother watched with awe. The crowd gathered around, coins dropped into the small bucket someone had placed near where Meggs was playing. Dollars soon followed, but the applause became the greater gift. Meggs still closed her eyes, and when she did, the guitar playing changed, her voice changed, and that was when Sarah knew.
He was there.
For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Kirsten Piccini gave me this prompt: it happened on a New York City street..
I gave Sinistral Scribblings this prompt: Armed and ready.
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