The Way Back

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For the third time, Flynn was certain he was going crazy.  He could’ve sworn the ring of a phone, the chime of a computer, and the squeak of a chair played the first three notes of a familiar song.  It was the same tune he thought he had heard twice before – once this morning on his way to work and once right before lunch.  How peculiar that it should haunt him on this ordinary Tuesday.  Over the years, his memory had wedged the melody between obsolete knowledge and discarded whims.  But, he still knew each note and every lyric with uncompromising clarity.  As well he should, considering he wrote them with his own hand.

Years before his hair turned gray, he played guitar and was quite good at it.  He had a knack for writing songs with catchy lyrics and spry fingers that could rip through any series of chords with ease.  There was a time in his life when busking for a living actually seemed like a viable career option.  Back when he was a skinny kid, life was a wide expanse where pursuing flights of fancy was considered a rite of passage.  He still liked to think of life that way, but an ex-wife, endless hours of toil in a cubicle farm, and the passing of twenty years shrunk that once very wide expanse into the size of a pinhole in which he could barely move.

Every day he and his scrappy band of two schoolmates would play street corners along Oxford Street or wherever anyone would listen and toss a few quid.  Flynn smiled at the thought of their faces so young and beset with scruffy three-day-old beards.  Sam pounded the bucket drums, while Duncan made the harmonica moan.  Sam’s hands were always red and raw from slapping the buckets for hours on end.  Duncan’s mouth always permanently swollen, sometimes with a blister or two.  They always joked that the harmonica gave him herpes.  Ha!  What good friends and good times!

He looked at the cubicle walls that surrounded him like a fence that kept cattle from escaping.  The bald, ashen walls reminded him of himself a little too much.  He reached across his desk and picked up a few paper clips.  He dropped them one by one into a little pile.  Plink.  Plink.  Plink.  The coins people once threw into his guitar case would jingle with almost the same tone.  How he loved that sound! Though, it was never really about the money.  How could it be?  There was never any to be had!  Something else entirely drove him to pick up his guitar day after day, for there was nothing quite as euphoric as playing his soul out on a street corner.  His voice would reach to the sky and set him free.  It was magic.

Every song he had ever played rushed through him as though he were a battered jukebox.  Through the static of decayed memories, the music was still alive . . . it was once something he displayed so vividly without hesitation.  Each day had been a celebration where the music was a savior to those drowning in the city . . . or in life as a whole.  His voice echoed off the brick walls, stark concrete, and comatose streets.  Sam’s relentless beat embraced Duncan’s wailing harmonica as they fought against the city’s rigid code.  Together, they stood at the center of a beautiful reprieve of lyrics and a soothing cascade of notes.

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