Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wooden Guitar (Friday Fiction)

This week's Friday Fiction is hosted by Julie Arduini over @ her blog, The Surrendered Scribe. Click here to read and share more great fiction. 

Author's Ramblings: I have no idea why this almost tangent seems to be the theme of my latest writings, but this one took a bit to write. I could not quite think of a name for this FMC, so I believe she will be nameless for the moment. I tried to finish it earlier--but--pesky homework. *sigh* If there is a student in your life, pray them through this last month/weeks leading up to finals. Happy reading and enjoy the weekend!

I don’t know why I did it. 

It took months to make a perfect replica and money I didn’t care to spend to make it look the right way. I measured twice, thrice and made each cut as if it were a carving knife through turkey—smooth, calculated and crooked. 

The wood was softer than satin and just as clear as honey that was set out in the sun. It was a brilliant sheen and a unique grain with tinges of chocolate around the jagged slashes of tawny brown.

It looked like a guitar. It had all the right things in all the right places. The sleek curves, the grooved fittings, the touch of flair that spoke volumes to its ownership. The one trophy that was always out of my reach.

It was a special edition, he’d said. It was very precious, he’d said. So that’s why he’d put it up where my grubby little fingers could reach it.

Or so he’d said.

I hated it.

After all that time, the more I saw it, the more I knew about it, the more I hated it. With a passion that could not be matched.

It was an example of yet another thing that I would never have.

Or so he’d said.

I didn’t believe it. I didn’t want to believe it.

I believed I was more. I believed that I had something better inside. Something that was just waiting to burst out. It was the kind of thing that I could not quite put my hands on. It was something I desperately wanted to grab ahold of.

That’s when he decided to go on tour.

He left me alone.

There were no calls, no notes, no anything.

I almost saw him on television. But I had detention that day. Some idiot called him something I wasn’t supposed to repeat, so I punched them.

Things blurred by a lot for that day. I don’t quite remember when school let out, except for one day it was normal and then the next, it was summer.

So I walked around the house in his oversized flannel shirts, with my feet in borrowed cowboy boots, wearing a cap that wasn’t mine and holding a guitar that would never birth a sound.

Summer passed slowly.

I spent my afternoons on the back porch, pretending to play the fake guitar and pretending that he was sitting somewhere beside me. I let my imagination take whatever liberties it pleased with the imaginary conversations we never had.

I told him about school.

I told him about making a guitar just like his own.

I told him how much I missed him.

Then I told him how much I hated him.

I played the model guitar with all the gusto I could spare. I traded my baseball cap for a rugged, smelly cowboy hat. It made my eyes water when I sat in the midday heat on the back end of the porch, feet hanging off the edge, matching cowboy boots drumming on the wooden lattice.

First I played the songs I didn’t have words for. Then I sang them out loud. When my voice tired of it all, I stopped playing the music in my head.

Next, I slept under the starry skies and counted every speckle of light at least a hundred times over. I could not make my eyes close and after some time, I did not care if I was awake or asleep. When the first lights of the morning came, I closed my eyes to try and coax the darkness to come back.

When that was all over, I had nothing left to do. I didn’t know what to do or how to do whatever it was I should’ve been doing. I guess that’s why I didn’t even notice until the urge was too strong to ignore.

It was wrong. It was right. It was terrible and it was something I had to do at night.

So I went inside and found thread from Mama’s sewing kit. She didn’t notice or if she did, nothing was said. I remembered her like a ghost in a mirror when I would brush my teeth after lunch. A face that was haunting because it was haunted.

Her dreams and hopes were sucked dry by his neediness and when she needed him, he was nowhere around. But she couldn’t hate him. She could not put him out of her mind, so I tried to do it for her.

She didn’t want me to. I tried to listen. I tried not to feel. I tried not to let it stay stuck inside my head, but then the screams wouldn’t quiet down. They would not shut up, they would not leave me alone.

I was surrounded by nothing and yet it was so stifling that I almost thought I could taste it in the air. A rank, staleness that could not be erased from the atmosphere. It was sickening, but I could not run from it.

So I sat indoors, waiting for the air to clear and stringing thread through my wooden guitar imitation.

As the afternoon came around, I walked out into the back yard, carrying that wooden imitation of his dreams and my fruitless hopes. I walked out into the fields until I could feel them brushing against my bare legs, tickling my knees where the cowboy boots ended.

The last rays of light spilled out of the sky and dribbled away to a grey blackness.

As everything changed, I smashed it.

With one deliberate stroke and all my strength, I smashed it into the ground. I ground it into the dirt and I stomped on it with those perfect cowboy boots. I bashed, smashed, crashed and destroyed it until there was nothing left. The satisfying crunch of wood was more than a release in so many ways. The tension drained away as if it rolled off in waves.

I waited until I was so empty there was nothing but an empty shell of myself standing alone in the dark, with the stars and God as my witness for the one act of rebellion in my whole, pointless life.

Then I fell back into the cold, thick grass, feeling the first stirs of the dew seeping up from the ground and soaking that borrowed, striped shirt of blue and red flannel. The hat popped off my head, somewhere in the nearby grass.

Staring up into the sky, I watched it until I didn’t know whether I was awake or asleep. I talked about things until I was sure that I was sleeping. I told him everything that I had to say.

I told him about school.

I told him about making a guitar just like his own.

I told him how I ruined it, smashing it to pieces, grinding it into the dirt—just like he had done with all my hopes and dreams.

I told him how much I missed him, how much Mama missed him.

Then I told him how much I hated him—for making her nothing more than a wisp of a human being. As he went about living his life, she had lived solely for him and when he was gone, there was nothing left.

Of the nothing that was left, I made myself live. I made myself come alive to a way that I could make something of. Then I slowly gave my life away.

I poured it out until she was what I almost remembered.

That’s why I’d made the guitar in the first place. That’s why I’d had to destroy it. I could not be anything more as long as I tried so desperately to make their dream lives into reality. I had given enough—or tried enough.


Perhaps it was enough at last.

I wished so many things, pointless, useless wishes.

Then I told him how much I loved him and I cried until the dawn came.

When I made it back to the house the next morning, Mama was standing in the kitchen with the house phone in one hand and shock etched into the wrinkles on her face. She told me some sad story about how he was in trouble and how there had been an accident and how it was all wrong.

She told me he was in the hospital. She wanted to go, but couldn’t. She cried the tears I had given her and then the shock wore off.

She looked at me and I looked at her.

Then I went upstairs to my room and traded my plaid capris for a sturdy pair of blue jeans. I found a clean shirt in his closet and I exchanged it for the damp one I’d slept in. I used the wet fabric to scrape some of the dirt from the boots and polished it up nicely.

Mama held out a knapsack when I came down the stairs. I didn’t need to know that she’d packed sandwiches, cash from the cookie jar and a bottle of lemon iced tea. But she needed to tell me, so I let her.

I took the keys from her trembling hands and I held her face to kiss her cheek goodbye. I promised to call when I reached the city.

Then I walked out the front door and down the gravel drive until I reached the battered blue pickup at the end near the mailbox. I coaxed the engine to life and I whispered a prayer over the beaten dashboard.

Thoughts from the night before filtered into my head as I thought of nightmare that no longer hovered over me. I was free, somehow.

Free enough.



Free so I could drive this pickup all the way to the city bus stop and take a plane several states away. Free that I could get on board, tickets paid, mind clear. Free so that I could walk into that hospital and tell the receptionist that I was there to see my father.

Free to tell them that I would be taking him home.

Because for all that he was and all that he had done, he had always tried his best and his best was good enough for me.


“I’m sorry, Miss, can I help you?”

“I’m here to see Mr. Richenbach.”

Papers rustled and the receptionist didn’t even look up at the little country girl standing  on the other side of the counter. “I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed, the famed Mr. Richenbach is not staying at this-”

“He should be expecting me. I have already called ahead.”

There was a pause. “He is not seeing any visitors at the moment. Doctor’s orders.”

“He will see me.”

“Miss, I will not be repeating myself. I’m going to have to ask you to leave if you keep on insisting that-”

“He is expecting me.”

“I have no mention of it and-”

“Excuse me.” The tall navy-suited man leaned over the counter, his brilliant smile oozing of charm. “It seems I am late. Please excuse us. I am here to escort Mr. Richenbach’s daughter to his room. Please keep up the good work.” The man extended a hand towards the girl.

She reached up with skinny, long fingers and brushed mash-brown strings of hair away from a blank, empty face. Her sharp green eyes glittered ominously as she looked from the hand to him and tilted her head.

The receptionist muttered a few words, but the man chuckled. “I’m sorry, I should’ve introduced myself. Brayden McClurn, I’m your father’s publicity agent. It’s nothing serious to worry about, it was just a little accident on set. He’s perfectly fine. Best stuntman we’ve ever had—and he bounces back quick. Why, he’s been in worse before and-”

She cleared her throat.

There was no answer.

An awkward silence followed and then Mr. McClurn ducked his head. “Not very talkative, alright. Come this way, little missy. I’m sure your Pops will be happy to see you.” He sighed. “Never stops talking about his precious little cowgirl.”

© Sara Harricharan


Kristina Rohder said...

Wow... That was amazing, Sara! I was riveted to the screen from start to finish. I love how you develop your characters in such a powerful way. By the time I finish reading, I feel like I know them personally! Awesome writing, dearie! <3

Anonymous said...

There are so many levels in this!
I like it!
Great job, Sara!

Julie Arduini said...

Wow Sara, this is explosive, the tension is there from start to finish. You painted a vivid image of this relationship and I love how you used the guitar as a central "character." I always thought your writing was amazing but you are outdoing yourself every time I read something new. Keep it up!

Yvonne Blake said...

Excellent! (different than you're usual fantasy, but I loved the flow of thought)
You're getting much better as a writer, Sara!

Debra Ann Elliott said...

Great reading! I wanted to read more.