38. Guitar

an attempt at a short story? what?


“I think he would have wanted you to have it,” the old lady said, gesturing with one arm to the corner of the room, where the case, sat, covered with dust. She shrugged. “Nobody else in the family knows how to play guitar.”

Sam felt supremely awkward. He hadn’t seen his grandfather since he was seven. A few months after that summer visit, the old man had remarried, and his mom had never liked the new woman. Step-Grandmother – was that even a word? Was there a word for this relationship? He had no idea. He’d never had a relationship with her.

“Well, I guess I can take it,” he said with a shrug. He had a vague memory from early childhood of the old man playing the instrument. Maybe that had been what had motivated him to take lessons. Maybe not.

“You want something to drink?” Step-Grandma asked. “I’ve got lots of soda, juice, tea. Lemonade!”

“Lemonade sounds great,” Sam said. He didn’t really care for lemonade, wasn’t even thirsty. The old lady looked delighted, and left the room. Sam shrugged, stepping into the room.

There was an inch or so of dust on the case, and the latches were stiff with disuse. Inside, the guitar was in remarkably good shape. The case had kept the dust off, and the strings didn’t look too worn. He gripped the neck and lifted it gently from the case. A strap of woven leather was still attached.

“Probably sounds like crap,” he said to the empty room, and an experimental strum bore him out, making him wince.

“It’s probably been awhile since it was tuned,” Step-Grandma said from the doorway, an apologetic look on her face and a tall glass of lemonade in her hand.

“Yeah, the strings get loose pretty quickly if you don’t play it,” Sam agreed. He set down the instrument and took the glass of lemonade. “Any idea how old the strings are?”

“Oh, six months maybe,” the old lady answered. “Your grandfather was pretty regular about that. I remember we went to the music store right before Christmas. He wanted to play carols for the kids.”

“Christmas carols?” Sam asked. He took a sip of the lemonade. It was remarkably sweet, and not terribly lemon-y. He found that he did not dislike it, which surprised him.

“Oh yes,” was the answer. “Every Christmas the kids would come over, and we’d have a regular concert. Your cousin Angelica has a great voice – have you heard her sing?”

Sam frowned. “Not since I was twelve,” he admitted. “School concert.”

“It’s too bad you couldn’t make it for the funeral,” Step-Grandma continued, undaunted. “I’m sure everyone would have loved to see you.”

“Yeah,” Sam said with a shrug. “School. Oh, and Mom didn’t tell me.”

The old woman frowned again, this time pursing her lips into a somewhat disapproving frown, but she did not comment on the matter. Instead she sat down on a nearby armchair. She smoothed out nonexistent wrinkles from her pale blue skirt. “What do you think of the guitar?”

“It’s nice,” Sam agreed. “It needs tuning, but it’s in good shape.”

“Will you play it often?” she asked.

“Probably. It’s older, but nicer than the ones I have, so I might try playing it at my next concert.”

“Oh, do you play concerts often?”

“Every other Saturday,” he replied. “School has this, well, it’s sort of an open mic night. For all the music majors.”

“You’re a music major?”

“No,” he said, holding up a hand. “Mom would kill me. Accounting for me. I just play for fun.”

The old lady made the same sort of disapproving frown for a moment, but it passed quickly. “Good. Music should be fun. Your grandfather always thought that.”

Sam studied the guitar for a moment. He shut the case, fastened the latches, then finished his lemonade. He lifted the case, got to his feet. “Well, thanks for letting me pick it up.”

Step-Grandma stood, taking the empty lemonade glass back from him. “I hope it works out well for you,” she said. “Thank you for visiting, Sam.”

He went to the door and paused. “I have summer break in a month. If you don’t mind, I’d like to come by and show you how it sounds.”

She brightened immediately. “Sam, that would be wonderful. I look forward to it.”


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