All grown up now, an adult with no future and no past, no training to speak of. As a child my goal was uncomplicated, focused, I wanted to be a weathered leathery old bluesman, traveling the delta alone on foot, playing every 1920s backwoods juke-joint with saw dust on the floor and homegrown hooch on request, fifteen cents a bottle. Sit at the rough-hewn wooden bar, pull the cork out of the pint bottle with my teeth and drink, play when I’m drunk enough, leave when I’m ready. The nomadic troubadour without a map, just a National Steel tucked in his gunnysack, and itchy souls on his feet.
My teacher asked me what I wanted to do for summer vacation, I told her I wanted to hop a Greyhound to the crossroads and sell my soul to Ol’Scratch for blues power. Her face looked like a puzzle with some of the pieces gone, but if that disturbed her, what if she knew about the secret booty tucked into the bottom of my book satchel, what if she knew that I was packing a straight razor like I had heard all of the real bluesmen did. See I would as often as possible, sneak my dad’s straight razor from the medicine cabinet and carry it to school stashed neatly in the bottom of my Superman book satchel, lunch-bag, school paste, milk-money, straight razor, just the bare essentials. When I had that thing with me, I felt as though I had secret super powers just like the man of steel, hell I was the man of steel, cold steel. Just as soon as one of those pink-cheeked little crackers called me a ni**er, or a guit-fiddle pickin’ coon, I’d reach into my satchel and pull out my blade and lay’em open deep and wide. I’d stand over the little punk and in a gloat I’d laughingly say, “Well look at that, we are all pink on the inside, ain’t we!” Pretty lofty goals for an eight-year old white boy with a red plastic guitar.
My grandmother used to watch me and a cute blue-eyed blonde neighbor-girl after school while our parents were still at work. Granny had a tall rice bed about two and a half feet off of the ground, back then it seemed as high as a treehouse. I would sit underneath the giant bed with my back against the wall (I learned that early on too, keep your back agin’ the wall) and the neighbor-girl would lay across my lap on her belly with her pants down around her knees, and as we hid beneath the bed intersecting at the crotch forming this preadolescent “x”, I would softly caress her pouty little eight-year-old ass. She wanted the lioness’s share of the Popsicles that granny kept in the freezer for after school, and I wanted to see what a real moneymaker looked like in the flesh, I thought the arrangement worked out just fine, she got double her ration of popsicles per day, and I got weird fiery butterflies in my stomach that I was yet to understand. She was a Popsicle whore, and I was her John. One-day granny came in to make the bed and busted me in the act with my sweaty little palms pressed purposefully against neighbor-girl’s pillowy pink trunk. When my parents got home from work that afternoon they decided, upon hearing the horrifying news that their only begotten son was a demented sex fiend that they would take away as punishment for my lechery, my prized little red guitar. My heart pumped hard and fast, full of rage and panicked terror, this was my first run-in with the man over a young piece of ass, and only the beginning of a long and torrid history with loose women. Inside my head I said, “Fuck’em, I’ll blow the harp like Sonny Boy.” Now harmonica is a beautiful instrument, and I love few things more than to hear one played properly, but that was the longest two weeks of my life, and the only two weeks since that I’ve spent without a guitar handy, exceptin’ a couple of Superbowls back when I lost to Big Dougy, and the time I had to pawn it to get my car out of the city impound. When I got that little red guitar back that Thursday afternoon it felt better than cold cotton sheets on a hot August night.
Now I’ve never been big into the good book, but I sure loved going to vacation bible school each Sunday, mostly because I got to wear my fancy blue three piece suit, and partly because neighbor-girl was there, and her sweet little onion was beginning to ripen, talk about bringing tears to your eyes, hot damn, she could. My mom never did understand why in the middle of record summer heat an eight-year-old boy would want to dress up in his full-on Sunday go-to-meetin’ clothes. When all of the other kids wore shorts and tank tops, I was decked out to the hilt, I’d clip my tie on in the morning, wink at myself in the mirror, and think, “Shit-fire ol’man, you sure do cut a fetchin’shape!” The suit came from a Sears catalog, but to me something from somewhere else, anywhere else, was exotic, Illinois may as well have been Italy in my eight-year-old mind. It was 100% Grade “A” polyester, but with it on I felt like it was made of armor, and I was a slicked-out high-toned successful scholar of the open road. Sundays also meant fried chicken and lots of family coming over. I would sit in the corner of the kitchen with my greasy chicken leg and my tall attitude, watching and listening to my extended family mauliin’ the spirituals as grease dripped from my elbows. Silently I’d ponder why none of them could clap or tap feet on time, why were they always on the up count. All children are born with rhythm, even white babies, that’s a natural known fact, I had rhythm in spades and they were quietly trying to breed it out of me with these weekly anti-groove gatherings. Most Sundays I would eat alone on the front porch swing, trying not to hear the rhythm-less unmelodic quasi-musical racket resonating from inside the house. I would just swing and eat, daydream about my old friends from the road, my days as a field hand, the razor in my boot, and defiantly count to four over and over.