Ernest was not troubled that his epiphany was simply a recognition of the obvious, something that would have appeared no great mystery if considered while standing on the platform, but the observation and accompanying question—why was that?—had drifted into his mind like a fallen autumn leaf which the explosive arrival of the train had blown back out again and it was only after he had boarded the train and left the Norwood Av station far behind that the thought had recurred to him and he had begun pondering the view from the el platform, no longer benefiting from direct observation but instead summoning in memory what his eyes had gazed upon only moments earlier and on many mornings, and while he was not troubled for having spent his morning’s commute on so lengthy a voyage only to arrive at the obvious, since the final insight yielded by his reflections was recognition of an axiomatic truth rather than the obviousness of how and why the two views from the el platform differed, neither did he seem to derive pleasure from the more momentous recognition of the remarkable operations by which his brain had brought such efficient closure to the idle ruminations of his fancy, of the hidden alchemy that converts sensory data into knowledge and understanding trustworthy enough upon which to stake one’s weightiest decisions and actions, data collected casually, unsystematically, through a pedestrian assimilation, a peripatetic accretion, not unique to human beings and in fact exhibited with far greater proficiency by some of the so-called lower species, but then again, perhaps the smile on his face when exiting the train at Essex-Delancey originated not only from his conclusion that a shift in perspective may yield greater understanding but also partly from an appreciation of the wondrous machinery that, with a given assortment of sensory data, could manufacture such a conclusion, and yet, even while he was virtually being carried off the train in the snug embrace of the commuting herd, Ernest and his smile seemed to count for very little amongst the sea of human faces each with its own expression—whether smile, frown, grimace or sneer—each produced as a result of differing circumstances and different sensory data, each with its own peculiar story to tell, for anyone interested in reading it.
Sunday, February 24, 2013
I was arriving home close to midnight the other night when, as I pulled my car up in front of the house, I notice a moving figure in the driveway. It was long and short and in no hurry and at first all I could out was its silhouette. As I continued looking, it stepped into the light thrown by a nearby streetlamp and revealed itself as a young fox. I fumbled for my camera, still amused by the fact that everyone nowadays carries a phone, and therefore also a camera, and therefore also a calculator, a music player, a library, a tv, a sender and receiver of instant mail and messages, and access to the web, which means access to everything. The little device I carried in my pocket was way smarter than I was. I jumped out of the car and pursued Mr Fox, camera in hand. He did not wait around to pose but instead led me on a merry chase, at first not bothering to hurry but then as my presence grew more imposing, moving with a brisk pace. I soon found myself tromping through deep cakey snow, sliding and crunching over both smooth and crusty ice, struggling to keep my prey in sight. But it was no use and I soon felt very alone, stumbling like a fool over the northwest tip of Nicollet Island. But then I realized that it wasn't very cold out, that it was rather delightful, in fact. So I slowed down and enjoyed a leisurely stroll beneath the stars that shone clearly from on high, while smiling to myself at a song popular in my youth, in the mid-1970's, called 'Fox on the Run.'
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Ernest Kalinowski stood at the far end of the platform waiting for the train and executed a slow 360° revolution while surveying his surroundings, the grimy brick exterior of the bowling alley sporting the huge illuminated bowling pin, the dingy tenements flanking it to the east with their rickety-looking fire escapes, the narrow lane of the platform peopled by other waiting commuters and leading to the small station shanty that barely accommodated the token seller’s booth, then to the north another row of tenements but with more of a visible expanse beyond the rooftops than the other side—why was that?—where you could see an awful lot of blue sky and even the hills of Highland Park off in the distance if you squinted, and turning to the west lay the tracks extending to the next station and beyond: Cleveland St, followed by Van Siclen Av, Alabama Av, Eastern Parkway also known as Broadway Junction where you could change trains to continue in either of five different directions, and beyond that a slew of stops which Ernest knew by heart because he didn’t change at Broadway Junction but continued on to Marcy Av, the final stop before crossing the bridge and where all the Hasidic Jews got on, and after the bridge came the plunge into the tunnel that shut out the natural world, when the lights in the car might stay on or not but Ernest didn’t much care because by that time he was preparing to deboard at the first stop in the tunnel, Essex-Delancey, and where on this particular day, as he stood to begin edging toward the doors, he suddenly realized the reason you could see more to the north of the Norwood Av el platform than to the south, when standing on the platform, was because the tenements on the south side were closer to the platform, separated from the Jamaica-bound track by only the width of the sidewalk below, whereas on the other side, the tenements were farther away from the Manhattan-bound track because this was the point where Fulton Street below gave birth to Arlington Avenue, which sprouted out of Fulton Street like the branch of a tree and veered off to the northeast while Fulton continued to accompany the el tracks all the way to Broadway Junction and only then did the tracks diverge to follow Broadway into Williamsburg where the QJ could begin creeping across the East River on the Williamsburg Bridge, and so all you could see to the south from the Norwood Av platform was a sliver of sky above the tenement roofs but if you turned to the north you could see so much more, and Ernest got off at Essex-Delancey smiling to himself with the insight that sometimes you needed only to pivot your glance 180° to obtain an entirely different perspective and see things you could never otherwise see, even if you stood looking in the same direction until doomsday.
--D.E. Sievers ... working on 2nd sentence now, following the idea of a novella (or novel) consisting of long, single-sentence paragraphs such as this. We'll see where it goes. If it goes.
--D.E. Sievers ... working on 2nd sentence now, following the idea of a novella (or novel) consisting of long, single-sentence paragraphs such as this. We'll see where it goes. If it goes.
Monday, February 18, 2013
Excerpt from my novel 'The Trees in Winter' ...
By the time he’d left Bourbon Street behind, with its bleary-eyed tourists and conventioneers, Blake’s animal appetites had awakened to dispel all considerations not strictly of the here and now. He was hungry and thirsty and his legs groaned in their joints and tendons from the day’s exertions. Foot traffic on the streets grew sparse as he wended his way to the northeast, toward Frenchmen Street. The night air was thick and redolent of honeysuckle and hyacinth, sweet cloying aromas that carried the whiff of a native exotica and a hint of narcotic menace, like the residual scent of burnt opium; its intoxicating effect lulled him into a state of lassitude and effortless surrender, warming him with a pleasurable sense of gratitude to be there.
He heard Frenchmen Street well before he saw it: a rising cacophony of people in the streets, music leaking from the bars and clubs, the bleating horns and squealing brakes of taxicabs. If the festival had been a full length play, and Bourbon Street a single act, then Frenchmen Street was but a scene, or rather, the scene. It was where the real players showed up for the festival’s curtain call, to wring from the joyous celebration of the New Orleans sound its final exultant notes. While Bourbon Street catered to the undiscriminating tastes of the rabble, with its booze and beads and bawdiness, Frenchmen Street would play host to those who had come for the sound—that crazy brew of potent jazzahol that lived on in one’s mojo long after the effects of low grade hooch had been flushed away. For one such as Blake Thomas, there was no other place to be. So he zigged and zagged his way along the crowded sidewalks, where adults stood bantering and nodding and playing it cool, and he felt no sense of unbelonging, playing it cool himself with a youthful bob and swagger in his step.
It was only upon being shown to a single vacant seat at a tableful of young people, in the nightclub he’d sought out, that he was met with an awkward sense of his relative antiquity. His arrival had seemed to exert a sobering effect over those he was seated with, and yet, as he placed his order and polished off a meal, and the replenishment of drinks stoked the goodwill of all present, he found himself being welcomed as one of the group and drawn into conversation. They were all in from Little Rock for the festival and looked to be in their late twenties or early thirties. The two girls were very pretty and more so when they smiled, which was often. Of their three male companions, one was thin and eager for the band to take the stage. He had delicate facial features and long straight brown hair, a gold band curling around an earlobe, and Blake was guessing he played in a band himself. Of the other two, one was quiet and had the corn-fed look of a farm boy, and one talked almost incessantly, the joker and most gregarious of the lot. It was he who had first acknowledged Blake, and it was he who kept them all laughing and wholly at ease. With his glib repartee, his long jaw, bug eyes and prominent nose, the kid was a born comedian. After two gin and tonics, Blake was smiling effortlessly, laughing unreservedly, and fully embracing the illusion that there was little he and his new friends did not have in common. And for the remainder of the night, it might well have been true.
The music came at length and when it did it was more than Blake had hoped it would be, a trombone and trumpet player Blake had seen perform as a prodigy yet in his teens, Trombone Shorty, who now, a mere handful of years younger than Blake, was still producing sounds and hitting notes Blake had never heard firsthand coming out of a trumpet, a powerhouse lung, lip and tongueman and a first rate showman to boot, who held a single note while taking air through his nose and sneaking it out the corners of his mouth, his cheeks ballooning fit to burst, blowing that note while the audience howled and drummer and bass player thumped right along and the waitress delivered drinks, collected the selfsame glasses as they were emptied and filled them again, and still he blew that same damn note though the audience had grown hoarse and some of its members took to resuming conversations or running to the head, and Blake stood transfixed like a man ensorcelled, insensible to the lateness of the hour and the aches in his overwrought limbs and the buffetings of the densely packed crowd, until at last Shorty relinquished the note he’d held by the throat for so long and his lank torso flopped forward, exhausted, and the crowd voiced its approval in a fierce jungle roar that transcended time and space and individual muster, a mighty Niagara of well earned devotion flooding the room, beyond the capacity of anyone present to subdue or allay except he who had called it forth and who acknowledged the ovation by lifting that golden horn yet again and leading and leading his players down from the stage and marching through the room, cleaving the crowd with the Dixieland sound, strutting and swinging in a jazz town jubilee as the line grew longer and longer until it snaked through every quarter of the room, even passing behind and along the full length of the bar and back out again, exempting no one from its joyful, unapologetic celebration of life, least of all Blake, who marched grinning with delight in the midst of his Little Rock friends, resting on the shoulders of the brown haired cat while one of the girls clutched his own hips, and feeling nothing but happy and energized and mildly drunk, but more than all this, deeply inspired by the passionate and nuanced articulations of the night to respond with what music remained in his soul, to welcome back into his life the swinging, funky, jumping, jiving, bluesy, classical jambalaya of sweet, soaring jazz, thoughts of which simmered and swirled in his mind through the remainder of the night, rose with him in the morning, and soon thereafter began taking the shape of notes and chords and keys that he scribbled on a pad while his plane rose from the Big Easy and carried him back home.
from 'The Trees in Winter' by D.E. Sievers, available now on Amazon
Saturday, February 16, 2013
And it was there, in Croatia, in the place he'd always lived, the only place he'd ever known, that he lost the only woman he'd ever loved. A casualty of war, she was there and then was gone, in the split second of a gunshot's staccato pop, echoing in his head long after his beloved's body had landed in the dirt.
He’d gotten lost after that, in the gloomy forest of a grieving mind, where he wandered alone in search of light. Occasionally, he heard the sound of sobbing and directed his footsteps in its direction. Without thought or feeling he performed manual operations that quelled the sobs. And continued wandering in that desolate wilderness.
He sat near a window most days, unseeing and devoid of hope, as time passed like a silent parade he neither saw nor heard. He no longer knew whether or not he was a good man, whether or not there were any good men. He didn’t think about whether there were things he ought to be doing, and if so, what those things might be. Why should it matter? Outside his window, leaves tumbled along in the breeze, meaningless, directionless.
Did his life hold any more meaning than these? What matter which direction he tumbled?
Then came the morning when something reached his ears from the silent parade of time, a melancholy strain that wafted as if on the breeze, through his window, into his ears, and from there, into the heart fallen dormant so long ago in the middle of that gloomy forest. The heart awakened and he rose to his feet, like Lazarus raised from death. He followed the sound as one enchanted until he reached its source, and what he found proved the instrument of his awakening.
He returned home with an acquisition, or rather, a gift. Each day thereafter, he sat by his window, pushing and pulling a horsehair bow across four catgut strings. Clumsy and ignorant at first, but becoming more and more adept with each day that passed, he began making a kind of music that only he could make. He invited it into his life and his heart accepted it. And the source of the sobbing he’d mechanically appeased after his wife’s death, his small companion in bereavement, whom he had somehow kept alive since then, caring for her while in a stupor of perpetual grief—this small companion appeared before him as never before. He who was blind was now made to see, his ears made to hear, and his heart to beat.
They stood at the window together, making the kind of music for which life is worth living.
Monday, February 11, 2013
The little boy stopped in the middle of the boulevard, on the double yellow line between the speeding two-way traffic, and just stood there. It seemed like nobody was aware of him except maybe the drivers in their split-second glance as they sped past, wondering if they had really seen what they thought they’d seen. All of a sudden an elderly man stepped off the curb and began hobbling into the path of oncoming traffic. The sound of squealing brakes stabbed the air as cars screeched to a halt and the man continued hobbling across the lanes. He made it to the center, took the little boy’s hand, and together they crossed back to safety, to where the old man had begun. Still holding hands, they walked farther away from the busy road and entered a nearby park, into which they soon disappeared entirely to any who may have been watching. The traffic had resumed and the only ones who would retain a memory of the elderly man and the little boy were the passing motorists who would arrive home with a story to tell their families around the dinner table that night.
Sunday, February 10, 2013
It was 1949 and Louis had come up from the South to visit an aunt. He wore his finest suit and carried a smart briefcase so as to appear prepared and professional, for while in New York he was looking into prospects for work. If he discovered there was potential for him to make a living there, he was not averse to doing so. But he distrusted Northerners and was not optimistic.
His first day in town found him eating a sandwich at the Automat, a place he had heard about and which friends had insisted he visit, so he could return to testify upon whether it were true, that you could actually buy sandwiches and dinners out of coin-operated machines. Louis sat and chewed his damp liverwurst sandwich slowly, thinking yes, it is true, but also that it was the worst sandwich he had ever eaten.
Through the large plate glass window, he saw hordes of people stampeding left and right along the pavement, and was amazed they weren’t knocking into one another. He saw and heard the noisy street traffic, an angry growling of car engines and a desperate bleating of horns. He couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to live here, how they could stand it.
Then he heard an eruption of strident shouting in his midst and turned quickly in its direction. The shouting came from near the door where a tall white woman was holding the arm of a teenager who was trying to twist free and make his way out the door. The teenager’s face expressed all the righteous indignation befitting the victim of a cruel injustice. Louis shook his head knowingly, thinking: ah, so it happens here too. The world is the same everywhere. He saw anguish and desperation and helplessness in the boy’s face and felt sympathy, while in the woman’s face he saw only arrogance and superiority, the sadistic pleasure of one accustomed to wielding power over another, not merely with impunity but with sanctioned authority. Now a uniformed guard came rushing over to join the altercation and the boy ceased his efforts to wrest free. Louis felt a tightening in his gut, like someone wringing out a dishcloth in there. He turned back to his unpalatable lunch. He didn’t want to see what was going on around him, didn’t want to know about it.
A few moments later, a voice addressed him sharply. “Pardon me, Sir?”
He turned to find the tall woman standing at his elbow, staring down at him. So he was to be next, he thought.
“I believe this is yours?” she asked, holding out a smart looking briefcase.
Louis looked to the side of his chair, where he had stood the briefcase that was no longer there.
“I happened to notice a young man sneak up and take it when you weren’t paying attention. He was just about to make off with it when I caught him near the door.”
Louis gaped at the briefcase she held up, unmistakably his own.
“Y-yes,” he stammered. “That is my bag. I don’t know what to say, I’m … ”
Louis was so flustered, he found it a challenge to properly deliver the words of his gratitude.
“It’s quite all right,” said the woman, “no need to thank me. It’s a large city with all kinds of people in it. We all have to look out for one another, don’t we?”
Louis looked up at her, grinning, and just nodded. The woman set down his bag, turned and walked back to her own table. He reached down and scooted the briefcase around to where he could scissor it between his legs, then returned to his sandwich, which he found did not really taste so bad after all.
Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Sunday, February 3, 2013
The very first time Ruth Campbell laid hands on his daddy's beat-up old six-string Stella, he could feel the music leap right up off the strings and go straight to his heart. It stayed in there and kept right on vibrating until he began letting it out to where others could hear it. He sang, hummed, whistled, yodeled, banged on pots, blew into jugs, dragged a stick across a picket fence, anything at all that his hands or mouth could do to produce melody and rhythm.
Sad thing was, by the time Ruth got old and capable enough to make something that a body could really call music, his daddy had taken that Stella and anything else he could carry out the door, down the road, and clean out of East Woodward forever. His mama had fallen ill and taken to her bedroom, with a stack of books, a little old Zenith black and white, and a big old dependency on Ruth for anything she needed to survive. That boy loved music, but when it come right down to it, he loved his mama more. Every day after school, while other boys would go to the ball field or ride their bikes or go tramping along the railroad tracks, he would march straight home to make sure she was okay and to wait on her every need. Naturally, the other boys would tease and taunt, call him a mama's boy, push him around, make fun of his name, and all the other mean things young boys did to others to make themselves feel bigger. But Ruth, that skinny, scrawny scarecrow of a boy, just acted like they was plumb invisible. And while them other boys was out doing the usual things boys did, Ruth was buying groceries, cooking meals, doing laundry, cleaning house, caring for his mama, and becoming the kind of man that was, in the time and place where he lived, just out and out unique.
"You were named after one of our greatest Presidents," his mama told him. "And you need to follow his example and pay no attention to fools who aren't fit to lace up your shoes. Why, President Hayes got wounded four times when he was in the army, then he went and became President, and after that he became a governor. He was a big believer in education and in treating all people with equality, no matter the color of their skin. When he was President, not a drop of alcohol was served in the White House, and when his poor wife Lucy died that man's heart broke right to pieces. You know what his last words were when he was dying?"
"No'm," Ruth replied.
"He said 'I know that I'm going where Lucy is'. Now ain't that a man to admire? You think anyone made fun of his name?"
"No'm," Ruth replied.
Even laid low with sickness, Ruth's mama was uncanny smart. All day long she sat reading from the stacks of books she had Ruth haul home from the library, and in the evenings she turned on that Zenith just to give her brain a rest. Sometimes Ruth sat with her and they laughed together at Uncle Miltie and some of the other silly shows, but most of the time he was in a different room singing, tapping his hands, and figuring ways to make music out of ordinary household items. He made a guitar out of a cigar box and a length of post. He made a set of drums out of some old Maxwell House coffee cans. He made a kazoo out of the inside of a roll of toilet tissue. And when he was old enough to get a job outside of the home, clerking at the local Piggly Wiggly, he began saving his wages for the day he could buy himself a real instrument. He dreamed of one day moving to the big city and playing music in front of crowds of folks, making them hum and tap their feet. After all, Enid was less than a hundred miles away. He knew that his ultimate destiny, whatever else may happen to him, would be bound up in music. But until then, he would stay in East Woodward and care for his mama and let the music keep right on playing in his pure and good natured heart.
* * * * *
Spunky Webb lived in the westernmost house in West Woodward. Spunky may not seem like a proper name for a little girl, but that was what everyone called her on account of her brash and uninhibited personality. Her real name was Virginia Elizabeth Webb, but she was a real firecracker—larger than life, you might say—and to her family, friends, neighbors, teachers, and everybody else around town whose attention she attracted (seized and held for ransom was more like it), she was always just plain Spunky.
Spunky was just nine years old but most folks said she was nine going on twenty-nine. The word precocious was often used and not used amiss. The boys her age couldn't even begin to compete, no way nor no how. You could call her a tomboy but that wouldn't quite capture all she was. Sure, she could throw a ball and hit one as well as the boys, she could out-talk them, out-run them, and have them rolling on the ground with a fast kick to their pocket pals before they knew what hit 'em. But the boys her age, and playing ball and climbing trees and running around, had all become a supreme bore to her by the time she'd turned nine. What Spunky really wanted most now, what she read about and dreamed about and aspired to and even practiced for, was to become a movie star. A singer, a dancer, a glamorous actress! Fame and fortune! The silver screen! Hollywood!
Spunky would lie around in bed for hours mooning over Film Fan magazine, Modern Screen, Motion Picture—why, she collected them all! And what's more, the girl had talent! She could sing a melody right on key, loud and strong and full of feeling, and she could do it while tap dancing, while swiveling her undeveloped hips and throwing her restless hands to the left and to the right, and throwing her fool head around till it was like to drop off and go rolling down the road. And do you think she would drop her eyes to the dirt while performing in front of people? I should say not! Spunky's big bright eyes would open wide and stare down her audience, man for man, so that each would feel like an audience of one, just like Spunky was saying with those fearless eyes: you and I know what's what, don't we? We know there ain't much a body can do to fix this busted-up old world except sing and dance and make the most of what we've got!
And even though she might scare them just a little, and they might pretend to feel otherwise, people appreciated Spunky's lively spirit and even felt a little lucky to be in her presence. Deep inside, most were thinking: that girl's gonna go places and be something, she is! And folks usually can't help admiring people like that, even if they don't say it right out.
Sometimes on a Sunday afternoon, Spunky's mama or papa would invite neighbors or church folk to drop by for sweet tea and some sweet potato pie, and on such occasions one of them would always invite Spunky to perform for their guests. There had been a time when Spunky had embarrassed her folks with her audacious and unpredictable behavior, but they soon got over that. There would always be those who looked down their sharp, judgmental noses at Spunky and declared her too forward or too unladylike, too cheeky or too immodest, but her mama and papa loved her and came to take great pride in the force of nature they called Spunky, this little girl who possessed more energy and more talent, more of a zest for life and just more plain old chutzpah than most people would ever have.
"Spunky!" her mama would call, "Come sing a nice song for our guests!"
And she wouldn't have to ask Spunky twice. Before their guests had even gotten well settled in their folding chairs, in the shade of the big old sycamore in front of the Webb house, Spunky would be dancing as if she was on a Broadway stage, like her feet was on fire, singing the popular Gershwin tune I Got Rhythm until those neighbors were tapping their toes right along with her. But after Spunky performed one or two numbers, her mama or papa would send her a look to let her know showtime was over, just to make sure she didn't monopolize the visit. Then, Spunky would usually whirl away in search of the kind of free open space for her tornado energy that a lawn chair just couldn't contain. And the guests could begin sippin' their sweet tea and makin' polite conversation.
The thing about being Spunky Webb, no matter how cheerful or vivacious or self-assured she might be, was that there was only one Spunky Webb in Woodward, Oklahoma. Only one that she knew of, anyway. And living in a world where there was nobody else even remotely like her could, at times, get awful lonesome. How she loved to sing and dance! But she didn't know anybody else like that. She didn't know anybody who would dare sing anywhere outside of a church choir. She didn't know anyone whose body and spirit were moved by music like hers was, at least nobody that dared let it show! And folks were intimidated by Spunky's self-assurance. When she looked them in the eye, they would look away or down at their feet. When she tried to sing a snatch of melody or show a new dance step, they got uncomfortable and made an excuse to go someplace else. She couldn't understand it, but that's how it was. Somehow, folks were more comfortable and enjoyed her company more when they was in numbers. When there was two or three or more folks standing together, they could look to each other with that herd mentality, smile and chuckle with one another, as if to say: Yep, that Spunky sure is something, ain't she a real character!
* * * * *
Rutherford Campbell walked along the dirt road that led from his home in East Woodward to the town of Woodward proper, the road that in fact turned into the town's main street, cutting through the center of town and continuing on to West Woodward and beyond. He carried the guitar that he'd finally saved enough money to buy and wore on his head the only article his daddy had left behind all those years ago when he'd vanished one morning like a hazy dream vanishes when you awaken: a jaunty wide-brimmed fedora with a thick black ribbon. Ruth's daddy might just as well have been a hazy dream, for all Ruth could remember of him. And now that his mama had passed on, Lord rest her soul, Ruth was about as alone as a body could be. Now it was just him and his music, which was okay by him, though he got to feeling lonesome at times like anybody else. He'd been walking to town on Saturday afternoons for some weeks now, a lanky wind-blown figure swinging his long legs out before him and swinging his guitar case by his side, like a stick figure someone had drawn in charcoal gray on a dry and grainy sheet of parchment and brought to life like the animated cartoons on the TV. Arriving at the center of town, Ruth removed his guitar from its case, leaving the case open on the road for anyone who cared to toss a coin or two his way, and commenced playing and singing the songs he'd learned, the songs he'd made up, the songs that carried the music in his heart out into the world for others to hear and enjoy. Most folks paused a moment and regarded him as they might regard a queer type of bird they'd never seen before, then walk on. Once in a while, someone would stay to hear an entire song or even exchange a few quick pleasantries. But most often, it was just Ruth singing his heart out to the sun and sky and air beneath his nose.
Virginia Elizabeth Webb capered along the road leading east, toward Woodward proper. She didn't just walk but moved in a sort of skipping, hopping, hiccupping dance that, among other things, had earned her the name Spunky. She would sashay to the left, sashay to the right, pirouette, leap forward as if jumping over a puddle, shimmy backward, high-step forward, shake all her limbs like an uncontrolled marionette, then begin all over again. Now and again she would burst into song, any old thing that had been playing in her head and needed to be let out. She would sing it loud and strong until the record player inside her came to a stop, sometimes abruptly, sometimes gradually like the whimper of air escaping from a balloon. Spunky wasn't about to hang around the dull, worn-out hem of Woodward's western sleeve all this endless Saturday afternoon. It was a boring place for anybody, but for Spunky Webb it was nothing short of sheer torture. So she hopped right along like a robin in spring, twitching her head this way and that, her keen eyes open to whatever life might drop in her path, ready to spread her wings and take flight at the slightest provocation.
She heard it before she saw where it come from, the sound of music riding on the air, smooth and light as a knife spreading butter on bread. At first she heard just the sound of an instrument playing, then that of a voice singing, and then the two merged together so that you couldn't separate one from the other. She skipped along faster, eager to locate the source.
Ruth was singing with all his heart and soul, swingin' his strumming hand down and back up in a smooth rhythmic motion to accompany his voice. It was a lively tune he'd written himself, and as he poured all his feeling into the final verse he happened to glance down the road to the west and what he saw nearly caused his voice box to close up in amazement. He saw just her outline in the distance before he could make out any details, but there was no mistaking that she was dancing. It appeared to be a little girl, coming toward him, flouncing her body around like a crazed jitterbug right down the middle of Main Street. And the closer she got, the less doubt there was that she was dancing to his music—to the song he had written his very own self—to the song he himself was a-singin' and a-playin' right there in Woodward, Oklahoma in the broad daylight of a Saturday afternoon. She kept right on a-shakin' and a-shimmyin' as she come down the road, until there she was right in front of Ruth, dancing like people in Woodward just didn't dance, leastways not in the middle of Main Street. Did she stop dancing in front of Ruth? She did not! Did she drop her eyes to the pavement, avoiding eye contact with the performer? She did not! Did Ruth himself stop singing or strumming? I should say not! Spunky kept right on dancing and Ruth kept right on singing and playing until he brought the song to its natural end, and when he did they just looked at each other and grinned from ear to ear, till their faces was like to split wide open. And then Ruth began to play another song, a slower one, a song that Spunky herself knew backwards and forwards.
Moon river, wider than a mile
I'm crossing you in style some day ...
Spunky didn't need a formal invitation. She opened her mouth wide, threw back her head, and a voice bigger than anyone would've thought could fit inside that little body came charging on out to join with Ruth's voice.
Two drifters, off to see the world
There's such a lot of world to see ...
They sang that whole song together, Spunky and Ruth, and the joy they both felt in doing so was a sight to behold. They didn't really have an audience to speak of, but they didn't really need one. What came out of Ruth was like one note and what came out of Spunky was like another note, and when those two notes ran into one another that day, why, they produced a single chord that was nothing short of a miracle of beauty and magic. And when they came to the last line in the song, and Spunky spread out her arms and threw back her head in the pure abandon of her love of performing, and Ruth's face reflected the kind of happiness he hadn't known for, well, that he maybe hadn't ever known, then you could see right off, like reading a message written in the sky by a passing plane, that neither of their lives would ever be the same again.
We're after that same rainbow's end, waitin' 'round the bend
My huckleberry friend, moon river, and me