Mountain Song

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(NOTE: This occurred in May 2015…)

Once at Murphy’s I am consumed with the idea of a beer. In one day I embraced mortality twice; surely, my libation limitations can be excused this evening!* Besides, the two male cousins before me, busy with setting up our pool table, have earned my trust, now and forever. I sip an ale and cherish the simple act of drinking.

A pool cue placed in my hand, and it’s my break. As I line the chalked tip between the 1st and 2nd balls to my right, the green felt bubbles. I blink to correct my contact lenses, then line up again. The smooth wood rod punches through my left grip, a sure shot, but instead, I scratch. I offer a self-deprecating comment to my company and giggle, then return the cue ball to start position. I attempt again. I fail again. The pool table is a tide moving quickly towards shore.

No one else sees this but me.

I look to my love and consider for a moment telling him, but his response will be a logical one: you’re coming down from the adrenaline rush, dear. This makes sense, except, I’m as calm and steady as I can physically be.

Perhaps more beer…

The cousins take to the table and I’m benched, nursing my ale, when I feel a wave of energy push against my right side. Moving only my eyes, I witness a furry, bearded man wearing a brown plaid shirt, hands clasped to his chest, eyes squinted inebriatedly. He smiles warmly then takes my hand as Jerry introduces us. “Ed, my name is Ed, I don’t know if I said it already…Ed.”

I find Ed to be comforting.

Jerry suggests we visit Ed’s studio. A break in the action? Sure. Brews are grouped aside and pool cues are chevroned to indicate, “We’ll be back.” A right turn from the cloaked billiards room over to the smoke haze of the outer patio, down the slicked side stairs and into the rain, the same murderous rain from our descent earlier. The audacity, I curse, as I bunny hop over puddles towards the adjacent building.

One key opens one door, another key unlocks another, then we’re in the presence of track lights and shiny instruments. Is this the universe interfering, or am I just plumb lucky? On the floor lies a six-string bass. Along the wall, a banjo, an acoustic and electric guitar, and a framed photograph. Jerry points and Ed blushes momentarily. BF doesn’t know who’s in the picture, but I’m well acquainted from my Kentucky days: the greatest picker in all of Appalachia, Mr. Doc Watson. To Doc’s right is our studio host, smiling and squinty-eyed.

Jerry goads him to play, which I know as an artist, we don’t need much cajoling to do what we love to do. Ed eases down onto a stool as I lower to the floor before him, cross my legs and cradle my hands, rocking into a cozy sit. “This is a song about a girl…” Ed starts as he fits his pick against the 3rd string and fingers his chords. The acoustics, so well tuned in the room, send me a fit of chills. He strums and sings with reverence as he shares his pained story, about the girl who moved on. My spine follows the melody and my shoulders meter the down beat. Where the cousins are I don’t know, all I know is this irresistible urge to sway. Side to side, side to side, as the notes play in the white light surrounding us. His words mute and I hear, “There, there. You’re all right. Everyone’s all right,” in a soft, wise, feminine voice. I’m cradled in a maternal embrace, a baby swaddled in a tight blanket of light. “There, there,” she sings. The terror of the last hour simultaneously manifests, actualizes then dissipates.

I feel, in a word, remarkable.

My snake dance to the charmer slows to an erect sit. Ed has finished playing. I awkwardly clap, hoping it’s not ill-timed. The cousins are ready to head back to Murphy’s but not before I take a few pulls of healing smoke. We leave, without Ed, from the glow of the studio back into the steady rain.

*: minutes before this interaction, the male cousins and I were near-death, sliding down the face of the mountain during an impromptu storm. This is the recovery from said event. Hence the beer.

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