Walking Back to Daisy

Hello, friends.  I have now blogged twice in the past 24 hours. This is a new record. A big deal, one could say. That’s nearly 1/8th of my entire quota in the past three years, and I’m currently on pace to blog every single day for the remainder of this year. What an achievement.  Starting small for now, to eventually work my way up to bigger and greater things. As always, I’ll leave you with some fiction.

The tale continues.

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The jukebox plays a song about being blue. It began years, maybe decades ago, when someone slipped a few quarters into the slot, shuffled through the songs—there were many—and chose one about being blue.

She tossed me away, away, away.

Told me she won’t see me no more, no more.

The bar is empty now, the windows shattered and most of the stools worn and torn, leather stirring in the wind and metal rusted. The posters—of scantily clad women, and men smoking good cigarettes and wearing big smiles—are faded, now just tired faces and graying bodies covered in outdated designer clothing. The bar is still open, as the orange and black sign says open, even if lopsidedly and unlit. But the people are gone. They gathered here a long, long time ago.

There had been a man—and a woman, and other men and other women but they’re not important here; just one man and one woman are important to this story—and he had been feeling blue. This was when whiskey made all the difference. He had shuffled into the bar back before the door fell off its hinges and before bones and glass, and glass and stains, and stains and dirt, littered the floorboards. Back before the nails were rusted. It’s widely believed that the man had ordered whiskey, as that’s what blue men order—this, too, is widely believed.

The jukebox had not been playing back then—it begins soon.

The man took a few sips, grimaced, then gulped the whiskey down, savoring the burn. Much better than that other burn. You know, of the heart, and how it tears, and hurts, and once in a great while breaks, and that’s the worst burn, the kind you can’t live with but do anyway.

At this point he might have made small-talk with the bartender. The usual—weather, sports, economy, women, despite that men drinking and serving whiskey shouldn’t talk about women. The man, maybe wearing a drifter coat, or a duster, laid both arms across the counter like a great sphinx, and he scratched his face and neck where he agitated his skin from shaving. He missed his beard.

And the rain, she beat down on my head.

While walking back to Daisy.

The jukebox was still not playing at this point. Almost.

In all likelihood, after looking around and realizing he was the only one not with a woman on his arm, or at least a friend of some sort—other than the bartender, of course—the man stood and approached the jukebox nestled in the corner. Back then, the jukebox shined red and orange streaked with chrome blue, and back then, broken chairs and scrap metal and a caved-in wall did not surround the jukebox. This was before wind swept through the hole in the wall. Way back, when cold rain still fell.

Not a star in the sky

When she tossed me out the door.

The man might have peered through the window and glimpsed the blazing horizon, like a sudden neon light. He nevertheless shuffled through the jukebox, ignoring the blaze. Not a love song. Not tonight. Too much hurt. A blue night.

All nights are blue now.

Threw my coat and my keys

Told me I’d be dancing alone.

The man searched for a long time. The bartender probably cracked a joke, something about standing there all night, slow to choose, a song is a song. Of all things said in the bar that night—and there were many—that was the most unfounded.

A song is never just a song.

No kiss for me. No stars to see. No books to read.

A song can be everything, can mean everything, can change everything.

The sun didn’t shine no more.

The man most certainly slowed upon reaching the Blues, reading the titles one by one.

And the world didn’t feel right no more.

Such depressing titles.

And all things were lost

In the silence of her words.

He stopped at a title that caught his eye. Walking Back to Daisy. He pressed play and watched the disks tumble, heard the song begin. A man and his troubles, and a woman who caused them. At least that’s what he thinks. A man who lost everything, and a woman who took it all from him. A man who still hopes, and will always hope, because hope is all he has. The song is good and sad, and the man enjoys it more than he should.

And still the jukebox plays in its corner. There’s no one around to listen, and if there was, they wouldn’t know how the song’s still playing. The power’s been cut for a long time.. Darkness, and the faint red glow of the jukebox. The even fainter song whispering across the bar. And the sun, it hasn’t shined in years.

He opens his ice blue eyes and screams, has no idea what he just experienced and is terrified because of it. The world, so neon, like the lights that once shined here, above the bar and around the window and beside the jukebox. The distant blaze that came and blinded and went.

The jukebox.

He finds the flashlight on the floor, laying beside him. Aches shoot through his legs. He’s been laying here for a long time, though he doesn’t remember falling. Sweat covers his face, his clothes sticking to him, his hands barely able to grip the flashlight. He cannot begin to explain what just happened, whether it was a dream or vision or something unknown. A brief tumble into insanity. It all looked, and felt—and that’s the terrifying part—so real. He tastes whiskey on his lips and the back of his throat.

He notices the red glow in the tavern’s corner and pulls himself up. The jukebox is bathed in the light of blood, so crimson it hurts his eyes, like he’s staring through it and into another world. The entire corner, the jukebox, the wall and where there’s no wall but a gaping hole leading into the night, the floorboards and their jagged nails, the broken chairs and tables, the shelf lined with dusty collector mugs and framed pictures of people he doesn’t know, they all bathe in crimson. A sanguine communal, and he, the lone visitor, has been invited.

Only it’s just a jukebox, and just a light, and what he experienced, that vision, it was just…a slight step into the past. Or the future? The sun didn’t shine no more. The world didn’t feel right no more. Lyrics to a song he has never heard other than through a vision, of a life not his own, a time not even his. All things were lost in the silence of her words. Scorched winds. Rust. He looks around and sees that everything here is rusted. Rust lines the inside of the sink behind the bar and creeps up the facet, rust climbing the legs of folding chairs and engulfing nails and screws stabbing out of the floor.

Dust clings to his hands, between his fingers and beneath his nails. Dust on his duster coat and linen pants. And now, back at the gas station once again, dust covers layers every surface. His footprints are still visible in the fine gray coating. Rust on the wire racks holding chips and trail mix. Rust on the freezer handles and shopping baskets. A hole in the ceiling, from which rust falls from the sky.

The world passes us by before we realize it. The message isn’t addressed to him. Of course it isn’t, but the words still ring clear and true. He must be more observant, must see things, everything, before a lack of sight kills him, and it will kill him.

He’s sure of so very few things. One is that Green Lanes lacked this rust and dust. Chrome had shined as if polished and linens clean as if recently washed, the floors glossy and smelling of lemon, the only signs of disorder and age being broken glass and misplaced everything, and even that glass had glistened as if meant to be broken. Some things, he knows, are meant to be broken.

It’s better that way, when they’re finally made whole again.

He turns the flashlight off. Back at the tavern again, the jukebox provides more than enough light, even if crimson. Approaching it, he watches his hands turn a deep shade of red, as if he has bathed them in blood and refuses to wash. The knife in his hand glistens red, his coat soaked in the hue.

He stands before the jukebox and looks down at it, pulls it out of the corner. The machine is ancient, extremely heavy and made of solid steel and wood and no plastic to be found. Unlike the rest of the tavern, the jukebox is free of rust, and peering behind it, he does not see a cord or cable or anything connecting the machine to an outlet. Batteries, he concludes. Extremely durable batteries.

“Play me your favorite song,” he says. “Read me your favorite line.” He has said this before but does not remember to whom.

Or maybe someone said it to him.

So I can hear your voice.

The jukebox doesn’t respond. It glows crimson and hums almost too softly to hear.

The wind rustles outside, sweeping through the hole in the wall. He could turn around and walk through that hole. It’s that expansive, as if someone drove a car inside.

He turns, and his movements feel slow, and he sits, and his movements feel slower, and he stares into the red glow and frowns, and seconds pass as minutes and minutes as hours, and so on and so on.

And then the music. The jukebox makes the mechanical noises that jukeboxes make, its insides shifting and spinning and rotating, and then the music. Softly at first, barely audible, like the distant rains you watch adding texture to the sky, and feel as the day moistens and the winds pick up, but not truly hear until those rains are upon you, each drop the gentlest note ever played, not staccato in nature, but lasting, and lasting, and lasting as long as the day and longer than the night. A tender song, the blues, minor and morose and but passionate, the voice of a man who has known loss and still knows it, who feels little else, and, at least part of him, is comforted by it.

The jukebox sings to him, or rather, a man sings to him about a love lost and how the world has lost its shine and sun and stars, how nothing feels right and he, like his lone listener, is alone in the world and doesn’t know where to go or what to do other than trek as a husk who knows no better. Survive, and nothing more.

The song is loud now, filling The Resurrection Fern from wall to wall, to half a wall so that music pierces into the night, awakening the sleepers of this world.

And then, suddenly, the song ends—it isn’t a very long song but emotion fills each moment—and begins again, and despite knowing that he could sit here all night listening to the same song over and over again, until he memorizes the words so that he can sing them to himself, he stands, flashlight in one hand and knife in the other, and leaves the tavern, shutting the door behind him.

The song plays through the doors and windows and hole in the wall. Someone inside the tavern is walking back to Daisy, apologizing and trying to make right the so many wrongs that people do to each other when they’re in love, when the wrongs hit hardest and cut deeply enough to scar. To wrong someone you love, or have the potential and ability to love, even if the wrong is accidental…it’s all just so wrong. He laughs, knowing he will never be a poet; words are too hard to find. He will let better men write better words, and other men sing songs about love and loss and beginning again.

Instead, he will think of a different song, his own song that’s still forgotten. He will think of his own Daisy, whatever her name may be, for he grows more certain that she existed and still does. The song—both of them—summons loneliness, and night, especially without the stars, augments that loneliness. If only the radio in his car worked. If only stars speckled the sky. If only he could remember her name, or that she’s even real, or that she still remembers him as he’s trying to remember her.

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