Git Tar

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There was the man on the street corner in a grimy part of New York City. He sat against the side of a crumbling brick building, begging the poverty-stricken passersby to give him what they had. A guitar case sat in front of him, but he played an old flute, making sweet music that caused his audience to turns their heads ever so slightly, if not stop to watch him. Some of them, even if they would not (or could not) look him in the eye, would drop a quarter or a dollar or a couple pieces of lint in the case, and he would nod, his eyes giving the thanks. Sometimes there would be a tourist, a young kid or an old man who had no experience in a big city, who would take pity on the man on the street corner (and every other man on every other street corner until they ran out of money) and drop a twenty into the case. At those he would stop playing entirely and thank the giver profusely. Mostly so that the giver would continue to give.

Then there was the other man on the other street corner in the other city playing another instrument, but for a different reason. The street corner contained the front steps and the stoop to his townhouse, which was in one of the best neighborhoods in the city. He played his guitar simply because it gave him pleasure to do so. It was a way to unwind after a long day at the office. Nobody ever mistook him for a bum or vagrant - he was too confident, too well-dressed. Still, there would be the occasional tourist - the young kid or the old man - who would walk by him and just stand for a moment, confused: this guy was playing a guitar. On a street corner. In public. But he has no case for money. And he looks nice. What's going on? Most of them would figure it out after awhile and walk away, but some would continue to stand awkwardly. Those people would then slowly sidle up to the first step, lay a quarter on it, and take off, heads down, confused. The other man would laugh, take the quarter, and put it in a jar. When the jar was full, he would take it outside and empty it into the nearest homeless person's guitar case.

But then there was the tourist. He was an old man, one who had never ventured much beyond his little rural hamlet in the midwest. There he had built a hard but nice life with his wife, and had always voted Republican. With his seventieth birthday came the realization that he had never actually been anywhere. He had only heard things described. So he packed his bags, and, leaving his wife with one of their kids (she had no desire to go), toured the five largest American cities. In the first he met the first man, and, overcome with pity, gave the homeless floutist ten dollars. What beautiful music, he thought, and how sad. A week later he met the second man, the successful guitarist. And while he did not try to give the man any money, he did stand there for a long time, regarding him. What beautiful music, he thought, and how sad. What a disconnect. Then, sighing, he walked away. He told his wife about the two men later, but they didn't really discuss it. It wasn't like the old man could do anything about it, and even if he could, he didn't want to.

And finally, there were the others. The ones who didn't live in extremes. The ones who weren't rich or poor or strictly rural or urban. They played music for pleasure and for money. They had been to enough places to become desensitized to them, but not enough to grasp fully what they really were. They - the others - walked by the first man and the second man every day without paying attention to either of them.

They were just background nosie.





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CarrieAnn13 said...
Jul. 25, 2011 at 10:38 pm
Beautiful!  I love the simplicity of your short stories.  They're not complicated at all, but very satisfying to read. :)
 
LadyJaneGrey This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. replied...
Jul. 26, 2011 at 7:21 am
Thanks for reading; it's really encouraging!
 
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