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The Subway Guitar

I threw in some coins and a dollar bill or two before I started to play. I took out my guitar and started to tune and strum. A crowd started to form around me as I was doing so.

The dark tunnels were bleak grey and damp. It was cool down here, but that did nothing for me. I heard a few trains rush by and leave a cool rush of wind in their wake. Loud conversations could be heard, but I tried not to listen. My heart raced. It was almost time to begin.

My once-crisp white tee-shirt was wrinkled and I was starting to sweat. My jeans hung on my legs like normal, but they felt as if they weighed three-hundred pounds. I twisted my orange hat to the side. I was ready, I started and played.

The world around me disappeared as my fingers strummed the strings. I entered my own world, all alone…

It was all white around me, five black lines and a clef appears, then a time signature, and some measure lines. Notes appear in my mind. I start to play what I see. The lyrics float by and I start to sing. I am in my own personal heaven, and nothing can bother me now.
***

Walking home from my daily performance in the subway tunnels I saw a dog sitting on the curb. It was thin, dirty, and obviously homeless. Its coat was magnificently colored and strikingly beautiful. As people rushed by, they seemed not to notice this gorgeous dog. The dog, all alone, not wanted.

This is what I felt like when I started to play in the tunnels, I thought, nobody stopped to listen, or even pay attention to me in the least. That was before I came every day. Now I have a crowd forming before I even start to play. I get a hundred or two dollars in tips a day. Maybe someday, I will be famous.

When I got home, I unlocked the house and walked in to the smells of the homemade cookies in the oven. They smelled like heaven, a mouth-watering delight.

“Thomas, can you come here for a sec, I need to talk to you.” called my mom.

“Hold on,” I replied “let me put my guitar down.”

I walked over to my mom after I took off my coat and hung it on the coat stand near the doorway.

“Thomas, I don’t want you to play in the tunnels anymore, I’m always scared that the same thing is going to happen to you as it did to your father.”

“Mom, you have to remember, that was a one in a million, probably a billion chance of that happening. I won’t fall into the tracks. You have to remember what the police man said,” I paused, waited for her response.

She sighed, then said. “I know, he said in his 35 years of police work, he had only seen that once before, but still, it could always happen.”

“But mom, I don’t even go near the tracks, unless I am getting off the train after school. Or getting on it.”

“No buts. You will not play in the tunnels until you have your own house and live under your own rules.”

I rolled my eyes and stormed away. “Oh, and Thomas, dinner will be in twenty minutes.”
***

I kept going back to the tunnels every day, calling my mom telling her I was at Kenny’s house. I told Kenny this, so he wouldn’t call my house looking for me.

“Ya sure that’s the right thing to do? What if you get robbed, or even mugged?” asked Kenny.

I thought about it for a second. “I don’t know, but it makes me feel free and I like it. That stuff never happens, and it won’t happen to me.”

“Whatever ya say. Just be careful, ‘kay?”

“Kay. See ya later.”
***
I got on the subway after school like normal. My tips went up to two or three hundred. I was becoming famous.

When I got off at my stop, I walked over to my normal spot. Some people were already there, waiting for me. I got out my guitar, and I played for an hour or two. My tips looked huge compared to normal. I even saw a few twenties, maybe even a fifty in the case. It was great.

As I was playing, I noticed a suspicious man eyeing my tips. I kept playing, thinking nothing of him, but soon I realized that was a big mistake.

He was walking closer and closer. He was standing right next to me for a second, and then he bent down, and grabbed all my tips and ran off. My hand whipped out trying to grasp him, but I was too late. He turned around and shouted something at me but it was inaudible. He looked angry, but he also looked tired. He wouldn’t last much longer running at that speed.
Some people ran towards him, some ran away from him. I was frozen where I was. People started whipping out their cell phones and taking pictures and calling the police.

The police and news reporters arrived in minutes. Two police rushed over to me and after I told them my name, they started bombarding me with questions. The one thing that bothered me most was that they had his mug shot already.

It was definitely him, the hair was the same color, maybe a little shorter, his beard looked a little stubblier, and they both now were touched with grey, probably from his age. His eyes, body and facial structure were the same. I had no doubt that it was him.

“How do you have that?” I asked them.

The two police man, one looked about 20 with medium length brown hair, and the other was about 50-ish and had black-on-the-verge-of-grey short buzz cut hair.

“Let’s just say that this is the… erm… least destructive thing Johnathan has done so far.” said the older guy.

After that, I really didn’t want to talk to anybody. But some certain thoughts kept coming back to my head, what had this man done, and if it was so bad, why wasn’t he still in jail? Then it occurred to me, wasn’t the guy who shoved my dad into the tracks named Johnathan?

The younger police man was walking towards me again. Oh no, I thought not more questions.

“My friend over there wanted me to check in on you. How ya holdin’ up?

“I’m doing fine. Just wondering, not that it matters or nothing, but did you get my tips back?”

“Oh yea,” he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a huge wad of cash. “Here ya go, and I’m sorry if I was being nosey but $500?!? That’s a lot for an amateur. No offence or nothing.”

“$500, ya sure about that? The most I’ve ever gotten was three hundred and I thought that was a lot.”

He grinned. “Go ahead, count it for yourself, I’m not kidding.”

I did, and he was right. $500… imagine what I could get with that!

The man’s walkie talkie was going off. I heard some fuzzy word-like sounds coming from the other end. Then the police officer replied, “OK, I will let him know.”

He clipped his walkie-talkie onto his belt. He turned to face me and said, “The police up the street have informed me that Johnathan is now in the back of their cruiser and is headed to jail. You shouldn’t see him anymore.”

I let out the breath I didn’t know I was holding. They had him, and now I could hopefully go home.

The police soon left and the news reporters were interviewing me. They kept asking me similar questions that were just getting annoying. I had already answered this question before, I thought angrily. I soon realized when I had answered it that I had only been speaking to the police, so the news reporters couldn’t have known that I had really had answered all of those questions before. After the news reporters finally had left, I could leave the station in peace, walking home to a nice shower to cleanse all the worries of the days away. I almost didn’t notice the bleak grey and foggy sky above, and some now around me.
***

The next morning when I woke up my mom was furious, and I couldn’t tell why. I looked at the newspaper open on the table. Cr**. I was on the front, playing the guitar, and the headline said “15 yr. old guitar player gets robbed.
“You disobeyed me, I specifically told you not to play in the tunnels any more. And what do you do? You go play in the tunnels. You should be ashamed of yourself.”
“But mom,” I whined “it’s the only time I feel free and it makes me feel good. People appreciate my music down there. Why don’t you understand?”
She sighed “You know, you should really be in trouble for disobeying me, but you’re not. You went through enough with the police already.”
“So am I allowed to play in the tunnels? Please, you have to know it means a lot to me.”
She sipped her coffee and then set the mug down on the table with a thud. “You can play.”
“YES!! Thank you mom!!” I shouted enthusiastically.
“BUT…”
“But what?”
“I want to hear all your songs. You have never played them for me, ya know?”





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