The Northville Review
an online literary journal

Chris Castle

Hi momma,

I know I called you yesterday, but I wanted to write, you a letter, too; get some thoughts out of my head. How are you? I hope your doing okay; don’t go worrying about me. The boss and all his stooges do enough of that for me and you both.

I know the boss has some people out looking for me; I figure they’ll find me soon enough; I hope I bought myself into tomorrow, if I’m lucky. Heck; like I can be invisible! Once one sees me, it’s over. Chased down city blocks, all the girls
screaming, the boys either ready to shake my hand or shake their fists. It ain’t easy being me sometimes, momma! But I ain’t complaining, I just like a little peace from time to time, just like everyone else. I have a dream sometimes, momma, that I’m still up in one of those big old army planes; that it’s me on my lonesome, not even sure if there’s a pilot flying the damn thing. But I look out of one of those windows and we ain’t moving. We’re just still. And I can look at the clouds and they were still, like we’re friends or something. And all the cities are far down below, too far away for me to know them. But I know they’re all still too, and no one moves or screams or hurts each other, it just peaceful the way a street is at night before the day finds it, makes it start over.

But listen to me! I guess I’m having a lot of thinking freed up, on account on having a day or two out of schedules and crowds and microphones. I swear some of those things come near to knocking out my own teeth sometimes, heck what kind of symbol to the kids then, huh?

I’m not scared momma. Never scared. I just needed to get away is all.

So I found myself here. I took a train with my hat pulled low and got to the station fine. And the conductor walked the aisle humming one of my tunes. I tapped my foot right along but kept the smile form my face. I wanted to stay hidden. Incognito as smarter fellas than I would call it.

I checked into the cheapest motel I could find and paid cash over the counter. If he recognized me he kept quiet about it. He was an old fella, and looked like he’d seen a lot of life; seeing one singing fool ain’t gonna change much in his life I figure.
I sat looking out of my window for a long time, watching everyone else living. I was having a high time of it, truth be told, being on the outside. I kept the radio off, because I kept finding myself on every damn channel. I was smiling until I saw the construction guys all puffing and heaving directly opposite. And what do you supposed they were putting up on that billboard, momma? That’s right. None other than yours truly. I laughed and cried all of the same time, I didn’t know
how else to take it all on board. I laid back on the bed and finished my food, looking at the ceiling and wondering if my own blood was gonna start turning to ink, on account of my picture being every damn place. I was trying to see it as a joke, but it turned into a type of curiosity in my head and I caught a nightmare off the back of it. And it freed me up and off the bed like it was shocked.

I had to wait until it turned dark on the street; there was enough people taking care of their time, eating in restaurants, going to the picture house. People hustled and bustled and I stepped out and got carried right along, caught in the sway and sensation, being invisible for once.

I got to enjoying it so much I stayed out, past a decent hour, all alone and content. The lids of the sewers burnt steam up into the air like a fountain from time to time; a hobo drew his hands close to keep warm. There were other things I saw too, but they were other things I saw too, the business of empting bars and furious voices. I walked on, a stranger still and further into the deep.

I came across a black man sitting in his porch. It was late enough that stars lit the cars, the moon so strong it could be a contender for the sun. He held a guitar and was strumming, like he was trying to get in tune, though it sounded perfect. I called him on it, seemed to startled him.

“Not your fault, son. It’s God. Blind, see?” His voice was deep, his skin dark.

Everything around him was dark silk, from guitar strap to boots. Momma, I walked closer, saw his dead eyes dancing. Saw the white stick close by, that mark of those in their unfortunate position.

I sat by him, talking a little about nothing, so he knew where I was, gave him a bearing. I didn’t want to unsettle him none and told him so.

“Son, it’s the silent men that cause me to fear, little more than damn ghosts to someone like me,” he said. I can remember every word momma, on account of his voice. It was so rich, like molasses, I thought I was gonna slowly drown
in it. He asked me if I played and I said I did. He offered me the guitar, momma, and I took it. It felt good in my hands, like a working man’s tool all over. No silly vanities or colors. And it gave me peace, just to sit, not jumping around or sneer like
a lunatic, but just play the music. Thought if the boss could see me, playing to an audience of one who couldn’t see, he’d have jokes for them promoters till the day they died. I almost looked over my shoulder checking for him, truth be told. But they weren’t no one, of course. Just me and the old man.

Well I played a little and I sang a little too. I started with the songs they played on radio and such, but after a while that mood didn’t sit with me so well. Instead I started to take the hymns of the church, the simple songs we all took and held together in the old barns. Railroad songs and midnight fire stories. Moon deep and full, let itself. I played forgetting himself, my place, my studying. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, my throat dry, my fingers catching or near to bleeding, well momma, I half expected you to be standing some place close, hand outstretched to mine. And it made me smile to think of you and sad that you were not there someplace near to me.

“Well,” the old man said to me, when I handed the guitar back to him, like a medal. “You got the voice, son, I’ll say that to you. Could be a prospect.” I knew him well enough to know the weight his words carried. So I thanked him for what he said. We shook hands and I left him where he sat. The night had had come full circle so the day was almost ready to start all over again. I walked away, not to anyplace, no destination. Just to be walking while the stars dried up and fell, while the
moon, ripe and full; let itself be taken by the light. And I walked and thought how good it felt sometimes to walk with no direction, feel your feet ache knowing home ain’t anyplace near or easy and I thought it was some twisted logic, but then I just played eyes closed guitar to a blind man and figured no sense fit just about right with the new dawn day. And I smiled momma, for the first time in a long while and I went straight ahead into that new day.

Today, of course. I’m getting tired writing this. I hope you can read it well enough. I’m going to lay on this bed and sleep a little while until they find me. And when they do I’ll say what I can and listen fairly to them as they talk. It was good doing this, momma, feels like we’re talking without sound or something; all words and dreams and blind man’s directions or something. Maybe I’ll make this a regular thing.

Anyway. Goodnight momma, your loving son,
Elvis, Aaron xxx

About the author

Chris Castle works as a teacher, and has 40 stories published this year. He can be reached at chriscastle76(at)hotmail(dot)com.