Tuesday, May 1, 2012

"Chuck & Carolina"

"Chuck & Carolina"
written for the eternal by jake kilroy.

The breeze tumbled across the road more often than cars did and the trees shrugged their usual July whispers. The lake was perfect and the downtown was filled with talkative locals. In the great turning of the world, there rolled a loud hum. It was summer, and it was glorious.

Up the wispy, melodramatic, lakeside street known as Cherrywood Road sat a girl on a porch step. She wore a sundress that looked like it had been sewn by birds. Standing above her, leaning against the columns of the house, was a slightly older gentleman with a button-up shirt tucked into his jeans, holding a tin cup. He wore boots and a shadow against his darkened cheekbones.

"You know, you're pretty when you're mad," he told her, drawing a line through his thin beard, his hand holding a cigarette with dirt beneath his nails. "But you're downright gorgeous when you're happy."

"So then take me dancing," she cooed, leaning over herself, squinting in the sunlight.

He leaned back and grinned almost too wide for his face, letting the smoke come from his nose like steam from a train. He bit his lip and rolled his powerful neck.

"Darling, you may be trouble. I'm an old man now. I wore out all my good dancing shoes ages ago."

She smiled helplessly.

"I may be younger, but you've got a young spirit, maybe even younger than mine," she told him.

"I'm sorry, sweetheart, but even artists in Paris aren't this hard up for youth," he drawled, the apology having echoed up from the great cavern of his chest. "No matter how teenage or wayward my heart is."

"Spirit, not heart," she corrected him softly.

"Hey, you've got your religion. I've got mine," he chuckled.

The rose petals of her cheeks fluttered.

"Chuck, if talking was an art, and it damn well should be, you'd be the love child of Vincent Van Gogh and Georgia O'Keefe."

"That right?" his voice boomed, as he tip-toed backward with a sultry step. It was a difficult feat against the whiney old wooden planks of the porch. They never shut up when he wanted them to.

"That's right," she answered, a warm breeze lapsing through the cave of her milk-white throat. "You're soft enough for flowers, but you're crazy enough to cut off your ear for love."

"Honey, you got it wrong," he crooned, as he dipped back and slung up the guitar tucked behind the firewood. "I'm soft enough to cut off my ear for love and crazy enough for flowers."

Her brow caved in on itself, as she wasn't sure what he meant. And neither did he. He looked at the sky, as if his own sly talk would be spelled out for him in burly white against the silk of the blue.

She looked back at him to follow up his nonsense speak, only to be surprised that a wooden guitar was now in his hands, held with the gentle cockiness of a prayer book.

"Oh, soft enough for guitar?" she laughed.

"Crazy enough for a song," he smiled.

"You know all the ways to a girl's heart, Chuck."

"Same way as always," he laughed. "Right through the front door."

Her eyebrows stood up and shook hands. She gave him the pitter-patter of her hands a whirl.

"Here goes," he sighed. His fingers trickled down the strings, and a folksy melody that could've been for the righteous or the wicked escaped from the wooden depths of the guitar's caverns.

"Gooooddaaaaaamn, the looonely meeeen; dreaming of the sea, buuuut broken by land," he sang.

From the side yard came a marching band drummer that Carolina recognized as one of the local boys that went swimming across the way. He played the snare hooked on him with an applause rhythm. She covered her mouth and her nose with her delicate hands.

"Sippiiiiiing cheap whiiiiskey on the shoreliiiine; just waiting on that old laughing sun to up and diiiiiiiie," he sang.

Then, from both sides of the porch, came the rest of the tucked away marching band: the horns, the woodwinds and the big drum.

And they all sang with Chuck, and they all played for Carolina. The lawn was filled with musical youths and a man who left his youth like a hometown.

"Daaaaarling, my heart is a biiiiiirdcage; just one red biiiiiird singiiiiing your name," he and his makeshift band sang together. "Now, I'm wonderiiiiiiing and consideriiiiiing; just leaving that tiny old steel gate wiiiiide open."

"Because!" he yelled, and the marching band played louder.

"My heart is a biiiird cage!" he sang alone, a melody that sounded chewed up and swallowed, nourishing to the last note.

"His heart is a biiiird cage!" sang the teenagers.

"Just one reeeeed bird!" he bellowed.

"Just one reeeeed bird!" they bellowed.

"And it's singing your name!" he cheered.

"And it's singing your name!" they cheered.

"My heart is a bird cage!" he hollered.

"My heart is a bird cage!" they hollered.

"And it's singiiiiiiiiiiiiiing," he crowed with all the teenagers stopping abruptly, and with one last swipe on his guitar, he whispered, "yoooour naaaaaame!"

By then, the neighbors had gathered, though Carolina didn't take any notice. She swung herself up from the steps and into Chuck's arms. The drummer caught the guitar. They smooched, and he carried her off to go dancing with the marching band following them into town, wailing away on their instruments, striking up reprise of the birdcage tune.

An older man, one with a woman on his arm, spoke up.

"The heat does something funny to young folks of this town," he cracked.

"We were young folks once," the woman on his arm corrected.

"But I never played guitar."

"You played violin, and you wrote me a symphony."

"It was the heat, I tell ya!"

The old couple laughed and followed the rest into town.

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