Friday, November 23, 2012

The Life of Kid Grayson (part 1)








His name is Grayson Mayfield, a tall boy of seventeen years. He sits by his father who was said to have killed a man some ten years before this night because his Daddy was drunk and mean. He got over being drunk in about a day but he kept the mean. The boy like his father is quiet. He possesses long fingers and arms, good for guitar work. He was close to drunk one night when he took three quick drinks of Daddy’s whiskey while he was playing down at the local joint. He likes the taste. He has seen the mean side of life already in his young age. He is known to fight when cornered and has been suspended from school for fighting. Some boys there said things about his Daddy.

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He pulled his Barlow knife with the snap blade on one boy. He carries the knife everywhere he goes.

On this night he is with Daddy playing his guitar on top of the mountain where his family has lived for 80 years. The newsman on Grayson’s transistor radio tells of bombing in Vietnam but Grayson and Daddy don’t hear this as they play their instruments. The boy looks on as his Daddy’s fingers fly over the frets of his Martin guitar. Playing the guitar makes his Daddy smile. His Daddy’s smile is only a twitch across his face but it is still a smile to Grayson. The boy is not wise enough to know that Daddy’s eyes haven’t seen the bright side of life for a long time. The boy knows that his Daddy is the only human alive in the world on this night and they have never played better together. Grayson has learned in his life that all happiness is short. Daddy has told him that God teaches a hard lesson and he can be angry and unloving most of the time.

The two men play on regardless of the unloving God. They play the old hymns and sing in harmony the words of Amazing Grace and The Old Rugged Cross. Their music rings out across the divides and falls into the valley of the Blue Mountains. They make up a boogie song as Daddy calls it, which the boy follows effortlessly.

The father watches Grayson play. He laughs out loud, which is rare. The boy laughs with him as the song comes to its end. The wind carries their laughter away to other towns and other sons and fathers sitting side by side, waiting for the world to bring a new day, but not caring if the day ever comes.

“How’d you like thet tune Grayson?” his Daddy asks.

“Weren’t too bad Daddy. Just a little hard to get to sometimes,” the boy answers as he slides his fingers up and down the neck of his old Harmony guitar. It has been his Harmony since he was four.

“You getting cold boy? Huh? You gettin cold?”

“No Daddy.”

“This is nice ain’t it? Out here on the mountain tonight,” Daddy says as he gazes out like he was looking for someone. The boy feels the dread but he doesn’t call it dread. He knows it by a tight feeling in his stomach.

“Try this one,” Daddy comes back for a spell to strum out a rhythm and chords of an old Chet Atkins tune that he has heard on The Grand Old Opry. The boy picks it up right away as they play for the night and the creatures in the trees. The tune changes from Chet’s chords to something else as Daddy plays on and on, changing a rhythm, hitting a minor chord then jumping back on the tune again. The boy smiles and easily makes the changes. The melody is coming out so beautiful that the man has to stop playing for a moment just to hear it. The man looks upon his son as Grayson Mayfield takes the tune to places it has never been. He changes the chords, adding more layers of them. He changes the tempo but he keeps the song intact the whole time. The boy, Grayson, has left the mountain for a moment and the father sees that. The father looks upon his son, knowing that he sees a treasure of many priceless gems. The gems are there in the form of notes, and the magic lies in the fingers of Grayson Mayfield. The father knows the boy is blessed by God. For once God has shown his family mercy.

The boy smiles as he plays the last rhythm. When he is finished he rests his left hand on the neck of the guitar. He feels as if it is Christmas morning again just like the day he got his new guitar. Like the day Daddy came home from the place he was staying down in Eddyville. His Momma said he was working for the government, but the boy knew that wasn’t the truth. The boys at school called
him names and he beat one boy because he called his Daddy a drunk and said he had killed someone. It didn’t matter though. Daddy came home and they played guitar every day just after supper.

His Momma smiled a lot in those times. Now she doesn’t smile much and when she does smile it seems to hurt her. The boy isn’t thinking much about his Momma because he is picking his guitar with his Daddy and there is warmth around him from the fire.

From down the mountain the breeze pushes the sound of a car door being slammed, mixed with muffled shouts. The boy chooses not to hear it. His Daddy glances for a short bit, but his fingers keep moving over the frets. The melody is far from the original, the chords are becoming more complex. The notes come out crystal clear as they flow up to the treetops. The birds and the creatures make soft noises as if they want to sing along with the melody.

The boy runs his fingers up and down the neck of his Harmony to find the frets and very lightly lets the fingers touch on the strings he wants. Softly, like a ghost gliding around a room, he strums and plucks the strings. As he follows his Daddy’s playing he follows so closely to his father’s melodic footsteps that they become one track in the night air landscape. Their playing is like one oversize guitar that plays songs that only Heaven can hear. The boy and the father smile again.

The wind pushes the sound of footsteps coming up the mountain. His Daddy misses a lick when he hears the footsteps. The sound of the steps hit the soft breeze like rust on sacred statue. The boy hears them too but he doesn’t comprehend. His father keeps playing, but he is losing the melody and the chords are becoming harsh. Daddy stops playing to place the guitar very softly into the case that sits on the ground by the fire. He carefully closes the lid of the case.

“You need to go on Grayson,” the father says. He looks at his son to study him for a moment. He is so tall now, with long arms, strong fingers and ice blue eyes like his Momma.

The boy doesn’t move. He feels his legs go weak, and he has a strange feeling in his private parts like the time he saw the coal truck go over the drop off.

“You go on boy. Take the family path. No one knows about that. Stay hidden. Tell your Mamma I’ll be along."

Grayson can’t believe the words. He puts his guitar into his old case. The boy backs away from the camp fire, “What is it? I can help, I can fight!”

“No son that ain’t for you now. Go down and see to yer Momma. I’ll be along. Here I need to give you this,” he walks over to a small footstool that has been around the campsite for years. He picks it up and pulls off one of the legs with a short jerk. Inside the stool in a hollow spot carved out years before, he draws out a wad of money. “Take this. Git! Here you will need this too.” He hands Grayson a black handled pistol, a .38 snub nose that he bought in a pawn shop in Cincinnati. Grayson takes it, checks the safety and sticks the pistol in his belt.

The boy steps away, the handle of his guitar case held tightly in his right hand. He takes a few steps, then looks back at Daddy. There are no words but their eyes show the sadness like two people parting a at a bus station. The boy wants to say something or touch his Daddy one last time, but the sound of men coming up the trail tells him to move on. He steps slowly down the mountain path.

When he gets to the darkness of the woods he stops to survey the scene by the fire. He sees three men approaching from the other side. The men circle his Daddy. The boy studies the man, who moves slow as if made from rusty chains. The boy can hear the man speaking and his words ring with fear and wrath like the Bible talks about. There is a quick movement as all the figures merge into one. The boy crouches down in the woods to get a better look. He sees sparks fly from the fire and his Daddy is on the ground. The tall man stands over him kicking his Daddy. The other men join in. The boy stops breathing as he watches the men beat his Daddy with their boots and fists. His Daddy tries to fight them but they are too powerful and he finally falls back on the damp ground with his hands up in front of his face. The boy starts to run at the men but he knows that wouldn’t be smart. He thinks of the pistol that is tucked in his belt. Slowly, unsure of his next move, he pulls the pistol. He takes aim on the tall man, and squeezes the trigger. The crack of the pistol scatters the men, and the tall man falls to the ground writhing over and over, his hands holding his neck. The other men draw their weapons and fire into the woods, but the boy is already running down the mountain.

He knows that shooting the man was not smart, and he is about to be killed too, but he keeps running, taking paths that the men don’t know about and can’t possibly follow in the darkness.

He stops after a while and listens. He hears the men running but they are in the distance and off his trail. He feels his heart pound in his chest. He feels angry, helpless, like he does when the boys at school call him names. The boy, Grayson Mayfield knows on this night as the melodies of the guitars still float on the wind that he will kill these men. He puts a picture of the three men in his mind. With the same gift that he has for knowing where to find the beautiful chords and notes on his guitar, he files these men in his brain. Then with the guitar case held tightly in his clenched hand, with fingers that won’t unlock from the guitar for days after, he runs down the mountain and into the thick


He runs through the woods holding his guitar with a vise grip that makes his fingers numb and ache. He loses his step and falls into the side of a thick oak tree. Grayson hits the tree so hard that it puts him down on the wet ground. He doesn’t get up for a while. When he does awake he sees the stars and the moon, and the sun all up in the sky looking down on him. The world feels different . It is greeting a new day and the boy knows that he has missed some of the night because he was out from the fall. He gets up and takes a few steps feeling like a jerky puppet on uneven strings. He looks down to see that his fingers have turned white from squeezing the handle of the guitar case. He takes a study around him and has a feeling as if a huge hand were pulling him by the collar.

He sets out for the top of the mountain where he and his Daddy played their guitars. As he gets closer to the top Grayson hears the call of the crows and the mocking they throw down at him from the sky. They know something the boy hopes he doesn’t have to ponder, but as he gets closer to the sight he knows God has been cruel once again.

They boy climbs through the early morning mist, as an old gray feathered crow peers down on him from a bare branch. The scent of the old campfire that lit up his world hours before wafts by the boy as he takes the last steps to where his Daddy lies on the ground.

His Daddy lays flat on his back, his eyes to the sky as if he is watching the crows as they float just under the clouds of the new day. The boy studies his father, looking for a sign that he is alive. With forced steps he shuffles to his Daddy and kneels down over him.

With a slight movement of his eyes his Daddy calls to the boy but doesn’t say anything. He lifts his hand slowly from the ground as if he wants to touch Grayson. Grayson looks down at his Daddy’s hand to see that his fingers have turned black. They have all been broken. Grayson wants to cry but he knows that his Daddy won’t have it.

“I’m here for ya Daddy. What do you want me to do?” He says it so soft he can barely hear his own voice over the cawing of the crows and the wind that is moving the tree tops.

His Daddy’s face is drained of all color as he stares at his son with blank eyes losing light. They show no pain, no emotion, like windows with no view.

“Take the Martin and go from here. Yer Momma, she’ll fire on em if they bother her.” Daddy Grayson stares at his Daddy while he tries to decide which way in life he is going to follow. A voice inside him shouts out, “Go on boy. Fit off this mountain. Git! Now!” He imagines his Daddy’s head rising from the damp, black earth and shouting the words to him. The boy doesn’t move, doesn’t heed the words. As the crow caws down on him the boy feels power and loneliness at the same time. He is no longer bothered from the wishes of others and at this moment no one in the world knows he is by his Daddy’s side. He feels he can sit here for hours to figure out the rest of his days. Finally he gets up, not knowing how long he has sat there and not caring. He feels the wad of money in his pocket and takes it out to count it. He has never seen money like this before. The bills say 100 on them and the boy counts the bills. There are 10 of them. He has to stop for a minute to figure what he has in his hands. When he comes to the sum he thinks is right he puts the money in his jeans pocket. He studies his Daddy for a moment. He looks different even in the minutes that have passed. He goes to his Daddy’s guitar that is covered by mist and dust. The boy closes the case; then looks down on his Daddy one last time. He turns, holding the guitar case handle tightly as if it has magical connection to his Daddy. He steps quickly down the mountain as his Daddy’s soul floats above the trees.

He doesn’t want to but the boy runs in the direction of his little house. He wants to get his Momma out of there and take her somewhere, to a place that has sun and laughing. As he gets closer to the house he sees a neighbor sitting on the porch rocking in a chair. Her hands are in her lap. She is singing a hymn that his Momma sings in church. It is a sad hymn about Jesus hanging on the cross and the blood of the Lord runs down the wooden cross. The boy, barely hidden in the trees, peers at the neighbor and wonders what to do. He sees two men carry his Momma on a stretcher from the house. Grayson feels his legs go weak from what he is seeing. Is she dead? Hearing the voice of his Daddy he fights the urge to lie on the ground and cry for his Momma. From the shroud of the trees he watches the mountain people gather around the house as they always do, going over the events of the morning and where they were, and what they said, and how they knew the Mayfield family would come to this. He hears the voices of two women as they walk down the path from their house.

“He weren’t ever any count. I knowed it would happen someday.”

“Poor girl. She never had any happiness in her life as far as I could see it.” The boy ponders on what the women say as he steps back into the woods. Just as he turns he sees a man standing off to the side away from prying eyes. Grayson studies him for a moment, letting his mind piece together
 who this man is and why his face puts fear in his heart. He works it out that this is one of the men at the campsite. He is one of them that circled around his Daddy just before they killed him. Knowing now that he can’t go to the house or the hospital to see his Momma, he grabs Daddy’s guitar then steps off into the woods to head for places that he can’t see in his mind.

(end part 1)

     Barry Miller (from Smashwords) - "I was born in Indiana in 1946. I have been fortunate (or not) to live through some of the most turbulent times of our country. I became a musician long before my first writing occurred, so I have been lucky to hear and play the best of all the types of music. I am a veteran of Vietnam. I was a drumset manufacturer rep for 16 years, so I was again lucky to meet many fine drummers. I am now retired, and I plan to spend many afternoons honing this writing craft, and producing more books."

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