Saturday, May 26, 2012

"Petition" by Kim Bond

A girl in her late teens shuffled up the footpath as I maneuvered through the early morning fog in my Mini Coupe. She bore resemblance to someone from 1972 in her chocolate-colored suede skirt with swaying fringe punctuated by round wooden beads. Her stringy ash blond hair had not been straightened by an iron nor had it been enhanced by gel and shine. No, the hair appeared natural — a genuine detail modern-day hippies tend to forget. A wooden guitar was slung over one shoulder with a wide embroidered strap.

Moments later, a boy walked in the same direction as the hippie, holding a black guitar case in his whitened knuckles. His dark hair clashed with his gray eyes, which screamed for relief from some secret emotional turmoil. The boy’s ragged clothes echoed his inaptitude to pierce whatever monstrosity mesmerized his mind. He looked as if he were off to play the blues with aged black men who strum with thick strokes impregnated by some inherited soul burden from slavery times.

More guitarists approached. Some with slicked back hair; others wore bouffant hairdos. There were middle-aged women with orchid tattoos inked into elegant skin that poked out unapologetically from cotton sundresses. Asians wearing silver suits with purple cummerbunds sauntered past without taking notice of me. I gazed at tweens, who strolled by in striped knee highs with feather boas dangling from their necks. All carried guitars: classic, electric, hollow, and steel guitars of every shape and color. In mobs, they crowded the streets and made it impossible to accelerate a single inch without striking ninety-five pedestrians.

At first, I suspected they were headed to guitar lessons. As more came, I concluded a competition was set to commence. Next, I assumed the guitarists were elements of an extravagant flash mob. As the droves continued steadily, the situation grew more eerie. I punched the dial on the car radio, hoping the disc jockey might mention the event as a side note to the morning traffic report.

Instead, he reported the horrific news with a tremor in his voice. In the night hours, the world’s end had become evident with unequivocal signs. Cows had stopped giving milk, and hens refused to lay eggs. People near Mount Vesuvius had been buried in ash while Hong Kong’s citizens were covered in snow. World leaders urged mankind to gather together in cities across the globe to petition God for His compassion with dulcet notes offered up via human fingertips plucked harmoniously on guitar strings.

I did not abandon my vehicle to join them as you might think. More logical matters entered my mind, like stocking up food and locating a fallout shelter. After the crowd thinned, I continued down the back street. I stopped at a grocery store. Save the lobsters that swam in the tank, the store showed no other signs of life. I estimated the cost of groceries I had swiped from the shelves and left that amount of cash — not a cent less — on the counter. From the parking lot, I phoned my sister and urged her to take refuge with me.

She replied, “If knowledge, logic, and intelligence are spawns of wisdom, they should cower in the face of artistic expression.” She said it as though she were reading the Gettysburg Address. I waited for her to expound on the subject, but after a few silent moments, she simply said, “Huey, I can’t play the guitar and talk to you simultaneously. I have to go. Goodbye and....good luck.” 

I tossed the cell phone on my passenger seat and stared into the distance. I scratched my forehead under the front of my ball cap and tried to remember the way to Aunt Jane’s farmhouse. 

An hour and several wrong turns later, I finally arrived. Aunt Jane was nowhere to be found, but the storm cellar was just as I remembered. I had scarcely unloaded the food and closed the wooden doors when a massive blast shook the ground. Intense heat gusted on my flesh.

It was several hours later when I awoke. Chili from an exploded can dripped from the shelter’s ceiling. Burned flesh odor filled my nostrils. My muscles were tight. My swollen eye throbbed.

Then I reached up and touched my face. I patted my lips. I realized my mouth had been burned into a permanent sneer. Broken bones prevented me from standing on my feet. So I laid there and wished for a guitar or a banjo or a lyre. After a while, I began to hum.

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