Friday, May 14, 2010

Minstrel

It was always at the corner of the west side of the street where she went to sing. Every Monday morning at 7 a.m., while I sat drinking the first of many coffees of the day, I would see her. She would shuffle in her backless slippers to the entrance of the train station. She never looked at anyone, just walked with her head down as she moved to the left foot, right foot, do it all again beat until she reached the stool the news vendor had placed under the awning for her use. A guitar accompanied her musical notes of protest. They were Vietnam-era songs that baffled some of the commuters rushing to get to work.
 
“Make love, not war.” She would tell anyone this mantra of her long-ago youth as they tried to give her  coins, which she refused. She, in turn, would hand out little slips of paper imprinted with a drawing of the peace symbol and smile whenever I took one, though I never stayed to hear the music. All I wanted was to look at her face before I went to work. I could not explain why but her serene blue eyes offered a cooling antidote to the anxious start of my work week.
 
On a day I was to leave for vacation, I stayed and waited for her to finish her song.
 
“Here,” I tried to press money into her hands. “I really want you to have this.”
 
She shook her head and tugged at the tie-dyed cotton blouse she wore.
 
This upset me. “Don't be crazy anymore. Please. There are other things to worry about. Vietnam is over. There is no war!”
 
She lifted her guitar and strummed the opening notes to a Bob Dylan tune.
 
“There's always something,” she said, and sang her song, blowing out the message to the wind.
 
Not many weeks later, she was dead. Mugged by someone who most likely thought the frail woman  wearing the colors of the rainbow and singing of peace and love was an easy mark to rob, though he must have been surprised to find papers of the non-monetary kind in her pockets. The person did not even take the guitar – just left its splintered remains next to her body.
 
For several days, the community placed wreaths at the site of her last breaths and made plans.
 
It's my turn to join the neighborhood watch group that will patrol the streets tonight for several hours - veritable soldiers in the fight against crime. She might be pleased to know this. Though it probably would sadden her that we were not making love.

52 comments:

  1. Wistful, thought-provoking piece, Marisa. Lovely in a very unique way, just like the musician herself.
    I wonder about the narrator... I wonder who did the mugging.
    Much to think about. Much to enjoy.

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  2. an elegaic sweep from 60's through to grime-crime noughties in the space of a flash. Wonderful vista done with such a sure hand.

    marc nash

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  3. Awesome last line, Marisa - I got the shivers

    "Minstrel" is such a good title as well, a throwback to times past just like the woman

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  4. "There's always something" she said...chilling portent to this. Thought provoking, Marisa, and well done.

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  5. This made me very sad. It feels real, like it was based on something true. Was it?

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  6. This makes me really sad, but it's such a beautifully written piece that I can't be mad at you for upsetting me!

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  7. Very well done. I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, but looking back at her last statement is pretty much a downer. Almost like she knew she was going to be killed and that was her last statement.

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  8. i absolutely love this. no life is without value.

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  9. I took liked the final sentence.

    To me, it said a lot about the destruction of community - and then the banding together again.

    We were just listening to Bob Dylan tonight so this struck a chord.

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  10. The best part was how the protagonist needed to look into her eyes to find peace, then asked her to stop being crazy. huh.

    I look forward to stopping here on Fridays.

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  11. "as she moved to the left foot, right foot, do it all again beat"

    Loved that descriptive phrase so much. I always notice how people walk.

    Nicely done tiny snapshot of a life with so much elbow room for conjecture.
    :0)

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  12. Oh, I love this piece's uniqueness!

    And I'm with Karen, I also always notice how people walk (and can even distinguish people by their walk if it's dark and further away for example) :)

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  13. Yes, "...the answer, my friend..."

    I have to agree about the last line. It just nails the whole idea of the piece.

    There's a beautiful feel to this entire, brief, story.

    Really well done.

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  14. I imagine she'd be both saddened and bewildered that after all those years of protest and pleas for peace it could still be necessary. Beautifully told.

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  15. This brought tears to my eyes. It's true that there's always something, and that perfectly harmless people with a message of peace often end up the target of violence. Such a shame, but as Vonnegut said, so it goes.

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  16. Loved this. The end bummed me out, I even teared up. If nothing else, it was good that something positive could come from it. I like your slice of life pieces.

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  17. "Blowing out her message to the wind" ~ very clever.

    I wasn't sure if the narrator was male or female, though I'm erring on the side of male. Did you have a gender in mind?

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  18. There is always some kind of war, isn't there? She wasn't the crazy one. Loved this.

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  19. Yeah that's the stuff. Terrific slice of life. A complex life, a work of art not fully appreciated until it's gone. Crazy? Was she? Or just not the same as everyone else. Well done, Marisa.

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  20. It's hard, figuring out what the people you built your legacy on would think of it.

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  21. Beautiful, Mari-girl.

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  22. That's a sneaky good piece, sneaky good. I wonder if you're familiar with the Dylan MTV unplugged album that came out in '95 or thereabouts? We weren't involved in any major conflicts and I don't recall war and strife being uppermost on anyone's minds at that time. Yet Dylan performed versions of "john Brown" and "With God on Our Side" that absolutely tear your guts out.

    This piece was a magical!

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  23. Idealists never truly die. At least her spirit is still present in some way. The neighborhood watch isn't exactly making war, after all, and it's people working together.

    Another poignant tale from you. :)

    CD

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  24. Musical evocative story that ends strong. I like the change this creates in the protagonist and the ending line is classic.

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  25. Very good and very moving.

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  26. Beautifully written. There were a lot of great little details in this. Good story!

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  27. That was a heart-breaking, yet at the same time, an uplifting story. Well told, Marisa.

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  28. What a statement you have made with this story. We think today's culture is so "civilized" and that the big problems are gone. She knew better, and unfortunately it got her.

    This was so beautifully written - and gives us a lot to think about.

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  29. Oh, this makes me want to know more about her! What drove her over the edge?

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  30. Don't know why but the image that popped up for me after reading this was of the Kent State killings.

    The opposite ends of the spectrum, love and hate, meeting and ending in tragedy when hate wields it's mighty hammer.

    Peaceful protest. Many of us have forgotten our vows from that era.

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  31. Lovely, quiet piece. Thank you.

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  32. Lovely, moving and thought-provoking piece. Makes me quite sad that mankind still doesn't heed the intent behind the words of the Minstrel.

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  33. This is so poignant Marisa, so very well-written,and that last line just nails the whole essence of the story. Perfection personified.

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  34. Another simply beautiful piece. Your writing is unforgettable. I loved the line "blowing her message out to the wind." Dylan would be proud.

    Gorgeous, sad story.

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  35. I remember those protest songs well. And that "all you need is love," attitude. For a brief moment that idealism looked like it might actually work. This is a sad piece, but there's hope in that these ideas are still around so long after the Sixties ended. Good job.

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  36. What moves people to act is often too late.

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  37. Such a sad tale. At least she touched some lives, and so lives on in a way.
    ~jon

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  38. Hi dear!

    I've left you an award on my blog.

    Psst, there's a challenge to go with, heh. ;)

    Here's the link: http://mariblaser.blogspot.com/2010/05/uh-oh-randomities-won-creative-creepy.html

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  39. I love stories like this - the stories of people who stand out if you look for them. Excellent.

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  40. A great post, Marisa. This is one that will definitely stay with me for a while.

    ~2

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  41. Wow. All I can say is wow

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  42. I keep seeing Phoebe from Friends singin' "Smelly Cats" but having the savant sense to pass out papers for peace, shuffling to places backless slippers rarely get to go.

    She touched folks. She WAS a Dylan tune, and Marisa ... "MINSTREL" strums like one too. The resonance is soft, is true. ~ Absolutely*Kate

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  43. Glad to have found your site.

    Superbly done...sad and powerful paradox.

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  44. Oh my goodness. It would probably please her to find that her death brought the community together. Old hippies. Wow.

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  45. At least she affected the life of one person. Good story.

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  46. (first, thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment *smiling*)

    This made me sad, but there's something else there as well, something more than sadness - a poignancy in your words. This would make a great essay, so many "lessons" here....so much to consider. The images are still with me even as I comment - those little touches - like the slippers....

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  47. This story speaks of so much left unsaid (and yet told quite clearly).

    Helen
    Straight From Hel

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  48. Brought tears to my eyes. If we could each feel that sense of what life is truly about, it would be a world of love...

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