He’ll never go back. John’s twenty-four and independent and has no desire to speak to his
parents ever again. There’s no use in trying to make them understand, either of them. They won’t
hear him, they just want to talk. He flies out of the tiny Pacific Northwest town he grew up in back to New York, gets his standup bass from his apartment and then goes to the Village where his blues combo is playing, opening for an ancient guitarist, a gray wooly-headed legend, a guy whose frailness—he sits on a folding chair the whole performance—belies the force with which he rages through his solos. The band plays for a long time, it seems hours, but it’s last call before John even thinks to check his watch. It’s been an exhausting day, but when the legend asks him and his bandmates if they want to head back to his apartment to jam a little more, what else can they do but say yes?
One too many times, his parents asked What are you going to do with your music? Even though he knew what they meant, he also didn’t, not really. He can’t remember ever hearing from them What do you like? When he hits the streets in the morning, stinking of dried sweat, wheeling his bass past runaways cadging change outside Port Authority and the early-morning risers going to jobs, he thinks to himself I like my life and smiles with chest-thumping happiness while he waits at a cart for a paper cup of sweet coffee before catching the train back to Brooklyn to sleep.
John Talbird is the author of the chapbook, A Modicum of Mankind. His fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Juked, The Literary Review,Ambit, Bull and elsewhere. He is on the Editorial Board of Green Hills Literary Lantern and a frequent contributor to Film International. An English professor at Queensborough Community College, he lives in New York City with his wife.