Aphelion Issue 241, Volume 23
July 2019
 
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Here Comes the Sun

by M. B. Barlow




I stared at the guitar above the counter over the man’s head. There were many others in the store, many that were within my budget, but this one just screamed out. I couldn't focus on any other.

‘How much is that one?’ I asked him.

He looked behind him at the shiny black guitar I couldn’t stop staring at. My heart raced just looking at the thing and I couldn't say why.

‘Hmm,’ he said, making a tutting sound with his mouth. ‘Oh, that one... that’s on the higher end, my friend.’

The other guitars I’d been looking at ranged from fifty pounds to two hundred pounds, and that last option was above my budget anyway. The one high on the wall didn’t have a price tag, a giveaway straight away. It was plain black and shiny. It was calling me so much that the others were already fading into the back of my mind.

‘Well,’ he said, looking at me. ‘This one tends to go for five hundred.’

Five hundred pounds? That was way over my budget and just too much for an acoustic guitar.

‘Well,’ he said again, looking at me with devilish eyes. ‘I could be willing to go below that... question is, what can you afford, my friend?’

I could afford two hundred, and even that was going above budget. But my body ached for it.

‘I’ve only got two hundred pounds,’ I told him, hurting so much that I wouldn’t be able to get it.

He shook his head. ‘Can’t go that low, my friend. I’d be cutting off my own hand there if I sold it for that price.’

I nodded, feeling ashamed for my cash-strapped situation.

‘How about…’ he said while sucking in his teeth, ’three hundred? And I’d be selling it at a loss there, my friend.’

I didn’t have three hundred. I still couldn’t afford it. Dodgy salesman vibes emanated from the man, he knocked two hundred pounds off it straight away showed that he was just seeing if I was fool enough to pay it. And I might have been if I had that kind of money on me.

I shook my head and started to walk back to the other guitars. One of them would have to do, as hard as that was.

‘Wait,’ the salesman said, sucking in his teeth again. I turned back round to face him. ‘How about two fifty, with a free pick that I’ll throw in with it? On the house. I cannot go lower than that. I’m throwing my kid’s college fund out with that kind of price.’

The man was sweaty and desperate with a fake smile plastered on his face. I was never much of a haggler but I’d knocked half the price off with no real effort. And I was in the ballpark with that price.

‘Give me two picks and you’ve got a deal,’ I said, feeling confident.

The salesmen grunted, not looking too pleased, but he grabbed the guitar and placed it on the counter. The roof of the music shop reflected on the shiny black paint.

He took the money from my card with no real pleasantry but said thank you anyway, even if it was under his breath. I had no case, no bag and nothing but a receipt on a credit card was about to implode, two picks in my pocket and a guitar that felt otherworldly in my hands.

I’ve never been the greatest on acoustic but I always felt reasonable, passable you could even say. As long as my wife liked me playing, that was all that I needed.

I brought the guitar home and laid it next to the couch. I took off my jacket before Rashida jumped all over me. I picked her up, her tongue licking all over my face. I had barely been gone a few hours, but she always treated me like I’d been gone for years. She was the best dog I’d ever had, the only thing in my life since my wife died.

After having something to eat and drink, a single person’s dinner for one, I looked at the guitar. I tried to ignore it, but it seemed to inhabit all my thoughts. Rashida was fed and happy, sleeping comfortable in her bed, so it was just me and the guitar.

My eyes brushed over the picture on the table. She had been so beautiful.

No. No, I had to stop thinking about it. It’d been six months since she’d died and the only thoughts left in my head were of her and they didn’t seem to go away, they only got stronger. I had to get over her, move on. By force if I had to.

The guitar was so shiny I could have used it as a mirror. I adjusted the strings to my satisfaction and strummed one of the free pics along the strings. A beautiful sound wrung out, making my heart ache. It was loud enough for Rashidah to pick up her head for a second before going back to sleep.

I put it down. My hands were shaking.

The last guitar I’d owned was in the bin. Smashed to pieces. I’d done that when I...got the call.

Now I felt like I couldn’t do anything with it. I’d wasted money I didn’t have on something I couldn’t play and that I wasn’t even any good at playing.

I got up from the couch and went back to the kitchen where I had a glass of water, drinking it all down so fast I started coughing before devouring another right after. I felt so thirsty.

The kitchen had been her domain. Even after six months I could barely string a decent meal together; it all seemed so pointless with no one to cook for.

The doorbell went.

The sound made me jump, almost dropping my glass. I stood silent for a moment. It was late at night and I wasn’t expecting anyone or any deliveries. I had no real friends, certainly no one I would expect to drop by unexpectedly.

I didn’t move to answer it when the bell went again, followed by some hurried knocks on the door.

I put down the glass and moved to the door, my heart pounding in my chest. People didn’t come to visit me, and even then I couldn’t explain why it got me so worked up. It was probably just one of those Mormon groups that go door to door. It was nothing, yet I was worried.

I opened the door slowly.

It was a woman, my age, red hair that was soaking wet even though it wasn’t raining, it hadn’t been for days.

She stood in front of me and she looked so familiar. I knew her, I knew her more than anyone. Yet...

I looked back to the table where the picture of my wife sat. My dead wife. And I looked back to the red-headed woman stood before me.

‘Hi,’ she said, smiling faintly.

It was her. It was my wife. Standing before me, smiling as if she didn’t know she was dead. But she was dead, I saw her dead body at the morgue.

‘How are you?’ she asked, more sheepish than I had ever known her to be in the time we’d been married.

‘I’m fine,’ I said, barely aware that I was even speaking the words. ‘How...are you?’

It was absurd. I was asking a dead woman how she was. I knew how she was. She was dead, that’s how she was and that’s wasn’t a good state of mind or body.

‘Yeah, I’m ok.’ She wrung the water from her hair. ‘Do you mind if I come in?’

I nodded, barely aware of what my body was doing.

She stepped into the house and I closed the door behind us. When she came inside Rashida jumped from the couch and walked up to her, uncertain. She bent down to rub her behind her ear and she responded with a wagging of the tail and a small bark.

‘You’re just beautiful, aren’t you?’

More wagging of the tail. Rashida was happy to see her again. It had been months after all.

‘You mind making me a cup of tea?’ she asked me. ‘You know how I like it.’

I did know how she liked it and I nodded my head and headed to the kitchen. I watched her as the kettle boiled behind me. She looked the same as my dead wife. Tammy. Maybe it wasn’t her, just somebody who happened to look like her. Yet she knew me and I knew very few people. None of them looked like Tammy.

As I brought the tea to her, made the way she liked it, I saw that she was holding the photo of us in her hand. Rashida lay her head on her lap as she had always done with her. She never did that with me, only her.

‘We were pretty cute, weren’t we?’ she asked.

‘Yeah. Yeah, we were,’ I said, sitting beside her. I held my own cup of coffee, taking it strong which I didn’t usually like but this time I felt it was needed.

She sipped her tea and held the cup in her hands. She rubbed Rashida behind her ear.

She didn’t look any different from what I remembered, before she’d died. The same age, the same lines across her forehead. The same mouth, the same hair. The same all over.

‘I see you got a new guitar,’ she said, gesturing to the shiny black object that had cleared my bank account.

I nodded. I didn’t really know what to say.

‘Well, are you going to play for me?’

She smiled at me and it did something to me, it wrung something inside my body that had lain dormant ever since the phone call.

I picked up the guitar, feeling the strings touching my skin. They were sharp but familiar. This guitar was far better than the guitar I’d been playing that had wooed Tammy, that had made her approach me after the pub performance. I made barely anything for those gigs yet they’d brought me her which made money irrelevant.

She’d smiled at me and I knew she was the one. The only one.

‘What...what do you want me to play?’

She seemed to think over it. ‘Some Beatles?’

I nodded, holding the pick in my fingers. She always loved The Beatles, and I remembered the song she loved more than the others.

‘Little darling, it’s been a long cold lonely winter,’ I sang, my voice hoarse but clear. ‘Little darling, it feels like years since it’s been here. Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun, and I say it’s all right.

She closed her eyes as she listened to me sing, adding the little doo doo doo bits herself. My guitar playing was better than my singing but it never mattered to her, she was entranced anyway.

After I finished she opened her eyes, tears coming from the corners.

‘That was beautiful.’

I nodded. I put the guitar down, not knowing if she wanted me to play something else but I knew I couldn’t continue. Even that had taken a lot out of me, my hands shaking again, and I had so many questions.

She took another sip of her tea.

‘Why are you here, Tammy?’

It hurt to ask her. She lived here, she didn’t need to be questioned. Yet she was dead and it had to be asked.

‘I know you have questions. It’s sensible, to question things. But this time I want you to not ask me anything.’

She put her hand in mine. It was warm.

She pulled me forward and hugged me, hard. I thought I could hear her crying but when she came forward but there wasn’t a tear on her face.

‘I need to go,’ she said, getting up from the couch.

I wanted to grab her, bring her back down, sing her more songs and hug her forever. But I didn’t do anything.

I watched her go to the door and walk out, not even looking back.

I never played the guitar again after that day. I never felt I wanted to. I knew if Tammy walked back in one day then I would bring the guitar out in an instint but until that day I wouldn’t play again.

I could never be sure if all that happened that day was a dream or my wife really did walk back into my life to hear me play a song. I knew she was dead, I knew there was no coming back from that and I didn’t believe in ghosts.

All I knew was when I locked that shiny black guitar away I wouldn’t look at it again unless she walked back into my life.



THE END


2019 M. B. Barlow

Bio: M. B. Barlow lives in Glasgow, Scotland. He's been working on a novel for years and just got back to the world of short stories. He has two stories previously published in Aphelion Webzine, The Pathetic Motley Clown and Brown Rabbit.

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