It is one of those Midwestern mornings when the fever of a long spell of humid, sticky, summer weather finally breaks. The first light of morning breaks yellow-green and the mist covers the low ground until the sun is fully up.
There’s a certain lightness of feeling in the air on mornings like this and it only added to the anticipation Sara felt as she waited for Jim to come and pick her up. Today was the day Jim was taking her guitar shopping and though she absentmindedly stumbled through her morning routine of coffee, and straightening her small apartment, she could think of little else but the anticipation of the guitar adventure upon which she intended to embark.
Sara silently warned herself not to overly romanticize the whole notion of learning the guitar. How many dreams had died too soon as reality burst the bubble of fantasy.
From down on the street came the sound of a horn. Sara gave a peek out the window to make sure it was Jim, then grabbed her credit card and tucked it in her pocket as she hurried down the stairs to the awaiting car and hopped in. Without delay, Jim pulled away from the curb and they were off!
“Isn’t that where you turn for the guitar store?” Sara said as they passed Washington St.
“I’m planning on taking you somewhere else. I think I’ve found a better deal.” Jim said this as he pushed a cd into the player.
Steve Earle’s voice whined out “I am a pilgrim on this road…”
Sometimes anticipation and excitement makes a person overly talkative---you know, chattery. But sometimes the anticipation just hushes you as your mind keeps circling. That’s how it was in the car this bright morning.
Soon Jim turned the car off the main road and headed out of town toward the town reservoir. As he made the turn Sara looked quizzically at him as the wind from the rolled down windows whipped her hair across her face.
“I’ll get us there. I just want to stop off up here and get something we’ll need later” Jim lied.
Nothing else was said as they got lost in the beauty of the morning on that small backroad, shaded by the huge sycamores that laced the river that ran parallel to the road.
They soon pulled up to the public boat dock at the town reservoir.
“What are we doin…?” Sara began but Jim had already jumped out of the car and was calling back to her…
And as they walked along the dock Sara could see that Jim was heading for an old but very nicely cared for, small, mahogany boat that was tied to the dock. Across its stern was lettered “Beautiful Dreamer” and across its gunnel leaned a couple of fishing poles.
“Get in!” Jim said as he lowered himself into the small boat.
“Why are we…what’s…” Sara stammered out.
“You said you were tired of fishing from the dock. I’m going to take you…” Jim started to say and this time it was Sara’s turn to interrupt.
“I was speaking…you know…metaphorically! I wasn’t saying I wanted to go fishing!.
Jim just put out his hand to help her steady herself into the boat as he said “Humor me. Come on and let’s just get in and get this boat going.”
Sara didn’t know why but she gave in anyway, took his hand and stepped in. She sat down on the broad bench that spanned the boat from side to side and Jim went to the stern and…yup…he pulled the starter chord on the old outboard motor and the boat came to life.
“Where in the world did you get this old boat?” Sara asked.
“It’s Mark’s” Jim said, referring to their friend in the local police department. “He refinished it in his basement last winter. It’s been in his family for over 30 years.”
“It’s really kind of a beautiful old boat isn’t it?” Sara said as her mind drifted back to the old mahogany boat at their uncle Bill’s cabin. She was connecting that this wasn’t coincidental---Jim had REALLY been listening to her the other night! He’d even tried to find a boat reminiscent of the one that left them standing, unwilling landlubbers, while their father and brothers went off to do some real fishing.
Sara was awakened from her reverie by the site of a group of people gathered on the shore of what they always referred to as “The Beach” when they were growing up. The Beach was a glorified sandbar at the far end of the reservoir that had been the summer hang out in their teen years.
As the little boat pulled closer Sara realized the gathering was a group of her friends. As they closed in on the shore of the sandbar the small crowd parted to reveal…
…hanging from a VERY oversize bamboo fishing pole, bent nearly onto itself…
And over the guitar was a huge, hand-lettered sign that said “Bon Voyage!” and “Happy Fishin’!”. As Sara got closer she saw that the sign was signed by all the friends.
At a complete loss for words Sara just walked between her friends, toward the guitar to get a closer look at it. As she thought she had noticed, there was an envelope tucked carefully behind the strings and resting on the bridge. It was marked “Sara” in Jim’s printing.
After pausing a bit to admire the beauty of this guitar that hung there by its headstock, Sara carefully extracted the envelope.
From the envelope she drew out a card obviously hand-made by Jim. It was obviously handmade by Jim because the cover of the card was a scanned old photo of a VERY young Jim and Sara in their underpants, mugging for the camera, each making “rabbit ears” behind the other’s back. They were standing on that very dock in Canada so many years ago, and upon a careful look Sara could even see that old mahogany boat tied to the dock in the background.
Sara’s grin just got lots bigger.
As she opened the card a letter dropped out on the sand at her feet. She quickly picked it up and began to read…
I couldn’t be more excited for you, or more honored that you asked me to help you along this new adventure toward becoming a guitar player. I just wanted to thank you for that late night “wake up call”. I had let way too much time grow between dreams. Your call got me to pick up my old friend. In fact, Julia and I have been making music again ever since your call and we’re both wondering how we ever could have put that part of our life aside for so long.
I got a great deal on this guitar for you. It’s a Larrivee and I bought it from a guy who bought it and then decided he already had a guitar too similar to own both. By the way…you owe me $850. A cheap guitar is just an excuse to back out of learning when the learning becomes more difficult. Besides, when a guitar sounds and plays better the practice isn’t nearly the chore it could be on a low quality instrument.
But that’s not what I really wanted to say. What I wanted to say to you is that it’s not lost on me, or any of your friends gathered here, that you choose to work the shift you do because the night time is the time when the kids on the ward are the most frightened. You know you have the gift for comforting them and you’re not satisfied to assume someone else will come along and do it. We all admire the heart you have that has you caring more about the kids than job advancement, more than a more comfortable shift.
If the kind of life you live is “fishing from the dock” as you say, and if you live your life always reacting, waiting and never bass fishing in the deep water, then I’ve gotta tell you……I can’t imagine admiring anyone more than I admire you for the way you handle what life throws your way.
Maybe, just maybe, in life the bluegills are the real game fish!
Love Jim (and Julia)
As Sara finished reading the letter she looked again at the card, now open, its inside page revealing dozens of children’s names in all their backward letter, first cursive glory. All the names are circled in bold blue ink, and above them all Jim had printed in big block letters....
That evening the gang built a big bonfire and sat around it as Jim and Mark initiated Sara’s new guitar---breathed a soul into it, as they took turns leading the group in some old favorite songs.
John Bauman is a very talented Potter from Warsaw, Indiana. He sells his pottery at some of the best known art shows around the country. But his creative talent runs deep and John also writes songs and stories such as this one to channel his creative energy.
John is a frequent and well loved contributor to Acoustic Guitar Magazine's "Guitar Talk" Forum, and this story was created and posted by John piecemeal over a period of months on that forum. It has been reproduced here in its entirety for all to enjoy.
Hopefully, he will be so inclined to share other stories with us in the future.