Spoon Licks

Bits of ground coffee lodged themselves in between what teeth were still sticking in his beet-red gums. The tip of a rollie hung gently from the top of his lip while he humbled, that is hummed and mumbled, some conjured-up words to nestle between the clankity clanking tings he made while the spoons hit themselves, then his torn-overalls, and completed the circuit on the flesh of his left hand. His eyes were closed. He only had space for one thought.

He and Lonnie were going to get the right words one of these weeks and they were going to remember the rhythms the next morning, too. He was going to get his self up from digging that black coal and Lonnie would get to stop running the gin and they would ride into the city as the Improverished Brothers and they would cut a record down in Tennessee. The spoons he held ‘tween his fingers was the only set he owned and the only thing he really felt was his at all.

He sat down outside the corner drugstore and smacked out tunes that were messy, but in the way that made passersby want to shuffle a giddy-up step into their hitch while they went in and out of the shop. Most paid the smoking spooner no heed of acknowledgment, to the untrained eyes, but his beats looped around their minds while they waiting in line at the druggist’s counter. When they left the store they would look upon the man, seated on an upside-down crate of peaches, bouncing his knees like an overexcited uncle taking his toddler kin on an imaginary horseback chase, and they would all the lot of them squint at the glare from the sun to hide the smile that formed in the corner of their mouths.

Avery Samson licked spoons hotter’n anyone under the Mason-Dixon.

Trouble was that no one, save for Lonnie Samson and those souls going to and from the drug store, had the slightest notion this boy had such a gift with those cereal-shovels. Avery, a coal miner who’d been on God’s green earth only 20 years was about to trade that peach crate for a finished wooden stool, his miner’s headlamp for footlights, and that dusty corner for a awe-inspiring stage. The wheels would only be put in motion after he first made an acquaintance of radio repairman Gil Kilman, the man who would give Avery his very own portal to the auditory world that was bluegrass music. Gil, passing idly through town on a business trip to Manhattan, heard the enchanting noises coming from Avery and Lonnie just ’bout when the sun was setting and he couldn’t help but introduce himself to the boys and present them with the little box that would spark the biggest change in their lives.

“Boys,” Kilman had said moments after shaking their gritty hands, “this here’s the finest brand new refurbished radio you will come across in ten years. I might get twelve dollars for this model if I talk to the right man, but I need to know that it belongs in the right hands. Now, what you just been playing, that is something that ain’t never been heard out of this contraption or I believe anywhere else on this earth. You boys is got something no two folk have. You inspired, you hear? Now you promise you take this radio on home tonight and you find the blues and gospel songs and you listen to them and while you do you realize that’s going to be you coming into people’s living rooms one day. Mr. Gil Kilman told you so.”


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