The Days we Live

I noticed that there was someone (his daughter, student, girlfriend?) who was pushing back the onlookers to make room for a tripod, to which she had attached a high-end digital camera. It took some time before the preparations were complete.

The busker was waiting to one side, looking like an ageing Jesus who had somehow survived Golgotha. He had long white hair, down to his shoulders, and a wispy, straggly beard. At his neck he wore a red scarf and he sported a vintage tweed waistcoat. I noticed he was wearing small, white mini-headphones, as if he was listening to something. At a signal from the young woman, he walked to the centre of the installation, picked up his saxophone, fixed it to a lanyard around his neck, and turned to face the small group of watchers.

I was at the front now, close enough to him to see his eyes, which were hazel with flecks of yellow. When he smiled, it was a warm, slightly tender smile, like that of a mystic guru from the East. He put the saxophone to his lips. He closed his eyes and opened them again. He took a deep breath and played six notes. That was all. He closed his eyes again, as if checking the sound in his memory, and opened them, staring straight at the camera. The he bowed. It was over. Whatever it was, it was finished. The man and the young woman began packing away their things, and the few people watching wandered away. I stayed a few moments longer, then, too, continued on my way to the pharmacy.

It was one of those inconsequential things that you forget pretty quickly. You might tell a friend about it over a drink that evening, but, on the other hand, you might not. In my case, I took the medicine that I had bought, went straight to bed, and promptly forgot all about it. That’s how it would have stayed, but for another trip to the chemists a few days later. I had developed a dry cough which had become slightly bronchial and I wanted a bottle of Collis Brown’s mixture. I arrived at the building where the strange musical event had happened at exactly the same time of day. There they were again, the same musician and his young assistant. Once more, I joined the onlookers. Everything was exactly as before. Six notes on the saxophone, and it was all over. I wondered, briefly, if the ritual quality of the event was meant to have some religious significance.

The weekend arrived. I had been off-work for the whole week, but I felt a lot better. I had started to think about the saxophone player, to wonder why he was going to such lengths to produce nothing of value. It seemed like a completely futile exercise, done for the sake of doing something futile. A ritual without meaning, like a Becket play. I went there once more, choosing the same time of day. Of course, they were there again. Six more notes were played. Had I detected a difference? The notes seemed more staccato, differently spaced, but to my untrained ear they sounded pretty similar. I thought about speaking to the musician, but it felt all wrong, as if doing so would puncture the solemnity of the occasion. Surely, they wouldn’t bother performing on a Sunday? I couldn’t resist the temptation to find out, and once more took myself to the boarded-up building. I arrived a little late, just as they were packing up.

The man recognised me, ‘Oh, it’s you.’

‘I’m sorry, I must have misjudged the time.’

‘Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much,’ he said, and winked at me.

‘Six notes, I expect.’

‘Ah! Have you worked it out?’ he asked.

‘No. I haven’t a clue what you are doing. But I do find it intriguing.’

‘Good,’ was all he said, and he turned away from me to continue taking down the sheet and dismantle the small scaffolding structure.

I didn’t go back. There didn’t seem much point in seeing the same thing over and over again. Six notes on a saxophone, a musical version of Groundhog Day. My cold subsided and I went back to work.

the story continues on the next page…..

14 thoughts on “The Days we Live”

  1. Hi Noel, well you certainly packed a lot into a short story! Really intrigued me, thanks.

  2. Very cleverly done, simplicity and complexity interwoven. Beautifully written, with a haunting meditative quality.

    Hope there will be more stories.
    Loved the Rita Draper Fracao artwork as well.

  3. tres interessant, meme fascinant…d une certaine facon un peu triste aussi ..mais cette historiette a fait vibrer en moi qqchose , je ne sais quoi..en tout cas ca fait du bien. Merci donc Noel . jhp

  4. Good story Noel….hope you’re keeping well, and presumably you’ll be seeing Yedo sometime in the not-too-distant future…and possibly his lovely extended family as well. Best wishes – Veryan

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