Short Stories

Harmonica visitors submit fiction or non-fiction short stories based on experiences that involve the harmonica or harmonica playing. If you would like to have a short story included in our collection, please note the procedures for submission in the bullet points on the Short Stories main page.

"Voice Mail Blues"

I'm a business reporter. I work at a daily paper, covering all the news and blues about local businesses and economic development. Real white-collar stuff.

I got to work on Monday morning, grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to my desk. The red light on my phone was lit, indicating a voice message was waiting.

Dialing in the code, I listened as I heard my wife's voice explain that she had packed her clothes and was leaving.

"Would you feed the dogs until I get a place to stay that lets me have pets?" were her last words.

"Whoa, what a day I'm gonna have," I said to myself as I leaned over and turned on the computer. I cranked out a couple of stories, then called Tom to see if he wanted to grab a sandwich.

Tom's the president of the local chamber of commerce. He's 57, white and peddles memberships to the chamber while hailing the virtues of small business. He's also a pretty good picker, and loves the blues.

What's a white 57-year-old chamber of commerce president know about the blues? Well B.B. said everyone gets the blues, even the Queen of England.

Tom was in Viet Nam, lost his first wife to cancer, lost his first son to crack and he grew up in St. Louis sneaking into juke joints to hear the old guys jam. He knows the blues.

At lunch he said he was going to Apple Annie's for open mic night to play with a couple of friends.

"You oughta bring your harps and sit in," he said. "Lord knows you gotta work that crap outta your system."

As the day wore on, the fear of playing in front of people slowly faded as the idea grew on me.

I showed up at Apple Annie's with my three Hohner Pro Harps and a little trepidation. I'd never really played for an audience before. But this was Apple Annie's, a local watering hole in a small town. How many people could possibly be there?

A lot. The place was packed, and I knew a lot of these people. This would be embarrassing, but I went on in.

Tom was pulling his Strat from its case, and getting ready to play with a buddy. I grabbed a beer and sat down. They struggled through a CCR song, said thanks to the audience, then the next guy jumped up. Tom came over.

"You bring your harps?" he asked, sipping on a gin and tonic. What kind of blues man drinks gin and tonic. Gin maybe, but not gin and tonic.

"Yeah, but I don't know," I wavered. "I haven't played in a long time."

"That's what's great about open mic night," he said. "It's just a night for guys like us who don't have any real talent, but like to play."

So he started running through a list of songs he could play.

"As long as it's one the three keys I got harps for, I'm OK," I told him. "You just get the song started and I'll jump in."

So I went up to the little stage they set up and grabbed a mic. I was just going to blow a little bit to see how loud the mic was set up. Looking out at the crowd I decided it would be better to close my eyes so I wouldn't see them looking at me and laughing.

As I cupped the mic and pulled out a wail from the fourth hole, bending it slowly down then back up, something happened. That note was the perfect sound to describe what I had been feeling all day. The next note was even better, the same note, but I tripped my tongue a little at the end, which gave me a rhythm. Before I knew it, I was the one who started the song, and Tom was jumping in to join me.

I went through every emotion I had felt throughout the day. Standing there on the little stage with my eyes closed, I poured out my heart, from the soul-wrenching sadness, to the raging anger, everything came out of that harp, through the amp and to the audience. They apparently got the message, ‘cause when I finished, they roared. I looked over at Tom and wondered what the hell had just happened.

"Man, I've heard you play before, but that was unbelievable," he said. "I told you that you had to get that crap outta your system."

Andy Cole

A business journalist at a daily newspaper in South Carolina, I grew up in Mississippi, where I developed a love of the blues.

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