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.

Mike Ross

Between 1974-1989, while I rode the NYC subway system off-duty to and from work as a NYC Police Officer, Transit Bureau, I experienced many things.

Several times I made off-duty arrests. A couple of times I met women, one of whom married me. But the ride that was most profound started off as quite ordinary - a ride into the city in a train car where each person, if not in the company of another, would make it their business to mind no one else's business, being careful not to appear to be looking at another person, and doing the best to practice self-absorbtion - that's the safe way to ride a train in NYC - either that or act crazy, then you are sure to be left alone.

This ride suddenly became alive and the robotized patrons became relaxed, then downright emotional, when a black fellow, sitting by himself, started playing, then wailing, on his harmonica (I didn't know at that time that a wailin' harmonica is a "harp"). We were all suddenly "one" as each of us became enthralled with this fellow's performance.His soul was pouring out of his harp, and that appeared to humanize, for those brief moments, the riders. He received a thunderous round of applause. Unlike other instrument players on the subway system, he wasn't panhandling for change. He apparently just wanted to enjoy himself on an otherwise boring ride, and I guess he figured that, at the least, others wouldn't mind his music.

It is July 14, 2001, and I'm getting into learning how to play the harp. Sonny Terry and Sonny Boy Williamson II are my harp heroes - and it freaks me out that maybe one of them was the harp player on the train. I'll never know.

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