The Wasted Minstrel

When I very humbly requested Lizzi of Considerings to guest post for me, and she immediately said, “Yes,” I jumped up and down, clapping my hands.  I may have even performed a cartwheel.  Excitement?  No.  Elation.

Lizzi has a way with words, to completely understate her talent.  As my eyes travel through her stories, her fingers reach out from my screen and wrap themselves around my heart, yanking it, tugging it, and turning it to putty in her palm.  She makes me laugh.  She makes me think.  She more often than not makes me cry, and I never cry.  She is brilliant.  A Writer.  A wordsmith, and she’s here today with  Part Deux to Shadows and Stardust.  Make sure and click the link to read Part One, a beautiful story inspired by yours truly.  To be called a muse by one of the most beautiful writers I’ve ever laid my eyes on,  both humbled me and made my heart grow at least three sizes.  So, please welcome my dear friend, Lizzi,  whose words will sink into your soul.  Then get ready to want more.  She’s good like that.

********************************

The town’s main street was thronged with people, huddled like penguins inside their winter coats; braced against the cold but determined in their quest to purchase. They were bedecked in bags, like peculiar woolly bumblebees, each surrounded by an ethereal cloud of their own steam – breath puffing words into visible clouds as they hurried past.

I was honeybagged myself, straining against the weight of New Things. The once-straight handles twisted and turned, cutting the circulation off in my fingers and combining with the chill air to freeze them into reddened claws – travesties of the hands that once were.

I navigated my way out of the main streams of people, cutting across others, ducking behind groups of chattering teenagers, taking big steps and little ones, my feet mindfully stepping the complex dance of Saturday At The Shops – avoiding dreamy couples, Stormtrooper mothers and cantankerous old women wielding their roll-along shopping trollies like tartan-coated weapons.

Seeking shelter in an eddy by a side-route off the main street, I found space to pause, down bags and rub some life back into my twisted hands. Leaning back against the building, I watched the crowds as they flowed past, marveling at their individuality and simultaneous mass-anonymity, wondering what their stories might be.

Hands warmer, I turned to gather up my bags once more when an alcove doorway caught my eye – fifty yards back from the river of humanity, it wasn’t so much the door which caught my attention as it was the small movement of a fabric-coated lump stuffed into the bottom of it – someone was there.

Like I’d been run through with a trident of guilt, compassion and the urge to DO something, a great pain welled up in me and I stood, transfixed, before moving towards the bundled person. I could see a pair of battered, tough boots poking out from under one end of what turned out to be a filthy camping blanket. A fluffy hat at the top end gave no clue as to what sort of person lay beneath.

Drawing by Lizzi Rogers

Drawing by Lizzi Rogers

I crouched down and hoped that none of the expensive-shop shopping bags were on display as I reached out and gently patted the crusted edge of the blanket “Hey – are you alright? Is there anything I can do for you?”

“Yeah”, came back an obstinate, female voice “You can fuck the hell off.”

The blanket shook and the hat bobbled upwards as the owner’s face came into view in a fury of movement “Who even asked you to…”

Her voice trailed off, and the retort I had been about to utter froze on my lips and disappeared as though dropped off a cliff.

Our eyes locked, and the thrall of horror at seeing a homeless person trying to survive the inclement weather turned to raging, devastating pain as I realised that this homeless person was known to me. I recoiled, my hand flying to my mouth in dismay and her name bursting out with the same lack of control as the time I’d first spoken to her:

“Bravo!”- it had exploded, unbidden from my lips as the echoes of her last crescendo faded and the bar seemed to shimmer in delighted silence in recognition that a masterpiece had just been played within its walls. She had sworn at me then, too, and our eyes had met, sparkling with delight at the soul-thrilling music she’d been able to coax from the old piano. We’d talked and worked together, and later she had played again.

I had returned to that bar many times to hear her play – turning up near closing time as she volunteered to stay behind again and wipe the place down once the drunks and revelers had all been kicked out. We spent several glorious months in this way – her playing and me clearing the glasses and sweeping the floors, our souls dancing with the notes as she gave them life with her magical, talented hands.

Suddenly, one day, she was gone. No explanation. Just gone. It had been five years, and I still missed our evenings of splendour; never since had I experienced such exquisite playing as that which she had wrought for me…

“Anitra?!”

Her blonde hair, now freed from its cover in her thrashing, was lank and dull. Her skin was grey and marked with sores and scars, as though the moon had been stretched over her sharp cheekbones. Her eyes were still a gorgeous, clear hazel, though they looked like deep wells of pain, waiting to pour out in anger and shame at the slightest provocation.

The moment lengthened, eyes still holding, hundreds of unspoken, frantic conversations passing between us as my throat choked-up, and the weight of emotion made it hard to breathe.

Finally, sotto voce, I whispered, her name imbued with the hurt of every lost evening and all the unheard notes, mantled with grief at finding her this way: “Oh, Anitra…”

We crumbled together, oblivious to the slowly-gathering audience in the shadows. I pulled her stinking, bird-light frame into my arms and held tight, even as she clung to me, mumbling into my shoulder that it was so, SO good to see a friendly face.

We clambered to our feet and hugged properly then, smiles and tears mingling, when suddenly I felt her stiffen, and heard her intake of breath as she pulled back, her face a mask of revulsion.

A gravelly male voice from across the road struck at us through the air “Ohhhh Annie – look what you’ve pulled in. Good girl! She looks like a rich one. Make sure you give that posh bitch your best licking – she’s gotta be worth a few quid. Don’t take less than £50, will you? I’ll be back for mine later.”

Transformed once more into a hard-faced street-walker, Anitra’s chin jutted and her eyes blazed as she snaked an arm around my waist and pulled me around to face the man, whose oiled hair and dark, greedy eyes raked over us both. The two louts who stood behind him were nudging one another and grinning, one making lewd gestures at us, poking his lapping tongue between the V of his fingers, and rubbing together the fingertips of the other hand in the universal sign for money.

“Oh Dominic”, she trilled, her voice light and dripping with false honey “sweetheart, I’m going up in the world, and with that, my prices. If you want this” – she grabbed her crotch and tilted her hips towards him aggressively – “you gotta pay me more. As of now.”

The oily man’s face registered a sneer of disgust as he turned, motioning for his cat-calling henchmen to follow him. By my side, the bravado gone, Anitra sagged against me and then pulled away roughly, her face burning red, unwilling to meet my gaze.

Hair curtained again around her, reminding me of our first meeting, her voice was equal parts ashamed and horrified as she blundered through an incoherent string of apologies, ending with a declaration to make herself scarce and never bother me again, and that she was sorry for everything, and for running away without telling me, and that life had been so harsh to her, and that she couldn’t, she just couldn’t…

I cut across her, mid-sentence “Can we just go for coffee or something? Somewhere warm? I’m freezing. And confused. So my treat, okay, but please let’s not stay here any more.”

She glanced at me then, and the wells of her eyes had been covered over – shuttered with a closed look she wore like armour.

“No. I don’t think so.”

Her voice shimmered down from frantic to automaton. Her joints tightened and the corners of her eyes looked pinched. She stared into the mid-distance for a moment before stooping to gather up her blankets from the floor, rolling them into a grimy ball, which she stuffed into a giant, tattered backpack.

“It’s been good to see you again, babe. Sorry I turned out like this. I wish things were different. In another world, we’d go for coffee and everything would be made better and the music might come back into my life. But seeing you was like a symphony, and it’s just reminded me how much I miss it. So no, we can’t go.”

She twisted away from me, striding towards the end of the street, pausing as I cried her name out, anguished this time, and ran to her, emptying my purse of all its paper money and stuffing it into her hand, arguing that she didn’t need to leave; promising her things could be better, if only she’d let me help her – please, please let me help her…

She stuffed the notes into her pocket, but didn’t turn. And without further word or look, strode off, rapidly disappearing into the still-teeming currents of the main street.

As fresh tears fell, tracking warm runnels down my freezing face, I vowed to myself on that desolate street that I would find a way to somehow bring the music back to her.

 

warning fiction

My Photo

I’m a deep thinker, truth-teller and seeker of Good Things. I’m also silly, irreverent and try to write as beautifully as possible. My thoughts are prolific and can be found at my blog, Considerings
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ConsideringsTwitter: https://twitter.com/LRConsidererGoogle+:  https://plus.google.com/u/0/+LizziR/postsPintrest: http://www.pinterest.com/LizziConsiderer/
Advertisements

90 thoughts on “The Wasted Minstrel

  1. Mandi…I totally missed ‘First’, as you see – I was too busy reading your gorgeous intro eleventybajillion times…wow! Thank you SO MUCH for having me over to write, and for saying those wonderful things,,,and for being completely cool with the strange little way my WriterHeart fell off-kilter and found Muse in you when we met.

    *bigHUGEstarry-eyedtwinklyglowysmiles*

    Like

  2. Great drawing and I like Cold Play. This was absolutely amazing, Lizzi, and thank you for sharing her and her amazing writing with us, Mandi. I’ve met so many street/homeless people. Some are of the group to take advantage of. While others have had a story of immense bad luck or circumstance come across their life. To meet Anitra like that had to knock you off your feet inside, Lizzi. Some are so desperate for help and others want nothing to do with it. This was incredible…thank you for sharing it…

    Like

    • Ah but the story isn’t done yet, Mike – there’s a part three brewing in my mind to tell 😀 It will happen. Soon. And thanks for liking this piece.

      Like

      • The Temptress of Amazing Muses teases and allures the reader yet again. Sorry, maybe Temptress was a bit much. All complimentary coming from here. Your stories…I’m in… 🙂

        Like

    • You are so right, Mike. I’ve spent a lot of time with the homeless, and you never know. It’s always important to give every person a fair chance, the benefit of the doubt, because the truth is…you really never know. Thanks for reading, Mike.

      Like

    • No, Rd, there is no end to her brilliance! I can attest to that. OHHHH, Lizzi, very cool story. I am so in love with how you describe things. You are the Queen of similes and analogies and it makes your writing so alive, tangible, and electric. My two favorite lines: “breath puffing words into visible clouds as they hurried past.” and “The moment lengthened, eyes still holding, hundreds of unspoken, frantic conversations passing between us as my throat choked-up, and the weight of emotion made it hard to breathe.” There are many more, but those two parts came alive in my brain.
      I hear rumors of a part 3? Yessssss

      Like

      • Awwwwwh BW you say the nicest things *eyes sparkle*

        I was pretty happy with the ‘breath puffing’ one. And the other one I really liked coining was the idea of shoppers being ‘honeybagged’ with all their purchases.

        That said, somehow each time I read this (and I know this sounds totally arrogant – it’s not meant to – it’s the somehow not-sure-WHAT that my Muse inspired, with me barely being part of the process, in a way) I find something new and shivery to appreciate.

        YES! Part three. Soonsoon. I will write it. And it will be shared 😀

        Like

    • *doffs cap* Why thank you, Rd. And yes – there absolutely is an end. A very short end, which happened the other day (interestingly, again it was Mandi who made this happen) when I had to work out how old I’ll be in the 50’s. And I tried SO HARD in my head, and just *couldn’t*. So I had to count on my fingers.

      Like

  3. Well written, this is the first of your fiction that I think I’ve read. Unless I read something and assumed it was true, which is not hard to believe.
    It’s always crazy when you run into or hear about someone you used to know and then learn that their reality has taken an incredible turn for the worst. This story captures that feeling well.

    Like

    • Oho! Is it now? Well, part one leads in quite nicely. And if you ever feel the compulsion to indulge further, there’s an MYF tag in my word cloud which takes you to all the fiction pieces I’ve written. I come up with them on a semi-regular basis, but the stories Mandi inspired have been my favourites so far. I just hope I can finish it with the same level of ‘oomph’ 🙂

      Thank you for the feedback 🙂

      Like

  4. This story hits me especially hard. I wish I could say that my encounter with this situation was fiction. This is so moving and you hit the emotions on target. Your writing is beautiful and very, very real Lizzi. Wonderful and will be looking forward to part three.

    Like

  5. Wow, Lizzi! So, so good! I love how you continue to tie music in throughout….”seeing was a symphony” etc. so sad and I think so relatable to so many of us who have desperately wanted to help someone who refuses us. Can’t wait to read part 3!

    And Mandi, hello 🙂 Thank you for hosting part 2 🙂

    Like

      • You know mandi, I have to confess something to you. When you commented on my IG photo, I thought you were one of those spammers who sell weight loss crap and follow people on IG to sell their products. Lol Then I went to your profile, saw your web address and starting putting two and two together. But I’m following now! Forgive me? 😉

        Like

    • Oh thanks so much Deanna, and hey, I’m glad that you noticed the tie-ins. There’s going to be an EPIC tie in for part three. I’m really excited for it. And glad for knowing Mandi and suddenly sparking all this creativity into words.

      And yes – that feeling is so awful.

      Like

      • Haha, Deanna, that’s hilarious! I never even thought about it. I just used to always say that when I was at the pool, so when I was thinking of a blog name, it popped into my head. I actually used to also say that if I wrote a book, I’d call it Cellulite Looks Better Tan, but that didn’t happen!!!

        Like

  6. Thank you immensely for that “FICTION” warning. You still made me feel actual feelings, but I like you anyway.
    I have a soft spot for the homeless, no one sets out in life wanting to live on the street. In a world with so much plenty, it’s heart-breaking to see so many like this. Your words paint SUCH a vivid picture. This story would be great PR for a charity. Well done as always. Now excuse me, I need a freaking tissue. Allergies or something *sniff*

    Like

    • *shoots a ‘look’ at Mandi* see? I TOLD YOU my people would string me up if there was no warning.

      Joy – you’re welcome for the warning. And I’m glad you like me anyway because I’d hate to encounter you upset and pissed off. I have a feeling that all the miles in the world wouldn’t escape me the wrath.

      *innocent look* perhaps my next story sponsored by Kleenex super-soft? But seriously, thank you. And I’d not thought of charity PR. There’s an idea 😀

      Like

  7. Holy god, that was amazing. Brilliant. Beautiful. Devastating. Heartbreaking. A “symphony” of words. I’m going to go read it again and then sit impatiently until you come to my blog to write the last piece!

    Like

  8. Wonderfully told tale, darling — and I’m glad it didn’t end happily ever after. It would have rang as trite and convenient. Speaking of happily ever after, what’s this I hear about Sympathy for the Devil – Disney Villains re-imagined (see, I figure if I give you all a title like that you’ll have to let me join in on the fun).

    Like

    • Helena, we would be HONOURED to have you join in on all the fun…course, you might consider ‘friending’ us on Facebook so as we can keep you in the loop, darling! *sneaky eyes*

      And I shall bear in mind about not having a trite ending. I would hate to let my readers down by leaving them with the saccharine taste of schmaltz in their mouths.

      Thank you for liking this 🙂

      Like

  9. Wow – this was amazing. So well written and heartbreaking too. I try to read so many different kinds of blogs and this one blew me away. Lizzi is a great choice for a guest post.

    Also, I must say, this blog seems to be where all the sexiest lady bloggers I follow are on. I like the company here!

    Like

  10. You just keep going don’t ya? It just keeps flowing like this ravenous river raging through thoughts and moments and emotions that unveil each and every scene. Wow. Just wow. Don’t just write a part three… write a part four, and five, and six and seven.

    I want to turn the page NOW. I want to know… feel….experience what comes next through your passionate and sickeningly perfect portrayal of this deep existence you do roam.. and seem to so effortlessly spit out on the keys.

    You amaze me.

    Waiting for the next chapter….

    Like

    • True moments of ‘Writer Breath’ whilst writing these – it lifted every hair on the back of my neck and gave me goosebumps. It whispered and beckoned until I turned and held its gaze and it shone that story, in scattered, golden fragments into my mind, then gradually they charged and moved and shaped themselves into what you see before you.

      Part three I can guarantee. I know nothing further at this stage.

      I shall have to give Mandi a little shake and see if any more Muse falls out…

      Thank you for such beautiful encouragement, dear one 🙂

      Like

  11. I hope you are writing part three! I hadn’t read part one and just finished reading both parts. I feel like someone snatched a good book out of my hands and refuses to give it back! Get busy Lizzi!!! 🙂

    Like

    • Heheheh I am, slowly-slowly. But not with this story 😀

      Didn’t Mandi say some absolutely lovely things? She’s such a sweetheart 🙂

      Like

  12. Lizzi – first let me tell you that I usually am not a huge fan of short stories. When I’m at the bookstore, I’ll occasionally be drawn in by the cover of a book and I’ll pick it up – only to be disappointed to find it is an anthology. I don’t know what it is – perhaps short stories are not long enough to hook me on the plot and make me fall in love with the characters. HOWEVER, I LOVED your short stories – they both hooked me on the plot and made me care about the characters – my only disappointment was that the story ended and I want MORE!

    I’m curious as to why Mandi was your muse for these particular stories? As I was reading, I kept wondering if she inspired one of the characters, or if she had experienced something similar?

    Like

    • Jana, Lizzi is off drinking with her bestie, so I’ll answer for her. We had a conversation one night via chat where we discussed that I once was a waitress at a piano bar and also that I played the piano a long time ago. We sent our favorite piano songs back and forth for a while. Her mind started spinning, and she created Shadows and Stardust. Then she heard the song that’s embedded at the end called “Fix You” one day while she was working. She sent me a message and said it made her think of me to which I responded, “Well, that’s one of my favorite songs.” The Wasted Minstrel spun from that. I have never been homeless though. That Lizzi made with her imagination.

      On Wednesday, March 19, 2014, Cellulite Looks Better Tan wrote:

      >

      Like

    • What Mandi said 😀

      Hey, I’m really pleased you liked it this much though, especially if you’re not usually one for short stories, so thank you so much for the feedback.

      THERE WILL BE MORE!

      Like

  13. I so much enjoyed exploring this side of your writing tonight, Lizzi. Interested to see where the story goes — read Helena’s and your comments regarding trite endings / schmaltz, and curious to see how you handle the ending without completely destroying poor Anitra! By the way, the detail and imagery on the sidewalk with all the shoppers — bravissima!

    Like

    • Why thank you so much 😀 I have taken Helena’s comments on board. Truly. And (secrets now…) it turned out to have FOUR parts, just to contain the fall-out which is about to occur.

      Why thank you – I do love getting a little descriptive-y every now and again.

      *doffs cap and takes bow*

      Part three to come SOON! Chez Laura, this time 😀

      Like

  14. I am so glad I read this as well, and yes, what Mike said is true. Homeless people. You cannot know what happened and why they are who they are. This insight into Anitra and how she lives and perceives things is eloquenty real, and your drawing should be in an art collection. Thank you for more beautiful writing. xox thank you also dear guest hostess Wasted Minstrel for being so gracious! xox jean

    Like

    • Well, this is it – you NEVER know, and that’s one of the things which ‘gets’ to me about the way people so often treat the homeless – with such derision, exclusion and dismissal. I hate it. It really, really aches my soul.

      And YES! Always thank you to Mandi for helping this happen.

      Like

  15. had read this before, but now* am reading in sequence… very cool.

    see you up in Part Three! (kinda want to save and delay the last part**, these two have been so much fun)

    * the now, ‘now’ not the then ‘now’
    ** yeah, I know, typical Y Chrome thing to do…lol

    Like

Go ahead ... say something. You know you want to.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s