Breakfast with Billie Holiday Ch. 01byHeathen Hemmingway©
'All of me
Why not take all of me
Can't you see
I'm no good without you
Take my lips
I want to loose them
Take my arms
I'll never use them
Left me with eyes that cry
How can I go on dear without you
You took the part
That once was my heart
So why not take all of me'
My name is Shine, and today I'm celebrating my sixtieth birthday. Every year on the thirteenth of December I celebrate the same way. I watch the sun come up with a cup of coffee in my hand, and I watch it go back down with another cup of coffee. Normally I don't drink coffee late in the day, but on my birthday I make an exception. My house faces the bay, so every morning and evening I enjoy the sun painting the water in a shifting rainbow of golds, reds and blues. A wide stretch of light brown sand separates the edge of my property from the water, and often times I sit back and enjoy watching the people go by.
Every now and then a pretty gal in a skimpy bikini will go walking by, which is always nice to watch as she jiggles and bounces her way along (after all I am older but I'm not dead), but for me the thing I enjoy the most is watching the children at play. The kids dart about the waterfront with their brightly colored plastic buckets and shovels, their parents trying in vain to keep up with their excited children. Despite age, gender or race, most kids do pretty much the same thing - attacking the sand as if the fate of the world depends on constructing their grand sand castle in the nick of time.
I don't have any children of my own, but I came as close as a man can get, twice. I suppose logic dictates that this is why I enjoy watching the children play as much as I do, although I imagine that there's more to it than that. The truth is, I can't remember a single moment of my own childhood. Not one brief second of it, despite years of trying. Other memories, however, are not so easy to shake.
I've been wrestling with a memory all day, come to think of it. I've tried to distract myself but so far it hasn't worked. I spent an hour or so fishing off the pier. I caught two nice ones. They're in the refrigerator right now, cleaned and wrapped in butcher paper until I decide I'm ready to eat. My life is mostly routine and regimented, except for my appetite. In my younger years I always had the appetite of a bear; I could eat enough for two grown men and wouldn't gain an ounce of weight. I guess my metabolism or whatnot was high enough to burn it all off, plus working eighty and ninety hours a week had to contribute as well, I suppose. Now I eat much less and much less often. Just one of the many small changes that come with age, I believe.
I walked around my property for about an hour this morning, picking up a few twigs and sticks here and there and putting them in the garbage bin. I pulled the dead weeds out of the drive until my knees got to aching, and then came back inside. I played chess against myself for another two hours. Lucky me, I won both games. Despite the best of intentions, my life has unwittingly settled into a predictable routine.
One of my favorite routines is having breakfast with Billie Holiday, after watching the sun come up with the customary cup of coffee. I put my favorite Billie Holiday cassette in the little stereo mounted under my kitchen cabinet, and as I make my breakfast that sultry, strong, velvety voice of hers floats through the air. It is a ritual I have observed for years now, only broken by a rare and unexpected circumstance. Something about her voice speaks to me, as if we share the same pain in some way. As the sound of her singing echoes through the house, I often find myself lost in a rare moment when nothing plague me. There is her muscular feminine voice, and nothing else.
'You must remember this
A kiss is still a kiss
A sigh is just a sigh
The fundamental things apply
As time goes by
And when two lovers woo
They still say I love you
On that you can rely
No matter what the future brings
As time goes by'
The memory I have been trying so hard to put away today has been popping up around every corner, and in my time I have learned that memories tend to be that way for a reason. I met a young woman named Selena ten years ago today, and all day long she has been on my mind. Truth be known she's on my mind most every day. Today in particular I just can't shake her ghost, so I guess it's best just to let the memory run its course. I was madly in love with her, but now she's dead and gone. Her loss in my life is a pain I can't quite describe, but I'm not certain what pains me more; the fact that she's gone or the fact that I never got to say goodbye.
I'm what you would call a voluntary loner. I like people, don't get me wrong. I just like peace and quiet even more. The folks in town started calling me Shine a long damned time ago, and the name just stuck to me like glue. Every now and then I'll be in the grocery store or the post office and some wide eyed kid will come running up to me and call me 'Mister Shine'. I get a real kick out of that. I love kids. Nothing's better than a houseful of bright eyed kids and a fat happy baby in a basinet.
I got the nickname Shine because I make wind chimes in my spare time. I make all kinds, but my favorites are ones I make with little silver bells. And all of the wind chimes are silver, as well. Something about the color calms me; it has a clarity and a simple nature about it that I like. I think it's a peaceful color, if there were ever such a thing. I made my first set shortly after I moved here. It's primitive by comparison to the ones I make these days, but it's still my favorite by a long shot. I have a sun room on the side of my house, and it has big picture windows all down the length of it. When I finish a set of wind chimes I hang them in the windows. The sun catches on the silver and you can see the reflection from a long ways off. I have had folks who live on the other side of the water tell me that they can see the shine coming off of those wind chimes clear across the bay on a clear morning. Sometimes I'll draw the shades when there's a lot of boat traffic on the water, so as not to distract any boaters out on the water with the bright reflection. I was taught the merits of 'Love Thy Neighbor' a long time ago, and I live by those words still today.
And sometimes, loving thy neighbor takes a hell of a lot of effort, you see. At times I believe I am the only person who even remembers those words anymore.
I have been retired from the railroad for over twelve years now, and making the wind chimes is a hobby I seemed to settle into naturally. I spent almost thirty years repairing, fabricating, patching and rigging all manner of mechanical equipment to work, often under the worst of conditions with the least of equipment and supplies. Over the years I developed the unnatural ability to fix just about anything mechanical with what I have on hand, whatever it may be. Like any self-respecting tinkerer, I try to keep a basic lot of miscellaneous 'stuff' with me wherever I may go, just in case the need arises to fix something. One of my greatest joys in life could also be considered the most simple; I love to fix things, which falls right in line with another great source of content for me. I love to help people.
I claim to sell the damned things, but the truth is I give more away than I sell. All of them are potentially for sale, except for the first one I made. Money can't buy that one. Every now and then a passerby will be walking along the waterfront will see the reflection from all those silver bells and stop by to check it out, sometimes mistaking my home for one of those waterfront shops that sit not too far South down the beach. My property is always neatly kept, so I consider it to be both a compliment and an honest mistake. If they are visitors from out of town and are nice, I usually end up giving them a wind chime and shoot the breeze with them a bit. I've met alot of nice folks that way. If they're new folks to town I do the same. I guess I could make a killing selling the things. I'm not hurting for money so I see no need in being greedy. I think even the ugliest, meanest cuss in the world deserves something pretty in his life.
However, if someone stops by to ask about the wind chimes and they are the least bit rude, most times I tell them that they are not for sale, or I quote them such an astronomical price that they stomp away angry. I have little patience for rude people, you see. It takes little to no effort to show some manners, I believe.
There is a long, narrow porch on the front of my house. It has a tin roof with a metal rail that runs under the length of the gutters. I used to hang the wind chimes from there, until a deputy sheriff paid me a visit one day. He told me the glare coming off all those little bells had damn near blinded him. He was an older fella so I doubted he was stopping by just to give me a hard time. After he left I walked out to the road and looked back toward my house. Sure enough, the reflection coming off all those bells in the noontime sun was enough to blind me. I moved them all to the sun room. Turns out it was a good idea for a number of reasons. Silver tarnishes real fast when it's exposed to the elements. They stay shiny a hell of alot longer inside. One thing that a tinkerer like myself needs to thrive, of course, is something to tinker on. As much as it pains to think of it, I am also a widower, too. Today the memory of Selena and my wife before her are both haunting me, a memory waiting around every corner, manifesting itself in just about everything I see.
To Be Continued
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