Falling Off a Log
"I want a promise, Joe. The best promise you can make. This town has a huge secret, and nobody's ruined it for fifteen years. If I tell you what you want to know, I need to be sure that it'll still be secret in another fifteen years."
"Can't I even tell Scott?"
"Let's leave Scotty out of it for now. He already knows. Can you just keep it inside yourself?"
Scott knows something and didn't tell me? "Scott knows?"
"Put the guitar in the house and let's take a walk."
I brought the guitar up to my bedroom and laid it on the bed. I just had to open the case and take a look at it. I hadn't even seen it close up. Scott knows? He'd been my best friend for four years. We talked about everything. If he knew any secrets he would have shared them with me.
I looked at the guitar and couldn't believe it was mine. It was perfect in every way I could imagine. I wanted to play it right then, and under any other circumstance I probably would have disappeared with it for at least four hours. But Dad was waiting for me outside. I closed and latched the case and headed down to meet him in the driveway.
"So, let's walk," he put his arm across my shoulders and we headed down the sidewalk.
"Joe, I grew up in this town. I had a best friend then who was a lot like you. He daydreamed all the time, and he could play the guitar like stink. He was so good. He just knew he was good enough to become rich and famous. He quit school in his junior year and left town to try his luck in the city. His luck was good. By the time he was twenty-one he was rich and famous. Sold millions of records. Had everything money could buy."
"Was it ...?"
"Shhh. He also had problems. Good as he was, he was also young and inexperienced in a lot of things. He got into the lifestyle in a big way - and into drugs and booze in an even bigger way. He was wasting everything he had, especially his talent. It got to the point where even the music started to go downhill. He couldn't see it. He hit bottom when he OD'd on something and ended up in the hospital for a long time. That was about 17 years ago."
"I can keep the secret." I thought I knew where this was heading. I could picture myself getting into the same kind of trouble. I was too shy for my own good. I wasn't a very strong person. I didn't make friends easily, and could be a pushover when I did.
"I haven't finished yet, Joey. When my friend was recuperating he had a nurse. She was disgusted by him at first, but as he dried out she started to see the shy, insecure, nice guy that was inside. She helped him clean up his act and get back with his career. He left his band and went solo. His next album was his biggest ever. He asked his nurse to marry him. She did. They started having babies. They didn't want the celebrity life. They wanted to bring their kids up normal. They didn't want anyone to know who they were. They needed to live somewhere they could trust their neighbors. They bought a small farm and moved. He had old friends in the area, and they agreed to keep the secret. Lots of people know the secret, and nobody's ever hinted at it, even among themselves."
I was a little confused. I thought this was going to be a lecture about me not going overboard into the rock scene. Now it was back to the secret. "I can keep the secret," I said again.
"I believe you, Joe."
Just then, Mike's van passed us heading to our house. We turned around and trotted back. We hadn't walked very far.
"Goodies for you, Joe," Mike was beaming. "Help me get it unloaded."
For the next ten minutes we carried stuff up to my room, including my old guitar. My Mom appeared to look at my new treasures. I opened the new guitar up to show her and she seemed as blown away as I was.
"Joey - it's ... it's ... I didn't know a guitar could be so beautiful. It's so perfect for you."
"You know, too?"
She looked at my Dad. "How much have you told him, Sid?"
He looked serious. "Quite a bit of it, but I still haven't gotten to the punch line."
Mike had to go. We walked him out to his van. He was still grinning, and I somehow didn't think it was from the big sale he'd just made. I couldn't help it. I ran over and wrapped his wiry frame with a huge hug, resting my head on his chest. I had no words.
He put his arms around me and hugged back. "Good luck, Joey. Be good. And don't be a stranger. You got enough stuff there to last you a year, but you can still come by to visit."
"I will. I promise."
He got in the van and backed out, with all of us waving goodbye.
My Dad looked at me, then at my Mom. He had a twinkle in his eye and it grew into sort of a smirk.
"Joey - go get your new guitar. We're going to show it to Scott."
"What about Scott? What about the rest of the story?"
"I think you've heard enough for one day." The smirk was turning into an evil grin.
"Get the guitar, Joe."
I ran up and got it. They were already in the car. I climbed in the back seat with my guitar.
"Joey, you said you can keep the secret. Now you have to promise. Your best promise."
"Especially in weak moments, or angry moments. Just put it in the back of your head in the most private place you can find."
"I will. I promise you, Dad. I will."
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