Pen

The Best of Times Short Story Competition


Autumn 2018 Results




The Last Blues Man

Copyright © Tony King 2017


Crawdad Willy was a blues man. Born and raised in the town of Dime Box, Texas. He got stuck during birth and had to be surgically removed. He was stuck for the rest of his life in one way or another.

Stuck in Dime Box and he was certainly stuck on 3 chords. E…..A……and B. That was it. He’d tried other chords but they made him feel 'queer in the gut'. When he was a child, a piano teacher had tried giving him lessons involving a plethora of chords, including key changes and he had been stretchered to hospital, becoming a truant thence forth.

He used his new found abundance of spare time listening to the great blues men and sharpening his disdain for the 'trickier' players. He learnt to hate jazz. He loved Stevie Ray Vaughn and fixed to get himself an identical hat and Fender Stratocaster.

Crawdad had a permanently lit Camel non filter stuck between the E and B string above the nut and believed, like the Olympic Torch, it should never go out or blues would die.

He came up with and was stuck on 'the Texan Blues Diet' or 1, 4, 5 diet. Day 1 of the week you could only eat food beginning with E (Eggs was all he could think of) Day 4, foods beginning with A (Aardvark and Apples) and day 5, foods beginning with B (Beans and Bacon). He believed a wholesome 12 bar blues diet would stop the devil leading you down the slippery slope to a diminished chord or worse.

His parents had named him Crawdad Willy because as a child he was torn between two loves, crawdads, and his willy, so they named him after both.

On the anniversary of Stevie’s death each year Crawdad Willy would pick a town on the Louisiana border with Texas, dress up like a cop and pull people over coming from Louisiana on the spurious mission of searching their car for jazz.

He would confiscate music that wasn’t blues and depending on how much Wild Turkey he had consumed, would make people play their horns and impound them at the first whiff of BB improvising. He would scrutinize any guitars for signs of suspicious wear and tear above the first 4 frets. “it’s ok to play a lick or two up above the 4th now and agin’ but if you’re fixin’ to stay up there….well that’s a whole…. other… thing!!”

Today was the anniversary of Stevie’s death and he had set up his checkpoint on Interstate 10, West Orange and had consumed the best part of a bottle before pulling over his first victim.

“Hi y’all, mind if I check in yer trunk? Texas is clampin’ down on the spread of jazz, which has got plain outa control in N’Orleans and we’re fixin’ to stop the contagion……this ukulele the only instrument in the car? Oh it’s your 5 year old's? This instrument is not intrinsically bad but can be used for evil so keep an eye on your kid's repertoire and friends. Mind if I check the CD player? Rory Gallagher!! Ok, You’re good to go….have a nice stay in Texas y’all.”

No sooner had the confused and rattled family driven off, when a black car with tinted windows pulled up beside Crawdad, pausing for a good minute before two men in black, complete with Ray Bans, stepped out of the car.

“Crawdad Willy?”

“Yep…how’d you find me here….and why? You can’t arrest a police officer.” Crawdad’s ring finger was now stuck in the top of the Wild Turkey bottle, making it hard to hide. The agents silently assisted him to remove the bottle from his finger, making a loud pop which they all pretended to ignore.

“Sir, everybody knows you do this on the anniversary of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s death….no harm in that sir…..The thing is, President elect Trump wants you to perform at the Inauguration.”

“What the HELL does he want ME for!!!!! ….

“I ain’t a blues player’s asshole!!!!!!!...........What about Jimmy Ray Vaughn?”

“Busy.”

What about Buddy Guy?”

“Busy.”

“What about Eric Clapton?”

“Busy.”

“What about Peter Green?”

“Busy.”

“What about BB King?”

“Dead.”

“DEAD!!!! When did that happen??”

(News about BB King’s death hadn’t yet reached Dime Box.)

“I hate to cut you short Mr Willy, but we have tried 13,467 musicians before approaching you and nobody is willing to share a stage with President elect Trump….we can’t go back empty handed and no disrespect intended, but you’re our last hope in the nation sir.”

There was a long pause while Crawdad Willy and the agents all watched a tumbleweed blow very slowly back up interstate 10 until it got stuck, like everything else in Crawdad’s life, on the border fence. Willy slowly turned to the agents, took the half finished Camel from his lips and ground it under his alligator skin boots, cleared his throat and paused one more time before saying, “Gentlemen, you’re gonna have to play this gig yourselves.”

And with that, Crawdad Willy shot himself in the right hand.

With his good hand, and a painful grimace, he rang 911.