"CROSSROADS BLUES" - Dorothy Davies
Hey, thanks! Been walking that road forever, breathing everyone’s fumes and not one cared to stop for me. Damn thumb near enough aching from being stuck out so long and being ignored, too!
This is one fine car, I have to say. Nice. What’s the music ... oh, OK, never mind. I can live with it.
What? What do I like? Blues. Old style blues. Let me tell you a story, then, how I got to be where I was when you picked me up, you being a damn fine person and all, let me tell you. You up for that?
Well, like I said, I like the blues and I had this ambition, you know? Man, did I ever want to sing the blues! You know, like the old ‘uns, none of this wailing guitars and sobbing violins and screaming keyboards … anyone can make a blues song outta that. No, me and the old guitar, a voice and a song and a heartbreak, that’s what I wanna do. Like Robert Johnson, like Blind Lemon Jefferson, like the Reverend Gary Davis … they didn’t need no backing, did they?
So there I was, sat in the park – ‘cos the family done got sick of me plucking the same chords over and over and I got jokes like ‘I didn’t wake up this morning’ and stuff like that – crooning to myself about lost loves and too much drink and roads that go on forever especially when you’re walking them, when this guy strolls up to me. Smooth like, slicked back hair, slicked back clothes come to think on it, and shiny shoes like they just came out of the box but he walked like they were slippers. That shouted money to me; you gotta spend a lot of money to get new shoes that soft and well fitting. I just drooled over the shoes.
Yeah, I know, supposed to be the females who are shoeaholics, but I do like a good pair of shoes and I had ambitions, oh yes, to go buy me handmade soft leather shoes one of these days, when the right person finds me and promotes me and I sell records by the million …
You gotta have a dream, aintcha?
And here he was, the dream, right in front of me.
‘Cos this here guy says, in a voice as slicked back as his hair, ‘You got something there, son, I’d like to hear more.’ Before I could answer he snaps open a silver box like you’d keep smokes in, but thinner, you know what I mean? And out comes a smart piece of card, embossed with silver and all, wouldn’cha know. Record Producer it said. His name? Don’t ask, I didn’t see. When you want a recording more than you want the next breath, well, sort of, who sees names? You see what you wants to see. I saw Record Producer. My heart near enough stopped in its rhythm, that it did.
The funny thing is, now I think on it, he never got impatient, no shuffling of feet in those fine leather shoes, no sigh of impatience as I stilled my heart and my thinking and my sudden desire to gush madly all over the place which wouldn’t have been good, now would it? Who wants sycophantic gushing, I ask you...?
So I got myself together and I said, calmly and quietly, like, ‘Thank you, sir. I would really appreciate a chance to show the world what I can do.’
‘Oh you will,’ he said, so quiet like I wasn’t sure I heard him. Even more slicked back than before. I started to think he was all oil inside, he was that smooth, that liquid, that – do you know, the word gloopy comes to mind? Now why would that be, I wonder?
So we goes for a drink, like, he ordering some fancy cocktail the like of which I’d never heard nor seen before, and man, having seen how it looked in the glass, all sort of fiery and wild and dark and menacing – now there’s another odd thing, menacing? A drink? well, it was, and right glad I was I asked for a straight pint. I know where I am with beer. You can keep the fancy stuff. He tossed the drink back and went and got another. Then I got to look at him proper like for the first time.
You know how some people’s eyes are so black they show nothing? No? Well, that was how his looked to me. Couldn’t read a thing in them, not a thing. Worried me a bit but I kept thinking ‘record producer’ and tried to overlook the almost blank face, the expressionless eyes, the cut of a mouth – hardly any lips, you see – and concentrated on the oily slicked back voice, which was talking of demo discs, of expensive recording time for free, of introductions to top people, of air play and of money.
‘What do you want of me?’ I asked eventually. Nothing comes free, there’s always a price.
‘Ha, about time you asked that.’ There was an edge to the voice that hadn’t been there before. I sat up a bit and wondered why the change.
‘Well ... nothing is free, is it, not really...’
‘A wise person, for a change. You’re right, friend, nothing is free. I don’t want much of you, actually. I would ask that the first recording we make be out in the open, is all, with a hand held recorder, we can clean it up later, be assured of that, but I want real blues, dirty down low and gutsy blues, I want – you to come to the crossroads at midnight and sing for me.’
Do you know, I fell for it? How stupid is that? You can ask yourself that question as I did and get no answer. It was the oily voice, you see, which held glittering promises in its depth, bit like oil that’s spilled shows up as a rainbow. That kind of thing.
Damn me if I didn’t go. The crossroads he specified were miles from anywhere, my beat up old car only just made it before it coughed its last and expired in a heap of rust right there on the side of the road. I had just pulled over in time. I got out, guitar rescued from the back seat, song in my head and my mouth, and went over to the crossroads – where he was waiting.
I still didn’t fall in with knowledge, you know. Even though I had his card in my pocket and wondered why he spelled Damon as Daemon.
He had this fancy recording thing in his hand. I felt pretty damn stupid, standing at a crossroads singing a blues about standing at a crossroads, a sort of interpretation of Robert Johnson’s which I rather liked, but then I got into the spirit of it, sang my heart out and all but made my fingers bleed on the guitar strings.
He said I did just fine, it was exactly what he wanted. He said he would get in touch with me. I said thanks, don’t you want to write down my name and address and stuff? No, he said, I know where you live and he reeled off my address, my phone number, my mobile number, my security information ... man it were scary, I tell you.
I ain’t been the same since. Something’s gone out of me. Now I don’t believe in this soul thing, but there might be a grain of truth in it, since I sang that song and stood on that crossroads, I feel different.
Did I hear from him again? No.
What am I doing hitching? Trying to get back to the crossroads to see if I can get it back, whatever ‘it’ is.
Not holding out a lot of hope, but hey, thanks for the ride. This is one lonely old road when you have to walk it.
The crossroads are right here.
Don’t fancy staying with me, do you?
BIO: Dorothy Davies is a writer, medium and editor who lives on the Isle of Wight, a small island off the south coast of England which is said to be the most haunted place in the UK. There she channels books from spirit authors and stories from a horror writer who says he isn’t done telling stories yet. She is a proud member of the Fictioneers and has appeared in many Static Movement anthologies, as well as editing one of her own. She is the author of ‘Death Be Pardoner To Me’, the life of George, duke of Clarence, given to her by the duke himself.