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…He catches a sight through the door to what is presumably her bedroom. “A guitar.”

“What? Oh, yeah.” She raises her head, a bit startled, then turns and glances at it.

“You play the guitar?”

“I do.”

Jack walks into her room, taking hold of the guitar. He becomes distracted as he attempts a discrete glimpse at her bed and tries to take in a breath deep enough to imagine what her linens smell like, as they probably exude the scent of her body. Maybe she sweats a little at night, as the evenings have been so warm. But then another sight catches his eye and he looks down and laughs before glancing out at Zola.

“What?” She asks nervously.

Jack disappears from her vision as he approaches her bed to the left and retrieves an animal rights magazine on her bedside table, opened to a particular page. He exits her room with the guitar in one hand, and holding up the magazine in the other for her to see what he discovered.

“Oh my god,” she says, and she covers her face with her hands.

“You keep this by your bed Zola?” He teases as he holds up the image of himself posing for the PETA campaign against leather. He is naked except for vegan hiking boots and his genitals are concealed by an axe. After several shots of him with the log at the photo shoot, they determined it looked awkward. However, the axe, held by the head with one hand, the top of the handle balanced on the ground, looked more natural.

“Oh my god.”

“Why do you need it by your bed?”

“Oh stop,” she laughs and she stands to grab the magazine and throws it behind the sofa, between the sofa and the wall, then throws herself back to sit.

“Oh sure just cast me aside after using me.”

“I was just reading it–”

“There are about five words on that page Zola.”

“I mean the magazine!”

“I didn’t realize girls did that.”

“Read magazines?”

“You know what I’m talking about.”

“Oh god, stop. I was reading it and I came across that picture–”

Jack opens his mouth to speak.

“Don’t even say it Jack!”

“I’m flattered.”

“Just stop, I saw the picture and I was going to show you and tease you about it, because I’ve seen it many times before but I kept forgetting to mention it to you.”

“And you had it by your bed because you were going to lure me in there with your feminine wiles?”

She throws her arms over her face, crisscrossing and puts her head back. She says with a voice muffled from her arms, “I got a phone call just before you got here and dropped it there, it’s why I didn’t have much of a chance to tidy up a bit.”

“So you still had it by your bed, at the time you received the phone call.”

“Well you were supposed to be a gentleman and not just enter a lady’s bedroom.”

“Ah, you got me there. But…it was by your bed.”

She lets out a moan of mock frustration.

Jack laughs, “I’m just teasing you.”

“I think you’re a little serious.”

“You’re cute when you’re embarrassed.”

She uncovers her face, “You’re the one who should be embarrassed.”

“Why?”

“Um, I don’t know. Were you really naked or did you wear one of them things?”

“I tried a merkin but I felt ridiculous so…naked.”

“Wow, that’s….brave.”

“Well it was kind of liberating.”

“That’s some creative photography.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well the axe seems big enough but it’s just amazing the photographer got the right angle to conceal all that.”

“Well, thank you.”

“Oh my god, I’m just going to shut up now.”

“You know, if it helps you, if you have an axe, you can try the pose yourself for me and then we’ll be even, I’m not quite sure how you’d hold it…”

“Jack! Don’t be naughty.”

“Just trying to help.”

“Yeah right. So…yeah, change of subject…that there is my guitar.”

“Seems to be. Play something for me.”

“All righty, it’ll help me recover my cool.”

Jack laughs and sits as she stands to turn off Billie Holiday. Zola returns to the sofa, takes the guitar, and after a moment of gaining her composure, looking down with a diminishing embarrassment, she then begins to play. The sound is raw and earthy.

When she finishes, Jack asks, “Was that an original?”

“Yep.”

“You’re talented.  You sing?”

“I don’t sing. You wouldn’t want me to sing. Trust me. You play, Music Man.”

“Well, ok.” Jack feigns reluctance, grabbing the guitar, and plays Ripple by the Grateful Dead, tapping his foot and smiling to Zola as he sings. “Sing with me, Zola.” He continues to play.

She shakes her head “no way,” and just moves to the melody, and when he breaks into Box of Rain, Zola nods her head and keeps moving, “I love this one.” Jack thinks she is pretty cute, which is part of his motivation for moving into another song, the other part is that he loves these two Dead songs himself, despite the cliché of having them as favorites, there is a genuine reason for their popularity.

This particular song always had the ability to tap into some portion of Jack’s being that nothing else ever was able to touch, but it reminds him of childhood somehow, the melancholy that comes with childhood, this undetermined grief that seems to come from a random, intuited oblivion and children are just too damn young and inexperienced to fathom it. The child Sable would have understood, Jack believes, and he sings the lines,

…Walk into splintered sunlight, Inch your way through dead dreams to another land. Maybe you’re tired and broken, Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken and thoughts unclear…

Jack can no longer think of anything or anyone else but Sable while he plays the song and the undetermined grief crescendos within the center of his body. Grief and mourning and loss, all pertaining to Sable, knowing that part of Sable is dead, a child part of him that never had the chance for survival. A child part of Jack is now dead too. He recognizes the emptiness left aching by that vacancy, wondering if Sable has that ache too but doesn’t know it, rather he accepts it as an aspect of existence.

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