The Busker

Part One


The air and the sounds in the street were as sweet as always. Sometimes, he’d stop singing for a while and strum his acoustic guitar as softly as he could – to hear stuff in the distance. It was a pedestrian zone, so there wasn’t much traffic nearby – just the occasional delivery man with a white van. Why were the vans always white? Their loud sliding doors always gave him a slight tremble in his stomach, like a lift going down too fast. And along the road, about as far out as he could see, a bus or a car buzzed up another street, or down it. Not often. And much further away, a plane sometimes sounded like a piece of chalk stroked lightly over a blackboard. Occasionally, he’d look up and see a white faraway line in the blue sky, like a soft line of white chalk. Hey, that could be in a song! He strummed a few random chords, thinking that the song would come to him, but it didn’t. He played one of his old songs instead. It was a joyous anthem about summer and music festivals.

It wasn’t quite summer yet, but it was sunny and only a little bit cold. People passing by looked happy. One young woman pushing a buggy strolled by and smiled at him and he smiled back. She shrugged her shoulders and held out her empty hands for a moment, to say: “Sorry, I have no money to give you.” He nodded and quickly added few words to the song he was singing: “a daytime star, that’s what you are”, and then he carried on with the old words of the song. The woman laughed and went on her way. The man was relieved that she had laughed. He was worried he might have sounded creepy. He liked her red coat and the way she tipped her head to the side and down when she smiled.

Morning drifted by like a slow high cloud, and a pile of coins built up in the man’s guitar case. His legs began to feel cramped from sitting down too long on the small hard amp. He decided – a stretch was a good idea. Fingertips still hot and tingling from the guitar strings, and words and music still fluttering in his head, the man walked around in a small circle at the corner of the big shop. He drank greedily from a large plastic bottle of diluted orange juice. It tasted great, like waiting for a train to take him on holiday. He stood for a few moments with his eyes shut, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his eyelids and the unstoppable brightness. He saw a fuzzy yellow orangeness. As always in such perfect moments, a faraway time appeared to him. Soft yellow pyjamas from when he was little. White and red space rockets and silver astronauts. Hearing his dog snoring at the foot of his bed. When he opened his eyes, the sun was dazzling, and the town had suddenly become much busier. Where did all these people come from? He sat back down on the amp and picked up his guitar. He strummed a few chords, knowing that he would start singing again when he was ready, but he wasn’t ready yet because some thought was on its’ way. What was it?   

James Gold grinned when he remembered – he had become somebody. First there was that funny video Grudge took of him and put on Youtube. James singing a new song called Street Magic. It wasn’t filmed professionally – just on a phone. An old guy in a long coat, who looked like Fagin in the Oliver musical, kept getting in the way, and you can hear Grudge chuckling in the video as he moved around to keep filming the song. There was a big crowd and a big cheer at the end. Crazily, thousands of people started watching it online – 90,000; 100, 000. Then, Gillian messaged and told James – he should go in for the song-writing competition, on Radio Comet. So, he did. It was the first time he’d ever done anything like that. And he won! In a weeks’ time, he’d be in a studio, recording an album. Him. James Gold. He was finally on his way. 

James began to play and sing one of the first songs he had written, around five years ago. It was about busking and about some of the people he had noticed on the streets. People like: “the girl looking far but never at me” and “the man with a stutter but just in his head”. He played and sang happily, and felt he knew the song so well he didn’t have to think about it at all. He was thinking about winning the competition. Could this really be it? If he was somebody now, was he nobody before? He glanced up at the passers-by, and a shock battered into him. People were laughing – at him. Some were shaking their heads in disbelief. Three boys in their school uniforms were laughing hysterically and looking and pointing at him. What was happening?    

Harvey Duke

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