Rising from the ashes of a disadvantaged childhood,
a rock god emerges.
Yeah, I’m a misfit. No real surprise there. It’s not that I’m not smart, I am, but the whole thing bores me. I head into the city and figure I’ll hang out in one of the alleys until it’s time to go home. Home, that’s a joke. Barbara and Rob are nice people, but they didn’t want a fifteen-year-old. The rest of the boys in their home are under ten. I keep to myself. I’m respectful, but I have no desire to get to know any of them as I probably won’t be there for long. I never am.
I’m in a part of the city I’ve never been in before, and I hear the sounds of a guitar. I follow the noise, and it leads me to a back alley bar. The kind of place that, unless you knew it was there, you’d never find it. I’m not old enough to go in, so I sit on a milk crate at the end of the alley and listen to the music.
I have my eyes closed absorbing the sounds from the bar, which is a pretty stupid thing to do when you’re by yourself at the end of an alley.
“Well, looky, looky, looky, what do we have here?”
I open my eyes, and standing in front of me are three black men, all in gang colors. I immediately stand and hold my hands out to the side.
“I don’t want any trouble. I was listening to the music, that’s all. I’ll leave.”
“What’s a white boy like you, doing here by yourself?”
“Like I said, I heard the music and followed the sound. I’ll—”
“Yo, Sammy! You got a fan!” yells one of them.
The music stops, and all three men are staring at the door to the club. A very tall black man, holding a guitar steps out. He frowns at the three men and then looks me up and down.
“Mister, I’ll be on my way. Your playing drew me in. I didn’t realize I shouldn’t be here.” I’m so nervous. I’m looking every which way for an escape, but the only way is through all four black men, and I don’t stand a chance.
“Hold up there, young man. My playing drew you in?” I nod at him, not trusting my voice to betray how scared I am. “What’s your name?”
“Truthful. Truthful Hunter.”
Laughter erupts from the three original men.
“Truthful?” repeats one who laughs even harder.
“Yes, Truthful,” I say taking a step toward him.
Sammy pushes his way toward me and taps me on the chest. “Now, boy, you telling the truth?” More laughter from the other three.
“Yes, Sir. That’s my name.”
Sammy stares me in the eyes, nods, and places an arm around my shoulders. “Get out of the way you three. Let my friend Truth through. He has an appreciation of good music.”
Sammy guides me through the door to the club, and it takes my eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness within. It’s not a very large space. There’s a bar, about a dozen tables, and a small stage.
“My name is Samuel Goldsmith. I don’t like being called Sammy, but those no account fools out there insist on it. You my friend, may call me Samuel.”
“Samuel,” I say, holding out my hand. He chuckles and places his hand in mine shaking it firmly.
“Why aren’t you in school? You taking a day off?”
“I’m new. It’s just another school I won’t be at long enough to make friends, so what’s the point?”
“To learn, to improve oneself.”
I laugh. “Clearly you haven’t been to school in a while Samuel, it’s survive or die. Actually, that would make a great school motto.”
Samuel chuckles and walks toward the stage. He sits down on a stool and starts strumming his guitar.
“No. You sound amazing. I was in the alley for a while before your friends found me.”
“Want to learn?”
“To improve myself?”
“Yeah, why not? There’s an old guitar over by the door, pick it up and come sit next to me.”
With nothing better to do, I walk over and pick up the guitar. It’s slightly battered looking, and someone has painted a heart on it.
“Looks can be deceiving, Truth. She may look like she’s no good, but the sound she lets out is a thing of joy.” I shrug and sit next to him on a stool. “Okay, hold your fingers like this.”
Over the next few hours, Samuel teaches me the basic cords. We are both surprised at how quickly I pick it up and the day disappears into the night.
“Yo, Samuel! The boys gotta go!” bellows a large black lady in a tight fitting dress.
“Yes, Mary-Ann, I’ll see him out,” replies Samuel.
When I look up, the place is starting to fill up with customers, and they’ve lit candles on all the tables, giving the place an air of intimacy.
Samuel stands, places his guitar on the stool, and I do the same.
“No, Truth, you take that with you. Come back tomorrow. We’ll go over what you’ve learned today and teach you something new.”
“What’s the catch?” I ask as no one in my life as given me anything for nothing.
“Kid, you’re a natural, only other one I’ve ever come across was me. It’s your God-given talent, and it’d be criminal to waste it. So, if you want to learn, I’ll teach you, but something tells me I won’t be teaching you for long.” He picks up the guitar and hands it to me.
“She’s a bit beat up and needs some love. I think you are the man to do it.” Samuel winks at me and points to the door. “Now get. See you tomorrow.”
I not at him and head for the door.