Grabby McNabb's Story

A dull silence filled the room and Maggie-May-I looked around.    "There's got to be someone who's got a tale to tell." She said.

Someone in the corner coughed.

Grabby McNabb stood up.

He wasn't so much big as he was tall.  Bordering on six feet ten inches tall, he dwarfed pretty much everyone in the room.    He had a scarecrow's body, hunched over slightly to avoid hitting his head on doorways, light-posts and ceiling-fans.  Nobody knew his real name.  We just called him Grabby on a course of his hands were twice the size of anybody else's.

Grabby went to the bar, where The Franklin had already poured him a double-shot of Rye Whiskey.  Silently, Grabby took both shots and moved in front of the fireplace, where Scupper sat shivering.  "This is for Jeremy.  My brother."  Grabby said, a curious thickness shading his voice.

"He was only eight when I was taken.  He was the kinda kid got scared at his own shadow.  He had a shock of black hair that stuck out all over the place and eyes that looked fearful about everything.  But when he sang, the world stopped to listen.   I always wondered why the folk took me and not him.  He used to sing and I'd fiddle and the whole entire village would dance til the dawn.  Boy, those were good days."

"On the other-side, I stood guard over golden fields by day and fiddled and danced every night for four years.  The Folk wanted songs of passion, songs of love and revelry and abandon.  And every night, if I had moments to myself, I'd hear the faintest strains of other songs on the air.  Sad songs.  Songs that called to me with stronger compulsion and brought tears to my eyes.

"But then the Folk would call, and I'd fiddle some more and the sadness would be driven from me with a willfull fury.

"I was gone a long long time."  Grabby said.  "Four years for me was forty for them.  So who was the stranger when I made it back?"  Grabby's voice was low and bitter, like he was talkin from a painful place.  We knew that place.  Some of us had been there.

"I went back to our house, first. But I din't know the people living there.  I scared them and they scared me back.

"I went to my girl Ginny's house.  But I didn't know the people living there.  I scared them and they scared me back."

"After a long time, I went to the church.  I had to wait til a group of people left, 'cause I knew I dint know them.  I'd scare them and they'd scare me right back.  They'd put a body in the ground, and there was a fresh dug plot there.

"When it got dark, I crept into the graveyard and I knew the name on the stone there.   Suddenly, I felt a powerful need to be alone.   So, I went to the only place I remembered that couldn't be a danger.   Hermits Haunt was a wood shack on the edge of town where Jeremy and I useta play when we were little.  Now it was mostly broken down, with the roof caved in and one of the walls nearly fallen.

"Only, when I got there, I could hear singing.  It was a sad song, the kind that reminded me of the times between dances, the ghostly songs on the air."

Grabby tilted his head back, his eyes closed.  And for a moment, he looked the most intense we'd ever seen him.  Then he lifted his voice in a quavering tenor,

When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas! to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

"I was crying as I went to the door.  I opened it up and held my breath.  But I didn't recognize the man sitting in the ruins of the Hermits Haunt.  He had black hair and a strong jaw with a beard.  He was dressed like a man of wealth.  He stood confident and proud, even if his eyes were sad.

"He stood suddenly, and I turned to run.  But he called out to me with the one word that coulda made me stop.

'Graham?'  And I heard his voice crack.

"For an instant--only an instant--I saw my little brother standing there, the shock of black hair sticking out at all angles as he lifted his voice to the heavens.

"I turned back, real slow, afraid that this was a joke, that this world didn't really have a place for me, anymore...

"Nobody knew what happened to you."  Jeremy told me.  "They said Ginny got sore at you and you just up and left.  But I couldn't--believe that.  She always said you'd come back for her.  She didn't get with anyone else, you know..."

"And then I couldn't stop the tears.  And Jeremy took a step towards me and held out a dull black box tied with leather straps.

"I took the black box.  And I took the fiddle that lay within in and I caressed the neck and fingerboard, remembering the grain beneath my fingertips, the whorls of polish and rosin.  Jeremy smiled at me and I brought the fiddle up to rest under my chin. This was the same fiddle I played as a child four and forty years before.

"And we played together Jeremy and I.  One last time.  A woeful song of loss and yearning, of love not forgotten and bittersweet reunions.

"I cried myself to sleep with tears of joy and tears of sadness and In the morning, I buried my fiddle in Jeremy's grave.

"I went away then.  I knew there weren't no place for me there no more.  But it wasn't the pain it was before.  Joy and sadness. They're just sides of the coin, Can you know true joy if you ain't known true sadness?"

Grabby lifted the shot high in the air, tears inching his way down his own cheeks. and said, "For Jeremy McNabb."

Grabby Graham McNabb downed the first shot and threw the second into the fire.

"Jeremy McNabb!"  the crowd offered in approval.

The End

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