Six String

“Shit, your apartment is a mess,” Mick said. He pushed past Lloyd, who was now fidgeting with the lock on the front door, and stepped into the living room come diner, or rather what he would consider to be a single drift of clothes, plates and yet-to-be-opened post. He turned his car keys over in one hand.

“Come on, not that bad.” Lloyd started throwing his weight into the door, a fresh scowl on his face. “Thought you were gonna help me with this.”

“Frame’s warped. I’ll bring my tools next time.”

Lloyd huffed. The lock finally clicked shut and Mick wondered, with all that force going into it, whether there was a good chance it wouldn’t open again. If that was the case, it was the last worry on his nephew’s mind as he slipped in and stood beside him. The scowl lifted, long enough to be lost as a sort of panic washed over his face. He raced around the room gathering up what would fit in his arms, dirty or clean, and move it out of sight, through to the kitchenette.

“You can grab a seat wherever,” Lloyd called out.

“Oh, sure.” Mick had already followed him in, and shifting what he hoped to be clean laundry to one side of the sofa, perched on the edge. He pulled off his leather jacket, folded it and, with an absence of anywhere clean to put it, placed it over his knees. Despite its age and years on the road, it still held its sheen. All those years showed up in the deep creases under his eyes, too, and the once dirt-blonde hair that was now, for the most part, grey.

He let one leg bounce on the spot, his foot tapping out a simple four-four beat.

“Don’t start tidying on my account,” he called out.

Lloyd lifted his head above the kitchen bar, where he packed in clean pots and crockery, transferred from the drying rack, with an earnest speed. “It’s not that, I’m not a messy person, it’s just that, you know, work and stuff.” He nodded to himself, the way his father tended to.

“I do know.”

Lloyd gave a weak smile. All the dirty plates and cutlery clattered in the sink as he dropped them in. The faucet groaned, screeched and hissed.

“You ought to get that fixed.”

“Sure. You want a beer?” Lloyd opened the fridge.

“Sure. Wouldn’t object,” Mick said. The apartment wasn’t all that bad, if it was looked after, not that he had been any better or neater at 23. He eyed up the peeling posters and dusty book piles, the records that belonged to his brother, once. There would likely be one or two of his own if he bothered to sort through them. Probably better where they are, he thought. Over in the corner, though, was the little treasure trove. A drum kit, a couple of amps and guitars; pedals and leads, piled one on top of another. And on a stand, a guitar. That guitar.

Lloyd dangled a small can, colourful and patterned, in Mick’s eyeline.

“The hell is this?”

He shrugged. “Hipster beer I guess,” he said as he fell into the armchair opposite. he tapped the top of the can, eyes turned down, appearing to study it.  They sat there a while, not speaking, allowing the minutes to roll past.

Mick’s can hissed open. “Do you want to say something?”

Lloyd shook his head.

“Ah, what would be the point in starting now, anyway.” He held the can up, prompting a rush from Lloyd to open his and follow suit. They kept their arms up high for a moment longer than was comfortable and each took a sip.

“Not bad,” Mick said. He turned the can in mid-air, his eyes narrowed.

“You not wearing your glasses?” Lloyd held his in both hands, taking a quick, short sips.

“Glasses can suck my balls.” He laughed, intending it to sound joking, but instead it came out hollow. He pretended to stop reading and took another swig. “Eyesight’s never been better.”

“You were squinting.”

Concentrating, kid.” Mick nodded and pointed a finger. “Concentrating.” He leaned back in the sofa, dripping fake nonchalance all over it. “On that subject, how is that new job of yours going?”

“Not what I want to do, but they treat me alright and, you know.” He lifted his palms up.

“It’s work.”

“Yeah, it’s work.” Lloyd let his head flop back.

Mick tapped off a short beat on the can. “Are you still playing?”

“Of course.” Lloyd lifted his head up, and an eyebrow.

“Guitar looks dusty though.”

Lloyd’s eyes widened. He rolled them over, toward the corner of the room. “I don’t play that one.” He sat up straight, then, ran a hand through his hair, pulling one side back behind an ear. He took a swig. “Not for any reason, though, I’m not precious about it or anything.” He shook his head.

Mick lifted a hand. “It’s cool.” He nodded. “I get it.”

“But?”

“But a piece of kit like that.” Mick bit his lower lip and gave his shoulders a little wiggle, a slight smile playing out. “It wants to get played, kid.”

Lloyd breathed out, took his time with it, too. Then he nodded, with greater affirmation on each dip of his head. “Alright.” He stood up, tanked the rest of the can and crushed it. He walked over to the fridge. “Finish your beer.” He came back with two more from the fridge in one hand and a cloth in the other.

“Alright, alright,” Mick said, smiling. “You want me to tune?” He gulped at the first beer until it was gone.

“No, you get on that drum kit.” Lloyd dragged an amp over to the arm chair, plugged it in and beat it down with the cloth. Then, picking up the guitar with a gentleness he hadn’t reserved for the rest of the room, he let out a long deep breath across the surface of its body and slipped the cloth down from the headstock, the neck, between the pickups and around the dials.

He eased into the chair and plugged the guitar in. One foot up on the table and his eyes closed, he started twisting, tuning. Separately and together, they started letting out tests: a note, a tap, a drone, a roll.  As it started to form into sounds that could be recognised, they stopped.

Lloyd opened his eyes. “You prepared?” He asked.

“Do I look like a boy scout?”

Lloyd grinned. “Then are you ready?”

“Always, kid.”

A thought crossed Mick’s mind before he started, that he wished someone was there with them to take a picture. He could bet any amount that it would be apparent, then, the resemblance between the two of them, the connective elements that identified a brother to a brother, a son to a father.

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