Wednesday

Billy "Busker" Branett

As I leisurely make my way along the boardwalk, in neglect of the general, yet burdensome duty to watch where I'm going, I nearly decapitate an older gentlemen crouched near the entrance to The Fabulous Funnel Cakes shop.

"Hey man! Watch where you're going," the dude says in a voice that I have not heard since my "Up In Smoke" Cheech & Chong days. You know, "Hey man, where'd you put the bong, man? I'm gonna need that later, man."

I quickly apologize and bend to peel him off the ground. "I'm so sorry," I weakly offer. "I did not see you there. Are you okay?"

"It's okay, man. I'm alright." As I get him upright and dust him off, which consists of me kind of patting his back and then holding my breath to keep from inhaling the cloud that forms from the guy, I redirect my attention to where he had been when I so rudely laid him out.

On a bench, next to the sign proudly proclaiming Fabulous Funnel Cakes, Voted Ocean City's Best Funnel Cakes, lay the rig of a one-man-band. Instantly, I am replete with delight for, you see, I am absolutely, categorically, decidedly, quite positively and to those who know me, uncharacteristically, crazy about a one-man-band. There is something about the metallic rhythm, the melodic vibration and the carnival racket that comes from the getup.

Trying to subdue my elation, I ask knowingly, "So, do you play?".

"No, man, I just like to carry this thing around for exercise, man." he replies, obviously ready for me to make my way out of his life in the same exuberant and hasty fashion in which I had entered.

"Sorry, brother," I say with as much humility as I can muster. "It's just that I love a one-man-band. When I was a child, my Uncle Tim had a kit very similar to yours. I would follow him to the fairgrounds and watch him and the other buskers perform."

"That's cool, man. Whereabouts did your uncle get down?"

"Down south. Allentown Fairgrounds."

Smoke starts to trail from the music man's ears as memory's wheels begin to grind. "Oh yeah, man, I know the spot. I used to jam with a couple old timers in front of the farmer's market, man."

I can hardly believe my ears. What are the chances?

He continues, "What did you say your uncle's name was?"

"Tim."

"I knew a cat way back when, went by the name of Two-Tooth Timmy."

"That's him!" I scream, realizing that I've scared the crap out of a little girl walking by with her family. "That's him!" I repeat, bringing my voice down a notch.

"Right on, man. How's that busker doin' now, man?"

"Actually, he passed in '87. Got in the way of a Conrail down by the Norfolk Southern Corp. stock yards," I say.

"Oooh, that's too bad, man. Old Two-Tooth loved the trains," he responds.

"Yeah, the trains and the whiskey," I add. "By the way, I'm Jason," realizing I had not introduced myself, "Jason Conti."

I offer my hand. "Billy Busker Branett, a tune for a treasure, at your service." He takes my hand and begins to skake it like there's no tomorrow.

We discuss the good old days for a while as I help him get his rig on and ask again if he is okay. He assures me he is fine. I slip him a $20 and watch him bounce down the boardwalk. I see him, every once in a while, banging away on his bass drum while strumming a guitar and moving his lips expertly between harmoninca and kazoo. Man, I love a one-man-band.

8 comments:

C. Beth November 17, 2008 at 8:39 PM  

That is a wonderful story and some darn good writing. Thank you.

Nanny Goats In Panties November 17, 2008 at 11:39 PM  

Nicely done. I could hear the man's voice so well. Man.

Chris Bowers November 18, 2008 at 7:46 AM  

Thanks ladies, I'm glad you liked it.

Heather November 18, 2008 at 6:35 PM  

Love this story! I can totally hear the Cheech and Chong in it, man!!

Cant wait to read more!

Jest December 17, 2008 at 10:25 AM  

I'm so glad that you commented on my blog so that I could come and read your stuff. You're really an amazing storyteller!

Miss Trini December 18, 2008 at 1:06 AM  

This is a brilliant (and hilarious) story. Well done man!

Dixie's Whimsey December 18, 2008 at 6:21 AM  

Cool Man... you can sure spin...

Chris Bowers December 18, 2008 at 7:21 AM  

Jest - Thank you for the kind words!

Miss Trini - Thank you so much!

Dixie - Thanks again!

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