Art in the Blues

Art Keane finished calculating the monthly budget and wondered how he was going to tell his family there would be no vacation that year. It was Saturday, and he hadn’t had a day off in months, much less a few hours to relax and think about anything other than financial pressures. Exhausted and secretly afraid that things were beginning to fall apart, he stood up, walked through the kitchen, and told his wife Amy he was going out for a long drive, maybe into the mountains, to clear his head. Amy said, “Good. Go have a nice drive, honey. Just don’t spend too much on gas, OK?” Art mumbled something as he passed two of his children on his way out the front door. They were sitting on the living room floor playing a video game and didn’t see him leave.

Once out of his neighborhood, Art drove straight to a day-long blues festival held underneath a bridge and right next to the railroad tracks in the downtown area. He spent $40 just to get through the gate, then treated himself to $25 worth of ribs, beer, and jerk chicken within the first half hour of his arrival. He wandered aimlessly through the crowd, a little surprised by what he saw. The vast majority of people there were between 40-65 years old, white, and in varying degrees of physical decay. Most of them looked weathered and out of shape, and many wore clothes and hairstyles that would have been fashionable in the ’60s and ’70s. Art imagined what a few of the prettier women must have looked like in their 20s, and he felt a great sense of loss.

He walked up close to the stage but stood off to the side a little to avoid the people dancing or just swaying to the music directly in front of the performers. A woman and her band began playing the final song of their set. Art had never heard of her, but he quickly realized why she had been included as a featured performer. She sang about getting lost in love with a man who scared her because she wasn’t ready to get close to anyone, maybe ever again, and she sang with such power and grace that something inside of Art broke wide open, and from out of nowhere, he burst into tears. Closing his eyes, he let every emotion he had been holding back for months surge through his trembling body. When the song was over, he turned to leave and saw an older woman smiling at him with a knowing look. Embarrassed, he returned a sheepish smile and headed back to his car, wondering what he would tell Amy and the kids, but he wasn’t ready to go home just yet. He decided he needed to take that long drive into the mountains and think about things for a while.