“Six Strings and me are going to travel the world together,” said 11-year-old Lyric Lark from a taxicab backseat.
“Okay, kid, whatever you say,” the taxicab driver said. “Just grab your guitar from the trunk and get going. I have a job to do. I don’t have time to listen to your dreams. It’s costing me too much on fumes!”
Six Strings sat in the trunk of the taxicab ready for whoever would play him next. His current caretaker, New York City’s Lyric Lark, a novice guitar student, needed him to help her set goals. Now that Six Strings had pointed her in the right direction, it was time for the traveling guitar to take some trips.
Over the years, he had been held by all kinds of people—young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong. Mostly, people met Six Strings at a pivotal moment in their lives, when they needed his comfort or guidance. His original owner was legendary guitarist, Reed Rock, who upon his death prayed for his guitar to live on.
“God, please help my guitar pass into the right hands after I die,” Reed whispered on his death bed.
“Let this guitar bless everyone who touches it, and let my music live on through its six strings,” he said.
Then, the New York City taxicab driver with Lyric inside stopped outside the prestigious Brooklyn Music School.
“Next time you see me I’ll be playing at Carnegie Hall,” Lyric said, slamming the car door shut.
After she handed the driver a wad of cash, she walked to the back of the taxi to get her guitar.
“Could I get some help with this?” Lyric said, over the noise of horns and car engines.
Before Lyric could maneuver the trunk open, the taxicab put on its blinker and sped down the street.
“Wait a minute! Six Strings! I need Six Strings! Where are you going?” Lyric cried. “Stop! You’re a thief!”
As Lyric ran down the street after the taxi, tears streamed down her face, crying.
“Six Strings come back! What am I going to do now?” Lyric said. “I need Six Strings for my guitar lesson. Mom will be upset!”
“Don’t worry, Lyric,” Miss Medley Stanza said, the teacher of the beginner guitar class at the Brooklyn Music School. She walked up the street with a stack of papers in her hands and bags over her shoulders.
“You can have one of my guitars. I have two!” a classmate said, walking down the street with two guitar cases.
“Everything already worked out, just according to plan,” Miss Stanza said, smiling at Lyric, who was teary-eyed.
“Thanks, Jazzy Beat,” Lyric said, giving him a hug. “Maybe somebody needed Six Strings more than I did today.”
“Maybe,” Jazzy said, opening the door to Brooklyn Music School and running up the stairs to the guitar classroom.
“We have guitar class in five minutes. Don’t be late!” Miss Stanza said to her students, bustling into the building.
“After class, I’m looking for Six Strings,” Lyric whispered to Jazzy as they took their seats in the front of the class.
“That’ll be like finding a needle in a haystack,” Jazzy said. “Keep my second guitar until you get a new one.”
“I don’t want a new guitar,” she said, looking out the window. “I get a special feeling when I play Six Strings.”
“Now, turn to page twelve of your lesson book,” Miss Stanza said. “Today we are working on the C major scale.”
In the meantime, Six Strings had bumped down the street in the New York City taxi by himself. By the end of the evening, the driver parked on the roadside and popped the trunk open to find an out-of-tune guitar.
“How did you end up in here?” the driver said, looking at the name tag on Six Strings. “That crazy kid who wanted to play at Carnegie Hall forgot her guitar. Oh well, but I’m never gonna see her again anyhow.”
The taxi driver tossed the guitar case into the trash bin on the street, next to a homeless man dressed in rags. As the driver made his way into his apartment for the night, the homeless man grabbed the case and opened it.
“Six Strings!” he said, reading the name across the front of the beige wooden guitar. “I wonder who owns you?”
He opened up the case on the street, tuned the guitar, and played flawless jazz standards like “Rhapsody in Blue.”
Well past midnight, passersby tossed big and small dollar bills into the guitar case, along with loose change.
“Wow! Wasn’t that great?” the homeless man said, remembering his days as a classical guitarist for the New York Philharmonic. Of course, this was before he started drinking and lost all his family and friends to the bottle.
“Maybe I can get my old job back,” he said to himself, curling up in the cold. “The orchestra might remember the name Banjo Brio. I used to help pack out the theater every night. I can already hear the music.”
When Banjo woke up in the morning, he stood up with new determination to change his life for the better.
“Where’s Six Strings?” he said. “He was here last night.” He looked up to see the trash collector holding Six Strings.
“Don’t throw that old guitar out! Do you hear me? There’s something special about him,” Banjo yelled.
Loads of trash piled high on the back of a large truck, and the guitar was almost squashed with the rest of it.
“Make sure that guitar finds a good home,” Banjo said. “It doesn’t belong on a trash heap somewhere.”
“Hey man, I’m Mac Brown, a former rock star!” the truck driver said, showing Banjo a tattoo of a guitar on his arm.
“I hate this job, but it’s a steady gig. I should get the band back together,” he said. “Long live Rocks That Roll!”
Knowing that Six Strings had done his job in Banjo’s life, he travelled on the front seat of the trash truck to Brooklyn Hospital Center’s donation office. The trash collector left the guitar in the office by lunchtime.
“I’m not the best owner for you,” Mac said, giving Six Strings away. “I really need an electric for my band.”
Meanwhile, Banjo made his way to the New York Philharmonic office in a new set of clothes. The money collected from Banjo’s street performance was enough to get him an outfit for a job interview.
“Oh, thank you! We could really use a new guitar for the cancer ward,” Alto Cello, the manager of the Brooklyn Hospital Center donation office said. “I’ll just tune it up and put a new set of strings on it for the patients.”
After Mr. Cello put on the new strings, Six Strings felt stronger than ever, ready to be played again. With that, Alto put him on a cart and sent the guitar up an elevator and down a long hall of hospital rooms.
When the guitar reached the end of the hall, a nurse picked him up and placed him in an elderly woman’s room.
“A guitar!” the dying woman said, eyeing Six Strings from her bed, where she was attached to tubes and machines.
“I must play you, if it’s the last thing that I do,” she said, considering that she had few days to live.
“You can play the guitar as long as it doesn’t bother the other patients,” the nurse said, opening the instrument.
“Now, Arietta Liron, just don’t get tangled up in the wires,” the nurse said, handing her Six Strings.
As she played and sang, the patients from the ward gathered by her bed, joining in a round of “Amazing Grace.”
“I just needed to sing that one last time,” Arietta said, closing her eyes and resting her head on her pillow.
“I hear the angels singing with us,” she said, drifting off, taking her last breath with a room full of friends.
Six Strings lay quietly on her lap, as a long beep sounded from the monitors next to Arietta’s bed. Gasps filled the room, as Six Strings was put back in his case, making his way back down the hall to Mr. Cello.
“I think you might do better at a school,” Mr. Cello said to Six Strings, tuning him up again.
“Oh, what’s this? A name tag: Lyric Lark,” Alto said. “Maybe Brooklyn Music School will be able to find this young lady. How did you ever end up in my hospital ward with a name tag on? You have an owner!”
After work, Mr. Cello walked down the street with Six Strings to the Brooklyn Music School.
“Six Strings!” Lyric shouted, running in the front door, and grabbing him from Alto Cello. “I knew I wasn’t supposed to get a new guitar,” she said. “How in the world did you get my Six Strings?”
“Oh, honey, the guitar just showed up one day,” Mr. Cello said. “I can’t really explain it.”
“I can explain it,” Lyric said. “I let Six Strings slip down the street in that stupid old taxicab . . .”
“So glad you found your guitar, Lyric,” Miss Stanza said, shaking Mr. Cello’s hand. “We all love Six Strings.”
“How do I know that you are really Lyric Lark?” Mr. Cello said. “Do you have any identification?”
“Identification?” Lyric said. “I’m not old enough to drive, or own a credit card, and my mom’s not here!”
“She’s been Lyric Lark for as long as I’ve known her,” Miss Stanza said, still holding onto Mr. Cello’s hand and shaking it harder than usual. She eyed him with a serious glance, as though he better give Lyric her instrument back.
“Lyric, hurry up, or we’re going to be late for class,” Jazzy said, running up the stairs with his guitar.
“I practiced more than I should have this week and memorized the C major and minor scales,” he called to Lyric.
“Well, everyone seems to think that you really are Lyric,” Mr. Cello said. “I suppose that the guitar probably is yours.”
“You’re trying to keep Six Strings for yourself!” Lyric said. “Give me my guitar back, or I’m calling the cops.”
“Fine,” Mr. Cello said, handing Six Strings to Lyric. “Don’t lose him again, or I’ll think you’re lying.”
“Have a wonderful evening, sir,” Miss Stanza said to Mr. Cello, helping him out the front door. “Goodbye!”
“I’m not gonna let you out of my sight,” Lyric said to Six Strings. “The strings on Jazzy’s guitar keep breaking, and I have to play at Carnegie Hall. Every now and then, I might have to share you with people, but I still need you the most.”
Copyright 2020 Jennifer Waters