Arthur and the Banjo

When Arthur Spector picked up the banjo, he knew he’d be good right away. He’d thought the same thing when he’d picked up the mandolin, the melodica, and even the Didgeridoo. He was half-decent at guitar, yes, but he compulsively collected these others.

Saturdays he strolled to the Folk Music Center to see if they’d marked down anything new. If anything was below $100, he bought it. The banjo was a mainstream purchase; he was willing to pay a bit more than his usual $100 because he knew the investment would contract his commitment.

He was self-taught.

The music room was a mishmash of instruments, tapestries and tribal artifacts. The floor was bare, awaiting a replacement rug. The previous one had been plundered from a dumpster and spread lice around his apartment. To be safe, there was no longer any tufted-fabric on the floor: no carpet, no rugs, not even a bathmat. He still got tiny, itchy welts on his feet sometimes.

Periodically, Arthur sold the instruments on Craigslist, adding a disclaimer like, “Slight defect in the accordion reeds. Produces weird sound.” The buyer didn’t share the same concerns.

He downloaded Free Apps to make multi-track recordings, but the interface was limiting and he sure wasn’t going to pay $7.99 for the Premium Apps. Especially when he didn’t own a quality microphone.

On Arthur’s desk sat sheet music affixed with Post-It notes. They were color-coded. Blue for compositions in progress. Green for finished. Pink for ideas he was playing around with. He slapped a pink one on a piece of staff paper that had gathered a coffee ring.

The stationary shop stopped carrying the neon Post-It’s he liked. He didn’t create a new sorting system.

Lyrics came from a rhyming dictionary he coordinated with a dartboard. Three darts. #1 — Red or black: End rhyme or internal rhyme. #2 — Syllable Count. #3 — Page number from the dictionary, which was a serendipitous 60-pages long.

Of course, this was only a starting point. Arthur filled in the rest with stream of consciousness.

Lucifer stagnates with a belly-full rum

Corduroy t-shirt rubbing my body to numb

This one had a blue Post-It.