I chose to sit as far away from the noise as I could.
Hungry after a late night of playing music at a foodless bar, I spread out my Sunday papers, set down my greasy burger and dug into both.
I was halfway through my habitual dissection of the box scores when I came to realize that my attention was being divided by a terrible racket emanating from the other side of the restaurant.
You know how a particularly out of place noise in a certain situation can just grate on you; wear at the very fabric of your being? Well, picture that, times two. Then square it, just for kicks.
I looked toward the back of the burger joint. The awful racket was being perpetuated by a little Latino kid, maybe five years old, smacking his table loudly and consistently with a pair of plastic sporks.
OK. Alright. Sure, I thought to myself. I could get up and leave, avoid the annoyance. But I was a customer here. I had purchased this tasty pile of pink slime and had therefore earned the right to sit and read my paper in relative quietude, no? And here was this oblivious child, no parent in sight, ruining my long-anticipated Baconator moment! Were I an urbanite, you can just about guarantee that my outraged gourd would have aped the agitated motion of a deployed bobble head, my outstretched finger aping the sweep of a windshield wiper battling a monsoonal downpour.
I started to get up to say something, but then the song that wafted about through the speakers overhead changed.
I sat back. I opened my ears, listening to all of the noises of the otherwise quiet restaurant. The crew hustle was blocked by the wall that separated us. The few other diners each sat alone, eating silently absent the occasional straw slurp. The kid smacking out a ratta-tat-tat-TAT on the Formica tabletop. The white grills above me piped in an old rock and roll song. The kid persisted, smacking the salt and pepper shakers, leveling the paper pyramid of marketing material on the table. I went back to the Denver Post sports page. The headline was for a game that was two days ago. I glanced at the top of the page. Damn. Saturday’s paper for Sunday coin. I had gotten distracted by running into a good old friend at the newspaper boxes. Her husband is one of my heroes. He died for an hour a few years ago while eating a steak in Aspen, Colorado. He’s barely with us now. I hugged them both, and wished her a happy Mother’s Day. She showed me the charm that her daughter had given her at their breakfast picnic. I told her that it was beautiful, and how I though the idea of a breakfast picnic was ridiculously cool.
The song changed. In the split second interval of one song ending and the other starting I experienced the atmosphere that I had expected upon arrival: peace and calm in the burger joint. Then, the jolting intro riff to Blue Oyster Cult’s “Godzilla” cranked up, and, once more, so did the kid on the sporks.
It was only then, with my annoyance squashed by an inner voice that occasionally tells me to live in the moment and just observe that I realized that the boy wasn’t just being a nuisance; he was actually drumming with those sporks. He was hitting the spice shakers as toms, using the cardboard triangle as a splash. And though his tempo was off, he was actually pretty well matching the rhythm of the tune.
Still skeptical, I waited for the legendary drum solo section, ready to dismiss the whole thing as an idyll kid’s dumb luck. I thought of the infinite monkey theorem – the one that says that if you give a team of monkeys enough time tapping on enough keyboards that eventually they will duplicate the works of none other than Bill Shakespeare himself.
The fuzzed-out guitars fired into that old familiar staccato rhythm. Duh-duh-duh-duh-da-da-duh-duh! The bass followed. Then the stringed instruments dropped out and the drum solo came. The kid followed a half beat behind, reaching all across his “kit” of a table for effect. Astounding, I thought! He was mimicking an incredibly complex drum solo on what I had to assume was ear alone.
My drink disappeared, and when the song ended I got up to get a refill. The kid watched me closely as I crossed the restaurant, putting his sticks down on the table.
“Hey kid, you speak English?” I asked on a whim.
He nodded and smiled.
I asked him how old he was. He held up three fingers in each hand.
“You ever played a drum kit before?”
“No,” he said, dropping his chin to his chest in a classic pout.
I thought back on my own youth, when I had tried out for jazz band as a drummer. What I did not think about was how I had lost out on that opportunity when I was beaten soundly in a head to head competition for the one spot in the jazz band by a pretty girl with hooks for hands. I try not to think about that. Much.
“Look buddy, you need to get your parents to enroll you in a music class pronto! You’ve got chops!”
He motioned back to the rear corner of the restaurant. “Papa,” he exclaimed dejectedly, pointing with his back-cast thumb at a booth where a couple of employees were looking over a notebook, discussing work. I looked back at the counter. There was no one to be seen behind it. The kitchen was empty.
“Hey Dad-Of-The-Kid-That-Is-Sitting-Here-Drumming-On-The-Table!” I said, perhaps a little too abruptly.
He looked up, startled.
“Is this your kid?” I asked, closing the distance, consciously trying not to come off as mad or weird.
He nodded, getting up out of his booth.
“Yes, yes!” He looked at the boy with a caring look that turned stern in the same glance. “What is wrong, sir, is he being too loud?”
“No, no. He’s fine. But I do think that you need to get him a drum set and into music classes, quick like! The kid has insane skills for his age. The longer you put it off, the longer it’ll be until you get to hear his real talent.”
I grinned. “And you know, there is nothing worse for a household than an ambitious, untrained drummer!”
The father walked over to his son, roughing up his thick black hair with a firm swipe, leaving a frozen rooster tail in his wake. They looked at each other. The son’s brown eyes beaming up at his father with excitement and love. The father reflected the feeling in his own identical eyes.
“Would you like that, Carlos?” he asked.
The kid nodded in a brace of double time head shakes.
“OK then, we’ll get you a drum for your birthday!”
Then the kid held up the sporks – the ones that had almost caused me to try to murder this future Bonham’s dream, and he said:
“And a medium Coke, for me,” I added, rattling the ice against the sloping walls of my waxy cup.
Corby Anderson is a freelance writer who writes from the spidery loft of an old log cabin on a truck ranch in Emma, Colorado. His essays, literary, food and music reviews, PR work, novel excerpts, letters, poetry and other detritus can be found at www.corbyanderson.wordpress.com, and he can be reached at email@example.com.
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