A PATCH OF BLUE SKY IN MY DREAMS • by Christopher Owen

Lotta rain since Shanna left—weeks and weeks of it. It seems forever since I’ve seen a blue patch of sky. Drops of rain pelt the tall windows of the old Manhattan loft I call home, the occasional clap of thunder echoing through the big empty apartment like a bass drum roll. I tend to sleep a lot these days. Otherwise I drink, smoke grass, write new songs, and try to catch a glimpse of the remnant ghosts of Shanna that always seem to linger in the periphery of my vision.

No, Shanna’s not dead. She left me for a keyboard player. Yeah, that’s right–keyboards.

No, Shanna’s very alive and making music with that dude, and I’m left here with a lot of memories that manifest themselves as drunk/high phantasms of ethereal Shanna—her wearing my shirt while she makes me breakfast, lounging on the couch reading trashy novels, doing her yoga in her tights.

This morning I wake up, the remnants of a Technicolor dream adrift in my head. In it Shanna and I are hiking Kauai beneath a Pacific blue, cloudless sky, her red hair aglow in the morning sun. I pull her close for a kiss in the dream, but she vanishes like a dust mote drifting out of a shaft of sunlight. I try to slip back into the comfort of dream-time twilight, but it doesn’t take, so I get out of bed and pick up my battered old Martin and strum a “G.” The chord echoes through the loft like it owns the place. I set about writing another song. Inspiration. Song fodder. Shanna’s still good for that.

***

I have a standing solo guitar gig at Dean-O’s Tiki Lounge in Alphabet City that pays for the rent and a few niceties like booze, pot and the occasional cheeseburger or slice. I open most nights for whatever name band they have, then hang around drinking until the wee hours, when I do a late-night set for whatever drunks remain. Tonight I walk there in the rain, guitar case in hand.

I play my set to disinterest from an unusually large crowd that fills the cave-like bar. The featured band is some new outfit called The Regal Rogues that I’ve never seen before. But Dean-O’s books good talent, and as it’s a Friday night, the house is hopping.

After my set I take a seat at the bar and sip the first of many free drinks that the bartender sends my way. I watch The Rogues’ roadies set up their gear. Roadies! Nice little luxury if you can afford it. I scowl when I see them set up a couple of Roland keyboards. Shit. Maybe I’ll go get some dinner somewhere else.

But the booze here is free, so I stay. Soon enough the band comes out and starts to play. I’m almost not surprised when the keyboards are manned by Shanna’s new boyfriend, Dirk. Shanna, of course, is on lead vocals.

She’s dressed in tight black leather pants and a bustier, a startling combination with her brilliant red mane. She rocks, dances and gyrates as she sings. The crowd loves her and her pitch-perfect voice, mellifluous as the rain. Shanna loves the rain. I just then remember that. I wonder if the fact that there’s been so much of it is her parting curse on me.

Halfway through her set she notices me at the bar. She shoots me a Cheshire Cat smile, her green eyes warm and bright. I crawl down inside my gin and try to ignore her.

After her band is finished she comes over. “Hey Gene.” Her rich voice makes it seem the bar and all the world have gone silent.

“Shanna.”

“Hey, I been meaning to call you. I played your demo for a guy at Capitol. He dug it. If I can find his card I’ll email you his number.”

“Great.”

Just then Dirk Keyboards comes over. He puts a thin, skeletal hand on her shoulder. “Hey baby, let’s get outta here, I’m starved.”

“In a minute. I’ll meet you outside.”

“Okay, don’t be long.”

He goes and we have awkward silence for a moment. “Drink?” I finally ask her.

“Nah, I quit.”

“Really?”

“Yeah…I’m…well, I’m trying to be healthy.”

I glance at her belly—a bit less taut than usual beneath her bustier. “Okay.” I try to stifle a bit of anger as this tells me she must have begun her relations with Dirk Keyboards a bit earlier than I’d realized, before we’d finished ours. We’d always been careful about such things.

“Look, Gene. I’m sorry it worked out like it did. I really miss you sometimes.”

“I miss you too.”

“Well, we can be friends, right?”

“Sure, why not.”

“Great. I’m gonna send you that number. You’re gonna do great. I know it.”

She hugs me and I smell her peach blossom perfume and feel the warmth of her bare shoulder and soft skin and birds fly and fireworks explode and the sun goes nova and a song forms in my heart that says let’s run away and never say that we don’t love each other anymore.

“I gotta go,” she says, pulling free. “You take care.”

“Sure, Shanna, sure.”

She goes. The bar noise ramps up again like the cacophony of a scratched vinyl record.

I play my last set and then sit at the bar drinking gin until dawn. When I leave I stumble out of the place. Bright sunlight shines down the canyon of Fourteenth Street. I look up between the building tops and see for the first time in weeks an utterly clear patch of blue sky. The rain is gone, and so is Shanna. The blue sky tells me this as much as anything else.


Christopher Owen lives in Texas with his wife and two cats. His work has appeared at Daily Science Fiction, Mirror Dance, New Myths and other places. He is a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop and the Yale Summer Writers’ Conference.


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 average 4.1 stars • 35 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • Paul A. Freeman

    I enjoyed the voice and the arc of the story. Great characterisation, too. Felt the ending lacked a little something, though.

  • JAZZ

    I enjoyed this story very much, particularly the main character Gene. And he’s right – it does have all the makings of a sad country western song.

  • weequahic

    The recurring concept, blue sky fighting the rain (tears not explicit, good), holds it together, shows his skill, makes it more than the usual woe-is-me piece. I just wish for a less awkward way to express his anger she might be pregnant.

  • I loved this. The tone of it, sort of like 40’s mystery, is just right, creating both great visuals as well as mood. “Peach blossom perfume”, the black bustier and black leather pants and brilliant red mane (paraphrased :)) – very sensual. I love the way he (and we) learn of Shanna’s pregnancy without the words “she’s pregnant.” Excellent writing.

  • JAZZ

    Is it, perchance, his child….?

  • Walter Giersbach

    Nice story that takes me back to Alphabet Citybut the weather report ran over long. Four stars.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    Christopher, your “Down Rail” has set the bar so high for anything else you write that a story like this–which seems to hit the entire checklist for a certain sort of ’70s film–is inescapably formulaic. Manhattan canyons, the gal who loves rain…and the slow pace of the narration, filled with details we can recite for the guy and save him the trouble–made me want to commit the ultimate sin–skip through whole paragraphs. I had to force myself not to.

    I was delighted to see your name up here and hope you are regularly back. But this story–you can do much better. Three stars.

  • Kate

    Your title sounds like it could be a country song. I love the sensory details that express the ache of longing and loss (and that crazy show off G chord!) Thank you.

  • Graham Brand

    I liked the blue sky breaking through at the end. If I’d picked up my guitar in the mood that Gene was in, though, I’d have strummed a G minor, not a G…

  • Andrea Elisabeth

    Definitely enjoyed the voice and descriptions. I could really see how the bar quiets down as Gene and Shanna talk and then how Gene becomes aware of all the noise again afterwards.

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  • ZL Porter

    I loved it. I loved the feeling of space between the words. I loved the soft skin and the super nova.