Tuesday. Bluesday.

© 2019  Bill Murphy

It’s said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions… and I’ll agree.  Many of those mis-guided intentions begin right close to home… some even in the home.

In the closing years of the 1940s, my mother decided that I should take piano lessons.  I’m not sure just why this conclusion was reached.  I don’t think I was prone to play with musical toys, and I certainly was no songbird.  

But piano lessons were readily available.  The pianist from our church, Miss Nellie Robinson, lived within walking distance of our home.  She gave piano lessons.  And she agreed to take me on.

Come to think of it now… our family must have purchased a piano on which I could practice.  Neither Dad nor Mom played, and my sister was far too young at the time to do anything short of banging on the keys.  Anyway, a playable upright appeared at 802 Evergreen.

What a waste!

Soon I was either stopping off for lessons on my way home from George School… or walking back the short distance to Miss Nellie’s on Walnut Street.  My lessons were on Tuesdays.  Always on Tuesdays.

I didn’t take well to the piano, neither Miss Nellie’s nor ours.  A piano is a piano I suppose… just as a scorpion is a scorpion.  I never got the hang of tickling the ivories, anymore than I’d have learned to tickle a scorpion.  My young heart and fingers simple weren’t in it.  Perhaps if I’d been born a few years later, Bill Haley or Little Richard might have inspired me to try harder.  But at that time, my time, I had no desire to try harder.  According to Miss Nellie, I didn’t try at all!

Tuesdays became a huge blemish on calendars.  Where everyone else saw the second day of the week, I saw the green wicked witch of the east mocking me!  “TUESDAY…  I’ll get you my sweetieeeee….”  

I learned to loath Tuesdays, to dread them.  The path to Miss Nellie’s became my green mile.

I don’t remember how long this piano-purgatory lasted.  It felt as though it was until I was twenty seven. When you’re in distress, young or old, time slows.  And it was Miss Nellie herself who finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel and led me to safety.

“Mrs. Murphy,” she said to my mother, “You’re wasting your money and my time with Billy.  So far, he’s not learned a single note past middle C.  Everything he plays… he plays by ear!”

Hallelujah, my days of musical misery were over!  I was free!  I’d done my small part to save the elephants!

But Bluesday was not through with me.  So deep was my disdain, so strong was my dread of the second day of the week… that it took many, many years for me to overcome my ingrained discomfort of Tuesday… all fifty two of them each year!  Yes, I’m truthful when I say ‘many years.’  I finally ‘think’ I can say that Tuesday is now, just what it is, and what it was always intended to be… simply Tuesday. 

A footnote to Music with the Murphy’s:  My sister, Mary Lily, went on to reclaim our family’s musical honor.  She also took lessons from Miss Nellie… and very successfully I might add.  So, the purchase of ‘Billy’s piano’ wasn’t for naught.  Mary, always a go-getter, went on to play in the Enochs Junior High and Central High bands.  And while not being content to simply do well with her Oboe, she also mastered every single instrument in the band!

Yes, we have a piano in our home today.  No, I still don’t play, neither by finger nor ear.  Carol does, as well as one of our daughters.  And, as I write these words while not in a twit – today actually is Tuesday!  

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The Blank Page

© 2018  Bill Murphy

The following is my comment to a poem entitled ‘Primal Urge’ by my dear friend and fellow writer, Sandra Conner, which contained lines in reference to the possibilities of the blank page. 

The tail gunner of a B-17

This poem struck a special cord in my heart.  It took me back to a my seventh grade English class.  I was fresh out of grade school, and feeling ‘all grown up.’  I had an urge even then to write, as ideas raced through my mind.  We were not long removed from WWII at the time, and I was still caught up in the romance of battles in the skies.  Little boys have no inkling of the misery and horror of war.  To me it was all glory and adventure, like the propaganda newsreels of that day.  We had no understanding of the freezing blasts of wind through a bomber at 30,000 feet, or the bulky burden of heated flight suits and heavy flak jackets.  We’d never heard the deafening noise of war.  And we’d never slipped in the blood of the poor guy who moments before stood beside us… and who had the night before, lay two cots to our right, reading love letters from his sweetheart back home.  We had no experience of seeing our own plane afire, not knowing if the next second would be our last.

I had an idea for a story.  The name would be ‘THE LAST ONE HOME.’  It was about the tail gunner of a B-17 bomber.  In my story, war had been an all-encompassing, well… thrill for him… just as I imagined then that it would have been for me.  It had been as if it were one big duck hunt, but the ducks my hero killed were German fighters… the enemy.  And now, they were on their last mission – this was it.  Soon all the glamorous glory would be over. Within days, they’d be returning home.  The duck hunt was over.  The ride back to base held heavy, mixed emotions.  And I wanted to show those raw emotion through the written word.

My story would be this man’s inner battle, his all new war that began afresh in his heart and in his mind.  The story of war morphed into peace.

I remember having those thoughts in my thirteen year old brain that day, as I stared at a blank sheet of paper before me.  And I had the warm and wonderful thought that here before me lay the next great ‘american novel’… or at least there lay before me the possibility of it!  It was all up to me.  Oh what an opportunity!  Oh what a challenge!

As writers, we have a responsibility to the blank page… to do our best!  We must never fear the blank page.  The blank page is always our friend… our lover.  The blank page welcomes us with open arms.  We can tell it our deepest thoughts, it understands, it never rejects our words.