Way Down Deep Inside
by Epiphany Ferrell
THERE WERE ADVANTAGES TO having two-fourths of a blues band living inside you.
It began at a blues festival along the Mississippi River. Maggie hadn’t danced like that in years, surrendering her heartbeat to the bass drum, feeling the slide guitar shimmy up her spine, the blues harp player’s lips and breath on her ribs.
They came home with her, the guitarist with his glass-bottled finger and the blues harp player with what he called his “bag of blow.” As a rule, Maggie didn’t bring home strange men. These two knew no rules.
“I suppose I ought to feel violated,” Maggie mused. Her heart felt constricted as the blues harp player stuck one leg out of her rib cage preparatory to leaving. “No don’t!” Maggie cried, and with a squawk and a wheeze, the harp player settled back in.
Maggie saw the singer a few days later. “What did you do with them?” the singer asked. The harp player blew on her rib cage, the slide guitar caressed her back. “I don’t understand,” the singer said. “I don’t either,” Maggie said. But maybe she did.
“That’s what comes from hanging around all those old bars,” her mother said. “I can see it all over you, the smokiness in your eyes, the stickiness on your feet, the despair in your teeth.” Maggie bared her teeth in the mirror. “No, Mama, that’s just some lettuce from lunch.” “It’s a sad day that’s come is all, my only daughter with blues musicians in her organs.”
Maggie went to her favorite of the old bars. The bartender dried glasses and poured beer and said he’d seen something like it once before. “You could go down to the crossroads,” he suggested.
The slide guitar player, he got restless. One morning Maggie woke to find him gone, not so much as a note. Her spine was smooth from his glass-fingered caresses. It took her a week to re-learn how to walk upright. The blues harp player neglected her. Whole weeks went by with scarcely a breath drawn on her ribs. She felt disrespected and sad. She kicked him out after Thanksgiving. “Right before Christmas?” he said. “There is no good time,” Maggie said.
There is too much room inside her now. Her organs feel loose and jangly. She imagines them sliding around inside her, directionless, without purpose. She spends a lot of time in bars, sitting on the stool, not shaking her hips on the dance floor. She saw the blues singer one day. He was coaching a soccer team and there wasn’t much of the blues about him. He barely recognized Maggie. “What did you do with them?” he asked. “I don’t understand,” she said. “I don’t either,” the singer said. But maybe he did.
Epiphany Ferrell lives in Southern Illinois at Resurrection Mule Farm, named for a mule that survived a lightning strike. She talks nonsense to the horses, dogs, cats and chickens there, and they are nice enough to feign attention. She is an editor at Flash Fiction Magazine.